(Note: Men & women have affairs. I wrote it as the husband’s affair for the ease of reading.)
Here you are, standing at a crossroads you never dreamed you’d be standing. You betrayed your spouse, your best friend, the mother of your children. You took a knife and, with your own bare hands, plunged it into her heart. Standing in your living room, you pulled the pin and dropped the grenade, blowing up everyone and everything you’ve ever loved.
You slept with (and maybe even thought you loved) the enemy. Now everyone is left to pick up the pieces.
Can your marriage be restored after your infidelity?
If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you’d give your left kidney to take it all back, to wipe it from your past. I’m sure you’d give anything to reverse time and make a different choice. But standing in the rubble of a shattered marriage we both know there’s no going back.
Where do you go from here? Is it possible to restore what you’ve broken? Can she learn to forgive and love you again? I’m here next to you as living proof that YES! Recovering from infidelity is hard, but you can make it through this, and not just barely, but with an over the moon, blow your socks off, brand new kind of love and intimacy with your spouse.
After Matt’s affair, I didn’t know if I would physically, mentally, or emotionally survive. There were days it took every ounce of my energy just to breathe. I even had an emotional breakdown, but through it all there was a still small voice that whispered, Maybe. Just maybe we can make it through this.
When Matt decided to end his other relationship and work to restore our marriage, he committed to do whatever it took to make it happen. He was the one who chose to do the work to build the bridge back to me.
You’ve got your work cut out for you, but if your spouse is sticking around, I say, be brave. Lace up your boots. This is the best work you’re gonna ever do.
Warning: I need to pause right here and say that this will be the most painful and hardest work you’ll ever do in your life.
Are you up for it? Will you trust me and not run away, sweep it under the rug, and pretend it never happened. Will you promise me, yourself, your spouse, and God that you will do the hard work to heal and restore your marriage? Will you commit to fixing what you broke?
Even though you can’t make your spouse forgive you or move past your affair, you can make it easier for the healing process to begin.
Here’s how to help your spouse heal from your affair:
1. End the other relationship.
I feel like this should go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway. If you’re 100% committed to your wife, then you’ve got to break all ties with the other person. I mean, all ties. You can’t be friends with or work one cubicle over from the other woman. No, you can’t still be friends or just be co-workers. Delete, block, and transfer. Remove all traces of her. Period. If you still are drawn to the other person and desire to continue your relationship with them, then this is where you can stop reading. It’s not time to fix your marriage. It’s time to figure out what you want.
2. Face the pain.
Staring into the broken, shattered eyes of your wife, knowing you’re the one to cause all the pain is like a thousand knives in your own heart, and you’d give anything to make it all go away, but resist the temptation to ignore the affair. I’ll repeat it. This isn’t water under the bridge, so please don’t sweep it under the rug. This is trauma to yours and your wife’s heart. Covering it up with a prayer, and scripture will only make the wound fester and spread, causing deep pain for years to come. It’s a bloody mess, but you must be brave and face it.
3. Rebuild trust.
Your first plan of action is to rebuild your wive’s trust, so you need to become an open book. Give her all access to your phone, email, passwords, and social accounts. Check-in with her throughout the day or any time you’re away from her. This is not the time to hide anything, even Christmas gifts. Any sort of secret will trigger a PTSD response from your wife. So, if you have secrets you still want to keep, focus on #4.
4. Go to therapy.
I probably should’ve made this number 1. I can’t stress this enough, get yourself into professional counseling. Please, for the love of all that’s good, not a pastor or “mentor” friend, get in with a certified professional. Marriage counseling is ok but also get into personal therapy because you’re going to need a safe place to process your own healing. You need to face yourself, the guilt and shame. You need a place you can process everything that happened, be honest about what you hold inside. If your spouse is in the room for marriage counseling, you’ll hold back, keep the secrets inside to protect yourself and your spouse from the pain of the truth.
Matt and I each went to different therapists where we could share our deep dark thoughts that we were ashamed to feel and say out loud about the other person. Some of our most healing and intimate conversations were after one of us returned from therapy.
5. Give your spouse permission to hurt.
Talk to your wife and commit to giving her permission to hurt openly. Promise to answer any questions she wants to know, honestly and without anger, defensiveness, or frustration.
Don’t get upset when a date night ends in an emotional breakdown. Hold her as she sobs after sex. It’s ok not to know what to do or say. In those moments, don’t put up defenses or try to fix her pain. Simply stay close and weather the storm with her.
6. Give your spouse all the time she needs.
After a while, you’re gonna get tired of the tears and long conversations about the same thing, but promise your spouse all the time she needs to heal. Healing is a slow process and takes time, trauma like this can take even longer, but I promise this one thing. The more you face the healing head-on, the more you commit to doing the hard work of healing yourself, the fast the process will go. Resistance and avoidance will only prolong the process.
7. Don’t force the process.
Let your spouse lead the process of moving forward. Don’t push your way back into the bedroom (if you’ve separated) or push to be intimate too soon. It’s ok to voice your wishes, but then leave it up to your spouse to make the first move of moving forward and moving closer together, physically and emotionally. This isn’t a race to get back to how it used to be. This is a building of a new relationship and if you’re patient, you’ll build something a million times better.
I want to end with one last thought.
You’re not a bad person. Let me say that again, you’re not a bad person. From a wounded and unhappy place, you made some very poor decisions, but you’re not flawed, broken, or undeserving of forgiveness. You’re allowed to hurt too. You’re can be forgiven and you do deserve to be loved fully and wholeheartedly.
You’ve got this. You’ve got a beautiful life ahead of you. I’m in your corner, cheering you on.