Usually on these Wifey Wednesday posts I talk about what to do with a problem you're having with your spouse--what to do when you find something he does difficult, or insulting, or disrespectful. Or we look at ways to boost your marriage in general!
Image by α is for äpΩL † via Flickr
Today I want to turn the tables. I've received some emails from women saying, "how do I save my marriage when I'm the one who made a mistake? What do I do when I'm the one who had an affair, and he wants to end our marriage, and I really don't? Then what do I do?"
These women felt such remorse, and such pain, and I know they are not alone. And so I'd like to address that other side: can you save your marriage when you are the one who messed up?
First, if you've done something as big as an affair, I think you both need to talk to an outside party that can help you work through it. Counseling is a great idea. If he agrees, but doesn't seem to be taking the initiative to find a counselor himself, choose someone (perhaps a male to make your hubby feel more comfortable), and make the appoitnment yourself. Tell him, “Mr. so and so seems like he’d really gel with you, so is it okay if I contact him? If we don’t like him we can find somebody else.” Show him that you're taking this seriously.
Often when there's an affair, a relationship has a lot of longstanding issues, and you probably had things that you were upset at your husband for originally. He probably has not behaved perfectly, either. It's important, though, that when you go to counseling, you don't try to justify yourself or try to solve all of these problems. Stick to the issue at hand: moving forward after an affair.
If you try to bring up too many of these other things, it makes it seem as if you don't take seriously the wrong that you did do.
You need to show him that you agree that he has a reason to be angry--regardless of whether or not you have reason to be angry, too. So in the midst of this turmoil, try some simple acts of kindness.
Show him love. Don’t try to defend yourself. Acknowledge what he’s feeling. If he doesn’t want to talk, don’t make him. Give him a bit of space.
If, during this time, you're separated because he has moved out, encourage him to keep seeing the children. If you can, suggest that you do things with the children together, and again, if he says things that hurt, let him. He needs to deal with that, and if you show him that you love him anyway, it puts you on firmer footing.
Be aware, though, that counseling does not always solve everything, because what it does tend to do is rehash everything that’s happened, and sometimes it makes you feel worse before it gets better. Often retreats, where you go away for a weekend or a whole week, are better, because they’re aiming for resolution in a bit of a shorter time. It doesn’t always work, but having that deadline is useful because you feel as if you’re working towards something more than just talking about everything that’s wrong. You’re working towards rebuilding.
If you can’t do a retreat or a weeklong get away, then find a counsellor who will see you for a defined number of sessions—say 8—with the goal of bringing resolution and forgiveness on both sides. That way you know you’re not just going to go over the same things over and over again, or bring up every little thing that’s ever gone wrong. If you find at the end of 8 that you need more, that’s fine, but see it as something with an endpoint.
Then I would keep telling your husband that you want to stay with him, that you want to build your life with him, that you can’t imagine not being a family. I’m sure he feels the same way about your children, and having shared custody is no picnic. You’re tied to each other until they're adults, anyway. You may as well try to work it out. It actually is a lot easier to work out a marriage than it is to work out custody! You can even joke about that, if he’ll take it. But tell him what you enjoy.Usually when a crisis happens in a marriage, it's because somewhere along the way you forgot how to have fun together and how to date each other.
You stopped being romantic and started being roommates. If he’ll take it from you, I’d write him a letter and ask to begin again. Ask him out on a date. Take him to dinner, if he’ll go. See a movie. Play mini-golf. Ask him if he can try just to have fun with you once a week for the next little while, to remember why you’re together in the first place. Sometimes, when we’re recovering from things like this, it all seems so serious that we can’t have fun, and yet it’s fun that is going to bring you back together. So having fun, in conjunction with some defined counselling, may fit the bill.
I hope that helps! And know that no matter what happens, God does forgive you. But I don’t think you’ll ever forgive yourself if you don’t put everything you can into saving your marriage, so hang in there, don’t give up, even if he does, and try to show him that you want to start over.Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to ask for forgiveness? Have you walked this road, or had a friend who walked this road? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!