Healing a Marriage After an Affair - Free Self-Help

By Diana Holbourn

Article Summary


This article covers topics such as the feelings of hurt affairs can cause, some reasons why people have affairs, advice for anyone who finds their husband or wife has had an affair on how to deal with their feelings and how to approach their partners about it, and advice for anyone who's had an affair they're now regretting. It talks about how partners can work together to increase satisfaction with the marriage to decrease the temptation for one to be unfaithful again where marriage problems had something to do with it, and what can be done to increase the trust of the partner who's had their confidence shaken by discovering the affair.

It also talks about what a husband or wife who discovers their partner's having an affair that they refuse to stop can do, and dealing with virtual affairs online.

Skip past the following quotes if you'd like to get straight down to reading the article contents and self-help article.

Things People Have Said About Affairs, hurting Others and Keeping Marriages Healthy

An affair can also have destructive effects on your family. Children, in-laws, friends, may all find themselves caught up in events, and perhaps having to take sides. Permanent barriers can be created. Even so, an affair does not always mean the end of your relationship. With hard work, commitment and patience, it may be possible to come through this crisis changed, but also stronger.
--From a Relate Factsheet

People do not marry people, not real ones anyway; they marry what they think the person is; they marry illusions and images. The exciting adventure of marriage is finding out who the partner really is.
--James L. Framo, (Explorations in Marital & Family Therapy)

Affairs are just as disillusioning as marriage, and much less restful.
--Mignon McLaughlin, (The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966)

There's one sad truth in life I've found
While journeying east and west -
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Marriage must constantly fight against a monster which devours everything: routine.
--Honore de Balzac

A fellow ought to save a few of the long evenings he spends with his girl till after they're married.
--Kin Hubbard

Love is a choice you make from moment to moment.
--Barbara De Angelis

The Main Contents

Background Information About This Article

The Self-Help Information in the Article

  1. When Both Spouses Want the Marriage to Work After an Affair
  2. The Reasons Affairs Can Happen and What to Do
  3. Stopping Upsetting Thoughts and Forgiving
  4. How the Person Who Had the Affair Can Work to Heal the Marriage
  5. Making Changes to Improve the Marriage
  6. Never Slipping Back Into Old Ways
  7. What to Do When a Husband or Wife Refuses to Stop an Affair
  8. Internet Affairs

Part One
When Both Spouses Want the Marriage to Work After an Affair

The Strong Feelings of Hurt That Affairs Can Cause

Jenny reads a message on the forum that says:

Is this normal, and do marriages ever recover?
Posted by Scared for sanity

Two weeks ago, I found out my husband had been having an affair for the last few months. I was especially upset because I thought the person he had the affair with was my friend. I can't remember ever feeling so hurt. I'm scared I'm going into a depression and that even worse things will happen to my mental health, since I feel I've lost control of my life and I'm finding it difficult to cope. But sometimes I feel so angry with my husband I just want to order him to leave. But we used to have a good marriage. I'm worried my feelings will get worse and worse. I can't get thoughts about the affair out of my mind, and I keep picturing my husband and ex-friend being intimate together.

Is this normal? Could things get better? Can marriages survive after affairs?

Jenny thinks about replying. She thinks:

I wonder what to say. I'll have a go at composing a message in a Word document before putting it on the board. Here goes:

Jenny's Draft Message

Sorry to hear about what you're going through. I obviously can't say I know how you feel, but I've been through something similar so I know how hurtful it can be. I was really upset when my husband had an affair. It took me some time to get over it, even though he cut off contact with the other woman after I found out about the affair and said he was sorry and wanted to work on our marriage and stay faithful in the future. I felt shocked that he could have an affair, and really miserable. I wondered if I could ever trust him again.

Things have got better though, and we're quite happy again a lot of the time, although it took months for our relationship to really start to get better and for me to start feeling I could trust him again. But we're working things out and things are getting better. So I would say there is hope.

I've just read a book with a chapter on how marriages can recover from affairs. The author says affairs can be very upsetting, and the person who feels their trust has been betrayed by the one who had the affair can wonder if their marriage can ever recover or whether they want to stay in it anymore. So it does sound as if that's normal. She says marriages are built on trust, so the betrayal of trust caused by one partner having an affair can seriously damage them.

She says that once a person has discovered or has been told about an affair, they might feel a number of negative strong emotions like shock, intense sadness, rage, disbelief, disillusionment and hurt. People might even feel as if they're going mad. But she says it's normal to have strong feelings at a time like that. Also, she says people can feel one way one minute and another way five minutes later. people might cry a lot and find it difficult to eat or sleep. People can become totally obsessed with thoughts about the affair and have a hard time concentrating on anything else. It can be as if people's emotions are controlling them. People can worry that they'll be unhappy for the rest of their lives. But they won't be. She says it can be difficult for people to believe they'll ever get over it, given their strong feelings, but they can.

So if you're feeling all those things, you're certainly not alone.

She advises people that they allow themselves to feel their feelings. Also, she says it can be very helpful if people tell their partner about their feelings of anger or hurt or whatever, even if they feel awkward about doing that because it makes them feel vulnerable. She says that discussing feelings can give the partner who was unfaithful the opportunity to reassure and comfort the partner who feels betrayed by the affair.

She says that most marriages do survive affairs. She says some never fully recover, but some end up better than before.

She says she's observed many marriages healing from infidelity in counselling, and noticed definite patterns in the ones that are most successful. But she says it always takes longer than people expect, since having an affair can be so damaging to the other person's trust in their spouse. She says sometimes it takes months or even years for a marriage to heal, so the spouse who's been unfaithful must make a commitment to being patient with the other one. She says unfaithful spouses might not understand why their affair has been so devastating to their husband or wife; but whether they understand or not, they should accept that recovery will take a long time.

So maybe you should explain to your husband how you feel and tell him that affairs can shake the foundations of a marriage so much that it can take a while for the betrayed spouse to recover, but it'll be easier with his help.

The author of the book says that the partner hurt by the other one's affair will also have to be patient with themselves, since they might not recover as quickly as they expected to either. They might think they're recovering, but then something might remind them of the affair and they might feel terrible again for a while. They might be happy one day and feeling upset again the next. She says that when they feel upset, they might start thinking that working to save their marriage is just too painful and they'd be better off out of it. But she says divorcing is no less painful.

I know that sounds like really bad news. I'm sorry if I've discouraged you. Perhaps this isn't the right thing to say. I don't want to upset you more. But at least if it takes some time for you to get over your strong feelings, you'll know it's normal and that there isn't something wrong with you.

The author says that how well a marriage mends depends on the steps taken to heal it. She gives some suggestions on things people can do. If you're interested, I'll let you know what she says.

Then Jenny thinks:

Well, I'm not confident that message is a good one, but I think I'll put it on the forum and hope for the best.

What the Betrayed Partner Can Do to Help Their Marriage Heal After the Affair

How can a marriage recover?
Posted by Scared for Sanity

Last night, my husband said he'd seen how upset I was and he was sorry. He said he didn't realise how badly I'd be affected when he started the affair, or didn't really take my feelings into consideration at all. He said he's been thinking and he's realised he cares about me a lot and wouldn't want to lose the marriage. He wants to work to make it better. I'm still really angry with him sometimes, but I wouldn't really want to divorce him. I'd like to make sure this doesn't happen again and to improve our marriage. But what can we do?

I keep wanting to ask him questions about the affair, but I'm worried I'll find out things that'll just upset me more. What do you think I should do?

Jenny contemplates what to say and writes down what she thinks might help:

Jenny's Draft Message

It's good that your husband's realised you mean a lot to him. Hopefully, he'll be faithful in the future. Me and my husband managed to work things out after reading some self-help books together.

Asking Questions About a Marriage Partner's Affair

The author of the book I've just read says that if people want to ask questions about their partner's affair, there are advantages and disadvantages to asking:

She says the main advantage is that people will hopefully be told the facts rather than letting their imagination run riot by thinking up all kinds of worrying possibilities.

But she says the main disadvantage is that the truth might be much worse than they imagined. The details might be really upsetting, so the more questions a person asks, the more upset they might become with the answers.

She recommends people weigh up the pros and cons of asking questions before they do.

I hope you won't find out worse things than you imagined if you do decide to ask more questions. I'm not sure I should be suggesting that might happen. I hope I haven't upset you. But it might be worth taking into account. I wanted to ask my husband lots of questions, but I just got more upset with every answer. But now, I'm glad I asked, since I wonder if I'd still be worrying over what happened if I didn't know.

The author of the book says that the type of person who wants to ask a lot of questions will probably find they think they've asked all they want to know, and then a day or two later, more questions will come into their mind. She says people should accept this, since recovery from an affair can be a slow process, not something that can happen instantly.

She says the betrayed spouse will probably want to talk about the affair more than the one who was unfaithful, because the one who had the affair might be ashamed of it and remorseful, and feel as if they're having their nose rubbed in it every time their partner raises the issue. They might wish their partner would just be able to forget the past and move on. But she says that although eventually that will need to happen for the marriage to heal, it can't happen in the early stages when a person's only recently learned about the affair. The healing can't be rushed.

So she says that if the spouse who was unfaithful is giving the other one a hard time about talking about the affair all the time, the betrayed partner should tell them that it's a necessary part of the healing process, although it should only be a temporary one.

So perhaps you ought to say that kind of thing to your husband.

The author says that if the betrayed partner asks questions, they should resist the temptation to attack their partner when they answer, since bitterly criticizing or that kind of thing can put people on the defensive, and the last thing the betrayed partner will want is for the one who had the affair to defend their behaviour. So she advises that the betrayed partner just listens to the other one talk, and then maybe tells them that though they are very angry about their behaviour, they appreciate the fact that they've decided to be open and honest about what's been going on now. She says that while the betrayed partner won't like what they're hearing, the fact that the other one is now talking ought to be recognised as a good thing, since it means they care enough about the feelings of the hurt spouse to answer their questions, even though they'd prefer not to talk about it.

