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How Do I Heal My Marriage from My Infidelity?

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From a man in Peru: I proposed an open relationship to my wife for years (from the very start of our relationship) and she usually said no, was sometimes ambivalent or was sometimes inclined to say yes. We never got around to agreeing on the matter.

We got married just last year after a long relationship of 13 years and I branched out of our relationship before the wedding, having five one-night stands. After our honeymoon, I confessed to one of the infidelities and she reacted negatively, but now she’s doing much better. She has even considered having a sexual experience herself to even it out. She also confessed to having kissed someone as she was already suspicious of me.

Sadly, and maybe surprisingly, I am the one who is feeling worse, as I am going through awful guilt, remorse, shame, depression and anxiety due to my actions and of course not fully confessing. I am now clueless as to what to do next to save our marriage and heal ourselves.

Should I finish confessing and propose an open marriage as a middle path/salvation one last time? Or at least liberties for her since I didn’t wait for her? Should we separate? Should we just tough it out with counselling? A mixed solution?

By the way, both my parents are dead, so I have no support network.  I have no idea what to do as it is all so confusing and this is my worst mental health crisis so far. I feel (irrational and horrible) guilt and shame whether in her presence or not. I seldom have any appetite, and alcohol, which I used to enjoy, now just makes me feel more depressed. I am even considering going to India and/or consuming Ayahuasca, a psychedelic plant. My emotional situation is unbearable.
Thank you.

How Do I Heal My Marriage from My Infidelity?

Answered by on -

A.

As you are finding, feeling guilty is no substitute for living honorably. But the root problem is not that you strayed. The root problem is that you and your now wife never came to a solid agreement about what fidelity means in your marriage. I think this crisis is going to force the two of you to finally stay with a discussion long enough to find a genuine agreement you can both stick with.

Note that I said “genuine” agreement. That means an agreement where neither one of you is “agreeing” just to get out of a difficult conversation. It means being willing to even risk the relationship by stating how you honestly feel. It means decisively agreeing to whatever you agree to, not hedging on it by saying you will “try”.

I don’t know if your wife will even tolerate revisiting the matter when you tell her that you slept with several others. She may decide it’s easier for her if she just ends things with you. But after 13 years together, she may be willing to work on salvaging your marriage. In that case, you both need to commit to working this issue through once and for all. Forgiving isn’t enough. Agreeing to put it behind you isn’t enough.To make a marriage that will work over decades requires agreeing to a “deal” you both will live with.

If either of you — or both — find the conversation too difficult to stay in until you reach closure, do see a couples therapist to help you. Therapists often know how to redefine blocks so that what seems to be an unsolvable problem becomes solvable.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

How Do I Heal My Marriage from My Infidelity?

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). How Do I Heal My Marriage from My Infidelity?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/02/01/how-do-i-heal-my-marriage-from-my-infidelity/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jan 2020 (Originally: 1 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jan 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.