You’ve suspected for a while that something is not right between you and your spouse. Maybe they were spending lots of extra hours “at work” but there was no overtime on their paycheck. Maybe they completely changed their music, hairstyle, or clothing choices to something appropriate for someone decades younger. Maybe they were chatting or texting all the time and then deleted everything so you couldn’t see it. Whatever the reasons, you had a sneaking suspicion something wasn’t right…
There are seven specific steps you can take if you have reason to believe your spouse may be unfaithful. This week we’ll be going over two steps in more detail every day: on Tuesday I considered the first two steps, yesterday we looked at steps three and four, and today we are examining the next two steps. There is no guarantee your marriage will recover, but these steps will give you the best opportunity to recover after the affair ends.
Step 5) Carrot & Stick. In this phase you focus on two things: work on yourself to be the person you once were who attracted your spouse again AND allow your disloyal to experience the natural consequences of their choices. You work on yourself by eliminating the things that extinguished love (Love Exinguishers Questionnaire) between you two (like judging, angry explosions, enough is never enough) and by re-starting the things that kindled love (Love Kindlers Questionnaire) between you two (like romantic doo-dads). You need to do BOTH…but eliminating love extinguishers is the most important of the two. The idea here is that the disloyal is getting some of their needs met by the Other Person but you want them to see that you do “get it” and that you are an attractive alternative able to meet their needs.
The second part is about NATURAL consequences. This doesn’t mean that you punish the disloyal, but rather, nope–you are not leaving the house so they can move their lover in. If the disloyal wants to be with their lover, they’ll need to move out and nope the kids do not go with them. There is no reason for the children to leave their home, their bed, their neighborhood, their friends, their school because the disloyal is with the OP–so a natural consequence there is that the disloyal loses some time with their children. That’s the cost of choosing to have an affair and what WILL happen if they choose to divorce. Allow them to experience that hurt because it will teach them faster that affairs HURT and cost A LOT!!
You should know that this step is not “long term” because no one can give and give and give forever when an affair is being rubbed in their face. Eventually the time would come for you to say, “I’ve done what I could to win you over and now I need to move to the next step before I lose all love for you.” Sometimes a disloyal spouse sort of sits on the fence in this step because they are getting needs met by two folks. On the occasion there are disloyal spouses whose affair just die a natural death–like the Other Person just gets sick of it and leaves them–or they begin to see the good of staying and how much leaving would hurt…and they think maybe that too much water has passed under the bridge. Periodically let your disloyal know that you would love to have them back and work on the marriage. Invite them to return. If this is your case, consider yourself blessed and move to the phase of recovering your marriage!! If it is not, move to the next step.
Step 6) Consequences. In this step you write the disloyal a letter and explain that you love them, admit the things you did to contribute to the affair, indicate what you’re doing to end those things, and then say that unless they end ALL contact with the OP and never, EVER contacts the OP again, you need to end all contact with the disloyal. The idea behind this step is to give them a more realistic taste of what divorce could be like–to not have you in their life to meet ANY needs! They also can no longer depend on you for those little household chores, blame you for the day’s events, nothing. For some Sample Consequences Letters please click on the link. For some practicalities, if you have children one of the common things a female disloyal will pull is wanting the loyal to do things “…for the children” when really it’s to meet one of her needs. In the Consequences Step, it is already set up ahead of time that there is an intermediary or buffer between the disloyal and loyal spouse. This can be a person who agrees to do it…this can be a notebook that the children carry in their backpack when they go between houses… or it can be a something like the Parenting Notebook which was created to assist custodial and noncustodial parents communicate. By no means is the loyal spouse to accept phone calls or read IM’s or emails. If the disloyal calls the loyal says, “Are you calling because you’re ready to end the affair? Oh you’re not. Then please respect my wished for no contact until you’re ready to do that. Goodbye” and hang up. Undoubtedly by this point life is not going great for the disloyal as they persist in doing what they know is wrong, and so they need to have someone in their life whom they can blame for everything that’s going wrong. If the loyal spouse is the one getting the blame a) that extinguishes a lot of love for the loyal spouse and b) that give the disloyal spouse somewhere to displace the blame rather than looking at themselves and their own choices! So it is necessary for this time of no contact in order to maintain what little bit of love the loyal spouse may still have and allow the disloyal to take personal responsibility for their choices as soon as possible.
Again, in this stage there are occasionally disloyal spouses whose affair just die a natural death–like the OP just gets sick of it and leaves them–or they begin to realize that a divorce would be VERY painful to them…and they think maybe that too much water has passed under the bridge. Periodically let your disloyal know that you would be willing to have them back and work on the marriage. but that at this point some substantial damage has been done. Invite them to return. If this is your case, consider yourself blessed and move to the phase of recovering your marriage!! If it is not, move to the final step.