In this article you will find
On a bleak October night, while the city of London is weeping rain, a couple in the upscale neighborhood of Chelsea are fighting in their bedroom. They have been at it for hours. Yelling, swearing, and crying, their throats are hoarse and they are completely exhausted, but neither one is willing to give an inch (because both know they are right).
On the floor below the warring couple…
…their three children are doing whatever they can to drown out the sounds of the war going on above them. The oldest child, a boy just turning 13, turns up the volume on his iPod, pumping his mind full of angry gangster rap. The middle child, a somewhat reserved girl around nine, turns up her TV and tunes in to the sarcastic humor of The Simpsons. The third child, a small boy of five, stuffs his ears with cotton balls and continues building the biggest, baddest fort under his bed for his toy soldiers.
The battle in this home has been raging on for the past 3 weeks — ever since the discovery of deception, betrayal, secrets, and lies. Overnight, a peaceful home had become a war zone, and a good marriage became a battlefront; lovers became enemies, and children became the causalities of war.
What does war sound like?
If you were to talk to a returning veteran, they might tell you that the sounds of war are the hardest part to forget. Even though these soldiers are trained to handle combat, trained to face life and death situations, trained to expect the unexpected and be ready for the unpredictable, the one thing they can’t be immunized against is the emotional anxiety forever stamped in their minds by the sounds of war. Long after they leave the hot zone, many soldiers remain haunted by the sounds of explosions, helicopter props, bomb blasts, M-16s and M-50s reloading and discharging, screaming, yelling, and radio commands.
It’s the same for any child who’s ever been caught in the war zone of parental battles. The one thing they never forget is what it sounds like to hear their parents at war.
They never forget… the arguments, shouting, yelling, and shrieking… the mean words, snide comments, roaring outbursts, verbal demands and harsh blasts of anger… the china crashing against the wall… the pause, the re-engagement, the screaming… the sound of sobbing and the silence of falling tears.
When the goal is to win at all costs, everybody loses.
In my opinion, arguments don’t prove who’s right, only who’s wrong. And when infidelity is discovered, it often becomes a springboard to launch into an endless blame game. Couples find themselves circling the hurt and pain like a buzzard and throwing hurtful words like hand grenades at each other. Take note: The deeper you go into blame, the more damage you do to your marriage (and family). The more you argue (and defend yourself), the deeper you wound your relationship. In other words, this type of behavior will NOT help you save your marriage.
So, if fighting, arguing, and defending are NOT the way to save a marriage after infidelity, then what is?
While I can’t offer a magic pill to save your marriage (because there’s none), what I can offer you are my top 10 suggestions that — when mixed with your love and sincerity — can go a long way in helping you repair the damage caused by your own indiscretions.
Notice I said, “when mixed with love and sincerity.”
use at the end of the day, if you’re just looking for techniques and tactics to get the heat off your back, then these tips aren’t going to work. However, if you
Let’s begin with number one on our list…
Listen to Your Partner
It takes two to argue, but only one to end the argument. The best way out of conflict is to start listening. When I say listen, I don’t just mean being quiet. I’m talking about full attention listening. This is where you don’t just keep yourself from talking but you also mute the voices in your own head. It makes logical sense that you can’t truly listen to another person IF you’re also listening to yourself (or preparing your own closing arguments and counter-arguments) at the same time. You’d be surprised how many marriages would be saved and how many divorce lawyers would be out of jobs if partners would simply choose to listen to each other.
- Listen like a priest or a counselor — Don’t try to fix. Simply listen.
- Listen as if for the first time — Make no references to the past. Listen like a stranger.
- Listen to learn (not discredit) — Don’t judge. Simply seek to understand.
- Listen to connect — Allow their words to take you into their world. Try to see things from their point of view.
And perhaps most importantly:
Listen to show your love. Perhaps the most important thing your partner needs right now is to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you care. Your willingness to listen and listen deeply is one of the best ways to show your love.
Become the sun in your partner's world
When affairs are discovered, it’s not unusual for the betrayed partner to pull away from the wayward partner. Unfortunately, when this happens, many wayward partners make one of two mistakes: (1) They try to force closeness again; or (2) They retaliate by pulling away themselves. I totally disagree with both strategies.
Think of yourself as the sun and your partner as the earth. Your job is to radiate warmth and energy. Do the things and take the actions that will make your partner naturally gravitate towards you. This means staying open… staying available… staying positive… and above all, staying connected.
Communicate to attract (not repulse)
When people make mistakes, they have a tendency to beg, whine, plead, and try to bargain for forgiveness. Unfortunately, this type of communication usually has the opposite effect. Rather than triggering sympathy, it triggers disgust.
There’s an old saying that goes like this: Even when you’re down, act like you’re up, and very soon, you’ll find your way up.
This isn’t about being arrogant or being in denial about your mistakes. What it means is that even when you make a mistake, you can own up to that mistake without supplication or begging. To understand this concept fully, it’s important to note the differences between regret and shame.
Regret: When you experience regret, you look at your past choice and see that IT was a mistake.
Shame: When you experience shame, you look at your past choice and see YOURSELF as the mistake.
See the difference? One is about the behavior, while the other is about the person. The two are not the same. I would agree that having an affair was a bad decision, but I would NOT agree it means you’re a bad person.
Take responsibility without shame for your mistakes. This means you allow yourself to see fully that your past actions were a mistake. However, mistakes ARE correctable. Now, communicate to your partner that you’re a person who can admit mistakes. Take ownership of the consequences without falling into shame. This kind of communication is far more attractive.
Never give away power to gain power
You might have heard this tactic called by many other names: codependency, emotional blackmail, or emotional fusion, just to name a few. In the aftermath of infidelity, it’s not unusual for the partner who’s been wayward to become convinced that giving away their power is the only way they can save their marriage.
Please note: This is NOT the way to save a marriage. In fact, it’s one good way to destroy a marriage because it locks you into a power struggle that eventually leads to further disillusionment.
Here are the facts: You can’t give away your power. The attempt to do so is just a manipulation technique, a mind game really, where one partner pretends to be powerless or helpless and dependent in order to make the other partner feel powerful, in charge, and dominant.
But here’s the downturn: The partner who feels powerful eventually becomes addicted to the idea of having power over the more passive partner. And it’s only a matter of time before that partner is totally hooked on being in charge.
See the trap? You probably did. Because, when you really think it through, it becomes obvious who’s really in control. Is it the dominant or the passive partner?
If you said the passive partner is the one in control, you’re on the right track. Because at any moment, the supposed powerless/dependent partner can choose to reclaim that power. (Remember, it’s a mind game.) This leaves the dominant partner high and dry — like a drug addict without a supplier. So in the end, the partner who appeared to be passive (giving up power, acting dependent and needy) is in fact the one controlling the relationship. And so the game is played on and on, over and over. The thing to remember is that this power-shifting game never works in the long run.
If you want to save your relationship, you must save yourself first. Don’t use helplessness or powerlessness to try and control your partner. You’re not helpless — not now, not ever. The situation might be difficult, but it’s never hopeless because you are not hopeless. In fact, just the opposite is closer to the truth. You are powerful. Own that power, and it will give you the vision, strength, and insight you need to change everything else.
Another thing to note:
Your true power comes from within. It can’t be transferred to you by other people, drugs, children, relationships, or dogma. It can’t be bought, sold, or bargained for. It doesn’t require proof or approval because it’s already yours. However, you can abandon it, deny it, reject it, or pretend it doesn’t exist… but that doesn’t make it go away.
Stop negotiating to get
Rev. Run (from Run’s House ) has a statement that I really like. He says “God gives to the giver and takes from the taker.” What I believe this statement communicates is that as long as we’re in the taking/getting mode, we’re in a losing mode.
I believe this really applies in your situation. Because as long as you’re trying “get away with it” or making your partner “get over it”, you’re at a disadvantage. The world’s greatest negotiators know this secret. And knowing it helps them come out on top at the negotiation table.
Here’s what I mean…
At the negotiation table, the party who’s negotiating to get something is described as having his “nose open”. This party will usually be the one to lose. Why? Because selfishness leads to blindness. And this “getting” mode leaves the window open for his opponents to take advantage of his “neediness and greediness”.
This same principle applies to negotiating a reconciliation after your affair. When you’re in getting mode, you’re in losing mode. If you want to heal and not continue to hemorrhage in your relationship, you MUST stop negotiating in order to get.
How can you tell when you’re negotiating from a “getting mode?”
Here are the clues:
Look for those places where you’re trying to get something or take something from your partner. Classic examples include “getting” her to understand, “getting” her forgiveness, “getting” some peace and quiet, “getting” away with it.
