Abigale Hassel

Abigale Hassel

Abigale S. Hassel is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, and individual and couples counselor. MSW, LCSW, OSW-C.

**The advice provided represents the opinions of the author.  It is not to be considered therapy or professional advice of any kind.  If you require such advice, you should consult an appropriate professional.  Refer to the Marriage Rocks Website Terms and Conditions (link in page footer) for other applicable terms and conditions.**

My Spouse Committed the Ultimate Betrayal. Am I a Fool to Take Him Back?

By: Abigale Hassel

Your spouse cheated. Your world is now upside down. You’re feeling so many things, and perhaps above all, you feel betrayed.  So now, what do you do?

I felt compelled to write this blog post as a follow up to,  “8 Rules to Help Your Spouse Heal From Infidelity.” With this post, I want to speak directly to all of you who were betrayed by your spouse’s infidelity. Recovering from infidelity is challenging enough and even more so when you’re surrounded by negativity.  As I read the comments to my previous article, I was struck by the negativity.  Some examples included, “People who cheat do not love their spouse.” Or “once a cheater, always a cheater” or “if they loved their spouse in the first place, they would not have cheated.” I am here to tell you the above statements are not necessarily true! The focus of this post is not to explain all of the possible reasons someone commits adultery. That is for another discussion. My sole purpose is to encourage those of you who were betrayed and who have decided to stay and fight for your marriage.

Negative comments such as those stated above can undoubtedly make you feel numerous things. One thing we all need to understand is this. People are not all good or all bad. These qualities can exist simultaneously. Therefore, by extension, people can both love their spouse and cheat, mainly because cheating is not about love or a lack thereof, but it is about ego. Basically, good people can make bad choices and bad mistakes, having nothing to do with their spouse. If you believe that a person does not love his or her spouse because he or she cheated, then you are thinking in very black and white terms. Black and white thinking is a type of cognitive distortion, or thinking error. Life is not all black and white; sometimes, there is a lot of gray. Do not be so quick to judge.

Many of the betrayed spouses whom I counsel report feelings of shame and embarrassment and these feelings result from this type of black and white thinking. They are basically battling their own pride. They think they are weak because, prior to the discovery of their spouse’s infidelity, they would have sworn that cheating would be a deal breaker; however, once they found out that their spouse cheated, they realized that life is far more complicated and many factors come into play, influencing their decision to stay. They believe that others are thinking how weak or pathetic they are for staying. If you are feeling these things, here is my response to all of the above. You decided to stay and fight for your marriage, which takes an enormous amount of strength. You took your vows seriously. You have decided to take the long arduous journey towards forgiveness. You are not weak! You have nothing about which to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Even if other people are thinking these things, remember that no one really knows what he or she would actually do unless he or she is faced with this situation. No one has the right to judge you, your marriage or your choice to stay. They do not live in your home or walk in your shoes. Every marriage is unique, as is every situation. Only you know what is right and what is best for you and your family. Stop judging yourself, forgive yourself and give yourself credit for staying true to your vows.

Hold your head up high. Your spouse bears the shame of what he or she did, not you. You did not cause your spouse to cheat. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, your spouse and your spouse alone is responsible for cheating. Take no ownership of that shame. You did not deserve what happened to you, no matter what problems may have existed in the relationship. Let me put it this way; I would wager that your cheating spouse was not perfect either. I would guess that you also had many unmet needs, disappointments and frustrations about your spouse, but you did not seek solace outside of your marriage. Why then would you be embarrassed that your spouse did? Stop lamenting and blaming yourself. Not only is that unproductive, but it is also unnecessary.

I bet you are also thinking that you look like a fool because the signs of your spouse’s infidelity were there, but you chose to dismiss them. You are probably telling yourself how stupid you were for not knowing, or for having that gut feeling, but ignoring it. These are understandable reactions; however, you trusted your spouse. You never thought that the person you love would betray you. You are not a fool nor are you stupid. Stop blaming yourself for not knowing what you did not know before you knew it!

As the dust settles and as you and your spouse are hopefully working towards recovery, remember these things. You do not need to make any major decisions while your emotions are so unstable. As a matter of fact, you should never make major decisions when you cannot think clearly. You also need to remember you are not alone. There is much support for you out there. Websites such as www.dailystrength.org and www.beyondaffairs.com offer information and support to help you feel less isolated. You are not alone in this boat. Unfortunately, infidelity has become very pervasive in our society. Of the couples I alone am counseling, about 75% of them are dealing with infidelity recovery. I say again, do not be ashamed that you chose to stay. Staying true to your vows, working towards forgiveness and fighting for your marriage and family are honorable endeavors. In the event that your marriage still does not make it, please remember this. You did everything possible to save your marriage. At least you can walk away knowing you tried and that you have no regrets. If your marriage is saved, chances are, it will be better than it has ever been. Good luck and God bless!

 

Recovering from infidelity is a process. If you want to restore the trust, it will take work on the part of you and your spouse, but it can be done.  Being proactive is key.  The Marriage Rocks self-help guide, The Trust Is Gone. Help!, has been instrumental in helping couples around the world move forward after infidelity and rebuild the trust.  Click here for more information.

