He cheated on me. How can I move on and make this relationship work?

Lauren Gray

The blog was originally posted in August 2013 as “How to turn a cheater into a loyal and monogamous partner.” The video is vintage Ask Lauren and the blog itself has been edited and updated.

Hi Lauren,

I’ve been married for 25 years. In the past 15 years my husband has had two affairs. He says he is glad I saved our marriage and that he wants to make this work, but how do I know his words and feelings are genuine? How do I know that he truly loves me and that he’s not thinking of one of his affairs, one of which lasted for over a year? I feel very hurt right now. How can I move on and make this work?


Hi Susan,
I understand that right now it feels like you can’t trust the ground under your own two feet. You’ve had the rug pulled out from under you twice. How can you possibly move on when you can’t trust that anything is real?
What can you trust when there is no trust?
What to TRUST when there is NO TRUST
The only truth that you can count on now is YOUR truth: Do you want to be with him? Do you still love him?
It’s not THAT simple, I know, but affirming that you both love and want to be with him, allows you to find a solid piece of ground that you can take the next step from.
And the first “next step” is understanding that your husband can have an affair for a year and still love you.
This is a wibbly-wobbly notion for women to trust because it makes no sense…AT ALL. How can you sleep with a woman consistently for a year and not have feelings for her? How can you be intimate with another person and still be in love with your wife?
These are good questions. Let’s answer them.
What you need to know about LOVE, SEX, and BRAINS
Generally speaking, men have an easier time separating love from sex. Here’s why:
The sex center of the brain and the love center of the brain actually occupy different spaces. “Sex” and “Love” don’t necessarily bunk together. This means a man can close the door on one temporarily and spend time with the other.
And this could totally jive with a woman too except that she has seven times more nerve connectors in her brain than a man does. Because of our extra connections, for women, sex and love easily feel like one and the same thing. It’s harder to close the door on one and spend time with the other.
Because of our unique perspective on love and sex, we project our experience onto men too and assume they have the same perspective.
But in reality, a man is fully capable of loving you and cheating on you at the same time. This doesn’t mean he WILL cheat and it doesn’t excuse his actions if he does, but it can help us take the next step in the forgiving process when we understand how a man’s brain functions.
The thing HE needs to know about YOU
Now that you’ve taken a step toward understanding him, his actions and perspective, it’s his turn to understand your feelings of hurt and betrayal.
This means the next step is to talk about how you feel. Talk about how your sense of importance went down, how you feel hurt and excluded, how you feel second-class, etc.
Remember that you’ve chosen to stay with him so it’s not about hitting him over the head with his mistake or punishing him for it. People make mistakes and he needs to learn from his.

To help him see things from your perspective, it’s important to speak his language. In fact, when I was researching my answer for you I went to my dad, John Gray, and asked him for his Martian expertise.
I said, “If men and women view cheating so differently, how can a woman share her experience in a way that a man can understand and relate to it? How do we get him to step into her shoes?”
His answer surprised me.
He recommended you explain it this way: “Imagine you’ve worked on a project for years, putting in your heart and soul and extra hours at the office. Then one day someone steals it from under you and reaps all the benefits. That’s how it feels.”

To you it may seem trivial to compare a project at work with a 25 year long marriage, but now you’re speaking Martian and he can understand what it feels like to “share” and be robbed of something so important.
How to turn a “CHEATER” into a monogamous partner
Once you’ve shared your “negative” feelings, it’s time to talk about the value and benefits of MONOGAMY. Believe it or not, not everyone is designed to be monogamous so it’s important for your man to be reminded of why monogamy is so great.
Human beings, unlike penguins, don’t necessarily mate for life. Some people are more naturally inclined to be monogamous and for others it takes more conscious and deliberate effort.
Your man is clearly the latter, which is why it’s important to keep the “benefits of monogamy” conversation alive in your marriage.
It’s easier for him to hear you talk about monogamy vs. infidelity when the discussion is not directly about HIS affair but rather about a 3rd party like a TV program plot or an article you read about a cheating politician or sports figure.
The goal is to consistently and indirectly reinforce the value of monogamy.
Realizing that not all people intuitively understand the value of monogamy, take a moment and reflect on all the reasons you think monogamy is great. It’s important to articulate those reasons to yourself so that you can articulate them to your partner.
How to PREVENT future infidelity
As you know from past experience, you need to allow yourself time to rebuild the trust. That doesn’t happen over night just because he says he’s sorry. And unfortunately, you can’t trust him when he promises it won’t happen again. There’s no quick fix and there are no guarantees.
Rebuilding trust in your partner and your marriage is a healing process that will take patience, empathy, understanding and love.
Unlike many couples, you’ve made the choice to try and make this marriage work. It’s not the “easiest” path but you’re following your heart and there is a way forward.
Step #1: Understand he can have an affair and still love you.
Step #2: Talk about your feelings and explain it in a way he can understand.
Step #3: Keep the “benefits of monogamy” conversation alive.
Step #4: Use this experience as an opportunity to break through the status quo and redefine your relationship: learning more about each other, improving your communication, and ultimately deepening your connection.


With love,
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read more blog posts from Lauren Gray
  • Guest_24C3CDDA-A
     8/4/2016 11:30:24 AM
    Thanks Lauren. This video addresses only one specific type of infidlity, one where it was just meaningless sex and the man still does love his wife. However would you be able to address different types of infidility such as: what about when a man has an affair when the relationship is NOT going well? Is that an indicator that they have decided its over? what about when confronting a man who has cheated and they show no empathy or accountability? what about when a man has an affair w/ an ex? It is not meaningless sex since there is a prior history? What about when there is an affair that there IS an emotional attachment, maybe even love. Is that a wake up call that it is over and to move on? You and your dad should do a muli-part series on infidelity- 1 examining the different types of infidelity and follow ups w/ the multiple steps of the healing process. ...
  • Maryah
     6/19/2016 2:18:57 AM
    I would like to know if there is any suggested reading material on this topic. I am trying to forgive the father of my child for cheating, but I really need some self help books to teach me how to begin the healing process. He has agreed to read with me, so if there are any books that can help both of us that would be great!
  • Nenorra
     12/10/2015 8:06:22 AM
    Excellent Article! Thank you for posting it! It Helped me to understand better.
  • pistolpete
     11/27/2015 11:14:14 AM
    I agree with this blog but what reason caused the husband to have an affair? Is he not sexually satisfied at home? Is a lot expected of him when he gets home before he gets a chance to relax and change gears from work? Is he thanked for the things he does? Is he shown and told that he is loved? I don't condone stepping out on one's partner, but if one doesn't feel loved, then that could cause the "looking elsewhere"!!!

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