This article was written by guest author Petra Blank who used MarriageHelper’s resources to help save her marriage.

How to Stand for Your Marriage When Your Spouse is Gone Article Graphic

In 2011, I was hit by a truck…

Not literally, but rather figuratively through finding out that my husband had began an affair with a coworker.

This was a major wake up call for me. Although I could have left, I decided to stand for my marriage. It was the most difficult and painful four years I’ve ever gone through. Yet, it was also the most rewarding. It took me on a quest to learn as much as I could on how to save my marriage.

I stood for my marriage for four years. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes.

You see, it’s fairly easy to be a good spouse when things are going well. It’s when you’re going walking through hell and fighting daily for your marriage that you can see what you are really made of.

When your marriage experiences crisis, you can choose how you respond.

How Are You Going to Respond?

Are you going to respond out of your emotions to your spouse’s hurtful actions? Or are you going to take the time to think about your options and then make a better decision? If you find yourself wanting to repay your spouse for their hurtful actions, keep in mind that people’s actions are a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.

What I have found to be one of the biggest obstacles to stay on track with was dealing with the emotional pain–to keep going even when the situation looked hopeless. Interestingly, I was able to find helpful tidbits here and there. I have learned quite a bit on this subject over the last four years.

Below is a summary of what I have gathered over those years. I have not come up with any of these suggestions alone, rather I have collected information from valuable sources.

How to Deal with the Pain

The underlying premise of most of these tactics is the concept of taking a different approach in your thought life. Often all that is needed is a different perspective. Keep in mind, what works for one person might not work for another–we are all very different.

I strongly recommend getting a good coach! A good coach will be able to help and guide you in making sound decisions as you move forward. Be really careful though to find one that sees your marriage as the patient and not the individual person’s happiness.

In extreme cases, the emotional pain might be too strong, causing you to feel like you can’t go on and you might consider hurting yourself, your spouse, or their affair partner (if there is one). If you feel this way, please get professional help immediately. (If you feel this, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255)

Sometimes, all you might be able to do is throw yourself a pity party. Accept these moments, be gentle with yourself, but don’t stay there. A friend once told me, “If you’re going through hell, keep on walking”.

In order to get out of this painful situation, you will have to take action.

For Immediate Relief:

  • Practice belly breathing
    If you are not yet familiar with this method, lie down on a flat surface, put your hands right underneath your ribcage, and breathe in a way that will only lift your hands. Once you know what it feels like, you can do this anytime, anywhere. This kind of breathing is sending a message to your brain to calm down.
  • Find a safe place to vent
    Be really careful to only do this with people you can trust 100%, preferably a professional. You don’t want to poison the well about your marriage with friends and family.                                   
  • Yell from the top of your lungs as long and as loud as you can
    Of course, do this in privacy. Maybe even into a pillow! You don’t want to scare your children, pets, or have your neighbors call the police. It can be helpful to get your emotions out instead of keeping them in.
  • Let the tears flow
    Crying will help your body to get rid of stress.
  • Physical movement
    Stomp your feet, go for a rigorous walk, or workout.
  • Write
    Write down your anger, resentment, and/or hurt. Do NOT give it to your spouse though! You may even want to destroy it afterward.
  • Express yourself artistically
    Dance and/or sing your heart out. Do something creative or artistic.

Once you feel a little bit calmer and stronger, try these things:

