Staying Married After a Second Affair

Annah Elizabeth Uncategorized 14 Comments

Last night I wrote this post, which was inspired by a piece about Bill Clinton’s sixty-sixth birthday.

That article questioned if the former president could have known, the day he met then-President JFK, that he would someday succeed the great man.

That question spawned another musing for me: Did it ever dawn on Bill that he might someday have a scandalous affair while married to the love of his life?

And, furthermore, how did the former First Couple go on to have such a solid relationship after such public ordeals as his affair with an intern and subsequent impeachment trial.

There are so many factors to overcoming adultery, so many components that the hurt partner must process, and so many that the cheating partner must process. I examined several of these areas as I mulled over those questions.

As I reread that post, today, I am compelled to clarify something because I feel it may seem flip or trite or to treat multiple infidelities as insignificant.

And as I say that, the question arises: What happens when there is a second offense?
I’m guessing that Bill and Hillary and all those before me will say much the same: Rinse. Repeat.
The Rinse/Repeat comment in no way suggests that the second offense is trivial.
It is however, designed to prompt the parties to reevaluate some of the questions they should ask themselves if they are pondering trying to move forward in the marriage. To reconsider if the steps to healing and reconciling individual and collective conflict bear merit.
It has been my experience that we humans tend to bury unresolved conflict when good fortune befalls us, or when the discord is no longer a priority in our daily routine.
For instance, after my oldest living son was born, I quit looking for the answers to the tough questions I’d been asking regarding the unexpected death of my firstborn.
What if?
Am I a failure?
Did I do something to cause my son’s death?
Is God punishing me?
Did my son really die because of my sins (as one document mailed to me suggested.)
With a growing infant to tend to, those questions were buried deep in the recesses of my mind; only to resurface with a vengeance when my best friend and Warren had an affair.
Which leads me to another common action: sometimes we rush to rationalize events; we look for anything to blame, for if we have a cause, then we have an answer.
And we believe that answer will serve to heal all of our open wounds.
Unfortunately, this scapegoat is often a smokescreen, one that merely delays the inevitable.
In the case of my husband’s year-long affair with my best friend, I blamed our marital problems, the countless hours we were spending developing our young business, the stresses from Gavin’s death, the stresses from the miscarriages, the stresses of raising two toddlers under the age of six, the stresses of his parents’ refusal to let us live our own lives, the depression I was combating…
I also blamed myself for practically handing my hubby over to my gal pal, as she and I shared those delicious and demanding details of marriage that only best buds share.
Not to say that I didn’t grieve and I wasn’t angry, because I sure did, and I sure was mad, and depressed, and I felt victimized.
But we seemed to recover fairly quickly, all things being relative. He and I had a few couple’s counseling sessions and I dealt with my insecurities over the matter, which I believed to be a continuation of the work I’d already been doing.
Before I knew it, our life was back on track and better than it had ever been. I’d sit with my new girlfriends who usually had some gripe or another about their spouses, and I’d sit with my mouth shut. Honestly. I felt that anything I said would be gloating. There wasn’t one thing I’d have changed about my marriage.
I couldn’t have been more shocked than when I accidentally stumbled across the unknown, repeating number on Warren’s phone bill.
I knew right then and there, the moment I presented him with a name and an address and he admitted to another sexual dalliance, that his infidelity had nothing to do with me or our marriage. It was all about Warren and his baggage.
And I knew right then and there what I expected from him if we were going to stay married.
I had no doubt that he loved me, so that wasn’t an issue. His remorse was evident and genuine.
What he did need to do was accept responsibility for his behavior and not blame the external.
He needed to do everything within his power to heal himself.
He needed to decide that therapy would be beneficial for him, to seek out his own counselor, to make his own appointments, and initiate a great deal of conversation with me.
He needed to act in a manner which showed he recognized the dilemmas he’d created for me, and to make valiant attempts at being mindful of my fears, doubts, and concerns.
I knew that I didn’t want to make a hasty decision about separation or divorce.
Panic would have only compounded our problems by affecting our financial situation, not to mention the emotional states of our budding adolescents.
The only immediate request I did make was that he be tested for STDs and he show me a copy of the bill and grant me permission to access the results if I so chose.
And then, while I reeled from the shock and evaluated my life, I waited to see how he handled himself and the situation.
I said many times to my closest friends, “Someday something is going to happen and I’m going to know, one way or another, if this marriage going to work or not.”
That day came when Warren answered his cell phone one day, while standing on the top rung of a ladder, a drill in one hand and a panel of sheetrock in the other…
In that moment I became fairly certain I’d be staying married after a second infidelity…
Have you been involved in adultery? When was the moment you decided that the marriage was, or wasn’t, going to work out?

