So, this is from Rick over at AffairRecovery (AR). Why do we keep harping on this program. I know both MC and I are huge fans and it probably sounds like we are some advertiser for them. We are not at all. I just want to share with those of our blog friends who have sought the SA diagnosis and Twelve-Step facilitation (TSF) that Rick is SA and went through TSF. The program is not anti SA/TSF, however it also did not require it of us either. It was a separate point, not a mutually exclusive one. The reason I mention this is because I think there is one great missing link in the SA/TSF model and that is helping the SA begin on the path toward empathy development for their spouse. Not just the pain the spouse went through, not just a deeper understanding of the costs to the spouse, but also fundamental points about the meaning of “love” and the need for building safety.
We started with Rick overseas, because we did not think we would have access to trained counseling and then we found a wonderful counselor to help us both. We kept up with the 13-week online program too and often discussed what we were working on from the EMS course with our counselor. It was a stepping stone, not a cure-all, but a foundational stepping stone. I want to add that there is a bit of talk of Jesus and The New Testament, but we found it quite easy (I think Rick even suggested it) to remove the idea of Jesus from our healing process and just think of such references as references to a higher power within ourselves, G-d, or whatever worked best in the lesson at hand.
The article below gets at some major points. MC frankly has done a far better job than I on these goals. I’m certainly the master of rapid-fire questions and a bit of rage thrown in for good measure, yet I do see that it is less productive that what Rick suggests below. Though I understand his point on the details, personally I want ALL the details, and always will. That is just me. And, committing to forgiveness is still elusive, though I totally understand his point and commit to one day consider committing to it. 🙂 Regardless, I thought it worth sharing.
5 Tips for the Unfaithful Spouse
You must stop the affair. You will need help to stop it. Find an experienced professional, spiritual leader, or someone who has lived through this type of situation. Getting the right kind of help from those who have gone through it before is critical to finding momentum in your recovery. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably realized your own efforts were not sufficient to prevent the affair and doing more of the same won’t be sufficient as you move forward to survive infidelity.
Commit to creating an atmosphere of safety. Commit to openness and honesty on a daily basis. Be available by cell phone. Be willing to call from a land line (to show where you are). Hand over all passwords, e-mail addresses, bills, and give access to your mate in order to give him/her assurance. Make a decision to have no unaccounted for time in your day. If you’re going to give this marriage a shot at being restored, be willing to do whatever it takes to restore trust. The way to reestablish trust is to first trust your mate with what’s going on in your life.
Take responsibility. As bad as your marriage may have been, and as rejected as you may have felt, it still doesn’t justify breaking a vow. Have the courage to say “I messed up.” Take responsibility for your own recovery.
Develop empathy for your spouse. Daily express to your mate that you’re sorry for the pain that you have caused and/or appreciation that your mate is still there. Being able to express grief over what your actions have cost your mate is one of the first and most important steps to moving beyond the betrayal.
Be patient and ask your mate how he/she is doing. If you see your mate is down, simply ask how he/she is feeling. Our first tendency when we see those storm clouds brewing over our mate is to run for the shelter, but in recovery, it’s best to be a tornado chaser by creating space to share about the pain.
Don’t be defensive. Usually defensiveness sounds like, “well if you hadn’t…” We often times blame our mate and try to justify why we messed up. This defensiveness and attempts at justifying our infidelity only adds to the frustration, hurt and anger.
5 Tips for the Betrayed Spouse
Express your feelings and thoughts without the destructiveness of rage. This one can be tricky, and is especially difficult if you are very early on into discovery. It will be somewhat easier if you are able to maintain the perspective that anger (even the rage you may currently be experiencing) is a secondary emotion. Instead of expressing your anger, talk more about the underlying feelings that evoked the anger. The underlying emotions might be hurt or fear.
