Hello Chump Lady,
I am currently in a situation where I am deciding whether or not to continue my marriage and could use some serious guidance and honesty. My husband, over our 9 years relationship has had several one-time physical relations with different women, the last time he allowed himself to have sexual intercourse. From my knowledge this has been the first and only time sex was involved, but I guess that really doesn’t matter, he shouldn’t have EVER had any sort contact with anyone other than me…EVER!
I am writing to ask are there any circumstances in which you should give a serial cheater another chance? I am wrestling with this decision for a few reasons, one because he confessed it shortly after it happened, whereas there is no possible way I would have ever found out on my own. Second, he has been showing genuine remorse, including he initiated, found and scheduled an appointment with a marriage counselor. Third, has been working on personal growth, says he doesn’t like who he is and is trying to change it — with working out regularly, attending church every week, and “soul- searching.” He has been communicating lately, keeping me informed on his whereabouts, gave me all passwords to his email accounts and access to his cell phone. And more than anything else he has took full responsibility, he doesn’t blame me and acknowledges that it is his own character flaws.
With all this I am not 100% convinced. To me, he knew it was wrong and did it anyway. He knew I would be crushed and devastated. And because of that, if we didn’t have children (a 6 year old and a 4 month old) I would have been out the door and moved on after the first incident years ago. I have stayed hoping to give my children a family, hoping if they were raised right they wouldn’t encounter the same problems he and I both have had (both from broken homes with traumatic divorces). Financially, I will be able to take care of myself and my children without him. But I would be financially vulnerable if I become a single parent with an infant, as I would have to cut back on hours at work, and I don’t trust nor can I afford day care.
I know people change, I just don’t know if he’ll be able of changing. I genuinely think he is trying to be a better person. BUT I also realize his method of coping with relationship problems is through trying to ignore them or escape. He internalizes relationship problems as rejection of him, and looks for acceptance from others. Which I am not okay with, and see no excuse in coping with feelings of (perceived) rejection in that way. Should I give it some time and see if I can keep my family together or count my losses and get out while I can? Would LOVE your opinion. Thank you so much!!!
Worried about my children’s future
Nine years and how many women? How much “almost sex” has this guy had? And it was only intercourse “once,” that you know of, and that’s because he confessed? Worried — you’re being chumped. Multiple “one-time physical encounters” means MULTIPLE not one time. I think you mean there were many women, but each time he was only inappropriate once… and then he moved on… and was inappropriate again… and again… culminating in a single night of unbridled intercourse… missionary position, probably — and let me guess, he felt guilty about it and didn’t enjoy it one bit. And then they adjourned for Bible study and lemonade.
Dudes a serial cheater, Worried. He’s “confessing” to only a little bit of the iceberg. Why would he confess? Oh, lots of reasons. Probably one of these women was threatening to contact you and so he decided to get to the narrative first. Or it could be he is testing you, to see how much cheating you’ll tolerate. You know, as he’s working on his issues, and throwing you further off his trail.
You asked are there any situations in which I would give a serial cheater another chance? Not any I can think of, Worried. But if I were you, I’d propose testing his apologies and commitment to you with a generous post-nup settlement — with an infidelity clause. Only he controls if he cheats again, so what does he have to lose? If he balks? There’s your answer. If he signs, there’s your paid way out if he cheats again.
If he cheats again… well, to find that out, you’d have to be the marriage police. Which, if you stay with this guy, I’d also recommend. You know, GPS, voice activated recorders, a PI if you can afford it. Because problem is, Worried, serial cheaters are good at their game. His phone? Probably got another one. The passwords? He could have other email accounts. Transparency is a fool’s errand.
Of course, being the marriage police is no way to live either. And why risk the heartache, the STDs? Why not just go ahead and file for divorce. Let him improve on his own time. If he’s serious about being a better person, let him get the scads of counseling he needs while you move on with your life. Divorce shouldn’t deter him from his self improvement kick if he’s serious about it. If it is contingent upon you not divorcing him? Well, I question his sincerity. He should want to be a better person REGARDLESS of what you do or do not do. He should accept the consequences of his shitty behavior and not expect you to assume the risk that he reoffends.
Instead of putting all your focus on (and giving your power to) him and his potential for change — why not focus on your own potential for change? Challenge yourself to come up with solutions. I’d rather trust day care than your husband. Really, how bad can day care be compared to life with a serial cheater? Talk with a lawyer, perhaps with child support you can afford it. Maybe you could find a family member, or consider a move closer to family. I hate the expression “think outside the box.” Let’s change it to “think outside the boob.” Look past HIM.
Just read the many stories here, Worried, of other folks who stayed after the first affair and left after the umpteenth discovered later. The sunk costs just get greater and greater. I do think you should cut your losses and get out now. If he transmogrifies into a Shiny New Person, he knows where to find you. But I suspect, Worried, that you’ll be so much happier without him, by the time that day comes, you won’t care. As I’ve written here before — a good heart is a terrible thing to waste on a fucktard. Move on, I say.