Comments 14

  1. Thank you for writing this. I just learned yesterday of my husband’s second affair. The first happened over two years ago, and we had gone through over a year of therapy, concentrated effort to rebuild our marriage, and now this. I so appreciate what you wrote about this being your husband’s issue that he needed to fix. That seems so clear to me now, that the affairs are not about me or even our marriage, but about his issues that he needs to own and then work on. After the first affair, I immediately knew that I wanted to stay married and work it out. Now I don’t know–I will need to wait and see what his response will be. Thank you for being so honest–it helps to read the words of someone who has gone through the same thing. I know you wrote this post a while back, so I hope you are doing well now.

  2. Dear Anonymous…

    Sorry for the delay of this reply. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I am sorry you have found yourself in this situation, but applaud your hesitation to act impulsively.

    It is difficult staying in a marriage of uncertainty and in the face of so many who are quick to chastise us for staying by calling us “weak” or “insecure” or, even more frustratingly, “fools.”

    Only you comprehend the “Bigger Picture” of all that encompasses your relationship and only you can decide if you feel your husband is remorseful of the pain and suffering he has brought to you and your marriage AND genuine in his intent to unlock what is causing him to make destructive choices.

    No matter the choices you two make moving forward, the path itself will be uncertain with twists and turns and uphills and downhills…life is like that, too…

    My wish for you is that you will rejoice in the moments of clarity, accepting them for what they are, to remain as steadfast as possible in the knowledge that you didn’t cause the adultery, to have courage to understand and accept any role you might have played in feeding your spouse’s insecurities, to move forward with your head held high, and to know above all else that you are not alone…

    Yours in healing,

  3. I feel like my husbands second affair means I am wortgless, i am not good enough. How do you and or him recognize the problems are his?

  4. Dear Reader Anonymous…

    First, thank you for being here, for your courage to heal your hurts and to comment.

    Secondly, you are good enough, and though I can tell you this, you must come to a place where you know this in your own heart. If you keep choosing healing, you will come to this understanding…

    I am assuming something in this reply, that both you and your spouse had the understanding that you wanted a monogamous relationship… How did I and/or him recognize the problems were his? I can only speak from my own experience…

    I recognized it the moment I learned of his second affair, simply because on the outside our relationship seemed to be fully healed, with both of us acting with confidence and love toward one another and ourselves.

    He realized that his choice to repeat a behavior that had brought each of us so much conflict and pain came from his private counseling, and possibly through our discussions.

    What I realized as time went on, is that I was a contributor (BUT IN NOW WAY TO BLAME FOR HIS ACTIONS) to some of the behaviors that made him feel like he needed more than our marriage. Sometimes that happens, BUT, it’s important for one to be honest and to decipher the reason for that thinking. In my case, my husband himself didn’t feel adequate, didn’t feel like he was getting what he wanted from the marriage, but also didn’t know how to talk about it…He also had learned to blame others when things didn’t feel good or right. AND I had always been the type of person to ACCEPT BLAME… Which, of course was a disastrous combination…

    I’d like to share two articles I wrote that might give you a better understanding of these things I mention above…

    “It’s Not Personal”:

    “It Takes Two”:

    Thanks, again, for reaching out. Please don’t hesitate to contact me (via e-mail @ or by comment) if I can help you by sharing anything else…

    All my very best, Journeyer…
    Yours in healing…

  5. A second affair this he denied for the last year until I placed the truth infront of him. He is silent seems to show no remorse, has not said one word.
    But over the last year I had similar proof and approached him he stepped back from the attending events atvthevlocation he met her but continued the affair. It’s as if he thought it would remain in the dark forever.
    It spins to think of the turmoil for my children. Had I not delve into stories like these, I would feel do alone so angry ready to make a rash decision.
    To know others are feeling exactly as I am dealing with similar circumstances understand my Dilemma from a standpoint not understood by those so quick to judge, criticize.

