After the Affair – How to Forgive, and Heal a Relationship From Infidelity

After the Affair - How to Forgive and Heal From Infidelity

Infidelity happens for plenty of reasons. None of them good ones. It happens because of ego or stupidity or breakage. Or because of smugness or ignorance or a widening ache or an emptiness or the need to know ‘what else is there’. It happens because of arrogance or a lack of self-control or because of that thing in all of us that wants to feel adored or heroic or important or powerful or as though we matter. It happens because there’s a moment when the opportunity for this to happen is wide open and full of aliveness and temptation and it’s exciting and it’s there and it acts like it can keep a secret and as though it won’t’ do any damage at all.

It happens because of lies, the big ones, the ones we tell ourselves – ‘it won’t mean anything’, ‘nobody will know’, ‘it won’t do any harm’. It happens because there is a moment that starts it all. One small, stupid, opportunistic moment that changes everything, but acts as though it will change nothing. A moment where there’s an almighty collision between the real world with its real love and real people and real problems that all of us go through, and the world that is forbidden and exciting and hypnotic with promises. And all the while these worlds, they feel so separate, but they become tangled and woven, one into the other, and then that real world with its real love and its real people are never the same again.

Whatever the reason for an affair, the emotional toll on the people and the relationship is brutal. Infidelity steals the foundations on which at least one person in the relationship found their solid, safe place to be. It call everything into question – who we believe we are, what we believe we had, or were working towards, our capacity to love, to trust, and our faith in our judgement. It beats down self-esteem and a sense of place and belonging in the relationship for both people, but it doesn’t have to mean an end to the relationship.

Does infidelity mean a falling out of love?

Anything we humans are involved in is never black and white. The versions of grey can make good humans look like bad ones it can make love that is real feel dead for a while. Most people who have affairs are in love with their original partners. And most people who cheat aren’t cheaters. They aren’t liars and they aren’t betrayers and they aren’t bad. What they are is human, and even the good ones will make catastrophic mistakes sometimes. We all will.

Affairs often aren’t about people wanting to be in a different relationship, but about wanting the relationship they are in to be different. Relationships change shape over time and with that, sometimes the very human needs that we all have will get left behind. These needs include validation, love, connection, affection, intimacy and nurturing – but there are plenty more. This is no excuse for an affair, but understanding what drove the affair is key to being able to move forward. It’s a critical part of healing the relationship and any repairing any breaks in the armour around you both that made it possible for someone else to walk through.

Does an affair mean the end of the relationship?

Affairs will mean the end of some relationships. Others will tolerate the betrayal and although they might never thrive, they’ll stay intact. For some people this will be enough. For others, an affair can be a turning point, an opportunity to grow separately and together, and reconnect in a way that is richer, stronger, closer and more sustainable. For this to happen, it will take time, reflection, brutal honesty and an almighty push from both people. 

There are plenty of ways to hurt a relationship. Infidelity is just one of them.

Affairs cause devastating breakage in relationships, but they aren’t the only thing that can hurt a relationship. Sometimes an affair is a symptom of breakage, as much as a cause. There are plenty of other ways to hurt a relationship – withholding love, affection or approval, a lack of physical or emotional intimacy, and negativity, judgement, or criticism. All of us, even the most loving, committed devoted of us will do these things from time to time.

How does an affair happen?

There is no doubt that infidelity is a devastating act of betrayal, but it can also be an expression of loss or loneliness, or the need for novelty, autonomy, power, intimacy, affection, or the need to feel loved, wanted and desired. These are all valid, important needs and in no way represent a neediness or lack of self-reliance. They are the reasons we come together, fall in love and fight to stay in love. They are also the reason relationships fall apart.

We humans exist at our very best when we are connected with other humans, especially ones that we love and adore and feel connected to. The needs for human connection, intimacy, love, and validation are primal. They can be ignored, pushed down, or denied, but they will never disappear. These needs are so important, that if they remain unmet for too long, they will create a tear in the relationship wide enough for someone else to walk through and claim the opportunity to meet those needs that, when met, can fuel intimacy, desire, alchemy, and attraction.

