by katie lersch: I often hear from wives who are struggling with many issues after their husband’s affair. One very common issue is that of respect. Since husbands lie and cheat while they are unfaithful, it can be hard to respect someone who has shown these attributes.
I recently heard from a wife who said, in part: “I’m finding it very hard to respect my husband after he cheated and had an affair. I now know that he lied to me for a good four months. There were times when he told me he was working and couldn’t make my children’s events when in fact he was with her. The other day, I actually heard him scolding my son for stretching the truth and it made me so angry. Who is he to lecture someone else about honesty when he lied to his family for months? Every time I look at him, I can’t help thinking that he’s a liar and a cheat. I want to hold my family together for the sake of my son. But how can I do that when I don’t trust or respect my husband? And respect is a very important attribute to me. I was always so proud that my husband was a man of integrity and honor, but now that image of him is destroyed. How can I ever respect him again when he’s lied to me and cheated on me?”
This is a difficult but common situation. After all, the personality traits that come out when people cheat or have affairs (dishonesty, secrecy, and betrayal) aren’t attributes that we associate with respect. And once we lose respect for our spouse, we can begin to wonder if it’s even possible to get it back. It’s my belief that in some cases, you can restore the respect after infidelity (if you both have the determination and the patience to do so) but it certainly isn’t always easy. I will discuss this more in the following article.
What Really Inspires Respect And What is Lost After Infidelity?: Respect is something that is generally earned over a period of time. I don’t think that it’s possible to respect someone without knowing them very intimately. Generally, we respect someone when we recognize the qualities and attributes that we ourselves admire. For example, if we value integrity, discipline, and empathy, then we will respect someone who we believe consistently displays these qualities.
In this example, the wife shared that she had always seen her husband as a man of integrity. She had watched him be honest at great personal and professional cost because he believed that this was the right thing to do. So, it was quite shocking and disappointing to her now when she witnessed him not only being dishonest, but being dishonest to her. The thought of him sneaking around while she thought he was somewhere else repulsed her and she wasn’t sure if she would ever see him in the same way again, or even if she wanted to.
How Is It Possible To Restore The Respect After Your Spouse Has An Affair? From my own experience, I believe that it’s possible to restore the respect, but I would never tell you that it’s easy. The key is to be open to allowing your spouse to earn that respect over a long period of time. It’s not realistic to think that you can just immediately decide to respect someone who has let you down. But, it can be realistic to think that you will be open to watching and observing them for a good while to see if they can earn it back.
And here’s another thing to consider that is often missed. Very often, there are multiple reasons that we respect our spouse. Yes, honesty and integrity are huge issues. But, often we fail to see the things that are still there because of our own anger and resentment (which is understandable.) For example, the wife in this situation admitted that she had always respected her husband’s generosity and empathy. He was very active in their community and gave generously of his time and his money to those in need. The wife loved that about him. And, she was eventually able to see that he never lost these attributes. He still was very giving of himself even after the infidelity and during the fall out that ensued. She also was very attracted to his intellect, discipline, and determination – which were all things that he was showing her while he was trying to save his marriage.
So while she had to admit there were areas where he did not have her respect (like honesty and integrity) there were other attributes that she still admired and respected. This gave her encouragement that, at some time in the future, he might be able to regain her respect.
Granted, there was a long road ahead. Over time, he had to show his wife that it was safe for her to trust him because he was honest without fail. This was just going to take some time. More than that, she would need to see him continuously showing her that he was a person of high integrity who had no intention of repeating the same mistakes. This was going to be a gradual process and the husband had to be very careful to never let his wife down or to conduct himself in any way other than completely truthful and honest.
Sometimes, Respecting The Person Is Different Than Respecting The Person’s Actions: As angry as you may be right now, I know that it’s hard to envision that you could ever separate your husband from his actions. But with time, many find that this is possible (as long as their spouse’s actions encourages and are in line with this.) As hard as it can be to believe, it’s possible to look back on the affair as something that you were both able to overcome (and this can actually inspire respect.)
I know that this may sound odd. But as I look back on my own process, I can’t help but remember that sometimes my husband hung in there and showed patience and poise that was frankly not in line with the anger and nastiness that I was throwing his way. I’m not saying that he didn’t deserve this, but during those difficult days, he showed some of the steadiness and calm that I had always really loved about him. And this was one of the things that made me realize that, although I certainly didn’t respect his recent choices, I did still have at least some respect for the person.
Although I never would’ve believed this two years ago, after some struggles, my marriage is stronger than ever after my husband’s affair. It took a lot of work, and I had to play the game to win, but it was worth it. Because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is in tact. I no longer worry my husband will cheat again. If it helps, you can read more of that story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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