Dealing with a Cheating Spouse

Mar 31 18:23 2007 Michael Douglas Print This Article

When your trust in your spouse is shattered because of another woman, what do you do?

A very good friend of mine - let me call her Shirley - told me that the day she found out that her husband was cheating on her and having an affair with a colleague,Guest Posting was the worst day of her life, "I've had other shocks," she told me soberly. "My younger brother dropped dead of a heart attack one day - when he was just 29. My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer when she had had absolutely no symptoms. And I came to work one day and found a pink dismissal slip on my desk when I had been given the Employee of the Year award, just 6 months earlier. But this was the worst shock.

"The other happenings caused me great torment, but I could blame them on fate. After all, health isn't in our hands and our company was doing very badly at that time. But my husband's affair was a personal betrayal. It was a rejection of me at the most personal level." The photographs sent by a "friend who cares for you" had been a bolt from the blue because Shirley's hubby, Paul, had been - or had seemed to have been - as caring and affectionate as ever, at the time.

But in Cathy's case, she had suspected that something was wrong for some time, before she caught her husband David in a movie hall - with the daughter of a family friend when he should have been at office.

"David had been distant and indifferent for some time. Besides, I knew that he had been involved with this girl before she migrated to New Zealand and that she had come back after her marriage broke up. But perhaps I remained in denial because I can't describe how shocked and broken I felt when I saw him with her." For both Sheila and Cathy, the traumatic discovery brought anguish and stress. "The stress was because I not only had to deal with the betrayal of my husband being intimate with another woman, but I also had to maintain a facade of normalcy - for the sake of the kids and the rest of the family," explained Shirley.

When a man falls so deeply in love that he plans to leave his wife, he usually brings up the subject himself and tells his wife that he wants a divorce. But when he hides his affair, he is often just having a fling and has no intention of breaking up his home. When he is found out, he is usually terrified at the prospect of losing his kids and ostracised as an adulterer by the rest of the family.

So, almost invariably, he apologises and tells his wife that he acted without thinking, that the affair is a purely physical one with no emotional overtones or that the woman in question came on too strongly to be ignored. He then promises that he will never see the woman again and that he will be faithful to his wife for the rest of his days.

During the next few days, the broken and confused wife is badgered by her repentant husband. He begs her forgiveness, weeps and the time they are alone together, becomes agonising and unbearable for both of them. Both of them are also likely to be depressed, anxious and filled with a sense of great loss.

The nervous husband, who sees his life falling to pieces before his eyes, reminds his wife of their children and their families and tries to pressurise her into "forgiving" him. But the woman, at that time, is not able to think straight.

She is under great stress and is very vulnerable. So, there is a good chance that any decision she takes at this time, will be the wrong one!

Traumatic events like earthquakes, tsunami waves, criminal attacks and terrorist killings shatter our assumptions about our safety in the world. In a similar way, the discovery of infidelity on the part of our spouses devastates us because it shatters our basic assumption of being secure in a committed relationship. This is not the best time for us to take decisions - but a woman often tries to.

Here are some suggestions from psychiatrists, for those unfortunate enough to find themselves in this situation, on how to deal with it:

Do not take any impulsive decisions:

As has been mentioned above, no woman is, at this time, in a position to take any important or irrevocable decision. So, don't take any impulsively. Don't see your lawyer and ask him to start divorce proceedings and don't tell your husband that you'll forgive and forget either. Instead, tell your husband that you need time to come to terms with the shock that you are feeling.

Do not isolate yourself:

When we are very hurt, many of us tend to withdraw and isolate ourselves. But when we withdraw, we suppress our feelings, and suppressing feelings only results in more stress and tension. So, don't cut yourself off from people and bottle it all up. You need to talk but you should talk to the right person. In this context, the right person is your husband. So, tell him exactly how you feel. Pour it all out to him, so that he really understands.

Practise self control :

While it is true that some people tend to withdraw into themselves when they are very unhappy, many others are more extroverted or have less self-control, when they are grief-stricken. They cry their feelings out aloud and don't care who hears them. But this is not the time for such public outpourings. So, show self-control.

Don't make accusations:

You may be furious with your husband, but since the affair is out in the open, ranting and raving, accusing him of having had affairs earlier, of always having lied and caused you pain, etc, are irrelevant and useless. In fact, if you do this, you will weaken your own position because he will retaliate with accusations of his own against you.

