Help! I cheated on my husband now he wants to leave! I’ve had this email a few too many times now so it’s about time we had a guide on what you can do to change his mind, get your marriage back on track and move on from this mistake.
Your husband’s initial reaction is led by emotion but you might be surprised at how many marriages survive cheating. You’re going to need to try and understand what he’s going through and do some of the heavy lifting in the relationship to help both of you recover.
So what can you do next?
Feeling Like He’s Checked Out?
Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one who wants to save your marriage. When the pain is still raw for him it might seem like you’re the only one who even cares. There probably are still signs your husband still loves you but even if he has completely checked out of the marriage you can still bring it back.
You’re going to have to set your ego aside for a while and you’re probably going to have some difficult conversations. As long as you keep working at it I can tell you I’ve seen marriages come back from worse than an affair. It’s more common than you might think but this won’t be an overnight fix.
What Do I Do If I Cheated on My Husband?
What’s done is done. You can’t go back in time to do things differently. However, your actions after the infidelity will define the fate of your marriage. Let’s make sure you are going in the right direction.
Keep Everything in the Context of Your Marriage
Every marriage is different and unique in some way. No matter where you’re getting your marriage advice from (and this includes listening to me) make sure you’re putting everything in the context of your relationship. I don’t know you, your husband or your marriage. I know this might seem obvious, but it really does matter.
If you want to get more into the details of your marriage and how we can get things back on track quickly then take the marriage assessment quiz.
Pull the Plug
A no-brainer? Not really. A lot of people struggle to end an affair and sometimes try to stay friends. But, if you want to save your marriage and stop your husband from leaving, you need to stop all kinds of communication with them. Don’t stay connected with them on social media. Don’t check out their stories.
Depending on the type of affair all of this might be harder than expected. I’ve even looked specifically at why emotional affairs are hard to end but you can’t expect to begin healing the wound while you’re still making it bigger. No matter how rough this is, you’re going to have to rip off the band-aid.
You might feel like you need closure and want to meet one last time. One time leads to another and before you know it, you’re cheating on your husband again. Since that’s not ideal and you’re determined to regain your husband’s trust, end the affair for good. Block their number and delete their contact.
You’re so dreading the idea of having the ‘conversation’ with your husband. But, there’s no easy way to do this. Rip-off the band-aid. If you don’t want your kids to know that something is going on, choose a public place. I’m not talking about a noisy restaurant, go somewhere so that you can peacefully talk. Be prepared to answer all the awkward questions your husband throws at you.
He needs to know when the affair started and for how long it has been going on. Some of his questions might make you cringe and I hear you. But, he’s struggling to wrap his head around the infidelity. You might feel like hiding the nitty-gritty details but don’t lie about anything. You might need to talk about these more often than you’d like. You don’t want to come off as a liar to sabotage the relationship even more.
Put All the Cards on the Table
Accept responsibility for your actions. Being defensive won’t get you anywhere. Nor will playing the blame game. While there are factors that led you to the affair, it sure was your choice. So, blaming him for it will only push him further away.
You certainly need to talk about the underlying causes but save it for couples counseling. That way it’ll be heard by your partner and will help to salvage the marriage. Let him know that you ended the affair and express how genuinely remorseful you are for hurting him. Tell him you are willing to go above and beyond to repair this relationship.
Try Temporary Separation
I know you don’t want to lose him. But holding onto him too hard would just make him want to run further away. Let him spend some time apart to gain perspective and decide if he is willing to put the affair behind. You don’t want to get divorced but you can’t mend this marriage alone either. Your infidelity has put a strain on the relationship. It’d require both of your effort and commitment to reassemble it.
Give him time to process the anger and frustration. Meanwhile, take time to introspect the reasons behind the infidelity. Ask yourself what you’d require from him not to make the same mistake again. Have realistic expectations of your husband. Even if he asks for a divorce when you still want to be married to him, there are ways to carve your way to his heart. First, let him deal with his emotions and feelings.
Seek Professional Help
Your husband wants to get back together but asks you to go to therapy? Even if you don’t want to go through it, do it for the sake of the relationship. It won’t be easy for you to discuss the details of the affair repeatedly but be open to doing it for your husband’s recovery from the infidelity.
