I cheated on my grieving wife – now what do I do?

Aloha Cary,

My wife and I have been married for 10 years, no children. Since her father died eight months ago, she’s changed; her joy and humor has left. Every day now seems to be gray and gloomy for her. Nothing I have been able to do or say has been able to change this pattern.

I recently was on a business trip to a convention. During one of the festive events, I had too much to drink and without getting into the details, wound up having a one-night stand. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of what happened and am wondering if I should tell my wife? I’m scared this news might drive her to a deeper place of sadness. What should I do?

— To Speak or Not to Speak, Kapaa

Aloha, To Speak or Not to Speak,

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave.” There are a number of concerns to address: your wife’s emotional state, the health of your relationship, the infidelity.

Immediately find a relationship coach or therapist regarding your wife’s state and determine if she’s in a depression from grieving the loss of her father. This is your focus. Waves of grief will come and go and eventually, over time, will subside. It’s vital she is emotionally stable before you even consider sharing with her about the infidelity; this is way down the road along which a coach or therapist can help you both turn things around.

Everyone grieves differently. It’s not uncommon for the first year to be challenging, especially when you lose someone who was close to you. For friends and family members of someone who’s grieving a loss of a parent, child or mate, check in with the griever by calling or stopping by to say hi, bring them dinner, or take them out to the movies. (Take it from me, who lost a spouse, even though I said I was OK, I wasn’t OK, and benefitted greatly from those friendly calls from folks close to me during the first 12-18 months of loss, in which I could share my weeping heart. That was very healing.)

Once the grief has melted away and your wife is emotionally stable, begin to share with her how challenging this time has been for you as well — how you have missed her friendship, her laughter, her touch, etc.

Your act of infidelity could have been an unconscious way to wake yourself up to the fact that there’s been a lack of emotional and physical connection with your wife.

A deepening is in order between you two. When your coach/therapist feels the time is right, it’s important to tread lightly when you share with her about the infidelity, as there’s a very good chance your world is going to be turned inside-out. Expect her to be angry at you after hearing the news. Let her know how sorry you are and allow time for the emotional arc to play out: fear, anger, denial, to eventual acceptance.

Therefore, whatever questions she asks you, respond honestly. Refrain from invalidating her feelings by saying, “It’s not that big of a deal as it only happened once.” It’s important for you to listen to her. At the same time, she needs to listen to your side of the story as well.

The tough truth is you both need to be responsible for your individual unhappiness. She didn’t make you feel lonely because she wasn’t available to you and you didn’t ruin her life because you had a one-nighter. The core of these feelings must be acknowledged and choose to be transformed by each of you.

Over time the dust will settle and ease the pain, as you rebuild the trust in the relationship.

When you both are further along the journey to being more transparent and taking responsibility for your feelings, you’ll understand these challenging circumstances have occurred in your lives to assist you both to having a more fulfilling and deeper intimate relationship. We are all learning to live a more satisfying and loving life. Hopefully in the scope of your life together, this will be the low point, yet one that set you on the trajectory to being more in love than ever before.

I have assisted many couples through this emotionally tumultuous time to come out the other end, happier and feeling more connected with each other than any other time in their relationship. A couple that is able to go through challenging times together shows the true colors of strength, love and determination in their relationship.

Hang in there. Desire to find and receive the assistance you need. Continue to take responsibility for your feelings and actions. Keep breathing.

•••

Cary Valentine is a certified relationship coach, author of the bestseller “In Love Forever: 7 Secrets to a Joyous, Juicy Relationship,” and business/sports performance expert. He assists couples and singles overcome daily challenges, actualizing their dream life. Cary welcomes your questions at: Cary@InLoveForever.tv or call (808) 346-6652.

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