I’ve been thinking about writing to you for months but I just haven’t been brave enough…
I found out in April 2020 that my husband was having an affair with a woman he worked with for 6 months. I think going into lockdown in March had driven him mad and not getting his morning sex session before work was driving him crazy, so much so that one evening he just splurted it out “I can’t do this any more”. I had to ask him directly if someone else was involved and he finally admitted it (I had asked on 2 or 3 other occasions over the previous 6 months and he always denied it).
We had such a perfect family life, I earn a very good income as a doctor and also do most of the childcare, school drop offs/pickups and after school activities taxi-ing for our two daughters aged 6&8. 3 months before his affair I arranged a special night away for his birthday, it took loads of planning and was a really lovely weekend just us without kids or any distractions, 2 months before his affair I arranged tickets to see a show (his interest, not mine) with a hotel stay to make a weekend of it and had a great time, 10 days before his affair we had just got back from an amazing family holiday in Thailand which I had organised and everything felt great…turns out he was developing feelings for some slutty brainless tart that he works with.
She is just vile, completely brainless and self-centred, she lives with her mum and has no responsibilities whatsoever. She spent a lot of time telling my husband how wonderful he was and he fell for it, throwing his beautiful caring, dedicated family away for some cheap tart and an easy lay.
He tells me that the affair happened, or “he was susceptible to an affair” because he didn’t feel loved by me, and that she made him feel valued and respected when I didn’t (I completely cannot see where this has come from but he insists this is the case). She basically told him lots of stuff that fed his ego and he thought that was worth throwing his family away for, plus the sex EVERY morning before work, and also at work in lunch breaks too made it appealing…no condoms either, thanks very much!
I threw him out straight away…felt desperate, did the pick me dance to exhaustion, and cried for him to come back. The night I threw him out he went to hers and (it would be funny if I wasn’t so devastated) she basically told him to go back to his wife because she wasn’t interested in an actual relationship with him…obviously he was only exciting and fun when he was “an affair with a married man”….he thought they would set up home and have babies together.
It took him a few months at his mums house to realise that he did want to be with me and had been an idiot to be taken in by her ego massaging, and he came back (though quite reluctantly and made a big song and dance about not wanting to give up his job, despite her sitting at the next desk!) I was so desperate for him to want me and to realise how good his life was before his stupid “mistake” that I took him back (but insisted he leave his job, which he did) but it is harder than I thought.
I tried to believe all that stuff about how your marriage can be better after an affair but I know there is no way on god’s earth that things could be better than when I adored my husband and thought that he put me and our family first…turns out he’s selfish and only looking out for himself.
He says he’s shown his regret by giving up the job that he loved, but I only see that as an essential part of even getting off the starting block in any desired reconciliation. He seems to think he’s balanced things nicely, he had an affair and broke my heart, so he gave up a job that he loved….that he only had to give up because he chose to shit on his doorstep by having an affair with a colleague.
How can you ever have a meaningful loving relationship with someone who has the ability to hurt you in this horrific way. I am changed as a person, I was always such a happy, bubbly person and now I’m always crying and grieving the life I had, that he and that cheap tart took away from me… and now she gets to carry on with her life with zero consequences and mine is ripped to pieces.
The only thing that was important to me was having a loving, close, perfect little family and now I’ll never have that. I suppose I’m finally writing to get a wake up call. I know I’ll never be happy with him because I value loyalty and respect so much and he has shown neither. I also look at him and think he is a pathetic fool to have fallen for her fake ego massaging, so much so that he lost his beautiful family for nothing but an easy lay. He has changed the course of my life forever and for absolutely nothing. I hate him for that.
I just can’t face coming to terms with being a single mum, having to pack their little suitcases for weekends at Daddy’s house. I just don’t want that awkward lifestyle of broken homes, it was bad enough working out when we would see different family at Christmases over the years with my husband’s parents being divorced, I didn’t want that for my girls. How do I view it in a positive enough light to step out of the comfort zone of what is essentially “ok”, having my adulterous husband back but knowing it will never be what it was, or moving into the very scary unknown of single parenting and all that my children will lose as a consequence of that. I also am worried that after taking him back and him putting in lots of effort with me and the kids, that I will now look like the ‘bad guy’ for sending daddy away.
Please help, I find your blogs so helpful but they haven’t quite got me to the point where I can “do it”. I need that! Please help, even if it’s a very brief kick up the backside!
I’ve got a couple bitchslaps for you. I’ll take them in the order in which I am most irritated.
