Episode 72: How Can I Trust He Won’t Cheat Again?

by | Last updated: Apr 22, 2024 | Podcast

How do we move forward together after the discovery of an affair? How do I know he won’t cheat again? What if there’s more sexual indiscretion I just don’t know about (yet)?

In this episode, I’ll share a story from one of my clients: She’s 59 and just discovered her husband’s long-term sexual indiscretion. Now she’s trying to understand what went wrong and how to move forward.

I’ll talk about how we can get introspective (without taking responsibility for something that’s NOT our fault), the importance of being “chosen” by our partners (not merely tied together by convenience or fear), plus the Loving Truth about what’s possible on the other side.

Please note: This is a tender, sensitive topic for those of us who’ve experienced sexual indiscretion within an intimate relationship. When deciding whether to listen to this episode (or select another), I encourage you to keep this in mind and take good care of yourself.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

1:16 – She’s 59 and just discovered her husband’s sexual indiscretion
4:22 – When you’ve been cheated on, you need these 2 important things
6:39 – Here’s where he needs to start
13:07 – What does it mean to get “introspective”?
16:18 – Are you brave enough to consider this, too?
20:18 – This is what can happen on the other side!
23:17 – And here’s the loving truth…

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Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

Welcome to the Loving Truth Podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope. This is Sharon Pope and this is the Loving Truth. Today I wanna talk to you about how you know whether or not you can trust your partner to not cheat again if they've cheated on you before.

So this is gonna be an important and heartfelt conversation because I know that if you've been cheated on, it's a very traumatic experience. It's certainly incredibly hurtful, and there's going to be a grieving process that you're gonna go through. So the, the closer you are to discovering that your partner has betrayed you in this way, the more tender those feelings are going to be.

So if you are not in a place where you can receive this and hear this right now, that's okay. You can go on to another one of my podcasts and listen to that instead and come back to this when you feel a little bit steadier and a little bit more grounded. So I wanna share with you the story of a client of mine who I'll refer to as Leslie,

that is obviously not her name, but Leslie is 59 years old. She and her husband have been married for 35 years and she recently found out about multiple indiscretions on the part of her husband and that has sent her into a spiral. Now, I'll give you a sense for these indiscretions, but there were many sort of shady things and secrets that he was keeping.

And while she's found out about some of them, you know, when there's that much smoke, there's probably fire. So she knows that there's probably more that she's not even aware of and she's not sure she actually wants to know all of it because so much of what she does know feels really ugly to her. So some of the indiscretions were, you know,

her husband had paid for sex before and not just once, multiple times, he had a porn addiction and she knew that he had been exposed to pornography at a very young age. And you know, even when they had first gotten together, she was aware that occasionally he watched it, but she wasn't super concerned about it. But now, you know,

I think, I think she told me he started seeing, watching porn at like 10 or 13 or something like that. It was really, really young. And so now they're in their fifties. You can imagine if you've been watching porn for four decades, that is going to have an impact on how you show up in your relationships. It's gonna have an impact on how you relate to sex and intimacy.

And so she really viewed his addiction now, or what she viewed as an addiction, she really viewed that as an indiscretion because it was kept in secret. So at minimum, it's a betrayal, you know, call it what you will. She prefers to look at it through the lens of this was part of all these indiscretions. And her husband even had a an affair partner.

And while it wasn't a professional relationship where he was paying her specifically for sex, he did give this woman money and he did have a sexual relationship with her. So while it wasn't this, Hey, you pay me and I'll do this, it wasn't that sort of an arrangement, but there certainly was I money exchanging and sexual acts being exchanged, right?

So you can imagine how distraught she is after being with this man for so long. Now, when you are the person who has been cheated on, there are two things that are really, really important. One is gonna be obvious to you, and the other may be not so obvious. So the obvious thing that is really important is if you're trying to make the marriage work,

if you're trying to keep the marriage together post infidelity, you want some security that it's not gonna happen again, right? That seems obvious because you are in a lot of pain and you don't want to keep going through the same painful, almost torturous experience over and over and over again. So for most people, that's where they focus, and we're gonna talk about that.

But the other thing that you really do want is that you want to be chosen by your partner, right? When when you're in a marriage and one of you turns away from the marriage and creates closeness and connectivity and even intimacy with another person, you now feel like you're not being chosen by the very person that chose you originally. So that's gonna feel like a rejection.

