Affair healing Blog
I talk to clients nearly every day, helping most of them work through choices and changes that affect their marriage or relationship. When I first meet a new couple, I usually don't know their full story. There is a lot to find out, but I typically start by assessing the overall stability of the marriage by finding the answer to three questions:
Think of your marriage as a house that you and your partner are building together. Consider the following three components required for building a strong one: the foundation, the vision, and the efforts.
A Secure Foundation
I suppose most people's first response to the question What is the foundation of a good marriage? would be love. Love is certainly an important part of a marriage, but I would argue that a secure foundation is built primary with trust, not love.
This is especially true when love is defined as an emotional connection because the feeling of love is experienced with ebbs and flows in every marriage. If the security of the relationship was based on how "connected" the couple felt on any particular day then the marriage would often be unstable.
Trust provides a sense of security even through natural periods of disappointment or disconnection.
Obviously, the work of affair recovery requires a tremendous amount of effort to repair the severe damage done to a marriage's foundation, but trust can be broken in other ways, too. Regardless of the cause, if trust has been damaged or broken then primary attention needs to given to securing it again.
Attempting to rebuild a marriage without giving the necessary attention to repairing trust would be like rebuilding a home on a broken foundation. In time, shifts and storms will put it in jeopardy.
Questions to Explore: What boundary expectations does each partner have in each major area of their shared relationship (financial, social, sexual, etc.)? What needs to be done to rebuild damaged trust?
A Shared Vision
During the initial stages of affair recovery, the amount of energy is required to process the past and manage the present leaves very little left to invest in planning for the future. But once a couple has moved past their examination of the truth (what happened) and exploration of the affair's meaning (why it happened), they need to consider what kind of marriage they want to build.
One thing is certain: they cannot have their old relationship back again, even if they wanted it. The damage caused by betrayal forever alters the marriage. Forget going back to "the way things use to be." Overall, the marriage might be worse; it might be better. Why not work to improve it?
Each spouse needs to carefully consider the kind of marriage they hope for. If relationship healing continued, what future would each prefer? How would each describe that satisfying marriage? Would their visions be similar, or widely different?
Attempting to rebuild a marriage without assuring a common vision would be like two people trying to build one home using two different sets of blueprints.
Questions to Explore: How would each partner describe the desire for their marriage 5 years into the future? Do the two visions have a lot in common?
Marriage is an agreement between two people to be mutually invested in the relationship they are creating together. Rather than focusing on what the other needs to do, each partner takes primary responsibility for their work. When both spouses have this focus, the needs of the relationship will be addressed.
Giving primary attention to what the other should be doing will lead to judgement and frustration. Satisfaction, however, is naturally experienced when each spouse assumes this attitude: "I committed to spend my life learning how to love with you. To make us better, what's the next thing I should work on?"
Attempting to rebuild a marriage with only one partner working on change will result in imbalance. The resulting resentment leads to conflict and disconnection.
Questions to Explore: What are the relationship needs of each partner? What practical things can they each be doing to more adequately meed the other's needs?
Our Build A Stronger Marriage course for couples provides instruction and exercises to help couples re-establish trust, clarify a common vision for their future, and identify ways to more effectively work together in building a secure and satisfying marriage. Free preview available.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources. Twitter: @TimTedder