A Reader Writes…
My husband and I have been married for over 5 years and been together for over 9 in total. We have always had an amazing relationship. Both very happy…or so I thought.
In May of last year, after a couple of weeks of being withdrawn and quiet my husband admitted that he wasn’t happy any longer – in life generally and with me. He said that he wasn’t sure he was still in love with me any longer. I asked if he wanted to try to make things better/heal our marriage – he said he didn’t think he did. He left that evening, but came back the next morning saying that he did want to make things work.
We then embarked on trying to make our marriage better. We talked about our hopes and dreams for the future, how my husband had been feeling. We went on dates, spent lots of quality time together….all in the hope that we could rekindle what he felt for me. He just didn’t seem fully committed to what we were trying to achieve. Something wasn’t right. He didn’t seem like himself.
Then in early July i found text messages and emails from another woman. I had begun to get suspicious – however whenever I asked him if there was someone else he swore to me that there wasn’t, and I believed him. This time I confronted him and he admitted that he had begun an inappropriate friendship with another woman he had met at his sports club, which had got our of hand and that they had slept together drunkenly one evening the month before. He said the friendship began at the end of april/beginning of may.
He told me he didn’t love her or want to be with her and that it was a stupid mistake. He begged my forgiveness. I asked him to leave. I was devastated. a few days later I went to stay with friends abroad for a week. He was in constant contact – crying, begging, pleading etc. He sounded terrible and his family got in touch with me to tell me they thought he was having a break down.
When I returned from my trip we met up a few times to talk and on one occassion ended up in bed together. I was unsure of whether I wanted to try to make our marriage work as I just didn’t know if i could ever get over the trust issues that I now felt.
6 weeks later (mid august), after lots of talking, tears and healing we decided to give things another go. I also found out I was pregnant which came as quite a shock as we had tried for 5 years with no success. This discovery solidified my decision to try again.
However 8 weeks ago (6th Feb) I got a phone call from this other woman informing me that her and my husband had been continuing the affair. She also informed me that the first affair wasn’t just a one night drunken thing but that they had in fact slept together 3/4 times. He ended things when I found out but it started back up again in late September/early October and they slept together again another 3/4 times. Obviously as you can imagine, my whole world fell apart again – 7 months pregnant and looking at a future alone.
As soon as my husband came home I kicked him out of the house. We are still not together however we see each other regularly and speak almost daily – mainly because of the baby. He swears that the relationship with her is over and that it was a huge mistake. He says that he got back in touch with her to get closure but that it soon lead to them in bed together again. He then tried to back off but she used the fact that I didnt know the full story of the affair as a threat to get in touch with me and tell me everything. he says he felt trapped.
I honestly thought we were trying to make things work. I thought things would be ok.
I have heard conflicting stories from both him and her so dont know what to believe. He is begging me to forgive him and that he will spend the rest of his life making it up to me. I love him but I cannot stop thinking about what he has done to me and the life he has denied my unborn baby.
I do not think I can ever get over what has happened. The hardest part is understanding why….I cannot understand the thought process he was going through when all this happened. The fact that he got back in touch with her when I was pregnant with his child I find unbelievable.
He says living with the guilt of my forgiving him the first time, when I didnt know the full extent of what had happened was awful for him. That he couldn’t forgive himself for lying to me about the full truth. The only other person who knew what he had really done was her….
I just don’t know what to do. I just can’t understand any of it and I am torturing myself asking questions.
Can you help me try to comprehend?
There is a lot that needs to be explained but I will do my best to shed some light on what’s been happening and build some bridges between the two of you.
The first big problem is that most people don’t know how to work on their marriage. They imagine that they need to do ‘nice’ things together because that will help them feel better about each other. However, you really need to learn how to communicate better and to sort out problems because otherwise you’re just papering over the cracks. Perhaps, deep down your husband knew being ‘nice’ was not enough, but sadly he didn’t talk about his concerns.
And that brings me to problem No. 2. Men hand over their emotional happiness, in general, to women. If we were being entirely honest, we would say relationships are women’s work and this brings us on to a whole range of associated issues. Most men have no training on how to sort stuff out. They don’t talk to their friends. They don’t read blogs and books that are helpful, they just plough on regardless.