And so what you're reaching for is also to be chosen again by your partner, right? I know even though you really, you might be in a position where you really want to keep the marriage intact, and you know, maybe he does too. Maybe he really wants to make it work too, but you want him to stay with you because he is choosing you,

not because he doesn't wanna face the shame of everyone else finding out about all these indiscretions or being framed as the bad guy, or you know, tearing apart the family or having to split all your assets, right? That those are not good reasons to go through this heavy lifting of making a relationship work when there's been this kind of a betrayal. You want it to make it work and you want him to be able to stay in the relationship,

but you want to be chosen too. So that's really important. Alright, so let's talk through some of the things that you're gonna need to think about. So when your partner has cheated, and if they want to try to make the marriage work, I'm gonna begin where it should be obvious, but to be honest, apparently it's not. And that is that there is no path through this to make your marriage work that does not involve you getting introspective to some degree so that you can understand yourself,

your feelings, your motivations, the things that drive your choices, right? You're going to have to go within and that will scare the hell outta some people. It scares the hell out of Leslie's husband. He doesn't wanna look at his own actions and behaviors. He just wants her to carry this, her to carry the hurt and to figure out how to get over it so that they can move forward and keep the marriage together.

So he's essentially putting all of the responsibility, all of the pain, and the responsibility at her feet and saying, figure it out. Let me know when you're on the other side and then we can be happy. My friends, there is no health in that. He's not giving her anything to work with. So I don't see that that is ever going to really be a healthy relationship because there's always going to be some degree of distrust between the two of them because it's never fully been healed because you never understood your motivations.

And if you wanna check that first box of how do I know it's never gonna happen again? Well, let's say, let's say that the reason he chose to do all these things is because he was super stressed in his life, work was super busy and their, the business that they owned was struggling financially a little bit. And then that made him feel insecure as a man and who he was and how he was showing up.

So he didn't feel really good about himself and he was worried and he was stressed. Well, let's just assume, see, I'm making this up because he hasn't gotten introspective, so we don't actually know what's going on for him. So I just made that up. But let's assume that that's a perfectly logical reason for why someone might turn to an affair partner.

How are you gonna know the next time he gets stressed, the next time he feels insecure that he's gonna do something different, right? We've gotta figure out what's that new coping mechanism that he's going to use when he feels stressed or insecure or doesn't feel good about who he is as a man? Look, life is not gonna stop lifeing, right? So life is gonna throw you stresses.

Life is going to send you experiences that might make you feel a bit insecure at times, might make you feel worried at times. Those things are gonna happen, but you're never going to be able to check that box that I feel confident it's not gonna happen again, if even he doesn't understand his own motivations, much less figure out how to deal with the stressors of life or the insecurities within his own self,

right? If you think about it, turning to an escort or turning to porn is a very common thing when you have deep, deep insecurities, because it means I don't, I don't have to risk anything. I don't have to risk being rejected by someone that I love. I can have the sexual gratification without having to be vulnerable, without having to feel exposed,

without potentially feeling the sting of rejection if she happens to not be in the mood at that particular moment, right? So introspection on the part of the one who had the affair, the one who betrayed the relationship, please do not just because your partner may not want to get introspective, may not want to look at themselves and understand their own behaviors, please do not just say,

okay, because there's no path through that where you're ever going to feel comfortable, where you're going to feel good about this relationship and where you're going to trust them implicitly. Again, you're just not. So of course it's gonna be uncomfortable, and of course it's not gonna feel good. And you can create a safe space for him to be able to explore that.

Like he doesn't even have to do it with you necessarily. He can explore those motivations with a therapist, a trained professional, a coach is someone who has some expertise in this regard so that he doesn't have to process all of that right there in front of you. And then maybe he can come to you, you with, here's some of the things that I'm learning about myself.

Here's some of the things that I'm discovering about myself, right? You don't have to be there for the making of the sausage, but he's got, he or she, whoever is the one that betrayed needs to be able to get introspective because there's just no health otherwise, and you're not giving your partner anything to work with. And frankly, it's just not fair.

