Written by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, the Marriage in a Box blog shares insights into common relationship struggles, gives ideas for moving beyond the roadblocks, and helps you find your path to happiness – both individually and within your relationship.
Research studies show that 41% of marriages have been affected by either a physical or emotional affair. Some marriages do end up in divorce but many marriages can overcome and survive an affair.
Most people don’t really go out looking for an affair. It just sort of happens. It could be a co-worker or a friend of the opposite sex that a spouse turns to during a bad patch in his or her own marriage. This new relationship can become so exhilarating that he/she doesn’t seem to be able to stop. They start sneaking off to be together and sharing things together that they don’t share with their spouse or that they used to share with their spouse.
Marriages often become so overwhelmed with kids, career, and household responsibilities that the couple loses that feeling of being in love that they felt before they married. The affair sparks that “being in love” feeling and the adoration that they used to feel from their own marriage partner before the marriage became routine or difficult. Eventually though, something happens that causes the affair to come to light.
The key to a marriage surviving an affair lies in the couples’ good marital history and both spouses willingness to try to make it work. If you marriage is going to survive, both of you must feel that the marriage is worth saving and that there is still some love left. Often times the spouse that cheated will admit that he/she still loves their spouse. The spouse that was not involved in the affair will likely have a difficult time dealing with the feeling of betrayal and loss of trust. It will take time and work to rebuild the trust and respect that a marriage relationship requires.
In order for your marriage to survive an infidelity, it will require forgiveness, rebuilding trust and respect and love. That is a lot of rebuilding, which will not come easily or immediately. Rebuilding means regaining trust. The partner that cheated must show that they clearly understand that they have betrayed their partner’s trust and hurt them deeply and they are willing to change and work to earn back their trust. The partner that has been betrayed will need a lot of proof that the partner that committed the infidelity is reliable and safe to love again before they will be able to trust them.
The affair has to end. There is no way to continue to see or be around the person that you had an affair with and restore your marriage. Cut off the relationship completely. You must take full responsibility for your actions and choices.
Don’t try to do this alone. Find friends, a support group or a counselor that can come alongside of you and that you can open up to and share your feelings with. You need a safe haven to work through your feelings with and that is not your spouse.
Stop recycling the problem. The affair happened. Continuously rehashing the affair will only escalate the hurt and pain and not move you toward a resolution. While neither of you will forget the affair, you don’t need to drag it into the present at every opportunity.
Forgive your partner. Forgiveness does not mean condoning your partner’s infidelity. It means you are not holding it against your partner and holding it over their heads as ammunition for the rest of your relationship. The partner that committed the infidelity must work hard to rebuild that bond of trust that has been broken. Do not lie, hide anything but be completely open and honest with your partner.
Set and respect Boundaries. For both partners, this will be a long healing journey.
Give your partner time and space to vent their feelings. You have deeply wounded your partner, so it is natural that they react with pain and rage. While they work through that, you need to continue to apologize and be compassionate and understanding with your spouse. Provide them with affection, attention and appreciation every day. In short, love them through the healing process.
Be Dependable and keep your promise. Call when you say you will call. Be home when you say you will be home. Do what you say you are gong to do. NO lies. No excuses. No exceptions.
An affair does not have to be the end of your marriage. Your marriage can survive, the trust can be rebuilt and your bond of love may even grow to be stronger than ever.
Trust is essential to a healthy, loving marriage. We tend to trust people who are caring toward us, who have integrity, and whose actions correspond to their words. We trust someone we can count on to consistently do what is “right.” In an intimate relationship, we trust our partner if he or she is predictable, reliable, honest and lives with integrity, according to our values and beliefs.
Trust is built and maintained by many conversations and small actions over time. If trust is not firmly established between you and your partner, fear can take over, judgment can become clouded and doubt and suspicion may grow.
There may be several reasons why you and/or your partner have developed trust issues:
When two people enter a relationship, they bring with them all of their past experiences and preconceived notions. Someone who has experienced loss or betrayal in a previous relationship-whether that be romantic, family or friendship-may have a difficult time trusting. They can either be reluctant to open up to their partner or become clingy and controlling due their fear of losing heir partner.
