Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Decisions after husband's affair(26 Posts)
I need advice please! 4.5 months ago my husband told me he had met someone else, was in love with her and was moving out, leaving me after 12 years of marriage and our 2 DSs. I was completely shocked and devastated. Although I kew our marriage hadn't been perfect for a while, I would ahve described it as average. We talked a lot that weekend and decided that we should give ourselves time before coming to any major decisions. (Thanks to Mumsnetters, I got Shirley Glass' book pronto and that was incredibly helpful) We have been to Relate and had an amazing counsellor there who really helped us to understand the issues we had been having in our marriage (not communicating, harbouring grudges and resentment, not being honest with each other about our feelings and not making time for each other etc) My husband has done everything I have asked him to do since he told me about the affair and that is kind of the problem. He has done exactly as asked but hasn't taken the initiative on anything, i.e. I organised Relate; a babysitter so we could have nights out; for the kids to go away so we could have a weekend away etc. I feel we have started to resolve our relationship issues but he hasn't even looked at himself to see why he took this course of action. We have now got to the point where the shock has worn off and I feel able to sensibly evaluate where we are at and whether our marriage is worth continuing. I do love him but could never go through this again and am concerned that he hasn't done enough to guarantee that (as is ever possible). Is his lack of interest in addressing his problems indicative of his lack of regard for our marriage? He has been a total numbskull throughout this with absolutely no ability to empathise and despite him finally understanding the importance of being open and honest, he doesn't seem capable of actually tapping in to his feelings and sharing them. I really feel that I need an outsider's perspective on how this all looks. I would love for him to suggest that he goes to counselling alone now but although we talked about it a while ago he hasn't addressed it again and I think if I don't he won't either. He really just wants it all to go away and I am getting tired of being the one to raise it as for me it isn't over yet by a long way. How can I get him to acknowledge what he has done and risked and take action to prevent it happening again? I feel that I have more than pulled my weight. Wow, I sound whingy!
Hi there, I would say proceed with caution. What happened to the OW? Where is she now? How were things left? I had a very similar situation with XH, we went to Relate, the works, but he never really seemed to be trying. I later found out that OW had been in the background all along.
Sorry to sound negative, but it was all so obvious when I look back on it- I just didn't want to believe it at the time. Have you got any concerns in this area?
And, don't think you need to forgive, forget and move on immediately. The best way to move on is to deal with it all now, ask any questions you need to, and feel totally reassured that you can trust him again. That can never be a quick proces after such a big betrayal.
OP - Sometimes it's very easy to carry on enabling the same behaviours by carrying on as before. So if you are organising the counselling etc, he knows he doesn't have to. You need to go a step further and get his buy-in to HIM organising stuff and being active. If you just carry on forcing everything yourself, then nothing will change. If he can't commit to actively participating in the change and solution, or he does commit but then does not act on it, then you have your answer.
It does sound as if you've put all the effort in and aren't getting much back. You've handled this brilliantly and have really put a lot of work into your marriage and tried to examine the underlying causes of the affair and put into place changes...but he hasn't done much at all. That must be really hurtful for you, since he was the one who had the affair. The wanting it all to go away attitude is ridiculous- that's not how real life works, actions have consequences and when you hurt someone you try and make it up to them. It's incredibly unfair for you to have to try and do everything to save your marriage while all he has to do is agree to suggestions.
Here's the thing: you can only do so much if the other person isn't making the effort. If he's not showing any initiative, change in mentality or even making any gestures to apologise for the affair then it doesn't sound as if he's even very sorry or bothered about what he's done. The lack of introspection and remorse really bothers me.
It's like you have a house that you both let into a bit of a state, he then takes a sledgehammer and smashes it up and now you're going around with hammer and nails putting it all back together again.
He still works with the OW but in different depts and he does tell me (I think) whenever he has seen her or had to have contact with her. I had no input into the ending of the relationship which actually seemed to take quite a while longer than it took him to try to end ours (grrr!) but I do believe it is over. He has relaxed a lot more and is very acccountable for his whereabouts at the moment (although he managed the affair without a single night away which is what threw me from guessing). I think I am posting because as you say, PJF, his lack of introspection and remorse bother me too. It seems that you can't force that though (or can you?). Reading other posts it seems that it occurs gradually to men that they could have blown everything. And as my dh seems incapable of revealing any feelings at all, I'm not sure I'd even notice. I suppose what I want is a hand-wringing, chest-beating, tear-drenched apology complete with self-character assassination and a continual pleading, begging to be allowed to stay - is that too much to ask?! Inthe meantime, I am wondering whether I should suggest some time apart to allow him time to think what it is he wants - a terrifying prospect but one I could live with.
