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.

the wayward spouse

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:

“A marriage is a living family system.  Like all living things, a marriage can get infected with toxic agents that result in its death. Immunities provide a means to combat potential infectious agents.  I call these potentially fatal–to-your-marriage phenomena the 3 A’s: addictions, affairs, and anger.

Beware.  The 3-A’s can be toxic not only to marriage but also to parent-child relationships, friendships, work relationships and all couple partnerships. So, while I focus in this article on marriage, the same need for immunity from these toxins applies to all your relationships.

Almost all folks from time to time get impulses to do things that their head would say are out of bounds. Drinking a bit too much, getting a bit too friendly with someone of the other sex when your love has already been committed elsewhere, and speaking harshly when a cooperative voice would have been preferable are mistakes.  Mistakes are for learning. 

Costs of the three main marriage deal-breakers:  Alcoholism, Affairs and Anger.

The 3 A mistakes can get you fired from the job of spouse. Alcoholism, affairs and anger, in addition to wrecking your marriage, can have profoundly negative impacts on your children.  Modeling addictions, affairs and anger teaches your kids that this is what adults do. At the same time, addictive, sexually unfaithful and excessively angry behaviors teach your kids that attachments are unreliable and unsafe, making your kids less able to establish secure positive relationships as they reach adulthood…

…Sexual arousal is addictive.  Extrication from temptation becomes increasingly difficulty the longer you stay in a sexually energized interaction.  Plan ahead how you will keep your distance from situations in which the magnetism could prove to be stronger even than your potent desire to protect your marriage. That plan, plus an agreement that you and your loved ones will talk openly about any temptations that do arise so you can confront them as a unified team, is your vaccination.” (1)

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.

Affair Recovery Requires You to Know Your Deepest Needs

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.

Things a Cheating Spouse Can do To Rebuild Trust After an Affair

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.

In Summary

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.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201110/resisting-the-3-main-temptations-destroy-marriages

    14 replies to "The Wayward Spouse Must Take a Leading Role in Your Recovery"

    • Sarah P.

      Hello Everyone,

      How has your week been?

      Would anyone like to share or even vent about your wayward spouse’s resistance to helping you heal? What was the most hurtful thing they did or continue to do?

      Do we have any success stories about betrayed spouse’s whose wayward spouse’s helped them recover?
      What did your wayward spouse do that was the most helpful to your recovery?

      Or, if you have any questions or comments about other issues in your marriage, let me know. Let’s get a discussion going!

      I appreciate everyone who comments and also appreciate all of our readers. I write these blog posts solely for you, solely with you in mind, and as a public service. I don’t profit from these blog posts; I am here to help because I care. So always feel free to chime in!

      Blessings,
      Sarah

    • Never to old to stand up for what is right

      First time on this sight, Dday was 2.5 years ago. My husband was having an EA (before we knew what a EA was). with a married coworker that we worked with. I confronted him when I found all the flirty text messages going back and forth during and after work hours. He thought he was just being friendly because they were such good friends a shoulder for her to lean on, her husband wasn’t very supportive. He didn’t realize his behavior was inappropriate and how pissed off it would make me. . When I confronted him the 1st question I asked him “Do you still want to be married” that scared the shit out of him. I told him there was no room in our marriage for this type of “we are just friends bull shit”. Then I contacted her husband and she had to quit. There has been no contact since. H has done everything I asked for. He has been filled with remorse and regret that he could behave so selfishly and hurt someone he loves more than life itself. ( his words). He shows me everyday with words and by action how sorry he is. When I have a bad day I let him know and I want him to feel my pain and anguish. This was a wake up call for both of us not to take each other for granted. When issues come up now we talk immediately . We both understand, he is a very friendly guy and a lot of women find him very personable, charming and attractive. I get it! Men tell me all the time how attractive and fit I am, I say to them my husband tells me that all the time. I cannot stress how important it was for him to set boundaries with opposite sex friendships. He is careful not to get to personal or friendly with women he meets he tells me immediately. Lying by omission is still lying.. This site has been a god send! it helped me see the light when all I could see was darkness.. ok I was pissed as hell. It saved and kept me sane, helped me think straight and what I needed to do next. We are still very much in love we have a better understanding. We just celebrated our 37th anniversary. Do I trust him now? Yes to a certain point, I also trust myself more.

      • Doug

        Thanks for sharing that, Never. IT sure seems as though you and your husband have done all the right things since his EA. That is wonderful and it’s always nice to hear a success story!

    • Another One

      I’d also love to hear some success stories!