Maria’s father left her mother when she was 10 years old. When she married, she began to ask her husband all about his day, his friends and things he did. At first, he thought it was sweet that she was so interested in his day-to-day life. Over time, however, Sandra’s curiosity turned into incessant questioning about every aspect of his day. She started calling and texting frequently and, when she could not get a hold of him, he faced accusations when he came home.
One partner can become insecure if the other is not very open about their whereabouts, their friends, their job, their family etc. Some people may have their own insecurities about their relationships and career. Still others may feel uncomfortable sharing certain details with their spouse because they know their spouse won’t approve.
Jamaal grew up in poverty and most of his family still lives in welfare housing. Jamaal was smart and worked hard to make a better life for himself and won a scholarship which allowed him to go to college and get a good job. He felt so fortunate when he and Sandra fell in love and got married. While Sandra had met his family and some of his friends, she did not feel comfortable around them. Whenever, Jamaal got together with those friends or family, he did not share those details with Sandra because he felt she would not approve.
How do Couples Resolve their Trust Issues?
- Open the Channels of Communication- Don’t hide your feelings. Let your spouse know how you feel about their controlling or evasive behavior and reassure them that you love them and want to build a life with them.
- Talk about your daily lives on a regular basis. Constant communication creates a connection, builds intimacy and lets your partner know that you care about them.
- Share your secrets with your spouse. Sharing brings couples closer together and creates a strong bond.
- Make it a point to include your spouse in activities with friends and family so that they have an opportunity to get to know them anddon’t feel shut out..
The best way to build trust is open, honest Communication and inclusion o all areas of your life.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. But one weakness you cannot afford in a marriage relationship is dishonesty. Dishonesty can take many forms such as lying about something you did, keeping something hidden that you should have brought to your spouse’s attention or even just not providing all the details of an event. People can be dishonest about small things “little white lies” or about big things “outright deception”. Even in the little things, dishonesty will undermine your marriage.
A lie has a life of its own. It starts by telling a lie to your partner about something small like a purchase you should not have made or an incident at work that was your fault. You may have been unable to admit what you did and wanted to avoid a confrontation with your spouse. Once the lie is out there, you can’t take it back so if your partner questions you about it, you now need to build another lie around the first lie to cover your tracks. Now it has snowballed into something bigger.
Example: You spent $175 on a pair of top of the line running shoes. When your partner asked you about the new running shoes, you told her they were on sale and you could not pass them up. Eventually the credit card bill is going to show up and she might see the purchase and realize that you lied about the shoes. Then what?
The realization that you have been dishonest with your partner is a painful violation of your marriage. Dishonesty covers a whole gamut of indiscretions from a lie about financial issues or work issues to bigger things like cheating or substance abuse problems. While you might tell yourself that it is OK to lie to your spouse because you are sparing their feelings by hiding what you did, eventually the truth will come out. When the truth is revealed, not only will your spouse have to deal with what you did but, also the pain of knowing that you hid it from her through lies. Two problems instead of one making your dishonesty a difficult pill to swallow that may take a long time to forgive. In the case of dishonesty about big things like an affair, it may be impossible to overcome.
Once the trust in a marriage has been broken, it is difficult to repair. Trust is a fragile thing. It is part of the glue that holds a marriage together. A marriage is supposed to be a safe partnership where you can honestly and openly share your hopes, dreams and secrets with your spouse and rely on them to keep them and you safe from harm. Once your partner finds out that you have been dishonest with her-she now realizes that the person she trusted is the very person who has harmed her. That is a painful betrayal. She will not be so likely to believe what you tell her after that. It is very likely that she will start to question what other things you have been dishonest about with her.
If you have been dishonest with your spouse, the best course of action is to put all of your cards on the table and tell her what you did and why you lied about it. Be completely honest and don’t leave out any details. Chances are, if it is something other than having an affair, you and your spouse can work through it and get back to telling the truth and rebuild your marriage on a healthier foundation of honesty.
