Surviving a Past Affair


My husband and I had our children young and we got married before the second one was born. At one point he left because he didn’t have feelings for me anymore. Later I found out he was with another woman. We have been back together for a while now, but what can i do to stop nagging on him for something that’s done and over with? My marriage is being ruined.

You said, near the end of your message, “what can I do to stop nagging him for something that’s done and over with?”. I think the solution has to hinge on the premise underlying this question. In other words, is this something that’s over and done with?

Let me try to deal with this first. In order for it to be something that is over and done with, your husband has to have acknowledged that what he did was wrong, and promised that he never will again. He also has to give you some assurances that it will not happen again, which I’ll get to in a moment. The fact that you’re still quite upset about this says that, perhaps, your husband has not assured you that it won’t happen again.

Unfortunately, many men who do have affairs will have more than one affair. This isn’t a guarantee, but does often occur. You need him to be faithful both for yourself and for the safety and security of your children. That’s only natural. If I can suggest a book to you, James Dobson’s book  Love Must Be Toughaddresses marriages like yours where one spouse has had an affair, and suggests ways that you can act so that he must either make the choice to stay faithful and be a loving husband or to leave. There is no middle ground. You wouldn’t want a man who is a philanderer. I really got a lot out of that book, and I would certainly recommend it.

I would also suggest that you put some hedges around your marriage so that an affair is more difficult. Talk to your husband about things he could do to put your concerns and fears at rest. Perhaps it means that you are allowed to call him at work at any time of day (though not hounding him several times a day, obviously!) without incurring his wrath. Maybe it means that he agrees that he won’t eat lunch with female coworkers, or that he won’t be alone with another woman. Maybe it means ending friendships that he may be maintaining with former girlfriends. Perhaps it means that he does less with the guys for a time and you do more things together as a couple. Indeed, going out as a couple and rebuilding your relationship is also important in healing. Finally, you may want to ask him to make sure that he is not using pornography, going to any strip clubs, or doing anything that gets him interested in women other than you.

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That being said, if he is unwilling to commit to change, or thinks that you’re over-reacting, talk to him calmly about your fears and ask him what he would suggest that you do together to work through them. Go to a counsellor? Talk to a pastor? Tell him that you desperately want the relationship to work, but you can’t do that until you have rebuilt the trust.

If he is willing to do these things, and if he does speak to a counsellor with you, it is up to you to trust him again. It is foolish to trust someone who has not earned it and is not interested in earning it. That is not trust; that is blind faith, and it is a dangerous position to put yourself and your children in. However, if he is sorry for what he did and if he is taking steps to rebuild the marriage, you must also promise not to grill him so much on what happened. You must let it drop as well. Hardest of all, you must forgive. This may take time. Often full healing from an affair takes several years. It is not something that is over with and dealt with in a few weeks. You only put down your defenses little by little. This is probably wise. But at some point, if he has committed to the relationship, you also need to make the decision that you will forgive and put it behind you.

If, on the other hand, he does not seem willing to talk to you about these things, or to take steps in his own life to try to rebuild your trust, I might question whether he really is committed to the relationship. I think talking to someone else, such as a counsellor or a pastor, is a good idea, even if you have to go alone. That person can hear more of the details of your relationship and will be in a better position to advise you whether or not you should completely trust him again.

Finally, you mentioned that your husband originally left because he had lost feelings for you. That must have been such a rejection! At the same time, if you are willing to forgive and forge ahead with your marriage, you may need to ask some difficult questions of yourself: what was my husband not getting from the marriage? How can I become the kind of wife I want to be? When you’re married and you have young children, it is easy for the spouse to come last. I am not in any way blaming you for your husband’s leaving — please understand. I am only saying that for your marriage to be as good as it can be it needs to a two-way street. He makes a commitment to you, and you also show a willingness to help him with what he needs. If he senses from you that you care about his needs and wants, he is far more likely to show an interest in yours, and far more likely to feel less defensive about your marriage.


Copyright © 2006 Sheila Wray Gregoire, used with permission. Visit Shiela at

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