So I know you said you're very angry with your husband, but things will probably work best if you can try your hardest to listen without expressing anger towards him when he tells you things. I know me and my husband had some hurtful rows before I started doing that.

I hope things work out, whether you decide to ask him more questions or not.

Then Jenny thinks:

Well, I don't think that message is one of the best I've ever written, but I think I'll put it on the forum.

How can my marriage recover?
Posted by Scared for Sanity

I'm so scared that our marriage will fall apart unless things improve. What can I do? I've been talking to my husband about what made him have the affair, and he's been just complaining more and more about things he didn't like about the marriage before. I'm beginning to feel more and more depressed. I don't know how long it can last if it carries on like this. Help.

Jenny thinks:

I was hoping to be able to help people on this group, but I'm not sure I'm really up to doing the job. Still, I've got those books I've read, and I think I can share some positive things from my own experiences. So I'll try. I'll have a go at writing a reply:

Jenny's Draft Message

It might help if you say you no longer want to talk about everything that went wrong in the past, but about how things can improve in the future. It can be much more encouraging for couples when they talk about steps they can take to improve their marriage and tell each other how they'd like them to change rather than wallowing in what went wrong before in the hope that one of them will change things.

Healing Times

The author of the book I've just read says that as well as discussing the affair, it's important to spend time together sometimes and not discuss it at all at those times, and to make sure unpleasant topics aren't coming up in the conversation at all then. She suggests several things people could do together, like going for walks or drives, getting a babysitter to look after children and going out together to favourite places, going out to dinner, watching a good video together, or whatever they know they'll enjoy. She says times like that will help heal the marriage. I hope you and your husband can think of lots of things you'd enjoy doing together and would want to do at the moment.

The author says she's seen a lot of people as a therapist who've said they're at their happiest when they're with their husband or wife. So she recommends that people ask their spouses to spend more time with them doing enjoyable things. I'm not sure how appealing that sounds to you, but I hope it will help your marriage.

She recommends that if thoughts of the affair come into the mind during those healing times, people remind themselves that they'll be able to talk about the affair at some other time, and deliberately push them out of their minds. They should make conversation about the affair a forbidden topic during the healing times.

Asking for Reassurances

She says another thing that can help is if people ask for reassurances from the spouse who had the affair that they're still being faithful and still intend to be. She says people typically have some days where they feel confident that they're getting over things and that their partner loves them. But they have other days where they can feel insecure about everything, doubtful that their spouse really does love them. She says it's natural for people to do that. She says a lot of people say that when they're with their marriage partners, they feel confident they're loved by them, but when they're apart from them, they grow insecure. They can worry that their spouse will start deceiving them about their whereabouts again. If the one who had the affair is five minutes late home from work, the betrayed partner can become really anxious with worry.

She says that regardless of what makes the betrayed partner feel bad, they're entitled to be reassured by the spouse who was unfaithful, since they've been through a lot, so it's no wonder they get anxious.

So she recommends people ask for reassurances. But she said that unfortunately, when people feel insecure, rather than asking for reassurances, they can end up making angry accusations. She says attacking will only lead to defensiveness and anger and make the partner who had the affair less loving; it won't lead to reassurance. So before the betrayed spouse starts being critical, they should ask themselves what they want out of the exchange. If they hope to be told their partner loves them and is still faithful and the delay had an innocent explanation, they're more likely to get that response if they keep from attacking their partner, no matter how they might feel like it. She says people are entitled to know their partner's whereabouts after what's happened. She says the spouse who was unfaithful should be willing to accept that they have a responsibility to help the betrayed spouse rebuild trust by letting them know where they are or where they've been. But she says the response the betrayed partner gets to their questions will depend a lot on how they ask them. She says the best way of getting a soothing answer is not to condemn, or assume their partner's done something wrong. But it can help if they remind their partner they're feeling insecure and scared and that's why they want to know the answer. Partners will be more likely to be sympathetic to an expression of feelings like that than they will to an attack.

I hope you don't think this is a criticism of you. It isn't meant to be, since I don't know how you and your partner behave together. These are just things from the book that the author thinks it's important for people to know.

So she recommends that the style of question a person could ask when they want to be reassured could go something like:

"I know it was probably nothing, but when you came home late, I really worried, because I wondered whether you might have gone to see the woman you had the affair with. I don't like feeling like this. But I need you to help me with the feelings. So will you tell me why you were late?"

I don't know how useful all that will be to you. But I hope it helps. I need to go and make the dinner now, but if you want more suggestions, let me know.

Starting to Make Improvements in the Marriage

Re: How can my marriage recover?
Posted by Paula

I understand you must be having a hard time at the moment. I know how upsetting it can be when your husband has an affair. After I found out that mine was having one, I didn't feel like eating for days. I felt as if the whole of my life had been ruined for a while. And I felt really angry too sometimes. But at least your husband wants to work things out with you. Mine didn't, although he does now.

Another thing the book says is that betrayed partners can feel so upset that they want their partners to fix things so the pain goes away, without really knowing how they want them to do that. It says the partner who was unfaithful might wish they could do that but not know how to. The author says it's essential that the partner who was unfaithful does do something to help their spouse get over the affair, but the betrayed partner needs to guide the way in letting them know what to do.

If that kind of thing's going on in your life, it says that different people find different things helpful in their recovery, so it can be helpful if you can work out what you want and then let your husband know.

The author says that might sound difficult, because if you're really upset, it can be much more difficult to think about what might help. But she says that one way of doing it is to think back to the times when you were getting on better with your husband and ask yourself:

"What do the two of us do differently when we feel more optimistic and hopeful about our life and our marriage?"

She recommends you spend time really thinking through what you've done at times when you've felt better together. She says some people have told her they feel better when there's a lot of physical affection between them, or when their spouse tells them they love them a lot, or reassures them a lot that they're sorry about what happened. She says you should think about what makes you feel better, even if it's something that only makes you feel a bit better. Then, she recommends you tell your husband about it, in specific terms, so he knows exactly what to do to make you feel better. She says some people might say things like, "It really helps me when you hug me", or, "I find it really helpful when you call me from work a few times a day".

I hope that helps a bit.

Part Two
The Reasons Affairs Can Happen and What to Do

The art of love... is largely the art of persistence.
--Albert Ellis

Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving about three or four things a day unsaid.
--Harlan Miller

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.
--Author Unknown

A worried husband puts a message on the forum:

Why would she do this?
Posted by Confused

A few months ago, I discovered a text message someone had sent my wife that said she was cute and he was looking forward to seeing her again. I confronted her about it, but she said it was just someone messing around. I believed her, but over the next few weeks, I found more like that, and she started trying to hide her phone from me. Eventually, I asked if she was having an affair. She denied it at first, but when I gave details of all the evidence I thought I had, she said she was, but started attacking me for being a bad husband, saying that if I'd been a better one, it wouldn't have happened, and that she might leave me for the other man.

I know I might have started taking her for granted over the years, not paying her much attention. But she doesn't want to talk about it. So she won't tell me if she'd like the marriage better if I did things differently. So I'm confused about how much my behaviour might have had to do with it. I don't want to lose her. So if I need to change my behaviour to keep her, I will, if I can get some ideas about how to.

But on the other hand, it wasn't just me who let our marriage deteriorate. She started showing less interest in me ages ago when we had our first child.

What can cause people to have affairs? And how can I stop her having an affair with this man?

Mark thinks he might be able to have a go at answering the question. He sits at his computer writing down thoughts about what to say:

Mark's Draft Message

He writes:

Sorry to hear about what's happened. I don't really know if I'm the right person to be writing to you, since I was tempted to have an affair myself, and I hope you won't be offended with me, since I know you must be feeling really upset about your wife's affair.

But I can give you an idea of the reasons people have affairs. I know in my own life, it was partly or even mostly my fault that I started craving an affair. I started taking my wife for granted. And when little things she did began to irritate me, I started fantasizing about a young woman I knew from work, somehow imagining things would be perfect with her, although of course they wouldn't have been really. In my fantasies, she was everything I wanted her to be, but no one can live up to fantasies of perfection. I compared my wife to my fantasies of how perfect this woman was, and of course she didn't live up to them, because I knew about her faults, but I was fantasising about a dream woman with none, which of course was unrealistic, because the woman I wanted the affair with was bound to have had some, and I would have found out about them sooner or later. But the more I fantasized about the woman and her supposed perfection, the more discontented I became with my wife, because of course she didn't live up to my image of the perfect partner who'd be everything I wanted and do everything I wanted. I started complaining about my wife to the other woman, and was attracted even more to her by her sympathy. I should have been working with my wife towards improving our marriage instead of complaining about it to someone else. But I'd become disappointed with it, and it didn't occur to me at the time that I could work on rekindling the romance in it. I just thought it had gone stale and wanted something new and exciting. And my wife let me know she was discontented, which made me feel awkward, but the other woman complimented me and made me feel appreciated, so that made me feel good and more confident. I told her I was attracted to her and started flirting with her, which I now think was a mistake, because she began to show more interest in me, so an affair was more of a temptation.

I'm glad I realised I did love my wife and didn't want to lose her before I took things further. It was eaves-dropping on someone else's conversation about how his divorce had ruined his life that made me stop and think.

I asked to be transferred to another department at work to cut off contact with the woman, to get myself out of temptation's way. It was painful to do, but I'm sure losing my wife and fighting over custody of the children would have been worse.

This book that us people who run this forum have all been reading says there are several reasons people can have affairs, and it gives some suggestions on how to make them less likely, or less likely to happen again for those in marriages where one partner's already had one. The author says that though affairs are partly to do with the immoral behaviour of the people who have the affairs, they can mean something's gone wrong in the marriage. She says that some people know why they had the affair, while others don't. I don't know if your wife had the affair for any of these reasons, but they might be worth considering. These things aren't meant to reflect badly on you. After all, your wife might have had the affair for a different reason entirely. But here are some reasons anyway.

