Affair healing Blog
We usually expect our marriage to last a lifetime. What starts with promises of faithfulness and endurance, we believe, will survive any challenge "for better or for worse." Most marriages do; some even thrive. But many die in ways never anticipated.
When the death of a marriage is a mutual choice between two partners, grieving its loss may be a short-term process. The decision to end their relationship often follows a period of prolonged suffering, making divorce feel like relief. Similar to a funeral, partners make the appropriate arrangements, pay their final respects, bury the marriage, and move on with their lives.
But a marriage killed by betrayal is not so easily mourned.
After my affair, I could never attend a wedding without being reminded of the promises I once made and eventually broke. The marriages of my own children, however, have always been particularly thoughtful occasions.
My children love me and have forgiven me for the affair that broke their family twenty years ago. Their grace washes away the shame that would otherwise spoil the celebration of their marriages. But the past is always present, and so in their vows I hear echos of my own.
I don't try to hide the story of my infidelity from my children. I hope that maybe they, and their spouses, will learn something from it and avoid making the same mistakes. And so recently, the week before another daughter was about to be married, I wrote the following letter to her fiance, my soon-to-be son-in-law.
In the introduction to her excellent book, How To Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair, Linda MacDonald identifies 5 options available to unfaithful partners after an affair has been discovered. With the author's permission, I've reprinted her options with my comments and added a sixth option as well.
After an affair is exposed, much pain and confusion is often experienced. And when a couple, caught up in the turmoil, reaches out for answers to the "What's next?" question, they are likely to hear many different answers.
I'd like to give you mine.
My response is more than opinion. It is an honest conclusion that has been firmly established by many years of counseling individuals & couples following infidelity. It is learned from my own experience, too.
But let me adjust the questions just a bit before I answer them further.
Let's take a closer look at each question...
Sara turned to look at Dave sitting at the other end of the couch in my office. With a mix of hope and caution she said, "I'm willing to work through this and fix our marriage. Are you?"
Dave was slow to respond. Since his affair had been discovered two weeks ago, he had been swinging between the choice to recommit to his marriage, or leave it for good. His indecision left Sara confused, uncertain about her own choices. She wanted him to make a declaration, one way or another, so she could decide what her next steps would be.
As long as Dave continued to vacillate, and as long as Sara waited on his choice before making her own, their relationship remained in limbo. Neither spouse was able to see a clear path forward.
Although the betrayed spouse also must decide whether or not to stay in their marriage, this article will focus on the decision (or indecision) of the unfaithful spouse. By reading the decision meter, each spouse can determine the steps that will guide them away from relationship limbo.