My Husband Won’t Reach Out To Me Because Of His Affair And Guilt From It

By: Katie Lersch:  Here is something that isn’t talked about a lot after an affair and is somewhat hard to understand:  Often, if you are the faithful wife, you want your husband to reach out to you.  This is true even if you know that you may not even want him.  Still, you want for him to want you.  Because this would indicate remorse, sorrow, and longing  This would help your wounded self esteem and would confirm that the man that you married is there somewhere.   Unfortunately, this sort of reaching out is not always so easy.   The wife may suspect that the husband wants to reach out to her, but for some reason, he doesn’t.  This can be because of shame, or guilt, or an inability to communicate after being caught in such an unflattering situation.  This leaves the wife wondering how to proceed.  She definitely doesn’t want to beg him to reach out to her.  (She shouldn’t have to do that, after all.)  But she wants some sort of reassurance because this might make her feel better.

So she asks: “is it normal for a husband to retreat after an affair because of guilt?  My husband says he’s sorry.  Or I should clarify that he writes that he is sorry.  He doesn’t talk to me directly about this.  He leaves me little notes or cards.  He tells me how sorry he is and says that he hopes that one day we can recover from this.  But then when we are physically together, he does not look me in the eye.  He does not try to touch me or hold me or even offer me any reassurance.  He just awkwardly stands there and looks at his feet like it’s the saddest time of his life.  A part of me feels sorry for him, but I also feel like he made this mess.  And he needs to clean it up. But I have my doubts that he is going to do that when all he can do is look sad and stare at his feet.  I want him to reach out to me if for nothing else than it will give me the option to reject him.  The other day, I got frustrated and I asked him if he were going to just sit there and be mute for the rest of our lives.  I asked him why he never says anything.  His response was that his guilt as paralyzed him and he doesn’t feel as if he has the right to speak with, interact with, or physically reach out to me.   He almost insinuated that he was waiting for me to take the lead, which frankly all but enrages me.  I have to tolerate his cheating and now I am stuck having to be the one who initiates everything when he is the one who cheated?  That hardly seems fair.”

You’re right. It doesn’t seem fair at all.  But it’s not uncommon. Unfaithful spouses can have a very strong and understandable fear of rejection.  They know that they deserve your anger and wrath.  They know that it’s very possible that the second they try to reach out to you, that they are going to be rebuffed – or even worse.  So they allow their fear to direct their actions.  In short, they are waiting for some sign from you to tell them that it’s “safe” or “appropriate” for them to reach out.  Whether or not the wife decides to allow this or not is up to her.  Some wives will choose to wait and see if the husband eventually becomes more comfortable or decides that he needs to go ahead and risk rejection.

Other wives will lose patience and will try to address it with something like: “I know that you’ve said that your guilt keeps you from communicating or reaching out, but I’m not sure that we can go on like this.  There’s not much for me to explain or to say as I am not the one who cheated.  So I can’t really take the initiative and I can not read your mind.   At the same time, if there is any remorse or insight that you need to share with me so that we can begin to make decisions about what we might want to do moving forward, now would be the time to share those.   It’s going to be very hard for us to make progress when you don’t communicate or express your wishes in any way.  I know that you say that you are guilty or afraid, but I think that you need to move past this and just buck up the courage because this is our marriage that we are talking about.   There has been an affair, so the desire for comfort and guarantees is not realistic here.   I have not been able to avoid feeling rejection and pain.  I don’t think it’s realistic for you to think that you won’t feel any discomfort moving forward.  If we don’t ever communicate, we probably won’t have a chance.  So it is going to be your decision if you want to continue to hunker down without reaching out to me.”

Wait and see how he responds.  He may tell you that he honestly felt that you didn’t want anything from him.  That’s where it gets tricky because you may be feeling conflicting emotions.  You might want the reassurance of him reaching out, but once he does it, you may not be completely comfortable with reassuring him.  There is often a long way to go before you can offer true reassurance.  So you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you insinuating that he has nothing to fear or that you’re offering guarantees.  But you want it to be clear that he should make the effort regardless.   And, as the faithful spouse, getting the ball rolling isn’t your responsibility, but if you want to give him a nudge by having a conversation, there is nothing wrong with this.

My husband did wait around for hints and gestures from me to give him the “go ahead” so to speak.  I wasn’t having this and had to spell it out.  I wanted and needed for HIM to take the initiative since it was his actions that caused all of the fall out.  He did eventually take responsibility and became very proactive and motivated. You can read more at

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