The Journey Back: Healing After Infidelity

Two weeks ago we ran a post about the loneliness of overcoming infidelity in a culture that tells you that “wronged women kick those men to the curb” (the narrative is pretty gendered, I’m afraid). The outpouring of responses in the comments made it clear that this was something we needed to discuss. And no surprise, right? Sexual infidelity is pretty common in the human animal (see a past APW discussion about the potential difference between infidelity and non-monogamy here). So today Leela is here talking about the decision to save her relationship after infidelity and the ways that the experience made them more ready to get married. This conversation is important for all of us, since (shocker) no relationship is unflawed.


The Journey Back: Healing After Infidelity | A Practical Wedding

My fiancé and I sit in our kitchen, folding countless origami flowers and chatting about wedding plans. As it sometimes does lately, our conversation turns to an incident that once threatened to end our relationship. This event fundamentally changed the way that we work together as a couple. However, it does not define our relationship—nor will it define our marriage.

I discovered it by accident. He had left his email open. I opened a folder marked “jokes” thinking I could use a laugh. Instead, I found an email to another woman. I recognized her name as a friend from back home that he mentioned on rare occasion, usually in conjunction with her blog. The email was sexually explicit. “Hmm,” I thought, embarrassed by what I’d seen. “I never knew he was interested in her that way.” Then I saw the date on the message. At the time that he wrote the email, we had been dating exclusively for almost two years. A pinched, panicked feeling began to spread through my body. I took a deep breath, walked into the kitchen, and confronted him.

My world began to unravel. I was devastated to learn that my kind, thoughtful, loving boyfriend—the man who had stood by me through prolonged unemployment and serious illness, who helped me to learn to cope with my chronic anxiety and depression—had been involved in a sporadic online and texting relationship with another woman for over a year. That first night I insisted that he end it immediately, and he did. He blocked and deleted her phone number, blocked her email, and gave me full access to his email account. I threatened to throw him out of our apartment but agreed to let him sleep on the couch while I thought things over. The thoughts turned over and over in my head; a million questions without answers.

The next excruciating twist of the knife came a few days later. A visit to her blog revealed that she had written about him by name on several occasions. When he cut off all contact with her, she retaliated by posting screen shots of their sexual emails and texts. It’s hard to think clearly about the state of your damaged relationship when so much intensely private information has been made public. I had no idea what to do in the face of this dual violation. I screamed, cajoled, wept, begged, threatened, and berated. I sobbed on the bathroom floor. I fell asleep crying every night while he listened from the couch. My anxiety symptoms worsened. Ashamed to talk to my friends, I slipped into a deep depression.

I thought I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to triumphantly kick him out of the apartment that we had shared for two years. I was supposed to toss his prized possessions out the window. I was supposed to tell all of my friends what a horrible person he was, so they could tell me that they never liked him anyway. After all, I am a strong and independent woman. I had invested three years of love and trust, and I had been betrayed. So why wasn’t I staging an impromptu stoop sale with all of his belongings?

Part of it was unbridled fury. I was in agony, and I wanted him to witness every minute of it. Part of it was love. Despite everything that had happened, I could not forget the love that I still felt for him. Part of it was embarrassment. Was his terrible judgment a reflection of my own faults? Did my illness cause this? Was I so woefully inadequate that I had driven him to someone else?

The answer to each question, of course, is a resounding no. It has taken me a lot of time and therapy to realize that. It has taken him a lot of time and therapy to come to terms with what he did and why he did it. We both recognized the circumstances that brought our relationship to the precipice that is infidelity. I laid out my ground rules. He was to sleep on the couch. I reserved the right to send him away at any time. I insisted on time, but not a timeline—I couldn’t promise that a week, a month, or a year would give me the answers that I was looking for. The questions were painful. The answers were painful. We identified the things that we valued most in our relationship, and agreed to try to repair the considerable damage.

It has been a long, difficult road with a few setbacks. I wish I could say that I woke up one day knowing that things would be okay between us, but that’s not true. However, with time, my heart began to heal. To say that we have stayed together feels like an oversimplification. It is more accurate to say that we started over. Our relationship is defined by a new level of honesty. He is more vocal about his feelings, needs, and wants. He no longer avoids telling me things that he thinks will upset me. I am more honest about my health issues. We jump into difficult conversations with both feet instead of skirting issues while they fester. We are more communicative about every aspect of our relationship.

I have learned that trust, while fragile, is startlingly resilient. We became engaged last fall. We feel far more prepared for marriage now than we did before his infidelity. There are days when wedding planning stirs up unwanted emotions—when I ask myself if I can really trust him, or if he trusts me enough to be truly honest with me. When I have those fears, I do something that the old me would not have done: I talk to him about them.

