Ask Andrew – I’m tired of being on an emotional roller-coaster
16 months ago I found out my husband of over 15 years was having an affair with a staff member of ours. It begun while I was overseas with our 3 daughters visiting family. Upon arrival home I shortly suspected something and confronted him about my suspicions but he told me I was crazy. This woman worked for us from June 2009 ( I left just as she started working for us and was away for a month) until Feb 2010. I felt uncomfortable the whole time she worked for us but my husband insisted nothing was going on. I was looking forward to her departure and felt relieved when she had left and gone back to her home country on the other side of the world. Feb. 2011 I by accident found a cellphone under the seat in my husbands vehicle and when I turned it on it confirmed my suspicions were right I wasn’t crazy. They had had an affair while she was here and it had carried on via texts and phone calls ever since she left. I also found out she’d left us 3 months pregnant with my husband and in August 2010 gave birth to a son. My husband sent a gift to her/the baby for Christmas and also planned to meet up in London where he was going to run the London Marathon. They also planned a 2-week holiday together in Turkey. I knew about this trip and was fine with it (Prior to finding out about the affair etc.) Due to the nature of our business we couldn’t both go away together.
He admitted to all of it, nothing else he could do really the proof was all there. Of course, my whole world fell apart but somehow I carried on working, taking care of business per usual and putting on a brave face. I read books, went to a couple of counsellors a few times, talked, was angry, sad etc.etc. My husband reluctantly answered my questions and told me he was flattered, infatuated and never thought I would find out. He admits he could have stopped it at any time but had no wish to as long as I didn’t know. Of course he says it was just meaningless fun and he never once contemplated leaving me and our 3 daughters 8, 12 & 14 years old. Our marriage was in a bad shape with hardly any physical intimacy for at least 5 years prior due to poor communication, too much focus on our business and children and two very stubborn personalities.
He refuses to go to counselling, really prefers us to just move on and focus on the future. Our marriage has improved, physical intimacy has been re-established and we both really want to stay together and make it work. The contact with the other woman finished when I found the phone I’m fairly convinced about that. He didn’t apologize profusely once discovered or do much in way of comforting/ reassuring me. I had to deal with that all myself and ask for reassurance – still do. He’s not a very emotional person at all and hardly can say the words I love you. I’m still the one who has to initiate physical intimacy majority of the time. He feels he has said he is sorry, it’s the biggest mistake he’s ever done and of course regret it and that is enough. He’s told me he’s 110 % into us staying together and get over this but I guess I need more to be convinced….he needs to change his attitude its not just for him to say I’ve told you this a couple of times just let’s get over it ! I struggle to get over it, it’s so big and I don’t understand how you can betray someone so severely for ” nothing”. I need him to try to understand why the contact carried on and how on earth meeting up with this woman and the child would ever be a good idea. Of course now he realises it wasn’t good at all and did say once he was pleased it was over because it wasn’t “right”. I feel he is not 100 % upfront with me, I don’t want gory details I gotten enough from reading the texts. He is by nature a very selfish person which he admits to himself but how can I get him to understand I need to know how he felt/what was going on in his mind at the time and what/when/why it has changed. And if he loves me why can’t he just say so without me having to ask for it. I feel humiliated and hurt enough as it is. Constantly getting stuck we’ve finally decided to work through a self-help book together (counselling is out of the question) this was over 2 weeks ago and he keeps stalling starting to read it. I have already read it a number of times and have been patiently waiting for him to get going. I know he’s got the time but he stalls it and I’m at the end of my tether, emotionally worn out and just want us to make some serious progress. Him stalling this just indicates to me I’m not that important, or our relationship. He seems to always finds excuses . Look he is a man I do love and want to spend my life with BUT my self-respect is starting to suffer. I’m so tired of this emotional roller-coaster. I want some peace and happiness. Any thoughts, advice at all ?
By all rights, he should be bending over backwards and telling you ‘I love you’ every five minutes. An affair, a child and holidays away (when time is so limited) puts him in the category of extreme infidelity. So he should he making extra effort but somehow he’s left you to pick up the whole story mess. I want to shout out IT’S NOT FAIR. Especially as he won’t do any meaningful counselling or even read a book with you!
Now I’ve got my exasperation out of the way, perhaps I can give you an insight into his brain. He is refusing to respond because he is full of shame. He knows he is a fool, a bastard and a whole lot more. However, shame is the most toxic of emotions as it make us feel unlovable and we’ll do almost anything to avoid it. So he shuts down and pretends that an apology is enough and tells himself ‘what more can I do?’ Which helps him tick along but make you feel unheard and unloved.
In addition, men spend less time thinking about relationships. We’re trained to solve problems and move on. So in his mind, this is all sorted. He has apologised, promised not to do it again and put it away in a box marked ‘do not open’. By contrast, women are trained to be responsible for relationships and keep a happy home. So you’re still on high alert, trying to work out what went wrong and fix it. That’s great, but useful introspection – like out love life was rubbish and that laid him open to temptation – can easily tip into over-thinking and taking random bits of information and using them to dump on yourself. For example, he doesn’t want to read a self-help book is not just he’s frightened of making things worse and is not much of a reader any way but he does not love you ENOUGH or worse still, he will do it again. No wonder, your self-esteem is shot!
So I want you to take a different approach. Firstly, I’d like you to tackle the over-thinking. It’s something I cover in ‘Learn to love yourself enough’. In this way, you will not take his stalling as a personal attack but what it is more likely to be: A man who finds it hard to express emotions switching off to avoid shame. Once the atmosphere in the house is a little calmer, you will be ready for part 2. Think about what you truly need to feel better (hopefully something SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed) and ask for it in a way that will be heard. I cover all this is ‘Help your partner say yes’ and ‘Resolve your differences’ – look at the section on being Assertive in particular.
Finally, I would go back over ‘How can I ever trust you again?’ because you will now be at a different stage from when you first read it and take away different information. You will find peace and happiness again but you’ve had a terrible shock and it does take time.