This is part of a mini-series called, Unfaithful.
In these articles we are dealing primarily with men who experienced spousal infidelity.
At some point following an affair, you have to know how to deal with an unfaithful wife. This article lays out 5 principles you should know and follow to make sure you successfully deal with your spouse. Whether you reconcile or not, at some point you have to deal with your wife. Here’s how.
Before you can effectively learn how to deal with your spouse’s infidelity, you must first find ‘heart healing.’ Bad decisions are usually made when we act out of our pain. The first article dealt with giving yourself the best shot at responding from a place of health, not pain.
Take care of yourself first should be your focus. Think of it in terms of how a steward gives instructions during an airplane flight. If you’ve flow much you know the drill. When the oxygen mask drops, first put yours on (take care of you first), then help your children and others around you.Bad decisions are usually made when we act out of our pain. Click To Tweet
The principle is, if you are not healthy, you can’t help others, move forward in life, or make good decisions. For more on this, read the first article that deals with how to recover from an affair.
In This Article
- What To Do Once You Know Your Spouse Has Been Unfaithful?
- Final Thoughts on How To Deal With An Unfaithful Wife
What To Do Once You Know Your Spouse Has Been Unfaithful?
This article deals with how to deal with an unfaithful wife. We will discuss X practical steps to make sure you respond properly.
1. Let Them Know You Forgive Them
Some men (especially men) have a problem with this. Remember, forgiveness is not about excusing their behavior. It is about releasing yourself from self-destructive attitudes that interfere with your ability to move forward.
When you tell your wife you forgive her, it puts you in control of your own emotions and destiny. This is important.orgiveness is not about excusing their behavior. It is about releasing yourself from self-destructive attitudes that interfere with your ability to move forward. Click To Tweet
It’s not a mind game, or a way to manipulate for control. Not at all. In fact, it is the opposite. You are powerless to control your spouse – her attitude or behavior – but you CAN control yours. When you say ‘I forgive you’ you ware reasserting control of your own life.
You are refusing to allow her actions to determine the rest of your life.
Think of unforgiveness as a ball and chain around your neck. Not your spouse neck, yours.
If they are repentant and regret their decisions, you take control of the situation by being the forgiver. Again, this is not about manipulation, but control of your own life.
If they have no remorse, you are releasing yourself from the ball and chain. The more you harbor hatred, unforgiveness and vengeance, the longer you stayed tied to the event. Do yourself a favor and let go so you can move forward with freedom.You are powerless to control your spouse – her attitude or behavior – but you CAN control yours. When you say ‘I forgive you’ you ware reasserting control of your own life. Click To Tweet
2. Refuse to Get Even
Anger is a natural response to infidelity. Emotional safety has been violated. Trust has been broken. It is the perfect storm for rage.
The most common reaction is to get even. But this rarely helps the situation. Feelings of justification soon fade and you are left with the reality that getting even did not change your partner or heal your broken heart.
As with any ‘crime,’ the first response is to punish. More often than not, punishing your spouse doesn’t mean having an affair to get even. It is likely to come in the form of doing something that hurts them. This takes many forms:
- Smearing their reputation at work
- Making their infidelity public on social media
- Telling their friends and family
- Refusing and withholding love in the future
- Saying hateful things to them
- Shutting down emotionally
These sound good, and may even be justified. But they seldom move your forward in life. They certainly eliminate the possibility of healing the relationship or finding out why it happened in the first place.
Think before you act. Will your actions help the situation or further damage your family? If children are involved, it is vital to think through your actions.
Even if you have no desire to reconcile, your actions can hurt others in the crossfire. Especially children.
The rule of thumb when dealing with an affair when children are involved is: Make the children the center, but keep them out of the middle. I hope you see the distinction.
We often seek to lash out and hurt the offending spouse. When we do this we run the risk of hurting others as well.
I’ve talked with men who discovered their wife was unfaithful so they had an affair to ‘get back’ at them. In the process of getting even with their spouse, they hurt someone else. By cheating with someone else, they brought an innocent (I realize they were a willing participant but I think you understand what I mean in context) person into the middle of their marriage battle. This is never a good thing.
The most important thing (especially early on) is to get help navigating your own emotions. Do not do things you will regret later. It is easy to do when emotions are high and wounds are deep.
Always remember, getting even rarely hurts your unfaithful partner, but it can do irreparable damage to you.
3. Avoid the Blame Game
This manifests in two ways:
Some men blame themselves. They begin an emotional journey of self-hatred that is self destructive. As strange as it is, blaming yourself is common. Men tend to think if they had been a better husband, lover, or person it would not have happened.
Let the blame rest where it belongs. Even if you weren’t a great husband, having an affair is the cheap way out. The reality is, it seldom has anything to do with you as a husband.
The other way we play the blame game is to put all the blame on our spouse. This is not to sound contradictory. I fully believe the unfaithful spouse is to blame for the affair.
At the same time, we owe it to ourselves to evaluate our behavior as a husband. Let me reiterate: Bad behavior doesn’t justify your spouse cheating. Ever.
Self evaluation is not about finding out if you are the blame. It is discovering things about yourself that you need to change in order to move forward.Self evaluation is not about finding out if you are the blame. It is discovering things about yourself that you need to change in order to move forward. Click To Tweet
If you decide to stay together as a couple, you have to consider your role in the relationship. Are you one to stick your head in the sand when problems occur? Were you deaf to the cries for help your wife issued? Blind to the pain she may have experienced?
Again, this isn’t about taking the blame. It IS about being aware of what is happening in your marriage and how your actions, attitudes, and your frame of mind contributes to the relationship dynamic.
One more thing, if you do work to reconcile your marriage, here are a few things to do:
1) Get professional help.
