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How do you help a person who has hurt you?(65 Posts)
I previously said I would never post on the relationships board again because I cannot stand the LTB chant that comes out when I try to explain why I am choosing to remain with my husband after he had an affair. What I am wanting is advice from people who have gone through their partner having an affair and are now trying to make their marriage work. If you are someone who has gone through the hurt of a partner cheating and cannot understand why someone would stay, please leave now. Sorry for being blunt but I truly do want advice from mumsnetters but cannot deal with the usual battering I seem to get when I say I am trying to work on my marriage.
So if you are still here and aren't going to tell me to LTB, here's my problem. My husband had an affair. It is two days from being one year since d-day. The summer has been hard. There have been numerous trigger points in relation to the affair. In addition, his mother has died. And we've both had a huge amount to deal with. All our good work at the start has taken a knock due to life circumstances. We are still soldiering on.
But there are times when my anger flares up. Sometimes it is due to him reverting to behaviours shown when he had the affair e.g. withdrawing, lack of communication. Recently I had a trigger and I got angry with him. He in turn became very very sad. Hangdog is the only word I can use to describe him.
We have since talked but I have realised something. He is suffering from depression. He hates himself so much for what he has done by having an affair, coupled with almost losing his job and then watching his mother waste away through a horrid disease and then dying. He has had a LOT of shit happen. Now it's easy to say: well plenty of that is of his own making. And I agree.
But here's my dilemma. I need to express how I feel when I have triggers or get angry. I need to discuss his affair and what it has done. But I know that everytime I do it (and I try not to do it often) it makes him feel worse and worse. I fear that he could reach a point where he is so depressed that he can no longer function. He is the main breadwinner.
I feel torn between wanting to be a good wife and help him through this (not to mention the selfish reason of knowing that if he gets completely depressed he could just stop functioning) and wanting to be able to talk about what he has done and how it makes me feel when trigger situations arise.
I wondered if anyone else has been in this situation? How do you help the person who hurt you when the reason they hurt is because of what they have done to you?
I guess you can only do that when you forgive him. He will need to forgive himself, and start to feel more positive, he probably can't do that when the guilt that's weighing on him is backed up by your pain.
Have you forgiven him? Do you understand why he did what he did? You could try talking through with him what forgiveness will be for both of you, and tell him why you have forgiven him (if you have..)
I'm not going to say ltb. I do think in situations of any sort where you have agreed to forgive then that should mean you forgive and draw a line under it. I don't think you can say you forgive someone and then continue to bring whatever it was up and express anger about it. Otherwise you haven't really forgiven.
Well that's what I think anyway. Some will disagree.
He was depressed and is now using depression as an excuse so you forget all about the affair. Good strategy.
I think you can forgive, but the anger doesn't just go in an instant, particularly if they do something to cause worry again. I am not going to go into details but he did something recently that was entirely innocent, but it didn't look innocent. The trust I had been rebuilding was knocked right back down. And when I told him that he had really shaken my trust, it made him incredibly sad.
I have forgiven him as much as I can but the anger still bubbles up from time to time and when it does, it causes his hurt to resurface.
Best way to help him is to tell him to get to a doctor and get proper help and treatment.
Have you had counselling so that you can say when he does x, y and z it brings it all back for you and in a marriage that is trying to work then withdrawing and lack of communication are completely the wrong way to go about things and he needs to learn skills to stop him doing this?
You cannot start to walk on egg shells if what he is doing causes you upset or neither of you will heal and get past this.
You need honest, hard open communication and hard work.
Rainbow - I have had the same thought process myself in cynical moments. But I think he genuinely is depressed. Your kind of comment is the kind that I really don't need to hear.
Imagine that you had done something wrong. And imagine that you know it was wrong and would do anything to change it. You hate yourself for it but no matter what you can't because you did it. You would need help to come to terms with that and forgive yourself. He needs to reach that place and he needs help to do it, but I am not the person who can help him there. I have suggested he return to his therapist.
Magoria - we went through couples and individual counselling. We have had lots of open communication. I think we may need to revisit the counsellor. It is a long hard road.
I dont understand much about forgiveness but I think it's an ongoing process yes.
Maybe you need to say to your husband exactly what you've just said here?
Maybe the things you need to say aloud to him are that you are committed but that you're both still working it through. That sometimes you need to be able to say things. That you are worried he will get seriously depressed. That also, there are times you need to be able to express your anger without worrying about him.
I've written that as a bit of a tirade but that's not how it's meant, I mean that during the conversation you both need to speak and both need to listen to the other (can he express his emotions in words?). But at some point those things need to be said.
I hope things get better, PTF;swife
Not me personally but I have 2 close colleagues who have been though a similar situation. Both scenarios very different but serious enough to cause a divorce, however, they have worked through it and both have a much stronger relationship with their spouses.
I think you need to get your DH to a doctor as he cannot mend your relationship if he is clinically depressed. That is really important. Depression is an illness and you will need to be supportive, you obviously love him and however hard it is, I think you are going have to put your anger on hold and help get him well.
