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Can I Trust My Husband After He Cheated On Me?

I cheated on my ex-wife back in 2013, destroying her trust in me. The #1 question she had back then was “can I trust my husband after he cheated on me?”

To trust your husband again after he cheated will take time, likely 1 year for each month the affair lasted. But it will also take him being 100% accountable for his actions, allowing you to vent & express your feelings often, and taking steps to heal the underlying issues that led him to cheat.

But there’s a lot more to say about cheating recovery and trust re-building. So in this article, we’re examining when you should try and save your marriage and when you may not want to. We’ll also look at some of the tell-tale signs that suggest he might cheat again.

Ultimately, we’ll walk through the steps to answer the question for you of “can I trust my husband after he cheated on me?” Including the 1 sure way to know.

Let’s begin.

How do I rebuild trust in my marriage after an affair?

To start with, both people have to acknowledge just how devastating an affair is.

While it, of course, is devasting to the person who was cheated on, it’s surprisingly devasting to the person doing the cheating too. After all, only a sociopath won’t feel immense feelings of guilt, regret, and remorse.

So it’s important to not rush through the initial stage trying to get to the solution. This hurts, deeply. And acknowledging that and talking about it, and especially for the cheater, just listening, has to be OK.

Whether the affair was a one-night stand with a stranger or an ongoing affair with a friend or co-worker, doesn’t matter in terms of the damage it causes. Both have a significant impact in different ways.

What does matter is how the affair became known. 

In terms of rebuilding trust, it’s far better if the cheater admitted the affair rather than simply got busted. That shows at least some level of ownership, accountability, and remorse. But even if you simply uncovered the affair after going through your husband’s text messages, that doesn’t mean your marriage can’t be saved.

In fact, there are 11 key things a cheater needs to do to rebuild the trust after an affair.

I compiled all of those in a recent article that’s well worth reviewing, including the surprisingly common but truly devasting thing men do often. Just click the link to read it on my site.

But here are some of the most important things that need to happen to begin rebuilding trust once the affair becomes known:

1. The cheater needs to be 100% open, honest, and transparent

Sometimes, the cheater tells themselves that it’s better for their spouse if they don’t disclose every detail of the affair. In truth, this is mostly done out of cowardice (been there, done that).

While knowing all the dirty little details really won’t help the person who was cheated on and will be painful to hear, it’s not the place of the cheater to decide what info is needed. So ask the questions you want to ask, and encourage your cheating spouse to be 100% honest and not hold anything back.

Admitting the affair is hard, but when a cheater withholds information that later comes out, it can sometimes start the healing process all over again.

2. You, as the person who was cheated on, need to fully express how you feel (often and repeatedly)

The wife or spouse who was cheated on is feeling  a lot of intense feelings

  • Rage
  • Betrayal
  • Confusion
  • Self-doubt

If they have insecurities, it can also fuel those and bring up questions like “why wasn’t I enough?”

So the spouse who was cheated on will need to vent; to get these feelings out. Bottling them up is bad for all concerned. So it’s vital to express yourself AND for the spouse who did the cheating to just listen. This isn’t the time to start fixing things. This is the time for the cheater to simply shut up and listen.

As the spouse who was cheated on, you may need to have these venting sessions daily, weekly, or however often your feelings get triggered; and that’s OK. Eventually, these sessions will get fewer and farther between. But don’t try and rush this process.

Learning to REALLY listen actively instead of just waiting our turn to talk is something all of us can work on. Empathetic Listening Skills (click to read my article) are the key to doing that.  When you and your spouse learn to really hear one another, you’ll be amazed how that improves all aspects of your marriage.

3. The cheater, of course, needs to cease any and all contact with the 3rd person

It should go without saying that the cheater needs to cut ties with whoever he cheated with.

But if it’s a co-worker, sometimes it’s not that simple. Let me be crystal clear, you can’t make your marriage work if the cheater still has contact, even in a work setting, with the 3rd person. So in those cases, only changing jobs (or maybe locations if that’s an option) is going to work.

The cheater should also be prepared to:

  • Block them in their phone, email, and social media
  • Give you 100% access to all of the above
  • Let you know of any and all attempts of the 3rd person to contact them

4. Both people need a clear understanding that this healing process will take time

Getting over an affair takes a lot of time.

In my case, my affair only lasted 2 months, and I only knew the person (she was a co-worker) for a total of about 6 months. So to me, then at the age of 48, it was a blip on my radar.

It’s true that if it had been an affair that lasted years or been with her best friend, it would be worse. But either way, it’s still going to take time to heal and rebuild trust.

How long that process takes, depends on the people, the situation, and how serious the cheater is about really doing the work to fix things.

But, generally speaking, it could be a year of healing for every month the affair lasted.

It is, however, vital to not just go on as nothing happened, or hope that things “get back to normal”. In the aftermath of an affair, both spouses need to do the work to rekindle their marriage.

In a recent article, I broke down all the 15 steps needed to do just that so you can eventually have a better relationship than you ever thought possible. Just click the link to read it on my site.

Even if you only followed step #3, you could see an immediate improvement in your marriage.

Can you trust a cheater?

In truth, as odd as it sounds, while affairs don’t happen as often in high-functioning happy marriages, if he cheated, it likely has very little to do with you.

In my case, I realized I had a tendency to sabotage every relationship I had ever been in.

