One of you has cheated. Both of you are suffering. Nothing will ever be the same. Is surviving infidelity without counseling possible?
Despite the seemingly common occurrence of affairs and the high rate of divorce in the US, couples do survive infidelity. Some even manage to forge a stronger marriage after the fallout.
But where and how do you begin to pick up the pieces, let alone rebuild from the rubble? How do you raise a steel-clad fortress when you have no blueprints?
Counseling is not always an option
While counseling can be a lighthouse in the rough journey ahead, it may not be possible. For one thing, not everyone can afford the therapy that would be ideal for this particular situation.
Sometimes there is just too much shame and humiliation filling the chasm between the spouses. And sometimes one or both spouses are too independent and resistant to begin counseling, let alone at such a fragile juncture.
In cases like these, hope and guidance still need to be available for those surviving infidelity without counseling.
The work ahead will be difficult, painful, exhausting, even lonely. But it can be done.
If you are in this situation, regardless of your role, your decision to stay and fight for your marriage will test your resolve. Every minute. Every day. For a long time.
But isn’t that how champions are made? They have something in their hearts worth fighting for, and they show up for it. Every minute. Every day. For a long time.
If you are going to champion the cause of your marriage, know that surviving infidelity without counseling is possible. It’s not ideal, it’s a tremendous amount of work, you won’t know the exact way forward most of the time, but it is possible.
One of your biggest challenges will be rebuilding trust without knowing what you can trust or count on while you do.
The betrayed spouse understandably doesn’t know what is real or believable anymore. The betraying spouse doesn’t know how to trust that s/he won’t be punished forever. And neither of you may know how to trust, let alone express, your feelings.
Surviving infidelity without counseling means you are at the mercy of communication and relational skill sets that may have enabled the affair in the first place.
To get past the betrayal and build a new marriage, you will have to commit to, develop and practice new skills. And that can feel like a game of hide-and-seek if you don’t have a map of where you are trying to go.
The benefit of working on your marriage in the context of couples/marriage therapy is similar to the benefit of working out with a personal trainer. In both someone knowledgeable and experienced creates a plan to help you reach your goals.
Instead of continuing with “what you have always known and done,” you have the guidance and support of an expert with the best interest of your marriage at heart.
If therapy is not an option, these essential tips for surviving infidelity without counseling can be your initial map.
Stop the cheating. Immediately.
There is no way to work on healing broken hearts and rebuilding your marriage if the affair relationship is still smoldering on the sidelines.
The cheating spouse will have to be completely honest about the depth of the relationship built with the affair partner. No matter what, a choice — and clean break — must be made.
Establish a mutual perspective and purpose.
The betrayed spouse will ruminate over the unknowns of the affair and will feel crushed by the betrayal. The cheating spouse will likely be crushed by guilt and shame. Both of you will be tormented by confusion and pain.
It is completely within your power to choose to use the infidelity to inspire something new and better. You can give your pain a purpose and assign value to it: the journey through infidelity can become an indelible, forward-moving life lesson.
- Total honesty is essential.
The betrayed spouse is going to have a ton of questions. And anger. And hurt. And, if you are the straying partner, a slew of other negative emotions that will show up in your reflection in the mirror for a long time
You will have to answer those questions honestly — sometimes over and over. In the context of counseling, a therapist would compassionately guide the process of asking and answering. S/he would ensure that the questions aren’t about details that merely feed natural curiosity and ultimately cause lingering trauma.
- Rebuild trust.
The straying spouse will have to be humble and show deference to his/her spouse to re-earn trust. That may mean handing over phones, emails, and passwords.
It will also mean being overly indulgent when it comes to being accountable to time commitments, locations, and quality time together.
- Address underlying issues in the relationship.
Infidelity has no justification. But it does have underlying reasons, especially when couples don’t have healthy, well-honed relational and communication skills. The betrayed spouse will need to permit the straying spouse to explain what drove him/her to go outside the marriage.
The betrayed spouse never causes his/her spouse to cheat. But there is always mutual accountability for how and why the marriage wasn’t as good as it could and should have been.
- Behave the way you want to feel.
Surviving infidelity isn’t about sweeping feelings under the rug. It’s only natural that both of you will have feelings that don’t exactly involve desire and affection for one another.
But the course of reinventing your marriage asks you to at least behave civilly and with care toward one another. A commitment to behave in this way often creates an opening for your feelings of love and compassion to emerge
- Commit to a new marriage together
Your ‘’old” marriage doesn’t exist anymore.
If you and your spouse are doing the work of becoming more loving, compassionate, and communicative partners, your marriage will reflect that. And that is a magnificent testament to what love can do when handled with personal accountability and sacrifice.
Marriage is hard work. And its rewards are worth the effort.
Interesting research has been done on couples who have been able to overcome infidelity, and one particular trait stands out: forgiveness.
The capacity to forgive is directly related to relational commitment. Even if forgiveness doesn’t increase the pre-offense level of commitment, it’s at least a powerful protector against the decline in commitment post-offense.
Lack of forgiveness, on the other hand, causes a decline in relational commitment after the transgression.
If you are doing the painful work of surviving infidelity without counseling, it’s important to arm yourself with positive tools. Tighten the weave of your marriage and strive for forgiveness with every possible insight, relevant bit of research, and accessible support.
And commit yourself to the uncomfortable but authentic work of honest-while-compassionate disclosure and self-expression. It’s only through this work that you’ll have a chance of surviving infidelity without counseling.