Can every relationship heal after infidelity? I can only speak to our own experience. Not every relationship can be saved. Not every relationship is worth saving. Infidelity is devastating in a private, insidious way that is different for every couple. Whatever your role, it will probably make you feel dirty and ashamed. Infidelity drives you and your partner apart in every possible way. The shock of separation from the person that you love and trust more than anyone might be the most isolating feeling in the world. The loved ones in whom you confide may offer judgment and pressure when all you want is a listening ear. But remember, a person can only experience a relationship from the inside. The decisions are yours to make.

For me—for us—the hardest part was making the decision to save our relationship. The next-hardest part was sifting through all of the pain, shame, and confusion and actually doing it. But each day we spend together shows me that it can be done.

Photo by APW Sponsor Kara Schultz

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  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    This was gut-wrenching to read. I can’t even formulate a response yet except to say that an internet stranger is feeling intensely proud of you right now, for the leap you took and the work you (both) did.

  • TheQueerBird

    I absolutely love this post – thank you for sharing your story, and for doing it so well to boot.

  • dreamalittledreamalot

    Wow! A truly inspiring post – you’ve confirmed my belief that it’s easy to judge and no one else can know what is right for the two of you – particularly when sometimes you don’t know yourself!

  • Sonarisa

    This is amazing. Thank you so much for posting, and tackling an issue that is often avoided by society. I can’t imagine how it must feel to write a post like this. You got it exactly right.

  • Lizzy

    I’ve never commented before, but I just had to write something after reading this. Thank you for writing about this. My fiance and I had our own problems with infidelity in the beginning of our relationship, and it almost broke us. It doesn’t have to be an end all though. Our experience made us so much stronger as a couple. It really helps to hear other people’s stories on the subject. Thank you.

  • Granola

    Thank you for writing this – I really just wanted to give you a hug as I read it. I’m impressed by your resilience and willingness to make the right choice for you and your partner.

  • Allie

    For me, I found that the really horrible part was that the person that you most wanted to speak to in the world, your best friend, the person you trusted most, was the person who made you feel that way. That narrative of “dump his @ss” was so conflicting- it was too black and white- and the only other person on the planet who actually understood our relationship and could relate to the sense of the world crashing around us, was him. When you’re in that place, “kick him to the curb” makes about as much sense as “chop off your left arm”

  • 39bride

    Wow wow wow wow wow! Thank you so much for sharing this and sharing it with such amazing eloquence. I’ve never been in that situation (and never even thought for a moment I could be), but you put us all right in the middle of your feelings.

    Thanks so much for helping us understand not only how someone can “stay with him,” but shedding light on a possible viable path if we find ourselves there someday.

  • Megan

    Not every relationship can be saved. Not every relationship is worth saving.

    How absolutely true that is. I had goosebumps while reading, and this definitely stirred up a few memories of a bygone era for me. After I discovered infidelity in a past relationship, I was too shocked and devastated not to confide in friends and family. And though my ex and I tried to repair the relationship and stayed together for another year, I knew everyone else in my life was judging me — and not so silently — for not severing the relationship immediately.

    That was such a lonely, lonely experience . . . and though our relationship was not one of the ones worth saving, I’m so glad yours is. Thank you for sharing!

  • SarahToo

    Thanks so much for this post. When it comes to trust issues and (in)fidelity in a relationship, one of the big challenges seems to be understanding the difference between “there’s something wrong with me (or him)” and “there’s something wrong with our relationship”. When an infidelity occurs, it’s easy to assume it’s due to the former, and beat ourselves up, or blame our partner for being a “bad person” without realizing it’s often (but not always) the latter. After learning the above lesson the hard way, I’ve started treating my current relationship like a garden that needs to be tended actively, day by day. If I walk away from the garden, it won’t turn into a horrible, bug-infested jungle of weeds overnight, but it will eventually. If we are both committed to tending our relationship, creating a healthy environment for our love to grow, paying frequent attention to it, and nipping problems (especially communication and trust problems) in the bud, hopefully we can reap an abundant harvest of love for years to come. The trick is to find a partner who is willing to share the work as well as the harvest.

  • Sarah

    Thank you. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you.

  • Carisa

    Thank you so so much for sharing. For a very long time I felt like I was the only one who had decided to stay after infidelity and it is good to know others have too!

