Q & A TOPIC: Infidelity
Jean from Hyattsville, Md.:
Q: MY QUESTION IS I'VE BEEN MARRIED FOR 13 YEARS NOW AND MY HUSBAND ACTS LIKE HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE BOTHERED ANYMORE. WE USE TO MAKE LOVE AT LEAST 3 OR 4 TIMES A WEEK. NOW IT'S LIKE ONCE OR TWICE A MONTH. THE THING THAT BOTHERS ME THE MOST IS THAT MARCH OF THIS YEAR I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM THE RED ROOF INN MOTEL ASKING ABOUT YOUR STAY. SO I CALLED THEM AND TRUE ENOUGH, THE RECEPTIONIST GAVE ME HIS BIRTHDAY, LICENSE, AND ADDRESS. SINCE THEN, HE'S BEEN ACTING FUNNY. OF COURSE I ASK HIM ABOUT IT AND HE DENIED EVERYTHING. WHAT SHOULD I DO? WE HAVE AN 11YEAR OLD SON. PLEASE HELP.
A: Jean. Of course you are painting a picture of a possible affair. Whether or not this is true, focusing on the motel letter will not help you. He'll deny it and you'll only argue about it without resolution. If you're going to stay in the marriage, you need to invite your husband to begin talking with you on a more intimate level. If you don't know how to do this, then get some professional help or go to a PAIRS program near you. If you can reconnect emotionally, then you can later deal with the resentments, distrust, and underlying feelings that caused the sexual diversion. It is very likely that your marriage has long had some issues that your husband has failed to discuss with you. He may not even recognize some of his own feelings. Don't put the issue of sex first. It's the dog that wags the tail, not the other way around. - Bryce Kaye
Earl from St. Louis, Mo.:
Q: My wife and I have been married for 2 years. We were 18/19 when we married, we have 4 children, 2 still at home. About two years ago we got into the swinging lifestyle. At that time we talked and said we would only go as a couple. A few days after we did it the first time, I came home early and found her "making out " with the man next door in his driveway. This man is a notorious flirt and she said she just wanted to see how far he would go. I felt a trust had been broken. We met some other couples etc., but infrequently, mostly on my part, as I felt betrayed. A couple months ago, she met with a man, by herself, that I knew about, for sex. This started a big problem. I didn't like it and she did. This has led to her lying to me, and plans to cheat on me when I was going out of town. This would have happened if I hadn't had a feeling about it and confronted her about it. She said she may of mentioned it to him and I found out from him that all he was waiting for was the confirmation and when and where. We had argued about this and she said she loves me but likes the feeling of sexual power she gets from doing this. A couple of weeks before this happened she met him and told me she did it to break it off. I came home and she told me they had met and talked and that she felt much better telling him it had to stop. Today I found out she had done oral sex on him that day! Also she had been talking to him on the computer and today I found out she would talk to him on the phone . What else has happened that I don't know about? We talked over the weekend and she said she loves me and is going to break it off. The man sent her an e-mail and told her he was having marriage and business problems and that he is too confused right now to continue seeing her. She showed me this but not the reply she sent him. I am not proud of what I did. I broke into her private site to see if I could read it, and I did. That is where I found out about the phone calls and she told him she loved him " a little" what does that mean, a little? I feel that love is based on trust and my trust is broken. I have went through some very deep depression since all this has started. I don't know what to do or when to believe her. The last couple of days have been better for us and last night when she came in from work she was giddy and told me she realized she loved me and I love her. Then later she tells someone else she loves them. I'm lost, confused, desperate. Please help me if you can.
A: Earl. What you are finding out is what many former proponents of "open marriages" have found over the years. Playing around with sexual boundaries is dangerous to your marriage. You can't guarantee that you may stimulate compulsive behavior in either yourself or your partner. For the sake of your marriage, I would suggest that you try to negotiate strict sexual exclusivity with your wife and give up the "swinging" lifestyle. If she is unwilling to do this, you may not be able to re-work your relationship. You may have to put your marriage on the line. She is already showing signs of compulsive sexual behavior when she lies and engages in deceit. I see no other way. - Bryce Kaye
Jean from Ohio:
Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years. We lived together and were engaged but broke it off and I moved out to try and salvage our relationship. We were fighting all the time about little things...just getting on each other's nerves. He ended up cheating on me and I forgave him. Five months later we are having a terrible time putting us back together. I do not trust him but believe with time I will be able to again. The problem is he has a friend that he was romantically involved with that he is in constant contact with. I know they are just friends but I tried to tell him I am uncomfortable with their relationship right now and he said he will not give his friends up for me . He is also upset that I question him about things he does because of the trust issue. Is there any hope for us?
