Marriage Bound by Cheating and Anger: A Story

Close up of business people holding hands and brief caseHere is a story about a married couple, bound together by strong connections…

Jim and Eileen have been married for eight years, and they dated for a few years before that. Jim is handsome, charming, fun to be with, and Eileen loves him, but she can’t trust him because he is a cheat, has been since even before they got married. He’s at it again, and now Eileen feels like she has wasted the best years of her life on Jim. Should she just leave him? Luckily, they don’t have children.

The first time Eileen caught him with another woman she wept and fumed for days and even told him to get out, but he cried, got down on his knees, and told her he couldn’t live without her. She felt sorry for him and took him back, but she kept a close watch. He berated her for not trusting him and got really mad when he caught her checking his phone for messages; she apologized and promised she would never do it again.  Jim promised he would always be faithful to her. People can change, can’t they? He said he loved her and she felt sorry for him. What if she was making a mistake? Jim stayed close to home for a few months, and Eileen thought the worst was over, but then it began again.

Jim started staying out late and was always taking mysterious phone calls. Eileen suspected Jim was cheating on her again, but she was afraid to confront him. What if he got mad? What if voicing her suspicions gave him ideas and made him cheat? She decided to snoop around and find out on her own.

Her first step was to “borrow” his cell phone when he was in the shower, so she could look over his phone calls and messages, but she soon found out that his phone was locked with a password he had never mentioned before. She fooled around and figured it out–not so hard, his mother’s maiden name and his birthdate. Jim just wasn’t that slick.

But if he had gone to the trouble of locking his phone, clearly he didn’t want her to know what was on it. It didn’t take long to find out that there was one number that showed up very often. She went to the Internet and with the help of a website easily found the name, address, and even a picture of the woman he was trading calls with. She checked their messages and they weren’t steamy, exactly, but they made plans to meet a few times a week. He called her Babe—Jim never called Eileen Babe. That really got to her.

She was upset, but she couldn’t let Jim know directly why because then he would be mad at her for snooping. He began coming home later all the time. Sometimes he didn’t come home at all. Even though she had promised to respect his privacy, she just couldn’t. She inspected his checkbook, his bank account, and his credit card statements, looking for fancy dinners, department store purchases, and hotel bills.  Jim traveled a lot for business; it was hard to figure out exactly what was going on. Eileen was really angry. Who was he traveling with? Was there someone special he hooked up with when he went to conferences or out of town meetings? Did he have a “business wife”?

Jim noticed that Eileen was upset, but, of course, when he asked what was wrong she lied, and said “nothing.” He was happy to go along with that, it kept him off the hook, and he got to complain that she was moody and hard to live with.

Eileen knew that if she accused him of cheating he would know she had been snooping again, but finally she just couldn’t take it anymore and they got into a big fight. Eventually he confessed that, yes, he had an affair, but it didn’t mean anything and it was over anyway.

Once again Eileen wants to believe him, but she feels her world had been destroyed, and she just can’t trust him at all. She needs continual reassurance. She feels like an ugly, mean, nagging hag.

Always an anxious person, she is so wrecked that she just can’t stop thinking about him, and about the other woman, too, especially now that she knows what she looks like and where she lives. Eileen feels like her life is ruined, and she would like to ruin Jim and Francine’s life too. Francine is the new girlfriend. Eileen is planning on dropping by Francine’s apartment the next time Jim is out late. She’s not exactly sure what she’ll do when she gets there. Cut Jim’s tires? Break a few windows? Rage is part of Eileen’s connection to Jim, just as Jim’s repeated faithlessness links him to Eileen.

This scenario, unfortunately, is not unusual. People have issues about trust, intimacy, and faithfulness, and act them out with behaviors that are painful to everyone. This marriage shows how strong angry, negative connections can be.

What alternatives do Jim and Eileen have? Should they split up? Should they work to regain their trust? Seek couples’ therapy, and individual therapy? Can Jim learn to be faithful? Can Eileen learn to trust? And what can we learn from this story?

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT, therapist in New York City, New York

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.

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  • Kayleigh

    Kayleigh

    July 18th, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    When someone cheats it absolutley breaks down those bonds of trust and love that most of us have worked so hard to established.

    Funny how one action like cheating can wipe away all of that hard work just like that. I know thhat this happened to me and when it did I had to seriously look at whether I wanted to make this kind of investment in him all over again to get those things re-established. In the end I decided that I did want to tyry and he agreed. Now that we have been through this I have to say that I think that our relationship is somehow stronger than it was before. That’s not to say that this has been an easy journey for us. At times it has been downrigth painful but we both agreed that it was somehting that we both wanted and have just tried to take it one day at a time.

  • Rochelle

    Rochelle

    July 18th, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    In the end, Eileen’s rage could land her in a heap of legal trouble, for which she will blame Jim.
    I think Eileen is missing something which allows her to look at her own actions and ask herself ‘Is this what I want for myself’? Her efforts are so focused on what Jim is doing because she is deeply hurt and enraged that her perspective to see anything else is off balance. ‘Course, her self esteem is in the dumps and her anxiety takes over.

