Rebuilding After Divorce And Infidelity

If you've been through or are considering divorce and infidelity was a factor in your relationship, the following support and input from the life coach may help.

Is my marriage worth saving?

Angie's Question: My husband has admitted to having had two affairs and a 1-night stand in our 6-year marriage. He said the most recent affair ended because he suddenly realized that if it continued, "... I was going to lose everything I had". The reasons he gives for the affairs is the same ... he didn't think I loved him. My husband has "repented" of his sinful ways, claims to have abandoned the affair partner, says he loves me, and appears to be working on improving our relationship -- finances, church attendance, household chores, odd jobs that have been waiting for a few years to get done - you name something positive to do for a marriage - he's been doing it. He says he is sorrier than I will ever know. My question to you is this: In your opinion, is my husband's illicit behavior likely to be repeated? I don't trust him. I find it harder now to be affectionate than before. I don't see how, if he thought I didn't love him before I learned of these affairs, how can he manage to stay out of another one when I feel less affectionate to him now? Thank you again, in advance, for any comments/advice you can offer. And thanks for having this website available ... sometimes it just helps to have someone to talk to.

Gloria's Answer: It is my pleasure to take a few minutes to see if I can offer you some support in any way that I can. To begin, affairs are messy, always selfish, and very painful - for both parties. I can definitely feel the hurt and the anxiety in your note, and I do understand the lack of trust in your marriage. BUT as I often say in my column, you do have a choice!

From your note, it sounds as if your husband is doing everything he knows to do to show you how much he truly loves you. He loves his family, he loves you, and he has no way of going back and changing what he did in the past. None of us do. Yet, he is trying. He is being honest with you. He is being patient with you as I'm sure that he is seeing the difference in your affection for him. And he is holding on to the hope that someday you will forgive him.

Will he ever be unfaithful to you again? There are no guarantees there. Not even for the woman who has a husband who has never been unfaithful before. Life happens, and sometimes life gets very messy because people mess up and people are imperfect. So, what are you going to do with it? You can choose to move forward - to fight the fight within yourself to save your marriage which will include challenging these attitudes, insecurities, doubts, and fears of your own, or you can choose not to. You aren't a victim, Angie, and personally, I would love to see you give it your all to save your marriage.

How can I convince my husband that his affair didn't ruin everything?

Karen's Question: It has been 18 months since my husband ended his emotional affair with a co-worker. Since his return, I have had a hard time coping with trusting him again and feelings of jealousy when he is around other women, at work or anywhere. My husband on the other hand has stepped up to the plate; he is affectionate, understanding, patient, loving and completely transparent. He is the husband I always wanted. He says that the guilt is so overwhelming that everything he does now is only for my happiness because he doesn't want to hurt me anymore, but he is suffering. His self-esteem is so low that he feels he doesn't deserve to be with me after what he did. I totally disagree and feel that we have learned a lot and have become better after the affair, albeit after an incredible amount of pain and suffering, but I want to be with him. How can I convince my husband that I love him unconditionally and that this relationship is not ruined now?

Gloria's Answer: I'm so proud of both of you! Karen, you have forgiven and are willing to rebuild; and your husband has stepped up and is following up in his commitment to you in word and deed. What a great thing for the two of you! With that being said, there are a couple issues that the two of you need to address in order to continue moving forward in a wonderful and healthy way.

First, I want for you to recognize that it is not your responsibility to convince him that your relationship is not ruined. Unless he believes it himself, he will continue to loathe himself, which is never a good thing, and he will eventually push you away because he will begin to pass some of that guilty and resentment on to you. And as painful as it is to recognize, we (the faithful ones) have many times in one way or another contributed to the events that lead to the infidelity in the first place. Rarely is one person solely guilty; and the other completely innocent.

Second, guilt is exhausting. He must stop punishing himself. Yes, he did something he now regrets and wishes it was different, but the truth is, he cannot change the past - nor can any of us.

My best advice for both of you at this point is to let go of the past. It's done, its history, and it cannot be undone. We must never forget the lessons from our past, but never should we let the guilt get in the way of building a wonderful and solid future. How you can do this and support him as well is to continually live in the present moment. Be careful not to say, "I love you anyway." or continue to say, "I forgive you". Instead, "I love you today and always." and "You are the most important person to me in this very moment."

Sometimes in our trying to be helpful and supportive, we find ways to continually remind and add a little more salt to the wound. Let go of the guilt and the mistakes of the past. All that is truly promised is today - cherish it!

