Mistakes Former Cheaters Make in Marital Recovery After an Affair

mistakesIf you are truly remorseful for your affair, and you truly wish to not only make amends to your Betrayed Spouse, but remake your marriage in such a way that an affair would never be an issue again, you have much work to do.  You may not even be able to save the marriage as some Betrayed Spouses just can’t get past it.  Repairing this — if it’s repairable – usually takes a long time.  A year or more.  While I’m not suggesting that you have to hang in there no matter what — that you may have a spouse who seeks punishment more than forgiveness — there are things you need to avoid if you want your marriage to be saved.

But as much as you just want to yell “I’m sorry!!”  or “But I’ve changed!” and hope that your spouse will just forgive, forget and quickly move on, that’s just not likely.   And it’s naive.   You’ve destroyed someone who trusted and loved you.  Being sorry isn’t enough.  Not nearly enough!  You must avoid these 20 mistakes, at minimum:

1.   Not being sorry!!   I have heard too many former cheaters say that they are sorry they hurt their spouses, but aren’t sorry for the affair.  These people should get divorced if they can’t be sorry for the betrayal they inflicted on their spouse, even if they feel justified on any level.

If you don’t state that you are sorry for your actions, let alone show any remorse at all, you’re telling your spouse that their feelings are of no consequence and you aren’t serious about saving your relationship.  In fact, it is vital that you demonstrate and state your full remorse.  I would suggest writing a full apology.  Don’t try to make excuses and don’t try to justify what you did, you didn’t have to have an affair, you chose of your own free will to do this so take responsibility for your actions.   Even if the reason was that your marriage was crappy.  “Reason” is not the same as “excuse.”

Just saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.  Your apology needs to cover what you did, so that’s lying, betrayal, and accepting that you have lost all right to your partners trust, it has to include a guarantee that you will never do something so stupid again, you need to ask for another chance and let your spouse know that you will do anything it takes to win their trust back, and most important of all you have to show that you can understand the hurt that you have done to your spouse.

I myself wrote a sincere letter of apology to my wife shortly after D-Day.  It was hard to do. It was humiliating, yet, I think it demonstrated to her my sincerity and was integral to us pursuing reconciliation.   It can’t be enough to just say it once. Or yell it.  It needs to be thought out and sincere.

2.   Providing critical information about your affair only reluctantly and in dribs and drabs (“trickle truth”).  The revelation of an affair or sexual addiction is a frightening process, but one of the worst mistakes is trying to hold back the whole truth.  Similarly, spinning the truth so your mate won’t be so upset is just as damaging.   I know why most former cheaters are reluctant to be 100% candid — fear.  They are already under assault and trying to save their marriage, and believe that too many details will derail any potential reconciliation.  They want the pain, yelling and anger to stop.  Controlling the “truth” about your affair is not the way to do it, however.

The problem with leaking information is that it delays your mate’s ability to learn to trust you again.  If your mate believes that you’ve laid out the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that there are no more surprises or painful revelations yet to come and then your mate encounters multiple “oh by the ways” or other discoveries as time goes on, then it will eventually destroy your mate’s ability to believe a single word you say.

For that reason, it is best to lay it all out on the front end.   Either your mate will be able to handle the truth or not. Getting the truth out, all of it and unvarnished, to your mate is a great opportunity to display real integrity.  Something you may feel you’ve been lacking if you’ve had to hide your actions or lie.  Don’t miss your chance.  Tell the whole truth about the affair (eg, when it started, how long it went on, how it was kept a secret, how it ended — if it’s ended)  as soon as you can.  Your Betrayed Spouse needs and deserves a timeline.

That being said,  telling the whole truth about the affair has been widely misinterpreted by some Betrayed Spouses as meaning they can demand the answers to any and all questions about the affair indefinitely.  That’s not the case if you want to recover.   There needs to be a time limit to when discussing the affair ceases.   You Betrayeds should get your answers early and then focus on the marriage (the cause usually) and not the affair or the OM/OW (the symptom).  Asking new questions a year or more after D-day won’t help you but will only retard progress and discourage your Wayward Spouse.

And yes, there is a limit to details — some details are necessary — lay out the truth about the affair:  how it began, how long it lasted, whether it was emotional only, physical only or both.   How it ended.  How you pulled off the deception.

The “whole truth” doesn’t mean giving out salacious details or unnecessary information merely because your Betrayed Spouse asks for it.  Giving out too much information will only put images in your spouse’s head they will never be able to shed.   I wrote a blog entry about why many former cheaters resist giving out details. I won’t repeat it here.

Giving the whole truth, however, doesn’t guarantee recovery.   But it gives you the best chance of recovering.   I know Waywards who have answered every question, no matter how unnecessary and salacious, and STILL their spouse demanded a divorce.  That being said, being deceptive about your affair is a bad, bad idea.  Revelations that are critical to the affair and its timeline that come out later will derail your recovery.  Your Betrayed already doesn’t trust you.  Don’t add to it by lying further.

3. Being immediately defensive.   This is a no-no. This is not the time to employ the old adage of “the best defense is a good offense.”  But not in the immediate aftermath of affair discovery/revelation.  No, this is the time to be contrite, regretful, remorseful, empathetic, compassionate, honest, and emotionally available.  At least for now, do not say anything which will give the impression that the betrayed partner was responsible for your lies to them or in any way caused your behavior.  There will be plenty of time to share blame during times of productive conversation with your mate.  It may be that there were significant problems in the relationship prior to your betrayal, and that those problems were 50% (or 60% or 70%) the responsibility of your spouse.

Nevertheless, the fact that you chose to betray your partner rather than to raise the issues and work on them in an honest way is 100% your fault.  Therefore, DO NOT waste time blaming your actions on anyone or anything else.   DO NOT point the finger toward temptation, confusion, being under the influence, or falling prey to the influence of others.   Nobody held a gun to your head. You choose to be involved in an affair.  You should have no room for excuses anymore.

