Contempt is the most serious of the Four Horsemen because of its corrosive effect when it’s the primary way in which a couple communicates.

four horsemen - contemptBy Sarah P.

This blog post is the continuation of a four-part series on Dr. John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the first blog post in this series, I discussed criticism, which was the first of the Four Horsemen. In this post, I will discuss contempt and the role it plays in destroying communication and goodwill.

Before we get into this post, please watch this brief video (only 3 and-a-half minutes), by John Gottman, about contempt and how this mindset originates.


Dr. Gottman points out how a generally critical mindset can quickly give way to contemptuous behavior. In my opinion, criticism and contempt exist as a pair and feed off of each other. For example, contempt cannot exist without criticism because it is born out of criticism. Likewise, criticism cannot exist without contempt because contempt is the mind-set and behavioral outgrowth that was first created by criticism. Regardless of the origin, this “sulfuric acid for love,” as John Gottman has aptly named it, is a problem.

What is contempt?

Generally, contempt is scorn put into action. When someone is contemptuous of another, they consider that person to be worthless and beneath their consideration.  When someone is being contemptuous, that person exists in a state where he feels utter disgust for the object of his contempt. If someone is being contemptuous, she cannot also be respectful, kind, or loving. It should come as no surprise that chronically contemptuous relationships can fail. In fact, contempt is the number one predictor of divorce.

Ellie Lisitsa, a blogger for the Gottman Institute described contempt:

 “When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean.  Treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm are forms of contempt. So are hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling and sneering. In whatever form, contempt is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”(1)

The contemptuous person becomes blind to their own actions because they are fooled into believing they are superior and their spouse is inferior. They believe their superiority justifies their contemptuous actions.

Opt In Image
Survive and Thrive after Infidelity
You deserve to have a marriage that doesn’t just survive - it thrives!

We’re here to show you the right way to survive infidelity so that your marriage doesn’t become some sort of statistic.

We’ve been in your shoes and are in a unique position to put all of our experiences – both good and bad, successes and failures – and use them to help lead you out of the pain and into a better place.

The Health Affects of Contempt

In the early 1990’s, a physician couple studied the effect of stress on marriage. They found two striking phenomenon. The first finding was that friendly intimacy protects the immune system while negativity and stress caused by it suppressed certain immune function.

“If friendly intimacy protects the immune system from stress, consider what a fight does. “How couples handle their disagreements seems to affect their immune system,” said Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser. She has been studying couples with her husband, Dr. Ronald Glaser, an immunologist and associate director for research at Ohio State University Medical School…

We found a far stronger effect on the couples’ immune system than we ever expected,” said Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser. “Those couples who had most hostility and negativity during the discussions showed a drop on eight immune measures for the next 24 hours. The more hostile you are during a marital argument, the harder it is on your immune system.

Since the couples in the laboratory tended to have rather mild disputes, Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser says, she suspects the immune defects would be even more pronounced in real marriage spats. She and her husband found the opposite is also true, that good relationships seemed to protect the human immune system from stress.” (2)

I believe this is essential knowledge for all married couples. I also believe it makes sense due to the strong mind-body connection. Maintaining health is a motivator for many because good health allows us to enjoy life to the fullest. A relationship that has a good deal of nurturance and safety is good for a couple and good for their ongoing health. The stress born out of negativity and contempt is just as bad for the body as it is for the couple.

What does contempt look like in action?

I will use the example of a (fictional) married coupled named Jane and Rob. In this scenario, Jane spent too much on groceries during the month and this caused the family to dip into their saving’s fund for vacations. Subsequently, this caused Rob to be very angry and their conversation went like this:

Rob: “I was going through the bank account today and saw that you had to dip into our vacation savings again. Are you clueless?”

Jane: “I am sorry, but since we are hosting all of the holiday dinners again for our extended family, I came up short.”

Rob: “I had the feeling before we married that you didn’t know how to manage money. Even my dumb ex-girlfriend was better at these things than you – and that is saying a lot.”

Jane: “Honey, again, I am sorry. Maybe we can work together to figure this out.”

Rob: “Whatever. You couldn’t financially manage your way out of a box, so once again I have to do everything.”

In this scenario, Rob has become so contemptuous toward Mary that it has altered his view of her.

Let’s consider another example of contempt in action, the contempt between Mary and Bill. Bill was working overtime for the past year gained a lot of weight. Meanwhile, Mary, who was a personal trainer, remained as slim as ever. Mary was no longer attracted to Bill and she felt guilt over it. Since Mary knows she was being shallow, she found reasons to criticize Bill and her criticism quickly reinforced contemptuous feelings:

Mary: “You had to work late again?”

Bill: “We are working on cases for a wealthy client and I can’t fall behind.”

Mary: “I suppose you ate fast-food on the way home again.”

Bill: “I never have time to get lunch anymore and you know I can’t make the 45 minute commute without eating.”

Mary: “I don’t even know why I try anymore. Besides all that fast food you eat makes you look so repulsive to me.”

When seen in action, it makes sense why contempt has been called the sulfuric acid for love.

Mary did not know how to handle her feelings of disgust toward Bill, so she made him the problem. His weight gain was not the problem, it was her problem. In order to feel less guilty, contempt became a type of coping mechanism for Mary.

Surely, when a married couple communicates in ways that are frequently contemptuous, this communication causes deep (soul) wounds. As I mentioned in the previous post, wounds that are ‘soul deep’ do not go away on their own. These wounds also have no hope for healing if the wounded person is frequently the object of contempt. There is no way a marriage has a chance to become better until the contempt stops.

It is also easy for contempt to take over a marriage and create larger problems, such as confirmation bias.

This is turn creates more contempt and can hasten the beginning of the end. Grey Smalley advised:

“Contempt is fueled by long-festering negative thoughts about your spouse. When negative beliefs invade your marriage, eventually you stop seeing the positive. At that point, a thing called “confirmation bias” sets in. Confirmation bias is a type of selective perception. It’s a way of subconsciously choosing what you notice about your spouse.

When it kicks into gear, you start zeroing in on anything that tends to support your established convictions and beliefs while ignoring everything else. If your perspective is negative, you focus on the negative. You notice what your spouse does that frustrates, hurts or disappoints you. No matter what, you will find what you are looking for — good or bad.” (2)

Perception is so important in our daily lives, but it is especially important in our marriages. For example, consider this situation and how a difference in perception influences one’s feelings.

This scenario is based on a true story that a friend told me about her husband:

Greg and Violet had been married for years. Greg often felt miserable with Violet. He said that Violet always complained, never smiled, never dressed up, and that no one liked Violet because she was not personable.

One day Greg and Violet went to an event at Greg’s work with 100 other employees. Violet and Greg split up and started mingling with others at the event. Suddenly, Greg spotted the most beautiful and mesmerizing woman across the room. This woman’s face was glowing with life and laughter and he noticed her elegant clothing suited her perfectly. This woman was so unlike Violet and he felt the electricity of what the French refer to as coup de foudre. (This is equivalent to ‘love at first sight’ but means being hit by a bolt of lightening.)

Greg was immediately drawn out of his conversation with a coworker and started floating across the room toward this beautiful stranger. He said “hello” to the stranger and as she turned around, he was surprised to find the beautiful stranger was his own wife Violet.

Greg was so shocked that he turned 100 shades of red and stumbled over his words. Violet noticed something was wrong and asked, “are you alright?” Greg blurted out, “I just can’t believe you are the beautiful stranger I saw from across the room!”

Yes, this actually happened.

In case you are wondering, Greg was not the best husband in the world and to this day he has little insight into how to be a good husband to Violet. From my outsider’s perspective, Violet always was and continues to be a well-dressed, friendly, intelligent, and wonderful woman. Greg, on the other hand, is none of those things.