That stemmed from childhood issues, divorce, and death, which created a pattern in my brain that said every person who is important to me will eventually leave me. So as an adult, I began to sabotage my relationships both so that I was in control of the breakup, and also to prove my feelings right (“see, they DID leave me”).

It was only when I dealt with the roots of that (through a combination of therapy and the right books), that I began to see that pattern for the first time. Then I set about changing it.

So to learn to trust a cheater again, there HAS to be an acknowledgment of the underlying reasons behind their affair. Then, there have to be steps taken to deal with those reasons.

This isn’t, and can’t be, only about you, as the spouse who was cheated on, figuring out how to “get over it”.

Deciding if you should stay married is a tough call and not a decision anyone can make other than you and your spouse. I did, however, write a recent article where I not only addressed that question, but I called in some experts.

I consulted 6 marriage experts, including world-renowned Dr. John Gottman, to get insight on how to help you answer the question of whether to stay or go. And I got some really surprising answers! Just click the link to see it on my site.

Can you be in love with someone and not trust them?

The answer here is, of course, yes.

People are in love with all sorts of people who aren’t good for them and who damage the relationship. While that’s certainly true of cheaters, it also applies to addicts, and spouses who get verbally or physically abusive.

Ultimately, all of that is abusive to a marriage or relationship. And when we are in any sort of abusive relationship it’s natural to find ourselves staying in it, sometimes even enabling the bad behavior or making excuses for it. Then we wonder, sometimes years down the road, why the behavior hasn’t changed.

The heart wants what it wants; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But if we’re going to make a marriage work after an affair, it’s vital that the cheater take the necessary steps to rebuild trust. Otherwise, there’s a much higher probability he or she will cheat again.

And it’s vital for, as the spouse who was cheated on, to set crystal clear boundaries that you aren’t willing to let be crossed. Hold the cheater accountable and if they aren’t willing to do the work to earn your trust back, you may find the best thing for everyone, even if kids are involved, is to leave the cheating spouse.

That should be a last resort and not a decision made in the heat of the moment. It’s also ideally made in conjunction with seeing a marriage counselor. But if the cheater isn’t willing to do the work, and you continually allow their bad behavior to repeat, you are enabling that behavior and now part of the problem.

How to tell if he will cheat again (the 1 sure way)

An old friend of mine was fond of saying “there’s no better predictor of future behavior than past behavior”.

And really, that’s true. However, just because many people don’t change doesn’t mean they can’t. EVERYONE has the capacity to change. But change takes work. It means digging deep into the hard stuff. It takes time.

No, people have a tendency to look for the easy way out.

So the best way to tell if your husband is going to cheat again is not by scouring his phone or stalking his Facebook account. It’s by looking at his behavior and patterns. By that I mean:

  • Has he made any radical changes (for the better)?
    Maybe he took up a sport, going to the gym, or a new hobby
  • Does he talk differently (more open and honest)
    Maybe he shares more with you about his feelings or about his day
  • Has he changed his patterns?
    Maybe he comes home straight after work instead of hitting the bar with co-workers?
  • Is he more connected with you?
    If you feel more alone than ever, that’s not a good sign. True, in the immediate aftermath of the affair, he may walk on eggshells around you afraid of setting you off. But eventually, and for the long-term, you want to see and feel a deeper connection with him, not a more distant connection

So the best way to know if he’s really changed or if he will cheat again is that is he really changed, that change will affect almost all aspects of who he is.

In the wake of my affair, I quit drinking for 3 years (my wife had already started that, so I joined her). I also took up martial arts, and quit going out to bars and clubs with co-workers.

In short, I made it my mission to become the man I always wanted to be, the husband my wife deserved, and the father my kids deserved. And if you knew me, you could see those changes in almost everything I did.

Can a marriage survive without trust?

The short answer is maybe, but not in an enjoyable or healthy way.

So if your goal is to be miserable, angry, short-tempered, and to look for outlets like drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, yes, it’s possible.

But don’t we all deserve more than that?

Yes is the answer to that question. No one deserves to be in a miserable relationship with broken trust and constant fighting. So we have to want more than that. We have to feel we are worthy of being loved.

More importantly, we have to set clear boundaries that we aren’t willing to have crossed.

A great marriage is made of several things:

  • Great sex
  • Clear communication
  • Shared goals and vision
  • Support for one another’s goals
  • Trust
  • Passion and love

And honestly, when any one of those breaks down, it can derail even the strongest marriage. Marriage is hard work, and like your garden, it requires frequent watering and nurturing; it’s not like you reach a goal and then just coast.

The good news is that with time, focus, and effort, any of those things can be restored in your marriage. But don’t think for a minute it’s OK to just coast along in your marriage without them.

Final thoughts

In this article, we took a look at the world of cheaters, affairs, and how, under the right circumstances, you can begin the process of trusting the cheater again.

We explored rebuilding trust, including the 2 crucial steps that must happen in order to start that process. Ultimately, if you’re asking yourself the question “can I trust my husband after he cheated on me?”, it’s a cold and lonely place.

So, we went through the steps to help you decide if saving the marriage can work, and how that trust-building process might work. We also talked about the 1 sure way to know if you can trust him again.

Is your marriage struggling in the aftermath of an affair?

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Jeff Campbell