I recently heard from a very upset and conflicted wife. She told me, in part: “My husband had an affair about eight months ago. I promised to hold off on a divorce because we have children and I want to keep my family in tact. But, I’m having a hard time getting over this and moving on. My husband expects me to just put it behind me as though nothing ever happened. I’m having a very hard time doing that, but if I let on that I’m struggling my husband gets very impatient and mad. He often asks me things like ‘how long do you plan to cling to this and punish me?’ I don’t want to continue on like this, but I’m still hurting and I don’t think that it’s fair for me to just have to pretend that everything is fine. What can I do? I want to move on, but I can’t seem to. And his pressuring me is only making me more and more angry.”
In my opinion, the wife was completely justified in her frustrations. It was the husband’s actions (and his affair) that set this whole unfortunate set of circumstances into action. The wife had made a concession not to immediately divorce her husband and she was doing her very best to move on. However, these things were apparently not enough for him.
This situation is not all that uncommon. I hear of similar situations all of the time. Often, the husband in this scenario feels very uncomfortable with the fall out from his actions so he hopes that he can strong arm his wife into not bringing it up or reacting to it anymore (since these reactions are uncomfortable for him.) What he often doesn’t understand is that this strategy is going to backfire on him in a big way. Many times, if the wife can make him understand that his behavior is going to do more harm than good, this will encourage him to back off somewhat. I will discuss this more in the following article.
Making The Husband Understand That The Wife’s Healing And Ability To “Get Over The Affair” Can Not Be Rushed: Although the husband clearly doesn’t understand or embrace this, there is no set time frame as to how long it takes to “get over” or to “move on” after being betrayed by an affair. How long this takes depends upon many factors like the circumstances and people involved, as well as how much help and support is available to the wife as she begins to move forward.
Frankly, the husband would likely get a much better response if he would show his wife some support and understanding rather than pressuring her. She would likely feel that he was working with her rather than working against her. I felt that the wife should attempt to make her husband understand this. I suggested that the next time the husband began showing anger or impatience, she should say something like: “I understand that you want to move on from this more quickly than I am able to. Believe me when I say that I wish we had our old life also. I don’t enjoy struggling the way that I am. Like you, I wish that this had never happened, but none of this was within my control. I’m not trying to punish you. I do want to be happy and I want to save our marriage, but there are some issues that we are going to need to work through in order for these things to happen. I believe that if you would help me work through these things rather than pressuring me to navigate them too quickly, we might get a better result. Will you work with me rather than against me? Can we approach this together rather than being on opposite sides? I want to move forward as quickly as I can, but if I’m rushed, we’re just going to keep revisiting and struggling with the same issues, which I doubt that either of us want.”
You may have to bring this conversation up a few times before it really begins to sink in. And, when your husband begins to become impatient again, you may have to gently remind him that this behavior actually delays your progress rather than speeding it along. Once he begins to realize that you are demanding boundaries and refuse to be rushed, he will often back off. Many times, he is testing things out to see how much you are going to let him push you. Sometimes, it’s only when you push back that he will begin to realize that this strategy is not a good one.
Some Things That May Have Been Keeping The Wife From Being Able To Move On: Although I felt that the wife was completely normal to still be struggling eight months after the affair, there were some suggestions that I could give her to help her to move forward. There are some very common places where wives seem to get stuck. They are often as follows:
- worrying that your husband isn’t really sorry about the affair or might repeat the same behaviors;
- worrying that the affair was somehow your fault and that you’re not able to have a faithful spouse;
- harboring resentment and anger that doesn’t have a healthy outlet;
- not being able or willing to look at the issues and vulnerabilities in both the individuals and the couple to determine why the affair happened and how you can keep it from happening again; and
- allowing your self esteem and self confidence to be so damaged by this betrayal that you continue to doubt yourself and your marriage even when you’ve made a lot of progress.
These are just some of the more common issues that I see popping up. By no means is this an exhaustive list of issues, but I felt this was a good place for the wife to start. If any of these things were issues with her, I suggested that if she could successfully address and fix them, she may be able to have some relief and to eventually move forward in a meaningful way. Obviously, she would need her husband’s help with many of these, but I hoped that once she directly addressed him rather than dancing around the issues, all of these things would be possible