Marriage infidelity is a breach of trust that cannot be easily mended. Regaining or learning to trust requires time, great effort, courage and personal sacrifice. There are no steps to heal the relationship definitively, but there are some guidelines that can help pave the way to reconciliation if both spouses are truly committed to each other. The transgressor must work hard to regain the lost trust and the victim must work hard to forgive. Without even one of these ingredients, the relationship is unlikely to survive.
Acknowledge your wrongdoing. The first thing your spouse needs to hear is that you understand that what you did is wrong. Taking ownership of the breach of trust enables your spouse to see that you are willing to change.
Acknowledge your spouse's feelings. Your spouse needs you to affirm that the way he is feeling is justified considering the breach of trust.
Ask for forgiveness. This may seem obvious, but saying that you are sorry and that you need your spouse's forgiveness is critical in the healing process. Be sincere and don't overdo it by apologizing repeatedly, which can cheapen the gesture.
Remove any and all temptations. This is a step, not only for yourself, to keep from breaching trust again, but also as a gesture to your spouse that you're serious.
Seek accountability. This can be in the form of a family member or friend. Ideally it should be someone close to you who has access to your daily life. It should not be your spouse. This person will help ensure that you make the appropriate changes to earn back your spouse's trust.
Surrender your privacy to your spouse. A marriage relationship should be honest and transparent, and even more so when healing from infidelity. Surrender your right to secrets, verbalize your thoughts and daily actions, and don't keep any details of your life to yourself.
Serve your spouse. Remember back to how you first won your spouse over. Date her, perform gestures of appreciation, and be willing to spend plenty of time with her, when she is ready.
Exercise patience. The healing process is almost always a long process. No matter how hard you try or how many points you score, you should not expect your spouse to recover immediately or possibly ever trust you in the same way he originally did. Though reconciliation is possible, infidelity leaves a permanent scar on a marriage relationship.
Seek counseling. This may come in the form of marriage counseling, but also consider personal counseling with a therapist of your same gender.
Vent your anger. No matter how repentant or defiant your spouse may be about his infidelity, you should freely express the extent of your hurt and anger. If you hold it in because of intimidation or manipulation on the part of your spouse, or out of your own guilt, the anger may grow.
Seek solitude. Do not isolate from other relationships, but consider taking time away from your spouse to distance yourself from the hurt and to allow yourself some time to process the situation.
Rely on friends. Though a spouse can be a best friend, other friends are necessary in any marriage for overall social health. Seek out friends of your same gender who will listen and support you in your decision to attempt to mend the marriage relationship, as well as encourage you that you are deserving of committed love in marriage.
Communicate your honest feelings. After you have had some time away and have begun the process of working through the issues with your spouse, be honest about your fears and suspicions. If you can't express them, doubt may grow inside you and hinder your ability to move forward and forgive.
Detail your requirements. Help your spouse do her part by explaining what you need from her. This may involve such things as asking your spouse to call at regular times through the day, to be home by a certain time every night, or to allow full access to her phone.
Exercise patience with yourself and with your spouse. Realize that your own personal healing may take time. Also, your spouse may be experiencing guilt, humiliation and inconveniences from changing his habits. His growth process may take as much time as your healing process.
Receive love from your spouse. When she attempts to show love through gestures and time, do your best to receive it in trust. A spouse who wants to recover from unfaithfulness needs to feel as though she is making progress in your relationship, or she may grow demoralized and give up.
Seek counseling. This may come in the form of marriage counseling, but also consider seeking grief counseling to manage the anger and disappointment. Be sure to do this with a therapist of the same gender as you.
Examine your own life and habits. It's never excusable to commit infidelity in marriage, but consider how your own actions and attitudes may shape the mood and health of your marriage relationship.
Forgive your spouse. This is much easier said than done and may only occur as a slow process through years of reconciliation. But eventually, if you want the marriage to last and thrive, extend forgiveness, love and trust once again to your spouse, if he has earned it.
- wedding ring image by Mosista Pambudi from Fotolia.com