[Two Pronged] My husband is living with his mistress
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he enrolled in and subsequently gave workshops in work-life balance and gender sensitivity training. He has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years, as co-lecturer and occasionally as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives. Dr Holmes needs no further introduction.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
How can i keep our marriage solid when my husband is having an affair and even going home to his mistress house? He always tells me that he doesn't love her, that he is finding his way to get out of the relationship at the right time, but until now he is still living with her, despite the fact that he is coming home with us without the knowledge of the mistress. What should i do? I hope you find time to read my concern. Thank you. Barbara
Thank you for your letter.
I must say that I am puzzled by your question: how to keep your marriage solid? I say this because your marriage is just about as far away from being solid as can be imagined and if you truly think otherwise, you are delusional and perhaps should seek psychiatric help.
But maybe I am being unfair because, of course, it all depends on how one defines marriage. Marriage has legal, religious, social, and psychological aspects, just to name a few. From the legal perspective therefore, one could say that your marriage is indeed solid since it is not under any legal threat whatsoever (this is helped by the fact that of all the countries in the world, the Philippines is the only one left that refuses its citizens, not just Catholics but even non-Catholics, access to divorce - discussion of the exceptionalism or condition of being different from the norm, that is used to justify this is perhaps best left to another column).
From a religious perspective, the picture is probably just as clear. Your priest will doubtless tell you about the inviolability of your marriage vows, the sanctity of the bonds between you and your husband, and all that good stuff. However, this will not resolve the issues of your husband's gross infidelity, his semi-permanent absence from the marital home, and the abysmal example he is setting any children you may both have. Perhaps the good prelate will then tell you that this is the cross that you have been chosen to bear (a view I have certainly heard expressed by more than one Catholic Filipino friend in similar circumstances to yours). It is entirely your choice if that is something you wish to believe and not within the remit of this column to debate.
From a psychological perspective, however, it would be wrong to suggest that your marriage is solid if your husband is living with his mistress and merely occasionally paying you a courtesy visit. You clearly find the whole situation upsetting or you would not have asked for advice.
You need to decide what your priorities are. Among the possibilities are:
The status quo - you are the legal wife, you have the material things that come with marriage, e.g. house, car, maids, credit cards, etc. Make the best of what you have, even if it is not all that you had or now want.
Separation - if you cannot persuade him to come back, move on. Get some red-hot legal advice and make a new life for yourself. Show your children by example that being a wife does not mean being a martyr to a philanderer but instead a strong self-respecting independent woman who will not accept serial flouting of her marital vows. With luck you will find someone who is willing to love and respect you; if not, at least you will have gotten rid of someone who definitely does not.
There are, of course, other options. If you want to look at those, write to us again and give us more background. All the best - Jeremy
Thank you very much for your letter, even though it telegraphs from its first sentence, “How can i keep our marriage solid when my husband is having an affair and even going home to his mistress house?” that I cannot give you what you want.
No therapist worth her salt (that is, someone who is trained to help you rather than to respond to a request simply because s/he believes “marriages are forever”) would support this goal. Therapists encourage goals that are attainable, otherwise we would only be encouraging failure.
My own clinical experience is clear that, short of a once-in-a-lifetime fluke, a relationship can only be as committed as far as the one who wants the lesser commitment. That is, if you want marriage and your partner only wants “an understanding,” then an understanding is only as far as you’ll get. This is presuming one is against shotgun marriages, of course.
Your husband doesn’t want the same things you do for your marriage, Barbara. You want it stronger, more vibrant, more committed to each other. He likes the fact that he can live with his mistress and see you on the sly.
Your husband likes the status quo. If he didn’t, he would definitely do more than lie “that he is finding his way to get out of the relationship in the right time.” Have you ever asked him when the right time would be? I think you may find his answer interesting.
In other words, dearest Barbara, you may want to make your marriage solid, but your husband doesn’t. If he did, then at the very least, he would behave towards you the way he behaves towards his mistress; rather than vice-versa.
I say this since your husband seems a certain type: one of those men who delude themselves into thinking his marriage is “good enough” because his wife demands so little of him.
Of course, in a world that is not only ideal but, happily, also has couples that love, and have sex with each other exclusively, no one would have both a wife and a mistress. But many women have accepted such a situation, so let us look at your present situation in that context, okay, Barbara?
Your husband openly lives with her and sees you only on the sly. He tells you things a man tells a woman he hopes will hang on indefinitely, without insisting on too much. Like you, Barbara.
Even his “I don’t love her” spiel is so similar to the oft-quoted “My wife doesn’t understand me” routine it make the hair on the back of my hands stand.
Please, Barbara, don’t ask me to tell you how to win back this selfish, though admittedly, smart-enough-to-pull-the-wool-over-your-eyes husband of yours. Even if I could, which I can’t (given the reasons stated above), I wouldn’t. Ironically, it seems the best one to give the advice you seek is your husband’s current mistress, though I doubt very strongly she would want to help you. I say this because, at this very moment, married to a man who is not prepared to give up his mistress, you are supposed to be in her position: with his being scared of you (not her), in case you found out he was still seeing her.
However, should you want clarity looking at your situation and, perhaps, an alternative view on how free, happy, and, yes, even better loved you could be without that poor excuse of a husband in your life, please write us again? I am fairly sure Jeremy and I would be better equipped to deal with these kinds of concerns. All the best - Margie
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