A Reader Writes…
I have read so many of your blogs and listen to your radio articles and a lot helps when I am in an anxious period but I think what I need to read next is your new book which is not yet ready. My husband and I are in crisis. The short of it is he was unhappy for years and never really told me although I knew we were not in a good place. He had an affair and fell in love. He told me he does not love me any more.
We have been married 25 years with three children. The affair started 18 months ago and he has left her and come home twice and even took a job abroad to try on our marriage but then he said he can not stop thinking about her and the last time he was happy was when he was with her. He has not totally committed to making the marriage work as he won’t let me in. I held off with overt affection at his request to give him time. This seems to have back fired as we have not been able to get close or talk (although no problem with ‘sex’). He kept making excuses as to when we were going to talk. He immerses himself in work and chores to avoid personal daytime together and is not totally himself when we are together. He seems withdrawn.
He said he had not been in contact with her for the last 6 months ( I don’t know if this is true or not especially as he has lied before) and he recently told me two weeks after the second time he finished with her he went to see her and they slept together before telling her he had to work on his marriage so he if he did leave it would be with a clear conscience that he had tried everything properly. He has not started to do that. We did start talking a few weeks ago and we ended up ‘agreeing’ he needed space so I came back to UK which was 2 weeks ago. The last night together was lovely actually and we snuggled up on the sofa and came close and the next morning he actually broke down which he hasn’t done for a long while and said he knows that there is a chance and he hasn’t given up on us but he still needed the space so I still left.
I have another three weeks before I go back to see if he has had enough ‘space’. He said he may need to contact her as there is ‘unfinished business’. I said that that will make me his back up plan which he denies but how can I not be? I told him I will stand by him and want this marriage to work and doing everything I can but I won’t share him and be second choice. What does he hope to achieve by making contact that is not obvious?
I am a gibbering wreck desperate to get him back and have really really tried not to bombard him with sentiments but it is so hard as I love him so much. Yes I was not a great person to live with and he said over the years he was slowly worn down and the love for me slowly dissipated but I have changed a lot and know there is still work to do and he has acknowledged the huge change but he says he can not seem to get those feelings of love back. But how can he if he doesn’t let me in and totally shut her out? How can I get him to see how he is acting like an addict, possibly depressed and that with work we can find love again with me.
I am scared that giving him space will allow him to get in contact with her, and I have no idea if she will take him back but I suspect she would as they seemed to be in love and did all those romantic things I always wanted. Lots of kissing and cuddling and telling each other how much they love each other etc when he left previously he went and stayed with her for a few weeks each time but said he came back as he could not bring himself to leave because I was such a wreck, he would break up his family, I would be left with nothing, he could not cope with the pain he was causing me. He can not bear the pain he was causing her either. He actually wished he had two parallel lives. That way he keeps it all and does not have to make a decision.
He says he cares deeply for me and is sorry for hurting me but does not seem remorseful for what he has done. He said he was always the giver and now he was doing something for himself. He saw her daily but usually for coffee or lunch and any over-nights or sex was sporadic. Our sex life has always been good and we fancy each other but communication was non existent really. Always too scared to cause an argument yet bickered lots or I would sulk and give silent treatment. We tried counselling but he was obviously lying all through that as he had not stopped seeing her even though I thought he had. He admits he felt valued and admired and important when he was with her and I know I needed to do that. I felt it but did not show it. All I want is a chance to make it all better. Where do I go from here? How do I stop myself from writing all my feelings down for him. I already have in the past and he knows quite clearly how I feel and has almost a books worth of my soul searching, and declarations of love.
Due to his job, if we separated properly or divorce I loose everything. House, lifestyle, social life, etc. I gave everything up for him and we had a great ‘perfect ‘family unit but it has been hell for 18 months. I am becoming agoraphobic. I was outgoing, lively, very flirty which was also a factor that emasculated him and I did cross the line a few times but he knows and says he forgave me. He has had a few inappropriate relationships as well where it appears in our unhappy times we looked for others to make us feel good instead of confronting the issues. But in all of this I have always loved him and was crying out for affection and attention.
