Dear Suzie, I caught my husband having an affair a few months ago. I wanted to save my marriage so I decided to forgive him. He promised to stop seeing the other woman, but I recently found out that all the way through marriage counseling, he was still seeing her and lying to me and the therapist. So now, this is the second time I’ve caught him cheating. What should I do?
You’re in a very tough situation, because the first discovery of infidelity was like the marriage boat capsizing. And now, with this second discovery that it has continued (even after your partner has sworn it was over), well, that’s like the boat sinking. But take heart. Just because the boat sinks doesn’t mean it can’t still be repaired or that you can’t swim to shore.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Your marriage can’t continue as long as the affair continues. There is absolutely NO wiggle room on this. Just like you can’t ride two horses, he can’t have two relationships. Your partner MUST choose.
If he chooses to stay, I would suggest the following conditions:
- DNC — Do Not Contact: Your partner must sign and agree to DNC (do not contact). This agreement is forever. (Your marriage counselor can help you draft this.)
- T&D — Time & Distance: He must be willing to put in the time to repair the trust in your marriage, as well as give himself mental, emotional and physical distance away from the affair partner. Time and distance (T&D) are two keys in the detox process after an extramarital affair.
- Transparent Living: This means granting you total access (without resentment) to computers, emails, phones, etc. Notice that I said without resentment. This is because the more he resists being transparent, the more red flags I see. Because, as Dr. Phil says, “People with nothing to hide, hide nothing.”
- Neutralizing Emotions: It would be a mistake to assume that because the affair has been exposed, the feelings evaporate. While discovery of the affair might throw a bucket of cold water on the affair, it doesn’t always put out the fire (as you’ve discovered). Your partner must confront his feelings and learn how to neutralize them. (Again, counseling helps.)
- Self-forgiveness: People who carry the guilt of their affairs are more likely to cheat again. This usually comes as a surprise, because many people mistake guilt for remorse. But the two are not the same. Those who feel guilty are usually just punishing themselves, but not necessarily correcting themselves. However, those who have accepted forgiveness for their mistakes do so because they have been able to correct the thinking that led to the mistakes in the first place. Thus, self-forgiveness is a big part of redeeming yourself.
SIDE NOTE: I am convinced that self-forgiveness is a huge key to wayward recovery and becoming temptation-proof. For more information, read my Wayward Rehab article.
For now, if you want save your marriage, keep this in mind:
Difficult is not the same as impossible. You must accept that this isn’t a hopeless situation. As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “Sometimes, you have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” And I believe your marriage is worth fighting for.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!