Infidelity: Consequences of Punishing the Offending PartnerMarch 10, 2010 • Contributed by Jim Hutt, PhD, Family Problems Topic Expert Contributor
In this article I want to focus on one particular aspect of recovering from an affair: punishing the offending partner.
I am frequently asked, “How long is this pain going to last?!” That’s impossible to answer, but I do know one way to shorten the life span of your pain, and perhaps shorten the recovery process. What’s my secret? If you’re punishing your partner, stop. Why? Because punishment can slow the recovery process, thereby extending the pain you are working so hard to reduce.
In my office, I frequently hear the injured party telling their partner, “I want you to hurt for as long as possible, just like I do. You’re just going to have to take this punishment and deal with it!” The punishment begins in a wide variety of forms that ultimately prolong the injured party’s pain. In the early stages of recovery, dishing out punishment seems to provide the injured party a semblance of control after feeling profoundly powerless, helpless, and deeply wounded.
The Downsides to Punishment
First of all, punishment can lead to bitterness in one or both partners. Bitterness is swallowing a poison pill hoping the other party will die.
Second, it delays recovery due to the need for more repair. Punishment causes additional pain to a relationship already suffering on several levels. More pain means more recovery work. More recovery work takes more time. Inflicting emotional pain in someone else seldom leads to relief from our own pain because our brains are simply not wired to do that.
Punishing the offending partner means the injured party is working at cross purposes. For example, let’s pretend you are the injured party. Part of you wants to stop feeling so terrible and get your life back, perhaps save the relationship, or try to figure out whether or not the relationship even can be saved. Another part of you wants your partner to suffer, so you punish them. But punishing your partner, although understandable, only adds more pain to the relationship. The pain you feel as a result of the affair is real, deep, and pervasive. Adding pain to one side of the relationship while simultaneously trying to reduce it on the other side simply will not work. It is impossible to repair something that is simultaneously being damaged.
Alternatives to Punishment
- Realize that your desire to punish is normal, but it’s the consequence of your own pain.
- Understand that purposely causing pain for pain’s sake in your partner will not relieve your pain in the long run, even if it seems to provide a short-lived sense of satisfaction.
- Talk with your partner in detail about your pain! Expressing your pain gives you a greater likelihood of being heard and understood. It also provides an opportunity for your partner to experience their own pain derived from losing your trust, damaging their credibility, and losing their integrity, not to mention the realization that the relationship is in jeopardy. Punishment may divert them from facing those important issues and emotions.
- Remember, bitterness and punishment are damaging.
Think about it: If punishing the offending party must play a role, try to make it short-lived and limited. For when it persists, bitterness may take over, individual- and couple-healing is stalled, and your pain and recovery will be prolonged. Recovery from an affair is a long, arduous process, but the recovery process can be shortened if punishment stops. If need be, find a good counselor to help out.
How do you find a counselor who has an understanding of infidelity recovery? Ask if they have read Peggy Vaughan’s book, The Monogamy Myth. If not, look until you find a counselor who has. And if you haven’t read it, do so.
If you and your partner really want to do yourselves a favor, attend one of Brian and Anne Bercht’s workshops for couples recovering from an affair.
Limit the punishment, reduce your pain, and shorten the recovery process.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
sandra cMarch 11th, 2010 at 9:24 AM
When I discovered that my husband had had an affair in the past I punished him for months even though the affair had ended almost a year ago and he was definitely doing what it took to rebuild our marriage. I had to get that anger out but what I thought was all anger was even more than that pain. It hurt to know that he had betrayed me in that way and had risked everything that we had worked on together in our relationship for sex with another woman. After I was through with the raging we were finally able to get it all together but it is not an easy task to forgive it and move on to something like that. I know that it is essential to get past the anger but that does not need to be rushed. You have to take the time that you need to recover and come to that place where you are ready to move forward.
A petersenMarch 11th, 2010 at 9:38 AM
If you really love you partner and are keen on keeping him/her even after the infidelity,you should understand that both of you,and not just your partner,need to work very hard to make the relationship work again.This includes you refraining from inflicting pain onto your partner and from doing others things that will increase the problem rather than solving it.
Jim Hutt, Ph.dApril 1st, 2010 at 12:49 PM
Your point is well taken, and also I applaud you and your husband for sticking to it and being able to work things out!
Your experience highlights the difference between the anger or rage someone in your shoes feels, vs the the motive to punish the offending partner. In other words, expressing your anger/rage, pain, is not the same a punishing. However, many offending partners feel punished when they hear the power of expressed anger.
Punishment is what an injured party does exclusively for the purposes of causing pain to the offending partner: pain for pain sake. Such as, passively doing or not doing something simply to irritate him/her. Or, actively doing something that is not in any way connected to a healthy healing process. Any behavior that might be considered ‘passive-aggressive.’
The key distinction, again, is that the punishing behavior is not related to an effective, healthy healing process, and is produces strictly for the purpose of revenge, hurting or wounding the offending party.
Honest expression of hurt, direct description pain, is NOT punishment. The problem is, many offending parties hear the former, and say, “when are you going to stop punishing me?” That, of course, has a way of derailing honest, appropriate expression of feelings.
The moral of the story: Don’t define your expression of pain, hurt and feelings as punishment. Even if your partner says it is.
