This isn’t conventional relationship advice, so I invite you to consider staying open to the possibility that you can put everything right again, but only if you do things very, very differently than you’ve been doing them.
Everything I’m going to suggest will sound contrary. But there’s a method to my madness.
These suggestions may sound like radical measures, but this is what I’ve seen breathe new life into a broken marriages for thousands of women in your distressing situation–and it’s what I did to revitalize my own broken marriage.
Here are the specific actions I recommend to recover the good you had together in the beginning:
1. Suspend his sentence temporarily
I don’t want to diminish that what he did–moved out, cheated, found someone else–was an incredibly hurtful betrayal. It was the worst!
But he didn’t do it to hurt you. He did it because something was missing in your marriage. You’ve known it too, but didn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t either.
He was vulnerable because there was so little oxygen in your marriage. It doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t make it okay. It just makes him human–your human.
If you can set aside his crime for the moment and stay focused on the worthy goal of saving your marriage, you’ll give yourself a huge advantage.
If you’re having a visceral reaction to this idea right now, keep in mind that I’m in your corner, and this is not the end of the story. It’s only the beginning, and the story will get much, much better.
2. Get happy
I know it sounds counterintuitive, because you’re in the worst heartbreak and pain of your life, but it’s absolutely imperative that you make yourself ridiculously happy right away.
Do whatever you have to do to make yourself laugh, feel inspired, delighted, self-expressed, alive, and loved by family and friends.
Yes, you’re in shock and grief. It sucks! It feels like your life is on fire, but you can reclaim it by deciding to have some pleasurable moments every day.
I can’t stress this one enough. It’s an indispensable step to reclaiming what’s rightfully yours: a gratifying life with a monogamous, playful, passionate marriage.
3. Keep it short
You probably have lots to say to him, but consider keeping it as short and as sweet as you can.
The longer the conversation, the more likely you’re going down the wrong road.
4. Listen big
Instead of telling him how hurt and upset you are, consider being on the quiet side and giving him the space to talk by providing emotional safety—no anger, judgment or tears.
For one whole evening, or at least one hour, just say, “I hear you,” or “uh-huh,” and nothing else.
One woman did this at her marriage counseling sessions, and her husband said, “I keep waiting for you to interrupt me but you’re not!” She just smiled, and it wasn’t long before he moved back home.
5. Clean up your side of the street
You have been wronged, and he’s the one who’s behaving badly. But there’s enormous power in inspecting your side of the street to see if there are messes you regret and want to clean up.
Look for ways you were critical or controlling. Say, “I apologize for being disrespectful.”
Watch your dignity return.
6. Get pleasable
If your husband tries to make you happy in any way, big or small (and in my experience, he will), do your best to receive the gesture and reflect your pleasure at his efforts.
You deserve those efforts, and he’ll feel good knowing he was able to please you.
7. Thank him
With so much going wrong, it will feel really strange to focus on what’s going right. But if you thank him–for continuing to pay the mortgage, for picking up the kids, for asking how you are–you’ll be focusing your attention on the things you want instead of the things you don’t want. What you focus on increases.
8. Skip marriage counseling
I brought my husband to marriage counseling thinking the counselor would fix my husband and then I could finally be happy. Of course, that’s not how it works, but no couple ever got happier by complaining about each other for an hour a week anyway.
9. Smile at him.
He’s going to expect anger or tears. What if you just freaked him out by smiling when he sees you?
You may not feel like he deserves your smile, but what if this was more about you than him anyway? What if it was a manifestation of your commitment to have a happy life, regardless of what your husband is doing?
If he asks why you’re so happy, you can acknowledge that his recent announcement or behavior reminded you that life is short and you decided to pay more attention to your happiness.
10. Stay off the fence
There are going to be days when you think it’s not worth it, or it’s hopeless and stupid to try to save your marriage. Of course you’ll get discouraged, but your vision of being a happy couple is worthwhile and possible.
When you find yourself on the fence about your marriage, find the people in your life who support your vision and let them remind you to jump off on the side of love.
11. Flirt with him
Flirting is a sign that you feel attractive. You might feel far away from that, but this is a shortcut for getting back there.
Bring your playful self to your interactions with him.
Send a silly text. Do your happy dance. Laugh when he’s funny, and reference the inside jokes you share.
Flirt and you’ll trick yourself into feeling confident instead of insecure. Feeling confident is the same as being confident.
12. Make every meeting a date
If you see him—even if it’s at the divorce attorney, the marriage counselor, or just to hand-off the kids—pretend it’s a date.
Dress up and doll up. Let him open the door and thank him with a sweet smile. Have some fun with it.
13. Seduce him
This is your husband we’re talking about, so even if he’s being intimate with someone else, he’s yours, not hers.
You might be tempted to retaliate by locking him out of the bedroom, but when you’re trying to restore intimacy why not start with physical intimacy? It’s a great springboard.
14. Get Cheerleaders
As I mentioned, this isn’t the usual relationship advice, and you might know plenty of people will tell you to throw the bum out, or figure out where all the assets are in preparation for a divorce.
Every great come-from-behind-and-win-the-game-story has cheerleaders. You’ll need yours too. Find the friends, coach or chat group that supports your vision.
I, for one, am cheering for you to not only save your marriage, but to make it magical again.
I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it to feel desired, cherished, and adored by your husband again.