Closer Emotional or Physical Connection

The author says many people who are unhappy in their marriages look for emotional or physical connection in other places. She says affairs can start off just as friendships and become physical gradually. She says people can start off just talking with someone they like about subjects of common interest like work, world events or people they both know. But the conversations can start to get more personal, and the two people can confide in each other about their unhappiness with their marriage partners. They start fantasizing about each other and talking about how they're attracted to each other.

She says people in such relationships often try to convince themselves that they didn't see the affair coming, and that the feelings of passion took them by surprise and overwhelmed them so they couldn't resist. But they will have been seeking an intimate friendship for some time before the affair got physical.

She says that some people search for intimacy outside their marriages because they feel bored and taken for granted, because the romance has gone out of the marriage, because the couple aren't spending enough time together and their relationship isn't the priority for them it once was. She says that if both partners in the couple don't mind the relationship not being what it once was, things will be allright. But often, one partner feels neglected, taken for granted and ignored. Brooding on the feelings can cause anger and resentment. When this happens, outside attention seems very welcome. The excitement of a new relationship can make the person feel alive again. They might be hearing compliments rather than criticisms for the first time in ages. They might be very flattered by the intense interest someone has in them, when at home their spouse doesn't seem to care or seems to look down on them. They might start feeling sexy and attractive again, and interesting and intelligent. Feeling desirable can really boost their mood. They and the one they're having the affair with can start doing enjoyable things together. The sensations of joy and passion can be difficult to give up. They don't realise that the feelings will only be temporary. They're wrapped up in feeling special again after so long feeling unimportant and neglected.

She says that people who realise they've been taking their spouse for granted need to start paying them more attention. No matter how busy they are, they should make time for dates together. They should make time to talk more and take more interest in each other; and she recommends that people think about the things they could do together that they'd both enjoy, and do more of them. She says the more attention people get from their spouses, the less likely they'll be to look for it from other people.

Maybe doing that kind of thing could be one way you could start to win your wife back, if that's what she'd like.

The Desire to Feel Appreciated

The author says another reason people have affairs is because when couples are miserable, they often start criticizing and condemning each other. They can belittle their partner most of the time and always be focusing on their faults. Partners being criticized a lot can find it harder and harder to tolerate until they look for someone who'll be more appreciative of them. At the start of a new relationship, people tend to focus on the other person's good qualities rather than on their bad ones, so there are likely to be many more compliments given than criticisms. Feeling appreciated can make people feel as if they want to be near the source of the appreciation because it makes them feel good.

So she advises that people who realise they do criticize their partner a lot should accept that it may be damaging the marriage, even if they feel justified in doing it because they feel angry and resentful. They could be making it more likely that their partner will seek solace in the arms of a more supportive person. She says no one likes to be nagged and criticized constantly, so they won't feel like spending time with someone who does that.

There are ways of changing a partner's behaviour more effectively than criticizing them, like encouraging them when they do do something right, which will make them want to do more of it because they get appreciated when they do, and appreciation makes people feel good. She says people who haven't appreciated their partner recently need to become kinder and more supportive if they don't want their partner to stray.

A Desire to Improve the Sex Life

She says another reason people have affairs is to get a better sex life. She says in some marriages, one partner wants sex a lot more often than the other one, and will go elsewhere for it if they don't get it. Or they think the sex in their marriage isn't enough fun and want something more. Or they stop feeling attracted to their partner. Or they think their partner's bad in bed and doesn't excite them. So they look for something they like more elsewhere.

She says that unfortunately, partners with a lower sex drive often don't realise how important sex is to the other person, so they don't do anything about it. But she recommends that if their partners have been complaining about the lack of sex in the relationship, they seek ways of accommodating their partner's needs to cut down the risk of them straying.

The Desire to Feel Attractive

She says another reason people have affairs is to get an ego boost. She says this can happen especially if people aren't that self-confident, perhaps if they're ageing a bit and they're worried about whether they can still attract the opposite sex because their bodies aren't as shapely and good-looking as they were. She says it can happen especially if people are having a "mid-life crisis". So they sometimes start flirting to find out if people do find them attractive, and the flirtations occasionally lead to affairs.

She says no matter how long couples have been together, each partner still needs to feel attractive. So partners should compliment each other a lot, as often as an opportunity presents itself, for instance if they look good in a particular outfit or they've lost a bit of weight and look more attractive for it, or whatever people can think of. Spouses are less likely to stray if their partner makes them feel special.

A Cry for Help

She says another reason people have affairs is as a "cry for help", because things are wrong in the marriage and they want their partner to realise and help do something about it. They feel, whether it's true or not, that they've tried everything else to get their partners to understand there's a problem with the marriage, but they never change. So they eventually decide to get involved with someone else, and leave obvious little signs around that they're doing it, like writing a diary and leaving it where their spouse is likely to read it, or taking phone calls from the person they're having the affair with within earshot of their partner. They might leave phone bills or receipts for meals in restaurants lying around the place. They might not consciously acknowledge to themselves that they want their partner to find out about their affair, but they leave so many signs that it's easy to believe they do.

For couples like that, when the affair is discovered, it can act as a wake-up call to alert the other one to problems in the marriage, and although discovery of the affair is painful for the betrayed spouse, they both start working to address the problems and improve the marriage.

The author asks people to consider whether they've ignored their spouse's attempts to let them know about problems in their marriage in the past. She says it's easy to be wise in hindsight, but it can still be helpful for people to ask themselves whether they have. She says they'll know because such conversations will have been different from ones where spouses complain about everyday things. They'll have been ones where the partner possibly even asked the other one to sit down to talk, and specifically said they were unhappy in the marriage and needed to discuss it.

She asks people to consider whether they refused to take their partner's concerns on board during conversations like that, whether they became defensive, or trivialised their partner's feelings, or didn't pay attention when their partner tried to talk about what they wanted to change or improve about the marriage.

She says as much as it can be difficult to listen when painful issues are being discussed, people need to listen to their spouse's concerns about the marriage and how they want it to change, since it has to change to keep fresh. But when people listen to each other and make small adjustments accordingly, the changes won't have to be big ones. If they don't listen and the grievances build up, the changes they'll have to make in the end if they want to stay in the marriage could be more drastic.

She says she isn't making excuses for people who have affairs, because the decision to have one will undoubtedly have been a bad one. But nevertheless, people ought to listen more to what their partner has to say about the marriage if they want it to improve.

One Night Stands

She says another cause of unfaithfulness is a one-night stand, which has far more to do with the faulty impulse control skills of the person having it than the quality of the marriage. It might be a happy marriage, but the person can still temporarily give into temptation, and the breach of trust can still cause a serious problem.

Sexual Addiction

She says another cause of affairs is sexual addiction, where no matter how much a couple are having sex or how creative it is, one of them will still crave to do more sexual things, even if it means going outside the marriage and upsetting their spouse. The only way things can change is if the addicted person acknowledges they have a problem and seeks help to learn impulse control skills and change.

A Couple More Suggestions on What to Do

Well, I don't know how helpful that was. Maybe only one or two of those things applied to you, if any. But even if none do, hopefully other people will benefit by reading about the reasons people can have affairs, so it's worth putting all that information on the board.

The author says she realises that if people are feeling hurt because their partner has had an affair, they probably won't be in the mood to know the reasons they might have had it. But she says knowing will be of benefit in that it will give people ideas on what needs changing in their marriage, so it becomes happier in the long term. That will mean that if the spouse who was unfaithful had the affair because they were dissatisfied in the marriage, they'll be much less tempted to do it again.

She recommends that people ask their spouses what they would like to be improved about the marriage. She says it can be a great opportunity for both partners to talk about their hopes and dreams and ideas for bringing more life and enjoyment into it.

She recommends that couples who find it difficult talking about deeply personal things might benefit by seeing a therapist, though it ought to be one who believes that marriages can move forward and improve after infidelity and is prepared to help in the process, since not all therapists are like that. Some will just encourage people to talk and talk about the marriage problems and their feelings without helping people to move on to find more happiness.

Anyway, I hope you manage to sort out any problems in your marriage, and your wife stops her affair and your marriage recovers.

Then Mark thinks:

Well, I'm not quite sure I took the right approach there. I know he asked to know the reasons people have affairs, but I hope he won't be offended with what I said. Well, I think I'll put the message on the board and hope for the best.

Part Three
Stopping Upsetting Thoughts and Forgiving

A woman puts a message on the board:

Still Angry
Posted by Unhappy Wife

My husband had an affair and I discovered it a few months ago. We had a long talk and decided to work on improving the marriage, but I still find myself feeling angry with him. I don't feel nearly as upset as I did, but sometimes I think why should I make efforts to bother with this marriage when he's done something so hurtful? But I do enjoy myself when I'm with him and we're out together. The trouble is that things can trigger off thoughts of the affair and then I get depressed and stop enjoying myself. For instance, he had the affair with a woman about half my age, and now the sight of young women can sometimes start me thinking about the affair and getting upset. What can I do?

Jenny decides to try to answer. She has a go at composing a message:

Jenny's Draft Message

I can sympathise with you, since I was still feeling angry with my husband months after he told me he wanted to end his affair and improve our marriage. Thoughts of it still bothered me even though I would have preferred to be able to get on with life.

Trying to Stop Thoughts

The people who run this group have all been reading a book with a chapter on affairs recently that gives advice on what people can do. The author says it's common for people to think about the affair a lot, and although thoughts of it will diminish after a while, they don't go away on their own automatically. People can be enjoying themselves with their partner and then the time's ruined because thoughts of the affair come into their heads and make them feel miserable.

She says it's impossible to stop negative thoughts too early on after the affair, because emotions will be too strong, and they calm down at different rates for different people. But she says that when they have, one thing people can start to do is to order their thoughts to stop as soon as a negative thought comes into their mind to spoil something, perhaps imagining a big stop sign. Then they should literally force their minds to think of something more pleasant, imagining it in as much detail as possible. It should be something they'll find soothing or enjoyable.