Difficult. Is he just the 'type' of manfor whom things happen slowly/under the surface and needs time in which to make internal changes and forcing his hand will just force him away? Or is he just lazy, happy in retrospect not to be handling a divorce, happy to let things ride and potentially start down the same dishonest path in future?
I am very much a person who likes to deal with things by confrontation. DH probably came under the 'silent but deep' type in the past and felt things very deeply whilst hating talking about them. But equally he probably couldn't have coped with an affair precisely because he is quite sensitive, though didn't show his emotions much.
So I think putting the ball in your husband's court is probably the best way forward. Either to call his bluff or to tease out some of these internal workings you can't get a handle on at the mo. Asking for a time out seems a fairly unconfrontational route. I probably would phrase it very much as for his benefit - dont say you need to feel he's committed for example - just in case he is some kind of sensitive silent type.
Final question is: do you care if you do force him away? It sounds like you actually have moved on quite a lot and would like a different kind of relationship that he possibly can't give you.
I do think that things do change slowly for him and that all of this has shocked him almost as much as me. It took weeks at Relate for him to understand that showing no reaction to good or bad things was not acceptable and that he had to allow me to see what he was feeling. I know he understands that now but he still doesn't seem able to actually do it. To be honest, I think my asking him to leave temporarily would be a way for me to see how bothered he is or isn't. I couldn't have contemplated this a few weeks ago but I think I do now need to know where he stands. I'm not sure this is the most sensible way though but I'm getting SO tired of being the one to initiate conversations, suggest ideas etc. It's all such hard work. I do want our relationship to work but only if we're both in it together which I'm not currently convinced about.
I think the process of writing down your OP has identified the real problem for you.
This had less to do with your relationship and far more to do with what is inside your H.
It's a common but understandable mistake after an affair to concentrate on the relationship, but so often it turns out that this wasn't the real cause of the affair at all.
You've been making all the efforts, no doubt because at least part of you decided you were at fault for the affair, but hopefully you're realising now that you have been driving down a blind alley.
This wasn't your fault and the relationship on its own didn't cause this.
Ambivalence like you've found in your H normally points to two things - either a continuing relationship with the OW or the likelihood that no matter how good your relationship, this will happen again.
I think it would be an excellent move to ask him to move out and fight for you.
Can I ask: has he ever seemed emotional over what he's done? Given you an apology that seemed sincere and remorseful for hurting you? Paid much attention to what you must be feeling and your perspective when he decided to stay?
It seems as if he decided to stay and work at your relationship but you don't say much about his feelings for you and where you come into this. It's important to work at "the relationship" but there are also two individuals in it and you are one of them- you need to heal as well and you deserve a proper apology and to have this made up to you in some way as well.
He has apologised but not to the extent that I would think was appropriate. He seems completely unable to handle this unless and until I tell him what to do, which he then does do (calls home if going to be late, hasn't stayed away etc) I don't think this is for my benefit - he genuinely seems non-plussed (bit of a worry!) To him, he messed up badly but it's a long time over now - can't we move on? I don't want to until I'm sure he knows how he got himself into this predicament but I'm not sure he is capable of exploring that on his own and I'm not qualified - sounds like I'm talking myself into pushing the counselling again or should I finally sit back and see if he does it himself? (snowball's chance in hell, I think)
I totally agree with TheScenicRailway. It is a very common mistake to believe that affairs only happen in unhappy marriages, and for the betrayed spouse to shoulder most of the blame - even when s/he is not to blame at all. Your DH has to realise that he has to prove to you, and more importantly to himself that he has taken responsibility for what he has done, and that he is doing everything to ensure that it won't happen again. Putting his head in the sand and wishing it was all over/had never happened, just isn't enough. As TSR says, he needs to fight to keep you, and he needs to be honest with himself about his motivation for having the affair and the efforts he intends to make to prevent it from recurring.
Because, IME, if he doesn't do that, it will inevitably happen again.
"I suppose what I want is a hand-wringing, chest-beating, tear-drenched apology complete with self-character assassination and a continual pleading, begging to be allowed to stay"
I could say the very same thing, IIWAB. You sound a lot like me, and your H like mine (and we are 10 months into attempting to salvage our marriage). So sorry you're going through this too. Does he tell you he loves you, that it is you he wants? What has happened to the feelings he had for OW?