But, let us get back to the point. Somewhere along the way, Greg started treating Violet with contempt. After he put on those contemptuous glasses, he began to see Violet is a different light. Anytime Violet did not smile or if Violet was quiet, it became the only thing that Greg noticed about Violet. Greg had created a confirmation bias when it came to Violet and only noticed the actions and details that confirmed what he already believed to be true.

Thus, when Violet put on make-up and elegant clothes for the party, he literally could not see it. When Violet was laughing with someone across the room, his confirmation bias did not allow him to even consider this woman to be Violet. In his mind such a woman could not possibly be his wife. He literally could not process that this beautiful woman could be Violet because in his mind, Violet was only one kind of person.

You may consider this story to be extreme or unthinkable, but it is not. It perfectly illustrates how confirmation bias works. Confirmation bias is literally like putting on glasses that scramble reality. For example, consider if a friend started wearing blue tinted glasses without even realizing it. Everything he saw would be blue wherever he went and no one could convince him otherwise.

Contempt, Confirmation Bias, and Affairs

Contempt creates situations where confirmation bias takes over. But, affairs can also create a situation that causes contempt and subsequently confirmation bias. This contempt and confirmation bias can be (falsely) used as a reason for a wayward spouse to have an affair and it can be used when a wayward spouse wants to continue an affair.

Quite often, a wayward spouse will paint the betrayed spouse as an atrocious person in order to assuage his or her own guilt. But, when a wayward spouse sees his lover, he will be wearing proverbial rose-colored glasses. He is still using confirmation bias though—when it comes to the affair partner, he only sees the good things and does not see the bad. In contrast, when he sees his wife, he will be wearing the emotional equivalent of blue-colored glasses.

Whether a wayward spouse is wearing rose-colored glasses when he sees his lover or blue-colored glasses when he sees his wife, neither set of glasses allows that spouse to see the truth. (For the betrayed men out there, the same thing happens when a wife is a wayward spouse.)

Often putting on proverbial rose-colored glasses is not done intentionally.

Whether a person is married or single, he or she falls under the spell of infatuation when there is a new love interested. A married person can fall into infatuation the same way he (or she) did when he was single. He does not see the other person for who she is since he is caught in the affair fog. (The affair fog is like wearing both rose-colored glasses and rose-colored contact lenses at the same time.) This causes a wayward spouse only to see the positive things in the affair partner. No matter what the affair partner does, the wayward spouse will only notice the good parts. Confirmation bias is very powerful during the affair fog.

Conversely, a wayward spouse will notice everything that is wrong with his (or her) betrayed spouse. He (or she) will naturally become contemptuous toward his betrayed spouse and this contempt might even cause the betrayed spouse to be contemptuous back. This only works to increase confirmation bias and kicks off a downward spiral.

On the other hand…

After a betrayed spouse finds out about her husband’s affair, the same contempt and confirmation bias often takes over. One can hardly blame a contemptuous betrayed spouse. After all, what the wayward spouse did was the ultimate disgusting act. Consider this example provided by a user named Marti from the First Wives Club website:

“Once I looked upon my husband’s body and was attracted to what I saw. Cared for what I could see. Loved his personality. Wished I could be more like him (spew). Now I look and only see a gross lying face; his face actually looks different to me now. Ugliness of character. I’ve become painfully aware of so many small annoying traits that irritate me throughout the day. The same things I once thought attractive, now the opposite. I think awful things much like “I can’t believe I agreed to spend the rest of my life with this asshole” and worse…”

This example is a perfect illustration of contempt and confirmation bias. Prior to the affair, it is apparent that Marti had actually admired her husband and was very attracted to him. After she found out about his affair, all of her love and admiration turned to contempt and confirmation bias. Marti’s feelings are a completely normal reaction to her husband’s affair.

Here is another example of contempt setting in after a wife found out about her husband’s affair:

“I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I am normally a positive person and can find the good in almost everything. WH [wayward husband] is doing almost everything right – he would rather rug sweep and is reluctant to not do so. But when I ask, I do so firmly and unemotionally, so he complies. He is being sweet, complimentary, wanting reassurance about us not getting a divorce, asking for help in re-engaging in our marriage – all good stuff.

So why, when I see that it’s him calling on my cell phone, do I not want to answer it? Why do I look at his picture and want to make obscene gestures at it? Why can I not put my wedding rings back on without feeling sick? I know I don’t trust him. I think I’m actually ok with that. And I guess I don’t respect him either. I don’t know how to give that respect back to him. And I don’t want to see him or talk to him or breathe his air right now. I love him, I really do. And I want things to work out, but right now, I almost feel like I hate him.”

Even though this woman’s contempt has been mixed in with conflicting emotions, her contempt for her husband is powerful.

I can only imagine her contempt has been made worse by the fact that her husband preferred to sweep details under the rug. Withholding information has never inspired positive feelings in a betrayed spouse and withholding information supports the bias that a wayward spouse may never be trustworthy again.

This woman’s situation also illustrates that the most positive people can become more negative in the wake of an affair. Affairs do that to people. A strong, capable, and positive person can be leveled by the knowledge of her spouse’s affair. Sometimes it can temporarily change every aspect of a betrayed spouse’s personality. The pain is so deep that is ends up affecting the betrayed spouse at a soul level.

Antidote for Contempt

The most powerful antidote for contempt is to create a culture of appreciation in marriage, especially after contemptuous comments or arguments. Creating a culture of appreciation is as simple as it sounds.

Come up with two lists. In one list, identify all of the qualities in your spouse that you genuinely appreciate or have appreciated in the past. In the next list, identify different situations (examples) where your partner was living these positive personality traits. Pick three personality traits that you appreciate and then align them with three examples that you appreciate. Write a short paragraph that uses a trait and an example. This may seem like an exercise that takes a little time. But, that is actually part of why it works. In doing this exercise, you are putting a contemptuous mindset away and thinking about qualities and situations for which you are grateful. Doing this creates a powerful antidote for contempt.

Here is an example of how this works, using the fictional couple of Wes and Clara…

Clara has been struggling with contempt for her husband every since she found out about Wes’s affair at work. She has been in the thick of a negative mindset where she only recognizes what Wes has done wrong. This has caused her to be more and more contemptuous, even though Wes had ended the affair immediately and has ever since been working hard to rebuild trust with Clara during marriage counseling sessions. The therapist had asked Clara to name three positive personality traits in Wes as well as situations where Wes had demonstrated these qualities. Clara was able to come up with the following:

Quality: Compassion

Example: Recently, Wes had noticed an injured dog on the road as he drove home from work. He picked the dog up and brought it to a veterinary clinic and ensured that the dog was assisted and the owners contacted.

Quality: Humor

Example: Recently, during a visit from Clara’s mom, Clara had been on edge. Wes had been particularly good about diffusing tense situations by being upbeat and having the ability to laugh at himself.

Quality: Hard-working

Example: When Wes and Clara were younger, they experienced a financial setback. Without being asked, Wes had responded by getting another job and working many extra hours a week so that they could have enough money to purchase a comfortable home.

As Clara reviewed each situation, she started to remember why she had fallen in love with Wes in the first place. But, even more importantly, Clara was reminded in very concrete ways that there was always, and continues to be, more to Wes than his infidelity.

Is this kind of list a universal panacea that will suddenly make all of your problems go away?

Absolutely not.

Doing this exercise is a way to take you out of a contemptuous mindset. But, on a much larger scale, it helps you remember why you fell in love with your spouse. This is crucial since it has been found that many successful marriages have a compelling ‘love story’ that each partner can return to during difficult times. It has been found that how couples think about and talk about their love stories impacts a relationship for the good or for the bad.

In Summary

Contempt is the most serious of the Four Horsemen because of its corrosive effect. It is especially serious because of the mind-body connection and the immune suppression to which contempt can contribute. Contempt also creates conformation bias and confirmation bias creates more contempt.

