I’m getting slightly irked how we are getting sidetracked into MMSL becoming the cheating wives blog, but these are hot button topics and having opened up the can of worms, I have to deal with them. I have a few more posts coming, but I have to catch up with an individual reader question in response to a comment I left on Forgiveness.
Athol: Taking a woman back can very much be the worst Beta move possible. Properly framed however, plus with her geniune repentance, it can be possible to move forward. There’s no requirement to extend grace to a cheater and it must be understood as such by the cheater to move forward.
Many couples can recover from affairs and be stronger for it. Some cannot.
Reader Question: I can’t figure out how to properly frame this so that I can do this. How do you move forward and be the captain after a mutiny?
First up let me say this clearly so that everyone gets my perspective from the start… I am NOT an automatic “Kick the Bitch Out” advisor when it comes to a wife cheating. Each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis.
Also while I firmly believe the wife has made a choice to betray the husband, I also believe almost without exception the husband has some kind of area of weakness that has helped create the situation that resulted in the cheating. Her behavior is not excused by his behavior, but it is usually a factor in explaining her behavior. If whatever that weak area of his is, fails to be corrected, the cheating will very likely resume or she will straight up leave him.
Now assuming you have already caught the affair and exposed it to her (Chapter 27 of The Primer covers how), the steps…
Expect The Meltdown. When women are caught and exposed as cheating on their husband, and I mean really the “oh snap, I’m screwed, he knows for sure I did it”, they almost always have a complete wailing meltdown and beg for forgiveness and say they will never do it again, and that they are sorry yada yada yada. This is a 100% genuine experience to them and in this moment they are not lying. What they are doing is running a Time Before Writing survival program, where they display complete submission to you, in order to avoid you killing them on the spot.
Remove All Beta Support: During the meltdown, you tell her to get the hell out as you are through with her. She needs to be the one to go, not you. You staying in the home is extremely important. You also stop doing anything supportive for her, you don’t drive her to work like you usually do etc. No calls, no texts, no emails starting from your end. Start the process of contacting lawyers to begin divorce procedings. The purpose of all this is to give her a proper taste of reality and life without you.
She Properly Apologizes. At some point she will get that proper sense of “oh crap he’s really going to end the marriage” and she will make a far more conscious apology. She is trying to save her skin of course, but she’s also trying to save her marriage as well. She needs to fully own that she made choices against you rather than somehow blame you for your weak area as the cause of her cheating. She needs to admit that you would be fully justified in terminating the marriage for what she did.
She Must Be Repentant. There is absolutely nothing you can do that won’t backfire on you at some point in the future if she is not truly repentant. Repentant meaning she is both sorry and going to change her behavior and not repeat the cheating again. You need to see evidence of this change of behavior before believing it. The other man must be completely cut out of her life and whatever other circumstances are relevant need to be addressed as well. (Like if it happen with a gym contact, she needs to find a new gym etc.)
Understand Your Part and Forgive. Whether or not you decide to stay with her, you should come to terms with what your weak area was with her, and leverage it as a path to understanding why she did what she did, and come to forgiveness and peace about it. This is for your long term benefit, not hers. This is about trying to get past the justifiable rage over the cheating, and being able to reconnect again. Whether that reconnection is to her, or another woman in the future isn’t the issue – it’s just that you can reconnect again. It’s okay to admit the weak area here.
Extend Grace. This is now your choice. Even if you admit you did a bunch of stuff badly in the relationship, and understand why she cheated, you don’t have to continue the marriage. Maybe you just can’t feel like she’s worth risking yourself with again. Or maybe she is. Maybe you were the model husband, but she did it anyway, and yet you feel you can try again. The circumstances and length of the affair is no doubt a factor here. It’s totally up to you. But she must understand and verbalize that if you choose to extend grace to her and continue trying, that she is getting a second chance that she does not deserve.
No Third Chance. She also needs to verbalize understanding that there will never be a repeat of this experience. If she cheats again, you will simply divorce her without discussion, kindness or concern for her privacy. Should you ever gain proof of future cheating, that will be supplied with the serving of the papers.
Start Rebuilding. Admit your weak area and begin work on that. She needs to start rebuilding trust and being open. Counseling together may be very helpful at this point as well.
In time, an affair may come to be regarded by a couple as ultimately a bad thing that served as a wake up call to them both that created a positive change in the relationship. Or it can just be over.
If STDs or pregnancy are potential concerns, you should clarify those issues immediately.
Also much of this applies just the same to other extremely serious “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?” things in marriage. Jennifer and I have extended grace to each other over various issues a number of times in our marriage. Even very good marriages are going to have screw up moments in them. Sometimes you just have to weigh up a couple of dumb days vs years of good ones… and how unbelievably bad divorce may be for both of you.