Inside His Head: My husband cheated. Should I stay?

cheatedDear Inside His Head husbands,

My husband had an affair about a year ago and I just found out in a roundabout way through a friend. When I asked him about it, he admitted it happened, but said he hasn’t seen the woman (or cheated on me with any other woman) since then. He says he wants to stay married, loves me and our kids and doesn’t want a divorce. I don’t know if I can trust him again. Do you have any advice for me? I’d like to stay, but I’m so hurt.

MAVERICK: He’s going to have to regain your trust and that will take more than admitting that he slept with somebody once he was caught nearly red-handed. To be honest, the way you describe him he’s not anywhere close to seeming to be sorry enough for what he did.

This is a huge red flag so proceed with caution and your eyes wide open.

I understand you’re hurt, anyone would be hurt in your situation. If you want to continue the marriage then that’s to your credit.

The thing is, he needs to want to continue it too, and he needs to be willing to take some serious steps to begin to rebuild your trust. This is not a situation where he gets to say “Oops, my bad. Sorry about that.” and gets to move on. If he’s unwilling to work on regaining your trust, well, he’s full of crap when he says he want’s his marriage back.

If he starts trying to deflect this back on you. If he tries to imply you let the infidelity happen. If he is pretty much anything but apologetic and willing to work hard and swallow his pride to get his home back, I wouldn’t put much stock in his sincerity or your chances for success.

The bottom like is this: He shattered your trust.

He has to admit that. You have to admit that.

He has to genuinely seek your forgiveness and if his effort is sincere you have to forgive him if you wish the marriage to continue.

He can’t just pay lip-service to this and neither can you.

You can’t say you forgive him and beat him up for the next few decades and he doesn’t get to sulk or imply that he was anything but wrong in his actions and willing to walk through hot coals to regain your trust.

If you don’t  really resolve this issue of infidelity, and just do it half-way, your relationship may still exist but it will do just that, nothing more.  It’ll just limp along, year after year, and never really have a chance to heal and possibly grow moving forward.

Don’t go through this alone.

Seek professional help with someone you trust, a therapist or a member of the clergy you both agree on. If your husband is unwilling to seek help, he’s not contrite, and if he’s not contrite, he’ll cheat again so don’t invest any more time with him.

Rebuilding your marriage is going to be tough, really tough. He must be truly sorry and be willing to prove that with his actions. Your job is even harder, you must be willing to totally forgive. I’m not saying this happens overnight but this is the attitude you must start from.

Good luck

MICHAEL: When we get married, we think we know how everything is going to unfold.

We tell ourselves all the things we’re going to do and all the things that we’d never do.

We envision our perfect children. We see our loving spouse continuing on unchanging from the day that we marry them.

Unfortunately, the reality is that we are all imperfect human beings.  We change over time and deal with issues that others may never know about.

We don’t see the curving path of life that lies in front of us with all its various challenges, pitfalls and setbacks.

We can’t really know what we’ll do in a situation until we’re there in it.  After we encounter them we can’t always be proud of our actions. But we can acknowledge where we are today and move forward.

So let me turn the situation around and ask me the same question as though you were the one that cheated.

Would you want to be forgiven?

If someone is worth loving, then they are no less worthy of that love after a mistake.

GRAY: Trust. Once it’s been broken things will never return to how they were before. Your relationship before this happened is broken as well. You have to rebuild a new relationship without ignoring the affair or merely keeping your fingers crossed that he won’t cheat again.

The first step toward rebuilding trust is to have a completely candid conversation. It doesn’t mean hearing the gory details, but you need to get an answer to every question you have. If you don’t know what made him cheat then you’ll never stop it in the future.

Don’t put a stranglehold on him. Had it not been for your friend, you would have never known about the affair and you may be fighting the compulsion to track his every move so you won’t miss the signals twice. Resist the urge. Hounding him down will just make you paranoid and won’t make either of you trust each other.

Keep track of how you feel as the two of you deal with this. You’re going to have some strong feelings at first, but if trust doesn’t seem to be returning over time you may need to rethink your stance. And it’s not only trust, how’s your self-esteem? Are you able to stand strong or do you feel too marginalized to respect yourself?