However, there is also the saying, all things in moderation. A sprinkling of contempt in relationships, which is outside the norm of that relationship, will not have the same affect as daily contempt. Contempt corrodes relationships when it becomes the primary way in which a couple communicates.

Even though contempt is the strongest predictor of divorce, divorce is always a choice. It is possible for two people to exist in a relationship where contempt is the main method of communication. This couple may be miserable, but they also may choose to stay together. Thus, contempt is only a predictor of divorce.


The antidote to contempt is to create a culture of appreciation within your marriage. It helps to go back and really think about what drew a couple together. Even though a couple may be so negative toward each other that they only see the bad, the good has not gone away. Couples must take a step back and objectively look at the good qualities in one another. Couples must take an active role in seeing the good in their partner and then voicing it to the partner. Doing this frequently can help combat contempt, though it there are deeper issues, it won’t make problems go away.

As with all the Four Horsemen, engaging in these behaviors does not mean a marriage will fail. It simply means that a marriage might have a higher chance at failing. Still, divorce does not have to be the outcome. It is all about how the couple navigates these issues.

I believe it is important to be mindful of the Four Horsemen after an affair.

It will be easier than ever to allow them into a relationship and can affect long-term recovery. Still, no one blames a betrayed spouse who struggles with these. It is a natural reaction to a terrible situation.

The Four Horsemen also provide a piece of a marriage puzzle. They are like road signs that say: “don’t go this way unless you want more strife.” Some may go there, but they can always turn back.

Relationships are constantly evolving. Sometimes people take several steps back before they move forward. That is okay because it is all part of a bigger picture and a larger process.

In the end, there is no right or wrong in terms of communication since communication exists on a spectrum. There is helpful communication and very unhelpful communication. In the end, the Four Horsemen are the unhelpful stumbling blocks to be found on the road to marital evolution. If even a couple stumbled over them many times, they can always be overcome.

How has your week been? Do you have any stories about how contempt has affected your marriage during recovery?

Opt In Image
Survive and Thrive after Infidelity
You deserve to have a marriage that doesn’t just survive - it thrives!

We’re here to show you the right way to survive infidelity so that your marriage doesn’t become some sort of statistic.

We’ve been in your shoes and are in a unique position to put all of our experiences – both good and bad, successes and failures – and use them to help lead you out of the pain and into a better place.


Lisitsa, Ellie. The Four Horsemen: Contempt. From

Golman, Daniel. New Light on How Stress Erodes Health.  From

Smalley, Greg. Contempt in Marriage. From


    76 replies to "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Part 2: Contempt"

    • Shifting Impressions

      Did I “feel” contempt…..ABSOLUTELY! But I did not behave with contempt. I’m wondering if most betrayed spouses feel contempt upon discovering the person they trusted and loved could do this to them.

      I think we need to differentiate between feelings of contempt and actions of contempt. Even though I didn’t behave with contempt, just experiencing the feelings of contempt was a nightmare for me. In the early days after d-day I would sob, swear and yes pour out my contempt WHEN I WAS ALONE!!!! When we were together I would use every ounce of self control to stay as calm as I could. I wasn’t alway successful….but I know I didn’t behave with contempt.

      About the antidote…..yes I believe that is the way to go. During the early days a very wise friend said “He is more than the infidelity”. Words I hung onto. My husband has many many wonderful qualities…..I had never felt contempt until this happened.

      So, three years later….do I still feel contempt? Now and again it still rears it’s head. I don’t stuff it away but again let it out when I’m alone or write my feelings.

      All in all, I don’t know if we would still have a marriage if I would have “behaved with contempt”. I decided that I wanted to take the “high road” even if he didn’t. I believe infidelity is an act of contempt by it’s very nature.

      Trust me there was much swearing and cursing in the shower, my car…..anytime I was alone.

    • Shifting Impressions

      Also, in the last example the BS says she doesn’t know what to do with these “feelings”. Even though her husband seems to be doing most things right…..the feelings of contempt are strong. I can relate to that as well. As for her CS “sweeping things under the rug”….don’t most CS do that?? That action of “sweeping things under the rug” and “dribbling the truth” adds an unbelievable amount of fuel to the feeling of contempt that the BS is experiencing. I don’t know about anyone else but that refusal to tell the whole truth and sweeping things under the rug feels like an act of contempt in and of itself.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Shifting,

        Thank you for the comments and you make several excellent points. I believe that a BS is going to naturally feel contempt when he or she finds out about the affair. I believe that people’s minds go there as soon as an affair is discovered. And I believe it is just as easy to feel contempt on an on-going basis, especially when the CS is secretive and not cooperative about details that the BS needs to know. Infidelity is a huge breach of trust and then the breach of trust seems to continue when a CS does not cooperate by displaying actions and behaviors that are trustworthy. The dribbling of truth from a CS would probably enrage most BS’s. (It would enrage me.)

        I am glad your friend told you that your husband is more than his infidelity. Some friends would automatically tell their friend to ‘kick the CS to the curb.’ I believe that these situations require balance and especially require both BS and CS NOT to make rash decisions. In the much bigger picture, a marriage is much more than infidelity.

        Honestly, I used to believe that infidelity made all of the good stuff that happened in the past fraudulent. That was an incorrect viewpoint on my part. All of the good stuff that has happened and continues to happen in a marriage is part of the big picture. It cannot be negated and should not be destroyed by someone’s selfish actions. (I am referring to the good stuff that happened prior to the affair.)

        Now in my mind, I ‘picture’ what a marriage that goes through infidelity looks like and the picture I have in my mind makes infidelity look small. So, I imagine a large painting that has images of all of the things a couple has done together. There would be millions of images in the painting. But, if you step back, you would no longer see the couple’s struggle through infidelity. It would basically look like a painting of a full life that was well-lived. It is hard to put this into words, really.

        But, if a marriage was good and can be rebuilt, then infidelity can one day become a ‘nothing.’ Infidelity is not based on anything real (even though it does damage.) It is my hope that one day each couple is able to heal and come to the point where infidelity is viewed as the ‘big nothing’ that it really is.

        • Shifting Impressions

          I agree with what you are saying Sarah….and yes that was a very good friend, I’m so thankful for her.

          I picture the infidelity as a tear in the fabric of our marriage….something that can be mended but will always be there. The fabric might even become stronger at the point of the tear if we put enough stitches in. I don’t know if I believe that it could ever become a “nothing”. The texture of the fabric is forever changed.

          Or in the painting analogy the colors would be different…….more shadows, more tears. I don’t think something that cut me so deeply…could ever be a “big nothing”. I am forever changed and so is our marriage. But yes I agree marriages can be rebuilt.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Shifting,

            I should have clarified the concept of ‘big nothing.’ So here is what I mean: I think of infidelity as being an act or phenomenon that has no foundation and is based on smoke and mirrors. There is no good to it, no substance to it, it is not self-supporting (since it has no foundation), and it makes a mockery of love. Infidelity has nothing in common with real love– not even a bit. Infidelity has no truth to it. In my mind, infidelity is the absence of love in all ways and in all scenarios. As many have said before, love is a verb and infidelity is an act that is the opposite of love. It is the ultimate absence of love and the absence of good.

            Although, infidelity is also the ultimate masquerade party. Infidelity tempts others by masquerading itself as love or good. But you take off the mask and you get one big nothing.

            It is hard to explain that concept is a way that does not sound like it is minimizing the impact it makes on marriage. It does change marriage and it does break hearts.

            But, infidelity is the ultimate foolish act because it does not have the ‘somethingness’ of love and goodness. It is the absence of those things. That is what I mean by saying infidelity is a ‘big nothing.’ Maybe there is a better phrase for that concept and please let me know if you think of one.

