One thing you must do to right your wrong after an affair

Are you trying to make your relationship work after an affair?

infidelity

Infidelity is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a relationship.

Not all affairs are created equal, but all are extremely painful and difficult to overcome.

This post will be nowhere near comprehensive, as it takes time, work, patience, risks and pain to recover from an affair.

Today we will only discuss one crucial aspect of the recovery process that many couples struggle with.

“It felt like we went to war and back together.”

This is how some couples describe their experience of recovery from an affair.  Going to war is exactly what you may have to do in order to overcome the trauma that has happened to your relationship.  Hopefully you will not be at war with each other, even though it may feel that way at first, but you will be at war on the same side, trying to heal the deep wound that your relationship has endured as a result of an affair.

If you cheated on your partner and want to make things better, you hopefully feel horrible.

I say “hopefully” not because I want you to suffer, but because you feeling horrible is a key element to help your partner heal.  You feeling horrible means you know you did something to hurt your partner and your relationship.

You never meant to hurt your partner or your relationship.

Perhaps you thought it would be harmless.

Perhaps you were going through your own stuff and for whatever reason your relationship wasn’t giving you what you needed, so you found it elsewhere.

Perhaps it was a slippery slope – a friendly connection led to something much more dangerous and you somehow got pulled in.

You probably thought you’d get away with it, but you never meant to hurt your partner or your relationship.

You messed up, and now you feel horrible.

So I say it’s good that you feel horrible because it means that you are committed to your relationship and you know you did something bad to it.  You care about your partner.

The problem with feeling horrible is that it can create a sense of shame.

The problem with shame is that it causes us to shut down and hide.

shame

And if you are shut down and hiding after you hurt your partner in possibly one of the worst ways you could, it will be infuriating to them on a surface level, but will compound the pain and hurt on a deeper level.

If you get sucked down a “shame-hole,” which is common for partners who have cheated, you may get lost and continue to be unavailable to your partner.

Shame is so tricky, and so painful, you may not even know you are experiencing it.

Shame is the feeling that we are bad at our very core.

It is natural to try to suppress this feeling or push it away in any way we can.

You may feel dead or numb instead.  You may feel like you don’t even deserve your partner because you did something so awful.  You may get lost in your shame-hole and be unable to look at your partner because you feel so badly.  You may be constantly looking inward, at yourself, telling yourself how rotten you are.

When you’re lost in your shame, you aren’t present with your partner.

And your partner cannot heal without you.

For your partner to get over this breach of trust and for your relationship to recover, you’re going to have to be fully present.  You’re going to have to answer questions and really hear how much pain you caused your partner.  Your shame will be there, but you can’t let it overtake you.

Get real with yourself.

Yes, you did something wrong.  Yes, it makes sense to feel guilty.  But get out of your own way – your partner needs you now more than ever.

You might be afraid they’re going to leave you, and they very well may.  But if they’re willing to try to work it out, now’s your chance to give it everything you’ve got.  You’re going to have to be fully present.  You’re going to have to stomach the shame and face the fact that you did something really hurtful to the person you love the most.

It’s going to be rough.

You’re going to have to really understand how much pain your partner is in.  You’re going to have to feel it and they’re going to really need to be convinced that you get how much hurt you’ve caused and are truly sorry.

If you’re like most partners who cheated and want to make things right, you wish you could just say “sorry” and make it all go away.

An “I’m sorry” just won’t cut it.

It’s going to be really hard.  You both very well may need some help.

You need to remember that even though you did something terrible, you’re not a terrible person.

Know that this is so hard because your relationship is so important – you are so important.

Together you can make your relationship right again, but your presence is key.

Of course there are other elements to getting through this, for example your ongoing honesty and doing whatever it takes to re-establish your partner’s trust.  First and foremost, you need to be present.

Being present is especially challenging when it means having to face your shame, and all your shame makes you want to do is disappear and turn away from your partner and the world.

When you find yourself spiraling down into a shame hole, remember that you did something terrible but you’re not a terrible person.

How to be present when you just want to disappear?

Try to imagine your shame as something separate from you so that you don’t get lost in it.

Practice mindfulness meditation.

Go to therapy.

If you truly want this relationship to work, you need to do whatever it takes.

If your partner’s on board to work with you to get past the affair, you can do this.  You can be even happier than when you were before the affair.