  • JEN

    Thank you for sharing. Regardless if you’re the cheater or the cheated on, it’s a horrible lonely feeling. I appreciate the comment that it is an issue with the relationship and not just one individual or another. Infidelity takes time and work to get through, and it’s certainly not pretty. It took me a long time to feel like I deserved to be happy and not consumed with guilt, that just maybe I wasn’t a horrible person who was rotten to the core. While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I am glad to say that my partner and I are more in love today than we ever were in the beginning of our relationship and our path to marriage wasn’t smooth – but it seems right. Mistakes made in the past shape us, hopefully provide opportunities to learn and grow, but most definitely don’t have to define us.

    Thank you again for so eloquently sharing.

  • Blair

    This is really, really powerful. Thank you for posting. I found myself compulsively emailing my FI and thanking him for his ability to let go of socially engendered “masculinity” enough to be honest with me about his needs.
    It takes a tremendous wisdom and patience to make it through an experience like this, regardless of the outcome. I applaud you both for your strength and for coming out the other side as champions of an honest and open life.

  • Katrina

    Thank you for opening your private life to all of us. I completely relate to you and your story-I also decided to stay in my relationship after I found out my (then)fiance was cheating on me. We were far away from each other, and what I thought was a harmless friendship turned out to be a relationship he was hiding from me during our engagement.

    When I finally found out about his infidelity, I did all the same things you did, but he didn’t get to witness them first hand. After a couple weeks of struggle, I finally heard the right advice that spoke to me, and flew to him to save our relationship.

    It’s been a year since that happened, and we’re nearing our one year anniversary, so I think of the struggle that we went through. Reading your post reminds me of the rewards you receive after you finally become honest with each other, and how you can actually say with certainty that you proved to him, to the world, and to yourself how strong you really are. Now nothing’s too hard to fight for.

  • carrie

    I have exactly-ed like half the comments here, and the first one was really the most eloquent. But I feel the need to say thank you and send you an internet hug. This post was so powerful, and an important discussion to have out in the open.

  • casey

    I Loved this bit: “I have learned that trust, while fragile, is startlingly resilient.” It also applies to honesty – not hurtful comments said under the cloak of “I’m only being honest” but being honest about your wants, needs, desires, dreams, etc. Thank you for sharing!

  • Casey

    My sister (the wonderful, and beautiful writer, Madeline Eisenhart) suggested that I read this article. I do not think I can express through words how emotional this made me, but in the best way. Because of my very similar experience, I do not think you could have written the ways in which it effects your relationship any better. As weird as it may sound, this post made my day. Thank you for sharing :)

  • MadGastronomer

    Everybody’s experience with infidelity is going to be very different and very personal. But for a moment, I want to speak about the general case, about that “dump his @ss” narrative.

    Because the thing is, that narrative was built in response to the previously prevalent one that said that a woman had to forgive a man’s infidelities (plural; she had to go on forgiving them if he committed more) and accept them and still be a loving wife. Conversely, a man was not expected to do likewise, but to get pissed off and leave her, and that really, it was pretty understandable if he killed her. Indeed, these narratives still have a lot of power in some places and some cultures. (EG, in the US, the wife of a Republican politician is expected to always forgive and accept; the wives of rich and powerful men, especially if the women are not rich and powerful in their own rights, are expected to simply accept ongoing infidelity; many varieties of Christianity strongly push this. Etc, etc.)

    No narrative that dictates what a person must do is good, really. But it is sometimes good to remember that this particular narrative was developed intentionally as a counter to a narrative that was actively damaging to and oppressive of women on a large scale, one that still has a lot of power.

    • Sheryl

      Here’s where I get frustrated with a lot of feminist narratives. While previous expectations and narratives demanding that women fill certain roles and make certain choices are incredibly limiting and also demeaning, when we move so far in the opposite direction that women must make certain decisions and fill other roles we don’t have any more freedom than we did before – we’re just tying ourselves to different expectations.

      Sometimes it feels like we’re taking away one set of chains and replacing it with another. Which isn’t to say that the feminist fight doesn’t still need to be fought. Our pay isn’t equal, all our choices are subject to scrutiny from one side or the other, and society is nowhere near treating women as full equals. But how do we balance moving away from one set of limitations without boxing ourselves into the opposite corner?

  • NTB

    Holy smokes. This was intensely difficult for me to read. Mostly because a similar thing happened to me about 2 years after I started dating my now husband. I had checked his Facebook messages one day and it all unraveled from there. He had spoken to his sister about a girl he grew up with, how hot she was, and how he wanted to meet up with her on an upcoming Thanksgiving trip back home. The funny thing was, I was going with him on that trip, so I kind of thought he was an idiot for even suggesting it. I think the thing that hurt the most was that his sister was in on it, and I thought for the longest time that she liked/respected me. Obviously not.