Rather than negotiating to get, negotiate to give. Begin to give exactly the things you were trying to get. For example, if your goal was to get your partner to forgive you, then you forgive first. If you were trying to get understanding, you give understanding first. Whatever it is you were trying to get, make it a point to give that to your partner.
Watch out for surprises.
As Rev. Run always says, “God (life) gives to the giver and takes from the taker.” If you’re a giver, you will be given more; and if you’re a getter/taker, even more, will be taken from you. It’s really that simple.
On to number six…
Be willing to do whatever it takes
A friend of mine who’s a therapist in Canada often tells an updated version of a classic Japanese story. Here’s the way he tells it: One day, a monk was meditating by a river. He had been sitting in the same spot meditating with very little food and drink for many years.
Rumor had it that this monk was very wise and even knew the secrets to immortality. One day, a beautiful woman came to see him. She had traveled from a faraway land. She had braved killer mosquitoes, jungles, warring clans, and harsh deserts. She had journeyed across dangerous seas just to find this monk, and when she did, she threw herself at his feet and said… “Master, I have sinned against my husband. I have committed adultery with his master of arms. When my husband found out, he killed my lover and exiled me from his castle. He has stricken my name from his heart. Now I am very sorry for what I did, but he will not hear my words. What can I do to win his forgiveness? Please tell me. I am desperate, and I am willing to do anything.”
The Master meditated upon her words for a while. Suddenly he grabbed her and dunked her head under the water. With strong arms, he held her submerged until the woman began to fight and struggle, but he kept her head down. At the last minute, just as she was about to drown, the monk pulled her head up from the water. The woman came up gasping for air.
“Why did you do that?” she shouted. “You could have killed me!” The monk calmly asked, “What was it you wanted while you were under the water?”
“Air,” she replied. “All I wanted was air.” “And why did you want air so desperately?” he asked.
“To save myself of course,” she replied indignantly. “Go away,” said the monk. “And do not return until you want to save your marriage as much as you wanted to save yourself.” I like this version of the story, because it makes an interesting point: How deep is your desire to save your marriage?
Here’s why I ask…
Like the woman at the river, it’s easy to confuse the desire to spare yourself discomfort with the true desire to save your marriage. The two are not the same. People tell me all the time… “I did everything I could,” “I tried my best,” “Nothing made any difference,” “My situation is hopeless.”
And I have no doubt they did what they could, but sometimes I wonder… how much of the doing was out of a sincere desire to save the marriage, and how much was simply a defensive tactic to spare themselves discomfort?
Check in with yourself by asking the following questions:
- Are you having a difficult time doing what you say you’re going to do?
- Do you feel insulted by the idea of having been found out?
- Do you secretly wish this would all just go away?
- Do you secretly think your partner drove you to it?
- Do you feel your partner is overreacting?
If any of these rings true for you, then be mindful that your resistances may be actually undermining your reconciliation efforts.
Remember, the willingness to do whatever it takes is the common ingredient in every great turnaround story. Think of all your heroes, legends, and superstars, and you’ll find that somewhere along the line, they became willing to do whatever it took to achieve the goals they had set for themselves.
In other words…
…when your desire is strong enough, then nothing is too big, nothing is too small, no distance too far, no journey too short. You can have your heart’s desires when you’re truly willing to do whatever it takes.
Seek professional help and stick with it
Did you know: Only about 1/3 of marriages survive infidelity? Not a very good prognosis, right? But what if I told you there’s something you can do… that can dramatically increase YOUR odds of being in that group of couples that survives, would you want to try it?
I hope you would! Well, here it is: Couples who seek professional help through marriage counseling, marriage and family therapists, pastors, ministers, priests, and infidelity recovery coaches (like myself) totally increase their odds of making it. However, there’s a catch. It’s not just about seeking help. It’s also about accepting help… and sticking with it.
Here’s what I’ve noticed…
Many couples will rush to marriage counseling almost immediately after the discovery of the affair. They will go for 1-3 sessions and then decide they can’t afford to keep going, or that it just isn’t working. (Imagine if you were to give up so soon in other areas of your life.)
Here’s another thing:
Seeking professional help after infidelity always costs much less than divorce. So in many cases, it’s not a matter of not being able to afford it; it’s just a matter of which professional you’d rather write the check to.