A: Jean. There is always hope but the real question is: Is it realistic? If your husband has not been sexual with this "friend" for quite a long time, then it might be possible that their emotionally boundaries have re-grown. However, if he has recently been involved with her, then a true friendship is unrealistic and he's be lying to himself. More importantly, does your husband show a propensity for lying and deception in other areas? If so, then you should not have much hope because he will not restore your trust. Time alone doesn't usually restore trust. Emotional intimacy plus consistent behavior over time is what really does the job.. If he is still evasive or sneaky, time alone won't do it. Answer your own question. Do you think he has it in him to be honest and consistent over time, not only with affairs but in everyday life? - Bryce Kaye
Sunni from Detroit, Michigan:
Q: I'm considering divorce. Not because I want to, just because marital repair may be too far of a reach. In a nutshell: 1) My husband is an alcoholic x 18 years, 2) I caught him having an affair over a year ago (I was pregnant at the time). He rekindled the flame he had before we met. Says he pursued her & doesn't know why. Says he fell in love with her. And distressed for months after ending it because he missed her. 3) Different sexual drives--he will let 1-2 weeks go by before attempting to have sex with me, 3) His multiple lies and deception evolving around the affair, that's over (so he says), have left me with distrust and disrespect towards him. 4) I don't feel he desires me. I am 100 pounds overweight. He's only dated slender women before. However, I was about the same weight when he married me. Sex between us was fine, until after the affair. Now it's different. I've forgiven, but I can't forget. He says the affair is over, but he doesn't make sexual advances toward me like a 'normal man would'. What do you think is going on? Is he possibly still holding a torch for his old flame & continuing the affair? Does he not have the sexual desire for me? Is he caught up in his alcoholism? Is there any hope in saving this marriage? Why did he rekindle that relationship only 2 months after we got married, things (so, I thought, were going great? When they were in a relationship, she always said no to sex with him, but after we got married, she let him have her whenever he wanted, why is that?? Help me please...I'm hurting inside.
A: Sunni. I'm sorry but your prospects are not good. Your distrust in him sounds well-founded since you say that there were multiple lies and deception evolving around the affair. A person's integrity does not change quickly and, with active alcoholism, usually don't change at all. The loss of sexual desire after marriage is a common phenomenon and is unlikely to be a direct result your husband's alcoholism. It is more likely related to your evolving roles within the marriage. These changes may have resulted in his experiencing some loss of autonomy with less psychological separateness from you. We can't know for sure but that is the leading cause for such displacement of sexual interest. - Bryce Kaye
Lynn from Malvern, Arkansas:
Q: My husband of almost 19 years had an affair with my brothers wife 4 years ago. Because we have four children, I let him come home. I haven't been comfortable with him since. Now I believe he may be having another affair but he says he isn't. Up until a week ago he would go to this woman's house while her husband and I were at work. Granted, her adult kids were there but to me it was still wrong. Then she tells her daughter that she has a crush on my husband. She also told this to my son and hers. I told her husband about all this and what I suspect. He in turn told my husband that he was still welcome at his home but only when he is home. My husband became very angry at me and told me he wanted a divorce. I agreed but he won't leave the house and I can't afford to at this time. If all this were innocent I don't believe he would have made a point of going over there while we were both at work. He also stopped asking me to go with him to their house and would get mad if I went anyway. Does this sound like an affair to you?
A: Lynn. I don't know if it's an affair but it certainly could be one. It could also be that your husband may not be totally honest about some of the emotions that are at play even though sex has not technically occurred. In any case, it's not smart after all that has happened. I'm sorry you're in such a rotten predicament. - Bryce Kaye
Gemma from Melbourne, Australia:
Q: I guess it started when after a year, I fell in love with another man on ICQ. I have been married 12 years, where I thought I was happy... Anyway this guy that I fell in love with is also married and lives o/seas. There is no future in the relationship but now am finding myself very unhappy with what I have. I have sought other men and have been intimate with them. It means nothing really, just an ego boost I think. I do think my husband is a great father and husband... just I don't love him anymore and wondering what I should do. We have two young children 10 and 8, but want to know if I can find the love back or would I be happier by myself. We are planned to move to see if that might help our situation, closer into town, more neighbors and more things for me to do.. I am so lonely and depressed lately I m not sure what to do.. Any comments will help.. Thank you.
