The wayward spouse must take a leading role in your recovery and do the heavy lifting. It is not acceptable for you to do the work of recovery alone, especially since you are not the one who broke the marriage.
By Sarah P.
From the perspective of a betrayed spouse, it is fair to expect your wayward spouse to help you heal.
Yet, infidelity is the only event in life where there tends to be few (if any) concrete, societal repercussions for the person who committed the act of infidelity.
For example, if someone breaks your ankle in a fight, the police might arrest them for assault and battery and they will likely be required to pay for your medical bills.
If a person steals from you and is caught, laws dictate that your items or money will be returned to you and the person may serve jail time.
If a person hits your car, the police will be called to the scene to file a report and the offending party’s insurance will likely pay to repair your car. Then, the offending party’s insurance premium will also likely rise and they might pay more per month for insurance.
If someone bullies your child at school, the bully is often sent to the Principal’s office and a punishment, like after school detention, might be given to the bully.
Everywhere you look, there are consequences for the bad behavior of others: except when it comes to infidelity. There is no insurance pay out waiting to be given as restitution for the victim of infidelity. There are no police force to call when your spouse cheats. And there are no police that will file a report stating the damage that your spouse and the other person did to your well-being due to their actions.
I believe it is necessary that a wayward spouse help a betrayed spouse heal. But, not everyone believes in monogamy, let alone their duty to help someone.
Fair Expectations for a Betrayed Spouse
Infidelity seems to be the one area where little to no accountability exists and the betrayed is left to sink into an abyss of grief, while often feeling quite alone during the whole experience. After all, the person who you normally turn to during life’s crises is the very person who hurt you the most.
Even though we don’t have formal restitution in place to help victims of infidelity, the betrayer is still required to play a starring role in the healing of their victim.
Susan Heitler, PhD, wrote for psychology today about the three things that she believes destroy marriages, one of the main ones being infidelity:
Since this article is about your wayward spouse’s essential role in healing, you might wonder why the comments above are relevant. They are relevant because these three A’s often allow affairs to continue and they definitely provide roadblocks to healing.
After an affair is discovered, a wayward spouse may actually turn to anger and alcohol, and a wayward spouse also might boomerang back and forth to the other person. These three A’s are common behaviors both before and after an affair has been found out and they have no place in affair recovery.
So, one of the things that a wayward spouse must commit to doing is AVOIDING the three A’s. These terrible things already undermine a marriage. They become doubly terrible if they turn into reaction formations that a wayward spouse might engage in after he or she is found out.
It is important that you as a betrayed spouse have a zero tolerance policy for the three A’s and to communicate what this means to your wayward spouse.
What Exactly Do You Need?
On the other hand, some wayward spouses do want to help a betrayed spouse to recover, but they don’t know what to do.
I know that is maddening from the perspective of being betrayed; the idea that a wayward spouse does not appear to have enough frontal lobe activity in his or her brain to figure out what might be helpful.
Sure, your wayward spouse might be the master of trivia nights, Sudoku, and crossword puzzles, but they cannot clump enough brain cells together to understand what you – the betrayed – might need help with in terms of recovery. I know it is tedious to have to spell it out to a wayward spouse, but sometimes you do have to spell it out. Many wayward spouses have a difficult time putting themselves in your shoes. Or, their pride prevents them from wanting to do so.
Even if they secretly put themselves in your shoes and if they attempt to understand what it is like to be you, they might see themselves as a monster. This will throw a wayward spouse deeply into shame, and shame will lead to everyone’s favorite defense mechanism and secondary emotion: anger.
The paradox is that if your wayward spouse genuinely wants to help you heal, he or she might be thrown deeply into shame and anger in doing so, even if you do nothing at all.
Almost everyone in the world wants to believe they are a good person; even when they do blatantly bad things. People have all kinds of ways of convincing themselves that unscrupulous actions do not reflect on their innate goodness. Some believe they are really a good person, even if they are doing horrendous things that objectively harm others.
What Actions are Fair to Expect from the Wayward Spouse to Help You Heal?
Well, here are the obvious and not so obvious ones:
- Cut all contact with the other person – this is NON-NEGOTIABLE. If the other person is a coworker, your spouse must ask for an immediate transfer and then begin looking for another job.
