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Getting Past Cheating

Essential Ingredient

I have a couple of questions for you.  If a person no longer feels they love their spouse, is it time to divorce?

Also, do you think a person who has had an affair can change enough for the betrayed to forgive and continue the marriage?  Is it possible to salvage a marriage after the affair?


Marie, a book could be written on each of your questions, but the last question sounds like the one you are really asking.  What do you mean by salvage? 

Do you mean the cake just fell on the floor and the guests are arriving.  Can we patch it together and serve it from the kitchen so no one notices what happened?  Or do you mean, after an affair, can you have the kind of marriage you would wish for your son or daughter?

Marriage is a relationship different from all others.  You can date many people, you can be friends with many people, you can be neighbors to many people.  But the act of getting married says I choose this one unique being to share everything with me for the rest of my life. 

The basis for willingly binding yourself to one person is love.  Their fidelity allows you to believe in their love.  Their fidelity allows you to sustain your love.  But if that person is unfaithful then they, not you, have brought their love into question.  Infidelity validates your doubts about their love.

The idea of fidelity is in the marital vows because it is essential.  Fidelity is the one thing promised in virtually every religious tradition and understood worldwide.  Why?  Because breaking faith breaks the marriage.

It is possible to forgive betrayal, but in our experience it is not possible to forget it.  That would be like forgetting you have kids.  It isn't going to happen.  The unfaithful person would like the other person to forget, and the one betrayed would like to forget, but barring amnesia they cannot.

How do you believe "I love you" after you have been betrayed?  That is what people ask us years and even decades afterwards.  For some people who stay in the marriage, divorce was not an option.  For many people, it is not the case that they healed after infidelity.  They simply live with the pain.  Is that a "marriage" salvaged?

Others claim you can get over infidelity.  We say you may not be able to overcome infidelity.  The difference is we focus on the innocent party.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)



My husband had two affairs last year.  I am pretty confident he is not cheating now, and we are seeing a marriage counselor.  He has changed much since I found out what he was doing.  He put our property in my name and bought me a $12,000 diamond ring.

He is affectionate to me most of the time.  I believe this is proof that he loves me.  The problem is I also have proof that he does not love me because he had affairs.  So I have proof he loves me and proof he does not love me. 

Our marriage counselor tells me his affair is in the past, and I agree.  The problem of the past is that one second later everything is in the past.  To me, saying it is in the past is just a way to excuse anything.  You could do almost anything, and then later say it is in the past. 

If you drive drunk and kill someone, can you say it's in the past?  Just because you do not drive drunk anymore you can never bring that person back to life.  It may be in the past, but it has certainly destroyed the future.  That is the problem.

The therapist wants to focus on the present and future, and consider the affair in the past.  If this is a way to move on, then my husband can do almost anything to me and later be forgiven.  He can even plan to do something and say to himself later on it will be in the past.

Because something happened before and is not happening now is not a good reason to think it will not happen again.  For me, because something happened in the past, it is more reasonable to believe it will happen again.  After all, if he had not cheated, there would be no past cheating and no reason to say "put it in the past."


Kayla, your logic is correct, and your therapist's reasoning is incorrect.  As human beings we have to forecast our future in order to understand what we should do today.  Your forecast for the future has changed because your husband has sex with other women. 

His cheating is not in the past, because he can do it again.  But there is one thing which is in the past.  That one thing is fidelity in your marriage.  Fidelity, the unbroken wedding vow, is in the past.  It is gone and cannot be regained. 

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)



I am a captain in the Marine Corps.  A year ago my wife cheated on me with another Marine.  He lived in an apartment facing ours, which I passed every day on my way to work.  She was my girlfriend at the time, and she told me because she felt guilty about it.  She said it only happened once.

She said she never talked to the guy again except to tell him to leave her alone.  I married her even after I found out because I love her and because I feel everyone deserves a second chance.  I hold a lot of anger inside about it, especially since I worked on the same base with him.  He left a little while ago for another assignment, and the apartment is empty now.

My question is how do you stop thinking about it?  I picture it in my mind like a broken record.  I don't want to keep hounding my wife over this.  I want to get over it and move on.  But I just get kind of sick when I think of his hands on her.  I wonder if she will do it again, and I wonder if I am not good enough, especially in bed.

To be honest, I don't know why she cheated other than she was unhappy about money and about moving to a new base.  She stated she wanted him from the minute she saw him and he was the best looking man she had ever seen.  I am so insecure over this it is unreal.  I have never and would never cheat.


Monty, forty years ago Roy Orbison sang, "It breaks your heart in two, To know she's been untrue."  Today Puddle of Mudd sings, "…have to find a way to take the knife out of my back."  Forty years from now someone else will be singing the same story, and it will sound like the same old broken record.

