It is easy for each partner to lose their self-respect after an affair. Regaining it can be extremely challenging.your self-respect after an affair

By Linda & Doug

In this post, we’d like to use self-respect in the context of a person being able to hold himself/herself in esteem and believing that they are good and worthy of being treated well; having proper respect for oneself and one’s worth as a person.

An example of self-respect is when you know you deserve to be treated right and, as a result, you do not tolerate others lying to you or treating you unfairly.

The cheater most assuredly can lose their self-respect after an affair as a result of their actions and behaviors – before, during and after the discovery.  The secrecy, lies and acting against their values can certainly cause this to occur.  And if a cheater doesn’t take a hit to their self-respect – we’re thinking there might be something seriously wrong going on inside, or they’re not even putting any thought into it.


Meanwhile, the betrayed can lose their self-respect, for example, by feeling they are being a doormat to the actions of their cheating spouse.  They typically feel responsible in many ways for the infidelity. Or perhaps even the thought of entertaining the possibility of reconciliation after being betrayed in the first place, creates a loss of self-respect for the betrayed.

Here are some quotes from readers when asked how the affair effected their self-respect…

“It was a huge cut to my ego. I always believed I was confident and successful, but I felt like a failure and that I couldn’t provide my H what he needed.”

“I assumed that at 34 I was no longer attractive and had nothing to offer because my wife had decided a 25 year old (newer model) deserved her attention. It was devastating.  As a result, I stopped eating and went from 220 lbs. to 178 lbs. in 6 months. I wondered where I went wrong and how I would ever be the same.”

“It did a huge blow to my self-esteem and I spent months blaming myself until I realized those choices were his and his alone.”

“I used to say I would never stay with someone who cheated on me, and here I am trying to make this marriage work with someone who hurt me beyond belief.”

“I felt totally unloved, rage, disbelief, betrayal, unable to process feelings or thoughts about anything. Was I that stupid that I couldn’t see what was happening?”

Don’t Be A Doormat When Trying To Save Your Marriage

What causes a loss of self-respect?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) developer Dr. Marsha Linehan outlines 4 primary factors associated with loss of self-respect.  (Learn more about DBT:

  1. Lie — Tell lies, exaggerate, act helpless when you’re not and over time your self-respect will slowly erode.  Sure a few little white lies or a slight exaggeration here and there aren’t going to significantly impact how you feel about yourself, but a pattern of bending the truth will whittle away at your self-esteem.
  2. Compromise your values — If you want to lower your opinion of yourself, sell out your values, especially for reasons that aren’t important.  Often people find themselves compromising on values in an effort to keep the peace.  It’s hard to rock the boat and sticking up for yourself can sometimes feel like you’re risking a relationship.  But failing to stick to what is important to you can alter your connection to your own sense of self.  Over time, you may feel that you don’t really know yourself anymore.
  3. Apologize Over and Over — We all make mistakes and apologizing is an important part of maintaining relationships.  However, over apologizing—apologizing for having basic needs, for asserting yourself, for asking a question, for being in someone’s way or not anticipating their every need—is a sure way to lower your sense of your own worth.
  4. Be Unreasonable — If you’re not fair, whether it’s towards yourself or others, you’re ultimately going to feel it in your sense of self.  Do you regularly take advantage of someone’s naiveté? Do you allow others to push you around out of fear? Taking unfair advantage of someone who has less power than you or allowing others to take advantage of you will hurt your sense of self.
See also  Video: Building a Marital Affair Proof Marriage

How to regain your self-respect after an affair

Jon Rousch’s wife had an affair while they were married.  Now they are divorced and he has a website called Survive Divorce.  He wrote an article entitled, Recover Your Self-Respect After an Affair and we’d like to share a portion of that article where he gives us his 3 keys to getting your self-respect back.

Get Your Self-Respect Back 

You aren’t the person who caused your spouse to decide to cheat.  No matter what excuses may have been tossed out since you’ve discovered the affair, that’s all they are, excuses.  They are not valid justifications for the lack of personal integrity your spouse has demonstrated, they are just excuses.  Maybe things were no going so great in your marriage before the infidelity took place.  But it’s really quite silly to think that having an affair would do anything positive for the marriage.  Affairs make a struggling marriage worse – every time!

Your spouse made poor decisions and you are suffering the pain as a result of it.  You didn’t ask for this train wreck, but you’re smack dab in the middle of it.  You probably feel like your entire world is out of your control right now, and this loss of control is another major contributor to your loss of self-respect.