Then I recommend counselling together, it can be hugely helpful. Some counsellors recommend that you only discuss the situation in front of them and NOT at home, therefore giving you an outlet for your anger with a mediator there and then allowing you to go home calmer.
I guess this doesn't work for everybody but may be helpful to you.
I think you seem able to forgive but possibly not forget and that is totally understandable. It sounds to me like you can get through this, I can't stress enough though that he needs help with his depression, even if the doc recommends counselling or CBT only and not Meds, he needs to be well for you to build your relationship up again, he is very fragile at the moment, not least because he is grieving.
Yes, he treated you badly and for some that is a deal-breaker but if you love him and want it to work, you're going to have to try to see past the hurt.
I understand this will be very difficult and I am not in your shoes, but it sounds to me like your marriage is worth fighting for and I wish you both the best of luck.
I'm not going to tell you to LTB but I do wonder how much you're willing to take of this?
Working it out doesn't seem to be making either of you happy.
Is it really, honestly worth it?
For yourself, you need to give it more time, another year to be close to forgiving him.
I think you need to tell him straight that it is upsetting/worrying for you when he exhibits behaviours that are the same as when he was cheating ie when he is distant, cold etc
Thank you Meerka and Permaquandry - we did manage to get time together last weekend to talk properly. I told him how I feel. I asked if he thought he was depressed. He has been waking earlier and earlier (like 3am, not able to sleep). I asked if he ever had suicidal thoughts. He is ex-military and is of the school of thought that people who are depressed just need to 'pull themselves together and get on with it', soI think he finds it hard to admit that he is feeling as low as he is. He said he had flirted with suicidal thoughts but just in the 'perhaps it would be easier if I wasn't around' vein - I've had those myself. So i understand where he is coming from. It's not a serious concern (like OMG he needs samaritans now) but indicates that things are not right either.
He had a friend who committed suicide and he has said he would never do it as he saw what it did to his friends' kids. But I have advised that he go see someone. I think he will never take meds. He won't even take a headache tablet. But I think if he feels better about us, gets exercise, if we make time for each other, he will start to feel better. Just having had our one talk has made him feel better.
But I feel as though I have shelved my own emotions in the process of trying to help him.
WAlter - I asked myself that question recently. How much of this can I take and is it really worth it?I have had moments of believing life would be better on my own. I am a live in the now type person, a believer that you only have one life to live so make it good etc etc. You're right - we're not massively happy right now.
But it's been less than a year. I am a bit old-fashioned too. I believe that some things take hard work and are worth putting in the effort for. I have looked at the alternative of not being with him. And I prefer the option of being with him. I guess this is the 'in good times and bad' in the wedding vows.
Right, so the bottom line is you want to be with him and you want him to be well but you still feel so much resentment and anger and that is getting on the way of dealing with the issue of his depression?
I suggest speaking to a counsellor and getting advice on how to deal with the now and his grieving/depression but not to the detriment of your feelings and the future (I think it's possible suppress too much, then end up with more resentment).
I feel for you, I really do. You sound very pragmatic and level-headed. Really do wish you the best of luck.
I would say make it non negotiable that he has to go to the doctor, be completely honest and take any prescription they think he needs. He may not get out of depression without some help and you sure as hell will not survive unscathed if you have to repress your feelings and emotions.
I don't know what sort of help you need together. Perhaps it isn't counselling to talk things through but more someone who can give you both working tools to deal with this between you.
It's been a year. If it is no better in another year do you want to carry on for who knows how long?
I know you don't want to be told to LTB but for your own sanity I think you need to give yourself a deadline where by if things have not improved you take a break from each other to see if that helps.
Your job is to look after you first and your husband second. Get some more counseling to deal with the anger completely. If you are still angry you are still thinking about the affair and that is damaging the relationship.
You have chosen the harder Road by staying with him because it means burying your feelings. Not drawing a line under it will ultimately destroy either you, him or the marriage.
Let him deal with his own feelings. He is a grown up and brought it on himself. He is capable of going to the doctor and talking it through. You don't have to rescue him.
If it is how he has ruined your marriage that is making him depressed, then allowing you to express your emotions, thus helping you to heal, then it will be healing for him too - he will be fixing things, so not depressed about them being ruined.
Much as you want to support him, I don't think you can. You can be supportive, but the real help needs to come from a bereavement counsellor and a GP.
He needs to decide if your marriage is worth that. It's not your choice.
It does sound as though he is suffering from depression. He really needs specialist help, he can't do this on his own. Have the military got any support services he can access? Don't take his word for it that he would never attempt suicide. Many men commit suicide completely unplanned and it comes as a complete shock to those around them. It can be almost spontaneous. Sorry to be blunt but this is from personal experience.
You are right to stand by him, he is simply not well, but you must take care of yourself too. You cannot cure him with fresh air and exercise. He would only need to go to the gp to get help in the form of medication but you might need to push him into it.
