Frequently Asked Questions

Relationship Matters: Reviving Your Relationship after Infidelity

I’m struggling so much right now. I found out last week that my husband of 18 years, Will, has been unfaithful. Everything seems surreal: I feel numb and I can’t believe this is happening to me. I’ve known plenty of other people who’ve gone through a similar experience but that knowledge isn’t helping me at all now.

I always thought I’d want to pack up and leave right away if anyone ever betrayed me this way, but instead, I’m completely paralyzed. I can’t stop crying and I’m finding it hard to get out of bed to face the pain again. I try to push it out of my mind so I can get through the day, but I’m not having much luck with that. Where do I start with trying to deal with this situation?

You’re in the middle of wrestling with a traumatic life event. There’s no right or wrong way to feel whenever such information is revealed. It wouldn’t be unusual to be experiencing a whole host of feelings, like anger, sadness, and fears about the future.

Because you’ve only just discovered the information about Will’s infidelity, you require time to think about what’s happened and where you want to go from here. Getting through this type of trauma doesn’t happen overnight.

You’re choosing wisely to stay put and give yourself some time to process through what’s happened. Making a rash decision may devastate you and your family further, especially if you’re unsure about what you want to do in terms of the relationship.

The first thing is to allow yourself the time and space to accept what has happened. You may be wondering why it happened, too

I’ve asked Will how he could have done this to me and why he did it. He says that the woman, Jana, and he were co-workers and she began talking to him about how she and her husband didn’t get along and was crying on Will’s shoulder about it. He said that it started out as him comforting her and telling her how beautiful she is and that she can find someone else.

Then, before he knew it, he felt closer and closer to her and that being physically intimate just happened. He insists that they’re just “friends.” But that sounds pretty lame to me.  

Even if he didn’t have sex with her very often like he claims, how is it that he could’ve become emotionally intimate with her? Doesn’t our relationship mean anything to him? What will happen to me now?

It’s normal to have a lot of questions now about why Will was unfaithful. However, it’s likely been very difficult emotionally for you to hear Will’s explanations for his indiscretions.

Even though you remain in the house together, you can allow each other opportunities to sit and think, be alone, and write down your feelings. It will help you greatly to just be with yourself and begin recording your thoughts and feelings. Doing so will help you feel cleansed and allow you to go on as normally as possible with your day.

The more you write down your feelings, the more likely it is you’ll discharge quite a bit of negativity. You’ll begin to find your strength. Also, get support from a close friend or some of your family members. Tell them you just need someone to listen and be understanding of what you’re going through.

I’m really concerned about the details of Will’s infidelity. At first, I wanted to know every single thing and I’d get frustrated when he didn’t want to talk about it. But now, I’m afraid that all the details will overwhelm me to the point that I’ll feel I have no other choice but to separate from him. How do I handle the facts of what happened without becoming totally devastated?

One of the toughest aspects of discovering your partner has betrayed you is determining how much you really want to know about what transpired. Be honest with Will about being unsure regarding how much you can hear at the present time. Tell him that you wish to reserve the right to obtain more information later, depending on what you decide.

You’ve experienced a violation of the emotional intimacy and bond that you and Will had and this can be devastating. Some personal boundaries were crossed when he became the woman’s confidante about her own marriage.

In a recent study, researchers found that the majority of the women studied found their husbands’ forming of emotionally intimate bonds with other women to be as disturbing and destructive to their marriage as a sexual betrayal.

At first, you might be more focused on the details of what Will has done with the other woman, like places they met, people who’ve seen them together, and the extent of their physical involvement.

However, as time progresses, you may be more focused in figuring out why or how you and Will “misplaced” your emotional bonds and ceased having the emotional intimacy you had before.

That makes sense. It’s good to know that after time passes, I’ll understand better and feel strong enough to know within myself what would be best for me. But even through all this, I have some concerns about how Will is doing. I know he’s going through a lot, crying, and having sleepless nights, too. What could he do to make it through everything?

The fact that you have concern for Will at this difficult time shows you care deeply about him. He, too, needs time and space to reflect on what’s occurred and to process things. You can talk together to the extent that you can do so without arguing or escalating into negative feelings and situations.