I have to admit that I've never tried this myself so I don't know how well it works, but the author says she's worked with lots of clients over the years so she's had a lot of time to test her recommendations out. She says it's natural for people to find it difficult to stop thoughts at first, but it gets easier and easier as people practice.

And she says that it's likely that thoughts of the affair will come back into the mind again after they've been ordered to leave, but people should just gently remind themselves to stop their thoughts again and imagine the big stop sign again, stopping their thoughts and again thinking of something more enjoyable.

She says the more people are able to stop their thoughts and direct their minds onto more pleasant things, the more they'll be able to influence their feelings, since feelings often happen as a result of thoughts. So the more pleasant a person's thoughts are, the more pleasant their feelings can be.

She says it can take some time to get really skilled at stopping thoughts, but when a person has practised, they can use the technique in other life situations as well.


I know this might sound difficult - I know it was for me - but the author recommends that people forgive the unfaithful partner. She says people can't get the joy and closeness back in the marriage if they don't forgive. The love can return when people do. She says that lack of forgiveness can not only hurt the unforgiven partner, but it can damage the physical and emotional health of the one who won't forgive, keeping them in misery. She says the joy can never re-enter the relationship because people are too busy feeling angry or disappointed or whatever.

She says she's seen many people who say they want to heal their relationships, but their relationships won't heal because they don't want to forgive. She says people can think their partner doesn't deserve to be forgiven, and that to forgive would be like trivialising the affair, as if they're saying it didn't matter after all. But she says people aren't necessarily giving out that message when they forgive. After all, the spouse who was unfaithful will probably know about the impact their infidelity had on their partner when the affair was discovered. Forgiveness can be part of a commitment to work towards a better future.

And she says it can be a gift the person doing the forgiving gives to themselves as well, because letting go of resentment can free them to experience love and joy again, and it can lead to more intimacy and emotional connection being brought into the marriage.

She says forgiveness takes strength. But persistently holding grudges will eventually be far more hurtful to the one holding them than forgiving.

She says forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. The affair will likely never be forgotten. But when people forgive, the intense emotions associated with it can start to fade. People can feel happier and more loving.

She says forgiveness isn't a feeling; it's a decision, an act of the will. It's a decision to let the other person start afresh, and to work towards a more positive future.

So she recommends that people don't spend one more day blaming their partner for all the problems in the marriage and refusing to forgive them, feeling lonely as a result. She recommends that people make peace, saying it may improve all sorts of areas in their lives.

I hope that helps. Please get back to us if you're not happy with anything anyone says to you or you want more help.

Then Jenny thinks:

Well, I hope that message is allright. I'll put it on the board anyway.

Part Four
How the Person Who Had the Affair Can Work to Heal the Marriage

In real love you want the other person's good. In romantic love you want the other person.
--Margaret Anderson

You don't love a woman because she is beautiful, she is beautiful because you love her.
--Author Unknown

What can I do?
Posted by Regretful

Hi, I had an affair that started a while ago and went on for a few months. I had no idea it would upset my wife so much, and now I really wish I hadn't done it. I don't want to cause her any more upset, but how can we heal the marriage? What can I do to prove to her that I won't be unfaithful again? Some days, she tells me she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to trust me again and that she's been seriously considering divorcing me. That scares me, since I'd hate to lose her. But what can I do?

Mark considers replying. He writes down what he thinks of saying:

Mark's Draft Message

I'm glad I didn't have an affair although I was tempted, but I can sympathise with you, because I know how easy it would have been for me to make the same mistakes. I didn't even know the person I was thinking of having the affair with that well, so I could have lost my wife and children all for a relationship where we might not even have turned out to be compatible. We might not even have tried to form a committed relationship.

I've just been reading a book with a chapter about affairs. It says that though it's hard work, the person who had the affair can do a lot to rebuild trust and heal the marriage.

Breaking Off Contact With the Person You Had the Affair With

It says the first thing that needs to be done is to cut off all contact with the person you had the affair with to get yourself out of temptation's way. That means all contact. It says you should stop the affair if you haven't already, and that people can sometimes think they can still be friends with the person they had the affair with, but while that person's still around or phone calls are still going on or whatever, there's still a chance that the temptation will seem too much and the affair will start up again, even if you were upset by the hurt it caused. And it'll be difficult for your wife to start trusting you again while you're still seeing the other woman. So the book advises that if you haven't stopped seeing her already, you tell the other woman you've decided to make a fresh commitment to your marriage so you can't see her any more.

I obviously don't know your circumstances, so I don't know how relevant this information is to you, but the book says you might find it especially difficult to cut off all contact with the person you had the affair with if you had it to fulfil needs that weren't being met in your marriage. But it says there are ways of working to improve your marriage so your needs do get met in it.

The Reasons for the Affair

It says the first thing it can be useful to do is to examine why you had the affair. There's a thread about the reasons people have affairs on here. If you're not sure why you had the affair and want to help yourself examine the reasons, it's called "Why would she do this?"

The book says that no matter what your reason was, to have the affair will have been a mistake. But you and your wife can learn from it, and the marriage might end up stronger because of that.

Obviously I don't know why you had the affair. But it says that if you have a sexual addiction or you had a one-night stand, you should take full responsibility for your behaviour and resolve to change it. It says there are many therapists trained to help with issues of sexual addiction, so if you have one, you should seek professional help to get over it.

It says that if you had an affair because you were unhappy in your marriage, you've probably worked out by now that affairs don't solve marriage problems but only create more of them. It says that even if you had the affair because your sexual needs weren't being satisfied in the marriage, and they were in the affair, it will still have caused problems. Still, you're bound to know that already. But if someone's reading it who hasn't had an affair yet, it might hopefully make them think more carefully about it.

Planning to Talk About Changes in the Marriage

The book says that rather than try to escape from your marriage problems, it can be helpful if you identify specifically what you'd like to change about your relationship. You're supposed to make sure the changes you want are things your wife will know she can do quite easily, and that when you tell her about them, they're phrased in such a way as to give her clear direction as to what you'd like her to do. For instance, you couldn't say, "I want you to be more loving", because that wouldn't give her any idea about what you think she'd be doing if she was more loving, so she might not know what exactly you would really like her to do. Different people have different ideas about what's loving. So you have to break it down into little things that make it clear exactly what you want, like, "I'd like you to show me you care by hugging me when I come in from work", or that kind of thing.

It says that soon after the affair, your wife's feelings are likely to be so strong because she feels so terribly betrayed and hurt by your affair that she isn't going to be in the mood to change anything to please you, or to listen to the reasons why you had the affair. But in time, things will change, and she'll be more open to caring about what you want and discussing your needs with you. So as soon as you think she's willing to hear it, you should talk to her in specific terms about what you want to be different in the marriage.

Of course, she might come up with lots of suggestions on how she'd like you to change as well, so it'll only be fair if you take them on board if you want her to change.

Showing Remorse for the Affair

The book says another thing you need to do is to show remorse for your affair. You'll need to persuade your wife that you're truly and genuinely sorry about what happened. It says you should apologise often, and try to get creative about expressing your love for her and your regret about what happened, like writing apologies, sending flowers, and whatever nice things you can think of.

It says that as well as saying you're sorry, you need to demonstrate to your wife that you're trying to understand the pain she's feeling. Tell her you feel bad about having hurt her. It recommends you show your remorse when you can in your eyes and on your face, and in your actions. It says saying sorry can't take away her distress, but it will start the recovery process moving.

It says that your wife won't necessarily respond to your apologies in the way you hope she will. Betrayed partners can sometimes be withdrawn or sarcastic or even unkind when the one who had the affair tries to convince them they're sorry; but it says it's best to ignore that kind of behaviour and not to worry about it, since it will only be a defence against being hurt again, and in time, your partner should start showing more trust that you're sincere. Just because she might respond in an unkind way at first, it doesn't mean she isn't thinking about what you say; and when it's repeated enough times, she'll start believing it and appreciating it.

Promising to be Faithful in the Future

The book says it's important to promise your wife you'll be faithful in the future, (as long as you mean it, of course). It says there are many reasons marriages don't survive infidelity, and one of them is that the person who had the affair refuses to assure the other one they'll be faithful in the future, so the other one never feels they can trust them again and feels insecure about whether they really are committed to working to improve the marriage. It says some people never promise to be faithful from then on because they think it should be obvious because they regret the affair and want to renew their commitment to the marriage, and some people are too proud to promise. But since the marriage will be on safer ground if you do, then it's best to. After all, people can really regret things but do them again when the feelings of regret wear off and they've forgotten the problems it caused to some extent and they're tempted again. So it's no wonder if marriage partners find it difficult to trust. But it can make them a little more sure if you say you're committed to making sure it doesn't happen again.

I hope you haven't found this offensive. I think I've said quite a lot, and I'm not sure how helpful you're finding it. So I won't say any more for now, but if you'd like to hear more of what the book says, let me know, and I'll tell you more about it.

Then Mark thinks:

Well, I'm not sure that'll be much of a comfort, so I'm not sure it was the right thing to say, but hopefully he won't mind and he'll get some ideas out of it. I think I'll put it on the board now.

Still need help
Posted by Regretful

Thanks for that. But I have cut off all contact with the woman. And I do keep apologising to my wife and promising I won't have another affair. She doesn't believe me.

Another thing she keeps doing is asking me questions about the affair, and I find that really awkward, because I'm sure the more I tell her, the more it will upset her.

She keeps telling me she'll always find it hard to trust me again, and if I'm a bit late home, she always calls me asking if I've decided to go back to the other woman again. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do?

