An open letter to the wife whose husband loves another woman

Dear wives like me,

Let’s face it, we never enter marriage thinking another party is going to join us in the trenches. No, we weren’t disillusioned.

We knew marriage was going to be hard work. We knew there were going to be sacrifices to be made. But no one ever told us another woman would steal our husband’s heart and pull him away from you.

No one ever told us that we would want to work through it and make everything OK despite this.

No one ever told us…

I know you were blindsided by your husband’s actions. I was.

You thought you were living the picture-perfect marriage. Well, at least a happy one — no-one’s perfect after all. Then he uttered those four words to you that has changed your life forever, “I’m having an affair”.

It’s like a punch in the gut. You feel like doubling over as the pain consumes you, while the world around you crumbles down.

You never saw it coming.

You take a moment to laugh at the irony of it all. You never thought it would happen to you. You told yourself you would dump his sorry arse if it ever did.

But guess what: it’s easy to say what we’d do hypothetically. We don’t ever think we’ll be in this position.

Our feelings and emotions, however, often have other ideas for us.

My husband opened up to me after it happened. Sure, he was a little late to the game. But the onslaught of emotions that followed can only be explained in one way: utter and true remorse for what he’d done.

I don’t know your husband. I don’t know your situation. I do know that if you are wanting to make it work and get past his affair, you have a very good reason for doing so. Sticking it out definitely isn’t the easy choice.

You’re going to be met with so much judgement and unwanted advice. You’re going to struggle with your emotions and you’re going to have to fight through some very serious trust issues. I did.

But over time it will get easier. It won’t disappear but it will get easier. And if you’re in it for the right reasons, it will also feel right as you go.

Here’s my most important piece of advice for you: choosing to stick it out doesn’t mean you have to always choose to stick it out.

You have the right, at any point in time, to leave. To walk away. To change your mind.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things just don’t work out. Don’t be stubborn. Don’t be a martyr. Know when to let it go.

Working through the pain

So, what advice do I have for you? I wish I could bring you in for one giant hug and make all your hurt and pain go away.

But, sadly, I can’t. I can’t even let go of my own pain.

The one thing I do have for you is experience. I have been in your situation. Heck, I AM IN your situation. It doesn’t end. It doesn’t go away. And as much as you don’t want to hear it, it doesn’t get easier.

Sorry.

Here’s what I’ve learned along the way that I want every other woman who is going through this to know.

I hope it brings you some comfort. I hope it makes things a little easier. But most of all, I hope it helps you to know that you’re not in this alone.

I am there, right next to you. As are so many other women.

So, let’s hold our heads up and be the best version of ourselves possible.

1) Own your feelings

The one thing I want you to know is that your feelings are valid.

No matter how angry, upset, confused… how ANYTHING you feel, you need to own it. It’s your right to feel this way. After all, this wasn’t what you signed up for.

If you simply sweep your feelings under the rug, then they’ll stay there. Waiting for the day you lift up that rug and let them out again.

That’s why it’s so important to acknowledge what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling this way. It helps you process what has happened and to be able to move forward.

You can’t move on with unresolved feelings on the table — trust me. But, and here’s the important thing, don’t let your feelings own you.

If you allow them to take over you, then there’s no coming back.

You’ll say things you don’t mean. Do things you regret. And poke holes in your marriage that you can’t repair. This is your every right after what he has done.

But, if you still love him and want to make it work, then you need to hold back. So, accept them, process them, and talk it out with a professional if you need to.

I know I did. Having a third party there where I could share all my feelings and get them out in the open without jeopardising my marriage was important. It’s like having the perfect sounding board.

2) Don’t let your feelings turn to resentment

It’s one thing to own your feelings for what they are in the moment. It’s another thing entirely to let them eat away at you and turn into resentment.

Resentment is a place you can’t come back from. You can’t turn those feelings around.

Instead, they bury themselves deep into your marriage and start causing cracks when you least expect them.

You snap a lot more, you make snide comments, your attitude completely changes. It’s driven by this deep-seated resentment that you’ve allowed to grow.

If you’re already feeling that resentment, then trust me, walk now. This isn’t going to work long-term for you.

If you want to make sure that resentment never finds its way into your marriage, then I’m here to help.