- If the other person was a coworker, your spouse needs to gather all data demonstrating that the affair was consensual and be ready to meet with human resources, if needed. I have noticed that if the other person is female and gets to human resources first, there is a high chance a man will get fired without being given the opportunity to tell his side. When I worked in the corporate world, I saw more than one man escorted out by security. Now, that was the ultimate walk of shame.
- Your spouse needs to provide you all passwords to social media and email accounts
- Tell your spouse to remove the password from the cellphones he or she carries
- If you want to read texts or emails, ask your spouse to see some examples of texts and emails
- Tell your spouse that you need The Truth upfront. I know that sometimes people prefer “trickle truth” (to soften the blow) but the problem with trickle truth is that it can turn into either covert or overt lying. When your spouse continues to lie to you when you are supposed to be recovering, rebuilding trust is not possible and recovering will become harder.
- All financials should be transparent. Ask about secret bank accounts or secret credit cards. Ask about what money was spent on the affair.
- Ask about the places your spouse went with the other person. I recommend avoiding these places during the critical phase of recovery.
- Your spouse needs to be patient with your emotions.
- Your spouse needs to be patient with what you are comfortable with sexually. Some people bond hysterically and others don’t. If you DO hysterical bond, please get an STD test for both of you. And don’t forget that a man could have used a condom with the other person but it doesn’t matter. Why? Condoms do not prevent the transmission of the virus that causes cervical cancer and it can be passed to the wife.
- You must not let your wayward spouse minimize what they did or sweep it under the rug. If your spouse sweeps what they did under the rug, the problem doesn’t go anywhere. The problem says completely unsolved and left to fester in the moldy darkness of what lies under the carpet.
- Your wayward spouse must understand it is their job to earn your trust.
- Your wayward spouse must understand that it is their job to earn your forgiveness.
Fair Expectations for the Wayward Spouse
Well, this part is simple. Your wayward spouse broke it and now your wayward spouse gets to be accountable and fix it. Your wayward spouse must be proactive about asking you about your wants and needs each day. Your wayward spouse must learn humility. Your wayward spouse must learn unselfishness and transparency.
Your wayward spouse needs to do a lot of self-reflection about their own character flaws and how those character flaws played into your wayward spouse making the choice to cheat. Your wayward spouse must work on those character flaws.
Your wayward spouse must learn how to set boundaries for themselves in terms of how they interact with others. Your wayward spouse must learn to self-regulate and not allow his or her worst inclinations to take over. This requires learning how to self-monitor and how to recognize behaviors and mind sets that are poisonous to your marriage.
I believe that it is essential for a wayward spouse to help his or her betrayed spouse recover from infidelity.
In fact, this topic is so essential that Doug, Linda, and I have just finished a major program update on this topic. We have written two books and have some excellent audio interviews. The first book is written by Doug for wayward spouses about how they can help their betrayed spouses heal.
The second book is a companion guide that I wrote for the betrayed spouse about their wayward spouse’s role in healing. Both books are meant to be read together and we absolutely suggest reading them as a couple.
I am well-aware that getting some wayward spouses to read recovery material is like asking them to get root canals on every tooth. This is an activity they do not want to do under any circumstance.
What’s great is that Doug’s book is very non-threatening since it is written from one wayward spouse to another. Doug’s book will help your wayward spouse understand why he or she cheated and how to make things better.
My book is meant as a support to betrayed spouses and is full of ideas on how to heal as a couple. My book also contains more of what you should expect as a betrayed spouse and ways to feel better.
This is the first product set of its kind; we wrote it FOR YOU to help you heal as a couple. In short, we wrote it because we care and we realized such a book set would provide you and your spouse with the opportunity to truly transform their marriage together. You can learn more about this program here.
I hope that this article was valuable to you and hope that you, as a betrayed spouse, understand your rights in the recovery process.
Your wayward spouse must take a leading role in your recovery and do the heavy lifting. It is not acceptable for you to do the work of recovery alone, especially since you are not the one who broke the marriage.
The one who broke it must take a leading role in fixing it and this is the bottom line.