You can fight the war together and win, coming out stronger than you were before it all happened.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can be a smoother process with a professional, even though I can assure you it won’t be smooth.  It is rough.

If you’re committed to making things right, your partner is on board and you’re willing to do what it takes, you’ll be able to get through this.

One thing that is key to the process is your total and committed presence.

If you hesitate to reach out for help, and yet wish to learn more about how to get your love right, check out my book, which may not be all you need to overcome the trauma of an affair together, but can get you started.

Cheers to your best relationship,

Jenev-sig

18 Comments
  1. Jon Elsberry 5 years ago

    Thanks,✌️

  2. kerry 4 years ago

    IM devastated my partner of 10 yrs as cheated but not with one woman there’s about 4

    • Jenev Caddell 4 years ago

      Kerry,
      That is so hard. I’m so sorry to hear and suggest you get support to help you through this.
      All my best,
      Jenev

  3. C 3 years ago

    I am trying so hard to recover from my husband’s affair. I found out not long after it started. We have been married almost 31 years. It started as a “friendship” when he was attracted to a female teammate. I threw him out and he was gone for a week before I begged him to come back. The part that I can’t get over is he slept with her twice, but it was after seeing me so distraught. I saw almost all of their texts and emails and have copies of some. The pain is so great. He was in love with her and now says it was infatuation. He fell hard and fast for her and I am beginning to think I’ll never be able to forgive and get over it. I love him deeply, but don’t think I’ll be able to stay with him in the end. Please help me. I want him, but I told him all throughout our marriage to never cheat on me because I would never get over it (I know how my brain works). ? We have been going to therapy for 3 months. It’s couples therapy, but we go individually and that helps, but I’ve been having mood swings, PTSD, anxiety and can’t sleep. I’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight and my hair is falling out due to the stress of his betrayal.

    • Jenev Caddell 3 years ago

      Hi C, I’m so sorry to hear that you are going through this – it sounds just horrible. My advice here would be to seek professional help to help you both heal from this, together and as individuals, so naturally I’m glad to hear that you have already done so. I’m sure you have done this, but I would talk to your therapist about everything that is going on for you. You might also wish to read the book together, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson, as there is a chapter dedicated to “forgiving injuries,” and maybe discuss what this is like to read in therapy. Take extra good care of yourself. Sending you love.

  4. Elizabeth 3 years ago

    I cheated on my boyfriend with a friend of a friend and now he does not want anything to do with me. what do I do to make things right before he decides to move on?

    • Jenev Caddell 3 years ago

      Hi Elizabeth,
      My 2 cents is to get really honest with yourself about why you cheated. Was there something missing in your current relationship? Did you want to get a reaction out of him? Get clear on that. Then, let him know how much you want to make this work, and how you’re willing to do what it takes (if that’s the case). Since there are lots of specifics to this situation that I don’t know about, I can’t give you anything more clear – but my answer for you or anyone else in this situation is to get really honest, raw and vulnerable, and make clear your intention to make things right – WITH THE UNDERSTANDING (as much as possible) of his side of things as well. Be patient, try to see things from his perspective, and be honest. Good luck, and thanks for writing in. I hope this is somewhat helpful.
      Jenev

  5. Lori 1 year ago

    Hi,
    I have been with my partner for almost 7 years, we have 2 children and he is raising my Son from a previous relationship. Up until last week I had never cheated on anyone of my serious relationships. I cheated and he caught me, the thing is we are in an open-ish relationship where if I had asked there wouldn’t have been a problem. I didn’t plan this nor look for it, I admit I had been unhappy and unsure of his true feelings for me, I felt neglected and ignored, I felt belittled and like I wasn’t good enough for him, even after almost 7 years. I was drinking, and I got caught up in the moment. He was a friend of my partner. I don’t have the answers he wants of why because I don’t even know why. I never wanted to hurt him or leave him. I have never felt so guilty in my entire life and I’ve been to prison!!! The next day he said he forgave me, and we would get over this! Then he retreats back to he doesn’t know if he will be able to because it’s still a fresh wound and is on his mind non-stop. Everything I have read online has advised me to be patient with him, and don’t blame him which I don’t! My guilt is eating me up inside and the more he throws at me the worse the anxiety is, I admit I deserve to feel guilty and I deserve his words and to watch him cry. I should feel like I messed up, this is keeping me from forgiving myself. I honestly don’t think I will ever be able to forgive myself. We are still together and both want to over come this and move on. He assures me we will, then is unsure himself. I am convinced he won’t be able to get passed this just because of his personality type. I will do everything possible to prove I love him and try and regain his trust. I am also certain I will never be in this position again. It’s sounds messed up but I know with more certainty more now than ever that he does love me and that I do love him. I have discontinued all correspondence on social media with everyone, all accounts have been deactivated, as per his request that we both do this so it wasn’t one sided, But what else can I do I want to forgive myself?? It’s hard when I see the pain I caused to a person who is not only my best friend but the only person I have truly ever felt that I love. Why did I do this, how did I let it happen. I question whether I would have confessed if not caught, I like to think I would have as guilty as I feel. I am relieved I was caught the first time even though I know in my heart I wouldn’t have pursued anything further with this guy. I don’t want to lose him and he says I haven’t but I am scared. Do you think we will pull through this?

