Recovering from husband’s infidelity

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been married for nearly 12 years, and it is now 9 months since I found out my husband cheated on me. While he denies actual intercourse occurred, he did go out to bars with her, took on an overseas trip (he said she paid and she just wanted to go to the same place he did for her own reasons) and then took her out to a dinner with his work people and stayed in a hotel with her. (He travels a lot for work, and I left my job to be with him, another strain on the marriage.) The public dinner was perhaps the most humiliating thing, and the shared hotel room confirms the intimacy.
At first he denied anything was going on, but I knew well enough there was (though of course I doubted my instincts at times as I didn’t want to not trust him, and thought maybe I was insecure and crazy), but eventually partners of his work people told me, and when confronted he did admit what was going on. He said that he loved me but wasn’t sure he was “in love with me” and so on.

Anyway, we had the usual recriminations, tears and shouting. And we decided our marriage was worth saving. He has done practically everything he should to make this better – he broke off contact with her, he apologised to me, he is now kind, reassurse me when I feel insecure (which isn’t so often, I havent felt the signs of him “pulling away”), he promises it won’t happen again, buys me flowers and in general all seems well.
But I am having occasional nightmares about it – where he and break up, I demand full disclosure and he admits it’s been going on for years, he is often cold and heartless in these dreams and does not love me at all. I even talk about dividing our assets in these dreams. In waking life I do wonder if this has happened before, but he insists it hasn’t when I asked him.

To make matters worse, one of the women who told me about the affair has also been cheated on by her partner who works with my husband, and she now sees me as an “ally.” She is angry and suspicious and won’t let me move on, thinking all the men in this work place are cheaters. I know this is toxic but I can’t avoid her. And if it wasn’t for her I would not have had the evidence I needed to confront my husband. I need to keep her onside.
I so want to move on and not dwell on this issue, but now I think maybe I moved on too fast, and feel like I shoulder most of the burden of recovery. Despite being a strong leader in other areas of his life, my husband hates emotional confrontations, and to drag this up again might make things worse, might make it seem I don’t appreciate his considerable efforts or that I won’t to punish him. (I don’t. At least not conscioulsy! :-) ) While I don’t want this to happen again and am not sure we really addressed the underlying issues, I also don’t want to “chose” unhappiness either by being stuck. We both had difficult childhoods, but I feel I am a well adjusted and happy person now. Please help! I am not sure how much I need to “work” at this and how much I simply need to let go.

A: I’m impressed by how hard you are working to be fair, to take your share of the problem, and to carefully consider what might be most helpful to your long-term goal of salvaging your relationship. Not too surprisingly, your feelings are lagging behind your thinking. It’s as if you believe the only place you can fully experience your feelings is in your dreams. Given what you said about your husband’s reluctance to deal with emotional encounters, you may be right. But you do need a place where you feel safe working on your own feelings.

I am also impressed that your husband is trying so hard. Even though he doesn’t like dealing with emotions, he is doing his best to reassure you. Apparently, he can “talk” with flowers and positive deeds, even though he can’t tolerate a lot of conversation about what happened.

I don’t think you can simply let go. You’re too hurt and the would-be “ally” won’t let you. I think it would be helpful to have someone in your corner who you could talk to freely and safely and who would balance out the negativity of the “ally.” For that reason, I recommend that you find a couples counselor to be your sounding board and to help you find some peace within yourself. At some point, the two of your might invite your husband in for a few sessions to find a way to put some closure on this painful chapter in your life together so you can both truly move on.

You can find a therapist by clicking on the tab on our homepage or by doing an Internet search of the AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy) and your city. Therapists who are members of AAMFT have specialized training in working with couples.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Recovering from husband’s infidelity. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/30/recovering-from-husbands-infidelity/