Ask Beatty: My Husband Is Having An Affair, Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I ask listeners every week on my “Ask Beatty Show” on the Progressive Radio Network (PRN.FM) to honestly assess how well or how badly they’re doing in a variety of different areas, including their mental health, relationships, work, finances and health.
It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day routines and responsibilities that even the most conscientious of us can lose sight of whether we’re navigating our lives in ways that are in our best interest. This is exactly why I routinely remind and encourage people to pause on a regular basis and ask themselves a very important question: Is this good for me? This may refer to your lifestyle, your work or your relationships with family, spouses, partners, colleagues, friends, neighbors, business associates or to the professionals you’ve hired to take care of you including your doctors, lawyers and even your therapist.
Last week, I received this email from “Sharon,” a 60-year-old professional, married woman with two grown daughters and grandchildren. She had read my “Should You Stay or Should You Go” column that I had written in Dan’s Papers last year. The article dealt with the painful consequences and options that people are forced to deal with when they discover that their partner is having an affair.
I’ve been married to Daniel, a real estate developer, for 34 years and recently discovered that he has been having an affair. Although our marriage has had serious ups and downs over the years, I never dreamed he would cheat on me. For the last year or so he’s been very remote and preoccupied. When I would ask if anything was wrong, he accused me of being paranoid. I finally hired a private investigator who discovered that he was indeed having an affair, had bought an apartment for his girlfriend and routinely stayed with her on his many business trips to North Carolina.
When I first confronted him, he initially told me that I was crazy and needed serious help. When he realized that the investigator had all the evidence, he began to cry and promised to end it. It’s been six months and his girlfriend is still living in their apartment, although he swears that he’s no longer involved with her. We are both in individual therapy. I have offered to go to a marriage counselor, but to date, he’s refused to see one. Do you think I should hire a divorce attorney or give my situation more time?
After I received this email from Sharon, she contacted me and asked to make an appointment to see me in person for a consultation.
Sharon told me that she and her husband had serious problems even before they got married. He would slap her on occasion and criticize her appearance. Despite her concerns, she said that she loved him and hoped for the best. Both had busy professional lives. After the birth of their two daughters, they settled into a routine of juggling work and parenting, leaving little time, attention or energy to their marriage.
Despite their obvious wealth, Sharon was clueless about their finances. She expressed worry about whether he would even pay for her sessions with me. It was only recently that she signed their joint tax return for the first time in their marriage. Daniel paid her bills, but would admonish her if he felt that she was overspending.
SHARON’S FAMILY HISTORY
In trying to understand how and why people behave as they do, it’s always helpful to understand what they learned about relationships growing up in their own families. In Sharon’s family, her father ruled the roost. Her parents fought incessantly, often about his other women and affairs.
Her mother would cry and would take out her pain and frustrations on Sharon, who became the whipping girl and peacemaker. She learned early on to put her own needs aside in an effort to help her parents get along.
It became crystal clear to both Sharon and me that she was replaying her own family history with Daniel. As Sharon was describing her marriage, it was confusing at times to discern whether she was talking about her own marriage or the family dynamics of her own family of origin.
Sharon decided to terminate her therapy with her other therapist and immediately began to work with me. After just one painful session she began to see how she unconsciously has allowed and enabled her husband to manipulate, control and hurt her in similar ways that her own mother allowed her father. The good news is that Sharon is determined and committed to making some much needed change in her life and her marriage.
I referred her to both a financial advisor as well as a divorce attorney, since she has little if any idea what her legal or financial rights are in the event of a divorce.
Sharon continues to encourage her husband to attend marriage counseling with her. He has yet to respond.
It often takes a crisis before people are willing to seriously look at the reality of their lives and commit to making the necessary changes so that they can finally live their lives in ways that are in their best interest. My question, dear readers, is: If not now, when?
Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, national radio and television expert guest and host of the weekly “Ask Beatty Show” on the Progressive Radio Network.