Hope After Betrayal
Allen and I were blown away by some of the letters we received from our podcast listeners whose marriages survived cheating. What some of these people were able to forgive leaves me wondering if I would have the strength to do that. But I think it’s important for women or men who are currently suffering from a betrayal of this magnitude to see that there is hope for a marriage to survive. It doesn’t always happen, but if both people are willing to put in the work, it is possible.
I believe getting past an adulterous affair is one of the hardest things to do, but it IS doable. It’s fair to allow the person who’s been cheated on to be as angry as they can be, to let them wallow in grief and self-pity because the truth is, the relationship they once knew is gone. That complete trust they once had is ruined, and a person MUST be allowed to mourn that. But a friend of mine whose husband cheated — and it was an UGLY situation I won’t go into — decided that she wanted to stay in her marriage. Her husband ended the relationship with the other woman and couldn’t tell my friend often enough how sorry he was, but she proceeded to make his life a living hell for several months. Because he was so guilty about what he’d done, he took it. However, after months and months of being punished, he started to realize he didn’t want live the rest of his life this way. Right when he was about to reach his breaking point, they went to a marriage counselor and what the therapist told my friend has always stuck with me. I’ve used this advice for several situations in my own life and it truly works for me. So here’s your free therapy session! I’m paraphrasing, but basically it’s this — You have to put a time limit on how long you’re going to be angry. If you need two weeks or two months, take that time. But LITERALLY set a date for when you’re done with the rage and the tears and the wallowing in self-pity, and when that date arrives, that’s it! Don’t allow yourself to go to that dark place again. Because if you continue to be angry and you continue to punish your spouse, how can the relationship possibly survive? You can’t continue to give the cold shoulder, deny affection and sex, and bring up the affair every time the two of you argue and expect the other person to take it for the rest of their lives. Sure, they’re guilty enough to put up with it for a few months, but why would anyone want to keep coming home to that if there’s no sign that it’s going to ever change? That’s no way for EITHER person person to live — the one dishing it OR the one taking it.
Does your trust ever come back one hundred percent? I don’t know. Maybe for some, maybe never for others. But I think the key is for both partners to want it to work. And the person who cheated just has to accept that they have to go above and beyond to prove their trustworthiness.
I want to share the letter we received from one of our podcast listeners that touched us both so much and even moved Allen to tears. Hopefully, her story will help someone reading this right now who is trying to decide whether or not to forgive being betrayed. She didn’t want us to share her name, but I’m also omitting a few key details to protect her identity.
I'm hoping to keep my name out of this because my children don't know this - My husband and I married very young - we were high school sweethearts and got married at (xx) years old. We went through college together and started careers after college. As life goes, we began to drift apart a bit from one another and had not yet started a family. Just after our (xx)th anniversary, my husband came to me and told me that he was unhappy but wanted to work to save the marriage. I was right there with him, I was also unhappy. We were a couple of people that loved each other and our faith was such that we were determined to honor our vows... We went to counseling and began to work on ourselves individually and our marriage. While in the midst of repairing our relationship, I got pregnant with our first child - this was not planned. While excited about the baby we were both terrified of the fact that we were still trying to stay married - this is when he told me that he had been having an affair for at least a year with a girl that he worked with. This was why he wanted to go to counseling - to try and figure out how to end that relationship and try and mend ours! He then told me that he had contracted an STD - so I had to tell my OB that I had been exposed to an STD and we had to take precautions with the baby - I was broken hearted and mortified...and so, so angry... Well, through significant counseling and time we fell in love all over again. That little girl came into our lives and changed the way we loved each other. We then had another little girl (x) years later - we loved each other more deeply and profoundly than we ever could have when we first married. A year into my second daughter's life he was diagnosed with cancer. He died three years later. Some of his last words to me the night before he slipped into his final sleep were, "I love you, and I'm so sorry for the pain that I caused you..." That was (xx) years ago this April. Yes, anger was there but we worked through it. Our children are the proof of how great our life TOGETHER was. He made a mistake, I forgave him and we moved forward... The pain and anger I had for him the night he told me (and the many days after) was nothing compared to the ache I still hold for him when I look at those two beautiful girls I have. Had we ended our marriage before they came, that would have been the true loss. Thanks so much for letting me write this.