How Do You Know If the Unfaithful Is Really Changing?

be humble about past and present - survivors blog - elizabeth

We are more than a year out from discovery. Some of the days have been very slow making me wonder if progress has been made. And although we now have more good days than bad, a small internal voice still occasionally asks, am I really changing?

While you, the betrayed, are trying to heal from what we, the unfaithful, have done to you, I also know you are ultimately waiting for redemption.

There are days my husband's anxiety seems to come out of nowhere. Of course I understand the root of the anxiety; it is a fear that I will betray again. But from my perspective, the unpredictability of this anxiety is hard to wrap my head around. I know I don't handle his anxiety well when I spiral out of control and go on the defensive. It is an ugly place where I doubt my own decisions and capacity to change and wind up questioning everything. This causes my anxiety to triple in an instant.

There are other times when I think we do get it right; when I simply hear him out rather than defaulting to shame which makes it all about me. I've found that most of the time he just needs comfort and reassurance of my commitment to change. I can give him handles on my thoughts, actions and behaviors - anchors, so to speak. These anchors are practical things he can grab and hold onto to remind him of what was then and what is now.

Then: I was deceptive, delusional and in my affair.

Now: I am trying my hardest to be honest and humble about my past and present.

Sometimes simply pointing out the differences between then and now help get us back on track. If you are struggling or questioning your unfaithful spouse's intent and motivation for change, here are some tangible anchors we've used in our recovery:

  1. Then: I was crazy secretive about my phone. I would rarely leave it sitting out in the open. I knew if I changed my password it might raise a flag, so I never did that. But my anxiety was always sky high concerning my phone. If my kids wanted to play with it, I would get protective and defensive of it. I was careful to have my phone with me at all times because I never knew if or when a text might come in from my AP. And even more dishonest was how accustomed I became at deleting texts which was something I never did before the infidelity.

    Now: I couldn't care less about my phone. I leave it where ever and whenever. It can run out of battery and not faze me in the slightest. It is open to anyone in my family and my husband can have access to it at any time. We used the Life 360 app as well as Safe Kids app for him in case he gets triggered. He admitted the other day he rarely uses that anymore.

  2. Then: I isolated myself from most of my really amazing, long-time, faithful girlfriends. I did not engage in phone calls, lunch dates or intimate gatherings with them. Not only did I not make time for them (the immaturity affairs bring out in us is quite shameful, selfish and reckless) but I didn't want anyone who really "knew" me to be around me. I avoided them because it was difficult to be intimate and honest when I was lying and being deceitful. Life was indeed lonely and shallow.

    Now: My girlfriends have all graciously re-entered my life and I spend ample amounts of time with them. The restoration and joy of reengaging in life with them has been rich and full. It has taken some time but I find some of my deepest connections with GIRL friends. I still talk to the ladies in my Hope for Healing small group daily! If you haven't taken it, I'm gonna put in a shameless plug that it could be the single best thing you do as an unfaithful spouse! Nothing that comes with or from an affair compares to the empathy, kindness and connections of girlfriends.

  3. Then: I tried to hide from God. If the radio station played a Christian song, I would change it immediately. Christian books (if you don't know where to start I recommend Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning) were something I did not want to read. I did not want any reminders as to what God would want to say about my behavior. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew He would want me to stop. I was too cowardly and selfish to get out of the immoral entanglement on my own, yet I refused to be open and honest with God to help me out of it because I was terrified that people would find out. It was easier to pretend that God was someone "I could deal with later".

    Now: Christ's love anchors my days. Messages, teachings, books, music and hymns are often all that get me through. I'm not naive about my ability to hide and deny, but I want His truth and His ways -- not my own way. If I pull away from God I am doomed. If my husband sees me pulling away from God he has right to be concerned. My iPod, radio station, bedside table reading, and audible are full of continual messages and reminders of who God is and His unfathomable love for us.

