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Husband Says I Should ‘Get Over’ His Infidelities … Should I?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,
I am a 51-year-old woman married to a 55-year-old man. We have been married for 32 years. We have two daughters, one 29 and one 30. A year ago I found out that my husband has had multiple affairs over the past five years with women in their twenties while he was on international assignments for his job. Even after I confronted him in February 2012, he continued to have affairs with other women up until about 12 weeks ago, as best I can prove. We have been trying to work through this for several months, and during this time I have endured the fact he has given me a sexually transmitted disease and that one of these women became pregnant with his child (she recently had a miscarriage). My husband’s solution to our reconciliation is for me to just get over it. He says he is not having affairs anymore, and he doesn't understand why I can't just let it go and trust him again. He doesn't seem to understand why I'm so emotional about his infidelity. We are currently living in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and I have been unable to find a counselor for myself or a marriage counselor. (If you are able to provide me any information on a counselor here, I would be most appreciative.) We obviously have very poor communication skills, and I'm really struggling with the reconciliation process and trying to figure out if our marriage can survive the damage his affairs have caused. How do I forgive? Can I trust him? Is he trustworthy? How do we build communication skills? How can I have lived and been married to someone for 32 years and not know him? How do I help myself deal with the stress and emotional trauma I'm experiencing? Please help me, as I really want to save my marriage. I love this man even though he has committed the ultimate betrayal of my love and commitment! - Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken,

Well, obviously “just get over it” isn’t going to suffice. What a shockingly callous response to your very poignant and sincere request for reconciliation. I am very sorry you have had to endure this and that your husband is being (it seems) indifferent to your very understandable pain and heartbreak.

I guess the first question I have is this: Is your husband even open to any kind of reconciliatory process—or any process, period? If not, what will you do? I don’t suggest you rush to answer this question, because if he continues to dig in his heels, you may decide he is no longer able to reciprocate your love or take his commitment seriously. (As it is, his track record is pretty dismal.) In a fair world, he’d be begging you for forgiveness. What you need to do right now is take care of yourself; no good decision can be made under duress, and surely this situation is traumatic, as you say.

It sounds to me like you are hamstrung in terms of resources available to you. It is hard to imagine living in a place with no counseling available, but there we are. Would you be able to live with a friend or family member in a place that has affordable counseling, perhaps temporarily? (For instance, many universities offer free or low-cost counseling, as do many major American cities; Los Angeles, for example, has several top-notch training clinics.) It may seem like a radical step to remove yourself for a bit—if this is even possible—but I highly recommend doing so, so that you can find healing, consolation and support while deciding what you need to do. It also sends a necessary message to your husband, which is that you are serious about taking steps to change the state of affairs and are not ignoring the rather large elephant in the room. If he does not get such a message, he is likely to do so again, since he is either extremely self-centered or covering up his embarrassment or insecurity (or possible sex or love addiction) with bravado, neither of which is acceptable behavior in the kind of marriage I assume you want.

I’d recommend a couple of other things, the first being a book called After the Affair by Janice Spring; she is also the author of How can I Forgive You? Both deal with the very issues you are facing and are invaluable resources, offering some concrete suggestions as to what some next steps might possibly be.

Another resource can be found online via survivinginfidelity.com and infidelity.supportgroups.com. It is not, of course, the same as in-person counseling, but offers a way of reaching out to others and receiving much-needed feedback and support via the Internet.

Finally, you might explore the possibility of counseling via phone or Skype. These options will be delineated by whatever local laws govern telephone therapy in the area. For instance, in California, licensed therapists are not allowed to treat people who live out of state. (I think this is the case for most U.S. states, but I am not certain.) I don’t know what the “rules” are in England or Canada. You might see if you can locate a therapist who is legally permitted to provide services via telephone or Skype.