He does say he loves me (but then he told her that too so I don't set too much store by it) and he says that although he thought his feelings for her were genuine, he realises that it could have been almost anyone. He hasn't said why though - not sure he knows really. Any ideas on how to get him to have some insight into himself and his motivations and should that really be my job anyway? Think if I do nothing, neither will he, mistakenly thinking that all is well.
I think being truthful is the best option here. Why not tell him what you have told us? Namely that you don't feel that he wants to save the marriage because it seems to be you that is doing all the running in terms of arranging counselling etc. Tell him that is not enough for him just to simply do what you ask him to do. It is about him showing to you that he positively wants to be with you and by implication that he is truly sorry for what he has done. If he thinks he can passively sit in the doghouse and wait for things to blow over, he has another thing coming.
That would be my message and believe me, if he has genuinely ended his affair, he will be shit scared of losing you as well.
It took me a long time and a lot of counselling to work out why I cheated on my DH. In fact it was a second affair that made me realise that, although I was happily married, there was something wrong with me -which is why I posted that your DH has to be honest with himself about why he had the affair, or it could happen again.
It's not your job to get him to have some insight into himself - but maybe you do need to put the ball back in his court as Omaoma says and ask for some space so that you both have time to think about what has happened. He also needs to realise that you aren't going to be able to move on from this until he has put some effort in to getting some insight into himself so that you can both be reassured that it is over and that it won't be happening again. Making the tea once in a while, playing with the kids and maybe a spot of light dusting isn't going to cut it in terms of making it up to you for what he has done, and he should be seeing that himself.
I wish I'd posted on here weeks ago when I was in the middle of all this. Your responses are so enlightening and helpful. I think I'll sit down with him and have a really honest heart-to-heart about all this. I think I will push the counselling, tell him it's really important to me that he knows why he had an affair and if he doesn't get on and sort it out, well, I guess I'll know where I stand. I can then ask him to move out for a while to give himself time and space to consider what it is he really wants and how he is going to get that. Yikes! Thank you so much and I'll be sure to keep you all posted.
Have you always taken control of things in the marriage? eg made his dentist appointments etc. This was one of the things that stood out in my marriage, I was like his mum and no man wants to be married to his mother.
Me and my DH had co dependency issues and I had to step back with the control thing. It was/is a strange dynamic but in essence when DH started taking control of the things he should be taking control if, I became less controlling IYSWIM.
TBH it sounds like the OW could still be in his head but you cannot control that either. My DH tells me at the time, straight after the affair after he had finished it with OW, he didn't know what he wanted and like you, he took longer to end it with her than walk out on our marriage and DC . He spent about 3 months at his parents house but spent time at home, helping with the DC and taking me out on dates etc which he arranged and organised babysitters etc. He also arranged weekends away. At this stage we both knew we had to give the marriage our best shot for the sake of the DC. We both went to Relate for about 6 months and we each had an individual session each as well.
Two years, he has taken himself off to counselling alone to deal with his personal demons.
The one thing i have learnt from everything is that you cannot control anybody and you are responsible for your own happiness. I have worked on myself and now make time to do things that make me feel good and both DH and I put the marriage first, if things start getting into a rut, we get ground down with the DC or business, we arrange a night out or weekend away to reconnect i you like.
If you need space, ask him to move out but make sure he takes his fair share of childcare and get him to arrange the date nights etc. If he doesn't do it then you will have your answer. As I say, my DH's head was all over the place at the time and he said it was very hard to take on my pain as well - very selfish but that was his truth.
Try www.beyondaffairs.com, I found it very useful at the time.
Good luck - I was in a right state for ages.
Thanks counting. He has mentioned in passing something about not feeling in control of his life and I expect this is a very controlling thing to say but I do it so much better! Less glibly, I am a SAHM so I see my job as organising the kids and our social life and it's not like he even tries. To be very cruel, the only thing he has organised in recent history is his affair and that hasn't turned out so well! I do think I need to step back but it's so hard letting go of stuff if you're not sure the other person is there to catch it. I did read something about the person who sees themselves as 'in charge' of the emotional side of the relationship does tend to see it as their failure if the relationship flounders. Definitely food for thought for me.
