How Should He Be Acting After The Affair If He Truly Wants To Save Our Marriage?

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from wives whose cheating husband’s words are saying one thing, but whose actions are saying another.  Often, the husband is claiming that he would do anything to save his marriage but, at the same time, he is acting angry, distant, and resentful.  The wife can not help but wonder if this is really a man who truly wants to save his marriage or if he is just reciting empty words.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband had an affair three months ago.  At first, he said that he would do anything to get me back.  For about two weeks, he was so sweet and loving.  This won me over and made me decide to give him one more chance.  Well, as of this week, the good behavior has stopped.  He is now very distant and cold.  If I ask him where he is or where he’s going, it’s almost as if he’s resentful that I would demand answers from him.  It might be my imagination, but I think he’s being secretive.  He doesn’t ever volunteer any information and he isn’t trying as hard as he was.  When I tell him that he’s not acting like a man who wants to save his marriage, he said that he doesn’t know what I want from him.  I don’t feel like I should have to spell it out.  Am I out of my mind here?  How should a man be acting when he has had an affair and claims he wants to save his marriage?”

I most definitely have an opinion on this, although it’s probably not a very unbiased one.  As someone who has been cheated on, I know how it feels to need reassurance and accountability.  And I do not think that this is too much to ask.  In the following article, I’ll discuss what types of behavior that I think you should be looking for.

You Want To See Sincerity:  You want to see a man who isn’t just pretending or who isn’t just telling you what he thinks that you want to hear.  This recovery phrase isn’t always going to be perfect.  You both might feel frustrated sometimes and his behavior might show this.  I really don’t have a problem with that. I would rather he show his true feelings (even if they are negative) than for him to pretend and have you wondering if you can trust what he is showing or telling you.

It’s important to create an environment where both parties are free to say what you really feel even if it’s hurtful, inconvenient, or not attractive.  No one should feel as if they have to walk on eggshells or wonder what the other is thinking.

He Should Be Thinking Of Healing And Rehabilitation Instead Of What’s Fair Or What’s In His Own Best Interest:  I realize that the above paragraph may have sounded like I was defending the husband.  I truly wasn’t. But I do think it’s important for both people to be genuine.  With this said, I also believe that it’s vital that you see a husband who knows that this is his fault.  He must be accountable.  He must be responsible for fixing the situation that he himself created.  So, he must be willing to show you his true remorse, to offer you that reassurance and accountability that you need, and to go out of his way to voluntarily tell you where he is or who he is with because he understands that you have a very valid reason to want this information.

Sure, he may sometimes be annoyed that it has all come to this. But even so, he must understand that it has come to this because he has created this. And his main concern should be on helping you to heal and to move past this.  He should also be particularly interested in doing whatever is necessary to make your marriage better and to remove the vulnerabilities that lead you here in the first place.  I’m not saying that every one is going to be happy about this. It’s not a fun process.  But people who really want to fix their mistakes and save their marriage will dig in their heels and do what needs to be done, even when it isn’t always pleasant.

What If He’s Not Acting Right?:  Many wives in this situation will read what I’ve just suggested and then proclaim that their husband isn’t acting right.  They will then declare their husband or their marriage a lost cause or they will assume that their husband just doesn’t love them enough or isn’t truly committed.

This isn’t always the case.  Sometimes, he’s frustrated with himself or the situation and he’s acting out.  Other times, he is posturing because he’s hoping that as a result, you will take some of the pressure off of him.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to have a very frank conversation.  A suggested script is something like: “I need to be very specific about what I need to start to heal.  I know that we both want to put this behind us but we can’t do that until I feel secure, loved, and prioritized.  When you become defensive, cold, and secretive, it’s nearly impossible for these things to happen.  I know that these aren’t fun times.  But I need for you to do better.  I need for you to willingly tell me where you are without making me demand information.  I need for you to show me more affection and to offer me more reassurance.  I hate feeling like you’re always angry and inconvenienced in this marriage.  Can you commit to trying a little harder?”

This conversation doesn’t ensure that the husband is immediately going to do everything perfectly.  But it may let him know that you are going to keep right on asking until you get what you need.  So he may decide that it’s in his best interest to go ahead and take the initiative instead of hoping that you will settle for less.  It also lets him know that showing vulnerability and remorse is actually to his benefit and isn’t a weakness on his part.

My husband didn’t do everything perfectly after his affair.  He was resistant on many levels and I had to make it clear that I would not settle for less.  Eventually, he came to understand that it was to his benefit to show vulnerability and real feelings rather than to hide them.  This began our healing process and help to save our marriage.  If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog at

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