Most of the people that I hear from who have cheated on their spouse express remorse. They know that what they have done is wrong. And they feel quite uneasy at the thought that their mistake could cost them so dearly. Frankly, sometimes it takes them being faced with losing their spouse that the full impact of what they have truly done hits them. So when their spouse tells them that they have decided that they do not want to save the marriage and that they are moving on, the feelings of regret can be at an all-time high.
A spouse might say: “I have never regretted anything more than cheating on my husband. I honestly can’t believe I did that. I did not intend for anyone to ever find out. And in my own mind, it was my way to say goodbye to my first love, who had re-enlisted in the military. I knew that we might never see one another again. And I knew that he could very well have been in harm’s way. So I went out with him and I kissed him goodbye at the evening and one thing to another. But I knew he was leaving soon and that this would not be a threat to my marriage. Well, the other guy told his busybody sister about it and she told my husband. When my husband confronted me, I considered lying because honestly, there wasn’t any proof and it was my word against the sister’s. But looking at my husband’s face, I just could not bring myself to lie to him. I almost wish that I could have. Because telling the truth has cost me everything. For a while, my husband said that he didn’t know what he was going to do. He stayed at our house for about a week and then said he needed time away from me. I believe he stayed with his mother, but I do not know that for sure because he would not take my calls. In the meantime, I was texting him and begging him to go to counseling. He kept just answering with very fast replies that said: ‘I need more time.’ So this whole time when I couldn’t reach out to my husband, I became fully aware of just how badly I had messed things up. I knew I was wrong, but the loneliness on top of this knowledge made things so much worse. As time went by, I knew that the longer that my husband was gone, the worse the chances would be that I would ever get him back. I started to text and ask him if he was dating other people. He responded that he wasn’t dating other people yet, but that he wasn’t ruling it out because he didn’t think that he could ever forgive me. So I just left him alone and gave him his time. And then last week he called me and said that he wanted to tell me himself that he has decided to ‘move on.’ He said that he was probably going to file for divorce because he had met someone with whom he wanted to pursue a relationship. And this is my worst fear – him finally moving on – him finally saying the words. I am so filled with remorse. I know that this is my fault. I can’t blame my husband. And the worst part of this is knowing that it is all outside of my control. I am not sure that there is anything that I can do to make this any better.”
I think that there is always something that you can do. You can work on yourself. You can let your spouse know that you will be there should he change his mind. Believe it or not, this does sometimes happen. Sometimes, people separate or even divorce, and the spouses date other people. But as time allows for things to calm down and allows for more perspective, things do change.
Only you can decide if you are willing to wait or if you want to move on also. If you want to wait, then I believe that the most effective way to do that is to reach out to your spouse as someone who will always care about their well being and not as someone who is focused on having them change their mind.
It might work something like this. The next time you speak, you could say: “I have been thinking about your moving on and although I understand your motivations and I do not blame you, I will always value our relationship and I will always take responsibility for changing everything. I will forever be sorry that I hurt you and that I put what we had in jeopardy. I do not blame you for how you feel or for what you are doing. I would do anything to change it or to be given a second chance, but I understand how you feel. I have a lot of work to do on myself and I am going to be continuing on that path. I want you to know that I am always here for you if you want for me to be. I know that you say that you are moving on, but you will always be very important to me. And if there is anything that I can ever do to help you, then I hope that you will reach out to me.”
Sometimes, you just have to leave it at that and then you have to wait. Your spouse might be watching to see if you are truly working on yourself, so make sure that you are. Continue to do the self work and continue to be open and available should your spouse want to reach out. You never know what might happen, but it typically takes time. And if and when the time comes, you want to make sure that you’re as rehabilitated as you can possibly be. Until then, work on becoming your best. You don’t know what will happen, but you can not go wrong improving yourself.