So, how do you get yourself well? Here’s 3 important things you can do to begin the recovery: 

1 – Take Personal Responsibility

You’re not responsible for the actions of your spouse, but you are responsible for your life! And, if you’re still interested in saving your marriage, you are responsible for helping to get the healing started between you and your spouse. But don’t forget, you are NOT responsible for the affair!

See also  Spousal Abuse - Words Can Sometimes Feel Like a Slap in the Face

There’s only one person who can change the tone of your inner dialogue, and that person is you.  Stop beating yourself up mentally, stop telling yourself you somehow deserved this or that you made it happen.  Change the tone from negative to positive, and you’ll start to change the way you feel about yourself.  Tell yourself that you’re strong and resilient and capable of getting this tough time behind, and your words will begin to translate into positive emotions.

2 – Reality Check

I’m not telling you to deny the fact that you’re angry.  Accept it, it is the reality of the moment.  But don’t believe that these feelings are permanent, they aren’t!  I’m a big believer that we have to be honest with ourselves, so if you’re depressed, accept it, but also believe that you’ll recover from it.

Once you accept the reality of the moment, this particular moment will already be on its way past you.  I don’t want to minimize things, but think for a minute about how we feel when the car has a flat tire.  We think “Dang, flat tire, this really sucks!”  But do we think “This car will never move again”?  No, we think about what it’s going to take to get the flat fixed so we can get back on the road.  This time in your life can be a lot like that.  Sure, it’s certainly a bad time right now, no doubt about that and no denying it.  But what I want you to believe is that this bad time isn’t permanent.

3 – Feed the Positive Emotions

Your marriage has probably not been in a great state for some time now.  If you really examine the state of things, it’s probably been a while since things were as happy and fulfilling as they were to begin with, even when you were still in the dark about the affair.  Life probably wasn’t all the much fun, especially with your spouse for a while or let’s face it, you wouldn’t be where you are right now.

See also  What Transparency Can (and Can't) Do After an Emotional Affair

So, let’s start to turn things around be starting to work on getting some of the fun back in to your life and hopefully also back in to your relationship.

I’m not saying that you need to ignore the hard work that must take place if you’re going to save your marriage, but I am saying that you do need to start working on getting some positive things back into your life if you’re going to start enjoying it again.  Your emotions and your very spirit have taken a beating, but you can lift them back up.  If you’ll start to nurture and love yourself again, you’ll find your sense of self-worth starting to recover.

Finally, we found this poem online and thought it was very good.  It might make for a nice piece of artwork on your refrigerator!

The Guy in the Glass

by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Whose judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict that counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass. 

Please share in the comment section how your and/or your spouse’s self-respect after an affair was affected.  What have you’ve done to try and regain it?


    31 replies to "Your Self-Respect After an Affair"

    • TheFirstWife

      So what advice is there for so many of us who have dealt with multiple betrayals?

      That really is a blow to your self-esteem.

      I think there is a difference when one mistake is made and it never happens again vs those of us who have learned of multiple betrayals or lapses in judgment. One person just learned after a few years her H was in contact with the AP.

      How do you deal with that blow to your self esteem?

      • david

        hi I agree

        • TheFirstWife

          Any other thoughts? Would love to hear the male perspective. Thanks.

      • Tabs


        My CH also had two affairs. One PA, the other an EA on the verge of PA. The PA was just a few years older than 1/2 his age. The EA was so very young, two years older than our daughter. (My daughter was 20 at the time.) The fact that she even considered sleeping with my H was mind numbing. I can’t compete with someone 25 years younger than me, nor do I really want to. That affair left what was left of my self esteem in shreds.

      • Gretamahs

        If after affairs were discovered and the cheater promised to cut off contact with AP, but then he broke that promise, the betrayed spouse should end the marriage. Obviously, the cheater is not of the feeling to keep promises. Once the betrayed spouse leaves and gets on with her/his life, their self esteem with improve.

      • Martha

        Leave a cheater who simply does not reform. YOU CAN DO BETTER!!!!!! BUT BE SMARTplan the escape. See a lawyer. I recommend the book How to leave a cheater and gain a life. Hard to read but has advice that a great dad would give you.

    • Untold

      First we have to start calling a spade a spade. Even if only one time, it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice to betray, ignore, pursue totally selfish aim to feel-good. They knew full well what they were doing and the consequences, and they didn’t care, because they lack character and integrity.

      We have to understand it was all their choice, we had no control, and therefore separate ourselves form their despicable actions.