Jim Hutt, Ph.dApril 1st, 2010 at 3:14 PM
To A. Petersen,
You’re right–it is all about hard work. and when an affair becomes an issue to deal with, rebuilding the trust is something that cannot be over-emphasized.
Staying SaneAugust 13th, 2010 at 1:51 PM
It is hard to define things….For example, I do know that my wife didn’t have sex with her partner. Instead, they had a long and deep relationship where they connected on multiple levels. Even when she was spending time with me she would keep in touch with him. He knew everything about us and she knew everything about him and his family. The first thing she would think in our bad was sometimes him. He and his message would make her day, not me who was actually there. Again, no sex, not even a kiss. Is this an affair??? It sure feels like it. As you can see, so many details of this affair, a constant source for pain…I could go for days about the pain. Should I look for all these details? Don’t you think that maybe even these expressions of pain have a limit?
Major PetersNovember 8th, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I’m curious as to the projected time frame to finally be able to move forward. For us, it’s been years now, and the punishment is still being dished out like Milk Duds at Halloween.
Jim Hutt, Ph.DNovember 9th, 2012 at 7:18 AM
Interesting metaphor–Milk Duds at Halloween. Candy at Halloween is usually asked for, so maybe your partner thinks you’re asking for punishment. Now, I realize you are not literally asking for it, but you might be metaphorically inviting it. If you have not made a conscious attempt to repair, if you have not sought counseling, if you have not taken direct steps to build trust, then the punishment continues. BUT, that doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, it’s unhealthy, and will help nothing. I have a video about the subject at counselorlink.com/infidelity. If possible, get in to counseling as a couple, but if not possible, go by yourself. If you don’t, I think it’s possible this seething stalemate will continue, and the results will not satisfy either one of you. Good luck and please keep me informed.
Windy Ridge Giant 44April 3rd, 2013 at 11:25 PM
I guess I get your point. But I am still struggling terribly with my wife’s affair from last Fall.
What makes it worse is her unwillingness to talk about it. I find that, more than anything else, spurs in me the urge to want to punish her.
My biggest problem is trying to figure out how I would punish her, even if I wanted to – I am not a scheming, mean, manipulative or controlling person.
For now, I am taking comfort that the affair is over, and all communication with the individual has stopped.
deep storyJanuary 10th, 2015 at 6:45 AM
my partner was not loyal from the first day to the last day of our 8 year relationship. she maintained facebook and internet boyfriends that included texting sexting sending pictures etc. After finding this all out what I am left with is a deep story that i am not good at choosing partners and not worthy of loyalty. Pathetic I know and a story I know but it grabs me all the same. she lost almost 100 pounds while she was with me and my wish is that she gains it all back. She used my resources and generosity to get where she is now and it is just hard to stomach that she deserves that given she was with me in a way that was false and premeditated, I just feel done to. The advice in the article is sound though – there was pain and confusion and I say i want to move on from those two things in relationship to that relationship.
Jim Hutt, Ph.DJanuary 10th, 2015 at 3:32 PM
Your story is a sad and powerful one. I don’t know if you are good at choosing partners or not. The sad part is that, indeed, it seems you were taken advantage of, and that can happen to any of us. The powerful part is your belief that you are not good at picking partners–because that might not be accurate. Here’s what I mean.
In truth, ANYone can pick an inappropriate partner, and pay a stiff price as a result, if they don’t leave the relationship when they spot the warning signs.
Is it possible there were signs of trouble that you ignored? Sometimes signs of trouble might be ignored because of a strong desire to avoid being alone, and/or fear of fighting if the trouble is pointed out. If this is the case, a more accurate belief might be that you are bad at ENDING relationships–not bad at picking a partner.
But, if you believe you are “bad” at picking a partner (a very powerful and perhaps inaccurate belief), and also believe that you are not worthy of loyalty, the combination of those beliefs is likely to set you up emotionally to end up in a bad relationship because being in a bad relationship may unconsciously be what you think you deserve, and that may seem better than not being in one at all.
Get in to counseling and discuss these ideas. You can figure this out. We all deserve to be loved, and that includes you.
RogerApril 7th, 2015 at 7:57 PM
Unless the offending partner feels the true consequences of their actions, it is highly likely the offenses will be repeated. Just human nature. Do not be a putz a second time.
CazJune 21st, 2015 at 6:52 PM
I am a cheater. I am doing everything I possibly can to reconcile with my wife. However, I feel she mostly wants to punish me. I have said – countless times – that the damage and pain I have caused is entirely my fault – that I have put her in the position she is now in due to me having an affair – but every opportunity she gets – she will say things like – well its YOUR fault I’m here – It’s YOUR fault this… YOUR fault that etc…As if she thinks I have forgotten or will forget what I’ve done. How could I ever forget – I live with the pain and consequences of my actions for TWO people… her and me…. she also doesn’t seem to talk about her feelings as such – more about the affair only – and trying to make comparisons with other things in my past – which are not relevant – nor do they even correlate for comparison – so I’m not sure what is going on….
I don’t want to hurt my partner – I’m doing everything I can possibly do to show my commitment to reconciliation – but I’m not so sure she is as committed as she says she is. Anyone have any suggestions for me please?
