IF YOU ARE THE CHEATER:
#1 Stop lying. If you love the other man/woman, admit it; if you're not sure you want to remain in the marriage, say so; if the victim spouse presents evidence of the affair, own up to it. You need to understand that the worse thing that could happen has already occurred...you slept with someone else. Therefore, continuing to lie, twist, or deny is simply adding insult to injury. If you are looking your spouse in the eye and claiming to want the marriage to work then you cannot continue to lie about various odds and ends. You have been lying to your spouse for the entire duration of the affair, therefore, if you continue to lie now, it sets the reconciliation process waaaay back. The victim spouse likely knows the answers to the questions they are asking, or can usually find out, so if you are interested in rebuilding trust in the relationship, simply STOP LYING.
#2 Do not get defensive or assign blame. This is not the time to employ the old adage of "the best defense is a good offense." This is the time to be contrite, remorseful, empathetic, compassionate, honest, and emotionally available. Do not say anything at this point which will give the impression that the victim spouse drove you to cheat, or in any way contributed to your behavior. There will be plenty of time to pass the blame around later on during counseling sessions, or during times of productive conversation with your mate. Additionally, do not waste time blaming the affair on anyone or anything else. Do not point the finger toward temptation, being under the influence, or falling prey to a stalker. The victim spouse will see right through these excuses and will view this as another attempt to keep them in the dark while you continue playing them for a fool. The best way to effectively deal with your spouse's anger, and start the process of rebuilding trust, is to take complete and full ownership of your selfishness, immaturity, or basic destructive marital behavior.
#3 Cut any and all possible ties with the other man/woman. Keeping a person in your life with whom you have had an affair is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. Not only is this a confusing message to the other person, it is extremely disrespectful to your spouse. It does not matter if you have known this other man/woman since kindergarten, it is time to break those ties. Once you have allowed another individual to permeate or undermine your marital union, there is no place for this person in your life. You simply cannot expect your victim spouse to move past the affair as long as you continue communicating with, seeing, or having any type of relationship with this other man/woman. It is in fact an insult to the intelligence of your current spouse for you to purport that you can maintain a professional, platonic, or otherwise innocent relationship with this destructive individual. Furthermore, because this person had an affair with a married man/woman, your current spouse knows they have absolutely no respect for your marriage. Continuing to work with, hang out with, email or chat with this person is probably the single worst possible thing to do if you are wanting to repair your marriage. This is the time to figure out which relationship is the most important to you, either your marriage or the relationship with the other man/woman, and behave accordingly. You simply cannot drive in two lanes at once.
#4 Your life must be an open book. You no longer have the luxury of coming and going as you please. Once you have abused that privilege, it takes a while to get it back. Therefore, if you will be late coming home from work, or have had a change in plans, inform your spouse. Every time you leave home your spouse is now wondering if you are going where you say you are going. The best way to ease their insecurities is to check in throughout the day. Invite your spouse places you usually go alone like to the game, the gym or the mall. Let your spouse know that you have nothing to hide. Additionally, do not hide your cell phone or set the ringer on silent. If your spouse requests, give them your email and voice mail pass codes. In fact, if you have nothing to hide then offer your spouse the codes without them having to ask. Don't lock your cell phone, call log or address book, and keep the credit card statement in plain view on the kitchen table. Although your spouse may never choose to check these things, the simple fact that you made them available for his/her perusal will be a huge step in regaining their trust. Although you may feel as though this is a violation of your privacy, you need to know that these steps are absolutely necessary if you are trying to rebuild trust. Saying that you are on the straight and narrow, while continuing to hide your cell phone, is counterproductive to your stated goal of wanting to rebuild your marriage.
#5 Be prepared to answer any and all questions about things that your spouse has a legitimate right to know. Your spouse is going to want lots of details and ask questions you may not want to answer, but too bad. Your spouse is going to cross reference your prior stories and ask you to confirm if "this" or "that" was a lie. You simply need to fess up. The worst thing you can do is to conceal information because you don't want to hurt your spouse. Remember, they have already been hurt beyond belief, so continuing to withhold additional information gives the appearance of an attempt to continue the deception. No, your spouse does not need to know the exact places, times, and positions in which you were intimate with the other man/woman, but they do need to get a general understanding of how intense the relationship was, and how long it lasted. Although this may be one of the most difficult steps in the process, it is one of the most important. It is extremely difficult for a betrayed spouse to know that there is another man/woman in the world who has more information about their marriage then themselves. Therefore, asking multiple questions helps the betrayed spouse get up to speed, thus obtaining necessary information to deal with feelings of being in the dark while their spouse was gallivanting around with their lover.