Write two lists for me:

  • What you love about your husband
  • Why you chose to stay with him

Every time you feel even the tiniest bit of resentment, read them. Get your mind back on track. Love him.

I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. I also know, you’ve got this.

3) Ignore the comments

My God, it is so easy to comment on a situation you’ve never been in. I see it every day.

That well-meaning (or perhaps not-so-well-meaning) lady on Facebook who wants you to know you’re worth more. That you should dump his sorry ass.

Your own mother who thinks you’re making a serious mistake.

Your best friend who looks at you with those giant pity eyes as she tells you what she would do if she was in your situation. Which for the record, she isn’t.

But don’t resent them for having an opinion either — it’s hard not to. They love you (with the exception of that person on Facebook) and they want what’s best for you.

Remember that version of you who once said if he cheats on me, I’ll dump his sorry arse?

Well, it’s easy to see where your friends and family are coming from.

I was so fixed on validating my decision and explaining myself to friends and family that my marriage suffered because of it.

I felt like my husband had to be Mr. Perfect this moment forward, just to prove to everyone I was right. But, the reality is, no one is perfect. He’s going to do and say things you don’t like.

That’s marriage.

So, do what I didn’t do and ignore those around you. Tune them out and focus on you and your marriage. That’s where your efforts need to lie.

4) Learn the art of forgiveness

I know, this one is easier said than done.

But, you knew the minute you decided to try and make this marriage work that you would have to forgive him for his actions.

Without forgiveness, you run the risk of bringing resentment into your marriage, which won’t bode well for you. It’s not an easy process. But, if I can do it, then I know you can too.

It all comes back to those feelings and emotions. Make sure you recognise them and deal with them when they surface, to help you forgive and move on from what your husband has done.

I wish I could give you the formula for forgiveness or an easy guide to help you through. But we can’t control our feelings and thoughts. And we all experience such different feelings and thoughts.

I can tell you it’s about you and your situation. It’s about you and your feelings.

Choosing to forgive is a choice you make every morning when you wake and every night when you go to sleep. And only in time does it become second nature to you.

At the beginning, it will hurt. A lot. So, be gentle with yourself and hug yourself a little tighter when you need it.

I know I did. And while forgiveness comes much more easily to me, it still hurts.

5) Go to counselling

Not just the counselling for you (which I’ve already told you helped me immensely).

Couple’s counselling.

Counselling for the two of you.

Never feel like you’re alone in this. I can’t tell you how alone and isolated I felt when my husband first cheated. It’s like I was the only woman in the world who had been cheated on.

You’re not. I wasn’t.

Couple’s counselling helped me realise this. It also taught us how to build up that trust again.

We were offered actionable things we could do to make our marriage work going forward. And we were offered this advice from someone who knew and understood exactly what we were going through.

She knew what it would take to get back on track.

We trusted her blindly.

And it worked.

6) Know when to quit

To the woman who decides her marriage isn’t worth it, I also see you.

I hear you.

I’ve been you.

It’s so damn hard.

I wanted to quit a number of times. There was no one to guide me and tell me forgiveness was going to be this hard.

But, it was.

If you decide you want to leave him, then I support you. You’ve made a brave choice and I know how much it must hurt for you to go this route. No decision is ever made lightly.

Your friends and family might not understand this, but I do.

Sometimes, it’s just too hard.

Sometimes, you simply can’t move on.

Only YOU know what’s going on in your life. Only you know what’s going on in your marriage.

Moving on together

At the end of the day, your marriage will never be the same.

Sadly, it’s too late to turn back the clock and make his actions disappear (I know, I’ve tried).

But you will reach a point of healing along the way. And it feels great. There’s a renewed hope that you can make it work. You can be stronger than ever before.

The most important thing is to make sure you have no regrets. You’ve chosen this path for the right reasons and it’s 100% what you want. If it is, you can make it work.

My husband’s poor decision hasn’t ruined our marriage, because I didn’t give it the chance to. That would have been the much easier option, trust me.

But I fought for us and what we once had and with his help, we made it back from there.

The minute you let resentment eat away at you, all that will be lost.

I know, right now your heart is broken into 1000 pieces and you have no idea how to pick them all up and mend them. But you will. One step at a time.

You’ve got this. And I’m right here to support you.

Yours sincerely,

A wife who has made it out the other side

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