Although he’s likely dealing with some of the same feelings as you, like, sadness, fear, and anger, he may be struggling to resolve feelings of guilt and shame about what he has done. Even so, he may have considerable difficulty acknowledging his guilt openly to you.

Currently, it doesn’t seem possible that we could ever truly mend the relationship. How can we go about fixing something so devastating?

Although the task seems monumental now, realize that thousands of couples have successfully resolved the issue of infidelity in their marriage. And many of them have come out of it feeling closer than ever. You can do several things to begin the process of healing your marriage. Nearly all of these strategies involve the same action: mutual communication.

In your conversations with Will, it would be helpful for each of you to discuss your personal goals for the future. Honesty, of course, is the best policy. But if Will feels his honesty will cause you pain, he’ll hopefully pay attention to your needs, in terms of how much you say you wish to hear.

Also, it’s important for Will to own up to the choices he’s made and the ramifications of his choices on your relationship. Stepping up to be accountable and to apologize for what he’s done will be an important aspect of healing himself, you, and the marriage.

Most experts recommend that if there’s any chance of healing the relationship, the partner who was unfaithful must cut off 100% contact with the person they were unfaithful with. In Will’s case, becoming involved with someone at work means it is recommended he seek a new job to leave the place of connection with the other woman behind.

An important aspect of the marriage that will eventually need to be addressed is trust. Trust has been broken and it will take time, patience, and effort to re-build it. Will may be willing to meet your requirements in terms of what you need to know to be sure he’s no longer cheating on you.

For example, you might want him to call you more often throughout the workday. Or you might want to drop in unannounced to take him lunch on other days.

As you get through some of the emotional distress that you’re feeling now, you’ll have the opportunity to think about what types of things Will can do to begin to earn back your trust. You have the right to tell him exactly what you’ll need to begin rebuilding the trust you had before

Just talking about all of this with someone seems to relieve some of the emotional duress that I’ve been experiencing. There seems to be no end to my tears. What if I never get over this? How long will it take? I can hardly stand to look at Will now

Talking about what troubles you is a huge step to feeling better. Each of us has our own timeline for healing, so it’s best not to rush things.

Feeling as if Will listens and responds to you when you want to share feelings with him about his infidelity is of the ultimate importance. The type of communication you had before the indiscretion may continue in your relationship after it. Consider your answers to the following questions to assess the effectiveness of your marital communication:

•    Have I consistently been able to share my deepest, honest feelings with Will?

•    Most of the time, do I feel he listens and is truly interested in what I have to say?

•    Have I shown interest in Will’s communications with me?

•    Do I know how to listen well?

•    If we misunderstand something the other said, do we “check it out” with them to clarify things?

Answering “No” to any one of these questions indicates both of you may need to brush up your communication skills.

If, after some time passes, you feel less relief than you’d hoped, consider calling a counselor. Speaking with an objective person about your fears, hopes, and worries can help you move through the negativity and proceed forward.

Hopefully, you both will find that you want to work things out. However, if you flounder in doing so, consider engaging in joint therapy to get some assistance in resolving your issues. A partner who truly wants to vacate the other relationship and keep your own relationship together will be willing to open up in joint therapy, as difficult as that may be.

Keep in mind that individual therapy is meant to help you sort out feelings and determine what you’d like to do with your life while joint therapy is best when you know you want to stay together but both of you are unsure about how to heal. It will help greatly in sharpening your marital communication skills so you can answer “yes” to all of the above questions.

Know that you’ll eventually get through the pain and come out on the other side, smarter and stronger, regardless of whether you decide to stay with Will.

I cannot imagine that I’ll ever be able to forgive Will. Yet, what’s the future of our marriage if I can’t?

For many in your situation, forgiving does not come easy. In order to forgive, it’s often helpful to have processed the entire situation and gained some understanding over it, like why it happened when it did. And those things take time. Although it’s not always the case, forgiving Will may also be linked to your capacity to gain back trust in him.

 As time passes, you may have to simply make the decision to forgive Will. At that time, you’ll likely find it too difficult to keep holding on to what has become an “old hurt.” Forgiving will bring you freedom from the pain so you can move forward into a lasting, loving existence with Will.