Your marriage doesn’t have to end if you or your spouse were caught cheating. But you will have to work hard. Even newlyweds have cheated, says Janis Abrahms Spring, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Westport, Conn. and author of After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding the Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful (Harper Paperbacks, 1997). If one of you has cheated, you can still save your marriage. Here are tips, from Spring, for saving your marriage after an affair –
1. End the affair.
The unfaithful spouse must have a funeral for the extramarital relationship, says Spring. Essentially, he or she must kill the affair by ending it in no uncertain terms. In other words, the cheating spouse must agree to never contact or accept contact from his or her lover again.
2. Understand why the affair happened.
“The affair tells a story that must be understood,” says Spring. “Otherwise, why wouldn’t it happen again?” There are many reasons why people cheat. A few examples of the type who might cheat include someone who always followed the rules and never deviated from the pack, someone who felt his parent’s favored his siblings and seeks attention, and someone who is jealous of the time and affection his wife is now sharing with their children. The point is, however, that you have to get to the bottom of what led your spouse to cheat and try to address whatever needs addressing internally and in your relationship.
3. Turn to each other.After an affair, couples might have a lot of anger and resentment toward one another. They should not dwell on those emotions. Instead, they should look to the future. "Treat each other they way you would like to feel and not the way you actually feel at the moment," says Spring. "Treat each other with respect, tenderness, and care." Don’t take each other for granted either. "The after glow wears off, and people lose consciousness of how they treat each other," says Spring.
4. Re-build trust.
Those who have cheated must earn the trust of their spouses again. You're starting from scratch, so it won't be easy. Spring suggests you regularly check in, commit to therapy and working on the relationship, answer phone calls from your spouse, be where you say you are going to be, and tell the truth. If you lie or seem like you're hiding something, your spouse will be brought back to the affair and your behavior during that time. Honesty could save your marriage.