Cheating, lying and creating family chaos – yeah, that’s infidelity for ya. Nothing is more challenging to a relationship than infidelity. Child rearing, financial strains and interpersonal struggles pale in comparison to the challenges that infidelity dumps on a relationship. Rebuilding your marriage after an affair has shredded the bonds of marriage is possible but it’s one of the most trying and arduous efforts that a couple can face together. The challenge is faced by the couple together, but the really hard work is on the one who has been ‘cheated on’ as he or she attempts to rebuild trust in their partner after its been completely destroyed by the affair.
But we guys are not alone in this infidelity struggle, because we are no longer alone in creating the family chaos. With the emergence of the internet, social media and dating apps, women are quickly catching up to their male counterparts in creating family chaos. In fact, the Kinsley Institute at Indiana University reported that women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men for the first time in history. In fact, 19.2 % of the women in the study had admitted to cheating during their current relationship compared to 23.2% of the men.
And, although rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is possible, the methods to do so may differ depending on who caused the issue.
Rebuilding Your Marriage When You, the Man, Cheated
1.Come clean. The first step toward repairing the rift is to be honest. It’s likely going to be brutal to step up and admit that you have hurt your wife, but if you want to save your marriage, you need to have the courage to face the truth, no matter the anguish it will unleash on you both.
A study of married couples by UCLA and the University of Washington concluded the one proven road back to marital stability and satisfaction was: admitting the affair. The numbers don’t lie. At the end of the 5-year study, 43% of couples who confessed their unfaithfulness were divorced compared with 80% of the couples who hid their adultery when their spouse later discovered it. Honesty was the key distinction in whether the relationships survived. In fact, when the cheater accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the affair, the marriage could survive and could be rebuilt to sustain the test of time. At the conclusion of the study, couples who survived an affair experienced comparable levels of marital stability and satisfaction as the couples who had not experienced adultery at all.
2. End the affair. It’s just that simple. Maintaining an illicit affair is just damaging beyond belief, mindless, cruel, self serving, disrespectful and selfish. It does nothing in favor of your marital relationship and, if anything, threatens the very existence of your marriage and both of your financial futures. Nothing is more devastating to a woman than to find out that her husband is having an affair. If you’re not suspected of having an affair, STOP. As much as there may be physical attraction and fleeting physical rewards for you personally, it is destroying you and your marriage. The lies, the tardy arrivals, and the missed events will ultimately expose your infidelity and your affair will be discovered if it hasn’t been already. Regardless of how secretive and discrete you think you may be, your infidelity will be found out, and you will destroy your relationship in the process. If there is any hope for rebuilding your marriage, the affair must end. Then and only then can real healing begin.
3. Give her space. If and when you break the news that you’ve been unfaithful your spouse will be devastated and she’ll be blitzed with a storm of raw emotions: shock, rage, betrayal, shame, depression, sadness. Temper your confession with compassion and understanding. As your wife rages and begins to attack you, be kind. Be gentle. Agree with her as much as humanly possible. She’s going through a very difficult time and arguing with her at this point is not in your best interests, not if you have any hope of rebuilding your marriage. Getting through this torrent of emotions will not be easy. Seek therapy and marriage counseling if at all possible. As financially challenging as therapy and counseling may be, consider it a financial investment into your future with your wife. Getting into deeper issues, like why you strayed, is best done when you are in a safe, counseling environment. You likely didn’t cheat one day out of the blue. There were multiple factors that led to it. And you won’t recover from the infidelity overnight either. It’s a very lengthy process and one that will likely take four to five years to regain some relative normality. Take your time. Eventually you will both come to understand what incited you to begin the affair and how each of you had some level of responsibility for its inception. The good news is that your marriage can emerge rock solid and more gratifying once you grapple with and solve those deeper underlying issues.
4. Consult a marriage counselor. Should you and your wife decide to try and work through the affair and the damage it has caused in your relationship, it is highly advisable that you not try to work out your challenges alone. A marriage counselor or mediator would be an expert guide to get the two of you back on the road to reconciliation. There are likely multiple underlying issues that lead to the betrayal and each of you share some level of responsibility for the existence of those issues. Only a qualified counselor, clergyman or mediator may help get you both to the core of those issues and give rational direction on how to resolve them. An affair is most likely a result of unhappiness that exists on both sides of the relationship. Discovering, facing and resolving the root of that discontent will lead to a healthier and more satisfying marriage than you had before the infidelity.
