Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

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

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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.

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    195 Comments

    Dan

    I’ve been with my wife for 13 years, we’ve been married for 18 months. 2 and a half years ago I had an affair for 2 months. My wife was working late every night and I felt like we were 2 strangers sharing a house. The affair made me feel good and wanted and valued at first but I quickly realised I didn’t like this person at all and hated what I had done. I called things off but the other person kept calling me for months threatening to tell my wife, I was a nervous wreck and a coward, I didn’t tell my wife. After 3 months the other woman decided she would leave me alone. I spent every second since being the “perfect” husband but I was wracked with guilt I would wake up thinking I was having a heart attack or crying, naturally I had a nervous breakdown and still never came clean. Well today after all this time the other woman has text my wife giving her every detail, I’ve destroyed her life. She’s so broken hearted and I can’t believe I’ve done such a thing. I tried to kill myself before but backed out because I didn’t want to hurt my wife and my family but I just don’t feel like I can carry on feeling this way. To any women who have been cheated on here, please know your husbands must feel every inch as bad as I do. We are so sorry

    Reply
    Theresa Fahie-Trusten

    Hi Dan. I see your post is from back in March. I’m curious to know how things are with you?
    I’m 4 months post finding out about my husband’s affair and this is what I can tell you so far on my healing journey.
    1. You didn’t ruin her life. What you did was wrong and hurtful, but you didn’t ruin her life. It might seem like it at the time, though.
    The only way I know of getting through initial stage this is with time. Time will help both of you process, time will lessen the sharp stabbing pains, time will heal. (And time sucks!) I’m pretty sure there no magic answer that will replace time.
    2. The day of finding out, and weeks (and perhaps months) after are HARD. So very hard! But this does not void the happy things that happened in the past — how much it affects her future is up to her.
    3. As chessey as this might sound, I couldn’t be where I am today without God……and where I am today is 150% stronger as a woman. But see, it was my choices post affair that led me where I am today. Not my husband’s.
    4. How I got here is nothing short of a miracle…this is why I thank God and give Him credit. I now have a stronger marriage than I could ever have imagined, I now am a stronger, better mother and kick-butt strong Christian woman.
    5. My advice to you is to do the same thing that I did: Pray. Pray for forgiveness, pray for love, pray for guidance (this was a biggie for me…should I stay or should I go?), pray for protection, pray for peace, and say some prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude, recognizing the blessings that are in your life.
    And get out. Go for a walk. Meet some friends for a burger. Take an art class.
    6. We all make mistakes. We all do things that hurt our marriages. You are not the first (nor the last) to have an affair. It happened. Own it, be at peace that it happened and never ever let it happen again. Do not let it define who you are.
    Blessings to you.
    Theresa

    Reply
    Carole L J

    found out my partner of 12 years was cheating on the 28th January with a work colleague, he left to be with her. I told him I loved him and wanted to work at it and he came home saying he loved me to, and I had to before him as he had realised he couldnt live without me. 3 weeks later we had a row when I found he had put a pin on his mobile phone. I went to a friends, came back an hour later he was missing I found him with her at his work and went mentally. Came home packed his stuff and put it outside now I am hurting still loving him and he is happy with her

    Reply
    Anonymous

    Time and Talk therapy will heip your heart heal. And please keep busy especially helping others.

    Reply
    JB

    Today is our 25th anniversary & should I even care? It’s been 4 years since I discovered her cheating (with 2 brothers if you can believe that). At first I saw some suspicious texts, but she swore they were just friends. Then I got a hold of her text history & found out the truth. I wanted a divorce right then, but she swore to me it wouldn’t happen again. I told her to come clean about any others & it turns out she was cheating before we got married. She is still close friends with them, she keeps using private messenger mode to communicate with him & she sneaks off to see him when I’m working, like I’m some sort of idiot that doesn’t know what she’s doing. We haven’t had sex in almost 10 months. she says it hurts to have sex with me, but refuses to go to the doctor to get it checked out. It sure didn’t bother her when she fucked those 2 losers. I’m not perfect, but I’ve never come close to cheating on her. When she got cancer, I was right there every step & I picked up the slack around the house. When her father got sick, I was there for her & her family. He passed away 2 years ago & her grandma passed away last fall. Same thing, I was always there for her, but she pulls this shit on me? I work 2 jobs & I guess the only reason I’m still with her is money. I don’t know if I can afford a divorce. I know I’d get spousal support, but would it be enough? Our daughter graduates from college in May & I think I have to grow some balls & just end it. I haven’t been happy in our relationship in a long time & I’m tired of her being selfish. I feel like I’m there so she can have her cake & eat it too. I feel better after venting, but I have to start putting my happiness before keeping the family together, because it’s killing me.

