Breakups > Emotional Affairs > How to Recover From Your Husband’s Long Term Affair

How to Recover From Your Husband’s Long Term Affair

The truth is, there are no quick tips for recovering after you find out your husband has been involved in a long-term affair with another woman. It’s a betrayal that isn’t easily fixed, a broken heart not easily healed, a love not quickly repaired.

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Maybe you’re shocked, or furious. Baffled, scared, confused, betrayed. There are no “right” ways to feel after you discover your husband’s affair – especially if he’s been with her for months or years. Some men have affairs that last decades.

Some wives don’t find out about the affair until after their husband dies, which I write about in How to Forgive Your Husband for Cheating While He Was Alive. But whether or not your husband is alive – or living in your house – my tips below will help you start the recovery process. Most importantly, you’ll learn you’re not alone. Read the comments below, and you’ll meet other wives who discovered their husbands were in long-term affairs with other women. Knowing you’re not alone is comforting. We’re all in this together.

Here’s what one reader said:

“A woman called and told me that my husband of 34 years, was ‘hooking up’ with another woman,” says A. on How to Trust Your Husband After an Affair. “He regularly plays and sings music with a group of people, and I knew this woman was one of the singers, but didn’t think they were anything besides friends.”

Below, she describes how she found out about the affair – which was going on for three years. First, she has to decide if she wants to save her marriage, knowing that long term affairs are more difficult to recover from.

One of the bestselling resources for recovering from long term affairs is After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful.

Long Term Affairs With Married Men – 4 Steps to Recovery

“I went to his computer and found emails that indicate this affair has been going on for more than three years,” says A. “We live in a small town, so I wonder how many people saw them together and know about this affair.”

Her 60 year old husband is retired; the woman he had an affair with is 41, married and doesn’t work. He’d email her to meet right after A. left for work each day.

“He promised to stop seeing her, and swears that he hasn’t been in contact with her since I found out,” says A. “My husband wants to pretend that everything is okay, but I am devastated by this betrayal. He refuses counseling, since we both hold degrees in psychology and ‘know what they will say.’ I think he doesn’t want to face what he has done to us. I thought I would be feeling better by now, but I still cry each day and get nauseated when I leave the house each morning, thinking about all the times he was waiting for me to go to work so he could be with her. I have lost trust in him and don’t believe things he tells me. I worry about silly things now and never did before. How do I get past this?”

Accept the reality that long term affairs are more difficult to get over than a fling

Long term affairs with married men that go on for years contain more than a brief (stupid) moment of indiscretion or an impulsive (immoral) act. Affairs that last years indicate that a relationship is in place. Even though the cheaters don’t want to leave their spouses, they are emotionally and physically connected.

Long term affairs are deeper, more painful betrayals than short term affairs like one night stands or short flings. Both types of affairs are wrong and horrible betrayals, but a long term affairs mean the married man wasn’t getting what he needed from the marriage. His relationship with the other woman was fulfilling some need.

Read Why Men Cheat on Women to learn what he may have been missing.

Give yourself time to grieve the end of your marriage as you knew it

The grief you’re going through involves the same stages as grieving the death of a spouse. You can’t just shrug off long term affairs with married men, and resume your marriage! You have to mourn the end of one stage of your marriage so you can prepare for the next stage.

My friend’s husband cheated on her with her best friend, and it took her six years to recover. Of course she didn’t trust anything he said – he’d been lying to her for ages. So, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll “get over it” anytime soon.

One way to grieve the end of your marriage is to talk to other wives who have survived long term affairs. If you don’t know how to connect with other women whose husbands cheated, write your thoughts in the comments section below. Other women who are coping with long term affairs with married men will read your thoughts, and hopefully respond.

Decide if you want to get past the affair

Do you want to stay married to a man who lied and cheated on you for years? Write down the pros and cons for recovering your marriage, for rebuilding and reconnecting. Be honest with yourself – maybe you’re scared to leave because you haven’t been on your own for years, you don’t know how to pay the household bills, your kids will freak out, your pastor will have a heart attack.