Mark thinks about it and has a go at putting together another message:

Mark's Draft Message

I hope you didn't think I was being insulting or anything by saying what I said about ending the affair and promising not to have another one. It's difficult for us to know whether we're saying the right thing really when we haven't got that much information about the situation of the people who put messages on the board. But I don't mean to be insulting or anything. Anyway, I'll tell you a bit more about what the book says:

Answering Questions About the Affair

It recommends that if your wife wants to know details about the affair, you be honest with her and tell her what she wants to know, even if you feel awkward about doing that because you think you'll be protecting her by keeping quiet. People's imaginations can run riot if they don't know the facts about something they think they really need to know about. I don't know if this advice will apply to you, because I don't know if you've thought of telling any lies to get out of telling her the truth about the affair, but it says that often, the worst thing for partners of people who've had affairs isn't the affair itself, but what happened after the person who had the affair admitted to it, when they kept telling their partner lies and deceiving them because they didn't want them to know the whole truth. So it says it's best to be honest about everything, even if it's difficult. It says being honest will be a lot easier than coping with what'll happen if you're not, if you tell lies and cover up behaviour and are found out again. The affair itself will have badly damaged the trust in the relationship, but being found to be behaving dishonestly after you said you wanted to make amends will damage the trust a lot more. So it's best to be honest about everything, even if you find it hurtful to do that.

It says that sometimes if you're honest and open, you'll wonder whether you're really doing the right thing, because your wife might get quite upset by the things you say. But if honesty and openness is what she wants, then to withhold information or lie about things will be worse.

The book warns that there might be times when the two of you feel close as a result of the new honesty and openness in the relationship, and you'll think it was worth being truthful after all, but just when you think things are looking up and the questions are getting a lot less, you might suddenly have a whole load more to handle. You might feel as if you're being interrogated, and wonder why, since you thought things were improving. But it says that healing from infidelity isn't a quick fix but a slow process. A person might feel fine one day and then bad a few days later. Also, you might feel as if being open and honest can't be working if your wife still feels so insecure that she wants to ask you a whole load more questions. But the book says that healing comes in waves. Being open and honest won't sort things out immediately; the questions may go on for some time. But it'll be much better than worrying your wife by holding things back or being dishonest.

Proving You're Trustworthy Now

You said your wife keeps thinking you've started having the affair again when you're not home when she expects. The book says this kind of thing's normal. It recommends that you keep giving her reassurances that you still have every intention of being faithful and that you're not seeing the other woman again. It says it's normal for the partner of someone who's had an affair to find it difficult to trust the person who had the affair and to keep wanting to know what they're doing whenever they're not there. It says you might have decided to change your ways, but your partner will still be reacting to what happened before because it will have been such an upsetting experience and will have been such a breach of trust.

So it says that for the time being, you owe it to your wife and to yourself as well for the sake of the marriage to do everything you can as often as she thinks it's necessary to prove to her that you are trustworthy now. It says you might not understand why you have to do this, since you've taken a big step in stopping the affair and resolved to be trustworthy in the future, so you might not understand why she can't trust you; but your wife will still be feeling very insecure, so you need to give her all the help you can to feel better. Even if you don't think you should have to, the book says that if it's what she wants, then you should do it for the sake of her feelings and the future of the relationship. It suggests several things you should be prepared to do if she asks you to, because she might ask you to do them, and it says you should do other things as well if that's what it takes to make her feel more secure. It says there are a number of things she might ask you to do, including:

The book says these demands should fade over time as her trust in you increases.

It says it's very, very important that you keep in mind that improvement in the marriage will probably not be a smooth process. At first, there might not be many good days at all. But slowly, as you begin to make sense of what happened, there will be positive moments. Then, whole days might be good, and then you might have several good days in a row.

But just when you begin to think things have definitely changed for the better, it says something will remind your wife of the affair and her old upset feelings will come back again, and she'll behave the way she did before.

The book says this pattern of things will happen for a very long time. It will help if you expect it. It doesn't mean the problem can't be solved. It just means it's being solved slowly. It will undoubtedly be happening much too slowly for you. But the book says people need to be patient.

The book says that even though you might be very remorseful about the affair, you might still not understand why your wife sometimes wants to keep going on about it. It says you're bound to feel as if you just want to forget the whole thing and move on. But it says that if your wife feels as if you're not giving her concerns the attention she feels they deserve and you want to move on before she feels ready, she'll feel as if you just don't understand what she's been going through. She'll think you just want to brush things under the carpet because you're not taking them seriously enough because you don't understand how upsetting they were for her. If that happens, the book says it will be a major setback and will mean improvements in the marriage will take longer.

The book says that wanting to move on won't really mean you're insensitive. In fact, it might be more like the opposite; it might have quite a bit to do with you not wanting to see your wife's hurt expression any more because you'd rather she wasn't upset. But even so, you need to move forward at your wife's pace. And don't get angry, because that'll make things worse.

So it says you should carry on answering your wife's questions and being reassuring. If she still wants to know where you've been and what you've been doing, you should carry on letting her know the details. The book says the problems won't last forever, even though it might sometimes feel as if they will. Things will get better over time, but since there has been such a major breach of your wife's trust, the improvements will take time. But if you're patient, loving and responsive to your wife's needs, things should improve.

Well, this is getting a bit long, so I'll go now. I hope that helps. But if you have any more questions, I'll try to help some more.

Then Mark thinks:

Well, I hope that message is allright. I'll put it on the forum now.

Part Five
Making Changes to Improve the Marriage

The man who posted about how he regrets his affair continues the conversation:

Any more advice on moving forward?
Posted by Regretful

I assumed you'd gather that I'd stopped the affair from what I said in my first post about how much I regretted having it and wanted things to change. I thought it would be obvious that I'd stopped it. But never mind. I take on board what you said about not even being friends with the other woman. She phoned me the other day and asked if we could still be friends, but I said I didn't want to do anything that would make my wife suspicious or that might tempt me back into the affair at some point, so I didn't feel I could see her again.

Anyway, thanks for your latest advice. I haven't been dishonest with my wife. I've just said I'd rather not tell her things because I worried it would upset her. But I'll try telling her and hope things do improve.

The thing is, I'm wondering if you've got any advice on how to speed the healing process up, since it all sounds dreary, and I'm worried I won't have much time before my wife really does decide to divorce me if things don't change quickly. I know I've got to suffer a bit since I messed things up. But is there anything else I can do to make our marriage better? I worry every day that if I don't do more, my wife might leave me, so the marriage will never have the chance to improve slowly. Thanks.

Mark looks at the book he's been reading for some more ideas for things to say in response. He has a go at composing his new message:

Mark's Draft Message

I hope you manage to sort things out with your wife and she doesn't decide to leave. I've read that divorce can be a lot more painful in the long term than staying in a marriage you're not that happy with and trying to work things out.

The book says there might not be much you can do at first apart from reassuring your wife, doing loving things you know she'll like, and being patient while she recovers; but after a while, she might be a lot more willing to talk about ways you could both improve the marriage.

It might be a good idea if you spend some time thinking of loving things you know she likes that you could do for her. Can you think back to what she used to like you doing? Can you think of anything she told you she liked in the past? Can you remember what she liked about you when you first met? If you can, you could try to do as many of the things she used to like you doing as you can, and behave more like the way she likes you behaving best.

The book warns that she might not show too much appreciation at first, and may even be suspicious, wondering why you're changing; but if you try not to get defensive but just say you care about her and continue the changes, though it might take a while, hopefully she'll eventually start showing more and more signs of appreciation for your efforts.

How to Go About Asking for Changes

The book says that when she's become more willing to stay in the marriage and you decide you want to talk to her about how you'd like things to change, it can help if you first write down the ways you'd like things improved, before discussing them with her, so you have time to think them through clearly. But you should make them specific rather than vague. For instance, it wouldn't be all that good to just say you wanted your wife to give you more attention, because that wouldn't be saying anything about what kind of attention you wanted. So if you told her you wanted more attention, she might not be quite sure what to do.

The improvements you want also have to be broken down into small things that can be achieved easily. If you just say you want more attention, for instance, you might not notice when progress is being made. She might be giving you more attention, but it might not register with you that that's what's happening, especially if it's a small bit of extra attention. Sometimes, improvements are small, but more little signs of progress keep on being made, and over time, they add up to major changes.

But if, for instance, you said you'd like her to spend time talking to you for half an hour each evening when she'd normally be sitting in front of a boring television programme she isn't that interested in anyway, then she'll have more of an idea of what to do, and you'll know when she's done it. So all the improvements you decide you'd like in the marriage should be broken down into small things you'll notice happening one by one and that she can achieve easily.

[Of course, for anyone else reading this, all this applies to wives who've had affairs they regret as well as husbands.)

Saying How you Feel Without Blaming or Accusing

The book says that when you tell your wife about the things you'd like improved in the marriage, you should do it in such a way that what you say doesn't sound like a complaint and it doesn't sound as if you're blaming her for not doing things right. I obviously don't know if you're good at doing this kind of thing already, but I'll say these things anyway, since I don't know, and other people reading this might like to know them anyway. The book says that If what you say sounds as if you're blaming or accusing your wife of things, she'll just get annoyed with you and you won't get anywhere. So you should use what are called "I" statements, where you say how you feel, but don't blame anyone else for your feelings. So, for instance:

Instead of saying, "You never want to make love", a statement that would put her on the defensive, you could say something like, "I'd like us to make love at least twice a week". You'd have to be fairly sure she would be willing to agree to that though, otherwise she could still get annoyed with you for making the request, thinking you're being too demanding given her feelings towards you at the moment.

Instead of saying something like, "You're a computer addict!", you could say something like, "I feel hurt when you spend so much time on the computer". She might sympathise with you and be more willing to change that way, whereas if you criticize or insult her, she'll probably just get annoyed and you won't get anywhere.

Instead of saying, "You don't care about finances!" you could say something like, "I'd like it if you would agree to having a budget". That's putting a positive suggestion forward so things are more likely to move forward than get bogged down in argument over whether the accusation you made about her is true or not, which is what will probably happen if you make an accusation against her.

Instead of saying, "All you care about is your friends!", you could maybe say something like, "When you go out with your friends, I feel left out".

