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[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Chapter Summary”]If your wife may be having, is having or did have an affair, this chapter is for you. You’ll learn what to do whether you suspect an affair, know about an affair that’s still happening, or are recovering from your wife’s infidelity.[/thrive_text_block]
If you’re dealing with an affair in any capacity, start by remembering everything you’ve learned thus far. Everything you’ve learned about husbandly leadership still applies here.
In fact, most of the same tactics you learned for dealing with separation also apply to infidelity …
- Let her go to get her back
- Recognize that whatever she’s doing, it’s in pursuit of her own happiness
- Focus on what you can control
Throughout the rest of this chapter, I’m going to give you some advice for (A) if you suspect an affair, (B) if your wife is currently having an affair, and (C) if the affair is in the past, but you’re struggling to move on.
But first, let’s talk about the difference between an emotional affair and a physical affair.
Emotional Affair vs. Physical Affair
Most of us already know what a physical affair looks like. If anything sexual happens between your wife and another man, that’s a physical affair. It could be kissing, fooling around or full-blown sex… It’s all under the realm of a physical affair.
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An emotional affair is mental affection without physical affection. It’s when your wife enjoys talking to someone else, being around someone else and flirting with someone else more than she does with you.
Many times, emotional affairs are discovered because one spouse notices that the other spouse is spending an awful lot of time on Facebook or their phone or tablet. I actually had not one, but TWO guys just in the past month who accidently discovered an affair by innocently using their wife’s phone to check their email… One guy stumbled upon a bunch of inappropriate emails, and the other guy found a bunch of texts with pictures and everything.An emotional affair is much harder to define for most people because there are no commonly accepted black-and-white rules for what counts as emotional cheating. Here’s a definition of emotional infidelity taken from my article, What Is an Emotional Affair?
[pullquote align=”right”]FYI, if you need more help beyond this chapter, I’ve already written extensively about emotional affairs on Husband Help Haven (see: Emotional Affair Recovery 101). [/pullquote]
Emotional affairs are just as devastating as physical affairs because the INTENTION behind both is the same. With both types of affair, your wife has chosen another man over you, which is painful and difficult to bear. But, as you’ll learn below, there may be less “choice” involved in it than you think.
The Most Important Word to Know If Your Wife is Cheating
Limerance is basically a fancy word for infatuation. It’s been defined as, “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation from the object of interest.”
Some people call limerance “love sick”.
Basically, if your wife is having an affair, then I can guarantee you that she is in a state of limerance, and the object of her limerance is the other man. She can’t stop thinking about him, and she desperately wants his approval.
As we’ll talk more about below, if your wife is stuck in the affair and has no desire to leave, it’s because she’s limerant – she’s literally addicted to the other man’s reciprocation of her feelings. That’s limerance.
With that in mind, let’s get into each of the scenarios below
Scenario #1: What If You Suspect an Affair?
Your wife is more distant than usual. She’s been coming home late from work. She’s constantly on the computer or glued to her phone.
…You suspect that she’s having an affair of some kind, but you don’t have any proof.
Maybe you’ve even confronted her about it once or twice, but she denied having an affair. In fact, she probably lashed back at you at the mere suggestion that she’s strayed. You probably felt like an idiot for even asking.
If this is where you’re at, here’s what I recommend:
Stop Trying to Catch Her
In Chapter 13, we briefly talked about infidelity as a possible reason that your wife is cold. I’m going to echo here what I said there…
If you don’t have proof that your wife is having an affair, then there’s no point worrying about it until you do.
There are a couple reasons that I think you should stop trying to catch her…
First, if your wife is having an affair, you’re going to find out about it eventually no matter what. Everyone gets careless after a while. It’s only a matter of time until you stumble upon a text or an email and catch your wife in a lie. Or, if she feels guilty, she may confess.
Second, trying to catch your wife in an affair will drive you crazy. And, it’ll risk pushing her even further away from the marriage. Every time you confront her, every time you question her, it pushes her away… It tells her that you don’t trust her.
And guess what?
Even if she is cheating, it’s very unlikely that she’ll admit anything until she’s caught red-handed. Or, she may decide to confess on her own.
Either way, there’s no point worrying about catching your wife.
Until you have proof, continue working on things you can control… Become a better husband. Become a better leader.
If she sees you putting in the effort, she’s much more likely to confess because she feels bad. And if by chance she’s NOT having an affair, then you’ve saved yourself from driving her away from the marriage.
Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best
Even though I recommend against trying to catch your wife or pressure her into a confession, you should still mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of her affair. Hope that she’s not having an affair, but prepare yourself for if she is.