Jim HuttJune 22nd, 2015 at 4:29 PM
Either get in to counseling with someone who understands affair recovery dynamics, or, attend a weekend workshop conducted by the Beyond Affairs Network. You can find them online.
HazelJuly 28th, 2015 at 5:44 AM
I got married in December 2015 and kept in touch via Skype with male acquaintances I had met on-line. One was an ex bf, and a few who had been friends for years, or males from chat/single sites. They all knew I had got married and I messaged them just to catchup. Unfortunately I had already had promised my husband 3 months earlier that I wouldn’t keep in touch with males, but failed to do so and thus respect his feelings. He was upset that I had been underhand and used skype to hide this behaviour seeing no-one had my number that I had changed a few months earlier, and understandably felt I was being duplicitous.
He found out by going through my phone and was understandably extremely angry and upset with me. Note, I was not having an affair of any sort with any of them, and none of the convos were flirtatious. I acknowledged he was right to be hurt and angry and I would stop and make it up to him. He questioned me why, and I said it was just a bad habit, I was used to speaking to lots of people and since marriage had found no avenue for talking to people as we didn’t spend much time away from one another, except while I was at work, and was not accustomed to this. Even going to see my parents more than once a week was questioned, even though before marriage he had said twice a week sounds reasonable. So i needed an avenue to just rant sometimes, about the change and how it was a bit difficult, and i didn’t want to rant to friends and family as they might think i wasn’t happy, and i didn’t want to rant to him else he feel hurt.
He decided to take my phone and ipad off me, and left me with my work phone. He took my passwords for my email accounts and facebook. He made me go through my bank accounts and promise I had no more accounts, to show him I didnt have another phone and nor was I sending gifts to other guys. He was annoyed at how much money I had spent the first few months of marriage which I put my hands up and agreed to and said I had a little crazy spell getting excited any buying lots of new things, and agreed I need to budget and calm down. Which I did, but later he would bring it up infront of people that I was a bad spender, and I would hurt that yes I was and I admitted it and I tried to correct it but you use it against me.
He also told me to stop seeing friends, and for a period of 4 weeks the only outside people I met, were my family for 4hrs 1 day a week. I didn’t have a car so was going straight from work to home, where we lived with his parents. He would give me periods of access to my phone for an hr in the evenings. When I challenged this one night as I wanted to send a text at 11pm and he wouldn’t let me, he threw my phone out the window. He would read all my messages, be them from females or group conversations. When I asked him why he wouldn’t answer, later I would see screen shots of conversations he went back 2-3 months earlier where my friends has said something negative against me. Later when I asked why he went through female conversations he said it was to see if I had mentioned any males to them and they knew of anything else I had been upto. He deleted a female friends number from my phone because he didn’t like what she said in a message (she said if I needed a time out she could come boost me out of the house). He already had bad blood with another female friend of mines who I had stopped talking to, but told me to also stop going anywhere she might be with mutual friends, and remove me from a phone whatsapp group which included her – this meant losing access to a group friendship with friends of mine for 20 years. Which I did.
I asked him to stop punishing me, as all these things were making me feel isolated and suffocated, and mentally I wasn’t sure how I could handle this long term. Bear in mind I had moved into his family home and it had only been 6 weeks, and was getting used to a new place, feeling uncomfortable in a new house with new rules/people and trying to fit in etc. When I complained he said I had said I would do what it takes, and I replied yes I will, within reason. But his and mines ‘reasonable’ were on opposite ends.
He went into my skype ID and contacted males on it as me, telling them I was unhappy in my marriage and asking them to come see him, the males would then jump at booking a hotel and getting naughty with me and he held that against me. I said to him, but I wasn’t behaving that way to them, you were. But he judged me by the type of people I was talking to. I was like these are online guys, you talk to them like that, they are going to jump at the chance. One of them was an ex so he asked them when we were last together and got details of our relationship (NB I ended my relationship with him a couple of weeks into when I initially met my husband). Later on I relogged back in and seen the conversations he had been having as me with them, told them my account had been hacked and I deleted all the contacts and the account. He was then angry I still logged in and contacted these men and what they meant to me. I said nothing but you made them think I was unhappy and wanted an affair, thats not fair of you to demean me that way so I sent them that line and deleted it so he couldn’t do it again.
He contacted my family and siblings to tell them what I had been up to, that I had been having an affair and for them to talk some sense into me. I asked him what was the point in doing that, especially when I was admitting to him what I did was wrong (chatting to guys – I did not have an affair) and I wouldn’t do it. He said they should know. He told my parents, and they reacted negatively to him, as in my culture this was a really bad thing for a woman to do, and they felt he should have hid this from them and dealt with it hisself. My mother told him off for going into my things and he got upset at them for being loyal to me and not telling me off the way he wanted them to. He deemed my parents unfit parents who had given me too much freedom and no wonder I was like this. All very hurtful things for me to hear, especially as he demeaned my parents by saying these things to them infront of them. It was my actions not theirs. Things I told him in confidence about my family set up he brought up and used in front of them saying that behaviour might be ok in their house but not his. He brought up my physical relations with the ex to my father and made me admit to it. My father is religious so it ashamed him and my dad went quiet. My husband was annoyed my father did not tell me off.
His family kept telling me to listen to him. Just do as he says he will calm down.