    In one aspect of my life I am so together perfirm excellent at work. At home I stand tall for my kids. Show the m strength but my reality is vimete turmoil.

    So I am thankful to have found this site and glad others are sharing their pain strength and understanding.

    1. Post

      Dear Jen,
      Thank you for your courage to heal and for finding our little neighborhood here. I am sorry for your loss of a marriage as you knew it to be but am glad you are able to find some things you need to help you as you move forward in the coming days, weeks, and months.

      Though we cannot know exactly what your are experiencing, feeling, and thinking, there are many of us who have traveled a similar path to that which you currently trod. Please feel free to reach out via e-mail, if you would like someone to chat with.

      Above, Neighbor, please know you have many allies in healing. You can do this, Jen… you can find a way to heal your heart and go on to live your best life in the face of this adversity…

      Thinking of you and sending love and light…

      Yours in hope, healing, and happiness,


  6. My husband didn’t have a second affair exactly; he had told me about his affair with a coworker that was supposedly over, and that he supposedly was the one who ended it. Three years later, I found out that they kept in contact while we were supposed to be working together, that the affair was deeper and longer than I’d been led to believe, and that she followed him to his new office after he left his first one to get away from her. He could have turned her away so easily, but he chose not to, and so their entanglement continued. She also told him that she loved him right before he left his job, and he responded that he loved her, too. I’ve heard all sorts of excuses and explanations, but he was so angry and often cruel to me during the year after I was told, when I was so hurt and afraid – he still worked in the same room with her – and he was still friendly with her. I honestly feel like it’s a second affair, an emotional one, that I didn’t know about, with the same person. And even worse than the second betrayal is his behavior towards me. He acted as if I was the one keeping us from moving forward. It was an awful time but I thought we were at least a team, trying to survive this together. Now I know that wasn’t the case and has never been the case. These last revelations have about killed the love I had for him. We have three young children, and I’m staying for them. I resent so much what he did – I know all about how it’s hard to disentangle, but you know what? I did a lot of hard things to stay together. So many sleepless nights, so much pain and secrecy, so much loss and grief. Yet he couldn’t stand to be the ‘bad guy’, he couldn’t tell her to go home to her husband and baby. He loved the attention and so did she. And now our lives are crumbling around us and our children are in danger of losing their home. I regret the day I met that man. Thank you for listening.

    1. Post

      Dear Jennifer,
      I am sorry for your suffering and the pain you are facing, yet I am happy for your courage to reach out to someone and I’m honored to have been here when you needed a neighbor to share your story and heartache with.

      I can relate to your statement “but he was so angry and often cruel to me during the year after I was told, when I was so hurt and afraid.” Not that it makes it right, but often times when we’ve done something we’re not proud of but aren’t ready to accept accountability for, we blame others. And sometimes when we’re afraid, we lash out at the very people we are closest to, at the very people we feel safest with. And sometimes, when we’re afraid we might lose someone we love, we push them away (usually unconsciously) because in some twisted way then we won’t become the “rejected” when that fear becomes reality. It’s just one of those crazy ways our mind thinks its protecting us, when in fact, it is counterproductive movement.

      Please know that, yes, you are facing a second affair and a second death of the beliefs, hopes, and dreams you’d come to attain after realization of the first. Comparing our circumstances to those of others can sometimes hold us in grief because it doesn’t honor what we are feeling. In it’s own right, you are experiencing a second loss, it’s just that the details are a little different than the ones you are holding up as comparison.

      Be proud of those hard things you did to stay, for they are real. Do you think your husband made a few hard choices when he moved to a new job? If yes, do you think he might be willing to consider counseling? Individually or together? Or both? If he did find another job in an effort to end that relationship, he did so because he was choosing you and your family. And if she did follow him, then that only adds to a whole lot of confusion, brings in his own fears and doubts and adds to guilt and shame and all the emotions that led him to step outside of your marital vows in the first place. A trained counselor might be able to help unravel all of that and give him strategies to help him keep moving forward. A counselor can also help the two of you figure out how to best help one another in the face of your own needs, fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings (something we face in every form of relationship that relies in part on communication.) And, more importantly, is this something you’d be willing to do?