    Reply
    Drew

    I have been married for 12+ years now. My wife cheated on me during our short engagement and three months after we were married. She said that it was because of the pressure of may parents, and that she was scared (at least that was the best thing I got). I decided to stay together with her, but if I were honest, I never really worked on healing. I was working at the time and went to work and came home early, but as I was driving home, I thought I saw her driving in the opposite direction (this being very early in the morning, and she would have had no reason to go out). I drove the the guy’s house and sure enough, she was there. She said that she was at the bank, but is was BS. But like I said, I don’t think I ever worked on healing emotionally; just pretended that it never happened, which I’m sure she liked because she basically got a clean slate.
    Well, fast forward 12 years later; we were still together. We had moved to a different state, but it seems like the entirety of our marriage she has spend time on her phone. At first I trusted her being away from her family (the phone bill was $400 on one or two occasions). Well, about 4-5 years ago, I would catch her lying to me about little stuff. Going out late all day everyday and saying that she had to go to work (7 days a week) from morning until 10 pm every day, and being on her phone more and giggling while she received text messages. She was painting this picture of having an affair again. Then a few things happened at once that was the final straw for me; 1) I found out that she was in a different state for fun when she was suppose to be there for work, 2) I saw an email that she draft, with her named signed with another guy’s last name, and 3) she was suppose to visit her family in a different state, and found out that she planned a side trip to a different state;. There was also a phone conversation I heard her having about “being so excited” for something or another. She told me it was her sister on the phone call, but when I checked her call log, she had deleted the phone call. It is hard to trust someone when EVERYTHING they do reminds me of her infidelity and all my insecurities. I know there are more lies, in fact, of the past 12 years together with her, I don’t know what is the truth, half truth or lie.
    Anyways, presently, we have been separated for almost one year now, and after a lot of legal fees our divorce isn’t finalized yet; and I’m still considering getting back together with her so I won’t have to pay anymore lawyers’ fees. I don’t think I can forgive her this time; nor do I think I am willing to try very hard to have a happy marriage or trust her. I don’t even know if I like her personality.

    Reply
    Melissa

    Drew, she’s cheating. I know it’s hard and money is just money….leave her for good

    Reply
    Ariana

    It has been about 2 years since my boyfriend has cheated on me we have been together for 4 almost 5 years, what still hurts me is that I actully walked in and saw them I was in our bedroom and I heard another womans voice in the living room and then I heard the door to the guest bathroom shut so I go over there and look under the door and I see that he has his pants around his ankles so I knocked and I started yelling for him to open the door of course he puts his pants back on and opens it and I see him and the woman I just freaked out and I tried to hit her but he wouldn’t let me, but i got a god hit on him (it did NOT ake me feel better) this month is the 2 year mark and I just keep replaying what happend in my head and I just don’t know what to do I feel like i’m going crazy.

    Reply
    SraiUri

    It’s been 2 years since I found out about my husband cheating on me with my older sister. I am sad to say that I have not been all that good at allowing my self to heal from this event. I know that I had a part to play in his feeling like he needed revenge on me and thus having the affair with my sister, whom I was very close to. When my husband and I first got married we both agreed we wanted children, that was a huge thing for me. A few months befor we got married I had a terrible accident at work, had to undergo two surgeries, lost my job and was suffering from the emotional strain of the accident and legal stuff going on with my job. I began to seek out emotional support from one of my exes and this led to many arguments with my husband. We finally healed from that… fast forward two years… we got a new house with the intention to start a family. Months went by and he didn’t even want to try for a baby. I questioned him, and he told me that he didn’t want kids anymore because of my past with seeking emotional affairs. This broke my heart and led me to seek emotional support thus again from someone else, I never got physical with the person and when things felt like they moving more from emotional to physical I broke it off. During this time I confided in my sister ( who was also going through marital problems with her husband) with everything that was happening… well turns out all along they were having a very sexual affair. I found out because after my sister divorced she began hanging out with one of my exes and confided in him about the affair with my husband.
    I was finally pregnant, which is when my sister and my husband supposedly ended the affair. My daughter was 6 or 7 months old when my exe contacted me to tell me about the affair.
    My daughter is now three years old and I am still suffering from the effects of the affair. It’s very hard because my sister and I own a business together. I feel like I’m still mourning. I can’t sleep because I get these very visual images in my head. I know I should probably seek counseling for myself. I just never expected to still feel so hurt after all this time, after I thought I was done dealing with it. We are working through it and my husband is loving and willing to make it work. I just don’t know how to trust and feel safe again.

