(By Rhonda Milrad) Here are my six pieces of advice for women who find that their husband cheats, and who want to investigate if they can heal and remain in the relationship …
This week, I wrote a blog entitled “6 Steps to Help Your Wife Recover from Your Affair.” One woman who commented on the blog offered up six of her own tips for women who find that their husbands cheat. The sound tips all reinforced her basic premise that, when wives discover infidelity, they should leave the relationship pronto!
However, despite the fact that many advocate leaving the relationship if your husband has cheated, it is not always the case that people do. In fact, at Relationup, an app that provides live relationship advice via chat, our statistics reveal that 65% of people who seek help with the topic of infidelity are women struggling with how to recover from their husband’s betrayal and stay in the relationship.
So, it seems that some married women are not eager to leave their relationships in the face of infidelity. This is especially true when their husbands are remorseful and appear motivated to not be unfaithful again in the future.
There are many reasons why people stay. Sometimes, wives want to keep the family together for the children. Others stay for financial reasons or due to the fear of being alone. It is not uncommon for wives who have been married for many years to believe it is short-sighted to leave without at least trying to repair things.
So, here are my six pieces of advice for women who find that their husbands cheat and want to investigate if they can heal and remain in the relationship.
1. Get support, support and more support!
Recovering from infidelity is a difficult thing. Your ego is bruised. You feel inadequate as a wife and as a woman. Your trust has been broken. Your partner feels like a stranger who has lied to you for many, many years. You don’t know what to believe about the past and, almost certainly, what to believe about the present. Are more lies being told? Will you be able to tell if they are?
As a result of this betrayal, you may also become hyper-vigilant and suspicious. Things become worrisome that once weren’t. You do a lot of snooping. You feel like you can no longer trust your inner voice. It once told you that everything was okay when, in fact, it wasn’t. The world no longer feels safe and secure.
Given the description above, it is not hard to imagine why it is necessary to get support for yourself during this process. It is a time of emotional upheaval and the more friends, family, support groups, books, articles and objective professionals that you have in your life, the better it will be for you.
2. Set a time for disclosure with your husband
Arrange for time(s) for you and your husband to sit down so you can ask any questions that you need to have answered about the history and scope of his behaviour.
You probably have so many questions. It is important to take time and think them all through. Some questions are about the details of the incident(s). When did this occur? What exactly happened? When and how did you meet? Where did you take the person?
Others are about checking whether the times when you felt in your gut that something was off were in fact due to his infidelity. You may want to know if something was going on when your husband left your family dinner early one night and went downtown to meet a colleague. Was he really on a business trip that weekend when the whole thing seemed strange to you and he denied that there was anything out of the ordinary?
The only way that you can fully recover from this betrayal is for your husband to be committed to stopping this behaviour going forward and be willing to come clean and tell you everything you want to know. But it is important that you be in charge of determining what you need to know. For some, a lot of information is helpful. For others, it leads to rumination and intrusive memories. You must decide what is best for you. If you don’t know what is right, take it slowly. Remember, you can’t un-ring a bell.
Asking about details and history should not be a one-time occasion. Your husband should be willing to answer questions whenever you have them and over and over again.
3. Establish a rule with your husband that you are entitled to ask about his whereabouts and proof of them at any time
Although it is not healthy for you to make a full-time job of monitoring your husband (and won’t do any good as a way of controlling his behaviour), there will be times when circumstances make you uncertain of his truthfulness. Maybe it is the tone of his voice or the strangeness of the plan. On one hand, you could say nothing and just ‘see what happens’. Will your suspicions prove to be true? This strategy of waiting often makes wives feel powerless and results in them being preoccupied with their husbands’ behaviour.
On the other hand, you could approach your husband and share your concerns and express your need for verification. You have probably had a history of pushing away suspicious thoughts and labelling them as ridiculous, or of just having no clue that something was going on. Often, to hide your suspicions feels like you are sticking your head in the sand.
Your husband has to understand that your trust has been shattered and the only way to rebuild it is to weather the incidents where red flags are raised, even if they’re nothing more than false alarms. This goes a long way towards recalibrating your nervous system till you realise you can feel uncomfortable but your husband can still be telling the truth. Trust will strengthen after a long string of these affirming incidents occur.
4. Require that your husband clean up his mess
Your husband needs to terminate contact with all people, sites, services and apps that are connected to his cheating behaviour. Don’t hesitate to have him show you that he has completed his tasks or terminations. You can even ask him to end things in front of you.
5. You and your husband should both get tested for STDs
No matter what he says, your health has been placed at risk. Don’t only rely on just him getting tested. Get yourself tested for everything as well. It is often embarrassing to reveal your husband’s infidelity to your doctor. But you need to put yourself first and make taking care of yourself a priority.
6. Return to sexual intimacy slowly and gradually
Some women desire to reconnect with their husband and create security for themselves by being sexually intimate. Others feel so hurt and repulsed by what has gone on that they cannot fathom being sexual and are haunted by intrusive images of their husband with other women.
My best advice is for you to take time to see what is right for you. The most important thing is for you and your husband to rebuild your trust and connection and, sometimes, being physically intimate can interfere with the communication that needs to happen to slowly heal the wounds.
7. Seek out couples counselling if this feels like too much
You may find that, as a couple, you need help. Infidelity tears the fabric of the relationship and, sometimes, you need a mental health professional to guide you through the healing process. This is especially true when wives have experienced more than once occasion of discovering their husband’s infidelity. It is exponentially difficult in these situations for wives to believe that their husbands are remorseful, allow themselves to trust once more, and, later, find they’ve been duped again.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all that needs to be done to heal from infidelity. It is just a start to get wives on the best track toward healing, should they want to stay in the relationship. That is the key. To stay means to find out if you are able to overcome the betrayal, to rediscover who your husband is and to reassess whether the relationship is right for you.