Affair healing Blog
This is an edited copy of the letter one woman wrote to her husband after her affair. It is used with her permission. The entire letter is included as an extra resource in the Understanding WHY course.
If you had told me seven months ago that I would be writing this letter, I might not have believed it—not because I am not profoundly sorry and regretful for my actions in the past, but because I never believed I could survive telling the truth, that you would survive hearing it, that we could survive its aftermath, or that you would even be willing to offer me the chance.
I have wished so many times that I could go back—not just to undo my betrayal, but to be a better and braver partner for you from the start. I entered our marriage thinking any problems we encountered would resolve on their own and things would get better over time. How wrong and naive I was to think so!
From the start, I had trouble bringing up my concerns, but keeping them inside only allowed sadness, frustration, and resentment to build. I would try to give you nonverbal cues that I was upset instead of coming to you and saying out loud what was wrong... I entered our marriage unprepared to deal with real, day-to-day problems, and am just now learning how to be better at that.
While I continue to develop a complete understanding of why I failed you in the ways I did, I know without question that I was incredibly selfish, self-centered, and allowed many small resentments to build and harden my heart toward you. Instead of treating you and our marriage as a precious gift, I took you and it for granted. I put myself first, ahead of you, our kids, and our family, selfishly justifying my choices and then lying and deceiving to cover them up.
Instead of continuing to turn toward you and persist in working on our problems, I turned away. I rejected and abandoned you, even as I continued to stay beside you and with you, physically present but absent in every other meaningful way...
The past seven months have been some of the hardest of my life, and I know for you they have been even worse. It hurts me to see you suffering and know I am the cause. You never deserved this burden, and you still don’t deserve the daily hurdles, big and small, you have to contend with.
No one deserves to experience what you have, especially not at the hands of the one who promised to love him always. Because of what I did, I need to apologize and ask your forgiveness. I don’t know if I will ever be able to completely name the ways I have hurt and betrayed you, but I hope this letter will begin to cover the many ways I know I failed you.
I witnessed your pain after my initial betrayal and did not truly empathize with you. I have wished many times that I could go back and talk to that version of myself and stop her, but it wasn’t some other person; it was me, and I made the worst decision of my life. I felt bad and guilty to hurt you but still wanted my own selfish ways. I should have allowed the wrongness of my decisions and the evidence of your pain to stop me then and there, but I didn’t. I did not trust or believe in you and us enough to try one more time to improve our marriage. I gave up and allowed hopelessness and resentment to take root, and did not sincerely resist when a seemingly “easy” answer came to the loneliness I felt.
I began by lying to myself that I was justified and what I was doing would not lead to harm, and then I deceived you. I will regret those decisions and what they did to us both for as long as I live.
I hardened my heart toward you before, during, and even after the affair, always focused on my own needs and disappointments. How incredibly selfish I was!... Even after the affair ended, the secrets I was keeping caused me to steadily turn away from you as I walled you off and deprived you of affection, support, and companionship.
I ruined your memories of a huge span of our life together and our children’s lives. My terrible decisions have given you triggers and haunted feelings wherever you go, whether it is looking through old photos, watching television, or going to a specific store, the lake, or our own home. I betrayed you so completely, so thoroughly, that in the aftermath I have robbed you of peace and given you trauma to deal with everywhere you turn.
There is little in our lives I didn’t desecrate. I stole so many things from you--your trust, your memories, your peace, your faith, the parts of me I promised to you and only you. I know this disclosure has strained our marriage and you to the very limits of survival, and it isn’t fair that you have to bear the hardest and most undeserved burdens.
I broke all of the promises I made to you on our wedding day. I violated our emotional, spiritual, and sexual bonds by sharing these parts of myself with another person instead of you. I compromised my values, justified my own actions, and twisted the person we both believed me to be into someone unrecognizable.
I lied, in ways big and small, every single day, whether by my actions or by the secrets I kept. I had many opportunities to come clean, but each time I was too afraid--afraid of how you would react, of our life falling apart, of having to answer for my actions, and of losing you. Yet, as you have pointed out many times, the life we were living, the marriage we were in, was no life or marriage at all.
I betrayed not only you, but our entire family, by investing my attention, time, and energy on a relationship that had no right to exist. When I think of the progress we could have made as a couple and a family if I had only turned to you and thrown myself into improving who we were during those years, I am overcome with sadness and regret. The only thing I can offer is a promise that I will never again betray or abandon you. By that I mean not only by remaining physically faithful but by making sure I never again neglect the person I cherish the most—you. I will work every day to express my love and appreciation for the things you do and the person you are, and how grateful I am to have married you, and that you are willing to help repair the damage I have done in our lives.
I know I don’t deserve the second chance you are giving me and our marriage, but I am humbled and so very grateful to have it. It is not difficult for me to say I am so incredibly sorry for all I did and left undone. What is difficult is for that word, “sorry,” to truly express the depth of sorrow, shame, and regret I feel. I grieve for the innocence I destroyed in our marriage and in our lives, and for the pain I have inflicted on you.
I want you to know I see how hard you are working to get through this, and how lucky I feel that you are not only willing to stay by my side but want to help us be better. I want that, too!
The gift of a second chance is one I will not waste. I don’t deserve it, and I know I will be far from perfect in my efforts, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to begin again with you, and to connect in ways we never have before. I want more than anything to spend the rest of my life with you--building a new foundation together, always growing, always discovering, and working daily to stay close and connected.
I told you early in our recovery how your responses have shown me the depth and character of the man I married. I do realize how incredibly lucky I am to have you and want you to know I see and appreciate how hard you have worked and continue to work. Few people, especially men, would be willing to endure what you have or be able to bear it with such strength and grace. Your commitment to me and to our marriage is a precious gift I will never lose sight of again.
If I could somehow take this pain away from you and bear it myself, or restore peace to your mind and heart, I would. There is no way to rewrite or undo the damage I have done, no matter how much I wish it were possible. I am so sorry for hurting you.
For all the sorrow and regret I feel, I take heart in knowing we do have the power to change our story moving forward from a troubled and fractured marriage into one we both dreamed of—one that leaves an example of love and commitment to our children and everyone who cares about us.
I know it won’t be easy, and our efforts will be far from perfect. We will have many hurdles and challenges in the years to come as we continue to heal from these scars and from the slings and arrows of ordinary life, but there is no one else I would rather walk beside on that journey. I love you and I am forever grateful that you are willing to give me a chance to prove it in all the ways you deserve.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources. Twitter: @TimTedder