Mind Reading is a Big No-No in Marriage

By:  Abigale Hassel 

Are you a mind reader? I am not talking about the people you meet at the carnival. Mind reading, according to Beck (1995), is a cognitive distortion in which one believes he knows what someone is thinking and reacts accordingly. Another component of mind reading is believing that someone should know what you are thinking and you become upset when one does not. This type of thinking can cause annoyance, frustration and even anger within a marriage and it can certainly cause communication difficulties.

Imagine this scenario. Your spouse had a hard day and he or she comes home in a bad mood. He or she is irritable, not very talkative and not very affectionate. If you are mind reading, then you are thinking this behavior by your spouse has something to do with you. You start to become very upset. You may start to tell yourself awful things like, "He must be mad at me" or "maybe he is falling out of love with me." You ruminate on these thoughts, get yourself very upset and perhaps you either put up a wall of defense or you initiate an argument solely based on your negative emotions. Meanwhile, your spouse is an innocent person who has no idea why you are so upset.

I had a client, whom I will refer to as Alice. Alice had voiced her frustration about her husband time and time again. She often complained about how he never communicated his feelings, how he never took the initiative to plan activities and how he simply did not care about her opinions. The more we probed, the more it became apparent that she was doing a lot of mind reading. She thought, for sure, that her husband was thinking how unattractive she was because she had gained some weight. She believed that he was falling out of love with her and she became very depressed. Once she realized that she was projecting her own feelings of insecurity onto her husband, and once she learned to communicate with him, she and her husband were able to make progress in their relationship.

The simple way to overcome this type of mind reading is to ask. Stop assuming your spouse is thinking something and check in with him or her. Let us use the earlier scenario involving the irritable spouse. Let us call them Bob and Nancy. Rather than Nancy assuming Bob's behavior had something to do with his opinion of her, Nancy could have simply said something like this, "Bob, I notice that you seem a bit irritable and you did not kiss me hello when you came in the house. Is something bothering you?" At that point, Bob would have had the opportunity to share with Nancy how horrible work has been for him lately and how his boss is always breathing down his neck. He would have been able to apologize to Nancy and assure her that his behavior had nothing to do with her. This could have strengthened their communication and relationship. By mind reading, Nancy caused a rift. She missed an opportunity to help and support Bob during a difficult time and she created a situation in which she put up a defensive wall of anger, believing Bob was thinking something about her that he just was not. If this is a common theme in Bob and Nancy's relationship, then you can imagine the potential problems that can result. So, the moral of Bob and Nancy's story is this. Stop assuming you know what your spouse is thinking and just ask!

Another type of mind reading is believing your spouse should know what you are thinking. You basically are expecting your spouse to be a mind reader. You believe your spouse should know what you want or need at any given time and you become upset when he or she does not deliver. You walk around feeling disappointment, frustration or anger, while your spouse has no idea why you are so upset.  Let us revisit Alice. Alice constantly asked, "Shouldn't he just know what I want?" Time and time again I answered, "No, you may have to accept that you must spell it out for him. He is not a mind reader."

Stop assuming that your spouse knows what you want or need and take the time to spell it out for him or her. If you find yourself feeling angry because your spouse failed to do or say something you wanted him or her to do or say but did not, and you have not communicated what you wanted, then it is simply unfair of you to walk around feeling this way. Your spouse cannot address what has not been brought to his or her attention, so, put your pride on the shelf, stop assuming your spouse "should know" what you are thinking, and communicate!

This may seem like a trivial subject, but I assure you, many marital issues begin as minor issues. Minor issues cause minor irritations that, if left unaddressed, can begin to grow into real resentment. Mind reading can cause terrible communication problems because acting as if one knows what the other is thinking or acting as if the other should know what one is thinking leaves both parties vulnerable to anger and resentment. If you are reading this and you feel that what has been said resonated with you, then I challenge you to start making better efforts to check in with your spouse. Simply ask if he or she was thinking what you are assuming he or she is thinking and/or convey to your spouse what you are thinking rather than assuming your spouse should just know. This small tweak in communication can help you to avoid major problems down the line. Remember not to let that root of bitterness grow and you can defend against that by not mind reading. Good luck and God bless!

 

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Reference:

Beck, J.S. (1995), Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

5 Basic Rules for Fighting Fairly

By: Abigale Hassel  

Do you and your spouse fight a lot? Does that concern you? I will tell you what I tell my clients. Fighting is not the problem. It is how you fight that may be the problem. It is normal to have disagreements within a healthy relationship. You and your spouse are not always going to agree on things and that is fine. What is not fine is when the fighting becomes hostile, mean-spirited or filled with anger. Often, I have couples say to me, “We fight all the time about such stupid things!” My response is usually, “You are not fighting about what you think you are fighting about.” When we are not honest about our feelings or when we do not deal with resentment the minute we feel it, we are allowing anger to grow and poison the relationship. Not only is fighting fairly ok to do, it is actually essential for the relationship. Here are some basic rules to fighting fairly:

Rule #1: Identify what is truly bothering you.

