I sometimes hear from wives whose husband would like nothing more than for the wife to erase his infidelity from her mind and to never speak of it again. Of course, this is sometimes next to impossible for the wife, but the husband often can’t or won’t understand this.
I heard from a wife who said: “early on in our marriage, I caught my husband chatting with other women online. It was right after I had our first child. And although I was repulsed and so angry, I could almost see his motivation because I didn’t have time for him in a sexual way and he wasn’t actually physically engaging with these people. Now, it is seven years later. I can not complain about him as a husband. He is a good man. And he is a wonderful father. But last month, he went to his high school reunion and when I was unpacking his bags, a pair of panties was in with his clothing. I was beside myself and I immediately confronted him. Right away, he admitted that he had gotten drunk and had a fling with an old classmate. We live across the country from his home town so it is not like he will ever see this woman again. Even though I know this intellectually, my heart tells me that my husband cheated on me. And the little voice in the back of my head is telling me that we need to go to counseling and do a lot of work on our marriage or we are never going to make it. But when I tell my husband this, he says that I am totally overreacting. He says that he would never ever be unfaithful again and only did because he was drunk. I reminded him about the online chatting and says that was completely different. He wants to just forget the whole thing. But I just can’t. Am I wrong?”
Why Forgetting About The Cheating Often Not Only Isn’t Advisable, It’s Nearly Impossible:
I certainly didn’t think this woman was in any way wrong. Although her description did make it seem that this man was otherwise a good husband (and likely completely able to be rehabilitated,) he had exhibited a pattern of risky behavior and poor impulse control. Of course, I’m certainly not an expert and some may disagree with me. But I understood where this wife was coming from. He was asking her to just forget about something that was deeply upsetting to her. And I can tell you from experience that it is going to be very hard for her to trust him again until they had worked through all of the issues and restored the trust.
Because no matter how much you love a man, or know him to be an otherwise good and honorable person, once that man has cheated on you, then you are always filled with very painful and troublesome doubt until you are able to heal. You always wonder when he is going to cheat again and you are always suspicious.
As a result, he becomes more and more impatient with you and in addition to the infidelity, you have all kinds of additional conflict in your marriage. I understand why husbands want to just forget about the cheating. It is hard for them to know that their mistake has hurt you in this way. And many of them promise themselves that they will never cheat again and they fully believe this.
But, they do not realize that when they find themselves in another tempting situation, they may struggle with that poor impulse control once again (and potentially cheat) until they learn to effectively deal with it. Often, they don’t understand that needing help doesn’t imply weakness or make them a bad person. It just means that they love their wife and value their marriage enough to do this for you.
How To Handle It If He’s Urging You To Forget:
I believe that you need to make it very clear to him that no matter what he does or says, you are just not capable of forgetting this even if you wanted to. You might say something like: “I am not denying that the cheating isn’t out of character for a man who has shown himself to be a loving father and a steady husband. What I am saying though is that the cheating has wounded me so that I am not capable of forgetting or of pretending like it didn’t happen. I am willing to try to move past that but we are going to need some help in order for me to do that. I know that you feel that this was a one time thing that you will never repeat. You may even be right about that. But I need this reassurance. I need for you to do this even if you don’t agree with me because you love me enough to take responsibility and be accountable enough to walk with me. I know that you didn’t set out to hurt me, but you did. And now we both have to pick up the pieces. Will you work with me to do that?”
Notice that in the above speech, you didn’t go out of your way to make him feel like a bad person but you were very clear on what you needed and that you weren’t willing to settle for less. This will hopefully make him realize that if he loves you, he will rise to the occasion and do what you need for him to do in order to restore the trust that he must earn back.