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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 three 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 just discovered my “perfect” husband has been unfaithful. I was devastated and when I asked him to leave, he was devastated. He asked me to forgive his infidelity and just wait for it to pass.
I was flabbergasted and nearly cried from frustration. I asked how he, who has known me for over 20 years, could know me so little.
His answer: “Look, I have been a good husband; an involved, devoted husband. You have told me this yourself. You even called me your best friend. Couldn’t you just give me this? A year, 18 months, no more than that. I’m sure this craziness will die a natural death. Then it will be just you, me, and the kids just like before.”
I am inclined to disagree and still make him leave. We live in a house my parents gave us. But the kids adore him and I’m afraid I will break up my family and regret this for the rest of my life. Please help.
Thank you for your email.
The standard reaction of husbands who actually care when they are caught straying is to admit it was a mistake, say it was meaningless and just sex, ask for forgiveness, promise never to stray again, etc. Implicitly or explicitly, it is understood that they need to regain their wife’s trust.
Your husband (let’s call him Carlo) seems however to be suggesting that having successfully fooled you into believing he was the perfect husband and friend for so many years, you should now continue the charade until he is ready to keep his side of the marriage contract once more.
There is no vestige of remorse, no evidence that he regrets hurting you, no turning over a new leaf. Instead, his “solution” is that you should allow him to go on sowing his midlife wild oats until he is too exhausted to do other than slink back to the marital home.
Carlo’s whole attitude seems to be one of indifference, if not contempt. You are his wife and mother of his children yet you are expected to give him free rein to slake his sexual appetite for other women for as long as he wants.
You say you are inclined to leave him but are afraid to break up the family. Well, you need to view matters from two perspectives: wife and mother. As a wife, are you prepared to tolerate his continuing infidelity? Some wives consider infidelity a deal-breaker, others do not, and some actually welcome it, especially if their husbands are lousy lovers! As a mother, what sort of message do you want to give your children? They will already have formed some initial views on the roles of husbands and wives, based on how you and Carlo behave, and how you and he treat this crisis will influence them significantly. There are many roles the two of you can adopt e.g. the macho husband or feckless male, the long-suffering deceived wife or strong independent modern woman, etc.
You have to choose, not only for yourself but for your children, and one can make a case both for staying and leaving. How much weight to give each factor as you ponder your decision is something only you however can determine.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. There are just three things I would like to add to Mr. Baer’s excellent response.
- Despite (or perhaps partly because of) your husband’s myopic suggestion which we shall discuss after this, you say you “are still inclined to make him leave but I’m afraid I will break up my family.” It was his infidelity/infidelities that definitely contributed to breaking up your family; your desire (which, admittedly, I hope becomes a decision) to separate merely make public what has secretly been going on for a long time now.
- Now, for his “counter-offer” and the answers you could give after every sentence he utters, okay? His counteroffer will be in italics and in bold print, okay?
“Look I have been a good husband, an involved, devoted husband.” He seems to be oblivious to how much he has hurt (and is still hurting) you. Is he being disingenuous, Toni? Or can he really be that clueless? Would you feel comfortable saying (or even just thinking this): “Honestly, I have no idea how long you have been a devoted husband. Certainly you stopped being all that when you became unfaithful. What you were was such a good actor; I was actually devastated when I discovered you were cheating.
“Couldn’t you just give me this? A year, 18 months, no more than that. I’m sure this craziness will die a natural death.” He sounds like he is bargaining for fish in a wet market, Toni! We are talking lives here – the individual lives of all the members of your family right now, and for many years to come. How dare he try to minimize his betrayal by calling it mere “craziness?”
“Then it will be just you, me, and the kids just like before.” Carlo, it can never be “just like before.” Even if it could, what makes you think I would like having the wool pulled over my eyes again?
You are absolutely right, Toni. He doesn’t really know you at all. Because the length of a relationship (over 20 years, yes?) cannot guarantee its depth (or lack of it, in this case).
He is asking you to live in a non-existent past (when you thought he was a perfect husband and even your best friend) or in a yet unproven future (when you can all play happy families again).
A best friend would encourage you to live in the present. At present you have a husband who still has no intention of honoring his marriage vows. While the past cannot guarantee the future, only a very foolish woman would see a selfish, callous, self-absorbed person and hope he will miraculously turn out to be Mr. Perfect.
In Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1, Shakespeare described your situation: “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”
Given that Carlo broke the trust between you and has shown no sign of trying to restore it in the short- to medium-term, your inclination to leave him sounds a realistic appraisal of what might be best for you and your children. Good luck!
All the very best,
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