      My H is well intentioned but unfortunately still terribly selfish so he looks to me (the BS) to take the lead in the healing journey. His first thought is what would help him heal, then what (he thinks) would help the marriage heal and finally what would help me. Even when I make specific requests he is not always able to deliver because he gets derailed by his own needs or he makes promises like, “I’m working on it” or “I’ll try” or even “it takes time”. He thinks, “I’m working on it” is a suitable answer for all problems, even ones where he should be able to provide a tangible immediate result that he can’t quite manage because he’s too caught up in himself.

      He’s read books and articles and blog posts galore but for some reason always ends up waiting for me to do the heavy lifting. It’s very tiring.

      • Never to old to stand up for what is right

        Hi Another,
        My husband said a lot of the same things in the beginning. I’m working on it, I’m trying, it takes time. I put it back on him, what does trying mean to him and what is he trying to accomplish to help me recover. He was in denial. I told him he need to man up and own it. Self care was very important to my recovery. I had trouble eating, I couldn’t sleep I found concentration difficult. I lost weight, I just wanted to hit something. This pass 2+ years I have been taking kickboxing and Krav Maga classes and i feel empowered. Self care is so important

      • Hopeful

        Another One, I am not sure how long it has been for you since dday. And all I can speak to is what helped me. I am almost at 5 years post dday. We are in a really good spot now but it has been a roller coaster and lots of learning. My husband had two affairs over ten years fyi. They were sporadic but it was really hard to deal with. After dday I thought we were working things out then there was dday two. It was not all new info but basically he minimized everything on dday one. That hit me harder than dday one. At that point I knew I had to take everything into my own hands and get what I needed. I started therapy on my own. I journaled every day. We also set up a time once a week when the kids were not home to discuss anything and everything. What I did each week was look back at my journal/notes and that would help me establish what I wanted to talk about. It was more specific than my daily random questions. I was left daily not feeling satisfied. My husband became less defensive since he knew we were going to talk about it all or at least our relationship. We stopped doing anything non essential and spent all our time together. Kind of immersion time together. We had been married young and for a long time over 20 years. What he did affair wise was horrible and he owned up to it and committed to zero contact. He told me any time the ow would contact him and we decided together what to do or not do. But it was everything else in his life. There was a feeling if he was not cheating he was okay. That ended fast since I had to tell him that was not good enough. We set very specific boundary and expectations. It was a must. I could not be feeling bad about me, him or us daily. By setting exact boundaries and expectations there was no doubt. If he broke one then we had a specific discussion/consequences/new plan to deal with that. It took a long time and after about 18 months we set more expectations. What was okay on dday 2 was no longer cutting it two years out. He has told me he has to work to think of me or others before himself. But he is his happiest when he does. All I can say is be as specific as you can. I mean we had it as specific as call me on your way to work, call me during lunch, call on way home from work, if your schedule changes from what has been communicated you must call not text, if you go out with friends who are you going out with, where, when, when will you be home, how much will you drink, everything had to be discussed in person or via phone no text, what will you do to take care of the house, what will you do to take care of the kids… I could go on and on. At first it felt strange but in the end after what he did we decided if this was what needed to be done to allow me to consider trusting him and making our marriage work then we did it. We both looked at it as our marriage did not work before but we needed to recreate a new one.

        One last thing. Often I am the one to bring things up or as you say do the heavy lifting. That was so common and my husband has said he just wanted and even now would prefer to not face what he did. For a long time it had to be me doing the heavy lifting. But over time he has taken on more. The biggest thing his him not being defensive and willing to problem solve with me. Good luck!

        • Another One

          Hi Hopeful,
          We’re 5 months past dday, early days I know, and it feels even less since he took what seems to be the stereotypical minimising, trickle truth approach of so many others. But it’s been five months since the truth of the affair existing came out and five months since last contact with OW.
          Don’t get me wrong, he is working on his issues, but his first reaction to any perceived criticism is to get defensive and doesn’t like to feel uncomfortable or ashamed.
          I have set up boundaries but it feels strange being very prescriptive as that’s not the sort of person I am, I suppose I also have to deal with being uncomfortable if we’re going to continue to move forward.
          I like Never Too Old’s idea to turn things back on himself, I will start asking questions now, like “what does that mean” and “what exactly are you working on?” And especially, “what’s your goal?”

