In the aftermath of infidelity, your relationship can be saved.
Arising from the emotional devastation of one of life’s most painful betrayals, a couple can build a fresh foundation of love, support, and respect that endures a lifetime.
Doing so isn’t easy.
To stack the odds in your favor, there are 7 Survival Steps that I have identified that couples must take if they are to rebound from the ruins of infidelity. These are steps — to be followed in sequence — that when completed, offer both partners an excellent chance of sustaining and fortifying their couple.
In this article, I will discuss Step #7: Building a Healthy and Happy Relationship. To read about Steps #1 through #6, as well as my other previous Psych Central articles, visit: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/author/abe-kass/.
The path from discovery to recovery allows no shortcuts. The journey will take as long as necessary — sometimes months or even years, and may be helped by seeing a relationship counselor.
In Steps #1 through #6, the central character is the infidelity and each partner’s response to it.
In Step #7, the spotlight turns to the broader relationship, with a close eye on problems that predate the infidelity and continue to pose a threat to the harmony of the couple.
Infidelity seldom occurs in a vacuum. Other hurtful relationship issues, although never a justification for infidelity, must be identified, examined, and addressed in order for a couple to forge a lasting, fulfilling relationship.
For example, if one or both partners felt a lack of sexual or emotional intimacy prior to the affair, now is the time to resolve the problem. The partner who strayed, who for the sake of illustration, I call “John,” must be candid if he was unfulfilled sexually.
“Sue,” the partner who was betrayed, likewise must speak up now if she felt that John had prioritized work or community involvement over spending quality time with her.
The ultimate strength and durability of John and Sue’s relationship depend on both partners finding satisfaction.
Note that “John” and “Sue,” names that I’ve applied throughout this seven-part series, are fictional amalgams of real-life men and women who I’ve seen in my counseling practice. The lessons would apply no differently if it were Sue who strayed and John who was betrayed.
Even at Step 7, and in the relationship frontiers beyond this infidelity survival guide, it may be necessary for John to accept limited penance in the immediate aftermath of his infidelity. Spending more quality time with Sue is vital, even if it means forgoing his weekly poker game with the guys or Sunday’s at the sports bar.
But for both Sue’s and John’s sake, if John is sincerely repentant and follows each of the seven steps I’ve outlined in good faith, it is in both their interest for Sue to forgive him and close the book on this troublesome chapter of their lives.
Postscript: It’s now two years since John and Sue dutifully completed the 7 Survival Steps process and forged ahead with their lives. They remain together and, in fact, are closer than they were prior to John’s betrayal.
Their life path was altered by the infidelity and its recovery process. John and Sue found it necessary to start over in a new neighborhood to avoid running into constant reminders of John’s misbehavior and to avoid a steady stream of comments or stares from others in their old neighborhood who were unwilling to forgive and forget.
Likewise, it took time, but John ultimately left his old job (where he had worked with his paramour) and landed one that turned out to pay better and be more satisfying.
John and Sue’s couple is not perfect. They still squabble about everyday relationship issues, such as household chores and budgeting. But even those differences seem much more manageable now because John and Sue have been to the relationship abyss and managed to step back.
John and Sue concluded, rightly, that they were better off navigating life’s ups and down together than going it alone. John’s infidelity choked their love, but never extinguished it.
John came to realize that the void in his life that he attempted to address by having an affair was much better filled by Sue, right there at home. And Sue, initially hurt and bitter, realized that John is still the man she fell in love with — a man who had made a huge mistake and now has made amends. Her forgiveness was sincere.
In real life, not every story of infidelity has a happy ending. Unfortunately, many don’t.
Ideally, partners would never betray one another, and this 7 Step Guide would be unnecessary. Short of that blissful goal, it would be useful for men and women to educate themselves about the incalculable damage that infidelity causes — before they ever stray.
Too often, by the time one or both partners turn to this 7 Step Guide for direction and comfort, the infidelity has occurred and the paradigm shifts to one of damage control.
Are you or a family member struggling to cope with the aftermath of infidelity? I offer other helpful articles at SurvivingInfidelity.info.