He's cheated on me repeatedly. What should I do?

Question: My husband of 24 years has had several 'relationships' with other women; the last of which I was able to confirm was a full blown affair. I suspected each and every one of these 'relationships' and confronted him, only to be told I was crazy and just being paranoid. I now feel like an idiot for staying and keep asking myself why I do. I feel he'll do it again and do not trust much of his apparent attempts to make things right. He is a manipulator and I have played his game a long time and don't trust myself because of it. How do I get myself out of this rut?

Gloria's Answer: You are not an idiot, you are just scared. And the reason you are staying in the rut is simply that you are afraid. But I want to ask you what you are truly afraid of. Being lonely? Paying the bills? Being too old to meet someone else? Are you afraid that he might actually change his ways and you will live in regret?

Take the time to really think about what your fears are trying to tell you. Write them down and one by one come up with a plan on how you would deal with each one. If you are afraid of being lonely, think of different things you could do and who you could do them with that would be fun. If you are afraid of not having enough money, then decide what you would like to do about that.

Living in an unfaithful marriage is truly uncomfortable. Yet, considering leaving and being on your own can be as equally uncomfortable. It's time to make a decision on which one is worth doing something about.

After all his affairs, how do I find the strength to fight for my marriage?

Lorrie's Question: We've now been married for 12 years with 3 gorgeous children. He admitted to several affairs when I finally found the strength to ask him to move out 8 months ago. When I "knew" about the first affair (8 years ago), I fought for my marriage and everything that was right in my life. With this latest affair, I have found myself emotionally detached. I feel no passion towards him and honestly don't want to make love to him anymore. My husband and I have always been great companions, even throughout the toughest of times. We are great friends and since I asked him to move out he has been a knight in shining armor but that doesn't repair the past. I find myself angry at the situation I am in because I have this beautiful family with my "best" friend, but I am terribly depressed and believe there is more than this. I am in a good place but I have little fight left in me for my marriage.

Gloria's Answer: You said that you have no fight left in you to fight for your marriage, so I want to give you an out - stop fighting for your marriage! Now take a deep breath, and relax, take all the pressure off yourself, so that you can start fighting for what you really want. And I have to wonder what that really is?

From your note, it sounds like you want a husband who loves you, who is faithful to you, who is willing to put his family first, who is your "best friend", who will stand by you no matter what, who will stir the fires of passion within you, who will always be honest with you, and so many other things. None of this is unreasonable or fantasy, Lorie. You deserve to be with someone who honors and respects you like this!

So, start fighting for all of this. You say that you have forgiven your husband, but you are holding on to the past. I'd love to see you let the past go, but if you decide not to (and it is a decision!), then let him go completely. Let him find someone who will be passionate with him, who will not have the bad memories, who will continue to live life fully with him, and give yourself the same opportunity. You aren't stuck in any of this. You have the power to choose. Decide on what you want, let go of what you don't want, and begin fighting for what is truly worth fighting for.

Break Free from the Affair

How can I keep my husband's affair from harming the kids?

Question: I am considering getting a divorce because my husband had a love affair, but I don't want it to have a negative impact on my children. I am financially dependent on him and not sure what to do. Please help.

Gloria answers: First and foremost, know that you are not alone! Many women have been in the situation that you are now facing, and I love that you are reaching out for support during this time. That's a good thing.

I also want to encourage you in the midst of it all to know that you always have options. When we look at our lives and our dependency on our husband's, there is a tendency to feel locked in and stuck with no options. But there are always things that we can do - and you have the power to do them! Let's explore a few:

You have the power to choose how you would like to handle the affair. Just because your husband cheated doesn't automatically mean divorce. You can choose to work things out, get the counseling you may need, choose to forgive, and begin again to rebuild the relationship and trust within the guidelines you agree to. You can also choose to go the way of divorce and move in that direction. No one can make that decision for you, and really no one should. No one is living your life, but you. And no matter which way you decide, it will not be an easy road. Both require a lot of time, energy, love, and support.

Your greatest asset right now is your mind. Information is power, so I would challenge you to continue on your quest for as much information as you can get. What help is there out there for you to take the next step? Who do you need to talk to find out your missing pieces? What book can you read from the library that will encourage you right now? What legal and financial resources are available for you to continue on with your decision?

