Getting past infidelity?

Let’s call this hypothetical, shall we? Thanks.

I’m not really in the mood for details, but let’s say we have a pair of totally hypothetical newlyweds, who’ve been together for 10 years, married 6 months. In that 6 months, things have been rough, with both parties in the wrong, wronged, hurt and fighting. Let’s say that the wife has been very upset and jealous of the time that the husband has been spending with friends, since she feels lonely and isolated in a new area and job. She’s not been a prize lately, neither has he, but she never ever would have believed he’d actually sleep with another woman, at least not without negotiating an opening of their marriage first (something that had been vaguely considered in the past, never pursued.) Never until today.:frowning: It’s not hypothetical suspicion, it’s hypothetical fact, hypothetical confession, what-have-you. The acts in question occurred over the last few months, during which a fair amount of gaslighting, including the phrase “well it’s not as if I’m having sex with [gal x]!” occurred.

Complicating the situation somewhat is the fact that these lovebirds were high school sweethearts, each other’s first lovers. The wife understands the desire to try someone new, but always figured that if they got to the point when that desire was overwhelming, the pair would work it out together. Too late for that now. The husband made this confession today under a bit of duress during a sincere overture to the wife to try to start fresh and move on together from the strife of the last 6 months. The couple separated 2 weeks ago because the wife couldn’t deal with the husband’s behavior and lack of desire to try to work things out. Now the tables are turned and she isn’t sure what she wants.

So- any smart dopers have experience on either end of infidelity, and working through it? HypotheticalWife is especially looking for advice in learning to trust, especially after a month-long process of deny-press-admit small thing-press-deny-press-admit larger thing ad nauseum. How to break the cycle and just believe again? How to look him in the eyes?

This hypothetical couple should hie themselves to a competent marriage counselor, to figure out how to navigate these waters. All the issues raised in the OP can be addressed within that context.

No irrevocable decisions should be made in the meantime.

(speaking as a medical professional, with no firsthand knowledge of the core issue raised by the OP)

I am struck by the timing: ten years together before marriage (somewhat odd) and the marriage coincides with things going downhill. Were they living together before they got married? Was the marriage an attempt to strengthen a weakening marriage?

It sounds to me like there are some very serious problems here, of which the infidelity is but a small portion: if the fundamentals can be worked out, the infidelity will be resolvable. If the fundamentals of the situation are not resolved, it doesn’t matter if the infidelity is “got past” or not, since the whole relationship is doomed–“getting past” the infidelity will just stretch out the death throes for a year or two.

High school sweethearts can have a strong, life-long partnership, but in my observations, they have some unique challenges. In my experience, high school sweethearts have to seriously recalibrate their relationship at some point or it never works. For one thing, among high school couples there is very often a parent-child vibe in the relationship, which is understandable–for one thing, kids model their relationships after the other important relationship in their life, their parents, and two, they are kids when they get together and so sometimes continue to see each other/treat each other as children. Not infrequently, the relationship tends to exacerbate any maturity imbalance that might have existed when they got together–the slightly less mature partner stays that way because someone who loves them is both capable and willing to carry them, and the slightly more mature person becomes more mature quickly because they are responsible for two. Both parties often come to resent this, the less mature because they are regulated to the status of a child and the more mature because they are forced to be the adult. Do any of these match your hypothetical couple?

The hypothetical wife should realize that a guy that cheats on you and lies about it once will do so again. Either learn to deal with adultery, or get a divorce.

Speaking as a legal professional and cynic. I’ve seen this story a thousand times. It generally doesn’t end well. Except for the lawyers.

I agree with this. I’ve tried to stay in a relationship after infidelity and its never ever worked out. You will never look at him the same way, you will always wonder, you will always expect him to make it up to you. He will feel like hes being treated like shit after a while and will either end up cheating again or break up with you.

Well, speaking hypothetically, this kind of thing CAN be gotten past. Note phrasing.

All I can say personally, is that it’s been 10 years since my hypothetical husband slept with a hypothetical chippie at a hypothetical conference in hypothetical Houston and I still have issues with it. I can’t imagine not going spare (as the Brits say) if said hypothetical chippie were someone known to me.

