I cheated on my wife years ago and I thought we worked through it okay, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s the case. Whenever we argue, and I try and get my point across, she tells me, “we’re not on the same level.” What she means by this is that because I cheated on her, my opinions don’t have the same weight or importance as hers. I understand that back in the day when I cheated on her that I needed to give preference to her needs and opinions, but doesn’t that eventually balance back out? I don’t want this to be held over my head for the rest of our marriage. I feel like things are always going to go her way and that I don’t even have a say anymore.
Restoring trust after infidelity isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, most couples limp along for years thinking they’re doing okay after superficially dealing with the betrayal. The pain is so great after infidelity that spouses want things to feel better as soon as possible. This often leads to unresolved injuries that can last for years. Time doesn’t always heal wounds.
Her reaction to your expectations and needs tells me that she’s still struggling with how she sees you. It may be that she’s just an unforgiving person, but my experience in working with hundreds of couples dealing with infidelity over the past 15 years tells me that the relationship injuries she’s experienced with your infidelity fundamentally changed the way she sees you as her husband.
Sue Johnson, author of “Hold Me Tight,” describes infidelity as an attachment injury. These types of injuries are different from the garden-variety injuries we give and receive in our marriages. Attachment injuries actually restructure the bond between partners. Your affair caused her to question the very foundation of her marriage, who you are as a person, and whether or not she can even trust you.
This means that even though you are telling her you won’t cheat again, she still may not believe you have her back. She likely doesn’t believe anything you say because she’s not sure you really understand the impact this had on her.
Repairing a broken bond in a relationship requires you to really spend time understanding what this did to her and having deep compassion for her pain. If you have spent most of your time defending yourself and trying to get her to move on, then you probably don’t really understand what she’s been through.
Affair recovery research shows that when an injured partner knows that the unfaithful partner really understands the extent of the injuries and allows her a chance to work through it in her own time, she can begin the process of trusting again. If your wife is telling you that you’re not on the same level as her, she’s basically saying that you don’t know what she’s been through. My hunch is that she wants you to be right there with her, but that she doesn’t know how to get there with you. Don’t fight her anymore on this. Get to a marriage counselor who specializes in working with infidelity and do some work on healing the injury all the way through. You have more repair work to do.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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