I’m Trying To Recover From An Affair Years Later And I Feel That This Puts Me At A Disadvantage

By: Katie Lersch:  Ideally, we all want to learn about the affair soon after it began; or if that is not possible, immediately after it is over.  We want this because it’s best to deal with the present as it is happening.  We want this because facts and memories are most accurate when they have just occured.  Unfortunately, this scenario is not reality for some people.

Sometimes, your spouse does not confess (or you do not find out) right away.  In some cases, years have gone by.  And this can make healing a little more tricky.  How do you approach this when the affair happened so far in the past and your spouse is claiming that this is all water under the bridge? Does it matter that your marriage has been relatively good since the infidelity happened, even though you were unaware of it?

Here’s a story that you might hear: “last weekend, my husband and I were watching a movie.  The theme of the movie was a marriage wrecked by a silly one night stand. During one of the pivotal scenes of the movie, my husband started to fidget and obviously got very uncomfortable.  I asked him what was wrong, but he denied that there was a problem. Later in the movie, when the spouse found out about the affair and I got very upset and was yelling about the betrayal, I noticed that there were tears in my husband’s eyes. Once again I asked him what was wrong.  Finally, he blurted out that eight years ago, he’d had a brief affair.  He blubbered and carried on, muttering that he was sorry. I tried to ask questions at that time, but he could not get out any real information.  He was crying and sputtering and frankly being pretty pathetic. Later, I was able to determine that a trainer at his job who was only there for a month was ‘the other woman.’  This was shortly after we had begun to have children and obviously this was a stressful time.  Because the trainer left town shortly after her job was over, the affair ended and he claims that they never had contact again.  He claims that there was no deep emotional attachment and that he has never cheated again.  I am not sure what to do with this.  I am furious. And I wonder what might happen if an available woman would come into his life again.  But then I have to admit that he’s been a great husband. And I feel conflicted at thinking otherwise.  I know that I have to deal with this.  But I don’t know how you heal from an affair that happened years ago and that you never knew about until just now.”

I agree that this is potentially tricky. But I think that you essentially heal the same way that you would if the knowledge of the affair was immediate which is: you determine what went wrong, you fix any vulnerabilities, you restore the trust, and you rebuild.

Granted, what went wrong may not be an ongoing problem now.  Many men who are new fathers are vulnerable.  They are young and they have not felt this type of responsibility before.  I am not defending them, but this is a pretty common vulnerability prior to an affair. It could  be that this is no longer a problem for your husband because he is older and more stable.  However, you should look at this issue with brutal honesty, just to be safe.

Another thing you will need to do is restore the trust. Once again, there is a twist because he has been trustworthy throughout your marriage other than this one time.  Regardless, this is a betrayal that is bound to shake the trust.  And the fact that it happened in the past does not excuse this betrayal.  And frankly, it is compounded because your husband could have told you at any point during all of these years and he did not.  That is a problem which speaks of trust.  And his being a good husband otherwise doesn’t negate that he wasn’t completely honest as the affair was going on or after it was over.

Then there is the rebuilding process, but that is generally further down the road.  It might be easier (and preferable to your husband) to downplay all of this since it happened long ago.  But I don’t think that this strategy is fair to you or best for your marriage.  It should be dealt with.  Sure, the fact that your husband has been a good one since and hasn’t cheated again counts. But it doesn’t erase what has happened.

So yes, this timing can feel like a disadvantage, but that shouldn’t stop you from demanding healing.  And frankly, the time that has passed can almost be an advantage in a way because it has shown you that your husband remained committed to your marriage and capable of remaining faithful after one mistake.  (This is something that many wives hope for (but can’t predict) when the knowledge of the affair is fresh.)

I do think that you should not discount the affair.  It happened, it must be dealt with, and his keeping it from you for years can’t be denied.  But I also think it’s fair to consider the type of husband he has been after it.  This can matter also.

I did find out about my husband’s affair relatively soon after it happened.  However, there were some facts that did not come out until much later and those had to be dealt with after-the-fact.  It was a bit tricky, but I demanded that the time which had passed did not excuse my husband, although his behavior after the affair did matter to me.  You can read more about overcoming these things on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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