The bond of matrimony is supposed to prevent us from experiencing that moment when your entire world falls apart and you find yourself on your knees trying to breathe. It’s a shock to see how everything you’ve based your life on can easily fall to pieces around you. You’re left feeling unbalanced. Lost. Your body, mind, and spirit desperately trying to hold on to any thread of truth to right yourself again.
I don’t think any of us are protected from this life lesson. It may not happen in your marriage but over time, all of us learn the truth about who and what we believe in - whether our faith in people: like our spouses or lovers, our colleagues at work, or our childhood fantasies. I suppose losing faith in Santa Claus is a lot easier in retrospect, than losing faith in your spouse, but life prepares us over time for the big losses we’ll eventually be forced to face. How to survive any infidelity and restore your relationship will pull upon all the coping skills you’ve developed throughout your life - it will test what you’re made of; question the strength of your values; require tremendous courage, loads of resilience, and take enormous faith.
This is what I know for sure:
Marriage and fidelity are first and always, a choice. Every day, every moment even, being faithful and true is a decision each person in the pair makes.
Every couple has their own agreement - their own rules that they follow for the sake of the union.
We are uniquely required in this lifetime to grow and to change - (NEWS FLASH: whether in a marriage or not). Without flexibility and communication, a couple can’t possibly stay happy together (they may stay together but rarely are they happy or in love) unless they have strong communication skills and a willingness to be open to change.
I have found that most relationships break down along these lines:
Disrespect - the “I’m taking you for granted” poison that seeps in and makes people forget that it’s always their decision to love, make love to, support, listen to, and stay with the person they share their life with. Or not.
Being a victim - So often, people make themselves into the victim of their lives and forget they’re always in charge! Every excuse (Yes, I hear you - money is usually the #1 reason for staying. Then comes the kids. And then you stay because of someone’s health. And of course your religious vows. I get it.) So if those are your reasons for staying, you’d better make darn sure you show up in your marriage, make some noise, and not do it by default! Otherwise, your lifetime is a long time to be miserable.
So how do you survive infidelity and restore your relationship?
I have learned that you must go back to the basics:
You decide the relationship is bigger than your ego, your heart, your DNA encoding - (No, you may not go off and beat up the scoundrel.) Your temper can’t get the better of you. You must use the pain and the feeling of being betrayed as a lesson. (BTW: if you decide to walk away, that violation must still be overcome!)
You start courting one another again - figuring out if you even like one another. You see if you still have anything in common if you want to spend time together. If you like having sex with one another! You become curious again: Do they like their job? Would they like to get out of the house and go back to work? Or, do they feel they should be staying home with the kids? Who are they separate from you and your needs?
You revisit your shared values - how are you both showing up in your family? In your home? Do you still do the things you once promised? Like go to services together, spend time with your children, share housework or have a weekly date night? When was the last time you took a vacation just the two of you and acted like newlyweds?
You repair and rebuild your communication skills - When you first started dating, you talked about everything. What’s happening now? Does every conversation escalate into all out war? Have you forgotten that you once loved one another? Do you need a refresher on how people who care about one another talk or act? (aka - some marriage counseling) How many secrets have built up between you?
You decide to put yourself as a priority - this does not mean, you become self-involved or selfish, pulling away from the relationship. It means - putting you, your dreams, your values, your needs in the forefront of your mind and making sure you show up for yourself, in your marriage. You ask for what you want and remain open to what your partner needs in order to grow.
You married out of love or obligation. You chose to stay married out of love or obligation. Yet, you’re always 100% responsible for your well-being.
Typically, I have found that the reason there’s an affair is because, usually, one partner or the other forgot their own self-worth. Most of us were not raised to indulge cheating. Most of us have core values around honesty, integrity, and truth. Most of us do not like to believe that we would hurt another human being. Most of us. But living in denial, forgetting who we are is a big reason why infidelity occurs.
Let me explain. These missing elements - disrespect, lack of courage, being a victim, not taking responsibility for ourselves within a relationship, forgetting our own core values, and being prevented from growing and changing don’t happen because we wish to hurt another person. They happen because individuals in relationship forget their own needs. We are the ones who go against ourselves. We tolerate the disrespect. We succumb to a lack of interest. We put up with mean-spirited conversations and belittling, boring dinners. We forget to make love to one another, to be tender, to be kind. We forget to participate in our marriage or family.
In order to restore a relationship after cheating, you have to remember who you are. You are important, valuable, loving! You have to pull on the coping skills you’ve gleaned over the years and rediscover why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. You reflect on what you’ve built together. You rekindle courtship and how you like to make love. You date one another. You learn who you both are today - years later - after spending so much time together. You let and encourage each other to grow.
It is your choice.
It’s always a choice to remain in a marriage. If you choose to restore your relationship after infidelity, it will take more courage than you’ve ever experienced in your life. More resilience. It’ll call on every life lesson you’ve ever faced. If you decide to fight, to pick yourself up off your knees, you will discover a whole new future. I so believe in you!
If you’re having a tough time working through infidelity, please reach out -firstname.lastname@example.org you may just need a little nudge in the right direction.