What do you do when the Big Goal, reconciliation, is in sight? Your MLCer wants to reconcile and may or may not have moved home. Reconciliation is a commitment to work together to heal and rebuild. It’s a higher level of reconnection. If your MLCer is still in the we’ll see if we can make it work phase; it’s reconnection, but not reconciliation—though if close to committing, they may be doing the reconciliation work. But that phase indicates a built-in we tried excuse for failing. There are still no guarantees, but with a genuine effort from both partners in which the main goal is to recover their marriage, reconciliation is likely. If there is still an alienator, it’s not reconciliation. If they are half-heartedly committed, it’s not reconciliation.
Counseling is vital. Sure, some couples recover without professional help, but counseling can maximize the benefits and your chance for success. Counselors are trained in working with couples through crisis—and infidelity is not rare. A counseling professional who is committed to the success of your marriage can guide you through some of the challenges you will be facing.
Your MLCer needs to have an understanding of how and why they strayed. You need this understanding too—what part did you play in the breakdown. Simple excuses won’t do it either. Both partners need to put in an effort to understand deeply. Effort counts; neither of you may come to an understanding, after MLC a person can look back and they are as shocked as we were at what they did.
But regardless of understanding, the betraying partner needs to own their actions and accept that they were not appropriate. Both partners contribute to the successes and failures of a relationship, but the betraying partner chose to have an affair and/or leave. Infidelity is not the fault of the left behind spouse.
Your MLCer needs to acknowledge and accept your pain—regardless of whether they have a full understanding of it. As for you, you need to understand their hesitancy. Some avoid counseling because they think it will cause the two of you to regress back to that bad place as you relive the memories. They assume you’ve got a good thing now, so why mess with a good thing.
Your MLCer is right, you will dredge up pain, but that means the pain is still there. If you don’t dredge it up in a controlled therapeutic environment, it may burst out late, when there is not a mediator or a structure and it may not be apparent that it is related to the past hurt.
Returning to those memories will also be a painful and shameful reminder to your MLCer of what they did and even more frightening, of what they are capable of doing. Who wants that? Understand these fears, but just because they have them does not mean you should not go to counseling. Understand their fears instead of assuming that an voidance of counseling means they are less committed; often their avoidance is because of their commitment.
Committing is a Verb
What can you do to make your marriage a priority?
- Date nights
- Shared activities
- Scheduled US time each day
- Hello and Goodbye rituals
- Eat meals together
- Brainstorm your own…
Look at your list. How will you do those things? Write a Plan of Action for each item and then put it in motion.
It will take time to grow into security so that you both feel safe with each other again. You may have a lot of questions for your spouse. But your MLCer needs to heal and forgive themself and experience your reassurance and forgiveness before they will feel safe opening up.
I am now speaking to both of you. How can you translate focusing on your own healing and your relationship into distinct goals? Marital Reconciliation is your large goal. Create smaller, action-oriented, positively stated goals that lead to your larger goal.
- List what you are going to do, rather than what you are going to avoid.
- But at the same time, the most successful people are motivated by both toward and away motivations. You are working toward a goal, success, achievement and away from depression, separation etc.
- How will you know you are reaching these goals? What measurable signs will you see as evidence?
- Small goals lead to larger goals. Though you have a future goal, keep your focus on each present moment without forgetting the future goal.
- Reward yourself for the small milestones so as not to become stuck when you view the as yet unrealized larger goal. The future goal is a reminder of the rewards to come.
- Take control of your success. You are a team. Work together, and control only yourselves, not each other. You get to be an active participant in this life!
- As you progress, compare yourself only to your own situation. You may progress faster or slower than others. Each person’s pace is different.
- If you feel you are not progressing fast enough, look back at how far you have come.
- Recognize your achievements thus far and rejoice.