    I wonder if Eileen has support? And I wonder the motivation for Jim in breaking his committment to the marriage. Clearly, there are other unresolved issues and cheating is purely symptomatic.

    Very unfortunate.

  • RAciNE

    RAciNE

    July 18th, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    I just could not continue to live in a situation where there was that much distrust and dishonesty. I would not want to be with someone like that, and I would not want to be that person who couldn’t be trusted either. Why can’t people just be honest when there is something wrong with the marriage instead of trying to put a band aid on it in the form of an affair? Come on, we all know that’s not a good thing. It will never work to address the real issues and chances are you are always going to get caught.

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 18th, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Kayleigh, thanks for sharing your story with us- how wonderful that the two of you were able to work things out. Do you have any suggestions as to how people can come together again after this kind of experience?
    take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 18th, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Rochelle, your observations and suggestions are excellent, thank you. Eileen could wind up on lots of legal trouble, as you point out. Also, as you say, she is more focused on Jim than she is on herself. When I see this I always ask myself what it might be that the person is avoiding, what self-knowledge is she hiding from herself, and why?

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 18th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Very practical advice, Racine- you always get caught in the end, and cheating destroys the basic trust that is part of a good marriage or any important relationship. Thank you.

  • grier

    grier

    July 19th, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Where does this hesitation to admit that there is a problem come from?
    Sounds like both Eileen and Jim have a problem with owning up to the things that are bothering them, and even as adults haven’t learned the adult ways to handle these life upsets.

  • James W. Lewis

    James W. Lewis

    July 19th, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    It’s simple – the man likes his cake and wants to eat it, too! Actually, “cakes.”

  • carrie

    carrie

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    I think Eileen should have spoken to Jim about her doubts rather than snooping. but anyway, even if she did snoop and found the mystery lady’s number she should have asked Jim about it. it would have saved her a ton of anxiety and all the days lost in thinking of what might be.

  • Maura

    Maura

    July 20th, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    I am very embarassed to admit this but I have been the cheater before.

    My husband and I never thought that this would happen to us but it did. He has been wonderful, but I know that it still haunts him as it does me, leaves him wondering deep down inside if he can ever trust me again. And just that doubt that he has continues to hurt me. I feel like if I have told him everything and have made the committment to remain in this marriage and work on our issues, then he should be willing to move on too. And sometimes it feels like he has but then he will throw it up in my face and the hurt starts all over again. I did not cheat because I thought that he would not find out, it was more about something that was missing in life for me. I know now that this was not the way to handle that, that I should have talked to him instead of trying to find another way to fulfill that emptiness. I am not looking for sympathy just maybe some consensus that we are going about this the right way because I am not sure I can continue like this.

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 20th, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Hi Grier-
    It is so hard to admit there is a problem- people often feel too vulnerable and clam up instead. Perhaps they haven’t had the experience of empathic holding, listening and discussion. Yes, these two would be much better off if they could speak freely with each other.Thank you for writing in.
    take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 20th, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Hi James- why do you think some people want their cake and eat it too? Is that greed? Unreality? Something else? What do you think?
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 20th, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    Carrie, you’re so right, she should have asked right away. That would have put the entire experience in a different perspective.
    Thanks,
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    Dr. Lynn Somerstein

    July 20th, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    Maura, you sound like you’re in pain, and your husband is too. Perhaps you both should consider working with a couples counselor, or in individual therapy. You both need to feel that you’re not alone in this. I can see you’ve put a lot of thought and work into your relationship, too, and you deserve to be recognized for that.
    take care,and good luck,
    Lynn

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 12th, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    I can understand how Eileen feels. My boyfriend of 5 years have been in an on again, off again relationship and have finally been stable for the past 2 years. He has cheated on my before but we have seemed to move past it. We have seriously discussed engagement and have gone ring shopping. However, after his recent move to another city on the other side of the state, thoughts keep popping up in my head about him cheating and lying to me. The new apartment he moved to is the same apartment that a former female college track teammate lives at and he failed to tell me that until I found out for myself after her name kept popping up on his phone when I was with him. I have anxiety attacks because of this. However, I cannot see it in my heart to move on from him. We have been through so much together and we have planned out a future. However, after his first day in the new city, he suggested that we take a ‘break’ so I could get some professional help for my trust issues. After talking about it, he said he would help me through it, but I still have things that I cannot stop thinking about. However, I know how people looking in from the outside say “oh you have to get out of that relationship, its not fair to either of you, and you deserve better” and stuff like that. But there’s a history and connection and bond that you have with people like this and I cannot just drop everything and walk away without looking back. You don’t want confrontation when you love and care so much about someone.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    February 13th, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    Hi Sarah-
    This is a hard problem. Your bf suggests therapy for your trust issues–I suggest therapy too, but you, together with your therapist, should decide what issues you want to work on. Therapy will also help you through this difficult period, while he’s taking a “break” from your relationship.
    Good luck and take care,
    Lynn

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