5. Rebuild trust. Trust is a delicate thing. It is a product of prolonged physical and emotional fidelity. And while it would be a huge relief to be able to confess and move on right away, that’s just not in the realm of reality. Once your infidelity has been exposed, whether through your wife’s discovery or by your confession, her trust of you and your actions will be gone. Everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you see or might see will be questioned, over and over again. Her trust in you and your intentions has been lost, gone, and it won’t return anytime soon. If you’re patient, the seed of trust can grow again. but it’ll take time, patience and endurance on both your parts. Trust can build slowly, over years, by a long series of small commitments and verified successes, each event, each schedule, each meeting, each announcement planned, and each reality checked, challenged and found to be truthful. Through these seemingly endless commitments and successes, its possible to break through the hard, cold distrust of your actions and rebuild trust in your actions.
6. Forgive. While forgiveness may happen, forgetting won’t. But it doesn’t have to: only forgiving matters. Again, this won’t happen overnight, and you can’t impose any kind of definitive deadline on it. But with continued commitment to your marriage and your relationship it is possible to restore trust and intimacy in your marriage. By facing the issues that led to your urge to stray together, your wife may see that while flawed (as we all are), you are worthy of forgiveness. If she refuses to forgive, you have run up against a wall to healing and moving forward. Try and convince her to give therapy a shot as professional help may be needed to get over the barricade and back on track to reconciliation.
An affair doesn’t have to be the last chapter in your marriage. Your adultery can be a wake-up call that your marriage is in serious trouble and on a dangerous path to destruction. If you’re upfront and honest, willing to face the consequences and put in the work in rebuilding your marriage and fix the problems, your honesty about your extramarital affair may prove to be a turning point toward a more satisfying relationship and a brighter future for both you and your spouse.
Rebuilding Your Marriage When She Cheated
1. The Discovery. Well now, since you’re not the one that has to come clean it’s likely that she has already come clean or that her secret was ‘discovered’. If she’s already come clean, then start concentrating your efforts on the other items below.
If on the other hand you are the one that discovered her infidelity, challenges abound for you. Challenges with trust are overwhelming you. You can’t sleep. You can’t think. You want to know where she is every moment of the day. Has she stopped the affair? How do you know? Do you trust her answer if and when she gives you one? The idea of spying on her surfaces and you want to take action. Read her emails? Check her phone logs and text messages? These are all invasions of privacy and are ILLEGAL. DO NOT DO ANY OF THIS. Focus, focus, focus on what you can control. You can only control your own actions. You cannot control hers.
2. Give Her Space Whether she has admitted the affair or she’s been discovered, she’ll need space. Space to collect her thoughts. Space to change course, if that’s still needed. And, space to help bridge the divide of trust that’s been broken. That trust can only be built up slowly over time.
If it’s suspected she’s still involved in the affair, there is nothing you can do about it personally. But you can focus on your actions and IGNORE her actions. To not ignore her actions will only cause you more heartache and dismay. You’ll focus on her whereabouts and what’s she’s likely doing, or at least what you suspect she’s doing. These are only harmful thoughts and will only lead to destroying those parts of your relationship that’re not already destroyed.
Instead, you need to focus on everything else. Focus on your work, on your kids, on their activities, on your hobbies and on your friends. But, ignore your wife and her actions until she decides to end the affair. For help in this and many other divorce related issues, buy and read Michelle Weiner-Davis’ book Divorce Busting. It’s a wealth of time proven tips and assistance for controlling yourself, your emotions, and your actions so as to not chase your wife away with the constant accusations, guilt, anger, fear, rage and frustration that you’re going through.
3. End the Affair. Ok, so you have no control over her ending the affair. But you can talk with your spouse and encourage her to end it. If she refuses, suggest joint marriage counseling. She may or may not be willing to spill her guts to you or to a stranger but you’ve got to try. If she agrees to the counseling and you can afford it, GO. It will do you both a lot of good and it’s is the best chance you have of salvaging your marriage.