Spend a month weighing the pros and cons of trying to recover from a long-term affair. You don’t have to decide today or tomorrow…just envision your life on your own, and envision your life in a new stage of marriage.

You are free to create the life you want! Maybe that involves marriage; maybe it doesn’t. But you need to give yourself permission to take your life in the direction you want.

You also have to be aware of the signs your partner will cheat on you again.

Go for marriage counseling even if he doesn’t want to

Your husband lost the right to stomp his foot and say “but I don’t wanna to go to marriage counseling” the first time he considered cheating. After long term affairs, married men have absolutely no right to say whether or not marriage counseling is an option.

Your husband does not have the right to decide on marriage counseling. He may not want to face the pain or own up to his actions. He’ll have a difficult time describing why he’s involved in a long term affair. He won’t want to explain himself. But if he is truly remorseful, he’ll go to counseling if he thought it would win you back and repair your marriage. He’d lead the way to marriage counseling if he thought it would help you recover from his long-term affair.

Even if your husband refuses counseling, you should still go on your own. You need tools to survive the betrayal, and to cope with the fact that others knew about the affair long before you did.

For more tips on long term affairs with married men, 8 Secrets About Fixing Unhealthy Relationships.

What do you think about long term affairs with married men? Comments welcome below…I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your thoughts.


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473 thoughts on “How to Recover From Your Husband’s Long Term Affair”

  1. So yesterday was our wedding anniversary, 6 years, the first since I found out, just 5 months ago, but to me the one year it all lasted was like a year we weren’t matried. to tell you the truth it’s been a couple of hard weeks.I think I had a lot on me. My grandpa died recently, the coronavirus madness going around, and yesterday with the anniversary, I just crumbled apart. I cried a lot. I knew it was going to be a hard day, but boy was it harder than I thought. He did his best to try to comfort and talk to me, I know he felt bad too yesterday, it’s hard on both of us, but I think it was just too recent to celebrate those vows that were broken. Am I wrong thinking like that? I just couldn’t handle it, and just wanted it to be like any other day, I wasn’t ready for all.those emotions eating me alive.I just have so much I’m still processing, I know it’s early as well, just 5 months and I want to change the world in a blink of an eye. I just feel quite sad with everything on me. But I’m gathering strengths everyday, for my family, so i hope I can do be better everyday. Reading all of you gives me that inspiration, and lets me.know I have that strength inside of me. Thank no you all. God bless you all.

    1. Aww bless you, it’s so early on in your journey so it’s all going to be so raw. You must do what you think is right lovely and only you know that. I’m almost 2 years out and I still can’t celebrate ‘dates’ and still crumble at the slightest thing.. go easy on yourself, thinking of you and sending you big hugs and prayers xxx

  2. For me, forgiveness is a choice I make everyday. It’s a choice to be happy. To enjoy the beauty of life rather than dwelling on the pain. I don’t forgive for him, I do it for me. I gave myself some time to process his affair, the pros and cons of staying married and then eventually make a decision. Once I chose to stay married I focused on that and finding joy. Living in the past and the what if’s, how could he, woah is me lamenting attitude would just rob me of the joy I have. We only get one go around at this life and none of us know whether we have 1 day or 70 years left. I try not to waste any of them being sad and angry over another’s stupid selfish choices that are over. That’s my meaning of forgiveness. Accepting it happened, it was wrong, and it hurt, but it’s over and it will not ruin my life. Seek the joy. There is a lot to be had. Focus on it.

