If the prospect of your marriage’s future is contingent on surviving your wife’s infidelity, you’re in the right place.
Infidelity can suck the air out of your lungs and the life out of your marriage. Being jolted by the news that your once-faithful marriage now has a trespasser will inevitably leave you churning with hostile and hurtful emotions. In the early stages after the discovery of your wife’s affair, the roller coaster of emotions can feel too painful to endure.
Surviving your wife’s infidelity has two options. Either you work together to save your marriage, or you step on opposite sides of the fracture and go your separate ways.
The demographics for marital infidelity fluctuate across factors like gender and age.
In general, men are still more likely than women to cheat. A recent General Social Survey (GSS) reports 20% of men and 13% of women having extramarital sex.
That’s still a lot of women cheating. And that bias doesn’t include the increase in emotional affairs that confuse the perception of infidelity. Between social media and the relatively equal presence of both genders in the workforce, opportunities abound for reaching outside one’s marital vows.
Can a marriage survive an affair?
If your anger and hurt are not dark enough to obliterate your hope for reconciliation, it’s time to learn what you’re in for if you think you want to save your marriage. Your wife may have made the decision to step outside your marriage on her own. However, surviving your wife’s infidelity is going to ask you to step up in ways you probably never imagined. You’ll need to decide whether your marriage is worth saving at a time you’re bruised by betrayal and hurt. No easy task.
It’s also going to take a willingness to look at yourself and not just her for understanding. This fact doesn’t usually sit well with an aggrieved husband reeling from his wife’s affair. It may set a new high-water mark for your patience.
Many of the strategies for surviving infidelity can be generalized across genders. But there are differences in the way men and women (in general) view infidelity.
It may come as no surprise that men have a greater ability to mentally compartmentalize. Just because ‘A’ doesn’t mean ‘B.’ Women, on the other hand, need an Etch-a-Sketch to connect all the dots in their emotional and cognitive landscape.
This may not accurately describes the thinking of all men and women. But it can shine a light on why surviving your wife’s infidelity may not have the same odds as surviving a husband’s infidelity.
The effort to better understand the reasons behind infidelity doesn’t condone the betrayal. The decision to move forward and save your marriage demands a ton of soul-searching…and eventual forgiveness. No one can survive in a climate of continual distrust. Nor can anyone survive in a relationship of perpetual punishment.
A man’s ability to compartmentalize may be behind the common excuse for cheating: It didn’t mean anything. We all know it does mean something — at least to the betrayed wife. But that psychological ability to be unfaithful for the sake of sexual gratification, while still claiming to be in a happy marriage, isn’t as common to women.
When women are unfaithful, they are usually responding more to deeper unhappiness and emotional dissatisfaction than to sexual desire.
Their reasons for connecting outside their marriages really aren’t different than their reasons that led them to marriage in the first place, an unsettling thought for a betrayed husband.
Women have a natural proclivity to associate sex with emotional connection. Add to this the evolutionary factors that place women at greatest risk As a result of uncommitted sex and insight becomes clearer. A woman can potentially be left with the responsibility of carrying, birthing and raising a child. So, at least from an evolutionary perspective, she has a lot of things to consider and integrate when choosing a mate let alone make a decision to have casual sex.
These generalized factors about the reasons women cheat often lead men to grapple with the belief that a wife’s infidelity is a more significant betrayal. The thinking can go something like this: Since a woman’s infidelity is more meaningful to her, it carries more weight and makes the breach more serious. Thereby, making it more difficult for a man intent on surviving his wife’s infidelity to save his marriage than it would in the reverse situation. It is both a double standard and paradoxical.
If you are committed to surviving your wife’s infidelity and saving your marriage, here are 8 important strategies to consider.
1. Don’t make quick decisions.
No important decisions can be made from a place of anger, jealousy, confusion and general negativity.
Calmness is essential for clarity. You may need to separate temporarily to get some distance before you can decide whether you want to save your marriage if you can’t regain your footing while living together. Work through those powerful emotions before making any lasting decisions or creating collateral damage with harsh words and behaviors.
2. Accept your feelings.
Men aren’t notorious for welcoming and discussing emotions, so don’t be surprised if you feel unsettled and confused. You may feel competitive, vindictive, embarrassed, enraged, even diminished, all at the same time.
