Can you forgive your husband after the affair and rebuild trust in your marriage? The short answer is yes, forgiveness is possible! You can learn how to trust your husband again – even if he was involved in a long-term affair. The long answer is that rebuilding trust takes time, patience, and a conscious choice to forgive.
“My husband cheated on me with his coworker, who has since left the company,” says Lisa on When Your Husband Still Works With His Ex Affair Partner. “How do I forgive my husband after the affair? I can’t look at him, much less let him touch me. How do I trust him after he cheated on me? I want to forgive and move on but it’s so hard.” If you truly want to forgive and rebuild trust in your marriage, you will. Forgiveness and trust are choices that you have to make. You may have to choose to forgive your husband every single day – or even every couple of hours at first. But eventually, it does get easier.
“Forgiveness doesn’t mean agreeing with, condoning, or even liking what has happened,” says Iyanla Vanzant, author of Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything. “Forgiveness means letting go and knowing that – regardless of how challenging, frightening, or difficult an experience may seem – everything is just as it needs to be in order for you to grow and learn. When you focus on how things “should” be, you deny the presence and power of love.”
Give yourself time. Learning how to forgive and rebuild trust is a process that doesn’t happen quickly. After an affair, both you and your husband may feel confused and insecure, anxious and suspicious. It’s impossible for your marriage to go back to the way it was. Both you and your husband are different now, and so is your relationship.
It’s also important to remember that forgiving your husband after cheated doesn’t mean you have to stay married. Forgiveness is for your emotional and spiritual health. Learning how to forgive and rebuild trust isn’t for your marriage or your husband’s sake. It’s for you. Whether or not your marriage survives, it’s important for your own heart, spirit and soul to learn accept this betrayal.
Forgiving and Rebuilding Trust After an Affair
Men and women stay in bad marriages because they fear they’ll never find love again. If your self-esteem is low, find ways to boost your self-image without relying on your husband or marriage. Get as emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy as you can. The healthier you are, the more centered and calm you’ll be. The healthier you are, the easier all your decisions in life will be – including the most difficult ones. Deciding if you should forgive your husband after an affair and rebuild trust may now be the most important decision you’ll ever make in your marriage.
“All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love,” says Ann Landers. “Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principle of equal partners.”
Learn why your husband cheated
One of the first steps to forgiveness is to find out why your husband had an affair. As painful as it is, knowing the reason he sought intimacy outside your marriage can help you rebuild trust. Books like The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It are helpful because they give an objective perspective (which you and your husband don’t necessarily have).
If your husband cheated because he wasn’t getting something from you or your marriage, then it may be easier to trust him again because you can change your relationship. Change is possible. It isn’t easy, but you can work together to rebuild your marriage. But, if your husband cheated because he was bored or it’s in his nature to roam, then it’s more difficult to trust him. The reason he cheated may help you decide if you can rebuild trust in your relationship.
If you can’t understand why your husband had the affair, read 8 Reasons Why People Cheat in Relationships.
Know the difference between forgiving and rebuilding trust
Forgiving your husband for having an affair is one thing. Rebuilding your marriage and trusting him not to cheat again is a different – and more difficult – level. It’s important to remember that you aren’t responsible for doing all the work. You may want to figure out why your husband cheated, how he can overcome the temptation to stray, and how to rebuild trust in your marriage. But your husband has to take responsibility for the affair. This may involve talking about why he cheated and working hard to make your marriage better.
How did you catch your husband cheating on you? Forgiveness and rebuilding trust is easier if you didn’t catch him having an affair – or lying about it. “It’s best to come clean as early as possible,” says marriage counselor Gary Neuman in The Truth about Cheating. “Be honest with your partner when you’re just beginning to become interested in someone else.”
Decide what you need from your husband
Nobody can predict if you can or will actually trust your husband again. But, chances are in your favor if your husband knows and is willing to give you what you need to rebuild trust. Before your husband can give you want you need, you have to figure it out for yourself! What do you need your husband to do, say, or change in order for you to trust him again? Be honest with yourself, and with your husband.
