The difficult work after an affair starts with the revelation. Once both of the partners know of the infidelity and the decision is made to stay married, then it’s time to dive into the recovery process. In my prior experiences helping partners survive an affair, I have learned there is about no boundaries to the desire to try to save the marriage. My job is to help couples divide the work and work smarter.
The partner who had the affair must work on being humble. Frequently I call this staying “low.” Humility means there is never any push back when the betrayed partner makes a request, never revising when replying to a direct question, and never any exhibiting hostility when replying to the deceived partner’s hostility.
Humility can be very hard for the partner who had the affair for several reasons. First and foremost, she probably has anger she never dealt with that allowed her to minimize or justify her affair. She may feel that she isn’t allowed to exhibit her anger in the restoration process and therefore the process of “stuffing” the emotion may begin all over again, leading to anger and possibly acting out.
The partner who was deceived has very well the hardest task of all in therapy. He must opt to pardon after infidelity has taken place. If recovering couples decide they don’t desire treatment, forgiveness may never be addressed or it could be ignored in favor of punishment. In treatment, the therapist helps the deceived partner release the frustration, which leaves room for forgiving if he chooses. The therapist also helps the deceived partner understand that forgiveness isn’t for the partner who had the affair; it is for him and his well-being.
Working hard during affair recovery isn't really enough. Both partners must divide the work and focus their energy on working smart. The result will be happier people and a marriage on its way to recovery.