In their book, Out of the Doghouse for Christian Men: A Redemptive Guide for Men Caught Cheating, authors Robert Weiss and Marnie Ferree list eight specific things that men (or women) who’ve engaged in sexual infidelity (with or without the presence of sex addiction/compulsivity) can do to help mend their damaged relationship. Although this advice comes from a book written for a Christian audience, we believe that the advice given is useful regardless of your spiritual belief system.
According to Weiss and Ferree, the eight actions you can take to repair your connection with your significant other include:
- Develop empathy for your partner.
- Learn to disagree in healthy and productive ways.
- Instead of telling your partner you care, show it.
- Always keep the need to rebuild relationship trust in mind.
- Anticipate and deal with potential hazards before they happen.
- Don’t forget about self-care.
- Express gratitude to your partner.
- View love as a verb.
In this post, we will examine the sixth item on this list: engaging in self-care.
Sometimes men and women who’ve cheated on their intimate partners get so focused on repairing the relationship that they forget to take care of themselves. In the first few months of the healing process, this may be a reasonable response. Essentially, you feel so awful about your cheating that you think you don’t deserve any sort of external support, enjoyment, or personal fulfillment. Instead, you throw your entire self into repairing your relationship. And while this is an admirable objective, it’s difficult to sustain and it’s not healthy in the long run. Over time, the shiny new adventure of rebuilding your relationship turns into a chore from which you never get a break. When that occurs, your motivation inevitably wanes.
If this happens to you, don’t fret. You aren’t alone. Many cheaters who want to make things right become so focused on rebuilding trust and healing the relationship that they lose track of life. Beyond their job and the work of staying together, they are aimless, and this affects them emotionally and mentally. To avoid or escape this downward drift, you need to care for yourself in ways that cultivate your sense of fun and your enjoyment of life.
Recognizing this, you may want to add a few (or all) of the following items to your list of behaviors that are good for you and also for your relationship.
- Build solid friendships. Men and women who cheat typically have very little going on in their personal lives beyond work and their relationships. Many of these people have, over time, completely moved away from platonic friendships. However, few realize this until after they’ve stopped cheating for a few months. As part of the healing process, you may need to create and build friendships. These connections are an opportunity to both give and receive much needed emotional support.
- Spend time in nature. Many unfaithful people say they feel alone in the healing process. Some say they’ve felt alone for as long as they can remember. A powerful way to realize that you aren’t alone, that you are in fact part of a vast interwoven universe, is to spend time in nature. Whether it’s something as simple as a daily walk in the woods or as major as a trip to the Grand Canyon, nature shows you that we’re all in this together: birds need trees for their nests, trees need soil to grow in, soil needs worms to churn it and nourish it, and so on. Nature also provides all sorts of opportunities for enjoyable time with your partner, such as camping trips, hikes, and exploring the unique resources of your area.
- Have fun.Taking time for hobbies, games, exercise, sports, travel, quality time with family, and other enjoyable activities is an essential part of the long-term healing process. If you feel like you don’t deserve to have fun after all the bad stuff you’ve done, it may help to think about enjoying life as part of the “daily medicine” you require to stay healthy. Regardless of whether fun is deserved, it’s necessary, if for no other reason than it recharges your batteries in ways that make it easier for you to do the less enjoyable work of rebuilding trust and healing your relationship.
- Create a “home” at home. When cheating becomes a significant life priority, there’s little time to create an environment that’s warm and inviting or even to attend to routine things that need doing. In other words, cheaters tend to ignore not only their emotional (inner) selves, but their outer selves and their environment. In the process of healing, when you take some time to paint your bedroom, plant a garden, clean the garage, build a deck, or remodel the kitchen, your outer world improves. That helps with your inner world, too, because your home becomes a source of pride as well as an enjoyable hobby.
- Adopt and care for a pet. Numerous studies have shown that people with pets are happier, healthier, and more connected than those without pets. This makes sense. When asked to give an example of unconditional love, many people immediately think of the love that they have for their pet and their pet has for them. Moreover, caring for the physical and emotional needs of an animal helps to temporarily take the focus off yourself, which is usually a relief. Plus, adopting and caring for a pet is something fun that you and your partner can do together.
- Hang out with your kids. Many cheaters forget how much they love and enjoy their kids. They get so focused on cheating and keeping their infidelity secret that they withdraw from family altogether. That’s a terrible shame and a gigantic missed opportunity. If you have kids, don’t miss out on the emotional miracle that active interactions can bring. Find out what interests them and nurture those interests. Feel free to share your own interests and hobbies with them. The more time you spend with your children, the stronger your bond will become. This is something you can do to rebuild your family even when your partner is angry with and sick of you.
As you start to incorporate these behaviors into your life, it is likely that your motivation for healing your relationship will increase. Sure, you may still occasionally miss the dramatic rush provided by cheating, but you’ll learn to appreciate the healthy pleasures of socializing with friends, providing real support to people you care about, and developing a hobby. Rather than chasing an erratic life filled with gigantic ups and downs, you can start to enjoy the relative peace and serenity that your reconstructed relationship provides.