I also married my HS sweetheart. Frankly, it’s not something I recommend, but I do know of 2 other couples who did the same and they seem fine. YMMV.

Go to counseling. Do nothing permanent now–you’ll be surprised the ripples this stonethrow in the pond will make. I wish you well.

In contrast to Oakminster’s views, not all infidelity results in the dissolution of marriage or even a repeat of the act of infidelity. This is not to say that Oakminster does not have a substantial body of evidence for his opinion, only that it is not conclusive. If the prior ten years saw no acts of infidelity, then I would be reluctant to presume that any individual who cheats will necessarily do so again.

That said, I have no advice other than to echo Quadgop. If the relationship and marriage can be saved, the support of a good professional is strongly indicated.

Hypothetically, if I wanted to learn to trust my hypothetical SO again, I might want to know EVERYTHING. Ask every question you can think of, and have him agree he will answer anything honestly. If you can handle the hurt that comes with such a discussion, it could show you that he is now willing to be open with you.

And if it’s not to be saved, good professionals can help you navigate out of it with lessened trauma, and perhaps more insight into how to make better future choices.

Quadgop? From you too, tomn…? :dubious:


How does one tell if a marriage counselor is “competent”?

Living together (with a one year college-related gap) for 7 years, in different cities and situations. Marriage had been talked about for a long time, but finally seemed practical last summer. No conscious attempt to “fix” anything- there had always been ups’n’downs, but things just seemed to fix themselves, and the good stuff overcame the bad. One thing that always kept the partnership strong was a shared ability to undertake herculean tasks and complete them together. Since the wedding, though, there just haven’t been any tasks- both have decent jobs, husband is finally going to college, have a nice place to live.

This makes a lot of sense.

Yes. Now is clearly the time for that recalibration if it’s possible at all. Husband and wife do seem to see each other as the teenagers they were, rather than the adults they are now. In this case, the wife is the ‘more mature’ one in terms of practical things like jobs, bills, and also drive and ambition, which has clearly stifled the husband’s ability to take care of these types of things himself. The husband however, plays the ‘parent’ in a more emotional sense- trying to take responsibility for the happiness and security of the wife, which puts a lot of strain on both.

You know, I’ve read your posts before and thought: “Dad, is that you?” and now I really hope it isn’t so;). You make a good point.

That’s a whole other aspect, as now there is a house (inhabited by one of her best friends) into which she cannot step foot, for fear of flipping the fuck out.

Sorry. My kid was demanding I fix a puter problem and my finger just hit the u by habit. I’ll try to not let it happen again.

I think counseling is in order.

Example: I know a guy who divorced his wife. Despite his military obligations, he moonlighted to make extra money so his wife could have some of the nicer things. There’s a litany that goes with that—all the things he did for her, how he was able to afford a car for her with what he made, yadda. Anyway she got mixed up with the wrong people, hooked on drugs, etc. Eventually he found out she was cheating on him and that was that.

But y’know, maybe if he’d spent more time with her, instead of taking on an extra jobs etc. she wouldn’t have been so lonely. He would have been at home to see some of the seedy characters coming around the house. Knowing him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was avoiding her…but doing everything for her makes his hands lily white, right?

In the hypothetical case, it could be that there has been a communication breakdown. Or it could be that old wounds haven’t healed. Small changes in the relationship could be triggering things that pre-date it. There are a lot of things that a dispassionate third party might be able to see. Once the problem(s) have been identified, a counselor would be able to ask the right questions, help in the recovery, and so on. To DIY on something like that is like putting a band-aid on a wound that requires stitches.

Whether the relationship can be salvaged, I don’t know. But I’d feel better knowing that a counselor had overseen the process.

A woman I once knew told me about her experience in marriage counseling. Her ex was in business, so the counselor “translated” every aspect of the relationship into “business” for him—debits, credits, the whole bit. The marriage ended but at least she felt she’d done what she could to reach him, and that gave her some peace.