You could try exposing him to some literature or online videos about depression. The affair is probably just one of his coping mechanisms, distracting himself and pushing you away at the same time. He wants to push you away because you care and won't give up on him. My departed did that with all those around who cared, best friends, family, partners, even children.
I'm sorry to hear of the hard time you've had, OP. What is the problem, specifically, about you expressing your anger and dealing it with it that way?
Let's talk details. What happens when you express anger or upset or are triggered? What makes this problematic?
Because the 'route1' solution would be that you should express anger and resentment when you feel it, he should hear you, and that should facilitate its passing. And you should manage the moments when you feel irrationally upset as much as possible or talk them through with a counsellor or friend as your side of the recovery.
I have been through similar. My partner is depressive. Sometimes he beats himself up about stuff when I am very unhappy with him and it almost pre-empts my feelings and is frustrating because I then have to comfort him through it which is against my feelings!
Sorry had to go to bed last night.
I don't know if he was depressed before he had the affair. I don't know if it was his mother dying that has brought it on. I think in general things had been going really well. We were talking and going out together and connecting far better than we had before the affair.
But then the gradual pressure and lack of time for us as his mother became more and more ill and then died, meant we focused on that (rightly) and not us. He works very long hours and was trying to do that and tend to his mother and ensure he was here for me. So there was a lot going on.
I could feel us drifting back into old habits of not communicating. Sex stopped happening again. And then anniversary after anniversary relating to his affair last year arrived in quick succession. And because of all the other issues, instead of talking them out, I bottled them up and he did too. I noticed he was waking earlier and earlier. When we spoke this weekend he said its because he wakes up and thinks about the affair and what he did and he can't go back to sleep.
Last week he was away all week, I was stressed out having my mother here to stay, I had reached the end of my parenting tether after almost 8 weeks of school holidays. He didn't call or text or email me one day (which was normal behaviour before the affair but not since). He then also did something else which I am not going to describe here but the combination completely ruined my trust. I felt I had gone back to D-day again.
All of my frustration came out in a torrent and I told him I felt that we were back where we started. That seemed to be the thing that sent him into this really sad/down spiral where it was impossible for me to express my own feelings without realising that he seemed to be a man on the brink.
We have since spoken. He is away again this week and will be again next week. I think if he is depressed, he is high-functioning with it. There is a part of me that wonders if he is playing the 'depressed' card to avoid having the difficult conversations with me - but that's the voice of all the naysayers (often on here) that tell me he is not to be trusted and that once a man cheats he will always cheat etc.
Whether he has clinical depression I can't say. All I do know that he has been through a lot this year and I can completely understand if he is. It just makes it hard for me because as bloodonthetracks says above I should be able to express anger and resentment when I feel it. And I feel right now that if I do, it will make him worse.
We did spend Saturday together talking it all through and I think we both realise that we need to talk more often and just spend time together. I just wondered if anyone else had been through something similar.
This may not be a popular view but I think you need to let the affair go. Stop talking about it and stop dwelling on it. Build a new relationship starting from now.
He chose to be with you, you want him with you. Begin from there.
I have several friends whose marriages have survived affairs. The ones that didn't couldn't let it go and kept going on and on over old ground.
It's destructive. Sometimes talking about it doesn't help. He's punishing himself every day and you're reliving it every day.
I'm not going to say LTB. I'm afraid he may be gearing up to leave you. It happened to me. One day he loved me, the next he didn't. I never thought it would. I was a good, loving exceptionally supportive wife who thought my husband was depressed too due to death, illness in family. Turns out he was depressed.....at the thought of staying married to me.
However, I hope I am wrong.
Agree with pp, you need to find a way to let it go and lose the anger, if you can't, you might as well LTB.
And he needs to see the doctor and probably have anti-d's, tough he doesn't want to. He probably needs more counselling, and you might too to help let it go, but perhaps not together.
Sunna - I agree, but it is easier said than done. We don't tend to spend hours dwelling on the affair itself. It's more trying to spend time reconnecting.
Startinover - your post just punched me in the gut. Mainly because I have sometimes had that very thought. He says he loves me and that he wants to stay married but only if we have a happier marriage, not like it was before the affair. I have (perhaps foolishly) thought that if you have an affair and you want to stay married to the person, that you do just about anything to prove how much you love them. So for example, when he upset me last week, an appropriate response would be to wrap his arms around me and say: I love you, I only want to be with you, I am sorry for upsetting you.
What I got instead was a hollow man and the sense that this is all too much, like he doesn't have it in him to keep on keeping on. All along I have thought that it was my decision about whether we stay together or not, but perhaps he is toying with the exact same thoughts. I'm sorry you have had to go through this startinover.
It seems mad even typing this out because after our chat on Saturday things have been better and he seems more like his normal self. And now that the holidays are nearly over and my mother has left, we might actually have some time to focus on us again.
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