Step Two — Telling
If you wait for the perfect time to confess your affair to your spouse, you probably will never find it. However, there are some guidelines that will help.
Pick a time and place where you have plenty of privacy and plenty of time. Children barging in, someone having to leave for an appointment, other people overhearing — are all bad. It's better to have the kids in bed or visiting grandparents or friends. Don't wait until late night when emotions aren't as stable. Don't pick a restaurant thinking that being in a public place might mitigate the response. This is a private matter and should be handled privately.
Start with the news that you are about to talk about something very important but very painful. Point out that you have only one motive for telling and no other — you wish to save your marriage. Remember that one because you'll probably have to come back to it later. You may hear questions in the future such as, "Did you tell me just to hurt me?" "Did you tell me so I would divorce you so you could be with ____?" When those questions come, do NOT be defensive. Calmly repeat as often and as gently as needed, "I told you because I love you, am truly sorry for what I did, and want to save our marriage."
Tell it in simple language in as few words as possible. This is not a time for long stories and CERTAINLY not the time to say anything that even remotely resembles justifying what you have done. You begin with, "I'm so very sorry" and then tell the basics. At the beginning and at every point where it is needed, say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I will do whatever it takes to make this marriage work." Let his or her questions guide the conversation. Do not call what you did a "mistake" because it wasn't. You knew what you were doing was wrong. Call it that. Wrong. Sin. Not a mistake. Avoid weak words such as "apologize" and stay with strong ones such as "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
Do not defend your behavior in any way. Especially do not react to your spouse's emotions in kind. Take the anger, hurt, resentment, and such without reacting in any way other than to understand. Your spouse has a right to be angry and to say some things that you don't want to hear. Tolerate it. You started this by having the affair; you take the consequences. As noted earlier, answer every question without embellishment or telling what wasn't asked. Keep focus.
In no way say anything that appears to defend the other person. Even if your spouse is calling him/her all sorts of terrible names, this is not the time to disagree. Let your spouse vent without having any doubt that you understand the pain and that you are not in any way on anyone's side but his/hers.
Stay in this conversation as long as your spouse wishes it to continue. However, end it or remove yourself if it appears violence is about to take place.
Repeat every so often how sorry you are, that you have no justification, that you ask for forgiveness, and that you want to do whatever it takes to make the marriage work if s/he is willing.
Step Three — Following Through
Penitent people do not make demands.
If you say anything to your spouse that indicates he or she has to forgive you if they are as religious as they claim, or anything similar, you will bury your marriage. If you truly are penitent and truly want to save your marriage, you take whatever grace and mercy is offered and do not demand more. Give your spouse time to deal with this. It may take days, weeks, or even months. Allow healing.
For at least six months — maybe longer — make sure that your spouse always knows where you are, what you are doing, and the like. Account for every penny. Give your spouse complete and total access to all emails, Facebook accounts, cell phones, or anything else. While no one can live forever under such minute scrutiny, you can and should live that way for a while as your spouse rebuilds trust in you.
Be proactive in making your marriage better. Perhaps you could see a counselor together, but make sure that counselor shares your beliefs and values and will work to strengthen your marriage. Read books together. Most importantly, make time to talk — really talk — with each other so that you can build a new methodology of communication that will draw you closer.
Many couples find a faster route to healing comes from attending our three-day workshop for marriages in crisis. If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you're thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone and we'll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can't attend the workshop.
This article was originally published at MarriageHelper.com.