A: Gemma. It sounds as if you are acting out your emptiness in desperate ways. I believe you when you say that that you don't love your husband right now. I also believe that you don't know how to resolve your loneliness. Emotional intimacy is probably missing between you and your husband and it is probably not just his responsibility. Since you're taking risks outside the relationship, why not take more risks within the relationship? You could start by sharing your sense of desperation and loneliness. You could talk about how you feel about yourself, the direction of your life, and what you feel you need from a life companion in the future. You might as well shake things up in a constructive way because your recent behavior indicates that you will otherwise probably be blowing up the relationship through more destructive means.. Also, please consider the radical idea of marriage counseling. - Bryce Kaye
C.B. from Weaver, Alabama:
Q: ME AND MY WIFE HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 12.5 YEARS. WE HAVE ONE BOY AND ONE GIRL. WE GOT MARRIED AT A VERY YOUNG AGE. SO IN THE BEGINNING I DID NOT SPEND ENOUGH TIME WITH HER AND SHOW HER THE LOVE SHE NEEDED. SO SHE STARTED SEEING SOMEONE ELSE. SHE HAD A VERY SHORT AFFAIR. THIS HAPPENED IN 1990 BUT I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS UNTIL 1996 WHEN SHE TOLD ME ABOUT IT. I HAVE GOT PAST THAT SOMEWHAT. IT STILL BOTHERS ME SOMETIMES. I LOVE HER SO MUCH BUT IM HAVING A REAL TOUGH TIME TRUSTING HER EVEN THOUGH SHE HAS NOT GIVEN ME ANY REASON NOT TO TRUST HER AND ITS TEARING US APART. WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST I DO TO GET PAST ALL THIS ?
A: C.B. I would suggest that you focus on deepening the emotional intimacy in your marriage. You do this by learning to listen every more carefully to how she feels and you ask her questions and get her to expand upon what she says. You will have more trust if you know a great deal about her passions and how she views the world . Time alone does not restore trust. However, if you know that your wife shares with you her most heartfelt emotions, then you are likely to have alot of trust.. If you have to evaluate your wife from the outside from her behavior alone, then trust will be hard to build. - Bryce Kaye
Bianca from Marysville, Ca.:
Q: I'm 21 and My husband is 24. We've been married less than a year. He's military & while he was based in Saudi Arabia (for three months), I got drunk & let a man give me a massage, which turned into him pleasuring me manually, nothing more. I was honest & told my husband the very next time we talked. He was crushed. We talked it out and he forgave me, so I thought and returned home 2 weeks later. It's now been six months & he's still punishing me. He doesn't trust me at all. He's controlling, and extremely jealous of any male I interact with. What hurts most is he's emotionally cold, gives me no affection, & has lost interest in sex. I hate to belittle my wrong doing, but it was only once and we didn't have sex. He treats me like I had an ongoing affair. His last serious girlfriend cheated on him, so I feel all this behavior is linked to how much I hurt him, & his fear of it happening again. Also, he regards himself as a real "tough" "cool" "macho" man, so I've hurt his image. I love him deeply, I know we both want to save our marriage, but what can we do? I feel like I'm the only one trying, I communicate my needs, I need to get him over this. Help?
A: Bianca. Part of the trouble is that your husband may have felt violated and victimized. For a macho man, this may feel a bit like being raped and can be quite a blow to the ego. If this was the only instance, I would suggest that you try to talk to him about what you learned about your own loss of control. You should have learned that alcohol is a terrible dis-inhibitor and can get you into trouble, especially in situations where your hungry and tempted. I would suggest that you not trouble him with asking for his forgiveness over and over. He's entitled to have his hurt feelings. You may try an unexpected move by suggesting to him that you accept that he may have hurt feelings for a good while. Then you can tell him what you will do differently on your end in the future (including how you handle alcohol). - Bryce Kaye
Deb from Texarkana, Texas:
Q: I recorded my husband's telephone calls and found out he was cheating. I asked him to be honest and tell me how long he has had an affair and he said 1 year. Sex, dating and gifts were included in this affair. He tells me that it is over but some days he acts as if he is cheating again. How can I tell if he is going to be sincere?
A: Deb. There's no science in knowing for sure. However, if there's even a continuation of even mild lying, he's probably going to be cheating again on a larger scale, in the present or the future. If he is very forthcoming about his feelings involved in the affair and allows you to ask questions, that's a good sign but, again, there's no guarantee. - Bryce Kaye
Christy from Albertville, Al.:
Q: My husband and I have been married for 11 years. His job requires him to be out of town a lot. I feel that our time apart from each other has made us grow apart from one another. I get very lonesome when he is gone. He mostly works on the weekends. So, while all my married friends are going places and doing things with their spouses, I am stuck at home. I recently met someone over the internet. We have seen each other and have been intimate. I have told my husband. He is so hurt, but wants me to stay. But I don't feel like I can. I feel that we are so distant. I don't know if I can ever make love to my husband again. I don't feel that it is right for him or me. It will never be the same. The man that I am seeing doesn't want to see me anymore until I am divorced. I don't know what to do. Do I throw 11 years of marriage out the door? Even though I don't feel the same towards my husband or do I stay and be miserable? I need help. Christy
A: Christy. The choice is yours to make, not mine. However, I would say that your ability to evaluate your feelings in your current triangle are hopelessly muddied by your relationship with the third party. It is entirely possible that your feelings toward your husband could change for the positive over time if your husband worked with you AND if you eliminated the other relationship ABSOLUTELY.