1.) Single parents are not less than. And there is a history of deep misogyny against single mothers that makes my blood boil. Like, did you know in the 1960s in the U.S. that unwed motherhood was considered mental illness? And that if you were an unwed white pregnant woman, the American Academy of Pediatrics said the only remedy was to have your child surrendered and given to a “good home”? (Scoop baby era, Google it.) Oh! And that until the 1970s, the laws were such that you could not support a child as a single mom? Before Title IX, pregnant women couldn’t finish school, or stay at their jobs. Until the mid-70s, women could not have credit. Or job protections. And all this changed because the women’s movement fought for change.
My POINT is — this Horror of the Single Mother shit is wired DEEP. The loss of “status.” The systemic inequalities that continue to this day (Exhibit A — the BILLIONS in unpaid child support.) The scare tactics that the children of single mothers will grow up to be criminals and drug addicts. Every fucking David Brooks article.
To divorce a loser is to confront this tide of bigotry. Are children better off in intact homes? Yes. AND YOU ARE AN INTACT HOME. Minus one loser. Change the narrative! The more loving, invested people in a child’s life, the better. Would many of us like the gold standard of the Traditional Nuclear Family? Sure. And that wasn’t possible because… fuckwits.
To be chumped means never being smug again. You don’t CONTROL other people. You only control yourself and how you react to a given set of challenges. It is far more shameful to be a fuckwit, or to prop up a fuckwit and front a sham marriage, than it is to LEAVE a fuckwit.
I just can’t face coming to terms with being a single mum, having to pack their little suitcases for weekends at Daddy’s house. I just don’t want that awkward lifestyle of broken homes,
You’re writing to someone who led that “awkward lifestyle” for a decade.
Oh hey, this week my son just got a job promotion during a pandemic and was accepted to grad school. Packing his little suitcase going to Uncle Daddy’s didn’t thrill me as mother, but it also didn’t set my son back in life. Neither did my son have a “broken home.” He had a broken father. A deadbeat. The kind of guy who cancels his health insurance without a word and never calls on his birthday. A guy who struggles with mental illness. Who never paid a cent towards college.
I wish to God he’d had a better father. I failed him on choosing that guy, but my son would also not exist if it weren’t for that guy, and life is messy that way. I could not control my ex’s level of parental investment, but I could control MINE. All it takes is one sane parent. And many children don’t even get that. So be the SANE parent. You can’t be sane in your current situation. You sound miserable.
So, which would you rather be? A strong kickass woman who models strength and resiliency to her daughters? Or a fuckwit’s Plan B?
The only thing that was important to me was having a loving, close, perfect little family and now I’ll never have that.
You can totally have a loving, close little family. If you think including a cheating husband makes it “perfect,” or ANY husband, you’ve got a problem.
That My Family Needs to Look Normal thing (see misogyny, single mother status bias above) is poison. I think a lot of what led to my brief, disastrous marriage to the serial cheater was this notion that I was Less Than as a single mom. And of course, parenting alone is hard work. And you wobble. Which is why it is ESSENTIAL to have your head screwed on straight about your self-worth as a single parent.
(Post-script, I married Mr. CL in midlife — who is a true parent to my son and a real partner to me — and that would never have been possible if I hadn’t LEFT people who didn’t value me. Going on 11 years… )
Next bitch slap.
2.) The Other Woman Didn’t Make Your Husband Cheat. Is she horrible and complicit? Vile, completely brainless and self-centered? Sure. She also doesn’t have superpowers. She could no more make your husband cheat than you can make him NOT cheat. He WANTED to cheat on you.
Not being able to accept that sentence — HE WANTED TO CHEAT ON YOU — is the hopium keeping you in this shitty arrangement.
Oh, he’s just a dumb man who was beguiled by a hussy. This is such a central myth to the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Gosh, if we only get rid of the Menace of Attractive Other People, we can Affair-Proof Our Marriages! Cue the marriage police.
No, he cheated because of entitlement. Because he wanted to. Because he did the cost-benefit analysis of your perfect, close, little family and his dick, and his dick won. Because THOSE ARE HIS VALUES.
You are now confronted with your own values. He’s not who you thought he was. Do you stick it out knowing that he’s capable of casual betrayal, or do you forge your own path?
I also am worried that after taking him back and him putting in lots of effort with me and the kids, that I will now look like the ‘bad guy’ for sending daddy away.
I read this that you’re worried that after burnishing his image, and helping him with that Invested, Loving Dad thing, you’ll have to let go and let him fail on his own.
Don’t own what’s not yours to own. You’re not the “bad guy.” Dad had a girlfriend, that’s why you’re divorcing. I believe in explaining it to children, without editorializing, in age-appropriate ways. CN can weigh in here.
It’s hard to project what you don’t feel. Do you really think you’re the bad guy? That this marriage failed because of you? Do you really think single mothers are less than?
Examine your values. Live your values.
He says he’s shown his regret by giving up the job that he loved,
He actually struggled with that choice? And you had to pick me dance with his desk?
You fear an awkward, broken lifestyle? You’re living it. Choose better.