My keenest suggestion is for you to focus on your own needs because of the shock and disbelief that inevitably follows this discovery, to say nothing of the wear and tear on one’s self-esteem. I suppose a more “tough-minded” therapist might ask you why it’s OK for your husband to treat you like this, without you “throwing the bum out”; but I know from my own clinical experience that, however it may look to outsiders, it is very difficult to suddenly end a relationship with a loved one, no matter the betrayal. This often happens with those of us who come from families where betrayals and self-interest were the norm. Also, people generally have a hard time believing that a loved one could be so disloyal and self-serving at the cost of our own feelings and trust; such betrayals often do lead to numbness or dissociated pain—which is precisely why I think it’s important to connect with your own feelings and experience before making any big decisions on what you need from your husband as a bottom line. Be wary of the usual impulse to try and understand “why” this happened … i.e., why did he do this, why so dishonest, why did I not catch it sooner, why can’t I draw a line in the sand, why does he disrespect me, etc. I think that question is less important than: What do I need now from him to feel safe and loved again? What feels right to you, intuitively? It may take an experienced counselor to help connect you to that intuition, given the tumult, but at the center of all of your swirling thoughts and feelings is a quiet, inarguable truth.

If your husband continues to rebuff your need for recommitment and for him to understand the damage he has caused, and continues to act like he could care less how you feel (a behavior that is atrociously immature and self-centered, in my view), you may have to consider the unthinkable: separate or leave for good. Painful and frightening as that may sound, the other option is worse: continue to live with betrayals, secrets, and a growing estrangement from a partner who for whatever reason is not able or willing to act like one. This only robs you of the time and reciprocated love you surely deserve, and which can never be replaced. (And, difficult though it may appear, I do believe living alone is better than discarding one’s basic needs for reciprocity, honesty, and respect in a long-term relationship.)

I leave you with the assurance that you are having a very normal and understandable reaction to a shocking discovery. You are being more than fair in what you are asking from your husband. I wouldn’t even fault you for deciding things have been broken beyond repair. But take your time in figuring out what you need from him. Get the help you need in order to support the very difficult task of finding the courage to do what you need to do if your husband will not do the human thing in reciprocating your fidelity, loyalty, and love.

 
Comments
  • Ava p December 24th, 2012 at 10:12 AM #1

    Would he just get over it if it was you who had had the affair? I seriously doubt it. I am not saying go out and do to him what he did to you but. . . well, that’s always a thought. hahaha No seriously, I think that he really needs some counseling, the two of you to go together. It’s almost as if he is saying this just to make you so mad that you don’t even want to try to fix things. Do you think that could be what it is? I don’t know, I would have to strongly re-evaluate just how much I thought that I loved him amd whather it was worth staying with him if he had said something like this to me. An affair is something that can easily break a marraige beyond repair, and if this is the way he feels, then maybe now is the time to move forward with your life.

  • jackie December 24th, 2012 at 11:28 AM #2

    I don’t think that the answer is should you. It’s can you.

  • Cyndi December 24th, 2012 at 1:29 PM #3

    Hmm…wow the author really nailed this article! Very interesting insight and advice (thought-provoking questions), and where to find low-cost experience counseling..

  • CATHY December 24th, 2012 at 4:26 PM #4

    I hate people who cheat and then say “Get over it” or something like that. They are not only cheaters but are insensitive people who have no respect for their own partner or the courage to realize that they have wronged. Most of them do not mean the sorries that they say (if they do) and the only way is to shock them or take some time out in pursuit of getting them to notice your absence. If they still don’t change then you know what to do! I really hope you feel better.

  • Sot December 24th, 2012 at 8:59 PM #5

    Ask God to provide you the direction and peace should be with you….

  • Simon December 24th, 2012 at 11:55 PM #6

    He cheated with women his daughters’ age and he’s not even sorry for what he did. He is asking you to get over it. This clearly shows he does not see his actions as something extremely wrong, which in turn means he is not immune to repeating it. You seriously need to reconsider your thought of loving him and still wanting to make this work IMHO.

  • Dr. Susannah December 25th, 2012 at 10:10 AM #7

    This is always such a difficult situation and in working with clients in this position, the best counsel //ever// as you have so articulately stated, is “…take your time making a decision.” Once over the initial shock/trauma, emotions are more regulated and the ability to think clearly returns. Stellar post with some great suggestions and resources.