I tried. It came to a head when we one day he took me to work and we spoke about joint finances. I told him the way the trust was broken in our relationship I didn’t feel ready for it and we could talk about it another time. At this point he told me fine, to go into work and hand in my notice in and I wasn’t to work anymore. As he didnt trust I was at work and not out meeting guys, as I have a flexible office with remote login allowed etc. He based this on when we were dating and I would see him for long lunches and take my laptop with me and login on his phone. I said to him why would I cheat on you, I got married to you, and I wasnt having an affair or met anyone I shouldnt have, and that he was being unreasonable. He said he couldnt trust me so I had to do this. I owed my father money and he had been going on at me for 4 months to give it back to my father. I couldn’t understand why it was a problem. He felt I wasn’t respecting him and being disloyal to him. So that same day he made me take that money out of the bank. He took it saying he would give it to my dad when he picked me up that night from a friends. I was distraught at being told to hand my notice in that I went home to my parents. When I messaged him later to say I was there he told me not to bother coming back, and when my father phoned his parents to say he would be over with me the next day, he text me again to say my father was not welcome in his house.
I ignored him and went round the next day. He wouldn’t let my father enter the house, my father got confused with this angry behaviour and panicked and phoned my older brother to come. In our community you arent rude to elders or disrespect them and generally keep quiet in front of them, so was a pretty bad thing that happened. I was upset and couldn’t believe this was my husband and how he was behaving. He said that because they had been rude last time they came, he didn’t want him in his house. When we got access in, and asked him about the money he proclaimed ‘what money’. Later on he admitted it was not there. Wierd since he had taken it from me the day before and I had messaged him then to say my father and I would be over the next day. I left his house that day with my father without the money. While we were outside he called the police on my brother saying he had threatened him. The police came and I told them he had my phone and money, they asked him and got my phone from him, and he again stated he didn’t know anything about the money.
When I went home I realised he had changed my passwords on my email accounts so I started to change passwords, but he locked one down completely with 2 type authentication. Again I felt he was punishing me.
I did go back again when some religious leaders got involved but the relationship was difficult, we went on holiday that he wanted to go to, but when it came to paying he expected me to pay for it all and said he didn’t have the money. I didn’t mind paying but i didn’t like the way he went about it. No transparency.
He wanted apologies from my mum and dad to his parents, my brother and father to him, etc.
I managed to get the money back via a cheque but it took 3 weeks. I asked him for cash (as thats how he took it) but he wouldnt – when I asked him later why, he said he was being obstinate.
After all this I needed a break from him and decide what to do next as I felt our relationship was broken and went home to parents. While there when I stopped talking to him, as he wouldn’t call me himself and I got annoyed and stopped calling him too. After this he couldn’t handle that I was not talking to him, that after I had ‘cheated’ on him how dare I think I might not want to be in this marriage and got annoyed. He called me a tramp, accused my brother of slashing his tyres, blamed the breakdown of my marriage on my anger and my family and my dirty ways. Told my family he would be issuing me with divorce, but later on backtracked and wanted to try again.
Unfortunately I have been married 7 months and I have more bitterness and punishment in this relationship than love. I have tried within reason to do what he wants but his demands escalate, without understanding the consequence of his words and actions. I told him I never wanted to be in a relationship where my husband doesn’t respect me and calls me names. No matter what I have done for you, you still see as I haven’t done enough and that I am disloyal to you and a disobedient wife. I told him I cut ties with friends, gave him access to my things, was transparent, went against family to marry him, but this wasn’t enough loyalty. But this is where I am, deciding if my actions were so bad that this behaviour on his part is ok, is it my punishment, should I repent more etc. So in conclusion, when punishing an offending partner, please think of the consequence and ensure those punishments are suitable, because all it does is push the partner away after a time when they see no matter what they do it isn’t helping.
Sorry for the rant, once you start typing, you can’t stop :)
EvelynAugust 24th, 2015 at 12:44 PM
I have been with my boyfriend for a year, and he cheated on me twice with two different girls. I discovered the facts two months ago and he apologized and has shown true change and effort to save our relationship. What I’m struggling with is with pain and the urge to control him. Know where he is, what he is doing, and always wondering if he’s chatting with other women, since this was one of the ways in which he cheated on me. He has started to feel sad and angry due to my controlling behavior and says I’m being violent for not respecting his privacy and showing him that I don’t trust him. I really want to relax, trust him and stop feeling so anxious when we are not together. What can I do?
jim hutt, Ph.D.August 25th, 2015 at 10:05 AM
As a couple you are in the very early stages of recovering from the infidelity. Evelyn, your anxiety is high, and your trust is low, both understandable. Your boyfriend sounds like he is responding negatively to your attempts to reduce your anxiety through control, and you both end up spinning your wheels. This is a very complicated and complex set of issues, and requires you to get counseling from a seasoned therapist who understands all the complexities. In the meantime, you can each begin by considering two things, one for each of you: Evelyn, trying to control his behavior will not serve to reduce your anxiety, it will actually increase it. Your boyfriend–he would do well to offer complete transparency, rather than have you drag it out of him. That might help reduce your attempts to control. In the long and short term, building trust is a painstaking undertaking, but is required for the two of you to arrive at a more comfortable, intimate place, and you both will have to participate in building that trust. He hinders the building of trust by not being transparent, and you hinder it by being controlling. That’s an over-simplified way of describing it, as there is much that goes in to building trust. And, of course, being able to talk about all this stuff in a way that leads to each of you understanding each other’s experience is crucial. If talking about it is typically unproductive, again, counseling can help. Good luck going forward, as I understand how painful and frustrating this recovery process is.
