It’s a question every betrayed spouse will ask at some point – “Can I ever trust him (or her) again?” It’s a reasonable and yet unanswerable question. The truth is, a person who has had an affair has proven themselves to be deceptive at least once. It is reasonable to wonder whether they can be trusted and yet, since we cannot predict the future, we cannot know for sure.
Here’s the question you should be asking:
That’s why when I’m asked this question by a client, I usually respond with another question, one we can answer and work with on a practical level: “What has your spouse done to earn back your trust?”
In the wake of the infidelity, has the unfaithful partner cut off all contact with the affair partner? Have they shown true remorse and accountability, and have they agreed to be transparent with their phone and other devices, as well as their whereabouts? And very tellingly, have they done so willingly or begrudgingly?
Yet even this seemingly clear line of questioning can get a bit murky in the real world. After all, what does “transparent” mean, exactly? A betrayed spouse may want complete 24/7 access and passwords to a partner’s phone and devices, while the unfaithful spouse may feel that is too invasive. A betrayed spouse may want their partner to text whenever they’re moving from point A to B, while the unfaithful partner may feel that is too burdensome. My online programs can help you navigate this issue, among many others, so you can move forward instead of spinning your wheels in conflict.
But back to the question: can an unfaithful partner be trusted again? Because I’ve specialized in infidelity issues for a long time, I have the advantage of being able to check-in with clients years after the affair to hear their thoughts on this. Their answers may give you a glimpse into the future after all.
Here’s what “betrayed” spouses have to say, years later:
“I’ve learned to live with it,” said one woman, whose husband reconnected with an old flame on social media. “And these days, life is good. My husband did all the right things after his affair…well, it took a little help from you but eventually he did the right things, so he did regain my trust. I look at it like a risk vs. reward thing. The reward of staying married and keeping our family together is worth the risk, which I feel is small, of him doing it again.”
“I trust her completely,” said another client, whose wife had been involved with a co-worker. “The memory of it is always there, but I honestly don’t believe it would happen again. We’ve both come too far after her affair to go back.”
“I trust myself,” said yet another client, whose husband had had a long-term affair during his midlife crisis. “I know that if he does it again, I will leave the marriage. My husband knows that, too. Your program taught me how to send him that message and how to be an unleavable wife, one he would never risk losing. It isn’t a guarantee of fidelity, but it’s the best anyone can do.”
Despite the heartache associated with infidelity, these responses give me hope. Perhaps they can do the same for you. Thank you for reading and all the best.
• Debra Macleod, B.A., LL.B. can help you now, not weeks from now. See her Marriage SOS instant-access marriage recovery programs.