  • Smile
    Smiling will actually help you feel better. There is always something to be thankful for, even in the midst of pain and sorrow. Think of what you’re thankful for and the smile will likely appear on its own.
  • Be patient
    Your marriage did not get into trouble over night; therefore, you are not going to get out of it over night either. Patience is key.
  • Plan things you enjoy doing
    I vividly remember at the beginning of my husband’s affair when I was disinvited from joining him on a business trip to Hawaii. Shortly before he left, I found out by accident that he was taking his mistress instead. After the initial shock wore off, I decided to have a good time on my own and planned something nice for myself for every single day he was gone.
  • Look at your situation as a challenge you take on
    I believe that situations will only present themselves as a problem to us if we have lessons to learn and room to grow. Otherwise, we would not perceive them as problems. Therefore, every difficult situation presents this opportunity. There are even people who say, “you either win or you learn”. My perspective is that when you learn the lesson, you are going to win no matter what the outcome.
  • You are responsible for your day
    Don’t be a victim. Other people can only ruin your day if you give them the power to do so.
  • Set an intention for the day first thing in the morning/review in the evening.
    Every day when you wake up, put aside a few minutes to think about what you would like your day to look like. Set an intention! You have a lot more influence on what your day is going to look like than you might think. My intention is always the same, to try and look through everything that presents itself to me through the eyes of love. What is going to be your intention? Maybe it’s going to be to stay calm and collected, no matter what life or your obstinate spouse throws at you? Then, review in the evening on how you did. Some days will be better than others. If you didn’t live up to your expectations, be gentle and forgiving with yourself, and get back up in the saddle again the next day. Every day is a new opportunity!
  • Accept that you are going to feel uncomfortable
    Embrace it. If you feel okay in the situation you are in, you most likely would not feel the need to do anything about it.
  • Put a good support system into place
    Work with a coach, find people in similar situations, surround yourself with people who support you as much as possible, and stay away from people who undermine your efforts or pull you down. Consider joining Marriage Helper’s private Facebook group for people standing for their marriage.
  • Be there for other people
    Helping other people will help you to feel better. There is only one caveat in doing this–you have to do it with pure intentions. If you help somebody with the only intent to feel better or you do it grudgingly, it’s not going to work.
  • Be gentle and forgiving
    …With everybody involved, including yourself. Forgive as soon as you can. This does not mean that you are okay with what your spouse did to you. Forgiveness is vital. As long as you cannot forgive, you are only hurting yourself. Maybe you have already heard the saying, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and hoping for the other person to die”.
  • Work on your PIES
    Work towards becoming the best you P(hysically), I(ntelectually), E(motionally) and S(piritually). Work on being the best person you can possibly be every single day; not only because you want to save your marriage, but do it for yourself. That way, your spouse’s reaction to your changes (or lack thereof) won’t deter you. It will instead give you the strength to persevere.
  • Be grateful
    Be on the lookout for all the things you are grateful for, even in your spouse, and the situation in general. Write them down daily. It is not possible to feel grateful and unhappy at the same time.
  • Visualize your future
    In detail, visualize what you want your future to look like. Write it down and look at it often.
  • Write a personal mission statement
    What kind of person do you want to be? What are your goals? Read your mission statement often. And then… write a marriage mission statement!
  • Pray
    If you are not a praying person, consider a time of meditation.
  • Practice mindfulness
    I cannot stress enough how helpful this concept is! Be in the present moment, the here and now. Do not think about the past or worry about the future; but instead, be in the here and now only. When you manage to do that, you will find that with very few exceptions each and every moment is absolutely perfect in itself. The only person keeping us from experiencing the world this way is ourselves!
  • Know you WILL feel better again
    Remember, feelings are forever changing. You will feel better again.
  • A thought is just a thought
    Our thoughts can only hurt us if we believe them. Often a little change in perspective is all that is needed to look at a situation differently. Our thoughts lead to our feelings. This is a very interesting concept I have heard. It is actually quite simple. If our thoughts are mainly positive, we will feel good. Unfortunately, the same is true the other way around. When we learn to guide our thoughts towards the positive, our feelings will follow.
  • Find humor in the situation
    Often we find ourselves in situations where we have a choice to either cry or laugh. Choose to laugh…just not in your spouse’s face. I was really surprised by how often I could laugh about what was going on around me. If it hadn’t been so sad at the same time, it would have made for a great soap opera. And on that note, don’t take yourself too seriously either.
  • Take a few steps back and look
    Look at what’s occurring as if it were on TV, or on a movie screen, and you are just a spectator. This came very easy to me because I felt as if I had woken up in the wrong movie anyway.
  • Get enough sleep
    If you have trouble sleeping, write down the thoughts that are keeping you awake, then put it aside, and try to get those important hours of snooze again.
  • Have a regular workout routine
    I found yoga to be particularly helpful in feeling calmer, stronger, and more grounded.
  • Your spouse CAN change their mind
    Here is a word for the people who are convinced that their spouse is never going to change their mind. Your spouse has changed their mind before and they can do it again. If they hadn’t changed their mind, you would not be in this situation in the first place, right?