            • Shifting Impressions

              I have been thinking about it a lot…’s just words I know. But the word “nothing” feels too neutral of a word to me. There is a rottenness at the very core of infidelity….deceit, lies and betrayal. I am starting to think of it as a rotten apple….sort of hidden away at the bottom of the barrel…slowly rotting the whole barrel if not discovered and thrown out. It’s usually smell that alerts you that something isn’t quite right with the apples. Just as many of us had a strong “gut feeling” that something was wrong before d-day, but everything still looked the same.

              Of course one could go on and on with analogies.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Shifting,

              I agree with you that infidelity is like a rotten apple at the bottom of a barrel of healthy apples. It definitely needs to go and can completely rot a healthy foundation.

              I also believe that intuition is the first alert system and the first sign before there are even larger signs. Women’s intuition specifically…

    • TheFirstWife

      Here is my take on infidelity.

      If you take a piece of paper and crumble it up – it can never be a smooth flat piece if paper ever again.

      That is infidelity.

      It leaves scars. It is always there in some way, shape or form.

      I am not saying you cannot recover and lead a happy life and have a great marriage (post affair). But if you are “real” with yourself, there are side effects of the betrayal and affair.

      And in my opinion, that 100% solid foundation you had in your marriage prior to the affair will never be the same.

      I will never ever forget my H walking in the door saying he wanted a divorce. Out of the blue. No fight or argument had occurred in the past few days. Just his mid life crisis and OW and his affair.

      And even though it has been 3 years I still have syress about that and it haunts me. And I still believe it could happen again – just walk in the door and say he is leaving.

      Totally out of character for him but he did it once and it just cannot be undone. I no longer have the confidence in him I once did.

      That is the result of an affair. It took away a piece of my solid foundation in our marriage.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TFW,

        It certainly is a shock when a spouse comes home and announces he or she wants a divorce without warning. Have you ever told him that you no longer have the confidence in him you once did– and what did he say to this? It would be a hard thing to get over.

      • Shifting Impressions

        I like your crumpled paper analogy as well.

    • Hopeful

      Sarah, Thank you for these posts. I really have admired and found a lot of great resources in Dr. Gottman’s books and writing.

      I think all of the four horsemen can reveal themselves but it is how they are dealt with. I think it is tricky since they can sneak in. Even as my husband tried to explain how his affairs started. And he explained that he used to have this hard line boundary where if a woman talked with him he was almost rude. Well over time he let his guard down. He said it happened over years where then it became okay to be friendly with any waitress or woman talking with a friend. It was so gradual he accepted it as his norm.

      As far as an affair I never thought I would feel this way but it seems almost like a broken bone. The spot that broke is now so strong it will not break again most likely, but another part of the bone might. I guess I feel like I will never say never that betrayal could happen again but I feel like we have both learned that our relationship above everything else needs to be our priority. If all we do is focus on work, kids and/or family then we could fall apart in many different ways. I am surprised by how close we are in every aspect of our life.I never thought this could happen. I value it and I do see it as a scar, blip, injury, whatever you want to call it in a long story. And early on I remember the Esther Perel TedTalks about most people will have many marriages and will yours be with the same person or different people. I connected to that and really took it to heart. At that point I knew I wanted to try everything possible to repair what we had before. So far so good, but I now know it takes constant work and luckily we are enjoying that work together.

      • Sarah P.

        HI Hopeful,

        I agree that it is all in how the Four Horsemen are dealt with, once they come up. Everyone does at least one of the Four Horsemen some of the time and so it is good to be mindful of them and use repair techniques. Simply knowing about them has been a lifesaver for my marriage.

        My husband grew up in a household where criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling were part and parcel of how his parents, especially his mom, interacted with him daily. He did not act that way when we dated or when we were first married and that is probably because we were not under stress. But, once kids and home ownership (and stress) came, he would often default to these communication patterns. About 6 years into our marriage, we both started reading the Gottman material and simply knowing about the Four Horsemen became a life-saver. Even though I did not use these communication patterns often, he did when he got under stress. Before the Gottman material, I would tell him how I intuitively felt interacting this way was destructive, but that never resonated with him since it was literally his ‘normal.’ Once I was able to show him the Gottman stuff, something clicked for him. Of course, that coincided wth me setting strong boundaries and getting to the point where I left with our kids for an entire month. If I told you guys the whole story, it would take a while. But the gist of it is that these Four Horsemen almost destroyed our marriage. We got to the point where I knew if something did not change, I had to remove myself along with the kids. Even though I am a patient person, the situation became untenable. And we had also seen three different marriage counselors before it came to that. We ‘failed’ at seeing three marriage counselors because we would reach a certain point and he would refuse to return. The counselors all had reached the same conclusion but he refused to make the change that was required. So, the kids and I left for a month. He had to spend a month alone reflecting on what the marriage counselors had all said and also the fact that the way he was raised would destroy everything around him if he did not wake up and find new ways of handling stress. He also got to realize that his mounting anger was about his mom, from suffering childhood abuse, and the anger was not about me. And of course when I moved out, his mom called him daily begging to move in with him and help him get divorced so that he and his mom could live ‘happily ever after.’ (Also, remember there is a father in law in the picture who is a decent man.)

        That is the short version of why the Gottman material helped save my own marriage in a huge way. I should probably tell more of my story sometime in the future so that everyone can see why there came a crisis point where I had to leave with our kids for a short period of time. It was the hardest thing I ever did and in fact I did not want to do it. But I knew I had to do it and I don’t regret doing it. That experience caused the breakthrough that allowed my husband to start changing and accepting help. Also, I changed too and it is a two-way street. I don’t talk about this often because it was not an affair that almost ended it. But, I have been through some serious marriage hell and have come out the other side. That lead me to get formal psychology credentials since I had been reading the material for years. And here I am today– a living example of how these Four Horsemen can destroy but can also be overcome. Now having completed some of the Gottman training has also opened up new ideas. I will be completing their brand new affair training (in person with the Gottmans) this summer and cannot wait to see the content they will provide. I am chomping at the bit to see it!!

        Also, my husband and I watched Esther’s TED talk where she mentioned having “four different marriages to the same person” and that deeply resonated with both of us. It really was a relief to hear that because you realize you don’t have to divorce to have anew marriage. Loved that idea and I am glad to hear it resonated with you too. Her idea is an absolute game changer in my opinion.

        Hopeful, do you ever feel like your H’s childhood impacted your marriage? I know you have mentioned it before, but do you feel like it impacted your marriage a great deal?


        • Hopeful

          That training has always sounded amazing and the new one even better! My husband was the where I learned about Gottman. He has not been trained by them but showed me the Atlantic article Masters of Love. It really resonated with him. I wish in a way he would go to their trainings but he is a generalist so it does not make as much sense for him. He has encouraged me a lot to pursue a career in mental health. The classes I can handle but the internship and hours needed are the big turnoff. I know he could help with all of that but these coming years I want to focus on time with my kids before they go to college. Also I am not sure wrapping my career into his makes sense. I have chosen to focus on reigniting my career since it has taken little effort to start it up again. I continue to get pressure to help run his practice from a business perspective which I consider. He emphasizes to me how it is us and not just him and his career. Still having a hard time with that.

          As far as his childhood I would think it was the model childhood for several reasons I cannot state here. It would just give too much away. But anyone would think it was perfect and ideal. He lacks the ability to remember a lot. i do believe what I do know has affected his behaviors/choices and in turn our marriage.

          He was raised in a family where they feel like rules do not apply to them. And if someone tries to enforce something you do not want then bully or push your way over them. I would say my husband tempers or uses a soft sell approach. He was also raised as an entitled kid. Not so much material wise but based on his athletic and academic ability but primarily athletic ability. And once he was not able to cling to the athlete identity I think he floundered.