    1. Amen girl!!!! Right now is all we have. Once I made the decision to stay, I made it my job to live in the present. The past is set in stone, the future is open wide, the present is all you actually have. You are the creative principle of your life, craft it how you want it. With your current partner or not. I am 49 years old and we have been married for 23 of them. He cheated on me for 5 of them. The last year has been the happiest we have ever had together. We have both worked hard. I still think about it every day, but I push it away and stay present. Ding ding the witch is dead. I am so happy that witch has been banished, and my husband is working with his demons more constructively. Our relationship is #1 for both of us. I wish you all clarity and healing. Xoxo

    2. All youve written is wise and true. We learn it in therapy and in church and in past experiences. Yet I am paralyzed in life. I can’t focus on the happy happy joy joy in life. I do not feel it. Much like I don’t FEEL love any longer. I know I still love kittens for example, but I don’t want to get a new kitten. (My cat died 2 weeks after DDAy.) I know I love my kids and grandkids and would still do anything for them, but I don’t look forward to seeing them like I did or experiance much joy from it. I did counseling for over a year and tried PTSD meds. I simply still don’t feel joy. And consciously speaking, I really want to. So I’m faking it tilll I make it.

      1. Alone, I am so sad for you. What you describe sounds like depression. You say that you have been to therapy and it’s not helping. I suggest a new therapist. Your inability to find joy in anything is concerning. Fake it till you make it is better than other alternatives, but having an expert in the field of depression helping you is probably better. Please keep talking about it, because you deserve happiness and joy.
        Hugs to you!!!!

      2. Alone, you’re not alone. :) I’m still not able to just let go & have fun. No matter what I do to try to get back to “me”, it’s still like having a huge dark shadow cast over my life/perspective/self esteem. I know, I’ve done the recommended stuff–counseling, exercise, working on myself, meds–yet the shadow is always there. I also fake it, hoping to one day make it … but how long will that be? I’ve come to believe I’ll probably never be truly happy again unless I start completely over, unmarried, and give it some time. I still have feelings for my “former cheater” husband, but the feelings include the knowledge of what is inside him–his true character–and the fact that for years he chose a real, long-term relationship with “Donna” (using a real-type name because she is a real person) instead of a real, dedicated marriage with me. Ouch. Probably the shadow I feel is the incredible damage that’s been done to my ego. I just wish I knew how to repair it & come out of the shadow. Of all the things I’ve lost to his disgusting affair, my true happiness is what I miss the most.

        1. OMG! Yes! I was always a singer (couldn’t carry a tune on my back but sang anyway)! Now I wonder if I’ll ever sing again. The old me is gone forever, I’ve got to learn to like the new me. I truly don’t believe a cheater understands all of the collateral damage their actions cause. Pretty sure that most of these cheaters are not evil people, but the carnage they leave in their wake is horrific.

  3. I’ve been married for 33 years and found out 6 months ago. What a great husband and was in shock when I came home sick from work and he was not alone. The affair was going on for 2.5 years, during lunch time and occasional business trip. I am actually doing pretty good until I remember what happened. He is such a great guy and wonderful husband. I’m trying to take it as a good person who did a really bad thing. We are going to counseling, marriage and individual. Hope we can get past this, it will be hard.

    1. Good luck Vicki, Being Married for the same length of time as you. Everyone is different in their approach to this. I’m amazed at the people that can get past this.. I’m not judging I’m just amazed and curious. I’ve done counseling and we are living apart. But there is not way my situation will have us together living as a married couple ever again. The only thing the counseling is doing for me is helping to me to not be angry which is all consuming. Is it working. The jury is still out on that after 7 months. With this pandemic ever so present in all our lives I feel like everything is on hold . I’m curious when I read other comments of how the wives have ended up staying and trusting that their husbands are no longer seeing the OW or any other for that matter. How did they get their husband to be completely transparent and how do they know he was telling truth. You can have blind faith and just go a ahead and trust he’s telling the truth. But what makes you think he is if he was able to lie for so long and we believed the lie. Its just my opinion and I have to go with my own instincts but I will never forget this or trust him . So there it is. Trying to move on and move forward even in the world that we are dealing with at this time. Good luck with your situation.