And just in case you’re wondering…
Am I just advocating professional guidance because I am a professional? The answer to that question is yes and no. Here’s what I mean. Of course, I’m biased about the service that people like myself provide because I’ve seen firsthand how a gentle therapist, a compassionate minister, or an insightful marriage and family counselor can help couples who are caught up in conflict and confusion that follows infidelity.
And at the same time…
…I fully recognize that while professional help can be useful, not everybody needs or wants it. This is a country built on self-reliance, and infidelity is a topic that is highly sensitive, deeply personal, and extremely private. The thought of sharing intimate details with strangers (professional or otherwise) doesn’t always sit well.
This makes complete and total sense to me.
You see, I’m a lot like that myself. That’s why the traditional schools of talk therapy didn’t appeal to me, and why I consider myself to be an unabashed psychology dropout, and why if you spend any time on this website, you’ll begin to notice a startling fact:
People ask me all the time, why do you give away so much on your site? Won’t that cost you business when they can get all this help for free?
Here’s how I look at it:
My highest intention in both life and business is to be truly helpful. And I believe one way to be truly helpful is to teach people how to help themselves. This makes me more of a strategist than an analyst, more of a teacher than a counselor, and more of a life coach than a therapist. Sometimes I can do this privately; sometimes I can do it publicly. Those are my options. One pays the bills and the other doesn’t. I’m cool with that.
Find professional help from a marriage counselor, life coach, pastor, or rabbi. Talk to someone who can offer you help, support, and guidance. If you choose to go at it alone, you’ll find plenty of self-help coaching in our store. Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind: You don’t have to go at it alone.
On to number eight…
Know that you are worthy of forgiveness
Consider this. Two brothers, both good men, marry two beautiful women, both good women.
Both couples are happily married for 5 years, until each has their first child. This is when they begin to see signs of marital difficulties.
Some of the challenges they experience are related to the stress of child rearing, some to financial difficulties, but most of them come from the tediousness of their lifestyles. Keeping in mind that boredom is Enemy Number One in monogamous relationships… it’s not hard to imagine how domestic routines, carpooling, and work schedules might begin to take a toll on even the most loving home.
Each brother handles his marital problems differently.
One brother goes the self-help route: He buys books, he reads up, he asks for advice, and he takes it. He and his wife take a rediscovery class. They learn how to “passion up” their lives, how to build in time for creativity, spontaneity, and fun. As a result, their problems become stepping stones to a better marriage.
The second brother goes another way.
He doesn’t talk about his stresses and problems with his wife. He tells himself he doesn’t want to bother her because she has enough on her plate with taking care of the kids and holding down a full-time job. He doesn’t let her know how left out he’s feeling, or how invisible. He doesn’t tell her how her rejection in the bedroom has triggered feelings of insecurity in him. He never mentions how much he’s begun to envy the single men in the office, and how his life had lost its joy. In fact, he feels guilty. Guilty for not appreciating what he has at home. Guilty for wanting more when she’s already giving so much. He thinks to himself, “I’ve got to find a way to take care of this problem without her finding out that I’m having a problem.”
So what does he do?
He starts having an affair. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. Not only will this bring some much-needed diversion and add some excitement to his life, it will also boost his self-esteem and help him feel desirable again. Instead of being overlooked sexually, the affair will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s still got it.
…his wife finds out and throws him out of the house. He then confessed everything that had been going on inside of him (and his marriage) to his brother; who — as it turned out — had also thought of having an extramarital affair but decided against it, opting instead to go for self-help rather than self-sabotage.
He later told me during one of our sessions:
“I wish had I told my brother what I was thinking before I did it. Turns out, I wasn’t the only man to love his wife and still be bored at home.”
So I asked him, “What do you think is the key difference between how you handled your problem and the way your brother handled his?”
He thought about it for a moment and gave me an answer I thought extremely enlightening.
“The key difference,” he told me, “is that my brother talked about his problems with his wife. He communicated. I chose not to. I decided to try and take care of things on my own. So in a way, I guess the old adage about marriage is true… communication is the key.”
“I agree,” I told him. “This was a hard way to learn the fact that the fundamentals will always be fundamental. So, looking from where you sit right now, what do you think the fundamentals of reconciliation would be?”
“Forgiveness,” he said. “Until she forgives me, there’s no moving forward.”