This speaks for itself. Do not try to navigate the rough waters ahead by yourself.
Professionals who are trained in helping you face things, see the whole picture, and get healed are available. Use them.
2) Don’t hold your wife hostage emotionally.
When I met Ted it was several years after his wife had an affair. He was still angry. But his anger and resentment never manifest in outburst or rage. Instead, he used it to keep his wife an emotional hostage.
She had done all the right things to make their marriage work. She was truly remorseful and regretted her actions. Her desire to make their marriage work was evident.
Ted, on the other hand, was waffling between wanting it to work and punishing her for what she had done. At some point, Ted had to choose. If punishment was what he was after, he should just divorce and move on. That would be punishment enough.
If he desired for his marriage to work, it was time to forgive and stop holding her hostage to his indecision. The choice was his, but he needed to be definitive. It is pointless to stay in a marriage if all you plan to do is punish or hold them emotionally hostage.It is pointless to stay in a marriage if all you plan to do is punish or hold them emotionally hostage because they hurt you. Click To Tweet
3) Remember Point #1: Forgive
4. Establish Boundaries
This doesn’t conflict with the previous point. Remember, forgiveness is not about sticking your head in the sand and pretending something didn’t happen. It is releasing yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness.
Boundaries are the rules and guidelines you set in place that determine direction, scope, and behavior of your marriage.
In essence, they are the ground rules you establish that govern how the relationship works.
It sounds mechanical and rigid, but boundaries are necessary. We often have them and don’t even realize it. Many times they are unspoken (they just evolve and happen), other times they are thought out, planned, and documented.
Some couples have a prenuptial agreement. This is a type of boundary. Most boundaries are not as formal.
For example, I have a friend in Colorado who has a very stressful job. He and his wife have an agreement that when he gets home in the evening, he has 20 minutes to unwind before he has to do ‘dad duty’ or fulfill his obligations around the house.
They agreed on this boundary so he could ‘catch his breath’ after dealing with business stress each day.
Another couple we know work in the same home office. They have ‘unwritten rules’ that help them avoid conflict while working so close together. My wife and I have a similar arrangement. We recently set up another home office because we both needed space to work. For a year, we shared an office (rotating using it).
I think you get the point. How does this apply to boundaries after an affair?
It helps you set out the perimeters of what happens next and how it will happen. It’s a way for you to stay in control (not controlling, but in control). Boundaries help you create a safe place and way for you to navigate what has happened. It helps rebuild trust.
5. Keep the Future in Mind
As difficult as it seems, life will continue. It is painful to think about it when you still feel the sting of betrayal. At some point, you have to look to the future.
This means two things:
1) Don’t get stuck in the past of what happened.
Even if you decide to end the marriage, you can’t afford to get stuck. Moving forward is your only real option. This means you need to heal and recover.
Take time to be healed, but do not get stuck in the past. This is where professional counseling can help. Whatever it takes, move forward.
I like how Warwick Middleton puts it (quoting Thoreau): Remember the past, but anticipate the future.
In essence, it’s okay to remember what happened. It’s not okay (or healthy) to continue to dwell on it and let it cloud your future. Your anticipation should be future oriented, not past. To put it another way, remember the past, but hope in the future.
2) Get your head ‘out of’ the game.
Steven Nock is professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. In his book, Marriage in Men’s Lives, he notes: (Amazon Link)
“Men fret over it because of what they imagine happened,. You’ll do that until you face it head on. [Surviving infidelity] is going to take a lot of talking and doing things together. And guys are not that eager to talk about their relationship — especially if they have to talk about her sleeping with someone else.”WebMD
Women tend to move on quicker than men. Mainly because men can’t get it out of the head. To successfully move forward in life (whether you stay or leave), you must take control of your thoughts and get it out of your head.
Don’t misunderstand, you will probably never forget what happened. You shouldn’t.
But you do need to remove it from the control center of your brain. It cannot become a determining factor of how you do life in the future. This will be detrimental to your mental health.
3) Realize your marriage can work…again.
We are not here to tell you to stay or leave. You have to come to that conclusion yourself. What we do intend to tell you is to look to the future no matter what.
Tips on how to think about the future:
Never surrender your future to a failure or pain of the past. Here are two things to keep in mind as you face the future.
1) Be Practical About Your Plans
If you are not willing to work on your marriage, it’s time to shift gears and get practical about what life after divorce looks like. If you have children, think about how to best serve and care for them.
Remember, just because your wife was a bad wife doesn’t mean she is a bad mom.
Don’t punish your children because you are mad at their mom. Always keep them at
the center of your decisions. It’s tempting to use children as a tool to get even.
Don’t! It will backfire.
2) Decide What You Really Want
This decision should not be made quickly. Too much emotion, disappointment and pain surfaces when you discover your spouse has been unfaithful. Time and (even) space are necessary to find your footing.
At some point, you will need to pick your future. I say, ‘pick your future’ because only you will determine how you respond. If your spouse wants to stay, you get to decide how you will respond. If they want to leave, you get to choose how you will respond. The choice of how you respond is in your hands.
To make a wise choice, you need to know what you want for your future. There is power in clarity.
For help with this, you may need a resource like ‘The Power of Clarity’ by Brian Tracy.
Final Thoughts on How To Deal With An Unfaithful Wife
It’s never easy and always painful to find out your spouse has cheated. It is unnatural and goes against the very fabric of trust in marriage.
Here is a brief recap of what we covered in this article:
- 1. Let Them Know You Forgive Them
- 2. Refuse to Get Even
- 3. Avoid the Blame Game
- 4. Establish Boundaries
- 5. Keep the Future in Mind
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