All these things have helped me to transform painful feelings into becoming a stronger and better person. The “funny” thing is that as you work on improving yourself, you are making yourself more attractive–including to your spouse! It is very important that you make these changes not to win your spouse back but rather for yourself. Otherwise, you will eventually revert back to your old ways.

The Hard Truth

After four years, I came to the conclusion that all my efforts did not save my marriage. Hard as it was, I never felt that my efforts had been in vain because I had learned so many valuable lessons through all of it. I felt at peace, that I had given my marriage the best shot I could, and I had no regrets. Things were falling into place for me and I was moving on.

But then…

Then out of the blue on the day before Mother’s Day, I received a text message from my husband, asking me if I would still be open to reconciliation…

As I write these words, my husband and I have reconciled as of May of 2015. Day-by-day our marriage is becoming better. Even if I had not succeeded (a mere 6 months ago it appeared I hadn’t), I wouldn’t have wanted to give up any of the lessons learned. Painful as it was, it was truly worth it.

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13 thoughts on “How to Stand For Your Marriage When Your Spouse is Gone

  • December 3, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I really love this article and I started to cry at the end when you said he called to reconcile. That’s the dream! Thank you for sharing this.

  • December 3, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    I just came across this and almost deleted it. My husband of 32 years left in April. At first it was someone else, then it was for the reason that there are just things that he can’t live with–wouldn’t tell me because he said they would never change. After saying he would try counseling, then changing his mind, he filed for divorce in early May. I’m still reeling. This came out of left field, and I am feeling hurt, discouraged, rejected, and worthless. I still want to try to work this out. We were so happy, or so I thought, up until he left. I had no idea!!! This gives me hope. Thank you.

  • December 3, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    My husband left me and my children 3 months ago and moved in with another woman and her child. I had pushed him away for a while as I had issues but I never wanted my marriage to end. He is so happy in his new life but I still want him back. He says this isn’t true.

    • December 4, 2015 at 12:18 am

      He thinks it’s not true that you want him back?

    • December 4, 2015 at 3:20 am

      Kay, I also share a very similar story, because of alcohol abuse I have pushed my wife and four year old away. My wife moved in with a girl friend,shortly there after she lost weight, bought all new clothes,changed her attitude towards me and is going out frequently to bars with “friends” I have never asked or invaded her privacy as to what the extent her new life has gone !! My life has been completely turned upside down ! For the last four months I have been in AA clean and sober, been going to a psychologist to help get my head on straight . Ten days ago my wife decided to stay the night (separate beds) she has not left yet ! I believe she is testing me by trying to push my buttons to see if I will collapse and resort back to my old self. The article above has so much merit, my psychologist had introduced me to almost the same material. IT WORKS, I feel that I have grown, learned and transformed to the man that I should have been all these years !!! If my wife does not want to rekindle our marriage, I have to accept it ! I can not change anybody but myself. I AM a better person and am doing this for myself not her or anyone else !! The good thing is everyone I come into contact with is reaping the benefits as well ! Stay focused on what you believe in, don’t let people poison your thought, stay positive and your will project positivity and positivity is very attractive to everyone !! Your husband will see what he is missing and want to be apart of your life again, at least that is what I am hoping for with me. Stand strong for yourself and be patient, these problems did not happen overnight so they will not be fixed overnight !! Last but not least – put your trust and faith in your higher power, you Can not go wrong, one way or another your prayers will be answered ! Faith,patience,focus,positivity, learn to take what he dishes out with out causing a problem, don’t let him abuse you, just take things a little on the light side in life and for gods sake SMILE it goes a long way in like !!! Hope this helps, so far it is working for me. Thank you Eric

