Repairing a Relationship After You Have Betrayed Your Spouse

Let’s say you are Bill Clinton, and you wish to repair the relationship and regain the trust back from your wife Hillary, after you have publicly acknowledged that you have been unfaithful to her.

For anyone who has been—or is currently in—this situation, this is what I would advise the person in Bill’s position (the betrayer) to do:

  • Where does your relationship rank concerning how you spend your time, money, effort, energy and talents? Dividing between work, sports, children, friends, family, creative interests, etc., what comes first, second, third and fourth in your life? Where do you think your relationship should rank?
  • Don’t retreat into silence. Many people who have affairs have difficulty talking about their feelings, which is one of the reasons you may have had the affair in the first place.
  • Janis Abrahms Spring, in the book After The Affair (Harper Perennial, 1997), advises to let your partner know when you’re feeling loving and close. Speak up when you feel hopeful or positive about the two of you; don’t assume your partner knows when you are happy. “I was thinking at work today how beautiful you looked last night”; “I really felt close to you when we stayed in bed talking this morning.” The exact words don’t matter.  The reassurances do.
  • Describe what you like about your partner’s body and lovemaking. Most people like to be complimented on their looks, and wish to know what their spouse finds attractive, appealing and erotic about them.
  • Reveal any sexual problems you had with your lover. It may help dispel the notion that everything was so terrific between you and your lover.
  • Reveal any sexual problems you have that predate your relationship with your primary partner. It takes some of the pressure off of him/her to be sexually perfect.
  • Nourish intimacy outside the bedroom. If you don’t make him/her feel valued and loved outside the bedroom, how can you expect your partner to warm up to you at bedtime?
  • Consider the possibility that you don’t know how to arouse your partner. As great a lover as you may fancy yourself, you may have no clue how your partner needs to be stimulated to become aroused. Though you may assail your mate for being unresponsive, the problem may be that you’re pushing the wrong buttons, and your partner hasn’t given you corrective feedback. If you want to be a better lover and improve your sex life, you need to consult the real expert—your partner—and ask for a lesson.
  • Promise to be the gatekeeper of your life, and to take full responsibility for remaining faithful to your partner. Make it unnecessary for him or her to play the role of detective any longer. Prove to your spouse that he/she doesn’t have to be afraid to trust you again, and promise to work out the problems in the relationship in the context of your lives together.

Betraying someone you love and care about is a wake up call. It’s an opportunity for self examination, and also to look at how effective your relationships are with the people that matter to you the most. This would be a good time for the two of you to enter couples therapy and work on improving your marriage.

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