4. Consulting a Marriage Counselor. Ok, so assuming she has agreed to go and try to reclaim some of what ‘s been lost in your marriage. There, once each of you has had a chance to yopen up about yourselves to the counselor, you’ll be able to open up about your marriage. What was going right, what was going wrong, what was going sideways in your relationship that may have led to the affair. This is where you dig deep to unveil the secrets and feelings of what has not been expressed, or if it was expressed, what was not acknowledged by one of you or both of you. The challenges in your relationship that led to the infidelity have got to be addressed for there to be any real healing.
Remember, she may have been the one that strayed, but each of you share some of the burden for the affair in some way. Maybe she was telling you all along but you weren’t really listening to her ‘issues’. Maybe you just turned a deaf ear to her rants and bitching. Therein may lie some of the issue.
Maybe she clammed up and said nothing to you, living in desperate silence, not giving in to what was bothering her, and not being honest about her loneliness, her struggles, her issues, and her not feeling loved by you.
This is exactly why a trained professional is so vital to the unveiling of the truth. We as individuals are unwilling or unable to be that brutally honest with ourselves, and certainly not that brutally honest with our spouse without the gentle and non-judgmental encouragement of the counselor. The counselor can help ‘peel the onion’, one layer at a time to get to the root of the despair, and find a way to seek healing from each of you.
5. Rebuild trust. This is a tough one. She cheated on you. And you’re mad as hell. You have every right to be. But, that won’t bring her back and that won’t help rebuild your marriage. Rebuilding trust will take time, lots of time, and there is no guarantee that it’ll be successful. But with guts and determination, on both your parts, you can slowly plant the seeds of trust and water them regularly.
The seeds of trust are just that – seeds. Each event that is planned, each time she is on her own and you have to trust her to arrive on time, each successful event allows the seed to start to take root and grow. One by one, event by event, the seed starts to take root and the trust begins to emerge out of each successful event.
Truth be known, this process will likely take three to five years to have any lasting affect on you and on her. It just takes time, and it is a slow rebuilding process that cannot be rushed.
6. Forgive. We both know that the infidelity is something that will never be forgotten, never. It’ll always be in the back on your mind and you’ll always be mindful of the possibility that it could happen again.
You’ll have to put in a lot of hard work to make your marriage work in a way that it never did before. But, by doing the ‘hard time’, working at rebuilding your marriage after an affair, and with the rebuilding of trust, you have the chance to forgive. And, you have the chance to be more thoughtful, more aware, more sensitive to your partners needs and wants.
And, it is that sensitivity that may be the key to rebuilding a lasting relationship that could endure any challenge and could last a lifetime. With sensitivity, you’ll be better prepared to sense your partners wants and needs, and it’s that sensitivity that can help to make you a more caring and loving partner, maybe the kind of partner she’s wanted all along.
And that is worth fighting for.
Trust is an essential key in any relationship. I've helped couples restore broken trust after an affair, financial dishonesty, physical and emotional abuse as well as constant lying over small things. I've also worked with individuals to trust again after previous childhood trauma or relationship pain from their ex-partners and…
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Well son, soon you’ll be married. Just seeing those words on the page fills me with a mix of emotions that surpasses my ability to sort them all out. Where do I begin to express everything I want to say? All I want you to know about life, about marriage? About loving someone for the rest of your life? So, what do I say to my son on his wedding day?
Of course, I realize that my best opportunity to convey all these things has already passed. I had my chance to teach you by example. All those years as you grew up, there were days, weeks, and months where I could demonstrate in real life how to be a good spouse; a good parent. And I did. I did my best. Not every day was a success, obviously. Okay, some days were total disasters.
But here we are now. And I just feel like there are some things that still need to be said from a parent to a child; well, from me to you, specifically. So, here goes. (Forgive me if you’ve heard some of these things before. Surely by now you’re used to me repeating myself.)
Think More of Her, and Less of Yourself
When confrontations occur, and they will, big egos can spell disaster for a marriage. This is something I’ve learned from personal experience. If you let your ego take over, it will eat away at your marriage from the inside out. Big egos make the owner of the ego push their side of an issue during an argument when, in fact, they should just let go. A big ego can make one ignore the signs that really hurt their partner. Big egos make people do really stupid things like deny that they made a mistake, or deny them the ability to say they’re sorry. This isn’t to say you need to think less of yourself. Not at all. But humility is a fine attribute that will give you the opportunity to build a stronger marriage.
