Most of the time, I hear from people who have been cheated on. They usually really want to heal and begin to get their life back to normal, but they are often running into obstacles or struggling with difficult feelings and issues.
Sometimes though, I hear from people who have cheated on their spouse. Since my articles and blog is about saving your marriage after an affair, most of the cheating spouses that I hear from are deeply sorry for the cheating and are looking for a way to begin to help their spouse heal.
I recently heard from a husband who said in part: “I deeply regret cheating on my spouse. I have hurt her deeply and she doesn’t trust me any longer. It hurts me so much to see this previously happy and loving woman become a shell of herself. My wife was always upbeat and light hearted, but because of what I have done, she is angry, bitter, and her outgoing personality is gone. She is hurting deeply and I don’t know how to help her. Every time I try, she rejects me or acts resentful so I end up not knowing if I have done more harm than good. But when I leave her alone instead and give her time, she takes this to mean I don’t love her. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would give anything to help her, but I don’t know how. What are some things I can do to help my wife after I made the grave mistake of cheating on her?”
It’s typically pretty easy for me to tell who is being sincere and who is not when I get these types of letters. Sometimes people really are asking me how to make things OK with their spouse to avoid a costly divorce and when they will only go and cheat again down the road. But many people are incredibly sincere and believe it when they swear that they will never cheat again and will do everything in their power to help their spouse even if their marriage does not recover. Their concern is their spouse first and foremost, their marriage second, and themselves third.
So in the following article, I’ll offer some tips and suggestions for those sincere folks regarding things that you can do to help your spouse after cheating on them.
Understand That They May Not Want Your Help At First: Many people go into this with very sincere and honorable intentions. They are fully aware that it was their actions and their cheating that has hurt their spouse so it is their responsibility to help them heal. And they are sincere in wanting to do everything possible to help with their spouse’s recovery, but this is often very difficult because the faithful spouse (who is understandably hurting) can out right reject their “help.”
I often have the faithful spouse tell me that they don’t really want anything from the cheating spouse at the time. I understand this first hand as I too was the spouse who was cheated on. But I also understand that often, the cheating spouse is very sincere in wanting to help. However, sometimes the only thing that you can do is to tell you spouse that you will do as they ask because you are trying to help them and you will be there when they change their mind.
In saying this though, make sure that you make it clear that you truly aren’t going anywhere while you are respecting their wishes. Because some spouses will think you don’t care enough or were only waiting for your excuse to exit. That’s why it’s important to continue to respectfully “check in” with your spouse because their feelings or wishes may have changed.
Understand That Your Spouse Is The Innocent Party And Should Be Treated As Such: Resist any urge that you might have to defend yourself by saying or insinuating that there was something wrong with your marriage or your spouse that inspired you to cheat. Even if some of your defenses may have some merit, your spouse is reeling and hurting right now. The last thing that they want to hear is how you were lonely or how they didn’t give you enough attention or physical intimacy.
In fact, often it’s best to steer clear from these topics all together, at least in the beginning. Please understand that when someone cheats on you, this can make you feel ugly, undesirable, misunderstood, and taken for granted. So, you don’t want to give your souse any reason to continue to dwell on these things. You want to make sure everything that you say or do implies just the opposite. Because when you’re shifting the blame or even hinting that some of the blame lies with your spouse, you’re usually only rubbing salt into the wounds.
If Your Brand Of Help Isn’t Working, Consider Outsourcing It: No matter how sincere and willing you are, sometimes the help that is needed is outside of your expertise. Unless you are a counselor or mental health professional, you often won’t have the skills or insights necessary to help with this type of pain. Plus, as you are very intimately involved and it was your mistakes that brought this on, you’re often too close to the situation to know what it really needs to heal.
With this said, sometimes your spouse will be offended or angry when you suggest outside help. Don’t push if this is the response that you get. It’s not at all unusual for people to be afraid of or intimated by counseling. And, it can be challenging to find the right counselor that is effective for both of you. Still, there are online or print resources available. You don’t have to give up if you don’t want to go the counseling route. You could even begin by just educating yourself and making changes within you so that when your spouse is ready to move forward, you are ready too. Anything that you can do to learn more about effectively supporting the healing process will help.
And as your spouse’s anger and shock begin to fade they will often notice your efforts to help them, even if they weren’t receptive to receiving it at the time.
When my husband cheated, he tried very hard to help me heal. But, at the time, I didn’t want his help. It wasn’t until I educated and worked on myself that I was ready to begin to receive help from him. If it helps you, you can read about our healing process on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com