    He claimed at the time that it was an inside joke between him and his sister, but you know the feeling you get when you know someone is BSing you? Yeah. That feeling.

    It still infuriates me to this day, mostly because I think his sister is completely two-faced, and over Christmas this past year, she actually brought this girl’s name up… “Hey Tom, remember so-and-so, the girl who grew up on our block?” I kind of wanted to slap her upside the head, and it took every ounce of my being not to storm out of the room. Like, why would you bring that up RIGHT in front of me if you know it’s just going to infuriate me and make me feel like total s***?!

    After further consideration, I realized that her actions (and his) say more about them and their issues than they do about me and my —-inadequacies—-…because as we all know, we cannot and DO NOT control the behavior of others, no matter how adequate or “inadequate” we are. Personally, I think he made a pretty s**tty choice–one that hurt my feelings–but I have found little ways to push those bad emotions/thoughts/memories out of my head and heart when they come up. The fact that he made a pretty lame choice isn’t really my problem, so I figure why compromise my health and get super stressed out about something that HE did? Hopefully he understands that he hurt my feelings, but other than that, I just try to let it go…

    • Rebekah

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. It speaks volumes about you that you can step back from a situation like the one your SIL created and recognize that your worth isn’t determined by her. I’m sending you my biggest internet hug.

      • NTB

        Thank you Rebekah. That means a lot to me! We all handle these things differently, and talking about it with the women of APW makes it so much easier to process. After reading my post again, I realize that resorting to immaturity (talking about slapping someone upside the face, etc.) is probably not the most constructive way to deal with things, but it’s still really hard for me to not be kind of hurt over it. Not that these things are ever easy, but it makes a difference to have a community of women as supportive as the readers of this amazing blog. Thank you for your hug! ;)

        • Aurora

          First, I wanted to apologize because I tried to click “reply” to this comment and accidentally clicked “report” – you didn’t say anything wrong and I’m sorry about that!

          I think it’s important to note that fantasizing about doing something immature (i.e., slapping someone upside the face, keying someone’s car, spitting in their food, etc) isn’t actually all that bad – but actually DOING that would be. Fantasizing about things like that can help you work through your hurt feelings and deal with it in reality in a mature context. So don’t feel bad for just *thinking* something that you would never act on. I also give you internet hugs!

          • NTB

            Haha! No worries. ;) Lord knows I have done it by mistake SO many times!

            Thanks for your comment. :))

    • Breck

      Virtual hugs from me, as well. I had a similar run-in with a gchat message my boyfriend exchanged with an ex of his a while back. She told him that she and her husband were separating and that she had always felt that he was someone special she could confide in, and he essentially reciprocated her feelings. It wasn’t exactly a breach of trust, but the wording and sentiment gave me that gut feeling that it wasn’t right, either. It still makes my blood boil when I think about it too hard (like, WHY would he say that???), but I’m working on letting it go. Like you mentioned, my boyfriend knows how much that conversation hurt my feelings, and he’s done a great job of restoring my trust and reassuring me that there aren’t any romantic feelings there. I also remind myself on the reg that his feelings of friendship and trust towards this woman don’t negate any of the the ones he has for me, which are not only stronger and deeper but also built on the solid foundation that is our relationship. In my case, time has been the best healer.

      • NTB

        Yes, my feelings exactly. I was like, even if it was a joke like he said, WHY WOULD HE SAY THAT?! Worse, why would his sister, who is 10 years older than he is (and 17 years older than me) encourage this kind of banter when she knew that we were in a long-term relationship? When this issue came up, we were in our second year of dating; we had hard times in the beginning but by this point we had been in a good place for a while, so it really made me question his motives and what I meant to him.

        After quite some time had passed, I feel ok about it. But I have not forgotten it; I am still pretty cautious and guarded. It kind of sucks, but I think a lot of it, for me, is feeling like Tom’s family probably wanted Tom to marry someone from his hometown (or at least the Midwest) instead of someone like me, because we live in my home state (CO) and Tom never really sees his family. I guess they probably don’t like the fact that I kind of ‘stole him’, but he also made a choice to be with me forever and I try to remember that too. And it helps sometimes.

  • KB

    This post hit it bang on – I’ve been in a similar situation that was NOT worth saving, although I didn’t know it at the time and let another year go by before it happened again…and again, and I finally realized that it definitely was a goner. But even though I had a different outcome, what resonated with me about this post was your point about the shame – it’s not just the shame of “staying” but that it happened at all. You don’t want to tell your friends and family because you don’t want them to judge/pity you, and you don’t want them to think badly or talk badly about your partner until YOU know how you feel about the situation. His/her secret then becomes YOUR secret and that’s just not ok.

