Healing an Infidelity

If I were Bill and Hillary Clinton’s marriage therapist, here are some suggestions I would offer them for how to heal their marriage after infidelity:

  • For the betrayer, some questions to expect: Who? Where? How long? Where and when did you meet? Do you love this other person? Who else knows? Do you still love me?  Did it happen in our bed? Do the children know?
  • If you are the betrayed person, here are some questions to reflect upon:
  • Is this the first time I have been betrayed by this person, or is it one of a long series of betrayals that have taken place over the years? Is my betrayer genuinely sorry? How has he/she demonstrated this sorrow? Am I still in love with him or her, or are we hanging on by force of habit? Do I still respect my betrayer? How have we recently shown that we value, honor and cherish each other? Is there enough joy when we are together to outweigh the pain I’m going through? (Those questions were taken from the book Betrayed! by Riki Robbins, Adams Media Corporation, 1998).
  • For both of you: Which of your needs are met in this relationship? Which of your needs do you wish he/she would meet that are not being met? Why do you think these needs are not being met?
  • How would you like your relationship with each other to be different? Is it possible to discuss your concerns with your partner? If not, why not? What prevents you from taking action to improve the relationship?
  • Is there a way to grow, learn or improve from what happened? Are there any lessons to be learned?
  • What amends need to be made? Apologies offered? Reassurances issued? (Hint: The betrayer would be well advised to offer at least 10 times the amount of reassurances than he/she thinks necessary. I am not exaggerating.
  • How has the relationship between the two of you grown distant? What can the two of you do about it?
  • Janis Abrahms Spring, in the book, After The Affair (Harper Perennial, 1997) recommends the following: You, the hurt partner, need to request behaviors that make you feel more cared for, appreciated and secure (“Smile at me and give me your full attention when you talk to me.”; “Do more to share the costs and the work of keeping up our home.”; “Show me affection at times without making it sexual.”) The unfaithful partner needs to request reassurances that his/her efforts to restore trust are paying off: (“Tell me when you feel more optimistic about our future together”), and that his/her partner is trying to address areas of dissatisfaction at home (“Show understanding of my need to spend some time alone”; “Tell me when you like the way I interact with the kids”).
  • Be sure to address all aspects of your relationship in a similar way—communication, free time, finances, sex, the children, family members, personal habits and so on. Make your list more than a litany of complaints by including some positive and well functioning areas of your relationship as well.
  • What steps might you take to make your relationship grow and deepen? What must occur for the relationship to be at the intimacy level you desire?

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