    • loveheals

      @TheFirstWife, we are sisters in this journey. My man has had multiple affairs, both physical and emotional so I understand these painful feelings of self-doubt. I’m learning how to put on a bullet-proof vest, so to speak. We have to get tough when it comes to caring for ourselves. It’s hard. The relationship counselor we just started seeing says that affairs are a traumatic breach of trust and cause a PTSD response in the betrayed spouse. There’s some support for us. The acknowledgement means the world to me and I wanted to pass along some support.
      We become fearful, hyper-vigilant. I want to heal from that.
      It’s not our fault, it’s not our fault, it’s not our fault.
      You are worthy of goodness. You are a queen. I read a meme recently about straightening our crowns and walking like a boss. Yea!

      • Gretamahs

        Why do you stay with someone who has multiple affairs? Obviously he doesn’t care all that much about hurting you or feel any true commitment to you. You don’t need a bulletproof vest, you need to get away from him. Start valuing yourself more. You will never, ever heal if you let yourself stay with someone who keeps hurting you. He is doing it all by choice, you need to realize. Full, conscious choice.

        • TheFirstWife

          You make an excellent point. But when there are children involved it is not so easy to walk away. I’m not saying I am staying married b/c of my kids but that is a factor in why I am willing to work on the marriage.

          I am lucky and my H is trying hard. He mad a mistake at a point in time when he was going through a rough period. Not making excuses. Not burying my head in the sand. He chose to cheat. He acknowledges that.

          Through therapy and counseling I have learned many things. We can get past this. We can move forward. I still love him. He loves me.

          My internal struggle is hard. I was always of the mindset that if my H cheated we are through. Through therapy I have learned that does not have to be the case. That is the hardest part for me. Going against my gut instinct.

          But your points are valid.

          • Strengthrequired

            TFW, the kids do become a major factor in trying to make the marriage work. I agree it’s not the only or main reason, but definitely a huge part of that decision.

    • david

      ok my story….im the stay at home dad 2 young kids yep wife forging a career yada yada a certain name keeps being mentioned the classic signs,hes a psychiatrist by the way whos 2nd wife just walked out on him(did some research psychiatrists highest divorce rate profession)ok back to the story it was my instinct coupled with very disconnecting behaviour,it was the eyes they would light up when talk about work and about an hour later “how was your day”anyway found a suspicious text to a friend referring to me sensing something confronted her my fears were confirmed and you know I don’t know how to classify it…in her words I didn’t like him,i liked him but I could never leave you and the kids,my feeling is that she had a big crush for sometime probably 18 months,when culminating this year when I guess she saw her opportunity obviously he rebuffed her as she pretty much broke down crying, that he did this to her, on our 17th anniversary,there is more to the story and probably much heavier stuff that I don’t know as her story changes and new info comes to light but yes I know im a light weight compared to you guys and my heart really goes to you all I think you are very strong women/men,
      I don’t think she understands how hurt I have been and the last 6 months I really needed her to step up to the plate to reaasure me but she couldn’t do it i needed her to literally grab me by the shirt and say its over dead and buried i want you that’s all,however all ive had is i don’t want to lose you and the kids(has really dropped away from them)bizarrely rearranged her days to align with his days i know both schedules from emails she says cant leave the medical centre as we need the money,well yes we do need the money but the family is the priority here,her behaviour since march has been strange i can remember on mothers day in may after the kids and i went to a lot of effort she was looking at the ipad and made a comment about sending this guy an email some psychiatry humor, on mothers day!!(i sat in the car outside for an hour waiting to calm down)
      i feel drained depressed and the rest since march and yes my self respect has plummeted ive noticed that she has bought me a handful of self help books,amazing,and amazingly has bought a handful of relationship advice books all of which have collected dust save for me reading them from time to time,anyway the current situation does worry me i think (many sleepless nights)that she didn’t shut the door on this situation but kept it ajar however i do feel on the mend and i am disowning the problem its not mine but hers i didn’t bring it into the house which makes me feel stronger
      lastly sry about spelling etc…pps one final point i can remember visiting her for lunch before i knew anything and i can remember the centre secretary giving me this look i look back at that now and i think that was a big sign but of course how could i pick that one up
      thanks for reading

      • theresa

        A refresher course for the betrayed.

        I come back to this once in a while when I need a kickstart. I feel this gives me some control in small bites. Helps me to refocus on what I can doi. It’s words and actions I control. No more reacting to him and his angst.
        Not painless, but necessary.

      • TheFirstWife

        Hi David. I am sorry you are in this mess and on this blog. Women and men sometimes are just plain idiots. Your wife is playing with fire.

        Being 2 years past DDay 1 and 18 months past DDay2 puts things in a different light. Also my H had an EA about 18 years ago that he only admitted to his most recent OW but never me and I suspected something all along.

