An affair damages the trust in a relationship, and some marriages don’t survive the disclosure of an affair. If your wife is willing to reconcile with you, you must change your behavior and avoid the conditions that made the affair possible. Consider enlisting the help of a marital therapist to work with you as a couple and individual therapists for each of you, suggests family therapist Marilyn Wedge in “After the Infidelity: Can Counseling Help?” The most important factor in reconciliation, however, is that your wife sees your remorse, verifies your changed behavior and trusts you to be faithful in the future.
Cut off all contact with the affair partner immediately and come clean to your wife, advises psychotherapist Willard F. Harley Jr. in “Four Rules to Guide Marital Recovery After an Affair.” Adopt a “no secrets” policy and demonstrate that you want to save your marriage.
Apologize in detail for your actions, taking full responsibility for the affair, for hurting your wife with thoughtless behaviors and for damaging her trust in you. If she asks questions about the affair, answer them honestly and empathetically. Ask your wife what you can do to make amends, suggests marriage and family therapist Sheri Meyers in “For the Betrayer: 8 Things You Must Know and Do to Rebuild Trust After an Affair.”
Rebuild trust with your wife through accountability, honesty and doing the right thing every time, advises Dr. Phil. Make promises only when you know you will keep them. Make your life an open book to her, allowing her to view your email account or cell phone bill to verify that you aren't contacting your affair partner. If you say you will call your wife at a specific time, do so. Become the most dependable person in her life.
Meet your wife's emotional needs consistently, advises Harley. Be affectionate, engage in informative conversation, give her your undivided attention, compliment her, demonstrate appreciation for her and support her in every way possible. Avoid doing things that aggravate her, such as agreeing to do a chore and then forgetting to do it or being disrespectful or critical.
Consistently display behaviors that demonstrate that you are in your marriage for the long haul. Show her every day that you can be the best husband, lover and friend. She will grow to trust you more as you demonstrate that you are trustworthy.
Accept that you cannot force her to take you back. If she is unwilling to forgive you and rebuild the relationship, you cannot compel her to do so. Allow her to leave, expressing your apologies and your sincere desire that she be happy.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.