“That’s quite possibly true.” I told him. “However, there’s something else I want you to consider. Forgiveness is a gift which is given from the worthy to the worthy. It can’t be earned, bought, or sold. So if you’re going to inspire forgiveness from anyone, you must first be able to inspire it from yourself.”
Why this matters
Of all the things you can do to save your marriage after an affair… and of all the tactics, strategies, tips, hints, and suggestions offered on this website… I consider the following one to be, by far, the most important one.
If you want your partner’s forgiveness, you must know you are worthy of that forgiveness.
Now, keep in mind…
I’m not saying that you’re entitled to forgiveness. I’m saying that you’re worthy of it. How can I be so sure? The answer is simple: Forgiveness has no exceptions. And like love, everyone deserves it.
Practice living transparently
If any of these ideas hasn’t already stirred up some rebelliousness, resistance, or controversy within you, then this one will surely do it. Suggesting the idea of living transparently to someone who has clearly demonstrated a strong preference for living secretly often sets off a landmine. And yet, from where I stand, learning to live transparently is one of the best things that can happen to you right now. But I can fully appreciate that not everyone is on board with that opinion.
Many will tell you the need for privacy is a fundamental human desire. Some will point out that keeping secrets and holding back information is what keeps the mystery alive in a relationship. Others are adamant that self-protection requires all human beings to use at least some form of deception.
I don’t agree, because as Doctor Phil says, “People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.”
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the right to privacy argument. And I agree this is valid — but only when it comes to strangers. In fact, like most people, I want my privacy protected. I don’t want to be spied on, watched, or observed without my knowledge. But this is NOT what living transparently is all about.
So let’s talk about what it IS all about…
What does it mean to live transparently?
Good question. Living transparently is a huge concept with philosophical, personal, and practical applications.
When you look at it from a philosophical point of view: Living transparently means allowing everything that can be seen to be seen, and all that can be known to be known.
When you look at it from a practical (or corporate) point of view: Living transparently means creating a culture of openness. This requires the free flow of accurate and honest information, both vertically and horizontally within the organization. Recently, companies like WordPress and Lynx have become good examples of corporate transparency because so much of their business model is based on the idea of making information transparent, open, and available for all.
When you look at it from a personal point of view: Living transparently is about living openly and honestly. It means what you do will not conflict with what you feel or what you say. It’s as simple as being an open book, giving full disclosure, making yourself open for full observation without defense or deception.
It’s a great time to check in and ask yourself five questions…
- Does this make you feel uncomfortable?
- If it does, then don’t you wonder why?
- What are you protecting?
- What needs to be hidden?
- Why do you feel the need to protect yourself from those you love?
Here’s the beautiful truth…
Living transparently is like walking nude in your bedroom. You won’t be embarrassed or ashamed or outraged, as long as you’re comfortable within your own skin.
Key Point: Affairs are damaging because of the secrets, so it only stands to reason that a good way to repair that damage is by living transparently. And if this feels like a stretch for you, take a look at the famous poem written by Charles Finn:
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying
Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I’m afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.
Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,
but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well
as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one, but don’t believe me.
My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this.
I don’t want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, if it’s followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me
of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this.
I don’t dare to, I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that deep down I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.
So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing,
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.
I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings—
very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings!
With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator—an honest-to-God creator—
of the person that is me if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.
Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me
the blinder I may strike back.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.
Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.
Charles C. Finn 1966
Now, ask yourself…
What if by hiding, holding back, and defending, you’re actually fighting against the very things you wish for? What if by living transparently and allowing yourself to be seen and known, you could attract the very things you want? Wouldn’t it be worth finding out? I think so. I suggest you give that second option a shot. But only as quickly as you recognize the first doesn’t work.
Let’s take a look at the final (and most important thing) you can do to save your marriage…
Win back trust with right action
In the book The Art of War, Sun Tzu says: “Bind them with deeds. Do not command them with words.” Although The Art of War was written more than 2300 years ago, and his advice was directed towards war, the strategies are valid in other situations — especially when you need to “win from behind”. And as the unfaithful partner, there’s no doubt you are the underdog. But you don’t have to worry about being the underdog here. If you’re willing to take Sun Tzu’s advice, you can win even though you’re down.
So here’s what saving your marriage after an affair really comes down to:
Knowing how to win back trust via consistent right actions… not words. Unfortunately, many partners do the exact opposite — they try to “win back trust” with words, assuming that if they find the right words, use the most convincing arguments, or come up with the most clever excuses, they will be able to magically win back trust. But here’s the reality check: While you might be able to talk your way out of trouble, you cannot talk your way back into trust. Because as Sun Tzu said, trust is restored by actions (not words).