      1. Thanks for for writing. Not sure where to start, but the OW (who he worked with)approached my husband and asked if he wanted an affair. He said no at first saying he was happily married. Then unfortunately he was curious and took her up on it. She said she was also happily married and only wanted sex. So he agreed and said it was only physical and it was going to be a short fling. She would use whats app and contact him monthly so they could get together during lunch. Her house was conveniently only 10 mins away from their office. Her husband worked about an hour away and never came home, so it was perfect scenario for what they wanted. My husband said I would never know so it would not hurt me, as he loved me but wanted this extra sex that she was wanting and it was so convenient. I could not believe it when I came home and found her. We never fought and spent so much time together, trips, sporting events etc. He is going to a sex therapist trying to find out how he could have done this, compartmentalizing is one reason. How he could do what he did and keep it separate from his “real life.” He said we had a good sex life, but the OW was into other types of sex she was not getting from her husband. My husband is ashamed and working on helping me get past this. About once a week I remember what happened and relapse, but most of the time it is like old times. So wish me luck trying to keep our marriage going.

  4. I realize that my story seems too positive, but this is my actual life. I found out that my husband had been cheating on me on February 24 two years ago. I never went to therapy. Google was my therapy. This site was my therapy. Every time I googled a new question, different websites appeared. I read every single thing that came up. I googled how do I forgive my husband? I wanted to forgive my husband, desperately. We obviously had some issues, but the bones of this marriage or some thing worth fighting for. I love my husband deeply, and I’m his biggest cheerleader. I want him to succeed at being an amazing man and an amazing husband. He had failed at that and it crushes him. What they did was really shitty, but almost losing me, and the weight of guilt and shame have burned that old man away and what is left is amazing. Giving my husband the love and forgiveness I have the ability to give him, has bonded us for life. Deeper than before. We were both depressed for different reasons, and now we are supporting each other and cultivating the marriage that we both deserve. Forgiveness is possible, you have to want it with all of your heart. Keep trying. I know I’m not the only one. And there is nothing special about me that precludes you from doing it too.

  5. I will never forget – not ever. It is a part of my life now. Forgiving is imperative people! It is important for EVERYONE. If you stay or not, it sets you free. Forgiving is not for the other person, it is for you. Not one person on this planet is perfect, and I have made so many mistakes, that it made forgiving my husband easier. My husband messed up and wanted a second chance, and I love him enough to give it to him. If he did it again, I would love myself more and leave. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness, it will start to break the ties that bind you to that terrible situation. Stay or go – that is your choice, but please work on forgiving, it is much healthier for you.

    1. So true, as I said before Forgiving is not forgetting. But it is certainly something you need to move on and have that mental peace that we need. Forgiving its hard, it’s quite a road to go through, but I decided to do it open minded and oper hearted. I’m still trying to forgive completely, but the process has begun and it feels quite liberating. I too decided to give us both a second chance, knowing I’m not perfect and that I too make mistakes. So working together to become better individuals and a better couple is something that makes us feel stronger together and a team. But no mistakes, a second time of that means we are not meant to be, so I completely agree with you, I would leave out of respect and love for myself. Thank you for sharing, and I do hope we all are able to forgive and have a happy and loving life, we certainly deserve so.

    2. I agree with you, Lisa. I also feel so free when I decided to forgive my husband. I no longer feel the burden of anger, anxiety, vengeance. Except for the affair (it lasted 1 year out of our then 5 year marriage), he is a good husband and father. I decided to give him a second chance, but I told him that if he messed up one more time, it’s done for us.

      But, whether you decide to stay or leave, hopefully you ladies get to the point where you can forgive him. Best wishes and prayers for all of you :)

      1. We are now 5 1/2 years out from DDay. I’ve spent many hours reading comments from some very talented (ability to put to paper what they’re feeling), smart and strong women. I had scoured the internet trying to find a group/person that survived , and by that I mean actually lived, through a long term affair. The day I found out, we were 6 weeks shy of my son’s wedding day. We had been married 16 years and he had been seeing this person for 11 years. I was broken. I know no other word, fetal position, praying to die, you all know the drill. I never saw this coming, not a single sign, even looking back, not a single sign. That fact scared me greatly, if he was that good of a liar, was he a sociopath??? I shared with two friends and two siblings (I needed support) but knew I had time to think before making a go or stay decision, and didn’t want to ruin my sons wedding. We ended up doing LOTS of counseling (individual and marriage). He has been 100% transparent, brutally honest with any answers to questions I ask and has gone out of his way to be a great partner. There is nothing more I could ask of him, and as Dr Phil says, even God can’t change the past.