I'm not sure those techniques will work, because if she thinks she's got good reasons for doing what she does, she might still think you're unreasonable to feel hurt about it or want to change or whatever. And people have to be careful that they don't make those kind of statements in a way that sounds whiny. But saying things like that will hopefully be a lot better than making accusations anyway, and will hopefully help you avoid arguments.

Another thing the book says is that it's important not to make too many demands at once, or your wife will feel swamped with them and have no idea what to do first. So it's best to ask for changes one by one or a couple at a time. If signs that she wants to improve things are encouraging, you could tell her more of what you'd like to change. Otherwise, it might be better to wait a little while before saying more. It says some people are eager to know what their partners want to improve and are eager to help, but some will need more time and persuasion. It says that in either case, it's best to go slowly. You don't have to bring everything up in an hour's discussion. You've probably got a lot of time to get to know each other and improve your marriage again, so there's time to go slowly. The book recommends you do things with as much love and thoughtfulness as you can.

Then Mark thinks:

Well, I hope that's allright. I'll just read it through and then put it on the board.

Actually, reading my messages back, they sound a little bit dictatorial in some places, as if I'm bossing people around a bit. I hope they don't come across like that too much. I wouldn't want people to think I'm talking down to them or anything. I don't mean them to sound like that. Perhaps I ought to be a bit more careful about the way I phrase things in the future. I don't want to offend people.

Part Six
Never Slipping Back Into Old Ways

Jenny decides she'll put a message on the board, and has a go at composing one:

Keeping improvements in a marriage going

About 18 months ago, I discovered my husband was having an affair. When he found out how upset I was, he broke off contact with the woman and said he was sorry. I thought about divorcing him for a while, but I didn't. It took some time for me to start trusting him again, but eventually, I decided I was willing to get our marriage going again. Over the years, we'd lost the enthusiasm we had for our relationship when we were first married, and we decided to try to improve things by doing a lot of the things we did when we were first married, as far as possible.

Our marriage is a lot more loving now, but we know we have to make special efforts to keep it that way and do loving things. Some of my friends encouraged me to divorce my husband in the early days after I discovered the affair, but I'm glad I didn't now.

If it Seems Best to See a Therapist

The book we've been reading says that it's quite common for friends of the betrayed partner to advise them to divorce the one who was unfaithful, or for the friends of the person who had the affair to say to them that their partner who was hurt by it should be getting over it by now. But it's best for both marriage partners to ignore comments like that, because people have to do what they personally feel is best, and improvements in marriage are bound to happen slowly after an affair, because infidelity can be so upsetting.

But the author recommends that if despite following the advice in her book, some of which we've written about here, people still feel their marriage isn't moving in the right direction, they go for therapy. But she says they should choose a therapist who will help them work on the marriage throughout the bad times as well as the good, since some therapists will think marriages are worth giving up on if good results don't come soon, and might suggest that. And the therapist should be one who focuses on how things can improve rather than one who encourages deep delving into what's gone wrong but not much else, and leaves people with no ideas on how to improve their relationship. And it should be one who's experienced in dealing with infidelity.

Renewing Marriage Vows and Making Efforts to Keep the Marriage Healthy

The author says that some people get pleasure from renewing their marriage vows again once their marriage is well on the road to improvement. It can make things feel like a brand new fresh start. She says people can either do that privately, just between the two of them, or invite close friends and relatives along. She says it can be a celebration of the fact that the marriage has been turned around despite everything and they're both committed to making it work better.

She says that once a marriage is back on track again, it should never be taken for granted. It will have taken a lot of work to improve it, and people should continue to do what they know the other will consider loving to keep it going.

Me and my husband have made lots of little changes, and we now know more about how to keep the peace or at least make up earlier after arguments, and what the other one appreciates. So we make efforts to do things we know will keep the marriage loving. Marriages can get better after affairs. It takes work, but, at least in my opinion, it's worth it, at least where both partners care about each other.

Part Seven
What to Do When a Husband or Wife Refuses to Stop an Affair

Someone puts a message on the board:

Wife won't end the affair
Posted by Heartbroken

I discovered my wife was having an affair a week ago. I walked into the room while she was reading an email she didn't want me to see. But I managed to read enough to know it was from someone using quite explicit language about what he'd like to do with her and calling her cute. I questioned her about it, but she said she didn't know who it was from and it must have been sent to the wrong address. I believed her. But one day I happened to read a text message on her phone that said a similar thing. She denied it was anyone she knew again, and said she didn't know how it had got there. But I was a bit suspicious by then, and I looked at her emails, and the ones she'd sent. There were lots of them where her and this man had sent very personal messages to each other about how much they were attracted to each other and when they were going to see each other next and how much they'd enjoyed their time together last time.

I confronted her with all the evidence, so she had to admit that she was having an affair. But she said she didn't see why she shouldn't. She got angry and said she wasn't going to let anyone control her life and that he made her happier than I did, so she didn't see why she shouldn't have an affair with him.

I'm feeling really miserable and helpless. I still love my wife despite what she's done. Is there anything at all I can do to save my marriage? I'm scared of losing my wife. She doesn't seem to care about me or the marriage any more.

Paula thinks she might be able to help. She puts together a message in a Word document before she thinks of putting it on the board:

Paula's Draft Message

Sorry to read about your situation. I discovered my husband was having an affair a while ago and he didn't want to stop. But I found some good advice and stayed in the marriage, and he left the other woman eventually and said he wanted to work on the marriage again. There were times when I thought I'd be happier if I left him, and I was angry with him. I made him go for an AIDS test and get himself checked out for other sexually transmitted diseases, but thankfully he didn't have anything like that. I'm glad I stayed with him now, since our relationship has improved.

I and the others who run this forum have just been reading a book that talks about what people can do if their partners don't want to stop their affairs. It says most affairs end within six months, so there's no need to give up hope. It says that when people having affairs leave their marriage partners to marry the person they're having an affair with, most of the marriages end in divorce.

It says that people whose spouses are having affairs will commonly get lots of advice from friends and others who tell them it isn't worth staying in the marriage and letting their spouse treat them like dirt. But people who want to stay in their marriages shouldn't listen if they're still hoping things can change.

It says it takes a lot of stamina and courage to fight for a marriage when the other person's having an affair, and there might even be days when you question your sanity. It says it'll be harder because your pride may sometimes tell you to give up. But if you want to stick it out, there are things you can do.

Becoming More Attractive to the Partner Having the Affair to Entice them Back

One thing it suggests is that people whose partners are having affairs make themselves as attractive as possible to them. It says it's common for people to plead and beg and get angry and try to reason with their partners about giving up their affairs and staying in the marriage, but none of this will work. Trying to persuade the partner to stay in the marriage will just seem like pressure on them, and if the person having the affair feels pressured by their partner it'll stop them wanting to be with them. They won't want to listen. So you should stop doing anything that could possibly be interpreted as pressure to stay in the marriage. It even says you should stop saying "I love you", because that just reminds spouses who've lost enthusiasm for the marriage that they don't feel the same way at the moment, so they can feel bad about that, and so it just puts them off the marriage even more. If a partner feels bad when they're with you but good when they're with the person they're having the affair with, they're more likely to want to be with them. You're competing with the person your wife's having the affair with for her interest, so that's why it's important to try to make yourself seem as attractive to her as possible.

Incidentally, even if she's fallen out of love with you at the moment, it doesn't mean things can't get better. People can fall back in love with the same person again. The more things you can do that remind her of what you were like when she fell in love with you in the first place, the more likely she is to do that.

The book says you're bound not to feel like being cheerful at a time like this, but you can do the best you can by doing things to make yourself feel as cheerful as possible, finding new hobbies, starting old ones again, going out with friends more, getting in touch with old ones again, maybe taking an evening class in something you like the idea of learning, reading good books, doing more exercise, and generally doing things you enjoy. Then when your wife's with you, you should try to be as cheerful as possible, seeming pleased with yourself and your life, behaving more like your old self, the way you were when she was sure she was in love with you. You'll be more likely to be able to attract her back to you if she thinks you're your old self again, the person she fell in love with. Being miserable can make people behave differently to how they behaved then, but doing the things they did then can cheer them up and help them regain their old attractiveness to their spouse.

I felt like moping around and being miserable when I found out about my husband's affair, but I started going out with friends more, and it did cheer me up a bit, so I was more able to be cheerful around him.

The book says that at the same time, people in your position should start behaving differently from the way they've tended to behave before in some ways, to get their partners' attention and to see if they get intrigued by your new behaviour and like it. For instance, if you've been used to engaging your wife in conversation, you could keep much quieter. If you've been asking her a lot of questions about where she's been and who with, stop asking.

Don't ask questions about the affair at all, since this will feel like pressure to her and it'll make her more likely to want to leave you. The book says it'll be bound to be incredibly hard not to ask questions about the affair, but that's what you'll have to do if you want to make yourself attractive to her. It recommends that people like you Try to make yourselves more attractive so your partners realise what they'll be missing out on when they're with the other person. It says you should give the impression that you've decided to enjoy life with or without her. That doesn't mean you should be cold to her, just that while remaining loving, you don't put any kind of pressure on her to stay in the marriage. Going out and enjoying yourself more will be good for you as well, hopefully making you feel better. That in turn might attract her to you more.

The author of the book says the technique won't always work, but you should feel better even if it doesn't, because you'll be getting out more so you're not spending so much time brooding on things, and you'll be doing things you like. And she says that if it does work, it might take time, and a lot of work will probably have to be done to improve the marriage once your wife starts feeling attracted to you again.

How to React if the Unfaithful Partner Regains Interest in the Marriage

She might start becoming curious about your new life and asking a lot of questions, becoming more interested in you again. But when she does, the book recommends you don't get that enthusiastic too soon, in case she starts feeling pressured by you to stay with you again and backs off.

If she does start showing more interest and asking questions, the book advises that you don't tell her too much about why you've changed. Let her think it's a bit of a puzzle. And still don't do anything she could interpret as pressure to be with you or to become more committed to the marriage, like asking her about the future or talking about your hopes for the marriage, or saying "I love you". And it says you should be the first to decide to leave after you've had a talk.

