What to Do with an Unfaithful Husband

Letter #4

Dear Dr. Harley:

My husband has been having an affair since January. We have been married for almost 9 years and we have two children. He is now currently living with his brother for the last 2 1/2 weeks. While he has told me several times that he has broken off all communication with the other person, she always resurfaces.

I have now made the commitment to not talk with him anymore, since our conversations and discussions are not getting anywhere except for placing blame, defensiveness and guilt. It seems like he wants our marriage to work but he cannot get away from the other person either. He needs to understand that he cannot have the best of both worlds.

I have been contemplating divorce but I do not want to be too hasty in throwing our marriage away. We went to a counselor at one point but I feel it did no good at all. Right now I have very little contact with him. Not even by phone. The children are picked up from a nearby relative when it's his turn to have them so I do not have to see him. He just keeps lying to me all the time. He is not the man I once knew. He has also been violent with me whenever I find concrete evidence that their affair is still not over. I guess my only solution is just getting on with my life and putting as much distance as I can between us. He will probably lose me and his kids forever. If you have any insightful advice to give me, I would truly appreciate it.



Dear C. M.,

Your husband probably has very little control over himself these days, and does not have the will-power to stay away from his friend. You have done the right thing by having him move out until he gives her up, but how can you know when that is?

I often suggest moving far enough away from your husband's lover to avoid easy access to her, even to another state if necessary. I am working with a couple right now who are moving from the Twin Cities to another state just to get away from an affair that has dogged them for the past two years. In their case, it is a neighbor down the street from them, but in most cases it is someone at work.

Your husband probably loves both of you, and cannot imagine leaving you or the other woman. He vacillates back and forth: When he's with you he misses the other woman and when he's with her he misses you. Within two years, it is likely that his relationship with her will eventually die out, but during those years, you will become an emotional basket case. You cannot wait for them to discover the foolishness of their relationship.

Suppose you move away from his lover. What's the likelihood of yet another affair. Truth is, unless you do something to improve your marriage, he is likely to get into one affair after another. There are three basic problems you should resolve:

  1. Dishonesty. Most affairs develop under the cover of lies. They begin with a casual friendship and develop into a very intimate and compelling bond. They usually surprise both people having the affair because of the intensity of it all. But if a couple has learned to be honest with each other, the relationship is nipped in the bud as soon as the friendship grows into an infatuation. As a husband and wife discuss the relationship, they decide together that the friendship is too dangerous to their marriage and they end it before it gets too far. If a couple follows my Policy of Radical Honesty, an affair is almost impossible for an affair to take root and ruin a marriage.

  2. Mutual Consideration. As you know from reading my books, mainly, Fall in Love, Stay in Love, I recommend the Policy of Joint Agreement to all married couples. When you follow that policy you make every decision together, taking each other's feelings into account. It's pretty obvious that your husband's affair would never have gotten off the ground if it had required your enthusiastic agreement.

  3. Emotional Needs. Affairs develop because they usually meet emotional needs that are not being met in marriage. In my book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-proof Marriage, I introduce ten needs that, when unmet in marriage, can lead to an affair. Your husband can probably tell you what his lover is doing for him emotionally that you are not doing. I know that it's difficult to care for someone that has hurt you the way your husband has, but if you want to save your marriage, both you and your husband must learn to meet each other's most important emotional needs.

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