“My husband works in sales, and he attends at least five conferences each year. He’s cheated on me twice with women he’s met at the conferences. I want to believe it won’t happen again, but then I picture him at the hotel bar, sitting next to an attractive woman. Two or three drinks later, he’s lost his inhibitions – and broken his promise to stay faithful.”
“Because of her high-powered job, my wife travels all over the world. She met Stephen on a trip to London, and they slept together. She confessed the affair to me, but I still feel sick when I think of her traveling to London. After all, Stephen is still there. And if it happened once..”
Do these scenarios sound familiar to you? These are just two of the many, many stories I have heard over the years. For a cheating spouse, travel can be the perfect excuse to meet up with a paramour or to have a one-night stand. For the injured party, each business trip can create feelings of suspicion, anger, and fear.
How can you rebuild your marriage when your spouse is so far away? How can you maintain honesty when you are sleeping alone at home, and she’s in a hotel halfway around the world?
It is possible to protect and strengthen your marriage – even when you and your spouse are separated by hundreds of miles. Here are some strategies that have I have seen work.
Coping with the First Business Trip After the Confession
You’ve found out about the affair. You’ve argued, cried, questioned, and slowly attempted to rebuild. But now, the calendar looks like a doomsday clock. Your spouse is going on a business trip in two days. Will he cheat again? Will he be tempted by a woman at the sales convention? Will he sleep with his sexy colleague?
You may be thinking, “There is no way I can trust him.” This is a completely natural and common thought. But let me suggest to you that there are ways in which you can rebuild trust in your partner again. First, there are probably other ways in which he has never violated your trust. This is because trust takes many different forms.
Your partner has broken the first form of trust: fidelity. That is huge. But consider the other ways in which you might still trust your partner, including:
Form of Trust: Emotional Predictability – Knowing Your Partner Will React Within Reason.
You probably have a good idea of how your spouse will react to certain situations. If you can’t attend a family reunion because of an important medical appointment, you can probably count on your partner not becoming violent. If dinner is late because you were picking up the kids at their soccer game, you feel safe that he will not scream and storm out of the house.
Emotional predictability is incredibly important – and the sad truth is that not everyone in the world can count on it. It is extremely painful if you do not have this level of predictability in your relationship. If you have never stopped to think about it, that probably means you trust your spouse in this area.
How else might you already trust your spouse? Consider:
Form of Trust: Discretion – Keeping Secrets Secret. Discretion is a key form of trust. This means that you:
1) trust that your partner will keep private information private, and
2) trust that your partner will not make fun of you in a hurtful way.
Everyone has stories that are embarrassing or personal. In a marriage, you share things about your past that you likely wouldn’t share with anyone else. You trust that your partner will treat these issues with sensitivity and respect. You trust that he will not tell anyone else these things, because that would be hurtful. If this isn’t a problem for you, then you have just identified another area of trust in your relationship.
In my system How to Rebuild the Honesty, I discuss “The 7 Forms of Trust: Learning How You Still Trust Your Partner… Even Now.” I encourage you to read about these forms of trust. They will help you identify strengths and weaknesses within your relationship.
Once you know and understand each of these forms of trust and how to use them, it will help you:
- Build a more transparent relationship…
- Motivate your spouse to share everything with you…
- Reduce suspicion…
- Help you communicate your suspicion without igniting a firefight…
- Create a clean slate to start over again…
- Build a fence of protection around your relationship…
Discover how to strengthen your relationship with complete honesty.
Knowing ways in which you do still trust your partner will make it easier to cope with that upcoming business trip. But how do you regain the honesty in that first form of trust: fidelity? How can you rebuild the honesty when your spouse is miles away?
Let’s look at some trust-building techniques that have worked for other couples in this situation.
You CAN Maintain Trust – Even From a Distance
You know that your spouse has cheated while traveling. Maybe it was a one-time thing with a business associate in Shanghai. Or maybe he has a “work wife,” a woman who accompanies him on trips. Perhaps there’s “a girl in every port” – in this case, a paramour in each city where he happens to do business.
Regardless of the specific details, the problem remains the same: Your spouse has cheated. He has broken your trust. And if travel is a major part of his job, he will be leaving home again.
Let’s look at 4 things you can do the very next time he travels.
1. Travel together – Some couples cannot travel together because of finances or small children at home. But if you have the flexibility to accompany your spouse on a trip, do it.
You might attend a conference with him, and your physical presence will make it more difficult for him to cheat. Or, if he’s a traveling salesman or an inspector, you might ride along with him on his route. This is particularly important when his work takes him to a paramour’s house or business site. Sit in the car while he makes the client visit.
Even if finances or other responsibilities prevent you from traveling with your spouse, you can still stay in contact. Let’s look at that next.
2. Check in by phone – It is the job of the cheater to stay in contact with his spouse. If you’ve cheated, you must maintain good contact, so that your spouse feels like you want to keep her in the loop. And, you can tell your spouse exactly what actions you’re taking to avoid tempting situations with the ex-paramour.
Your spouse wants to know that you’re thinking about her, and that you’re not going to get caught back up in the web of deceit.
3. Set up a webcam – Technology can provide simple solutions to complex problems. In this case, the cheating spouse sets up a webcam on his laptop, so that his partner can see what he’s doing whenever she wants. Or, use picture mail with a cell phone.
This may feel like “house arrest” for the cheater. But you know what? A cheating spouse has broken the law of his marriage. He has violated a major agreement. You can think of the webcam as one of the consequences, and it might provide the injured party with some peace of mind – knowing she can check in, particularly at night.
4. Use a polygraph test – Polygraphs are not 100 percent certain, but this is not a court case. This is a demonstration of faithfulness. Polygraph tests are reliable enough that they’re used by major detective and security firms. When a cheating spouse agrees to take this test, he is demonstrating consideration for his partner and showing a real desire to rebuild her faith in him.
My clients have used each of these 4 methods, and I encourage you to use whichever one seems the most appropriate for your situation and your marriage.
Regardless of which method you choose, remember that you must continue to rebuild trust at home. In How to Rebuild the Honesty, I offer “The 5 Building Blocks for a Transparent Relationship: Rebuilding the Walls of Trust in Your Marriage.” If you haven’t checked out this system, I encourage you to do so.
I would love to hear about your own experiences. How have you rebuilt trust after your spouse’s out-of-town affair? What are some ways that you maintain honesty and connection with each other even when he’s hundreds or thousands of miles away? Share your thoughts by clicking on the “Comments” link below.
I look forward to hearing from you. As always, I wish you the best as you work to rebuild trust on your path to a wonderful marriage.
Until next time,
Frank Gunzburg, Ph.D.
p.s. For more on keeping your marriage strong even after an affair, see the section “Building a Fence Around Your Marriage: Boundaries to Keep the Danger Out and the Love In” in How to Rebuild the Trust.