Feb 092009

Yes, you can trust a man after he cheated on you – if he is sincerely remorseful. These tips for surviving an affair include links to resources for rebuilding broken marriages.

First, here’s a bit of relationship advice from a marriage counselor:

“It’s best to come clean as early as possible,” says author and marriage counselor Gary Neuman. “Be honest with your partner when you’re just beginning to become interested in someone else.”

For more advice on recognizing and surviving emotional cheating, read The Emotional Affair: How to Recognize Emotional Infidelity and What to Do About It.

And, here are several tips for trusting a husband who cheated…

Can You Trust a Man Who Cheated on You? How to Survive an Affair

Trusting a husband or boyfriend who cheated on you is a very personal decision. It depends on your relationship, reasons he cheated, and many other factors – more than a single article (or book) on cheating can cover!

These are just a few things to think about…

Keep your expectations for your marriage realistic. You won’t be able to completely forget about your spouse’s affair, but you can stop nourishing your mistrust, hurt, and suspicious thoughts. That means accepting your partner at his (or her) word — if he says he’s left the past behind and is focused on building a strong marriage with you. To survive an emotional affair, you need to nourish healthy growth, trust, and faith in the future. (Easier said than done, I know).

Figure out your ideal healthy relationship. How do you want to be treated by your partner? What makes you feel loved and respected? To learn to trust a man who cheated on you, envision your ideal healthy relationship, and make a list of the small steps that create that relationship. Share this list with your partner – and don’t be afraid of ultimatums or being left alone. Being single is a far better option than being in a relationship that causes you pain, anxiety, frustration, and confusion.

Read books such as Transcending Post-infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD): The Six Stages of Healing together, so you’re both aware of what it takes to reconnect and rebuild after a man cheats on you.

Understand and respect each other’s perspective. What does your partner need from you and your relationship? What do you need? To reconnect and survive an affair, be honest with each other. Don’t try to change your partner; instead, try and understand him.

Consider couples counseling or online marriage counseling. Individual or couples counseling will help you figure out the difference between your own insecurities and your partner’s emotional infidelity. Most of the time, emotional cheating or fights between couples aren’t about one specific problem – they’re about issues that already destroying the relationship. To reconnect with your spouse, you need to deal with those issues. And couples often need help dealing with issues in healthy ways (which is where marriage counseling comes in!).

If you know you can’t trust a man who cheated on you, read Marriage Crisis – Surviving When You Have Nothing Left.

Practice forgiveness. This tip for surviving an affair may be the most difficult one — which is why marriage counseling is so important. He made a mistake, and it tore at the fabric of your relationship – but that doesn’t mean you both have to pay for it forever! You have to forgive yourself and him in order for you to rebuild and reconnect. Forgiveness and love is a conscious choice you need to make every day. The more you choose to focus on love, trust, and forgiveness, the easier it gets. And, part of forgiving and reconnecting with a man who cheated on you is learning why he cheating in the first place.

The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It is a great source of information and insight.

Focus on the present and future – not the past. Focus on becoming more connected emotionally, spending time together, remembering what brought you together in the first place, and building a strong happy relationship. To survive an emotional affair, refuse to stay stuck in the past.

Focus on rebuilding your love, trust, and connection. You need to put the emotional affair behind you, because if you let your jealousy and insecurity affect your relationship, you’ll drive a wedge between you. Marriages are plagued with “a thousand tiny betrayals” – and to prevent those hurts from destroying your relationship, you need to forgive and let it go. Try to focus on reconnecting with your spouse (not rehashing the affair). Instead of staying stuck in the past, concentrate on your goal of rebuilding your marriage. A book like the The Magic of Making Up can be very helpful — and it can give you hope for the future.

Marriage coach Mort Fertel says cheating husbands may be less likely to cheat again. After an emotional affair, you may be able to trust him more than a man in a new relationship. For more info, read What to Do When You Catch Your Spouse Cheating. 

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  219 Responses to “Can You Trust a Man Who Cheated on You? How to Survive an Affair”

  1. Hi,

    I’ve read through a lot of the comments here and most of them refer to counseling for infidelity. My situation is different. I have known my husband 27 years (we met while I was a teenager). Twenty of those years have been married.

