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An Emotional Restitution Letter is an opportunity for the unfaithful partner to:
pull together all the work that he/she has done, and
to validate the betrayed partner's experience.
The focus should be on the betrayed partner and NOT to get empathy or sympathy for the unfaithful partner.
Revisit the work that has been done in Step 5 - Own - Taking Responsibility. Review the "details of taking responsibility" subsection and write out how this portion applies for you. Leave no doubt that the responsibility for the affair is 100% on you, the unfaithful partner.
In this section, you should explicitly release your partner from blame. This doesn't mean that the betrayed spouse may not have to work on the marriage but that is held completely separate from the infidelity. Lastly, take responsibility for the negative consequences that the affair may have had on your spouse and on others including children, extended family and friends.
Infidelity causes a betrayed partner to feel unwanted, not enough, and sometimes at fault. Review your insights from Step 3 - "Learned from the Affair" section and share what you learned with an emphasis on the deeper root causes, particularly those that relate to you, the unfaithful partner. Emphasize the wounds that existed prior to the marriage. Demonstrate that you clearly see how your history and your dysfunctional patterns drove your behaviors. Connect what you have learned with your new perspective with which you see yourself, your partner, and the world you live in.
Betrayed partners often don't know how to trust anymore. They feel foolish and may resolve never to trust again. They have lost confidence that they can discern if someone (or anyone) is trustworthy.
Your job is to validate your partner's struggle with trust. Tell him/her that this reaction makes sense! Follow that with a commitment to personal accountability and long-term trust-building.
Talk about your "plan for change" including the 3 circle plan, your support plan, and check-ins. Make it clear that you do NOT expect your partner to trust you in certain situations or areas of your life. You realized that you sacrificed that by past behaviors. Restate your desire to be transparent in all matters and that you know this is good for yourself and your partner.
Express appreciation for boundaries that your partner may have created. Tell your partner that you welcome the existing boundaries and invite future ones, even if they have may restrictive or negative impacts on you or the family. Make it clear that you fully understand the the necessity of the boundaries and will never forget that your past behaviors gave rise to them. Also, commit to refraining from negative comments or complaints to others (especially the kids) about the boundaries that your partner has requested. For example, never say to the children that "Mommy won't let me use the I-Pad at night". Rather say: "I made some bad decisions using technology in the past so I have promised not to use the I-Pad at night".
Affairs require an unfaithful partner to expend tremendous amounts of energy to hide shameful behaviors. To accomplish the deception, it is common for the unfaithful partner to develop narratives that exist to cover-up, distract, or muddy the waters. The stories are often told to the betrayed spouse and to other important people (including children, co-workers, and friends).
For example, an unfaithful partner may make up a story about a difficult client that required frequent trouble-shooting visits. Even more damaging, the unfaithful partner may have doubled down by making fun of the betrayed partner, saying that he/she was over-reacting or acting paranoid. As the lies grow, they begin to shape the unfaithful partner's identity, eventually permeating all areas of life.
Even though your partner probably will not be ready to believe it, now is the time to fully admit the gravity and the damage of this type of deception and to share your commitment to a new full honesty, one that is free from shame, hiding and misdirection.
Express deep gratitude for your partner's participation in recovery and for listening to the Restitution letter. Acknowledge how hard it must have been to deal with all that has transpired. Invite questions or comments that your partner may have. Promise to listen intently so you can understand the questions. Lastly, commit to giving thoughtful, honest and complete answers.
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