Ask Wendy

How Do I Handle a Mistake in My Marriage?

Friday, March 1, 2019
Hey Wendy,

I made a major mistake in my marriage, and I need to make repairs with my husband. I don’t think he will see this coming, and I’m terrified. I don’t want to write all the details here, so sorry this is vague. Can you give me advice on how to fix it when I screwed up?

Nancy O. – Cupertino, California

Hey Nancy,

Ok, I thought this through, and I can do this without detail. Here we go…

Before this uncomfortable conversation even happens, I want you to wrap your head all the way around how you’re going to be throughout the process.

  • DON’T expect anything from him other than to listen to you and hear you out.
  • DON’T assume he’ll respond in a specific way.
  • DON’T look to him to forgive you immediately. (We all have our process.)
  • DON’T ask him to make you feel better. (Ouch! I know, right?)

When setting up a time to talk, pick a time that works well for both of you; when you two have the time and privacy necessary to have what might be a deep and lengthy conversation that goes far beyond the offense. And when that time comes…

OWN YOUR SHIT: Tell him you blew it. You messed up. If you’re sorry, say you’re sorry. Don’t give him your side of the story. Don’t justify, offer excuses, tell him why it’s his fault too, or give him a fifteen-year backstory as to why it happened. Just apologize simply and sincerely.

LISTEN: As in don’t talk. Listen silently to your husband’s experience, how it impacts him, and how it makes him feel. Don’t make excuses, clarify, or justify anything you’ve done. Simply listen with compassion to how it is for him and hear him all the way out. Hear ALL of it. When you think he’s done, ask, “Is there anything else?” and listen some more.

ASK HIM WHAT HE NEEDS TO FORGIVE YOU: Do you need to pay penance? What does that look like? What does he need from you in order to forgive you? Is there anything else he needs beyond the apology and forgiveness, to restore your relationship and truly put the sitch behind him? Whatever he says is valid because it seems fair to him. If you don’t think what he’s asking for is reasonable, you don’t have to, but he doesn’t have to forgive you, either. Listen and take the actions you’re willing to take on fulfilling those needs and requests.

Lastly, forgive yourself. We’re all doing the best we can out there.

Good luck!

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