Repairing a Marriage After Both Spouses Had an Affair

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dear Dr. Gunzburg

I have been reading your stuff on the web site. And I need your advice. This is my story. I am 39 and I had the affair for 9 months (with an old boyfriend from my past). My husband found out and wanted to work it out. He tried and tried and I saw the changes (he even did the love dare), but stopped and gave up because he saw that I didn't want to work it out. He told me he would move on and find someone. That still did not change my mind. UNTIL June 6,2010. We sat with our son and told him we were going seperate ways. That is when it hit me. I didn't want this like I thought I did. But, by that time he did find someone.

It's been 2 1/2 months he has been seeing this other woman. He tells me he still loves me but, he is closed off to me because I have hurt him for 22 years.

Our story goes way back to when I was 16. We dated in high school, broke up twice and in 1994 we married. So I married my high school sweetheart. Anyways, if this makes any sense, he has now had the affair. I found out he slept with her. I confronted him and he said yes.

Now he says he wants to work it out and save our marriage. He said he has cut ties with this other woman but, they work in the same building. I have logged on to his phone plan and I see that there has been some text messages and a phone call.

It's only been 2 days since he cut it off with her. But, his phone history tells me different. He does not know I know his password to log on to the web site of his phone.

I don't trust him. So I go snooping to get my information. He says he wants to work it out and does not want to lose what we have and our family.

But, when I start to ask him questions about us and the other woman he gets mad. I even told him he could reassure me when he is at work because like I said they work in the same building and my mind starts to wander off. And again he gets angry.

I ask him if he has really called it off with the other woman because if he has not I tell him, "how can we work on us if she is still in the picture?" I called it off with the other man 3 months ago.

I really want to save our marrige and I want my husband to understand that we can not work on us if this woman is still in the picture. I really wish I could talk to you so you can have a better idea of our situation.

Since I learned about his affair I want to know details – not the wrong details, just basic questions. He says he will not talk to me about that.

This has really taken a toll on me. I feel lost, I feel hurt, I feel dead inside. Could we save our marrige? I want to and he knows I do. He says he wants to. I just don't know if he really wants to because I don't see it. He tells me it will take time. It takes baby steps. He says he has really closed me off. He is afraid of me hurting him again.

I reassure him but it does not work. I don't give up. I try to reassure him all the time. I'm just afraid if I keep letting him in and doing my part I will get hurt.

I honestly dont think he has called it off with her. He says yes. I just don't believe that. I see his phone history without him knowing. So do I let him do this because he stayed with me when I was doing this for 9 months? He would try everything to bring me back to him, until [in] June he replaced me. So do I let him do this?

Also, when I found out about his affair, I did tell him it was over, that we could not work it out. I told him [it] was going to be hard with what I did; now with what he did, it just could not work.

His reply was "Oh when you did it we could work it out, but, when I did it it's over?" He made me feel like I was selfish. Was I being selfish? I didn't mean for it to come out like that.

I just did not think we could save our marriage now that we both had an affair. Please help us! We have been married 15 years but been together [for] 22 years. We dated in high school and married in 1994.

-Heartbroken in Texas

Dear Heartbroken,

Can a marriage be repaired after each person has had an affair? Yes, it's possible. Can the two of you accomplish this? I don't know.

First, any and all other lovers have to be left without hope of your ever getting together again, even if you and your spouse don't work out.

Second, you both have to want to be with each other, and to work toward that goal. A good marriage takes a lot of tolerance for not letting the little irritations irritate you.

You have to give yourself a pep talk inside your head to build yourself up when your spouse seems to be tearing you down.

When your spouse is doing something that irritates you, you have to practice positive thinking about your spouse--to work out giving the benefit of the doubt to his or her behavior. This might include telling yourself that your spouse is having a bad day, or that your spouse is feeling ______ (fill in the blank--some possible feelings to insert in the blank might be: tired, afraid of losing his job, insulted by his brother, hurting from his toothache, abandoned by his parents, etc.).

Another helpful practice is to think in your head thoughts of love toward your spouse, even when your spouse is not present. You might say to yourself, something like "I really love the way she smiled at me and laughed at my joke before I left for work this morning." Or, "I love how he gives me that extra squeeze when he hugs me."

Even when the day hasn't started well between you, I am suggesting that you find the quickest way back to a loving attitude and loving behavior. Feeling sorry for yourself and thinking bad thoughts about your spouse are counterproductive to re-establishing a good relationship.

You both need to work on your characters. I suggest you dump all your secrets to each other and be transparent from here on. Of course, these actions could further destroy your relationship. These are delicate balances which benefit from experienced, professional guidance.

Is it possible? Yes.

If you decide to try to make your relationship work, I wish you all success in developing a wonderful marriage together.

If you want to work with me, I offer marriage counseling in Maryland, to couples from all over the world. I am intentionally out-of-network for all insurance plans. My fees are based on $260 per hour, with a 45 minute session costing $195. I also have self-help programs available.

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