"How Do We Rebuild Marriage After An Affair?" - Marriage Counselor

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      There’s no question that rebuilding your marriage after an affair is difficult -- often very difficult -- but with the right effort and commitment it can be done.

      When you’ve damaged your relationship by having an affair, rebuilding your marriage can seem impossible. The good news is that it’s not.

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      At Guy Stuff we work with couples who’ve suffered the pain of cheating and want to find a way back to each other and a happy marriage. Many times they come to see us feeling hopeless and lost.

      Below is a question from a woman in this exact situation. Take a look at Kiera’s question and my advice to her that follows.

      Rebuilding Your Marriage After An Affair

      Reader Question:

      Hi. I'm 38 yrs old and my husband is 36 yrs old. We live in Chicago and we have been married for almost 3 yrs. How do we rebuild our marriage after an affair, and having a gambling addiction?" -Keira A.

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      Kiera’s facing a tough road in her marriage. Both of the problems she mentions need to be resolved in order for her relationship to get back to a health footing (assuming it started on one).

      My Answer:

      Although you don't state it, I assume that it was your husband who had an affair and has a gambling addiction.

      First, let me say that you're correct with the underlying assumption of your question that you can rebuild your marriage after these violations of trust. Many women assume that the relationship is too destroyed after their husband has had an affair. So, congratulations for looking for ways to rebuild, rather than give up and get out.

      Second, rebuilding a marriage after an affair is certainly difficult and painful -- but definitely not impossible. I've seen many men change their behavior and become completely different partners, so a different future is certainly a possibility and a reason to be hopeful.

      Third, relationship faithfulness in the areas of emotional and physical intimacy, and money is the foundation for a successful marriage. These are two of the most important areas of a relationship. And violation of trust in these areas is very significant. So, be careful not to underestimate the damage that has been done.

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      Here's where to start in order to rebuild your marriage after an affair:

      1. Talk about the facts of what's happened regarding both the marriage affair and gambling addiction. Be aware that you may not be able to do this very well without the assistance of a licensed counselor who can help facilitate the dialogue about these painful events.
      2. Each of you needs to share your feelings about each violation. You need to tell your husband how each has affected you. And he needs to share the feelings that contributed to his making these choices.
      3. Start rebuilding trust. This can start simply with little things like doing what each of you says you'll do. If you say you'll pick-up some groceries or be home by 6:30, then be sure to do it.
      4. Take addictions seriously and address them. Any addiction, including gambling, can sink a relationship and a person’s life. Breaking an addiction and remaining free from it takes work every day.

      Keeping Your Marriage Strong After An Affair

      Rebuilding after an affair isn’t quick or easy, or something with a specific end date. In fact, although the rebuilding will eventually enter a “maintenance” phase, keeping your relationship strong will mean regular effort and attention, especially regarding the areas that contributed to the infidelity.

      Here’s a Marriage Truth - all strong and healthy relationships require consistent and purposeful effort and attention.

      No good relationship ever hits auto-pilot and stays there without encountering problems. So, in order to keep things strong and avoid the possibility of future affairs or other big problems, here are some tips:

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      • Make time together a priority. A regular date night can keep you connected. Even taking half an hour a couple of days a week to just chat and catch up will go a long way.
      • Don’t take the trust you’re rebuilding for granted – ever. There are many ways to undermine trust. Omission of information, inappropriate interactions on social media, or sharing information with others that should only be shared with your spouse are but a few common ones.
      • Intimacy is important - and not just physical intimacy. Regular effort at romance and maintaining an intimate connection are essential for closeness.
      • Good communication takes thought and practice. A common cause of marital trouble is poor communication. Be cognizant of building your communication skills and keeping them sharp.
      • Show appreciation. This can be hard, especially after an affair. Appreciation, however, makes your partner feel loved, valued, and respected. These are important feelings to foster with your partner.

      Believe it or not, but a marriage after an affair can actually be a better one. Because of the new level of honesty, transparency, and intimacy that can come from doing the above hard work. I see it every day.

      Editor's Note: This post was originally published December 19, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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