Even when you no longer see this man's empty apartment, looking at your wife will be a reminder of what happened.  The who, when, and where don't matter.  What matters is that no reason she gave you justifies cheating.  What matters is that you rewarded the one who caused you pain with a wedding.  Now you have made the pain a full-time part of your life.

She gave you a losing ticket, and you gave her the prize.  Your anger is simply the other side of the fear she will do it again.  You tried to avoid the pain of losing her, but once she was unfaithful, she was already gone.  You needed to work through that pain and move on with someone who would be faithful.  The title of Roy Orbison's 1964 song, "It's Over," holds your answer.

(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Cruel Secrets

Last year my wife and I separated and nearly divorced because she had an affair.  Since then we have been in therapy and are now happier than any time in our 15 year marriage.  During our separation, I slept numerous times with a co-worker who is a close personal friend of my wife.  My wife doesn’t know about this, and our friends and family are still persecuting her for her affair.

The woman I slept with still works with me, but our affair is never discussed.  She and my wife get together for a movie or drinks regularly, and she comes to dinner at our house at least once a week.  Should I tell my wife about the affair and risk damaging our relationship?  I confessed all to one of my best friends, and he cannot believe we are rubbing this in my wife’s face.  He says it is not moral since my wife confessed everything to me.


Arnie, when more than one person knows a secret, it’s not a secret anymore.  The life of this secret is likely measured in days or even hours.  You told somebody, and your wife’s friend must have told somebody.  Concealing this secret made you write us.  Who knows how many somebodies now know this secret.

Sigmund Freud said, “Secrets make you sick.”  It is probably the wisest thing he ever said.  Soon somebody, for whatever reason, will let this secret out.  They may tell to feel moral, to defend your wife, or to hurt your wife.  They may tell to hurt you.  Or they may tell because keeping this secret makes them sick. 

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No Happy Ending

I'm writing to you with a completely shattered heart.  I've known my wife for over five years, and we got married last August.  It was a fairy tale wedding, everything we always wanted, with about 200 guests.  Everyone said by the look on our faces they knew we were in love.

For years before the wedding, my wife was completely into me.  We spent every night and all weekend together.  Our perfect weekend would be a couple of rental movies and a night out to eat.  Six months after the wedding I threw a 30th birthday party for my wife and invited all her friends.  She had a blast but got very drunk.  People were shocked to see her like that, but I was just happy my wife was happy.

After the party I noticed she acted different.  My wife didn't seem to care about things we made a priority in our life, like having a baby and buying a home.  One Saturday morning I found her secretly checking her voice mail messages.  I guessed at her access code and guessed correctly.  The message I heard was her boss saying how much he missed her and needed to hear the sound of her voice.

I started shaking and felt nauseous.  He is the same age as me, in great shape, and definitely her type.  I went upstairs and confronted my wife.  She denied it, but I could see the lie in her face.  When I suggested we listen to the voice mail together, she confessed and we both cried.

She explained he was there for her because I wasn't there emotionally.  She said they only kissed once or twice but never slept together.  I want to believe her, but I don't.  She seems cold and distant and isn't the same person anymore.  Part of me wants her back, and part of me thinks she's too far gone.


Doyle, just because you cried together it doesn't mean you were crying for the same reason.  A teenager stealing a CD from a store may cry when he gets caught, but if he succeeded he might hold the CD aloft and boast to his buddies.  His tears are not tears of remorse, but tears because of his predicament. 

Nothing in your letter suggests you weren't there for your wife emotionally, yet she isn't lying when she makes that claim.  Who was emotionally disconnected?  She was, from you.  She doesn't feel the closeness, the loyalty, and the bond you do. 

Your connection to her would prevent you from doing this to her.  She was so disconnected from you she didn't consider you before becoming involved with her boss.

She claims you were emotionally distant.  She wants you to accept blame for something she never told you.  She did not come to her husband and talk.  She started dating her boss and hid it from her husband.  If she was that miserable, she should have told you.

Fidelity is the definition of marriage.  What does that mean?  When two people decide on marriage, dating stops.  Intimate relationships with other people stop.  Otherwise, why get married?  Your wife is dating again.  That kills a marriage. 

In one of the Upanishads there is an ecstatic passage which begins, "This earth is honey for all beings, and all beings are honey for this earth…"  That passage always reminds us what marriage should feel like.  A husband should be honey for his wife, and a wife honey for her husband.

Home should be a refuge and an oasis.  The one who shares that with you should love you simply and completely.

To move forward, sooner or later you have to get to the truth.  How do you get from where you are to where you want to be, with a woman whose first response was to lie and point the finger at you? 

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

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