If conversation is a problem don’t be afraid to bring in a middle person. Counseling from a therapist or pastor can sometimes bridge the gaps and let you talk with each other without it turning into an argument. And if you’re spending your time name calling instead of really talking then you’re never going to gain traction.

If several months pass and you still can’t face the day without pain, anger and distrust then perhaps it’s time to go separate ways. At the end of this road you don’t need to feel like you’ve just accepted his cheating as a new burden you have to carry, you need to be able to confidently say “Yes, our trust was broken, but we’re too strong to have it break apart our family.”

If you have a question for our panel of husbands, please email it to them at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com. Rest assured we won’t share your name in the Q&A.

Inside His Head: Too ‘friend’ly for Facebook?

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OK, ladies, it’s time to travel back to the strange land called …  “Inside His Head”. This month’s question is quite timely for many of us. Check it out:

(Oh, and if you’ve got a question for our outspoken guys, just send it to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and it may be featured in an upcoming installment.)

Q: I recently noticed my husband had friended an old girlfriend on Facebook. From conversations, I know they had a very passionate relationship. I’m not happy about this at all. What do you suggest I do?

johnthumbnail.jpgMAVERICK: I see Facebook sort of like a party.

I have a Facebook page but I use it to keep up with my pals and old friends but I rarely post. So in party terms, I’m the guy who sits over in the dark corner and sips his beer, who maybe goes outside to smoke for long periods or goes to the store for ice.

So, look  at this Facebook stuff like like him meeting an old flame at a party.

If she friended him first, she’s the one who walked up to him. If he friended her, well it’s the opposite.

Would that make you concerned at a party?

They might have regained contact through a mutual friend, so it’s sorta like they’re all huddled up in a group of old chums in the middle  of the room chatting.

Problem with that?

If she has a Facebook picture taken in soft focus that makes her look all glam or she’s wearing something revealing or you can otherwise tell she thinks she’s hot-stuff from her picture, — and let’s face it, you can tell — I’d consider that a variable. It’s something akin to her showing at the party all tarted up wearing a miniskirt and she’s chatting with your husband, standing close and with her hand on his arm.

Now what do you think?

While this might help sort out the interaction, the bottom line is , they are interacting.  She’s also not only an ex — but a significant ex that he had a smoking sexual relationship with. He might just be being friendly but the reality is, he’ll think about her, and if the sex was good he’ll likely think about her fondly and nostalgically, and likely without clothing.

If this is really bothering you, tell him you’re uncomfortable. Be direct.

If he says something about trust, tell him it’s nothing about trust, it simply is not prudent to put himself in those sorts of situations. If he listens fine. If he acts really, really defensive, or acts mad but then goes all easy-going like, I’d consider that  a red flag.

But, if you aren’t concerned about him talking to an ex-flame in plain sight at a party, I’d not sweat the Facebook issue too much. It’s pretty public.

In any event, if you’re really bugged and your husband is being a pain and not giving you satisfactory answers and you want to let her know you’re wise to what’s up,  just friend her yourself.

This is like you walking up and introducing yourself at a party. You can tell a lot by how she reacts.

Oh, and before you do, change your Facebook picture to the one where you’re breaking a board in your Karate class.

GRAY: I’d suggest you just get over it and move on. Their relationship ended badly once, so what are you afraid of? That he’s going to leave a presumably good relationship so he can pursue one he’s already had?

He/she may have wanted to make sure the other was doing ok after all these years, or perhaps they were hoping to find the other in the misery they’d wished on them upon breaking up. The point is, it’s doubtful they’re going to look at each other and say: “Man, you’re perfect. Why did we break up?” More realistically they’ll realize the decision they made to split was the right one and chatting a little on Facebook will only confirm their suspicions.

Facebook is an odd animal to begin with, filled with people who “friend” others to be better virtual farmers and all that. I’d be a lot more alarmed if he was doing that and potentially exposing strangers to your personal telephone number or street address. I think a lot of old flames tend to get in touch as a form of catharsis and because Facebook provides the perfect medium. After all, it means you don’t have an awkward social situation, you can still keep ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends in a controlled environment, and if they’re still as annoying as they were when you broke up there’s always that lovely “hide” button.

MAX: “I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. First, let her think she’s having her own way. And second, let her have it.” ~ Lyndon Johnson

Who are these lugnuts, I mean husbands, the readers of nwaMotherlode are constantly complaining about? I show these questions to my wife so she realizes I’m not half as bad as the other turds in the diaper.