          I also think that he had an unhealthy attachment/allegiance to his parents. I would say cut the cord all the time. I have a much greater reason as an only child to be more attached to my parents but he topped it al. He would defend them over me, our marriage, our kids etc. and if I contrardicted him about it that was not popular he would just shut down.

          He has changed a lot. I think it is hard to make changes to lifelong behaviors. But he has done a good job. I still have concerns that he does not have good insights when it comes to his parents but we keep talking about it.

          Thanks for sharing more about your situation with your husband. I think there are so many things besides an affair that can destroy or cause a couple to face any issues head on. I think too often they are ignored or swept under the rug or given up on.

    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah I applaud your strength and courage in making a difficult choice to leave your H and take a stand.

      I wished I would have done that during my H’s first 4 year EA. When he would stonewall and refuse to speak to me about his interactions with her. When he hid the truth from me. When he laughed and ridiculed me when I would try to talk to him about it.

      I wished I had thrown him out even once when he would show up hours late with no call. Just the same excuse I didn’t want to wake you. Yes b/c coming home at 3 am when you said you would be home at midnight is acceptable.

      And I now realize that I was forced into a “mother” type role when I would ask questions. My H’s mother was not nice and she was verbally abusive to everyone. And my H responded to me the same way his dad responded to his mom. Shut down, deflect, stonewall and not engage. Just sit there and refuse to speak.

      I never verbally abused my H. I never was emotionally abusive. I loved him and supported him and I felt we had a strong marriage. I accepted him for who he was. Coming home late and all. After 10! Years of begging and pleading I stopped asking for a courtesy call. I just accepted the behavior. I knew it would not change.

      Looking back I wished I had done things diffetently.

      But I will always believev his affair started b/c he was angry with me. It was revenge – I was viewed as being like his mother and he felt like I could not tell him what to do. I asked him (and it was a request) not to do something. He was angry about it and 2 weeks later AFFAIR.

      So good for you for taking a stand. Glad your H recognized what needed to change. You are lucky he saw the light.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TFW,

        Thank you for the kind words about my situation and I really appreciate them.

        Leaving for a little while was the hardest thing I have ever done. At the time it was a big unknown and I left because the kids and I could no longer stay. At the time I did not know if the kids and I would go back or if this would cause a painful divorce. Most of that depended upon him and his actions and his willingness to have a breakthrough. The family just was no longer working and it got to the point where the kids would have had a healthier life with me as a single parent and them, rather than a two-parent home with a constantly contemptuous and argumentative dad. Everyone was walking on eggshells– constantly. Leaving was my last shot at saving my family. Fortunately it all worked out and that is behind us. That happened about 7 years into marriage and now we are almost 15 years in.

        I believe you when you say your H’s affair started because he was angry with you. I believe this is a very real and common phenomenon, especially when a CS perceives his wife to be in a mother role.

        A husband can take out all that hidden anger at an abusive or enmeshed mom on the (innocent) wife. It never happens on a conscious level.

        Plus the affair is like thumbing their nose at a mom who they always thought was more powerful and could never be pleased. Only they think it is their wife when it actually is not.

        Male betrayed spouses can find themselves in similar situation where a cheating wife is lashing out at a father who was never there or a father who was controlling and/or abusive. Only a cheating wife doesn’t realize that– she thinks her husband is the cause of her problems when it was actually her dad or another significant male role model.

        TFW, I understand why you did not leave your husband way back when. You were looking for the best in him, you accepted him as he was, you trusted him, and I am going to venture to guess that since you always had good intentions towards those you love that you assumed those you love were and are also like that. That probably one of the reasons you did not leave.

        In the end, I do absolutely believe your husband’s motive for an affair was revenge.

        • TheFirstWife

          Sarah. Thank you. It is nice to know someone agrees with me.

          During his affair he was really mean and nasty to me which is out of character for him.

          He really did not love me then. He wanted out. So I agreed to a divorce when I realized he was no longer interested in our marriage or me.

          The thing I asked him not to do was serious and significant. He went out one night with friends and drove 50 miles home drunk. He had never done this before ever. But he was drunk. Not one too many but 10 too many (IMO).

          The next morning I told him he was lucky to be alive. Lucky to have made it home. Lucky he didn’t kill any other drivers. Lucky he didn’t kill himself. Lucky he wasn’t in jail.

          So I told him that if he wanted to go out with his friends or socially and alcohol was involved please do not drive. Get a ride, take a cab or train but do not drive.

          I did not yell or get angry but I was upset. I made a request. A simple request to protect my family and him. His reaction?

          He was mad at me!!! So he would sneak behind my back and go out and have a beer or two and drive home. How mature!!

          Two weeks later he meets Miss Wonderful and a month later thevaffair begins.

          Of course he denies one has anything to do with the other. It is so obvious a child can see the trail and connection.

          So yes his affair was revenge against me. I resent being in the “mother” role and that is not my role as a wife. But we have kids who rely on us and it is not setting a good example if one is in jail for 25 years for DWI.

          So there you have it. It’s all out there. And of course he will never admit it. Just like he would never admit the 4 year EA ever existed. Yup he told me i made that up in my mind for years.

          until the OW told me he admitted it to her!!

          So yes this is what I have been married to. Someone who lives in denial. Funny thing he treated me well over the years. And I was accepting b/c we basically got along most of the time.

          Now that my eyes have been opened it has been very different and I sometimes walk around wondering what REALLY went on these past 30 years. What life was I living?

          Good news he is working on things that have been brought up. And he readily admits his past mistakes. Finally

          • Sarah P.

            Hi TFW,
            Thank you for sharing that heart wrenching and frightening experience. I am so happy that your husband made it home okay.

            I believe that God must have guided him the whole way home. Even if your husband was not thinking clearly, God was clearly saying, “whoa there…” and guided him home without him harming himself, his family, or others. By the way, having asked your husband to refrain from such destructive behavior that could have had significant consequences was the right thing to do. I think deep down he knew how wrong he was and probably felt tremendous guilt and shame. People like to suppress those feelings but when someone calls it out (as it should be called out) some people rebel and want revenge on the messenger.

            I am so sorry that your husband was mean and nasty during his constant contact with the OW. That just tells me his heart of hearts was telling what he was doing with the OW was wrong and he was taking that anger out on you.

            And he also seemed like (in the affair mindset) a little boy who wanted to “show Mom” that he was a big boy and could be “controlled,” told what to do, or “tied to apron strings”. However, he was projecting all of that on to you and I believe the feeling originated with his mom and unresolved conflicts there. It did not originate with you even if he was projecting it onto you. And when you asked him to stop doing destructive things he wanted to “show you” that he was his own man and decided to hurt you with an affair. (Revenge) It is all based in childish thinking and also in wounding that occurred prior to the time you entered the picture. What I mean is that you are not and were not his mom– you were and are a wife– but he was perceiving you in more of a mom role and needed to rebel. I could be very wrong, but it seems like a revenge scheme against his mom for childhood abuse. (Only his conscious mind could not go there because most people cannot consciously recognize abuse from a parent because a parent was also linked to their survival. All of those feelings were stuffed and so adult transfers all those feelings of anger and vengefulness to their spouse and they have no idea they are doing it.) I could write a book about this and it is hard to summarize correctly.

            Also, when your husband said he wanted a divorce, I do not believe he did. Even if he said it, I believe he was reacting. I also do not believe he fell out of love with you. I know he might have said very hurtful things and said he wanted out but I really do not think he meant it. I know that sometimes you wonder if he is really sincere because of that. From everything you have said, I honestly do not believe your husband fell out of love with you. I do not believe he actually wanted to leave in his heart of hearts. And I also believe he continues to be with you because he wants to be. I would not say this if I did not feel it to be completely true. But, I do genuinely feel this way and I don’t like to give people false. I am hopeful for your situation and have the strong impression that he is dedicated to his marriage now and that you two will grow closer. So I just wanted to say it, for whatever it is worth.

