A Reader Writes…
My husband had a relationship with someone for 1 year 8 months. Mostly texting because she lives in Florida and we live in New Hampshire. They did meet in San Diego when he was on a business trip which he denied when I found her boarding pass in his luggage at the time. By accident when we upgraded our cell phones her text went to my phone. This is how I found out.
He still won’t tell me anything about the affair – saying it was nothing. I have asked why he cheated but he says he does not know. He does not know what it was about her that tempted him. I don’t know is he answer for everything. I need to know what happened from the beginning but how do I get him to talk? It has been 4 month since I found out and am still going crazy not knowing anything. I think because she lives so far he thinks I will not find out anything, so why tell me.
We have been married for 25 years and I am sad, depressed because my husband does not know why he cheated. Worse still, I don’t know what to do at this point. Thanks for any feedback.
There are a variety of reasons why your husband won’t open up – beyond thinking you won’t find out the details of his affair.
1. He is frightened of your reaction
He probably thinks you will get upset, cry and get angry and he tells himself: ‘It’s over now, so why put her (and myself) through the aggravation.
Turn it round: When you’re calm, ask him if he is trying to protect you or frightened of your response. If this is the case, tell him why you need to know (for example ‘I can’t put it behind me’ or ‘I imagine something worse’). Commit to listening without exploding or going on the attack. Afterwards thank him and explain why it has helped.
2. His reasons for cheating seem completely inadequate to him
He probably has some clues. For example, ‘I was unhappy’ or ‘I was stuck in a rut’ but these don’t even begin to explain how he could do something so horrible. So it seems safer to to keep quiet and hide behind ‘I don’t know.’
Turn it around: Explain that he does not need to have an definitive answer – just his current thoughts will do. Sympathise that the reasons will probably not make a lot of sense but it helps to have some clues.
3. He is completely ashamed, unable to cope with the guilt so closes down
It’s not so much that he wants to keep you out but thinking about what he did makes him feel so lousy that he shuts down, puts all the nasty rubbish in a box and buries it. My guess is that’s probably what he does with everything that he can’t face in his life.
Turn it around: Unfortunately, that’s what got him in this mess in the first place. He ignores his problems, he ignores them a bit more, he gets a whole lot unhappier and things get so bad that he has to distract from his pain or self-medicate (to keep the lid of the box down) and drink too much or have an affair. So ask him if he’s keeping quiet in the hope that the problems caused by the affair will go away? He will probably nod.
Follow up by asking how that tactic has been working up to now for him? Has this strategy worked in the past? When he’s had a couple of days to think, suggest getting help from a third party (like a counsellor) or working through my book together.
If he still comes up with ‘I don’t know’, I’ll tell you why most men fall out of love and become unfaithful.
1. They feel neglected
Their wives are wrapped up in the children and they feel like co-parents rather than lovers. See ‘I love you but you always put me last: How to childproof your marriage’. Basically men are frightened of saying ‘what about me’ because their wives will tell them they’re selfish or accuse them of not loving their kids enough. Guess what, they shut up, get resentful and then someone does show some interest and you know what happens next.
2. Their sex life has lost it’s spark or become sporadic or non-existent
Men don’t listen to their heart (as they are trained to act rather than explore feelings) but the one part of their anatomy do pay 100% attention is their penis. Therefore a lot of their emotion needs get expressed as sex. In a nutshell, they equate sex with love and if you’re not having sex or just going through the motions he will not feel loved.
3. Poor communication
Men want to please women so go along with what you want and buries his needs, wants and beliefs. There is only so long you can go along with being so selfless without exploding with selfishness (i.e. an affair). Basically, he has to be able to ask for what he needs, you can say no or maybe and you can negotiate. I explain more about how to be assertive in ‘I love you but you always put me last’.
As you can see two of these reasons why men cheat will come across as a complaint about you and he certainly won’t want to do that at the moment because he thinks his unfaithfulness has taken away any right to be critical of you (and perhaps that what you think too). The third one means learning to communicate better and he’s not got a clue about how to do that (and any way he fears it will make you angry, upset or you’re better at it than him and will steam roller over him)
There is one final reason why he is probably keeping quiet but I doubt he can articulate it in a way that you would understand. Basically, will knowing WHY take away your pain? I’ve counselled thousands of people whose partners who are hurting so much – quite understandably – that they want an easy answer. They normally come up with if ‘if only I could understand’ but actually that’s just the beginning. You’ve both got to change. So of course it HELPS to know why – so you can target the change effectively – but it is not a magical solution.
I explain more in How Can I Ever Trust You Again? if you haven’t read it, please start there and look out for My Husband Doesn’t Love Me and He’s Texting Someone Else as that will explain more too.