Our love language is whatever helps us feel loved in our relationships. We need to know our personal love language so we can make specific requests of our partner in order to best have our needs met. We also need to know our partner’s love language so we can help them best meet their needs. Our Love language helps deepen the relationship and create a bond of intimacy that is so essential to a marriage.
No one type of love language is better or worse than another and most people use a combination of love languages rather than just one. Love languages can be broken down into:
Encouragement and appreciation.
People who require affirmation and empathy like to be listened to. They feel validated when their partners take time to listen to their concerns, encourage their endeavors and show appreciate for the things that they do. Criticism and lack of appreciation or being taken for granted will deeply wound this partner in a relationship. Little things like leaving a little love note in their briefcase or on their dresser, sending a random text during the day saying thank you for something they did or sitting down at the end of the day to chat and listen to what went on in their day really touch the heartstrings.
Some people require physical touch to know they are loved. They fell that they are a priority in your life when you regularly show some type of physical affection. Lack of intimacy, withholding sex or only brief physical encounters can lead to this partner feeling neglected and questioning your feelings for them. Make it a point to kiss them, hug them or hold their hand. Schedule regular time for sex and physical intimacy to nurture your relationship.
While some people measure your feeling for them in what they say or do, others measure it in how much time your spend with them. They feel that if you spend time with them exclusively and within group activities, they are a valued part of your life. Ignoring them, tuning them out with other distractions, and/or neglecting to spend quality time with them will lead this partner to feel unloved and devalued. Take time out of your busy schedule to sit and chat, take a walk or just go to the gym or some other activity together. Plan a couples weekend or intimate date together to keep the park alive in your relationship.
Thoughtfulness and acts of kindness.
Many people need to feel they are in a partnership and are “always on your mind”. Kind words and gestures and expressions of gratitude can stir up feelings of longing in this partner. Forgetting special occasions and/or leaving most of the household chores to them will likely stir up anger and resentment. Make a big deal out of romantic occasions with flowers and the works, offer to help out with daily chores or errands or better yet do them together, and let them know you are thinking of them with random texts, cards or notes.
Whatever your partner’s love language is, cater to it and your relationship will blossom. If you are not sure what their love language is, think about what hurts or upsets them the most and that will give you a pretty good idea.
After a couple has been married for a while, the infatuation can fade and the sex can become routine or ho-hum. When sex becomes boring, it takes away from satisfaction in the marriage. Eventually, each partner loses interest in the other and little to no sex occurs.
Married couples know each other more intimately than singles and thus have the opportunity to have sex more often, put more variety in their sex lives and create a deeper intimacy in their sex lives. When sex is more emotionally and physically passionate, it can increase the satisfaction in the marriage immensely.
People often assume that if the “sexual chemistry” is there then sex is automatically good. Sexual chemistry is not an actual bodily “chemical”; it is a passionate emotion that releases itself physically. To put that passion back into your marital sex life, it will take work as a couple. Here are a few tips to help get things back on track.
Many people in a relationship whine and complain. “You never want to have sex anymore!” Trying to guilt your partner into sex is not very likely to have the desired effect. Sex is an act that both partners have to feel excited to participate in. Instead, try enticing your partner into sex gradually by doing something he or she likes and playfully teasing them.
Communicate openly about what you need and desire.
A lot of couples get into trouble when they try to discuss their sex life, or absence of if, because they fall into the habit of blaming. Typically they come to the discussion with both barrels blazing “You don’t love me anymore!" “You think I’m fat and disgusting." These are statements that may not even be true, and it is a mistake to assume you know what he or she is feeling. Instead, start slow and ask specifically for a behavior that you want to happen in a kind, loving tone. “ I would love it if we could cuddle for a few minutes before bed tonight.”
Don’t shoot for something too unrealistic.
You may have heard of some technique that is supposed to make the sex really hot but be careful about trying to “teach” your partner to do new sexual things. It could scare them of before anything gets started. If it’s been awhile since you have had sex, start with something simple and comfortable that you remember that you and they both liked. “I remember you used to love it when I massaged your shoulders. I like that too. Let’s take turns giving each other a massage.”
