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Lessons from an affair
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
Just as earthquakes shake the ground we walk on, the discovery of an affair shakes the very foundation of a marriage. There are no two ways about it; affairs are destructive. They are a betrayal of a commitment that two people have made to devote themselves to each other. Yet, sometimes, a marriage can eventually be made stronger by it.


This can happen when the spouse who had an affair admits and is remorseful for the betrayal; and is able to validate their partner's pain. Finally, the couple must be able to work together to build a stronger marriage as they move forward.


Have you and your partner been able to do this move past an affair and be stronger in at least some ways because of it? How have you done this? For this and more information, please visit Dr. Becker-Phelps blog, here on The Art of Relationships.
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gd9900 responded:
My response may not be appropriate to your question, but it is relevant to the topic of discussion.

I recently got involved with a married man going through a divorce. We had a brief affair, it wasn't without his wife's knowledge. She and I spoke a few times over that course of that time and she told me the marriage was dead - I told her if there was a chance they wanted to work things out I would back off and not get in the way. He told me the marriage was dead also...it was just too soon for all parties involved to be moving forward.

He decided he missed his kids and his home so he moved back home and broke it off with us. She called me and asked if he went back because of the kids (a similar thing happened between them 6 years ago except she had the affair, and he took them back because he couldn't stand being away from his kids). I told her all I know is he loves his kids more than anything and the two of them would need to figure out the rest.

As for me, I felt sad by his leaving when he broke it off...hurt by its suddenness as we had talks and did things pertaining to "our" future. We had gotten to know each others kids and the two of us really seemed to click like partners would, I imagine. I have no regrets - I don't feel ill willed toward him or his wife. It was a learning experience for me too.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gd9900's response:
This sounds like a very unusual situation - and a sad one for you. It's good that you feel comfortable with your choices even though it didn't work out; and I'm sorry for you that it didn't. I just hope you have a good support system and people who love you to help you through this.

But this situation does highlight one reason why it is risky to have a relationship with a married or recently separated person. In these situations, they often still have a lot to work out emotionally (if not otherwise) as they extricate themselves from their married life. It's complicated. While anyone can have emotional struggles that they need to work through, this just adds one more complicating factor.
 
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schwerk responded:
Can I do a flip of this conversation? I have been accused of multiple affairs for over 3 years, but actually have done nothing wrong. I've done a ton of soul searching trying to figure out how this came to be but can't think of anything I've done. My first marriage ended because my ex-wife cheated on me with her boss. My father was an adulterer and I've made it my life mission to not be like that. I know the devastation caused by cheating and never would but my partner thinks I am and this has been horrible to live with. She's convinced of it and I spend much of my time defending myself for something I didn't do. She has taken this to such a level she thinks I arranged for some woman to go on a cruise that we were on and somehow managed an encounter during what amounted to 40 minutes that I went back to our cabin to open a bottle of wine for her. Logistically, the events she claimed happened couldn't have in that time frame and there's no convincing her. I don't want to break up but can't live with these false accusations. She wants me to confess and I told her I can't lie just to please her. Now what?
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to schwerk's response:
Couple therapy. Even without knowing more (and I'm sure there is more information and background that we are missing), I think that therapy is your best bet. No matter what you say, I imagine that she would just think that you are lying and trying to cover things up. The only way I can imagine getting out of this loop and begin addressing what's wrong is with the help of a third party.
 
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gd9900 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Leslie - I am having some difficulty as time passes...the sadness is setting in now and I'm not handling it well. Honestly, I think the reason why its hitting me more now is because I didn't think the two of them would "stick".

One thing I didn't mention is that he and I work together. We spent a lot of time (before anything happened between us) working fairly close together. After we got together (which he pushed for) he'd stop in my office just to chat about projects or have a few laughs together. But since we split he has mostly stopped. I understand cutting off communication with me is best, but I get the impression he is playing the "good boy" role. Meaning cutting off as much communication as possible so ppl at work aren't catching us together and talking about it behind our backs...which could get back to his wife. I say that because a few times here and there he has "snuck" in the office to say hi or whatever but he is definately very careful about being seen doing that. We had a brief conversation last week and I suggested he didn't need to be such a stranger at work. He replied that he stays away because he finds it hard not to touch me when we are close. He also told me he thinks about us a lot...and he cares what happens to me, but he's not saying much else.


What is really hard is to hear his voice or see him walk by...my whole body reacts. Likewise if our paths cross he smiles very heartily and waves in the most adorable way. Its just weird...I don't want to forget him, I don't want to stop loving or caring for him but I know I need to find a way to let go somehow. Do you have any insights or suggestions??
 
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Elmaryll responded:
I have been a bad partner. I'm doing this because I just want everybody to learn from my mistakes. Just because I know that my partner loves me so much, I've taken her for granted. Knowing that's she's just there and won't go anywhere. I didn't realize until now how much I love her and wasted may years of being together. She caught me few times fooling around though nothing serious with other girls but eventually forgives me.

One day she told me that she have a boyfriend but being over-confident that she can't do it, then I disregarded it. Until a time came that I caught the delayed message on the text that she really have a boyfriend. It was just until that time that everything came into reality. That she had enough of me and deserves to be happy.

All I could do is to love her even if she blantantly admitted that she already did it with him.

Still I can't find any ways to be angry at her. Bacause I know it was my fault and I am all the reason for her doing that.

I told her that I will still show her that I love her so much and didn't realize it until this days and all the days to come even if we both know that it is already too late.

