Marriages can survive infidelity, but is thriving really possible for the couple? This is a question I get asked a lot, and in this episode you’ll understand why the answer is a resounding YES!
Rebuilding a marriage after infidelity requires some specific tools and mindset shifts. It requires resiliency, curiosity, and a determination to change the narrative surrounding the infidelity.
In this episode, you’ll learn what these tools and skills are, and how to implement them. You’ll be able to identify what areas you are stuck in and concrete solutions to truly moving forward and building a marriage that is stronger and more intimate than what you had before.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast,
episode number 35, Thriving After Infidelity.
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast for courageous women.
Learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become the
boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever.
If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently living, but
don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around
to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it
possible? It is. And I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello everybody. Today I want to go head on with a question that I get a
lot. I want to just dive into it, okay? So something that I get asked a lot
is if they choose to stay with their partner, with their spouse, whatever
it may be, can they actually thrive? Can they actually get to a place where
they feel really, really happy? Or is it just getting back to this status
quo and getting to a place where you can be in the same room together, but
not really being super thrilled to be there?
This episode is geared towards people who want to stay, but want to feel
better while staying. They might like their reasons for staying, but they
still feel pretty miserable while in it. That’s what I’m addressing today.
Now, I want you to hear me on this. If you are somebody that is not sure if
you want to stay or leave this episode is for you. If you are somebody who
knows that you want to leave, or somebody whose spouse left, you can listen
to this and totally apply it to yourself. You can totally apply it to
yourself. But I am going to be speaking as if you are staying. And then I
want you to you adapt it to where you are and it will be helpful.
So I want to say there is no wrong reason to stay. It is such a weighted
question about if you stay or go. There’s much at stake, right? Much to
consider. And so a lot goes into that decision. The only thing I care about
is that you like your reasons for staying. For example, if you want to stay
because you don’t think that you can ever find anybody who might love you,
I might give you some pushback on that. I might ask you how you know that,
how you know that that’s true? And if you knew that there were other people
out there who could love you and be good to you, would you choose to stay
still? Or would you choose to leave?
Sometime you might think that you want to stay because you don’t want to
not have the financial security that you have now. That’s fine. Some people
stay for financial security. I just want you to like your reasons for it.
If you like your reasons for it, then I back you up in it. Sometimes we
think that we need to leave a marriage because we want to escape a problem
and think that it would be so much better out there than it is in here.
They find though oftentimes, you’ve heard me talk about this, that
sometimes the problems follow you if they have not been dealt with, if the
work has not been done to clean up your thinking to heal, to challenge the
beliefs that you have brought with you about why the infidelity happened.
You may take with you some trust issues, emotional struggles, because
you’ve not actually worked them through.
Another thing that people stay for sometimes is for the kids. And all I
suggest, like I said, there is no wrong reason. I just want you to like
your reason. I want your reason to feel good and abundant to you and not
scarcity driven. Not because you’re afraid. I want it to feel good. So if
kids is your reason, like we’re staying for the kids, I just want you to
tell both sides of the story. So it goes like this. If the kids were going
to be fine either way, what would I choose? If they were going to be in a
space of growing and learning how to be resilient, and I trusted that, what
would I choose? If you still choose to stay, awesome. If you choose to
leave, awesome. I just want you to challenge yourself with those questions.
Now, I’m going to come back now to those of you who are wanting to stay,
you like your reasons for staying, but you’re wondering if you’ll ever
actually feel better? If you’ll ever actually feel like you’re thriving and
not just surviving? All right, I get questions like this all the time. Will
I just have to white-knuckle my way through the rest of my life? Is this as
good as it’s going to get? Or is there actually more? And if there is more,
how can I reach that?
I am going to spend this episode giving you a few tips and some ways to
reframe your thinking that will help develop your sense of thriving in your
marriage. I even suggest having your partner listen to this episode,
because it’s a mindset that if both of you adopt, there’s no end to how
amazing your marriage can be. But even you, you listener, who’s listening
to this, you can adopt this and see great progress just by you practicing
what I’m going to say.
