“Cheating on a good person is like throwing away a diamond and picking up a rock”.
In Stage IV the focus will be on reinventing yourself. Now you are living your life either as a single/parent or a couple healing from the betrayal in your marriage. When you are successful in this healing process, you will string days, weeks, months, and eventually years together where you don’t think about the infidelity that at one point you thought might be the mountain you couldn’t climb. During this process, hopefully you have read and accomplished Stage I: you have identified the betrayal in your marriage and selected either Scenario or Scenario II. In Stage II you started the process in either scenario I or scenario II of getting help and putting one foot in front of the other. You are still raw and vulnerable, but you are beginning to open the wound. Most people in this stage are still numb and questioning how they are going to make it through this challenge. In Stage III whether you are healing as a single person or a couple, you start digging deep. You dig into the external breakdown or the logistics of what happened. You work hard to avoid getting stuck in this stage. Anger and resentment are not pretty places to spend your life so surround yourself with people who won’t indulge you here. Move on into looking deeper internally. Breakdowns, particularly your toughest ones, are your greatest opportunities to start a personal journey of finding out who you are, and your resilience quotient. If you have been doing your work rigorously, you will begin to distance yourself from the “noise” of the affair. The constant chatter of the affair starts to decrease and the journey focuses on your internal personal journey. This part of the process is where it gets exciting. Stage III leads us into Stage IV.
It is hard to imagine the day you felt the kick in the gut, that you could ever find peace or dignity in your life. When the breakdowns of our life knock on our door, we have a few choices. We can lean into the sword and get through the pain and become stronger. We can pretend it didn’t happen. We can numb ourselves with chemicals or distractions. Obviously, I am an advocate of leaning into the sword with competent help. With a competent therapist, you can begin to reinvent yourself. Let’s see how this might look with both of our scenarios.
Scenario I involves the couple staying together and recovering from betrayal in their marriage. Stop the bleeding or stop the affair must happen immediately. As you start your journey of a combination of individual work and couples work, it is important to see where you have been as a couple. What did you miss? How can you put your couple back so it doesn’t allow what we sometimes call “intruders” into your marriage? Healthy communication is paramount.
To rebuild real trust after an affair, both partners need to make an ongoing commitment to honest communication. ~Unknown
The minute there is an intimate, titillating, conversation with an outsider/sexual attraction that you do not share with your spouse you have created a triangle with your spouse on the outside. That’s crazy you say. No not if you want to rebuild a strong marriage. It takes rigor, work, and commitment. This is your best friend, your lover, the person who should have your back. Why would you want to do anything to jeopardize this relationship? If you share the fascinating, intriguing conversation you had with someone outside the marriage, with your spouse you bring the fascination and intrigue into the marriage. If you keep it a secret, you begin to build the fascination and intrigue with the person outside the marriage and you have created a triangle. Share your attraction with the person you are attracted to and you are going down a slippery slope. Smart committed couples show up as a we whether their partner is there or not. Triangles do not work in marriage! You can always find ways to lovingly bring your spouse into the conversation so people understand this is solid marriage. There is no place for intruders here. Whatever you missed as a couple before you must never allow that mistake to happen again. There are basic principles of communication that will keep your marriage safe. Practice these rigorously.
For Scenario II you are building your life as a single person/parent and you will begin to get into the dating world. The trust issue will be paramount so you also want to have healthy communication. Dating someone is a research project so do your research. How do they treat people who serve them? How do they treat their family? What is their relationship with money? Are they generous in the domain of love, finances, service etc. Are you like minded? Take time to get to know someone. Has this person ever cheated on his/her partner? Is he cheating on someone with you? Does he/she flirt in a way that makes you uncomfortable? Ask the difficult questions before signing on the dotted line. If the person doesn’t want to have these conversations, you might want to move on.
“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” from an old Italian proverb
Conversations are the glue for a marriage. Conversations can carry you across the finish line with your partner. Make sure you and your partner can have a wide range of conversations e.g.
- Logistical conversations
- Conversations about each other’s world (career, hobbies, dreams)
- Difficult conversations (this upsets me)
- Hot and Juicy conversations (why you adore each other)
- Conversations about the future (dreams for the future of the couple)
- Conversations re the world, community, social
- Conversations re Health
- Conversations re children if applicable
Your physical relationship is important and your emotional relationship is what many of us believe is going to solidify and keep your marriage safe from intruders. Do your work to have the healthiest communication possible. When you have a healthy physical, emotional, and spiritual relationship, you have the foundation for a healthy marriage.
New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. ~Lao Tzu
© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No. Permission needed for any form of reproduction.
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