Relationship Connection: My wife won’t let me have a say in anything since I had an affair

Question

I cheated on my wife years ago and I thought we worked through it okay, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s the case. Whenever we argue, and I try and get my point across, she tells me, “we’re not on the same level.” What she means by this is that because I cheated on her, my opinions don’t have the same weight or importance as hers. I understand that back in the day when I cheated on her that I needed to give preference to her needs and opinions, but doesn’t that eventually balance back out? I don’t want this to be held over my head for the rest of our marriage. I feel like things are always going to go her way and that I don’t even have a say anymore.

Answer

Restoring trust after infidelity isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, most couples limp along for years thinking they’re doing okay after superficially dealing with the betrayal. The pain is so great after infidelity that spouses want things to feel better as soon as possible. This often leads to unresolved injuries that can last for years. Time doesn’t always heal wounds.

Her reaction to your expectations and needs tells me that she’s still struggling with how she sees you. It may be that she’s just an unforgiving person, but my experience in working with hundreds of couples dealing with infidelity over the past 15 years tells me that the relationship injuries she’s experienced with your infidelity fundamentally changed the way she sees you as her husband.

Sue Johnson, author of “Hold Me Tight,” describes infidelity as an attachment injury. These types of injuries are different from the garden-variety injuries we give and receive in our marriages. Attachment injuries actually restructure the bond between partners. Your affair caused her to question the very foundation of her marriage, who you are as a person, and whether or not she can even trust you.

This means that even though you are telling her you won’t cheat again, she still may not believe you have her back. She likely doesn’t believe anything you say because she’s not sure you really understand the impact this had on her.

Repairing a broken bond in a relationship requires you to really spend time understanding what this did to her and having deep compassion for her pain. If you have spent most of your time defending yourself and trying to get her to move on, then you probably don’t really understand what she’s been through.

Affair recovery research shows that when an injured partner knows that the unfaithful partner really understands the extent of the injuries and allows her a chance to work through it in her own time, she can begin the process of trusting again. If your wife is telling you that you’re not on the same level as her, she’s basically saying that you don’t know what she’s been through. My hunch is that she wants you to be right there with her, but that she doesn’t know how to get there with you. Don’t fight her anymore on this. Get to a marriage counselor who specializes in working with infidelity and do some work on healing the injury all the way through. You have more repair work to do.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • Men In Her Life September 25, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Meanwhile, she’ll talk a river about all the lousy men in her life. Worse yet, she’ll get with female relatives or female friends, and all of them will talk about all the past men in their lives around you. I bet guys enjoy listening to that. NOT!

    • Joanna September 25, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      OK, so ONE TIME I complained about your manhood in front of our friends! Will you PLEASE let it go? I said I was sorry. By the way, what do you want for dinner tonight?

      • Men In Her Life September 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

        What do I want for dinner tonight? Before or after you go shopping for the third time this week? Are you really shopping every night, or are you seeing someone else?

  • Craig September 25, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Apparently the vows meant more to your wife than you.
    You’re a pig and you’re lucky she took you back.
    Now shut up and go clean your sty.

    • Human September 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Come on, baby, dry your eyes
      Wipe your tears
      Never like to see you cry
      Won’t you please forgive me ?

      I wouldn’t ever try to hurt you
      I just needed someone to hold me
      To fill the void while you were gone
      To fill this space of emptiness

      I’m only human
      Of flesh and blood I’m made
      Human
      Born to make mistakes

      So many nights I longed to hold you
      So many times I looked and saw your face
      Nothing could change the way I feel
      No-one else could ever take your place

      I’m only human
      Of flesh and blood I’m made
      Human
      Born to make mistakes

      I am just a man
      (Human, human)
      Please forgive me

      The tears I cry aren’t tears of pain
      They’re only to hide my guilt and shame
      I forgive you, now I ask the same of you
      While we were apart I was human too

      (Human, human)
      I’m only human
      Of flesh and blood I’m made
      I am just a man
      Human
      Born to make mistakes……………. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_er72QbMpk

  • Hatali September 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Like many other guys, you blew it dude. Things will NEVER be the same again. My guess is that they were not all that great to begin with, or you would not have cheated on her. Unless you are just a first class jerk, in which case, she doesn’t deserve you.
    However, if you are like most guys, things were sucky in your marriage, and you decided to stray. Your wife was likely a part of why things were sucky there. But if you value your life, you will never tell her so, and no matter what, she will likely never believe it, let alone admit to it.
    I hate divorce. BTDT, have the emotional and financial scars to prove it.
    That being said though, there is no way that anyone, should have to go through life in an unhappy marriage. If you can’t get your problems worked out to the satisfaction of both of you, then it is time to break it up and get on with your lives.

  • maudie Fricker September 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Yup, shoulda left when you had the chance. That kinda thing hangs around like a big stinky diaper. Time to cut it and move on!

  • Kim September 26, 2013 at 1:48 am

    Once a cheater etc…as they say you need to register your partner with a company like Fidelity Check Online and keep a check on a cheater!! The website is http://fidelitycheckonline.com

  • Jane October 1, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Wow.. I CamE Here For Help And Understanding. ItTakes A Good Man To Admit He Messed Up And make Changes Not Keep Feeding The Addiction. Fantasy Is A Big Reason Men Go And Cheat. They Want A Pretend Faker That For The Moment Can Fill The Deep Hole Inside. Building A Better Marriage Takes 2 And Both Have To Be Willing To Do Some Major Healing. Not Only Does The Woman Need To Heal But So Does The Man.

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