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

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
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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.

Kind regards,
Darren

Darren Haber
Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT is a psychotherapist specializing in treating alcoholism and drug addiction as well as co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, secondary addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma (both single-incident and repetitive). He works in a variety of modalities, primarily cognitive behavioral, spiritual/recovery-based, and psychodynamic. He is certified in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and continues to receive psychodynamic training in treating relational trauma, including emotional abuse/neglect and physical and sexual abuse.
  • 33 comments
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  • Ava p

    Ava p

    December 24th, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    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

    jackie

    December 24th, 2012 at 11:28 AM

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

  • Cyndi

    Cyndi

    December 24th, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    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

    CATHY

    December 24th, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    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

    Sot

    December 24th, 2012 at 8:59 PM

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

  • Simon

    Simon

    December 24th, 2012 at 11:55 PM

    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

    Dr. Susannah

    December 25th, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    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

    Rachel

    December 25th, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    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

    Rebecca

    December 26th, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    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

    Cindy

    December 26th, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    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!

  • Poshy

    Poshy

    December 27th, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    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.

  • EVE

    EVE

    December 26th, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    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?

  • Alessio Ventura

    Alessio Ventura

    October 15th, 2015 at 9:09 PM

    Omce the trust is violated it can never be regained because you never know henceforth. It’s that simple.

  • ROBIN

    ROBIN

    December 26th, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    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.

  • eVAN

    eVAN

    December 28th, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    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

    Astrid

    December 29th, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    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

    Logan Hall

    December 30th, 2012 at 4:44 AM

    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.

  • Hellen

    Hellen

    January 2nd, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    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

    Poshy

    January 2nd, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    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

  • vincent

    vincent

    December 31st, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    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

    mason

    January 2nd, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    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.

  • Murfomurf

    Murfomurf

    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    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

    PopTart

    January 9th, 2013 at 10:46 PM

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

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    Darren Haber, MFT

    February 12th, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    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.

  • chely

    chely

    July 28th, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    In reply to comment #19. Honey if he’s like this and you’ve only married a year (and you know about) don’t make the mistake I made. I’ve been married to my charming, successful, cheating narcissist of a husband for 19-1/2 years. I tried to leave him about 15 years ago-he was/is (although a little less as he gets older) subtly emotional abusive to me and and my two sons (now 19 and 23). I didn’t know about the infidelity until last year. I don’t mean just a simple affair, he has been having a love affair for at least ten years in addition to the dozenz of other women AND men. I am truly unraveling inside while I keep that happy face for the sake of appearances. (I’m so embarressed to have put up with this for so long. AND HERES THE IMPORTANT PART; I should of never exposed my children to these abuses growing up, oh its the type of abuse that is slow silent and TOXIC. It’s too late for us but you need to open your eyes TODAY!!!

  • chely

    chely

    July 28th, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    i THINK IM GIVING HIM A SURPRISE FOR OUR 20TH ANNIVERSARY- I WILL TOLERATE THIS NO MORE!

  • Alessio Ventura

    Alessio Ventura

    October 15th, 2015 at 9:12 PM

    So let me get this straight. You women and men who cheat think its ok to deposit your sperm on someone else’s body or inside their vagina? Isn’t that the most intimate of all acts? How can a man erase the thought of his wife receiving another man’s seed? I would not be able to live with those thoughts.

  • Alessio Ventura

    Alessio Ventura

    October 15th, 2015 at 9:14 PM

    To me, the most intimate of all acts is the ejaculation. This signifies that the woman s ready to receive the man in the most intimate way possible, which means cheating is the ultimate betrayal because of semen.

  • Alessio Ventura

    Alessio Ventura

    October 15th, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    “Gee honey, I had sex multiple times with another woman and I ejaculated inside of her. I hope she doesn’t get pregnant or catch my hep-C.”. What a betrayal.

  • LF

    LF

    August 24th, 2016 at 4:06 AM

    I have been married 27 years. My husband had multiple affairs since 1998. It’s almost every two years. Recently, about 5 months ago I found out that he was involved in a dating service where he declared himself single and no kids. We have 2 daughters. I found these out with messages and emails he sent to her. I personally spoke to the other woman and she sent me mostly all his messages to her and their pictures together. She also mentioned that they did sexual videos and he took naked pictures of her. When I confronted him, he cannot deny it because of all the proofs I got from his girlfriend. He said he is sorry and will never do it again. His reasons for doing so, he said, is stupidity and wrong decision on his part. This must be his number 6 confirmed infidelities and there might be more that I don’t know about. I know, part of me wants to leave and file for divorce and the other part wants to give him another chance in which I know is stupid. I would like to have some feedback so please reply to this problem I am having. Thank you.