Telling your partner you did not realize what was happening is not only bogus, it devalues them.  The partner will see right through these excuses and will view this as another attempt to keep them in the dark while you continue playing them for a fool. The best way to effectively deal with your partner’s anger, and start the process of rebuilding trust, is to take complete and full ownership of your own selfishness, immaturity, or basic destructive relationship behavior. Remind yourself that it is quite possible that your partner was enduring similar feelings of unhappiness or frustration, but instead made a decision not to lie to you or betray you.

You have to take responsibility for your choices, no matter if your marriage was crap or not.  You made the wrong choice. Accept it. At least for a while, be willing to be humble and take some lumps — you deserve them.  Try and see yourself if you were in your Betrayed Spouse’s place.

Since the revelation of a betrayal is so traumatic, there is no room for defensiveness. You’re better off using two phrases: 1) “You’re right” (when they are right) and 2) “I deserve that” (even when they are wrong).  Answering the “why” questions is tricky at best.   Any explanation you give will be perceived as an excuse.  The best answer for the why questions is to tell your mate you will do everything possible to search for the answer, but admit you don’t want to sound defensive while trying to answer a question you don’t necessarily know the answer to.  Whatever you do, don’t be defensive!!

At this point, you might be saying, “I don’t want to take all the blame; my wife (or husband) made her (or his) own contributions to what has happened. We had issues in this relationship long before I had an affair.”

This is legitimate.  Happy and content people rarely have affairs Your spouse usually has some guilt in creating the situation in a marriage where an affair became an attractive option to you.  And while that may be true, your first order of business needs to be the stabilization of the marriage.   So at least initially, you must give your mate time to recover, and then begin to address the other issues in the marriage.  You can insist on these things, but later.  One of your first steps will be avoiding defensiveness when talking with your mate.

I do understand. I tried to tell her everything initially and was patient, but my patience wore thin the more she had meltdowns. I started to feel defensive.  I started to act defensive.  We were at the  point where things could have derailed completely.  But we talked about it. She understood why I felt defensive. My shame. My guilt.  My embarrassment.  Tired of the accusations. Tired of feeling like the bad guy.  Talking about it helped.  Telling her I was feeling defensive and why usually defused the situation.

4.  Agreeing to marital reconciliation immediately after the affair is discovered.  Honestly, you are shell-shocked and you can’t yet think clearly. You just want the yelling and abuse to stop. It’s like a fire and you will do anything to put it out.  But wait.  Don’t fully recommit to your spouse and your marriage until you are SURE that’s what you want to do.  You may end up breaking their heart again. Didn’t you already do enough damage?

Tell them that you will end the affair. Permanently.  Tell them you are going to give all your effort and attention to making amends and reconciling the marriage.  That you will do whatever it takes.  But don’t tell them immediately that you are committed to the marriage forever.  You might have second thoughts.  Your reconciliation may not work. You might not have a spouse who really wants to reconcile as much as they just want to hurt you back (a very bad sign).  Your spouse may not want to address the root causes of your issues — so the reasons  you had the affair may persist in the marriage.  So step back for a moment.

Assess the situation. Be sorry. Be open and honest.  Commit to trying to fix the marriage.  But don’t make any more promises you cannot keep.  You may come to regret a knee-jerk reaction to your affair being revealed to your spouse.  You already have a bad track record of keeping promises — don’t add to it.

5. Living life as normal, at least initially.  You can’t immediately try and go on living life as normal if you want to bring healing to your marriage after a betrayal.  Normal is what got you into this.  You have to make changes in your behavior to make your spouse feel “safe” again and to show that you are living a more transparent and honest life.   Changes need to be made to give your mate assurance that you’re taking responsibility for your problem and being proactive to prevent it from happening again.

To some, it may seem elementary to make sure and build safety in a concrete way, but it cannot be stressed enough. Taking responsibility for your betrayal by avoiding high risk situations and getting the necessary help to get your life (as well as that of your mate) back into safety is part of taking responsibility for your infidelity. If you want to rebuild your marriage, this is not optional. Make them aware of the ways that you have altered your life in order to create a culture of safety. These are the things that will assure her that it’s not “life as normal.”

You don’t want to spend 24/7 dealing with tears, yelling and high emotion.  I’m not saying that.  But you don’t want to go back to the life you had before and during the affair.  You want something BETTER.  Your marriage is a blank canvas that needs to be repainted reflecting a happier present and future.  Don’t try and force yourself and marriage back into the rut that got you where you are.

6. Defending your Affair Partner (AP).  It may seem to go without saying, but don’t defend the Other Woman/Other Man.  Most likely your mate will trash the affair partner.  Don’t try to defend your affair partner if they do.   It’s easier for your spouse to be angry with the Affair Partner than it is for her (or him) to be angry with you, and if you defend the Affair Partner, your mate is likely to feel that you are more loyal to the Affair Partner than you are to your mate and your marriage.

I understand the impulse of the Betrayed to do it, and I agree that it’s very unhelpful and is a way of avoiding the real issue — the state of your marriage — but understand their need at least to vent about the Affair Partner.  Let them.  Be patient.  But bring them back to the true topic, because, in reality, unless your AP held a gun to your head, they weren’t responsible for you having an affair.  Bashing the Affair Partner is about frustration, and really is a way of taking the focus both off the Betrayed and Wayward Spouse.   It may even be out of insecurity (seems like Betrayed Spouses always say that they are so much better looking, smarter, better lover than the AP.  It’s true sometimes, but other times, it’s not).   But you have to tolerate it.  At least for a while.

I understand that if your AP is being trashed, your Betrayed Spouse is essentially and indirectly attacking you too — they are saying in essence, “How could YOU choose to cheat with someone so stupid/ugly/horrid/tasteless?”   They are indirectly telling you that you are an idiot.  Ouch!!  I get it.  You are tired of the criticisms from your spouse and here’s another one, although indirect and disguised. You want to defend yourself by defending your Affair Partner.  But defending your AP will send the wrong message!

