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You may not want to hear this but …

You are a shit if you leave your marriage because of an affair without having given your spouse an real opportunity to help you make your marriage better first.  Bad karma tends to hang around for a very long time.

I wrote this a while ago, but it seems like a good companion piece for the poem I’ve posted a few days ago.  I cannot say that I know many people who’ve chosen not to eat the whole apple, but if this helps just one person throw it away, then it will have been worth it. 

Things to do immediately

  • Go and look at your children asleep in their beds

“Tonight go to your children’s bedrooms when they are asleep and stand there for a while.  Allow your mind to go back over the years you have had with them, and then try to imagine how they are going to need you in the future.

I don’t know whether this simple act will change your mind about leaving, although with all my heart I hope it will; but I can tell you something with some certainty: many people will write to me and tell me that asking you to spend those couple of minutes in that room was a waste of time – that it was naive and too emotional.  But you won’t be one of them”

(Rob Parsons)

  • Tell your spouse. 

This may be the scariest thing you have ever had to do.  It may also be the bravest.  Not telling your spouse means you are attempting to control him or her rather than allowing him or her to make up his or her own mind.  You are – in other words – treating your spouse like a child.   Trust your spouse to be able to deal with this.

  • Cut off ALL contact with the other person. 

If this means leaving your job, leave your job.  If this means changing your phone number or smashing up your computer, do whatever it takes.   There is no other way.

  • Read this account of one man’s very ordinary affair that cost him his marriage and his family
  • Spend some time on the Marriage Builders site.  It is by far and away the best single site that I have found dealing with marriage problems, and an incredibly generous offering of the expertise of a wise marriage guidance counsellors. In extremis, you might find the following helpful (if you are the Unfaithful Parter make sure your spouse reads the advice)

What to do with an Unfaithful Wife

What to do with an Unfaithful Husband

  • Find a good counsellor

In the UK try Relate first:

An emergency appointment will usually be offered within a couple of days.  Even if you need to attend the first appointment alone, make sure both of you attend subsequent counselling sessions.  You will probably find that ten sessions is long enough to make real progress – you are not committing yourself to years on a couch.  The cost will be around £40.00 per hour.  It will be the best £400.00 you have ever spent.

Make sure that both of you are happy with the counsellor.  If one of you is not happy, find another counsellor.  It is very important that neither of you is attracted to the counsellor, or intimidated by the counsellor.  A degree of physical antipathy is no bad thing.

Counsellors use different methods.  Ask what methods the Counsellor will be using.  These two are good:

Bowens Family Systems Therapy is a very useful way of depersonalising the mess you are in, and enabling you to see the problem in the context of your two families.  You’ll draw a map of your families going back three generations and extending out to siblings.  You’ll probably be amazed at how different your maps are, and how the relationships shown in them have made you the person you are.

Transactional Analysis is a useful way of looking at your interactions using a vocabulary that even an eight year old could understand, or a man with an extreme male brain .  The way you behave is broken down into parent-like behaviour, adult behaviour and child-like behaviour.  Chances are your parent is scaring your spouse’s child, or your spouse has forgotten where to find his adult …  It’s easy, fun almost and the vocabulary will stay with you forever and help you through difficult times in the future.  It will almost certainly make you a better parent too. 

Longer term:

The Marriage Builders approach is built around a basic concept – that we all have important emotional needs that we would like to have met, and when they are not met, we try to meet them in other ways.  The authors identify ten “basic needs”.  The site has a questionnaire to help you find out how your prioritise your basic needs.

The basic needs are:

Affection, sexual fulfilment, conversation, recreational companionship, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, financial support, domestic support, family commitment, and admiration.

The site linked above has more details on each basic need and how to meet them.

Another variation on the theme is the idea that we speak our love in different languages and our spouse sometimes either misunderstands our language, or does not speak the language we would wish them to speak. 

This is another very useful site which expands on the idea of Love Languages, useful for making sure your messages are getting across once you’ve each worked out what is missing and once you’ve started trying to put that right:

I would recommend the Men’s edition of the book The Five Love Languages because it contains additional hints at the end of each chapter on how to speak each of the five langugages.  This approach also works very well for children.  My own daughters speak different languages from me and from each other.  It helps to know that and act accordingly

The Marriage Builders site is very generous in the information it provides.  If you prefer to read it in book form, this is a very good, non-judgemental book, called Surviving the Affair, written by the authors of the site

Loving Against the Odds and The 60 Minute Marriage, both by Rob Parsons, are good books that both men and women seem to like.  They have a strong Christian basis which some may find off-putting, for all the sense he speaks.