        For me though, I’m a very different person today, and will never be the old me again. I think about the fact that I felt loved, happy, never wanted for a thing, great adventures and conversations my entire marriage, so had I not accidentally found an email, I would have never even known about this relationship. So why then, is it still so damn hard? I know it’s nothing to do with me, rather it was all him. I struggle with the “why” and will until I die (counselors have all said that there isn’t always a reason). He has said that he never felt guilt, he always loved me and our family life. He says he has such a hard time, himself, understanding how is mind worked then and that it was like a switch that he could flip when he was with her and back when he was with me. My mind just can’t wrap around any of it because I’m not wired that way, but now I wish I was. I’m ok living in the today’s and planning the tomorrow’s, but pictures, cards, anniversaries of past events, songs we enjoyed together are all off limits, even 5 1/2 years out. If I could flip a switch, like he did, those things wouldn’t hurt so much.

        I know I made the correct choice, for me, to stay. As many of you have struggled, I too thought about finances, my age (I’m a grandma for gods sake), our kids and position in our community and of course my love for him. I must say though, I read a lot of your comments about forgiveness. That one has been a wall for me. One of our counselors said he didn’t believe in that because we, as humans, do not have the power to forgive. My struggle here is, what is forgiveness? A word? An action? A feeling? I don’t hate my husband but I hate what he did. I love my husband with all my heart but I still get angry and upset over his actions and let him know when I’m hurting. Not sure I have the ability to forgive but I do know that we both try everyday to live our best day and in a second it will be another 5 1/2 years and I hope (if we’re still alive) that I can, at some point, sing again.

        1. I have the same feeling–I don’t believe I can ever truly forgive. I can *say* I forgive him, but it would be a fleeting forgiveness, rescinded at the next triggering event. I’m about 15 months out from D-Day & every day is still touch & go for me. I wish I had left (or made him leave) immediately after I found out for so many reasons. I thought I may some day be able to forgive, but as time has passed and I have more clarity … I know forgiveness for lying to me, unloving me, betraying our family & giving it all to his married floozy for every day of 3/4 of our marriage? It’s not in me. Straight up, I’m here for financial reasons now. Ugh.
          We need to create an affordable tiny house community somewhere for betrayed wives. I’d be there in a heartbeat. ;)

          1. Hi Jules,
            Just reading “3/4 of our marriage” makes me cringe. 11 months ago, after 30 years of marriage, I accidentally found out that my husband had an affair beginning 24 years ago, 10 years sexual and continuing as an emotional affair until this day. After I found out he tried to dismiss it, tried to justify it, tried to explain how he ultimately chose me and the kids by staying in the marriage despite his “feelings”. After D-Day, I didn’t/couldn’t talk to him for 7 months and though since then we have talked and talked and I have cried and cried, we are separated now leading to divorce. I too, have no idea what forgiveness looks like. I do believe that he feels shame, but not regret. There are so many elements of infidelity to process: betrayal, dishonesty, my marriage was a fraud! While he says our 30 years wasn’t bad, I have told him I consider that my marriage ended 24 years ago. I feel for you and all of our sisters going through this.