7.  Pointing out your mate’s faults and failures.  Deficiencies certainly exist in every marriage, but now is not the time to deal with them. First, you have to re-establish the fidelity and stability of the relationship. Then, after the breach in the relationship is repaired, you can address other issues.  Firing back because you are under assault may make you feel better, but it will not help in your recovery.

8.  Telling a lie (of any sort).  Giving your mate good reason to feel safe is one of your goals. Telling a lie only reinforces the belief that your mate cannot trust you. As difficult as it may seem, tell the truth. In the long run, your mate will at least know that you’re being real with them even if your mate doesn’t like what you’re telling them.  Any lie you tell, even if small and inconsequential, will tell your mate that you still cannot be trusted.

9.  Failure to understand and empathize with what your spouse is feeling.  A cheating spouse may not understand the full extent of how his infidelity has traumatized his betrayed spouse. The Betrayed may be totally unaware that her Wayward Spouse is struggling with deep-seated feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment now that his affair has been exposed. Both of you need to empathize with each other’s feeling, and understand how those feelings affect the healing process.  The pain of the revelation of a betrayal is disorienting to both partners. Both the husband and wife will struggle with how to cope with the pain resulting from the event.

Sometimes it can be frustrating since frequently the hurt spouse takes longer to move past the initial trauma than the unfaithful spouse.   You must be patient and understand this if you want to reconcile.

In these situations, the Betrayed Spouse wants to continue to understand what has happened and wants to continue to talk about it; the Wayward Spouse will often interpret that as an attempt at punishment. This may cause the Wayward Spouse to quit trying to support the other’s recovery.

At some point, it may be very tempting to tell your mate to “just get over it.”  This will come out of exasperation and frustration.

And I agree, the agenda of some Betrayed Spouses is purely punishment/justice and not forgiveness.  And if that’s the case, your marriage is toast anyway.

BUT,  it may seem like a good idea to just yell “GET OVER IT ALREADY!” in terms so that you can move on, but if the initial period of recovery doesn’t run its course, it can result in future problems. If your mate represses her/his feelings and doesn’t finish processing what has happened, then the feelings will begin to surface again, maybe years later.  In reality, you are far better off to support your mate’s recovery at the time of the betrayal rather than living five years with a mate who is hurting and who will eventually blow up.

10.  Not being consistent in your recovery plan.  After a betrayal, there is an obvious problem with trust. To re-establish trust, an unfaithful spouse has to be consistent in what he or she says and does. It may seem easy for you to think an inconsistency is no big deal because you know your heart’s condition and your intent, but your mate does not.  The only thing a hurt spouse can rebuild on are your behaviors. If you are consistent and do what you say, then over time your mate can begin to trust again. But if you fail to follow through with what you say, it will only serve to reinforce your mate’s distrust. It is imperative that you say what you mean and mean what you say.

Don’t make the mistake of telling your mate what you think she/he wants to hear only to fail to follow through. You will be far better off if you’re realistic, and then do what you say even if what you say (and then do) is not as grand as you or your mate had hoped.

11.  Not keeping agreements you make with your mate.   This is much the same as the above item. If you tell your spouse you will not eat lunch with another woman, then don’t go out to eat with another woman (or man if that’s where your temptations lie). If you tell your spouse that you’ll go to counseling together, then go to counseling together. If you agree to be home at 6:00, then make sure you’re home by 6:00. If you agree to go to therapy, then go.  Failure to keep these types of agreements will cast doubt on your integrity and make it difficult for your mate to trust.

If you say that you will do something then DO IT! Every time that you say that you will do something, and you do it, it builds a tiny bit of trust in you. On the other hand, every time that you don’t do what you say, it will take a bit of trust away. You might not always be able to do what you had promised, so tell your spouse. And whatever you do, don’t have any secrets, you can have your own private thoughts but secrets (apart from what you got them for Christmas & Birthdays) have a nasty way of coming out.  Remember also that if you are trying to keep something secret then your body language will give you away.   Anyway, if you are committed to your spouse and your marriage, why would you need secrets.

12.  Demanding your mate forgive you.   As a general rule, never tell someone to forgive you. You can ask, but don’t tell. Forgiveness is a process your mate will have to work through. In many ways, it has little to do with you; it’s a gift your mate has to give herself/himself. Failure to forgive would result in your mate remaining a victim.

It’s far better to tell your mate that you want her/him to be able to forgive you and ask if there is anything you can do to help your mate heal and forgive.  Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.  Forgiveness precedes healing.  You will never reconcile until they forgive you. Help them to do so, although I realize some don’t want to or because of their personality are unable to.  But you can be part of the solution. At least try!

13.   Not talking to your mate.   There is more than one way to hurt your mate and being passive aggressive is certainly one of them. It’s not uncommon for the unfaithful spouse to be angry about what has happened and how the hurt spouse has responded as a result of the pain. Since it may feel inappropriate for the unfaithful spouse to be upset, and clearly they have no right to be verbally aggressive, some unfaithful spouses choose to hurt their mate by not talking. Both aggression and passive aggression are intended to hurt your mate. Both reveal an absence of love. Give your mate the gift of speech in order to help your mate to heal.

Do you know why you cheated? Is it a habit with you or is it a stupid mistake that you will never repeat again. The fact that you had an affair screams out there are problems in you marriage, they might be clearly visible, or they might be less apparent. Try and identify what these problems are and try to think of a way to deal with them.

Before you speak to your spouse you need a good picture of the state of your marriage, and an understanding of why you cheated. It not only shows that you’ve taken the time to work things through, but it also shows that you are committed to you marriage.

You need to speak to your spouse.  Communication is everything in recovery.  Open, honest, candid, with a spirit of kindness and forgiveness on the part of both of you.  It is frequently the lack of communication for why your marriage went so far off track in the first place.  This is the time to establish new, consistent and better lines of communication.  Do not shut them down.

