My Spouse Says I Must Prove My Love After My Affair

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from people who deeply regret cheating, but who are also at a loss as to how to convince their spouse that they can be rehabilitated and as a result turn out to be a loyal and loving spouse once again. They often have already stressed how sorry they are. They’ve often offered to go to counseling or to do whatever is necessary to restore the trust. Still, their spouse understandably has doubts. As a result, they are often left feeling as if they have to prove their love and devotion to their spouse, but that is often like trying to hit a rapidly moving target.

You might hear a comment like: “I deeply regret cheating on my husband. I had an affair with one of the men who I work with. I never thought that I would be the type of person to cheat on my spouse. I never saw this coming and I never had any intentions of ending my marriage. I want to rebuild my marriage and stay with my husband. But he is making it very difficult. Every time I do or say something loving or kind, he looks at me as if I am lying. If I try to act like the loving wife that I believe myself to be, he will accuse me of putting on a show just to get back into his good graces. The other day, I told him that I feel as if I can’t do anything right. I feel like no matter what I do, he is still going to reject me or say that it’s too little too late. This hurts me deeply. He went so far as to say that I have to ‘prove my love.’ I have no idea what this means. But I suspect that it means that I have to do whatever he desires whenever he desires it. I have to put my own needs and wants behind his own and go out of my way to cater to his every whim. I realize that I put myself in this position, but it still feels unfair. And I almost feel like I can try my best to prove my love and he still won’t be satisfied. And he still won’t really trust me regardless of what actions I take. What can I do?”

This is a very common situation. Quite often, the faithful spouse is going to have some doubts as well as a very distinct lack of trust. You really can’t blame this for this because they have been betrayed. It is not as if they are suddenly demanding more because of no fault of your own. Most cheating spouses fully realize this and they are more than willing to try to make this right. The problem comes when it appears that no matter what they do, it is never really going to enough.

I think that it can help to very gently try to have a conversation about expectations moving forward and when trying to get back on track. However, it’s very important that you don’t come off as defensive or as unwilling. You want to make it very clear that you are perfectly willing to earn their trust back and to be the kind of spouse that they want and deserve. At the same time though, you want to make it clear that you can’t do the impossible either and that by setting up those types of expectations, you may both be disappointed.

A suggested script might be something like: “I know that you’ve said that you want me to prove my love. I am certainly willing to prove my commitment to you by being accountable, doing what I’ve claimed that I am going to do, and being a loving and attentive spouse. I am very committed to you and this marriage. I am very committed to restoring the trust. At the same time, it sometimes feels as though even if I do what you are asking me to do, you still aren’t going to be happy with me. I want to be clear on what you expect and what I can offer. I know that you want for me to be trustworthy and accountable and I am committed to doing that. I know that you want for us to work on our marriage and I am completely game for that too. I will be where I say. I will come straight home. And I will try everything possible to show myself to be trustworthy and loving. Beyond that, I’m not sure what else you expect of me. Can we have a discussion where you are very clear about what you want to see beyond this? I need to understand what you really want. I don’t want for either of us to be disappointed and I don’t want for you to feel as if I’m not doing enough. I will do everything in my power to make this right. But sometimes, I feel as if there is some arbitrary and unreachable goal that I just can’t achieve. Can you tell me exactly where I am falling short?”

Then listen very closely. Your spouse may give you a lot of specific information or they may talk in generalities. I can tell you that what many of them want is to feel loved and secure again. They want to see proof of your commitment. This often means that they want to see more than what you have given them in the past. Sometimes, it is hard for them to communicate what they expect. But when it comes down to it, they want to feel as if you are willing to make an effort for them. They want to see you working very hard to prioritize your marriage. And sometimes this just takes time. But communication really is the key here. If you notice them backing away or showing frustration, there is nothing wrong with asking them where you are going wrong. And if they are asking things of you that is only meant to make you feel uncomfortable or punished, there is nothing wrong with telling them that what they’re asking isn’t going to help your marriage but is instead only going to make the situation worse.  But, be sure to say this in a compassionate and gentle way.

I am sure that sometimes my husband thought that the things I asked him to do after his affair were silly and pointless.  But, I needed for him to do them anyway so he did.  This went a long way toward reassuring me that he was serious about saving our marriage.  Over time as the trust returned, I didn’t need these gestures as much anymore.  I suspect the same might be true in the above scenario.  If it helps, you can read about my healing on my blog at

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