      You said you are staying for the children. It is important that your children know both parents love them, that they are not responsible or in any way to blame for the struggles the parents are facing, but it is equally important for them to see their parents taking care of themselves individually and together. And when two parents can parent cooperatively-be it married or not-the children have the best chance of feeling safe and loved.

      And for you, my dear neighbor, please know that, even though I cannot occupy the hurting spaces in your heart and your head, you are not alone, for there are many of us who have or are currently traversing similar roads. Please honor yourself, your hurt, and your family by taking care of you. Be as open and honest as you can be about why you’re staying, what you want, and what you are hoping for.

      Thank you for sharing with me, Jennifer. Sending love, light, and healing energy to your and your precious family,

  7. Hi, I am glad to have found this site. I found out 5 days ago that my husband of 16 years (we’ve been together for 22 years) has continued an affair he promised me he had stopped.
    I found out the first time 6 months ago, we went through a horrible period but both decided to work on our relationship and stayed together. Over the last few months things (in my opinion) have been good, we’ve been close, had fun, “got our spark back” and sexually close also.
    I discovered he has continued to meet her for short periods, but often in contact by phone. He initially denied this, in fact made me feel guilty for not trusting him, but has since admitted it. He doesn’t know why he done it, “felt sorry for her” but is truly sorry and is begging for another chance.
    I don’t know what to do- can I ever believe anything he says again?? Despite everything I love him deeply though hate what he has done. I feel like he has treated me like a fool!!
    We have 4 young kids who adore their dad and I want to keep their young lives as stable as possible.
    Would I be foolish to even contemplate trying again. I don’t feel I can talk to my friends or family, they were involved first time round and wouldn’t support me taking him back after a second time.
    Any thoughts, help or advice would be much appreciated, yours, Heartbroken.

    1. Post

      Dear Heartbroken,
      I am so sorry for this recent loss but am happy you are seeking what you need to take care of you and that you are willing to reach out to others for help.

      What I can tell you without a doubt is that his continued affair isn’t about you. Not about anything you did or didn’t do. Not about the way you look or don’t look. It’s not about your sex life or lack thereof…not about any of your quirks or [insert your whatever.] It is all about him, his fears, his demons, and his insecurities…

      The first thing I might encourage you to do is to reach out to professionals who are equipped and trained in relationships. Often times we try to “work” on our relationships on our own and having an outsider’s view and an expert to help spot trouble areas can be so much more valuable and efficient. Sometimes partners (men and women) will assume that their spouse/partner “won’t see a shrink/therapist/counselor,” but when I ask if they have asked, most of the time the reply is ‘no.’ So, if you haven’t already asked, ASK. Get someone else involved. It is also possible that one or both of you might additionally benefit from individual counseling as you navigate through the changes that you are each about to undergo, whether it be together or apart.

      Every person’s situation is different, but I know in my case, my husband and I blamed his first affair on all of the stresses in our life…our child’s death, miscarriages, family differences, raising a young family, and trying to build a new family business in the midst of all this. We went to counseling, working under that assumption and made great gains in communication and understanding one another’s “point of view.” We had been best friends before we married and our lives had returned to that place of comfort, ease, and joy, when I was blindsided by the second affair.

      Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Know how I said it has nothing to do with you? His affair doesn’t, but what I eventually realized was that I bore some “culpability” in the conflicts that led him to make the choices he did. That doesn’t mean I was in any way responsible, it just means that certain behaviors I had were unknowingly contributing to his insecurities and doubts. Communication is super hard for him, so he wasn’t letting me know, at least not in ways that appeared as communication to me. It’s that old adage “It takes two…” I hope all that makes sense. Just as it takes two to dance, to fight, to make-up, it takes two to choose to stay in the marriage…to make it work.

      After his second affair, we had to begin isolating those deeper personality traits, needs, wants, and desires and really being breaking them down. It is a LONG work in progress and rebuilding the trust is equally long (that trust applies to yourself, to him, and to others.) We still have days when we’re both tired and rundown and we stumble, but I can tell you that the time spent has been so worth it. What you have to decide for yourself, though, is how much this relationship means to you and WHAT it represents to you. Really understand WHY you want to stay and be honest about that. If you’re like most people, there are a multitude of reasons why you want to stay and others for why you might want to end this marriage.