Kaya50November 20th, 2015 at 5:10 PM
As the former wife of a cheater I would like to comment on this subject. I think the only way to go on with your life after being lied to, cheated on and betrayed, is to divorce this person and remove yourself out of a toxic situation.
After being for 20 years I discovered my ex husbands affair with a young co worker. He blamed me for being crazy, too old, too far, too boring etc. My entire world shattered. If he was so unhappy with me or the family he should have asked for a divorce instead of bringing a third person into our marriage. He left one night with a few bags and told me “I am not in love with you anymore”. Translation “I am having an affair with my co worker.”
I was devastated. I cried, I grieved , I begged. Until I found a great divorce attorney and filed for divorce. I had it. I will never be someone’s choice especially not the person I am married to. I took him to court and hurt him financially like he never imagined. Emotionally I was not able to get revenge. But financially I came out the winner. I stopped all contact with him.
Now, almost 3 years later. I have a great life, peaceful and happy. I can now wake up without a liar next to me. His only adult son hates him. My ex lost everything. His house. His family. His money , his integrity . What an idiot.
Kaya50November 20th, 2015 at 5:22 PM
As the faithful spouse you can never recover from the pain you experienced. The pain and hurt my ex husband inflicted on me was the most difficult time in my life. You will never be able to forget or forgive. Deep inside you will always want to inflict punishment on the cheating spouse. I truly hate divorce but it’s the only one option when it comes to adultery. I now have my self respect and my self worth back . Before I was pathetic and weak to be putting up with his crap.
Mrs. DevastatedJanuary 12th, 2016 at 3:03 AM
Hi,my question is for Sandra c. How did u get over the hurt and anger. I really need advise as I am not able to forgive my husband for cheating 6 months ago. Pls advise? Thank you
January 12th, 2016 at
Dear Mrs. Devastated,
Thank you for your comment. The GoodTherapy.org Team is not qualified to offer professional advice, but if you are experiencing hurt, anger, or other distress, we encourage you to reach out. A therapist or counselor may be able to offer support and guidance.
You can locate a mental health professional in your area by entering your ZIP code here:
Please know you are not alone. Help is available, and we wish you the best of luck in your search.
The GoodTherapy.org Team
Kaya50January 12th, 2016 at 8:44 AM
In my case I was not able to forgive my husband for he has done to me and his family. The only solution was to divorce him and cut of all contact. Not communicating with him in any way helped me over the pain and hurt he inflicted. It was his choice to step outside the marriage and have an affair with a co worker. It had nothing to do with me even though he shifted all blame on me. And this why I cut if all contact and went ahead with the divorce. I remember the minute he was served divorce papers he texted me “if you think I am coming home by you filing for divorce you are wrong”. He was that arrogant, that pompous to think I wanted him back. You have to let go of the past, take one day at a time. Now 3 years after this nightmare I am ok. I am happy with myself , I feel victorious that I stood up for myself and let him know being an inappropriate spouse has consequences. Cheating is a choice. And when people make this choice it will have repercussions. As for him. My lawyer said he is not happy. He was in a midlife crisis and could not get out. But that’s not my problem anymore. He has his freedom now to have sex with all these young minions. I will not subject myself to catching some disease because he could not be faithful. Life is better now. It is difficult ,it is painful and it was the worst experience of my life. But you will survive. You will be stronger and more resilient and most importantly you will have your self worth and self respect back. No one treats me as an option. Especially not the person I am married to. Stay strong. Let go of the past. And just take care of YOURSELF. don’t worry about him. My ex never asked for forgiveness which is not my place anyhow. He will have to answer to God one day and we won’t be pretty.
MandaApril 1st, 2016 at 9:44 AM
Hi Mrs Devastated, I am sorry to tell you your pain is only beginning. 6 months on is no time. It will hurt for a long time. You will find you will end up doing most of the repair work. You will constantly ask yourself why can’t I forget this, what’s wrong with me, why can’t I forgive etc.. They will feel guilt for hurting you.. then forget it and get on with their day. Believe me you have to really want this person to stay. Just when you think you are coping, some reminder comes, a flashback, another revelation you didn’t know about and so it goes on.. We are nearly 3 years on, he hasn’t been upfront, he apologised when I asked him to, he feels guilty, terribly, but that’s all. No pain. No flashbacks, no deep hurt, no confidence knock, no rejection.. You will carry all of that deep in your heart. That special exclusive feeling you once shared is gone forever. I’m still hanging on because we have been together 12 years, he was faithful, I used to know exactly where I was with him, he felt special, I felt special, I love him.. Nothing changed for me.. my feelings remained the same, unquestioning, unconditional love, but the truth is its broken. It can never ever be what it was. My partners circumstances changed and he chatted to someone at work about it.. They got close and he convinced himself she was the answer to his dreams. The reality was.. she didn’t want him, she is a collector of men friends.. he couldn’t give her up though and he lied and lied to hide his little meetings with her.. The lies are still coming undone, he is afraid I’ll leave him, I’m exhausted. There is no escape. Other people who leave seem to heal better, the event still is as painful as does its damage, but they are not there as a constant reminder.. they can’t lie anymore. But I’m still here. I wish you all the best and I’m sorry for your pain. XxxK
January 12th, 2016 at
Hi, Mrs. Devastated,
Typically, a person injured by the impact of an affair doesn’t “get over” the hurt, per se, but works their way through it. The GoodTherapy.org team is right–find a therapist you can work with, and take the time to understand all the aspects of your pain. Yes, that takes what ever time it takes, but relying on the “time heals all wounds” approach (which I’m not saying your are doing) tends not to be all that effective. Find a therapist who understands infidelity dynamics, who can help you deal with your devastation.
