Even after completing the forgiveness and reconciliation work set forth in Steps 1 through 6, a couple may struggle to fully commit to a renewed relationship.
A FORK IN THE ROAD
This point in recovery is an incredibly vulnerable moment for the both partners. Consider:
On the unfaithful partner's side, it can feel vulnerable to feel in a one-down position for a long period and to imagine the rest of your life being that way. Perhaps your partner has accepted your apology and the plan for change for now, but will it stick? Will I be able to be handle seeing the pain that I have caused my partner over the long term?
On the betrayed partner’s side, she/he never wants to feel betrayed. It is horrifying to imagine going through the pain of infidelity another time. The plan for change seems real and my partner seems committed but can it really be trusted? Did my partner really change? How do I truly know?
These doubts will be thoroughly explored and discussed when working through the earlier stages of recovery. Now the couple has come to a fork in the road where they will have an opportunity to make a conscious choice for a new future.
To be clear, the fork is:
COMMIT: A commitment to a new relationship which is based on a new respect for honesty, a new understanding of yourself and your relationship, empathy and care, a concrete plan for change, and a set of shared boundaries for safety and future behaviors, or
END: A decision to end the relationship and commit to a new life without an intimate relationship with your partner.
This decision point is a true crucible for the relationship. Both partners may waffle, going back and forth in this decision process for some time before each is clear on his/her decision. The path to recommitment can not be rushed. If you are not able to decide either way, stay in the process.
REBIRTH OF THE COUPLE
If and when the couple decides to recommit, a rebirth of the relationship can take place. This means that the couple is in agreement that a new relationship is worth fighting for. They commit to talk about the past wounds without using the past as a weapon to hurt each other. They know that much work remains ahead but they have a new shared purpose and a strong sense of hope.
RECOMMITMENT CEREMONY / VOWS
Some couples take the extra step of renewing vows to mark the rebirth of their relationship. This reinforces the recovery work that was done and creates a memorable experience to use as an anchor for stability when times get rocky.
We encourage couples to review their original vows and update them based on all that they have learned. The vow renewal ceremony has the added benefit of bringing loved ones who are important to the couple into the recovery experience so they can extend encouragement and support to the couple throughout the new marriage.
FOUNDATIONAL COUPLES THERAPY
When and if a couple has recommitted to the relationship, foundational couples therapy can begin. This work allows the couple to focus on:
issues that have been sidelined by the affair,
family fallout related to the affair,
unhealthy patterns that still exist in the relationship,
re-establishing lost intimacy (first emotional and when and if ready sexual), and
building a shared vision for the future.
With dedication to this process and an experienced therapy support team, foundational couples therapy can be rewarding work and a refreshing shift from the previous affair recovery efforts.
If you are reading this at the beginning of the journey, and you are deep in crisis, this commitment stage may seem either miraculous or unbelievable.
That’s OK. Trust us because we have seen the miracles happen, even for couples with truly painful stories. The miracles are made more possible by a lot of hard work and faith in yourself and your partner. We would be honored to support you in your affair recovery journey.