Most people agree that affairs are wrong, but the reality is that they are also common.
The reason is that relationships are complex.
As painful as infidelity can be, there are things you can do to lessen the devastation from the fallout.
If you feel like you’ve ruined your marriage by cheating, read on.
“I had an affair and ruined my marriage”: What should I do now?
1) Know that people make mistakes
You messed up and now you are dealing with the consequences of that.
Whilst owning up to your mistakes and showing remorse is vital, beating yourself up isn’t.
It’s likely that you already feel regret, shame, and deep sadness. I’m guessing you have also expressed that (many times) to your other half.
But I want to tell you what a very wise friend told me once:
Everybody deserves to be on their own side in life.
That certainly doesn’t mean blindly thinking you are always right or stubbornly refusing to see when you make mistakes.
But it does mean that you treat yourself like your own best friend.
That means rather than turning on yourself, you forgive your own failings. You approach yourself with kindness and compassion, despite your errors.
Because we all make mistakes. The reality is that people get it wrong sometimes. We’re only human.
2) Ask yourself why?
People have affairs for all sorts of reasons. But very few people have an affair for absolutely no reason at all.
Far below our surface actions, there usually lie far more deep-seated root causes for the things we do.
Reflection is powerful.
Although it cannot change the past, reflection can change the future and allow us the opportunity to change and improve.
- What did the affair mean to you?
- What were you looking for?
- Do you think your affair was a symptom of issues in your marriage? If, so, what?
- What did you discover about yourself from the affair?
These sorts of questions can help you to try to understand why the affair took place.
If there are issues in your marriage, as painful as it is, it’s important to address those root causes. Especially if you do decide you want to try and fix things.
This isn’t about finding excuses or justifying the affair. It’s about gaining better self-understanding.
Self-understanding is the catalyst for all meaningful and lasting change.
3) Respect your partner’s needs and wants right now
During the aftermath of an affair, feelings run high. It’s totally to be expected.
Your partner will probably feel betrayed, angry, sad and a wide range of emotions. They might not even know exactly how they feel about this yet.
You need to respect his/her feelings right now.
They will come to terms with the situation in their own time.
Respecting someone else’s feelings is one of the most difficult things to do. Especially if you are scared of losing them.
If they say it’s over, you might panic and desperately want to repair things.
If they tell you they need space, your instincts might tell you to try and grasp on even tighter.
But right now you have to respect their boundaries and give them whatever they tell you they need in order to process this.
4) Take responsibility
Falling into victimhood is riskier than you think. Even when you feel like you are the one whose affair has ruined your marriage.
That’s because choosing to repeat stories to yourself about how terrible you are is still a sort of victimhood.
Feeling defeated and as though you have destroyed everything in your relationship or life is also a form of victimhood.
And you may start to believe that you’re just too damaged to ever recover from what has happened.
The truth is that you don’t have to live in a constant state of defeat. And it will do nothing to help you move forward.
You can choose to take responsibility for your affair.
That means not excusing, trying to justify, or blaming something or someone else.
But apologizing does not mean grovelling.
It should mean rolling your sleeves up and looking for solutions, rather than being tempted to feel sorry for the state of your life and marriage right now.
5) Seek support
You don’t have to do this alone.
There are resources, support, and experts out there who can offer vital guidance right now.
You might want to see a therapist (either alone or as a couple) to help facilitate your relationship. Share with trusted friends or family members what you are going through.
Even if your partner is not on board, you can still do things alone that will help.
Can a marriage ever recover from an affair? Absolutely. But it’s not a surprise that it will take effort.
If that’s what you want, a step that I really recommend is a course called Mend the Marriage. Because it is something proactive that you can do (even alone) to save your relationship.
It is packed with really practical support from relationship expert Brad Browning.
Watch this quick video to learn things like:
- Earning back their trust by showing them that you can change.
- The 3 critical mistakes that most couples commit that rip marriages apart.
- A proven “Marriage Saving” method that’s simple and incredibly effective.
If you still love your spouse, then right now what you need is a plan of attack to mend your marriage.
So if you want some more tailored guidance on the best things to say and do, then check out this quick video now.
6) Encourage honest communication
One of the reasons marriages break down in the first place is because people aren’t communicating honestly and effectively.
Poor communication can cause a divide between a married couple that just keeps growing bigger.
We become less able to be intimate with our partners and more likely to cheat.
This is why honesty matters so much. It helps us build strong relationships.
Right now when your marriage feels in tatters, being honest and open can feel even more of a risk.
But it is also essential.
Being honest may involve telling your partner what they want to know about your affair.
It will mean facing up to the larger problems you feel you have in the relationship. Now is not the time to sweep things under the rug.
Let your spouse know that you want to listen to them. Practice active listening to make sure they feel truly heard.
7) Don’t expect too much too soon
They say patience is a virtue. And when it comes to repairing your life after an affair, it’s a virtue you may have to learn to get to grips with.
When we’re hurting, we tend to want to fix everything immediately. We want to put ourselves back together again.
And while it’s important to try to repair your marriage and life, it’s also important to remember that sometimes things won’t work out overnight.
If you decide to work on your marriage, remind yourself that it is bound to take time before a marriage recovers fully.
Similarly, if you end up parting ways, it is going to take plenty of time to heal.
Expecting too much too soon can put extra pressure on your shoulders.
8) Don’t create even more pain for yourself
The events in our life are only a small part of what actually creates our suffering.
It’s easy to tell yourself that your affair is what is causing you to suffer right now.
But beneath that, the truth is that we add to our suffering.
The stories you tell and the framework you choose to use can make all the difference.
In his book, ‘Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego’, Lachlan Brown highlights this:
“Disappointment and pain are part of everyone’s life. But being disappointed and in pain about being disappointed and in pain is a different thing completely.
In other words, the emotions of pain, fear, and resentment come to us all. But weaving a story around them and believing they are personal or deeply directed at you is optional.”
At a time when it may feel like so much is out of your hands, there are still things you can control. You can make sure you don’t add to your own suffering.
9) Know that marriages can be repaired
Marriages don’t always fail after cheating. They can be fixed.
There are many couples who have managed to rebuild their lives and their relationships.
What percentage of marriages recover from an affair?
I know it’s tempting to go searching for statistics to try and figure out the chances that your marriage is over for good.
But the truth is that not only do facts and figures differ drastically. But neither can they ever really predict what will happen in your own relationship.
If you want to reconcile and save your marriage, take comfort in the knowledge that some couples who have faced infinity do find ways to repair their broken relationship.
Rather than give up hope, try to find ways to be constructive.
Remember that if you’re looking for specific tips on how to do this, I’d recommend checking out that quick video from relationship expert Brad Browning.
He’s a best-selling author who also dispenses insightful advice on his really popular YouTube channel.
So he genuinely knows what he is talking about when it comes to saving marriages.