            TFW, does any of this ring true for you?

            • TheFirstWife

              Sarah. All true.

              I understand he was not himself for a year or so during his midlife crisis and affair.

              I said ok to divorce b/c I had no other choice. I was the only one working on the marriage b/c he wanted out. He wanted to be free and single and he wanted to be with the OW.

              I just feel resentment that I was put in the role of his mother (in his mind). It makes me angry that he had that opinion of me.

              But that is the truth. Plain & simple.

            • Sarah P.

              HI TFW,

              I understand that all of this continues to be very painful and I am sorry it came to the point where you two seriously discussed divorce. That is such a frightening situation and becomes more frightening with each passing year that is invested in a marriage.

              I understand there was a lot to overcome and it was wrong for him to put you in the role of mother. From what I have read, this can be more common than we think but certainly not right.

              One time I heard that Elvis Presley said everything changed after Priscilla had a baby. I think Elvis was a philanderer before then and had trouble remaining loyal.

              But I think him seeing Priscilla as a mom versus lover was a separate and real issue. It was also certainly wrong, but it was something he dealt with in addition to being a chronic philanderer. But it CANNOT be used an excuse either for him.

              I sincerely believe that your husband was in a bad place and I don’t believe he ever wanted a divorce. He was acting out pain and rebelling against something that had NOTHING to do with you. I believe your husband is in a better place and I believe he is thankful you did not divorce him.

    • TryingHard

      Reading this I try to examine if I or my h show contempt. And I’ve decided contempt is not a factor. I don’t feel contempt towards him and I don’t feel he is contemptuous to me.

      I see contempt as rude, disrespectful. My h has never been rude but certainly disrespectful. Nothing overt but certainly the affair was disrespectful and overt. He was never critical and I don’t think I was critical toward him.

      I struggle with anger. I don’t have contempt but I do have residual anger. When I get triggered, that anger bubbles up, but now I don’t feel the need to express it. Something will be said or a memory strikes and I get angry again. Angry he lied and deceived and gaslighted me. LOL times when the anger comes up I will go to the next room i.e. Bathroom, close the door and flip him the bird behind the door. Haha surprisingly it makes me feel better!!! Instead of blurring out “ooo you are such an asshole” I’m satisfied expressing my anger by myself. Or sometimes if something is said I will agree verbally but in my head I say NO you’re an asshole.

      For me this is a way of choosing my battles and still get my anger out. I don’t want to fight over every slight or disagreement. And for me it’s empowering.

      Contempt is passive and ugly. I’d rather blow or be blown up to. At least I know what’s going on. If I saw an iota of contempt I’d be gone. And if I felt contempt towards him I would probably leave too. I see lots of couples who are contemptuous to each other and it’s terrible to be around. It’s inhumane for both the giver and receiver.

      For me it’s more anger that is my struggle. Anger at the stupidity and total waste of time, resources and energy that goes into an affair. How awful it must have been for him to carry that secret and shame and guilt and misery. How awful it must have been for him to be held hostage by his own miserable choices. Choices he made over and over again. How awful to know you regretted what you did and wanted out but having no clue HOW to get out. How to risk exposure and possible consequences and retribution.

      You girls whose husbands read and are knowledgeable are lucky. My husband has read very little. But he has an intrinsic drive to be open and honest and make a good relationship with me. Our marriage IS different. A second marriage of sorts. But it never needed to be this way.

      And yes First Wife I agree with you. I know what he’s capable of. My h walked in one day and announced he was leaving. And maybe this was his way of coming clean. Breaking the miserable cycle he’d gotten himself into. He assumed once it came out I would leave him anyway. It’s sad. It’s sadest for them. What a miserable existence that must have been.

      • TheFirstWife

        Trying hard,

        My husband claims that the reason he asked for the divorce the second time was because he did not believe I could forgive him and stay with him after the second round of his affair came out.

        I understand that he lived with shame, guilt and all of those other emotions. However with the cheating spouse inflicts on the BS is for worse.

        I too, struggle with the residual anger of how he could have treated me this way. I think deep down I have always felt that if my husband cheated I would leave him. However I have chosen to stay with him and move past the affair but I think I have a struggle and inner conflict w/ that choice. And that is where I will leave the anger still remains.

        Glad to see I am not alone in all of this. It is helpful to me to know that others struggle with some of the same issues.

        And it is a good thing I can keep my thoughts to myself because there were times when I just want to unleash, but I know it would not serve any purpose.

        • TryingHard

          First Wife–I don’t know how to measure one person’s pain against another’s. I can only try to empathize. I know MY pain, but I doubt my H KNOWS my pain. I also don’t think he’s too empathic unfortunately. It was never taught to him as a child. Now when something comes up I point it out and say “how would you feel if this happened to you”. I can see the light bulb go off. I’ve learned his pain by talking and listening to him. He wants to deny his pain and be all manly. But I know it’s there. And he certainly has plenty of shame. If shame isn’t pain I don’t know what is. How can I possibly act contemptuously knowing his shame and pain?

          Yes, it’s crap what a betrayed spouse goes through. It’s a horrible crazy making pain of which I am very familiar. But I don’t know the pain of being a cheating asshole! I just know there HAS to be pain.

          Yes, that’s exactly the reason my husband left, his words. He could not face the hell he was about to open us up to. But he did face it. He’s faced lots of stuff and it seems to be changing him and affecting our marriage positively. For that I am grateful. Had he done any less I would be staring down divorce papers.

          But I don’t and won’t feel contempt or act contemptuously. If I want love and respect I have to give love and respect. Simple as that. I know what he is capable of both good and bad. And now it’s simply part of the package that I’ve chosen. I’m not a young woman and I know there’s a whole lot more crap to go through before I die. I’m glad I have him with me for that journey.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TryingHard,

        I understand why you deal with residual anger and I believe it is more than normal to have it.

        In fact, I would question someone who seems to get over their anger against a cheating spouse overnight. I do not believe such a thing is possible and believe the anger just goes underground if it is not worked through bit by bit.

        I read something in the Gottman material about anger. It does not influence the success or failure of a marriage over the longterm. In fact they said it was better to get the conflict out rather than holding it in. Even the right kind of arguing can be very productive.

        I also believe your husband never wanted a divorce or to leave. (And I believe that it was never about you just as it was never about any of the betrayed spouses here.)

        Your husband is extremely lucky because you helped him work through it all and become a whole person. And I know he knows it too. I know he is grateful every single day because you stayed.

        But I also know that he brought you through the wringer due to his actions at the time. And that wasn’t fair, so he is even more lucky you helped him work through it all.

        I hope your husband and everyone else’s here has something amazing planned for Valentine’s Day that demonstrates gratitude.

    • TheFirstWife

      General question. No wrong Answers just looking for opinions

      If you ask someone (spouse, teen, child, co-worker, friend) not to do something and they refuse the repeated request, is that considered contempt or acting with contempt?

    • TryingHard

      FW– I don’t see it as contempt. Disrespect and disregard and an unwillingness to validate your request. Which I don’t get. Now it depends what you are asking right? I mean if you are asking them to do something that is against their values or how they express themselves, sometimes a request to stop is unreasonable. I.e. “If you loved me you would help me rob that bank! ” “Um no it’s against my principles and values.” But, “it really hurts my feelings when you belittle me.” That’s different. In that instance maybe continuing to name call or belittle would be a form of contempt. There’s probably a fine line. But not all requests can be acquiesced. JMHO

      • TheFirstWife

        The request could be as simple as please turn off the coffee pot if you pour the last cup or please don’t snap your gum when chewing.

        Or please clean up the table after yiy finish eating or please don’t throw yoyr socks all over the hour – put them in the laundry basket.

        If repeated requests are not honored – I am unsure if it is contempt.


        • Sarah P.

