Recently, I caught my wife cheating on me with a very close friend of mine. It has been months after but I’m still suffering from the trauma of it all. I’ve since forgiven my wife and we are trying to work on our relationship.
My close friend is also married. When I was recently talking with my wife about her affair, I found out that my friend’s wife found out before I found out. She approached my wife regarding the affair, and they were able to talk and work things out between them.
My friend’s wife is now hoping that everything can go back to normal and everyone can be friends again. However, I feel very uncomfortable with the idea and I don’t think I’d want to be friends with this guy anymore. I feel too betrayed. Am I being selfish? Am I being shallow? I hope you can advise me on this.
You’ve been through a devastating loss and it’s tough enough to think clearly about your own marriage without additional pressure from others. This is a challenging situation, for sure. Not only did your wife and best friend have an affair, they let his wife in on the secret and worked through their relationship issues long before you knew anything. It’s overwhelming to learn you were the only one who didn’t know what was going on.
Figuring out your relationship with an unfaithful friend doesn’t have to happen right now. It’s okay to take this slowly and decide what you need as you get more clarity and healing. This is a critical time to follow the counsel to “not run faster than [you have] strength.”[i]
Relationship trauma depletes your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual resources, so it’s important that you preserve your strength as you rebuild. Responding to unnecessary pressures based on other people’s preferences will only zap your precious energy. Your friend and his wife (and possibly your wife) might be ready to move on as if nothing happened, but you get to decide how that will look for you.
It’s nice to hear that you and your wife are working through the damage caused by her affair. It’s difficult work, but it’s completely possible to heal your marriage. One of the key components of affair recovery is the establishment of strong boundaries around the marriage. This is not the time to keep an open door to this other couple. You need the safety and security of knowing your marriage isn’t exposed to outside threats.
This is an important time to see your wife protecting the marriage. If she’s pushing to invite this man back into your lives, you’ll want to slow down and ensure she’s not keeping her options open. It’s not easy to end an affair and many unfaithful partners overestimate their strength post-affair. This is a time exercise caution and become sloppy with boundaries. Her focus needs to be rebuilding a connection with you instead of trying to socialize with this other couple.
I believe in healing, forgiveness, and the restoration of relationships, so I’ll be the last person to put limits on what is possible in the future with your friends. However, jumping back into this friendship just months after this difficult discovery feels premature to me. Even though things in your marriage are feeling more hopeful, your marriage still needs time and space to heal. You also need space to consider what you want to do with this friendship. This isn’t something you can think through clearly right now. It’s not selfish to need healing. And, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us, “The trials of life can be very deep, and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them.”[ii] Ask for the time and space you need while allowing your wife to show you her commitment to your healing.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
If you’ve broken trust with your spouse and want a structured approach to repairing the damage you’ve created, I’ve created the Trust Building Bootcamp, a 12-week online program designed to help you restore trust and become a trustworthy person. Visit www.trustbuildingacademy.com to learn more and enroll in the course.
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
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[i] Mosiah 4:27