Andrew G Marshall

Author & Marital Therapist

Ask Andrew – My husband is cold and abusive after I discovered his affair

May 21st, 2011 by Andrew G Marshall in Ask Andrew

My husband had an 5month affair with my friend,
They ended the affair a week ago, He told her he loved her and together they were planning their future,
We have decided to go for counselling because surely their are some problems in our marriage that led to this affair.I can forgive him and I do understand that people make mistakes and I strongly feel that she was feeding on his weakness in a time where I neglected him to take care of our two year old and new born baby.
It is bothering me that he on the one hand he is still at home with us, he threatened to move out three times, but never did.I do not know, does that mean he still want to stay in the marriage? On the other hand, he is not telling me that he loves me and would do anything to save our marriage?? I told him that I need more affection from him, and need to know and feel that he still loves me,but instead he is becoming verbally abusive, irritated and cold towards me, we will be going for counselling in two weeks time, I do not know if I would last that long. I really do love him, but my father was verbally abusive I will not allow my kids to go through that. Please I just need advise on what he is going through so that I can understand him.

Andrew writes:

First off, let me offer my condolences. How horrible to discover that your husband and someone that you thought a friend have betrayed you and how much worse that he is still cold, irritated and antagonistic. I hope you’ve read ‘How can I ever trust you again’ because it will explain why affairs happen and how to repair them.

However, let me also have a guess at what’s been happening in your husband’s brain – although I doubt he will be able to articulate it like this – so you can find a way forward out of this horrible mess.

There seems to be two key matters here. First, when you have two small children, it is easy for all the nurturing to go towards them. On one hand, every man wants such a caring mother for his children. But on the other, he can feel left on the outside, neglected and feeling unwanted. Worse still, it is not socially acceptable to be jealous of your children. If you try to say anything, there is always a hundred excuses – ‘I’m tired’ – or things to be done – ‘I’ll just sterilise the bottle and be with you in a second’. In the darkest moments, it seems like you’ll never have sex again – but you love your wife and children so you’re trapped. Second, daughters of verbally abusive fathers grow up hating conflict – because they know where it can lead. So they shut down any disagreement by walking away or keeping everything nice. There are also so carefully tuned to anger that even mild irritation can be read as flashing rage. Unfortunately, if there are no arguments – nothing gets settled, everything gets buried. So my guess is that there are long-term issues that need to be sorted too. However, your husband will have started to despair of them ever being addressed because every time he loses his temper – there are tears, a cold atmosphere or….. (fill in the gap).

So your husband was feeling trapped, unhappy and could see nothing that would make his life better. Not surprisingly, an affair (and a bit of attention) seemed very appealing. (Although of course, it solved nothing just made everything 100 times worse.) Look at HCIETYA – because this sounds like a self-medication affair (where someone blocks out their feelings with their drug of choice: in this case, sex, sweet nothings and fantasy. So no wonder, he’s cold and irritated. He’s going through a huge come down. Think of it like the morning after, the night before. When you’ve got a hangover, you’re nasty, self absorbed and uncommunicative.

As for what he said to his mistress, people say all sorts of stupid things but as you will see in HCIETYA – affairs are built on lies and fantasy. He might have meant those things at the time, but it’s a bit like a children’s game – they’re intense but forgotten two minutes later.

So what should you do? Nothing! Sit tight. Let him slowly come down off his sex and lies high. Begging him for reassurance is not only belittling, it will make you seem needy (not very attractive). Next, you’ve got to make some big changes. Read ‘Resolve your differences’ as it will explain the dangers of low conflict relationships, how to deal with anger and how to express your needs in a way it can be heard.

So although it sounds bleak, I think this could be a huge learning opportunity. One day, you will look back at this time as the foundation for a renewed and much better relationship.