There’s a few ways that I want you to think about this three tips that I’m
going to give you. One of the biggest ways that I want you to think about
this, like one of the biggest shifts I want you to make is this belief
that, that was marriage number one, this is marriage number two. Marriage
number one is over. It’s done. Marriage number two is what we are now
building. Esther Perel has a quote that I love. She said it, I couldn’t
find it, but it says something like, “Most of us have several marriages
throughout our lives, many times to the same person.”
You can have multiple marriages to the same person. And that’s what I’m
going to talk about today. So number one, tip number one, focus on what you
are building and not what was lost. I want you to think about building a
house. Let’s say it’s an old house. It’s really old. And it needs to get
torn down to place a better, newer home there, more functional, more
stable. Sometimes it even needs to be dug down to the foundation,
completely starting over. Sometimes the foundation’s actually pretty good.
It just needs a new structure on top.
So last time this house was built, maybe the people who built it didn’t
know a whole lot about building a house that would stand the test of time.
Maybe they just didn’t know. And maybe when some of the things in the home
started falling apart, they learned what they would like to do differently
next time and made notes of it. When we rebuild, this is what we’re going
The second process of building is more intentional. It’s a slower process.
It’s being super intentional about each feature that you want. Now you may
look at that old home and have some fond memories, some sad memories, maybe
even some happy ones. Maybe some features you want to duplicate, and maybe
some that you want to leave behind. Marriage number two is like that new
place, this new structure that you’re building. What do you want it to look
like? It’s about intention. It’s about creating with intention and building
with intention and taking the things with that you love and treasure that
were working, building those into this new plan and leaving behind the
things that are no longer serving you. Leaving them with that house that’s
getting torn down, demolished. Letting it go. Letting it go.
Now, how do you do this? Something that I teach about a lot is creating the
result that you want. That we are very powerful and can create a result
that we want. So if you go back to one of my first episodes, it’s called
The Thought Model. I go into this in detail. We have circumstances. We have
thoughts about our circumstances. Our thoughts create our feelings. We take
action from our feelings, and then we create results from the actions that
So how does this work with this? This is how it works. Get out paper and
pen. You write in the result line, the result that you want. “I want to
feel peace in my marriage.” Okay? “I want to feel peace.” Your result might
be different than that. That’s something I hear a lot, “I just want to feel
peace.” So it’s working backwards. If you’re going to build a house, if I
want it to look like this and feel like this, how does it need to be built?
Where do the walls and boundaries need to be put? What safety measures need
to be in so the house doesn’t crumble? You’re doing the same thing. “I want
to feel at peace in my marriage.” You’re going into that action line and
going, what do I need to be doing? What safety precautions? How do I need
to be showing up in my marriage? What do I need to be setting boundaries
around? How do I need to be showing compassion? All of those things, those
go in your actions.
What do I need to be feeling to create those actions, to go and do those
actions? What do I need to be thinking? And you’re literally being the
architect of your results. Isn’t that powerful? You’re not sitting around
waiting for somebody else to come build your house for you. Waiting for the
person that has this eight months back up of other people in front of you.
You’re not waiting. You’re doing it yourself. It takes work. It takes grit.
It takes willingness to get your hands dirty. Maybe scrape your knee. But
you’re willing. You’re willing to go and build it deliberately.
In this new home that you’re building, you’re not randomly slapping up
walls, right? You’re not painting it with the cheap cans of paint at Home
Depot that somebody returned because they’re the wrong color. You are
picking deliberately. You are picking the best things for this home that
you love. You are intentionally putting in piece by piece how you want it
to be, how you want it to feel. It’s the same with building marriage number
two. Marriage number one is in the past, you take from it the things that
you want to bring to marriage number two, and you leave the rest behind.
Tip number two: find the most empowering version of the story. Let me give
you an example. Let’s say that that house got burned to the ground. Let’s
say that your spouse was the one that was negligent and didn’t protect the
house and let it burn. Maybe a candle was gone too long. Maybe there was an
oven fire that nobody saw and it caused the home to burn to the ground. Now
the spouse of the person that lit the fire can spend the rest of their life
being resentful and bitter that the spouse was not careful enough to
protect their home. They could make it mean that they don’t care about the
home, that they don’t value the home, that they don’t value the people that
live in the home, right?
