When a spouse cheats when they were supposedly happily married, most people would consider this to be a clear cut case of betrayal. But what happens if the spouses are separated and one of them is intimate with someone else? Is this still considered cheating? Is the recovery process the same? These questions recently came up from a wife who was forced into this situation.
I recently heard from a wife was had been separated for about six weeks. The couple had hit a rough spot in their marriage and had decided to separate while they sorted things out. A major sticking point for this wife was that they had agreed not to see other people and to remain faithful to one another. In fact, they had scheduled regular date night and were both committed to using the separation to strengthen their marriage rather than to destroy it. So imagine the wife’s extreme disappointment when she found out that her husband had been intimate with a coworker. The husband swore that this was not a relationship and that the other woman didn’t mean anything. He’d been at a company party where alcohol was involved and according to him, one thing lead to another. However, he insisted this was a one time thing that would never happen again.
The wife said, in part: “My husband says he’s sorry for the cheating. He swears he didn’t mean for it to happen and says that he still wants to work on our marriage. But sometimes when we argue, he’ll admit that although he is sorry, he thinks I should not be as hard on him because we were separated at the time he was intimate with someone else. I do not think this makes a difference as we said we would be faithful. I have not dated other people and certainly wouldn’t. What happens now? Even though we’re separated, I’m every bit as devastated by his cheating. Do I have a right to be?”
Although Being Intimate With Anyone Other Than Your Spouse Is Cheating, The Fall Out Of Infidelity During A Separation Often Depends On Whether You And Your Spouse Decided To Be Faithful During It:
Perhaps I’m a bit biased because I have dealt with infidelity in my own life, but I truly believe that any time some one is unfaithful while they are still married (even during a separation) this is by definition cheating. However, I know that some will disagree with me on this.
I’ve heard from spouses in this situation who insist that this is really not cheating since the couple was separated rather than happily married. Many believe that because they were “trying out” being single during the separation, their sex life is included in this description and they don’t understand why their spouse is so angry right now.
I often see this sort of attitude when the spouses didn’t specifically define what was going to happen during the separation. Often, when fidelity isn’t discussed, one spouse will assume that both people will be faithful and the other doesn’t. Sometimes, the unfaithful spouse doesn’t intend to cheat but they will use this lack of definition or understanding to defend their actions once they are caught.
Most of the time, in situations where both spouses have agreed to try to be faithful, the fall out when one spouse steps outside of their marriage is much more severe. Because the faithful spouse has made good on their promise and doesn’t understand how the other couldn’t do this.
Not only that, but many faithful spouses will usually argue that the situation is now twice as bad because of the cheating. After all, the whole idea was to hope that being apart would make you realize that you wanted to save your marriage because you missed the other person. But what happens now when instead of this process going along as planned, one spouse stepped outside of the marriage? This leads me to my next point.
In My Opinion, The Recovery Process For Cheating During A Separation Is Very Similar To The Recovery Process For Cheating While Married And Living Together:
Honestly the outcome of this situation was going to be up to the wife. She had to decide if she still wanted to save the marriage in spite of the husband’s behavior. If she did, I didn’t feel that there would be any short cuts or that she would have an easier time simply because they were separated.
They were still going to have to work hard to restore the trust and to rebuild the foundation that the infidelity had shaken to its core. If there was any good news here, I felt that it was this. Honestly, the process of repairing your marriage after an affair can repair it to the point that it’s actually better (and stronger) than it was before. Since this couple had been having marital issues so severe that they had separated as a result, this process certainly wouldn’t hurt their marriage and would likely help it.
The wife was not sure what she wanted to do. She was worried that she was going to work very hard to repair the marriage only to have him cheat again in the future. I felt that one very important thing to consider was that, in several years of marriage, he had been faithful – even during the very difficult times that preceded their separation. Of course there are no guarantees, but to me, this said a lot about the husband’s character and about his ability to remain faithful if they were able to move past both the separation and the infidelity.
This decision was ultimately the wife’s. But I didn’t think that this was an impossible situation, although I didn’t think the separation or the alcohol gave the husband a free pass to cheat. Without any doubt, this issue was just one more that this couple would have to deal with. But I felt that if they did dive in and successfully deal with it, the process could be one that would strengthen their marriage (which was in some need of repair anyway.)
I don’t say this to minimize the cheating. I know first hand that this was very painful for the wife and I certainly am not trying to diminish this. I’m just trying to offer some reassurance that with the right rehabilitation, this is an issue that can be worked through so that it doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage.
I know this is a difficult situation, but I truly believe healing is possible. Although I never would’ve believed this two years ago, my marriage is stronger than ever after my husband’s affair. It took a lot of work, and I had to play the game to win, but it was worth it. Because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is pretty high. I no longer worry my husband will cheat again. You can read a very personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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