        First as long as your wife is still holding out hope for this guy you are looking at a dismal situation for your marriage. She is in a fog and you are very perceptive to know you cannot reason or talk to her about this. She will not face it or admit any of it b

        Second you have rights as a spouse. You can ask her to either change jobs or her schedule. If she refuses that says a lot about her state of mind. The other guy is her priority not you.

        Third actions speak louder than words. Always remember that.

        Fourth any contact with this other guy is a violation of your marriage. Work or no work, she needs boundaries set and articulated.

        I did all of these things and my H STILL went running back to the OW in her desperate time of need. When I found out I valmly and quietly told him to leave. He refused. He loved me. Funny way of showing it. But we are still together.

        Why? Many reasons but one is HE finally ended it and realized all he did that was wrong. For 6 months he acted like I was the reason he had an affair. But when he finally faced reality he was then a person I could talk to

        As long as your wife is holding out hope for the other guy yoyr marriage is hanging by a thread.

        You need Plan B – preparing for a possible divorce. Be ready. Be prepared for the sake of the kids. I walked down that road. I was very unprepared for some of the things I would face.

        Thankfully we are together but I will never be caught or surprised like that ever again.

    • TryingHard

      What First Wife said. AND get a job, get a job, get a job. I know you have a job you’re a stay at home Dad. Yes big job, important even. Don’t do it. Biggest mistake I ever made. Get your plan B in motion and that first step is to get a job.

      • TheFirstWife

        I would suggest not getting a job until after divorce. If you get a job you could end up paying her $.

        My suggestion was just to be prepared for your sake and kids sake as well. Know you could be facing a custody battle. And long drawn out Court battle.

        I was unprepared for some aspects and glad I had a good therapist. You may need that too

        Hope it does not come to that.

        • TryingHard

          This is presuming he is going to get a divorce. If that is the case and depending on the state he lives in not working until after the divorce is a choice. A lame one but a choice. Regardless if you stay or divorce you cannot wait around until your skill set is null and void. Which happens when you’ve been out of the work force for some time. I also believe that working is good for the mind and self esteem.

          While I loved being able to be at home while my children were growing up and it was encouraged and supported by my husband doing so has cost me a lot. It is NOT worth it. Staying home and taking care of kids, unless of course one of them is ill or handicapped is a foolish choice because it always works for everyone until it doesn’t for one and then the contract changes. David has children that depend on him and while it’s good to be there for them as a parent those little buggers like to eat too 🙂 And I also assume he has gotten used to electricity, water and food as well!

          You can play that silly lawyer game of not getting employment until after a divorce but I believe the payoff is negligible not to mention humiliating. Unless she has tremendous wealth he’s going to have to work eventually if they divorce.


    • David

      Thanks for the replys u r both,thanks for yr advice

      • Strengthrequired

        David, see if you can get a job that you can do from home. Yet I do agree with trying hard. After staying home and raising the children, your skills aren’t as polished up and makes it harder to get work. I guess most of us here who are stay at home parents, raising the little ones have found out, when the working spouse cheats and threaten to leave, your whole life gets thrown in your face. You look back and see how much you have sacrificed to stay at home raising the kids, and when it comes to the crunch, and you need to get work, you are outdated. It’s like starting all over again from scratch.
        Now the working spouse, if they choose to leave, doesn’t have to worry about work, money, feeding the kids, having a roof over your head, paying for the necessaries, because they have that income, they are employable they kept working.

    • theresa

      so, when the husband falls off the wagon and jumps back into the pit, does this make it a second affair?
      Does the only once include repeated relapses with the same partner?


      is each recurrences counted as a , separate, act of betrayal?


      is this defined as multiple affairs?

      • TheFirstWife

        Yup. Multiple affairs. One or two or ten. Does not matter. Betrayal and cheating – it’s all the same.

        What is his issue or excuse now?

      • TheFirstWife

        My H cheated with an EA 18 years ago that lasted three years.

        Then in 2013 he had an EA for a few months. He ended it or she ended it but there was no contact for two months.

        And then she called in her time of need. He went running back and started his plan to leave me. So I count it as 3x that he cheated.

        Doesn’t really matter. And the one that bothers me the most is the EA from the 90s. I knew it was inappropriate and crossed the line and he gaslighted me the entire time.
        That is the one that really ticks me off. I confronted him for 12 minutes baths and he acted like I was a jealous and crazy wife. And he still denies he admitted to the most recent OW about that EA. Joke is on him. I know way too much.

        • TheFirstWife

          Should be 12 months and he gaslighted me…

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