In order for your spouse to address whatever it is that is bothering you, you must own your feelings and be honest about what you are feeling. A lot of people are afraid to confront their spouse because they are often met with defense and they are afraid of having a fight. If you suppress your feelings, they do not go away. They tend to find their way out some other way. So, that knockdown, drag out fight you and your spouse had about one of you not changing the toilet paper roll was not really about toilet paper. Your attempt to avoid a fight did not work, did it? If you express your feelings using “I” statements, then your spouse may be less likely to react with defensiveness and anger. For example, “I feel frustrated when you don’t do simple things I ask you to do, because I work so much and I need some help.” Your feelings are your feelings and feelings are not wrong. Just deal with them before the anger grows.

Rule# 2: Stay on topic.

In order to resolve an issue with your spouse, it is important to stay on the topic of discussion. Do not go through a laundry list of past offenses by your spouse. It is really easy to allow a disagreement to turn into a full argument, with yelling and screaming, if you are sifting through old events that have already been discussed ad nauseum. I had a couple that I counseled for about a year. They would often bring the same issues, time and time again, to session. Often, they would get quite heated about seemingly banal issues. They finally realized all of the extraneous things about which they were fighting over and over were not really the main problems. In a nutshell, the wife did not feel loved by her husband and the husband felt that his wife did not respect him. Deal with the current issue and keep it in the present. Your spouse cannot go back and change offenses that have already taken place, but he or she can address the current issue, so keep it on topic and then you will see change for the better.

Rule #3: Do not use verbal stabbing.

Verbal stabbing is a phrase I use to identify the behavior of saying things in the heat of an argument to hurt your spouse. Others call this “hitting below the belt.” You love your spouse, remember? You can get your point across without attacking his or her vulnerabilities. Things you say in the heat of an argument can linger on well after the fight is over. I counseled a couple who had very hostile arguments. The wife often went right for the verbal stabbing. The husband was on disability because he had severe pain issues that result from past cancer treatments. He was very depressed because he could not work. His wife often called him “lazy” or she accused him of exaggerating his symptoms so he could avoid helping more around the house. This fed his negative self-image and depression. You do not have to cut your spouse down or make him or her feel less than he or she is simply to win an argument. There is no winning if you go for the emotional jugular. You are allowed to identify how you feel and you are allowed to address behavior that makes you feel that way, but if you want to fight fairly, do not purposely say things that will hurt your spouse. Remember, you cannot un-ring a bell.

Rule #4: Allow for cool down periods if needed.

If the conversation gets too heated, then it is ok for you to recognize that and ask for a period of time to walk away and calm yourself. It is better to take a pause then let the argument get out of hand. If you start to yell, use verbal stabbing or even start throwing things or destroying property, it is much better to walk away and gather yourself. In life, there are going to be issues that elicit a lot of emotion within you or your spouse. It is much better to acknowledge and accept that than it is to allow your temper to get the best of you. This takes discipline and self-awareness, but it may be a necessary step until you and your spouse learn to communicate better.

Rule #5: Schedule your discussion and set a limit.

Life is busy with raising kids, having a career or both. Often, one spouse wants to initiate a discussion when the other is otherwise occupied. In these cases, it is perfectly acceptable to agree on a specific time to have the discussion. By agreeing on a time to discuss the problem, you can avoid causing more contention between you and your spouse. I am currently counseling a couple in which the wife used to incessantly text her husband during the day when something bothered her. When he did not immediately respond, she would grow even angrier and then, by the time he finally could respond, she had already worked herself up into frenzy of anger and resentment. Once we identified this, she learned to ask if they could discuss an issue later in the evening and she wrote down her complaints to keep her from working herself up before the agreed upon time for discussion. This helped their communication tremendously. Along with scheduling the specific time for discussions, try to limit the amount of time you devote to an issue. Many problems can be resolved within a reasonable period of time with good communication. If you spend too much time on one issue, the discussion can become cyclical and nothing is resolved. Know what your agenda is, stick to it, and limit the time you spend discussing it. After all, you could be spending the time with your spouse in much more enjoyable ways.

Do not be afraid to disagree with your spouse. It will happen, probably a lot, but just keep this in mind. You need to get to the root of your feelings. If a discussion turns into an angry fight, please remember that anger is a secondary emotion. There is always something beneath the anger. The more vulnerable emotions like fear, shame, sadness, tend to get covered with a shield of anger when we become defensive. It is very easy to become defensive if we get into a disagreement with our spouse. If you can remember that you are on the same side and not each other’s competition and if you can fight fairly, you will find that you are building a mutually satisfying and fulfilling marriage, because you will always be able to resolve any differences. That will free up more time for the good stuff! So, fight fairly now and enjoy the fruits of your marriage later.

 

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My Husband May Be An Addict. Help!

 

Question:

 

I need some serious help. I found out my husband has been using drugs a few weeks ago and we have been arguing and fussing at each other since. Before this we were very happy but now all we do is argue. Help.

