Two years ago, I had a very brief affair with an old boyfriend from high school. We found each other on Facebook and since we both still live in the same city, we began meeting for coffee, then drinks, then sex. I am married but he is single. Anyway, my husband found out about it when he got suspicious and looked at my phone where I had some texts that pretty much gave it away. Honestly, the affair was 99% sex and I didn’t love the guy. I’m not even sure I really liked him, but my marriage was in a rut and the timing was perfectly terrible.
My husband was very hurt and angry, obviously, but we decided to go to marriage counseling and see if we could get past the fact I cheated. We have two kids and a generally happy life which seemed worth saving. After almost a year of counseling, my husband announced he had forgiven me and wanted to move on with the marriage.
Since then, he hasn’t said anything about my affair, even when we get in a fight. He is really loving and warm which he hadn’t been in the past. We stopped seeing the marriage counselor a year ago and for all intents and purposes, the marriage is intact and working. My problem is this: while my husband seems to have moved on, I can’t.
Robin, I am filled with guilt about what I did. I think about it all the time and I hate myself for it. I don’t understand why my husband doesn’t hate me too. I’m also paranoid about my husband cheating. I can’t help thinking that some day, he is going to want to get revenge on me for what I did by doing the same thing himself.
How do I get over this guilt and move on? I love my husband very much and our family means everything to me, but I am having trouble imagining feeling like this forever.
Fucking Facebook. I swear to Xenu, Facebook is fast becoming the Number 1 marriage destroyer in history. It’s so easy to reach out and connect with people, either strangers or old flames, and create an entire relationship based on idealized memories, instant gratification via messaging and “pokes” (ouch!) and heavy flirtation that can seem harmless at first, but which often morphs into something far more serious. What is it about the computer or smart phone that makes us communicate things we would never say face-to-face?
I really can’t be too flip with this subject, and I thank you for your letter. I am very happy for you and your family that your husband was willing to work on the marriage and move past the infidelity. He sounds like quite a guy, so if you really still love him, you need to make this work. In order to do that, you need to forgive yourself. Easier said than done.
Forgiveness is a gift your husband gave to you, but it was his forgiveness, which is only half of the equation. In order for your marriage to survive, you have to find a way to absolve yourself for your past behavior so that you, like your husband, can also move beyond what happened and focus on the present state of your relationship with your husband instead of the past. The million dollar question is: how do you do that?
Renowned theologian Lewis Smedes wrote extensively about forgiveness, and a wonderful quote from him on this subject is especially fitting in your case: “It takes one person to forgive, it takes two to be reunited.” He also noted that “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Your husband has already figured that out. Now it’s your turn.
I think that in order for you to begin the process of forgiving yourself and shedding your guilt-ridden baggage, you need to understand why you did what you did in the first place and figure out what that means. You said your marriage was “in a rut” which is not unusual, but you also noted that your husband’s demeanor towards you has changed to be more loving and affectionate. Perhaps you sought out the extra-marital relationship because you weren’t getting what you needed from your spouse. The good news is: he’s changed. The bad news is: it may not last, so you need to either be OK with that or impress upon your husband how important this aspect of your relationship is to you.
Experts say that a large majority of the time, cheating motivations differ by gender, with men searching for more sex or attention and women looking to fill an emotional void. Please see earlier blog regarding this issue: