On a scale of possible offenses to a marriage, infidelity rates a definite ten. Issues of trust, betrayal, abandonment and inadequacy can all come together in one painful discovery or admission, and you as the offender may find yourself on the outside beholding the shattered remains of your marriage. The steps you take in the next few days, weeks or months can determine if your marriage is salvageable and your wife willing to forgive you. Remember you are now living on borrowed time, so you'll have to make each gesture and pledge mean as much as it possibly can. This is not the time to add emotional manipulation to your list of challenges. Here's some advice on seeking forgiveness after admitting an extramarital affair.
- First of all, you blew it. You really blew it. The first thing you must do is reconcile the deed with your psyche. You may not have thought you were capable of having an affair, but it turns out you were. You may have looked down on other men who have cheated on their wives, but guess what? You're one of them now. As painful as it may have been to be confronted by your spouse about the affair, you should be confronting yourself even harder. Recovering addicts might call this time 'bottoming out.' You have to recognize how far you have fallen from the role you originally set out to play. Only when you truly recognize rock bottom can you reach out for help and eventual forgiveness.
- You may not see your wife for a while--give her whatever space she requests. If you want her to forgive you, you need to demonstrate a willingness to stay away as long as she needs the time and space to heal. You're not going to regain her trust by apologizing over and over again outside her door or over the phone. You'll stand a better chance of forgiveness if you maintain a respectful distance and avoid unnecessary confrontations.
- Demonstrate your willingness to keep up with family obligations. Make sure the bills stay paid and the chores get done and the children have everything they need, even if you can't be there in person to assist. This isn't a time to quit attending church or watching your child's soccer game or spending time with mutual friends. It may be uncomfortable for a while, but you cannot allow yourself to become an outcast if reconciliation is your goal.
- Agree to any form of professional marriage counseling your wife requests. This won't be the counselor's first case of infidelity, so don't downplay the significance of the act. This wasn't a misunderstanding or a small matter blown out of proportion. This was a voluntary breach of marital vows, so you owe it to everyone involved to be totally honest during counseling sessions. Your wife may surprise you with her own honesty. Many times it's not the act itself that is irredeemably bad, but the level of dishonesty displayed to cover it up. A spouse may be able to understand a sexual fantasy taken too far, but emotional infidelity is often the deal breaker.
- Face your spouse directly and tell her you want her forgiveness. It's too easy to spend some time apart and contemplate divorce after an affair. Legally, your spouse can pursue a separation or divorce based on your act of infidelity. But many couples do survive an isolated extramarital affair, so reconciliation should never be removed from consideration. It may be a matter of declaring your intentions directly and sincerely. You want this marriage to work, you've seen the error of your ways, and you want to continue being your wife's companion and provider. If you put it to your spouse in direct sentences at the right moment, you stand the best chance of hearing her say she forgives you and wants you back in her life.