Avoid rapid-fire questioning. Ask questions slowly, always asking yourself if the answer will be information you want to live with the rest of your life, and possibly have a reminder and/or trigger attached to it. I would encourage you to avoid questions that paint a picture in your head. These comparison questions create the intrusive thoughts you’ll later have to deal with. Ask yourself if the questions you’re asking are helping you move forward or if it is for some other reason.
Commit to forgiveness. This doesn’t have to happen fast, but for your sake you want it to occur. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can control your mate’s behavior by not forgiving. Remember, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Forgiving isn’t necessarily the same as reconciliation, but if your mate is safe enough it paves the way for the possibility of reconciliation. Forgiveness is also not a one time act. There will be layers to your pain which will necessitate a commitment, in advance, to forgive as you move forward.
Allow yourself time and space to grieve and process what has happened. To attempt to heal the marriage too quickly can be devastating and is one of the leading factors of relapse for the unfaithful spouse. As Leslie Hardie says, “it’s not about the amount of time you give it, rather it’s about how you utilize the time you give it.”
Recognize your vulnerabilities. Don’t let your hurt, pain, and anger drive you to behaviors and choices you will later regret. Avoid putting yourself in vulnerable situations.
5 Tasks for the Couple
Find support. Try to find at least two or three people you can both agree would be safe individuals to share with. Having a safe place to process feelings, apart from the marriage, can be beneficial. It’s helpful for you to have someone of the same sex you can vent to and grieve with who is safe and has your best interests at heart. Your mate absolutely needs a trusted friend where they can do the same. If you don’t have this outlet outside the marriage, chances are painful emotions will build up and come out in destructive ways.
Separate the marriage from the train wreck of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to your relationship than the infidelity. The infidelity does not rewrite your whole history, although sometimes it may feel like it does. While you can never go back to what you had, you do have the opportunity for something better.
Make time to talk about the marriage and the effects of the infidelity. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to stop the dialogue about what has happened. If you cannot process through the effects of the infidelity, it will most assuredly stall your efforts to heal as a couple and create underlying dissention in your heart towards your spouse. Allow time for both of you to process what you are learning about yourselves and each other along the way.
Arrange a problem-free time during which you have fun and enjoy each other. This is a must, otherwise you will begin to feel like your identity and your relationship are just byproducts of the infidelity. Remember, there is more to life. So try to find times where you don’t discuss the infidelity.
Remind yourself and each other that your relationship can be better. You are building honesty and empathy that were probably not there before the infidelity. Your relationship will emerge from this so much better, if you let it. It will never be the same, but who wants to go back to the lie you were living? This is an opportunity to build a new foundation, with new patterns of behavior.
Affair Proofing Your Marriage
While you cannot affair proof your marriage, you can and must, affair proof your own life. This goes for the betrayed spouse too, who in many ways is ripe for an affair if healing does not take place for the trauma after the affair. This must be a vital step the unfaithful spouse takes charge of if they are going to prevent relapse and eventually reestablish trust with their mate.
Assume that an affair could happen again and take precautions, rather than assuming it will never happen again. Actively avoid putting yourself in harm’s way. Together with your mate, design “our rules” for keeping your relationship safe.
Both parties need to understand that temptations don’t define us and behavior does not equal motive. We have to be willing to be honest about dangerous situations around us. Understand that if your mate is willing to share something that he/she is struggling with, then your mate is choosing to keep the marriage safe rather than to endanger it by hiding struggles or weaknesses.
Commit to work hard at your marriage. Marriages take work. Be willing to put as much time into the marriage as you do into other activities which you love. The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the hill, it’s greener where you water it.
Be willing as a couple to talk about this issue. Be willing to honestly discuss any areas where the relationship is at risk, rather than just going through the emotions of it all. Auto pilot seldom works in recovery.
Give back. If you’ve already recovered from a betrayal, be willing to give back to others who are still dealing with infidelity. There is no better preventive medicine than working with others who are coming along behind you. Their journey will be a constant reminder of the cost you incurred and experienced in your own journey.