It says that if you feel fairly sure she's changed and has made a commitment to the marriage, you can start showing more enthusiasm and asking questions about the future of the marriage. If she's interested, you could start talking with her about what needs to change in the marriage to stop her being tempted to have an affair again. But if she seems to be losing interest, it says you should go back to the way you were before again as soon as you notice.

It says you might need a lot of patience to win her back, because it might take weeks or even months; but even if she's showing a bit of interest, it'll still be an encouraging sign.

It says that even if the unfaithful partners of people in your position start showing a lot of interest early on and want to go back to the way things were before as if nothing had happened, it's important to talk through what caused the marriage problems with a view to solving them, so the marriage doesn't get back to the state where they're more likely to have an affair again. It advises that you take things slowly, for instance not going from spending most of your time apart to spending all the time you can with each other, and keeping your separate interests going, to prevent old problems coming to the surface too often because you're with each other too much until they're on the way to being solved.

It might help you get your marriage back on track once she's regained interest in it if you find a course on marriage enrichment. They might call such things by different names, like marriage education or relationship skills maybe, but they teach things like conflict resolution and how to make the most of the time together I think, and the book says some churches, colleges and mental health centres do good ones.

Meanwhile, if you can possibly find out what's attracted her to the other person, for instance if they compliment her more, or listen to what she says more and take it more seriously, or whatever, the book recommends you imitate that behaviour as if you're trying to do it better than them.

The book says there are likely to be days when you do everything wrong, like interrogating her about the affair or pleading with her to stay etc. But it says that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself about times like that, but you should just try to get back to the old behaviour straightaway. You could even apologise for putting pressure on her. She might not seem to appreciate it, but if she realises you know it's not a good thing to do, she might see it as a hopeful sign.

It says that though when she finally commits to the marriage again you could feel joyful, in the coming weeks, you might find yourself feeling resentful about what happened. After not showing any negative emotions for some time, it'll be natural that when the pressure on you eases off because you don't need to try so hard to keep her any more, negative emotions might start coming into your mind again, and you might even start wondering whether you were right to put so much effort into getting the relationship working again and whether the marriage is worth being in after all if you feel that bad. But as time passes, you should be able to sort things out. It's only natural that you should feel bad for a while after what you've been through. After a while, you can talk it through with her. But if she isn't prepared to listen and starts to get defensive or seems to be losing interest again, the book recommends you hold off for a while longer. There should come a time when you can discuss things with her; but the timing is important.

Also, her enthusiasm for the marriage might build up gradually. So the book recommends you don't think that if she hasn't said she loves you or wanted to be affectionate with you within the next couple of weeks or if she'd probably still rather be with the other man, things can't really be working, or anything like that. It'll be good if you can remember how much better things are than they were before. It would be a shame to stop bothering after you've made so much effort and things are definitely moving in the right direction, even if they're going too slowly for your liking. The book advises that people like you Encourage yourselves by reminding yourselves how much progress you've made since things were at their worst. You'll be able to be proud of yourself, since the reason things have got better are due to your own efforts. And given more time, she might start showing more and more love to you.

Giving the Unfaithful Partner a Last Chance

If she doesn't stop seeing the other man even though you're making yourself seem more attractive to her and doing all the right things, there is another thing you can do. The book says it's common for people to feel they just can't go on any more some days. But if you ever really and truly decide you just can't stand things the way they are any more, there is something you can do, although you shouldn't do it unless you're prepared to end your marriage, since it might do that. But on the other hand, it might act as a wake-up call to make your wife really start thinking about what she's doing and what she could be losing if she doesn't change.

What you'd have to do is to tell her you love her so much that you're prepared to let go of her. Then have as little contact with her as possible. Don't talk on the phone unless it's about any children you have; don't encourage her to talk; don't phone or email her; don't spend any more time with her than you can help. Stop doing nice things for her. Make sure she gets the impression that you've completely withdrawn from the relationship, and only start showing more interest in it if she realises that there won't be a relationship between you unless and until she's got the other man out of her life.

If she starts to show interest in stopping the affair, the book advises that you don't give in and start communicating with her more again too quickly. It says you should insist on her giving you proof that she's stopped it, and that you shouldn't listen to promises, but just judge by what she does.

If she can demonstrate that she has cut off contact with the other man, it recommends that you make it clear to her that she's only got one chance to win back your trust. If there are any future signs that she's being unfaithful again, it advises that you tell her your relationship will be over for good.

It says you should only do this technique if you're prepared to stick to it though, because if she thinks she can get around you, she won't take what you say seriously.

I hope things work out.

Then Paula thinks:

Well, I think that'll do. I'll put it on the board now.

Part Eight
Internet Affairs

A woman posts a message on the board:

Scared my husband's having an Internet affair
Posted by Miserable

My husband's been spending more and more time on the Internet, coming to bed later and later. He seems to have lost interest in me, and when I ask what he's doing on the computer, he gets irritable and tells me he doesn't have to be accountable to me for everything he does.

At first I assumed he was just doing work or playing games. But he turns the screen off or quickly changes what he's looking at when I go in the room now, and my teenage son said to me the other day that he didn't want me to think he was the one looking at the porn sites and sex chat rooms he'd found in the computer's Internet history records. I had no idea either of them had been looking at porn. Now I'm suspecting my husband of spending hours a day looking at it. I hate the idea that he's having cybersex with other people for hours a day and losing interest in the marriage. What can I do?

Jenny decides to have a go at composing a message.

Jenny's Draft Message

I sympathise with you, since my husband found the woman he had the affair with on the Internet. Hopefully, things haven't got that far with your husband, and hopefully they won't.

I've been reading about Internet infidelity in a book. The author says that having online affairs is popular, because it's so easy to find people interested in the same sexual fantasies as them, and people don't have to dress up or look nice, and can pretend to be anyone they like and no one need know any better.

Signs a Person Might be Having an Online Affair

She says there are a number of things that might indicate that a spouse under suspicion is having an Internet affair, or a real one, and it sounds like at least most of them have happened to you. She says some signs might be:

She says there are several things a worried partner can try:

Confronting the Spouse and Talking Things Over

She recommends that the first thing people do is to confront their spouse about their online activities. She says there isn't any point in gathering loads of evidence first, because it's possible that just talking about your concerns might work; but it's best to talk about them in a way that doesn't sound as if you're accusing him of doing wrong but just telling him how you feel. For instance, instead of accusing him of causing you to feel the way you do and of doing sexual things online and lying about it, and ordering him to stop, you could maybe say something about your feelings that doesn't actually blame him for anything, like,

"I've been upset by the fact that you've spent so much time on the computer lately and you seem to be very secretive about it. Every time I walk in the room, you change what you're doing. I feel scared you might be involved in sexual relationships online."

If you say it like that, he won't feel so blamed, and so hopefully he won't get so defensive.

The author says there are several different ways a spouse under suspicion might respond. It's unlikely, but he could admit the whole thing, say he's sorry and want to renew commitment to your marriage.

On the other hand, he could completely deny everything, or he could say he's doing sexual things online but claim there's nothing wrong with what he's doing, insisting that it isn't important and you're reading far too much into things.

She says that if he's sorry, you should seize the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart conversation with him about what's gone wrong in your marriage that made him want to seek sexual or emotional satisfaction online, and how you can put it right. You should tell him how its been making you feel. If he was just surfing out of curiosity, he should stop after that. If he feels something's missing in the marriage, you can look at this as an opportunity to improve your relationship and commit to start working on it. There are posts on this forum that give advice for people whose partners are having real affairs about how to try to stop them and improve their relationships that you will hopefully find useful if that happens.

If he says he has been involved in sexual conversations with people but he doesn't see anything wrong with it and in fact it keeps him from having a real affair so that's something you ought to be glad about, you can either believe him and drop the matter, or if you're still concerned, you can tell him. It won't be any wonder if you are still concerned, since you might see it as a betrayal of your trust, and as emotional and mental unfaithfulness. After all, the author says online affairs have the same characteristics of real ones - secrecy, intimacy and sexual gratification. That's why you'll probably feel betrayed. It's understandable.

If your husband says you're over-reacting, the author says that debating about whether he's right or wrong about that won't get you anywhere, since he won't see any reason to change. But he might be more likely to be willing to change if you tell him about how your feelings are hurt and you feel betrayed. You can point out that it feels like an affair to you. You can say you understand that he might feel differently, but since you share a relationship, he needs to take your feelings into account.

Another thing the author suggests is that if you think he'd be willing to read them, you could collect some articles on Internet affairs and give them to him so he'll know other people feel the same way as you about them. But if he gets defensive, don't push things. The articles probably won't make a difference if he does that.

The author says that once you've made it clear that you're offended, you have to be clear about how you expect him to change. What you say has to be specific, rather than something vague that could leave him unsure as to what you want. And it has to be realistic and achievable quite easily. For instance, obviously someone couldn't demand their partner stays away from the computer altogether if he works on it. But they could perhaps work out what their partner would have to do to help them feel reassured that he was mainly using it for work.

If he refuses to listen to you, on the other hand, there are further actions you can take, the same ones you can take if he just denies the whole thing. The author says that denial is the most common reaction.

She says there won't be any point in trying to prove he's involved in cybersex, because he won't want to change even if you do. She says that people's instincts about their partners' behaviour are usually right.

But the author says that instead of trying to prove it, you could sit down with him and discuss how you think the excessive amount of time he spends online has been interfering with your marriage. Tell him what you think is missing and what you'd like to change. Again, be specific about how you'd like him to change so he has clear directions rather than something vague.

If he agrees to spend more time with you, it will obviously mean he'll be spending less time surfing sex sites, so you'll be solving the problem.

According to the author, if you doubt he means what he says if he says he'll spend more time on the marriage, it's best to keep your doubts to yourself and wait and see, to avoid arguments that might make him even less interested in being with you.