When an important need remains unmet, there are two options – and only two. We can either let go of the need, or change the environment in which we’re attempting to meet the need. It will be this way for all of us. When the need is an important one, letting go won’t be an option. This will create a splintering in the relationship, and the very real temptation to change the environment, as in, find someone else to meet the need/s that we actually want met by our partners.

Affairs often aren’t about wanting the person who is the target of the affair, but about wanting the way that person meets a need. If the person having the affair could have anything, it would most likely be to have the person they love – the one they are hurting – to be the one to meet the need. But things don’t always happen the way we want. And needs get hungry and people get tempted.

When affairs happen, it’s likely that at least one of three things has happened for the person having the affair:

  1. an awareness that ‘something’ is missing, without awareness of what that something is; 
  2. an awareness of exactly what is missing – an important need that has been hungry for too long – but a catastrophic lack of honesty and openness within the relationship about this; 
  3. repeated unsuccessful attempts to be honest and open about the existence of the unmet need, and repeated unsuccessful attempts to have it met within the relationship.

How to heal from an affair, together or apart.

For a relationship to heal from betrayal, there is a need for brutal honesty from both people. If a relationship has been devastated by an affair, healing will take a lot of reflection on what went wrong, and what is needed to make it better, but if both people believe the relationship is worth fighting for, it can find its way back. 

First of all, where do things stand.

Is the affair over? Or has it been scared into submission, just for now.

If the affair is still going, and you’re pretending to work on your relationship, just take your partner’s heart in your hand and squeeze it hard. It will hurt a lot less and it will do less damage to your relationship. If the affair is genuinely finished, the one who has been hurt will need ongoing confirmation of this for a while. Probably for a long while. This is why, for the person who had the affair, the privacy that was there before the affair (texts, phone calls, messages, emails, info about where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with), will be gone for a while. Some questions to explore together:

  • When did it end?
  • How did it end?
  • How do you know you won’t go back?
  • How do I believe that it’s over?
  • What if he or she gets in touch? What will you do?
  • What moves have you made to stop them contacting you?
  • You risked a lot for the affair to continue. What stopped the affair being worth the risk? What might make it worth the risk again? 
  • I’m suspicious. I’m paranoid. I’m insecure. I’m scared. I don’t trust you. I never used to feel like this, but now I do. I want to trust you again and I want to stop feeling like this. I want to stop checking and wondering and panicking when I can’t reach you, but I’m scared that if I stop, I’ll miss something. What can you do to help me feel safe again.

Is there genuine regret and remorse? 

Healing can only begin when the person who has had the affair owns what has happened, and shows regret and remorse, not just for the damage and pain the affair has caused, but for starting the affair in the first place. What’s important is that there is a commitment to protecting the relationship above all else, and letting go of the affair.

  • Would you still regret having the affair it if it wasn’t discovered? 
  • What do you regret about the affair?
  • How do you feel about it ending?
  • How do you feel about what it’s done to us and to me?
  • What was the story you told yourself to let the affair keep going?
  • Where does that story sit with you now?

Do you both genuinely want the relationship? And be honest.

Is there anything in this relationship that’s worth fighting for? Is there a chance of love and connection? Or will it only ever be one of convenience and a way to meet mutually shared goals, such as raising children. There are no right or wrong answers, but if one person is satisfied with a relationship of convenience and the other wants love and connection, the healing isn’t going to happen. What’s more likely to happen is that the relationship will be fertile ground for loneliness, resentment and bitterness, and it will stay vulnerable. For a relationship to work, the needs of each person have to be compatible. They don’t have to be the same, but they have to be compatible. 

Do you genuinely want each other?

The truth is that sometimes, people outgrow relationships. We can’t meet everyone’s needs and sometimes, the relationship might no longer be able to meet the important needs of one or both of you. Sometimes letting go with love and strength is better than letting the relationship dies a slow, bitter death.

