Once a marriage has been rocked by infidelity, it's important to make the right changes or you run the risk of history repeating itself. The challenge is that most couples don't really understand how to go about making those changes so that they can actually rebuild a stronger and more infidelity-proof marriage than before.
(That is, until now.)
Welcome to Rebuilding Your Marriage 101. This is my crash course on the 7 most important steps you'll need to take in order to rebuild a better (more affair-proofed) marriage after infidelity, along with some suggestions that will get you started. If you're part of a couple who has had a recent indescrition and you have decided to stay together, then I highly suggest you share this page with your partner.
Steps to Rebuilding a Better Marriage After Infidelity
Remove the obstacles to rebuilding.
“Did you know? Almost 40% of marriages rocked by infidelity end within 24 months after discovery… and not because couples didn't try to rebuild, but mainly because they fail to remove one or more of these four obstacles to rebuilding: unforgivness, hostile communications, dishonesty and the fear of trusting again. So what ends up happening is that the couple spends their time and energy rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, instead of watching out for the icebergs. But that doesn't have to be your story. Because rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is a process, and that process has to be taken in order. And your first priority is to remove the obstacles that could end up sabotaging your reconciliation and rebuilding efforts.
Embrace True Forgiveness
Rebuilding a marriage without forgiveness is impossible; it would be like building a house without first pouring the foundation… because forgiveness is what lays the groundwork that all your rebuilding efforts depend on. So as far as I'm concerned, removing the obstacle of unforgiveness should be the first order of business, followed by the other three obstacles.
Repair the damage.
“Infidelity is like an earthquake because of how hard it shakes and rattles the foundations of a marriage. So before you can make it safe to return to love again, you'll need to repair the damage it causes in four key areas: trust, communication, boundaries and honesty. Let me explain. Because infidelity is based on deception, it erodes trust and honesty, and a relationship without trust is like a heart without a beat. So, job one, if you ask me, is to begin to repair the trust and increase the honesty between the both of you. Another thing infidelity does is that it violates the exclusive boundaries of marriage. Once boundaries are violated, it's like having a broken window — you won't feel safe until that window is repaired, so it's important for you to close ranks as a couple, to cocoon each other until that feeling of security and exclusivity returns. And last but not least? You'll need to repair the damage to the communication lines between the two of you.
Embrace Total Transparency for the Next 90 Days
What is transparency? It simply means living your life as an open book for each other to see and verify. Is it easy to do? No. Is it worth doing? Yes. Here's what I want you to do (three ways you can embrace total transparency): (1) Transparent Communications: Give your partner access to all of your communications (including email accounts, passwords, etc.); (2) Transparent Actions: Allow your partner to see and verify your actions and activities; and (3) Transparent Feelings: Be honest about how you feel and what you're thinking. Don't take my word for it. Test transparency and find out for yourself how it can help repair a lot of the damage infidelity left behind.
Learn the lessons.
“Sometimes, the role of something is to be like the grain of sand in an oyster — it's there to create such an irritation that it will cause us to grow into our greatest potential. I believe that this experience could be one of those things. Because in life, there are no mistakes, only lessons… therefore, even that which begins in a trial can lead to a transformation so astonishing, we end up appreciating it (although it put us through such pain). So what's the secret of turning frustrations and irritants into diamonds and pearls? The secret is to learn from them and to let that learning take your relationship to the next level… so you come out on the other side of this a better, stronger couple than you were before.
Ask Yourselves: What Can We Learn from This?
And do it without, guilt, blame or shame. Simply try to extract the lessons from the experience. For example, once you learn that love doesn't make you immune to temptation, it will cause you to be more vigilant when you find yourself being allured or being drawn into compromising situations. Or, once you recognize that infidelity isn't the problem — it's the symptom of the problem — then you can begin to look for the deeper cause that leads to the indiscretion. And once the real issues are uncovered, they can now be corrected.
(Re)Discover what “relationship happiness” means to both of you.
“How do you define relationship happiness? More importantly, how does your partner define relationship happiness? While you think about that, think about this: Only four things create 90% of relationship happiness — they are love, trust, open communications and sexual happiness. And yet, no universal formula or recipe for relationship happiness exists. It's a highly customized and very personal experience. For example, how you define sexual happiness might be radically different from your partner… what makes you feel loved may not be the same thing that makes another person feel loved… and very few things make this painfully obviously like a brush with infidelity. So rather than become bitter, I suggest you take this opportunity to rediscover what relationship happiness means to each of you.
The 4 Keys to Relationship Happiness
Create a Relationship Happiness Map for Your Partner
You can write a list, draw a pie chart, or put together a mix tape — get as creative as you like. Here's what I want you to do: Define and describe what you need, wish and desire in those four key areas. For example, you could say, “love means being appreciated, it means feeling recognized”… or, you could say, “having open communications means being able to talk about anything.” You get the point. Do this for all four areas and then take the time to discuss (without judging) each other's interpretations, wants and desires.
Upgrade your relationship skills.
