You answered my questions last week, regarding my husband who cheated for 3 months and when I found out, told me “she” was the perfect girl. Once I moved out, he took everything back and said he now wants to work things out. I know you answered why he reacted the way he did, and why he said this girl was perfect. We’re going to see a marriage counselor tomorrow. My question is, could this really work? Could our marriage survive an infidelity considering we’ve been together for 9 years? Where do we start? Should I not live with him while we try to figure this out?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Let me begin by complimenting you on your choice to seek counseling tomorrow. I believe it will be the start of your real healing process.
To answer your questions:
Could this really work? Yes it can. Marriages DO survive infidelity. Couples DO rebuild after betrayal, hurt and disappointment — and many (to their own shock and awe) rebuild even stronger.
What does it take to rebuild?
Three basic ingredients, really:
1. The wayward partner has to be absolutely willing to stand in the storm, deal with his “inner conflicts” and do whatever it takes to regain trust and rebuild the marriage.
2. The betrayed partner has to be absolutely willing to forgive (even if they don't know how to) and go through the symptoms of healing the hurt and letting go of the past.
3. Both partners need a new road map to marriage.
The first two are personal choices. It seems to me, given that he's willing to go to counseling and that you’re seeking the help you need, that you both already have the “willingness.” That’s two out of three. The third, however, is what makes the difference.
Here's what I mean:
If you forgive each other and go through the symptoms of healing and rebuilding your relationship following the same map/ideas/beliefs/rules/routines that you followed before, chances are, you’ll end up in the same place again. It's obvious that the way you were “doing marriage” doesn't work. You need a new approach, a new attitude, new rules, and new beliefs that will work for both of you, so that nobody has to reach outside of the relationship to get what they want.
This is what makes the reconciliation effort so difficult. People want to rebuild, but what they want to rebuild is the same thing they had before (while hoping this time, it will turn out differently).
In your session tomorrow, talk to your counselor about creating a new map for relationship happiness. One that is designed for you and by you. My process is called “Passionate Monogamy” — but it’s only one possibility. There are many out there, and your counselor can help you.
Here’s another “secret”:
If you want to rebuild your marriage to even greater happiness, you have to believe you can have something different, without having to find a different partner. That belief is enough to change everything!
Next question: Where do you start?
Step #1. Correct — don't punish. Here's the reality: Infidelity is usually the symptom of a problem, not the cause of the problem. That’s why it’s a call for correction — not punishment, blame or shame. With help from counseling, you’ll learn what needs to be corrected in your relationship.
Step #2. Be open to learning. This is NOT your fault. You can’t be held responsible for things you don’t know about. But once something like infidelity comes to light, you must be open to learning how to deal with it. This means it’s not enough to ask for help. You must also be willing to accept the help you’re given.
Your final question: Should you live with him while you try to figure this out?
Every couple is different, and every situation is different. For example: Some betrayed partners feel like they have more leverage being out of the house. They sense they get more motivation and results this way. Others feel that by being IN the home, they heal faster since they’re around each other and get more appreciation and attention that way. I don't know which is right for you. They both have benefits. So bring this up with your counselor tomorrow and see what he/she recommends.
For my insights on dealing with the aftermath of infidelity, you can read my article Surviving The First 30 Days After Discovering The Affair: Coping With The Aftermath Of Infidelity. However, keep in mind that the information provided here is generic. And so, in no way is it meant to replace the advice and personal insights provided by your counselor.
Until we speak again...
Remember... Love Wins!