I often get asked the question – How can you tell if the unfaithful spouse will cheat again? And the short answer is you can’t. There are very few certainties in life and no one can guarantee how anyone will or won’t behave in the future.
Having said that though I have found, from seeing couples where there has been multiple affairs that the common theme that was missing, is some work done during recovery by the unfaithful spouse on being the person they want to be. It is not enough to simply say I won’t do it again.
Essentially the unfaithful spouse needs to answer the question: Do I want to be the sort of person who chooses behaviour that hurts the people I love the most? And if not what is the work I need to do on myself to ensure that I am not that person.
This work will be different for everyone and it is really important that the betrayed spouse sees the changes that this work will bring. It is a component I include in my affair recovery program and sometimes it can be done as part of the couple work and other times a referral for some more intensive individual work is required – it just depends.
Here is a (made up) example of what this might look like:
Sam is a high flying executive who loves his wife and children but often the stress of the job gets the better of him and he finds himself doing things quite out of character to take his mind off the stress. Too much alcohol and occasionally party drugs have become a part of his coping skills and then one day while travelling for work one of his colleagues, who he had always been good friends with, makes it clear that there is a possibility of more. He crosses the line and before he knows it the chemical high of a new and secret relationship makes the work stress a lot more manageable.
When eventually the affair runs its course (Sam discovers the stress of the secret outweighs the escape) and Sam and his wife make it to recovery, Sam realises that he needs to find healthy ways to manage his stress so it doesn’t get the better of him. And he needs to find ways to bring his wife in for support instead of shutting her out when things get hard for him. If he does not do this work he is at high risk of going down the same path when things get stressful again.
I have kept this example simple to show what it can mean to do the work. At the start of recovery, after discovery day, when the emotion is high and the pain is very raw, what this work might look like is not evident. It’s only uncovered after much soul searching by the unfaithful spouse and may take some time to emerge.
It is really important for your recovery as a couple that the unfaithful spouse commits to this work. If they continue to show that they don’t care about making behaviour choices that hurt their partner then it is quite simple - they are not a safe person to be in a relationship with.
Until next time...