What to do if your Husband Cheats? Marital Advice from Ask Alison
Here is some advice in text form that I recently gave to a woman who has been cheated on and feels disempowered. Of course, names are taken out for privacy reasons as well as some text has been edited however I believe that everyone reading this can get at least something of value from this advice. Or, if you know anyone going through this, man or woman, please pass along. Ask Alison- She’ll Tell You!
Situation: Husband has breached their marital agreement and has admitted his mistakes.
Therapist: How are you holding up?
Client: “Sometimes i feel great and other times I spend time thinking about what happened. I feel disempowered and that perhaps maybe I could have done sometime to avoid this. I keep blaming myself and then on other days I am angry and mad and keep on thinking about the betrayal and how in the H-ll he could have done something like that to me our children”.
Therapist:: Yeah, I totally understand. One thing you can try and remember is although it seems really personal (“he did this *to* you”) try and look at it from this perspective: it’s not about what he did *to* you. He did it *for* him. When people act out like this (especially spouses/partners) they don’t think, “how am i going to make my partners life miserable”, they usually have addictive behavior and/or they are really just thinking about how they can be immediately satisfied. It’s hard to believe but 99% of the time, the person is caught in an overload of emotion and has not grounded to what is the reality of the situation at hand.
This is no excuse, of course. Rather just an explanation so you can see that blaming yourself isn’t the answer and further complicates matters. Try as hard as you can, to view this from a different lens. If even for just a moment. You don’t have to stay there. I just want you to have another perspective because often times what we see is only subjective and brutally hard to understand. Often when we see it through the lens of objectivity we can separate the “he did this to me” from “he did this for him”.
I have yet to meet someone like this who didn’t have addictions in other parts of their lives. They sometimes do it to fill a void *in themselves*. Or, if not addicted, there are a host of other explanations, ones you need not spend too much time figuring out. Mainly because I can bet he doesn’t even know why. It takes time to tease this process apart and get some clear answers.
Honestly, the last thing they are thinking about when they *do* it, is how it would hurt you. In fact, that is usually why they are so apologetic. They literally snap out of the delusion (or whatever altered state they are in (denial for example) and then face their spouses and can’t believe what they’ve done.
I’m not saying this excuses anyone’s behavior and I’m not saying you need to do anything different, but what I am saying is that you need to know you are married to a *person* who has this behavior. It’s not the behavior that makes the person. Does that make sense? Now, one would probably think, “then are you saying i should forgive his behavior because i love the person he is” and my answer is not necessarily.
It’s up to you and him (and a third person professional if possible) to dig and get to the bottom of why he acted the way he did. Some people eat chocolate (my favorite one), some people get drunk, some people shut down and others do things we would never do ourselves. But, these are defenses, not just acts of injustice. Some are intensional but often the case it is not because they stopped loving YOU, but because they stopped loving THEMSELVES. (more about this topic later)
I guess what i’m saying is that you are not a victim of someone “doing something to you”. Rather, you are *choosing* to stay with a man who has faults and behaviors that make you want to dig a deep hole and bury yourself. (sorry, a bit dramatic i know, but you get the flavor). So, really it’s all about *you*. Ask yourself, 1) is this the kind of marriage I want to be in? 2) is this a person I want to spend my life with now that i know this and 3) do i have enough confidence to make this my choice and not fall into the side of the victim?
Begin by asking yourself these questions. Write them down if it helps. Then, answer them. You will understand a lot more. It can’t save the day, but it CAN help to save YOU!
My best wishes for recovery and empowerment!
Remember, the choices we make to stay or to go are BOTH OUR choices.
Alison – Ask me, I’ll tell you.