No matter who cheats in a relationship, surviving and restoring a marriage after infidelity isn’t easy for either partner. And when a wife cheats, it leaves a particularly nasty taste in a husband’s mouth especially since most people assume, wrongly, that only men cheat. It messes with a man’s ability to trust anyone but especially themselves. It definitely affects his ability to trust within his own home. Once that trust is broken, how can you rebuild it with the same person who’s created the damage? You must seek growth and take back your independence.
It’s going to take more courage than you’ve ever had to muster in your personal relationships.
Courage to admit that you cannot go through this alone and courage to restore your marriage to some modicum of what you want or thought you had. It’s going to take two of you to make it better. It also requires the effort of two mature adults. Unfortunately, infidelity doesn’t happen between two healthy people. It occurs when the spoken and unspoken agreements no longer sustain the couple - one person ends up living willingly or not, in fantasy; the other in the immediacy of their feelings and desires. Regardless of how modern some marriages are, infidelity only occurs and is labeled as such, when a couple has the spoken agreement of monogamy. An open marriage does not experience infidelity.
In order to restore your relationship, there needs to be a truing up of what’s really going in the bedroom. The mutual creation of a new agreement - spoken and unspoken. A commitment to personal growth and to the partnership, and family.
This is nearly impossible to create by yourselves. So, please, don’t just read this and think you’ve got it - that’s what’s gotten you into trouble, to begin with. Get yourself some good help. Neither person is capable of recreating their partnership without outside intervention and support.
The effects: It takes a lot of work to rectify the broken trust and ensuing pain of infidelity. Going outside of one’s values and stepping out of integrity affects everything… finances, relationships, job, career prospects, living situation, and lifestyle. Everything.
You can’t DIY or simply, “deal with it” minimizing the impact cheating does to your psyche and to your heart.
The experience of finding out: it takes courage to digest and grasp the entire story. Usually, an affair is quite hidden, often occurring over a great deal of time with one lover (women don’t usually go from bed to bed). It’s hard to get present to the fact that she’s been living a double life. She’s going to be defensive and frightened of your response. (Understandably.) And you will want to be careful - the confession isn’t going to be easy to hear or to understand.
In your reaction: you won’t feel as if you can possibly survive your wife’s infidelity. You don’t know who to hate more - her, her lover or yourself for not seeing it. You’ll be filled with conflicting thoughts of wanting to pull in or to express rage by taking violent action. You’ll imagine heroics that in this day and age will end you up in jail. You won’t care.
You can’t hate her into loving you. You can’t hate him enough to destroy yourself.You can’t punish yourself into forgiveness.
It becomes a series of tortuous moments… logical, understandable, justified and without a win if you express them, anywhere in sight. The powerlessness and overwhelm can drive a person crazy.
It’s tough to navigate this particular emotional storm. One minute you’re in love, trying to forget driven by the fear of what the future looks like. Another, you’re willing to forgive but not forget and all along, you want to turn back time and pretend none of it happened, to begin with.
Do no harm: you initially survive by stepping out of the dynamic the two of you have created. Go someplace safe for awhile. Leave, so that you can cool down before you say or do something you’ll regret. Take some time away from the partnership to give yourself a safe place to process.
You’re going to want a place (like for an hour, a week, every week for a few hours) just for you because you’ve put your faith into the wrong part of your life and you need to find faith in yourself again. Unfortunately, betrayal cuts deep and it’s not easy to reclaim trust.
Your work includes facing facts, gaining clarity, rebuilding your independence within your marriage. You’ll have to take a hard look at whatever lack of sex or emotional disconnection you two have developed. You’ll have to face your naiveté, your willingness to play along, your work schedule, your undying need for family. You’ll naturally begin to protect yourself and feel as if everything is unsteady: your friendships, your colleagues, your family, asking, “Who knew what?” These moments hurt.
Growth seems to never happen during the good times.
Stay on your side of the street: I am not a big fan of keeping a cheater in your life. A cheater is a cheater is a cheater is a cheater until the day they decide not to cheat any longer. You cannot make that decision for your wife.
Marriage in our day and age is about choice.
Each day, every married couple wakes up and decides if this is another day for putting family and spouse first. Every day. Without that judgment, it’s tough to create happiness and harmony in your home. We are inundated with distraction, come-ons, pornography, attraction, and opportunity.
If you don’t opt-in to creating a loving relationship, monogamy doesn’t stand a chance.
