There is no room for blaming the betrayed spouse for the affair. S/he may have accountability for behaviors and actions that weren’t in the marriage’s best interest. But s/he did not cause the affair to happen.
3. Positive degree of understanding of vulnerabilities that made the affair possible.
This component of healing is a great predictor of which marriages survive infidelity. It means that both partners are willing to examine where they left their marriage vulnerable and exposed.
Consider a house that isn’t properly sealed. A roof tile is loose. There are cracks around the windows. Small holes punctuate the foundation. Now think about what can get in when the weather gets bad or a critter gets curious.
Affairs happen in the context of opportunity. And the office is the most common breeding ground. Think about it. You show up in the morning showered, nicely dressed, ready to take on the world and reel in the profits. You’re focused, cooperative, and on your best behavior.
Perhaps you have to travel for business, and an attractive business partner travels with you or is a client at your destination. Perhaps an old high school flame reaches out to you on social media after his/her divorce, and you form an emotional attachment. Perhaps you are getting too comfortable with your personal trainer at the gym.
Part of taking responsibility for your marriage is “sealing up the house.” That doesn’t mean you hide from the world. It simply means you take control of what comes into your house.
When you understand the vulnerabilities in your marriage, you can address them head-on. What will you do/not do, share/not share? How and where will you spend time with members of the opposite sex outside your marriage, even at work? How can you strengthen your spouse’s sense of security and trust by addressing and reducing vulnerabilities?
Aside from this “umbrella” of elements that are good indicators of which marriages survive infidelity, several others add to the chance of success.
Here are a few more:
Commitment to honesty and rebuilding trust. Believe it or not, the responsibility for this doesn’t rest solely on the unfaithful partner.
Yes, the nature of the honesty will be different for both partners, as will the roles in rebuilding trust. But both partners will have to be equally committed to transparency about their feelings and the affair.
And the unfaithful partner will have to accept that his/her life will be lived in a fish bowl for some time. Being proactive in assuring the betrayed partner of trustworthiness is a huge sign of taking responsibility and of a commitment to healing the marriage.
Openness to counseling.
Recovering from infidelity is difficult enough, even in the safest environment. It’s exceptionally difficult to do with only the polarized partners.Emotional safety is a non-negotiable if there is going to be honest disclosure of vulnerabilities and feelings.The unpredictability of flashbacks, painful feelings, and obsessions can make it difficult to put parameters around dealing with the affair. It needs to have boundaries in order to be safe and effective while leaving protected time to actually “live.”
Willingness to work through the perpetrator-victim mindset.
It’s all but inevitable. The unfaithful partner will be seen as the guilty one who “did this” to his/her spouse. And the betrayed spouse will take on a “victim” stance.While this is understandable in the early stages after an affair has been discovered, it’s not conducive to a marriage coming out stronger. Healthy boundaries are incredibly important, especially during this delicate time of reconciliation and healing.There’s a difference between taking responsibility for a damaging choice and being punished as a perpetrator of intentional cruelty. And there’s a difference between expressing the pain of betrayal and playing the role of a victim who has no responsibility for the marriage.