  • How to you feel about [the person you had the affair with]?
  • What do you miss?
  • How do you feel about me?
  • What did you miss?
  • What do you miss about me now?
  • What made the risk of losing me worth it?
  • What’s changed?
  • What is it about me that’s keeping you here?
  • What is it about us that’s worth fighting for?
  • How do you each about the relationship? 
  • How do you feel about each other? Can either of you see that changing?
  • What is it about the relationship that’s worth fighting for?
  • What is it about each other that’s worth fighting for?
If the decision is to stay, how to forgive and move forward.

How did the affair become possible?

For the relationship to heal, and for there to be any chance of forgiveness, there has to be an understanding of how both people may have contributed to the problem. What was missing in the relationship and how can that change? This is not to excuse the person who had the affair. Not at all. What it’s doing is finding the space in which the relationship can grow. If both people are claiming to have done everything they could and the affair happened, then there’s no room for growth and the relationship will stay vulnerable. 

Let your energy turn to an honest and open exploration of the motive behind the affair. This will probably hurt to hear, but it’s not about blame. It is about responsibility, as in response-ability – the ability to respond. There can’t be an empowered, effective response if there is no awareness around what drove the affair and what needs to change in the relationship.

The person who had the affair delivered the final blow, but it’s likely that there were things that lead up to the relationship becoming vulnerable. Healing will happen if both people can own their part in this. This doesn’t excuse the affair, but it will help it to make some sort of sense. Many hard conversations will need to happen.

If you were the one who was betrayed, you’ll be hurt and angry and scared, and you’ll have every right to feel that way. As much as you are able to, try to be open to hearing the information and make it safe to explore. This is the information that will grow your relationship and repair the holes that have made it vulnerable. 

Somewhere along the way, the person who had the affair and the person he or she had the affair with, had information about your relationship that you didn’t have. This was vital information that fuelled the affair, sustained it, and drained your relationship. They knew what the affair had that the relationship didn’t. This is the information you need to know for the relationship to get its power back.

If you were the one who had the affair, it’s critical to look with honesty, courage and an open heart, at what you were getting from the affair that you weren’t getting from your relationship. It’s not enough to fall back on insecurities or deficiencies or your own personal flaws as excuses. This doesn’t answer anything and it lacks the courage and commitment needed to start putting your relationship and the one you love, back together. 

Explore together:

  • What did the affair give you that our relationship didn’t?
  • How did the affair make you feel that was different to the way you felt with me? More powerful? More noticed? Wanted? Loved? Desired? Nurtured? What was it?
  • Have you ever felt that way with me?
  • When did you stop feeling that way?
  • What changed?
  • What was the biggest difference between [the other person] and me?
  • What would you like me to do more of? Less of?
  • I know you want this relationship to work, but at the moment it’s not. What’s the biggest thing you need to be different. And then I’ll tell you mine.

Be honest. Can you meet the need? And do you want to?

    When you can understand what drove the affair, you can look at whether that need/s can be met within your relationship. Sometimes it becomes a case of either not being able to meet the need, or resentment and hurt wiping out the desire to even try. Both people need to honestly look at what they want from the relationship and what they are able to give to the relationship moving forward.

    Sometimes the distance between two people becomes so vast that it can’t be put back together. If that’s the case, acknowledge it and decide openly and with love and strength, whether or not the relationship is worth saving. Nothing is more painful than fighting to hold on to something that isn’t fighting to hold back. If this is the case, be honest. Relationships in which somebody has important needs that can’t be relinquished and that aren’t being met, will be unsustainable. 

    Moving forward, staying forgiven and getting close. 

    To the one who has had the affair: Now is your time to stand guard over the boundaries of your relationship.

    As with any trauma, finding out about an affair will create massive potential for the trauma to be re-experienced over and over. Let me explain. Every time there is a gap in knowledge in your relationship – an unanswered text, a phone that is off or that goes through to voicemail, something that doesn’t make sense, not knowing where you are, being late home, not being where you said you would be – anything that can be associated with the affair or with the possibility that the affair is still continuing, can recreate the feelings associated with the betrayal. These feelings might include panic, sadness, fear, anger, suspicion, loneliness, loss. This will keep happening until the trust has been restored. This will take time and it won’t be hurried.

