by: katie lersch: I often hear from women who are struggling to work through their husband’s cheating or affair. Many ask me about writing a letter to put their struggles into words. Some have even asked me for a sample letter or requested for me to write one for them. I honestly think it’s advisable to be careful and deliberate about any letter that you are going to give your husband. Because this can often set the tone for recovery. And often, such a letter leads to a lot of hurt feelings or misunderstandings. Plus, it’s also important to remember that your feelings are likely to change a great deal in the coming days, months, or even years.
But I do understand the allure of a letter. It’s often very challenging to put the difficult things that we feel into verbal words. And so often, we choke up, get emotional, or break down when we try. So we feel like written communication or a letter is going to be easier and more effective. Although I certainly can’t write such a letter for you, I can give you some guidelines on what it might say which I’ll do below.
A Letter Can Be Used To Release Your Feelings About The Affair. (In Fact, Sometimes A Letter That You Never Give Your Husband Can Be Beneficial:) Many women are looking to write such a letter because they feel that doing so is going to allow them to release some very painful and closed off feelings. I highly encourage writing such a letter. In fact, even if you do want to craft a letter for your husband, I suggest writing one just for yourself that no one else will see.
Because this is where you can really let your feelings out without having to edit yourself or worry how your words are going to be perceived. Many women chose to burn the letter (or at least hide it) once it’s written because these words are for no one else but you. Since you are the only one who is going to read this letter, there’s no need to hold back. Just let it all out and then either dispose of it or put it somewhere where only you can find it. Because it’s just meant to release your feelings, there really is no need to keep it around or to share it. Now, let’s move on to the letter that you might be considering writing for your husband’s benefit or view.
Carefully Consider What You Want Your Husband To Take Away From The Letter Before You Write It Or Give It To Him: I strongly suggest that before you write any letter, you examine what you hope to accomplish with it. I have to be honest. Many women admit to me that they write the letter because they want their husband to feel guilty or remorseful about the affair. They want to show him how badly he’s hurt them. They want to give him a glimpse into their battered soul so he can see just how deep the damage that he caused goes.
I completely understand this as I had the same intentions. And that’s why it’s advisable to examine why you’re really writing the letter. Although many don’t admit this even to themselves, many of us want to write the letter because we want to improve our situations. We’re hoping that if our husband sees how we really feel and how deeply he’s really hurt us, he’ll be so remorseful that he will not cheat again and will move heaven and earth to make this up to us.
And yet, often the letter has the reverse affect. Yes, it makes the husband feel very bad and guilty. But many husbands tell me that they just see the letter as just more of the same. I’ve actually had men tell me things like “she’s not saying anything in the letter that I don’t already know or she hasn’t already said. I already get that I’m a bad husband who did a very bad thing so why do we need to keep repeating the same thing over and over? I’ve already told her that I was sorry and want to save the marriage. So how is this going to change because the words are written rather than spoken? To me, this is just one more way for her to express how disappointed she is in me and how much I’ve let her down. But, I already know this. I don’t need for her to keep repeating it.”
This is why it’s so important to clearly define your objections for the letter before and while you’re writing it and to ask yourself how your husband might receive or interpret it before you give it to him.
What I Think A Letter To A Husband Who Cheated Or Had An Affair Should Include: I actually think that a well crafted letter can help a marriage after an affair. But, you have to be very careful. Because some letters actually harm the marriage or set it back for months. The real power that I think the right letter holds is that it can clear up any misconceptions or understandings and it can underscore your intentions and your plans moving forward. It truly can set the tone for the days and months ahead.
For example, rather than just continuing to stress how much the affair has hurt you, you might also mention what you’d like to happen moving forward, what you need for these things to happen, and what your intentions truly are. In my mind, such a letter could include three parts – current feelings, current needs, and future intentions. I realize that it’s not realistic to think that you aren’t going to include how the affair or cheating has hurt you or made you feel, but I’d suggest not making this the sole content of the letter because your husband likely already knows this and if you go on and on, he’s likely not going to take away what you were hoping for.
After you briefly touch on your feelings, you then may consider focusing or explaining what you need from him in the days and weeks ahead. If you want him to give you more reassurance, affection, and accountability, then use the letter to your advantage and ask for it. Many of us find it easier to put these difficult requests into writing. And the additional advantage is, for future reference, you’ve spelled out what you need to move forward.
Finally, it’s helpful to include your intentions moving forward. I can’t tell you how many couples aren’t sure what their spouse really wants in the aftermath of the affair. If you truly want to save your marriage even though this affair shook you to your core, now is the time to write that and to tell your husband what you need and how you intend to get there.
My initial attempt at writing a letter after my husband’s affair turned out quite badly because I gave him a letter that should have been meant only for my own eyes. Later, I changed course with my tone and intention and this made a huge difference. Although I never would’ve believed this two years ago, I did eventually truly get over the affair. My marriage is stronger than ever. It took a lot of work beyond the letter, but it was worth it. If it helps, you can read more of that very personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/
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