 

Answer

 

If you are dealing with an addict, and it sounds as if you may be, you need to understand a few things. You are no longer dealing with a rational thinker. Drug addicts have what is referred to as "stinking thinking" or distorted thinking. Once an addict becomes addicted to drugs, all he can think about is how to get his high. Addicts lie, scheme, manipulate, all for the sole purpose of getting the fix. They may have spurts of lucidity in which they realize they are destroying their lives and hurting those around them, but ultimately, that need to get the fix is their driving force. 

Unfortunately, until an addict hits some type of rock bottom, no amount of arguing will make a difference. Drug addicts cannot take responsibility for their actions until and unless they are clean and sober. My advice to you is to stop engaging in arguments. I suggest that you find an AL ANON meeting near you. You need to learn how you may be enabling his behavior, but  that is not to say that you are responsible for his actions. However, sometimes, family members can inadvertently allow or encourage the behavior by being passive. You need to decide what boundaries you need to draw with him. Without having specific details of your situation, it is difficult for me to advise much further, but, generally, I can tell you that he will not stop without some type of help.
 
To find an AL ANON meeting near you, follow this link: http://www.al-anon.org .  You cannot make him stop. This he must decide for himself. I wish you all the best. God bless.
 

8 Rules to Help Your Spouse Heal From Infidelity

By: Abigale Hassel  

I am sure you have heard the saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater”, but that is not always true. In my experience counseling couples recovering from infidelity, I have observed that cheaters fall into one of 3 main categories. First there is the Narcissist. This type is the serial cheater who has no remorse and may even feel entitled to cheat, simply because he or she wants to. This is the type who probably will continue to cheat, whether he or she is caught or not. The second type is the addict. This person is either addicted to sex or is addicted to the excitement of having “the forbidden fruit”. This type may actually have remorse, but may need professional help to stop. Finally, the third type is your average person. There may or may not be marital issues, but this person usually enters the slippery slope of befriending someone of the opposite sex. The “friendship” grows very important to this person. The cheater may begin by sharing personal information about the marital issues and there may be more and more time and energy invested into the “friendship” until the cheater slides into an emotional affair, a physical affair or both. Most of the time, this person has remorse and when faced with the possibility of losing his or her marriage, he or she desperately seeks to heal the marriage. If you are reading this and you have cheated, and if you fit into category number 3, please take the following rules of infidelity recovery seriously, that is, of course, if you want to save your marriage.

Rule #1: Immediately cut contact with the other person (OP).

This is rule number one for a reason. In order to be fully emotionally available to your hurting spouse, you must not be emotionally connected to the OP. You must cut contact completely and fully. I will use the analogy of the alcoholic. In order for an alcoholic to stay clean and sober, he must never take another alcoholic beverage again. He must remove himself from the people, places and things that tempt him. He must learn new coping skills so that the need for the alcohol disappears. You must sever the attachment you had with the OP completely so that you can emotionally re-attach to your spouse. Remember, you took vows with your spouse, not the OP. You owe the OP nothing. He or she knew you were married when he or she chose to have an affair with a married person. Just like all of us, the OP must deal with the consequences of his or her choices and actions.

 

This rule gets a bit tricky if the affair partner was a co-worker; however, if your betrayed spouse is too tortured by you working with the OP, you may need to find other employment. I am not suggesting that you quit immediately. I understand that finances may be tough and you cannot leave your present job until you find another one, but if you want to save your marriage, you may need to consider this. While you are still in your present job and if you still work with the OP, you must take all measures to limit contact to work related issues only and never communicate outside of the workplace. Make your boundaries clear and known to the OP. Again, remember, you took vows with your spouse, not the OP, and you owe the OP nothing. In her book, Not Just Friends, Dr. Shirley Glass explains that a committed relationship has walls (or boundaries) that protect the relationship from harm. When one enters into an affair, the affair partner gets a window into the marital relationship, while the spouse has a wall of secrecy between him or her and the affair relationship. To heal your marriage, the window and the wall must be reversed. We will return to this analogy again.

Rule#2: Allow complete access and transparency.

Transparency means it is time to open the books, figuratively and literally. Give your spouse access to cell phones, email, and social media accounts. Give your spouse all of your passwords. Not only should you expect your spouse to check on you for a while, you should want him or her to check. Basically, your betrayed spouse must catch you “being good” in order to be able to trust you again. 

I often see a lot of resistance from cheating spouses on this rule. They believe they still have a right to their privacy. They do not want to be treated like a child and they feel insulted, because they “swear” they have ended the affair. My simple response to these objections is this. Do want your privacy or do you want to save your marriage? You saying “I swear” now means nothing. You have destroyed the blind, unconditional trust your spouse once had in you. Your spouse’s world has been blown apart by your lies and betrayal. This is an extreme situation and extreme situations call for extreme measures. For now, you must give up your “right” to privacy. I promise you that if you do this, after a period of time of being caught being good, your spouse’s need to check up on you will diminish. People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. Is this not the least you can do to help your spouse heal?

Rule #3: Be accountable.

This goes along with being transparent. Basically, being accountable means being where you say you are going to be when you say you are going to be there. It means following through with your promises. It means having an explanation if you are late and not meeting questions with defensiveness or resistance. 