There is no justification nor acceptable rationale that any decent man could come up with to excuse continuing an elective friendship with a former flame that the current wife disproves of. It’s just that simple.

If your lugnut maintains his cluelessness, ask him how he would feel if you hooked back up with a former passion. This “friendship” serves no purpose, it should fill no emotional need (and if it does, there are bigger problems here) and is a huge show of disrespect to the wife.

Tell him this and if he disagrees, I would recommend counseling or, better, smashing his computer in with an iron skillet.

To read more Inside His Head questions and answers, click here.

Note from the mamas: This post first appeared on nwaMotherlode in 2010. We thought it was a Q&A worth publishing again.

Inside His Head: Husband with wandering eyes?

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Dear Inside His Head husbands,

Whenever we go to the local pool, my husband always stares at other women. I’m not really the “jealous type” but he is so obvious that I can’t help but notice. How can I convince him he’s being a jerk?

greg1thumbnail.jpgGRAY: You can’t. I’d suggest you get him a pair of mirrored sunglasses so you won’t know what direction he’s looking in anymore.

It’s just in men’s nature to look and if you’re stuck with some poor schmuck who does everything short of having his tongue loll out and drool then I can only thing I can say is: you’re the one who married the fool. The rest of us at least believe we’re a bit more cunning about sneaking glances. And if you think you’re married to a guy who doesn’t sneak a peek at women at all, then you’re just not watching
him close enough.

glasses.jpgSo I suppose the only conclusion to be drawn is all men are jerks and your oogle-eyed man is simply got a bit more in the jerkdom department than most. If you want to change his behavior I suggest stern measures, like a Louisville Slugger, but that may only make him bedridden and a bit slower to pick up on your hints.

And why do we stare? Well, it’s really all your fault as women. If you weren’t nice to look at we’d undoubtedly spend more time watching football instead.

marty3thumbnail.jpgMAX: “She doesn’t have to convince him he’s a jerk. He IS a jerk, a big, fatheaded jerk, whether he thinks he is or not.” ~ My wife

I couldn’t find a suitable, pithy quote to start my answer, until my wife read the question over my shoulder and provided one ad hoc. The quote works because, well, it’s absolutely true. Men, don’t ogle girls in front of your woman. You break this rule, you’re an ass.

You must tell him immediately that this behavior is disrespectful and insulting. This should solve the problem with a decent man. If it doesn’t, then his ogling is a symptom of a much larger problem: He doesn’t respect you enough to stop a behavior you find offensive.

If he continues to leer, I would strongly suggest you get some form of counseling or some form or lawyering. Or, as my lovely wife suggests, “Next time the bleeping fatheaded bleep stares, make a big bleeping fire out of his bleep in the front yard.”

johnthumbnail.jpgMAVERICK: Wow, what pool do you hang out at???

Well, he’s not really being a jerk unless you’ve told him to quit peering at the other ladies and he keeps doing it or he’s actually leering and drooling.

And make sure there’s no double standard. If you eye-boink guys and comment on their builds (and face it ladies, more and more of you are doing just that) don’t expect your husband to put on the blinders.

Only other real issue is if he’s staring at young women who are, shall we say, just barely young women. That’s really uncool.

bikini.jpgGuys will look. We can be discreet about it, though. Tell him he looks like a creep. If he gives a fig, tell him it bugs you to see him ogle other women. Both are viable reasons not to let our whole heads turn or our tongues loll when a nicely proportioned women walks by.

But we’re only human, and we’re guys. We should get points for at least trying and not be taken too much to task if we are tempted by exceptional shapes in tiny packages.

To read more Inside His Head, click here.

remix (4)Note from the mamas: The Summer Remix symbol appears on posts previously published on nwaMotherlode that were noted as a “reader favorite”. If you missed the original publication date, we hope you’ll enjoy this encore performance. Happy summer!

Inside His Head: How to handle your mother-in-law moving in

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Dear Inside His Head husbands,

My mother is planning to move in with us soon — for a while. My father passed away recently and she’s going to stay with us so she can get her finances in order and deal with her grief. My husband is worried about our family dynamic. It’s just a big change. What can I say to help with the transition?

generichead-1MICHAEL: The first thing I hope you can say is that you’ve discussed with your mother exactly how long this arrangement is going to last and that you’ve talked about ground rules for life at the house.