Set the Mood
Timing is everything in romance. Trying to initiate sex with your partner the minute they walk through the door from a hard day at work is not very likely to meet with much success. Instead, spend some time preparing for their arrival by cleaning up and making yourself look attractive. Greet him/her at the door, offer to get them a snack or drink and give them time to unwind. Then slowly, make them feel at ease by sharing a small sexual fantasy you have about them before you try to initiate sex.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
Just like trying out any new thing, your partner may be unsure of themselves and need positive feedback during and after sex. Talk to your partner during sex by encouraging them. “Yes, I really like when you do that” or “ That hurts a little, can we readjust?” Tell your partner you love them. After sex, tell your partner something they did that you really liked and say thank you. If you show appreciation for their sexual efforts, it reinforces the behavior and makes it much more likely that they will want to engage in that behavior again.
Often times, the success or failure of a marriage can be traced to the couples’ ability to communicate. A spouse may hold feelings in, creating an emotional distance between they and their partner. Another spouse may shut down conversations by negative interruptions of criticism or anger. In a relationship that isn’t working, both partners need to work on their communication skills. Here are a few suggestions to have more mutually satisfying communication in your marriage.
Don’t Dominate the Conversation
Every marriage is different and not every marriage consists of one dominant partner and one submissive partner. Each partner can be both dominant and submissive depending on the situation. For instance, if one partner is very mechanically inclined they would likely be more vocal or dominant in matters that required buying or repairing a car, appliance or anything mechanical. However, that same partner may not be comfortable with financial matters, so they would likely not be vocal or dominant in financial issues.
While it makes sense to listen to someone with expertise in certain areas, in a marriage, both partners need to weigh on with their opinions. That may mean that even though one spouse does not have expertise in mechanical or financial matters, they still should be allowed to voice their opinion or thoughts on those matters.
Don’t Immediately Shut Down Conversation
Immediate Shut Downs happen when we begin conversations with our spouse with criticism, accusations, or questions that put the other person on the defensive before healthy communication can take place. Example: When her husband walks into the house, a wife’s first words are: “Why didn’t you put the garbage cans out this morning like I asked you to? The garbage truck has already gone and the cans are overflowing. Can’t I rely on you to do anything?”
You can still get your point across by communicating the issue in a more loving, positive manner. Example: “Hi honey, I’m glad you are home. I think we might have missed the garbage pick up this morning because the trash can still some pretty full. Maybe we can think of a way to make sure we don’t miss the pick up. What do you think?” Stating the issue in a non-confrontational way and asking their input for a solution draws your spouse into the conversation and allows them a chance to participate equally.
No Name Calling
When you introduce name calling in to the conversation, you are attacking a person’s character. When a person feels like they are being attacked, their natural reaction is either to defend themselves or find the quickest way to exit. Example: “You would have to be an idiot not to know that you cannot put just any kind of oil in the car. Did you even take the time to look in the owner’s manual?”
Even though you may be angry with your spouse for what they did, it does not give you a license for verbal abuse. Before you talk to your spouse about an issue that has upset you, take some time to cool down so that you can communicate your concerns in a calm, respectful manner. Remember, you married this person because you love them and you want to continue in this marriage. You can hate what a person did but not hate the person.
Don’t Check Out
Some people have a hard time expressing their emotions or talking freely. They may fear that doing so will bring rejection from their partner, criticism or some other form of penalty. As a result they keep their feelings bottle up and look for ways to avoid confrontation. When one spouse tries to initiate a conversation about an issue, the other spouse may get busy doing something or focus their attention on the TV. In essence, they have checked out of the conversation.
Bottling up feelings is like a pot on the stove. Eventually that pot will boil over. Eventually, your feelings will surface and explode in an unpleasant manner and your spouse will have no idea what happened or why. It is much healthier to deal with issues and feelings when they happen. Whether those issues or feelings are because of your spouse or about something external to your marriage, you need to share them with your spouse.
