What to Do with an Unfaithful Husband
Dear Dr. Harley,
My husband had an affair with a co-worker about 10 months ago. The affair is over but they both still work in the same office building. After reading your book "His Needs Her Needs" I feel that my needs were never really met in our relationship. Now my biggest need is for him to prove he really loves me and cares about me and will put my needs above anything else.
My greatest need is for him to confront this woman and tell her what a mistake their relationship was and how much he really loves me and his family and how wrong their affair was. Am I wrong or out of line?
He is scared to death she will file a sexual harassment charge against him. He says that is why he can't do it. I feel my Love Bank is in the negative and this is the only way he can began making new deposits after what he has done. Am I totally wrong? Am I looking at this from the wrong perspective?
I guess you could say I ended the affair because I discovered it. My husband has always been a very weak, needy person. He thought he loved this woman. He would have left me the night I found out except she didn't want him to come to her. My husband is so needy he couldn't stand the idea of being alone so he stayed with me.
We are still together but there is so much pain and anger on my side it gets in the way. He feels he can't quit his job because he wouldn't find another one. But I don't really want him to quit, either, because the only need of mine he meets is financial security. If he couldn't find another job, I'd have no reason at all to be with him.
If anyone should have had an affair it should have been me. I am in desperate need of help. Counselors in the past seemed to have only made things worse. Can you help me?
When one spouse has an affair, it is common for the other to have been just as vulnerable, but didn't have an affair for lack of opportunity. Regretfully, ethical standards seem to have little to do with it.
You are both vulnerable to an affair because you are both failing to meet each other's emotional needs. In spite of your anger, you and your husband should come to grips with what's missing in your marriage, and work together to make the necessary changes. You might find my book, Fall in Love, Stay in Love, helpful because it teaches you how to treat each other respectfully and meet each other's needs when you don't feel like it.
You describe for yourself a need that all of us have: The need to be loved. What you want is assurance that he cares more about you than anyone else, particularly his co-worker. So you want him to tell his lover that he really loves you, not her. He has reason to fear a sexual harassment charge from what he's done in the past. But there's little risk that the conversation you have in mind would inspire a lawsuit. His biggest problem, however, is that he probably loves her more than he loves you, and he cannot in all honesty tell her otherwise.
My advice to you is that he should never have another conversation with her again, certainly not one about his feelings toward her. He should leave his job and find another so that he doesn't even have casual contact with her. Regardless of how important his job is to both of you, he simply should not be working in the same building with her.
Fortunately, the woman at work seems to have rejected him. Most affairs end that way. But if he doesn't take extraordinary precautions to avoid bumping into her, or starting an affair with someone else, you'll find yourself in the same mess again next year.
From the way you describe your husband, I would assume that you are tempted to smother him in Love Busters: Angry outbursts, disrespectful judgments, selfish demands. You have been deeply hurt, and you want to retaliate. But you'll only be shooting yourself in the foot if you make him suffer for what you've been through. Resist the temptation because it's in your best interest for him to love you and care for you. He won't do either unless you deposit love units and avoid withdrawing them in his Love Bank.
Believe it or not, after you and he learn to take good care of each other, you will look back at this experience and view it as a positive turning point in your relationship. It can be the catalyst that forces your bad marriage to either improve or end. If you both decide to make permanent changes in the way you treat each other, your love for your husband will return to you, and your anger toward him will end.