#6 Do not attempt to dictate the length of time the victim spouses recovery should take. You are the one who brought the outsider into the marriage, and therefore, are in no position to dictate when the victim spouse should be "over it". The truth of the matter is, the victim spouse will never fully be "over it", but may simply learn how to mentally move past the affair. When a person is hurting, they typically share their pain with the closest person to them. As their spouse, you are the one they will vent to, even though it is you that caused the pain. Additionally, you may feel as though since you've confessed, apologized and vowed to remain faithful, things should now return to normal. That is simply not the case. One of the worse things that can happen is for the adulterous spouse to begin acting as though it's "business as usual". Deciding to remain in a relationship after your spouse has cheated is a major decision and one which can be both humiliating and stressful. Do not downplay the magnitude of that decision by behaving as though nothing happened two weeks after getting caught cheating. FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS, the adulterous spouse needs to periodically wrap their arms around their mate, kiss them, and thank them for another chance. Additionally, acknowledge how much you hurt your spouse, how difficult it must be for them to get over the pain, and vow to do whatever necessary to make things better...forever. Although it may seem as though such actions will revive the pain, that is simply not the case. Acknowledging the degree of pain you put your spouse through, and expressing appreciation for another chance, gives the victim spouse the impression that you not only are mindful of their pain, but that as long as you are aware of their struggle to overcome the ordeal, you will be less likely to make such choices in the future.
#7 Do not behave inappropriately or create future problems. Don't put yourself in situations which will cause your victim spouse undue stress. Spending time with attractive, available singles, or forming relationships which could take focus away from your marriage or family commitments, is certainly not wise. Once you've rebuilt trust in your marriage, then it is okay to revisit these outside relationships. But for the time being, try to stay away from the bachelor parties, solo trips to Vegas, or nights out with the girls. Additionally, make your spouse aware when you anticipate coming into contact with the other man/woman. If you suspect the other man/woman might be at the holiday party, let your spouse know in advance. Also, if you run into, or have contact with, the other man/woman unexpectedly, let your spouse know as soon as possible. Nothing is worse than finding a recent email from the other man/woman that the victim spouse did not know about. It gives the impression of further secrecy and deception. Trust me, it won't hurt your spouse to know the other man/woman is contacting you, as much as it will hurt them to discover you hid that information. Believe me, during this time of broken trust, full disclosure is always the best route.
IF YOU ARE THE VICTIM:
#1 Never make the discovery of infidelity or decision to reconcile your relationship a family affair. Minimize input from parents, siblings, friends and other well intentioned bystanders. You alone need to assess whether or not this relationship is in your best interest and perhaps the best interest of your children, and therefore you alone need to make the decision of whether to stay or leave. Counseling and spiritual input are always great options, but in the end the decision needs to be made by you. Often well meaning people who love you will provide advice that is not in your best interest. That's why it is best to keep your business as private as possible when it comes to family and friends.
#2 If you decide to stay and work on your marriage, you absolutely cannot keep throwing the affair back into the cheaters face. If the cheater is doing everything possible to repair the relationship and rebuild trust then you cannot undermine your stated goal of reconciliation by continuing to attack, berate or punish your partner. If your purpose for staying together is simply to torture your mate, then you have made a poor and unhealthy decision. Rebuilding trust takes hard work, cooperation from both parties, and most importantly time, but it can be done.
#3 Take it slow. Don't expect things to quickly go back to the way they were because, truthfully, they never will. Realize that you are living in a brand new reality and have got to adjust to a new "normal". Often this results in improved communication and understanding between the partners and can foster a deeper, more transparent relationship. Just be sure to take your time and let the relationship rebuild gradually.
If the cheater is indeed interested in repairing the relationship, and is following the framework I've set forth for rebuilding trust, plus the victim is able to have an open, introspective and forgiving heart, it CAN work. Additionally, I strongly recommend both individual and couples counseling, in order to help get through the rough patches on the road toward reconciliation (believe me, there WILL be many).
About Danine Manette
Danine Manette is the author of the popular book Ultimate Betrayal: Recognizing, Uncovering and Dealing with Infidelity." Danine Manette received a Bachelor's Degree in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley and went on to earn her Doctorate from Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, California. She has worked as a Milieu Therapist, a Juvenile Probation Officer, and currently works in the field of Criminal Investigations. Her ability to confront the topic of deception and betrayal is rooted not only in her educational and professional experience, but most notably she is a living testament to the effectiveness of the tactics and information presented to the reader.
For moe information, visit www.ultimatebetrayal.com.