It also sounds as if you let yourself get very underpowered within the relationship with your husband. How is it that you stuck yourself at home, unlike your friends, just because your spouse was gone on the weekends? I'm not saying that a relatively absent spouse is a good situation. What I'm saying is that you paint a picture of yourself as having been demobilized at home more than was necessary.
If you had been out and about doing creative things in your husband's absence, you may still have come to the conclusion that it all wasn't working. My own preference for handling that type of situation is to take anger and direct it within the relationship, not act it out by violating marital sexual boundaries. When a spouse is terribly absent, it's a good idea to grab them by the lapels (figuratively speaking), give them a good shake, and tell them to wake up and work with you before you have to seek a divorce and get out of Dodge.
In your current situation, you're also not in a good position to start a relationship with a new partner. This is obviously true because you haven't left your husband and some the dynamic of your relationships sounds like your loneliness. Christy, whatever you do, do it cleanly. You need to be un-distracted by any third party whenever you work on a relationship. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Kate from Pennsylvania:
Q: My husband has cheated on me with women in the past, but always denied it. Now I find him emailing another woman and talking filthy with her. He swears he is not cheating and even called her and made me talk to her. She e-mailed me and asked me to call her to talk. Should I do this? My husband has been and still is abusive (physically).
A: Kate. I will not make that decision for you. Just think through what you expect to be the likely consequence and benefit of making the call. Will it likely get you what you want? The bigger issue is that your husband is still physically abusive. I would suggest that you explore CoDA (look on our links page) and get some outside assistance for your situation which sounds inherently shame- inducing. - Bryce Kaye
Jo from New Brunswick, NJ:
Q: My husband and I have lived abroad for the past nine years. Due to family circumstances I had to leave to come home to be with my son who needed me. My husband and I have now been separated for over three years. During the second year of our separation my husband suddenly started to have negative feelings about our relationship. I later found out that he had an affair with one of his co-workers. During the past year he has been in and out of the marriage. First he wants a divorce, then he relents because he still loves me. He goes good for a couple of weeks and then he starts to get negative all over again. He makes commitments to the marriage and tells the children and myself how much he loves us and wants to work things out (we have two teenagers) and then weeks later he starts talking about negative feelings, such as he loves me but he is not in love with me, or that being together with me is fine but that something is missing. I found out that he keeps in touch with the co-worker even though she is no longer based in that office and that she regularly goes back to visit. He swears that it is over, that it was not going to work and yet he will not commit one way or the other to the marriage. He recently agreed to see a therapist to figure himself out (after I have begged him to do so for over a year). I have visited with him for the last three months and with ,the combination of the therapist and my being there, the relationship was wonderful. We were almost back to the old footing. I have since returned and four weeks later I get the same negative reaction. Please tell me what to do. Is this a relationship that I should stay in or should I just walk away. I love my husband very much and we have been together for twenty-five years.