    About 6 years ago we separated for a month and he moved out of state and lived the “high life”. We had not had a good marriage at all, he was traveling all the time for his work and never wanted to be intimate with me. During that time, I worked full time and took care of our two children. He told me he was having a great time, he had two divorsed roommates and they had a lot of parties. I was convinced he was cheating on me and devistated that the marriage was over and felt that most of my good years had been wasted on him. At that time, I had no alone time for myself. He came to visit the children on my birthday and I went to spend the night in a hotel. I met someone whom was visiting the area and he proceeded to buy me several drinks, for the first time in my life i cheated on my husband that one night (even though we were separated), we were still married. I was guilt ridden and felt different. For me this one night stand, was not something that was exciting, thrilling etc. It was a mistake. A few days later, whether due to my change in attitude, he decided he would like to come home. During this time we had a serious talk about the things that had happend and a “come clean” session. I told him about the one night stand, and he told me he had cheated on me repeatedly and had an affair with my best friend. I don’t know how I got through the next several years to be honest, but I started going to theraphy for myself and we went to marriage counseling. We did the counseling sessions, together and i poured my heart out. It has been about 6 years now. A year ago we decided to call the marriage quits, and he moved out of state. We lived separately. During this time, I never once went to a bar, or accepted “drink requests” from co-workers. I gave my life to Jesus and decided I did not need a man to make me happy and whole. And I have been perfectly content since that day. Recently 2 months ago, he asked to reconcile, I had gotten over my anger and hurt and said I was happy to live without him or to live with him, however, if we were to reconcile I did not want any surprises down the road and I wanted to know everything. I just found out 2 days ago now, that during the course of our 3 month “marriage counseling” while he was traveling for work he was screwing other women 6 was the number he provided. This was during a time when we lived under the same roof and were supposedly honestly trying to repair our marriage. While this happened 6 years ago, I can’t get over it. I can’t even wrap my head around this. This man has been so unfaithful to me, I can’t forgive and forget this. I can’t get over the hurt. His response to me for doing this –I was hurt over your infidelity and so I was vindictive. I just don’t get it, he had repeatedly been unfaithful to me, lied about his affairs, made me believe there was something wrong with me, that I was the insecure one and seeing things that weren’t there. I had been able to get over the past, but with this new information, I’m angry. I’m angry with myself for even considering reconsiling with this man, I’m angry that I must have “fool” written all over my forehead. And I cannot bring myself to even consider reconciliation! And he has the nerve to call me this morning and tell me “I understand your angry, take your time, I still want an reconciliation and will give you space”.

    I don’t know if there is anyone who understands this, but I did not want to file for divorse as I believed it was not God’s intention for marriage. But at this point, I don’t want to be married now to this man and I never want to be with another man or any relationship ever again.

    If someone could help me to make sense of this, and how to get over the hurt and betrayal, I would appreciate.

  2. Whether or not you can trust a man who cheated on you depends on how good you are at forgiving, and whether you really think that he won’t cheat again. If my husband cheated, I think I could trust him again because I know how guilty and bad he’d feel! Of course, that’s why I think he’ll never cheat in the first place (but that’s what all women think, don’t they?).

  3. Dear Anna,

    I have to say, it’s not a good sign that he’s secretive about his communications or meetings with his ex-wife — and you’re right to let it bother you! Your instincts are telling you that something isn’t right…and ignoring your instincts is setting yourself up for a fall.

    You and your partner need to tie up the loose ends of your previous marriages, and fully commit to one another. My best advice is for you and him to talk to a counselor together, so you can both learn what you should and should not know about his separation agreement. And, you both need to learn what he should keep private to “protect” you (which is really just him protecting himself), and what needs to be openly discussed.

    Talk to a counselor. Even if you don’t go to couples counseling, I encourage you to talk to someone on your own, to gain insight and clarity into your relationship.

    And, I don’t know if you two had time apart between your prior marriages and your relationship together, but….it can be important to fully detach and heal from one spouse before you move in with another. If he hasn’t moved on from his ex-wife, then he might need time and space to do that before he can focus on building a life with you.

    I wish you all the best, and hope you and he talk to a counselor together.


  4. I have been with my partner just over a year. We are both separated from our spouses. He is very secretive about his communication with his ex-wife. He is not properly or legally separated yet despite being apart from her for 2 years. I recently discovered that he had met her secretly to talk over their separation agreement and they spent the night in a hotel but were not intimate. He felt it best not to tell me this at the time as he thought I would be upset. I am devastated by the secrecy and lies but do believe nothing happened between them. I feel like an outsider in our relationship and am not sure how to get over this betrayal and even if I actually can. I dont understand why he would feel the need to go to such lengths to keep their meeting secret if his motivation was innocent. Am trying very hard to move on but its very difficult. Any comments/help!?

  5. First off, I’m a guy. So, from my perspective, I would let it go, don’t get mad with him…don’t give him a hard time. Look, he wants to be with you. Even if he said those things to the other girl, if he now wants to be with you, give him another chance. I think he will appreciate you more now.