The therapist can help you both process the myriad of emotions in a healthy and productive way. You might need to go to individual therapy as well if there are other issues to be resolved in your personal life.
Spend Time Together
How much space is too much space in a relationship? Since there’s no specific time frame for that, let him feel your presence from time to time during the time-out. If you have children together and have joint bank accounts, it’s only natural that you’d need to talk to each other occasionally.
When you do talk to him, drop subtle hints that you are missing him and can’t wait to rebuild the relationship together. Don’t make him feel unwanted by completely ignoring him as some people might suggest. You don’t want him to feel like you don’t care. That’ll just drive him away.
Be an Open Book
It’s natural for your spouse to be vulnerable after you have cheated on him. Being the repentant wife that you are, always keep him in the loop. Tell him where you are and who you are with. Give him a quick video call or send a selfie when hanging out with your friends.
It’s not that he is keeping tabs on you. You’re being transparent with him. This will help him trust you again. When that won’t happen overnight, your constant reassurance will gradually regain his faith in you.
Neither of you should be dwelling on the past. When you work hard to restore your husband’s trust, don’t be too hard on yourself for the slip-up. You need to forgive yourself for the affair so that you can put this behind as well.
This doesn’t give you guilt-free passes. But, when you keep focusing on the past, you can’t give the relationship your best shot.
How Long Will This Take?
This is going to vary wildly. When I wrote the guide on will my husband ever forgive me for cheating I found stories of everything from weeks to years. The average was 1-2 years but most of these cases are just crossing their fingers and hoping the problem goes away.
If you’re actively working towards recovering your marriage you’re going to see incremental changes over time. Things might not get better immediately but you’ll see him gradually soften as you work back towards where you were before.
In some cases, this can be the wake-up call you need to actually get back to a better place.
Fixing Things Quickly
Can Couples Really Recover from Infidelity?
While it leaves a mark, requires hard work, and unwavering commitment to face challenges head-on, fortunately, you can recover from infidelity. In fact, surveys show that roughly 15% of wives have been engaged in extramarital affairs to some degree, and 57% of those earned forgiveness from their spouses. On average it takes 18 months to 2 years to recover from an infidelity.
To start the journey to recovery, both partners need to accept that the affair has put an end to the relationship they had before. Did I give you a heart attack? What I mean is, you’ll have to rebuild everything from scratch. Affairs tend to redefine the relationship and make you ask the questions you needed to address.
What was missing from the marriage? How can you improve the communication between you two? What can be added to spice up your sex life? What needs are to be met in order to prevent further indiscretion?
It’s better to let a licensed therapist facilitate the healing. Research shows that couples can benefit from the phase-wise approach therapists practice. It starts with an adjustment phase to prepare you to work on therapy. The second phase helps couples to regain control and increase emotional availability to restore trust. Then slowly they can reach the final stage of healing which is forgiveness. Worth a try, isn’t it?
Partners need to admit that whatever has happened, can’t be undone. But that doesn’t mean they have to file for divorce right away or suffer a lifetime. They should validate the feelings and emotions that came with the infidelity. As a cheating spouse, accept the responsibility and keep trying to be brutally honest in the marriage.
As I always say, no two marriages are ever the same. Only you can definitively answer if you two are willing to give the relationship a fighting chance to recover from the infidelity. It’s in your hands to start showing genuine remorse and promise never to break your husband’s trust again. After that, you both need to work together or else it will fall apart.
As a cheating spouse, you need to be equipped to deal with your husband’s built-up resentment and insecurities that the affair brought into existence. His distrust will make it incredibly hard but, you need to be empathetic and so does your husband.
He needs to make sure you don’t feel unappreciated and ignored if that’s how you think you’ve ended up having an affair in the first place. If your husband wants to give you another chance, it has to be a clean slate. It won’t benefit anyone if he keeps holding the affair over your head.
Your spouse needs to make healthy adjustments just as much as you do. Forgive each other to recover from the painful experience together. According to this study, couples who sailed through the affair had seen an increase in relationship satisfaction over time.
You both need to put each other’s needs above your own. You broke the vows once. Don’t break it again. Renew it and give this relationship all you’ve got. You’ll not only come out on the other side of the affair but also have a stronger connection with your husband.