Friday, November 6, 2015

Just Ask Joyce: Building Trust After Cheating

By Joyce Oglesby


Q: “Three years ago I had an affair with my wife’s best friend. It was stupid; I admit it. It was a mistake and only lasted eight months. I know I messed up, but now my wife won’t stop badgering me. She reminds me of it every day. She never would have known except
her friend (of course ex-friend now) told her. I should have told her myself, but I knew it would cause chaos in our marriage. I’ve tried everything to convince her it won’t happen again, but she simply will not trust me. She checks my phone every day. If I’m five minutes late from coming in from work, she interrogates me all night. She wants an accounting of every dime I spend. She checks the phone records every month. She seems obsessed with trying to catch me in another unfaithful act. I’m exhausted from it all. She says she has forgiven me, but it doesn’t feel that way because she won’t forget it. Is it asking too much for her to trust me again?”

Joyce: Whether eight months, eight years, or eight minutes, the mistake of infidelity feels the same to the offended — intentional. Your unfaithfulness destroyed something that is precious and valuable in any relationship. Trust is a must.

But you’re a quick learner — trust is much more difficult to get back than it is to maintain. It is fundamental. Trust should be valued and protected. When you first married, accountability was anticipated. Now it’s a pain in the neck!

What you did was analogous to injecting cancer into your wife’s heart. It metastasized to her thoughts, her emotions, and even attached itself to her very soul. She can’t escape thinking about the dreaded process. Unfortunately, your wife was hit with a double breach of trust — her husband and her best friend. She likely deals with the fear of being hurt again, and no one wants to endure that kind of pain twice.

For certain you can’t maintain or regain trust in a marriage without a dose of wisdom. So, here’s your first gem: It takes time to heal. It’s difficult to predict a date for trust to return once infidelity invades a marriage. But can trust find its previous status quo? Absolutely!

The eight-month period of intentionally acting out on temptation has brought about consequences that could continue much longer than they have thus far. Here are a few things I would recommend for you:
  1. You can’t dispense enough patience. Let time happen. It needs to.
  2. Get counseling. If you’ve gone before, go again. (I’m happy to help you with this!)
  3. Continue being the kind of man of complete integrity whom she can’t help but fully love and trust again.
  4. Frequently affirm to her that she’s everything to you — she’s beautiful, she still turns you on, she’s smart, confident, elegant, and your heart’s delight. She needs reassuring that her competition didn’t measure up to your expectations. She must understand all the reasons you stayed.
  5. Make sure you’re saying what she needs to hear. Listen to her heart. What is it she keeps asking you over and over? There’s a message in the badgering. Chances are, she doesn’t even know how she wants you to respond to her repeated questions. She is, however, afraid of being hurt again and in her mind, avoiding, ignoring, or becoming irritated with her questions reaffirms that she might be.
  6. Understand that she wants to hurt you as badly as you hurt her. She doesn’t mean to — she loves you, but her heart can’t help itself. She’s still gathering up the broken pieces and doing her best to put them back in place. Help her find every piece.
  7. Hug her. Hold her. Love her. She might reject your attempts at times, but whenever she allows it, indulge her. On some unannounced day, trust will reappear. It’s there. Your love for her will resurrect it.
Your wife does need to be aware that if your marriage is to survive, her behavior can’t go on forever. Forgiving must eventually beget forgetting. A sweeter kind of memory will linger as you both realize your “intentional mistake” has found a way to make your marriage stronger than you ever dreamed possible.

Change your life … NOW! Write Joyce Oglesby, Family-Life Fix-It Pro™, at justaskjoyce@gmail.com. I’m here to help! Check out my books and other resources today at JustAskJoyce.com. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter and get connected to great family nourishing ideas! Join me on Just Ask Joyce live on WFIA 94.7fm/900am weekdays at 3pm.

1 comment:

  1. My husband had an affair that lasted on and off for 4 years. It's been 8 years ago. Have I forgotten? No. But I have forgiven him because he DID answer every question, many many times. Often, the questions were the same ones, just worded a little differently. You have to realize that nothing seems truthful from you for months and maybe even years because everything she believed from you before was invalidated by your affair. Be open, let her have your passwords to your email and phone, let her know every minute of your time. Yes it's invasive but if you are truly sorry and will do anything to save your marriage then you have to be an open book until she realizes you are sincerely sorry. It took me a few years to completely trust him again, along with counseling and his daily affirmations of love. I can say that now our marriage is much stronger than it was even before his affair. She will let most of it go in time, but there will always be moments when a reminder will surface. Acknowledge whatever it is, be honest, and the moment will pass for you both without pain for her and guilt for you. It becomes a part of your past that you survived...and you will both be stronger and more loving because of it.

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