      I can also recommend a program called The Third Option. We found them a few years ago. For those in Upstate NY, they have an in-person program, but for those who can’t do that, they have a DVD series that you and your spouse can watch together (or independently.) They ask you to really look at certain aspects of your personality, and my husband and I found discussing each of our personal responses to be equally beneficial. Being able to look at our strengths and weaknesses without judgment is key to this sort of success.

      Please know that you are not a fool. My guess is you are someone who is compassionate, forgiving, loyal, and dedicated, which are all valuable qualities. As best as you can, try to stay away from worrying about how others will perceive you and focus on what you want and NEED for yourself, for in the end, that is all that really matters.

      There are so many moving pieces to this situation, Neighbor…try to break them down one by one… Wishing you strength…sending you love and light and the knowledge that you do have supportive people you can reach out to. Here if you need me. <3

  8. On May 11, 2018 I discovered my spouse had been looking at things inappropriate on the internet for someone who was married but always spent time with her best friend. Her and her friend were on a trip when I found all of these lesbian searches, in love with my friend searches etc. I confronted her via text message and she said it was nothing and that she loved me and wanted to be with me. We texted for hours. The following day she came home and told me of the sexual/emotional affair she had with her friend. She gave me details, made promises of us, deleted social media, said she wouldn’t talk to her at work since they weren’t in the same department etc. I believed her, for my tank was full of love, trust and I thought I could survive.
    Later in the evening we talked more and even had sex. I knew all all was well. We had some bumps and bruise s over the next six weeks but she was open, though it was like pulling teeth, and sex was great, we talked more than ever, we work up and showered together almost everyday (just talking). We went on dates, kids just became old enough to to stay home. I felt I bared some responsibility as I had gave her away to her friend in the name of being tired, stresses and always seeming to have to work. I worked really hard during these six weeks. Even scheduled marriage counseling for week seven after learning of the affair.
    Towards the middle of week six, in the spirit of being honest with each other like we had been being, I asked her if I could do a search of her phone using an investigative software, she immediately agreed. Deep inside there was this little voice telling me something wasn’t something right with her. We had completed a time line of the affair for our counseling session the following week and some thing’s still didn’t add up and she revealed new things of the affair or would restate them differently.

    We started to connect her phone to the PC. I asked her if she had anything she wanted to tell me so I wouldn’t be surprised. She started talking. The affair never ended. She reloaded Snapchat immediately after we had talked on May 12 to check on her girlfriend, after she had just called her and told her to never talk to her again. She received flowers from her but told me that it was from her teacher assistant. She told me she didn’t very see her but was getting daily visits. She told me she had a different helper during some testing but ended up being her girlfriend. Told me her girl friend wasn’t going to be a dance she was responsible for but she was there and afterwards they did it again. Later that same evening she was intimate with me. She started to tell me of all the stuff she had told me………..

    I have broken and devestated. She says she in now choosing me and it is over. She has done many of the things she did last time, I am skeptical. I don’t believe she is well. She has lost a good amount of weight and one of her dear friends suggested maybe she is having a chemical imbalance…. She has scheduled an appointment with a personal counselor the day prior to our marriage counseling session on week 7. I hope she is sincere this time. In sickness and health….

    I can’t believe her now. I know it isn’t my issue as I was a husband on steroids the past 6 weeks. I have told her that if she is serious I will try but there are no guarantees. I am praying and crying and am past broken. This is hard. I have had several folks that we have both confided in they have told us, “well at least it was a girl.”. I am not sure what they mean but that is what scares me the most. Girls know what girls need and desire, guys don’t always pick up on it. I would have rather seen a one night stand.

    We have kids and they see me breaking down after. I am scared for me and for them. We have been through prefect family by most accounts.

    Thanks for your article.

    1. Post

      Dear Neighbor Lost,

      I am sorry for these marital hurdles, challenges, and for the losses you are experiencing as a result of them. That said, I am happy that you are seeking what you need in these moments of feeling broken. Please know that your children are resilient and you are showing them what it means to be HUMAN when you are tired and crying. Though some men are raised that being vulnerable or shedding a tear is not manly, the truth couldn’t be any further away. As people, we have emotions and expressing those emotions in healthy ways is how we honor our five facets.

