Which Spouse Needs To Make The Most Effort After An Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: As you are struggling to navigate the days after you find out about your spouse’s affair, it can become clear that, in order to ever move past this, both you and your spouse are going to have to put forth a great deal of effort. Recovery doesn’t happen on its own, but those couples who don’t recover can continue to struggle in a marriage that makes them both miserable.

It can feel unfair to the faithful spouse that they have to put up a considerable amount of effort. After all, they didn’t cheat. They did nothing wrong. So why are they now faced with this huge obstacle that is going to require all of this work?

Because of the inequality of it all, it can become very tempting to keep score and to insist that your spouse is the one who should be mostly responsible for the recovery. A wife might say: “it took me quite a while to convince my husband to be honest about his affair. I would ask him what made him do this and he would always tell me that he didn’t know why he did what he did. Finally though, after I would not accept that answer, he admitted that I was concerned more with the kids than with him. He said that I’d let our sex life slide and I was no longer that playful woman who he loved to be with more than anyone else. He told me that in order for him to truly be happy in our marriage, I would have to put more emphasis on the physical side of it. I told him that I could do that, but that I do not want to be physical with him when he doesn’t compliment me and treat me nice in the way that he used to. He agreed that he would make an effort in that department. I told him that I also needed for him to be accountable about spending more time at home. Well, weeks have gone by since that conversation and he hasn’t made good on his promises. He told me that I haven’t made the effort either. He says we’ve only had sex a couple of times. He said that it’s up to me to make the effort first. I think that this is ridiculous. The person who cheated has to make the most effort. Isn’t this true?”

I do agree with you that most people assume that the biggest initiative must come from the spouse who cheated. They are the ones who caused the damage and so they are the ones who are mostly responsible.

However, in reality, it often takes effort by both parties to make things right again. If the cheating spouse is the only one making any changes, then he can feel resentful. If the faithful spouse doesn’t see any changes, they can feel distrust and suspicion. And, if either party continues to be unhappy in the marriage, then you are vulnerable to future cheating or unhappiness.

Overcoming all of this is difficult and it takes work from everyone. I know that it is just human nature to keep score when someone hurts you. But, you have to be practical. You have to decide if it is more important to keep score or if it is more important to you to have a sound, recovered, and healthy marriage which makes you happy.

Because if you want that, then there’s just no way around putting in the work. It doesn’t magically happen. And it’s not going to happen if both people do not feel that they are getting what you need out of your marriage. Expressing what it is going to take to make your marriage fulfilling is a very good first step that you’ve already taken. Not every one is willing to do this.

So you have a good start. Now it is time for you both to show you’re serious about making those efforts and those changes. Sometimes, both spouses are waiting for the other to act first. No one wants to be the one who is trying so hard while the other does nothing. This is understandable. No ones wants to feel like they are the only one who cares. The problem is that while you’re both waiting, no progress is being made. Someone has to be the first to make the good faith effort. Someone has to decide that recovery is more important than waiting and watching.

Think about it for a second. What is it that you want the most? Most of us just want to be happy and to have peace and faith in our lives again. It’s very difficult to have this if no one is trying. And it’s silly when he’s not trying because you’re both keeping score. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person. Because I’d suspect that if you make an effort, you will see him making one too. It basically feeds on itself and forms a cycle. You give a little and then he does. You get a little and then he does. You’re encouraged by his effort and so you put in more of your own effort and he reciprocates.

So while I think in theory that it’s the cheating spouse who should take more initiative, I often know that this isn’t always reality. It often takes effort on the part of both spouses and a willingness to stop keeping score.  Sometimes, I was resentful of all of the counseling and soul searching after my husband’s affair.  But now I can look back and see that it was more than worth it.  Because if we hadn’t made that effort, we might still be very unhappy.  And life is really too short to be unhappy. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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