My husband had an affair 3.5 years ago, while I was pregnant with our second child. It was emotionally and physically draining, but I fought hard to save our marriage. I love him with all my heart and most days am not sorry at all that we chose to work things out and put our marriage and family back together.
However, 3.5 years later I still can't let go of the betrayal and hurt. We see/cross paths with the woman he was unfaithful with quite often and that makes it even more difficult. He has done nothing the last 3 years to make me distrust him or believe he has a relationship of any kind with this woman. We talk about what happened and my feelings whenever I need to or he needs to, and he has been very apologetic and remorseful since our reconciliation.
However, I don't know how to move on. I believe in my heart that I have forgiven him, but with these continued negative thoughts and feelings I'm not sure. We were married for 6 years before the affair and have always had a very close, very special marriage. We have gained a lot of that back, but there are always those painful memories in the back of my mind. Am I always going to be plagued with not being able to let go or do I just need more time?
How do I move forward after this affair? Will I ever be able to live without fear that this woman is going to destroy the life that I love?
Katie (30 year-old woman)
The most important thing for you to realize is that things like this do take time. Everything you say about what has happened since the reconciliation is good, so if this is true there is no reason to doubt that you will make it together eventually.
Some things to think about:
- Don't confuse forgiving with forgetting. You might have forgiven him long ago but are still having trouble completely forgetting the memories.
- You asked at the end of the letter if you will 'always' be plagued by the memories.... The answer to this is complicated. Since this was a very significant event in your life, you will always be able to remember it - but at some point it should get to the point that it doesn't cross your mind at all for many months at a time. Once your 'new' image of your husband (how he is now) becomes more solid in your mind than the 'old image' of him back then when he had the affair, you will probably seldom think of it at all. But, frankly, the answer is that you will always know that this happened and it is possible that it will come up in your mind occasionally 'forever'.... (Part of taking him back should have been to realize that this will be a part of your future, even if it's only something that happens very, very seldom eventually....)
- When the memories do come, don't fight them and don't prolong them. Just notice them and realize that they will go away in a few seconds if you let them. (If you try this for a couple of months or so and you still find that you think about them for five minutes or more at a time, I'd suggest that you get into therapy.)
- You don't say anything about your sex life with your husband, before or after the affair. I just mention this because I find it interesting. (Do you ignore sex...? Do you enjoy it as much as before, or less, or more...?). I just wonder why you didn't mention it in a letter about your husband's affair.
I sincerely hope this is of some help to you.
If you don't improve in the next few months or so, please get into therapy for yourself (not for your marriage - if you continue to think that it's a good one now...).
Thanks for writing!