  • Rachel December 25th, 2012 at 11:53 AM #8

    Sorry to hear about what you’re going through. Please take steps to talk to your husband.He really is obligated to answer to any questions that you may have.If he does not want to even discuss then its a red flag right there.

    I cannot imagine someone having the audacity to ask his wife to “get over it” after having cheated on her.But from what you have written,it seems like you really want to save your marriage and your relationship.Please remember that that cannot happen without both the partners wanting to save it and are ready to put in work and effort into ensuring the same.You cannot do all the work to make it work.If he is not ready to do his bit then you know its is not going to work either way.

  • Rebecca December 26th, 2012 at 9:44 AM #9

    This makes me sick and scares me to death. Any of our husbands could do this at any time. You would think after hitting such a major milestone in terms of the number of years being married that no wife would have to deal with such nonsense. I mean, it really could happen to any one of us!

  • Cindy December 26th, 2012 at 11:05 AM #10

    Spend time with friends of yours and talk to them about it if you cannot find a therapist.

    Also,please ensure your husband is regretful about his actions before you decide to carry on with the marriage.Because by the sound of it he doesn’t seem to be regretful at all!

  • EVE December 26th, 2012 at 11:07 AM #11

    There are so many differing perspectives on this issue that no one can say that they are right and someone else is wrong. I think that you simply have to go with your gut because you know what feels right for you and your family. I understand that this is a person that you love and that you have grown a family with over the years. I know that there is still love there regardless of the fact that he was unfaithful to you. But the key that I would ask you to look at is whether or not his actions and his words are still showing you that there is love there on his side for you. because I think that he is being pretty selfish by insisting that you get over this. There are couples out there who every day betray one another but who still manage to hold it together. The ones who are a success are the ones who both realize their culpability and who are determined to work together to make things right. I am not sure that this is the place that your husband is coming from. I think that he is asking you to do all of the hard work and let him continue along unpunished and unscathed. Are you sure that this is what you wish to allow him to do? That’s a pretty sharp wound that you are being forced to nurse while he is getting off kind of easy, don’t you think?

  • ROBIN December 26th, 2012 at 7:10 PM #12

    I would suggest take some time out, live with a friend for a couple of weeks if you have to.but you really need to think this over,and without your husband being present around you.sit down and talk to a friend and think on your own with a clear mind.you will be in a better position to see things more clearly.

  • Poshy December 27th, 2012 at 12:51 PM #13

    I agree with what Cindy said, of one asks you to get over “it” he doesn’t show any sign of remorse nor guilt.

    Question is are u willing to make this marriage work the both of u or are u alone in this. If that’s the case its not worth it.

  • eVAN December 28th, 2012 at 11:26 PM #14

    Very good advice provided by Darren to the original question. I have something to ask myself – is it natural that a cheater actually says get over it because I will not repeat it? Can he/she be trusted? Because this seems like something that is hard to judge just by reading about it.

    At times when I have been at fault (not with regard to cheating), I just do not want to talk about it although I am certain I will not repeat the mistake. Is this possible in case of cheaters too? Thanks!

  • Astrid December 29th, 2012 at 1:07 PM #15

    eVAN, hopefully we are all capable of change when we set our mind to it. It is way too sad to think about it being any other way. I think that some people cheat once and that’s it. But, it sounds like this guy is definitely a repeat offender and not really caring to learn from his mistakes. Of course, there are always two sides to every store and then the truth. But, if this story is the truth, I think this guy has a lot of soul searching to do before he can be the husband he should be. This lady really needs to take care of herself and not worry about anyone else’s opinions right now.

  • Logan Hall December 30th, 2012 at 4:44 AM #16

    I am in no way taking the husband’s side here but. . . let’s look at it this way. Let’s say that you have decided to stay with him. Okay fine, you will stay together. So in some ways you do kind of have to decide to get over it and get on with it. he doesn’t need you throwing it in his face all the time. You have chosen to stay- made that choice of your own free will. So in that manner you do kind of have to deal with it. If you are going to try to stay and keep the family intact then he deserves to not have ot thrown in his face all the time. He probably doesn’t need to be reminded on a daily basis of the mistake he made.