This rule becomes difficult for some cheating spouses because it can get tiresome having to detail every move that is made. This can be scary for some.  I recently counseled a couple in which the husband was the cheating spouse. He really resisted this rule. He told his betrayed wife that he did not want to spend his life “living under a microscope”. In his case, he still felt a lot of shame about what he had done and having to be accountable for every step he took just fed his feelings of shame. I understand that adults in a committed relationship do not think they should have to tell their spouse every time they run an errand or go to lunch with some coworkers, but this is a different circumstance. That would be true if the trust your spouse had for you was still intact, but it is not and that is your fault. Are you willing to help your spouse trust you again so you can save your marriage? How is this rule looking now?

Rule #4: Answer all of your spouse’s questions completely and honestly.

This rule is sometimes difficult for the cheating spouse to understand. He or she may wonder why the betrayed spouse needs to hear all of the nitty gritty details of the affair. Often, the initial inclination for the cheating spouse is to leave out details, down play certain events, or do something that is referred to as “trickle truthing” (Glass, 2003), which is the act of admitting to the details of the affair little by little to avoid the distress of the betrayed spouse learning the entirety of the offense. A cheating spouse has many reasons to trickle truth. He or she may think he or she is protecting the betrayed spouse from further hurt. He or she may be protecting himself or herself from further shame, or he or she may even be protecting the OP to some extent. Let me be absolutely clear here. You are not protecting your spouse. If there are details you have not revealed to your spouse and they are found out some other way, the damage that will result will be far worse than your spouse knowing the entire truth of your betrayal. Each discovery of new information or details sets your betrayed spouse back, so answer the questions as they are asked, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable it may be.

Let me share what one of my clients told her husband when he could not understand why she was asking so many specific questions about his affair with a coworker. She told him this, “I feel as if another woman is walking around with knowledge of my husband that only I should know. I feel as if she has stolen a piece of you from me. The only way for me to feel that I have you back fully is if I know everything she knows.” As hard as it is for the betrayed spouse to hear the intimate details of your affair, you need to be completely honest and specific about what you did. If things do not make sense in the mind of the betrayed spouse because you left out significant details, he or she will try to fill the gaps in their minds. Sometimes what goes on in the imagination of the betrayed spouse is far worse than what actually took place. Not only are you not protecting your spouse from further pain by hiding details, you are actually causing more pain and turmoil for your spouse. As hard as it may be, you must answer the questions about the affair, honestly and completely. That way, your spouse will know that you are able to tell the truth, no matter how difficult it is for you. That is how you earn back trust.

Rule #5: Allow your spouse to set the pace of recovery, NOT YOU!

The process of recovering from infidelity for couples is a very long and hard one. There are many ups and downs, bumps in the roads and setbacks, for both the cheating spouse and the betrayed spouse. The one who cheated may feel deep remorse and he or she may feel as if they have done everything they can do to help the hurting spouse. All they want to do is put their egregious act behind them and move forward. That is all well and good, but that is unrealistic and unfair. Experts agree that it takes at least 2-5 years for a couple to get past an affair and return to a state of normalcy within the relationship again (Bercht, 2004; Glass, 2003).

Here is an example from another couple I counseled; we will call them Jack and Karen. Jack cheated on Karen and the affair ended when Karen found out about Jack’s infidelity when she overheard him talking on the phone. Jack was very patient and nurturing at first. He answered all of Karen’s questions, but he grew impatient after a while. Karen started to ask repetitive questions. At times, she argued with Jack because she did not like the answers she heard and this frustrated Jack to no end. One day, out of sheer exhaustion and exasperation, he asked, “How long is she going to keep me hanging on the cross like this?” My response was, “As long as it takes.” I then shared an analogy a colleague once shared with me, “You see your wife is struggling to climb the mountain. You have already reached the top and you are tired of looking down the mountain since you want to keep moving, but your wife is struggling to get to the top. She is stuck. You cannot yell down to her from the top saying, ‘Hurry up and get here already. We need to keep moving forward!’ You have to get down there and help her climb.” You inflicted trauma upon your spouse. Why do you expect him or her to suffer in silence? It does not matter if your affair lasted a few days or a few years; you betrayed your spouse and it is going to take a lot of time and work for your spouse to resolve the trauma and grief over the loss of the purity of the marriage. This you must accept. Your betrayed spouse dictates the timeframe of recovery; not you.

Rule #6: Offer constant encouragement, reassurance, and apologies if necessary.

In his book Relationship Rescue (2000), and on his popular daytime TV show, Dr. Phil McGraw said that the one who cheats is solely responsible for his or her affair. No matter what problems exist in the relationship and no matter how the betrayed spouse behaves, he or she did not make you cheat. You chose to do that. There are ways to deal with unhappiness in a marriage, but I assure you, cheating is absolutely not one of them. Cheating is merely a way to escape and avoid dealing with either the marital issues or your own personal shortcomings. Cheating is about ego. It is selfish. Short of holding a gun to your head and forcing you to go outside the marriage, your spouse is not to blame for your affair. Own your stuff fully.

