Ask Jay: How to get past infidelity

Recovering asks: It recently came to light that my husband was cheating on me. At this point I'm not sure where we go from here. Is it possible to repair the trust and get back to where we were? Not sure how to handle this and we could use your advice. He says he's sorry and we're talking a lot now and reconnecting, but it still hurts.

Jay answers: I'm sorry to hear you've gone through this difficult time. You didn't say how the affair came to light, but it's good that it's out in the open and that the two of you have been able to talk about this.

It sounds like you're both doing the right things - you're both talking, he has apologized for the infidelity, the two of you are trying to keep an active connection. I'd say you both get gold stars for how you're handling the situation.

Something which I feel gets overlooked a lot is that the damage from an affair isn't strictly about the sex. It may not even be primarily about the sex. A lot of the damage to a relationship comes from the sense of betrayal, the loss of trust. Chances are you weren't physically harmed by your partner having sex with another person (though he should get an STI test to be safe). But on an emotional level the affair is a problem because it means a person we care about has done something they promised not to do.

This can sometimes lead people down a rabbit hole of questioning what else the other person might have lied about, what else did they do you didn't agree to, when might they betray your trust again? A person can quickly slip into emotional quicksand wondering and worrying about their relationship and what else might cause them hurt.

I'd suggest making this point to your partner, assuming what I just wrote sounds familiar. Let him know this hurts and that you don't want to have to wonder or question. So this might be a good time to ask him to get anything else off his chest. Drag it all out in the open so that, if nothing else, you know any dirty secrets and aren't wondering if there is anything else.
"You did not need to tell me that thing about the bus."

Then try to forgive and move on. Hopefully you'll not feel the need to wonder, accept that we're all human and we all make mistakes. Assuming your husband seems sincere, is being attentive, is being supportive, and is trying to make things right, work on slowly rebuilding the trust. It won't happen overnight, but hopefully the two of you can use this as an opportunity to be frank with each other.

An affair is often a cataylst - something which sparks a lot of feelings and conversations. With some couples it's the wedge which makes them realize their relationship is nearing its end. With others it's a spark which reminds them how much they care for each other and brings them closer together. Since you're talking and sharing and your husband is saying the right things, hopefully this unfortunate event will bring you two closer together.

Something else I feel is worth addressing is that affairs generally don't happen in a vacuum. What I mean by that is some affairs are one-time mistakes - a result of getting drunk on a business trip or a result of getting caught up in a moment at a party. However, affairs often happen gradually over longer periods of time as situations change.

For example, maybe the two of you were having sex less often, maybe the two of you branched out to meet new friends, or maybe one of you was away from home for work more often. Affairs are often a side-effect of couples growing further apart and losing some of their intimacy or spark. I'm not saying this is what happened or there is any blame to be assigned if you two were feeling less connected.

I am suggesting this is an opportunity to try to find ways to reconnect. Plan a vacation together, share fantasies you want to try, start having a weekly date night. Find ways to do new things together to refresh your relationship. Hopefully this will bring the two of you closer together and help heal the negative feelings you're currently feeling about the affair.
No pants breakfast is sure to be a hit!

Best of luck to your both!