Little Things Really Matter
Small, loving gestures are meaningful to your partner. And, so are small, irritating habits. It’s important not to overlook the little things in a marriage. Things like not drinking out of the milk jug if it really bugs your wife. Things like bringing home a bouquet of flowers “just because.” Things like putting the car keys in the same place every night, and turning the lights off in the room when you leave. The small, loving gestures are a gentle reminder to your wife that you truly love her. But the small, irritating habits can also make her think you really don’t care. The truth is, they both have meaning, and they both matter.
The Laundry Can Wait
As your marriage grows, try not to get bogged down in the day-to-day routine of life. It’s easy to get caught up in domestic chores and daily tasks that rob you both of the joys of marriage. Yes, the garbage has to be taken out, the laundry has to be done and dishes have to be washed. But, if you’re not careful, these chores can take over your whole lives. This is especially hard when you own a home. Now you have this big “thing” you have to take care of. Leaves to rake, garden hoses to untangle, a new furnace install. Let me tell you something. As much as you might enjoy being a homeowner, over the years these things get boring with a capital B. And, if you’re not careful, you can project that boredom onto your spouse. You grow to mistakenly think she’s the one who’s boring. In reality, she’s probably just as bored as you are.
I don’t know what the answer is to this one. The answer won’t be the same for everyone. Maybe you won’t want to even own a house. Lots of people these days prefer to live in a condo just so they can avoid yard work. Or maybe you’ll be able to afford to pay someone else to take care of some things. Who knows what life will bring you? All I know is, you shouldn’t let domestic chores rob you of the real joys in life. The laundry can wait.
What Do I Say To My Son – Be Consistent
Please do your best to keep your promises. If you tell your wife you’ll pick her up at 2:15, be there at 2:10. Being true to your word is so important in a marriage. It builds trust. It instills a sense of security in the marriage. Imagine if you have a marriage when if you don’t show up, your wife knows without a doubt that something is wrong. People might say to her, “Oh, he probably forgot. You know how men are.” But your wife will say, “Not my husband. If he says he’ll do something he does it. Something must have happened.” Be that guy. Be true to your word. Be dependable. Show up. Be on time. And, show her you care, about her.
Realize Your Own Vulnerabilities
Lots of people will disagree with what I’m about to say. I don’t care. (This is something else you’ll learn when you get older. You care less and less what others think.) You have to realize your own vulnerabilities. Be honest with yourself. You’re a man. Other women will be attracted to you, married or not. You’ll still be attracted to women, even after you get married. (Surprise! You’re human and you’re not yet dead.)
Don’t put yourself in situations where your natural vulnerabilities may cause you to do something stupid. So, here’s what I suggest. Don’t have women friends outside your marriage. It just doesn’t work. Maybe it does work in a small number of cases. But is it worth the risk? Is it worth hurting your spouse when it makes her uncomfortable that you have a standing tennis date with your woman “friend”? Trust me when I say you’re just putting yourself in a tempting situation when you engage in a friendship with a woman outside of your marriage. Maybe it doesn’t seem fair, or maybe you’ll say that your spouse shouldn’t be so jealous. Nevertheless, it’s not good for your marriage.
Say Something. Anything.
You don’t need to be a chatterbox to be a good husband. But engaging in conversation and small talk, anything, just a little something helps tremendously, even when you just don’t feel like talking. In fact, if you cannot engage, then just say, “I don’t feel like talking right now.” That works. But the worst thing you can do, especially in an argument, is to clam up. THAT is infuriating. Try to say something that will give you a little time to think, at least for now. Anything will work. “Can we please talk about this later? I need some quiet time to think.” Or, “I’m busy right now but this is important to me. Can we talk over dinner?” And really, talking later is often better. It allows both of you to calm down, take a break. It prevents you both from saying something you’ll regret later. But, say something; just don’t say nothing.