14.   Keeping in any contact with the OM/OW.  You have to cease all contact with your AP, and it would be good if your spouse is able to hear you cut all contact.  You have zero chance of reconciling your marriage if you keep the ties with the OM/OW alive on any level.  Block them on your phone and on Facebook.  Dump all their old emails.  Change your email address. Maybe your phone number.  Dump their old pictures. You are like an addict, and you must go cold turkey.

That being said, most Betrayed Spouses will demand that you cut contact — in order to live a transparent and honest life, and to not lie any longer to your spouse, you must agree to this demand. And AGGRESSIVELY followup on your promise– accepting the OM/OW’s texts or emails without replying is not No Contact.  See above.  Take aggressive steps to block them and remove all evidence of them from you life, as much as possible.  If the OM/OW contacts you after you’ve cut things off, TELL your spouse immediately.  It will demonstrate to them that you are serious about both being honest with them and about cutting things off with your affair partner.

15.  Not totally committing to reconciliation and not making your Betrayed Spouse the number 1 priority in your life.   Successfully rebuilding a marriage in the aftermath of an affair requires total commitment from both parties involved. If one spouse is working hard to save the marriage, but the other spouse is just going through the motions, or has secretly made up his or her mind to leave, it’s impossible for a reconciliation to take place. Saving a marriage is hard work, and both of you must be totally committed to the task. If you work at it, you can build a marriage even stronger than you had before. But you need to be sure that reconciling is what you really want to do.  Some of you may still be on the fence. I get that.  But at some point, you have to truly make a choice — fully commit yourself to your spouse and recovery, or let them go. It’s very simple.  Don’t try and keep your options open!

Treat your partner as if they are the very center of your world It is of monumental importance that you focus on this IMMEDIATELY following the incident, injury, lie or betrayal. The first days, weeks, months are a critical time in the recovery of your relationship; dedicate yourself to it. Being betrayed will make your partner feel emotions they may have never experienced before and most likely, decidedly less than “special.” Regardless of your reasons or given situation, your partner will question if you truly love them, which is a difficult thing for them to face after years of thinking they were the most important person in your life.

Giving your partner your full attention during this time will help them to regain the feelings of importance in your life, and will go a long way towards convincing them that you are unlikely to hurt or betray them again.  It is also important to show and tell to other people how much you care or love your partner, this will help your partner to overcome all the humiliation that may have been caused but will also more than likely make you feel a little better about yourself.

Remember that the days and weeks immediately following the discovery of the affair are of vital importance, and your actions during this time will greatly determine the speed of your recovery. If your spouse feels supported, loved, respected, and safe discussing his/her feelings during this time, your chances of recovery will be greatly improved. If, on the other hand, your spouse feels alone, ignored, and in the dark, it will be much more difficult to reestablish their trust later.

Make time to court your spouse again. In your affair, you probably did those little things you used to do for your spouse for the other person. Give flowers, dedicate meaningful songs, small notes or gifts that are out of the blue, saying those things you love about them. Your spouse is going to wonder why you were so romantic and open with the person in the affair but you lost that with them. If you continue to neglect them in this area then they will always feel as though they are not special enough to receive them yet the other person was. Your spouse will not feel as though you love them more than the other person you were willing to do these things for. They more than likely will not ask for these things because they want to know they are coming from the heart. Your spouse wants to see you decide they are worth that extra step/thought or action. If they were to suggest these things, they will never feel they are truly done from the heart and with meaning because they had to tell you to do them. Not that you wanted to do them on your own. This will be extremely hurtful if you did do them for the other person.

16.  Not being available.    While emotional availability in the days, weeks, and even months following the discovery of a betrayal is of the utmost importance, keep in mind that you can only be emotionally available when you’re there in person. Understand that, left alone, your partner’s thoughts will begin to eat away at them – they will have questions you are not there to answer, torment themselves with ideas you cannot dispel, and invent suspicions your absence will only worsen.

Paranoia is only natural during this time; in fact, it can hardly be called paranoia, as they are right to mistrust you; you have betrayed them deeply. Being around to answer their questions and soothe their thoughts will keep them from building up and causing future explosions down the road. If it is possible, this may be a good time to take some time away from your normal “alone” activities to spend with your partner. If you can’t be with them physically, keep your phone on whenever possible to answer their calls, and allow them as much access to you as they need. Depending on your partner’s temperament, you may need to respect their desire for time alone, but you need to keep yourself available to them.

17.  Not living your life transparently.  Your life MUST be an open book. You no longer have the luxury of coming and going as you please. Once you have abused your partners trust, it takes a while and a whole lot of effort to get it back. Therefore, if you will be late coming home from work, or have had a change in plans, inform your partner. Every time you leave the house your partner is now wondering if you are going where you say you are going which wil cause them a great deal of anxiety. The best way to ease their insecurities is to let them know what you’re doing and check in throughout the day. Invite your partner places you usually go alone like to the gym or out with friends.

Do everything you can to let your partner know that you have NOTHING to hide.

That being said, and I’ve written about it, this doesn’t mean you no longer have the basic human and adult right to privacy of your thoughts.  You do.  And I think the demand about email and phone passwords is fool’s gold — it provides only a fake reassurance and is frankly kinda humiliating.  You will be on a shorter leash, but don’t be a fool and let yourself be treated like a child.  But I think while still maintaining at least SOME human dignity, you need to prove that you are no longer misbehaving and living an honest, authentic, and transparent life.  It will go a long way to encouraging your spouse to forgive you.

In my other blogs, I urge Betrayed Spouses to pursue these measures wisely and prudently.  If you make too many demands in this area, you will build resentment in your Wayward and derail reconciliation.  Demanding passwords.  Putting on secret electronic surveillance of them.  Demanding they show you their phone (especially in front of other people. I’ve seen it!) — these are humiliating and counter-productive measures.  Use them wisely or not at all.

18.  Not choosing your battles wisely. Keep in mind that now is not necessarily the time to pick fights over certain topics.  You are in a minefield and you have to be careful about fighting back too much, especially initially.  Your partner is feeling betrayed and frightened; it is only natural for them in this state to project those fears onto situations that bear (in their mind) any resemblance to past events of hurt and betrayal. You have shaken their feelings of security in the relationship and in the world, and it is openness and understanding that will gain this back, not combativeness and arguments.

