Your Cheating Spouse: Recovering From an Affair and Rebuilding a Relationship
For 18 years, Anne Bercht thought she had the perfect marriage. Then one day her husband, Brian Bercht, told her he was having an affair.
“For 18 years, I was in a good marriage,” said Bercht, who lives in the Canada’s western-most province, British Columbia.
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“I really prioritized marriage,” she said. “My husband and I both prioritized marriage. And when he came home one night and said he was having an affair, I was shocked. The first words I said, which was a mistake, were ‘I forgive you.’ And then, of course, I told him he could never see her again.”
The silence was deafening. It was then, said Bercht, that she realized her husband was unsure if he wanted to be with her or his mistress. After demanding several days later that her husband make a choice between her and his mistress, he did. It was the other woman. He left for two weeks.
“In my mind, I went from a great marriage to (no) marriage in a matter of days,” said Bercht, an author and professional speaker, who, with her husband, has been quoted in numerous print publications and appeared on Oprah and E! television network.
But people can heal just as the Bercht’s eventually did. They celebrated their 26th anniversary this week.
“I didn’t understand it,” she recalled. “I thought we should have been fighting. We should have been having less intimacy, less sex. There was nothing leading up to it. But the trauma that ensued took more than two-and-a-half years to heal. But we came out on the other side stronger and more in love than ever.”
The Purpose of Relationships
We’re all in life for a purpose and, often, we look to our relationships for that same sense of purpose, psychotherapist Marcella Bakur Weiner recently told FOXNews.com.
So when someone cheats on their significant other, it’s usually because that sense of purpose isn’t being realized, Weiner said.
“In a marriage, when people have an affair, it’s usually because something’s not going on in terms of our expectations,” said Weiner, who has authored three books on infidelity and has counseled numerous couples on the subject at her private practice based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
But people can work past an affair and rebuild their relationships, if they want to, said Weiner.
“Not everybody wants to work it out,” she explained. “Some people say this affair opened my eyes to what I’m not getting and what I need. But if people want to work it out, they need to sit down, go to their rabbi or priest or a therapist and talk honestly about what they need. Everything starts at home. It starts inside. If you’re not willing to be honest about what you need, then you’re not going to get it.”
In a book called, "Repairing Your Marriage After His Affair: A Woman's Guide to Hope and Healing," Weiner and co-author/psychotherapist, Armand DiMele, advise couples trying to recover from an affair that the most important thing they can do is rebuild trust.
To do that, spouses must:
— Come to terms with the sense of loss and betrayal
— Cope with feelings of suspicion
— Deal with the children during and after the affair
— Find the best sources of emotional support
When trying to heal, spouses sometimes forget about the children, who, even as toddlers are often aware that there is something wrong in their parents’ marriage and may feel neglected.
“We all have energy levels and we can’t do equally well two things at the same time,” she said. “You can’t have an affair and also have a successful marriage. When you’re paying attention to one thing, you can’t equally concentrate on another. Affairs are a dangerous thing. They’re immoral and when you’re in one, you’re leading a double life. It’s also expensive and you’re always worried about getting caught.”
While working through the affair that rocked her marriage, Bercht immediately went out and bought a few self-help books, none of which focused on cheating specifically, nor did they detail the struggles of real couples.
“I wanted to read the story of someone who had been through what I was going through,” she said. “But most people suffer in isolation. So I wrote the book I wished I would have been able to find. Since then, it’s been an unbelievable journey.”
The book, "My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," has been a best seller and launched Anne and Brian Bercht’s speaking careers. Anne Bercht also is the director of the Beyond Affair Network, an international nonprofit network that seeks to provide couples in crisis the support they need to work through their problems free of charge, just as Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups do.
“I like to listen to people,” she said. “I don’t have a one-size fits all approach. But one thing I tell all couples is not to make any major decisions for three months after learning about an affair. Get yourself eating and sleeping again. Educate yourself, read a few books and make a decision from an educated perspective and not an emotional one.”
For the Berchts, what worked was correcting their own faults and learning to accept each other for who they are.
“You’ve got to clarify at the initial stage of recovery what you are trying to achieve,” she said. “You have to look at your own issues. Our first instinct is to blame the other person. But I realized that if I wanted to stay in my marriage, I had things that needed to change. My husband had things he needed to change too. We no longer expect perfection from each other. I’ve accepted and am aware of his faults and he has accepted and is aware of my faults. And we continue to work on the relationship and work to meet each other's needs.”