If you’re currently struggling with the question “How to help my wife heal after I cheated?”, you are probably preparing yourself to tell her about your infidelity. Or maybe your transgression is already out in the open and you are faced with the harrowing guilt of making your partner suffer. Either way, it is a good idea to prepare yourself to do the right thing for the sake of your spouse’s well-being and your relationship.
People of all genders can indeed commit adultery. But most studies and surveys on the topic show that male partners tend to cheat more frequently than partners of other genders. However, no matter the gender of the partners, it can be a devastating discovery for the cheated partner and a tough and guilt-ridden journey for the one who cheated.
With the help of clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couples counseling and family therapy, we try to understand the complexities of infidelity and what a relationship needs to revive its health after a breach of trust of such monumental proportions.
What Percent Of Marriages Stay Together After Infidelity?
Unfortunately, a lot of marriages or committed relationships go through the crisis of infidelity. This question of what happens after and how to help your wife after you cheated might understandably be on your mind. But if you are trying to make your wife fall back in love with you, it might interest you to look at the trend of relationship survival rates through some studies.
Most studies around infidelity and marriages, such as this one by the Institute of Family Studies, tend to focus on gender, age, racial background, income, religious identity, political affiliation, etc to try to understand if there is a pattern to cheating. They also analyze the chances of eventual divorce or separation after the infidelity episode, and the possibility of remarriage of offending partners.
But, there are very few studies on how many of these marriages actually survive the trauma of cheating. The study, Admitting To Cheating: Exploring How Honest People Are About Their Infidelity, by Health Testing Centres, is one of them. It surveyed 441 people who admitted to infidelity with their partners. The section, “Outcomes of Admitting to Cheating” clearly shows that of the respondents, 54.5% broke up immediately after, 30% tried to stay together but broke up eventually, and 15.6% were still together at the time of the study.
15.6% may seem too small or too large a number depending on what you were expecting from this question in the first place. But let us remind you that most studies have inherent limitations, such as the pool of respondents, which is often limited. And 15.6% of 441 people is still 68 people whose relationship survived even after a marital crisis such as infidelity. Who is to say you cannot be one of those 68 and succeed in your attempts to make your wife fall back in love with you?
Can A Marriage Go Back To Normal After Cheating?
Experts commonly tend to say that a marriage can definitely go back to normal after cheating provided both partners share the same goal of making it work and are equally invested in working toward it. We intentionally begin by assuring you that there is hope because the common tendency is to think adversely. You and your spouse must have already heard the adage, “Trust is like a glass, once broken, the crack always shows.”
We asked Devaleena about the likelihood of a marriage going back to normal after cheating. Basing her response on her experience of seeing more than 1,000 couples in the last twenty years, she says, “When a couple is facing this crisis, they think their marriage has hit rock bottom and there is no saving it. But a lot of times, people still chose to stay and work on the relationship. Occasionally, there are adverse emotions such as hurt, rebukes, digging up the past, and feeling like you are falling out of love after infidelity. But a lot can still turn around.”
However, there is no right and wrong answer to this question. Every relationship is different as are the people that make the relationship. Often, there is pressure to make relationships work for the sake of the dependents like children or ailing parents. But at the same time, there is also a lot of stigma attached to staying back and not standing up for oneself. People are called selfish for looking after their own interests and judged for not standing up for themselves.
The point being, there is no pleasing society when it comes to dealing with infidelity in marriages. This is why experts advise treating your case as unique and seeking the help of a marriage counselor to hold your hand and allow you to work through your grief. Your and your spouse’s needs will vary but there still are a few things that you can take care of to learn how to help your wife heal after you cheated. Should you need it, expert counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here to help you.
How To Help Your Wife Heal After You Cheated?
As we said, many unique factors will influence your and your partner’s journey through these turbulent times. You can worry over, “How can I help my wife heal after I cheated?”, but the end result will depend on your wife’s capacity to forgive you and heal.
Her childhood trauma, carryover grief from past relationships, her relationship with qualities like love and trust, her capacity to empathize will affect how much and how quickly she can move on from this setback. While a couple’s counseling or individual therapy may help you two work through your issues, the following actions will allow you to lay a solid groundwork for the healing to happen.
1. Take accountability to make your wife love you again
No healing can begin unless you take complete responsibility for your actions. And not merely for show. The effects of accountability tend to go deeper. Being accountable puts you in the right mental state and prepares you for what is coming. The journey of mending and healing the wounds that have been caused by you is not easy, to say the least. Devaleena says, “Rather than trying to hush up what you did, take full responsibility in your relationship. People need truth and clarity.”
Taking full accountability also includes making sure you cut off all contact with the person you were cheating with. You need to first recommit to your relationship to learn how to help your wife heal after you cheated. If you see the person you cheated with every day – at your place of work, for instance – you need to establish clear boundaries with them. 100% accountability will give you the strength to follow through with these tough decisions.
2. Tell the truth to help your wife heal after you cheated
Devaleena speaks from experience when she says that there is a popular piece of advice couples hear from their social circle, “If the truth hurts, it is better not to go there”, or “Better not go into the gory details”. But it is even more painful for your partner when they don’t know what actually happened and they assume.