Or the partner can choose very deliberately to put it behind them, to give
compassion and understanding, to maybe set expectations about next time, to
put things in place to make it so the house doesn’t burn down in the
future. Like better fire alarms, better systems, to keep the structure
safe. But they can make a decision of if they’re going to hold it over that
person’s head forever more. That it was them that lit the match that
started the fire that burned the house down.
How that equates to marriage, I’m guessing that you guys listening are
smart. You can put this together. But that we have that choice that we can
choose a version of the story that’s empowering. We can tell a story that
serves all of us, that helps in the rebuilding. To even be excited about
it. Now, keep in mind, we’re not skipping over grief or loss. We’re not
skipping over those parts, but we’re choosing to move forward from them.
We’re choosing to allow ourselves to process them. For example, if
somebody’s house got burned down, I don’t suggest just pretending like
you’re fine with it, right? I would suggest feeling it and being sad that
your house burned down, and grieving, and feeling it, and then
intentionally deciding how you’re going to rebuild. Same thing. You can
still feel it and process it and be sad and be mad, and all of those
things. And then you’re intentionally deciding how you’re going to move
Tip number three, so you’ve been hearing me talk about Esther Perel a lot
recently. If you don’t know who she is, go check her out. She’s very, very
knowledgeable and has done studies about infidelity all over the world.
It’s so interesting to hear how different cultures respond in different
ways. But in all of her studies, there’s one trait. There’s one trait that
people who really use infidelity as a springboard have in common. And she
calls it, they’re explorers. And I want to tell you what that means.
So first of all, in her book, it’s called the state of affairs. She has
three different ways that she defines people who move forward from
infidelity or that stay married and what they can expect in that marriage,
from these three different places. And I want to share those with you. The
first group of people, they will be able to tell by the title what kind of
experience they’re having. They’re called the sufferers. She says, “In some
marriages, the affair is not a transitional crisis, but a black hole
ensnaring both parties in an endless round of bitterness, revenge and
self-pity. Even five or 10 years after the events, the affair is still the
epicenter of their relationship. These couples endlessly gnaw at the same
bone, circle and recircle the same grievances, reiterate the same mutual
recriminations and blame each other for their agony.”
And then she says, this is so interesting. “In fact, it is quite likely
that they would have ended up in the same conflicts had there been no
infidelity at all.” Isn’t that intriguing? They can’t get past their mutual
antagonism. They’re sharing a cell in marital prison. So the affair is, it
has brought into every disagreement between them. They keep score with
moral superiority. No amount of remorse is ever enough. They do not allow
bygones to be bygones. That’s the first group, the sufferers.
Of course, they are creating more suffering, right? They’re creating it,
more and more of it. One example she gives is that somebody, a couple, one
person might say, “You are ruining what could be a good moment between us.”
And then she says, “There are no perfect moments. You took those away.” A
trait of this kind of couple is highly reactive. They’re very highly
reactive. There is very little room for neutrality because they are in a
constant state of attack and blame.
The next group is the builders. The builders, now, I want you to hear me.
This is not the same as the analogy I gave before building a home. It’s a
little bit different. And you’ll hear the differences here. So the
builders, they stay together because they value commitment. They value the
life that they’ve created. They care about each other. They want to
preserve the family. They want to preserve the community and they can move
past the infidelity, but they don’t quite transcend it.
Transcend it. They don’t use it as the springboard that helps them to fly
far above it, into creating something new. So these marriages often are
like, they could be very peaceful, but they’re very much like keeping the
status quo. They might not be fighting. But they’re not necessarily moving
forward. They’re not necessarily building that house. It’s like staying in
the house that’s there with all the leaks, broken things. They’re just
staying in it. And they might not be fighting and things like that, but
they’re not pushing towards something new.
