IS IT AFFAIRS THAT BREAK UP MARRIAGES?
The question sounds ludicrous but it isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
And the answer is somewhat good news for those in relationships which have experienced infidelity.
Caroline Madden, a marriage therapist, says that it is not affairs that break marriages up: it is the unfaithful spouse’s inability, to be honest about what happened and leave the affair behind them.
According to Madden, couples divorce after affairs, not because of the infidelity itself, but because the betrayed spouse simply gives up trying when the cheating spouse continues to be shady, selfish and untrustworthy.
Another encouraging fact is that the majority of couples stay together after infidelity. Psychology Today
Your marriage does not have to end because you had an affair. Even though the affair will cause your husband much heartache and anger, your marriage can survive. However, it is not going to be a walk in the park. Brace yourself for difficult work ahead of you to reclaim your husband and your marriage.
Healing your marriage will take dedication and perseverance, but the good news is that it can be done.
Take full responsibility for the affair
When you have betrayed your husband, you must acknowledge that you have inflicted anxiety, pain, and insecurity in him. You cannot expect your marriage to move forward if you do not take responsibility for your actions.
- Your husband may have contributed to the breakdown of your relationship, but he did not force you to have the affair.
- You may have felt lonely, rejected or neglected in the relationship, but you are the one who had an affair.
- You may not have meant to hurt your husband, but you did it- deeply. And now his world is turned his world upside down.
- You are the one who has caused him more pain than he could ever have imagined!
The earlier you can take responsibility, the sooner your marriage can start to heal.
A quick note why it hurts him so much
When you went outside the marriage, he no longer felt needed. All of a sudden, someone else could please you the way only he thought he could. In that way, he thought he was your hero. But now he will feel like a regular guy who doesn’t mean anything special to anyone.
There will also be pride issues, inparticular if the affair is public in some way. He may not be able to come to terms with his identity, (as someone whose wife had an affair) without breaking up the marriage.
There may be specific reasons as to why you cheated in the first place, but remember that infidelity is a choice. There are many other ways you would have approached the issues in your relationship, but you chose to have an affair. Forget about all the excuses; it was no accident.
The famous TV Doctor Dr. Phil thinks along these lines…
The one who cheats is solely responsible for his or her affair. No matter what problems exist in the relationship, and no matter how the betrayed spouse behaves him/she did not make you cheat, you chose that.
There are ways to deal with unhappiness in a marriage, but I assure you, cheating is absolutely not one of them. Cheating is merely a way to avoid dealing with either your personal shortcoming or the marital issues.
Cheating is about ego. It is selfish. Short of holding a gun to your head and forcing you to go outside the marriage, your spouse is not to blame for your affair. Own your stuff fully. – Relationship Rescue Written By Dr. Phil
Immediately cut all contact with the other guy
This rule is of paramount importance for a reason: you cannot be fully emotionally available to your husband when you are still emotionally attached to the other guy. It will not be easy if you had an established friendship with the other guy, but it is best if you completely stop seeing him. This will help you to resist the temptation to cheat again.
Severing all ties with the other guy will help you emotionally reattach to your husband.
Be completely honest with your husband
After you have cheated, one of the ways to earn your husband’s trust is by being completely honest. Madden indicates that withholding information from the betrayed spouses is completely devastating.
Many betrayed spouses say that what made them give up on their relationship was not the affair. It was the drip, drip, drip of the facts about the affair that slowly leaked over time. (Trickle Truthing). Just when the spouse was getting used to the facts that had been revealed, start to adjust and trust again -Boom, more information would surface.
Experts indicate that the best remedy is being upfront about everything from the start: how long the affair lasted, what you told the other guy about your marriage, where you went and what you did….. Everything.
Be accountable to your husband
Your husband needs a lot of proof that you are remorseful, serious, reliable and safe to love before he can trust you again. Rebuilding trust means rebuilding your credibility through complete accountability. This means that for a time, you will need to account for your time and actions.
Having to account for your every move may feel invasive, but it is non-negotiable. You might feel like you are being treated like a child; you may feel insulted; but, do you want your privacy or to save your marriage?
- You may even swear that you have ended the affair, but your swearing means nothing right now.
