Valid excuse for infidelity?

Frankly, I think leaving as soon as possible is the only answer. And I say this from experience. My marriage dragged on for about 12 years too long, and it probably would have benefited everyone if I just left instead of hanging around for the kids’ sake.

But it’s an extremely difficult decision, which is why I didn’t leave. Living day to day knowing that there’s undoubtedly a better life out there eats away at you.

Staying together “for the kids” isn’t doing the kids any favors. At best, it’s setting them up for a colossal disappointment when the fiction of your happy marriage falls apart later in their lives, and at worst it’s exposing them to a needlessly toxic atmosphere at home. Presumably the former, in your case, since you say you still love him very much.

Hell, no, it’s not an excuse. He is, I assume, a grown adult. He did this himself. Nobody forced him to.

It may very well be a reason, though. Your OP asks about both, but they’re not the same thing.

For me, the big question would be which one he considers it to be. Is his attitude ‘My daddy was mean to me, so I couldn’t help having affairs and lying to you’? Or is it ‘I’ve figured out why I chose to do these awful things, so now I can work on fixing my problems so I won’t do them again’?

Because if it’s the first, the problem goes way deeper than the affair: he’s refusing to take any responsibility for his own actions, and there’s no way to build a marriage on that. If it’s the second, though, and he genuinely is working on fixing the damage that was done, then it’s a whole different thing.

Yeah, it sounds like he’s doing exactly as his father did. He is hurting you & the kids by association even if they don’t see the fights, they feel the effect it has on you both the same. It sounds like he’s completely unrepentant & will do it over & over until he’s destroyed you & the kids or himself in the process.

What he’s looking for in other women is yet another gullible person he can use for his own pleasure with little thought to how much damage it does to those around him that he supposedly he loves. This to me is the worst kind of person who cavalierly uses others & betrays the relationships & well-being of those closest to him - deliberately. He keeps getting away with it because you let him. Stop it! Hold him accountable & let him know that he has become his father & you won’t tolerate his behavior like his mother did. I hope you have a great support system, because you will need it. If you have any regular sex with this guy after all his crap, go get yourself checked out too.

(All this is the same circus my own mom went through for years & the resentment kept building up & she started taking it out on us kids.)

If someone has promised sexual exclusivity and then doesn’t abide by that promise, I think it is a mistake to assume that you can count on sexual exclusivity at any future point. That may or may not be a dealbreaker for you in and of itself. You COULD tell him you will not accept from him any promises that a state of sexual exclusivity exists — that you will ASSUME that he is having relations with other people and will behave accordingly.

There are two large questions:

a) whether he is generally a person whose promises are worthy of the air spent to speak them and you can trust him and he isn’t an uncaring jerk but simply made one specific promise that he can’t keep; or, instead, is just inconsiderate of you and didn’t bother to make any effort to keep this commitment and won’t make any effort to take you into consideration in any other meaningful fashion if you stay with him; and

b) whether sexual exclusivity is something you need in a relationship and without it you would wish to break up; or, instead, the pain is mostly from the breach of faith and violation of promise and you could indeed consider a relationship with him without sexual exclusivity being a component of your understanding with him

FWIW, my father left when I was 5. Doesn’t have anything to do with my comittment to fidelity in my marriage, except maybe by learning from his bad example.

yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve never suffered from such horrible anxiety in my life. We live our life like a normal family, but with these underlying feelings of distrust. The strange credit card charges he can’t ever explain, keeping his phone locked and hidden, ignoring me for months while the affair was going on, then when I find out I get flowers and showered with love, attention, and apologies. … He tells me how wonderful/beautiful I am and I am the only reason he lives - he fell in love with me the day he laid eyes on me, etc etc. Then I have to sift through emotional affair crap? None of this makes sense to me. :frowning:

You caught him through the utterly devious method of looking at your credit card statement? That tells me he gives not one fuck about you or your relationship if he’s not even hiding it. He knows you’ll forgive him again.

I think this is an excellent summary of where you are. I can’t give you advice on what to do because I’m not you. But it seems pretty clear that you can’t trust what he says about infidelity. He has had no problem lying to you over and over, so you have to take everything he says on the subject with a grain of salt, including his contrition and that he’s working on it in therapy.

Basically you need to decide if you’re OK having a relationship where your spouse has relationships with other women. Because you have no way of verifying that he will change and be faithful, it’s hard to make a plan that relies on that contingency, and it has a high likelihood of making you miserable.

I could understand your desire to believe these sentiments the first time this happened. But after the second and third time it rings hollow.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice or three times, shame on me.

