Am I A Fool To Try Again?

Morning friend,

We had a great turn out last week for our webinar. Our Walking in Core Strength Group Coaching program is now open. If you want to work on yourself, to grow healthier and stronger, check it out. 

Today’s Question:  I discovered my husband’s 8-month affair 1 1/2 years ago. We separated for 3 months and then I took him back to work on things. I even told him I forgave him. He continued to lie to me. Then 3 1/3 months ago I discovered he betrayed me again a few more times with the same woman 6 months prior while we were trying to rebuild and take all the affair recovery courses. 

So we separated again and this time I wasn't codependent. I didn't tell him what he should do. I left it totally up to him, but he's done nothing and in his weak moments, he has even approached his affair partner for conversation. I recently told him this is the end of the line for me. He told me he wants to reconcile, and he gave me a genuine apology. He passed a polygraph that I asked for a long time ago, but he was unwilling to do it then because he hadn't come clean to me about all the lies yet.

Would I be a fool to consider possible reconciliation and rebuilding our marriage after all this? We've been married 33 years and have two grown (recently) married children. Thanks so much.

Answer:  Thank you for your question. I think it resonates with many women who find themselves in your position. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through.

After many long years together, you discovered his affair. Your husband cheated, lied, told you he wanted to work on things, lied, and cheated again even while he was pretending to work on “rebuilding your marriage”. Now he’s told you once more he wants to reconcile only after you said you were done. He’s apologized and taken a lie-detector test that he wasn’t willing to do before. Your question is, would you be a fool to consider possible reconciliation and rebuilding your marriage after all of this?

My answer depends on what he is willing to do next. Rebuilding a broken marriage is usually worth giving serious thought to. You have 33 years of history and two married children and that is important. But you are not foolish for pressing pause and thinking through your next right steps.  

I’m curious what kind of work has your husband done on himself to understand his own actions. For example, has he explored the reasons he gave into temptation jeopardizing his 33-year marriage with you? Why did he lie to you, pretending it was over when it wasn’t?  

You said that when you left him the second time and said this was the end of the line, he did nothing to work on himself, but once again resumed his conversation with his affair partner. Now after you said this is the end, he wants to reconcile. What’s different now than before? Why should you trust him? You already know he’s not trustworthy. He’s proven that.

You face a common dilemma that many women find themselves in. Marital trust has been shattered. Multiple times. Now he says he’s sorry or doesn’t want to lose his marriage, or his perhaps his retirement nest egg that will be impacted if you divorce. Now he says he wants to “work on rebuilding your marriage.” What exactly does that mean to him? You cannot repair the damaged trust he created until or unless he first works on himself and looks at why he was willing to lie and cheat in the first place.  

Think of it this way. Your house (marriage) has damage to its foundation because of termites eating away at the woodwork. You call a repair person to fix the damage, to rebuild the foundation so that your house (marriage) doesn’t collapse (divorce). But you never address the termite problem. What that means for the future is that although it looks like you have a new foundation, termites are still there eating away at all the work you just did, making your house vulnerable to another collapse. 

What’s the reason your husband chose not to do any of his own work when you told him this was the end of the line? Also, if he’s a believer in Jesus, did his actions bother him? If so, why didn’t he listen to the Holy Spirit?  If he cares for you, his break in marital trust and the hurt he caused you should rattle him deeply. Did it? How would you have known? How does he see himself as a man of God?  Husband?  Father?  Why was he willing to throw away things that should have mattered to him (his family, his integrity, his reputation) for temporary pleasure? And most important, who is he really? Is he a good man who messed up? Or is he a self-centered man who wants what he wants and you happen to be that right now? 

I believe a marriage can be healed after betrayal, but only after the one who did the betraying does some hard soul-searching and healing as to why he made the choices he did. 

I’m going to give you a few questions to ask him to think about. I suggest you write them out and give them to him that way. His thoughtful responses (or non-answers or reactions) may help you get clear on your next right choices. (You may also want to answer these questions for yourself to see how closely your answers align with his answers).

