First Steps for Healing Your Marriage from Your Affair
(While this article is written by a wife who had an affair and successfully healed her marriage, the information that follows is mostly gender neutral, and is relevant regardless of who had the affair.)
If your affair has recently been discovered by your husband, or if you have recently disclosed it to him, and the decision has been made to try to recover from the affair, it can be overwhelming to know what to do next. Usually, both parties are so emotionally destroyed by an affair that it feels like there could not possibly be a way to recover from this. Be encouraged! Many couples have walked this journey that you now find yourself on. While nobody’s experience is without pain and a lot of hard work, many have healed from the affair, and have also built a wonderful and fulfilling relationship that is stronger than it was before the affair.
For the most part, how an affair happens is not gender specific and neither is how you heal from it. However, there are some gender differences that can occur when the woman has the affair as opposed to when the man has the affair.
Help for Unfaithful Wife: Where do I start?
- End all Contact
If your affair was discovered, or if you disclosed your affair to your husband, but the affair has not ended, you need to end all contact. Be certain to include your husband in all communications with the affair partner by having him listen in on the ending call or by reading the final email/text. There is a freedom in this, since it is an opportunity for the two of you to come together as a united front, in the healing of your marriage. It also speaks emphatically to the other man that you are serious about ending the affair. Areas that need to be considered for no contact are:
- Text, telephone or email. Block all phone numbers and email addresses from your devices. This helps you avoid any temptation of reaching out to your affair partner in addition to limiting the chances that your affair partner can contact you as easily as he had in the past. You may need to consider changing your own phone numbers and email addresses if the affair partner tries to contact you.
- Work. If at all possible, consider changing jobs or at least changing positions within your workplace. It is very difficult for your husband to heal, knowing that you are in contact with the other person. Should there be no way around the work situation, Brian & Anne Bercht can provide private coaching regarding these situations. Coaching may make it possible to continue to be in that less than ideal situation, and still heal.
- Social Media. If this was a source of connection with your affair partner, or is problem for your spouse, shut down the social media accounts. At, minimum, there are settings on most social media sites that allow you to block the other person. On Facebook, not only is a blocked person restricted from ever finding your profile, it also makes it impossible for you to search them up in a moment of weakness.
- Tell the Entire Truth
- Do not minimize. There may be times where you just cannot stand to see the pain on your husband’s face any more, and think it might be best to give a lesser truth. Be assured, they cannot be hurt any worse than they would be if they found out the entire truth at a later date.
- Do not think that you know what your spouse can, or cannot, handle and then decide whether or not to tell them something based on that. If a person who had been unfaithful knew or understood the ramifications of their choice to have an affair, they most likely would not have had one. So do not try to ‘think’ for your spouse as it will only create resentment. Remember, it is your husband's responsibility to only ask questions that he can handle hearing the answer to.
- Do offer information without waiting to be asked for it. When you provide details of the affair, and disclose them willingly, it builds trust in a more meaningful way than if the information has to be dragged out of you.
*Please note, when talking to your husband, it is important to be careful to not unburden yourself of every gory detail if your husband is not ready, nor asking for that type of disclosure. If you are uncertain of how much information he is looking for, just ask.
Your husband is devastated. An apology is not going to fix this, nor make his pain go away. He will likely not be able to forgive you for a long time. However, he is still entitled to your contrition and apology. Based on Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Languages of Apology, we learn that people receive apologies in different ways:
- Expressing regret (“I’m sorry.”)
- Accepting responsibility (“I was wrong when I…”)
- Requesting forgiveness
- Making restitution (“What can I do to make this better?”)
