Surviving Infidelity:
A Marriage Success Story

(The following is a true story. Although Marriage Guardian made some editorial changes, it is told mostly in the author’s own words. He has approved this condensed version.)


The Discovery

My wife and I have been married for 38 years. Three years ago I discovered that she had been cheating on me for about 12 years.

All that time I had suspected, but refused to believe that anything was going on. I blindly trusted that she was telling me the truth. I caught them through her cell phone records after receiving an email from his ex-wife saying that they were having an affair.

At first she denied it. For a few days after confronting her and her not saying anything, I told her, "Right now our marriage is at its lowest point. I am going to give you all day today to decide if you want to tell me more about this. When I get home from work tonight I want you to tell me everything that is going on and has been going on. If you tell me ‘the worst’ has happened, I will try to stay with you and try to work it out if you want to. If you tell me none of this is true, and we ‘get over it,’ but then I find out 2 or 6 months or a year from now that you lied to me, we will be done, forever."

At first she denied it. For a few days after confronting her and her not saying anything, I told her, "Right now our marriage is at its lowest point. I am going to give you all day today to decide if you want to tell me more about this. When I get home from work tonight I want you to tell me everything that is going on and has been going on. If you tell me ‘the worst’ has happened, I will try to stay with you and try to work it out if you want to. If you tell me none of this is true, and we ‘get over it,’ but then I find out 2 or 6 months or a year from now that you lied to me, we will be done, forever."

That night when I got home she told me everything. Her emotions were very high and she begged me not to leave her. She was so upset that she ran to the bathroom and vomited several times. My wife has only thrown up one other time during our marriage, and that was food poisoning.

My emotions were equally out of control. I was hyperventilating and felt at the same time that I was having some sort of "out of body" experience.

After about an hour of crying and wailing (honestly, I think the neighbors could hear me even though the doors and windows were closed), I decided I had to get out, drive around, collect myself, just do something. I went into the garage and backed the car out. She came outside and asked me where I was going. I told her I didn't know, I just needed to drive. She begged me to come along, so I let her in the car and just started driving.

About three blocks down the road I said, "Don't think for a minute that you are going to blame me for any of this!" It was quiet for a moment and she said: "So you don't think you have any responsibility in this?"

When she asked me that question, it was sort of like the reality of my shortcomings was made crystal clear to me. Mind you, I don't take blame for what she did, and she doesn't blame me. But even though I had been faithful to my wife our entire marriage, I wasn't a perfect husband by any stretch.

The truth is that I was cold and unloving to my wife for many years. I had said many things to her that were mean and insensitive. Over the years I made her feel less and less important to me.

One time that stands out (and she and I have talked about this), I was involved in a part time, multi-level type business. I could not get her to support me and I was growing increasingly frustrated with her. We were lying in bed talking (arguing) about it one night and finally I sat up and said, "If you will not support me in this business, I will find someone who will!" Oh, how I wish I had never said that. Even when I said it, I felt sick inside.

It was shortly after that event that she finally gave in to the guy that was pursuing her.

But that was just one thing. There were many other times when I said things that made her feel like I didn't care about her anymore. Hurtful things.

I realize that it wasn't just her. I had played a part, too. I take full responsibility for my part in driving her into the arms of the other man. I know, however, that she is still responsible for her actions. And so does she.

Forgiveness

Well, we drove and cried, and drove and cried. We headed out into a desolate area near our home and just drove and cried some more. She was sobbing and telling me how sorry she was and bad she felt.

At some point during the drive, something changed inside me. Up to that point I felt "gutted." I was so full of hatred for her lover, and so hurt from what she had done to me. Despair, anguish, really bad pain like nothing I ever thought I could endure.

Suddenly, while she was sobbing and apologizing and begging me to forgive her, the feelings inside me changed from the anger and pain, and I felt a very strong sense of compassion for her. I could tell that she was truly sorry for what she had done. I could just tell. Don't expect me to be able to prove anything. Please just accept the fact that I'm not a stupid person and sometimes you just know when someone is being real.

At the first wide spot in the road, I pulled over quickly and threw the gear selector into park. She had her face buried in her hands, sobbing. When I pulled over she looked at me with a panicked expression. (She told me later that she thought I was going to make her get out of the car.) I unbuckled my seat belt and then hers, and reached for her and told her that I forgave her and I loved her.

She tried to push me away saying stuff like, "No, no, you can't. I've been so horrible."

I pulled her close to me and cried and continued to tell her that I loved her, that I was sorry that I had treated her so badly, that I forgave her and would never leave her.

Somehow I knew that, even though I wanted to, I could not call her names, could not tell her I hated her, and could not say anything other than how I felt and how hurt I was. I knew (without really consciously thinking about it) that I would someday regret it if I spewed those things out of my mouth and verbally attacked her.

Somehow I was able to do what turned out to be the right thing (at least in our situation). And even after I forgave her, I still hurt, I still hated, and I was still crying. But I realized at that point how much I loved my wife. And I believed that, even though she did what she did, she still loved me.

Working Things Out

We radically adjusted our lives.

For 6 weeks all we did was talk. No TV, no movies, absolutely no time apart other than for my job. It's all we knew to do at the time. I didn't want to be anywhere else and neither did she. From the very first day after she told me about the affair, every day that I was at work, she would call me whenever she left the house for any reason, and call me again when she returned. That was her idea before I thought of it. She still does it today.

I have full access to her cell phone bill and email account, and she told me she feels more secure knowing that I WANT to keep tabs on her.

