I received another email this morning from a woman distraught that her husband of twenty years had moved out of their home and into the home of a woman ten years his junior, leaving behind his grief-stricken wife and two young daughters.
“I don’t know what to do,” Barbara said, choking on her words. “I’ve tried to talk him out of this but he says he’s been unhappy for some time and has found someone he really cares about.”
I began gathering background information—though the stories all have many similarities.
Her husband, Paul, had indeed been unhappy for some time. Barbara can now see that he had been voicing his discontent for many months, but she thought his unhappiness would pass.
“I just thought it was the stress of his job, our financial pressures and my busyness,” Barbara said. “I never ever thought it would come to this. But, he met a woman at his work and one thing led to another.”
“I suppose things look clearer now than they did at the time,” I said.
“Yes,” she said tearfully. “I can see all the pieces coming together to create the perfect storm. And I’m living it. My busyness, our lack of intimate times, caring for the kids, financial pressures. He needed relief and found it with this other woman.”
“You didn’t cause this,” I said reassuringly. “Both of you created a situation where he moved from friendly to familiar to failure. He had choices all along the way.”
“But I can see places where I could have stopped it,” she said.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” I said. “We need to talk about what you can do now.”
“Is there any hope?” she said pleadingly.
“Yes, there actually is a lot of hope, if you do things correctly. There are things to do and things not to do. Of course you must be careful not to do certain things and take just as much care to do things that are likely to help the situation. It is quite likely that this affair will burn hot and burn out fairly quickly. In the meantime, you will have many opportunities to take healing actions that could save the marriage.”
“It sure doesn’t seem like it right now,” she said dejectedly.
“While I know you feel very violated and discouraged, there are possibilities for your marriage to be restored. I want to give you a few things to think about,” I said.
“Thank you,” Barbara said, sensing some relief in having a clear direction.
I gave her the following steps to consider.
First, these problems didn’t develop overnight, and so the solutions won’t be quick fixes either. You need to have patience as you consider what steps to take and what actions not to take. Subsequently, you must prepare yourself emotionally for a potentially long process. You must marshal your support, seeking those who will encourage you and help you maintain your focus and your goals.
Second, words will not be helpful, but rather actions. No one wants to be talked out of what they are doing or into some alternative action. Coercion, threats or bribes would not assist Barbara in winning her husband back. Lectures would only serve to push him further away. Displays of anger and rage will also further isolate him from her.
Third, take a Fearless Relationship Inventory. Consider all the problems in the relationship that created the perfect storm and the role you played in them. You need not take responsibility for his actions, but you must take responsibility for yours. Consider all the possible reasons why he would take such a drastic action.
Fourth, ask if he will consider putting the affair aside while you work on your marriage. Many will agree to a limited time of couples counseling. Should he agree to this, you must find someone who specializes in crisis marriage counseling, and it must focus on stabilizing the relationship and bringing healing and hope to the marriage.
Fifth, ask if he will participate in a Therapeutic Healing Session. This is a one or two time intensive process where, with professional guidance, you both look at the issues that have led to this decision. Void of any guilt-inducing or shaming of each other, you both agree to look at your role leading to the break in the marriage. You agree not to anticipate and drive the outcome. You do not condone the affair, and make a clear statement about its wrongfulness, but focus on healing the problems leading to the current relationship.
Finally, do everything you can to heal your relationship, focusing on what you can control and not on what you cannot control. This is very hard to do since a mate’s betrayal is understandably painful. An affair is perhaps the most painful event that can occur in a marriage. Yet, your focus needs to remain on how to be the best person you can be, healing the problems that contributed to the affair, and maintaining hope and faith that the marriage can be restored. Remind yourself that God is still in control and answers prayers. Seek Godly wisdom to inform you as to the best choices you can make.
We want to hear from you. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: October 14, 2013
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