We Both Cheated. Now What?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from couples who are in marriage in which both of them have cheated. Sometimes, one spouse cheats to “get back” at the other for the initial infidelity. Other times, both spouses cheated (sometimes without knowing about the other spouses’ infidelity) simply because the marriage was struggling.

In either situation, the couple can wonder what happens when they have both cheated? Is the slate just wiped clean since you are both guilty of infidelity? Does the score keeping end? Is one affair worse than the other? Do you deal with each issues separately?

I heard from a wife who said: “both my husband and I cheated on one another last year. My own affair was in response to my husband’s. He cheated first and I was so hurt that I checked out of our marriage. We separated and during the separation, I met another man and began a relationship. I did so because I honestly thought our marriage was over. However, a couple of weeks ago, my husband called and asked me to lunch. He told me that he missed me more than he could express and asked if there was any chance for us to try to save our marriage. He said that obviously we would need counseling to work through our two affairs. I wouldn’t mind saving my marriage. But I feel like my affair was less egregious than his. I would not have cheated if he hadn’t cheated first. How do couples deal with it when they’ve both cheated? Is the healing twice as hard?” I will try to answer these questions in the following article.

Do The Two Affairs Cancel Each Other Out? Are Things Considered Even When Both Spouses Cheat?: The wife in this situation was adamant that her affair should not count for as much since her cheating was a direct response to her husband’s misconduct which happened first. She felt that the affairs should “cancel each other out” and was more inclined to try to start fresh or “from a clean slate.” However, her husband felt that both affairs needed to be addressed and the wife disagreed.

I understand why the wife wanted to gloss over both affairs, but here’s the thing. It’s not healthy or advisable to pretend that the affairs never happened. They did happen. And they very likely affected the marriage, the trust between the spouses, and dynamics of the relationship. To pretend otherwise is leaving your marriage vulnerable at a time when you should be trying to do just the opposite.

How Do You Heal From Two Different Affairs From Two Different Spouses?: The wife accepted my assertion that the affairs didn’t cancel each other out. They both needed to be acknowledged and dealt with. But, she was confused as to the logistics of this. Did they start with her husbands affair and then move on to hers? Did they just try to tackle the issues that were common to both affairs?

Different counselors will take different approaches. And I’m certainly not a counselor.  And some couples who opt to not go to formal counseling will handle this in different ways. But generally speaking, it’s fair to say that there are usually issues within the marriage that contributed to the initial cheating that should be addressed first. In other words, there were likely contributing factors to the first affair that should be fully explored.

With that said, this doesn’t mean that the second affair doesn’t matter or should be negated. Yes, the first affair was probably the heaviest blow to the marriage. But, the wife still made the choice to cheat when she could have made another choice. She must be responsible and accountable for this in the same was that the husband must also be. Each person must own up to their part in both affairs and come to the table ready to heal and to make concessions.

Can A Marriage Really Heal Or Survive After Both Spouses Cheated?: Many people assume that two affairs (by both spouses) is just too much for any marriage to overcome. This isn’t always the case. Some spouse’s actually become more forgiving of their other spouse’s affair seeing that they made the same mistake. It also allows both people to see that noone is infallible or without fault.

Honestly, it’s not uncommon for both people to agree to a sort of “clean slate” approach since it’s not appropriate for either spouse to hold a grudge. So yes, it absolutely is possible to recover after both husband and wife have an affair. However, it often doesn’t just magically happen. Healing and recovery take a lot of effort, understanding, and compromise. You have to be honest about any issues that are present and then you need to fix them. You must work through any resentments. You must stop keeping score. And you must prioritize reconnecting and reestablishing the bond and the trust. These things are true no matter if you are talking about one affair or five. The process often isn’t an easy one, but if your marriage and your spouse mean enough to you, then it can be worth it.

I have to admit that I never cheated in retaliation for my husband’s affair, but I know that this is very common.  And, the process of healing is the same.  It was difficult to heal after my husband’s affair,  but it was worth it.  And I think this is true regardless or which spouse cheated or even if both did.  If it helps you can read that very emotional  story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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