“One could simply be assuming a lot worse. To have a clear picture, it is very important for the unfaithful spouse to be truthful about what happened,” she adds. If you want to make your wife love you again, you have to be willing to answer her questions. Offer her complete transparency on what happened. Lies often resurface and cause havoc on the self-esteem of the cheated person. How to help your wife heal after you cheated? Bare it all. Be vulnerable.
Yes, it is important to tell her everything, but at a pace she is most comfortable with. You can not rush through the infidelity recovery stages. The news that your partner is cheating on you is a monumental trauma that can lead to a major marital crisis. Do not forget, you have cut the ground from beneath your wife’s feet. She is going to need time to deal with it.
Allow her the time and space to process the news and wait for her to give you permission to tell her everything she needs to know, to stop her from completely falling out of love after infidelity. You can reassure her that you are willing but only when she is ready to hear it. Once she is ready, telling it all is going to be difficult. But your common goal – that you want to help your wife and your relationship heal from the trauma that was caused – is going to be your anchor.
4. Offer a sincere apology to make amends with your wife
How to help my wife heal after I cheated, you ask? Apologize with all your heart. Learn the elements of a sincere apology. It consists of admitting to what happened, acknowledging one’s mistakes – sometimes very specifically, acknowledging the pain one has caused and then pledging to not repeat it. You will, of course, be met with rebuke and refusal from your partner to place their trust in you ever again. That too is part of the process.
Devaleena warns, “The phase after coming out clean to your partner is a really crucial one. Be warned, a lot of berating and shaming happens. The person who cheated, in this case, you, often tends to lash back. If you do that, it will make it seem to your partner that you are not even remorseful.”
She advises, “With a touch of humility, withstand the volley of emotions coming from the other person. You need to be very patient.” The accountability you felt toward the outcome of your infidelity should help you be patient. After all, none of the ways to show your wife you love her will work without a sincere apology.
5. Offer constant reassurance to your wife to help her heal from the trauma
Your wife must be swamped with advice from society, friends, and family, who will tell her things like “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” or “Be ready, it will happen again. People do not change.” “These aphorisms are obstacles in the process of rebuilding your relationship. You will have to work against these odds and provide your wife with constant reassurance,” says Devaleena.
You must repeatedly offer verbal reassurance of your love as well as reassurance through your actions. The patience you show, your commitment toward respecting her boundaries and answering her questions are all part of her stages of healing after infidelity. This is basic but foundational advice on how to help your wife heal after you cheated.
Consider this. “When couples land up at a therapist’s office, a common grievance of the cheated spouse is that there was a whole lot of exchange of emotions and care between their partner and the other person. Which never came to them,” says Devaleena. This is a valid emotion your wife must be going through.
Your wife will need not only her share of love from you but also what she thinks you had the capacity to give to another person. You will have to be more expressive in showing your care and love. You can rebuild trust through consistency and predictability. Your partner should be able to see you do something positive enough number of times to feel she can rely on you. Let us look at a few ways to show your wife you love her and are worthy of her trust:
Keep your promises, even the little ones
Respect her emotional and physical boundaries
Be mindful of consent
Show up when you said you will. Do what you said you will do
Be punctual. Even the little things add up
First, rebuild a friendship with your partner. Build up on it slowly
7. Ask your partner what they need to heal
Devaleena calls this an essential sensitivity requirement in marital therapy and advises you to put it into practice. She says, “We always tend to assume what our partner needs. That is where we go wrong. I insist you ask your partner what they need.” There couldn’t be more apt advice for how to help your wife heal after you cheated. Just ask her what she needs. And with your help she might just be able to accept her partner’s past.
The unfaithful partner is often so fixated on the external responses to how to help your wife heal after you cheated, that they forget to turn to the partner whose needs they are worrying about. What your wife needs could be anything from more time, physical distance, the complete truth, or a set of new rules. To give you an idea, your wife could ask you to:
Always pick up her phone, no matter where you are
Come home on time
Be able to look at your laptop screen when you work
To meet your work friends more frequently
Have phone-free weekends with you
We admit a few of these involve an infringement of your privacy, but your willingness to offer whatever your partner needs will help them trust your commitment to their healing process. However, we advise you to not do anything that is counterintuitive to the process and causes resentment in you. Make promises that you can deliver on and pay attention to these 10 common marriage reconciliation mistakes to avoid after infidelity.
A marriage can go back to normal after cheating provided both partners share the same goal of making it work and are equally invested in the process
No healing can begin if the unfaithful partner doesn’t take complete responsibility for their actions
Be truthful. But also allow your partner the time and space to deal with the infidelity at their pace
Reassure them of your love repeatedly and keep your promises to rebuild lost trust
Offer a sincere apology
Do not forget to ask your partner what they need. Do not assume their needs
Do you remember the aphorism you must have heard several times now in this journey and that we mentioned earlier, “Trust is like a glass, once broken, the crack always shows.” Do not let it demoralize you. Look at this line by songwriter Leonard Cohen instead. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
If you and your partner are able to see this phase through, this crack is only going to make your relationship stronger. This could be an opportunity to mend the issues that existed in your marriage before the infidelity happened.