By hoping for the best, you allow yourself to continue doing everything that you ought to be doing as the husband and leader. You will be able to maintain a positive, optimistic and encouraging attitude, which is vital if your marriage is on the rocks.
By preparing for the worst, you stay realistic. I won’t kid you here… Stats say that something like 75% of the time that one spouse suspects the other of cheating, they’re right. So, if you suspect an affair, you’re probably right. Prepare for it, but don’t assume it.
The Proper Mindset
If you suspect an affair, your mindset should be akin to a loving father who knows his daughter stole a couple bucks from his wallet. He’s patiently waiting for her to come forward and admit she took the money, ready and waiting with open arms when she finally confesses.
Until then, focus on what you can control. Like we said earlier, assume that infidelity is NOT the issue until you know that it is. And even if your wife is having an affair, remember that doesn’t mean there aren’t other problems in the marriage and yourself that you could focus on fixing.
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The most common excuse an emotional cheater will give for the huge amount of time they’re spending talking to or texting another man or woman is, “We’re just friends, what’s the big deal?” They’ll make you feel stupid and close-minded for even asking the question.
This is something that not many married couples think about, because it’s kind of counter-cultural. Most people think that we’re entitled to have our own friends, male or female, even after getting married. We don’t need our spouse’s approval of our friends, right? “You don’t control me!” we say. We get to be friends with whoever we want, and talk to them whenever we want, right?
My wife and I NEVER spend time alone with members of the opposite sex. The truth is, the rules change when you’re married. A married man can’t be “good friends” with a woman that’s not his wife, and a married woman can’t be “good friends” with a man that’s not her husband… At least not to the point that they spend substantial time alone. Not in the way that they could’ve been before getting married.
I actually tell my wife even when I’m just texting or emailing another woman. For example, a couple weeks ago one of my wife’s friends asked me for help with her website. I made sure my wife knew every time I was emailing her, and I offered to let her read our emails back and forth if she wanted. Now, she didn’t want to because she trusts me, but the transparency is there, and that’s what’s important. And this is all without either one of us EVER having an affair!
It’s not that my wife and I don’t trust each other. Just the opposite – the fact that we keep everything transparent and above-board allows us to trust each other even more!
What If You Know She’s Having an Affair (and she won’t stop)
In this scenario, you don’t just suspect an affair, you KNOW that your wife is having an affair, but she’s shown no interest in stopping.
What do you do?
Recognize Your Options
First, I want to make sure that you understand that if your wife is having an affair… If she’s unrepentant and continues seeing another man even after you’ve confronted her with proof… You’re allowed to leave.
I’m not saying you have to leave. I’m not even saying you should leave. I’m saying you’re allowed to leave.
In other words, you are not a bad husband or a failure if you give up on a marriage with an unfaithful wife. No matter what you’ve done to drive her to infidelity, no matter how neglectful you’ve been, that does NOT excuse what she’s doing now.
You can’t control what your wife chooses to do, but you can control your response to it.
That being said, I’m assuming that most of you reading this really just want your wife back. The affair hurts, and the fact that she won’t stop makes it even worse, but above all you just want her back in the marriage…
If this is you, I commend you. The rest of the advice in this scenario section will be geared towards coping with her ongoing affair and putting an end to it. You may also want to read this article about surviving an emotional affair.
Acknowledge Her Motivation
(hint: it’s not about the other man)
If your wife is having an affair, it’s not because the other man is better than you… It’s not because he’s more attractive or more exciting or anything like that.
All that happened is that he gave her some attention a few times, she got addicted to the feeling (Limerance), and now she’s stuck in the affair.
But, the reason she’s susceptible to getting snagged in an affair at all goes back to what we’ve been saying for several chapters: past a certain point, when the marriage starts to break down, your wife’s #1 priority is her own happiness.
The reason she’s strayed from the marriage is because she no longer believes she can find happiness with you, so she’s taking drastic measures. Everything she’s doing… The distance, the separation, the affair… It’s all an attempt for her to find happiness.
Use this awareness of her motivation to try and get to a calm state of mind.
- Yes, her unfaithfulness hurts more than words can describe…
- Yes, this other man is the scum of the earth…
- Yes, she doesn’t deserve your sympathy or your affection…
… But, if you want her back, you have to step outside of yourself and outside the circumstances and, even though it sounds crazy, you must try to sympathize with your wife. It’s the only way you’ll be able to stay sane through all this.
Grit Your Teeth & Commit to the Marriage
No matter what happens from here, whether your wife stops the affair and comes back to the marriage or continues the affair and ends the marriage, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to hurt. It will push you to your limits and beyond. Grit your teeth, plant your feet on the ground, and get ready to withstand perhaps the most difficult emotional trial of your entire life.