Marriage is a two-way partnership and the only way that each of you can know what the other is thinking or feeling is to learn to communicate effectively.
A lot of couples run into problems communicating with their spouse because they haven’t taken their spouse’s feelings or time into account before they tried to talk to them about something.
Here are 5 ways to speak so your spouse will actually listen to what you have to say.
Make sure you have their undivided attention.
Trying to discuss a topic with your spouse when they are watching the most exciting part of the football game, the last episode of their favorite show or in the middle of some project they have been working on, is totally ineffective.
If you want them to listen, choose a time when you can get their undivided attention. For your spouse, try over dinner or after their program is finished or whenever the distractions have reduced.
Don’t beat around the bush.
Nothing is more aggravating then trying to listen to someone that spends a long time building a story before they get to the point of their conversation. Most people will tune out after 45 seconds if you haven’t made your point.
Before you try to talk to your spouse about an important issue, try thinking through the issue and choosing 3 or 4 points that sum up the issue. Write it down if you have to. After you have made your point, the two of you can discuss the issue better.
It Should Not Be a Lecture
No one likes to be lectured to because then they are not part of the conversation. Make sure to pause periodically while you are talking to be sure your partner has heard what you are saying. Ask some clarifying questions like “Can you tell me what you heard me say?” Ask for their response “ Are you seeing things the same way I am seeing them?”
Your spouse is a lot more likely to hear what you have to say if they feel like they are part of the conversation and have a say in the matter.
Respect Their Advice or Feedback
If you have brought a matter to your spouse’s attention in the hopes of eliciting their support and advice, you need to be prepared to listen to what they have to say without judgment. Many people feel shut out when they provide feedback or advice and then their spouse throws it back in their face as being not helpful or wrong.
If you want your spouse to listen to you, you must be willing to listen to them. You don’t have to take their advice or even act on their advice, but if you attack your spouse when they provide you what you asked for, they will not be likely to give it again.
Give Your Spouse a Head’s Up
Sometimes you may just need to vent your feelings. You may not be looking for your partner to solve a problem or provide advice, you just need a listening ear and to know that you are cared for. However, your partner may not know how to interpret this. Do you really have a problem that needs solving or do you just need a sounding board?
Give your spouse a head’s up about what the conversation is going to be about so they know how to respond. Saying something like “Honey, I’m upset about something that happened to day and I just need someone to talk to” lets him or her know that you are not expecting him or her to solve a problem or give advice.
All of these ways of speaking to your spouse are really ways of respecting their time and making your communication a two-way street.
Many couples end up in counseling because they don’t feel connected to their spouse. Perhaps you no longer talk much or do things together because of work, children, outside obligations or whatever. Maybe you have just fallen into a routine of going about your business. If you are not feeling connected in your marriage it is because you haven’t put any effort into it.
Love can be cultivated during the small moments of everyday life.
Make a commitment to take a small amount of time each day to rebuild and maintain your marriage and emotional connection by showing your spouse that you love them. Here are 15 little ways to connect with your spouse everyday.
- Call your spouse in the middle of the day just to say, “I love you.”
- Text your partner a sexy, cute or funny selfie.
- Give your spouse a long, drawn out kiss rather than just a peck on the check before you or they leave for work.
- Put a little love note in your spouse’s coat pocket, briefcase or lunchbox.
- Email your spouse a reminder of a happy time you spent together.
- Offer to run an errand for your spouse.
- Bake or bring home a tasty surprise for your spouse.
- Hop in the shower with your spouse.
- Offer to babysit while your partner takes some “me” time.
- Give your spouse a massage after a long, hard day.
- Leave a suggestive voicemail for your spouse.
- Ask your spouse to give you advice or instructions on how to handle or do something.
- Flirt with your spouse in public.
- Plan a romantic date night IN.
- Play a sport, exercise or do a hobby together.
You have a choice to turn toward our spouse or away from them. If you want a deep, meaningful relationship with your spouse than you have to work at it everyday. Don’t ignore your spouse’s emotional need for connection.