If his online habits don't seem to be changing, there are several things the book says you could try. It says not all of them will work for everyone, and you should only carry on doing one if you can tell after a week or two that it's beginning to work.

The first thing you could try is confronting him about his behaviour one more time. Again, don't be blaming or angry; you could just calmly tell him his behaviour's really upsetting you and why. If you can tell he doesn't want to talk about it, the author recommends you leave things at that, and wait a few days to see if your words had any impact once he's thought about them. If he begins to change, that'll be good, but if he doesn't, there are other things you could try.

Trying New Things

You could try changing your approach to him, maybe even quite dramatically. Doing something different might get his attention. You could have a think about what you could do. The author gives several suggestions to help you start thinking:

She says that it might sound crazy, but one thing you could try is to express an interest in finding out about his online activities. You could resolve not to be judgmental or angry and promise him you won't be, but say you'd like to know more about what turns him on and hint that you might consider using the ideas you get to spice up your love life if you're with him when he goes online. This might have benefits, because it's possible that what he's doing isn't as bad as you think; and also, it'll give you more information you can use in your decision about what to do next.

On the other hand, I would have thought that if it's worse, it might make you a lot more upset, or he might not do the worst things when you're there because he's ashamed of them. But the author says that also, what might be keeping his online habits going is the thrill of secrecy and illicitness. That can provide a buzz, and when it's no longer there, he might lose interest in things.

Another suggestion she gives is that if you've been sitting up waiting for him to come off the computer at night, you make yourself less available to him by not waiting any more, and doing something creative instead. He probably takes you for granted because you're always there waiting for him, but if you change your behaviour, he'll have to take more notice. You could stop trying to get him to change and start investing more time in your happiness, like going out with friends. If you've got children, it might take some planning, but the author recommends you go for it. Your husband might start wondering what he's missing.

Another thing the author suggests is that since online activity seems to turn him on, you could write him a flirtatious email. Use the thing you fear is taking him away to try to bring him back.

If you're convinced that nothing will change till you can confront him with evidence of his behaviour, then there are software products you can buy that take snapshots of online activity. But if you do that, his response might not be positive. He might become angry and accuse you of spying, and not want to discuss the evidence at all but simply blame you for his behaviour. And also, you might be extremely upset by what you find. Only after asking yourself if you think you'll be able to stand it if you discover the worst should you do that.

If he doesn't change despite your attempts to do something different, the author says there are other things you can try.

She says it's possible that he may be addicted to cybersex. Some people are. You could maybe give him articles about addiction to online porn and cybersex. He might not appreciate them or want to admit he has a problem. But they might give him things to think about that he might respond to in the future. There are websites and books that can help with Internet addictions. Even if he doesn't want help, educating yourself about it might make you feel better.

If Nothing Changes

The author says that if nothing changes, you have three choices:

She says that one choice is to keep trying and stay miserable. She says you might need to be absolutely convinced that nothing's working before you move on, even if that means you wait until you feel as miserable as you can be. But it's your choice as to whether you want to hold out in the hope things will change.

Doing More Fulfilling Things Independently of the Unfaithful Spouse

She says another choice is to detach from him. It's a bit like that other suggestion of doing something else in the hope he'll start wondering what he's missing. But this suggestion means organising your whole life around you and your interests, not around him. She says she worked with a woman whose husband visited porn sites and talked to people about sex in chat rooms, and she was upset about that. She tried to persuade him to admit he had a problem and get him some help, but he wasn't interested. He was enjoying himself and thought she was interfering. They argued a lot about it at first. She didn't want to divorce him, but she found it difficult staying in the marriage when he was doing those things. After months of soul searching, she decided to try to find a way to live with him without being miserable. She decided his porn habit was an addiction rather than something he did to annoy her, and that made her feel a bit better, and she didn't get so angry with him. She decided to stop nagging him about his activities, but to let him handle his problem himself. She decided to focus on the things she liked about the marriage, and there were many things. Something that helped was that she enjoyed her work, and she had a group of close friends she started turning to for support whenever she felt down. She came up with many ideas on how to make her life better and separate herself from his problems. She did a good job of it.

Over the months, she discovered that her marriage was improving. She still didn't like his online sexual activities, but she noticed she was becoming less angry with him, and he, in turn, was becoming kinder and more considerate towards her. They enjoyed the time they spent together more. She was still disturbed by what he did online, but after a while, she noticed that he'd really cut down the amount of time he spent on the Internet and was spending much more time with her. She emphasised what she loved about him and detached herself from the rest, and by doing so managed to stop what he was doing badly affecting their marriage. She didn't find it easy to ignore what he was doing, but she didn't think divorcing him would be easy either. The author says they became very happy on most days.

The author suggests that other people try detaching themselves, making a life for themselves independent of their husband's activities. She says it can help if people focus on the good times, even if there aren't that many, and ignore the rest, concentrating on making life happy for themselves personally, letting go of the idea that it's possible to change their husband at the moment. She says some people feel a lot of relief when they decide that changing him is impossible for them to do on their own so they may as well not stress themselves out trying any more.

She says she can understand some people finding the idea of detaching very difficult. She says people who find the idea distasteful shouldn't feel they have to do it, since there may be other ways of doing things. But people who'd like to do it but fear they'll find it very difficult can maybe do it with the support of others, perhaps in a support group, though they ought to find one that'll be supportive of their intention to stay in the marriage and won't condemn them for detaching from their husband.

Giving an Ultimatum

The author says the other option people have is to prepare to separate or divorce. She says people who just don't think they can stand knowing their husband is involved in cybersex and would prefer to leave him if he continues should at least present him with a firm ultimatum before they consider going, since sometimes, a dramatic but genuine threat is like a wake-up call that makes the spouse involved in cybersex or other activity their partner's unhappy with think seriously about the impact of what they're doing for the first time.

But she says that those who want to give an ultimatum should only do it if they're prepared to carry out the threat, since otherwise, no future threats will be taken seriously.

She says a non-offensive way to phrase an ultimatum could be something like:

"I don't mean this to sound like a threat, but I can't live like this any more. I find it too upsetting. So either you come with me for counselling or stop looking at porn and getting involved in cybersex, or I have to end this marriage. It's not what I want to do, but I don't think it's healthy for me to continue living like this. I'm willing to make an appointment with a counsellor, but I need to know right now if you're willing to do this."

She says it doesn't matter if the message is delivered face-to-face, over the phone, or via email or letter etc. What matters is that it gets delivered.

She says it might be difficult to predict his response, but if he gets defensive at first, he might calm down and consider what you've said after all in the coming days, so it's best to wait for a few days before asking him for a response if he's angry at first.

She says depending on his response, you should make the appointment with a therapist who you know to be supportive of marriage and orientated towards moving forward with helping to find solutions rather than getting stuck in talking about past problems, or go to see a lawyer.

Visiting a Lawyer

She says going to see a lawyer doesn't necessarily mean ending the marriage. There might be some way to get the lawyer to send a warning letter to your husband without filing for divorce first. That might be just the wake-up call your husband needs to start taking things seriously. The author says people with addictions often don't do anything about them till they've suffered some kind of loss because of them. So threatening divorce might be just what needs to happen to make him want to change.

She says it's best if the lawyer can send a letter informing him of your intention to divorce him, but that it's not phrased as if it's blaming him for all the problems, so as not to put him on the defensive and risk ruining chances of reconciliation. So a letter that doesn't actually say why you're intending to divorce him but just says you are and you've seen the lawyer might motivate him to change. So it's worth asking the lawyer to do that if possible.

She says that spouses confronted with the threat of divorce might not change, so you may have to go through with the divorce, so you should only make such threats if you are seriously prepared to follow through with them.

Anyway, I hope things don't come to that.

Then Jenny thinks:

I think that'll be allright to go on the board.


This article is written slightly differently to most articles. The self-help in it is mainly in the form of responses to messages asking for advice, posted on a fictional forum. The characters are fictional, but the suggestions that the ones giving advice make come from a book by a real-life therapist. The idea is that readers take inspiration from the advice they give, to improve their own circumstances.

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The Story

Setting the Scene

Imagine that Jenny, Paula and Mark are friends who decide to set up an online support group for people whose marriages have been damaged by a partner's unfaithfulness. Both Jenny and Paula are married to people who had affairs.

Jenny's husband regretted his affair and wanted to make amends, and after some time and effort, their marriage became strong again. Jenny feels she would like to help other people get over affairs and improve their marriages, using her experiences of how she managed it to help others.

Paula's husband didn't regret his affair at first. But she managed to rekindle his interest in the marriage and he left the other woman, and she now hopes she can help other people do the same.

Mark was tempted to have an affair himself, but felt sure it would damage his marriage, and despite the temptations, he knew the marriage had been good once and thought the preferable thing would be to try to rekindle the love in it if he could. So he read books on improving marriage, and managed to improve his. Now, he wants to help people who have had affairs they regret or who are tempted to be unfaithful, because some of his friends have had affairs they now bitterly regret because they lost their marriages because of them, and when their affairs ended, they realised how much living with their wives and children meant to them. He'd like to try to help other people avoid risking that happening in their own lives. He hopes the advice he's read about improving marriages that has helped him will help others.

All three of them read a book on improving marriages by a therapist who's been helping couples improve their marriages for years, and they use it as the basis for much of the advice they give.

The End

Note that if you choose to try out some or all of the recovery techniques described in this article, they may take practice before they begin to work.

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Literature Used in Creating This Article

The articles are written in such a way as to convey the impression that they are not written by an expert, so as to make it clear that the advice should not be followed without question.

The author has a qualification endorsed by the Institute of Psychiatry and has led a group for people recovering from anxiety disorders and done other such things; yet she is not an expert on people's problems, and has simply taken information from books and articles that do come from people more expert in the field.

There is no guarantee that the solutions the people in the articles hope will help them will work for everybody, and you should consider yourself the best judge of whether to follow their example in trying them out.

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