14 Feb What If My Husband Cheats Again?
One of the questions I hear the most is, “What if I stay, do all this work to heal, and trust him again only to find out that he’s still cheating on me?” Daily, I get dozens of applications from women who sit in this fear space, and the ironic thing is that they are already doing the work.
They are in therapy and have sometimes been doing it for years. They participate in couples’ counseling. They are already reading every book they can find on the subjects of affairs, betrayal, trauma, sexual addiction, and codependency. They are reading their way through the entire self-help section. They are already consuming podcast after podcast, trying to find what is missing in order to heal their marriage. They are already staying. They haven’t left. They have already tried an in-home separation and an out-of-home separation. They have already tried going back to the way things were, and they have already believed him or have worked on trying to believe him. They are already hoping and searching for proof that trust can be rebuilt.
The extremely crazy thing is that while these wives have been putting in the work, even though they’re afraid of being cheated on again, in most situations that come my way, their husbands have been caught being unfaithful again.
If you are like I was or like most of my clients when they first start working with me, when you find out about a recent betrayal despite all the work you’ve done, you probably think some of the following thoughts:
- I must be seeing the wrong therapist.
- Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough.
- Perhaps we should see a different couples’ counselor.
- If only I had read that book that was suggested to me.
- We just need to go to a couple’s intensive to see if we can really make this work.
- If he just knew I loved him, he wouldn’t be doing this.
- I need to love him better, and I’ve wasted so much time.
Your biggest fear has come true, and you still can’t leave. You have zero clarity. Can you feel how confusing this is? You probably feel like you are going crazy. At least, that’s how I felt when I was in your situation.
Cindy and Her High School Sweetheart
This reminds me of my client, Cindy, who had been married for 15 years when we met. She and her husband had been high school sweethearts, dedicated to each other, totally in love, and what others would consider the perfect couple. Unfortunately, what she thought was her forever was shattered when she found out that her husband had been unfaithful not once, but twice during their marriage. She had always told herself that if her husband cheated, she’d be gone. No way would she disrespect herself in that way and stay. However, when it actually happened, that was not the case.
Cindy was so afraid that her husband would continue to be unfaithful. She was completely unsure as to whether she would ever be able to trust him again, and she had no idea if she’d ever really be able to forgive him, but she was willing to try. She didn’t run away, but instead felt an immense desire to be closer to him to create a beautiful new beginning in their marriage with a foundation of honesty, vulnerability, loyalty, kindness, openness, and support.
In order to attain that, she tried speaking with her husband about the event and shared her feelings and fears with him. She read books on self-awareness and forgiveness, and she spoke with a therapist that specializes in infidelity in marriage. Well, a year into the work of trying to reconcile and rebuild her marriage, Cindy learned that her husband had continued to be unfaithful. Her worst nightmare had come true again. Guess what? She still couldn’t leave.
She went back and reread some of the books she’d already read and even ordered a stack of new ones. She found a new therapist and started participating in a recovery program that her church held weekly. As worried as Cindy was about putting herself in a situation where she could be hurt again and as much as she didn’t want to waste any more energy and time, she was stuck.
What’s Holding You Back
Here’s the thing: your fear of your husband cheating again is valid, but that is not what is keeping you from moving forward. You feel stuck because infidelity in a marriage causes what is defined as emotional trauma, and emotional trauma can cause post-infidelity stress disorder.
One of the symptoms of this is called trauma recall, which means that you may have painful memories, flashbacks and nightmares that make you feel as though you are reliving the original experiences all over again. Your fear of your husband cheating again is attached to the symptoms of emotional trauma. You will continually and unconsciously recall the memories, feelings, and sensations of your heartbreak. This fear of being cheated on is a biological response trying to protect you, warn you, and ensure that you will never feel this way again under any circumstances.
Because emotional trauma has infiltrated your brain, nervous system, and body, you are unable to know the difference between when he is being honest or lying, and cannot recognize when he’s being unfaithful. Remember how Cindy was so afraid to do the work to heal her marriage, but she was doing everything she could anyway? She was so afraid that her husband was going to be unfaithful again and he was, yet even after all the work she’d done, she still couldn’t leave. She still felt stuck. Well, it’s because Cindy, despite all her efforts, had not done the one thing that would help her overcome her fear and give her the clarity she needed to be able to move either closer to her husband or farther away from him. She needed to clear her emotional trauma, which would finally give her the confidence to take action.
One thing I always tell my children is that you have a choice. Always. You are truly never stuck. So I’ll share that same advice with you. There is a way out of this madness, and you have a choice. You can absolutely continue to ask your therapist for advice and wait for them to tell you their opinion on what you should do. You will end up questioning their opinion anyway and in the end, be unable to move forward. You can absolutely continue to read and digest the information that the books offer, grounding yourself with as much understanding as your trauma-hijacked brain can hold, and yet continue to remain as you are.
You can also do the work of clearing your emotional trauma just like Cindy decided to do. This results in your ability to move beyond the fear shouting about whether he’ll cheat again and gives you the traction, know-how, and confidence to be able to move toward what you want. To fill in the burning question of where Cindy is now, she did clear her emotional trauma, and then unfortunately found out that her husband was blocking women when he came home and unblocking them when he left for work. In the past, this information would have sent her spiraling and starting over on the hamster wheel of her mind. She reported to our group that this was the hardest thing she’d ever been through and thought that that she’d ever go through. Although it’s hard for her to come out of all this, she is beginning to feel joy and peace as she’s learning to trust herself. She knows that she is going to be okay because she knows exactly what to do.
The endings of some of the examples I share aren’t very pretty, but they’re truthful and truth is what I wish to share with you. Your husband cheating on you is not your fault, and yet the emotional trauma he has caused is your responsibility to clear. You can feel the calm and peace you desire. You can know that you are enough. You have everything within you to be able to trust your judgment and your choices, and it is very possible for you to be able to overcome the loud fear of wondering if your husband will cheat again so that you can find clarity.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Please tell me in the comments below if you have lost days, months, or years to this fear of your husband cheating again only to find evidence that he has. What action did you take?
I offer a free masterclass in which I talk about clearing emotional trauma in order to find peace and the self-assurance you’ve lost. You’ll then become a Beyond Breath Insider and have access to exclusive content that I don’t share anywhere else. Do this work, and you may very well return to a happy, fulfilling, and trust-filled marriage that far exceeds what it had been even before the infidelity. What happened to you is not fair, but the only person who can reclaim control of your mind and spirit from the trauma that has infected it is you. Take action and you can once again experience the joy, love, and confidence that you used to know.