What is it Like to be Married
After Living Together?

Letter #3

Dear Dr. Harley,

My wife and I have grow apart since our marriage two years ago. Prior to marriage, we lived together for two years. Six months after our marriage my wife had an affair with a co-worker. She left me, claiming to want more personal freedom and to be on her own, but I eventually learned of the affair. Shortly afterward, the affair ended and she came back to me.

Then about eight months ago she had another affair with a different co-worker, but this time she did not leave me. When I confronted her with it, she said it was over.

On New Years Day, we had a fight and she decided to leave me again. She told me that she needed to be in control of her own life and her own money, and that was the only reason for her decision to leave. I decided to make the best of the situation and not fight it, keep it friendly, and work towards a resolution of our problems. Then a week later I discovered that for three weeks before she left me, she had been having an affair with the second man again.

I had not found your site or books yet, and I made almost all of the mistakes that you say not to when dealing with this situation. Now after visiting your site, I realize that I was not meeting her needs in MANY different areas and she found someone who would.

Incidently, she had refused to seek any kind of marriage counseling until she read some of the print-outs I had made from your site, now she has agreed to read your book, His Needs, Her Needs, with me.

Is there hope or am I just fooling myself? I am uncertain how to bring up the honesty issue. I gave her a copy of your rules for honesty in the stack of print-outs, and I know that she realizes this is an issue. However, she has a definite problem with honesty. She feels that honesty hurts more often than it helps, and would rather mislead me and deal with the consequences later than be honest now.

What am I to do with her 'friend'. I understand your approach, and I think I can outlast this guy. I am deeply committed to her happiness, while his interest in her appears to be only sexual. Apparently he has not been too nice to her recently, and that will also help. But I have unbelievable hostility towards this guy and do not know what to do. I feel that I will be able to give my wife back the type of relationship we had while we were dating. I love my wife deeply, and could not imagine the rest of my life without her. But how do I deal with this man in the meantime?


Dear B.K.,

You are probably turning things around in your relationship, so keep it up. Be particularly careful to avoid what I call "Love Busters:" angry outbursts, disrespectful judgments, selfish demands).

I think that reading His Needs, Her Needs together will help you both. Through it you will be able to discover what it is that is driving her into these other relationships. It may take you a while to develop the skill required to meet her needs, and it will also take a while for her Love Bank balances to recover, so be patient.

I suggest you also read another book I've written, Fall in Love, Stay in Love. It will teach you how to discuss differences you have with her in a way that takes her feelings into account.

You are going down the same track most married couples take after having lived together first. Your wife's behavior reflects the self-centered rules you both used during your first two years together, rules that, until recently, had not changed and would have led to divorce. You have now put new rules in place, rules that will protect your wife from your selfish and destructive tendencies. Instead of making her feel trapped living with you, she will feel cared for, and will find herself much more willing to care for you.

Much of her dishonesty comes from living under the old rule, "do whatever you can to make yourself happy, and avoid anything that makes yourself unhappy." Her affairs reflect her self-centeredness. Her dishonesty is also due to self-centeredness since honesty is usually for the benefit of others, not for ourselves. It helps others become aware of our attitudes, motives and plans that might be harmful to them. Honesty protects others from ourselves, because it gives them warning of what we might do, or have already done, to hurt them. The more selfish we are, the more dishonest we become, because we don't want others to know we have hurt them.

Your wife has been dishonest about her affairs. If she had been honest from the beginning, she would have had a most difficult time pulling them off, because you would have tried to prevent them. That's why she lied about them. Once you both change the rules and enter into a relationship of mutual care, it will be much easier to be honest. There will be much less to cover up, since you will both be making decisions that are in your mutual interest.

How can you overcome the feelings you have toward your wife's lover? If at all possible, I recommend that your wife leave her job, and perhaps both of you should move to another city. It's been my experience that regular contact with a former lover is just asking for trouble. Not only will you be continually offended by any conversations your wife may have with either of them, but there is a significant chance for the relationships to rekindle even after you and she have resolved the problems that created the affairs. Affairs are an addiction, and the only way to end it once and for all is to make access very difficult. If you move away, your attitude toward her lover, and her feelings toward him, will fade away.