    If you’re the one who has had the affair, your job now is to help your partner to feel safe again. To do this, make sure there is 100% accountability for as long as it takes for your partner to know that there is nothing else more to find out. The privacy that was there before the affair is gone, and it will be gone for a while.

    Know that for your partner, he or she he or she doesn’t want to be that person who doesn’t trust, and who is suspicious and paranoid – but that’s what affairs do. They turn trusting, loving, open hearts into suspicious, resentful, broken ones. It would be that way for anyone. How long it stays that way will depend a lot on how you handle things moving forward. Be accountable every minute of every day. Be an open book. Let there be no secrets. Knowing that there is nothing going on is critical to healing the anxiety and trauma that has come with discovering the affair. Looking for information isn’t about wanting to catch you out, but about wanting to know that there is nothing to catch out. 

    For healing to happen, it will be your turn to take responsibility for standing guard over the boundaries of your relationship for a while. Be the one who makes sure there are no gaps, no absences, no missing pieces in the day. And no secrets. If the person you had the affair with contacts you, let your partner know. Be the one who makes things safe again. For the one who has been hurt, there will be a period, sometimes for a year or more, where there will be a constant need to find evidence that the affair isn’t happening. It may become an obsession for a while. Finding out about an affair is traumatic, and the way to find relief from this is by searching for proof that the relationship is safe, that the affair is finished, and that it’s okay to trust again. 

    To the one who has been betrayed …

    Forgive yourself for feeling angry or sad or hateful or for not knowing what you want. Forgive yourself for everything you’re doing to feel okay. Forgive yourself for not knowing and for not asking the questions that were pressing against you when something didn’t feel right. And let go of any shame – for leaving, for staying, for any of the feelings you felt before the affair or during it or afterwards. None of the shame is yours to hold on to.

    Every relationship has a make it or break it point. Some relationships will have many. Forgive yourself if you missed something. This relationship involved two people. If you weren’t giving your partner something he or she needed, it was up to them to tell you so you could put it right. There will have been times that your needs went hungry too. It happens in all relationships from time to time. It’s the intensity and the duration of the unmet need that does the damage. You deserved the chance to know that something wasn’t right. And you deserved the chance to put back whatever was missing. You have that now. If you aren’t able to give your partner what he or she needs moving forward, forgive yourself for that too. Sometimes two great people don’t mean a great relationship. Sometimes it’s not the people who are broken, but the combination of you.

    You will always be someone’s very idea of beautifully and imperfectly perfect. Most likely you have always been that to your partner, but somewhere along the way, life got in the way and things fell apart for a while.

    Right now though, you are going through a trauma. Give yourself plenty of time to forgive, and to start to feel okay again, whether that it is in the relationship or out of it. Be kind to yourself and be patient. You deserve that. You always have.

    And finally …

    Every affair will redefine a relationship. It can’t be any other way. There will be hurt and anger and both of you will feel lonely and lost for a while, but if your relationship is worth fighting for, there will be room for growth and discovery. The heartbreak won’t always feel bigger than you. Some days you’ll hold steady and some days you’ll be okay and some days you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get back up. This is so normal and it’s all okay. You’re grieving for what you thought you had and what you thought you were working towards. You’re grieving for the person you thought you were with and or the relationship you thought you had. Those things are still there, but they’re different to what you thought. That doesn’t mean better or worse, just different. 

    Good people make bad decisions. We do it all the time. We hurt the ones we love the most. We become, for a while, people we never imagined we could be. But the mistakes we make – and we all make them – impress in our core new wisdoms and truths that weren’t there before. An affair is a traumatic time in a relationship, but it doesn’t have to define the relationship. Rather than collecting the broken pieces and scraping them from dustpan to bin, they can be used put the relationship back together in a way that is stronger, more informed, wiser, and with an honesty and a love that is more sustainable.