- The truth is that the blind, unconditional trust that your husband had in you has been destroyed, and regaining it is going to be a rite of passage.
- As far as your marriage has gone so far, this is an extreme situation and extreme situations call for drastic measures.
Fact: your husband must catch you being ‘good’ in order to be able to trust you again.
For now, you must give up your passwords, access to your cellphones, email and social media accounts. The good news is that after a period of time of being caught being good, your husband’s need to check on you will diminish.
Are you willing to help your husband trust you again so that you can save your marriage?
Reassure your husband
It is unrealistic to think that your husband will get over the affair and move on immediately. You must reassure him over and over and over again, and as much as he needs it. Express remorse and repeatedly assure your husband that it will never happen again.
You turned his world upside down. Apologizing repeatedly is the least you can do. Your primary responsibility during this process is to show that you clearly understand what your husband has felt and experienced and to prove to him over and over that you truly regret it, and you are willing to earn back his trust, no matter what it takes.
You may think having to apologize repeatedly is hard. Well, think about how hard it is being your husband right now!
Allow your husband to set the pace of recovery: not you!
The process of recovering from infidelity is long and hard. After some time, you will feel that you have done all you can to help your husband heal and all you want is to put the affair behind your marriage and move forward. That is all good, but it is unfair and unrealistic.
Imagine you and your husband are climbing a mountain. You have already reached the summit but your husband is struggling to climb, and he is stuck. You are tired of waiting for him, and you want to get going. Will yelling at him to hurry up make him move any faster? The practical thing to do is to get down there and help him up.
It is the same case in this situation. You cannot dictate the pace at which your husband is going to heal.
Experts indicate that it takes at least two to five years for a marriage to get past an affair and reclaim the state of normalcy.
Do not push your husband and do not get impatient. He will seem happy one day and then avoid you the next. Sometimes he will need space. Sometimes he will cry about what you have done, ask a lot of questions, hurl judgment and even rage at you. Stand strong, stay faithful, keep apologizing and reach out with understanding.
Fact: Sometimes it will feel as if you are moving two steps forward and three steps back. Today you will be hopeful, and then tomorrow it will feel as if all hope is lost. Be patient. Pushing him to get over it before he is ready will only lead to further resentment.
You can survive this
Your marriage can survive the infidelity. Not only can it survive, but it can thrive. The journey will force both of you to do enormous amounts of introspection. You will learn a lot about yourselves and each other and become closer than ever before.
You might also get to resolve old issues that might never have been addressed. Your relationship will be kicked from its complacency, and you will learn what does not work.
You will both learn that your marriage is precious and that it is worth the effort. If you can get through this together, you will end up a stronger couple.
Learn from this experience
Choose to learn from the experience. The best place to start is to explore the real reason why you cheated. Be honest with yourself and your husband about what was going on in your relationship before you cheated. This might be an incredible opportunity to build a stronger, healthier marriage.
Don’t become a punching bag
You have hurt your husband, and now you have to face the consequences. That being said, there are limits. Your cheating does not give your husband the license to abuse or attack you.
Yes, you made a horrible mistake. However, it does not mean you are evil, and you should not dwell on it forever. You are human, and everyone makes mistakes. Eventually, find a way to forgive yourself.
Protect your marriage
It is not enough to lead your marriage towards healing. You must also cushion your relationship against future attacks:
- Ensure the other guy has no access to you or your marriage.
- Surround yourself with friends of your marriage; people who will support your choice to save the marriage and not sabotage the process.
Is this the end?
In short, your husband wants you to choose him and your marriage again. And for a while, it has to be the most important thing in your life. As said earlier, he needs to catch you in the act of being a good wife before he will trust you.
If you feel as though your marriage is sliding, and he has completely cut himself off from you then it can be hard to imagine things ‘being how they used to be'
Marriage expert Dr. Lee Baucom suggests starting a new relationship with your husband rather than trying to salvage your old marriage. You can see more of his insights here
If for some reason you can't face or see your husband, here is a guide on writing a letter to him to get him back.
Thanks for reading this guide, and if you were telling yourself that ‘I cheated on my husband and I want him back' I hope it has answered some of your questions.