A Reader Writes…
I’ve been reading your book HCIETYA and I think my husband and I are stuck somewhere between Hope and Attempted Normality.
He had a brief affair for three weeks (?) almost 10 months ago with someone he worked with – he says it was a mid-life crisis but was both angry and scared when I found out, I wonder if it was more than that. He says the affair ‘didn’t mean that much to him’ but has also conceded that it was like the beginning of a relationship when you think you’re falling in love. The affair partner has tried to make contact a few times since the affair ended, and he’s told me about it which is good and then gone on to describe her making contact as a ‘nuisance’ and the affair as an ‘aberration’. I’m bewildered at how easily he’s managed to sever contact with her.
We are going to counselling and have had 15 sessions, and occasionally we get stuck- I’m not sure why or if it’s normal. I’m still feeling suspicious, and think he is a) keeping details of the affair back i.e. how many times they slept together; and b) still in contact with her although I have no proof. I also think my suspicion is prolonged because he lied for the over three weeks when I confronted him and he watched me have a minor breakdown until I found a credit card bill; and both our fathers had affairs.
He shows me affection, but refuses to say he loves me, apparently because I was so hostile towards him when I found out about the affair. This hostility was on/off for the best part of six months, so I can understand his ambivalence. But now that I’m having almost no outbursts, am more affectionate, but still sad, he still can’t say he loves me – even when I tell him that he’s the one I want to be with, he can’t reciprocate. Also, I’ve had to force him to say that I’m / our relationship is important to him by asking a pointed question.
He shows me affection, called most days because I asked for reassurance (but has stopped doing that for some reason), and weirdly our sex life is much better than it was before (partly because I think I need to prove myself to him as a caring lover and eradicate the affair partner). He’s a generally ‘live in his head’ kind of person and I would describe much of his behaviour as passive aggressive.
On a bad day, I think about leaving our relationship – I’ve been unhappy for quite a while and he refused to join me in counselling before the affair – but we have two children and I’m wondering if I can’t see the positive stuff…
I wanted to ask:
- does it matter if he doesn’t say he loves me if he is being affectionate and considerate (he also refuses to say sorry now, although he has done in the past)?
- does it matter if I think he is still lying about the details of the affair?
- does the discovered tend to underplay aspects of the affair? (I’ve said to my husband that I can understand why he would conceal information so as not to hurt me to no avail, I just get mild indignation that I still don’t believe him)
- what signs should I be looking for to know that our relationship is improving?
I think you’re doing very well. It takes time to recover from an affair and I’ve never met a couple who don’t have some reverses and set-backs.
So let’s answer your questions:
- I wouldn’t be worried about him not saying ‘I love you’ for some men, the more you ask, the more uncomfortable they feel about saying it. My guess is that he shows his love in other ways. See the Five Love Languages in either ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ or ‘Build a life-long love affair’
- Is he withholding facts or can he not remember what date he did something and what he said afterwards. For lots of men, these details are not important. He worries that if he did dredge them up, he will only get grief, upset and anger. Worse still, he might get a minor detail wrong and set off more anxieties. He worries that if he confesses one set of information, you’ll want another. So does it matter that he’s withholding? To you…most certainly. It doesn’t have to be a stumbling block for recovery…..unless you make it one.
- Of course, they underplay what happened. The discovered is ashamed and who wants to blow up all your faults into glorious technicolour and upset your wife too!
- It will be better when you’re calmer and he comes out of his cave and meets you half way.
So how do you move forward? I would start working on yourself, rather than your marriage. When you feel down, it might be about stuff from the past (like your father) or how you feel about yourself – not necessarily the affair (which has probably become a catch all for everything that’s wrong in your life.)
So read ‘Learn to love yourself enough’ to improve your self-esteem and ‘Help your partner say yes’ to find different – and more effective ways – to communicate with your husband.