I hope someday I can find the strength to move out even though I told her that I am ready to bear all the pain of knowing that she is already committed with another man. Because I know that in that way, we both can move on better with our lives.

One thing is for sure. I will be a better partner to the next and that this has been one of the greatest lessons of my life.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gd9900's response:
My number one suggestion is to stay away from him. Don't suggest that he visit you. And, if he does stop in, tell him that you want to end unnecessary communication. Keep the conversation brief. As you struggle with this, share here or talk with a supportive person in your life - but not him!

Then make efforts to get out with other people and to invest yourself in whatever activities you tend to enjoy; and, eventually, to even date other men. It won't be easy, but this is the path to letting go.

This will not be easy. But effort now will save you continued pain later. I wish you well with this.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to Elmaryll's response:
I'm sure it took courage to share this. I do hope you have learned a lesson well so that you can move on to a happy and fulfilling relationship. (Though it might hurt you for me to say this, I also hope that she found someone who is making her happy. You both deserve happiness.)
 
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An_246228 responded:
I am one of the lucky ones you mention where the affair or one night stand as it was has made our marriage stronger. I was unhappy in my relationship with my husband for many reasons. I was going through a tough time with my mom in hospice care. All that made me seek someone to listen to me and not take me for granted. I did not start out to meet up with the stranger but it happened. My husband found out by reading my journal he says he did this to see what was going on with me because I was different. When I saw the look of pain and hurt on him it was an awakening to what I actually did. At that moment I tip ought the man I loved and had two children with was going to leave me. I did as you said show admission and remorse understood his pain. When he was thinking clearly he agreed to marriage concealing which she had us go over what went wrong in our relationship of 25 yrs. as soon as I did this horrific act I went to councling of my own to see what I was really thinking and feeling to bring me to do something so horendouse. In the end I think it has made us a better couple we talk more we understand each other more and have tools to cope with issues that may arise. It has been 10 yrs since then he still worries when I get angry at him for something, he thinks I will as he says go back to my old way. That makes me realize it will always be in the front of his mind forever and I understand. He is much better with me doing things on my own now and I could not Love and Appreciate him more. He is a bit older than me and the guy was even younger than me at the time. I know I can never make it up to him but I have way more respect for him for staying with me all these years afterwards. In the end it was never worth it. I wish I had just seemed counciling on my own before making the bad choice I did.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to An_246228's response:
Thank you so much for sharing this. It's one thing for me to explore this issue, but it's a whole other thing (and a very important one) for people to hear it from someone who has gone through it. I wish you many more years of a close, loving marriage.
 
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gd9900 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Thank you for the suggestion...I certainly do not want to live in any more pain. My separation/divorce dragged out for three very long years due to my ex's waffling, and my unwillingness to give in/up on us and our marriage (even though I instinctively knew it was over on his end). I pretty much threw in the towel when he decided to FINALLY make a decision and file. It was a few months later when I got involved with this other man, but I hadn't been "in" any relationship (even with ex) for a year and a half. I was working through the pain and processing the divorce long before going through it.

It is getting easier with the other man - we are both keeping our distance from each other. I am planning some small projects around the house to keep my mind occupied and head down at work. Getting some time with my family and friends in between. I needed to hear it from you Leslie...hearing it from friends and family isn't the same. The difference being you have experience and have seen many outcomes and helped a variety of people through their obstacles I am sure. Thank you.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gd9900's response:
I'm glad I could help; and I wish you well in finding your way back to a happier life.
 
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Ellym responded:
I do not really know if my partner is having an affair. His work has been taking him away from home for the past 25 years.He is at home at times but constantly on the cell phone.Thereafter he is too tired to even speak or interact with me. He hardly spends time socializing or interacting with myself and even the children. The children are grown now and has told me to do what will bring me happiness, joy and fulfillment in my life.We have grown apart. If I mention his absence or lack of interaction,it leads to violent arguments. I have been very lonely and sad and has filled my days by studying or burying myself in my work.When I recently confronted him if he there was another women in his life, he did not answer me.Our sex life has been non existent for many years. He told me that we are living as brother and sister and that he has only been tolerating me. What is happening ? I need to move on. I have confronted him because he said we must move on,our separate ways.. When I indicate that it is fine he tries to be at home every evening. I am alone most of the time. When I started creating a social life with friends and travel to fill my days, he suddenly takes notice that I am not sitting at home waiting for him.He is basically living a separate life from me. I need advise.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to Ellym's response:
I wonder what you mean when you say that you mentioning "his absence or lack of interaction leads to violent arguments." Is there physical violence? If he is physically violent or you feel threatened, please take this situation seriously and get help. There are places you can turn to, such as the national domestic violence hotline . (If you are physically violent with him, I also strongly urge you to reach out for help)

If this is not the case...
My best advice is for you to think carefully about what you want in your life; as well as what you are and are not willing to live with.

If you really do want to continue in your marriage, what do you need to happen for you to be willing to stay? Will you stay no matter what? Or, are there limits to what you are willing to continue to tolerate? What are you willing to change in yourself? What changes do you need to see in him?

Have you talked with him about the pattern of him taking notice only when you are busy? My guess is that such a conversation might not go well because your communication sounds like it has deteriorated. But, it might be worth a shot.

Also, given that the problems have so much a part of your relationship, you might want to seek out couple therapy. If he agrees, that could be very helpful. If not, that gives you some feedback about the limits of what he will do to improve your relationship.


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