Hi Chump Lady,
I’ve been married for 13 years and we have 3 small kids all under 10 years old. I was 10 weeks pregnant when I found out about the affair, this was 2 years ago. He was a very busy VP and always came home late, but then I just had feelings that something was off. Turned out he was in the middle of 6 months emotional and physical affair.
My first reaction was to kick him out of the house, I told him to pack up his stuff and took of the ring. He stayed at his parents house for 2 weeks and we had no contact, but my kids really missed him so I let him came back. Then I decided to start reconciliation process.
But the primary reason was not because of love but because of my kids. I grew up with divorced parents, bitter mom and indifferent father and it really sucks. I just can’t let my kids to go through it. He was a shitty husband but a good dad so I thought I’d give a shot at reconciliation. Also being a single working mom to 3 small kids would be a real challenge and that’s the other reason why I stay.
Pre-affair, ever since he got the big promotion he always ignored me that I had to beg for sex. So when I found out about the affair it was the final blow to our marriage. I just stopped feeling anything romantic toward him. During the 2 weeks period when he wasn’t in the house I was broken, yet a bit relieved but I felt guilty for my kids, they kept asking questions about him. Hysterical bonding ? Ha, nothing for me because I was too repulsed by him. I was so horny during pregnancy but still managed to chose dildo over him. The first time we had sex after D-day was after I gave birth and that was because he got the night shift to fed our newborn.
We went to marriage counseling and it helped. He’s very remorseful and has changed drastically. He quit his job and got a new one with shorter hours, he’ll call if he’s late, he gave me his email and social media password, but I just hate that I have to be the marriage police. I appreciate his effort but somehow I just don’t buy it. I like it but I don’t trust it.
My friends said I should be grateful and give him a chance, my mom told me that I’m selfish cause I only think about myself. At this point I don’t hate him or am repulsed by him, we’re pretty cordial. In short our relationship now is fuck buddies who coparent. It feels like I have this inner wall that confines my feelings toward him, my MC said it’s because I don’t trust him and that I should try to.
Should I trust him again ?
Do you know the expression — if you didn’t want to go to Chicago, why’d you get on the train?
You got on the R train. You can’t be surprised that it looks like reconciliation. You know, that place where you get to keep your family together and your husband in your bed (grudgingly) but you have to learn to trust again and play marriage police.
Essentially, you’re asking me if you can just stay married and not trust the guy. Stay in it for the kids, but not feel any intimacy toward your husband. Enjoy the perks, but bitch about the suckitude.
No, you don’t get to be a cake eater. You need to own your choices. I’m sorry your choices suck. Every single chump can relate to exactly how much your choices suck. How much you don’t want to be divorced. How hard this will be on your kids. On you. How much it will suck financially. You are not being presented with a scenario any different than any chump with kids hasn’t been presented with before. You just hopped on a different train.
Look, I think cheaters have to do the heavy lifting in reconciliation, but that does not mean I think chumps get a free pass. That does NOT mean owning the issues in the marriage that “made them cheat” (I HATE THAT SHIT). It means reconciling because it honestly reflects your values and you honestly think you can make a real effort to get past it and have a different marriage. (Not better, I don’t believe that shit either.)
I get a rap for being anti-reconciliation, but I think chumps who reconcile have big hearts. They commit. Some people reconcile not just out of fear, but out of an over abundance of bravery and an over estimation of the powers of their love. They will accept the humiliation and try to rise above it for the sake of their marriage. It’s a beautiful thing. I just happen to think it’s a noble impulse directed at someone wholly undeserving of it.
But Stuck — you’re not one of these noble reconcilers. You have your eyes wide open about exactly what kind of arrangement this is going to be. The family stays together, you’re fuck buddies who co-parent. The kids aren’t put through a divorce. You don’t trust him.
I think you want me to tell you it’s okay to stay on the fence and never trust him again. And you’d be WRONG.
You got on the train to Chicago, last stop “Trust Your Husband.” It’s a long ride, but you bought the ticket.