Mrs. DevastatedApril 3rd, 2016 at 7:27 AM
Hi Manda, thank you for your comment. I’m trying to get over the hurt. Sometimes it works and other times not. My husband is doing his best to prove to me how much he loves me and how he made a mistake. I just can’t seem to trust him or believe a word he says. I’m scared that he will cheat again as they had contact again after they so called ended things. I also found a miscall on his phone from her number. This s*** won’t leave him alone. I don’t know what to do and he refuses to leave.
Tania 59April 3rd, 2016 at 11:57 AM
Your husband has probably not ended things with the affair partner. I used to blame the other woman but he is the one who took the marriage vows. You say, he does not leave. Well, if I was you I would serve him with divorce papers. He clearly disrespects you and by breaking and destroying your trust , he is not worth fighting for. After I found out about my ex husbands affairs I was fighting for my “marriage” until I realized there is nothing to fight for. I would never be able to trust him again. Instead I got my strength from a lawyer who promised me to get victory for me. Which he did. Thinking back I would have filed for divorce the minute I found out about his affair. I understand people make mistakes but breaking your marriage vows is not mistake. It was his choice to cheat , his choice to break up the family , his choice to lie to me and betray me. Cheating and lying go hand in hand. Do you really want to be married to a liar ? We all make mistakes in life and sometimes there will be consequences. I stopped communicating g with my husband the day I filed for divorce 3 years ago. It was an ugly battle in court , but at the same time I came out a strong woman. No one betrays me. Especially not the one who promised to love and cherish me until I die. He never deserved my love and the love of his child. He can now have his freedom and all the whores he wishes to have. So glad I am not a part of this drama anymore. Divorce was my only option and the best option. Never regretted it once. Good luck , stay strong and secure yourself financially. You never know because one day he might just leave for the whore. Like in my case I was left with nothing. Until I won in divorce court. They say no one wins in a divorce. But I sure did. I won my peace, freedom and self respect back. And that’s s big win. What I lost is that loser.
Mrs. DevastatedApril 4th, 2016 at 12:17 AM
Good Morning Tania
Hi, thank you so much for your advise, the one minute I feel like ending things and the next I don’t and want to work on my marrage, but if he keeps stuff from me then surely it would upset me if it does come out and believe me it always does. How can can I believe him if he lies to me and the sad part is, he believes there’s nothing wrong with keeping it from me. He says that’s not lying. So now I wonder if they still have contact. I can’t take this anymore. I just wanna move on with my life.
Jim Hutt, Ph.D.April 3rd, 2016 at 1:25 PM
Hi, Mrs. Devastated,
I cannot tell if you’ve gotten into counseling either with your husband, or by yourself individually. If not, please find a therapist asap. Your pain is real, and it will take some work to alleviate it. Many offending partners try to prove their love, or show awareness of their mistake. That’s all well and fine, but often inadequate. At then end of the day, one of the most powerful and necessary things your husband can do is earn your trust. He can do that by becoming completely transparent in any way you want him to be. Here is one example of transparency: Let’s say he gets a miscall from the affair person. One, he should tell you he got the call, rather than having your find it. Two, he should ask you if, in your presence, you would like him to call her so that you can hear him in real time tell her directly to stop calling. (Some injured parties want that, some do not). Love is a nice idea, but showing you in every way possible that he is doing everything possible to EARN your trust is powerful medicine.
Tania 59April 4th, 2016 at 9:02 AM
I know exactly how you feel. I first gave my ex husband another chance. We were married for over 20 years. It’s not easy just to give up. Like yours, my ex thought there is nothing wrong with him exchanging nude pictures with the young co worker. They were on the same nightshift as police officers. Every night he went to work my thoughts raced around them. And no, they did not break of contact like he had promised. They carried on with their affair behind my back. The hardest part for me was when he said ,” I love you”. I knew it was a lie. My world shattered into pieces when he left one evening. His reason was that I was a”crazy wife”. I questioned myself what I don’t have, how she can be superior to me. You know she was or I.id nothing special she was just available. In therapy I learned that fear of the unknown kept me in this illusion of a marriage. And to be honest I never trusted one word he said. At one point you will have to make a decision. Believe me it is not easy. I also learned that he took all my self respect and self worth away. I had to slowly build it up again. And the only way for me to do so was to divorce him. We do not have minor children so it was a little easier. Sometimes divorce is the best answer to show them that we are in control , we have the power now. And that’s exactly what I did. I wanted to show my college age son that it is not ok to cheat and lie and get away with it. You need look out for yourself. Don’t worry about him. He did not care one bit about you when he made the choice to cheat.