    • SelkieKel

      I can’t “exactly” both the original post and KB’s response enough. The notion of shame and the deluge of judgement that tends to accompany incidents of infidelity tend to act as mortar in a wall that you may not have even realized you were building around yourself.

      Though, like KB, my first marriage met with an outcome different than that of the author, I still carry a quote from the infidelity-prompted therapy sessions with me to this day. Our therapist said, “Your marriage is like a small wooden boat. The trust and confidence allows you and your partner to navigate the waters together also separates you a bit from the rest of the world. When you allow others into your marriage, it is like poking holes in the hull of the boat. You can still sail, but just floating takes a lot more work.”

      I go so far as to say that it was to blame for the destruction of my marriage, but bringing in friends and family to weigh in on the situation and act as confidantes during that emotional time definitely acted as a propellant towards that unfortunate end. What began as an attempt by each of us to seek solace quickly metastasized into loved ones taking sides and anger being flung about.

      As the author so eloquently stated, all relationships are not identical and sometimes familiar narratives can do more harm than good.

  • Parsley

    As many have said already, thank you for this brave post. I just wanted to drop a note recommending a resource for others in a similar place. It’s a book called “After the Affair,” by Janis A. Spring, and it’s about that process of staying together and rebuilding a relationship after infidelity.

  • Laine

    My stomach is in those awful knots and I’m suddenly aware of the precise circumference of my veins–I can’t exactly thank you for recreating those first horrible weeks, but I’m in awe of your honesty and your gift for language. I’m recovering from a similar revelation about my long-term partner, and when you explained the reasons you didn’t throw his crap out of the street (like some of my girlfriends thought I should), it so perfectly expressed everything I couldn’t understand about my decision making at the time.

    I was also impressed by MadGastronomer’s comment regarding the reactionary nature of the “kick him out” narrative, since when your pal says, “And you’re not breaking up with him?” it’s hard to remember that women were (and in many circumstances, still are) expected to stand by their men, no matter the betrayal. Certainly the best take-away is that every relationship, every situation, every infidelity is different and no narrative is helpful when coping with such a traumatic and heartbreaking challenge. The only thing I think any of us could ask for is support and acceptance.

  • Aurora

    I think my favorite part about reading this was all the bits about how communication are so essential to a relationship, because that’s something that everyone, even people not in this situation, can take from this. It’s really important to be honest about doubts and other types of thoughts that you are worried could hurt your partner’s feelings. Once you work through that, you’ll be so much stronger for it. Being polite with each other gets you nowhere. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Hannah

    My fiance and I both had to forgive one another for some emotional cheating a couple of years after we started dating. Because his was more physical than mine, I assumed that my friends would be unsupportive of my decision to stay with him. I was lucky that they were not overtly judgmental (I even had one tearful/joyful moment when my roommate said, “I don’t think you’re being stupid”) but it was still isolating and scary. When my family found out, it was even wrose, as they were overtly judgmental (out of love for me, I know), and it took them a long time to “forgive” him, even long after I had. This process can be humiliating and terrifying, and I really appreciate you for sharing this story for everyone else who thinks they’re the only one.

  • Sheryl

    “Not every relationship can be saved. Not every relationship is worth saving. Infidelity is devastating in a private, insidious way that is different for every couple.”

    This post, and this line in particular, remind me so strongly of the death knell of my parent’s marriage. Leaving aside my own very complicated feelings about the divorce and my relationships with them looking back I’m always so struck by the fact that even though one cheated, the other wanted at least try to work things out (or at least, that’s how it was presented – and the truth could be somewhat different). The thought of being in that position absolutely breaks my heart.

    • jlseldon7

      I can’t exactly this more than once, I wish I could. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I have to quietly remind myself that my parents marriage wasn’t savable.

      I also found that because of this I am a bit -er- neurotic about divorce, and talked a lot about it prior to my own marriage. I was so concerned that my parents failures were going to become my own.

  • Amanda

    Thank you, thank you. And now for a question:

    Where do is the line in the sand as it relates to female “friendships” with your man?

    To explain: Our community attracts many tourists 6 months out of the year. Thus, there is a huge influx of seasonal workers- mostly young, adventurous ones. My live-in boyfriend of two years often goes out with his friends (who are single) in the spring/summer. This last spring, he became quite close with a very attractive younger woman- Often texting, mostly hanging out in groups. But she was not respectful of our relationships (because must not have set boundaries), sending blatantly inappropriate messages. There were also times of dishonesty from him. Spring is just around the corner, and while we discussed my feelings, I’m nervous that something like it will happen again. He feels like I shouldn’t dictate his friendships, yet I wonder why he feels the need to forge these meaningless “friendships.” Nothing physical, emotional, or sexual has transpired, but the overt flirtation really bothers me.