As I said at the very beginning of this scenario, you’re allowed to leave. But, if you decide to stay, then grit your teeth and commit to the marriage. Commit to loving your wife unconditionally, even when she’s actively pushing you away like she is right now.
It’s hard to commit to your wife right now, so don’t try to commit to her necessarily. She doesn’t want your commitment right now anyways. Instead, commit to the marriage. Commit to the relationship. Commit to your family. Commit to your future. Commit to your duty as her husband; as the captain of your marriage and family. Everything you do now is for the sake of something more than just your wife’s affection.
Be Patient & Follow the Rules of Separation (see Chapter 16)
If your wife is having an affair, your mindset and the way you treat her should be the same as if you were already separated.
Because in her mind, the only reason she’s permitted herself to fall into the extramarital relationship so heavily is because she sees herself as having moved on from the marriage.
That means you should follow all of the do’s and don’ts that we talked about in Chapter 16. Refer to the key takeaways for that chapter if you need a refresher.
No matter what, if you’re determined to stay with your wife even though she’s having an affair, you’re going to need a great deal of patience. She’s not going to change overnight. It will be months before your marriage is back to normal… Possibly upwards of a year. Expect for her to hurt you many more times before she loves you again.
If you choose to be her husband, you’ll have to bear the pain and suffering of her mistakes. Harder still, you’ll have to do it without holding a grudge if you want your marriage to actually recover once the affair is over.
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Aka. The 180º Approach
Because of Limerance, you wouldn’t be too far off in comparing an affair to an addiction.
… And what do we know about addicts?
Addicts don’t quit until the pain of indulging the addiction significantly outweighs both the pleasure of continuing AND the pain of stopping.
The hard truth is that sometimes the only way your wife will change is if you force her into different, more painful circumstances. In other words, sometimes your wife won’t quit the affair until you force her to experience the consequences of her actions.
If you’ve done everything in your power to get your wife to stop the affair and come back to the marriage and she still wants nothing to do with you… If this has gone on for weeks, months or even years without her showing any desire to change… Then it’s time to stop being her safety net.
Stop letting her have her cake and eat it too.
At some point, you just have to leave. It’s up to you to decide when that point is, but nobody can survive an affair forever.
If she won’t stop, eventually you have to force her to make a choice and live with the consequences of her actions.
Which brings us to the next point…
Leaving is a Way to Take Control
This is a continuation of Statement #6 from the last chapter.
Please note here that I’m NOT saying you should ever give up hope on your marriage. Even if you leave, you can leave with the hope that she’ll recognize the error of her ways and decide to give the marriage another chance. Leaving is simply your way of focusing on what you can control.
You can’t control what your wife does, but you CAN control what you do.
In a weird way, leaving the marriage also takes control of your wife’s affair.
When you leave your wife, you instantly transform her mysterious, thrilling affair into a normal, everyday relationship. Suddenly, her infallible ‘other man’ is nothing more than a boyfriend. She’ll start to notice flaws in the other guy… Probably lots of them. You leaving actually puts extra pressure on THEIR relationship; it’s much more likely that the relationship will get boring. She may start to realize that the problem is HER, not just you and the marriage. She’ll start wondering why she ever started the affair in the first place.
Plus, affairs very rarely last forever. When you force her to commit to the affair by taking away her safety net (the marriage), you make it much more likely that she’ll sour on the extramarital relationship.
If you’re at a point where your only option is to leave, you may have to implement The No Contact Rule from Chapter 16 in order to make her feel the full effect of her actions. You can also use Statement #6 from Chapter 17, as we noted earlier, to help you segue into this decision.
The “F- You!” Affair
For a few men reading this, your wife’s affair goes past the point of simple unfaithfulness. Sometimes, you’ll find that your wife’s affair has made her hateful and spiteful towards you, the marriage, and perhaps even your kids. For example, this story from a guy named Brad is a perfect example of the “F- You!” affair:
A few months ago, my wife told me that she needed “space”. I didn’t understand. She said “I’m not in love with you anymore” “I don’t respect you” and “I don’t think I should be married.” This hit me hard…Being blindsided by the love of your life saying, “I’m not in love with you and I don’t respect you,” was incredibly painful. I didn’t sleep or eat for two weeks AT ALL. It got so bad I began vomiting blood one night.
Finally, I convinced her to go to marriage counseling with me.
The appointment was set two weeks out. During those two weeks, she started going out more. She works at a bar and she started staying out really late, like she wouldn’t get home until 3-6am, even though her shift always ends by 10pm. And on Friday nights, she wouldn’t come home until 11am Saturday morning. I confronted her about it, and she always claimed she had a few too many at a girlfriend’s house and that it was safer to stay there than drive home.