A: Jo. I suggest that you look very hard at the fact that you describe that the relationship does well when you're living together for awhile and that your husband gets funny when you're not. What would that suggest to you about strategies for marital improvement? What options can you invent based upon what you have learned from this time series experiment (of sometimes being together and sometimes being apart)? - Bryce Kaye
Joe from Jacksonville, Fl.:
Q: Hello- My wife and I have been together for 9 years. Married for 5. I was on a business trip a few months ago and met another woman. Nothing happened with her except for a kiss. I could not stop thinking about her so I contacted her. After 2 months of e-mails and phone conversations we decided to get together. I lied to my wife to go see this woman. I had a good time, but it was not about sex. It seemed like so much more. When I came home, my wife confronted me and I told her what had happened. She moved out and I will be calling for some counseling. The problem that I am having is that my wife wants me to cut off all ties with this woman immediately. I think there may be some very strong feelings for this woman. How can I not call this woman if I may have some feelings for her? Should I not learn how I feel before ending it all? What if I have the "what ifs" in the back of my mind during any recovery my wife and I may have? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
A: Joe. You are making a classic mistake. First, let me say that MOST PEOPLE are capable of developing strong feelings of attraction for others outside of their marriage. That includes myself. However, I don't act on those feelings such as participating in a kiss. As a matter of fact, when those feelings start occurring, the next thing I do is to go and talk about them with my wife. (She's rather worldly and understands such things because she can share her attractions for others with me). The important thing is that we don't feed extramarital passion through covert or irresponsible behavior. What I'm trying to communicate is that infatuation passion is frequent but relatively cheap. It's exciting but really no great thing. The good stuff is sentimental loving based upon honesty, respect, as well as risk taking to keep the marital relationship lively and exciting. Affairs are initially much MORE exciting and can stay that way only if the person is relatively unobtainable. But when people become exclusively committed to the person they had the affair with, the strong passion will almost always fade with time. Don't become an infatuation junky. And if you decide to really work on the relationship, you will absolutely need to cut ALL ties with the third party. - Bryce Kaye
Depressed from Louisiana:
Q: We've been married for only 2-1/2 yrs and have two children, ages 2 and 4. He's a good father and he tells me how beautiful I am constantly, how much he loves me, etc. The problem is that I cannot trust him. Six months ago, I made the mistake of reading his e-mail and found out that while out of town on a business trip, he and a co-worker met two woman in a bar, spent the entire night drinking and talking with them, then ended up at ones apartment. They stayed there all night (supposedly b/c they were all too drunk to drive home) and he and the co-worker went back to their hotel in the a.m. He claims that he doesn't remember anything about that night- he thinks they kissed, but that is all. He also says that he had no clue where he was when he woke up that morning, and that he never planned on talking to her again. As far as I know, he has not talked to this woman. But, just this past month, I have found him reading personal ads online and receiving pictures/e-mails from other women, some local. I can't seem to get him to understand that this is ruining our marriage and our family. I tried giving him an ultimatum. He has never really apologized, but has only said that I am the only one he wants, and he doesn't want to break up our family. I suggested counseling, but he basically ignores my input. If all this is not enough, we recently went out with some friends and it turns out that after dropping me off (I felt sick) he paged an old girlfriend at 12:30 am. Our friends went home at midnight, so he was alone at a bar when he paged her. Why is he doing this? Why can't he understand that I can't take this anymore. I know that I could never survive financially without him, but I don't want to go through this forever. His father left his mother for another woman, so I am thinking that his view on commitment is not so good. What can I do to fix my marriage? Should I get out now, or is there hope? Please help!
A: Dear Depressed, I don't know why he's doing this. It doesn't sound like what he's doing has anything to do with you. It may be that he's compulsively dependent upon women. I don't know. I do know that your best course would be to get into some intensive marital therapy fairly quickly. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Isis from Medford, NY:
Q: How would you know if someone is keeping in contact with a lover from the past?
A: Isis, I suppose you mean someone such as your partner in a committed relationship. - And I suppose you mean keeping in touch deceitfully. If this is what you're asking, then I would do this: 1) Look at their eyes. 2) Ask them and keep looking at their eyes. 3) Notice how they react. 4) Ask myself if they have any history of lying to me, and 5) Take my best guess from the data I've just obtained. If your partner has any history of tell you lies of convenience, then that's the greater problem anyway. - Bryce Kaye
Rich from Holyoke, Ma."
Q: DR., MY WIFE AND I HAVE HAD MANY PROBLEMS. I'M VERY CONTROLLING AND JEALOUS AND THIS HAS PUSHED HER TO THE EDGE. ABOUT A WEEK AGO SHE TOLD ME SHE NEEDED TO GET AWAY WITH A FRIEND (LADY FRIEND). MY REACTION WAS POSITIVE TWO DAYS AGO I FIND OUT THIS 4 DAY TRIP IS REALLY SET UP FOR HER AND A GUY NAMED TOM. THE HOTEL CALLED TO CONFIRM THE STAY. I TOOK THIS CALL (3 NIGHTS TWO PEOPLE KING SIZE BED). I TALKED TO HER AND SHE TOLD ME HE WAS JUST A FRIEND AND THE ROOM WAS A MISTAKE. SHE SAID THE CHANGE WOULD BE MADE TO TWO BEDS. THE PURPOSE FOR THE ONE ROOM IS COST ONLY. I SPOKE TO THIS PERSON WHO IS A FRIEND OF MY WIFE'S FROM THE PAST (NO RELATIONSHIP) WHO I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT AND HE SAID THE SAME THING. I'VE ASKED MY WIFE NOT TO GO WITH HIM BUT GO ALONE. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
A: I think that the circumstances are awfully suspicious even if you are "very controlling and jealous." You are essentially telling me that she sold you on this trip with a lie: She needed to get away with a lady friend. The reality is that it was for a man and a single bed was booked. What am I supposed to think? - Bryce Kaye
Pamela from Orlando, Fla.:
Q: I was in a marriage with an alcoholic for 23 years. I have three beautiful daughters from this marriage. About 8 years ago, my husband left us. I was devastated. I promised that I would never look at a man again. I met him. After my divorce, George asked me to date him. After 4 months of begging, I began to see George. We fell in love and married in October. In December, I received a phone call from a woman who said she was having an affair with my husband. It was true--he was with her for the past 8 months. He moved out due to his unhappiness. I was devastated. We live in an area where everyone knows everyone else's business. After a month, George returned again to try it again. I had a difficult time of forgetting and forgiving. I felt that George felt no remorse. He said it was time to forget and move on. We didn't get along. George found time for everything but me. He went to bowl one night and never returned,. It has been five weeks! I was only married for 5 months. He left all of his clothes and belongings here. What do I do and why do I still love him? When I come home from work, I look for his truck each day. I think I hear it in the driveway. I am so lonely and depressed. Help me with a suggestion. Thank you.
