This article is part of a three-part series to help couples overcome infidelity and experience affair recovery.
In this article:
- The Road to Affair Recovery
- Stronger Than Ever
- Build Greater Trust
- Build Better Communication
- Build a Stronger Resolve
- Build a Deeper Romance
- Build a Sturdier Foundation
Affair Recovery | Turning Marriage Around After an Emotional Affair
- Part 1: Adultery Doesn’t Just Happen; 10 Honest (and Some Ugly) Reasons Why Your Spouse Cheated
- Part 2: From Hating to Healing; 4 Phases That Happen After an Affair and How to Get Through Them
- Part 3 [You Are Here]: How Our Marriage Became Better After Two Affairs
The Road to Affair Recovery
By now, you’re on your way to affair recovery and have been through the infidelity roller coaster. You’ve experienced the ultimate lows and the slow, staggered climb back to the start. You’ve discovered the reasons for your spouse’s betrayal. You’ve almost moved through the four phases of recovery. So now you’ve arrived back on level ground, but is that really where you want to start?
We say no!
“What I’ve seen over and over again is that after going through the difficulty of an affair and then doing the hard work and going to the counseling services…that lots of people find themselves in a better relationship than they have ever been before,” says BMWK infidelity expert Dr. George James, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist who frequently counsels couples struggling with cheating.
Stronger Than Ever
Da-Nay Macklin and her husband, Christopher, have been together for 16 years and have been married for 10 years. They both had affairs early on in their relationship, which almost wrecked their once happy marriage.
Since then, both have taken steps to rebuild their marriage. They admit, as an effect, their marriage is now stronger than ever. Having experienced the rough waters and the havoc that infidelity caused in their marriage, they are able to provide wisdom on how other couples can survive an affair. That wisdom would be to have a relationship better than it was before, you don’t just want to return to the start of your relationship. You want to build a new relationship.
How do you begin a new relationship after having an affair?
1. Build Greater Trust
An emotional affair can destroy trust or was it never really that sturdy to begin with? Either way, if the relationship is ever to move forward, it must do so with trust. The spouse who betrayed has to go above and beyond to show they can be trustworthy again. That might mean:
- Calling to check in more often when you’re away.
- Being more upfront with information and thoughts (even if you think it doesn’t matter).
- Owning up to your wrongs—no matter how small, when you drop the ball. Don’t try to hide it, deflect it, be defensive, or make excuses. This sounds like “I’m sorry, dear. I forgot you told me to pick up milk” versus “You didn’t tell me you needed the milk today.”
- Making more commitments to your spouse and delivering on your promises!
“We drew a line in the sand and declared the past was the past,” says Da-Nay Macklin, BMWK writer, relationship coach, and author of Love After Infidelity, which details her experiences with infidelity in her marriage.
“Sure, the past tried to rear its ugly head. And that is where I had to fight against the devil in the details and begin to trust my truth and his. Meaning, if he made a commitment to be home at 5 pm, he was home then or before, and if he was running late he would call or text. He made an effort to always do and be where he said he would be.”
She adds, “Having a spouse who was committed to working hard consistently to rebuild our trust made all the difference for me.”
2. Build Better Communication
As Dr. James would say, you don’t want to open the door to more secrecy and misunderstanding. That’s what got you guys in trouble in the first place. When it comes to affair recovery, the more you communicate your needs, desires, grievances, concerns, and emotions, the more you seal that door to the problems waiting to creep in.
“We had good communication before, but now we have made a declaration that nothing was off limits for us to talk about it,” says Macklin about rebuilding communication in her marriage after surviving infidelity.
“Even if we thought it was minor or trivial, it should be expressed to avoid it growing and spiraling out of control in the marriage or outside…Before we might have avoided things we thought would hurt the others feelings. Now we’d rather communicate in a sensitive way as to not hurt feelings, but EVERYTHING needs to be addressed if we feel some type of uneasy way about it.”
3. Build a Stronger Resolve
In part 1 of this series on infidelity, you’ve discovered the potential reasons that may have led your spouse to be unfaithful. Now, knowing the root of the weakness, you and your spouse must make greater efforts to avoid those murky situations and proceed with affair recovery.
If the affair occurred in the workplace, the spouse who strayed must be more conscious of the situations that can lead to troubled paths. If a couple of coworkers want to go out for a drink after hours, perhaps think about declining their offer or ask if you can invite your spouse along.
Whatever your triggers, avoid them at all cost.
Macklin says she and her husband have marked those problematic atmospheres and associations off their list. For instance, she says hanging with fraternity members, hitting bar scenes, or engaging in online chat groups, are the activities they now keep out of their relationship.
4. Build a Deeper Romance
According to Macklin, couples who often get comfortable in their relationships sometimes leave a window open for other things to creep in. Prior to an affair, sometimes relationships can get a little stuck. Sex becomes routine, conversations are only about the kids, and dates are few. She says after an affair, couples are much more mindful about their connections.
“Everything is typically heightened as a result of an affair; the level of awareness is very real,” says Macklin. “As a result of our affairs, we have become mindful of just how intentional we must be for one another. We focus on catering to one another, and we pay attention to the ways the other prefers intimacy and romance.”
Additionally, she says they schedule romance and intimacy, and she encourages others to do the same. In your new relationship, you have to make a greater effort to connect—and that’s physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Do things like:
- Go on weekly date nights.
- Take up a hobby together.
- Pray together daily.
- Surprise each other more often with gifts and messages.
- Touch, hug, and kiss at least 8 times daily.
- Try new things in the bedroom.
“We are far more intentional about the happiness in our marriage,” says Macklin.
“For example, I apologize if this is TMI, but we are sexting as I type this, and I’m over here cracking up at his flirtatious comebacks.”
“Marriage is about the little things from sexting to sending a kiss emoji to say ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you,’ and we do this every day.”
5. Build a Sturdier Foundation
We say this time and time again, but couples need to seek help. It can be church counseling, professional therapist, self-help books, or an online resource, such as our free infidelity guide
It’s hard for couples to make it on their own. That’s probably why the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts list infidelity as the second most cited cause of divorce.
Turn to a resource that has extensive knowledge and experience on affair recovery and how to build a stronger marriage. Through counseling, experts can help you fill the holes that were already present and strengthen the weaknesses that you didn’t even know existed.
Through hard work and practice, your relationship could turn out even better than it ever once.
“We no longer take one another for granted in the way we once did, and if we start to, we are reminded of the value of our marriage,” says Macklin about her relationship with her husband after their affairs. “We know the grass is not greener on the other side, and you have to mow that lawn too. We now appreciate the differences between one another and understand them while using them to strengthen our marriage even more. Before, our marriage was pretty good living by default but rather today our marriage is by design.”
Infidelity Recovery Specialist talks about why should we forgive after an affair. Watch this video from Hasani Pettiford:
The road to affair recovery is not easy, but there are ways to make marriage even better than before. Are you ready to build your new relationship?
BMWK, do you think your relationship can be even greater after a spouse’s affair?
Editor’s Note: This article was published on October 6, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.