In owning your stuff, you must take full responsibility for your choice to cheat. Forget about the excuses, “I did not mean for it to happen” or “I never meant to hurt you.” Guess what. It did happen by choice; it was no accident. You may not have meant to hurt your spouse, but you did, badly. It will take you fully owning what you did, expressing remorse and constantly reassuring your spouse that you will never repeat this mistake again for him or her to fully heal. As many times as you think you have apologized, do it again and again if your spouse needs you to. You turned your spouse’s world upside down. You were the one your spouse thought he or she could always count on and you were the one who caused your spouse more pain than he or she could ever have imagined. Do you think having to constantly apologize is hard? Well think about how hard it is to be your spouse right now. Do you want to make amends and save your marriage? Then get over it!

Rule #7: Protect the marriage.

Protecting the marriage is a multi-faceted endeavor. It involves what I mentioned earlier, which is reversing the window and the wall. The OP must have no access to you or to your marriage and you have to start letting your spouse in on what you did, why you did it and how you were able to do it. This takes maturity and a lot of introspection. You have to know why and how you were able to go outside your marriage and break your marriage vows. Only when you fully own your behavior and learn from your mistakes can you avoid repeating the problematic behavior. 

Protecting the marriage also entails surrounding yourself with “friends of the marriage” (Bercht, 2004; Glass, 2003). This means that you must have people in your life who support your marriage, who support your choice to save the marriage and who do not try and undermine or sabotage the process. I counseled a couple in which the husband, I will call him Ron, was the cheater. Ron’s best friend was still single and it was obvious that he did not like Ron’s wife very much. Ron’s friend constantly talked badly about Ron’s wife and he frequently encouraged Ron to leave his wife. It confused Ron and deeply hurt his wife. Ron had been friends with this man for several years and his allegiance was split. If you are in a similar situation as Ron, I am sorry to tell you that if you want to save your marriage, you may have to cut this type of toxic person from your life. If people around you do not support you in this very important and difficult infidelity recovery process, then you need to let them go.

Protecting the marriage also means refraining from speaking badly about your spouse. The protective wall around the marriage means that outsiders are not privy to the problems within the walls. That is a private matter between a husband and wife. If you have trusted friends of the marriage and you need to talk, then do so, but only with friends of the same gender. By speaking badly about your spouse to anyone and everyone, you are making yourself vulnerable. Along with refraining from speaking ill of your spouse, you must also refrain from flirting with those of the opposite sex. By doing so, you are not only inviting trouble, but you are disrespecting your spouse. To those who have little regard for the institution of marriage, flirting gives the impression that you do not care about your spouse’s feelings. If you do not care, why should they?

What I am about to suggest is very controversial and many may not agree, but this part of protecting the marriage is crucial, especially in the beginning stages of infidelity recovery. You cannot have close friendships with those of the opposite sex. Under normal circumstances, it may be possible to have a friend of the opposite sex without your spouse feeling threatened or jealous, but these are not normal circumstances and, do not forget, that is your fault. Do not have lunch alone with someone of the opposite sex, no coffee, no extended conversations and no social activities with someone of the opposite sex. Do not forget also that you were initially “just friends” with your affair partner. You have already proven that you do not understand healthy boundaries, so it is absolutely unrealistic for you to expect that your spouse will be comfortable with you having a close friendship with a person of the opposite sex now. I will use this analogy to help you understand better. If you are on a diet and you love chocolate, you would not keep fudge brownies in the house. Sure, your resolve may be strong for the moment and you may even be able to resist those brownies, but you are still vulnerable and you still need to learn why you turned to food for comfort. It is much better to keep the brownies out of the house until you fully understand your weakness for chocolate. Sure, you may be able to have a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, but you first need to learn what healthy boundaries entail and you need to understand how you were vulnerable to having an affair. Is it worth torturing your spouse and risking your marriage to prove you can handle such a friendship?  I do not think it is.

Rule #8: Agree to go to marriage counseling.

All of the preceding rules are difficult to follow, especially if the cheating spouse is still rationalizing and justifying his or her choice to cheat. The betrayed spouse has every right to the range of emotions he or she will inevitably be feeling. The betrayed spouse experiences both a trauma effect and a grief response when an affair is discovered. Some betrayed spouses may even suffer a post traumatic response similar to that of PTSD. The grief comes from the loss of the security he or she once felt. There is a loss of trust. There is a feeling of being violated by the OP. There could also be other fallout from affairs such as sexually transmitted diseases or even pregnancies. So much damage has been caused. With such intense emotions, you most certainly need guidance from a professional to sift through the aftermath of your indiscretion.

It is essential to find a therapist who is experienced in helping couples through infidelity recovery. Dr. Glass addresses this issue in Not Just Friends. Her premise is that if couples are not progressing in therapy, it may not be because the marriage cannot be saved, but because the couple has an inexperienced therapist who may side with one spouse over the other or who may be obviously judgmental. A good therapist who is experienced in the field of infidelity recovery will impartially guide a couple through the process, gently holding the cheating spouse accountable, while helping him or her understand what led him or her to infidelity. Once the infidelity issues are fully dealt with, then and only then can the couple deal with the marital issues. The betrayed spouse must own his or her contribution to the marital issues, but, to repeat, the cheating spouse is 100% responsible for his or her affair. 

