Recovering From Infidelity

“I have been living apart from my husband of thirty years, after I discovered (that he had been having) an affair with another woman. Sadly, he continued to deceive me during this time,” writes Anna B. from Christchurch, New Zealand.

“I am having great difficulty coping with the fact that I was deceived so badly, and will never get over the hurt. I know I cannot live with someone I cannot trust. He still talks of a reconciliation, even though he is still seeing her privately. I have tried everything to re-establish the relationship but I have failed.”

It takes two people to have a successful intimate relationship. If your husband isn’t willing to do what it takes, there is no advice that I can offer you alone that will repair that will repair your marriage.

You could confront your husband with what you know, and what you’re thinking and feeling. You could demand that his affair end, and let him know the consequences if it continues. But you must be prepared to follow through with whatever you threaten.

Bonnie Eaker Weil, in the book Adultery, The Forgivable Sin, has some recommendations for the person who has been unfaithful, if he or she wants to work through the issues and save the relationship:

  • Don’t retreat into silence. Many people who have affairs have difficulty talking about their feelings, which is why they had an affair in the first place.
  • Be honest about whether you’re going to end the affair. If you wish to mend the primary relationship, your affair absolutely has to stop. Sex with another does not always destroy an important relationship—dishonesty and deception does.
  • Be willing to answer questions about your lover, but not too explicitly. If you don’t answer, your partner is likely to become obsessed with the issue.
  • Some questions to expect: who? where? how long? where and when did you meet? do you love this person? who else knows? do you still love me?
  • Resist the common impulse to defend your actions by saying things like: “She’s prettier—and better in bed.” If you do, you’re likely to rupture the relationship beyond repair.
  • Do not expect immediate forgiveness, even if you apologize.

So much of our ability to work through emotional pain is about getting our feelings validated. If you are the betrayer and wish to repair your primary relationship, you might say something like: “I know I’ve hurt you terribly, and I know you’re in pain. I really do love and care about you, and I want to make it up to you. Please let me. You are who I want to grow old with. I’m really sorry for hurting you and acting like a jerk. What can I do to help ease your pain? What do you need from me? I want to make amends for my behavior, so we can repair our relationship and start over.”

Don’t say these things unless you really mean them, and unless you’re willing to end your affair. Be willing to do this on an ongoing basis, over time. Make sure you are totally honest with your intimate partner.

If you are the person who has been betrayed, you have some work to do around grieving, controlling your anger, self esteem, forgiveness and making peace with the past.

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