Confide in a friend or take more time at the gym to help you shed strong, negative feelings and resist the inevitable impulse to act out. And do what’s necessary to learn how to communicate your feelings in a healthy way.
There is the possibility that your wife’s infidelity, as wrong and betraying as it may have been, could be a huge wake-up call begging for your attention. Couples who survive infidelity learn to talk about what has happened…and explore the reasons why.
If your idea of “feelings” drops the record needle on the 1970’s broken-love song or makes you feel like a teenaged girl, you may have your first clue as to your wife’s discontent.
Accepting and learning to express your own feelings will make you an effective communicator when the two of you talk together.
3. Figure out the reason(s) for the cheating.
Surviving your wife’s infidelity has to start with understanding the reasons behind her cheating. How can you solve anything if you don’t know what you’re solving?
This exploration can be very delicate and painful and may be best undertaken with the support of a couples/marriage therapist. Only after you have fearlessly uncovered the motivations for your wife’s infidelity can you work together to save your marriage.
4. Be smart.
Before you jump back in with two feet and decide to work to save your marriage, get some basic assurance that your wife is sincerely willing to do her part.
Surviving your wife’s infidelity starts with the infidelity ending. Insist she cut-off contact and demand proof that she has done so. She will have to be incredibly vulnerable, sensitive and transparent in an effort to regain your broken trust.
And you may have to do some upfront sleuthing to make sure your willingness to work on your marriage isn’t in vain. An online tool like Truth Finder can uncover any lingering attachments like secret social media accounts.
5. Be willing to let go of the images.
Men may have a greater ability to compartmentalize, but being visual creatures they tend to hold onto and sometimes obsess about the mental images that fuel their rage, hurt and jealousy. Of course, women can also fall into the trap of playing an endless loop of their cheating spouse in the arms of someone else.
It’s natural to imagine your wife doing sexual things with another man. Unfortunately, each time you replay the image, you’re actually re-inflicting the trauma of your discovery of the infidelity and extending the healing process.
Surviving your wife’s infidelity is going to require you to push the images aside and focus on understanding how your marriage was vulnerable to infidelity. Only then can you decide if your love is strong enough to mend this painful break.
6. Call in the experts.
Infidelity is one of the greatest challenges a marriage can face. If the spouses involved already knew and practiced the proven tools of marital success, perhaps the infidelity wouldn’t have happened.
So why not treat your marriage the way you would treat a broken bone or physical illness? Finding a couples/marriage therapist — or therapy team — that can walk the path to resolution with you can be your wisest investment.
Instead of limiting yourself to a weekly-hour format, consider a marriage retreat intensive weekend. The benefits will be accelerated and prevent collateral damage that occurs from untended open wounds. Processing anger, confusion, and feelings of betrayal is a prerequisite to mapping a plan forward. It helps to be in a safe, well-bounded space to have the intimate, frank discussion needed to get through the damage of the infidelity.
7. Give yourself time.
What if you embarked on a journey to create a new marriage out of your broken marriage? What would that endeavor of love look like? And how long would it take?
Be kind and patient with yourself…and with one another. If surviving your wife’s infidelity is worth the effort, devote the time to see it through.
Yes, if you want to stay in your marriage, eventually you will have to find a way to forgive your wife. And she will have to find a way to forgive herself. But if you are both doing the difficult, honest work of sharing your feelings, and you can see her objectively as a human being with flaws, down the road you might find yourself ready to walk toward forgiveness — a process that takes time.
The choice to work through infidelity and save your marriage is an enormous endeavor. Whether you throw in the towel or stick it out, the trauma of infidelity doesn’t just go away. Healing is as much a choice as a process.
Infidelity is often not a statement of lack of love. Sometimes it’s a cry for help. As the saying goes, “When people know better, they do better.” If your love is still there, there are ways to restore it to health…and make it stronger than ever. But it takes a kind of courage you were never expected to muster.
Our weekend marriage intensive retreat is designed to help couples navigate the turbulent waters of infidelity in an accelerated and successful way that can save your marriage. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the challenge of surviving your wife’s infidelity, feel free to reach out for a complimentary telephone call.