Obviously, I grew suspicious, so I played detective…
The morning of our appointment with the marriage counselor, I found phone records with multiple instances of her texting a number I didn’t recognize for hours straight until 6am and 2-hour long phone calls, both of which started two days before she initially approached me saying she needed a break. So I called the number and a guy answered. I didn’t say anything but hung up and broke down. I left work that day, and in the long run I let it affect me and my work so much, I was forced to leave that company and pursue other work.
I called her out on it that night in counseling. Her response was, “Yeah I’m talking to someone!” She didn’t care, no remorse, and kind of said it like “F-YOU, deal with it!”
The next few weeks were the worst in my life. I tried to make it work. She agreed to cut off contact, but that she still needed space. I stupidly thought it was headed in the right direction. Two weeks later I discovered a “burner” phone, filled with text messages I wish I’d never read. All she kept saying was “I needed space but you wouldn’t give it to me!”
I finally manned up and said, “We can have space, see counselors, and see where this goes, but this guy has to be out of the picture forever and I don’t want you working at the bar where you met him anymore.” Unfortunately, she made her decision, and it wasn’t the one I wanted.
So I was left with no choice. I filed for collaborative divorce, which she agreed to. Three weeks ago we signed our terms and two weeks ago I moved out. We have court in a month to finalize everything. But the past two months, while I was still at “her” house, I had to deal with her continuing her “behavior” of not coming home one night a week, finding her coming home in his articles of clothing, and me being stuck in her house of emotional torture with our children, as they asked “Where’s mom?”
Wow. We’ll come back to Brad’s story in a moment, because this guy ended up doing everything right to get his wife back, but for now let’s talk about this type of affair.
What’s happening inside your wife’s head if she’s having an “F- You!” affair?
If your wife is having an affair and has a completely unrepentant, defiant, angry, even hateful attitude towards you, then believe it or not, there’s actually good news. The reason that she’s so mean and spiteful is because a part of her recognizes the absolute wrongness of what she’s doing.
Let me say that one more time:
If your wife is having an “F- You!” affair, her hateful attitude is because she recognizes the absolute wrongness of what she’s doing.
How do I know that?
Let’s take a moment to step into her shoes and think about this for a moment:
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Your wife is a good person, or at least she was at one point. And at one point she loved you. The only way that a good woman who loves her husband can fall into and then maintain an affair is to develop a seared conscience.
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A seared conscience is what happens when you give into temptation one time… Whether you had a bad day, or there was a problem, or you’re just in a bad mood, whatever… And so you mess up one time.
That first time, you feel really guilty, but it still feels good. And because it felt good, you do it again. And again. And again. And each time you do it, you force yourself to feel less and less guilty for the thing you’re doing that you know is wrong, until one day, you truly don’t feel guilty at all. And that’s how you get a seared conscience.
So, you develop a seared conscience by FORCING yourself to feel less and less bad for the thing you’re doing that you know is wrong (in this case, an affair). But here’s the problem: that “bad feeling”, that gut-wrenching guilt, it has to go somewhere… So it usually comes out as anger, blame and defiance.
Are you starting to see the connection here?
Your wife’s anger, distance, hatefulness, and her ongoing unwillingness to stop the affair… These are all part of a defense mechanism she’s built up to protect herself from facing the horribleness of what she’s done. Remember, Limerance creates an almost addictive craving to be with someone. Her “seared conscience” allows her to justify the indulgence of a pleasure she thought she needed by blaming you and hating you instead of admitting that she messed up.
Let me be clear: this DOES NOT excuse anything that she’s done. That’s not why I’m telling you this.
I hope that in the future, whether you end up with your wife or not, this knowledge of what was going on in her heart will make it easier for you to truly forgive her and move on with your life. If she’s having an “F- You!” affair, then deep down, a part of her recognizes how terrible what she’s doing is, and a part of her really wants to stop. The level of her spite and anger towards you during this time is actually a measure of the love for you that was making her so at-odds with herself.
Does that make sense?
Let’s go back to Brad’s story and see what happened next:
Since we agreed to terms and awaited the attorney to draw up the papers, things have been cordial between us. Only because I “visibly ignored” what was happing while I was around her.
Towards the last two months I could tell when she was going to see him and when she was lying. Her temper would get really short with me and the kids. We were more likely to argue a little, and she would have this pissed off look on her face. It was like she had to make herself angry with everyone at home (her defense mechanism to avoid human emotion), before she left to go see him.
