How to Make Things Right After an Internet Affair
Here are a few tips on how to get your relationship back on track after an internet affair. I wrote this for a reader who said he was cheating online, and asked how to make things right with his wife. If you’re recovering from an online relationship (which is cheating), these tips might help.
A different reader recommends reading Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley Glass. My reader is recovering from an internet affair in her own marriage, and said this book has helped a great deal.
Here’s what this reader says about his internet affair: “I love my wife and kids so much,” says S. on Emotional Cheating – How Innocent Friendships Cause Problems. “I would normally say I’m a great husband and father. I just made the biggest mistake of my life. I want to be with my wife and kids. Do I have a chance of saving my marriage and life? After reading about emotional affairs and doing some soul searching I realize I have emotionally cheated and betrayed my wife. I broke her trust. How do I save our marriage?”
Here are a few thoughts on saving your marriage after an online affair…
How to Recover From an Internet Affair
Having an affair – even “just” an emotional one – is probably the worst betrayal in love and marriage. It’s a direct hit, and people don’t just get over it. Nor do they simply “forgive and forget” – especially when they blame themselves.
“She is blaming herself and feeling bad about herself,” says Steve. “She is wondering who this other woman is, if she is prettier, smarter, or more loving. She’s kicking herself.”
I wish she’d direct her kicks toward him, not herself! He’s the one who should feel the brunt of her anger, frustration, and pain. Taking it out on herself will only make things worse.
Reassure your partner that internet affairs aren’t a reflection of her
In Why Do People Cheat in Relationships?, marriage counselor Gary Neuman says that men don’t cheat because their wives are overweight, unattractive, or dumb. Men cheat because their wives aren’t emotionally and/or physically available.
If you want to make things right with your partner, you need to take the blame for the internet affair. It is your fault: your lack of morality, your bad choice, your weakness. It is not her fault.
Figure out what your partner needs, and give it to her
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Does she want couples counseling? Does she want full access to work email? Does she want you to go into individual counseling? Does she need a weekend alone to think about it? Does she want a divorce or separation? Whatever she needs, do your best to meet her needs.
And remember — it takes time to rebuild trust after an affair, especially if it lasted for yaers. After some time passes, she probably won’t need to keep checking up or need continual reassurance that you’re genuinely sorry and love her above everyone else.
Go into marriage counseling – initiate it
Women are often happy and heartened when their husbands are willing to delve into their emotions and feelings without being forced into it. Another reason to initiate counseling is that you’ll benefit emotionally and mentally from figuring out why you had the affair. You won’t just make things right with your partner – you’ll gain insight.
Find resources about surviving online relationships to show your wife that you’re serious about saving your marriage. Read books about surviving internet affairs, or find out if there are any weekend retreats or support groups for couples. I’m not suggesting you do this just for show — do it for real!
Here’s a tip from a reader whose husband had an online relationship that lasted for years, with a younger woman:
“I discovered the affair by accident, and it pulled the rug out from underneath me. I was in shock for about two weeks, angry and depressed. I found it hard to concentrate on anything. If you are lucky enough to have therapy through your insurance at work, I highly advise talking to a marriage counselor.”
Be honest about why you cheated online
There was a payoff for your behavior and you need to know exactly what it was. Find ways to get your needs met from your wife. Unless your marriage is over, she needs to decide that your relationship is worth saving and to learn to trust you again.
After an internet affair, the best thing you can do is to come clean, apologize, tell her that you are there for her, get counseling, hold her when she cries, hold her when she throws things at you, and be patient. It can take a LONG time for her to feel better about herself and marriage, and to trust you. And maybe even learn to love you again. Healing is not going to happen overnight.
There are no easy tips for making things right with your partner — healing takes time and patience. There will be lots of setbacks, especially at the beginning!
For advice and insight from a marriage counselor, read The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It by M. Gary Neuman. He’s currently working on a book about why women are unfaithful.
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