Whether you are having an extramarital affair or just ended one, one thing is certain: You need to decide what is next for your marriage. Do you stay in the marriage or leave?
There is no right or wrong answer. But at some point, a decision needs to be made.
This was me back in 2012. After having two back-to-back affairs and destroying my already fragile marriage, I was faced with this choice.
Stay in the marriage or leave?
In my experience, reaching the answer requires a combination of four elements: Self-awareness, love, forgiveness and patience.
Again, this is based on my experience. In my case, I decided to stay in the marriage. My husband and I rebuilt our marriage from the ground up. It required a lot of hard work, but it was worth it. We remain happy to this day.
You had an affair because you weren’t getting what you needed from your marriage. Women typically have affairs because they are starved for attention. Men typically have affairs because they are starved for sex.
Either way, you need to get to the root of the problem. Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers. (Don’t edit yourself – just write!)
- What was missing in your marriage?
- What were the pros of having an affair?
- What were the cons?
- What would you like to change in yourself?
- What do you think your spouse would like you to change?
- What will it take for you to make those changes?
- What would you like your spouse to change?
- Is he/she willing to make those changes?
- What does your marriage need so it will thrive?
Now you have a better understanding of why you had an affair and what you need to do next. Again, it doesn’t matter if you want to stay in the marriage or leave. But this exercise will help you take some steps forward.
Forgive and let go
Forgiveness is powerful, because it allows you to unburden yourself of guilt, embarrassment, anger, resentment, jealousy – the list goes on. If you bottle up these emotions, they will weigh you down, and eventually, you won’t be able to move forward.
You cannot change the past. What’s done is done. Accept it, and let it go.
Let’s look at all the negative emotions swirling around inside you. (We’ll get to positive in a bit!)
- How did/does your marriage make you feel?
- How did/does your partner make you feel?
- How did/does the affair make you feel?
- How do you feel about yourself?
Get it all out on paper. Read through the list.
Can you forgive yourself for each negative emotion?
Can you forgive your partner for each negative emotion?
If you can, then say so. And then release each emotion.
If you can’t, wait a few days and try again.
Look for the love
Relationships cannot exist without love. Even though my marriage was horribly broken, my husband and I realized we hadn’t completely destroyed the love between us. It had just been shoved in a closet and hidden under layers of emotional muck.
- What made you fall in the love with your spouse?
- Does he/she still display each trait?
- What new traits does he/she have that you admire?
Now you know how much love is still there. It’s up to you whether you want to build upon it or release it.
Deciding whether or not to stay in your marriage or leave is not a rush job. Take your time.
Review your answers. Think about them. Discuss them with your therapist. (If you are not in therapy, go!)
Good luck. Be confident that you will arrive at the right answer for you.
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