A: Pamela, your story is a sad one. Please do yourself a favor and get into a peer support group such as Codependents Anonymous or some other women's consciousness group. You sound very lonely and probably too underpowered in your relationships with men. Also, don't settle on remorse from George. It sounds that, even if he's remorseful, George will probably have other disappointments in store for you. Protect yourself. - Bryce Kaye
Ann from Syracuse, NY:
Q: Hello, I would like to start out with the fact that I suffer from severe depression. Most of the time it is controlled by medications. The last year, I have been having some major flare up's due to serious health issues. I was hospitalized for 6 weeks for the health problems. I have been with my husband 9 years and married 4 years. I ended up having an affair that lasted 4 months. That is something I would normally never do and think maybe it had to do with the depression. I am so ashamed of what I did but I am learning to forgive myself. My husband found out and filed for divorce. We did a lot of talking, some marriage counseling, and he did forgive me. We decided to work on our marriage because we both really love each other and cancelled the divorce papers. I also have a 9 y.o. son that my husband has raised since he was 4 months old. My husband was not comfortable with the marriage counseling so we only went about 5 times then worked on things at home. Things were much better and we both were really happy for a few months. I am still going to counseling right now to help me deal with all these issues and for the depression.
I have noticed over the last month or so that my husband is not happy. I thought it was due to the fact that I am going through a major depressive episode right now and I am not the happiest person to live with right now. I am working with my psychiatrist on switching medications. I asked my husband last night why he seems so unhappy. He then told me, he was not happy with me, he can't forgive or forget the affair. It has been 5 months since the affair ended. He said he loves me but not how he should, he is not sure if he wants to work on things or if he is still attracted to me. I asked him why he let it go on so long with out telling me and he said he did not want to hurt me. He said he doesn't want a divorce but said he is very depressed because of all these feelings he is having. He doesn't want to be around me. He said he will go see my counselor with me but is not sure if he wants to keep trying to make the marriage better. This all completely shocked me, I knew things weren't perfect but I did not know he felt this way. I am very devastated right now. I love him and want the marriage to work. Do I give him space or do I try to continue to show affection for him? I am very confused and scared right now. Do many marriages survive an affair? Sorry this is so long but I wanted you to have the whole "picture". Thank You.
A: Yes Anne, many marriages do survive an affair although most of them do not recover to comfort levels within a year. That's too soon for most. It's also unrealistic to expect your husband to restore full trust and eliminate his shame so quickly. The issue is not forgiving. There are really two issues: The first is trust and the second is shame. He should logically not have full trust in you until he sees that you are in some way profoundly different than the person you were when you had the affair. This would best be accomplished not in marriage counseling per se but by involving him, from time to time, in your own therapy. As you come to face the likely personal deficits that enabled your affair, you may share with him your own discovery and reintegration. The second issue is his shame. Don't underestimate this. Part of him may be wondering why his life turned out to involve such an unanticipated symbol of being unloved. Again, this can be shared in conjoint sessions involving your therapist. I would still recommend involving him only episodically with your therapist since it sounds like you need a strong focus on your own issues as well as a clearer understanding of your own affair. In my experience, marriage counseling that focuses on communication will not delve deeply enough into your personality or depression issues. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Debbie from Michigan:
Q: I have been married to my husband for about five years now, But we have been together for 10 years total. I had an affair about 4 years ago, but even though my husband says he forgave me he'll bring it up today. He says he loves me and that I am the only one for him, but he can not forget the past enough for us to be happy now. I feel as if I have been paying for this mistake everyday now for four years. Will he ever forget? I have recently filed for a divorce. It is not what I want but with three children it is hard for them to hear us arguing all the time. Confused, please advise.
