Relationship Connection: How do I convince my husband I have changed after my affair?

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Question

I had an affair for eight months, and after my husband found out about it, I continued to see my affair partner for several more months. My husband moved out three times during those months. The affair stopped almost a year ago, and I signed a seven-year alimony waiver so my husband would come back.

Over the past year, things have been very rocky. My husband was traumatized and I did not realize it, as I saw him as being very controlling (i.e., telling me who I could be friends with, where I could go, and how long I can spend at the store, etc). My husband would feel bad and apologize, but it’s been so stressful for both of us.

My affair partner contacted me on my birthday a couple of months ago, which was eight months after the last time I had seen him. I texted him and talked with him on the phone for two weeks and then saw him on two different occasions during that two-week period in public, just for a few minutes.

I know this is wrong! I don’t know why I did it! I was still attached to him because my husband was being so mean, and I was just looking for something to hold onto. My husband moved out after he found out I let this guy back into my life. He left without telling me and will not communicate with me. He has not seen me or spoken to me in almost 8 weeks.

I have been sending emails and he has responded to a handful of those, but the responses are very angry. We have five children and he has seen very little of them.

I realize now that he was terribly traumatized and that I was handling everything completely wrong! I am very remorseful about everything. I have not seen my affair partner since my husband left and will not ever see him again! I am not sure how to best move forward.

I want my marriage back and I want my family together. I am sure that I was having a midlife crisis. This all began when my oldest child was graduating from high school. I have been a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years, and I remember having a panicky feeling and thinking that I didn’t have a purpose for much longer. I’m not making excuses. I’m just telling you exactly how I felt. There are other factors that I think led to this. None of which are an excuse.

I have listened to many different podcasts, YouTube videos, read books, and I have two different counselors. I have tried everything! I have never behaved like this in my life and he trusted me 100 percent before any of this happened and I trusted him 100 percent, so I understand he is totally shocked and thinks that I’ve turned into a terrible person. Do you have anything to suggest for the best way to proceed to have the best chance at reconciliation and at showing him that I have changed?

Answer

Even though this is a terribly tragic situation, I can hear your remorse and desire to repair what you’ve broken. At the same time, your panicked reactions might actually be making things worse for everyone involved. Of course you’re panicked. You can see how traumatized your husband is and how your children are suffering from the separation. Let’s talk about how to help you slow down and settle in for a long journey of healing and restoration.

I have no idea if restoration includes your marriage, but you can be restored to wholeness. Yes, you have an obligation to extend accountability to your husband and seek healing. However, it’s common to hyper focus on the lost marriage and neglect your responsibility to find personal healing. It’s common to believe that if you focus on your own healing and aren’t constantly communicating with your estranged husband, then you’ll forfeit your chance for reconciliation.

My guess is that your husband has heard you and knows what you want. If you continue to press him, he’ll likely feel manipulated, pressured and forced to make a decision that he may not be ready to make.

In your question above, your thoughts are all over the place. I don’t say this to be critical but to point out that you probably communicate with him in the same style. Your communications with him can’t resemble the chaos and drama of your affair.

You have to step back and examine how you’re communicating your message to him. Your words mean nothing to him right now because you’ve lied to him and deceived him. Your affair was impulsive and unstable. If your efforts to win him back are impulsive and unstable, then you’ll continue to be seen as a threat to him.

This is why it’s important for you to work on self-discipline in how you communicate with him. Your messages need to be clear minded, humble and calm. You can’t insert lectures, excuses, criticism, begging or pressure. If you have a clear purpose and direction for your new life, then show that through your communications.

I’m sure he’s been deeply traumatized by your actions. Your affair was entangled and prolonged. He has some difficult decisions to sort through right now, and you’ve got to give him the respect and space he requires to do this work. Please recognize that you already had multiple chances to prove that you’re committed to him and the marriage, but you continued in the affair.

