She cheated, should I give her a second chance?

Infidelity is one of the most painful, heart wrenching challenges that any marriage can face. Affairs destroy trust and damage both the physical and emotional connection between spouses. Moving past an affair and rebuilding a marriage in its wake can be very challenging, but it’s not impossible with the right state of mind!

One of subscribers is struggling through this very problem, and recently sent us a question. Jeff asks:

“My wife cheated on me and I recently found out. I’m not sure if I want to make it work or not. I’m really mad and upset. Should I give her a second chance?”

Should you give your spouse a second chance if they cheat?
Should you give your spouse a second chance if they cheat?

Jeff is understandably upset, and the very natural reaction by many people in his situation is to assume that the marriage is irreparably damaged, and that things can never get back on track. Well, I’m happy to tell you, Jeff, and anyone else struggling to recover from infidelity, that no matter how hard it seems now, things truly can get better!

So, to answer Jeff’s question: yes, you absolutely should give your wife a second chance… but you’ve got to get a few things established first. Most importantly, the affair needs to be over completely – this means not only ending communication and contact, but also removing temptation. It’s only after the cheating spouse has shown commitment to ending the affair and working on the marriage that you can begin the process of forgiveness.

After you’re sure the affair is over, it’s time to work toward forgiveness. Notice I said, “work toward” – because this is NOT an instant solution. It takes time (and likely some tears) to get through. Forgiveness is not condoning the behavior, but recognizing the mistakes that were made, and agreeing that you both will do everything in your power to prevent it from happening again.

As you work toward forgiveness, there will be plenty of obstacles to overcome, and it may be very difficult to keep your anger in check, but this slow process is necessary to rebuilding trust and repairing the damaged connections.

One of the hardest things to face for the person who didn’t cheat is how they may have unknowingly contributed to the affair. In almost every case, infidelity happens because physical or emotional needs are not being met in the marriage. This does NOT mean that it’s anyone’s “fault” – it simply means recognizing how each person contributed to the climate of unhappiness that led to the affair.

If you can both admit to your mistakes, and if the cheating spouse truly seeks forgiveness and a fresh start, a “second chance” becomes much more likely to succeed.

The two of you can agree to make a “new” marriage based on what you’ve learned from your mistakes, and what your ideal marriage looks like – and in many ways, it becomes a second chance for both you.

Going back to Jeff’s question, both members of the marriage have to want to make it work, both the person who committed the infidelity and the person who feels betrayed by it. You both have to decide that you will work together to identify all of the factors that led to the affair, that you will both work to be the best spouse you can be, and that you will move away from your troubled past with a clean slate and a new outlook on marriage in general.

You can give your spouse a second chance, but you both have to be all in. Anything short of full commitment to the new and improved version of your marriage leaves room for reverting back to old behaviors.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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8 comments

Ben 8 years ago

No effort can begin unless the one who cheated admits to the indescetion. What to do if the wife continues to deny and deceive, even if the affair is over?

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, Ben - hopefully she will begin to talk. Here is a video that might help you until then - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/videoseries/specific-steps-you-can-take-to-save-your-marriage-when-your-partner-is-unwilling-to-work-on-it/

flabbergasted 8 years ago

I found out this week my wife has been sleeping with another man for the past 5 months. we were high school sweethearts. have been happily (I thought) married for the last 22 years. we have 2 children, an adolescent boy and older teen daughter. she appears to be devastated and is trying desperately to keep me from divorcing her. I have been a wonderful (not perfect) husband. Provide very well for our family. I have always been 100% faithful.

Al 8 years ago

"Hopefully" great response!!!

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

All we can do is hope, Al. We can't force our spouses to open up. We can only encourage and be the best spouse we can.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Well then, you have a choice of where to go from here. It sounds like she wants to save the marriage, which is half the battle. Many spouses come here trying to check their partner back in. Perhaps this advice can help you - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/7-steps-to-survive-an-affair/

Stepping forward 8 years ago

Will these video help my children.I have one child who says marriage over but seeking a counselor… and one who cheated and spouse told spouse to leave.. they both getting counseling, not talking much one who was cheated would like to see if it is possible to try again the other unsure and trying life on their own… will these videos help both couples...

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, Stepping - it's certain possible that they can, especially if they are both willing to work with counseling. You can always send them our information and let them see if we are a good fit.