What exactly IS trust?
Here’s the definition I’ve found to be most helpful: “Trust is the willingness to accept vulnerability based upon your positive expectations about another’s behavior.”
Signs of Trust
- Faith — that a person’s behavior is in alignment with your expectations.
- Confidence — in your ability to predict a person’s responses, behaviors, and actions with a reasonable degree of certainty.
- Willingness — to accept risks and be vulnerable with regard to that person.
But here’s the quandary…
Trust isn’t created directly. It emerges when the conditions are right. Like love, faith, and forgiveness, you can’t earn it, buy it, bargain or barter for it, or command it.
Trust has to be inspired.
To help you better understand trust, let’s borrow some examples from a group of people who have had to learn the hard way what trust is all about. That group is collectively known as “Corporate America”.
Here’s a quick overview:
Back in the days of IBM and the Madison Avenue conglomerates, most of corporate America had an authoritarian style of management and leadership. It was strictly a top-heavy, trickle-down, command-and-control type of approach, where upper management made all the decisions, keeping information close to the chest. Everything was on a need-to-know basis.
But that didn’t last.
With massive social changes in the 1960s and increased diversity and emerging global competition from countries like Japan, corporate America had to learn how to manage differently. Studies in group dynamics soon revealed that people worked better in cooperative teams, and workers who felt included increased production. Self-directed and self-motivated employees were discovered to be a company’s highest or greatest assets.
But, perhaps the most important discovery of all…
…was the realization of how much trust (or lack of trust) within a company’s corporate culture significantly impacted the bottom line.
Now, for the first time, corporate America faced the challenges of learning how to build corporate cultures based on trust rather than control. Leaders were tasked with learning how to lead democratically, not autocratically. Managers had to learn how to motivate diverse teams in ways that fostered trust and collaboration. They also had to face the uphill challenge of overcoming the legacy of mistrust instilled by their former secretive, disconnected management styles.
Here are some things they discovered along the way.
They learned that
- They had to build trust over time. It couldn’t be bought or fixed with one grand gesture.
- Leaders had to share information regularly and quickly because in the absence of news, people would gossip.
- They had to be as transparent as possible about decision-making processes.
- They had to make inclusion, sharing, and caring a part of their business model.
- They had to develop and practice consistency in their ethics and integrity standards.
- They had to be willing to abandon old attitudes, strategies, policies, and procedures that would raise doubt, mistrust, suspicion, and uncertainty.
- Perhaps the most important lesson of them all: They couldn’t promise, pledge, or fake their way to trust. They must take specific actions to foster conditions from which trust could emerge naturally.
This recognition helped give birth to a whole new type of industry, and all sorts of leadership training, team building, and trust-building companies began to spring up all over America. Teaching corporate America how to build trust is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
So, what can corporate America teach you about rebuilding trust after an affair?
A lot, actually, because many of the same principles also apply to personal relationships. Rebuilding trust in any arena boils down to your ability to do these two things:
- Consistently create the conditions by which trust is inspired.
- Ruthlessly find and remove any conditions by which trust is eroded.
Let's recap the 10 ways to save your marriage after your affair
Here’s the key insight: This has to be done with actions, not just words.
In my couples’ coaching programs, I’ve adapted several team-building and trust-building exercises and activities from corporate America and reworked them to match the needs of my clients.
Here’s what I’ve noticed.
By participating in activities that engage both partners in specific trust-building tasks, couples are able to move towards restoring trust more effectively and quickly. If you would like to learn more about my trust-building actions and exercises, download and listen to my Marriage Rehab: Complete Infidelity Coaching Recovery Home Study Library for Couples. In it you will find 21 sessions (over 43 hours of coaching from me), including Repairing Trust and Inspiring Honesty. Whether you decide to take a professional approach (such as one of my programs) or go at it alone, keep in mind that if you want to win back trust, actions will always get you there much faster than words.
There you have it.
My 10 suggestions for what you can do to save your marriage when your own indiscretion torpedoes it. I have faith that you found at least one powerful idea to help move you forward. Because if it only takes one bad idea to ruin a marriage, then it stands to reason it only takes a good one to save it. In this, I wish you much success.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!