“My hubby forgave me for sleeping with my ex.” -Maureen*
“Three months ago, I bumped into my ex-boyfriend Jason* at a wedding and he told me how fabulous I looked. When I agreed to have coffee with him, I didn’t think it would lead to anything.
But he drew me in with his warmth and his charm, and we ended up having sex in a hotel room that afternoon. He kept telling me how beautiful I was. Even though we only had sex that one time, I felt so guilty. Knowing that I’d betrayed my husband gave me a horrible, sinking feeling.
I confessed to my husband that same night. He was shattered beyond words, and angry, but I begged him for another chance. He couldn’t understand why I’d cheated because we had no serious problems. To me, sex with Jason was something that just happened, something I couldn’t control. I was truly remorseful and promised my husband that I’d never cheat on him again.
We agreed to see a couples’ counsellor. During therapy, I shared how good Jason had made me feel. I realised that I was feeling slightly taken for granted – that what I craved was my husband’s attention and validation.
Luckily, my husband never talked about leaving me. He asked me if I still loved him and wanted to be married to him, and I said yes. He said that was all he needed to know, and we had to work things out and try to heal together.
I cut off contact with Jason – he wanted to see me again, but I told him that sleeping together was a mistake. He was initially upset, but agreed to leave me alone. I never heard from him again.
My husband and I now set aside “couple time” a few nights a week, when we talk openly about what we love about each other. I’m working to regain his trust. For example, I allow him to check my text messages so he’s assured that I’m not seeing Jason anymore. I also tell him where I’m going if I’m out with my girlfriends, and make it a point to tell him often how much I love and want to be with him.
My husband is now a lot more romantic. He makes the effort to compliment me more, and be more affectionate and attentive. Our love feels rejuvenated.”
“He promised to change and he kept his word.” -Michelle*
Four years ago, my husband Lionel* suddenly broke the news to me that he wanted to end our 10-year marriage. I was devastated as we had four young children – my youngest son was less than a year old. I pressed him for a reason and he kept saying that he wasn’t in love with me any more. He also refused marriage counselling.
Over the next few months, we led separate lives even though we were still living under the same roof. We agreed to keep up pretenses in front of our family and friends until we officially filed for divorce. All the while, I suffered sleepless nights, wracked with self-blame over the end of my marriage.
Then one day, out of the blue, I got a call from a woman who admitted that she had been seeing my husband for the last six months. She claimed they had met at a club – on one of those nights when he’d supposedly been working late – and that they were in love and he had promised to leave me for her. She said she’d wanted to tell me truth as she felt guilty over the break-up of our marriage.
I confronted Lionel, threw a screaming fit and immediately moved out with my kids to my parents’ place. The worst part wasn’t walking away – it was hearing my children ask me when they could see Daddy again. I also hired a lawyer to start drawing up divorce papers.
About half a year later, Lionel suddenly showed up at my parents’ place. He wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk with me and I agreed. He broke down and cried – a rarity for him, since he’s always been the tough, macho sort – and begged me for forgiveness. He said that the months I had been away had made him realise just how much he’d taken me for granted throughout our marriage, and that my leaving had left a void that no other woman could fill. He pleaded for another chance at our marriage.
I was sceptical at first but I thought about my children, who would have to grow up without their father. I admit that, initially, I agreed to reconcile with him because of them. Nonetheless, we went for couples’ therapy and many counselling sessions – we still see a counsellor to this day. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that he has changed – he is more attentive towards me, he spends more time at home and he doesn’t flinch when I question him about his whereabouts.
Do I trust him? At first, I didn’t – I used to constantly worry that he would cheat on me again. But, over time, I’ve sensed genuine sincerity in his actions and words – even if it’s simple things like cooking meals for me when I’m sick or buying me flowers. Being apart also opened our eyes to the mistakes we’d constantly made in the past and I realised that I, too, played a part in the breakdown of our marriage.
My family and friends still worry – especially my mum, who believes that men who cheat will never change. There is nothing I can say to convince them otherwise, so I’m just letting his actions and our marriage speak for themselves. Right now, Lionel and I are definitely in a good place.”
*Names have been changed.
Survive the affair
It is possible to move forward after an affair. “Some of the couples I’ve worked with even said the affair served as a wake-up call, and helped them realise that they needed to work harder on their marriage,” says Vanessa Marin, a sex and relationship therapist from San Francisco. Understanding why the cheating happens can save your marriage. Here are three types of unfaithful acts that couples have a good chance of recovering from.
Type 1: One bad decision
He had a one-night stand. It was an impulsive decision, possibly fuelled by alcohol. He could have been upset with you over a long-standing argument and allowed the resentment to build, or perhaps he was just unable to make a clear choice, regardless of the alcohol, says Pamela Supple, a sex and relationship therapist and director of Sex Therapy Australia in Sydney.
Survive it: Instead of fixating on the cheating, dig deeper. Understand why your husband is unhappy, and work on that. Ask yourself: “Has he tried reaching out to me in the past, and if so, how did I respond? Did I push him away?” Likewise, your husband should ask why he was unable to express his emotions, and instead acted on his feelings by having a one-night stand.
Type 2: Non-sexual cheating
Though there is no sex involved, your husband has a super-close friendship with another woman. He spends a lot of time with her, and they are emotionally intimate – he trusts her with personal or marital secrets that even you don’t know.
Survive it: The odds are good, especially because the relationship hasn’t become physical. But find out why he can’t communicate with you the way he can with her. Is it because you’re pushing him away or downplaying his problems? Or because you have no time for him? Pamela says: “Resist the temptation to start an argument when you’re feeling insecure. Trust is paramount.” However, he should distance himself from her if it’ll make you feel better.
Type 3: “Just sex” encounters
He’s had sex with prostitutes or random women he met at bars. He still loves you, but feels that you are not satisfying his sexual needs. This doesn’t mean you are lousy in bed, just that you and he are on different wavelengths sexually, says Pamela.
Survive it: See a sex therapist who can help you deal with the hurt, work towards forgiveness, and get you and your husband talking about your individual sexual needs. But if his sexual appetite is insatiable – it consumes all his time and thoughts – he might benefit from treatment for sex addiction.
This story was originally published in the June 2013 issue of Her World.