By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from spouses who have made the grave mistake of cheating or having an affair. Many of them are genuinely sorry for this mistake and they want to make things right again. Most of them have repeatedly expressed their sorrow and remorse for their actions. But, much of the time, their spouse just doesn’t believe them or doesn’t think that their apologies are enough.
I heard from a wife who said: “last year, I made the most stupid mistake of my life. I cheated on my husband while on a business trip. I didn’t even know the guy. He was in the hotel bar. And I haven’t spoken to him since. As sleazy and embarrassing as it sounds, it was a drunken one night stand and it didn’t really mean anything to me. As soon as I returned home from the trip, I told my husband everything and sobbed uncontrollably. Since that time, I must have told my husband how sorry I am two hundred times. I lavish him with affection and buy him gifts. I try to be the most loving wife as is possible. But we are still having problems. Because he doesn’t feel as if I am sorry enough. I still go on business trips because my job requires this. He is resentful about these trips and gets very sullen before or after them. He says if I were really sorry and remorseful, I’d be more willing to change my life so he would feel more secure. Short of quitting my job, I don’t know how to express my genuine and heartfelt remorse. How do I convince him that I truly am sorry? And that I would never cheat on him again?”
The person most qualified to answer these questions was this woman’s husband. But, since he is unwilling to do so, I can can try to answer them from the perspective of a spouse who has been cheated on. I will try to do this in the following article.
It’s Not Your Words Of Sorrow That Are Most Convincing: I can’t tell you how many people tell me things like: “I’ve said I’m sorry countless times and he doesn’t listen or accept it.” Or “I have repeatedly expressed my remorse and it doesn’t matter.”
I do understand these frustrations, but what you need to understand is that words don’t matter as much as actions. Your spouse is going to doubt your words (even if they would really like to believe them) because the trust between you has been shaken and because they don’t want to be hurt and betrayed again.
And frankly, no matter how eloquent you are and no matter how heartfelt your words, your spouse often just wants to wait and see if you are going to make good on all of your claims. This doesn’t mean that you should stop expressing your sorrow with words. But it can mean that you should understand that this probably isn’t going to be enough.
Try To Anticipate What Your Spouse Needs From You And Then Provide It Without Them Having To Ask: I can tell you an important secret that might help your situation. I know from experience that your spouse needs to feel as if their needs are more important to you than your own right now. They need to believe that you are willing to do whatever is needed in order to help them heal because of your concern for them.
Much of the time, faithful spouses feel as if you want them to just get over the affair so that you are more comfortable and less guilty. This feels grossly unfair to them and it often just makes your spouse trust you even less and doubt you even more.
So, try to listen to what they say and watch their non verbal cues very closely. In this example, it was so obvious that the husband was understandably very uncomfortable knowing that his wife was in the same tempting situation that lead her to cheat in the first place. And even worse, when he brought this up, she became defensive about it. Anticipating his needs would mean understanding that he needs reassurance and accountability when it comes to this issue without any exceptions whatsoever.
The wife might consider asking for less travel, switching jobs if it were possible, bringing her husband along on business trips, or checking in regularly while she was away.
Because having genuine remorse goes beyond just saying you’re sorry. It means that you are more than willing to go out of your way (even if it makes you uncomfortable or if it is inconvenient) in order to make your spouse feel more valued, loved, and secure.
Know That If You Can Rebuild Your Marriage, Your Spouse Will Be More Likely To Accept Your Remorse: It may make you feel better to know that once you repair your marriage and your spouse feels happy and secure, than this issue will often resolve itself on it’s own. So, while continuing to show and verbally express your remorse is a good idea, know that it is just as important to rebuild your marriage and to focus on all of the issues – and not just remorse.
Because if you can do that and if you can get to a place where your spouse is happy and secure, then you won’t have to worry about this issue as long as you remain faithful and you continue to be an attentive and loving spouse. And sometimes this process just takes some time. Your spouse needs to see that you are in this marriage for the long haul and that you are committed to continuing to be trustworthy without any exception. If you are successful with this, then your remorse speaks for itself.
I will admit that it took awhile for me to believe in my husband’s true remorse after his affair. And this wasn’t due to his words. It was due to his repeated actions. It was due to the fact that he was always exactly where he said doing exactly what he claimed. It was also due the fact that he worked tirelessly to get us the help we needed to save our marriage. Once I saw his level of commitment, it was obvious how remorseful he was. If it helps, you can read our story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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