Also, I'd love to lift some of the burden of the children from your shoulders. No matter what you choose, you have not hurt your children; your husband's unfaithfulness has hurt the children. What you can do now is work with your children in how to best handle these consequences. I remember when I was going through this a very wise counselor shared with me that often as parents we try to shield our kids from the hurts of the world, but sooner or later we all have to face them. He reminded me that now was the time to model for them how to work with pain, deal with the anger, and heal from the hurts in the best way that I could. I also wanted to show them just how powerful their Mom was when life wasn't what I wished it would be. In hindsight, that was the best gift I could've given them, and that is what I want most for YOU! » Return to top

Is it right that he takes our boys around his girlfriend?

Julie's Question: My husband has committed adultery. We still live together because he will not move out. He takes his girlfriend around my two boys, who are six and nine. They tell him they want to be around her, but then they cry to me saying they are not ready. How can I convince my husband not to take the boys around her? Do you think that is right of him to do that? He could have waited until we were legally separated or divorce was final.

Gloria's Answer: Julie, Julie - He has a girlfriend that he is openly bringing into your home and the lives of your children, and you are making it okay?? It's time for you to find your strength, get angry, and stop letting him walk all over you!

The question is not whether or not it is right regarding the girlfriend being around the kids. The real question is whether or not it is right for your children to see YOU making all of this okay. He could've waited and he could've made other choices, and all the while, you could've put all of his stuff in trash bags thrown it outside, changed the locks, and kicked him out of the house - while the kids were visiting grandma or a friend, of course.

Your boys need to see that their Mom has some self-respect, that she honors faithfulness in marriage, and that she will stand up for them and be there for them. Your husband needs to see that you are not a doormat who will always be there and will put up with whatever he dishes out. If you are done fighting for you marriage, you file the papers, you kick him out or move out, and you take the lead. If you want to fight for you marriage though, begin to stand up for yourself and stop making this okay with you.

After the divorce and the two of you officially set up two homes, you can move through the anger, support your boys to accept this new woman if that is the end result, and begin to rebuild your new life again with your boys. Until then, it is time you reclaim your power and your own belief in yourself. Get really angry that you don't love yourself more!

He had a child with another woman. What do I do now?

Connie's Question: I am currently separated from my husband of 27 years. I recently learned that he had something else going on in his life for the last 20 years. He'd had an affair and has been part of the life of the illegitimate child that resulted all those years ago. He tried to pay her off initially, but it just snowballed after years and soon he would be paying more money and acknowledging the daughter with birthday cards, gifts and large sums of money at different periods in her life.

He's had all these years to get used to this situation. I've had it all dumped on me at once. He says he loves me and wants to work it out. He's moved out of the house and nothing legal is being done at this point. At first I thought "legal separation", but now I'm thinking divorce. I don't know how I'm going to trust him again and I know that's the foundation for any relationship to exist. What are your thoughts?

Gloria's Answer: My first thought, and you may not like this thought, is what a truly loving and caring person your husband is! He could've just walked away from his child, but he didn't. He didn't want his child to live a life of not knowing who his/her father was, wondering his entire life why he left without a thought, and why he didn't help to take care of him in whatever way he could. I, for one, admire his heart and sense of responsibility.

Now, I can also hear your objections here on why he didn't feel that he had the same responsibility to tell you about her. My guess is that he didn't want this same reaction from you any sooner. He didn't want to lose you!

From your note, it doesn't sound like he has continued on with the affair all these years. It happened years ago and resulted in a child. I don't know what finally spurred him on to telling you about it, but the fact that he says he still loves you isn't so surprising. He cannot go back and fix his past decisions and mistakes. He can only apologize and try to show you again how important you really are to him, while still not turning his back on his own flesh and blood.

I'm not trying to make him out to be a saint here, but the truth is - none of us are saints!! None of us are perfect, honest all the time, or truthful in every way. We ALL make mistakes - some bigger than others, and it does serve us well to remember that each one of us is made of the same stuff. Connie, you can forgive if you choose to. You can trust again, if you want to. And you can get through this and continue to spend your life with a man who loves you no matter what mistakes you've made in the past, too.

Is It Time To Move On?

Shari: We've been married for 7 years I never would have believed my husband would have an affair, but he did. I moved out over 8 months ago and filed for divorce. He has continued to see the other women, telling me all along the way that he has stopped seeing her, but I found out through friends that he still has contact with her daily by phone or person. He will not sign the divorce papers and says he wants me back, but he is very different and distant from me. We tried counseling but he stopped going. Whenever I bring up anything about the affair, he says I just trying to start a fight. All I'm trying to do is find answers. Do you have any suggestions? Is it time to move on?