          Hi TFW,

          I think when requests are not honored it is disrespect. It would be contempt if you said,

          “Please turn off the coffee pot…”

          and then the person said:

          “You are always such a nag. Just like your nagging mother, aren’t you? No wonder your father left.”

          This is a fictional response, of course, and I know this is not your situation at all. In this fictional example, the responder is invalidating the (valid) request and labeling the requester as something extremely negative and also invalid. The responder feels extremely contemptuous of the requestor and his words came form a contemptuous place.

          Of course, the responder’s action also overlaps with defensiveness. But, it is contemptuous in intent.

          When the responder ignores you repeatedly, it is a form of disrespect and it could potentially overlap with stonewalling in the responder actively withdraws after that and ignores.

          In the end, turning off the coffee pot is extremely valid for a number of obvious reasons. When a valid request is repeatedly not complied with, it is disrespectful and could ever have real consequences such as ruining the coffee maker (or causing a potential fire.) There was a news story last year where a Brooklyn family perished in a fire after leaving on a electric heating element for a couple of days. I believe this was due to Shavuot observance in Orthodox Judaism. It was a tragedy. So leaving on coffee makers and anything else could have real consequences in addition to this act being disrespectful.

          That’s just my take though.

          • Struggling

            Hi Sarah,
            My 1st dday happened 4 months ago. Husband owns small AC business, has a secretary that is the only one at shop during the day, she has been there since may 2015. Her husband called him in November 2015 accusing them of affair, husband reassured me nothing was going on (I had never met her), I then found out she was not the 55 year old woman he told me but 36, a year older than me. I asked him to let her go then because I would have doubts. He refused. Fast forward to this January and I had suspicions when I realized all of his passwords had been changed within the past year. I got into the phone records and found thousands upon thousands of texts and phone calls, 24 hours a day. All day Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, weekends, you name it. He lied when I confronted him and he left for five weeks. He was mean to me then. He came back home but things have been rocky. I can’t help but have anger for her still being there. We have had four major fights with him leaving again three times. I have so much insecurities about him wanting to sweep everything under the rug and I have felt he is still communicating with her somehow. I did go by his shop once when I felt he was lying to me and they were there. I called him and he told me he was in a town thirty minutes away. I went in and did get a bit hysterical. He kept telling me that he only wants me and he lied to me to protect my feelings. I have still felt they are communicating somehow and so this past Wednesday I discovered phone calls and texts were being made through an app. He lied 6 times to my face before I showed him the proof. Then it turned into I why can’t you let me come home to you and love you. She and I are just friends. He turned it all around on me how I am making something into nothing and he has left again.
            I have pleaded with him for 4 months to break off all unnecessary communication with her. So is my asking and the way I feel about it contempt? I am struggling with if I threw away my relationship by being angry or maybe feeling too much contempt

            • Shifting Impressions

              I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. He is having an EA and lying and yet he has turned things around on you.

              You have every right to feel angry, hurt and betrayed. That is not contempt that is a normal reaction to being betrayed.

              You also have every right to ask him to let her go…..and only you can decide if that is an ultimatum or not. When he turns things back on you that is manipulation on his part.

              It might be wise to get the help of a counselor. Remember it is him putting your marriage at risk….not you.

    • TryingHard

      FW–I agree. I think it is simple diserespect. I say leave the damn socks lying about and when there’s no more clean sicks well not your problem right? The boundary could be items not put in the laundry basket don’t get washed EVER. of course you will have to build up a strong tolerance to dirty socks lying around.

      It’s re-training. Quit being Mom. Don’t go around picking up the socks. Put the coffee maker away. Hhhm where’s the coffee maker. It burned up someone left it on! BTW I gave a great cuisinart coffee maker that turns off automatically after two hours or however long you want it to stay warm. No pot. It has a dispenser and you simply push the lever for your coffee. I love it.

    • Robert M.

      These past 3.5 months have been awful for me, with my wife showing all of the signs of having checked out of our marriage due wanting to be with someone else and treating me in the worst way possible. To make matters worse, she’s also used gaslighting to make me think that I’m crazy and that my concern over her emotional affair is overblown. It doesn’t help that she continues to lie and I recently found evidence that she is contacting the other man via secret conversations on Facebook (what a great idea!) and has begun hiding things again, acting suspicious. My pastor has given up on her after I revealed this to him (she lied about it when we both went to see him) and I’m about done as well. I’m tired of the lies. I’m tired of the emotional abuse. I’m tried of the manipulation.

      • TheFirstWife

        Dear Robert. I am so sorry for you. It sounds like your wife is still in “affair fog”. Meaning that they ex t out of the marriage (or think they do), the other man/woman is wonderful and perfect and Blah blah blah.

        My H was in the for for almost a year. I knew about the affair at the 6 month point, it ended for about 2 months and then she called him and he went running back and thevaffair resumed. I had no idea the last 5 months they were together or had any contact.

        Sooooo you are in the early stages of the cycle. This is an ugly and horrible part of the affair. She is being mean and manipulative and lying, etc. my therapist was good at giving me pointers or suggestions. One thing I started doing was saying “I’m sorry that you don’t have enough respect for me and our marriage not to lie”. If I asked a question and I knew he was lying I would make that statement and leave the room.

        Do not let her drag you down the black hole. You need to learn to manage your reactions to her behavior, cheating, lying, etc. please know you DO NOT have to engage. More later work is calling.

        • Robert M.

          Thank you for your comments.

          • TheFirstWife

            Sorry I was interrupted.

            As I was saying I think it is impirtant for you to regain some power or control in your relationship. There was a guy who posted and I sdmired his approach. To sum it up he found out his wife was having an affair.

            After 2 days of her lying and display of the typical Cheater behavior, he ended his marriage, got an attorney and filed for divorce and next day found a good therapist.

            He quickly realized she was not going to stop the affair and he wasn’t going to waste his time waiting around to see if she would “pick him” over the other man.

            It worked for him. Pull the rug out and move on.

            The turning point in my marriage was when I took my power back. I was done being the good wife and patiently waiting for him to make a choice.

            I’m not saying divorce her or end your marriage. But at some point you need to calmly and rationally tell your wife today is the day of reckoning. It is your time to take charge.

            If she starts the usual lying and stonewalling routine, just calmly disengage. Walk out of the room. Don’t engage with her if she won’t be honest and real.

            And yes, stsrt protecting yourself. Financially, emotionally, etc. take care of yourself.

            And get legal advice if you need it. And find a good counselor or therapist who can save your sanity during this time.

            I wish you the best and sorry you have to endure this nightmare. I just don’t get why people think cheating is a solution to your problems.

            And don’t let her bully you into believing you are the reason for the affair. You are not!! She is – she made that choice not you. My H told me everything he disliked about me that he kept bottled up for 25 years. His affair was all my fault.

            Except it really wasn’t. It was his choice b/c he was unhappy in his life.

      • Robert M.

        Correction: the message I found on Facebook wasn’t done in secret, but she did delete it because she didn’t want me to “freak out.”

        Everything she has said/done screams of someone who has checked out, but she insists it’s all due to other factors, like her dad’s death, depression, medication, etc.

        • TheFirstWife

          Robert. Your wife can cite a billion reasons but cheating is not the answer to your problems.

          Cheatung is s choice you make. A conscious choice. It doesn’t happen by accident (unless you are drunk – I think you know what I mean).

          She is not taking responsibility and as most cheaters, will blame the spouse.

          She is responsible for her happiness not you. Sadly most cheaters use that as an excuse to justify the affair.

          I hope things are getting better. Please find s good counselor or therapist. It can make all the difference.

    • TryingHard

      Robert–Sometimes you have to really rock their world if you want to see any changes. She thinks she’s clever and smart and is really getting something over on you.