There's no fairness in saying, yep, I did those things, but you are the one that's gonna have to deal with it. You are the one that's gonna have to carry it, and you are the one that's gonna have to heal it for yourself. And I'm not gonna help you in that at all. So someone who would say that to me,

it would be very clear that for me, their relationship is over, right? So I want you to really give that some thought. Just because your partner doesn't want to do it. Look, I know it's not fun. You don't have to let 'em off the hook with that. And that's one of the things that my client, Leslie is really struggling with now is he won't talk,

he won't get introspective, he won't look at his motivation. So if I don't wanna blow up this marriage, what am I to do? And that is a very, very personal decision. But I just wanted to give you something to think about there. Now as it relates to, okay, when you talk about getting introspective, specifically, what are we talking about?

I wanna give you some additional detail there, and here's some things that you're gonna wanna understand. And so first of all, what were they feeling before this happened? How were they feeling about their partner? How were they feeling about the marriage in general? How were they feeling about life? Like, were they getting into a depression? How were they feeling about themselves?

Sometimes that's the biggest piece, right? Of when I don't feel good about myself, I'm gonna turn to where it feels much easier and it doesn't feel as scary and it doesn't feel as vulnerable. So those are the things that you're gonna wanna understand is what was I feeling before all of this happened? And then, you know, there's always that point in an affair where there's a line that's crossed,

like on one side of the line, it's feeling risky, it's feeling flirtatious, there's a lot of energy there, and then that line gets crossed. So right as you're standing at that line where you could have turned away but you didn't, what made them choose to cross that line? What was it? And my friends, what drives our behaviors and our choices?

It's not our intellect, right? Because if you look at that intellectually, you wouldn't cross that line. You wouldn't, because you know how much there is at risk. What drives our choices and our behaviors is our emotions. So that's why I'm gonna keep going back to how were you feeling in that moment? What were the emotions that were coursing through your body that made you jump over that line,

that made you risk? Everything that made you say this is, this is what's important to me right now and I'll deal with the rest of it later. So understanding who you are in that moment is also, I think, an important piece. And then of course when you're in the affair on the other side of it, when it's an active affair and you're communicating with this person every day,

and you might be seeing them a few times a week kind of thing, what were you feeling inside that relationship? And how does that compare and contrast to what you were feeling in your marriage? Those are all really important things. And you'll notice that whether we're talking about before the affair ever started, the the point where you're about to cross that line,

or once you're involved in the affair, all of those questions are around how are you feeling? What are the emotions that you're experiencing? Because that is what is driving your choices, actions, and behaviors. So that's why it's important to understand. Okay? The second thing I wanna share with you is if you've been cheated on, there is also a role for you to get introspective as well.

Now, there are lots of people in my profession who have some expertise in affairs and betrayals and things like that, and I've learned from them that there are sometimes marriages that are beautiful where they both feel great about the marriage and one person still chooses to cheat. So I know that they exist, but I'm just gonna tell you that I haven't ever seen one of those in,

and I've been doing this for more than 10 years. So most of the time, so it's not a hundred percent of the time, but most of the time the marriage was in a place where it was vulnerable to an affair. So whether that was you two were living like roommates and really disconnected, you had stopped having sex, or the sex wasn't very good,

you had stopped communicating, you weren't having fun together anymore. Everything got really heavy and serious. Maybe you're just co-parenting and you're just dividing and conquering all the time. And so you don't really feel like you have a partner. Like there was some dynamic going on inside the marriage that made one or both of you really vulnerable to having an affair. And so that's,

that's your piece of it, is understanding what was going on in the marriage at that time and how had the relationship become vulnerable. And if you're brave enough to go there, you might even explore. And what was my role in that, right? Like maybe your partner would invite you to do things with them, but you were so consumed with work and the kids and all that you had on your plate that you just didn't have energy for the marriage at the end of the day.

And so by the time your head hit the pillow, you were exhausted and you gave your best to your kids and you gave your best to your work. But by the end of the day, what the marriage got was just maybe crumbs at best. So if you're brave enough to look at what was my role in the creation of this experience, now don't overtake responsibility here.

This is not about you blaming yourself for your partner, cheating. That's not what I'm talking about. Okay? We never want to, it's like that fine line. We never wanna overtake responsibility and you know, say that we are responsible for other people's behaviors and their choices, especially when they're bad choices. We don't wanna take responsibility for that, but we also want to own our piece of the equation.