    -A Guilty Soul

    • DrJenev 1 year ago

      Hi:

      You are really feeling the guilt and I imagine you (and he) are both in so much pain…

      I think if you both invest in your relationship and get some good professional help you’ll be able to pull out of this because it sounds like from what you’re writing, you both do want to make this work.

      You could find a qualified therapist (hopefully near you) here: http://iceeft.com

      I would also encourage you to do some forgiveness work on yourself. I like to refer people to Brad Yates’ tapping videos online– this process can be quite powerful- here is one for you:
      https://youtu.be/op753RnOIBs

      I wish you all the best. You both deserve to receive and enjoy all the love you have for each other — invest in yourselves and your relationship and get the right kind of assistance. Healing is best done together with a facilitator who understands how to work with you to process your feelings and move you closer and to a better place.

      Jenev

  6. Ethan 7 months ago

    Just caught my wife of 20+ years cheating with a much (22 years younger) guy. She has hidden herself behind a wall and doesn’t want to talk about it but continues to carry on family duties being somewhat quiet/withdrawn/private. I told her that I would forgive her but that we need to start talking/rebuilding soon because I am suffering intensely. Is this normal to cheat on your spouse, get caught, and then go into state of silence and say only that you “need to process all of this?” How long before I demand that we either go to counseling or at least hash it out between us? Thanks,
    -Ethan

    • DrJenev 7 months ago

      Hi Ethan,
      Your desire to deal with this and not let it just “sit” as she seems to be doing is completely legitimate. Be true to yourself here — if that means demanding counseling (which I would recommend over hashing it out yourselves) — or at least agreeing on a time frame to start — Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples works wonders – you can hopefully find someone near you by visiting this site: http://iceeft.com and going to “find a therapist”
      I wish you all the best as you navigate this truly difficult and traumatic situation,
      Jenev

  7. Robert 5 months ago

    Hi, I cheated on my wife of two years and only got caught due to negligence. I say only because even though I stopped the affair I was going to hide it even though I felt guilty for fear of loosing her and breaking up our family. The truth exposed itself in the worst way and she found out and what I tried to hide in fear of loosing her came to the light of day. Since it came out, we have talked, went through all out the details of what I did, who it was with, and tried to answer the question of why I did it, which trying to answer that questions seems like I had no reason that the reasons for my infidelity were self made, telling myself that I can’t talk to my wife about sex, my laziness in not wanting to be more romantic but wanting more sex out of my wife and making her out to be the bad person, then jumping on the opportunity to flirt and ultimately have sex with someone who wasn’t my wife. We just started counseling and she has agreed to try and move on but this being the beginning stages of what I know will be a long a hard road, how can I be present on a daily basis? What can/should I do daily to be there for her even though she can barely look at me and definitely doesn’t want me touching her in any way? I don’t know what to even say to her around the house I just want to say I’m sorry every time I see her but I know that’s not going to solve anything. I want to rebuild and be there for her and assure her it won’t happen again.

    • DrJenev 5 months ago

      Hi Robert,

      I’m so glad you’re in counseling and she’s agreeing to work on this together. You seem really insightful about your past actions as well and that will only help things.

      I would encourage you to stay committed to the counseling. It can feel like it goes up and down but having a professional third party facilitate discussions between the two of you and walk you through a process of recovery is so important.

      You are asking a great question- “how can I be present on a daily basis?” Talking in counseling about what will help her will be important (and hearing from her about this).