Rather than angrily asserting your rights, you will do much better to gain their trust by assuring them of their importance to you and soothing their bruised ego and wounded heart with compliments and understanding.

That being said, as with most things, you don’t have to tolerate these things indefinitely.  They can become an impediment to reconciliation. But for a while, until you get on more calm footing, beware of fighting back too much.  This goes with my point about not being too defensive.

19.  Not using this opportunity to create a new relationship with your partner and with yourself. You have to start over as it was in the beginning of your relationship. How were you to her/him when you first was interested in dating? If you stay up talking and being together a lot then do so. She/he will always say, If you could stay up and do all the things with the person you cheated on me with than you can do the same with me. Be very attentive. Be open to opportunities to deepen honesty, to live out your values and ideals in public and private, and to bring each other closer together. Your partner may now view you as a stranger and your relationship as broken, and they’re right to think so. You may even feel like a stranger to yourself as you reflect on your choices to engage in behaviors that you are not proud of, and your reliance upon deception and secrecy to hide them. Fight to REALLY live as the partner and the human being that you want to be.

The key is to forge a new relationship in as many ways as possible. Not only will this approach help you and your spouse address the betrayal (and other issues as well), many couples who succeed in this effort frequently describe their relationship afterward as more fulfilling and joyful than at any time in their lives. Finding new places to spend time and share activities together can help this. Make sure that he or she and everyone around you (i.e.family, friends, children) can see that your partner means the world to you and is NOW being put first in your life.

20.  Not being grateful.  Your spouse is deciding to remain with you after your betrayal. No matter how angry, petty, or unpredictable they get, they have shown a great love for you and, in many cases, a great strength of character in choosing to try to trust you again. Give this decision, and your partner, the deserved respect and gratitude.  Many betrayed spouses don’t have the character and maturity and true love to forgive someone.  Many are often too invested in being the victim. Yours isn’t.  Appreciate it. Acknowledge it.   SAY it.  WRITE IT to him/her.  See it as the “gift” it is.  Don’t fumble it.

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20 thoughts on “Mistakes Former Cheaters Make in Marital Recovery After an Affair

  1. Great post! I would add, know that you and your mate are on a different time line of healing. My husband had ended his affair a year before I found out. He had processed much of his feelings, and was ready to just put it all behind him. I had spent that year (because they were still working together) in fear and doubt. When I found out, it was so raw and fresh to me, as if it had just happened. Initially he was very impatient. To him it was old news, he was recommitted to me and wanted to focus solely on the future. Our counselor kept telling him he had to be patient and let me “catch up” to where he was. Luckily, he did!

  2. Really good points!!!

    A thought on the Betrayed’s quest for information: one suggestion is to write down all the questions you have and ponder them for several days. Ask yourself what you will gain by having the nitty gritty details. Research in this area says you will not gain anything other than damaging information and visuals that do not encourage healing. After pondering your questions, look back over your list and cross out any questions that will inhibit healing.

    The desire to know everything is so strong for the Betrayed typically because you cannot get inside the mind of the Cheater to see what went on and you feel powerless to control what has happened. Knowledge of the details will not give you what you desire…it will bring more hurt and prevent healing.

  3. This is one of the best articles I’ve read. I feel like the author read my every thought. I will add, if the OW/OM notifies the former cheater for ANY reason, he/she must tell their spouse in order to rebuild the trust and maintain that sense of transparency.

  4. As someone who recently found out that she’s been betrayed, I agree with almost everything in this blog; however, I have one issue/question: in my particular situation, my mate used his cell phone as his primary means of hooking up with other women. He used dating apps, sexting, text messages with ex-lovers, and of course, post-coital follow-up. As we are trying to repair the relationship, I’m having a very difficult time understanding how it would be possible for me to believe that he’s not still doing these things via his phone, if he refuses me access to it. How could I possibly just believe the words, “I’m not doing that anymore?”

    • Trust is earned back slowly. You don’t say how long its been since the affair terminated and you’ve been in recovery. If it was not long ago, nobody would blame you for your suspicions. And the fact that his cell phone itself is a trigger of bad memories and insecurities and fear for you. All very normal.

      However, if it’s been a year or more, or longer, I think it’s time to decide whether he has earned back your trust or not. If he has done all he can do to reconcile the marriage. If he has, then what’s the hold up? Fear. Fear that’s rooted in lack of trust. And without serious trust, then you both are spinning your wheels in marital recovery. it’s a waste of time. But as I said, this would only be if a substantial amount of time has gone by. Like a couple years.

      I guess the rub is that all of us largely need a cell phone to conduct our lives. I guess you could ask him to leave it without a password, but he may resist that. Maybe because he DOES have something to hide, or maybe because you grabbing his phone and going through it feels like a violation of his privacy. It’s punitive. Parental. Humiliating. Everybody has their own boundaries when it comes to privacy. Have you asked him to do just that? That he needs to give up his phone to you by request so you can search it? If so, what has he said?

      I guess the danger is that if you humiliate him this way, he will get discouraged. It could halt or reverse marital reconciliation and trust. So it’s a risk.

      Remember that trust is being rebuilt both ways. Unless he’s a serial cheater, he had his reasons for having an affair, more than likely rooted in his dissatisfaction with you and your marriage. He has his “grievances” too, even if he committed the bigger sin. Marital neglect and indifference is a sin too. And he’s trusting that you’re stepping up to the plate just like he is and trying to really fix things. That it’s just not all him. That he wants to trust that you will do a better job of knowing him and meeting his needs, just as he wants to rebuild the trust with you for his massive betrayal. So it’s a big dilemma you face.

      The solution? Talk about it. Your problem isn’t his PHONE. Not really. It’s just a symbol of your fears and insecurities and lack of trust in him still. So talk about it. Get it out on the table. Tell him why this is a problem for you. Come to a solution if possible. “Radical honesty” is the key to reconciling a marriage. That you both, with calmness and love, talk about what you are thinking and feeling. You may be surprised the levels that you can reach. Otherwise, you are demanding his phone, he’s getting annoyed because that seems punitive and humiliating, and the emotional gulf grows wider. And reconciliation is stalled or thrown into reverse.

      Dont’ let his phone destroy the marriage if it has a chance of evolving into something better than it was.

      • I just discovered his affair 3 weeks ago, so this is all VERY fresh. I have attempted many times to have more open communication with him, when I sensed that he may have been dissatisfied, or unhappy in our marriage, but he would just shut down, and refuse to talk; taking refuge, instead, in his phone. I’m not just saying that to be hyperbolic. For the last 6 months or so, he would literally spend most of his time looking down at his phone when we were together, and get an attitude whenever I would mention this strange tunnel-vision. So eventually, I became suspicious. It also didn’t help that he made absolutely sure that all of his devices were always locked, so that I would have no access, while my devices were always open to him. Again, if I would ever raise the question as to why he felt the need for such extreme amounts of privacy, he would get defensive, and tell me that it was absolutely normal for a person to need their own “space.” Being an only child, I could logically relate to that; however, in hindsight, it was manipulation.
        After months of his emotional distance, and phone-obsession, and after he returned from a trip seeming not very happy to see me, I got fed up and decided to break into his phone and see what he was up to. He didn’t know it, but I’d managed to figure out his access code. Mind you, I have never in my life before felt the need to ever check the phone or email of his, or any man that I’d been in relationships with prior. (We’ve only been married for 2 years.) I am not a jealous person by nature, and I believe that people should have their private space; however, he was not telling me something, and I was tired of trying to read his mind. What I found in his phone flipped my world upside down.
        He immediately apologized, told me that it had nothing to do with me, or our marriage, but that it had to do with old patterns that he’s struggled with breaking. He says that he wants to repair our marriage and rebuild my trust; however, when I told him that he needs to unlock his phone, he immediately got defensive. He doesn’t understand why that would be necessary, and that he should be allowed some privacy still. This does not compute for me, since the phone was SUCH a big part of the problem. See, he’s not from the state that we live in now, so his cheating was taking place when he would travel to his home state. He would keep in touch with his OW via text, though.
        All of this is why I can’t understand your statements regarding drawing the line at phone/email access. Do I want to be his parole-officer, checking his phone and email everyday for eternity? Absolutely not. But I don’t want to feel like I’m the only person making a REAL effort at repairing what has been broken.

      • an affair after only 2 years of marriage is bad. And yes, you only found out about this 3 weeks ago. He needs to be more forthcoming and yes, he should give you access to his phone. At least for a while. I understand privacy and how humiliating it is, but my goodness, this just happened. He should be doing all he can to rebuild your trust in him. I can see why this bothers you.

  5. I can relate to this really well. My husband gave me free access to his phone, email, facebook acct, etc. in the early weeks after D-day, and it was a comfort – as well as a crutch – that I always viewed as destined to end as soon as i felt a little stronger & less insecure. I was always thinking of ways to get to that end & what he could do to help, and we talked about it – a lot. There was that one *small* hiccup when I accidentally deleted some of his business contacts, fumbling around with a higher end smart phone I was unaccustomed to using… I know he was annoyed, but I thought he dealt with it pretty well. And I never touch his phone anymore – which I view as my own small victory over the mistrust and insecurity. D-day was 6 months ago, and he appears to be walking the talk, as it were. I’m not 100% relaxed, but I no longer feel like a prison guard. I think positive changes in the marriage have to be the guide in this sort of thing. Seeing effort, concern, love; those things, if they are there, merit the leap of faith you have to take to extend at least some trust. And I started small. Resisting the urge to snoop is more about self-control, once you get to the point that your betrayer really seems to be putting in the effort. I just try to keep in mind that I only snooped, and thus caught him cheating, in the first place because I knew something was really wrong in our marriage. I could just feel it. I have to search my heart and ask myself if I feel those things anymore – if that’s the kind of vibe I get from him & our interactions. The answer is no, and I’d say if that’s the case for whoever, it may be time to extend a little trust.

  6. My husband developed an infatuation with a young woman at our church, primarily because she had similar interests, but mostly because she also appeared to look up to him. His career was (and still is) going nowhere but she made him feel special about himself. The timing was right because he was just about to turn 60 and wanted to be young, wanted to get into the field she was going to study in college, and she was impressed with his wide vocabulary and that he was well-read. He began lengthy daily email correspondence with her (I discovered it accidentally months later) – late at night because at the time he was unemployed and told me he was on the computer “job hunting” . He also went on a strict diet, exercised daily, got some new clothes (“job hunting”), whitened his teeth, new glasses, etc. She liked was so interested in her – as he asked her many questions, and flattered her immensely by telling her how much more mature she was than everyone else, and kept showing interest in her activities, etc. I discovered the correspondence the week before we were supposed to all be at a party – and he was trying to find out what time she would be there, and she gave him her cell phone number so they could coordinate. When we arrived, he went right to her side and remained there – and engaged in close conversation with her for about an hour and a half – oblivious to me (I sat across the table). It ended with him saying that he should come to campus and take her out for coffee some weekend (we lived about 40 minutes away, I had been working full time and doing work around the house as well to give him time to “job hunt” and he had paid no attention to our 2 kids at home). When we got into the car I exploded and said he had to end this obsession. He became quite angry and said it was his friendship and his business and none of my business at all. Long story short – it took him almost a month before he would tell her he would not be writing her anymore (draft upon draft of the emails). He didn’t want to delete her emails and kept trying to hide them from me in different folders but I required that he do so because I would find him going back to them and re-reading them (she flattered him as well and they even discussed “boundaries”) anyway he mourned her from afar when she visited church and then could not stand it anymore and went to her side and made her talk with him. Then even though he promised not to he followed her on social media until I discovered that a year later. We have been in counseling for two years – and he is better -but I am very wary of trusting him. He blames himself – his “needs” because it was a “foolish” passion -but NOT an emotional affair. And he has defended her to this day – it was none of her doing, all of his, and never has spoken a word against her. All of this is secret from family and friends except I have told two close friends as this has been agony for me. He won’t change churches – where she does show up occasionally – and I have always wanted him to write to me as eloquently as he did her – but hasn’t ever done that with me. Not more than a line or two in a card. I feel as though I have been deprived of one of his gifts – writing – because he refuses to write me (says he is able to talk with me so why write and what would he write about, etc/) All of his emails to her were not questions about what she was doing in college, but about things she was interested in, even parenting advice (she was only 18!). He doesn’t ever talk about feelings or emotional anything with me – doesn’t ask me about my feelings (because he told me he just knows I am angry and that is that so why ask?). We are still in counseling because I do not know why he still defends her – and now he is trying to recharacterize this as all in my mind, that it was not that big a deal, etc. IT is frustrating because he just wants to move on and go back to not talking about anything to do with feelings – just have a good time. We do not discuss the future either because our money situation is not that great – so no plannning, and we take no vacations (haven’t for years) because I lost a good job about 9 years ago. It is difficult to make ends meet. I have the steady job – always have – he is employed most of the time but both of us have been looking for new jobs for 8 years without success. We don’t want to move to another part of the country (in our late 50s) as our kids are here too. So it is exhausting – and it is dfficult for me to accept that I will never be pursued the way he chased her (and he didn’t even pursue me that much before we were married over 30 years ago). I can’t just dump flattery on him – but I feel pressured into just ignoring all of it and going about with life. Just burying my needs – as he is not changing. He has a therapist who tells him he doesn’t need to see things my way. His remorse is not that remorseful – but he is sorry that he hurt me. That is what he says. To me that isn’t the same thing as remorse – regretting that he ever did it – because when he gets upset he says that at least he got compliments from her and he needed them then.

  7. If his therapist said exactly that – that he “doesn’t need to see things your way”, then he’s not precisely right. He doesn’t need to *agree* with you, he just needs to *understand* your point of view. Discussing something that makes either of you unhappy is only going to be productive if you each listen to the other with the goal of understanding in mind. You don’t have to agree. You just need to accept each other’s feelings as valid – whether you agree with them or not. Some people can do that, and still won’t consider their partner’s feelings before they act in ways that they know will make their partner unhappy, but you still have to get to the point where you’re listening & understanding each other before you can solve any problems. But I would say that one or both partners being unwilling to acknowledge that there even IS a problem is a huge red flag that the marriage is in serious trouble.

    This is, in my opinion, a critical time for your marriage. You may have caught him before he took things to a physical level, but make no mistake, it was headed there all the same. I personally would consider this a betrayal. Some would say “not adultery” in the strictest sense, but adulteration is simply making something pure impure by adding an extraneous substance – which is essentially what he did. The question of what you should do about it is a little more complicated. I don’t recommend standing over him like he’s a toddler trying to shove a bobby-pin into a wall socket. He’s a grown man, and judging by what you’ve said about his reactions, he resents that kind of monitoring. And you’ve probably got enough on your plate already to add babysitting him night & day to the list. Obviously he has a lot of time on his hands, and you could use some help, so I’d tell him to get a job, or take over some of your jobs, or start packing. You may not mean it, but you do need to get his attention.

    And then I’d tell him that I loved him very much, that he is important to you, that his feelings and needs are important to you, and you want to try to meet his needs and make him happy, but that your marriage as it is, is really not working for you. You have to tell him in a way that doesn’t make him defensive (tricky business, that) what your needs are, and then listen & acknowledge while he tells you about his. If you guys honestly don’t think you can meet each other’s needs, then maybe you should consider divorce. I’m more an advocate of saving the marriage, especially if you get that far into a frank conversation and aren’t screaming & throwing things at each other. That’s a sign of mutual respect & some care and concern for each other’s feelings. But if you do get that far, know that your work is far from done.

    Our therapist says that you can never go back to what you had when you were young and the relationship was new. And you don’t want to – it was hard, and you don’t want to relearn all of those lessons anyway. What you want to do is take all of that time & experience, and put it to work and use it as a foundation for the marriage you want to have in the future. Put into it exactly what you want to have for yourself, and you should receive it in turn. And if you get to the point where you are able to honestly say that you are putting all of this in, and getting nothing back, then have the courage to walk away. But you have to be honest with yourself about that. I’m sure you’re working very hard. I was too. Just not on the right things. I was killing myself doing things I never got credit for, and the reason I never got credit for them was because they weren’t the things my husband needed from me – they weren’t important to him.

    Once I figured out what was important to him (and I thought I already knew this, but until I really listened to him, I didn’t), I started putting down some of the things that I didn’t urgently have to do, and picked up some of the things he needed. And almost overnight, he started picking up things that were important to me. We made time for a weekly date night, even if it was just going for a walk or a ride on his motorcycle, or playing rummy at the kitchen table. And intimacy started to grow. We didn’t automatically just open up & examine our feelings until we fully understood each other, and every mistake we ever made as a couple. But we do understand each other much better than we did, and by each knowing and being concerned with what was important to the other, we have managed to come through some difficult times, and are much happier than we were before.

    We never know what the future has in store for us. As far as we have come, and even with all of the work we have put in, we could still end up falling apart somewhere in the future. I just concentrate on today, and putting something ahead for the future. So I’m always building for that. I’m happy today, and a big part of that is something I did yesterday. I want to be happy tomorrow, so I look for something I can do today. That’s just how it is for me right now. It seems to be working for us, because he does more things to make me feel good now than I can ever remember him doing in the past – even when we were young & our relationship was new, and he was working hard to make a good impression.

  8. Great article and I think every cheater who truly wants to repair the relationship should read this. My my husband cheated on me FIVE months into our marriage AND on my birthday. ( I can’t make this stuff up.) anyway, I thought we were soul mates, and I never thought this could happen to me. It has been almost two years, and I’m still not over it. We went to therapy of course, and our deal was he was supposed to keep cell phone, email, computer , etc. open and readily available. He works out of town all the time, so instead of building trust with time, I find I am going backwards because I live with anxiety he is with another woman every time I can’t get in touch with him. He lets me look @ his phone when he is home, but doesn’t like it. I made a surprise visit to him at work today, and looked at his phone. He immediately grabbed it out of my hand. ( must not have had time to delete messages he didn’t want me to see), and he told me he was ” embarrased” because I was looking @ his phone in front of our employee….. Yeah good one….huh. Bottom line as this article suggests… The cheater needs to be consistent with the deals made after they have cheated, and they must be patient during the healing process of the betrayed spouse if they truly want the marriage to heal and move on. I began to build slight trust over the last two years, and all that sent away as soon as that phone was grabbed out of my hands like a hot potato this evening…. I know people who get over it, but it can take years. As with everything, every situation is different. I am thinking if I was cheated on five months into our marriage, my husband obviously didn’t take our vowels seriously, and I should have run…. Fast… Then…. That’s not the birthday present I was expecting during our first year of marriage. It still hurts, I still feel resentment….. And the way I look at it now is…. How many DOnt I know about?

    • I’m glad this article spoke to you.

      As for your situation, I would caution you about demanding the phone thing. It’s been two years. What you are doing is humiliating to him and may cause him to resent you. I think you need to wind down these sorts of tactics. Especially in front of his coworkers. If that was my wife with me, that would virtually be a deal-breaker. I would be beyond discouraged (and we are about 2.5 years since D-day). I know you have the urges to do it, and obviously it means you still don’t trust him and not “over it.” This is an issue that needs to be explored with a therapist. What is he not doing that would increase trust in you? Or what should he stop doing? Or perhaps you will never trust him again, given your resentment, and you both should pull the plug on the marriage? I can’t answer that, but I think what you’re telling me about how you interact is not good. The phone thing is a symptom. because to be honest, if he really wanted to cheat, he could do it again and you would never find out. He would never use his phone for anything like that, if he was smart. He could communicate with a third party in ways that you don’t have access to. So demanding his phone really isn’t going to give you the “security” that you think you’re getting. So consider that. It’s really just a measure to humiliate him and that can’t be helpful to recovery.

      At some point, you’re either going to have to let this go and fix “why” he cheated. Or let each other go. That would be my advice. Do not take this as a criticism of you. Or him, frankly. I don’t know you two. But I think at some point you have to decide whether recovery or revenge is your agenda here and proceed accordingly. These sorts of tactics will not reduce your anger and resentment (and probably will increase his). Please read the “Biggest Mistakes Betrayed Spouses Make in Recovery” as well as suggesting that he read this one. perhaps some of it will ring true.

  9. Please I need some advice and help. I ended my one year affair several months ago and my spouse and I are still trying to build are marriage again. We have been working so hard and for the most part I have been totally and brutally honest with him about the how, why, when, etc… of the affair. I even gave him my AP name and phone number but to his credit, he did not want a confrontation.
    Here is my dilemma..I have told my AP many times over why it will not work–both of us are married with children. He has never had a DD and to this day his spouse does not know about me. Mine on the other hand knows everything because I knew that our marriage would not stand a chance without him knowing the truth.
    Anyway, my AP continues to contact me. He texts, calls, emails. I will admit. I still have very strong feelings for my AP. I still dream about him and cry myself to sleep. Most times, I ignore his attempts. But then I have a vulnerable moment and take his call. Then the feelings all rush back and I question if I really do love this OM. It hurts so badly and I also get so angry with myself for caving in. I know my AP is hurting and has told me he is going to divorce his spouse. I told him if that is what he needs to do then he should, but I am staying in my marriage. I even told him that he needs to find someone else when he is free to do so. He insists that he loves only me.
    I know the answer to my question really. NO CONTACT. Please though, I need some advice on how to get the AP out of my head when he insists on staying there. Also, how to stay strong and not pick up that phone or answer that text.
    I know the WW will say think of your spouse. I DO!!!!! ALL THE TIME!!
    But it still doesn’t make the longing go away.
    I feel with each contact with the OM, I am right back at square one. And I am afraid my spouse will not be able to take much more.

    • it’s important that you block his emails and phone calls. You must not give in. There is only danger here. If his wife where to get wind of this you’re toast. Since your husband knows, perhaps he should send a message to this man or call him and warn him very specifically to never contact you again or he will tell his wife. That usually does it. But it’s important to you to demonstrate to your husband that you will not have any contact with this man. No matter how hard he tries. You need to block him in all ways you can delete his old emails and any photos. It’s the only way. Good luck

  10. thank you for your reply–I know what I need to do and for the most part, I have. BUT not in all ways. Its also admitting to myself that I am closing that door forever and giving up the “crack” so to speak. I read a good article about the addiction cycle and it is very applicable in this situation. Same chemical release–the high.
    I am fortunate to have a spouse who wants to be my partner and help me through these feelings even though it is painful for him too. It builds a bond between us and a trust back for him. Even though the pull of this man is still there, the more I share and open up to my spouse the closer we become, and the less of a draw the OM has on me.
    Its those moments when I am alone with my thoughts that I become vulnerable. And these are the times when I cave. So I will block his number on my phone and not pick up at work. It only sets us back in our recovery–

    • I hope you will stick to that, because you’re the only one in control of it. If you really do want your marriage to work, it’s the only thing to do. Understand that every call you take, every message you respond to is another betrayal, another lie to your husband. he will certainly view it that way if he finds out. And you’re just teaching your AP that you’re still open to contact, and he just needs to try a little harder & you’ll give in. Once the secret is out, your husband is about 100 times more likely to find out about continued contact than he was the affair because he doesn’t have the same kind of trust in you that he had before. Finding out that there’s been continued contact can be just as devastating – even more so – than D-day. i think you should read this article before you speak to him again:


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