          • Hopeful

            Another One, I remember those days too well. We worked through the same thing you are dealing with now. It honestly took a lot of time and work from both of us. It was odd for me too setting those exact boundaries. But in the end I had to do it. What we did before was not working. I decided if I wanted to move forward I had to try what I needed to to even consider staying, feeling safe or trusting him eventually. My husband was defensive or I guess you could say evasive. Over time he said he just did not remember a lot. He tried to block it out. We sometimes would go around and around but over time we moved to questions more like how were you feeling, why did you not communicate with me, what did you get from the affairs those types of questions. For us I would say the entire first year post dday was dealing with me coping with the pain, getting the details I needed. It took a full year for me to just even not be a wreck. From 12-18 months things were good but then I started to feel like things were just like pre dday. My husband felt like he was not cheating so what was the issue. That was when we really started to transform our relationship. At about 2 years past dday was when it started to hit my husband. Basically he said since I was finally in a better spot that it was hitting him and of course us growing closer. He started to dive in deeper what and why he did what he did. One thing I did was I “talked less, listened more”. This was critical at this point. I would ask a question or sometimes he would bring something up. It was eye opening. I figured since he had the affairs and broke them off 15 months before dday he was all fine. I mean he was always sorry. He told me it was hitting him he took our marriage/relationship and our family to the brink of destruction.

            Again this is just our experience but I was shocked by the path our recovery took. I never expected that. In the end think of what you need and communicate that with him. For me that was always my goal. I could not stay in any relationship and be any other way after dday. But it took time and created an entirely different marriage/relationship between us. We are closer than ever before. My husband is forever grateful and I think in awe of me that I stayed and was willing to work it out after what he did. He still breaks down time to time thinking of what he did and what could have been. I will say he is a mental health professional so he does have the education, training and work experience that helped him during the recovery but he is also faced with these issues every day professionally. That adds to his and our relationship.

            • Another One

              I still remember the look on his face when I said something along the lines of, “I can’t believe you’ve been having an affair!” It was both shocked and skeptical. He’d told himself that no sex means no affair and thought he’d be able to convince me to also see it that way. He did agree pretty early on that he had cheated but it was a big break through for him months later when he accepted for himself the label of adulterer. As a Christian this really hit him hard but at the same time woke him up to the reality of his behaviour.

    • Dana

      Hi Another,
      My H has done some of those similar things and some days I have to remind myself of the progress that’s been made instead of what he isn’t doing. That’s one of the hardest things for me. No offense intended to the men out there but they aren’t great multitaskers, at least mine isn’t lol! He’s really been working on himself and goes to therapy regularly. His issues are what caused the problems and he’s aware of that so he’s working on the root of things which I do applaud him for. He is ashamed and disgusted for what he did to hurt me so badly and that’s been the hardest for him to deal with, which in turn makes it harder to express but he’s working on it.

    • Kittypone

      I’m on the brink of separating because of the lack of progress I’ve seen on my h……he is so freaking prideful and arrogant that he can’t see what is it that I need to fully heal, and I won’t take it anymore….I am no longer afraid of losing him or being by myself, so anything can happen and I’d appreciate any prayers on my behalf…..

    • Gutted and alone

      Unfortunately my wayward spouse is not capable of helping me with recovery. He is so wrapped up in his own shame and self-loathing that any mention of the pain or anger I am experiencing sends him into a dark spiral. I have gone through an initial DDay in September. He immediately left me saying it was over, but by the next day was wanting to come home. I said no because I could not bear to face him I was so devastated. We were separated for 3 months, during which time we began to talk again, and slowly try to figure out if we could give reconciliation a shot. We began to go out (sort of on dates I guess), and at the end of November he moved back home. I just discovered of my own accord 2 weeks ago that the whole 3 months we were apart, he continued to be engaged in the affair. The 3 months were a big lie, and he moved home only 2 days after being in contact with her last. He never even ended it with her, he just moved home. Needless to say I am devastated not only at his cover-up and continued lying, but the utter humiliation from him staying with her instead of wanting to fix our broken relationship. I am now left on my own to try to deal with what feels like a double betrayal, while he wallows in his shame.

    • Another One

      After all my complaining earlier I thought I’d come back and share our small victory today.
      We had a very successful counselling session this afternoon. I couldn’t stop nodding every time the therapist spoke, more importantly my husband listened and understood. Some of these issues we’ve been arguing about for years and now finally he can see my point of view and understand why I’m upset. He also had a small breakthrough about how his own behaviour made him so vulnerable and open to an affair.
      There’s still a lot more work in our future but I’m feeling very light and hopeful right now!

      • Hopeful

        Another One, That is great news. I think it is so important to see those victories throughout the process. One thing I realized is if I want my best relationship the affairs will always be part of it and I guess you would say part of our story. At first that annoyed me but now I appreciate and I am proud of what we have done. And as you have probably read it is odd that the one who hurts you helps you recover but that has made us a lot closer. And the other thing is we are all on different timelines. As I mentioned above I felt a lot better at one year it did not hit my husband until two years past dday. One thing that helped me was to journal. I could look back and see how far I came even in short periods of time. That was really important to me since often it was hard to remember how bad it was compared to my current situation. So awesome you are both benefiting from therapy. Great news!!

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