Here are a few tips for getting 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. He wants to save his marriage but doesn’t know how. Does this sound familiar to you? If you’re recovering from an online relationship (emotional cheating), these tips might help you rebuild your life with your partner.
“I love my wife and kids so much,” says Steve on How to Save Your Marriage From an “Affair of the Heart”. “I would normally say I’m a great husband and father. I just made the biggest mistake of my life by having an internet affair. 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 after cheating on the internet?”
Many couples recover from internet affairs and create wonderful lives – and families! – together. Know that you and your spouse can rebuild your marriage. But what this actually looks like and means for you and your wife depends on your relationship. There is no formula for recovering from an internet affair. I have no quick tips for healing or saving a marriage after cheating online, but I do have a few ideas that might point you in the right direction.
4 Steps to Saving Your Relationship After an Internet Affair
An affair of the heart – even “just” an emotional cheating online – may be a more difficult betrayal to overcome than a physical affair in person. Falling in love and getting emotionally attached to someone outside your marriage involves your heart. Your wife knows that you are emotionally and perhaps even spiritually connected to the other woman, which makes it more painful.
Another complication is the fact that many wives blame themselves for their husband’s infidelity. “My wife 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. My wife is kicking herself for allowing an internet affair to happen to our marriage.”
1. Untangle the emotions of blame, shame and regret
Who is taking responsibility for the affair? If you are a husband who cheated online, you are responsible for the affair. Your wife is not to blame. She may blame herself and even believe that it’s her fault that you cheated on her, but it is not her fault. You can’t tell your wife this, though. She has to realize this on her own. It may be a difficult concept for your wife to accept because if she takes ownership, the affair becomes about her. Your online cheating never was about her; your internet affair is about you.
In Why Married Men Cheat – and How to Prevent It, 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 wife, take responsibility for the internet affair. It is your fault. You chose to engage in an online emotional relationship with someone outside of your marriage. Your wife is an innocent bystander.
2. Learn what your wife needs, and help her get it
“Romantic love is the story of how you need another person to complete you,” writes Byron Katie in I Need Your Love – Is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead. “It’s an absolutely insane story. My experience is that I need no one to complete me. As soon as I realize that, everyone completes me.”
Your wife does not need you – or your faithfulness – to complete her. She needs to find wholeness, love and completeness in herself. How she does this depends on what she needs. Does your wife want to go to marriage therapy or couples counseling? Do it. Does your wife want full access to your work and home email? Give it to her. Does your wife want you to go into individual counseling? Call a therapist today. Does your wife need a trial separation or even just a weekend alone to think about your marriage? Help her get where she needs to go. Does your wife want a divorce, or you to leave the house? Talk to a divorce lawyer or mediator. Whatever your wife needs, do your best to help her.
3. Discover what you need in your marriage – and your life
You want to save your marriage. You regret the affair you had with another woman online. you love your wife…and you aren’t getting what you need from your relationship with her. Know that this is not because of who she is or what she has done. You cheated because you are missing something in your life. What is it?
“Hurt feelings or discomfort of any kind cannot be caused by another person,” writes Byron Katie in I Need Your Love – Is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead. No one outside me can hurt me. That’s not a possibility. It’s only when I believe a stressful thought that I get hurt. And I’m the one who’s hurting me by believing what I think. This is very good news, because it means that I don’t have to get someone else to stop hurting me. I’m the one who can stop hurting me. It’s within my power.”
Avoid telling your wife what she should do or how she should feel about your internet affair. Your wife’s feelings and responses are her business. If you can see that she is believing things that aren’t true – such as blaming herself for your decision to cheat online – help her by giving her information that does not come from you.
4. Initiate individual counseling or marriage therapy
Here’s a tip from a woman 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.” – How to Know if You Can Trust Him After an Affair.
Some wives are happy and encouraged when their husbands initiate personal therapy or marriage counseling. Women tend to be more willing than men to delve into their emotions and feelings. But you – as a husband who cheated online – have emotional needs that aren’t being filled. You will find emotional, spiritual, and mental healing if you explore what your heart needs in your relationship with your wife.
You can save your marriage after an internet affair if you focus on healing yourself. Encourage your wife to learn, grow, and see that she has the power she needs to hurt or heal her own heart and spirit. Give yourself, your wife, and your marriage time to heal! Rebuilding trust after an affair, especially if it lasted for years, is not an overnight process.
If you’re the wife of a husband who cheated online, read Obsessed With Your Husband’s Affair? How to Move On.