Adultery/Spouse upset after asking him to cut contact from x mistress
QUESTION: My husband has been friends with a woman for a couple of years. I have never been crazy about her, but their friendship was professional at first, and my husband has been faithful for all of our 30 years together. Our marriage has been in a rough spot and hers is as well. They would confide in each other - misery loves company and they had an emotional affair that led to a physical affair. The physical affair ended but the flirtation continued. I confronted him several weeks ago and he agreed not to see her anymore. We were working on things and he was recommitted. Things have been going well. We were going out and having fun. Working on projects together and trying to work through some of the issues. I didn't expect a full turn around, but we felt like we used to. I had several meltdowns, which I know I am entitled to, as my self-esteem took a huge hit. He was understanding at first. Then she began texting him again and they started chatting. She says she is happy his marriage is working out. He claims she gives him advice. I believe he thinks he can be friends with her. I am keenly aware from emails she had sent in the past that he was recommitting to me, but she was still sending him love poems about "singing the blues". I know they were just friends for a long time. I told him yesterday that I can't handle them contacting one another. He said he would stop all contact, but he is clearly angry. He said who will he talk to when he needs to get an outside opinion. I told him I have never asked him to stop seeing any of his friends, but she was no longer a neutral party. I have been reading that he will need time to "grieve" as he may be going through withdrawal. He has retreated into a shell and is clearly angry and depressed. I almost went back to allowing him to talk to her, but I can't allow myself to put myself through that doubt. I come from a long line of people who have worked through hardships in their marriages and I am not a save it at any cost person, but I don't throw away 30 years and 2 kids easily. The marriage was in a bad spot, so I can logically understand the reasons that led to the affair. ( I do not blame myself for the affair). He comes from a situation of a bitter divorce and he is going through a mid-life crisis. I believe he wants to try to work things out, but I am not sure what I should do. I know he is hurting. How do I navigate through this? Is it true there will be a time of "withdrawal"? Am I wrong to demand this?
ANSWER: Hello Andi,
You are not wrong to want this. You ARE wrong to demand it. The best way to get it is with his agreement that this is something that is good for both of you. If you try to overrule him and take away his will, he will be resentful. We all would. Nobody wants to feel dominated. When you make agreements that you both enthusiastically agree to, they will be adhered to.
You navigate through one day at a time. There will be ups and downs. Just be patient with him and yourself. Your trust has been destroyed. He's losing a confidante and friend (in his eyes). There is a period of adjustment. Just keep showing him what he's gaining by giving this up and he will stay with by your side. I know it's not fair to ask YOU to woo HIM given his infidelity, but he's the one who strayed and now has another alternative that was appealing enough to lie and cheat. When he feels that losing what the two of you have is too dear to risk, he will see her differently.
Yes, there will be a time of withdrawal. People cheat because of what it does for them emotionally. Maybe she made him feel alive, important, connected, young, or perhaps she stimulated him to dream again. If he sees her as the source for that (instead of himself), he will miss it and find it hard to leave alone. HE'S got to find the source for whatever she gave him within himself. Unless and until he does that, he will miss her.
The support of a therapist that understands these things would be invaluable at this time. I understand that he needs someone to talk to. So do you, but it can't be her. Not if he wants to repair the damage. She's too great a temptation and source of pain for you. What hurts one of you can't be good for the two of you.
Laura Giles, LCSW
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: First of all, thank you.
When I first suspected the affair, I didn't know what to do. I didn't confront him and started to work on myself. I also approached each day with him from a loving, caring manner even when I was dying inside. I cried the moment he left for work. I wrote in a journal. I prayed. This went on for several months. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but came to the conclusion I wasn't willing to give up my best friend and he was clearly not getting something out of the marriage, as this is the first time he has ever done anything like this. I also was keenly aware of the timing of this. His father had an affair and left when my husband was my daughter's age. He was the last kid in the house and he has unresolved issues with his father, who just divorced wife #2 after 25 years. His father is dying and so I have been very aware of these underlying problems as well as our own. I have been to therapists over the years and my husband has refused. I figured this was his attempt at therapy - how warped it was in reality. Even before I confronted him we had been intimate and dating each other again. We still had underlying problems, but he was sharing things with me.
Then I found evidence that she was amping up her efforts. She had told me a couple of years ago that she had broken up her husband's first marriage and calls herself an "alpha female" and she gets what she wants. Last summer she "accidentally" texted my 17 year old son - his number is not anywhere close to my husbands. It wasn't inappropriate, but even my daughter mentioned it to me she thought it was weird. I know it takes two, but she was also starting to manipulate things and inject herself into other parts of my life. (We have mutual acquaintances). When I confronted him initially I told him I had no plans to contact her husband. He also asked about telling the kids. He was planning to, but I said they did not to know and I did not want them to think less of their father. I told him I understood he was trying to fill a void in our marriage that I was not filling at this time. He was remorseful and said he never intended for it to happen. He cried and I believe every word he said to me, as I have only seen him cry like that 3 times in all the time we have been together - all very difficult moments for him. When he asked what I wanted him to do, I said stop seeing her. He did cut out physically seeing her. I waivered on the talking, as he was looking for someone to talk to.
It had been about 6 weeks since I had confronted him. The other night I just couldn't take the input from her, as there were some things that arose that were her influence. Not all of her influence was bad for him, but this was clearly a move to get him back. I didn't attack her, all I said to him was I felt uncomfortable with having her talk to him, because it was like having a 3rd person in our marriage, who was no longer a neutral party. I didn't demand he stop talking to her, but I am sure in his eyes I did, as it came up during an argument and his comment was "there, you got what you wanted" and he would be spending his time in the garage and to leave him alone when he is in there. He is working on projects, which is good, but I hate the reopening of the "wedge" between us.
He is still coming to bed (which during the the early and physical phases of his affair he would sleep on the couch). When I say I love him, he responds he loves me too. He will spend time with me, but he is clearly despondent. He has not spoken to her about not having contact, as he felt he needed to do this in person. I suspect he is doing that today. I wanted to scream and tell him to write her a letter, but I am willing to take the punch at this point. I am continuing to act lovingly and caring. Do I now go back and tell him he can keep talking to her, or do I just push forward?
No. You get his buy in for why it's not a good idea for him to continue contact. You can't "save" a sinking boat if you don't patch up the hole. Simply bailing won't do. The first order of business in any crisis is to stop the cause of the crisis. Her existence in his life does create a triangle. That destabilizes your relationship. That would be true if the triangle were created by a child, mother, pastor, or friend as well. The primary relationship HAS to be the couple or it has no chance for survival. Life is tough. Life with an affair is takes that to a whole new level.
When the level of trust and honesty has increased to the degree that you can both talk about what created this, he will gladly cut her out of his life because he will no longer need her. Make him feel safe with you. Not just happy, safe.