  • What would repairing our marriage look like to you?
  • If our marriage was already healed, what would it look like, sound like and feel like to you?
  • What’s most important to you in having a good marriage?
  • What have you learned about yourself from this experience?
  • How do you think your behaviors have affected and impacted me and our marriage?
  • What are the changes you need to make in yourself so that this does not happen again?
  • What steps do you think you need to take to rebuild my shattered trust?

Before giving him these questions, I suggest you say to him something like this. “I don’t know if I’m willing or ready to rebuild our relationship, but I do have some questions I’d like you to look at and answer for me.”

Then wait and see what he does. Don’t remind him. If you are important to him, he’ll work on it and give it the attention it deserves. If he honors you by giving these questions serious thought and consideration, reflecting on himself and how his behaviors have impacted you, him, and your marriage, then perhaps he’s ready for more personal growth.  On the other hand, if he ignores them, minimizes or criticizes you or the questions, or answers the questions with superficial responses, the chances of rebuilding a marriage that is any different than it was before is zero. 

This will give you the information you need to decide whether it’s wise or foolish to take the next step forward together. 

Friend, when your trust has been shattered in marriage, what steps were taken to rebuild your trust?

10 Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott on August 23, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    I like the analogy of a house with termites. When I was in a destructive marriage, I tried many times to look past the harm my husband was doing to me and our kids. When I finally got honest with myself about what was really happening, I was able to break free from his control. I often tell my clients that actions speak louder than words. If your husband is not willing to change his actions, this speaks volumes. Please take care of yourself as you think this through. I pray you have supportive people around you.

    • Sheila on August 24, 2023 at 5:47 pm

      Hi
      I was also in a marriage of 33 years with many repeated times of infidelity. We were “supposed” to serve the Lord together in full time ministry. I never got my trust back for him and he never gave me the answers to the above questions. I tried to make it better but it never worked. The counsel given is the best. It sounds like another round of abuse to me.

  2. JoAnn on August 23, 2023 at 8:28 pm

    I can’t help but wonder if you could ever trust him again? Suppose you both work on the marriage, and it seems like he is making some changes, but could you still have any confidence in his ability to remain true? Trust is difficult to build and it destructs very easily.

  3. Michelle on August 24, 2023 at 11:32 am

    Denial? I think we lose perspective of our priorities i.e., God, self, husband, children in that order. I wanted my family and worked hard to make it seem perfect. I looked the other way or explained to myself that it would be ok. There were so many red flags over the years. i forgave his indiscretions and blatant misuse of my boundaries. I was clearly in denial. Twenty-seven years of people pleasing. Trust started to erode in the second year of marriage with an affair with a co-worker, I should have left in the third year. Did he try to make amends for affairs/ porn discoveries, drinking, DUI’S, lost jobs, money hidden….no, he “denied” it all. Gaslighting, silent treatment escalated as I began to confront him. Marriage counseling made me realize he lies to everyone. I began to see his lies everywhere. He planted his story and discredited me to our children and his family as things started to go South. I finally left because of his emotional treatment not his affairs. My mother after I let it all out: asked if I thought he would change. NO! She told me to file for divorce. I separated in November and filed in February, during that time he made no effort at all. It was not worth it to him to make an effort, or he felt I would come back with my tail between my legs, and he would not have to do anything. I respected myself too much for the later. I do believe he would have continued to disrespect me and would be worse. Did the divorce change him, yes, he double down is attack of me. He played games and manipulated the divorce decree. I had to get the court involved. Used my children as pawns in his games. Ten years out, my old neighbors report physical altercations with his new wife, Objectifying comments about a neighbor’s DIL. His affair partner is still on the scene and new wife thinks she is just a friend. It is hard to move on but counseling helped with my anger and to work on forgiving myself for staying too long. I still continue to work on me and remind myself to love me. Thanks Leslie and company!