Since then she has taken blame for everything. She has broken down and admitted fault, saying she failed me and cannot believe she has hurt her best friend this much. She said she knows what she is doing is wrong but she cannot stop and that she doesn’t want to hurt me anymore. I now understand why, especially when she said she knows it’s wrong but can’t stop. It will never justify what she did and sucks that she acknowledged it is a distraction.
Brad also offered some advice for other men in his situation. The two of us have had many conversations by email ever since he told me his story, and I wanted to share some of his best quotes and advice for other men who are currently facing an affair:
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- Do your best to find time to hang out with your friends to stay social and keep your mind busy.[blank_space height=’3em’]
- When you get depressed, repeat things that you’ve read in this course and remember that you’re in control of your mind.[blank_space height=’3em’]
- Read stories of other men who’ve gone through this to reassure yourself that you’re not alone. There are tons of stories in online forums and on Husband Help Haven.[blank_space height=’3em’]
- Remember that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and to feel depressed over this crappy situation, but try to use it all as fuel for motivation for change, whether that change is for you to save your marriage or personal change and growth to be able to move on (both of which are acceptable conclusions if your wife is having an affair).[blank_space height=’3em’]
- Sometimes, moving on is the best thing you can do even though every fiber of your being tells you to fight for your wife. Do things for yourself. Ultimately, remember that we can’t put our lives on hold forever for those who have already walked away from ours.[blank_space height=’3em’]
- Exercise is the single best thing I’ve found to control my feelings… If I get pissed or sad, I just do push-ups until my arms feel dead. It helps me push out the bad emotions, feel better and of course begin to look better too, which helps with attraction. It helps you develop the ability to “let it go”, and to be able to act that way around her as well.
You’ll be glad to know that while Brad and his wife did end up moving forward with the divorce, things have completely turned around between the two of them. They have fun together again, they’re romantic and they both love spending time together. They’ve already decided that this divorce is NOT going to be the end of their relationship. They have tentative plans to start over and date each other, and I personally believe that they will still end up spending the rest of their lives together in the end!
Thanks Brad! You’re an excellent example of maintaining husbandly leadership in a time of trial!
What If She Had an Affair, But It’s Over Now?
Your wife had an affair, but she’s turned a new leaf. She ended the relationship with the other man, and now she wants to make the marriage work.
It won’t be easy, but this is actually the best of the three scenarios in this chapter. After all, your wife wants you back!
Now all that’s left is recovering from the affair, which is much less do-or-die than trying to get her to end the affair or recover from separation. All it takes is time.
That being said, getting over your wife’s affair won’t be easy…
There are three major challenges you’ll have to overcome if you want to make a marriage work after an affair.
Obstacle 1. Rebuilding Trust
Your wife has shattered your trust. There’s no point in trying to deny that. In order for the marriage to work, you’re going to need to rebuild that trust over time.
There are a few ways you can encourage your wife to help you build trust:
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- Ask her to be transparent about where she’s going, who she’s talking to and what she wants. Let her know that you’re going to try not to be paranoid, but at the same time you’d appreciate her willing openness.
- Have real, open conversations with her about your goals for the marriage. This reassures both you and her that you’re on the same page in wanting a lifelong, happy marriage together. When you’re confident that you and your wife have the same goals, it’s much easier to trust her.
- Court your wife, just like you did when you were dating. Have fun with her. Go out to a concert together, or go see a movie. Hang out with mutual friends. Enjoy each other’s company as you reestablish your leadership.
- Be confident in yourself. You’re a man and a leader, and you are in control of your own trust. You can choose to trust your wife, and over time if you make that choice enough times, it will become genuine.
- Ask her to distance herself from the other guy. You are completely justified in expecting her to have NO CONTACT with the other man. If they work in the same office, she needs to move to a different branch if at all possible. If he’s a mutual friend or someone you know from church, find new friends or find a new church.
- If the other man attempts to restart the affair, she must tell you IMMEDIATELY, and she must be 100% transparent about what he said.
I actually have an article on Husband Help Haven that is written specifically for an unfaithful wife who is trying to end an emotional affair. It walks through six steps that she needs to take in order to end her affair. It’s written with an emotional affair in mind, but the same rules apply to physical affairs too.
Obstacle 2. Letting Go of Hatred
Just a few days ago, I got an email from a guy. Let’s call him Andrew.
Andrew is in a really tough situation. A couple months ago, he caught his wife cheating with another man… As in, he literally caught them in the act of having sex.
Yeah, that’s rough.
But, the good news is that after he caught them, his wife put an end to the affair and now wants to make the marriage work. Andrew does too, but understandably, he’s having a really hard time forgiving his wife, and an even harder time letting go of the hatred he feels for the other man. When he emailed me, he wanted to expose the other man (he’s married too) and make him suffer for what he did to his wife.