    Any advice?

    • Paranoid Libra


      I am not a counselor or anything but you have some things to discuss. Different people have different lines. Some couples don’t consider kissing an infidelity, but others consider it cheating. It’s a matter of anything that is done secretly without the knowledge of the other isn’t a good thing. It could be viewed as as emotional infidelity which honestly can suck worse than if someone would have actually slept with someone else.

      If he isn’t able to respect what you guys decide to be infidelity or inappropriate behavior this might be one of those times its best to leave. Do not be pressured though into saying that his flirtation texts are ok. They obviously bother you. Talk to him to tell him its makes you feel uncomfortable.

      Good luck girl. I know its hard to be in that kind of a situation.

    • Not Sarah

      My boyfriend has been cheated on in the past and it’s quite taxing to him that I have male friends. The fact of the matter is that he just doesn’t trust a woman to have non-female friends. He is never happy when I hang out with my male friends without him. I also felt like he shouldn’t dictate my friendships. I made the mistake of telling him that I thought one of my guy friends tried to ask me out and now he gets upset whenever I hang out with that friend. I made it quite clear to him that I should be able to say “I’m going climbing with J and C tonight and then giving them a tour of my condo.” without appending “J is married and has two kids and lives in a different country and C has a girlfriend” based on questions he asks. Same with “I’m grabbing dinner with my friend T.” The most important things to me for this relationship are honesty (I tell him the name of the person I’m hanging out with or put it on my calendar that he can see) and trust (that he doesn’t ask probing questions).

      Your relationship sounds different though. You’re right. You shouldn’t dictate his friendships. Dictating/controlling to me usually = having different ideas. Maybe you can discuss your ideas around boundaries with other people. Maybe that’s something you can discuss and work through. Maybe he feels that occasional flirtation isn’t a problem, so long as it doesn’t lead to anything. Maybe his definition of leading to something is different than yours.

      I hope that helps. Good luck and I’m sending you all the internet hugs that I can. Because dictating/controlling feelings on either side are HARD. I like Paranoid Libra’s advice as well.

    • NTB

      I can relate to this, and perhaps offer some insight.

      My husband has a lot of female friends. Not going to lie, it is not my favorite thing about him. However, I married him knowing that he has a lot of existing friendships with women. I don’t like it, but hey…that’s who he is, and I feel like trying to change it or control it is only going to drive me nuts, because he’s not going to sever any of his existing friendships with other women.

      These women have been in his life for quite some time. I feel that, if he were attracted to them/wanted to pursue something with them that amounted to more than being ‘just friends,’ he probably would have already done it by now. I still don’t like it very much, but I have met/interacted with these women in a social setting, and I don’t get any unsettling gut feelings, so I try to trust those sentiments as much as possible. Mostly, I don’t think he would actually ever cross any boundaries, but it still kind of pisses me off.

      Don’t get me wrong: I really, really don’t like these friendships, as I am a very jealous person. He has one friend from law school who never stops calling him; I think they talk like once a week. So irritating!

    • jlseldon7

      I don’t know about your relationship, but if my husband was irritated by a friend moving into a “friend” and then possibly something else, I feel he would have the right to request the termination of the friendship. It has nothing to do with whether or not he trusts me. It has a whole lot to do with the fact that I respect him and value our relationship above any other relationship. While that may mean I have fewer guy friends, I’m okay with that. He would make the same choices for me. I trust my husband. I also fight for my marriage, because it is precious.

      I can’t tell you what you should do, but I agree with paranoid libra. Only you can decide how important this is to you. Good luck.

  • Paranoid Libra

    Reading your post opened my eyes that I went into a partial communication shut down recently regarding our own past problems. Our first year of marriage isn’t going smoothly and I am still obviously dealing with some of our past problems internally but not actually trying to talk it out loud.

    Thank you for reminding me I need to communicate too. Funny enough my husband has been prodding me to talk more as he feels like I have been holding back. Sometimes it does take an outside reminder to really get your eyes fully opened and acknowledge something you aren’t doing as well in as you would like to.

    Obviously I chose to stay and I know of someone who is still a bit bitter towards him several years after the fact. It drives me nuts that this person had a screw up that is kept secret but my husband seems to be the only guilty one.