    Reply
    Lungiswa

    Me and my husband are both saved he started cheating in2010 since then he never stop when I discover that he have an affair he always blame me saying I am the one who made him cheating if I ask what exactly thing that I am not do the way he likes he always does not have an unswer so I’m always tell myself that I’m not the good wife for him. Each and every year we solve one problem and it is not just 1woman he have many

    Reply
    Pamela

    All these stories of infidelity…then the wronged spouse trying to forgive…are emotionally painful to me. Mainly because I myself know that pain. My husband of 14 years at the time forgot for awhile just how much love and trust means in a relationship. I accidentally found texts to a former coworker that painfully made me realize they were a lot more than just coworkers. By accidentally I mean I never have checked his phone, never felt like I needed to. He asked me what time I had called him and I picked his nearby phone up to verify this and there it was. I didn’t say anything right away, just casually asked him questions over the next few days and he answered with lies. I finally brought it all out what I had seen and he apologized. We went to counseling and are still together 2 years later.
    If a spouse cheats and lies I am here to tell you things will never be the same in your relationship. To stay together means you are accepting the fact that you have a spouse that you will never trust with your feelings or heart again. It is just that way whether you want that or not. The man I loved and trusted took that love and trust and destroyed it. He used to be my hero, I used to feel loved and protected and cherished by him. Now, I love him in a different way. I know he is weak and capable of lying to me. I like him now in many ways but the pure love and trust I had in him is gone forever. He cheated us both out of a trusting relationship. If you lose that trust it is hard to establish the intimacy you had before. Your marriage can move forward, you can share sorrows and joys with them, but it will be different. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. This is just the way I continue to feel. Once broken, your heart can be mended but the complete love and joy you felt before never returns. You will always feel broken inside.

    Reply
    Michelle

    Pamela,
    You said it perfectly!!! This is exactly how I feel. My husband of 28 years at the time had a 6 month affair with some tramp he met at work (he was bouncing at a bar). We are still together almost 2 years later and our relationship is better than it has been in a long time. But I don’t think that I will ever love him the same. I feel like I am going through the motions, but wouldn’t really say that I am truly happy any more. I couldn’t imagine my life without him, or with anyone else. He is still my husband, but no longer my knight in shining armor. I used to think that he would do anything for my well being, and now I know that is not the case. I used to look forward to randomly seeing him out and about. He used to make my heart race. Now when I see him my heart aches for what he took from us. I see him as a cheater, and liar who didn’t care enough about me to be faithful. I just can’t dig down deep enough to find any empathy for him when he is sick or down and I no longer enjoy taking care of him. I don’t think the brokenness will ever go away.

    Reply
    Kathy

    I don’t know how to forgive my husband for having a two 1/2 year on line relationship with an old girlfriend. Culminating in meeting her across the country and sleeping with her twice. We’d been married for 35 years and yes, had grown apart. But he was the one person I trusted most in this world and now that trust is shattered. I do believe it’s over but it doesn’t help. The thoughts and pictures go through my mind constantly. He has been honest and answered my questions. But I just can’t forgive him. How do I get past this and move forward? I sometimes feel that he’s staying because I take care of him and always have. Please help me..

    Reply
    Tina

    I totally agree with you, after 25 years of marriage and 5 children I found out my husband had two affairs one fir 4 years and the other fir a year which was much more serious he wanted to leave me fir her but then she broke up with him, 18 months later we are still trying to wirk things out but I feel I’m always looking fir lies and checking his phone , in some ways we are a lot closer and I’ve definetly learnt a lot about myself and realize we were not in a good place which doesnt condone what he did , it’s actually all the lies afterwards and everything I’ve found out is by checking his phone or emails not from him which I think makes a difference, I’ve asked him so many times to be honest and then when I find out more he just says he didn’t want to hurt me! He is very loving and kind and remorseful and promises to never betray me again but I’m afraid he got away with lying fir so long that it’s just a habit and can’t stop, and I’m wondering if he’s capable of being faithful

    Reply
    Alli

    I just found out my husband of 27 years was cheating on me for the past 2 1/2 years. I am devastated. I love him, but I don’t think I will ever trust him again. He ended the affair, or so he says, but then tells me that he is with me now so I should just “get over it”. That he doesn’t want to talk about it, and then he starts yelling. How can I forgive someone that doesn’t care to heal the pain he caused me and our family?