  • vincent December 31st, 2012 at 10:46 PM #17

    if you really love him and think that you can get over the thoughts of him cheating on you,then stay.if you cannot do that you know what to do.but even if you do decide to stay it needs commitment from his side,a promise from him,without which any amount of effort that you put in will go in vain.

  • mason January 2nd, 2013 at 3:59 AM #18

    I saw my dad do this to my mom for years while we were growing up and I vowed to be a different man thatn he was. She was always left feeling stuck, like he would take us kids away from her if she dared to stand up against him. I can honestly say that I didn’t shed too many tears the day he dies because his fooling around and the way he treated my mom really ddi nothing to endear him to any of us. I did feel terrible for my mom, because her whole world revolved around him and she lost that but we are all trying to show her what the semblance of a normal life can now be.

  • Hellen January 2nd, 2013 at 7:56 AM #19

    I think you’re dead on about forgiveness. I recently discovered my husband has been cyber-cheating and when confronted about an email I found, I told him I was not surprised at this since it’s happened before and I have never fully forgiven him for it. We dated for 10 years, and have been married for a year now, with a baby that just turned 2 months. To the outside world, we seem happily married, but deep within me, I cannot let go of the past hurts, and up until our confrontation yesterday, I hadn’t reallized that he notices my resentment. He has admitted cyber cheating is his illness and needs help so we’re seeking a marriage counselor soon.

  • Poshy January 2nd, 2013 at 9:30 AM #20

    Hi Helen,

    I relate very well with your back round I found out recently that my hubby is still communicating with his ex and that he once cheated with on me in 2010. To be honest if one repeat the same mistake once how do you get over what happened, even though you’ve tried to forgive and leave with it to make the relationship intact you just don’t forget simple. For men it’s easy to forget since they’ve started the whole thing. We went for counseling for almost 2months for the same gal but only to find out that he still chat with him. It hurts so much and to leave with the pain that he cannot share with you.

    I wish you all the best through your counseling sessions

  • Murfomurf January 2nd, 2013 at 11:10 PM #21

    Living in Port Moresby, the closest good place to get counseling would be Cairns in Queensland, Australia. If not there, then Brisbane. However, I understand it would be very difficult to abandon your marriage because you have had financial and location stability for so long. I’m sure your hhusband has always seemed charming and “worthwhile” to you until your recent discoveries. His callous behaviour is severely insulting to your intelligence and loyalty. Firstly consider: Have you got the financial resources available to you in the short to medium term, to get you to Australia, find decent accommodation and have enough to live on? It’s a large amount and you may or may not trust your husband to continue to deposit money in a bank account for your use. Can you organise it through a solicitor or accountant? Through your daughters?
    Also, there is the situation in Port Moresby that you can’t just drive around interviewing prospective therapists due to the personal security issues there with random violent crimes against non-natives. The university may well have a psychology department with counselors, but going there regularly may be problematic itself. You need to sort some of these things out with the help of local good friends. By the way, I know several men who have cheated on their partners constantly over periods up to 30 years and they are still with their wives. They seem to have a need for sex with diverse females, yet they still love their wives and defend them against hurt. However, none I know have been callous about their wives feelings as your husband has been. Does he think he is such a wonderful business man that he should be allowed special dispensation from the rules that apply to everyone else? If he does, you need to leave him eventually, but don’t feel guilty about using his resources to get good therapy.

  • PopTart January 9th, 2013 at 10:46 PM #22

    All the therapy in the world can’t help if your husband is the sociopath he seems to be.

  • Darren Haber, MFT February 12th, 2013 at 8:03 AM #23

    Thanks all for writing in. I am always impressed by the insight and thought that goes into these responses. Thanks to Murfomurf for providing some practical advice on finding counseling.

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