  • Anaya

    Thank you for sharing! I went through this exact thing 2 years ago and became engaged to the same man in December. I identify completely with this quote; whereas we used to avoid issues now we can talk about anything and approach it from a place of deep honesty and love. I feel more equipped for marriage now than I ever thought possible.

    ‘He is more vocal about his feelings, needs, and wants. He no longer avoids telling me things that he thinks will upset me. I am more honest about my health issues. We jump into difficult conversations with both feet instead of skirting issues while they fester. We are more communicative about every aspect of our relationship.’

  • Rachel

    My best friend’s new husband committed two infidelities while they were dating and engaged. She decided to “work through” both incidents with him and stick it out, partially because he characterized them (i suspect falsely) as non-physical, just the sexting and inappropriate emails she stumbled on.

    I bent over backward to be nonjudgmental, as everyone here has stressed. I supported her decision, even though it was clear to me that this behavior was not going to end. Now, several months after their wedding, she found out that he slept with an old flame just weeks before their wedding. She hasn’t decided what to do, and I am still assuring her that I support her no matter what. But I don’t know if I’m being a good friend by doing so. This is a pattern, not an isolated incident, and she needs to DTMFA (dump that mofo already)!

    For those of you who decided your relationship with a cheater was not worth saving, was thee anything your friends said (or could have said) that helped you reach that conclusion and feel strong enough to end it?

    • anon

      Though I wasn’t on the receiving end of infidelity in my first marriage, there were other issues that prompted me to leave eventually, and one conversation with a friend really cemented it. She said, “I’m going to ask you some questions I think you may need to ask yourself. I don’t need or even really want to hear your answers/responses unless you need a sounding board, but please just think through them, and then I’ll shut up about them.” And then she gave them to me: What do you think your marriage will be like in five years, if things continue as they are? Twenty? How will you feel if this is still an issue in the future/if it happens again? How will you feel if it happens after you have kids? Do you really see yourself having kids with the person who can do this to you? Do you really, truly believe it will get better?

  • N

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this post. I am going through something similar with my husband. Before this happened I had always said if something like this ever happened to me, that’d be it, I’d kick him out, done. End of story. But it did, and I didn’t. If I have learned anything from this experience it’s that you can’t judge anyone else’s relationship. You can only do what’s right for you. Wishing you happiness.

  • Leela

    Hi everyone, it’s Leela.

    I cannot thank you all enough for the thoughtful, kind, and insightful words that you have written in response to my post. I was actually too scared to check the comments when the post first went up. I am so glad that I finally read them — they made me cry. I wish I had had all of you when this stuff first went down! APW is an amazing community. I wish I could hug all of you right now.

    • Chelsey

      Hi Leela. I am going through the same thing right now. I wanted to know, how are you two now? Do you really believe the cheating is behind you? That is my biggest fear with the man I am going to marry. Is this just who he is? (he was consistent with his emotional cheating (and he physically cheated as well). Or is it possible, that the worst is behind us and we both learned from it?

  • Mari

    Hi Leela – Mari here from the Overcoming Infidelity post that ran a few weeks ago. Thank you for being brave enough to post this. You’ve pretty much re-created in words what I went through but was unable to explain myself. Writing my post was an emotional catharsis, yet even so I wasn’t able to express the pain and the experience in the same way you were. Thank you for writing this.

    • Leela

      Mari, your post obviously resonated with me. It is the first thing I’ve read that made me feel like there could be someone out there who really understands what I went through. And I think that you are being quite modest — your brave post was beautifully written, and it has inspired so many people (myself included)!

  • Pippa

    Thank you so much for this post. I honestly could have written this myself except I’d have to throw repeat ‘offences’, mental health issues and deliberate and physical infidelity into the mix. Yikes.
    But I stayed and we’re getting married in just over a year and honestly, we can overcome anything. We both know that now.

    Many hugs to you x

  • Marie

    Thank you for sharing. This was heart wrenching to read, especially due to my own situation. My fiance and I have each cheated on each other. However, there is still one physical relationship I have not confessed to him that happened before we became engaged. But we were dating when it happened. We’ve moved past the other situations and similarly have become closer because of it. So, the big question is…..should I confess? Or leave it in the past with each of our other infidelities?

    • anon

      It depends a lot on you – and what you think your partner would want to know, based on how the other infidelities were dealt with and how that topic is treated now – but ultimately I’m not sure it will help anything to confess. Confessing, at this point, would only be to unburden yourself. Unless you know he would want to know, my feeling would be – leave it alone, if you are certain it will never, ever happen again.

