Many of us have struggled with the situation after “D-day” where our spouses have difficulty ending an affair and we didn’t know how to act or how to convince our spouse that saving our marriage was the best choice. In yesterday’s post I discussed the book “Torn Asunder” and highlighted the four phases of an affair viewed by the infidel’s point of view.
I believe a lot of this information was insightful and eye opening. However, the question I had when I read about the destabilization phase is, how do we pull our spouses away from their affair partner when they are so addicted to them?
I believe there are many facts to take into consideration before desperation takes over. First of all, affairs usually run their course and die a natural death. The affairs that result in marriage have an extremely low success rate. Secondly, affairs never solve the problems that caused them. They can’t; by their very nature, affairs are artificial worlds in the midst of reality.
The question is what should you do after you find out about the affair? The information I am about to tell you is based on the book “Torn Asunder” and I am just going to give you some advice Carder highlighted in his book.
Just as he discussed the phases of an affair, Carder also maps out the spouse’s process of recovery. He describes the phases as:
- Anguish and reattachment
During the awareness phase the spouse questions herself, there is a sense of shame from perceived inadequacy. The spouse begins to make herself more presentable, doing things that would please the cheater. This is when the cheater becomes resentful, thinking it was too little, too late. Carder emphasizes that this is not the time to compete with the supposed enemy or try to win the infidel back by being nice, attractive, compliant, cooperative, etc. He continues to say by pursuing that line of attack, you would have to perform at ever-increasing levels for the rest of your life to reassure yourself that all is well in the marriage.
He says that the key to recovery is that both of you join forces to look at the situation that exists and to work on the marriage together to make this marriage different.
The next phase is anger. Carder believes that anger is absolutely necessary for true recovery to occur. This is the time for the infidel to tell all and the power to continue the marriage has passed on to the spouse. One of the great fears of the spouse is that if she expresses too much anger, the infidel will run back to the arms of the partner. You need to remember that they have already been in their partners arms, now simply by being angry is not going to drive him to her–there is more involved than that. If you are going to live together in the future, you need to live together differently.
The anguish phase is when some recovery can begin, but it won’t be a steady process. During this phase the spouse needs to realize that they can live without the infidel. She needs to realize that she has options and power. The chief benefit of this power is that it equalizes the relationship unlike before the affair.
One thing the angry spouse wants during this phase is guarantees that this won’t happen again. The closest thing to a guarantee that the infidel won’t stray again is for him to feel fully the pain that he has caused the wounded spouse. If he truly loves his spouse (and he usually does down deep) that will hurt him so much that he won’t want to inflict more on his loved one.
However, at this phase the infidel must make a choice whether to stay in the marriage or go with the affair partner. They cannot have their cake and eat it too. You need to bring the infidel to the point of choice which can be done orally or in written form. The spouse must communicate to the infidel that it’s his move. The spouse fully releases him to his choices and consequences no more sitting on the fence. Carder highly recommends seeking help on this by counselor and he also recommends “Love Must Be Tough,” by James Dobson. Basically you are telling your spouse you will not tolerate this behavior any longer and it is your choice whether you stay in the marriage and “I will be ok with or without you.”
As you can see, getting your spouse to the point where he stops seeing his affair partner and finally ending an affair is a process. Doug and I can relate quite a bit to the process and phases that Carder spells out in his book. The last phase is recovery and as we all know it is a long and involved process that I feel would be better addressed as a separate post. One interesting quote was “reattaching often takes about as long for the spouse as it did initially for the infidel to detach from their partner and become involved in the affair.”