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Betrayed Spouse 101

Rebuilding From The Ashes

H ow in hell do you fix this? Your marriage is in tatters, your world shattered at your feet. You are living with a stranger inhabiting your mate's body. Day is night, up is down. How do you fix it? Do you even bother? Is it worth it???

Apparently, it is, since the vast majority of cheating spouses return to their marriages to rebuild. Many marriages survive to become much, much stronger than they were before the affair. It's not easy, it's not going to happen overnight, and you will second-guess yourself constantly. Get ready for the rollercoaster ride. Here are the first, necessary steps:

The Three R's -I call this the 'trifecta' of rebuilding. Without the Three R's, it aint gonna happen. They are:
Remorse: do they have it? Are they truly sorry for what they've done? Guilty? Ashamed?
Responsibility: do they fully accept the blame for their choice to have an affair? Or are they pushing it off on you, claiming you 'drove' them to it? Do they fully realize just what their actions have done to you and to your marriage? Are they willing to do their part to heal that?
Respect: are they showing it to you and to your marriage? They show you respect by cutting off all contact with the Other Woman/Man, and letting you know immediately if they receive contact from same. They show respect for you by answering all your questions honestly, giving you an open pass into the formerly 'secret' areas of their life to reassure you. They show you respect by allowing you your grief, anger, obsession and pain and not trying to 'talk' you out of it or belittle you for not 'getting over it'. They show you respect by agreeing to go to counseling alone or together, if you so desire it.

The Goodbye -Absolutely necessary and no negotiation on this point. The affair must end, completely and without any lingering 'friendship' between the two. I'm going to quote Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D. from the MarriageBuilders website on 'saying goodbye', as I think its the best writing I've seen on the subject.

"How should an unfaithful spouse tell their lover that their relationship is over? If left to their own devices, many would take a Caribbean cruise to say their final good-byes. Obviously, that will not do. In fact, I recommend that the final good-bye be in the form of a letter, and not in person or even by telephone. My advice is to write a final letter in a way that the victimized spouse would agree to send it. It should begin with a statement of how selfish it was to cause those they loved so much pain, and while marital reconciliation cannot completely repay the offense, it's the right thing to do. A statement should be made about how much the unfaithful spouse cares about their spouse and family, and for their protection, has decided to completely end the relationship with the lover. He or she has promised never to see or communicate with the lover again for life, and asks the lover to respect that promise. Nothing should be said about how much the lover will be missed. After the letter is written, the victimized spouse should read and approve it before it is sent."

I'd also like to add that I disagree with Dr. Harley only in that I believe it's even better if this speech is given over the phone to the Other Woman/Man, with the betrayed spouse on the other line, unbeknownst to the Other Woman/Man. The reason for this is they can't say they never got the message (letters and emails can be 'lost' or 'deleted) and you can hear every word they say to each other, and know that your spouse did as you asked. The lover can also imagine that a letter or email was written by the betrayed spouse, but hearing the cheater's voice telling them goodbye is impossible to attribute to anyone but the cheater. They can't 'read anything into' it, if your spouse is using the correct words and tone, and you'll be there to hear it. You'll also notice above that it was stressed that the cheater NOT mention that the lover will be missed. That also goes for wishing them well, telling them to take care, or the cheater telling them they are sorry they had to hurt them. The cheater may (and probably does) feel all those things, but sharing those emotions with the Other Woman/Man just reinforces yet again that they are cared for, and feeds into the mindset that the cheater is breaking it off 'against their will'. Why give them anything to read into? It only makes it harder on everyone. My husband's goodbye letter was full of "I want you to be happy" and "I'm so sorry I hurt you" and "you're so beautiful, I know you can find love again"....UGH. I let him say it because I actually felt sorry for the girl. What she read was a letter from a man who had to break up with her but clearly didn't want to because he obviously still cared about her SO much. And the downside was, it wasn't goodbye. Not for months.

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