    409 Comments

    Michelle

    I know I have commented on this forum before. I just can’t get over my husbands infidelity. Only thing I can think of lately is when he was cheating. The day after Christmas, I was off work. He lied and said he was going to work only to spend the day with her. That was in 2017. It has been 5 years and the pain is still so fresh. He dated her for about 6 months after 28 years of marriage. We are still together, only because I am to weak and scared to be on my own after all this time. I don’t love him anymore. I hope over time the pain will subside, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. If you are considering cheating, stop. Think about the pain you cause before it’s too late to stop.

    Reply
    Jim

    I can completely understand. For me, it’s been since 2015 when I found out & my fear is that I work two jobs & still don’t make as much as she does & I don’t want to live in a dump. I feel pathetic for my reasoning, but I’m at the point where I do what I want & I don’t care if she likes it or not. I haven’t cheated on her, because that’s not who I am. You aren’t alone in your pain & totally agree that you should never cheat, because nothing good will come of it & only cause pain & destroy families.

    Reply
    Lynn

    I just caught my husband cheating on me. Together 12 years married for 6. The worse part is that it was with his ex best friend ex wife, who use to live next door. I told my husband of my concern when I caught her messaging him. Now I feel like she went after my husband cause he has a big heart and wants to help people and felt bad for her and her kids and with her marriage falling apart wanted to hurt others who has a healthy relationship. I still love my husband and reading this helped out a lot. It will take time to heal, but my mind is my worst enemy. Sometimes I can’t get the thoughts out of my head. I scared him the night I found out, I broke down crying so hard that I started to hyperventilate and he got so scared and got more scared not knowing what to do. I know we can get through this in due time.

    Reply
    Kim

    It’s crazy how our story is so similar, my husband of 10 years cheated on me 5 years ago(2018). He had an affair for 6mo. Idk if I will ever heal from the pain..

    Reply
    Chidinma

    I cheated on my husband of 4years with a blind date……Its so heart breaking for me as this is something I have always avoided even before getting married. Am not being defensive but I only tried the online blind date to ease myself off alot of pain ( no intimacy, no recognition, no quality communication between us no matter how hard I tried, no sweet words, not even an outing). Most importantly was that I lost my job of which I have been 100% supportive to my husband but YET he mocked me and thank God I lost my job. I have always forgiven him for the small and biggest sins he ever committed against, it this man is so so heartless that for every single quarrel we had will make attempt of leaving I and the children, refuse giving me money for upkeep and also refuses to eat my food. I have caught him many times helping other single ladies out with cash while he refuses to recharge my phone. I really didn’t mean to venture into this online blind date and I just hope he understands my point of view.

    Reply
    Veronica M

    My husband of 10 years has been going thru a mental breakdown. Things started getting really bad with paranoia and he developed PTSD from a traumatic experience he said occurred after our first son was born. This past year was a struggle I kept trying to talk him into seeing a therapist for his anxiety and what ever was eating at him. Finally last week he got bad and I started calling therapist and his doctor for help. The next morning he broke and told me about this long affair he had on me. He thought she was trying to sabatoge his life. I had no time to fully react to the affair because my husband’s life was in serious trouble. He wanted to end it so calming him down was first part and then getting him to speak to someone was second. I couldn’t get him on the phone with anyone so we went to the hospital where they kept him overnight. He is on the road with a recovery plan but I am so broken waking up in cold sweats can’t breath feeling like I failed myself and family. I am so in love with this man now I don’t know who he is. All the questions in this article is exactly what I have been going thru. The hope we can build a stronger relationship I want but am so scared of the future.

    Reply
    Lindsay

    I just found out a little over a week ago that my husband cheated on me, with a prostitute. It was a one time thing and he received oral sex. During this time I was in a deep depression around the holidays and I know I was not attentive to him and often pushed away his advances for intimacy. I’m devastated. I don’t even know what to think most of the time and all that plays through my head is him in his truck with her in the town we live right next to in an area we frequented to shop. He confessed to it and explained his feelings and how very sorry he was. I just feel like I’m trapped in a fog and that I will never be myself again.

    Reply
    Stacey

    I totally understand. i caught my husband of almost 30 years cheating about 2 weeks ago. Some days I’m ok and some days I have to fight the urge to cry all day with a heaviness in my chest. We have had alot of stress for the last 2 years with parental deaths, moving etc. On the saturday before I found out he had asked to separate. I was really hurt and he asked if I had someone on the side. I said no and asked him. He said no right to my face. Four days later I had gone to the doctor and had forgotten my phone. I work in a different town and hour away so I ran by the house to get my phone. He was on the phone and I heard him telling her that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. I’m devastated. We are going to try counseling, but how do I get over this? The lies and betrayal

    Reply
    Eli A

    I could never believe that I will be cheated on until it happened. It was my worst nightmare. Still I stood through. For my son. I listened I held myself together. I read positive articles and posts like this one. Learning to move on and yet staying to see if there’s a change. Because family is worth fighting for no matter how unworthy It would feel sometimes. At the same time ppl learn to appreciate you when you’re gone. So be gone for a while build yourself and they will see why they should w treated you better. Be the light in the darkness. It’s the only choice in this universe.

    Reply
    Desiree

    I discovered that my ex husband cheated in 2013 and it’s 2021 and it hurts so much.i can’t breathe when I think of all the what ifs,maybes and if only I could have….it hurts so much because shortly tour divorce he married the woman he cheated with ..life has been treating them good and they are enjoy it whilst I’m stuck in pain I can’t trust and at times when I woke up I wish I am caught in a very bad dream bz I never I. Million years expected my husband who was so good respectful and kind treating me like his queen to break my heart by cheating on me in our home on our bed. I’m so angry and I can’t get the pain out I have been crying and my tears are no more but my heart is aching.please help me. .I love my husband so much ..he never even talk to me or even sit me down to discuss divorce. We had so many third parties when things were messed up and I so wish I had only a brief moment to get closure ..I wish he could tell me what went wrong ..things are bad and I missed us so much.the pain just dnt want to go away.i drown myself in books with studies,my work,our kids, Charity work but at night or when I hear someone else calling a person with the name Patrick I missed him .I tried dating but I I could not cope.im hurting bad and I and so much angry and the pain does not want to go away.i wish I was ready for this disappointment or had seen the signs..

    Reply
    Nicole

    sighthis is so true..does commitment to wedding vows mean nothing to people anymore? my husband of 6 years cheated on me with a 21 year old and it’s so hard to move forward from this as a family. He promised me this was the only time but I just found out he’s still having an affair.. I want to leave but I don’t want my daughter to grow up without a father..

    Reply
    Betsy B

    I grew up in the home you are describing….. I learned from my parents disconnection how to remain disconnected. As hard as it is to imagine, if you cant move forward in a loving connected marriage then you are doing your daughter a true dis service. so many hugs

    Reply
    Wendy

    I have read so many of these stories and my heart breaks for all of you. I will not get into my own sad situation, but I have done a lot of soul searching and looked into many kinds of books, resources, articles, etc. in trying to find a solution/answer, and I keep coming back to one common theme – marriage/lifelong partnership is a social construct and monogamy is not likely in our DNA. Think about this – from a biological standpoint, thousands of years ago, before farming, and even the industrial revolution, life expectancy was maybe 30-40 years, if you were lucky. Females needed a strong male with whom to reproduce, and needed him to stick around and protect the family until the child could fend for themselves. This is no longer relevant – people don’t need to marry to have a child and a home together. The fact that there are so many people who feel restless, unhappy, trapped, miserable, and ultimately either end up cheating or withdrawing from their partners is just more evidence of this phenomenon. And we absolutely lay it on thick when someone has the courage to say “I want out of this relationship” for whatever reason, calling those people irresponsible, childish, selfish, narcissistic, etc., hiring marriage counselors to try and “fix” things and/or ultimately divorce lawyers to fight for us after things have become so toxic all we want to do is hurt one another. Why is that? Maybe, just maybe, monogamy is unnatural for most of us, but we insist on “love and marriage is hard work” and then shame one another when we “fail”. I sincerely doubt our kids “need” us to stay together if we are unhappy doing so, and treat each other poorly and drink too much or get on medication to cope. To think that a “successful” marriage is measured in time spent together seems unrealistic and contrived. Just another perspective.

