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If you’re a betrayed spouse, I think that you will agree with me when I say that your affair recovery timeline would be substantially shorter if only your ex-unfaithful spouse would actually put more effort into doing the necessary work.
And if you’re an ex-unfaithful spouse, you probably can agree that you could be doing more to help in the recovery process.
Over the years I’ve learned that the ex-unfaithful person can help to substantially speed up the affair recovery timeline by practicing just one thing.
And in this post, I’m going to lay it out for you.
So, here’s the deal…
Let’s assume for a minute that we are referring to a typical scenario where the affair has ended, the couple wants to stay together, yet they are struggling to get through the affair recovery process. I realize that’s pretty generic, but it’s a start.
I’ve mentored hundreds of betrayed spouses over the years – both men and women – who are basically going through this type of scenario.
And if there is one complaint/struggle that I hear from most it’s that one of the parties – almost always the betrayed spouse – is doing all the work.
They are the person who is reading books and blogs and participating on forums. They are the one who has purchased programs, coaching, and marriage intensives. They are the person who is in individual counseling and utilizing other supportive outlets. They are the one who is busting their butt to become the best version of themselves.
In short, they are driving the affair recovery bus and their unfaithful spouse is just along for the ride.
And they’re tired of it.
And resentment is building.
And I get it.
Not too many unfaithful spouses want to deal with this stuff. Not too many want to talk about the affair, their character flaws and all the ways that they screwed things up. Few want to look within to discover why they did what they did and/or deal with deep seated family-of-origin issues.
Others simply do not have any motivation to change. They are creatures of habit and stubborn to the point of resisting any change whatsoever.
It’s messy. It’s scary. It brings out too much guilt, shame, embarrassment, etc. Not to mention – it’s damn difficult. (But nowhere near as difficult as what the betrayed is experiencing.)
Even the unfaithful spouses with the best intentions struggle with all of this. These are the folks who know what they should be doing – and are indeed doing some good things – but may not always follow through on what they say they are going to do. They start off like gang busters and then tend to fizzle out and fade away.
They let their betrayed spouse take the lead in just about everything throughout the affair recovery timeline – and that’s just fine with them.
Here’s a Ted Talk by Mel Robbins on how to stop screwing yourself over – because everything isn’t fine.
The Affair Recovery Timeline – Let’s go back in Time…
There was a time where I was doing this exact same thing as described above. I was doing some good stuff – acts of service mainly – but it wasn’t enough for Linda. So, she told me so.
Here’s how she described it in a post from back in 2011:
As you can tell, I needed a little bit of a nudge to get going. And I notice this same type of situation on a daily basis when mentoring folks.
Okay. So, what is the one thing that will make the betrayed spouse do cartwheels?
Before I tell you, let’s review the 24 tasks that the unfaithful person must perform so that they can become the healer (From, The Unfaithful Person’s Guide to Helping Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair):
- Stop all contact with the other person – forever
- Be sensitive when your partner suffers from a trigger
- Stop being so selfish
- Take responsibility for your actions – and inactions
- Stop trying to always be in control
- Have some patience
- Be trustworthy
- Talk about things
- Be honest
- Show remorse and apologize
- Acknowledge the depth of the pain that your affair brought to your marriage
- Educate yourself about affairs and relationships
- Figure out for yourself why you did what you did
- Be thoughtful and reassuring
- Stop being so defensive
- Be loving and supportive
- Stop thinking that the grass is always greener somewhere else
- Listen – really listen
- Stop blaming your spouse for your affair
- Make your life and everything you do an open book
- Check your anger at the door
- Get some counseling or therapy
- Ask your spouse what he/she needs from you on a regular basis
- Gratitude or gratefulness
Now here is the pièce de résistance that will make the betrayed spouse do cartwheels, add mucho deposits to their love bank – not to mention help build trust and hope while reducing resentment. (And possibly lots more.)
Three words: Take the initiative!
The Cambridge Dictionary defines this phrase very simply as:
“To be the first one to do something, esp. to solve a problem.”
What does this mean from a practical standpoint?
Again, we’re assuming the affair is over and we’re working on reconciliation and recovery.
That said, here are a few things that might get you started (Betrayed spouses, please add to this list in the comment section with some things you wish your spouse would initiate!):
- Get a book from the library or Amazon on relationships, infidelity, marriage etc. Read it. And then – now here is the most important part – take the initiative and discuss what you learned from the book with your husband or wife.
- Schedule a session with a therapist, coach, mentor or clergy person to discuss your current situation.
- Start a journal.
- When you are doing your introspection (which I know you are doing, right?), approach your spouse and talk about anything you may have learned about yourself and/or your situation.
- When you finally figure out the real reasons for why you had your affair (and that is a biggie for most betrayed spouses), don’t just keep it to yourself. Take the initiative and start a conversation with your wife or husband about your discoveries.
- Plan and make arrangements for date nights and other special occasions.
- If you’re at the stage in your recovery where it is appropriate – be more romantic.
- If you have a new perspective about your affair relationship, don’t be afraid to share it.
- Ask your spouse what you can be doing better. Ask if there is anything he/she would like to discuss.
- Start a self-improvement program; exercise, meditate/pray, read, listen to inspirational and motivational podcasts, get financially fit, etc.
Don’t let it scare you
Most of the time the unfaithful person is afraid to do these things out of fear (yes, some are just plain lazy). They fear they will be shamed, guilted, blamed, interrogated, punished, argued with or rejected.
I venture to guess that if you take the initiative and do some of the things I listed, your spouse will do none of those things, but will instead thank you for it.
I can tell you that when I started to do some of these things, it made all the difference to Linda and it made our affair recovery timeline shrink substantially.
When it comes right down to it, I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants to dwell on this stuff forever. No unfaithful person has ever told me that they didn’t want to move on. It would make sense then to ditch yours fears, your poor attitude, your laziness or lack of desire, and instead put forth 100% effort into doing what you need to do…
Take the initiative!