Gloria's Answer: I want to begin by acknowledging you for all the effort you have put in to trying to keep your marriage together! You choose to forgive an affair and began to work through it. You set up counseling and went. You continue to look for the answers, and yet, you keep coming back to the same truth - the affair continues, and the same thought - When is it time to move on?

No one can give you the answer to that question, yet I would encourage you to come up with your own answer that you feel good about. Really ask yourself when enough is enough? Really question what YOU want now based on all the information you have, and make a decision based on that information.

Also know that men who are in the midst of an affair will often put up the defenses and do whatever they have to do to justify their actions. Don't fall for this! Get clear about what you most want, tell him calmly and honestly that he cannot have his cake and eat it too, and that here's what you are going to do next. You are an amazingly forgiving and determined woman - You can do this!!

How do I handle being around him and his girlfriend?

Lori's Question: After 15 years of marriage, my husband has decided he wants a divorce. He says he doesn't love me and may have never really loved me. He stayed with me all these years because he knew I loved him and was a good person and wife. Now he has other love interests and wants a divorce. How do I just let go and let another women step into my life. She is moving to be closer to him and I don't know how I will handle this. We have two children so I can't just remove myself from his life. He was not only the man I loved and thought I would spend the rest of my life with but my best friend too.

Gloria's Answer: I truly feel sorry for men who tell their wives that they never really loved them. It really is a shame that they lie to themselves so much! Feelings and people do change over time, but for you, know that that statement just isn't true. You sound like a truly wonderful woman who would be very easy to love!

You are absolutely right when you say that you cannot remove yourself totally from his life now. With children, this new woman is very much going to be a part of your life as well as your children's lives. And the truth is, you have very little to say about it. You can try and fight it, resist it, get angry over it every time her name is mentioned OR you can accept it and move on.

How? As I often encourage my clients and others, take excellent care of yourself first - love yourself in every way you can! And then begin to develop relationships with other friends - join a book club, a Rotary club or other like organization, take karate lessons or join a gym.

Know that it does take time for you to go through the emotions that are inevitable - anger, sadness, fear, hate - but in time, you will move into accepting this new phase of your life and move on again. Maybe it's time for you to be your own best friend!

How Can I Trust Again?

Lisa's Question: How can I ever trust another man after a 12 year marriage that my ex cheated on me, was controlling, and now remarrying only 9 months after our divorce? I am 43 and he was 4 years younger than me. We have 3 sons. I just have no desire to date and when I have tried, it is usually with someone way younger, who has never been married and doesn't understand children.

Gloria's Answer: Trust is a funny thing. We think that it should come naturally, easily, and with no doubts or questions, but from my perspective, that is rarely the case. We trust not because it is an automatic thing, but because we CHOOSE to trust. You chose to trust your spouse, and he broke that trust. Now you are faced with the nagging question of will I be able to trust again? The answer is yes, if you choose to.

When it comes to dating, trust again is not an automatic thing. This time around you may be a little more reserved as your trust will have to be earned, and that isn't a bad thing! My challenge for you is to begin the journey of trusting yourself first. Trust yourself to make smart decisions when it comes to the next man; trust that you will know what to do when the time comes; and trust that you will do what is best for your children.

Practice trusting yourself first and foremost. From there, you'll know how to trust others around you whether they are a friend, family member, or future boyfriend.

Should the family outings continue?

Tanaisha's Question: My divorce was final four months ago. My ex-husband has been living with the young lady he cheated with for 8 or 9 months. They now have a two month old baby. He wants to have lunch and so on with me and my kids like a family again. He talks to me as if he realizes he made a mistake and wants to come home. Is this a wise decision since everything is already final? What should be considered here?

Gloria's Answer: The biggest consideration - What do YOU want? Do you want to have him back in your life in this way? Do you want to have lunch with him and your children like a family again? Do you want to forgive and move on with this man?

You will have many people share their opinions and suggestions with you on this. Everything from, "He's a jerk and a cheat. Why would you even think about it?" to "He must really love you, and I'm sure he's learned his lesson. Why not give him a second chance to be a good husband and father to your children?" Or maybe even this thought of, "Just go to lunch. You can still be friends."

Ultimately, the choice is YOURS. What is your heart saying to you? And remember that you do not need to justify or explain your reasoning to anyone - even your ex. Make the decision based on the information and feelings you have right now, and go from there - no second guessing, no regrets. Trust your own wisdom to know what to do.

About Gloria Swardenski

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