Because it’s your mother you’re going to be the proxy for all disagreements and snide remarks. Be prepared to deal with it. It’s understandable that this type of thing happens, however, it doesn’t sound like it’s been planned for so the best thing you can do is anticipate what the challenges will be.

Examples are things like:

♦ Your mother doesn’t hear well so now the television has to be turned up all the time.

♦ You watch what your kids eat very carefully and your mother questions your choices in front of them.

Just having another opinion and voice around the house will make it stressful. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not consistently siding against your husband. Remember you’ve got to put with him forever. Your mother hopefully only for a short while.  Make sure he knows you realize that.

MAVERICK: I’d tell him in the nicest way possible that there’s no sense in worrying about something until an actual problem occurs.

If you mother is overbearing or generally a pain in the butt or objects to your husband breathing air or thinks him a fool, well, you or more accurately he, is hosed. But since your husband agreed to this arrangement, I can assume either he likes your mother or he’s a good son-in-law, or really just a decent guy trying to help here.

The main way you can calm his fears about your mother messing with the family dynamic is not to let her mess with the family dynamic. She’s your mother, so she’s yours to deal with where conflict is concerned. He’s the son-in-law, which gives him less power in the relationship than a bum off the street.

♦ The best way to avoid trouble with the new situation is to head it off.

♦ Make your mother feel welcome, let her pitch in and help, be there for her, be kind, be supportive, be family.

♦ Don’t let her take over your house, determine your family routine, decide what you eat or where you go or undermine your husband’s authority in his own home.

If she likes certain TV programs, get her her own flat-screen for her room – they’re not super expensive now-days and this ill will avoid conflict. Most of us guy-types can relinquish control of the remote when needed or on short trips to visit family, but don’t expect us to do it for an extended period of time and in our own living rooms.

If she becomes critical of your husband, nip it in the bud. Your mother is in a less than happy place and needs support but she doesn’t get to bad-mouth your spouse. If it starts, you have to tell her to stop. It’s your place. Fight the dynamic that says your mom is always right. Your husband does not deserve to be ganged up on.

And remember, even with your mom in the house, he’s still your husband.

Don’t let the new arrangement turn you into your mother’s daughter at the expense of being your husband’s wife. Turn things to your advantage. Let mom watch the kids so you can go out on a date or a romantic mini-vacation. Spend time together.

In short, give your mother a place in your home but don’t let her make herself comfortable at the expense of your husband’s peace of mind or your relationship. This could be a great time for your husband and your mother to become close.

He’s being a decent guy for opening up his home. Don’t make him regret it.

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: “We’ll get a cat…because your mom is deathly allergic. That way she can’t move in,” would likely be my wife’s remedy to the issue should we face a similar situation.

We’re not a culture that’s used to living with extended family and it can be a mess. The best thing is to get your husband’s worries addressed before the situation turns into a bundle of frustration, before your mother even arrives.

I would be worried about never having privacy, always turning around and finding her there, perhaps thinking I’d like to hear the 2-hour story of the summer she grew a pumpkin for the county fair.

So set some boundaries. Maybe meals are family time, but after the last meal of the day it’s understood that everyone gets some alone time, completely uninterrupted. You get the idea.

But what if mother says, “Well, I’m so comfortable here. What if I just stayed? Would that be so bad?”

The thought of having an in-law transition from temporary to permanent would push many husbands right off the edge of the cliff (and, no, that’s not just a figure of speech) but it’s easy enough to allay. Put a timeline in place. It doesn’t have to be meticulous, but don’t let “three months” become “some day.” Always move forward and don’t let a setback derail the whole works.

The most difficult issue would be personality conflicts. Does your husband fear hearing “my daughter used to date that nice boy before she met you…he’s a doctor now” or some kind of continual drone about how he’ll never be good enough? You may need to play referee for a while and make sure his head doesn’t explode. Just keep reminding him it’s only temporary.

Finally, having you on his side can carry a lot of clout. Let him know that if things don’t go as planned you’ll buy that cat she’s allergic to ensure she’s heading out the door.