I think Countingto10's sentence "my DH's head was all over the place at the time and he said it was very hard to take on my pain as well" is really important. It could be that your DH is still carrying on the affair, is being a lazy git, or just has his head firmly up his arse; but it could be that he isn't yet able to deal with or articulate his feelings about what happened. You did say earlier that he was in shock about what has happened.
My affairs were undiscovered but, had they been, I know I would have found it difficult at the time to explain why I chose to cheat on my DH. It was time and counselling that helped me to understand why I did it. 4.5 months probably seems like a lifetime to you, but it is a relatively short time for some people to come to terms with what they have done. Yes it is a selfish attitude, but it was my truth, too. And affairs are all about selfishness, and that doesn't go away until it is addressed by the cheating partner.
It sounds like Countingto10 and her DH found a really useful approach to moving forward in a similar situation to yours.
There is a book that our relate counsellor recommended by Melodie Beatty called "Co-dependency - How to stop controlling other and start taking care of yourself". Not all of it will be relevant to you but it may help. I personally think many couples are in co-dependent relationships but that's another thread.
TBH you need to let your DH feel the consequences if he doesn't do something like a child not doing his homework and not try to "catch it". I also think as a SAHM (I was/am too) we have so little control over ourselves that we like to control the things we can if that makes sense. Now and especially now, you need to let go and start thinking about yourself.
So you were the person who gave more to the relationship then bear?
You took responsibility for everything?
And you're taking all of the responsibility for recovering your relationship, despite the fact that it was his actions that risked it?
Doesn't Shirley Glass say that the person having the affair is often the person who gives less to the relationship?
It sounds like that's still the case, doesn't it?
And if you tell him again what he has to do, he might comply, but that won't mean him taking responsibility for it, will it?
What do you think would force him to take responsibility? What actions could you take?
Ultimately, you can only control your own behaviour. You can say you need time apart now - not when he's ticked off all your requests.
There's a lot to be said for taking a risk and seeing what someone does, in these situations. It will certainly lead to a quicker resolution.
I think I'm going to have to be super-brave and push things a bit - not easy for a naturally risk-averse person like me, but I do see the logic and this kind of perspective was exactly what I was after. I think I have got too enmeshed in the whole thing and I need to gain some distance. He just came home a bit early and I felt bad for saying he wasn't trying - turns out he wants to watch the tennis
And the truth is, he wasn't risk-averse, because given that he had already decided he was leaving you for her, he took that risk knowing the consequences......except there haven't been any for him yet, have there?
He had an affair, said he was leaving, deigned to stay - and you have been in full rescue mode ever since.
There's something wrong with that situation, isn't there?
Let him fight for you. Let him fight for you.
Bear, I think you've tried really hard and done all you can at this stage. Rather than focus on what you want from him, think about your future and what you want.
Please don't take offence, and I was guilty of this too - but would you say that perhaps you mother him? If he is used to you always taking control and running things, then he will gladly sit back and allow you to become a mother figure. This could, perhaps, explain why he had the affair? He didn't see you as a partner, he saw you as a mother figure, just a thought.
Anyway, I really would advise you to bite the bullet and tell him you want him to leave (for a set period of time) whilst you decide what you want. You need this time alone to evaluate fully what has happened, and to see how you feel when he's not around. Crucially, he needs to find out what he could lose. As you say he has no empathy - you need to force the issue. At the moment, he's still at home, jumping through the right hoops and saying the right things - the things you want to hear. But he's not taking the initiative, may be because he's quite comfortable with things. Men are often lazy, and will go along with the flow for a quiet life. But he needs to find out exactly what it would mean if you were to permanently split - so give him a taste of this. It will take guts, but it might be the wake-up call he needs - he will have to think for himself, fend for himself, and cope with his emotions. He will then, if it's meant to be, do all he can to win you back. He has to appreciate you - and right now he doesn't have to - because apart from counselling, etc., nothing has really rocked his world.
If you do this, tell him that it's strictly no contact except regarding the kids, and he can see the children frequently.
In other words, let him miss you. Give him a reality check. Otherwise, I think you'll just go round and round in circles. Also, he needs to value your emotions/hurt and feelings - let him know it's not just about him.
Good luck - you sound very strong; you'll get through this. But try as hard as you can, you can't change someone, only they can change themselves.
If you re read the Shirley Glass book you should see a section about exploring individual and social vulnerabilities which may be useful for opening up discussions with your H.
Join the discussion
Please login first.