    Reply
    Michelle

    Alli,
    It sounds like he is angry that he got caught and maybe a little embarrassed. I would definitely suggest counseling for both of you. If he won’t go, at least go for yourself. You will never love him like before and trust will be a hard thing to get back especially if he is not willing to discuss it. Focus on making yourself happy again. You will never get over it, but it will get easier to live with.

    Reply
    Joy

    I have been with my fiancé for almost 2 years, and I cheated on him with one of his friends. I kissed his friend a few times, and sent him a picture of myself. I came clean to my fiancé, I couldn’t hold the guilt inside any longer. I told him after I had already ended it with his friend. I didn’t have to, but I needed to. This is a difficult situation because he had hurt me, very very very bad. One of my biggest fears he did to me. And I lost my safe space, which was him. That is when I started talking to his friend. I never slept with him and I never loved him or said I loved him. My heart was never open for the taking. We have both been reading this page and comments and trying to learn to trust and forgive each other again. Some of these comments seem to be quite blunt and negative. But they sound like the truth. I know things won’t ever be the same, I just hope we can get through this. Thank you for everyone who commented and for this page. It’s been so helpful for us.

    Reply
    Corbie

    It’s been 4 years since I found out that my husband of 14 years (at the time) was cheating. Not only that, he was cheating with our daughter-in-law, who was living with us at the time. Now I know better than to let another woman live in my house…but this was our son’s wife, our daughter-in-law. Plus, I truly believed that my husband was one of the very few men who would ever cheat. Haha!
    I mean, my husband even hated a country band just because they had a song about cheating…

    My husband has always been so overly loving and attentive. He would text me all throughout the day. Then, all of a sudden he was cold and distant. Very cold! No texts at all. I knew something was wrong with my husband but I just couldn’t figure it out. I even sat with my daughter-in-law talking through what could possibly be going on with him. I even told her that he acts like there is another woman..but not my man…when would he have time? He goes to work and he comes home. I was puzzled.

    Before I found out I even begged him. I mean I consider myself to be a strong woman….but I begged him for affection…something other than the coldness that he was giving me. I feel like a fool. I dropped to my knees and literally pleaded with him. I don’t know that I will ever get over that…..the feeling of being a fool. That’s a hard one.

    We did seek out counseling from our Pastor. It’s been 4 years now and I dunno. This has definitely changed everything…for me at least. From the outside, we seem the same. I believe from my husband’s perspective things are mostly the same….but for me, it will never be the same.

    We are working through this but it isn’t easy… It’s extremely hard to have intimacy without visions popping into my head. I’m really not trying to dwell on what happened, because it makes me miserable….but there are times in each and every day that those thoughts cross my mind. My husband said that for him, it’s in the past. He’s sorry but he cannot change what happened so he never thinks about it at all. That makes me furious! That I can’t go a day without being tormented by those thoughts coming into my head…and he lives on as if nothing ever happened.

    I cried throughout reading this article because you touched on so many things that I’m feeling….even 4 years later. It’s like someone gets it. I don’t know anyone personally who has stuck with their cheating spouse. When I talk to my church friends…they just let me spill my guts and then we pray. No answers. Then when I talk to my other friends or family…they tell me that I’m stupid for sticking it out and that I will never get over it and I’ll never look at him the same.

    I do believe he’s sorry. I do believe he’s a good man who made a terrible mistake. But he also, by his own words, only lives in the moment. So.. does that mean that he could very possibly allow himself to again get into a situation where he will falter, because he is in the moment?