The thing that makes this accountability work is that most of it has been her idea and she gives me absolutely no resistance. It is part of our plan to rebuild our marriage, and not just my plan.

Early every morning we spend about 45 minutes or so reading the Bible to each other and discuss what we read. I am surviving and even flourishing in my life because I embrace this truth from the Bible: God will "never leave you nor forsake you." I have come to value myself as a creation of God, and as an object of His love. Neither my wife nor any other woman could ever give me the sense of being loved so unconditionally.

I now know that the only way that I can ever feel secure in my value as a human being and as a man is to understand that I am important, loved, and valued by God.

I also know I could not have forgiven her if I could not feel the love that God has for me (after all, He has forgiven me for a lot of stuff). I just wouldn't have the strength.

Reading the Bible is something we enjoy and look forward to. It really does increase our faith and our strength every day.

We also read from books about relationships and marriage.

We were going to the gym at different times, so we cancelled our gym memberships and now work out at home together. For us, this has made us even closer. We love working out together.

She and I email each other several times throughout the day and say very nice, romantic things to each other.

In the evenings, we will sit and talk. Sometimes we just engage in small talk about our day and sometimes we talk about "us." The important thing is that we don't just watch TV and we don't go to our separate places to do our own thing. We enjoy each other’s company.

Most nights we enjoy physical intimacy. The night she confessed everything to me, I thought we could never have sex again. I even said that to her. But after I forgave her, I knew I had to start immediately to get that part of our life back. So, the very next night we made love and went for about 65 or 66 days straight. Skipped a day and then started again. Not trying to break any records. Just a new attitude and reorganized priorities on my part. I had almost lost the most important person in my life, and I was not about to let that happen because of anything I was unwilling to change.

I began talking to her while we made love, telling her how much I love her and how I was feeling. We started leaving the light on. Something about having the light on and our eyes open is really good for us. It is still that way today. We have just slowed down and learned to really enjoy pleasing each other. Changing our lovemaking was something she had always wanted but I had been too uncomfortable to do. Honestly, I was about a once a week guy before. Too busy chasing success. Worn out at the end of the day. What a waste of life.

Counseling

She almost immediately began counseling with an incredibly brilliant lady (professional Christian counselor). Of course I got counseling, too, but I met with another counselor. I wanted her to have her own private sessions so she didn't feel like she had to hold anything back because of me being there. The counseling helped her tremendously, which in turn helped me. We went once a week for about 10 weeks. We scheduled our sessions on my days off so I could go with her. I would drop her off, go to the drug store to buy her a nice card, and give it to her when she came out of her counseling session. Then we would discuss our sessions over lunch.

On the advice of my counselor, I told her that I reserved the right to ask questions at any time. I never asked her specific graphic questions about the sexual activity that took place. My imagination could pretty much answer these painful questions for me. What was the point of creating more pain for both of us?

But I did ask her some very hard questions. Where did you meet with him? Where was I? Was I out of town? Did you sleep with him in our bed? Did you talk about me with him? Did you ever go to him while I was at home? Did you ever go out in public with him? Do you love him?

A few times, I came home from work and she would say, "I have more to tell you.” Because she was willing to hold nothing back, I knew that she wanted to change. It took about 2 months for me to get the majority of the hard questions out. I don't need to ask them anymore, but I still ask her questions about her daily activities to maintain accountability on her part. She is fine with that.

But as we talked and discussed these things, I began to get a picture of what I had done or not done to make her feel like she had to go somewhere else to get her emotional needs met.

So now I treat her like a woman who has been forgiven and her "evil past" erased. That's all I know to do. It doesn't always feel good, but I do it.

For me, forgiving her was not just about accepting her back into my heart. It was probably even more important for my mental health.

I had to forgive the other guy also. I don't like him and I never will. But by forgiving him, I have removed his power from my life. Otherwise I would be tormented by rage, hatred and every other negative emotion that goes with this kind of betrayal.

Three Years Later

I am careful not to bring up the infidelity. I feel like it would not be fair to her because she has told me so many times how sorry she is. I do not want to do or say anything to make her feel like I haven't forgiven her.

We still talk about it once in a while, but more in terms of how much we have gone through and how much better things are now.

There is not enough space to tell you here how focused we both are in staying the course, of all the things we are doing to reassure each other that we are willing to do our part. But the things we did, and continue to do, to get our marriage back on track are working for us. It has been three years now, and we are closer than we have ever been. We know each other’s weaknesses and sins. We know what we expect from each other and we both do our best to move forward.

Also, it's important to mention that I didn't just stay and work things out for me. I did it for her, for our kids (who do know what happened, by the way, and had suspected all along) and our grandkids. I understand the ramifications that a divorce can have on extended family, and as much as is possible within me, I am determined for our marriage to be an example of overcoming adversity. I believe she feels the same way.

Conclusion

The fact that I was able to recognize what I did to her and admit it to myself and to her, made it easier (not easy) to forgive her. When she heard me confess my inadequacy as

a loving husband and then declare my willingness to put her first in my life, it also made it much easier for her to forget about the other guy.

It just seems really simple to me now. If I will give my wife what no other man can give her, she will never want another. So far that philosophy is working for both of us.

Many people will discredit any level of success in restoring a marriage after adultery. But, my story is not unique. There are many stories as successful as mine. Not everyone stays bitter and full of hate after they have been cheated on. There are those who really believe there is hope.

My motto is: "As long as I am alive there is hope." And I will exhaust every option to keep what is valuable to me.


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