    • Amanda

      This is my exact siutation, and I have never truly talked to anyone about it as I feel my fiance and I have healed and moved on, yet I am still deeply ashamed about the other physical thing. I am not confessing – I feel that doing so would only be to unburden myself and would deeply hurt my fiance for something that happened when I was black-out drunk three years ago. I tell myself that if this is to become a destructive pattern in myself, I have to confess.
      As a sidenote, my fiance and I have had discussions about what type of hurt we would be unable to move past – a one-time hookup is not one of them (mind you, we are monogamous and of course would still be very wounded if this happened). We see a huge difference between a drunken hookup and an ongoing affair. For example, something we think that would be hard to move past is if I was being slandered in front of him and I wasn’t there and he didn’t stick up for me/joined in (of course he wouldn’t do that, just an example).
      This discussion has made me wonder if he has made the same mistake I did again (drunken hookup while we were dating, after the time we both cheated on each other and were super hurt) – and you know what, I forgive him, because our relationship is so fucking incredible and I love him so much. And because I still trust that our relationship is our number one priority. I don’t need to know if it happened. If I find out it did, I will confess to him what I did, becuase I think that eveness is soothing in sort of a sick way (it was for me before). If he finds out what I did, I believe we are strong enough to move past it.
      I feel better about this as time moves on. Sometimes it still makes me sick, but it is my cross to bear. I’m curious, what is this situation like for you a year later?

  • Pingback: Can this marriage be saved infidelity? | Can This Marriage Be Saved

  • sandra kons

    Me and my boyfriend were seriously in love for six years and we were planning to get married but one day he came to my house and told me he was no longer interested in our relationship simply because he was dating another lady who promise to buy him a car and to sponsor their wedding. And i was heart broken. So i take a bold step by contacting a spell caster who will help me bring my ex boyfriend back and in three day after i contacted him my boy friend who left me for another girl came back and start begging to take him back. Dr. Book is powerful and great his contact is you can also contact him for help………..sandra kons from russia

  • Jane

    I feel like I just read my own story! I thought when I started reading I would be a mess but I sit here with a smile on my face with only a few tears in my eyes.
    I know the horrendous pain involved…5 weeks before our wedding I discovered basically the same thing.

    This paragraph is exactly where we are at now after a lot of work and tears

    “It has been a long, difficult road with a few setbacks. I wish I could say that I woke up one day knowing that things would be okay between us, but that’s not true. However, with time, my heart began to heal. To say that we have stayed together feels like an oversimplification. It is more accurate to say that we started over. Our relationship is defined by a new level of honesty. He is more vocal about his feelings, needs, and wants. He no longer avoids telling me things that he thinks will upset me. I am more honest about my health issues. We jump into difficult conversations with both feet instead of skirting issues while they fester. We are more communicative about every aspect of our relationship.”

    Of course there are bad days when it comes flooding back but we are in a much better place now than ever before which I find funny considering I thought we were perfect before it all came crashing down.

    Things change with time and new emotions come up. The original wedding was cancelled and within a few months he wanted to get married (his way I think of showing everyone he was forgiven and we were all ok I think) and a wedding was the last thing I wanted, in fact I said I would never get married to anyone. And now many many many months later I have come around to the idea (without pestering from him because he thankfully respected what I was saying). At first I thought how embarrassing to ask people to another wedding and now I am at a point where I don’t care…when we get married it will be much smaller with the people who really supported us (mainly family, you find out who your real friends are!) and I think our wedding will really be a celebration and those people invited will be happy for us. I’m amazed at how far we have come and never would have thought I would be writing this a year ago! I am so glad I found this article. Thank you

  • CoCoCA

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I am one of those guilty loved ones. When my sister went through this, she initially ended things. For the first few months, she mostly just sat there in silence. When I came to visit, I sat there with her just so she’d know she wasn’t alone. She never really confided in me much, so I didn’t know what she was going through, what she was thinking, what she was feeling, and I wanted more than anything just to protect her from the hurt she felt. A year and a half later, I was a proud big sister. I hadn’t heard a word about him in ages, and it seemed that she had moved on. Sadly, this pride was judgement – it turns out that she had recently reconnected with him. I unknowingly misspoke, and it drove a wedge between us. Today, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this man who hurt my sister more than anyone has before, but you’re right – it’s not my decision to make. Only she knows the strength of their love and the trust that they are now rebuilding.

  • john anderson

    I’m amazed that it’s ok to spy on employees, kids, the public and nsa stuff, yet watching your spouse – the one who you entrust with everything is bad ‘mmmkay. AMAZING, they track your spouse’s every text and GPS location and even install it for you. Cheaters can’t survive mobieyedotinfo.

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