    I have forgiven them, even before I felt like it. But forgiveness doesn’t remove the pain

    Reply
    Kelly

    No, forgiveness doesn’t magically remove the hole in your heart. But forgiveness is not just a one time thing. You may need to keep forgiving until you believe it. No one understands until it happens to them. I used to say, if that ever happened to me I would leave, no questions asked. And until your in that situation, your not sure what you will do.
    You husband doesn’t like to think about it because he is ashamed of his actions. It’s like breaking a glass of spaghetti sauce in the grocery store. You would want the store to announce you broke a glass overhead. You would be embarrassed. You husband also at the time of the affair made you feel worthless and nit picked you. But that is just so he could justify his actions.
    As far as, will he do it again. Unfortunately, life is uncertain and love isn’t a guarantee. All you can do is take it day by day. If he does cheat again, well you will have your answer. Only you can decide if you stay or go. But giving the knowledge he has now, if he risk it again. I don’t think he is the man you deserve.
    Best of luck. Pray for peace in your heart and mind. You deserve to be happy.

    Reply
    t

    He still sees her but says he is at the gym. But he think I don’t know. He hides truth from me. I just forgive. I’m desperate for his love.

    Reply
    Kelly

    Can you ever forgive if you can’t forget? Even if I can manage the forgiveness, I most definitely cannot forgot it. My story, like most is filled with pain. My husband cheated on me for two years with two different women. The first, his ex gf (who is also married) inboxed him a few months before our wedding. He then, bought her a plane ticket and hotel on our rehearsal dinner, also the same day my grandpa died. Before our first Christmas and husband and wife, he already had sex with her but she lived miles away and this was mainly a emotional relationship. This continues for several months. Ah, our first year anniversary. I went to visit my sick aunt while he “studied” for school. He did fly out to see me but stayed in a different hotel room. At this point he hasn’t touched me in 6 months. Fast forward, the trip was awful. He was distracted and mean. He looked miserable. The day I landed and opened the door to our apartment, the apartment we got engaged in. I just knew something was wrong. Someone was there. I could actually smell her. I confronted him that night and he told me he was “just talking to his ex” but denied anyone in the apartment. I was devastated! I literally fell to the ground. He walked right over my body. So I eventually got up off the ground and a few days pass. He was still being a jerk. Going to the gym for hours and coming home late. Well, I kicked him out. Told him, he needed to be moved out before I got home. He did that. Later that night he text me “this sucks, good night”. I did not respond. Then we began to talk again. But it still was off. He agreed to go to counseling and that was the saving grace. We were doing well in establishing a friendship and relationship but was not romantic. I couldn’t figure out why. Then, one early morning I got my answer. An inbox from another woman only this one is 16 years older than him making her 50! They met at the gym. Oh and that weird feeling I had when I walked in my apartment. She was there while he was “studying”. She stayed over for 2 nights and they had sex on our couch. The same couch I rolled up into a ball and sobbed my eyes out. He also bought a house without my knowledge and went on several vacations while we were separated. The betrayal is the worst. I hate my wedding day. I hate our first moments as husband and wife. And I still have really bad days. But I believe my husband is sorry. I believe he made very awful mistakes, unfortunately I paid for them, well that’s what I believed at time. But then, some moments of clarity happen. Happy people do not destroy their lives. I didn’t know it at the time but my husband was suffering too. Sure, most people would read this and think he’s a total asshole and a waste. And maybe at one time he was. But my pain, though it still hurts at times will get better. He has to live with what he did. And so my answer to anyone who has a similar story. At first it seems impossible to forgive. Because the memories haunt you. I could actually feel them together if I closed my eyes. But you deserve so much more than to feel pain and suffering. You deserve to be happy. And I choose happiness. My past is not who I am. My time apart from my husband made me grow and find me. When we got back together, I found out I didn’t lose myself in him like before. Our marriage is not perfect but I’m happy to say, after all that, we are expecting our first baby together. A life that almost never was. Learn to let it go so you can be happy again. Choose today, you deserve more.

    Reply
    Lauren

    These comments resonate with me. My husband of 15 years and I moved to another state. I left my job, became an empty nester, my dog died and then I moved to a state where I knew absolutely no one. His job was demanding, and he routinely left the house at 5:45 am and came home between 8-10pm. Our relationship was strained because I felt so completely isolated and lost. I couldn’t get a teaching job because the market was saturated with teachers. I had no friends and no kids at home. I suspected he was connecting with someone at work saw phone records confirmed frequent texting. This stopped when I asked about it and they started texting using Facebook messenger despite not being friends. I KNEW something happened between them because after returning home from a meeting he was touching me differently. I installed software on our PC and confirmed they were going to meet at our home to have sex when I went back home for a visit. He says they never did have sex but how can I believe that? She made me seem like a crazy person to her husband who comically is an ethics attorney. We moved from that state now but he continued to work with her for 9 months after my discovery. It’s been four years and I am not the same. I love him but that ongoing deception will likely haunt me forever. I don’t trust him fully and doubt I ever will. I still wonder if I should leave. I love him but a part of our relationship is destroyed.

