Regaining The Respect Of Your Spouse After The Affair

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from cheating spouses who want to make things right in their marriage. And a big obstacle to making this happen is that their spouse has lost respect for them. Their spouse may have viewed them in one way before the discovery of the affair, but they view them in a new way after it. Some people will try to tell themselves that perhaps they are just imagining the perceived new lack of respect. But, I can tell you that often, this may not be paranoia or complete imagination on your part. Because I hear from many faithful spouses on my blog who tell me very directly that they have lost respect for their cheating spouse.

From the faithful spouse you may hear something like: “my husband isn’t who I thought he was. Honestly, I was always proud to be this man’s wife because he is active in the community and he is known as a kind and caring man. People in our community admire him. People trust their children with him. He is known in business as a person of integrity. Well, if they only knew. While my husband was doing business with one of these associates, he was also cheating with that same man’s wife. He was going behind that same man’s back. And he was lying to his wife and children. He was getting in his car and telling me that he was doing things for our church when in reality he was going to be with her. So I am looking at this whole situation and thinking that I didn’t know my husband at all. And I’m also thinking that he is not as respectable as he wants all of us to believe.”

From the husband in this scenario, you may hear something like: “I am deeply ashamed of my behavior. And I deserve my wife’s disdain. My behavior has no justification and no defense. But my wife acts as if I am the most deplorable creature in the world. She acts as if every word out of my mouth is a lie. I am still the nice guy she married. I still step up to help people in our community. My word is still good in business. People can most certainly trust their children to me. I understand that I lied to her and I deserve her anger. But I almost can’t stand that she has lost respect for me. My good name is something that I fought very hard for. Will I ever get it back?”

I believe from my own experience that you can get that respect back – at least eventually. But you have to understand that this may be a gradual and very hard fought battle. You have to earn that respect back. And it is going to take a good deal of time, probably. Because your spouse is understandably doubtful of you. And she is going to be watching you very closely. Any time she catches you doing something contrary to your claims, she is going to lose a little more respect for you and trust you a little less.

I don’t say this to be negative. I say this to allow you to see what you are up against. The good news is that there is a way out of this. But it’s not easy. And it’s not a magical answer that doesn’t require work and patience from you. Here is the key as I see it from a spouse who has been cheated on and who today respects her husband once again.

You have to show genuine remorse. You have to make good on your promises to your spouse. You have to continue to do the honorable things that you never stopped doing to reassure your spouse that you are the same good person that you have always been. At the same time, you must show your spouse that you are deeply aware of the mistake that you have made, and that you have been profoundly changed by it. So changed in fact that you would never repeat it.

Then, you must show your spouse the type of husband that she deserves. You must be loving, patient, affectionate, and accountable. You must do everything in your power to earn and deserve her trust. After some time, when she sees that you are sincere and that you have made good on every promise that you have made to her, then she will likely restore her respect in you because you would have earned that back.

But what you have to understand right now is that you haven’t earned it at this time. You have lost it. Also understand that your wife often has the same wish as you – that the affair never would have happened and that she could go on respecting, trusting, and loving you. But your actions have made it so that this isn’t possible right now. So, you have to deal with the reality that you are facing at this time. And if you face that reality with courage, dignity, and grace, and you show your spouse the man who she has always known has returned and has learned from his mistakes, then she likely has it in her heart to forgive.

Because here is something that you may not have counted on. You’ve worked very hard to lay the foundation to earn her respect in the past. That matters. She hasn’t forgotten that (although her pain as made her momentarily turn away from it.) And as you begin to heal, she will likely turn to it again as long as she can see your sincerity and your willingness to make this right.

My husband’s prior behavior before his affair did matter to me.  I was able to weight the fact that he had always been a good husband and one of my firmest supporters.  Once I began to heal and my anger began to wane, I was able to see that my husband was the same person as always.  He was just a person who made a huge mistake.  And he needed to prove that he had learned from that mistake and would not repeat it.  If it helps, you can read more about my situation on my blog at

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