    • Cindy on August 28, 2023 at 7:35 am

      Michelle, I couldn’t stop reading your comment because it was like you’re writing MY story!!! I am at the end of a 43 year marriage. I can’t even believe I’m saying that! I’ve dealt with his lies and porn/masturbation addiction the whole time. Always believing what he told me that he was done, God healed him, it would never happen again. And if it was only the addiction, I would stand by his side and fight it with him. But it’s all the lies and manipulation and character assassination he has done to me our grown children. He has devastated me as a woman and a mother. It has cost me my relationship with my son who has “sided” with his father. We have been separated for 11 months and my husband refused to get help or even call it an addiction for 7 of those months. Then we he finally sought counseling, he “dismissed” him after 2 sessions. And surprisingly a 2nd counselor did the same thing! Because I’ve wanted the family I never had as a kid, I thought I needed to just put up with things and stuff them down. I realize what a mistake I’ve made. And now I’m facing a divorce and whatever the next season of my life holds. My faith is the center of my life and I believe that God’s will for my life is not to be in a destructive marriage. I’m truly dependent on Him for my future for the 1st time in my life. Thank you for sharing your story because it touched me and gives me encouragement that I too can get through this and am going to be ok.

  4. c.r. on August 28, 2023 at 4:13 pm

    This is the first time I have been on this site. Thank you, everyone! Having read the above-stated stories, may I please send my heartfelt hugs to all of you. If any of you have time, would you please share? We have been married for 38 years. Six months after we were married, he lost interest in mutual sexual satisfaction. Since, it has all been for his pleasure, and zero, zilch, nada for me. Yes, that is right: all these years without feeling anything. For the first 20 years, I thought it was me. Then I began understanding that maybe this was not the case. I am still here. My reasoning? To have the 4 adult kids see that marriages can make it and be a blessing to others. . .I smile on the outside and I have played the role. Inside, I am almost dead. Thank you for letting me share. I do not feel better. I feel nothing. But thank you for trying to help.

    • Caroline Abbott on August 31, 2023 at 9:57 am

      My heart goes out to you. I would question what you are showing to your 4 kids (and others) about a marriage when you feel dead inside. People pick up on our true feelings even when we try to hide them. Would you want your kids to stay in a loveless marriage for 38 years?

    • CD on August 31, 2023 at 4:42 pm

      The kids know otherwise. They see disrespect and they are being treated poorly when you’re not noticing. When you are focused on the way he treats you, you probably aren’t seeing that it is an across the board indefference to all. I am sorry that you too got hooked in and stayed thinking it was your duty. Please know many of us did this. There is no shame in this. Only redemption. May God guide you as you walk this out. Just be humble and stand firm. Know that the biggest way to be free is to forgive and move on with your life, taking nothing back. Never accepting that things have changed. They NEVER do. No matter what people tell you, eventually things return to same as usual with these guys. They don’t get that change is not skin deep. It is mental and emotional and rarely happens without a huge amount of work and humility which is usually way too difficult for them.

  5. Hope on August 29, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    Cindy, thank you for sharing your story; it helped me. I’m in the middle of a divorce after 33 years and in my late 60s. I can really relate to what you said about wanting to create a family that was different than your family of origin and so you “…thought I needed to just put up with things and stuff them down.” I didn’t start out stuffing–but after time after time of his meltdowns, shutdowns and bullying, I became very afraid of him. I finally realized he has no concept–and I think no desire for– marriage as a covenant to care for one another. He lives as though he’s married to himself–and there’s just no room for me in there. It’s been heartbreaking to finally face this. I feel pretty beat up emotionally right now, but like you I’m looking to Jesus for hope and for a good future. (Though honestly I have Brave Days and Not-So Brave Days!) God’s been so faithful to me. So grateful for Leslie and Co and this site too where we can encourage each other!.

    • CD on August 31, 2023 at 4:44 pm

      Hang in there sister. Do not let him bully you into anything. Finish well. Know that there are brighter days ahead.

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