      • December 4, 2015 at 5:04 am

        My wife, although still living here, has been checked out for years. Suffering chronic depression and unwilling to get help, she simply stays to herself. I try to do what I can, but she simply isn’t interested in anything other than minimal interaction. This has been well over 5yr. Not sure what to do anymore. Do I really want to waste the rest of my life in a marriage where I see no hope for change? BTW, we did go through Joe’s class years ago.

      • December 4, 2015 at 3:29 pm

        You really got it, Eric! Good for you!! Keep up the great work!

  • December 17, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    This article has given me so much hope for not only my marriage, but my life. My husband and I were separated 2 years ago for about 2 months, he did come back home but we never really fixed anything and just ended up in our old ways of not communicating right or not talking about things. This year we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary and this October we separated again. He finally confessed to me that the last time we were separated he had an affair, but felt so guilty he came back home. Me and my husband have now been separated for a little over 2 months. He did file for divorce two days before Thanksgiving. It just broke my heart. He did tell me while handing me the papers that things can change you never know. So that kind of gave me hope. All i have been consumed with is him and our marriage. I was not letting go and letting God, i have been trying to control this situation the whole time and i believe it has pushed him further away. I have been begging him to work out our marriage and it seemed like 2 week ago he may of been thinking about it but now he said we are not meant to be and got married way to young and we did not know what we were doing and that we were just forcing it to work, love should not have to be forced and not be that hard. I have either been begging him or attacking him since we have been separated because i am riding on my emotions. Today i have decided to stop all contact with him as much as possible and truly let it go to God and try to write all my emotion and anger on paper instead of attacking him. When reading the last part of the article i just started crying. I hope it works out for my marriage but if not i need to still do this to work on my self being a better person and healing.

    • September 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

      My situation is quite similar to yours. I pray it works out for you and me both. This is a very troubling time. When my husband and I argued I found that often times he was carrying the argument and I was just along for the ride. But I think I recognized that fact far too late. In the end, I’m the one who is hurt and lost out.
      Again, I pray things change. As my MIL says, God has the power to change a King’s heart.

  • January 1, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Thank you so much for your encouraging article Petra. I am just curious, were you separated during the time that you stood for your marriage? My husband and I are separated (for the last 4 months) and he seems to consider separation is as good as divorced, so has started seeing someone else, and I doubt he sees it as an affair. I have been referring to this website for encouragement, as well as Mort Fertel (do a google search) as he has some fabulous ideas for developing positive relationship habits to change the momentum of a marriage in crisis. I have definitely seen a change in the way my husband relates to me: he is not as emotionally detached as he has been. I don’t know how you did this for 4 years, hardest thing ever! Very happy for you though!

  • February 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Were you and your husband legally divorced in your four year separation? Did you two attend the Marriage Helper seminar? If so, was it before you reconciled or after?

  • March 15, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    My husband has already filed for divorce. You waited 4 years…..was there a divorce then the reconciliation?

  • May 1, 2017 at 2:18 am

    I enjoyed reading you article. I too and standing for my marriage. I have researched all the scriptures about divorce in the Bible. I’m standing on the word of God. First, I took a look at myself and asked God what is there in me and my part for the marriage to be in this state? I’m seeking a closer relationship with God to give me the peace that I need. Even though my husband is planing and scheming to leave me for another woman. I continue to love God and love him, and God has given me the peace that has surpassed all understanding. I even pray for the Other person. Romans 12:21 God is in control of my situation and I have nothing to worry about, because God is fighting for me and my marriage. God Bless


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