Dear Dr. Faizal,
Last year, I cheated on my husband and he found out. He took the kids to his parents and told them about it but we’ve worked it out. A month ago, someone learned about the affair and told everyone. My husband and I are reliving it again as everyone watches, just as we are moving past it. I’m worried this time we won’t make it because people are telling him to leave me. I know I made a mistake and paid for it but I’m scared my husband will leave me because of the pressure. What can I say or do so he won’t leave me?
– Sorry I Cheated
Dear Sorry I Cheated,
It’s sad, but people love to witness the ‘drama’ of misfortune that others go through. For any progress to be made, you and your husband must isolate yourselves from those who judge. I am reminded of an utterance made by Jesus: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” implying that since no one is faultless, no one, then has the right to judge.
What’s more important here is that you say that you’ve “worked it out,” while in another place you say you both are “moving past it.” To me, it appears that there hasn’t been the closure needed for you and your husband to place this affair in the past – once and for all. Achieving closure after an adulterous act requires asking for, and receiving, forgiveness. To begin, apologize to your husband. He needs to appreciate that you are sorry and feel remorse for your actions. Tell him something like, “I am truly sorry for having an affair last year.”
Then explain to your partner why you cheated on him, but don’t make any excuses. It’s important to tell your husband of what motivated you to have an affair, but don’t use your motivation as an excuse. For instance, “I was attracted to this guy because I felt lonely and wanted attention, but that does not excuse by behavior.” Next, show your husband that you empathize with him and understand how your actions made him feel. Tell your partner how you think your affair hurt him. You could say something like, “By you finding out about my affair, and having to face your parents afterwards, I know I hurt and disrespected you.”
After addressing your infidelity, why you were unfaithful, and why you believe it was a mistake, it is important you now correct things. Share a plan of action to prevent another affair. For example, say, “If I ever feel lonely or want more attention, I promise to share my feelings with you and only you.” Show your husband how you changed so he feels secure another occurrence will not take place. Tell him confidently, “I accept cheating on you was wrong. I’m very ashamed for my weakness and have taken steps to change. To avoid loneliness, I‘m going back to work and am volunteering [just suggestions], and seeing a counsellor to work on my self-esteem.”
Apologize again to your husband and ask him to forgive you. Keep in mind that there is a chance that he may choose not to offer forgiveness (at least, not at this time). I would say, “My dear, I love you so much and I cherish our marriage. Will you please forgive me?” Once forgiveness is given, there will be no fear that your husband will leave you, regardless of how much “pressure he’s getting.” With closure, you can move on confidently with each other.