Question: My husband and I aren’t doing too well. A year ago, he had an affair on more than one occasion with my best girlfriend at the time. He says it never went beyond kissing so I tried so hard to push my feelings down to make it possible to forgive and forget. I just can’t forget it. I would like for my marriage to work but I am afraid that the trust is just gone forever. Not only is trust an issue, we also fight all of the time and he talks down to me. It seems like we have the same conversation about us being unhappy every 6 months. I’m just so worn out. I finally got the courage to leave him and I am staying at a friend’s house. He says he wants to work on it, I’m just not sure. He keeps saying that I am just giving up and that I don’t have one last fighting chance. It is just so hard because 6 months ago he asked for one more chance and did the same thing 6 months before that and so on. My question is, what should we do? Should I continue with the divorce process or should I suck it up and try one last time. I’m just scared that if I do, we will just go back to square one and end up where we are now again in 6 months.
Also, While I am at my friends, he keeps texting me asking me if I will have sex with him. He said he thinks that we should “have a one night stand” he wants me to go back to the house, have sex with him, and then go on my way. I would like to relieve some built up urges but I’m not sure that would be a wise thing to do because I don’t want to send mixed signals. What should I do?
Answer: Some research indicates that men have more difficulty forgiving the sexual aspects of an affair while women have more difficulty forgiving the emotional aspects. That seems to apply to the two of you. He justified his emotional entanglement by assuring you it was only kissing (implying that he views the sexual act as the “bad” thing and he didn’t do that). You have trouble getting past his kissing her because that meant some level of emotional involvement with her.
That difference also exists in his desire for you to have a “one night stand” with him. Without doubt, part of his motivation is a desire for sexual relief and sexual pleasure. However, it may go deeper. Though he says you can “go on your way” afterwards, he may believe that by giving your body to him you might give yourself to him altogether. In other words, that would motivate you to forgive and move home. You, on the other hand, seem to view sex as an emotional bonding – though you admit you have physical needs – and do not want him to think that making love with him means that you are ready to open your heart to him.
Is any of that important? I think so. But not just because of the sexual perspectives. It may give a picture of the other part of your marriage that you discussed. The flow of your message seems to say that while you are very hurt about his emotional straying, your bigger problem is in the way he treats you. You state that he “talks down” to you. Interestingly, that fits a pattern that also sometimes exits in males and females. He takes the lead (“head of the household,” “man of the house,” or “leader of the pack,” whatever phrasing you prefer) and you follow. Therefore, if you do, say, think, or feel something that he doesn’t like, he corrects you. (I’m assuming that is what you mean by “talks down,” because those are the ways we typically see when helping marriages in crisis.) You do not say how long you have been together, so I have no way of knowing if you took that from him for months, years, or decades. However long it was, it was too long. You built up resentment. The two of you regularly discussed your unhappiness, but, apparently, did not know how to change your interactions. He likely did not perceive himself as talking down to you because in his mind he was just being the man and helping you grow. You did not like his behavior, but could not get him to understand what it was doing to you.
Therefore, when he finally allowed his unhappiness to make him vulnerable to connecting with another woman, you had enough. The fact that she was your best girlfriend made it worse. If I had time and space, I could explain why it was her and not a stranger, but, unfortunately I do not.
If what I’ve written so far rings true (in other words, if you think I have enough understanding of your situation), then please allow me to answer your questions.
First, trust may be gone forever, but not necessarily. There is no doubt that you cannot forgive and trust him again without first solving your underlying relationship problem. However, if you repaired that and put it together as it should be rather than as it way, yes, you can trust him again.
Second, since you are not sure if you wish to work on your marriage or not, the best thing for you to do is find out. You probably cannot do that well by simply deciding to move home again. Instead, I recommend that you get outside help to think things through. You may choose to get a counselor – and I am all for good counselors – but you will get a better picture if you and your husband together work through some very important processes. Forgive my sounding like a commercial, but consider attending the weekend workshop we do for marriages in crisis. Many couples come to decide if they are willing to try again. I feel confident that if the two of you spend one of those weekends with us, you will have a clear idea of whether you should try again or not. For more information, call us toll free at 866-903-099o. We will listen. We will help you think things through.
Third, it is possible for him to change and for your relationship to change. I understand your doubts and hesitations. You have given him “another chance” before and every time the marriage winds up back where it was – both of you unhappy. However, nothing will change for the better if you get back together without first taking a few crucial steps. Each of you must understand more about yourselves. You must together develop an understanding of how to communicate differently. He must learn to treat you with respect. (He probably thinks he does now, but your question says that he does not. Since you have tried to explain before and he did not “get it,” he will not “get it” if you explain it again. Again, I recommend professional help.) You have to learn how to forgive truly. He has to learn how to develop your trust. There is more, but I think you get the point. Your marriage needs a makeover. The good news is that it can happen. Believe me, we see situations much worse than the one you describe and regularly witness marriage miracles.
Fourth, the fact that he wants to try again indicates that he loves you. Obviously, the two of you have trouble showing love in the way it should be shown. However, I get the impression that he really does love you. I also get the impression that you really love him. Otherwise, you would not be asking these questions. Rather than letting your love for each other die, rescue it. It can be done. It will, however, take work.
Fifth, I recommend that you avoid lovemaking with him until you do the things I recommend above. You are right; it will give him mixed signals. BUT I HAVE TO QUALITY THAT WITH THIS IMPORTANT NOTE: Both you and he have sexual needs. I admire you for admitting that you consider making love with him just to fulfill your needs. Because you both have these needs, do NOT delay seeking the help you need to make this marriage work. No matter how strong you think you are…no matter how much he loves and wants you back…being sexually unfulfilled can make anyone vulnerable. The Bible speaks to that in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. It says that without sexual fulfillment we may be tempted because of our lack of self-control. With that in mind, if you feel any temptation or attraction to anyone, go home and make love to your husband. Immediately. Even if it gives mixed signals. The other part of that is that if you feel that he is being tempted or attracted to someone, go home and make love to him immediately. I realize that you may not be able to know that. I also realize that if he realizes that you will come home to make love to him if you think he is tempted, he could use that information to manipulate you into bed. However, my view is that making love to your husband to prevent either of you from temptation is more important than the fear of his getting mixed signals.
Sixth, if I am right and you love the guy – and he loves you – don’t let this end this way. Try again, but wisely and with help. Even if it does not work out, risking a few months is well worth what may well lead to a lifetime of happiness. Let us help. Call us. If not us, then someone.
By the way, if you call our toll free number 866-903-0990, tell our marriage consultant that offered you a copy of my latest book, The Art of Falling in Love. I will personally autograph it for you. Why? I have this feeling…it just seems right to want to help you.