How do I get past the feeling that divorcing him is going to be the consequence that actually propels him to change? We live in a small town and I imagine having to see him, new and improved, with someone else will kill me.
He’s acting very much like he’s ready and willing to change, but I don’t trust him. Firstly, because the ridiculous amount of infidelities and the Oscar-worthy acting he was capable of during that entire time. How will I even know? Play PI forever? Also, he’s continuing a work relationship on a personal level that has been a big problem for me (though not one of his affairs, just a flirtation). He teeters between taking responsibility/remorse and blaming me. For a few weeks he was firmly in the remorse category but he’s been slipping back to blameshifting, gaslighting and anger.
The worst thing is maybe that he hates the person I’ve become: a person I’ve become because my husband has been cheating on me since nearly day one of our marriage. I was a confidant, joyful independent and loving woman. Now, I’m jealous, suspicious, angry, anxious and depressed. I barely get out of bed most days and my greatest accomplishments are playing marriage police and unraveling the skein. I work only when it can’t be avoided.
But I feel like he’s started doing the work to change and seems to genuinely want to not be that cheating lying, porn addicted scumbag he’s been forever. However, he resents and blames me so much that I doubt he will recover while we are together. And, I doubt I’ll ever feel emotionally secure with him again. I DON’T want to live with a pit in my stomach for the rest of my life but nor do I want to live without the man I thought he was, that I hope he can become.
D-Day was very recent and I’m no doubt in some shock and mourning the dream terribly. I don’t have much of a support system because I’m mortified to tell too many people and also, I fear, should I stay with him, everyone will judge me and never again accept him into our social circles.
Is it okay to leave him even if he’s trying to get better? How do I steal myself to the possibility that he will be a better man for the next woman? How do I stop worrying that I’m making a huge mistake?
I know I’ll be alone after this, by choice. I’m older and he’s not my first cheater. I won’t risk wasting any more years on relationships. But he won’t be alone for a minute and I’m not ready for that.
You’ve got a classic Trust That They Suck problem. This happens when you don’t know your own mind, like whether what you’ve discovered is a deal breaker.
Because if you had clarity, that his cheating and mindfuckery were unacceptable, you would not care if he’s “trying to get better.”
If you’re in business with someone and they embezzle the pension fund, do you stay in business with them because they’re working on that sticky finger problem? “Hey, I’m 5 days clean of not stealing from the till!”
Sure, that person might go on with their life as a solid citizen, but you’re the last person who should be expected to invest in that outcome. Also… where’d the money go?
Let’s break down the Trust That They Suck dilemma.
1.) You’re still in shock. You just had a D-Day, so you’re trying to grapple with who your husband is, and all your sunk costs, weighed against fresh horror. Emotions don’t catch up with intellect right away. When my son was a teenager I told him — “Your brain isn’t fully formed. You have no executive functioning. At your age, you’re attracted to stupid.”
Juliana, I presume you’re over 30, so you’ve got a completely grown pre-frontal cortex, however, your decision-making is suspect.
The RIC weaponizes this confusion and encourages paralysis. I am NOT telling you to wait 6 months to make a decision. (Let’s drive a stake through that advice and bury it at a crossroads with a crucifix…)
I AM telling you this flood of emotion you’re feeling is NORMAL, and feelings about HIM are untrustworthy, and you need to be infinitely practical now and do things to protect yourself (lawyer, finances, etc.) and decide to shelf the emotional work for later.
Oh, you know who also weaponizes your confusion? Your cheater. All the better to manipulate you. He will do his darnedest to ramp up your emotions and keep you from imposing consequences.
2.) You have no way of knowing when he’s honest and when he’s lying. You want to trust that he Doesn’t suck. You want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and not protect yourself but invest instead in his marvelous potential. Well, think about it — if you couldn’t tell when he was sincere about loving you before, how will you ever know now?
You can’t. Hypervigilance is not sustainable (and is extremely unhealthy) — so that leaves trusting him. I seriously doubt you will ever feel safe with a practiced liar and serial cheat.
3.) Who he’s been and who he is now is an excellent predictor of who he will be. I’m not saying people can’t change. But that’s a long trajectory with iffy odds. Look at who he is — ridiculous amount of infidelities and the Oscar-worthy acting — and who he’s being now, found out — but he’s been slipping back to blameshifting, gaslighting and anger.
That’s his character on display. He’s someone capable of casual betrayal and deliberate mindfuckery. Those are the tools in his human kit.
Back to our embezzlement example — out of all the job candidates in the ENTIRE WORLD, do you want to invest in THIS guy? Sure, there’s worse out there. There’s also a lot better. And there’s also going into business for yourself.
Is it okay to leave him even if he’s trying to get better?
Yes. Your potential matters more than his potential.
How do I steal myself to the possibility that he will be a better man for the next woman?
A hundred chumps here today will tell you that he won’t be. I answered this before here.
It doesn’t matter if he’s better for the next one — it matters whether the relationship you’re in now is acceptable to you or not. Live your values and know your worth.