And inside of relationships, we always have a piece because relationships are a dynamic between two people. And so you played some role in the marriage, getting to a place where it was vulnerable, maybe gently explore that, don't jump to, and now that makes me responsible or to blame for my partner's affair. That's too big of a jump. Don't do that.

But just gently be able to see what was happening between the two of you. What was the dynamic? What was happening within yourself? How were you feeling? And then you know, what, how, how, what was, what was my role? What could I have done differently or better knowing what I know now? If I could go back,

what would I do differently? Because then you're gonna feel more empowered to create change in the future so that you don't end up in the same painful situation. And then the last piece is you have to, and this is really, it's probably, I would say like six months-ish on the other side of an affair. What have we learned from this experience,

both of us as individuals and as a couple? What have we learned about ourselves and about one another as a result of walking through this betrayal and healing the trust that was broken in our marriage? So if you're able to navigate through an affair, and let's say you're six months on the other side of it, which is still, you're not exactly on steady ground,

even at six months, I know usually when, when people have cheated and they want to then come back into the marriage and make it work, they think like I'll, you know, suck it up. I'll be on good behavior for a few weeks and then we'll be okay. Again, it's never a few weeks, right? So even at six months,

things are not going to be super grounded and steady, but they're gonna be steadier than they were at month one or month two. So around six months is when we can start to look at what have, what have we learned about ourselves and what have we learned about each other as it relates to this experience? And that can be a powerful thing. I will tell you,

I even have clients who have come through the pain of an affair and they've been able to heal their marriage. And on the other side of it, now this is more like somewhere between six months and a year or even two years down the line, they'll tell you that their marriage is better today on the other side of the affair than it ever was before the affair.

Now that does not happen on day one, right? So this is why I said at the very beginning, if this is all still very fresh and new to you and you're still feeling really fragile, even me saying that that's possible, that at some point you could look back and say, our marriage is better today than it was before. And in some ways,

like everyone stops short of saying, I'm glad it happened, or I'm grateful that it happened, or I think you're a fair partner. Like we wouldn't go so far as to say that that's too extreme. But we can say oftentimes we're stronger, now we're more open, we're more loving, we're more communicative. We don't take each other for granted like we used to,

right? And so those are all things that can come out of doing the heavy lifting and doing this work of healing post affair. You can actually get to a place of where it's not just, okay, we don't have to blow up our lives. You can get to a place of where it feels solid and better than it ever has. Alright? So the truth here is that when it comes to our marriages,

there are no guarantees. I know we want the guarantees. That's why we put things in our vows like till death do us part and forsaking all others and all of those things, right? We say those words and we make those promises because we're so afraid of being left or of being betrayed. But the reality is, is that the nature of relationships is that there are no guarantees and there never has been,

right? We create these illusions through our vows, through these words, but you never know what can happen. And even when you think you know your partner, you never really know what you are capable of or what they're capable of given an entirely different set of circumstances. And the reason I say that is because I've worked with so many women who are the ones that are having an affair,

and every single one of them, and I'm not lying on this, every one of them would say, I never thought I would have an affair, or I never went looking for it. I could never imagine myself in this position, not in a million years. Some will even say I used to judge people that would have affairs, right? So given a set of circumstances that you've never experienced before,

right? Like maybe there's a death, maybe there's deep hurts and insecurities, and like something happens, life happens, and then that leads to a bunch of feelings that then leads to a betrayal or turning away from the marriage. You never really know what people are capable of. You only know what you're capable of, given your current life experiences that you've been able to experience.

But who knows what 20 years from now is going to hold, who knows what two years from now or two months from now is going to hold. So I know we want this illusion of security, and I guarantee that I won't be hurt, and I guarantee that my partner won't cheat, but it's an illusion and I want you to get comfortable with,

we're gonna choose each other until we don't, until one of us actively starts to not choose the other. And then we've got some things to consider. From that place, you can create a much more open and loving and communicative relationship as opposed to putting the blinders on and needing promises that may or may not be kept. All right? I hope that that gives you some peace and a path forward if you're trying to make a marriage work post betrayal.

Until next time, take good care. If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.

Go to clarity for my marriage.com to fill out an application now that's clarity for my marriage.com.

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