The trap: in wanting to stay together, you will be tempted to blame yourself. Sometimes you’ll think that’s your only option. You do play a part in the dynamic you’ve created, but you are not responsible for the cheating. Ever. No matter what is thrown in your face - and lots will be thrown in your face!
Part of the issue was your willingness to tolerate permeable boundaries. The problem is, you may not have known that they were even there. You may not have known about your wife’s proclivities, but either way, now that you know, it’s time to protect you. To understand your co-dependence, your need for this person beyond mere love. Love alone cannot save a marriage. I wish it were that easy. So you’re going to have to do your work to become an individual again within your partnership. She cannot have all the power. She’s proven not to be trustworthy with your heart.
Where you go from here: marriages that survive infidelity depend upon two people, committed to recreating everything together. Without that kind of commitment, it will not work. So your first test… will she join you?
You need her undying commitment to being in a couple with you. Again.
You can’t continue shouldering all the burden of the relationship by yourself any longer. You’ve been doing it without her full support for too long. It will eat at your self-esteem and self-respect going forward.
Overcoming shame with forgiveness: You’re in the position of power for a brief moment, able to work together to heal the shame she’s feeling of stepping out of your value system and what doing so caused in your marriage.
With shame comes the opportunity for you to grant forgiveness and to become a bigger person.
By doing so, you put your healing into the realm of possibility. It’s a harder journey than just sitting down and discussing what’s not working with a spouse. It is truly stepping into a new day layered with generosity and trust.
What’s required: lots of boundaries, date nights, SEX, things to feed a new rapport, things that feel good and the undying belief that you’ll get through this healing by and for yourself as well as by and for yourselves as a couple. In addition, you’ll need the antitheses of what you’re both feeling in boredom and anger: a big dash of romance, curiosity, variety, fun. Those dates and experiences require that you overcome your innate reactions which is why having outside help to show you the way, to encourage and to hold you to show up as your best is necessary. We mere mortals have a tough time getting over ourselves!
The new commitment is to one another not just family, not just self: no family, no child or children can expect to be the reason why a couple stays together. It’s not fair and an enormous burden on kids. You also can’t commit to just the kids or the family because that kind of commitment won’t keep your love life together. Parenting is tough, often boring, full of responsibility! What kind of turn on is that between two adults? The kids can never be more important than being lovers. Making love and having sex is adult play. Being lovers is what brought you together to create those munchkins. Do not put the onus on them if you want them to be healthy and if you want to be happily married again!
The results: an entirely new way of being together - which can be fun and exciting in and of itself! Everything must change - everything from healing and doing personal growth work and changing your own personal habits and lifestyle choices to possibly taking new vows together, having new friendships that don’t reek of embarrassment, shame or secrets. A balanced independent life mixed with being coupled up. Perhaps even a new home, a new environment, a new career. It is possible! It has been done. It can be done by you too.
You must learn a new way of thinking about being married and what marriage means and what monogamy means - not pretending you get it.
The success rate: doable. That’s all I’m going to say. But, you cannot do it alone. If she’s not getting love, attention, sex, adoration, creativity, freshness, variety, entertainment, help, desire, steadiness, calm, good parenting and whatever else you originally brought to your relationship to begin with and then some, she will leave again. You must own up to and do your work. That’s called being vulnerable, asking for help, seeking help, talking about the feelings, accepting all of it, doing your work to accept all of it, to process. Not wanting it to go away. Not just learning the right words to say, but deeply changing for the good of your love for her.
Yes, the onus is on both of you. Yes…. and, I’m sorry… you share in her infidelity. It is the dynamic that both of you created that she rejected. Facing that truth is hard.
Figuring out how to play with your enemy again takes stamina and strength. And inspiration, hope, optimism, a bigger faith than you might have at the moment.
So do your part, do your growth, make your courage to become a better, bigger man. You won’t regret any of that! That won’t be wasted time or money (in fact, none of this is wasted time or money so don’t even go down that path of thinking!)
Your life is teaching you a great deal. And as you strive to thrive because of your wife’s infidelity, you will know that you’re capable of anything and that true love is possible!
I believe in you!
So it’s tough and you know it. You’re angry, scared and lost in thoughts of revenge. Reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org Together, we’ll help you grow into a better, stronger, more loving relationship by shifting out of reaction and into strategic thinking, a bigger perspective and a new plan for your life.