- Genuinely repent (“I will not do this again,” or, “In the future, I will…”)
Please understand that your apology will not end this, therefore apologizing just once and only for the affair, will not be enough. Your husband is not just hurt that you had an affair but will also have hurts very specific to your marriage and relationship. Some people have a very difficult time apologizing and if ever there were a time to push through that, it would be now. However, one of the challenges regarding apologizing is that you, the unfaithful wife, most likely have some valid grievances and pain from your husband and the marriage. We get it, we really do! You have concerns and burdens yourself, and likely, you are trying to express them at the beginning of this healing journey and finding it not going so well. That is because your husband is so crushed and emotionally flooded that he may only hear your own expressions of pain, as excuses. Stay strong, there will be a time for you and your husband to have these discussions and we have tools to help you both through this.
In addition to telling the entire truth and having meaningful discussions with your husband about the affair when he needs it, stay connected with him throughout the day. When you are intentional about connecting by texting, emailing, calling and/or video calling him, it offers reassurance to him and helps to calm the obsessive thoughts and insecurities that besiege him constantly. In this manner, you continue to build trust while reassuring him of your commitment to healing the marriage.
- Thoughtful Actions
Small gestures communicate love. We have heard repeatedly from men who have been betrayed that the one thing they need to know is that they are desirable. Your husband needs to feel desired by you and not just in the bedroom. Whether you ended the affair a while ago or are a woman who has just ended the affair and may still feel an emotional connection to your affair partner, being thoughtful when you are hurting as well can seem daunting. However, if you are choosing to fight for your marriage, by doing small things for him, it actually makes the process easier. The reason for this is that the more your spouse feels your love and consideration, the easier it is for him to believe that you want to make the relationship work and therefore he may be willing to engage more openly in the process as well. Some ideas for you to consider, but to be tweaked to your own situation and relationship are:
- Healing touch. If your husband is open to this, set aside some time for giving him a massage. Ask him if he would be open to you cuddling with him, holding hands in public or having any other types of non-sexual touch. In most situations, when the husband has been betrayed, reconnecting sexually is also an important part of the healing process for him. This goes back to the high need for him to feel desired by you.
- Being intentional about planning fun activities for the two of you. A change of scenery can allow for a mental break from all of the intense energy that it takes to make it through each moment. While being careful to make sure it is an activity that your husband enjoys, some ideas might be hiking, bowling, swimming, fishing, etc.
- Being organized. Another area that we know may be helpful for the man who is trying to focus on healing, is when the home is in order. This will depend on your own situation with your work and home-life balance. We have found that an organized household allows for time for the two of you to focus on each other. It may not be feasible for you to take on the responsibility of keeping the household organized if it has traditionally been your husband that does that. Nonetheless, it can be overwhelming regardless of who is ‘in charge’. If this is an issue in your home right now, an alternative strategy which has proved quite successful for numerous of our clients, is to temporarily hire a housekeeper.
- Educate yourself
- Read books about recovering from affairs (a list of suggested reading is listed on the website)
- Get coaching
- Go to any of the seminars available to you, Healing From Affairs, Man of Honor and/or Woman of Worth.
It is reassuring to your betrayed husband to know that you are learning as much as you can about affairs; how affairs happen, how to heal and how to not find yourself in the position of ever having one again. Knowledge is power! Educating yourself also creates new opportunities for interesting conversations with your husband, which is a powerful tool for connecting.
- Be introspective
- Through educating yourself, apply that knowledge to understanding yourself. Be open to changing negative or unfruitful interactions and coping mechanisms.
- Be open to any criticisms you may have received about yourself and consider that you may have a blind spot regarding your own character.
- Recognize any addictions and reach out for help. You do not have to do any of this on your own!
We know that you are struggling with a heavy sense of shame and guilt. Please know that your affair does not define you and it is possible to be whole again. No matter what anyone has ever done, abuse is never okay. If you are experiencing this now in your relationship and either feel you deserve it, or are being told you deserve it, you do not. Please seek out some help. There is never a reason good enough to make any form of abuse acceptable.
It is our hope that each woman who is reading this, will know her worth and be able do the right things today, to be able walk through the rest of her life with dignity and integrity. Be strong, beautiful woman, you are not alone!
Contributed by Passionate Life Coach Kim