Probably the greatest threat to a marriage is when one of the partners engages in an emotional or sexual relationship with someone else. The behavior is a betrayal of the marital vows we make and triggers deep feelings of mistrust and hurt.
Psychiatrist M.Goulston describes the response to infidelity as, “the four H’s – you will feel Hurt, Hate, Hesitation (to trust) and Holding (onto resentments).”
Counseling to repair a marriage after an affair involves teaching the, “the four R’s – Remorse, Restitution, Rehabilitation, and Request for forgiveness.”
To help your partner resolve their feelings about your infidelity, your partner needs to know that you feel genuine REMORSE – and it must be reflected in the way you act and what you say. It likely means apologizing repeatedly over time. This will only be helpful if you can sincerely apologize. You need to know, and be able to express that you know how painful it was for your partner to find out you were cheating and lying.
Part of the healing process is your partner seeking RESTITUTION. Frequently your partner’s hurt feelings require that they express their anger. The best restitution can be your allowing your partner to verbally vent every bit of revulsion, disgust, disappointment, anger, and/or hurt that you caused, without your defending yourself – just listen! This outpouring of emotions can satisfy your partner’s need for revenge by making you feel as bad as they feel.
Because the trust in the marriage has been lost, your partner will need to see you actively REHABILITATING yourself and learning how to better cope with the marital relationship. You will both need to learn better communication skills and learn how to better meet your partner’s needs.
As your partner may likely being holding onto resentments, you will need to REQUEST forgiveness. This should follow a track record of remorse, restitution, and rehabilitation lasting at least six months. You don’t get forgiven because you ask to be. Forgiveness has to be earned.
Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago. Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance. He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”