          2. It is such a dishonorable act to be involved in an affair. I have always despised people who I knew who had affairs and now I have to despise my own partner. It causes so much heartache and pain. Why do they do it? My thought is it’s because they think they won’t ever be caught and a desire gets fulfilled. Mine ended up actually telling me because the guilt and shame were eating them alive. Maybe this shows they might have been a better person than some compared to those who don’t feel any guilt, but still they went ahead and destroyed my faith in them and caused the pain so my opinion is out on on that one. I guess it is better to know since that is the transparency necessary in marriage, but they are not telling all so it’s simply prolonging forgiveness in my mind. Can I forgive? I think I can and I probably already have. They do have to come clean eventually and tell all. To me, forgiveness means letting go of the anger you feel, it is easier once the anger gets separated away from the person and you only say hate their choice but not them. Usually the spouse has many valuable and worthwhile traits and may have been seemingly a good match but for the affair. We [victims] want to stay because of the connection and familiarity. It is harder to risk losing something (something we had high value for) for maybe nothing and being alone is scary; although, I really think in some cases being alone is better. In my case this was my wife who did the cheating. I see all these women on here who are deserving of someone who wouldn’t cheat it would be nice as Jules says here to have a place for all the betrayed, not just wives, to go and heal and maybe start over. But it’s definitely worse for a dependent woman who gets trapped by a cheating man. All I can say is have faith and endure and self improve to get to the point where you can leave if you must. We all deserved to not be with a cheater and if we choose to stay then we deserve to have our offered second chance honored by not being cheated on again. And in the end, if we can’t have that honor we are all deserving of then we all must have the strength to leave. Make it up in your mind and learn what it takes and do it. Find the non-cheating men out there and be with them, we do exist. It’s hard for me too because I am with a cheater and can’t escape while I’m married because I am not a cheater and don’t work like that and now I have to wait. It’s a bit unfair for a cheater to use our commitment against us and if we are unwilling to go through with a divorce the respect from the cheater may never come. Seek help from a lawyer and maybe a separation won’t leave you as penniless as you think. Don’t choose to stay for the wrong reason. But I struggle what is the right reason? I might not even stay. I think I will if they can tell the truth and keep promises going forward. My burden is just greater to have to now prove it, which I hate. Even then I may never trust a person who wronged me bad ever again. I think it is easier to trust people who haven’t proven themselves to not be trustworthy already so why not divorce and try to seek those people out. I am still open enough or not broken enough to know that not all people lie and have affairs. But those who have lied once have been proven to be more likely to do it again.

            I always wonder about the people who find out about affairs but don’t care as long as the partner comes back to them. What does that mean? They are ok with being disrespected? Do they have a broader view of human behavior? I guess that could work, just not for me. I want the the construct of honoring one’s promises or one’s word. I want someone who can honor their word and be in control of their actions higher than the animal nature. Maybe that is too much to ask.

            Choose the honorable path and honor yourself.

        2. Hello, thank you for telling your story. Our boat is filled with wonderful women recovering from this terrible experience. I can tell you that the advice you got from your counselor has done you a disservice. Of course we can forgive, we forgive our children, parents and ourselves, why not our husbands? If we don’t, we will hold on to so much baggage, and never be free, or have close meaningful relationships. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need forgiveness along the way. The reasons our husbands have strayed are unique to the individual, and whether or not they deserve a second chance depends on who they are and how hard they are willing to work to help fix what is broken. Unfortunately, that leaves us in a terrible place, because we have a lot of work to do too. Unfair, but here we are. I am 2 years out, and reminded of what he did daily. Part of my practicing forgiveness, is letting that go to the best of my ability. It all builds up, I rant and rave and get it out, and then back to the amazing life we are cultivating together. I believe he is sickened by his behavior and is dedicated to being a great husband going forward. I have done messed up stuff in my past, but am still a good person. I learn from my mistakes and try to do better going forward. It is what we all are doing hopefully. Some mistakes are bigger than others, but they are all places of learning and growth. I have grown so much, I know my husband has, and we have grown closer together. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning what he did. Forgiving others gives you freedom. It is a feeling, action, and practice. I have to practice it every day. My marriage is worth the effort. I don’t know if yours is. You have to figure that out.

        3. I have no idea how to really forgive. Ive said it. Ive studied it. Ive done therapy. I don’t feel any better or freer or anything.