Informed by clinical research, as well as examples from the author’s practice and personal experience,in the bookAfter the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful,Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., an expert on issues of trust, fidelity, and forgiveness,outlines specificsteps partners can take to heal their relationship,and rather than give in to despair, grow and thrive as individuals andpartners from the shattering crisis of infidelity.
One step is for the partner who was unfaithful to write a letter, asa result of first completing other steps(preferablytherapeutic work in couples therapy), from which abetter understandingof theroot and impact of theirown harmfulactions, now frees them to makea deeper commitment to their partner, the relationship, and themselves. This level of integrity can only be reached by identifying andexaminingthe impact ofold excuses, misguided assumptions, desires and unfair judgments or expectationsof partner thatthe betraying partner may now consider and embrace.
Often stemmingfrom past experiences, for example, unrealistic expectationsare often rooted inunresolved issues and early childhood wounds, misplaced valuesandconventions, and other factors that lead to difficulties in regulating one’s own emotional states of mind and body, and response to day to day frustrations in a marriage. As a result, apartner may expect their spouse to anticipate theirneeds, and then blame them for not feeling fulfilled,without even havingclearly thought through,much lessclearly communicated theirneeds. This very mindset is what often sets the stage for a partner to justify fulfillingthose needs in damaging ways outside the marriage. In addition to workingwith a therapist that has experience with infidelity issues,Dr. Spring’s book isaninvaluable guide to preventinfidelity, as well a heal from its impact.
A letter thepartner who was unfaithfulwrites:
Adopted from thebook, the letterbelow is an example the partner who was unfaithful maypersonally customize, write and read aloud to their partner (ideally, in a couples therapy session).
Im deeply sorry for being unfaithful, telling lies and taking otheractions that led to the pain this has causedyou, and the ongoing struggles and sorrow we are now experiencing together, as we seek to healour relationship.
As a result of poor actions and choices on my part, we are now working on, and hopefully will survive, healing as individualsfrom a crisis that hit at the core of our relationship and shattered its foundations of trust and personal integrity.
I know now that I must face the truth that in addition to you, the person I most deceived, and let down was myself, my own integrity and standards. I allowed my excuses, justifications, complaints to justifychoicesthat weredestructive, and I broke our vows to one another.
I am grateful for the chance to work with you, and grateful that you arewilling to work with me to rebuild something anew, this timestronger, as a result of the new understandings you and I now have of who we really are, as human beings,what we need from each other, and most of all, what we need from our own self to make healthy choicesat times when we feel stressed. For me, this means thatregardless the situation, it’s myresponsibility to make ahealthy versus quick-fix choiceto deal with the day to day stresses and frustrations, and also to accept some level of stressas a naturalaspectof living,growing, and buildinga life together with another human being, the person you love, your life partner.
I now realize how often I blamed you for my dissatisfaction and unhappiness; and that it was my own thinking patterns, and notyou, that failed me. I failed because, like a child, I wanted to avoid, and didnt know how, to deal with the painof facingmy own contributions to my unhappiness. It was too painful to admit this.
It was not you, and ratherthesepatterns of blame and excuse-making that intensifiedmy unhappiness, in addition to certainunrealistic expectationsIheld for youto fulfill, heal and delight me … and that this should be easy, without any effort on my part.
My ideas about fidelity and love talked me into thinkingI was “entitled” to look for pleasure elsewhere;ultimately, this is what caused me to be unfaithful to you. I no longer expect you to meet my idealized fantasies of love or sex.
I alsounderstand how the ideas and issuesI brought into our relationship made me misperceive and mistreat you, and how this made it impossiblefor you to know me, love me or to give me what I needed. I alienated you at the very time whenI most wanted andneeded your love, and to feel my love was important to you.
I now see how important communication is to the life and vitality, joyand health of our relationship, and thus how vital this is to our growth and health as individuals,that we learn to authentically communicate in ways thatbuild (rather than block) our sense of love and trust, mutual connection and understanding of our self and one another.
I understand why I strayed, and I am committedto doing everything in my power tokeep our relationship strong and thriving, to help you and our relationship heal, and to protect myselffrom straying again. I commit myself to you fully, and through my behavior and actions, not through words alone, Ill continue to demonstrate my commitment to you.
I promise with all my heart and strength of mind:
- To be the gatekeeper of my life, mind and body, and to take full responsibility for remaining faithful to you–and us.
- To keep my word and ceaseall contact with the person in question.
- To make you my partner of accountability, and keepyou informed.
- To ask often what you need to restore your sense of safety and trustagain, and patiently letyou lead the healing processes of our relationship.
- To prove to you with action-backed wordsthat noperson willever again pose a threat to us.
- To work out my problems in the context of our love and life together.
- To never cheat again, and to avoid any and all appearances to the best of my ability, that would shake your sense of safety and trust.
- To make you my partner of accountability, that is, through my actions to keep you informed and regularly assure you of myof myand faithfulness,so that youdon’t have to play the role of detective any longer.
- To work hard and make continued effort to grow strong inmy own sense of integrity, so that over time,you are more and more confident thatI am doing my part to thoughtful guard my hear and mind, our marriage, and all we have together.
I’m truly sorry for actions that caused this pain and crisis.I ask you to please forgive me,and at the same time, I realize that Imust be patient, and that this will take time and effort on my part, that this will come largely due to effort on my part to reconcile our relationship.
In Part 2, a letter in response from the partner who was betrayed.