If men find they simply can’t cope on their own, they generally talk to their wife. However, what do you do if your wife is the problem? If you talk to her, she’ll get upset. You’ll feel a heel and shut up. Guess what? You’re back to square one, feeling unhappy and not knowing how to deal with it. Into this ugly situation comes a nasty solution. Why don’t you speak to another woman about it? Generally, there is a woman who is sort of sniffing around and being nice to you. Unfortunately, sharing problems is very intimate and one thing leads to another. … Let’s be honest, there are some predatory women out there and many men end up having affairs.
We come to big problem No. 3. You and your husband start talking and you’re going to try and work on the relationship again – except you’re not certain. It’s a very sensible thing to say because you’re not! You’re being honest, you’re putting your cards on the table. But the ONLY thing he hears is that ‘you’re not certain’. Under these circumstance, he keeps his options open and keeps talking to the other woman. Now I don’t know why men don’t realise why this is a recipe for disaster. I’ll probably live to be 150 before I understand this, but they do it any way. Your husband is not the only man to fall into this trap. (If I had a pound for every time they did it, I would be multi-millionaire!)
What happens next is that the other woman will pull him back into the relationship because she sends a text and asks “how are you doing?” Alternatively, he’s feeling weak in the middle of the night or low at a quiet moment at work – and these days it’s so easy to send a text which you think is harmless – but it awakens all the old feelings.
Now we come to problem no3. Shame is the most toxic of human emotions because it makes us feel entirely unlovable. Everybody hates shame, particularly men who don’t know how to deal with their feelings and therefore have no way of washing it out of their system. So if they feel unlovable in their twisted minds the solution is to go to someone who is going to make them feel lovable. Guess what, we’re back with the other woman. The whole situation gets worse. Feeling more and more unlovable, he goes back to the other woman more and more times and plunges himself into a very downward cycle.
Finally, we come to the biggest problem of all: Pregnancy is impossible to understand from each other’s stand point because becoming a mother and becoming a father are 100% different experiences. No man can really understand what it’s like to be a pregnant woman. Conversely, I don’t think that any woman can understand what it’s like for a man to suddenly become a father. I’ve spent 30 years listening to couples and I’m only just beginning to get my head round it (I’ve spent six months working on a new book which I think you must, must read I Love You But You Always Put Me Last.)
So let me explain. I’ll start with the bit you really do understand: Women feel incredibly vulnerable. They’re carrying a new life around inside of them. She feels terribly emotional and her hormones are all over the place. No wonder, her thinking often becomes dramatic. So you come up with statements about ‘the life he’s been denying his unborn baby’. This is incredibly dramatic language, it is also very black and white thinking and it makes you more emotional. Meanwhile, it makes him more rational and we get into a very dark place.
So what’s happening for men? Men are scared too but we’re not allowed to be scared. We’re supposed to be strong and tough and solve problems. Suddenly, we’ve got to provide for another person and this feels like a huge responsibility. And this is the bit that women don’t understand. Having a child is never our choice, the timing of it is almost always decided by women. It’s very easy for a man to feel trapped and panic. And guess what men do when they feel trapped and panic?
Going back to my early point where we pass our emotional happiness over to women, we can’t talk to our wife because she will go absolutely bananas if we’re not certain about a child. She will come up with statements like: you’re denying the life of our unborn baby. We clam up, we can’t talk to our wives. So who do we talk to? Yes, you’ve guessed it, another woman and this is why men have affairs when their wives are pregnant. Once again, if I had a pound for each time I hear about this I would also be an incredibly rich man.
So, I hope I’ve shed a little bit of light on what’s been happening. The inside of men’s minds doesn’t make very pretty reading. However, the way women sometimes twist themselves round and round in circles and make assumptions isn’t very nice either. Hopefully, this letter will help you to build bridge and talk. If you share it, perhaps he can tell how much of it I’ve got right and how much I’ve got wrong.
When you do have some time, perhaps you can look at Help Your Partner Say Yes and Resolve Your Differences because this will provide you with some other ways of communicating which might solve your problems. And please, whatever you do, read my book on Parenting because parenting requires the best of communication skills.