My Husband Is Reluctant To Work On Our Marriage While He’s Having An Affair

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from wives who have made the difficult decision to try to save their marriages while their husband has had an affair. Often, this is not at all an easy decision. They are often quite hurt and afraid but they chose to put their understandable concerns aside for the sakes of their family and their marriage. Unfortunately, it often takes two willing people in order to effectively save your marriage after infidelity. And so it can be a real problem when the husband isn’t willing to commit to the marriage because he’s still actively involved or invested in the affair.

Common comments that you might hear in this situation is something like: “the last several weeks have been so difficult. I was so shocked and hurt to find out that my husband has been having an affair. And if this was not bad enough, he’s not sure that he wants to end it. I have begged him to be done with the other woman so that we can save our marriage. He won’t make that commitment. He is not sure that he wants to end the affair. He says that he is now emotionally invested in the other woman. I’m not proud of this, but I asked him to work on our marriage anyway. He refused to make any commitment. He said that he can’t really think about our marriage until he decides what he wants to do about the affair. How can I make him work on our marriage right now? I feel like if we work on our marriage, then it will become obvious to him that he needs to end the affair.”

I could really feel for this wife.  I know first hand that dealing with an affair is horrible enough. But not knowing if your husband is going to end the affair while still wanting to preserve your marriage is heart breaking. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that there are any real ways to “make” or “get” him to work on the marriage. And even if you were successful at this, I’m not sure how hard he is going to work if he was still involved in another relationship.

Saving your marriage in the face of infidelity is quite hard. And that is true even when both spouses are willing participants. But saving your marriage when one spouse is potentially still being unfaithful is a hugely difficult task. And I’m not sure that it’s a healthy task for the faithful spouse. It’s honestly not fair for you to be pouring all of your efforts into your marriage when your spouse isn’t even committed enough to take the first step by ending the affair.

Will all of this said, I believe that there are things that you can do to encourage him to end the affair and to work on the marriage. I will discuss those things now.

Make It Clear That You Can’t Save Your Marriage If He’s Still Cheating: I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with disclosing that you are willing to save your marriage. But if you make it clear that you’ll do this without requiring anything of him, then there is no motivation for him to end the affair. He’s being able to enjoy being in relationships with two women, both of which aren’t making any real requirements or demands of him.

It’s perfectly reasonable for you to expect for him to end the affair because you’re going to allow yourself to do the hard work and to accept the vulnerabilities that are going to be required for you to save your marriage. I know that many wives want to avoid making this request because they are afraid that the husband will refuse and will demand to keep the affair going. But how is this all that much different from what is already happening? Currently, he’s made it clear that he has no immediate plans to end the affair. So, it’s not necessarily a step back to ask him once again in an attempt to get a different answer.

A suggested script might be something like: “I’ve made it clear that I want to work on our marriage. But, I can’t do this all by myself. And we won’t be able to fully heal our marriage until you’re willing to end the affair and then work on rehabilitation. Until then, I’m not sure where we go from here. I’m going to explore self help or counseling that I can do to strengthen myself and to help myself heal. I hope that you will eventually join me. But until then, it’s clear that this is a path I’ll be walking alone. I can’t physically participate in our marriage while I know that you are seeing someone else. I hope that you will make the right choice. Please let me know when you’ve decided to end the affair and work on our marriage.”

Your husband may or may not respond as you want him to. He may be resistant at first, but hopefully once you’ve made yourself clear on this, in time will come around. Regardless of this, I highly recommend that you seek counseling or self help on your own. Often, improving yourself will have a positive influence on your marriage or at least will help you see it more clearly. But to answer the original issue, it’s very difficult to work on your marriage in a meaningful way unless he ends the affair.  And trying to force him to do this often doesn’t mean that he will be all that enthusiastic about it.  So my focus would be on encouraging him to do the right thing and only afterward to place the focus on saving the marriage.

As you might have guessed, my opinion comes from my own experience.  If it helps you to read about how someone else handled infidelity, feel free to check out my blog at

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