Tania 59April 4th, 2016 at 9:30 AM
I also found out that s lot of therapists are not trained or knowledgable at all when it comes to affairs. I once went to marriage counseling to be told “it takes 2 to destroy a marriage “. No it does not. When one spouse steps outside the marriage and brings in a third person , yes there is definitely something wrong with the marriage. But that unfaithful spouse can ask for a divorce before engaging in an affair. In my case , I think that the so called midlife crisis played a huge role. Here was an almost 50 year old man who was treated like a god, nicknamed cpt America , told he was hot and sexy by a 20 something year old. He could not resist. But at the same time , I had to look out for my welfare , for my financial security and for my son . And this is when I got therapy for myself , not the marriage. This when I retained a good attorney. The poet and control shifted to me. I would not let my ex make a fool out of me one day longer. Enough was enough. We all make choices in life. And cheating on your spouse is the worst choice you can make. It inflicts unbearable pain onto the faithful spouse. The person who cheats can emotionally prepare himself for the exit out of the marriage. The unsuspecting spouse had no idea and is taken by surprise. And this why it so painful. Did I want to continue this pain and misery ? No, I decided that he did not matter to me anymore. I trained myself to think with my brain and not my heart. And slowly I felt better. Over months and months I recovered , I healed and went on with my life. I wish I would have put an end to this nightmare the minute I found out he was cheating. There are no second chances when it comes to betrayal.
Kris ZMay 30th, 2016 at 1:42 AM
I’ve been with my husband for 21 years. We’ve been together since we were 16 yrs old. Our life was always up and down but we always worked things out. About 3 years ago things were really tough. With a 60 hr workweek work, 3 kids, trying to cope with depression , our marriage was truly on separate paths. A few months ago I found out he was having a sexual affair with a coworker. Around that same time his family member (cousin) started making himself more available to me by simply listening and advising me while going through this rough time. Needless to say we started to have an emotional affair. Only seeing each other about 5 times at family events but communicating through texts and hours upon hours of phone calls. It was such a great feeling having someone who listened to me, had the same interests as me but most importantly never judged me. I knew talking to him was wrong but I was finally alive again. When I was having thoughts of regret and shame he always told me we weren’t doing anything wrong, we’re only talking. He said it so often I truly believed it. This lasted about 3 months because my husband pulled phone records and confronted me about it. I came clean because I felt it was finally a weight lifted off my shoulders. My husband was completely devestated because it was so out of character for me. Come to find out my husband disclosed his affair to his cousin 1 month prior to when he started initiating communication with me. The cousin played his cards and began to reel me in his plan to eventually sleep with me. I felt humiliated, betrayed, played. My husband was so enraged at both his cousin and I he became emotionally abusive. He had always been somewhat emotionally powerful over me but not to this extreme. He began drinking all the time, took up smoking and became an abnoxious interrogating belittling king who was gonna make my life miserable. He threatened to use my mental health against me to take my kids. He broke my car windows while I was still inside. He took my car battery and Debit Card when he went to work. He made me feel like the most disgusting person in the world. He hacked into my phone which he later broke into pieces. He downloaded numerous software and paid a lot for it, to get any all info he could get. He never found anything because we mostly on spoke on the phone. I have him as much information as I could remember about our conversations but of course he felt I was downplaying it. So he says he doesn’t know if he could ever forgive me because I’m not being truthful with the content of our conversations and without me telling him what he believes the conversations entailed he will never get passed it, he basically wants me to tell him lies so that he can believe what he created in his mind is the truth. It’s been about 4 months since D day. I’ve since sought help and am now on a happy road to healing my depression. Bravest thing I have ever done for myself. However, the depression has since shifted into my husbands life. He started drinking a lot and very often . His drinking makes him emotionally violent towards me. He’s punching holes in walls, knocking down doors, throwing things. The next day he apologizes for his actions and says he doesn’t care about anything or anyone anymore. He wants to speed up his death by drinking and smoking. In my healing I was taught coping skills which help me to not believe I am who he says I am. But even with all those skills I’ve obtained it still hurts. He’s told me that he doesn’t think he will ever forgive me, he will never let go of the images he created in his mind and that it disgusts him when he sees me dressed up. He says he still loves me and I’m the only thing he’s ever loved. So I know his actions are what stem from the pain I’ve caused him. Now for the past 2 months he comes home for 3-4 days doesn’t speak to me or the kids. He’s always upset at everyone and then decides he’s having a bad day so he gets up and leaves for 3-4 days no contact. He ignores all my calls and texts. I just ask for a simple reply to know he is ok. When he returns we all get hugs and kisses then back to the whole not talking mopping around until his next bad day. Bank records show he’s either at bars or liquor stores. But today i was at my witts end. He’s not helping me at home. He’s always angry with the kids, he expects everyone to follow his rules and for me to tend to him when he decides to show up after his break time. He stood me up for a date night we planned and stood my kids and I up for a Bbq park family day we planned. He believes that what I did to him was the worst thing an human can do to another human. And that his affair should be void because he had sex with someone outside our circle. I agree my actions were worse but I’ve done everything for this man I’m on my hands and needs to show him I’m gonna treat him like he should’ve always been treated. But I have yet to here a thank you for anything I’ve done. No acknowledgement. Like its owed to him . How long do I have to endure this punishment and resentment. I’m getting so tired. I guess the answer is I refuse to accept this treatment any longer. My kids are used to him not being home. They don’t even ask for him. So I packed a suitcase and when he came home ( obviously a little drunk or a major hangover) I told him I packed his things and I needed him to leave. He said ok and left. Did not say goodbye to our kids and didn’t look back. I know it says everywhere that I need to be patient, understanding and compassionate towards the betrayed spouse but how much and how long must I endure the punishment and ridicule of the betrayed spouse. He refuses any type of therapy so I don’t believe we can be helped. Am I a bad person for asking the hurt betrayed spouse to leave causing him more grief. I am also a betrayed spouse that has not been given the chance to heal from the grief of his infidelity — desperately seeking advice
Jim Hutt, Ph.D.May 30th, 2016 at 10:11 AM
Hi, Kris Z,
Wow, your narrative describes a very painful period of time you and your husband
have gone through and continue to experience.