Out of 25 years married and 28 years together all have been great I think but the last 6 years have been turmoil. Any help would be appreciated as I do not want to ruin any chance I have of a reconciliation by being needy and not doing what he wants which is giving him space. And how to move forward and even try to get him to see his behaviour is almost text book and he can move on if he would only read or listen to what the experts say and then try and work on his marriage with 100% commitment. But I have to stop telling him how to think. I am not prepared to give up on us. I have spoken to friends which I know you say is frustrating but one in particular had a marriage crisis 10x worse than mine but they worked it through and so her advice has been very helpful and insightful. He has no one to talk to except me or her.
My goodness, it does seem that I’m writing my next book especially for you! I It’s certainly for anyone stuck in the nightmare scenario of “My husband will not stop seeing his mistress but doesn’t want to leave our marriage.”
However, don’t worry there’s a lot of material that I’ve already published that will help you understand what’s gone wrong and start your fight back. I also have ONE idea that you need to take on board if you’re going to save this marriage.
Let’s start with how you got into this mess. We feels that he is a giver – always doing what’s best for the family and discounting or neglecting his needs. (There is only so long you can carry on like this before you explode in an act of extreme selfishness – i.e. an affair).
I call this behaviour being passive – i.e. his needs, wants and beliefs were of no importance and everybody else’s of supreme importance. What I want is for him to be assertive – i.e. his needs and important and so are yours (and you can negotiate if there is a clash).
I explain all about this in I Love You but You Always Put Me Last and if you’ve had a ‘perfect’ family my suspicion is that you’ve both put the children first (and your marriage will have suffered). Please start here.
In addition, I’d like you read I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You because that explains the toxic effect of not arguing – because it means that all feelings are suppressed and suppression leads to depression. The other book is How Can I Ever Trust You Again? which explains why people have affairs (often because of unattended I love you but…)
So what’s this one idea to take on board? It’s something I see a lot with ‘other woman’ hanging around in the background. The wife thinks, not unreasonably, how can we begin to bond if she’s in the picture? So she puts all her energy – not into fixing the original problem – but trying to winkle the other woman out.
Guess what? It puts her centre stage and gives her more power than she really has. Worse still, the wife uses tears, anger, recriminations and shame to try and force the husband to act. Guess what? This just builds a bigger wall between them. Before long a crisis has escalated into a soap opera into a catastrophe. The man thinks ‘we’ve been working on the marriage and getting nowhere, so I must leave’ and the wife complains ‘but we haven’t even started because SHE’S IN THE WAY’.
I think the fundamental problem is that when people look at their marriage problems, they want to concentrate on the nice stuff – trying to get close again (ie more cuddles, nights out etc). However, they don’t want to look at the nasty stuff (i.e. acknowledge the anger and unexpressed upset or work on changing the communication) because it’s hard, dangerous and frightening.
So here’s my ONE thought – concentrate on sorting out the communication – being assertive, keeping calm and reporting your feelings. In this way, you will be taking down the wall between you one brick at a time (with each positive interaction). So stop trying to get close and concentrate on dismantling the wall and removing the rubble.
I know you’re thinking: what about the other woman? Once the two of you are talking properly and you’re not doing: ‘I hate you /don’t leave me’ – it’s likely that he won’t need to off load onto her so much. Even if he does use ‘space’ to have more contact, it will not necessarily be a disaster. The vast majority of affairs deflate once they are tested in the real world. Remember she is a symptom of your six years of problem – not the cause – she is only a major problem if you make her one. If you want some more reassurance, the vast majority of men who leave for ‘other woman’ don’t end up with them.
So instead of trying to change your husband or his mistress, concentrate on changing yourself (because that’s the only person that ultimately have any control over). Fortunately, you’ve already started on this journey – congratulations on telling yourself not to tell your husband want to think – but concentrate on all your energy into fixing you (and nipping the acrophobia in the bud) and becoming the best version of yourself possible.
Update: My Husband Doesn’t Love Me and He’s Texting Someone Else was released in 2014.