So, that’s the setup. Here’s the email I sent back to Andrew:
My advice is really simple:
Let it go.
Now that your wife is back with you… In your own words, she WANTS you back… Every ounce of energy you spend thinking about this low-life scum of a man is a waste. Every ounce of energy you spend deciding how to get back at him is a waste.
You have one simple goal right now – enjoy your marriage. Enjoy your wife. Forget the past. Forgive her. Focus on now.
It’s like you said, leave that guy to his sham of a marriage. Yes, it looks like he’s getting off scot-free now, but I guarantee you that what you see on the outside is a fake shell. And at the end of his days, if he continues in his ways, he’ll look back and say “My life was a waste; I never truly loved anyone, and I only ever hurt those who truly loved me.”
YOU, on the other hand, have the better end of the stick. You have a marriage with a woman who genuinely loves you and wants/needs your forgiveness… Something you can’t give her until you let go of your hatred for this other man.
The best way to exact your revenge on this other man is NOT to tell his wife… It’s to enjoy YOUR wife and your marriage and love her more than you thought possible.
Look, I’ve been cheated on before (in a past relationship), so I know how enraging it is. I know how it can consume you and haunt you. Especially when the other guy is a sleazy ass hole and all you want to do is give him a taste of his own medicine.
But recognize this – you are in total control of yourself. What you do, say and think is your choice.
All of that anger and hatred you feel right now is actually coming from your own wounded pride. And that’s okay! But you’ve got to be a rock. The best leaders know when to swallow their pride for the greater good of the ones they serve, in this case your wife.
Yes, your wife wronged you.
Yes, this other man deserves exposure.
But if your TOP PRIORITY is to live out a happy and lifelong marriage with your wife, then you’ve got to let it go. The future is in front of you, waiting to be enjoyed. The past is behind you; don’t let it control you.
Hope that helps.
Much manly love,
Andrew, if you’re reading this (you know who you are), thanks for opening up to me and helping me put all of this into words.
For everyone else, this email is the best advice I can possibly give to help you let go of the hatred you feel for the other man. Let it go; look to the future. Enjoy your wife and your marriage to the fullest.
Obstacle 3. Genuine Forgiveness
Once you’ve rebuilt some level of trust with your wife, it’s time to start working on forgiveness.
Most people believe that forgiveness is something that you have to wait for, not work for. They believe that all you have to do to forgive someone is wait until you stop caring about what they’ve done or how they hurt you.
That’s not quite right, at least not in marriage. Forgiveness takes conscious effort.
In an earlier chapter, you learned that forgiveness isn’t free, at least not in the way we commonly think. Forgiveness must be free to the forgiven, but it comes at the cost of the forgiver.
Because forgiveness comes at a cost, you must consciously pay that cost for your wife. If you want to rebuild a happy, lifelong marriage with your wife after she’s strayed, the only way forward is to make a conscious decision to forgive your wife for all the pain that she’s caused you.
Consciously give your wife a clean slate. Forgiveness isn’t something that happens overnight. But, just like your wife needs to be open and transparent with you, you need to make a conscious decision to give her a clean slate.
- No drudging up the past
- No guilt-trips
- No “you owe me”
- No prying
- No thinking about the images
At the very beginning of this chapter, we said that you are free to leave the marriage if your wife has cheated, and that’s still true. If your wife has had an affair, that is justification for you to leave.
If you decide to stay, stay. Don’t waffle back and forth. Don’t dwell on her mistakes. Don’t “threaten” to leave or expect her to make up for her mistakes.
Make the decision to forgive your wife and move on with your life.
Swallow the pain she’s caused you. Bear the burden of her infidelity. Then, once you’ve held all that pain in your hands, drop it on the ground and never look back. That’s forgiveness.
[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=”Kurt’s Advice on Affair Recovery:”]
The last thing I have for you is actually a piece of advice from another Haven veteran named Kurt who, over the course of a year, managed to forgive his wife’s affair, take on the role of leadership despite his wife’s total aversion to it, and really and truly create the marriage that all men like us want.
I was so impressed with his story that I asked him to share his single biggest tip for men going through an affair because this is a guy that really gets leadership and women in general, particularly women who’ve strayed. So, here’s what he had to say:
Jacob, I do want to give you one thing concerning affairs, divorce and separation that I think is encouraging. In my studies of all of this, one thing became apparent…
Men will have an affair/divorce/separate for any number of reasons; horny, bored, porn, midlife, neglected, ego and all of that.
Women typically only follow this course for one reason: neglect. They also find it very difficult to love more than one man, so you have to earn her affections back from someone else.