    Reply
    Pelle T

    I fell out of love with my husband after I caught him cheating with his ex girlfriend. I stopped loving him. I’m struggling to forgive him.

    Reply
    Michelle

    I also fell out of love with my husband. We have been married 31 years now. He had a 6 month affair back in 2017. We are still together but I no longer love him and haven’t been able to forgive him. During the affair we went to counseling. He lied and continued to deny. When I would confront him he would call me crazy and watch me cry with no emotion. I have since come to the realization that he is narcissistic. I now realize there were signs of other affairs that I was to gullible to see. I feel like a fool and have a lot of anger and resentment. I stayed in the marriage but wish I wouldn’t have. I just couldn’t bring myself to divide 28 years of my life him. If you are not in to deep, get out. You deserve to be happy and have a loving trusting relationship.

    Reply
    Christina

    I feel like I’m reading my story when I read this, my husband of 29 years had a year long affair in 2017 he was living a double life and I had no idea although there were many signs but when I questioned him he would turn it around on me as if I was crazy , he told me he broke it off with this lady and wanted me back but months later I found out she broke up with him, she thought he was seperated and getting divorce , I also found out about another woman he was seeing fir the 4 years before that and was still seeing her although it was only when he visited that country for work, having 5 children together I still took him back believing that I could t do it on my own and I needed him but I don’t love him anymore I don’t trust him I don’t have any respect for him and I wish now that I had t fought for him and just let him go, but now he’s the one that is dependent on me he is actually a weak man that is very needy I do believe there have been affairs throughout our whole marriage and he still continues to lie first then come out with the truth when I find proof even about little lies, it is who he is and I’m stuck in a marriage I wished I walked away from!

    Reply
    Maria J

    “I was in Miami with my HUSBAND and his parent for vacation. We had flown there on their private jet for a great weekend. Something felt off. Like, really off. And I did what you’re never supposed to do I reached out to hackgoodness on insta, gram who helped me gain access to his phone without him knowing. It turns out he slept with someone else! So, there I am in Miami with his family with no way of hopping a flight back and we weren’t scheduled to leave for 2 more days. And this was our wedding anniversary. Right before dinner with his family.” MEN ARE WHAT?

    Reply
    Maria

    Both my husband and I cheated on each other, several months apart. I was devastated but I forgave him. Then it was my turn. Being the woman, I got emotionally attached to my co worker. My husband found out the day it happened and after being caught I chose to deny it all which enraged him and he hit me, so severely I had to have stitches. We reconciled. He said he was sorry to me and my family. Because I was not forthcoming with my affair he reached out to the other person who told him everything. Six months later he still had questions which I refused to answer truthfully, so he hit me again and I confessed to everything. It has been several weeks since that incident. I think I have forgiven him. Today my family wants me to leave him for fear of him hitting me again. I have since confessed and repented to God and I feel a change. We have been talking things through and I have reached out for help from an organisation that deals with domestic abuse, I have yet to meet with someone, work and life is taking priority. My mom has shared with my 9 yr old daughter what happened and she was devastated. She is encouraging me to leave her dad. I told her that we are working things out and that I believe he would not hurt me again. So I am now asking myself, what should I do? Please help.

    Reply
    Gideon

    Thanks for one of the most informative articles, I got food for my soul.
    I am a 56y old husband which learnt 3mo ago, that my beloved wife of 29 years had an affair with a man 6 years younger than her. The affair at that stage, went on for 18 mo already. I was devastated and are still heart broken. It has changed me so much that I think it has changed my personality for good. It all happen during time which I thought was the best six years of our marriage – honestly the best. I was probably very naive, but trusted her absolutely. However, on two occasions during the time of the affair, my “gut feel” tells me something is going on, once I politely told her how I felt – I could not put a finger on something, because I absolutely trusted her. Imagine the shock.