A: Debbie, the issue is not forgiveness. Forgiveness is usually too shallow. Your husband will need to deal with the probable shame that lingers from having such an unanticipated symbol of being unloved. I'm not saying that that's reality, only that many man will receive an affair as such a symbol. I strongly recommend that you both seek some counseling together that can focus in on why you had the affair and how you are different (and incapable of such) today. Until he can see this, it would not be logical to totally disregard it. I would also recommend that part of the package include a firm agreement that the past affair not be used as artillery during arguments. - Bryce Kaye
Wynsome55 from Largo, Maryland:
Q: Help. I have been married and in what I thought was a good relationship for over 20 years. I recently confronted my husband about my suspicions about his infidelity. He says his conscience began bothering him and he wanted to come clean that he has been unfaithful once again. This time he has been having an affair with the same person for the past two years. I knew from his behavior that he was into something, but I guess naively I had hoped his promise from the last time was enough to change things between us. We both still have feelings for each other, but although I love him, the lack of trust, respect and commitment that I have prevents me from putting this behind me. We have a 13 year old daughter whose feelings about her father's behavior has been deeply shattered. My husband has never really apologized. He just says that he's sorry that he hurt us and that he doesn't want to lose his family. He has not talked to our daughter about this, is estranged from his family because they are really upset over his behavior, so he avoids them. I guess I just don't think he has shown any real remorse, just attempts to avoid the problem. We don't argue or fight, nor are we hostile to each other, but I have stated in no uncertain terms that I think this time, we need to deal with this problem in some type of therapy if we are to survive, move beyond the problem or end the marriage. I know that he feels guilty, but I don't want guilt to keep him with us. He knows that I am very capable of taking care of my daughter and me financially. He on the other hand, right now may need us more financially that we depend on him. He has sort of hinted that he might want to talk with a therapist but he is not going to make the first move, I know this! I on the other hand, will move to locate a therapist, but I don't know who I should see and is it affordable, covered by insurance or what. Can you help me.
A: Wynsomme55: Don't shoot for guilt or remorse from your husband. Those are cheap commodities and of little security to you if you got them. Of far more value would be regret and sadness over lost opportunities and lost personal integrity. When your husband wants fidelity for the sake of preserving his own openness and spirituality, that would be a much more stable foundation upon which to rebuild a relationship. An apology is really a cheap cop-out without having to do the work.
Different insurance plans handle relationship problems differently. You would have to call your insurance company to see if they handle such. Other than that , you can ask your friends who they might recommend as a family or marital counselor. You want one who has knowledge in personality theory, not just one who focuses on communication skills alone. Your husband's behavior is not just about communication but about his own emotional development. You may also ask about Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous in your area. However, your husband does not sound like he's even close to considering that he has a real problem with his own integrity. Separation might be a viable option if there's no movement in therapy. - Bryce Kaye
Margaret from Rockport, Iowa:
Q: I have husband of 30 years. He cannot stay faithful. What causes this? There's a new woman at least every two years. Can this be changed? I am afraid for my well being as he does not use save sex .
A: Margaret. It sounds as if you are very under-powered in your relationship. I am concerned that you are afraid. I would encourage you to do whatever you can to protect yourself, starting with use of condoms if you are still going to have sex with him. However, I suspect that you do not feel like you can assert yourself very well or may not even feel safe if you try. Check out to see if there's a Codependents Anonymous in your area. They may be in your phone book. I would recommend that you join a self-help group so that you can begin to extract yourself from the victim role you appear to be in. - Bryce Kaye
Ray from Vancouver, Washington:
Q: We've been married 15 years. I have never been in any relationship other than my wife for our entire marriage. Over 2 years ago someone from my office made an anonymous phone call to my wife saying there was something going on between me and a coworker. Although it was totally untrue it shattered her. She believes there must be some truth to it and wants me to confess to something that never happened. I have been able to drag her in to counseling on a couple of different occasions, but she will never go back. She told me a couple of days ago that she will go back to find out why she can't get over this. I know she won't actually go back. I love my wife and family, but I don't know how long I can continue when there is no trust in our relationship. She questions me constantly on where I was, who was I with, what were you doing? I'm constantly being interrogated. Every female I encounter at work or casually she thinks there is the possibility of something going on between us. Help!