    Reply
    Eric

    I think this is going to be my last post here but I want to leave a last message for those who’ve been reading and following this multiyear comment thread. This has been my own little cathartic activity, akin to a diary in some ways, that I’ve kept to myself.

    For those of you going through the devastation of discovering that your spouse is/was having an affair, or if you yourself are the ‘transgressor’ and are reading this looking for advice/information/confirmation, take a look at my post from July of 2017 on page two of the comments, as well as possibly one or two more after that date.

    It has been two years since our ‘crisis’ and my wife and I have put our life together, back together. I will not blame my wife’s infidelity on myself, but I learned to recognize some of the behaviors that I developed (or maybe always had?) which at some point began to drive a wedge between us. Some of my unhelpful behavior was reflexive based upon how I was being treated and it just snowballed into an avalanche. She certainly knows that she contributed to our situation too. We’ve since learned how to listen to each other better. We’ve learned not to let disagreements turn into resentment. We’ve learned not to resort to grievance. We’ve learned not to disparage each other to our friends and family even when “joking and kidding” around. We’ve learned that criticism leads nowhere positive. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that although I’m responsible for not being the attentive and caring husband I *thought* I was most of the time, she can never erase the infidelity. It will always be there, like a scar that fades and can be hidden but you’ll occasionally revisit with your fingers. I’ll probably never trust anyone as deeply as I did before: that still saddens me. It’s bittersweet in that if we only knew that the mistakes we were making were heading us into crisis we could have averted them (I’d like to think) but in the end, for us, we felt that our marriage and family was worth trying to save, and that we truly still loved each other. Our children suffered even if they’ll hopefully never know the details. All they know (I think) is that things were really bad between mom and dad and now they’re better. That hurts the most at this point, to be honest. Our high-achieving daughter is seeing a counselor for anxiety. It kills me that we probably had a hand in causing or at least exacerbating this.

    The good news here is that as hopeless and empty as I felt in June of 2017, I can safely say our marriage is in most ways stronger than ever when looking forward and not back. It took great soul searching and re-commitment by the both of us to never return to the destructive behaviors of the past. So, for those reading this out of despair, as I once did, my advice stands as I probably wrote previously. Get quality counseling for yourself. Get quality counseling for your spouse individually and then together. Get counseling for your children; they are sponges that soak up everything even if you try to hide the dysfunction, and they’re hurting too even if they don’t understand what’s going on. Talk to a lawyer just in case it all falls part irreversibly! If you both decide to rebuild, recognize your own failings (we all have them), identify what issues and behaviors eventually resulted in the infidelity and subsequent crisis you’re in, and be willing to listen intently to your spouse. Forgiveness alone will do nothing to rebuild a marriage without the excruciating work of honest change and acceptance of the past. Only until those steps are taken do I believe that forgiveness can begin to heal the soul. Counseling was instrumental like the ER is needed in a medical emergency, however, only a dedicated re-commitment to mutual respect, honesty, love, and caring can save a marriage. This, in the end, is what has worked for us. Best wishes to all.

    Reply
    Michelle

    Reaching out for some advice. I have posted before so most of you know my background. My husband and I are still working things out. Recent problem that I am not sure how to handle. When he was cheating he was using his work phone so I couldn’t check the account. During the confrontation, his work phone ended up getting smashed (very convenient for him). He was recently given a new cell phone for work. He hid it from me and lied about it. Said that he just didn’t know how to tell me. I told him that hiding and lying about it was the WORST thing he could have done. My trust issues aren’t going to be resolved if he continues to lie and hide things. I told him that I wanted to separate. He was against it. Now he is acting like nothing happened. I don’t want to become a door mat, but I am afraid that is what I have become. He lies, hides things and cheats, I get mad, he apologizes and we go back to normal. How much is too much? When and how do you know when you reach the point of no return?

    Reply

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