As men, we are fortunate that if we can use your philosophy, our wives will never feel neglected and therefore never stray. Or, if we have cocked it up already, we can use your tactics to change the trajectory of our marriage and win her heart back completely. This is not true for women whose husbands stray. The unfaithful husband will most likely love the other woman all of his life.
All that to say, men should never worry about whether or not she is on-board. We can change our marriages with or without her initial buy-in, and once she comes back, she’ll be back for good as long as you don’t let that neglect creep in again.
Even though forgiveness takes time, even though it comes at a cost, your wife needs a clean slate right now. She can’t fully come back to the marriage until you set her free from guilt. She will only be free inside the marriage once you free her from the chains of her mistakes, which you can only do if you forgive her.
You Had an Affair
Initially, I did not include this scenario in this chapter for a few reasons…
- For one, there honestly aren’t that many men in this situation.
- For two, part of me felt like if you had an affair, well, then you made your bed, and now it’s time to sleep and it.
- For three, while I have been cheated on in the past, and so in some small way I can empathize with those situations, I’ve never been the cheater, so it’s harder for me to put myself in this scenario and think through the proper response.
That said, I have broken my wife’s trust before (through looking at porn), so I can sort of empathize.
The reasons I changed my mind and DID decide to add this section is because since publishing Manly Marriage Revival, I’ve gotten several emails from guys who sincerely do want their marriage back, even though they strayed in the past. My job isn’t to judge; it’s merely to help.
Maybe you had an affair in the past, and you stopped it a long time ago, but your wife just now found out about it.
Maybe you had an affair, and you were stupid back then, but you’ve grown up and seen your mistakes and realized that a loving marriage is the superior pleasure.
Maybe you had an affair, and now your wife is having an affair to get you back, and now you just want everything back to normal.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter why or when you had the affair… All that matters is that it happened, and now you want to fix the problems it’s caused.
What do you do if you had an affair and now you want your wife back?
Recognize that You Don’t Deserve Your Wife
The first step in getting your wife back is actually to realize this simple truth – if you have cheated on your wife, then you don’t deserve to be her husband.
I don’t care what she’s done since then. I don’t care what she did before that to drive you to the affair. Just as I told the other guys whose wives cheated on them in the sections above, cheating is NEVER the answer. Infidelity is NEVER justified.
So, the first step in getting your wife back is to actually to recognize that she is perfectly justified in leaving.
I’m not trying to make you feel bad, or to make you regret anything more than you already do… I’m simply telling you how it is. You don’t deserve your wife; she is justified in wanting to leave. Her trust in you is shattered. That simple truth needs to form the foundation of everything you do from here.
What Needs to Happen: Consistently Regain Her Trust
Now that you’ve broken her trust, it makes sense that your goal should be to get it back. In fact, this might be a bit too obvious to be useful. But, there’s a keyword in that statement that is extremely important for you to remember:
You need to CONSISTENTLY regain your wife’s trust.
And what is the single most important factor in demonstrating consistency?
So, whatever happens, in order to regain your wife’s trust, it will take time. It will take consistent trustworthiness demonstrated over an extended period of time in order for your wife to trust you again.
Your Goal: Desire Her Happiness Above Your Own
In order for your wife to trust you again, she needs to believe in her heart that you prioritize her happiness above your own.
When you strayed from the marriage, you told your wife that you prioritize your own happiness above hers. By cheating, you effectively told her, “I care more about my pleasure than your happiness or trust.”
In order for your marriage to move forward, you need to convince her that you’ve made a complete 180º – you need to show her that you now prioritize HER happiness and HER pleasure above your own. In fact, you need to prioritize her happiness so much that you’d honestly rather have her move on and find happiness with someone else than spend the rest of her life miserable with you.
Yeah, it’s difficult to think that way. It’s sacrificial. It’s almost depressing.
I’m not saying you need to give up hope or stop trying to get her back; I’m just saying that if you TRULY want your wife to be happy more than you want yourself to be happy, then you will naturally have that mindset. You will naturally be willing to sacrifice your own happiness and even your marriage if it leads to greater happiness for her.
This means that the reason that you continue to pursue the marriage at all is because you believe that she can be happier with you, if she’ll forgive you, than with someone else.
And again, you need to demonstrate this mindset consistently over time for her to believe it’s true.
How long does it take?
It’ll be different for everyone, but a long time.
How do you convince your wife that you prioritize her happiness?
Words Are Pointless; You Have to Actively Make Her Life Better
The hard part of all of this is that telling your wife that you value her happiness above your own will be completely meaningless right now. Saying those things won’t be what your wife needs from you right now. At least, not all she needs from you.