      It will be hard to believe your wife, for sure. As you navigate rebuilding trust, please give yourself permission to grieve, carry on good communication with her, lean on your support team when you are feeling unsure, and know that as crazy as your thoughts and emotions may feel at times, your confusion, distrust, sadness, anger, stress, and fear are all “normal”/common responses to this sort of significant loss.

      Regarding other people telling you, “Well at least it was a girl,” please disregard this as best as you can. Unhelpful as this sort of statement is, it is likely coming from people who are trying to show empathy by imagining how they would feel and or process this type of loss. These sort of statements may work for some people, but for the vast majority they are not. Feel free to speak your truth; one offering is “Thank you for your support, however, the person’s gender has no bearing on what I am going through.”

      Sending you understanding, compassion, kindness, and the knowledge that you CAN work through this. Here if you need me, Neighbor.

  9. I’m glad I found this site as well. I’ve been married to my husband for almost 20 years now. 6 years ago he had an 18-month affair with an ex-girlfriend. Our marriage wasn’t perfect and we did have issues. After I discovered the affair he ended it and we agreed to work on our marriage. I have to admit that it was probably the best thing that ever happened to us. Our marriage became much stronger and we were able to recapture our love and joy for one and other.

    This past year he started a new job which has turned out to be very stressful. Our sex life became non-existent and he contributed it to being tired and stressed. He also started smoking again after 9 years of quitting. Besides that I had no reason to suspect anything. Then one day he broken down and admitted to having an affair with someone at work for the past few months. Needless to say I was in shock, I didn’t see that one coming. He said that there’s nothing I’ve done wrong or that he’s unhappy with our marriage. He says that she would compliment him a lot which fed into his ego (he’s approach 50 and found it very flattering). One thing led to another and the affair started, he even exchanged I love you’s with her. He says he’s ashamed of what he’s done and has a lot of remorse. He doesn’t want our marriage to end.

    If our marriage was so strong then how the heck did this happen. Even though he’s trying to reassure me that he still loves me and can’t see himself growing old with anyone else I’m finding myself very depressed and crying a lot. I do love my husband but I’m not sure I can ever rebuild the trust that we fought so hard to get back the last time. The saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” keeps repeating in my head. I’m really not sure where we’ll end up. I’m afraid I won’t be able to recapture the joy of our marriage. Any advise you have would be greatly appreciate.

    1. Post

      Dear Neighbor, Cathy,

      Please know this is far more common than you might think. What sometimes happens after a first affair is that we rationalize the “Whys…” We say things like “It happened because…” and when two people love each other and want to make it work, that rationalization will work for a while, and then the roots of the real issues will resurface. Outside of disorders and addictive behaviors, often times, it is an underlying insecurity or fear that will lead a person to an affair. As you said, your husband admitted this new person was feeding his ego…or his insecurities…maybe it is fear of getting older and losing his identity/youth/charm/vitality or maybe he is a Fixer/Saver/White Night and she had issues. That is what happened in my relationship. I was a sort of damsel in distress when my husband and I met. We were experiencing all sorts of grief after the death of our son, outside interference in our marriage, raising a young family, and managing a start-up company. We were grieving differently and ultimately I was, even in my hot mess state, taking care of myself. His first affair was with my best friend, who was also having marital trouble and who was very free with her flirtations toward him, which quickly turned into her depending on him for support. Those two things, the feeding of the ego and the need of a white knight were a lethal combination. After he chose to stay in the marriage, seven years later, when our marriage was the strongest it had ever been, and I was the strongest I’d ever been, a new damsel came into the picture… It was then we knew it wasn’t about any of the stresses, but about his own insecurities… He had to address them and we had to figure out how our interpersonal dynamics contributed to it… NOT that it in any way CAUSED him to have an affair, but to understand what might be adding/feeding his insecurities. This work was hard and long but, in the end, we are both stronger for the efforts and our marriage has become better in new ways.

      As you go through this, please know that you CAN get through this…you will be able to figure out what you want for your future and to make it happen. I am here if you need me, Neighbor. Sending virtual hugs, light, and a shoulder to lean on…

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