Stop. You know what I mean. Just a little pat on the shoulder as you’re walking by. A touch to her hair. Holding hands on the couch. These tiny little gestures of physical affection are very meaningful and important to your wife. They’re like an unspoken, “I love you.”
Ask for Help
This might be the piece of advice that will be hardest for you to swallow. Things won’t always be rosy. There will be times when you need help. Don’t be shy about asking for it. You don’t have to be the big, strong, tough guy. You have lots of supportive people who love you and want to help. When things get overwhelming, ask for help. If you hit a rocky patch in your marriage, ask about counseling. Ask your wife to help you understand the problems. When you ask for help, miracles can happen. People are there for you. I’m there for you, too.
What Do I Say To My Son
Honest, it is difficult to know what I should say to my son on his wedding day. Today you will live through a life altering event and there are no right or wrong words for me to say. What do I say to my son? In guess, the last pearl of wisdom I want to bestow on you son is – be humble. Be yourself but be gentle. Like most men, you’re a strong man with strong opinions and strong attitudes. And, in gentleness there is strength. In dealing with your wife, gentleness will reap its own rewards in love and understanding. And you will be the recipient of those rewards if you just treat your wife with love and respect.
God Bless you and may you shower your wife with the love that’s deep in your heart on this momentous day.
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Yeah, so your wife walked out on you. Or told you to get out, one of the two. Hey, I know the feeling. I’ve been there. One day my wife of thirteen years up and left, leaving myself and our children hanging out to dry. It wasn’t like the signs…
For you, my incredibly amazing, magnificent and beautiful daughter on her graduation from High School, I give this ‘Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation.’ It was hard to write this then, and still hard to read today. Several years have passed since I first wrote this to you, and as I read it again, I’m struck by how true it still is! It will still be valid in another couple of years, and even more beyond that. You continue to amaze me daily and I’m struck so often by how you “have it!”
Hi. This is your father. Many things below I’ve said to you in person. But I believe important things are best backed up with the written word. Most of this letter is a bunch of stuff you may, or may not, decide is useful. I know when I was graduating high school I didn’t give my father’s advice much thought. But I promise you, if he had written it down for me, I guarantee I would find it valuable today. Hopefully you’ll find a few nuggets buried in this letter to my daughter now and later.
You’ll excuse me for overstepping my boundaries if you feel I have in writing it down. Since I can’t buy you a car for graduation or fly you around the world as a present when you turn 18 soon (both things I’d love to do, but alas, it ain’t gonna happen), what I can do is this. I can write a letter to my daughter. Sure, I can write you a letter any time, but I’ve decided to pour out what I consider to be the real morsels of truth in life. I’ve found these over the years, with most coming from pain and wrong choices. You’ll make those too, but maybe this letter will help you avoid the ones I made so you can go make your own, less painful ones.
To My Daughter
So… here’s the most important stuff (read this next paragraph if nothing else, please):
In all the time you have been on this planet, I have loved you more than words will ever express. You are my daughter, and I am amazed by you. Always and forever. I wish I had more to offer you than simply my pride and love, though I hope they will suffice in this moment. I’m truly in awe at what a smart, sweet, kind, caring and optimistic young woman you have become. You are quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m really glad you’re here. I love you. Looking good, kiddo!
Now, on to the graduation address…
That I am sitting here writing to you on the eve of your high school graduation and a month before your official status as a young adult has me simply flabbergasted. I could not possibly have prepared for this day, and yet here it is. What I find more odd is how vivid my memories are of my own graduation and then later your birth. I can still see you as you were before school began for you, when the world is full of wonder. And now you are about to set out on the next chapter. I can’t describe the joy and sadness that swirl in my emotions.
You are a young lady now, hardly the small child of my memories. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to really talk to you, though it is absolutely my honor, privilege and duty to keep trying, for as long as I live.
Truth told, I’ve never considered myself a very good father, and in many ways I’ve been simply lousy. I’m sorry is about all I can really offer. The older you get, the older I get, the more likely the struggles of my adult life will become things you know more about, and in so doing, will likely shift some of the distance between us, though it will never excuse the places where I failed you. For this, all I can do is say I’m sorry and ask for your forgiveness.
Of course, there are also many little things that I have had a part of along the way that have certainly helped shape the fine young woman you are today. I’d like to think that some of the adventures, people and places I have shown you had an impact, and that my family has had some positive growth for you as well.