I would separate but not divorce or permanently break up. If you had nothing but bad feelings I would say leave him. But since you have a mixture of good and bad feelings I would try to work it out. But a separation gives him consequences. It is kind of hard for me to explain it eloquently but I think the main point is coming across. He needs consequences. that is what helps to break a cycle.

My ex wife cheated on me several times. She has a childhood that could easily help explain her behavior. I tried several times to work things out with her, for the kids and because there were some things quite extraordinary about her. In the end, it had to end. I was too hurt to truly form a partnership of love and trust, and she was, at her core, simply unable to. Sooner would have been better than later, but at least it ended when I had no doubts about it. So, to the OP, sure there are explanations for infidelity, but it doesn’t matter. I can imagine a very close relationship where the parties have an “understanding” and everything remains very nice. It doesn’t sound like this is what you have or want. Good luck.

ETA. It sucks for awhile , but can get better. 10 years later I’m happier than I ever imagined possible.

By staying, you’re validating it. By staying despite 3 previous affairs, you’re practically endorsing it. If the consequences for cheating only entails $100 worth of gifts and some empty words, it’s worth it for a cheating-inclined man to cheat. Is it valid? That depends on what kind of expectations you have for your relationship. It’s certainly not the norm though, and if you expect a monogamous relationship, you won’t find it in your current one.

I would push the issue on therapy and/or counseling. He has to know that this is an unacceptable behavior. In talking about it, in spending money on it in spending time on it, it could slowly change his stance on it. You won’t be able to get rid of the part of his brain that wants to cheat, but you can train his values/morals to keep that in check, not unlike controlling an urge to eat, smoke, etc. He still stands a good chance of relapse but it would be better than total inaction.

What consequences? It sounds like this would just give him more solo time to pursue his other interests.

yes of course but if he is destined to cheat he will cheat. time apart just makes it easier and brings it about quicker. but separation could be the opposite. it could be a wake up call and show him what he has thrown away.

I know… believe me I struggle with this. :frowning:

Whatever you are feeling, let yourself feel it. Don’t tell yourself that what you are feeling is wrong. You have to give validity to your own feelings in order to proceed from a place of empowerment for yourself. Yes, you can feel two things at once.

He may really love you , he may really want to keep you, but clearly not enough. He is asking you to do all the giving, forgiving, understanding, and compromise while he feels free to cheat, lie and spend family funds on his indulgences. As other posters have said, a shitty childhood may help to explain bad behavior but it certainly does not excuse it in an adult. My husband had a terrible, abusive father who tossed all his kids out of the house before they got out of high school, but in 22 years together I have never had reason to think he was anything other than absolutely committed in thought and deed to keeping our relationship close and healthy.

You have to be the one to decide what your final straw will be, but his pattern of behavior and your clear unhappiness means it is coming soon, so be prepared to wake up one day and find yourself thinking “you know what? fuck this.” For myself, I wouldn’t leave until then because you are far less likely to be sweet-talked into going back for another round romance followed by betrayal when you have reached that point.

Good luck to you.

I would like to add that cheating through Ashley Madison speaks of planning and premeditation. It’s not like he just fell into bed with someone after a bender.

I think other people have done a real good job of saying most of what I’d want, but I wanted to add two points.

In the OP, you ask about feeling anger and compassion at the same time. Personally, I think the ability to feel both is a pretty necessary rite of passage to becoming a rational human being. If you let anger overwhelm everything else, you’ve reduced another person to something less than fully human. If you let compassion overwhelm everything, you fail to take the necessary responses to solve problems and protect yourself. Ultimately, I think we get the best outcomes when we weigh the two together. In your case, I think this means acknowledging that his past contributes to whatever needs he’s addressing - understanding him as a person - but it doesn’t prevent you from insisting that certain behaviors stop.

Also, in terms of looking at family history and how it leads to infidelity for him, I think a key is to understand that it’s not a single-step process leading directly from “bad family” to “infidelity.” Instead, it’s more like “bad family” leads to “feelings that are unpleasant/unfulfilled” leads to “a thought process about how to address those feelings” which then ends in “infidelity.” It is impossible to change the bad family. It difficult to change the feelings that arise from the bad family, but therapy might make that possible. However, how those feelings are addressed is 100% under his control, and infidelity is never going to be the only option. If he’s honest with you, his therapist and himself, there should be a way to identify other ways to handle it that don’t involve deceiving and hurting you. For some people, merely confessing those feelings (to you, a priest, therapist, sponsor, whatever) may provide the necessary outlet to keep them from turning into a destructive behavior. Even if he concludes that infidelity is a necessary part of his life that he’s not going to give up, at least he could be honest about that and let you either agree to some kind of open marriage or move on to find a marriage in which you have what you need.