  • Mel R

    Mel R

    July 15th, 2018 at 6:37 AM

    LF, did you ever get a response? I’ve been married over 20 years, and found out about my husbands first online cheating 14 years ago. We had two young kids at the time and he was deployed. Everyone told me it was the stress of being at war, his way of coping without his family, forgive him and move on. We went on a marriage retreat when we got home that touched on basic marriage skills like communication and all was supposed to be swept under the rug after that. I later found emails to friends bragging about how much these girls were in love with him, little bits of there being more than just friendship with my best friend and his co-worker, and then full emails, secret accounts and chat history of a full blown affair with a fellow soldier. When confronted, he finally divulged everything at a chaplain’s insistence. It was A LOT. Much more than I had found. A long history of trying to get sex and validation from anyone and everyone who was willing. Even having online sex with men who were continually asking for pictures of our young boys. He never partook in that, but just to even have sex on a webcam with someone who would ASK makes me sick. But so stayed. I took him back. He was diagnosed with PTSD and a sex addiction. Got a slap on the wrist from the Military and was ordered to go to counseling. He tried counseling and a 12 step program for a few months, but when they started to pry into his childhood, he stopped goin to counseling. When a pedophile joined the 12 step program he declared he didn’t have it, he would never be lumped into something that hurt children. And all my begging and pleading to FIX our marriage, was met with me just not being able to “get over it”. Last year I found out he went to a Military School and was talking to a bunch of women online (where he was and even back where we lived) and planning on meeting up with them for sex. He wanted a divorce, and swore he was never with any physically. Then he changed his mind and really wanted to make the marriage work this time. I was so excited and FINALLY felt like we were going to get somewhere, but another deployment came up, and of course, counseling had to go to the back burner. He became very upset when I brought up counseling again about 2 weeks after he got home this spring. After that, it was downhill from there. He would yell at me for every little thing, he was so distant and could just be downright cruel, at times. Every pleading for counseling was met with, “there’s the door, go use it, if you don’t like it”. Come to find out, as soon as I said counseling, he was right back to trolling for new women online. He’s had three online girlfriends in the last 6 weeks, most only a year or two older than our 17 year old daughter. She found pictures on our computer. My kids want to know how much more abuse am I going to take. Their dad has taken the decision away from me, as this new girl is “the one”. She’s in her twenties (he’s 45) and they have never met, but she’s the ONE and he wants a divorce from me, after 20 years, 4 kids, 9 moves, 5 deployments and countless schools and trips away from the family, and me putting up with years of, quite frankly, abuse. I’m staring down 40, having put my best years behind me, with not much to show of my own, kicked to the curb like yesterday’s trash. And to boot, he lied about only having online relationships last year. I’ve had an undiagnosed STD for over a year now, that has recently caused a lot of damage, and he still never dressed up to anything until I was in the hospital with a doctor telling me what Was causing all my pain and issues. It’s devastating. If your spouse isn’t willing to fully and whole heartedly commit to a treatment plan by specialized professionals, don’t wait for the day hoping and praying they will come around and miraculously want to change. It just prolongs and compounds all your hurt and pain. Seek help for you, and gather the strength to know you are WORTH SO MUCH MORE!!!!!

  • Home Page

    Home Page

    December 30th, 2016 at 1:28 PM

    Touche. Great arguments. Keep up the great work.|

  • Liana

    Liana

    August 16th, 2018 at 8:22 PM

    Hello,
    I am desprately looking for an advice and would appreciate your input.
    My husband and I been married for 8 years and started dating 4 years before our marriage when we were 22.
    We have a very good relationship despite of all the ups and downs we’ve been through.
    Last week he asked me if he could have some temporary affairs through online dating. His reasoning is that it will make him and our marriage happier. He tells me that he didn’t get enough joy/sex when he was younger coz we started dating very early. He doesn’t want to “cheat” on me and prefers to let me know upfront.
    He is assuring me that he will always love me and I am the one and he does not want to mess up with our life. He is emotionaly very dependent, and very kind and caring.We do not have kids.
    3-4 months before our marriage he asked me for a hall pass and dated 2 girls very briefly.
    I am stuck, on one side I can’t imagin him tobhave sex with others, and I am thinking we had same situation in terms of dating and I never thought of infidelity! I am still young and good-looking and can have chances.
    On the other side, I am happy with my marriage!
    What is wrong and right here?! What should I do?

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