Even though you’re sorting through your story and making sense of your choices, he can’t care about those right now. They will sound like excuses to him. At a minimum, he needs you to be calm, stable and understanding of how much time and space he’ll need to heal.

Surrender the outcome of your marriage and work on becoming a healthy version of you. Let him know you respect his desire for distance. Let him know it makes sense to you in light of what you’ve done to him. You cannot control the outcome of this situation.

Your husband needs to be respected as someone separate from you who was deeply devastated by your choices. You cannot minimize the impact this had on him by trying to speed things up and get some reassurance from him. Instead, he needs reassurance from you right now that he can take his time and sort out his future, even if that doesn’t involve you.

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 his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer  

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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12 Comments

  • ladybugavenger August 15, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Your husband has no obligation to stay married to you. Let him go. Let him heal.

  • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 8:00 am

    You can’t glue broken glass back together and you shattered your marriage like it was glass. You made your own bed, now lie in it!

  • Hataalii August 15, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Tragic situation? Hardly. You are a self centered manipulative individual who would be a nightmare to be married to, or even to know.
    Go find a dark corner and sit in it for about 10 years.

    • Hataalii August 15, 2018 at 8:55 am

      One more thing. If you have children, which you claim, I pity them.

  • comments August 15, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Kids are grown so aren’t gonna be real traumatized by all this. This marriage is over. You wrecked it–like a full-on flaming train wreck. Time for you to accept it and move on.

  • bikeandfish August 15, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Thoroughly impressed by Steurer’s recommendation. I hope the woman seeking help listens to him instead of the comments.

    • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Reality is a real bear, huh?

    • comments August 15, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      IDK bike, I partially agree with Geoff in the respect that she needs to work on herself, but at the same time she might need to realize that she’s wrecked the marriage beyond repair at this point. Everyone is gonna be different, but how many chances should her husband give her? All that sneaking around, can trust ever be rebuilt? I’ve got a cousin who’s wife has gone and slept around on him a fews times. I’m not sure how prolonged her little flings were, but each time he has taken her back. I guess they’ve got, I think, 2 kids, so that’s a real factor that has to be worked in, but if it were me I’d have been rid of her long ago. Don’t know how you can live with someone you can’t trust. So, Geoff’s advice for the woman to move on for now and work on herself is about the best that can be offered.

      • comments August 15, 2018 at 1:57 pm

        *whose not who’s. back to 4th grade i go. LOL

      • bikeandfish August 15, 2018 at 6:21 pm

        The author handled the concerns you addressed with compassion.

        • comments August 15, 2018 at 8:37 pm

          Geoff is a professional. I feel like he’s a bit too soft a lot of the time, but this is what he does for a living, so he’s usually pretty good. The reality is that the people connected to these people in real life often have to choose sides and it won’t be all nicey nice. These sort of break ups are messy and full of conflict, in reality. A professional doesn’t really have to take sides and can soft talk the person who’s paying them for therapy. You’re naturally going to hold back a lot of honesty if someone is paying you for therapy. But their job is to help along their client and not to be too brutally honest or too forthright with, ya know, judgement I guess. In that respect therapy is a bit fake. A therapist is a bit like a friend in that respect. A friend is biased in your favor because they’re your friend. A therapist will be biased in your favor because your paying them for that sort of relationship. Sometimes, bike, people that are cheaters, liars, and manipulators deserve anything but compassion. Sometimes they need to be told what they are and put in their place…

          • Redbud August 18, 2018 at 1:42 am

            Comments I completely agree with you. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Even if someone forgives their spouse for cheating and stays with them, their relationship will never be the same, no matter how bad they want it to be. The other person will always be left wondering what the other person is doing when they’re not around. Bikeandfish, obviously, is one of those people who thrive on “fake news”, and would believe all the magical, mystical fluff a therapist would spoon feed him, and he’d gobble it right up like a kid with candy on Halloween night. Just ignore the facts, and pretend like everything is going to be OK haha. See how well that works out for ya in real life!!!

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