“I just wish it could go back to the way it used to be. We were so happy before he cheated. I loved our marriage. And despite what he says, I think he did too. We had so much fun together. I wonder if we’ll ever feel that way again .
Do you think our marriage will ever be the same? Can’t we just go back to how it was before the affair?”
I can’t begin to tell you how many people have asked me questions like these over the years. I would say it’s one of the most common questions I get in my practice.
And, frankly, when I hear this question it always reminds me of the problem thinking that often leads to divorce.
Let me tell you why.
You Don’t Want to Go Back to How it Was
If your marriage was in such great shape to begin with, how likely is it you would be facing the problems you are dealing with right now?
Pretty unlikely, right?
If you have followed my writing for any time at all, you will realize that I consider it a well-established fact that the cheater and the cheater alone is responsible for the affair. It is not your fault that this happened.
However, if your relationship was a good as it could possibly be, it seems to me much more unlikely that your spouse would have made such a painful choice.
So why would you want to go back to a time in your marriage when you were inadvertently setting yourself up to be where you are right now? Why would you choose to go back to how it was before the affair if how it was before the affair might have given your spouse the justification or motivation that lead to the affair in the first place?
Here’s the truth: You don’t want your relationship to be the same as it was before the affair.
I’m sure there were times in your past as a couple when you were giddy with happiness and excitement. I imagine that you had evenings of wonderful romance and you cherished memories of the profound sense of safety and peace that came in what you thought was a well-functioning marriage.
But to romanticize this past and ignore what it ultimately lead to (the affair) is not going to take you where you need to go if you want to heal your marriage. Believing that everything would be okay if you just went back to how things were before the affair is a fantasy-one that does not serve you well.
Besides, it isn’t possible anyway. We can’t go back in life we can only go forward. The past is in the past. The real question isn’t whether or not you can go back to the way things were, it’s: How do you want things to be in the future? What kind of marriage do you want to create in the years to come?
This is what you need to be thinking about.
To put the point bluntly, your marriage will never be the same as it once was. That’s a simple reality. The affair has irrevocably altered the course of your relationship and your life.
It can’t be taken back, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen (well, you can, but where will it get you?), and imaging that your life or your marriage will somehow end up unaffected by the affair in the long run is a bit naive.
In fact, you will never forget the affair. If you work to heal your marriage, it probably won’t haunt you as it does now; you can get to a place where the memories and the pain move to the back of your mind and only arise on rare, even very rare occasions, but you can’t excise the event from your memory no matter how much you try.
What you can do (and I have seen this happen over and over again despite how unbelievable it sounds on the surface) is make your marriage better than it has ever been. You can get to a place where you experience more happiness, more safety, more honesty, and more love than you did before the affair.
In fact, you can use the affair as a means to catapult you to this better-than-ever marriage if you know how. Couples, when they first hear this, often have a difficult time believing that this much improvement is possible.
However, I am an eye-witness to watching couples who do the necessary work to heal their marriages actually bring about the needed changes and then turn the marriage into a relationship that is better than ever.
These successful couples are happy. They feel safe with each other. They have love.
What more could you want?
To get there, you have to abandon the notion that you are going to go back to how it was before the affair. Then, you can commit to the work necessary to make your marriage far better in the future.
Once you make this cognitive leap and realize that deep down what you want is a better marriage right now and every day for the rest of your life, then you can start working to make it happen.
Here is what it takes.
What You Need to Make Your Marriage Better than Ever
There are four things you need to start the process toward making your marriage better than ever. They are:
1. Love. Without love, no marriage thrives. Love is the foundation. I don’t believe you can have a deeply connected relationship without it.
2. Commitment. Both of you have to be committed to each other and to the process of working through the difficulties in your relationship if you’re going to heal it. If only one of you makes this commitment, it will be much harder and perhaps impossible to save your marriage.
3. Hard Work. This process isn’t going to be easy. Healing from an affair or rebuilding a relationship that is in danger for other reasons takes diligent attention over an extended period of time. That’s just reality.
4. Knowledge. Even if you have love and commitment and you both are willing to work hard, if you don’t know how to make your marriage better than ever, it probably isn’t going to happen. You can seek out and acquire the knowledge you need as long as you have the other three factors in place.
I don’t want to oversimplify the prerequisites for healing from an affair and building a truly happy marriage. But essentially, this is all it takes to “get the ball rolling” to make your marriage into the marriage you most want it to be.
The first three factors are completely up to you and your spouse. No one can give them to you. I can’t make you love, commit, or work hard for the sake of your relationship. I can tell you that, in my view, it’s worthwhile to do the work necessary to save your marriage. But I can’t give you the feelings and sense of dedication necessary.
Assuming you have love, commitment, and are willing to work hard, I can help you attain the knowledge you need to heal. That’s what my programs How to Survive an Affair and Saving Your Marriage are designed to do.
These step-by-step programs are structured to help you move from the pain you are in right now to a relationship that is better than ever.
I hope you take advantage of this information so you can experience the healing.
In the meantime, let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage.
Do you dream of going back to the way things once were?
How would it be useful to return to the past-what changes would you have made then that you could make now?
What are your thoughts on creating a marriage that is better than ever?