How Do I Reconnect With My Spouse After The Affair?

By: Katie Lersch:  I sometimes hear from couples who, quite understandably, feel very distant from one another after infidelity has affected the marriage.  Sometimes, both people are interested in reconnecting.  Other times, one spouse is distant while the other wants to feel close again.  Whatever the reason, there is often a concern about the best way to reconnect in order to begin to bring back the intimacy.

Here is an example about what I am talking about.  I might hear from a spouse who says: “honestly, I feel like I have lost all of the closeness that I had with my wife.  And I know that it is my fault because I am the one who had an affair.  But for the sake of our family, I feel like we really have to get back what we had.  I understand that my wife is angry and hurt.  I would do anything to change that.  But I know that I can’t.  Not only is she distancing herself from me, but I can’t help but notice that she has backed away from our extended family and, to a lesser extent, even to our children.  It’s like she is just watching everything happen, but she is not actively participating in any of it.  She’s no longer spontaneous and happy.  She is just flat and kind of there.  She interacts with me because she has to – but it is very formal.  We never laugh anymore or touch.  It is all just family stuff.  I want our relationship back.  I try to ask her to go out with me, talk to me, or – heck, even just watch a TV show with me.  I’d settle for anything at this point, but most of the time, she declines. If she does do something with me, she’s formal and cold about it.  How do I reconnect with her?  She is justified in her distance and anger, but we can’t keep going like this.”

Some Considerations: Before I try to offer some suggestions, I find myself curious as to how many attempts at healing have taken place.  In many situations such as the one described, things stay sort of stuck (and distant) because there has not been much progress made toward healing.  Have you completely ended the affair and offered your wife (and yourself) an explanation as to why it happened? Are you in counseling?  Because if, in her eyes, nothing has really changed, then in my own experience (having gone through this myself,) you can’t expect for her behavior to change.  If she feels like no improvement has been made or if she thinks that there isn’t enough remorse and rehabilitation, then understandably, she can feel much more safe watching and waiting from the sidelines.  This is just human nature and self preservation. She may not even realize that she is doing it.  But she is understandably afraid to let her guard down and to feel – at least for right now.

I know this because I experienced it also.  It’s very hard to let down that wall and to leave yourself vulnerable again.  So you are often looking for a show of good faith before you feel safe enough to do this.  If you haven’t yet tried to provide this feeling of safety, you might find your wife MUCH more willing to reconnect once you do.

Focus On Keeping Things Low Key And Don’t Apply Pressure: If you’ve focused on healing and you’re still not seeing progress, then you want to ask yourself if you are perhaps pressuring and putting some pressure onto the situation so that it is not allowed to thrive.  What I mean by that is that we often have the very best of intentions and of course we want for things to feel better as fast as they possibly can.  We don’t mean to pressure.  But we are anxious for things to return to normal.  Once they don’t, there can be disappointment and a feeling of “what is wrong with us?” Or “will we ever get back what we had?”

These thoughts and questions are normal, but they can make you feel as if you are NOT normal or that you will NEVER get back what you had, when in reality, perhaps you just need to be patient and to try to back away from so much pressure while just focusing on very small things.  I love your idea of just watching TV together.  Many couples will first try with the big efforts.  They’ll try to vacation together or make a huge announcement that they are going to reconnect.  This is often too much too soon and so things can’t necessarily blossom under the weight of all this pressure.

Watching TV or going for a walk with your pets or anything very low key with not much pressure is how you want to start.  In fact, you maybe do not even want to classify it as “reconnecting” because the connotation makes some people freeze.  Instead, you’re just wanting to restore a sense of comfort and normalcy for a short period of time.  If you do this enough and you get good results, make no mistake about it.  You ARE reconnecting – whether you officially call it that or not. Above all, don’t make your spouse feel as if not reconnecting immediately is their fault.  They likely are juggling  a lot of pain and negative feelings.  They don’t need anymore.  Instead, show them patience and take what they are willing to give when they are willing to give it. At least in my experience, this kind of acceptance and lack of pressure made me MUCH more receptive to the idea of reconnecting.  My husband and I never called it “reconnecting.” It was just a process that naturally happened as we gradually healed and I gradually began to trust and feel safe again.  Had my husband constantly asked why we weren’t “reconnecting,” the outcome may not have been great.  There’s more about this on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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