The next group, and this is where I want you to think about as far as
really getting to a place of peace and thriving, actually thriving, the
explorers. These are people that use the affair, the infidelity as a
catalyst for transformation. They see the infidelity as an event though
very, very painful, contain the seeds of something positive. These people
don’t deny their pain, but they don’t use it against each other. They find
a home in each other with an intensity that they have not experienced in a
long time. They are resilient. This was one feature I thought was really
They have an ability to express and accept a wide range of feelings without
demanding premature closure. They allow the discomfort. They allow things
to hang in the air and resolve without demanding the closure now. Their
tolerance to needing to know every little thing expands. Their tolerance
for ambiguity and uncertainty opens up a place for exploration in which
they can more deeply reconnect. She says in this book, “In contrast with
the sufferers who conceive of their ordeal in moral absolutes, the
viewpoint of the explorers is more fluid. They more readily distinguished
wrong from hurtful, paving a smoother road for clemency.”
When they speak about the affair, it is clear that they identify it as one
event, not the definitive event in their long history together. One sign
that they have successfully metabolized the events appears in their
language, shifting from you and me to our. Instead of saying, “You did this
to me,” it’s, “when we had our crisis.” It is seen as a shared experience.
What started outside the relationship is now housed within. Above all they
know that there are no clear-cut answers, so they’re able to discuss the
betrayal, but the fundamental acceptance of their human flaws. They
understand that to repair is to repair, rejoin.
So when I get asked, if marriages can come back and really, really thrive?
My resounding answer is yes. A very loud, resounding yes. Yes. And here’s
what I want you to hear. It takes a lot of courage to leave a marriage. It
also takes a lot of courage to stay. Either way, when you leave or you stay
for reasons that feel good to you, that feel real to you, that you like, it
takes courage. Because growth is required to be the person that is
comfortable there, whether you stay or whether you leave.
So let’s say you decide to stay and you want that peaceful marriage. It
will require growth. It will require letting go of some things. It will
require practicing new beliefs. If you are staying, it’s okay that it’s
hard. Go back to the reasons that you decided to stay and know that you can
change your mind at any time. Something that might sound a little bit
controversial is that when I got remarried the second time I had in my mind
that I knew that I could leave at any time. I knew that divorce was an
option. And some may say that I was sabotaging myself out the gate by
thinking that I could leave. And actually in the end, what it gave to me
was this sense of choosing. That every day, like, “You know, I could leave
if I want. But for today I’m staying in because I want to.” It takes out
that obligation and that sense of powerlessness that I have no other
And we show up differently when we are actively choosing to stay, we show
up different. So I suggest that you practice choosing. If you’re still in
it, why are you still in it? Answer the question. Why are you still here?
Do you like your answer? If you have chosen to leave, why did you leave? Do
you like your answer? All of this work you do that I help you with is you
getting closer to your own strength, your own power, your own wisdom and
creating a life that you love, creating a life that you’re thriving in.
I have personally worked with couples who are so much more honest than they
ever were before the infidelity. So much more intimate than they ever were
before, because they’re in the spot where they’re telling each other the
truth, where everything is on the line, right? So it’s like, we might as
well lay it out. They’re telling each other the truth. They are hashing
things out. They are letting themselves be seen in a way that maybe they
never have before. Because things feel rocky and vulnerable anyway, and
they’re like, to heck with it. I’m just going to tell the truth.
And from that comes real intimacy, real connection. Real seeing each other
and choosing each other. So if you have chosen to stay and if you like your
reasons for staying, I suggest that you go back through those tips that I
gave you. Focus on what you are building, not what was lost. Number two,
find the most empowering version of the story and tell it often. Number
three, be an explorer. Where are you going? What if you don’t know exactly
how it ends and it’s okay. You know that you’re moving. You know that
you’re moving and going somewhere. What if that’s enough?
I know that this work takes courage, especially when people have all their
opinions about what you should do. I want you to go inside, check in with
yourself. You have the answers you need. You know why you’re staying. Trust
yourself. Trust yourself and keep moving forward.
That’s all I have for you today my friends. I love you all. I think about
you all the time. I love hearing from you. I love getting emails from you.
I love getting to talk to some of you that listen, one-on-one on calls. I
love that I get to coach some of you that listen one-on-one. I feel very
honored that I get to be your coach, whether it be through podcast or
whether it be one-on-one. I’m grateful for this opportunity. And I
genuinely care about you and your experience.
Thank you so much. And I will see you next time.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly
email. You can subscribe at AndreaGiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again,
it’s AndreaGiles.com/lies-about-fidelity/. I will see you next time.