It was recommended I re-post my "Things We Did Right" story here. Keep in mind that this is from 4 years of reconciling and we continue to work. It does not address all issues, Certainly not all situations since it is only ours. in fact, it doesn't address what we did wrong. I am just posting in case it gives some helpful steps to others.
THINGS WE DID RIGHT (4 years later):
So, as a BS, in hindsight, what did I and we do that was effective and might be useful for other betrayed spouses?
1. We let go of the longing to just go back to "normal". Of course we both wanted to wake up from this bad dream, but we had to accept that things were never going to be the same, nor should they be. And we were both going to have to talk about painful issues for a long time.
2. We both did the work in the marriage recovery programs. The marriages that make it are the ones where all the cards get put on the table by both spouses. Those programs are made to do that. Hello emotional boot camp! Want a good marriage? Do the work.
3. I stupidly-not-stupidly asked what the OW had that I didn't. Then I called !bull-pucky! on the answers. Then, I realized it wasn't stupid that I asked and forgave myself. If I hadn't asked, I couldn't have pointed out the fantasy and illusions WH-DH was grieving in letting the affair go. Since no OP bashing here, the only point is that it made him talk out and face fantasy vs reality. His counselor was working on the same thing at that point.
3. The SMARTEST thing we did was redesign our life to spend time together. New marriage: We did errands together. We began to eat breakfast together, we didn't split up volunteer and attending family events separately to be efficient - we cut short the time at those activities and went to the next one together. What it revealed was stunning - it revealed the people who didn't want us to spend time together, and many were using good causes to keep us apart. We even found a way to do some work together. The dividers of our marriage were exposed as soon as we refused to be divided. People who were toxic to our marriage, didn't like us to spend time together.
* I recently learned a good technique to find out who your marriage dividers are. Next time you are with a friend, family, co-worker, client, etc, and you are unsure if they support your marriage - tell them something positive about when you and your spouse are together. Go on a reconciliation date, and really let the the possible divider know how great your spouse is. The person who doesn't want you together will either: A. Change the subject and avoid talking about your spouse at all. B. Belittle the compliment your gave your spouse or the time you spent together. C. Express jealousy because they don't get to experience what you are doing with your spouse. (single and resentful or bashing their own spouse). *
4. We both read a bunch of articles on affair proofing marriages. For me this was a huge recovery step. I already had many of the steps in place due to a work environment that already stressed them as being professional. My WH-DH did not have that at his. He changed his behavior with women completely. Never a closed door. Never a private lunch or dinner. Never a private ride in a car. And he invited me to as many work related functions as possible to define us as a couple. I learned very quickly which women wanted me there, and which were uncomfortable - were all after him? No, but I was now a boundary to him being manipulated in the work settings by flirtatious strategies.
5. "You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully." This has been an effective quote for us! Who we spend time with does affect who we become as spouses. If you spend time with someone who is negative, doesn't match your values, doesn't value marriage, and doesn't really have your best interests at heart, why do they get to have your time and attention? What is motivating you? You may be required to (like an ill parent or disabled adult child), but if not - why do you want their time and approval? We all have to exist among people who are not good for our marriage, but why do they get premium time? That is not healthy.
6. Learning to NOT avoid conflict, but to manage it. For those raised in a conflict avoiding FOO, consider the pattern. If we grow up raised to love and honor our parents and siblings, but never disagree with them, what do we do when they disappoint us? If we grow up unable to confront them, or express and opinion, and to publicly tell friends or people who can help us would be to betray the family, then what is left to do? To secretly and covertly vent about them to someone else...and often that child bonds with someone else doing the same. BOOM! How many affairs are created by secretly venting about our grown-up family - our spouse! How do we undo this? We learn to manage conflict by trusting ours spouse to hear us and solve the issues with us.
Consider the logic - is it worse to argue fairly and honestly or to complain secretly to someone outside of our marriage? If the second answer seems more natural and comfortable, then avoiding conflict is a problem in your marriage.
7. When we do have to talk to someone else about issues not being resolved. Or people who know we have survived marital problems come to us for support, we have a rule, men talk to men, women talk to women. We do not speak one on one with a person of the opposite sex about finding solutions for marriage. (This is also a part of affair proofing your marriage.)
8, All electronics social communication is open and shared between us. There are no "secret" conversations or relationships. If you are married, why shouldn't your spouse have access to everything? You are not dating, you are married. That is what marriage means. Could WH-DH find a way to get around that? Sure, he is a smart guy. Could he hide the behavior pattern that were the clues that let me know the affair was happening? Probably, but definitely not forever. I didn't miss them before, I am even more vigilant now.
9. I asked WH-DH, why be married if he was going to cheat? (That was a scary moment - think of the answers I might have heard.) He said he always intended to be a faithful husband. He didn't marry me planning to cheat and did not for almost two decades (he wasn't a serial cheater). He said he married me because he always loved me and wanted a life together. As the world stole more and more of the togetherness from our marriage, he felt defeated. His favorite memories are actually of the two of us away together. We had lost that. No time left for us, in order to please those outside of our marriage. But he didn't want to confront the world to take it back (conflict avoidance) - he wanted me to MAKE the world let us have our marriage, and wanted me to MAKE the world be happy about it. Now he knows that is impossible thinking.
It is important to explore in depth why you want to be married, and what you want your new marriage to be like. Then fight for it together. Bond over the right kind of fight.