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Formula for Infidelity

Dr. Goulston gives us 4 R’s to heal a marriage that’s been hurt by infidelity:  Remorse, Restitution, Rehabilitation, Request for Forgiveness.

Remorse is not the same as regret.  When you feel regret you look back at something you’ve done and think, “Wow, that was a stupid thing to do.  Wish I could go back and do it over, but I can’t, so let’s move on.”  Regret makes people who’ve been hurt feel as if they have no right to be hurt.  When you feel remorse, you think of your past actions and feel sick, ashamed, you’d give your eye teeth to have a do-over.  But mostly?  Mostly you just can’t stand that you hurt your spouse.  Showing remorse for infidelity will help your hurt spouse feel cared for, listened to, and understood.  You can show feelings of remorse by looking into your partners eyes, listening to them talk about their feelings of pain, and by expressing the pain you feel when you witness how much your actions have hurt them.  Remorse requires courage to admit that you’ve made a terrible mistake, that your actions hurt someone you love, and that you’ll do whatever you need to do to be forgiven.

Spouses who’ve been cheated on feel as if they’ve had something stolen from them, they feel violated and taken advantage of.  They need Restitution, which literally means, the restoration of something lost or stolen.  You can help your spouse find restitution by showing remorse, and then asking them what they need from you so that they can begin to heal.  Ask your spouse what you can do to give them back what they lost.  They may say there is nothing you can do.  Be patient, give them time.

Many times when a spouse cheats, they’ve cheated because they are angry or upset or disappointed with some aspect of their marriage. Rehabilitation is an excellent way to help your partner find Restitution.  Get Rehabilitated.  Show your partner that you’ve learned how to deal with your unhappiness in a healthy way, rather than in a way that is a betrayal to them (through infidelity).  Show your partner that you are happy to have learned a new coping mechanism, and that you have confidence that you will be a trustworthy spouse from now on.

The last of the 4 R’s is Requesting Forgiveness.  Dr. Goulston says it can take between six and eighteen months for a couple to heal from infidelity.  If you’ve shown remorse, if you’ve given your partner restitution and rehabilitated yourself, you have the right to Request Forgiveness.  You deserve a second chance.  If your partner refuses to forgive you even after all 4 R’s, the problem shifts from you’re being unforgivable, to their being unforgiving.  It’s up to them to stop Holding Onto A Grudge.

For more of Dr. Goulston’s Usable Insight, click here.

When a spouse cheats

Tiger and Elin are getting a divorce, Sandra Bullock’s filing for a divorce, and Larry King is thinking about divorce.  Each of these celebrities has something in common that led to their divorces – infidelity.  But do we have to suffer through a divorce if a spouse has been unfaithful?

Dr. Mark Goulston says that when you betray someone’s trust at such a deep level, you trigger four intense reactions in them: Hurt, Hate, Hesitation To Trust and Holding Onto A Grudge (the 4 H’s).

When your spouse finds out you’ve had an affair, feelings of intense and devastating pain are triggered.  Many people feel as if they’ve been made a fool of, they feel ashamed, embarrassed, they feel anger at themselves for failing to see.  They feel as if they’ve been living in a lie, as if they are not respected or loved by their spouse.  They may become physically ill, depressed, angry or volatile.  All of these reactions are reactions to hurt.

Realizing that you’ve been lied to by your spouse, that the very person who promised to love, honor and respect you has gone behind your back and broken the vows of your marriage and then lied about it, may trigger anger so strong it can only be called hate.

The spouse who ignores their gut feelings and convinces themselves they’re being crazy, or who confronts you and believes you when you swear there’s no one else, is going to experience an enormous Hesitation to Trust.  How can they possibly lower their guard and trust again, when surely they will only be re-traumatized?

A spouse who has been cheated on will want to protect themselves against future pain.  Even if your spouse wants to get back together, it is frightening and painful to learn to trust after such a huge betrayal.  It’s much easier to Hold Onto A Grudge.  Holding Onto A Grudge allows a spouse who’s been cheated on to keep their guard up and hold it up with fortified bursts of anger.

What can you do if you or your spouse has cheated?  How can you get past the 4 H’s and heal your marriage?   Check back tomorrow to find out.