Inside His Head: Who should take our kids if we die?

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Dear Inside His Head,

My husband and I are leaving on a big trip soon without the kids. The problem is, we can’t agree on which relatives would take our kids if something happened to us while we were away. We’re leaving soon and need to make a decision. I want my sister to be named guardian (I think she’s the most qualified), but he says his sister should be the one. There’s really no middle ground here. Any advice?

MICHAEL: Sounds like you’re in a pickle. There’s no easy answer to this but I can tell you what I’d do.

Sit down with your husband and make a list of the most important things you want for your kids as they grow up.

I’m not talking about material things.

I mean things like a good education and treating people the same no matter what their background or life choices. Focus on what it is you think will make them the people that you want them to be. Then talk about each of your sisters and determine which of them you feel would be most likely to accomplish your wishes.

Don’t forget that these things don’t happen in a vacuum. If one of your sisters already has four kids and the other only has one then that could make a difference.  Don’t be too quick to judge each other’s choices. Most likely either one would do their best to follow your wishes.

Just make sure they know what those wishes are by writing them down.

GRAY: It sounds like you’re both too personally invested to make a decision. It’s likely both sisters are equally qualified or there wouldn’t be a debate, so the real argument becomes about your opinion instead of who’s passing muster.

And, really, what‘s “qualified” to you may be different from your husband’s.

First, I would open the conversation up to your respective families (or at least the family members you trust). It may yield some surprising insights or considerations you have not thought about. Who knows, if you haven’t mentioned it to your respective sisters already, you may discover one would hate being named guardian. Similarly, you may have someone you hadn’t considered suddenly become a viable choice.

 Next I would get your kids input (assuming they’re old enough to have input). I mean, if something happens to then this is the last decision you’ll be making for them and arguably the most important in their lives. Even if they have no say, it could be wise to include them in the conversation so they’ll at least understand what’s could happen.

Finally I’d suggest that you put emphasis on the potential guardian’s personality and ability to love over their financial means or living conditions. If you’re taken away from them they’re going to need all the love they can get and no degree of money can make up for losses like that.

Hopefully these steps will help some and make your family realize that no matter who gets chosen, they’re all still there to support and help raise your children…let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

MAVERICK: Well, since you say there is no middle ground, I don’t know how I can provide any advice, since by definition, you are at an impasse.

It makes sense that you are both championing members of your respective families. Unless you have an unhealthy family dynamic that you can actually recognize it seems natural to favor your blood relatives over in-laws, all things being equal. You know your family better and assuming what you know is positive, you’d want that for your child if you were gone.

But are all things really equal?

I suggest you both write down on a hunk of paper the qualities and qualifications of the two prospective guardians and exchange lists and then discuss the pros and cons of your choices.

As you do, frankly consider these issues:

First, ask if the person you are championing would really willingly take your kids. I mean without reservation, not just accepting the role of surrogate parent out of guilt. This is a key consideration. If your choice isn’t willing to take on the responsibility of raising your children with full commitment the end result will be disastrous.

Can your choice financially take on the addition to your children into their family? Look at this one with cold logic; it’s a vital issue.

Will your children fit in with the rest of the prospective guardian’s immediate family? What is the family dynamic like and do you approve of it? Are there other kids in the equation, so your children will not only be getting surrogate parents but surrogate siblings as well? How do you think that would work?

It’s also important to consider what the spouse is like. Would you want your children to grow up under his or her influence? Are they even capable of parenting and loving your children? How do they do with their own kids? Would you like your children to grow up like your brother-in-law or sister-in-law?

Kick around the notion of whether the selected guardian really understands who your children are at their core. Do they realize who your children are as people? What they love? Who they could turn out to be? Does the prospective guardian have the willingness and ability to nurture what makes your children unique? Will they raise your children with your and their best interest at heart?

Talk all this stuff out with your husband and be willing to listen to what he has to say.

If, in the end, you can’t make an informed decision, flip a coin, ask your child who they’d like to live with, or fight a duel to the death. I suggest a battle of wits using iocane powder.

In the end, you have to make sure your preference is really in the best interest of your child or more in the interest of keeping the family peace. You will be gone, but your child will have to live with your choice for the rest of their life, so don’t let family politics or dynamics sway you.

Choose wisely.

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