Marriage is a joint effort. You are a team, a duo, a couple. The relationship has many facets. You are lovers, friends, and family. So when one of the spouses veers off the marriage path and into the arms of someone else, it can be devastating.
Inevitably the other spouse asks all the why questions: Why did he do this to me? Why did he fall for her? Why did they think this was ok? Why didn’t he love me enough?
With all the heartache it can cause, many times, infidelity leads to divorce. But what if you are both interested in saving the marriage? If your marriage has sustained any sort of infidelity, and you want to stay married, here are 22 ways to survive.
1. Book an appointment with a therapist today. Ask around for good marriage counselors and get in as soon as you can. Infidelity can cause confusion and thoughts will continue to swirl. It’s important to get into counseling and talk freely about your emotions separately and together as a married couple.
2. Keep lines of communication open. When someone wrongs you, it’s only natural to shut yourself off from that person. Don’t fall into this trap. When infidelity is involved, it’s really important to talk and talk and talk some more. Both sides need to be willing to divulge their feelings and talk about their actions with the other person.
3. Avoid yelling and confrontation. This will take some effort. Both parties will want to place blame someone else; it keeps you from feeling so awful about what has happened. But when has anger and confrontation helped anyone? If the goal is to stay married, then speak calmly and softly to each other.
4. Get to the root of the issue. This may take weeks or months or more. So have patience. Perhaps the cheating spouse didn’t mean for anything to happen, but little by little didn’t put a stop to things. Or perhaps he or she sought out this other relationship for one reason or another. It’s important to explore why it happened in order to repair the damage and determine how to proceed.
5. Focus on your beginnings. Why did you fall in love in the first place? What attracted you to each other? What memories have you shared along the way? Write them down and refer to them often. Choose to focus on the good parts of your marriage.
6. Give loving service. What does your spouse appreciate most? Maybe a nightly food rub, ironing his shirts, doing the dishes without being asked. Whatever act of service you can do for your spouse, it shows your love and devotion loud and clear. It also helps your spouse feel loving towards you.
7. Never assume. Many times when there has been infidelity, spouses assume things about each other. This is a slippery path that will only lead to anger and sadness. If you are unclear about something, ask. If you don’t want to know, then just put it out of your mind.
8. Go on a getaway alone. If you need time alone, then take it. Go somewhere to think and process your marriage. Write out your feelings and try to relax. Sort out your feelings.
9. Go away together. When you are ready, go away together for a weekend or so. Spend a few days together just the two of you. The distraction from everyday life will help you to focus on each other and spend time talking and working things out.
10. If you have children, decide together what you will say to them. If they already know or are old enough to figure it out, then it’s important to talk to them about it. If they are young, they may still sense tension, though they won’t understand why it is happening. Reassure them that mommy and daddy are working on it and love them very much.
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11. Set up regular date nights. You two need regular time together on a weekly basis. Whether you go out to dinner, or go on a hike, or head to the local theatre is up to you. The important thing is that you are building your relationship.
12. Agree to full transparency. When trust is broken, you need reassurance. Allowing full access into your email, Facebook, text messages, etc., could be something you both agree to in order to help build trust again.
13. Provide ample reassurance. Perhaps you have both decided you want to save the marriage, but along the way one or both of you may falter a bit and start to doubt. Those thoughts are normal. So the other spouse needs to provide ample reassurance that you are totally committed.
14. Apologize for past wrongs. Sometimes an “I’m sorry” can go a long way. It doesn’t fix everything, but it tells your spouse that you are taking ownership of what you have done, and helping them to let go of it.
15. Be patient with marital intimacy. When a spouse has cheated, sometimes the other spouse can’t bear the thought of being intimate with their spouse again. So give it time. Talk it out. Be patient. If you both agree to go away together to try it out, but the other spouse isn’t ready yet, then give it more time.
16. Keeping seeing your marriage therapist. Counseling is so important to continue regularly while working on your marriage. Even when you think things are going pretty good, keep going. Infidelity in marriage can take a long time to process and things will come up over time.
17. Be romantic. Maybe you won’t always feel like being romantic, but practice doing so anyway. Bringing home flowers, making a special dinner by candlelight, or playing romantic music, are just a few ways you can bring the romance back into your marriage.
18. Cry on each other’s shoulders. This is a hard time. Feelings will come out that you don’t want to feel, so it’s important that you are there for each other. When either or both of you are having a hard time, listen and don’t judge. Just hold each other.
19. Pray alone and together. If you believe in a higher being and the power of prayer, it can be a great force that draws you together. Pray for your spouse, tell God about your feelings, and ask for guidance. Also pray together. Your relationship will be strengthened.
20. Try to keep the laugher alive. Even though what has transpired is very serious, when it is appropriate to do so, laugh a little! Humor goes a long way in relieving stress, helping you two have fun together, and helping you connect.
21. Take a dance class together. As you are both focused on dancing and each other, you learn to trust each other and flow together. It can be a magical experience.
22. Agree to start fresh—today. There is no time like the present to mark the day and start new. Try your best to forget the past and move on with your lives. Treat each other like royalty, and dream about the future together. Then, you can really both move on.
Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples in therapy. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is currently associated with Marriage.com, a reliable resource assisting millions of couples to resolve their marital issues. She holds a Master’s Degree in Arts (Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy).