My husband and I have been married for almost 3 years. After our first child was born, things seemed to really go downhill. My husband confessed to me that he had a one-night stand. He showed real remorse and begged me to give him another chance. We agreed to go to counseling, but in hindsight, it was pointless. It taught me nothing and never dealt with why things happened or how we could rebuild our marriage. After our second child was born, he again had a one-night stand, and this eventually led to our separation. Looking back, we both seemed to be not getting what we wanted from the marriage, but I did blame him. I was very controlling, treating him more like a child. You could say that at the time, I was emotionally abusive towards him, putting him down. So I have a few questions: 1) Both my husband and I love each other immensely, and we want a very different marriage. Can we get past this to build the marriage we do want, even though he had two one-night stands? 2) I want to rebuild more than anything, but I’ve had to deal with a lot from family and friends who are absolutely disgusted that I would take him back. Both my mother and sister have called me a weak person and said that by taking him back, I’m simply accepting his behavior and he’ll just keep doing it over and over again. They say once a cheater, always a cheater. Suzie, is there hope for my husband and me? Are my mother and sister right? My gut is telling me not to walk away just yet, but then I have friends and family who tell me I’m just fooling myself. Please, any advice you can give me will be much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to listen.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. First of all, take a deep breath. Pause, and breathe out. You’re in a very difficult situation, and it’s going to take all the focus and energy you have to get yourself out of it.
The good news is…
…you asked for help. And so, help is here.
You wrote: “Looking back, we both seemed to be not getting what we wanted from the marriage, but I did blame him. I was very controlling, treating him more like a child. You could say that at the time, I was emotionally abusive towards him, putting him down.”
My advice: We all make mistakes in our relationships. Nothing prepares you for marriage but being married. Most of us grow up witnessing marriages that are more of a “warning” than a good example — so basically, what you’ve learned is that you didn’t have a good road map to follow in your marriage.
Think of it this way:
Imagine you were going to Detroit and you were following a map of New York. Would it be any surprise that you’d get lost? It’s no different in marriage. You’ve both been given a “flawed map” for marriage to follow, so it’s really no surprise you got lost along the way.
But here’s the thing — every negative can lead to a positive.
Now, because of your experiences, you’re NOW willing to look for a good road map to follow.
You wrote: “We agreed to go to counseling, but in hindsight, it was pointless. It taught me nothing and never dealt with why things happened or how we could rebuild our marriage.”
My answer: Another valuable lesson learned. Pat yourself on the back. What you’ve learned is what doesn’t work for both of you. This is good news, because that’s what has opened your mind to look for what does work. The best that can come out of this is that with help, you guys are trying to find a better way. And since “trying” is always the first step to achieving, you’re headed in the right direction.
Now, let’s tackle your specific questions.
Q: Can we get past this to build the marriage we do want, even though he had two one-night stands?
A: Whether it’s one ONS (one-night stand) or 1000, the pain of betrayal is the same. The rebuilding process is the same. And the answer is the same: YES, you can rebuild. So the next logical question is, what do you need in order to rebuild?
It comes down to two simple things, really:
- Willingness. You both need to be willing to do what it takes — because nothing is impossible to a willing heart.
- The right road map. A plan to get you to exactly the right place you both want to go.
For more help on rebuilding your marriage after infidelity, read my advice article on the rules and tools needed to rebuild after infidelity.
Q: Both my mother and sister have called me a weak person and said that by taking him back, I’m simply accepting his behavior and he’ll just keep doing it over and over again. They say once a cheater, always a cheater.
A:Watch out for this one. This is often a big reason so many people give up on each other.
Some things to keep in mind:
- They don’t love him — you do. It’s easy for them to be “unforgiving” and to harden their hearts, because their hearts were never given to him in the first place.
- They can afford to give up on him — they don’t have anything to lose.Remember, they didn’t build a life with him — you did. You’re the one who has much to lose, not them. It’s easy to judge, condemn, and to write off other people when it doesn’t really affect your life to do so in the first place. So, you should consider the source MUCH more than you should consider the advice. What do they have to lose? Nothing, really.
- “Protection” won’t help you grow. Your family’s job is to protect you. And they’re doing that job the very best way they can. They love you. They don’t want you to get hurt. And who could blame them? I don’t want you to get hurt either, but at the same time, I also recognize that you’re a grown woman, and that “protecting you” won’t help you grow. It’s natural for family to try and protect each other, but is it really necessary? I don’t believe that at this stage, it is.
Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute.
Let’s look at what would happen, if the worse did happen. Let’s say you took him back, and you rebuilt your marriage. Things go along smoothly for a while, so you relax and open yourself again. And then one day, when you least expect it, WHAM! You get that crippling blow to the back of your knees when you find out he’s cheated again!
That’s your worse nightmare, isn’t it?
That image is what’s stopping you from rebuilding, right? It’s the fear that makes the cliché “once a cheater, always a cheater” so powerful — the idea that people can’t (or don’t) ever change.
Well, I don’t agree with that. People DO change. I should know — I watch them do it all the time. Little boys grow up and become men. Little girls grow up and become women. People who used to take drugs now fight the war against drugs. Alcoholics who used to drink like a fish are now the ones guiding others away from the bottle. People who used to rob banks, steal cars and harm old ladies are now ministers and preachers of compassion and the Gospel.
But, let’s look at this another way.
What if he never does it again? What if you both could learn how to build a marriage that you both love so much, thoughts of infidelity never enter your minds? Wouldn’t that be worth trying for? I believe it is.
Here’s another thing:
While you can trade partners, you can’t trade problems. Communications issues, family interference, and fidelity issues are universal issues. So yes, you could find another man. But would that guarantee your relationship happiness? I’m not so sure it would.
Here’s what I can tell you from experience:
- Betrayed partners who don’t embrace “true forgiveness” tend to develop a negative, bitter and mistrusting attitude towards the opposite sex — all of which contribute to the likelihood of being cheated on again.
- Wayward partners who never take the time to investigate the “why” of what happened and never learned how to deal with temptation tend to remain vulnerable to temptation.
- Couples who don’t change the flawed road map they have for marriage that leads to infidelity are more likely to recreate the same conditions in which infidelity is likely to occur again.
In other words:
He needs better “relationship coping tools”.
Just like the court would order a DUI driver to go to AA meetings (even if he isn’t an alcoholic) or an aggressive offender to go to an anger management course, your partner needs to learn better ways to deal with his problems rather than to “escape” via anonymous sex.
You, on the other hand, need the freedom only forgiveness brings.
Whether you stay together or you walk away from this marriage, you still need to forgive. Why? Because forgiveness is for your own sake. It’s what ends suffering and ends the cycle of pain.
Your relationship has to be rebuilt from the ground up.
There’s no doubt that infidelity is a deal breaker. And so, it’s time for a new deal. This requires that some things have to change in the relationship, and learning what those things are is what rebuilding a better marriage is all about.
Read my article What is Wayward Rehab? to see if my online workshop is a good option for your husband.
Read my article Intro to Passionate Monogamy to see if it can be useful in your reconciliation and rebuilding efforts.
And perhaps most importantly…
Read my article about The Healing Power of True Forgiveness. (You’ll be glad you did.)
I sincerely hope this was useful to you. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of everything.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!