  4. Then: Ugh. Typing this one feels excruciatingly shallow and painful but here goes. In my affair, I was obsessed with my appearance. I wanted to look presentable at all times. I was restless, anxious and rarely present. I watched my weight meticulously. I worked out more than any sane person should. I was consumed with me, me, me. I was ridiculous with my need to look better, fitter, younger and prettier. I am so sad to reflect on how little I thought of my true self then. I was always on the go, always chasing something. I drank to calm my anxiety. I rarely made eye contact.

    Now: I feel comfortable in my own skin. I like to exercise still, but naps on the couch are sometimes just as rewarding. I can go out in public without doing my makeup or brushing my hair. Now when I get dressed up it is for my husband. I have started to find my voice and ask my husband for affirmation when I need it. Guys, women like compliments and long to know you find us beautiful. We could hear that you find us beautiful as many times a week as you need sex. I'm thankful I can now have fat days, ugly days, lazy days, and sweatshirt days. Rest assured, there is a lot more quiet and a lot more peace.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But I hope it's a tangible reminder of how to realistically look at your unfaithful spouse to see how hard they are trying to change to be a person worthy of your trust and a second chance.

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I really enjoyed your article. As a betrayed the past is like a gray cloud that is never far behind and when it overcomes me it’s hard to see the sun. I know my husband has made so much progress. So similar to your words and you give such good perspective in looking at the present.
How far out are you and your husband from d-day?

Your username made me smile!

Your username made me smile! Thank you for your comment. It is hard to sometimes know what is best to encourage betrayed spouses so I appreciate your honesty and feedback. We are 16 months out. So still face ups and downs but our first six months were definitely the hardest. What about you all?

We are 22 months out from

We are 22 months out from first d-day. 18 from second (which revealed three more women).
It’s definitely been a rough road, we did EMS weekend at one year mark. I was dealing with so much trauma and was in over my head and needed a lifeline. It was so helpful, especially the after care and group work. I think you just putting insights out there for us betrayedcis so helpful. I think that it is nice to see that my unfaithful says similar things as well as when it comes from Samuel or you it gives him a voice that he may be to scared to use with me, because he doesn’t want to hurt me more.
Thanks again! And many blessing to you and your husband

Thank you for writing these

Thank you for writing these articles. As the betrayed, it's so helpful to hear from an unfaithful to voice what my husband may feel, but can't or won't articulate due to shame. I appreciate hearing insights into what my husband might have been thinking during his affairs and its aftermath. It can't be easy for you to write these, but know that your articles are much appreciated. Thank you.

I appreciate your

I appreciate your encouragement. It must be terribly difficult for you to read and process these stories at times. Thank you for your kindness and grace and willingness to understand the “other side” to this pain. I wish you and your husband the very best in your healing.

Tomorrow is 24 months from

Tomorrow is 24 months from the DDay that revealed the undeniable evidence of his sexual betrayal. He let me go sixteen more months (with a trickle of this and that and lots of deception) before I FORCED him to come clean that the one I knew about wasn't the first. And between the first (which was a long drawn out emotional/sexual/entangled affair) and the second (which was a nasty sex in the bathroom for 16 months affair), there were several other women that he had some level of inappropriate contact with. So I had him take a lie detector test and he passed with flying colors. And then yesterday I forced another confession. And this one he was asked on the polygraph and he PASSED. So now I am a wreck. Could it be that the way his mind thought of the answer and the question were not congruent? Could it be that the mind of a newly (re)discovered cheater can't think clearly? Or could it be that there are many questions on that text that he lied about but somehow passed anyway??? Help! Has anyone else had this happen?

I don't have any experience

I don't have any experience in this so I hope you find some healing and answers. This sounds really hard and I hear you use the word "force" a lot. It sounds like you've been working harder than your spouse and that's frustrating. I can't speak for anyone but me but I know a lot of my change has been from God inviting me to really have a desire to be different. No one is forcing me to do any of this. I just genuinely hated the person I had become and I hate that I was so selfish and blinded by my own stuff so I don't want to be that girl anymore. If I had to choose my marriage or healthy change, I would choose the latter. Years ago I might not have said that. Prayers for you....

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