Family & Relationships What to Do After You've Cheated On Your Husband

19:55  06 november  2019
19:55  06 november  2019 Source:   oprahmag.com

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Marriage is full of mutual agreements, and unless the two of you are consensually non-monogamous, promising not to sleep with other people is a big one. While marital infidelity is likely as old as the institution itself, our average life expectancies are lengthening—meaning many husbands and wives are bound to each other for decades more than their grandparents were. "We expect one person to give us what once an entire village used to provide, and we live twice as long," psychotherapist Esther Perel writes in The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, regarding the state of modern unions. In her book, Perel also points out that the rate of women who admit they've been unfaithful to their husbands has risen by 40 percent since 1990. Regardless of the reasons why people stray, one thing is undeniable: Cheating happens.

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If you have cheated on your husband and aren't sure what to do next, here's what two experts suggest.

If you'd like stay in your marriage, cease all contact with the other person.

You must avoid the temptation to cheat again—plus, you need some space to process exactly what happened and why. "If you would like your marriage to survive, make the commitment to end all communication with the person you cheated with," says Rhonda Richards-Smith, a psychotherapist and relationship expert based in L.A. "Take the necessary steps to do so ASAP."

This means no coffee dates, Facebook messages, or prolonged text exchanges with them in the name of "closure." It's neither mean nor selfish to block them on social media and delete their number after you've let them know that it's over for good.

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Ask yourself some important questions.

You were physically attracted to someone else, and you acted on it—but that's far from the only reason why people cheat. Examining your motives can help you hit on the deeper reasons, and get you thinking about what you need from your marriage and from yourself.

Richards-Smith suggests considering these:

  1. What key elements do I feel are lacking in my marriage?
  2. Do I have unfair or unrealistic expectations of my spouse?
  3. Am I prepared to face the consequences of my actions by addressing this with my partner directly?

Dr. Doug Weiss, PhD, marriage counselor and author of Partner Betrayal Trauma, offers three more tough questions to answer:

  1. What inside me is broken or hurt that allowed this to happen?
  2. Where along the way did I know to stop doing any of the following, yet didn’t: Flirting, texting, sending pics, meeting up alone, or speaking ill of my marriage?
  3. What needs or desires was this relationship meeting inside of me, that I wasn’t fulfilling in a healthier manner?

Yes, you should consider telling him.

"Deception in your marriage leads to a bubbling under the surface that will spill over and compromise the health of your union," Richards-Smith says. "Whether you realize it or not, neglecting to tell your spouse about your infidelity may eat away at your relationship in unexpected ways."

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Weiss agrees. "If you keep the secret, you may repeat the behavior," he says, and points out that a calm confession is infinitely better than an admission via a spontaneous angry outburst (or worse, getting caught before you can own up to anything on your own terms). "Also, secrets can cause us to medicate, so if you have any tendencies toward addiction the guilt could exacerbate it."

If you don't feel comfortable telling him at home, Weiss suggests taking him to a public place you rarely go to for neutral ground (somewhere such as a park where you can have some privacy, of course, not Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday afternoon). Follow your husband's emotional lead after you break the news.

"Expect silence, rage, disbelief, or tears," Weiss continues. "Your husband may want to start marriage counseling, or want some space to process your actions. This disclosure has to be about him, not you, at this time."

It's fair to tell him how and when it started, and how long things went on for—but beware of sharing nitty-gritty sexual details, even if he asks. "Details about acts and places are not helpful, because he will never forget," Weiss warns.

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Resist any urge to blame your partner for your infidelity.

You may have chosen to cheat in part because you resent your husband for things he's doing—or failing to do—in your relationship. Maybe you're sexually unsatisfied, or think he hasn't done his part to keep the spark alive. It's possible he's even cheated himself previously and you're getting even, either consciously or subconsciously. Regardless, the fact remains that you, and only you, betrayed your husband's trust by acting on the urge to cheat.

"The spouse that's been unfaithful should never blame their partner for their own decisions and behavior," Richards-Smith says. "Taking ownership and full responsibility is critical if both partners hope to recover." Even if one or both of you ultimately choose to end the marriage, owning your role in your infidelity will put you in a better place for relationships going forward.

Marriage counseling can help, as can individual therapy.

If you and your husband want to repair the rift between you, a professional can try to ensure you hear each other. "The events leading up to the physical act of cheating can be addressed during couples counseling, but there may be other concerns that also need to be resolved," Richards-Smith advises. These issues include emotional distance, health changes, and stress outside of the marriage, she says.

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"If there are underlying issues related to previous experiences, or trauma that's never been addressed, individual therapy for each partner may also be appropriate," Richards-Smith adds.

Regaining your husband's trust will take work—and time.

Your infidelity has made your husband feel bad, and that might be filling you with crushing guilt. But Weiss cautions against trying to make yourself feel better by essentially pressuring him to move past it. Try your absolute best to let him process his emotions in the days and months that follow, on his own timetable.

In the meantime, hold up your own end of the bargain by maintaining the no-contact rule with the person or people you cheated with. If that person is a coworker, keep necessary interactions all-business (remember, no one-on-one texts or DMs!). And even if you're afraid of becoming a villain in your in-laws' eyes, don't ask him to stay silent about your indiscretion.

"Don't tell your partner he can’t ask for help from friends or family. Don't deny his right to seek therapy, and never demand that he deal with his feelings alone," Weiss says. "That will isolate him, and now he'll feel he's keeping a big secret from everyone. It would cause him to feel even more impacted by your cheating."

Communication is an ongoing process.

"It's important to establish very clear boundaries and ground rules about how the couple will cope and communicate moving forward," says Richards-Smith. "Whatever you do, do not make assumptions about what is and is not mutually acceptable in your relationship."

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"Commit to having difficult conversations with your spouse on a regular basis to address additional concerns as they arise," she adds. If honesty and communication are a chronic issue for the two of you, a marriage counselor may be able to help you devise techniques to improve your dialogue around tough topics.

There's a possibility your marriage may not survive it.

Some people who cheat actually surprise themselves with an absence of guilty feelings, or they decide they've actually fallen for the other person. Others realize they've chosen infidelity as a possible escape chute out of their marriage. Alternately, a husband may ultimately decide he can't get over it and leave. All of these revelations are often followed by divorce, or to perhaps put it more optimistically, a new beginning.

"There's some cases in which, despite their best efforts, a couple decides to part ways," says Richards-Smith. "For example, if infidelity continues to occur, you're no longer emotionally invested in your marriage, or either partner has repeatedly expressed that they're no longer interested in continuing the relationship."

"I ask couples to give it a full effort for one year," Weiss says. And good news: In over 30 years, Weiss says most of the couples he's worked with have come out on the other side of an affair or cheating incident with a stronger relationship than ever.

Related video: How do you define cheating? (provided by Refinery29)

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