On the other hand, showing dignity will help you to be more in control of the situation. And don't think that your hubby is getting off lightly if you don't scream and rage. Your controlled solemnity will be more impressive than wild anger and passion.

Don't ignore your health:

You may not feel like eating, exercising or even taking your medication. But pull yourself together and keep to your routine. This effort at normalcy, will spare your children a lot of fear and confusion, and also help you think straight. Major life events - and finding out that your husband has been unfaithful qualifies as one! - can raise your stress levels and blood pressure, setting the stage for heart disease.

The level of danger posed by your body's dramatic response to tension depends on how quickly you recover and this depends on how quickly you bring down your tension levels by taking care of your health.

Keep yourself busy and don't allow yourself to brood:

When our world is shattered, we sink into depression and when we are depressed, our energy levels touch rock bottom and we don't feel like doing anything. But slipping into despondency isn't going to help. You will be able to present a normal front to your children and also think clearly, if you are not too dejected.

This will happen if you keep busy and don't brood. This doesn't mean that you mustn't think. Thinking is different from brooding. When we brood, we resentfully concentrate on negative points and go over them again and again, like a record stuck in a groove.

But "thinking" is to consider all sides of a matter, coolly. Brooding won't help you, but thinking will.

Use the support system of your friends:

This is the time you really need people who are completely for you, whose eyes will fill up when yours do and whose loyalty you needn't waste time doubting - but who will not mince words, when telling you where you went wrong either.

The wonderful thing about friends is that you needn't be on your best behaviour with them. You needn't worry about what they will think of you either.

In their company, you can weep, tell them things about your marriage that you wouldn't dream of telling anyone else in the world, and you needn't worry about how you look or sound either.

And you can even bring out the demons that have been tormenting you and ask them if they think that you might have weakened your marriage or even driven him into another woman's arms through your suspiciousness, all the weight you have put on, your nagging ways, a lack of interest in sex, etc.

In other words, with friends, you can let off steam, knowing that there will be no repercussions, knowing that these people are on your side.

The unstinting support we get from friends increases our self-confidence and sense of self-worth. Talking things over freely and frankly also helps us get things into perspective so that we can decide what we are going to do.

Spend time with the family:

The support, sense of wellbeing and love we get from our family is different from the support system provided by our friends. The love and acceptance we get from our relatives is unquestioning and all-encompassing, but at least initially, we should not talk to family members about hubby's infidelity, as we talk about it to friends.

However, we need our family at this critical juncture of our lives. Spending time with close family will definitely help us think clearly about future actions.

Don't let the children suffer: "If I ever find out that Mark has been unfaithful to me, I'll tell the children and turn them against him!" my young friend Christina told me, her voice full of passion even as she imagined the scenario. Christina loved her husband deeply, but always felt unsure of him because he was very handsome and worked in TV serials.

But though I understood that it was Christina's passionate love for Mark that made her talk like this, I knew that what she planned was very wrong.

Yes, she would get back at her husband if she did what she threatened, but did she realise what she would do to her children, I wondered. Children love and need both their parents and to turn them against one of them will shake their confidence in the world and in themselves. It will make them feel abandoned and unsure of themselves, perhaps for all their days.

Once we have children, we can no longer live for ourselves. We also have to live for them. So, even if we are very angry with our spouse, we cannot let our children suffer.

So, never talk against your husband, to your kids. Try to ensure that they can continue to love and respect him and that they do not have to suffer divided loyalties. If the need arises, you can tell them when they grow up.

Decide what you will do after cool thought and after discussion with your husband:

The situation you are in, isn't one that you can ignore. You have to decide how you will deal with it and what you will do. Can you forgive him? Will you continue to live with him because you have no alternative?

Do you need to be away from him for some time? Do you want to end your marriage?

Only your husband and you can decide how your marriage has been affected and whether it can survive. That depends to a great extent on the relationship you have with your husband - how much you love each other, what drove him to have the affair, and whether you can regain mutual trust, respect, confidence and love after he has betrayed your marriage. If your love for each other is strong enough, you will be ready to forgive and try to forget and he will be ready to try and make it up to you - for the rest of his life. No one can tell you what you should do because no one else can really understand how deep the wound in your heart is. But there is one thing. If you have children, you must do whatever is best for them.

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Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas

Here are the most common signs of a cheating husband or the signs to know if your spouse is cheating on you and tips to help you in dealing with the cheating partner and infidelity

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