For example, if your husband travels for work or spends a lot of time on external activities, you may need him home more often. If he isn’t willing to talk about his feelings, reasons for having an affair, or your relationship, then you may need your husband to be more open. Before you can decide if you can rebuild marriage trust, try to understand what you need him to do. How can your husband wipe the slate clean after having an affair? He can’t. But he can work to regain your trust.
Decide if you can live with your husband the way he is today
Are you willing to live with your husband the way he is right now? He may not change his behavior or routine because you ask him to, or even if you need him to. You can’t convince your husband to change but you can decide if you can live with your marriage the way it is today. This includes accepting your husband for who he is today – affairs and all.
Some wives overlook their husband’s affairs and rebuild trust by redefining what “trust” means in their marriage. This may involve accepting a man for who he is no matter how often he cheats. If neither you nor your husband are willing to change so you can forgive and rebuild trust, then your marriage must be accepted for what it is. Or, a separation or divorce must be sought. You do have options, even if you feel like your hands are tied.
Ask your husband what he’s willing to do to save your marriage
After you figure out what you need from your husband, ask him clearly if he’s willing to give you what you need. Will he spend more time with you? Go to couples counseling with you — or get online help from a marriage coach? Start individual counseling for himself, if he needs to work through his issues? Read books about rebuilding marriage trust after an affair? If your husband isn’t willing to work towards saving your marriage, then you shouldn’t trust him again. You can’t save your marriage by yourself.
Talk is cheap, as they say. Words are the easiest, laziest part of love. Any man can say “Please forgive me for having the affair.” What is your husband willing to do to help you trust him and your marriage again?
Note that men and women perceive affairs differently
Men and women don’t see cheating the same way. According to a study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy men perceive physical affairs to be “worse” than emotional infidelity. Women, on the other hand, see emotional affairs as more upsetting than a physical betrayal.
One of my friends’ husbands had a physical and emotional affair with her best friend. My friend forgave her husband and they rebuilt trust in their marriage, but she said it was a long, difficult process. She also said saving her marriage would have been easier if it was “only” a physical affair…but he was in love with her best friend. That, she said, was worse than just physical intimacy. But they worked hard actively live out their faith, dwell in forgiveness, and rebuild trust so they could save their marriage.
Be willing to work towards forgiveness
“Accept the events of the past, while being willing to change your perspective on them,” says Iyanla Vanzant. “Only forgiveness can liberate minds and hearts once held captive by anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear. Forgiveness is a true path to freedom that can renew faith, build trust, and nourish the soul.”
It takes effort, energy, time, and commitment to rebuild trust in marriage after a husband betrays his wedding vows. But, some marriages become stronger, happier, and healthier after an affair. Untangling emotional issues related to the aftermath of an affair is difficult; a marriage counselor can be a valuable source of support and information. A counselor can help you rebuild trust by giving you specific steps to take and supporting you along the way. Marriage counseling doesn’t have to last for years or even months; sometimes it just takes a session or two to see what the issues are and how to resolve them.
Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken: Finding Forgiveness and Restoration is one of the most popular books on forgiving and trusting your husband after an affair. It’s a long process that doesn’t happen overnight – it can take years to forgive him after he cheated.
If your husband is still hiding his affair from you – or trying to make you feel crazy for thinking he cheated – then rebuilding trust in your marriage may not be an option. But if your husband is honest about why and when he cheated, you might find it a bit easier to forgive him.
Did your husband life about his affair? Gary Neuman, author of Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship, appeared on the Dr Oz show. He and Janine Driver of the Body Language Institute discussed several ways to tell if someone is lying about having an affair. I describe their tips in 5 Signs Your Husband is Cheating and Lying About His Affair. Do you recognize your husband in their signs?