Another vote for counseling. Infidelity is often as much, or more, a symptom of other problems as a problem in and of itself. If that’s the case, and both partners truly want to work things out, it can happen. How do you trust again? Very, very slowly - but it does happen. The relationship can actually end up much, much better than the original.

Things like ditching or dealing with said “friend” can be worked out in counseling also.

In a case like this, where there’s been a long-term relationship with infidelity coming during a rough time in the marriage, I’d say your odds are good if both people want to make it happen.

And if it doesn’t work, then both partners can learn something about themselves and their relationships, and hopefully walk away feeling that they gave it their best and that the other person isn’t totally evil, even if they’re not suited to each other.

Get recommendations from anyone you can. The college or employers may have a recommendation list. Go test-drive the counselor - both parties have to feel comfortable with him/her. Don’t be afraid to interview a few before you decide on one.

Good luck, hypothetically speaking, of course.

I was going to write a different responce to this, thinking that Oakminster had simply trotted out the old “once a cheat, always a cheat.” However, reading more carefully, Oak has caught the important part. The lying about the cheating really adds insult to injury, and does considerably more damage to his trustworthiness. Someone who admits only after being caught in conflicting lies is not really being remorseful.

I’ve only read about rebuilding trust and the difficulty of regaining it. I don’t think that 100% of people who cheat and lie will repeat the same offence, but if they aren’t willing to or refused to understand how much pain they caused, work hard at regaining trust, and rigorously examine themselves, either with or without counseling to really understand why they did that and make the necessary changes in their basic thinking, then it’s not a good bet.

Argh. Look; bumping into someone is an accident. Eye contact, flirting, footsie, breaking the ice, getting a room, stripping naked, and jumping into the sack might be a mistake but it sure as hell is not an accident.

Barring heavy drugs, somewhere along the line he had to think of you and say, “Eh, to hell with her.” Now, you’ll never hear that, but actions trump words every time. That thought did go through his head.

So no need for hate or drama. But if it were me I’d just pack my bags and leave a note. Yes it hurts, but only once. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

Before the fact: by referral from someone you trust.

During: by noticing if he/she is helpful. This takes time. And don’t be afraid to try more than one. My wife and I have had our share of problems, and we’ve been to counselors who helped things go from bad to awful for us, but we didn’t realize they weren’t a good fit until we tried someone else. In fact, this isn’t necessarily about competence, you need someone who fits hypothetical your and hypothetical hubby’s style/needs/whatever, and can at least help you fight productively, if nothing else. So keep at it if you feel the relationship is worth salvaging. Or even if you don’t, but want to split up in a productive way (whatever that can mean for hypothetical you).

My (now ex-) wife cheated on me - a comparatively small thing, really. “Penetration”, to my knowledge, had yet to occur (though I suspect there was more than I caught).

I’ve always had big issues with truth. Nothing pisses me off more than being lied to. For me… and there was a ton of marital issues before this… and we were in counseling… this was the end of it. I’d never trust her again and how could we be married without trust?

I didn’t want to spend the rest of my marriage wondering what emails she was sending and wondering if “an evening out with friends” would, in fact, be a liaison.

Your mileage may vary, of course. In fact, I hope it does. For me, though, infidelity is an insurmountable issue.

You know yourself better than any, of course. If you think counseling could help, then, by all means try that before the life shredding process that is divorce.

You’re wrong.
The hypothetical couple should know that not all infidelities are deal breakers. They can be forgiven and the couple can move on, if both parties want to. One infidelity does not a serial cheat make.

Now this is absolutely true. It can, however, take some time for the offending party to get there from here. That’s part of what the counseling is for. It sounds to me from the OP that the adulterer has at least gotten part-way to realizing this.

But you’re right, if they just refuse to admit they’re a part of the problem and won’t work towards a solution, it’s not going to happen.

About counselors: watch out for one that seems to consistently favor one partner or the other. Most marital problems are caused by both partners to some degree. Consistent favoritism can cause and/or reinforce the “I don’t have to change, it’s your problem” syndrome. We spent years working out the problems caused by a biased counselor.