      One of the biggest challenges that betraying partners have in recovering from infidelity is continuing to put the work and effort in without getting much positive feedback or validation from their partners. Rather, you may experience coldness, distance and at times rage and sadness from her. It can be hard to put effort in without positive feedback, but it’s important.

      Whatever you can do to show her that she is special to you — that is important too, if you express this genuinely (with words, notes, gifts). She probably feels anything but special to you right now after this discovery.

      Your work together in counseling will also help you both understand what happened and why, so that she can trust more that it won’t happen again. And — it will be a safe place for her to express how she feels about the efforts you are making.

      Whatever she needs from you to build trust in the short-term I would suggest you do (e.g. transparency with passwords, letting her see your phone, etc)…

      These are just some ideas. Stick with the counseling. Hold the vision of a strengthened relationship on the other side of this.

      Good luck,
      Jenev

  8. J 5 months ago

    Thank you for this article- it puts a lot in perspective. My husband and I have been married 3 years and together for 10. He caught me in my affair recently. He told me to leave the house immediately and I have never seen him in so much pain and express so much anger and hatred toward me. I left, and haven’t been back in a week. I have expressed tremendous remorse and I am so very shameful for my actions. I have caused a world of pain and suffering and that is something I cannot forgive myself for. He’s already telling me he’s going to divorce me and that he just cant be with me after the mistrust and betrayal. Since then, I have met with our marriage counselor and confessed to him, I have taken it upon myself to own up to what I have done and acknowledge the mess I have created. I’ve answered question after question about the affair and I’ve been forthcoming. I have not begged and pleaded because what I have done is an injustice and I don’t believe I deserve to be forgiven yet. I have told him I want to work on our marriage and I truly want to make things better than they’ve ever been, but he can’t even look at me. I feel divorce is eminent at this point and I’m preparing for the absolute worst, but hoping and praying for the alternative. I’ve told him I hope he can forgive me one day, I’ve told him I want us to pull thru this and really make it work, and I’ve also given him space. Any other advice? Thank you so much.

    • DrJenev 5 months ago

      Hi J,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re in this situation, it sounds like you recognize the tremendous negative impact it’s had and it is clearly hard to see him in so much pain. The fact that you’re allowing yourself to see that and feel it is actually a positive thing though — stay the course. Don’t expect much back from him at his point or validation for your efforts because it sounds like he’s still reeling from this, understandably so.

      I’m so glad you have a marriage counselor to help you make sense of this all. Keep going. When the initial impact is not as strong and you try to regain some sort of normalcy, it will make sense (with your counselor) to try to figure out how/whey this happened — to create a cohesive narrative around the whole thing — to give him (and you) some sense of understanding and to create a stronger foundation together.

      One of the hardest things for partners who have betrayed the other is the fact that their partners can’t just pack it up and move on. It will take longer than you’d like, probably. If you are really committed, stay patient. There are no guarantees but there is most definitely the possibility of you both walking away stronger than ever together on the other side of this.

      Good luck,
      Jenev

  9. Audrey 2 months ago

    I just found out that my husband of 19 years had an affair about 5 ago that lasted about a year but he kept in casual contact with her all this time. He says he considered leaving me at the time but didn’t because of our 3 kids. He says he wants to stay together but I’m not sure if he wants to stay for me or for the family, our kids are still fairly young we’ve got 10 years before the youngest goes to college. I’m devastated, it’s been 2 days and I can hardly sleep or eat. I never thought he would do anything like this, I was the very definition of a smug married person. I feel like I’m a roller coaster my emotions are so out of control. I feel like I want to forgive him but I don’t think I can, every time I think of what he’s done to our family my stomach heaves. How could he have been so selfish? Did he not love me at all ? Does he love me now or does he just want me to be a nanny and a maid and keep his life running smoothly? I wish I’d gone the rest of my life and never known.

    • DrJenev 1 month ago

      Hi Audrey,

      It must be so painful to be going through this — sadly it’s all too common and just gutting. I don’t have the answers to your questions, yet they all make sense that you’re asking them.

      If any part of you wishes to see if you can make the marriage work, I would strongly suggest you both get some professional help to move beyond this trauma. You don’t need to have the answers now as to whether or not you will be able to forgive him, but if 1% of you would like to work on this, I would strongly recommend getting professional support.

      The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a great resource that has EFT therapists all over the globe. EFT is a proven method of couple’s therapy that works. You can read more about Emotionally Focused Therapy here.

      Good luck and I wish you all my best,
      Jenev

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