I would like to end this discussion with some words of encouragement. Couples can survive infidelity. Not only can they survive, but they can also thrive. The journey through infidelity recovery forces both spouses to do an enormous amount of introspection. Both can learn so much about themselves and they may even resolve old issues that needed to be addressed, but may not have been had the infidelity not occurred. Relationships are kicked from their complacency, forcing couples to look at what was not working between them. Spouses learn about both themselves and about each other and they may become closer than they have ever been. They learn that marriage is precious, that it takes work, but they also learn that it is worth the effort. No one would ever choose to be betrayed and hurt, but since it did happen, since you, the cheating spouse, chose to go outside the marriage, good can come from this enormous mistake, but only if you do the work and follow the rules to help your spouse heal from your infidelity. Good luck and God bless.

 

 

Ready to get started in moving past the infidelity and reclaiming your marriage? We can help. Our self-help workbook, The Trust Is Gone. Help!, will give you the tools you need to to begin rebuilding the trust. Visit our Marriage Rocks Store for details.

 

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References:

 

Bercht, A. (2004). My Husband’s Affair became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.     

 

      Victoria B.C.: Trafford.

 

Glass, S.P. (2003). Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After 

 

Infidelity. New York: Free Press.

 

      McGraw, P.C. (2000). Relationship Rescue: A seven Step Strategy For Reconnecting With 

 

Your Partner. New York: Hyperion.

 

 

 

 

 

Should I leave...?

Question:
 
I've been married for almost 10 years and am a pastor's wife.  There was an incident that put our marriage at stake.  I am ashamed of what people around me think because of the incident. Because of it,  I am considering going back to my hometown for good and taking our child, leaving my husband.  Is my decision correct? Please help me.
 
Answer: 
 
It is difficult for me to answer this completely, given the fact that I do not know the circumstances about which you are speaking, but I will try to answer in a general way. It seems to me that you are trying to escape a very unpleasant situation. One thing I can tell you for certain is this. We cannot outrun our feelings or our problems. If you do not stay and deal with them, they will certainly follow you in some way, shape or form. I can also tell you that all of us are responsible for our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors and no one else's. We are not responsible for other people's actions or mistakes. Other people's shame does not have to be ours. All we can do is take responsibility for our own feelings by expressing them appropriately, even if that means holding others accountable for their bad behavior. If you are running from other people's shame, stop and ask yourself whether that will really benefit you or your child. I hope that helped and I wish you all the best. God bless!
 

The Kind of Love for a Healthy Marriage

By: Abigale Hassel  

When people marry, they believe they are in love and they believe they know what love is. Unfortunately, many have a very poor understanding of what true, unconditional love is and fewer actually give unconditional love to their spouses. So, now you may be asking what unconditional love is. Let us examine 1 Cor 13: 4-13 (Complete Jewish Bible translation) to fully grasp the love we are meant to have and the love we are meant to share.

Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered.” Woa, right off the bat that is a tough one! How many of us have treated our spouse with disrespect? We yell; we argue, and we want to win the argument. So many spouses forget that they are not each other’s adversaries or each other’s enemies. We need to remember that our spouse is our teammate. We are on the same side. Marriage is not supposed to be a competition. We are meant to support one another and build each other up, not tear each other down. Marriage is supposed to be the safe harbor in the storm, not the storm itself.

“Love keeps no record of wrongs.” This is forgiveness. Have you ever heard the saying by Ruth Bell Graham, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”? Can I get an amen? We always need to have forgiveness in our hearts for our spouses, for both the little things and the big things. My husband and I have been through some rough times in our marriage. I worked so hard to forgive him, yet day after day, I found myself angry. I started to feel guilty because I knew the Lord wanted me to forgive my husband just as I have been forgiven for my sins, but I found myself unable to completely let go of old hurts. Then a very wise friend of mine told me something that changed my perspective completely. She said that we must accept that it may be necessary to forgive our spouse daily. The willingness to do that is forgiveness. Basically, forgiveness is not a one-time deal. We do not utter the words “I forgive you” and magically the anger dissipates. Forgiveness is a journey. As long as we are willing to embark on that journey, no matter how long it takes us to reach the destination, that is forgiveness. So, forgive yourself too!

“Love does not gloat over other people’s sins but takes its delight in the truth. Love always bears up, always trusts, always hopes, always endures.” Life happens and people make mistakes. Sometimes, in our vulnerable state of mind, we may believe lies from the enemy, such as, “the passion is gone” or “we have nothing in common anymore” or even worse, “I am in love with someone else.” These lies from the enemy must be rebuked and we must stand on God’s promise. Marriage is a covenant and not a mere contract that can be dissolved. The truth is that what God has joined, no one can tear apart. If troubles arise in your marriage, then deal with them. Deal with that root of bitterness before it causes a rift in your relationship. Trust in the love that brought you together in the first place.

