Recently a woman contacted me about her husband’s infidelity. They had been doing prior work with a female therapist who encouraged her anger. She told the husband that his wife was understandably angry and he must be patient as she spewed it out.
Frankly, I found this to be very bad advice. Apparently, the couple did as well and fortunately left this experience. I have found over the years that people usually know when an experience is working badly and they leave it.
The wife found me a bit accidentally but I am awfully glad that she did. The husband wouldn’t come—-not yet anyway. But the wife came. Marriage counseling CAN be done with half the couple if the therapist knows how to paint themselves in to the absent person’s place.
The wife explained that the affair was continuing and the husband lying about it…..another reason that he didn’t want to come! The former therapist further, had referred the husband to still another therapist to deal with his « abuse » issues. He had been physically and emotionally abused by his father. His wife knew but not the details. So now the husband was given STILL another woman to confide in other than his wife. It has been said that « bad » therapy is worse than no therapy. I see this as a good example.
To begin with, the hardest prescription in work in infidelity is the request that the injured person must change also. The anger, though understandable, only pushes the person who is cheating into the arms of the partner with whom the cheating is happening.
It is easy to appreciate how betrayed this wife was feeling. Yet, she needed to understand that her husband’s infidelity had NOTHING to do with her. This is a difficult view to grasp for many women—-male and female infidelity are grounded very differently but NEITHER is the fault of the marriage.
In male infidelity, men cheat when they don’t feel good enough. Said Dr Frank Pittman in his book Private Lies, « infidelity is between a man and his father, not between a man and his wife ». The man isn’t feeling good enough and he uses a woman or women other than his wife to feel better. It doesn’t work because the woman can’t make up for the loss of approval by the father. The cheating continues but the attempted cure fails. In addition, men who believe they must keep the nearest woman happy if they are to succeed, hide themselves and look for strangers in whom to confide their imperfections.
Thus, in this case, the wife with her anger, drives her husband further away and makes herself an unsafe confidante. The husband has two sources of receiving his confidences and nether helps restore the marriage.
Therefore, the wife, if she wants the marriage of 35 years and two grown children, must make herself safe. She has to stop the spewing and seek to understand what her husband has been going through. It isn’t about HER but about HIM. The more she can get him to talk to HER the more hope for the marriage.
Does she HAVE to stay? No. The kids are grown and out. They are of course angry and refusing to talk to him. Everyone is affected and betrayed. The husband would like to make amends but can’t do it in the anger. The wife doesn’t really want a divorce after all these years. And we are headed for the unborn grandchildren to lose their grandfather.
Once the wife started asking questions as to what the husband was experiencing, he began to talk to her. He told her that her anger pushed him toward the other woman —-married with 5 children! The husband was in a relationship he didn’t want and didn’t know how to leave.
He began sharing more and more with his wife and less and less with the affairée. He eventually told the abuse therapist that he didn’t need her…he could talk to his wife free of charge! Further, his wife pursued him sexually after both got thoroughly medically checked out. She changed her anger delivery and also the message to him. She made sure he knew that he was worth fighting for but she didn’t do it with anger.
In fact, she has proven herself to be the safest person he knows. She KNOWS his imperfections and wants him anyway. The cheating must stop…..I believe it finally has…..and she has proven herself to be the safest person with whom he has to talk. The kids are forgiving him because their mother is understanding him better, and his grandchildren will have him in their lives.
There is still a lot of work to be done but it is headed in the right direction.