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Mending marriage after an affair

By Sandra Wekesa
Friday, November 8th, 2019

Moving on after your spouse has publicly admitted to cheating can be devastating. It’s downright agonising. How do you love a person again after causing you so much pain? 

Comedian Terrence Creative, recently admitted to cheating on his wife, Milly Chebby. He went on to say he has made peace with his spouse and owned up to his past mistakes.

“Yes I did (cheat). Through it, I’ve learnt my lessons; Milly and I will talk about it someday,” Terrence, whose real name is Lawrence Macharia, said in an Instagram post.

But is it that easy? Moving on after your spouse cheated on you and even admitting it? Experts argue it’s not affairs that break up marriages: it’s the unfaithful spouse’s inability to be honest about what happened and leave the affair behind them. 

“When I see couples divorce after an affair, it’s usually not because of the infidelity itself. The betrayed spouse simply gave up trying when their wife or husband continued to be selfish, shady, and untrustworthy,” says Caroline Madden, author of Fool Me Once: Should I Take Back My Cheating Husband?

Healing process

Beatrice Muraguri, a counselling psychologist based in Nairobi says, accepting and deciding to live with a spouse who has already admitted to cheating is not easy at all. 

“There is no specific manual for healing because every marriage is unique. The greatest damage is not done during cheating, but is caused by couples to each other after the disclosure. That is why the healing process is necessary,” she says.

Kevin Namale, a marriage counsellor, says the hardest part is when you imagine your spouse with another person. “It creates anger, and stirs up emotions,” he says.

The first step to the healing process is the trauma stage, which is characterised by shock, bitterness and overwhelming grief.  After trauma, accept the situation. 

“This will help to move you away from denial and start working on the issues as a couple. You will have to look at the primary issues that led to the affair. There can also be fighting because of blame games and a lot of guidance from your therapist is, therefore, important,” she says.

However, do not blame your spouse. You had a choice. You could have ended your marriage before cheating, but you decided to have an affair. That’s on your shoulders alone. Apologise to your spouse.

If you’re the partner who cheated, how do you prove to your spouse that you’re committed to regaining their trust? Be willing to do whatever your spouse needs to feel more secure in the relationship, whether it’s sharing information about cell phones, texts, social media posts or bills paid. 

It might also include sharing detailed information about your whereabouts whenever needed. This period of increased accountability shouldn’t last forever, but it proves you are committed to doing whatever it takes to get the relationship back on track. It should go without saying that you need to break off contact with the other woman or man.

Taking full responsibility for the affair also means getting tested for any sexually transmitted diseases you may have contracted. God forbid if you ever contracted HIV-Aids. 

It is also important to deal with the identified issues rationally and be patient with one another. “Walk with your coach and avoid people who tell you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. That will only make matters worse,” Muraguri says.

Learn in silence

Finally, taking stock is important. It can take a while, even years. “Ask yourselves, what has the entire journey helped you to become as a couple?” 

To her, every conflict in marriage is an opportunity for growth. This is why friends who will laugh at you for continuing to live with a spouse who cheated do not matter. 

“You shouldn’t worry; you do not have to put a billboard to inform the whole world on what is happening in your marriage. You do not have to update, on social media, every step you take in your marriage. As a couple, do not seek external validation for your marriage. Stick to your family vision. It is what matters,” she says.

However, not every marriage can be saved after infidelity. Sometimes, too much damage has already been done, or both partners aren’t committed. Painful as it is, it’s important to acknowledge when this is the case and agree on a divorce.