After the explosive initial shock of infidelity, when emotions are less volatile, some couples will try to make things right.
In a marriage or committed relationship, the partner who strayed will sometimes awaken to the many harsh, unanticipated consequences that his or her misbehavior brings. Not the least of these is the enormous pain infidelity creates for the partner who is betrayed.
For the sake of illustration, in this article I will refer to the partner who strayed as “John” and the partner who was betrayed as “Sue.” I will name John’s sexual partner, “Violet.” The model would be no different if the gender roles were reversed and it was John who was betrayed and Sue who strayed.
Sue and John need guidance.
John may very well beg Sue for forgiveness, pledging to end the affair and never again stray. That is a good start. But John has to understand that saying “I’m sorry” is not enough. He has to take a proactive role in trying to repair the damage he caused.
She is hurt, perhaps heartbroken. She likely wants to find a way to stay together with John, but how can she ever trust him again, or forgive him?
Although infidelity often shatters a relationship, it needn’t be its death knell.
I have identified 7 Survival Steps that couples must follow if they are to recover from the massive damage caused by infidelity. None of these steps are easy, and the burden is squarely on John to prove to Sue (and to himself) that he is worthy of a second chance. But when John completes all seven steps, he will restore Sue’s trust in him, allowing her to genuinely forgive him, and giving the two of them an excellent chance of moving forward together as a caring, dedicated, and respectful couple.
In this post, I’ll detail the first of the 7 Survival Steps: “Ceasing All Contact with the Outside Person.” In subsequent articles, I’ll flesh out the other six steps.
Since in this illustration it is John who strayed, it is John who must cease all contact with his paramour, Violet.
John faces a clear choice: either break all contact with Violet or quit his relationship with Sue. There can be no middle ground.
For John to accomplish a complete break from Violet, he may be required to make fundamental changes in his life and routine.
Infidelity can take root at work, in the immediate neighborhood and community, or even among extended family members. If John’s affair was with a work colleague, he might need to find a new job. If Violet is someone who John knows from the community, John and Susan may need to relocate to a new neighborhood. If Violet is a member of John or Sue’s extended family, then John will have to do everything possible to keep his distance from Violet at family events — and perhaps skip them altogether.
John’s responsibility now is to demonstrate beyond question to Sue that he is doing everything possible to put distance between himself and Violet.
In fact, in Sue’s presence and with her input, John needs to write a script that makes it abundantly clear to Violet that their affair and friendship are terminated. With Sue as a witness, John must then either relay that message to Violet by phone (not in person) or by email.
It is important for Sue to see with her own eyes that John is burning all of his bridges to Violet. It is one way that John can prove to Sue that he is absolutely committed to reconciling.
Must John really go to extremes, such as changing jobs or moving to a new neighborhood, just to avoid Violet? Even though it may be hard, expensive, and inconvenient to make a complete break from Violet, the answer is “yes.”
The principle of ceasing all contact is fixed. That said, major life changes — such as finding a new job or moving to a new home — are not always possible. Even when they are doable, the transition to a “new life” may take time and require John to cross paths with Violet on the job or in the neighborhood in the interim.
In such circumstances, it is essential that John limit his contacts with Violet in every way possible. Moreover, John should make certain he is never again alone with Violet, and that he voluntarily shares with Sue details of all of his future encounters and interactions. Sue must know, and trust, that John is committed to her alone and at the earliest possible moment is looking to make a 100% clean break from all contact with Violet.
As Step One of the 7 Survival Steps makes abundantly clear, the unanticipated consequences that infidelity brings are severe.
If more men and women understood the tremendous aftershocks that follow in the wake of infidelity, no doubt many of those who stray would think twice before ever beginning an illicit affair.
Are you or a family member struggling to cope in the aftermath of infidelity? I offer other helpful articles at SurvivingInfidelity.info.