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 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
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I am in dire need of help. My husband cheated. I forgave him after he apologized, vowing not to do it again.
But I can’t help stalking his things. We’ve been married 8 years, with 1 daughter. He said I wasn’t able to give him time, that’s why he did it. The other girl is also married, they used to be workmates. I think the affair lasted for a year. I even begged him to block her on social media because I still see him checking her account. I also saw their ring on his wallet, which I told him to throw already when I found out about it 2 months ago.
He always gets upset because he says I don’t trust him anymore and that it’s really over between them. He also lied about what he said was a company phone, which I doubt.
We love each other but I feel like he’s not yet over her. Please give me advice.
Thank you for your message.
So your husband has reverted to his old ways, despite being caught, apologizing, and promising not to do it again. And he has the gall to complain that you do not trust him even when faced with evidence that clearly justifies your mistrust of him.
You say that he loves you, yet he has a strange way of demonstrating it; you meanwhile seem resigned to a lifetime of vigilance and the role of private detective, forever checking up on his activities in your efforts to keep him on the straight and narrow.
It seems that if he is straying once again you need to give him an incentive to behave. The ones that work best tend to be threats e.g. that you will leave him. But a threat will only work if he wants to avoid the outcome, he believes you will carry it out and you are indeed resolved to do so. Empty threats will not alter his behavior, nor will threats that he sees as opportunities (if he has been waiting for years for you to go back to your mother’s house for good, this so called threat will in fact be manna from heaven).
It is important not to forget the third person in your household, your daughter. She is a constant observer of how you and your husband behave both as parents and as a married couple, and you two are her role model for how marriage works.
Therapists the world over have to deal with clients who have brought to their own marriages some of the deficiencies to which they were exposed by their parents’ marriages. You and your husband owe it to your daughter to do the best you can, together or apart.
You are responsible for bringing her into this world and you remain responsible for ensuring she has the best possible preparation for adulthood.
This includes a home where she can learn, not just from books but also from experience and observation, what constitutes a good marriage.
It is a tenet of family therapy that emotions are caught, not taught.
Children do not believe sanctimonious claptrap about the sanctity of marriage when they see before their very eyes evidence that a parent is straying. Parents faced with marital difficulties would therefore do well to remember this when weighing their options.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter. Admittedly, your situation seems bleak and if you carry on the way you are, the situation will be even bleaker. Your husband is not blameless, far from it.
But I am writing only to you and about the possibility of improving your marriage, so let us ignore his possible contribution to its longevity or its demise.
I firmly believe that, with the right attitude (thus followed by behavior closely aligned to said attitude) some affairs can actually improve marriage. In fact, several studies of intact married couples (despite a previous infidelity) found that closer marital relationships, increased partner assertiveness, improved self-care, and improved marital communication were all effects of the healing process following the disclosure of an extramarital affair.
I don’t know if your husband’s affair falls into this category, and if it doesn’t, please don’t blame yourself.
In addition to depression, numerous research on the non involved partners’ reactions to infidelity describe symptoms that resemble post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including acute anxiety, overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and victimization, and destabilization of core beliefs relating to emotional security. In addition to that, Drs Snyder et al in “An integrative approach to treating infidelity” in The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, even described “flashback” phenomena occurring in noninvolved partners, as well as severe distress when entering public spaces or spending time with other couples who appear to be experiencing marital satisfaction.
After suffering most of the above for more than a year, will it be possible for you to overcome your feelings of rage, betrayal and lack of trust? Because, dearest Jen, that will just be the first step.
The second step is to open yourself to the possibility that the infidelity is merely a symptom of larger relationship issues. Perhaps this is what he really meant when he said you never had time for him?
Because if it was, if he said it with the hope that you and he could first agree that there were things in your marriage that needed improvement, well and good. Well and good on his part, but then you too have to step up to the plate, and perhaps look at the infidelity as a co-created relationship problem.
Dearest Jen, I hope the first two steps do not seem too overwhelming?
They may if you do not think continuing with your husband is worth all this effort and, again, I would understand 100%. However, if you are willing to do this for the sake of your marriage, please write us again and I will gladly share further steps with you!
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.