I do not have any advice per se, but here are some things to think about:
1. You are correct, both of you have experienced betrayal.
2. At the end of the day neither betrayal is worse than the other—I encourage you to stop believing what you did was worse than what he did. In my opinion that is simply inaccurate.
3. In order to heal from your respective betrayals, each of you needs to take responsibility for your behavior, and take
responsibility for your healing.
4. In order to take responsibility, all the blame and accusation must stop. Blame and accusation will only serve to reinforce the helplessness you each feel.
5. It also sounds like there is a fair amount of gaslighting going on, and it’s leaving you feeling crazy. (If you send me your direct email I can send you some info about gaslighting you might find helpful)
6. Continue your therapy, and give yourself permission to be happy.
7. Neither you, nor your husband, are responsible for the each others happiness, nor for how, or whether, you each heal from these wounds.
I wish you well going forward.
Teresa MAugust 4th, 2016 at 1:06 AM
Something”s telling me to post here. Something else is telling me not to.
SRAugust 4th, 2016 at 12:52 PM
I was with my ex boyfriend for over 3 years of time. Through thick and thin we were together. I loved him and still love him so much, there’s no one else I care more about then him. From the very first year that we became exclusive, it was agreed mutually that we will get married during end of the year and start a life together. due to his health conditions this was agreed by both of us. Anyway for whenever he planned the marriage it becomes delayed. We were very happy together, I cared for him so much. But eventually I don’t know why I started believing that he’s never gonna tie the knot. Things got worse and worse, even our communications. I ended up cheating on him. I regret it so much, he found out and things ended from there. It’s been over 1 years and still he’s punishing me in so many ways; by recalling things and saying bad stuff to me, calling me names. The thing is we work in the same office now and it’s hard to be away with having a connection in the past. We do get together now and then, but in the end he will end up saying things to me and getting upset.
I don’t know what to do. I regret it.. And I love him.. I know I can’t be with him anymore but I don’t know what to do now.
Can u please give me some advice.
Kaya51August 4th, 2016 at 3:27 PM
You are asking your boy friend to trust you again. That’s something you need to earn with a lot of compassion, empathy and in my opinion with some good therapy. You betrayed his trust. You probably lied to him. You probably were sneaky and deceitful. Overcoming being cheated on is difficult and sometimes impossible. As the betrayed spouse I was not able to just go on, forgive and forget. I was not able to trust my ex husband again , and honestly I was not able to look at him the same way again. I stopped loving him the day I found out about his affair. I filed for divorce and never looked back or regretted this decision. I was married for over 20 years. Not to be cruel, but you made your bed , you are livibg the consequences of your selfish actions. I wish people who want to cheat would realize how evil and destructive their actions are. My ex now lives the results of his affair. He lost everything. His money , his house , his family , his integrity. I hope you will learn from your mistake and not repeat. If your boy friend cannot forgive you, you need to let him go so he can find a partner who will live him and be faithful. Sorry , you are the loser in this equation. I wish you the best.
SRAugust 4th, 2016 at 9:39 PM
Forgot to add this, it’s a polygamy case.. He’s married and has children.
Kaya51August 5th, 2016 at 12:14 PM
this sounds like a truly toxic situation to me. I would remove myself out of it and try to straighten out my life. How can this be healthy ? How can you live with someone who is married and has kids? Believe me I have done things I am not proud of. I have learned that being in a toxic relationship is ever good. I have learned to love myself and to be content with what I have whether I have a partner in my life or not. Loving the wrong man gets us no where. In my 20 years marriage to a cheater I forgot about ME. 3 years past divorce and no contact I can finally feel strong and happy again. I pray for you to find love that does not drama has an ingredient. Good luck and stay strong.
Leave a Comment
By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.
Search Our Blog
- evergreen: This happened to me. My boyfriend and I were deeply in love and talking about the future, then out of the blue he called me and said he...
- SK: My husband cheated on me right after our 1st Anniversary. I always said that I would leave a man if he ever cheated on me. It’s...
- Ellie: Love your response. When we get married we make a commitment to one person and should think of them if we so love them before making dumb...
- Jonathan G: Bigender agender are in the word transgender
- Naomi: Get away from her completely until you are strong enough to stand up to her. Call your dad.