Recovering from Infidelity

There are some holes from which you can never dig yourself out of.  Sexual and emotional infidelity in a marriage if often one of those.

Today, I’m having drinks with an old friend who is trying to do exactly that. For over four years she had an emotional and sexual affair with a man from her church.  Her husband found out when their phone texts accidentally merged and he immediately left the relationship and said he would seek a divorce.

After a couple weeks of heated – but understandable – anger, they have decided to try ‘dating’ again. The situation – and this is not really the point of this post, so I will be brief –  is that they really do love each other; neither had many other friends but both are attractive and could easily find other sexual partners; he travels for work and works hard so she is lonely; he has, understandably, lost his ability to trust her; he is acting like a bit of an ass, dating her but also dating other women and angrily bragging about his conquests; and finally, they were both virgins at marriage so the temptation to be, sexually, with someone else, is not insignificant.

So can they come back from this?  This is – very specifically – what she wants to talk to me about today.

The way I am seeing it, the first question is – should they want to come back from this.

Should she? There is a reason she had a long term emotional and sexual affair. She is an emotionally available (and somewhat needy) woman with a lot of free time, given that their children are now mostly grown.  He, on the other hand, works very hard, travels a lot, and is emotionally very closed except when he drinks (not atypical of a lot of men). As I said, there is a reason she had a four year affair.

Should he?  This is more difficult. He really did/does love her and he didn’t really feel the relationship was lacking.  He certainly expected less from a relationship than I would, but this met his needs.  He had a wife who loved him, raised his kids with him and, every once in a while they would go out for drinks with old friends and they would have a good time together.  And when he travelled, he partied it up and misbehaved a bit but nothing too crazy… he was never unfaithful. It was what he wanted.

So, I find myself in an awkward position. She desperately wants to be forgiven and to be back in a relationship that is likely not what she really needs.  He, on the other hand, is less interested in being fully back in the relationship he really, really does want.

It all comes down to trust I suppose.  He says he can never trust her again. Understandable.  He says that overtime he looks at her and is intimate with her, all he can see is this other guys with her. Again, understandable… and awful.  For a guy who has never been with anyone else (or for anyone for that matter) it must be hard to imagine your partner in the loving embrace of someone else for all that time, behind your back. And, he feels that all they positive memories over those pastor years are false, because she was keeping this massive secret from him.  Again, understandable.

And on her side, it comes down to faith.  Can he, or does he even what to, become the person she wants him to be – present, more emotionally available, able to have fun with her more than occasionally.  She continually tells me she wants him back.. but she seems to want a version of him back that may never have existed.

So…. drinks with her this afternoon.  To what extent do we owe it to our friends to tell them hard truths. This relationship is over… as it should be.


7 thoughts on “Recovering from Infidelity

  1. That’s tough. Just tell her your observations and ask her these questions. She may come to the same conclusion on her own.

    Is the affair really over? And did it end only because the affair was discovered?

    I can’t imagine a spouse being able to move past an affair that lasted 4 years.

  2. I don’t have any advice, but I did discuss your post with my fiancé, and we both came to the conclusion that once the trust is gone, even if you could forgive the person you could never forget.

    Don’t think any couple ever really gets over infidelity. Great post, good luck talking to your friend.

  3. I totally understand your thoughts about their situation. But there are a lot of factors at play here. It’s not so black and white. The affair is a symptom of a marriage in trouble. Although he never cheated on his wife, he contributed to the state of the marriage: one which was unfulfilling enough to seek comfort in the arms of another.

    Their old marriage is dead. They can rebuild a new marriage, a more honest one. But it’s going to take a lot of work going forward. Believe it or not, trust returns. You get to a point where you consciously make that decision to trust again. It doesn’t happen right away, but in time, it does come back (despite what people may say). I can speak first hand about this both as a woman who was betrayed and as a woman who eventually cheated on her husband.

    The vast majority of marriages stay together after adultery. People wouldn’t think that, but it’s true. No matter who you are with, the risk is the same that you could end up being cheated on. Do you stay with your partner whom you’ve been with for years and work on the marriage? Or do you divorce and start all over- roll the dice and get a crap shoot on what your next relationship woes will be? If this is a first marriage, the odds are they will stay together. If it’s a second marriag , couples are much faster at calling it quits and divorcing.

    1. This is a really interesting insight. Thank You. so, do you think – given how angry they are at each other now, and his desire to ‘date’ – that they should take some time apart initially. Or, should they be committing to work together to try to rebuild their marriage immediately. She asked me this directly and I really didn’t know what to say

      1. I had to go back and re-read your post because of your dating question. Now, if he was only dating his wife- then I was going to say, “This is a man who needs time, going slow in the relationship and ‘dating’ his wife again” (not an uncommon thing after an affair is uncovered- we did something similar trying to see if we could have fun as a couple together again).

        But that isn’t the case. He has stepped out of the marriage as well, thereby inviting a whole host of issues into their marriage now. Is this for revenge? Is his behavior a direct correlation to his anger at his wife? Either way, he is committing adultery as well- they aren’t divorced…yet.

        So his behavior is no different: he certainly has lost any integrity regarding his marriage vows etc.

        They both sound like they need to sit down and talk..and talk..and talk until all their issues are on the table. Till every last thing has been covered because the only way forward is complete transparency. And the only way this marriage will survive is if they rebuild a new one: and that certainly can’t take place as long as there is a 3rd party on the side.

        They are both confused and lost. And they need to figure out what they want for their lives, their marriage etc. It’a not going to happen overnight. It takes work. And honesty. And being committed to figuring it out and not throwing divorce into eachothers faces every time it gets difficult (because it will).

        I would ask your friend, “If he truly loves his wife, then why is he dating other women now?”

        In time, if they stay together, his decision to date others will only exasperate the situation the longer that behavior continues.

        So my advice would be to date eachother- get rid of the affair partner & any new women he is dating- focus on the marriage. Just the two of them. Reasses every 6 months. By year 2 after Dday, they will feel vastly different than they do now. And by year 3, even more.

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