Actions and deeds are what will show her your priorities, because at this point she’s going to have a hard time trusting your words. It’s one thing to say that you want your wife to be happy; it’s another to actually go out of your way and inconvenience yourself to make her happy.
If you’re here reading this, since you’ve made it this far, I know that you really want your wife to be happy from the bottom of your heart in a genuine and sacrificial way. You really do treasure her happiness above your own, and that’s awesome! That’s what you need to do as her husband.
Now all you need to do is transfer that desire from your words into your actions; to actually go out of your way to make her happiness a reality.
How do you make her life better?
You can do small deeds or acts of kindness, or, even though they’re not enough on their own, you can still use words of encouragement to communicate how much you value and love your wife. It can come in the form of trying to reignite a genuine friendship with your wife.
Basically, do whatever you can do to show your wife that:
- You care about her more than yourself, and…
- You are committed to a future with her because you believe you can make her happy.
Finally, this last step is a bit counter-intuitive…
After all, didn’t I just get done saying that you should be able to wish happiness for your wife, EVEN IF that means she finds happiness with another man?
Yes, and that’s still true, but that doesn’t mean you have to lie down and let her leave the marriage. Let yourself want that future with her!
Of course, don’t let that hope you feel cause you to make incorrect decisions; don’t jump the gun or become impatient, and certainly don’t pressure her out of any selfish desire for your own happiness. But, if you can find ways to communicate to your wife that you really do love her and want to be with her forever, that’s a good thing.
You can probably see here that this is a very tricky, very foggy area of marriage. And you’re right in thinking that. So, as you move forward, don’t beat yourself up if you ever feel like you’re going crazy.
You are between a rock and a hard place right now, and it’s made all the more frustrating knowing that you put yourself there.
You must stay strong.
None of this changes your obligation as her husband to love her unconditionally for as long as you remain married, and none of this changes your obligation as a father to seek the welfare and happiness of your children (if applicable).
You will continue to struggle; there’s no way around that.
Even if your wife ends up coming back to you, it will take time and there will be many more trials, many more ups and downs, to come.
Grit your teeth.
Plant your feet on the ground.
You are a man and this period of tribulation, this trial by fire, is your long overdue rite of passage into manhood. Boys are selfish. It was the boy in you that had the affair. The boy in you will die through this time, but the man in you will begin to flourish, even though it will be a painful transition.
And that brings us to our last point that applies to everyone who is in one of the scenarios laid out in this chapter…
Infidelity is Really, Really Hard
No matter what scenario you’re in…
Whether you suspect an affair, your wife is currently having an affair, or you’re trying to recover from one…
Affairs are extremely difficult.
Even though the third scenario (recovering from an affair that is over) is the most optimistic of the three, it’s still extremely challenging to get through.
Just like with separation, there is no magic answer to infidelity. I can’t tell you some secret tactic or phrase that will instantly get your wife to come clean, or stop her affair, or make it easy to forgive. It all takes time, patience, focus and consistent leadership.
So, whatever stage of infidelity you’re dealing with, be patient. Focus on what you can control. Keep moving forward, one day at a time. You’ll get through it eventually.
[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Key Takeaways from Chapter 18:”]
The reason affairs become so hard to stop is because of Limerance.
Scenario #1. What to do if you suspect an affair
- Stop trying to catch her.
- Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
- Your mindset is that of a patient father, waiting for his daughter to confess to a misdeed he already knows she committed.
- Remember that opposite gender friendships don’t work (and shouldn’t be a priority) when you’re married.
Scenario #2. What to do if your wife is having an affair and won’t stop
- Recognize that you’re allowed to leave.
- Acknowledge that her chief motivation is a desire for happiness; it’s not about the other man.
- If you stay, grit your teeth and commit to your marriage and family.
- Be patient and follow the rules of separation we talked about in Chapter 16
- As a last resort, take away her safety net.
Scenario 3. How to recover after your wife had an affair
- It won’t be easy and will take time.
- Rebuild trust through transparency, good conversations, courtship, and self-confidence, and distance from the other man.
- Let go of the hatred you feel for the other man. Focus only on enjoying your wife and marriage to the fullest, and becoming the best husband you can be.
- Make a conscious decision to forgive your wife and give her a clean slate. Focus on the future; don’t let the past control you.
Further reading: Emotional Affair Recover 101
[thrive_link color=’blue’ link=’https://inside.husbandhelphaven.com/chapter-19-patience-recovery-future-expectations/’ target=’_self’ size=’big’ align=’aligncenter’]Go to Chapter 19. Patience, Recovery & Future Expectations[/thrive_link]