“Love never ends” and “these three things last-trust, hope, love, and the greatest of these is love.” When I counsel couples in trouble, I always tell them that short of abuse, any marital issue can be overcome, as long as there was a strong foundation of love. I truly believe that if love was there, it never goes away; it simply may get smothered by unresolved hurt and anger from years of poor communication. When we enter into the covenant of marriage, two become one flesh. Our spouse is our soul mate. A soul mate is not what we are shown in fairy tales or Hollywood movies. A soul mate is the person whom God has chosen for us. When we marry the person whom God has chosen for us, the love never ends. If we have been blessed enough to have been given our soul mate, then we must nurture our spouse. We must honor our spouse. We must forgive our spouse, respect our spouse, support our spouse and love our spouse with the supernatural love with which God loves us. This is the love God intended.

 

**Still in love with your spouse, but suffering from a major breach in trust? We can help you rebuild the trust and move your marriage forward. Visit www.yesmarriagerocks.com/mrocks/webinar**

My Spouse Keeps Choosing Her Family Over Me. Help!

Question:  We've been married two years. My wife continually chooses her family over me. She's always on the phone with them, helping them, mediating disputes. I keep telling her they take up too much time, but it's like she don't get it. She keeps saying they need her. Then she cuts back supposedly and I catch her sneaking to talk them on the phone. We're all adults. Don't they get she's a wife now. They need to handle their own mess. She's my wife and I'm supposed to come first. Her family has a lot of issues. I don't expect her to cut them off, but I don't expect to have to battle them for time. We argue about it a lot. She keeps saying I'm overacting, but I'm not. I resent her and her family more and more. Something has got to give. What are your thoughts?
 
Answer:  This is a very common problem. While it is true that when we marry our spouse, we also marry the family; however, we must also maintain appropriate boundaries. When boundaries are too loose, other people can intrude in our lives. It sounds to me like your wife's boundaries are too loose. In families, roles are often assigned to each member. This is not a conscious process, but labels are placed such as, "he's the athletic one" or "she's the smart one." Perhaps your wife was designated as the "go to person" of the family. It is a wonderful quality that she has a heart for her family and wants to help them, but you are correct. There needs to be a limit and she needs to put your needs and the needs of the marriage first. Unfortunately, her family does not seem to be respecting the boundaries, but that is because your wife is not setting any. 
 
You have every right to feel the way you are feeling, but try to express your feelings using "I" statements. For example, use this formula, "I feel hurt (feeling) when you (action that hurts you) put your family before me because (reason you are hurt)  it makes me feel like you do not care about me." I imagine when you try to address the issue with her, she may think you are attacking her or criticizing her. If you use "I"  statements, you are expressing your feelings. Feelings are not wrong and she cannot argue with how you feel. If you believe that your wife is not setting appropriate boundaries, perhaps she does not know how to do that. If you are willing, perhaps you two should seek marriage counseling to learn to communicate and set healthy boundaries with her family. This problem can be resolved. Just be patient and communicate without attacking. Good luck and God bless!
 

I'm Mean to My Spouse. Help!

 

Question:  My brother took his life a few years ago and I’ve changed for the worse.  I’m mean to my husband.  I don’t mean to be but I have so much anger built up inside.  What do we do as a couple to get better?
 
Answer:  I am so sorry about your loss and right off the bat, it seems that you have a lot of unresolved grief. Individually, you need to process your feelings about your brother's death and perhaps your feelings towards your brother as well. Your husband can be patient and understanding, but you need to do the individual work in order to be whole and present for your husband. You both need to educate yourselves about the grief process and all that entails. Perhaps  in addition to individual counseling for yourself, couples counseling, in which you two can work on communication skills, would be to your benefit as you process all of these strong emotions. It is a good sign that you are owning your behavior, but that is only the first step. God bless!

My Husband Changed Religions. What Now?

QuestionMy husband and I have been married for several years and we have 3 kids.  We were both Christians when we married and shared the same beliefs.  My husband has determined that he is no longer a Christian (after reading  lots of books). He’s not an atheist and I can’t explain what he is.  We argue about this.  He says I can continue going to church and even take the kids, but he won’t go.  He says he’d never want to change my beliefs, but his have changed.  How can this work?  He’s the head of the household and is supposed to be the spiritual leader.  This is really stressing me out.  I haven’t shared with my Christian family out of fear of the consequences. Any insight?
 
Answer:This is a very difficult and frustrating situation in which you find yourself. I see that you feel as if you have been duped or lied to somehow. You married your husband thinking you shared your faith together, but he went a different way. I say to you what I say to all the spouses I counsel. You cannot control your spouse. All you can do is take responsibility for your behaviors, feelings and reactions. As a wife to a man who resisted accepting God fully, I understand how you feel and I understand the longing for him to be the spiritual head of the household, but this part is not up to you. This you must pray on and yield to God. Let Him do the work in your husband while you continue to lead by example. Marriage is a covenant and he may not want to remain the spiritual head of the house, but he is remaining your husband. Focus, for now, on the man he is and how much you love him; continue to be a respectful and loving wife and leave the rest to the Lord. He will complete that which He began in your husband. God Bless!
 
 
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