Can We Start Over After My Husband’s Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from wives who aren’t sure if their marriage is going to survive their husband’s affair.  They don’t know how they are ever going to get over the betrayal, the pain, the doubt, and the lack of trust.

Often, a husband’s solution to this is to suggest that the couple just “start over” or “begin again with a clean, fresh slate.” And although this may sound somewhat tempting to the wife, when she really sits down and thinks about it, she typically realizes that this is probably easier said than actually done.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband cheated on me for five weeks.  He says he desperately wants to save our marriage, but I am not so sure.  I worry that I am always going to doubt him now and I do not want to go through the rest of my life feeling like I can not trust him or that I need to look over my shoulder.  My husband says that I am over thinking this.  He says that I insist on finding every problematic issue  – almost as if I enjoy all of the conflict.  He says that we can just ‘start over’ and begin our marriage as if it just started.  That way, all of this can be left behind us.  Is that even possible?  I will tell you my take on this in the following article.

Why It Would Be Very Difficult To Literally Start Over:  I think that this is one of those things that is almost impossible to carry out because you just can’t control the thoughts that are going to pop into your head.  Unless you both have amnesia, how are you going to forget about the marriage that came before all of this?   And would you even want to?  Because eliminating the bad memories would also mean eliminating the good.  You can’t just pretend that none of this happened and I am not sure that it would be to your benefit anyway.  I will tell you why right now.

You Will Need To Fix What Is Wrong Instead Of Just Trying To Erase The Past:  People often really want to believe that the affair was just a one time thing that will never happen again.  I wish that this was always the case, but it just isn’t.  People often have issues and backgrounds that contribute to their inclination to cheat.  This is often why people repeat these actions even when they truly do not want to do so and have vowed not to. When the same set of circumstances present themselves, then it’s possible that the cheating will repeat also.  That’s why it’s so important that you do the work necessary to address what is wrong and to actually fix it.  This can not happen if you just try to erase everything and start over without any additional work or discussion.

The Idea Of Starting Over Often Only Benefits The Cheating Spouse In The Long Run:  Sometimes, the idea of starting over seems preferable to both spouses.  After all, dealing with this in painful.  Talking about it is awkward.  Sometimes, it feels as if it would just be much preferable to just let it go.  Why pick the scab off a wound that hurts so bad?  Because the truth is that the wound isn’t going to heal properly unless you talk about it and understand what went wrong so that you can truly fix it.  Because only then are you going to be able to restore the trust.  And the lack of trust is still going to be a huge issue even if you give the whole “let’s just start over” thing your best shot.

Why You Do Get To Start Again After You Heal:  I realize that I’ve just told you that starting over isn’t advisable.  But I do think that, in a sense, you get to begin again after you’ve done the work and healed.  You get to craft the marriage that you want because you have the gift of hind sight.  You can reject what wasn’t working and embrace what was.  You can take the new skills and insights that you have learned and apply them now.  Some people have told me (and I agree) that the marriage that they have now is in some ways better than the one that was present before the affair.

In some ways, you do get to start fresh because you’ve created a healthier reality.  And quite often, after you have gone through this type of trauma together, you do become closer and you learn things that you didn’t know.  As a result, this brings about more intimacy so that it does feel like beginning again.  But the reason it feels this way is because you’ve done the work.  Many people use starting over as a phrase that really means that they want to brush the affair under the rug.  I can’t advocate that, but I do encourage you to see your marriage as sort of a blank canvas meaning you get to shape it into what you want it to be.  But both people need to do the work in order to lay a new foundation.  The rewards make this difficult process worth it. At least that was the case for me.  If it helps, you can read that story on my blog at

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