“This is something that's sometimes confusing for couples, because we assume that love is all you need to ensure relationship success. But that's like saying air is all you need to live. Because Love is like air, it's essential to life, but not enough to live on. The fact is, a successful marriage — like parenting — requires both love AND skill. The challenge is that we can love automatically; we're not born knowing how to love skillfully — it's a skill we learn and develop. Sometimes, I talk to couples and I can hear the frustration in their voice when they can't understand why a partner can love them and not be able to love them skillfully. And I say to them, it's like saying, how can a person know English but not know how to write beautiful poetry?
Commit to Relationship Mastery
Make a commitment to learn how to love skillfully. This could mean going to marriage workshops, going to marriage counseling, reading self-help books, or interviewing and talking to other couples about what it takes to create and sustain relationship happiness. The bottom line is to recognise that there's a difference between loving and loving skillfully.
Embrace the beginner's mind.
“Do you know why honeymoon destinations are among the happiest places on earth? Because all the couples you meet are glowing with love, hope and eager anticipation. They're open minded and curious about each other. The future is ripe with possibility and bright with opportunity. They have what the Buddhists would call “the beginner's mind.” This is a mindset that is free from cynicism, doubt and negative expectations. It's a mind that is curious and, perhaps most importantly, open to learning. And as far as I'm concerned, embracing the beginner's mind IS the real turning point in the rebuilding effort after infidelity. In fact, I don't consider a marriage to be truly out of the woods until both partners embrace this concept.
Go Schedule Your Next Date Night
Go buy tickets to a live event, go hire a babysitter, go book a weekend getaway. Why? Because romance never spontaneously renews itself… it's a lifetime commitment. And passion is like fire — without attention, it grows cold… (that's the bad news). The good news is, like fire, it can also be rekindled until it's red-hot again. The way you rekindle passion and keep the romance red-hot is by embracing the beginner's mind — this means you never, ever, stop dating each other. You don't see yourselves as just husband and wife, but as lifelong lovers… so that even 10, 15 or 35 years together, people should see you together and think, “Oh, they must be newlyweds!”
Shift your approach to monogamy.
“Here's something that might surprise you (or maybe not): Research indicates that 65% or more of extramarital affairs can be directly attributed to boredom. Interesting, isn't it, how it's not lack of love, but more likely the lack of newness, lack of adventure and lack of passion that act as icebergs to your relationship? But when you think about it, it makes sense. Because if there's one trade-off that monogamy brings, it's the lack of newness. So it's no surprise that boredom is to monogamy what kryptonite is to Superman — its main weakness. The sad news is that many couples overlook this weakness, naively assuming that love prevents boredom. But that's not true: Love doesn't make us immune to boredom (just ask any mother with a two-year old). And if that's not enough, many couples are afraid to talk about the boredom, monotony or restlessness they might be feeling for fear of hurting each other… and so, in an attempt to “solve the problem,” they turn to extramarital affairs. This is why you will hear me say time and time again: Infidelity isn't the problem; it's usually an attempt to solve the problem. So if you don't want to be at this crossroads again, you've got to shift your attitude and your approach to monogamy (not just marriage).
The Two Approaches to Monogamy
Ask: Which Way is Right for You?
If you don't change the way you've done things in the past, then you'll only end up right back where you are… and I know that's not what you want. Obviously, I'm not the first person to notice that the “traditional model” of marriage is flawed. Many other experts have commented on this. In my case, because I work in infidelity recovery, the shortcomings are even more glaring to me.
My Approach to Rebuilding Your Marriage After Infidelity
“I believe that a better marriage can only be rebuilt by design (not by default), and while infidelity is a deal-breaker, I believe it also creates an opportunity for you to make a new deal. The challenge is that most couples don't know how to go about structuring a better, stronger and more infidelity-proofed relationship. This is where I believe learning how to create and sustain a lifetime of passionate monogamy can help. Why passionate monogamy? Because without passion, monogamy is hard work. Think about it like this: If monogamy were a cookie, then passion would be the sugar that sweetens it. Therefore, a big part of what makes monogamy — and therefore, marriage — successful is knowing how to create, sustain and renew the love, trust and passion in your marriage. So where can you get this type of knowledge, skills and know-how? Great question. The answer is, you can find a lot of it right here on this website, because providing the tools, skills and resources to help couples enjoy a lifetime of passionate monogamy is what my life's work has been all about.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE STEPS, STRATEGIES & INSPIRATION
TO REBUILD A BETTER (MORE PASSIONATE) MARRIAGE AFTER INFIDELITY?
What is marriage rehab?
Marriage Rehab is my 21 step Homestudy course for couples, during which I will coach you and your partner towards the skills, insights and strategies you need to heal, overcome and redesign your marriage, so that it’s better and stronger than ever before.
Marriage rehab includes:
5 ways marriage rehab helps couples rebuild a better marriage
My Final thoughts
I believe that infidelity is a call for help ( not hate). I believe that mistakes are a call or correction ( not punishment) and above all I believe that once a painful thing has happen, you basically have two choices: you can keep circling the hurt or you can keep moving forward. These are two totally different coping strategies. One is effective and the other is dysfunctional, one strategy leads you to post traumatic growth and the other to post traumatic stress. Therefore I see my function as a coach to remind you that while you may not have had a choice about what happened before – you do have a choice about what happens next; my job is to do everything in my power to help you choose wisely.
Until we speak again
Remember love wins!