If you can’t trust him ever again, why not just admit that to him and yourself, honor those feelings, and end it? Or ask if he’s okay with living in a relationship in which you cannot trust him, and will feel compelled to be the marriage police. Because I doubt he’s okay with it. And if he IS okay with it, and he’s the rare remorseful unicorn — is it okay to waste his life in a relationship that has no intimacy? More to the point, is it okay with you to waste your life in a relationship that has no intimacy? And I don’t mean fucking, I mean TRUSTING. Feeling safe with this person. Knowing they have your back and will love you through the hard times.
Trying to trust again is the inevitable shit sandwich of choosing to reconcile.
That’s why I advise people against it. But if you’re going to do it, you need to build up resiliency so that if your husband betrays your trust again, you can WALK AWAY and not look back. Yet you’ve precluded that outcome. By staying for your kids come hell or high water, you must accept that it very well COULD happen again and you won’t leave.
Consider the ramifications of that. You’ve essentially sent the message to your husband that you’re here for the kids only and if he cheats, you won’t enforce the boundary of divorce. The best he gets day to day is “you don’t repulse me” — think he’ll stay faithful? Or do you think the odds are you’ll be looking at another D-Day in your future?
Do you want a marriage or an arrangement? Because it sounds to me like you have an arrangement.
If you want a marriage — you need to live your values. Either this relationship is not acceptable to you — or you want a full relationship — with trust and intimacy — with your husband and you’re going to try for that.
Now, let me tell you why that’s incredibly difficult. Because infidelity doesn’t make anyone feel safe. It’s totally normal not to trust someone who made you beg for sex, who cheated on you while you were pregnant, and had a six-month affair. You were vulnerable — you had two small children and were pregnant with a third when he did this. He demonstrated to you that when things got hard, he escapes. It was all about him and not about you and the kids.
So yeah, I get why you don’t trust him. I wouldn’t trust him either.
I don’t know who he is two years later. I don’t know what he’s done other than give you passwords, marriage counseling, and get a new job. All good things, but I don’t know his heart. I don’t know if he blames you for his affair or if he’s owns his shit. I don’t know if you’ve asked for a post-nup. (If you haven’t do — don’t reconcile without one. And also ask for a credit report in case he’s hiding money or debts.) I don’t know what manner of unicorn he is, really.
And neither do you. And that is what you accept when you reconcile. You can either do the mental gymnastics or you can’t. You either believe the evidence of remorse (if it exists) or you don’t. You either wait for the next anvil to drop, or you’re okay with the uncertainty.
I’m not sure trust can be regained once it’s been shattered. And I think you’ve got better things to do with your life than conduct that particular experiment. My belief is that character changes slowly and painfully if it changes at all. I don’t believe “once a cheater always a cheater” — but I do think “once a cheater” you’ve killed that marriage that you’re in. You might go on to another one with a clean slate, but you forever fucked up the marriage you’re in. And the best thing to do is admit you broke it, give your chump the fairest, most generous settlement possible, and go and sin no more.
That doesn’t happen very often that I can see. Entitlement dies hard. Cheaters stay married if they can. They eat cake. They cheat again. Cheaters leave. They eat cake. They cheat on the next person. And the person after that. Humility is hard. Giving up the goodies of entitlement is tough for cheaters. As is accepting full responsibility.
Getting “unstuck” Stuck, means figuring out what your values are. I can tell you this though — staying married to a cheater does not ensure avoiding the future you fear — you could well become the bitter mother and your husband the indifferent father. When you threw him out and the kids missed him, you had options that were not reconciliation. You could’ve arranged for them to visit him without you.
You have failed to listen to your feelings. You’ve failed to imagine feeling safe outside the confines of this relationship. You’ve failed to imagine a happier, peaceful, authentic life on your own. If you can’t imagine trusting your husband again, imagine those things.
You can stay stuck, or you can expand your mind. It’s entirely up to you.