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…