Your mother and I made a deal a long, long time ago that no matter what happened, we would always do our best to teach you about the world as best we could without disparaging the other. I think it served you well. I hope it did. It wasn’t easy, for either of us.
Somehow, I missed the part where you stopped being a little girl and started becoming a young adult, and it definitely happened along the way. The young woman I see before me is really an amazing person, and I want to do everything in my power to help ensure she stays that way.
So, I’ve been watching you for awhile now, and I’d like to offer some insight into the world you are about to enter. There are things your father still knows that you do not. There are some pieces of advice you’re unlikely to hear from anyone else, and some of them may piss you off a bit, but if I don’t tell you, no one else will, and forewarned is forearmed.
Know that first and foremost, what I want for you is a joyous and happy life filled with love, friendships, adventures, learning and growing. I also know that there are going to be tough days. I hope you’ll count on me as a voice of reason and wisdom as you grow into adulthood.
Know also that no matter what anyone ever says, you are perfect just exactly as you are. You’re never going to be too short, too fat, too dark, too weak, too dumb, or anything else that people may come along and tell you that you are. Surround yourself with people who remind you of how awesome you are, and avoid the ones that don’t. The only person you need permission from, from now on, is you.
I hesitate to say this part, and I think it is necessary. The world is sometimes cruel and evil people really are out there. You have been incredibly blessed so far that perhaps the worst hardship you have endured is your father’s lack of presence. I’m not aware that you have broken any bones, required surgery or had any close friends die on you or really fuck their lives up horribly while you had to watch. While I truly don’t know what personal struggles you have overcome (though I do know that you have a perseverance about you that is admirable, and that simply learning itself has been a life long challenge for you, and may well continue to be), what I do know is that you really have lived a fairly sheltered life compared to what many children in this world endure. There are a great many “bad” places on this planet, and I hope you’ll steer well away from them, or enter only safely with a good guide. I mean this as much about real, physical places and people as I do about bad decisions and poor judgment, your father being somewhat of an expert on bad decisions and poor judgment.
Your conservative father is deeply concerned that you may not give enough credence to the idea that capable as you are, you are also diminutive, attractive and generally optimistic. While these are cherished things, they are also traits a bad person will try to capitalize on. I don’t want you to be afraid of the world in any sense, and I do want you to be prepared.
My second really important point I want to get through to you is this: There is a huge, amazing world out there, too. Go see it.
You aren’t in a hurry, of course, and I don’t want to see you wasting a minute of your life longer than you have to here. There is an entire planet out there, and you should strive to see as much of it as you can. My largest regret in life is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to me to travel in my youth. I got scared and stayed put. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from travelling abroad or moving out of state for college.
This point you seem to grasp really well, but I want to say it anyway: Do what makes you happy! Find your passions and do them! They are absolutely the most important real life work you have to do. When you are passionate, you energize others. When you are working with purpose, you show the way. Trust the little voice in your head when it tells you that you should make art, or plant a garden or help someone. It’s a good voice. Too many ignore it, and after some time, they lose it. I can’t imagine how different and wonderful the world might be if more people listened to that good side just every now and then. Be unique and be that one that does!
Lastly for now, (since I expect to write you again at 21 and offer you a few more pieces of wisdom that you would currently call “lecturing”), I want to remind you again of something that is becoming more and more relevant as you mature.
You are a creative person. Unquestionably. So is your dad.
So, please, help me help you.
I don’t know enough about your inside life to really know what to offer, though I am quite certain that I have some answers for you, and I don’t want to pretend I know which ones are relevant. I just hope you’ll still consider asking me when you feel you have a tough one. This old man might know some things. My life hasn’t been easy. I haven’t followed the cookie-cutter path. I’m certainly not perfect. That’s where I can help. If there is one guarantee in this life it is that you will make mistakes and you will fail at something, and actually several things. I know I have. Dealing with it is extremely tough. I can speak to you as one that’s fought through many tough times, and continues to do so. Don’t seek advice from those that just don’t know.
My dearest daughter, all I really want you to know is that you are loved and supported by many.
I am so proud of you.
With Much Love,
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