I spend a lot of time thinking about the couples I do therapy with.
Usually whilst out walking with my Lovely Labrador Louis.
Walking through the woods and on the beach with my dog, is the ideal setting for contemplating.
It’s when I have most of my best ideas and breakthroughs.
And I’ll often have to stop and write notes.
This happened recently whilst I was out walking with Louis, I was working with a couple battling to overcome the world-shattering impact of his affair.
Here’s the letter I wrote to him.
And I’m sharing it here because it might be of some benefit to you too.
Note: Any names, specific situations, or identifying details have been deliberately changed to protect privacy.
I was out exercising with my Labrador Louis this morning.
And I found myself thinking about you.
My thinking went like this:
It’s very good you understand, accept, and verbally express there’s no excuse for your affair.
…And because you’re a good man with a conscience, you’ve automatically put yourself in the metaphorical ‘Dog House’.
But living there won’t help you or your wife.
So what will you ask?
…And here’s the answer:
Making amends means you have to start acting like someone who is committed to doing what they can to put right what they put wrong.
It’s more than feeling and acting guilty.
It’s regularly and consistently doing those small actions required to rebuild trust.
- Keeping your word – If you say you’re going to do something… Do it.
- Being transparent and vulnerable – Your wife isn’t telepathic and all that stuff whirling around in your heat, that stuff that’s bothering you, that stuff that makes you feel all squirmy inside… That’s the stuff you need to share with her.
- Being there – Your wife needs to know that if she calls out for you… You will come.
Look, you know you’ve betrayed your wife.
But I want to give you a real taste of what that means to her. A taste of the impact your affair has had on her.
Not so you can feel worse about the affair.
You already feel bad enough.
But so you will commit fully to the hard road to Marriage 2.0 which lies in front of you.
If someone betrays you, you think:
“Who were you? Because you weren’t who I thought you were, and I thought I knew you, but I didn’t know you at all. And I never knew you, so all the things we did together, those weren’t the things that I thought were happening.
Something else was happening and you were someone else and that means I’m someone else because I thought I knew what was going on and clearly I didn’t. I’m some kind of blind sucker or someone who’s so naive they can barely live.
I don’t understand anything about human beings and I don’t understand anything about myself and I have no idea of where I am now. I thought I was at home, but I’m not. I’m in a house and it’s full of strangers and I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow, or next week, or next year.
It’s like all of my certainty has collapsed and I’m terrified.”
This is an excerpt from a video by Jordan Peterson.
I hope it gives you some sense of what your wife is experiencing.
As a result of your affair, her present, her future, and even her past have collapsed because her certainty about you and your relationship together has been destroyed.
The good news is 2/3’s of marriages survive an affair.
But we don’t want your marriage to simply survive.
We want to rebuild Marriage 2.0 and for it to be even better because of the lessons you’ve both learned as a result of your work with me.
…You know what to do (make amends) and you know why you’re doing it (to rebuild trust). But there’s something else I thought about whilst thinking about you on Louis’s morning walk.
A teacher of mine once told me success is two parts:
- Showing up
- Keep showing up
Most fail with part 2.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because, when the road seems long with no light in sight (and it will)…
…When it feels you’re not making any progress and you’re tempted to quit or speak unkindly (and it will)…
…Remember what you read here about betrayal and how your affair has destroyed the certainty your wife felt about her present, her past, and her future.
Remember it so you can resolve to dig deeper, roll your sleeves up and continue to make amends.
As another teacher of mine once told me:
“Most marriages fail due to how poorly the guy shows up.”
This is a generalisation but please try to be the one guy this month that asks if the two of you can practice the exercises I’ve set you.
It’s a little-known fact, successful marriage therapy is directly linked to the level of hope your wife continues to have in you.
I believe in you X, (otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered to write and send you this message).
And I wish you success in this work.
Bye for now
I work with couples in crisis. I don’t fix relationships. I enable couples to get clear on what they want and need so they can make an informed decision as to how best to proceed. Sometimes that’s together and sometimes it’s apart. If you’d like my help go here next.