A: Ray. My guess is that there's a lot more to it than appears. I'm not saying you had an affair. What I am saying is that your wife's distrust is unusual. I would be curious about why she has so much distrust that she can't blow off the information. Could it be her own past traumas of betrayal? - Or could it be your own lack of awareness of when you rationalize little diversions from vigorous honesty (e.g. little distortions of which you are unaware). I can't tell from my eagle's nest here but if I were you, I would be curious. The issue is deeper than you present. It is really about the nature of the trust that you and she built up before the incident happened. - Bryce Kaye
Sabrina from Winfield, Mo
Q: I have been in a relationship for 1 1/2 years. Occasionally Toni goes to get together with a few people that she works with. Last weekend she did not come home until 4:30 in the morning. The next week she told me that she had been to someone's house and they had kissed. She said she was drunk (which is not an excuse), but said that she thought she was just curious. We have cried over this situation and Toni tells me that she loves me and wants to stay in this relationship. How do I get past this, and how can I ever trust again. And How do I get the visions out of my head. - Red eyes
A: Dear Sabrina, the prognosis is good. You need to respect that your partner has tried to be honest with you. Alcohol can be a dis-inhibiter and it is not uncommon for partners to have some sexual attraction toward others. I suggest that you and she discuss what plan she has to make sure that she doesn't put herself in a similar situation again while intoxicated. Trust is restored by consistency over time. Give her the chance. - Bryce Kaye
Mark from Minnesota:
Q: I am 14 yrs old and I have just found out that my mom has been having an affair with a guy. I couldn't understand why she would do this. Then I found out that my parents have been having marital problems for about two years. My dad is the kinda shy, stubborn type, who thinks he can work out problems without help. So he hasn't really tried very much until about 6 months ago when he found out his mother has Liver cancer and doesn't have very long to live. He has been telling me and my older sister to do everything we can to help my mother and not to quarrel like we always use to do. My mom told me and her after we found out about this affair with this guy (who also is the cross country ski coach at our school) that she has tried to fix things but nothing has worked so she has just "given up" on trying to repair their relationship. They have talked about going to get counseling but neither of them act on it. I am really worried that they won't try to get help before it's too late. That's why I decided that I have to go and do something. What do you think about this "Marital problem? Thanx Mark
A: Mark, I thinks it's sad - AND - I think it's their responsibility, not yours. However, I understand your fear. You love them both and don't want to see them fall out for good. It sounds like they've considered marriage counseling so there's nothing you can do for them. They're adults and make their own choices. As for you, Mark. Try to see if your school offers any kind of counseling. Not that a school counselor will fix your situation but he/she can help you from internalizing guilt or shame while your parents stay stuck. Good luck. - Bryce Kaye
Julie from Florida:
Q: A month ago, I found e-mails that were quite suggestive addressed to my husband and one that he responded to that was, in his typical fashion, my husband is a flirt! When I approached him about these e-mails, I was first told they were business, when he could not point out the business part, he blew the question off. I continued to ask and was told they were "part-business", then "playful" and they "just bull". He denied knowing what some of the things discussed in them meant only for me to find out that it meant that they had gone out drinking together..."business mostly" his excuse was he did not want this to cause trouble in our marriage as this woman name had already been associated with his brother, 17 years his junior. I am told that this is not open for discussion and further, that he loves me, wants our marriage and had no "emotional or physical" attachment to this woman. Question 1 is, could my husband be competing with his younger brother to see if he could attract this woman's attention from him (my husband is 55 this year) and they are an extremely competative family.? #2 is there a reason that some men "need" to flirt and be "flirted" with even in what is considered a "solid" marriage? And finally, how does someone overcome the hurt and the mistrust of being lied to for more than 6 months. I failed to mention that my husband and his brother met this woman in our clubs workout room and that they are both very obsessed with their outward appearance, as is she. Too, this woman lost her own marriage fooling around on her husband and has been known to flirt heavily with "married" men. I have attempted to send this before and, obviously you did not receive it. Please help, I am at a loss as to what to think and how to proceed or even whether to try... 14 years of flirting is a long time! Thanking you in advance... Julie
A: Dear Julie, you really have a bunch of questions here. So let me get to work. First, I have no idea and I should not pretend to know whether competition or some other factor is motivating your husband. The more important question is whether or not you will believe your own eyes and ears. The issue is not whether or not your husband loves you. The real issue is whether or not your husband loves truth and consistency. If you know for a fact that your husband has lied to you for his convenience even a few times, then he is probably lying and concealing other behaviors.
Your question about whether some men "need" to flirt involves a complex issue. Most men need to be seen as sexual beings but that doesn't mean that they have to "flirt". If "flirting " means sexually provocative talk, then the answer is "no." That would not be in keeping with maintaining healthy protective boundaries around the marriage. If "flirting" means enjoying playful conversation and attention without sexual references, then you would have to consider that to be within the bounds of marital fidelity. It sounds as if you are reading e-mails that indicate that there's sexual material being communicated. Not good. The fact that he's blowing you off so much indicates that there's a real lack of respect for your boundaries. It also sounds as if you may be underpowered in that relationship. Consider involving yourself in a woman's support group because you may do better with some support from the outside. - Bryce Kaye
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