I often get correspondence from spouses or loved ones who have cheated on their significant other and they now want advice as to what they should do to make things right (once their loved one has learned about the affair.) It’s often only after they’ve been “found out” do they realize what a huge mistake they’ve made. And it’s usually around this time that they begin to panic and scramble to do the right thing and to begin to dig themselves out of the mess that they’ve created.
Although many ask me about the things that they should be doing, I honestly think that sometimes it’s more helpful to go over the things that you should not be doing. Because some of these very common but costly mistakes will make your job with your loved one so much harder that it’s worth going over the things to avoid to help you refrain from making things worse. So, in the following article, I’m going to outline some mistakes that you should avoid at all costs after cheating.
Don’t Continue To See The Other Person Or Continue To Lie: You would think that this one is very much common sense, but I can not tell you how many people will swear to me that they want to save their marriage and then, in the same conversation, confess that they are “confused” because they aren’t sure if they can let go of the person that they were cheating with. I can save you a lot of time and perhaps save your spouse a lot of pain by telling you that you should not even bother trying to rescue your marriage after cheating unless you are 100% done with the other person. This is not fair to any of the people involved and it all but ensures that your attempts are eventually going to fail.
And, you must know that your spouse is going to be watching even your smallest behaviors and actions very closely. There is no leeway whatsoever for lies (even small ones) or omissions (even innocent ones.) You can never ever let your spouse catch you not telling them the complete truth right now. If they do, they will likely decide that you’re still lying to them and that they can’t believe one word that you say. One of your biggest obstacles is going to be restoring their trust and faith in you. So, if you can’t or won’t tell the truth, then you’re wasting the efforts of both them and you.
Don’t Shift The Blame Or Offer Up Excuses That You Both Know Are Lame And Aren’t Valid: It’s understandable that many people are embarrassed and ashamed of their behavior after an affair. It’s also understandable that it’s uncomfortable to look your spouse in the face and to deal with the fall out that your actions have caused. But, don’t let this discomfort contribute to your offering up excuses that are meant to turn your spouse’s attention away from you.
They will respect you so much more if you act like the adult that you are and stand up straight, look them in the eye, give your heartfelt sincerity, and announce that this is all 100% your fault and was the result of your own shortcomings and actions. Whatever you do, don’t insinuate or imply that they didn’t take care of you (or themselves) well enough or that they somehow fell short.
Don’t imply that you were tricked or coerced into cheating. I so often have cheaters tell me that someone else was the aggressor and that this somehow makes them blameless. Even if this were true, you still, at some point, made a decision to cheat on your spouse and you followed that choice through. This is not anyone else’s fault but your own and you must make this very clear to your spouse. They need to know that you completely understand that this situation is one that you created and that you take responsibility for the initiation of fixing it.
Don’t Make Life Even More Difficult For Your Spouse By Pressuring Or Judging Them: Many people really do understand that their spouse needs some time to heal. And, most people resolve to allow their spouses that time – at least in the beginning. But, as life after the affair goes on day after day, it usually becomes more and more evident that things are tense and difficult. Granted, it’s difficult to live in both of your shoes right now and so it’s understandable that you would want for this period of time to go by as quickly as is possible.
But, that doesn’t mean that you should insinuate that your spouse has a finite amount of time to “just get over it.” Don’t pressure your spouse and don’t compare them to others. Don’t say things like “well you’re going to punish me forever.” All this is going to do is anger them. They need to feel like you understand what they are going through and that you’re going to help them through this because you love them and because you are sorry.
So, vow to support them and help them for however long this takes. Don’t question their attempts to feel and get better. I sometimes have husbands tell me that they worry when their wife gets a make over after his affair. They feel like she’s improving herself to punish him or to move on. This might not be the case and often isn’t. Usually, she’s trying to improve herself to help to restore the self esteem that has been damaged by your affair.
Always understand that your role is that of the one who is responsible, who is going to fix this, and who is there to support your spouse, in any and every way, as they work through this.
My husband made a few of these mistakes in the beginning and I called him on every one of them. Please understand that healing after an affair is difficult. Don’t add to the problems by making some of the mistakes I’ve outlined here. Luckily, we were still able to move on. It took work, but it was so worth it. I now understand myself, my husband, our marriage, and our intimacy on a much deeper level and I no longer worry that he will cheat again. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
Katie Lersch writes articles about moving past an affair. Her corresponding blog is at http://surviving-the-affair.com/