Infidelity is a huge challenge, but relationships can heal from this and actually become stronger
[tweetthis]”You can’t do monogamy 90 percent of the time”- Alanis Morissette [/tweetthis]
Sheldon wrote this question to me during one of my free webinars:
“I am trying to repair my 20-year marriage after my infidelity. I was discovered by my wife two years ago. I had been visiting massage parlors and prostitutes for a period of three years. We spent six months in counseling and made a little progress, but stopped going because of issues with our counselor. My wife is still suspicious of me and has no trust in me at all. How long should I expect before I can regain a little bit of trust. I know that I can’t live the rest of my life like this.”
Sheldon, infidelity is a very challenging issue and there is much to learn from it. Something I’m not hearing in your question is what you have learned in the last two years since your wife discovered your infidelity. Visiting massage parlors and prostitutes is a sign of deep self-abandonment. Seeking these experiences indicates that you felt empty inside and were looking to be filled up externally through sexual experiences. If you have not done the inner work of discovering how you were abandoning yourself and have not learned to love yourself, fill yourself, and be a trustworthy loving adult toward yourself and your wife, then it is unrealistic for her to trust you.
Regaining her trust means that you need to be genuinely trustworthy toward yourself and her. Just stopping your visits to massage parlors and prostitutes does not constitute being trustworthy.
On the other hand, your wife also needs to do her own inner work to be trustworthy with herself. Of course, I don’t know your situation, but very often, when I work with a person whose spouse was unfaithful, they intuitively knew about it but didn’t trust themselves. It is unrealistic for her to regain trust in you, even if you have done your inner work and have become honest and trustworthy, until she learns to trust herself. Most of us have a hard time trusting others until we fully trust ourselves.
In addition, if your wife has not done her inner work to not take your infidelity personally, then she will likely continue to feel angry and victimized by you. She needs to understand that your sexually addictive behavior was coming from your self-abandonment and was not about her.
So, even if you have done your inner work, if your wife has not done hers, it is unrealistic for you to expect her to trust you. However, her lack of trust is really her issue, not yours. If you know that you are now an honest and trustworthy person, then it is up to you to not take her lack of trust toward you personally. This is also a challenging part of your inner work.
It is my experience that when couples face this issue and do their own inner work to learn to love and value themselves, and are then able to share their love with each other, their relationship not only heals, but becomes stronger than it was before the infidelity. When they each accept the challenge of learning from the painful situation, so much growth occurs that they are often able to create a whole new relationship.
Sheldon, you say, “I know that I can’t live the rest of my life like this.” Good! But stop making your wife responsible for whether or not you live the rest of your life this way. I encourage you to apply your energy toward doing your inner work so that you can heal your marriage and not have to live this way the rest of your life.
[Margaret Paul Relationship Toolbox]