    The affair also went through a bumpy ride. She wanted to abandon the relationship at some stage, but was then threatened by the boyfriend he would tell me if she was pulling out. She got scared an continued. It went on for months, and the sad story broke, by his wife, which at some stage put all the puzzle pieces together. At some stage, I was told, both marriages would have go through a divorce and the two infidels will end up together. It is actually laughable to think that I didn’t even know about any affair (never mind the level of emotional relationship), but I will divorce my wife soon!!!!! It becomes clear to me after been told about the affair, that the other man was kind of a psychopath, which emotionlize my wife, but when he struggled to get what he really wants (the trophee – my wife) became a monster. Or, is this a smoke screen altogether between them?

    My wife declared her devotion to our marriage and we have since worked hard to stay in our marriage. I have lots of questions about the affair, particularly what started it, and how did it developed to the state at which I found it 3mo ago. I am over analyzing everything and add possibilities to their relationship, which might not even be true. But this is what the broken trust and infidelity do.
    I have learnt ways and means to put the affair away and to be positive, but certain days the block I am trying to use is just to small. Like today, I had to read more and more about the forgiveness and healing, and then the whole issue starts over again.

    The boyfriend has since divorced his wife, their marriage was in pieces even before the affair. He obviously tried to convince my wife that they can move on now, something that only he wants and promulgates for months. I had to call him and made it very clear that it is the end, and me and wife will no more tolerate any contact or activity. So far so good, but he is kind of a “jackal” and I will have to watch closely.
    If the whole ordeal will ever pass, and our marriage, will be the same or better than before, we can just hope for.
    To everyone out there experiencing the same, stand tall and be strong. Some days the “big black dog” will be all over you, and the rest your wife (or husband) will be your strength. That your whole life will be changing (for at least a part thereafter) is fact, trust me it had the biggest impact on my life, never thought it will be so huge.

    Finally, I have learnt to be patient. Footprints never fade, it follows you…

    Reply
    Joy

    I found out 8 months ago that my husband of 20 years was watching a lot of porn on his phone and having an online “sexting” affair that included personal videos and photos. A month later I discovered he had seen a prostitute while I was at a work meeting, after promising he wouldn’t do any online stuff anymore. A couple of weeks after that I did some detective work on bank accounts and this revealed what only could be called an addiction to prostitutes – 1 or 2 a week for 4 years +.
    Now, over 6 months later he claims to be “clean” and recommitted to me, but I am really struggling with both trust and forgiveness. He is unable to express his feelings to me, and is now withholding intimacy. Triggers such as going near to the places where he met prostitutes, or even him seeing attractive women in person or even on TV has me questionning whether he is really over his apparent addiction, or is he just suppressing his feelings and urges, and these may reappear when there is an “opportunity” (such as when I go away with friends for a couple of days).
    My trauma is subsiding a little, but is being replaced by feeling that maybe I will never get over this and it might be best just to call it quits rather than wasting any more time on a lost cause.
    A couple of confidantes have told me all along that there would be few women who wouldn’t have kicked him out right from the start.

    Reply
    Carley

    I have also just found out that my husband has been doing the same thing – sexting online and sending videos and pictures of himself to women, even starting relationships including sending photos of our home. I only came across this by mistake, so know idea how deep or wide it goes. I had caught him doing this many years ago, I had forgiven him and thought it was a one time thing and thought we had moved past it. The problem now is my trust is completely broken with him and I don’t know if I will ever get it back as I already have trust issues with men from childhood experiences. I always thought of and present myself as a confident, successful and proud person to the world who wouldn’t put up with things like this from anyone, but now I feel like a fraud because I love him so much still that I almost want to pretend it never happened and move on with our lives despite knowing the emotional toll it is going to have on me moving forward. He is so smart and capable of lying to my face in so many aspects of our relationship that I know I will never feel truly safe anymore. I suspect that there is more to it, as he has control and addiction issues and I have found in the past that he has spent thousands of dollars of games online and has a separate credit card that I have no access to. I never thought I would be one of those women, but deep down I wish I had never found out and I could continue my life in blissful ignorance.

    Reply

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    Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
    We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
    Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
    Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
    A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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