Your soul mate might be hiding something from you. No one likes to think it could happen in his or her marriage, but approximately 20% of us will be betrayed by a partner at least once according to surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center.
But that’s not the end of the story – or the relationship.
Despite most people’s impulse reaction of “I’ll leave!”, many marriages survive a cheating spouse.
“Of the couples that come into my offices, only about 20 percent break up because of the affair,” notes Marci B. Stiles, licensed professional counselor and founder Positive Outlook Counseling. “That means that 80 percent make it – some even better than before.”
During her 8 years as a marriage counselor in Dallas, Stiles has helped many couples move past the hurt and back into love again. According to her, successful couples share these seven attributes as they recover from the affair:
- Seek counseling
- Ask questions
- Work as a team
“Marriage counseling is a critical first step for couples,” says Stiles. “With all the emotions unleashed by the affair, a neutral third-party is very helpful in keeping the couple focused on their shared goal of saving the marriage. Even if the decision has been made to end the marriage, sometimes a counselor can help the couple negotiate child custody issues and soften the blow on the rest of the family.”
The loss of trust, intimacy, joy and closeness from a betrayal this big causes huge feelings like a death. The wounded spouse must grieve before he or she can move on.
“Depending on the person, grieving a relationship can take weeks to a year or more,” says Stiles. “Some days everything’s OK and moving forward, and other days you cry and can’t stand small things like how your spouse eats.”
The relationship as they knew it is lost. The couple must give each other time to process it.
“Acceptance is an important and healing part of the grieving process. As long as one of the spouses is trying to hold on to the way the relationship used to be, they can’t move on as a couple,” adds Stiles. “We work together as a team to help both spouses accept the new reality.”
The spouse who had the affair must be willing to answer the questions from and be patient with the other spouse.
“Some spouses will ask about every tiny detail, others won’t want to know anything. The unfaithful spouse should be willing to end the affair, accept the lion’s share of responsibility, and show remorse and sympathy when sharing the details.
On the other hand, the injured spouse needs to understand that once the questions are asked and answered, they should be dropped. To keep asking the same questions over and over keeps the affair alive and makes it impossible to move on.”
To recover, both spouses must have compelling personal reasons for staying in the marriage and a strong desire to make it work. Stiles has her clients write up and sign a contract with their personal relationship “rules” like “fight fair” and “no threats to break up or leave during the period of this contract.”
“I tell my clients “we’re all in or we’re out – none of this half-way stuff” at least for the term of the contract which is usually three-to-six months. They both have to agree to play fair and to sincerely communicate with each other.”
“A relationship is a living thing that is in a very delicate state after an affair,” adds Stiles. “The injured spouse needs to be gentle with themselves and their spouse. It is natural to have revenge fantasies and to be furiously angry, but to act out these feelings can escalate the destruction of the marriage beyond repair.”
The other spouse has to be patient and sincere in his or her desire to fix the relationship – and very communicative. “They should be checking in with their spouse before he or she needs to check in with them. If the phone rings five times a day during work, they should answer it five times a day. If they are stuck in traffic, they should call immediately to keep the other spouse from worrying and doubting.”
Work as a Team
While it took one person to cheat, the rebuilding of a marriage, after an affair, requires teamwork. “The betrayed spouse should ask the unfaithful spouse how to help the other person from committing adultery again. The partner who cheated must also examine the personal reasons that spurred the behavior. By identifying the areas of marriage that need improvement, committing to make needed changes and spending time together, marriages can recover,” says Stiles.
“Most people reading this article are probably in the 80 percent whose partner won’t cheat, but if it does happen to you and you love this person, take action! There’s a good chance the relationship can be saved by committing to a plan and learning how to communicate clearly and fairly.”
If you would like to schedule an appointment about healing your important relationships, contact Marci Stiles LPC at 972-733-3988 or book your appointment online at: http://www.positiveoutlookcounseling.com/schedule-dallas-counseling-appointment/
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Positive Outlook Counseling
Marci B. Stiles, MA, LPC-S, NBCC
Bent Tree Plaza
16610 North Dallas Parkway
Dallas TX 75248
Positive Outlook Counseling services range from individual counseling to family therapy to marriage counseling services. Marci Stiles specializes in individual, family, marriage and troubled teen therapy.
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