Question: My spouse refuses to come to marriage counseling with me after his extramarital affair. How can I heal from an affair when my spouse does not try to help?
The key to healing yourself and/or a marriage after an affair is actually not what you’d think. During the first 3 months following disclosure of the affair, I just assumed my husband should be very sorry, come begging on his knees with flowers asking my forgiveness and of course (wasn’t it obvious?!) come for counseling with me.
My husband did none of the above during the early stages of our healing.
So what did I do? I asked "how can I heal from an affair" and I began to work on me. I made a decision to get through this. I was going to recover. I was going to survive. I wanted my marriage back. I fought for the marriage, but things didn’t go according to my plans and it wasn’t until I actually let go of the marriage and it finally dawned on me that maybe things weren’t going to work out and I just may have to face my future alone, without the man I loved and as a single parent, it was when I accepted this truth that I got my marriage back, ironically.
Sometimes we try too hard. This is not attractive. Also we focus our energy on “getting our spouse to change” after all he/she was the one who had the affair, right?
As long as we focus on what our spouse needs to change (and believe me you’re not wrong – they do need to change), but we are still focusing on the wrong thing.
It’s like the popular poem:
God grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
To change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
- Reinhold Niebuhr
Can we change our spouse? No
Can we change ourselves? Yes – So this is the part we work on.
Surprisingly when WE change we force our spouse to change, or we leave them behind in the dust. What you need to do is work on yourself, on your own personal growth, on becoming a better, stronger, healthier person. Basically we change the “dance” in the relationship.
There are some things you can do to start this journey when you are asking yourself: How can I heal from an affair?
1. Read as many books on affairs and marriage (and even other things like psychology, positive attitude, dealing with people, and living your best life) as you can. Start by reading “My Husband’s Affair ... ” because you will laugh and cry, find out you’re not going insane after all, and most of all, learn from our mistakes. (Click here for a list of other books I recommend.)
2. Join a Beyond Affairs Support Group, or start one.
3. Forget about marriage therapy if your husband won’t go. Go to therapy for yourself. I did, and it resulted in healing our marriage. I became educated as to what is and isn’t healthy in marriage and I began to recognize and change unhealthy hidden systems in my marriage. I discovered that I had the power to change our “relationship dance.” It was unsettling to my husband at first, and yet attractive. Once I began to change, he made the choice to learn and grow with me and that’s how we healed our marriage.
Here's a quote from our book:
"With the counselor’s help I began to learn what a healthy relationship really looks like and I began to change drastically. I stopped trying to please everybody, stopped taking responsibility for other’s mistakes and stopped apologizing all the time. I set clear relationship boundaries. I began to think and act more independently. It was all for the better, but the change was also difficult for both of us. At one point Brian remarked, “Anne, you are changing and growing incredibly as a person. I see that it is a good thing, but at the same time it scares me.” - "My Husband's Affair..." by Anne Bercht, Page 257
Be sure and find a marriage friendly therapist, even if you go alone. This website offers great insight for finding a good therapist:
Last you may enjoy this article that shares the basics on getting started on the “healing from affairs” journey.
Be encouraged. There is great hope for your future and for your marriage.
©Copyright 2010 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.