  6. I am very confused and not sure what to think with my marriage of 7 years right now. Over the last year my husband has had a friendship with another female. Her and her husband were family friends and we had them over to stay at our house a lot. My husband talked to her every day, sent text messages to her, skyped with her late at night, and shared very personal thoughts with her. He basically treated her like he used to treat me when we were dating. He said she was just like a sister to him, that they had a lot in common, and that there was nothing romantic about their relationship – that I was his wife and she was his friend. While they were friends, he was really trying to be a better husband to me – something that he has failed at quite a bit over our marriage. Even so, he told her things like “I love you” “You are beautiful and Wonderful” “I could sit with you and not say anything for hours” “Looking into your eyes fills me with joy” etc. He hid his phone, computer, deleted text messages, and skype conversations. He also took time off from work to take us to do things with her and her husband – time that he hasn’t taken off in years. He lied to me continuously about talking to her because he didn’t want to upset me but then also filled me in on all kinds of other things about when they talked.

    It got to the point where I told him and her they could not talk and that I would leave if he ever talked to her again. He was very repentfull and he says that it was just a friendship and that he didn’t understand why his friend had to be a girl – that there wasn’t anything romantic going on. He has really tried to step things up here at home since, but still doesn’t treat me like he was treating her.

    I am torn apart. I have trouble believing that he didn’t have romantic feelings for her. I have told him I think he has had an emotional affair, but he assures me that wasn’t what it was. I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel dead inside.

  7. Dear Mary,

    Sometimes we don’t know what the right thing to do is until we actually DO it. That is, hindsight is 20/20….which means that we sometimes need to take action in order to learn what will work.

    I can’t tell you if a divorce would be better for you and your family, but you have to remember that “staying together for the sake of the kids” can be as (or more) damaging for kids than separation or divorce. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, your daughter probably senses it. She doesn’t know why you’re unhappy, and she may even blame herself (because that’s what kids do).

    Sometimes the benefits of divorce and seeking a better, happier life outweigh the negative effects. Yes, divorcing and starting over is stressful, traumatic, and difficult to bounce back from….but the alternative is staying the marriage you’re in right now. Your husband probably won’t change.

    I just heard of a woman who divorced her husband, but they’re staying in the same home. They divorced amicably, but want and need to live together for the kids and finances.

    I suggest you talk to a divorce mediator or counselor to start learning about the possibilities. This doesn’t mean you’ll ask for a divorce — and I’m not saying you SHOULD get one. But, I think it’s important to start taking tentative steps towards choices. Taking action — even just by making phone calls — is empowering and can help you see options you’re otherwise not aware of.

    If you really want to stay with your husband for the sake of your daughter, then I suggest you find ways to live “above” your situation. Create a healthy lifestyle with lots of activities that make you happy. Find ways to live fully outside of your marriage. Build a strong spiritual life — reconnect with God or a higher power, anything that makes you feel strong, whole, and fulfilled.

    Of course, another options is couples counseling!

    I wish you courage, wisdom, and strength to not only know what the right thing to do is — but actually do it.


  8. Hi Paula,

    I’m surprised that your marriage counselor hasn’t encouraged you and your husband to discuss his emotional affair! I’ve read “Why Men Cheat” and “The Truth About Cheating” by marriage counselor Gary Neuman, and I’m positive he suggests that spouses discuss the affair. He doesn’t say that spouses should share every little detail, but he encourages some disclosure. Of course, the amount and type of disclosure depends on the individual marriage…and it does help to have a couples therapist present, for guidance and support.

    I suggest that you trust your gut. Don’t lose touch of what you really think and feel, and don’t let fear, insecurity, guilt, or embarrassment make you do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Deep down, you may know what’s best for you and your marriage. You may know what you should do…but knowing what we should do and actually doing it are two different things!

    Have you considered seeing a different marriage counselor? It’s important to “shop around” for the right therapist, just like we should be finding the right massage therapists, family doctors, chiropractors, etc. The first counselor you talk to may not be the best one for you…especially if you’re not comfortable about the way she or he is guiding your therapy.

    Another thought is to seek individual counseling. You don’t necessarily need to see a therapist for weeks or months — sometimes all we need is a session or two to help us figure out what we really think and need.

    Finally, I completely agree that it’s not appropriate for your husband to have friendships with other women…even if they’re totally innocent. If he can’t understand or respect your wishes, and you can’t convince him of the seriousness of how you feel, then you have to decide if you want to live with him and your marriage as it is right now. You need to decide if you can accept your life the way it is, with your husband the way he is. A different marriage counselor may help him see that he needs to save all his time and emotional energy for you…

    I hope this helps a little, and I also hope you let me know how things are going!


  9. Hi Dave,

    I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s physical and emotional affair…it’s SO difficult to forgive and move on. Rebuilding trust after a betrayal takes 100% commitment — and once you forgive your wife, you may be able to reconnect with her.

    Here’s an article I wrote for my new site (Quips and Tips for Love Relationships):

    Ways to Rebuild Trust in Marriage After Infidelity

    I hope it helps….