      I don’t blame you for being sick and tired and fed up! Sounds like you’d like to give your marriage a chance but unless she commits to the same you cannot do this by yourself. But if you are truly wanting to leave her get yourself a good lawyer. Don’t let on to her you know anything. You may be in a no fault divorce state but your lawyer showing up with this evidence will work in your favor. So you may not want to show your hand.

      But if you want to continue you need to let her know what you know and tell her under no uncertain circumstances are you going to tolerate any more of this treatment from her. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t give her an out to lie to you. Don’t ask questions you already have the answers to. Confront her and tell her to stop or you are filing. Then you have to verify she still isn’t lying to you. Because a lot of the time they go deeper underground with the affair.

      I feel your pain. At 3 months I was a mess. I am so sorry this is happening to you and your family.

    • Robert M.

      Good stuff. Thank you.

    • eyeswideopen

      Hi everyone!
      I don’t know if this is the same as contempt, but my husband after his EA said he had built up resentments towards me. I’ve looked resentment up and they seem pretty close. Though I don’t recall him, picking on me, or behaving any way out of the ordinary before nor during the EA. I asked why he never discussed his feelings of resentment, and that how could we have worked through those feelings if he hadn’t given me the chance, he was always vague about that, something along the lines of “didn’t want to get me upset, etc. Yeah that worked out well. Its 5 yrs for us, and though I wouldn’t say I feel contempt towards him about the affair, It definitely has changed the scope of our marriage. I have tried in these five years, and I actually can go months at a time as though it never happened, and then there are times I cannot be comfortable in our marriage. He didn’t let go in the beginning, and though he claimed he ended it, I had to constantly fight for details and answers. They also worked together, i mean literally 2 ft apart and only them in the office. I was adamant that she had to go, or him if need be, and that took quite some time and fighting. He immediately said he would have her removed, and then within 24 hrs, came home and told me he couldn’t do that to her. I wound up having a meeting with the owners of the company and eventually they removed her. I think due to those circumstances, I cannot get past the affair. If I didn’t have to beg and plead, If he would have done whatever it would have taken in those early days to show me how much our marriage meant to him and not wanting to divorce, I might feel differently today. He since those early days, has been completely 100% present and has proven himself, but again I cannot get past those days in the beginning. My feelings were always, if you claimed to love me, and you wanted your marriage, and your claims of not really having feelings like that for her, why would I have had to go through that torture? We were married 25 years at the time of the affair.
      I would also like to ask everyone a question, with holidays and especially Valentines, I find it heart wrenching to buy a card. I know it sounds silly, but that use to be one of my favorite things to do, even if not a holiday. Sometimes for no reason I would pick up a card just to express my feelings. Now its almost unbearable. I kinda stay with the humorous topics, and it pains me. But I read those cards filled with things such as, “You are my whole world” etc… It just feels so wrong. Does anyone have this same issue?
      Anyway, as always, though I may not comment much, I thank you all for sharing. I cannot begin to tell you how during those dark and sad months, how much your posts had helped me through!

      • TheFirstWife

        Eyes. I understand how you feel. You are going along happily and then boom! The affair is front and center.

        I think that it is challenging for the betrayed spouse to let go of some things. And rightfully so. I think the chrating spouse believes over time the affair fades into the background.

        But it doesn’t b/c there are underlying feelings that will not go away. For me it is resentment and snger that he cheated and lied and I am here left to deal with it and he just sweeps it under the rug so to speak. I just hate how it has changed me!!

        So that is the part that the CS doesn’t get – things never return to 100% normal. As I mentioned earlier a crumpled piece of paper will never be smooth and flat ever again. Sad

      • antiskank

        Hi eyes,

        Our stories have many similarities. I guess we all share so many similar stories! We are almost at the 5 year mark too, but not doing well.

        He, too worked with his “one true love”. Even with no contact, he did not give up on his fantasy love for her for over 2.5 years although he lied and sucked me into believing otherwise. Learning that was probably more devastating than the initial knowledge of the affair. It has left me very distrustful of him to say the least!

        Valentines Day is a tough one for me as are many holidays and important occassions. I thought I may be the only one that just can’t buy a card! No matter the event, all the cards seem to allude to the forever love, etc. I tear up just looking at them and get triggered in a big way. If I do get one, it is also a humorous one! I don’t do Valentine’s Day at all any more so no card worries there!

        It does scare me that even those re;ationships where the cheating spouse is now all in, there are still lasting effects that will just never go away. Is it just a fantasy to imagine a happy life with no doubts or triggers as a result of the affair?

    • Rachel

      The first wife,
      Many good points and so true for even me, who is divorced from a cheating spouse.
      I find myself beating myself up as how did I allow the verbal abuse to happen and stay closed mouth. How did I let him tear me down?
      I guess the hurt is still there and I’d just love to speak my mind. Then on the other hand being the narcissistic person that he is he’ll just change it all around.
      Valentines Day, a day I would hear that I didn’t get you a card because I don’t like picking them out. Picking them out for my parents is enough. Flowers, well flowers just die.
      From my wonderful man in my life a beautiful card of how thankful he is that he found me. A beautiful bouquet of flowers. I am not one to be lavished with gifts, but the amazing feeling of finally meaning something to someone is a wonderful. Such a sweet man.
      Have a good day all.❤️

      • TheFirstWife

        Rachel. So glad you have found a good guy. You deserve it.

        The funny thing is now I say things when necessary. Sunday we had a disagreement and three times I said “you know I am trying to discuss this with you and you are acting like a 3 year old.”

        I asked him what he was doing when he should have been leaving to go somewhere. His response was do you really care? That is just a mean response.

        Then he told me it is ok if you have a 10:00 meeting to leave your house at 9:56 when it takes 5 minutes to get there. Well that was said to be obnoxious.

        So I spent the rest of my day doing things by myself. upset and annoyed b/c I have to deal with this crap. Ridiculous if you ask me.

        And I always thought it was me and I caused the issues. I used to not say things to avoid arguments. Now I sometimes have no choice.

        I try to point things out calmly and non confrontational. When things don’t change and I comment how we discussed this last week – BOOM! Argument.

        It is hard to live with people who are not wrong. And during his affair one of his issues with me was I will never admit I am wrong. He thought that for 30 years about me. Shaking my head.

        Rachel enjoy your VDay today. You deserve it. ????

    • Hopeful

      I had a lot of what Rachel said. I don’t get you anything for Mother’s Day since you are not my mom. I do not care if I get a present, card or gift or celebrate my birthday so why would I get you anything. If I plan something you will be either tired or sick. But then other times I would get amazing gifts and cards. It was confusing. From what I can tell is since my husband’s affairs were sporadic especially that is why I would see this flucuation in his behavior.

    • Rachel

      The first wife,
      My ex loved to pick fights. Love to argue. Loved to disagree. I would shut down which was probably not the right thing to do but I was just exhausted arguing.
      During the affair he said I was the one with the problems. I wasn’t like “her”.
      My brother said after the break up how did you do it? If you said it was black he would say it’s white.
      I don’t miss the tension or stress.

      • TheFirstWife

        Rachel isn’t it funny how you can look back and wonder how did I live like that? Or why so long?

        It just makes you shake your head

        • Rachel

          It sure does.

    • TryingHard

      Robert M–LOL, it’s never what they are doing, it’s always our “unreasonable” reaction to it.

      No, she deleted it because she didn’t want you to see it. Plain and simple. Don’t buy into the excuses, denials, word play, gaslighting, wordsalad, or BS.

      You got this!

      • Robert M.

        Thanks. She is AWESOME at gaslighting!

        • TheFirstWife

          Robert. She can TRY to gaslight you.

          But if you don’t engage then she cannot be successful.

          When you know she is lying – calmly call her on it. I used to say to my H “I am sorry you don’t respect me or love me enough to tell me the truth”. And walk out of the room.

          Don’t let her continue unacceptable behavior.

          When I found out about the affair I very calmly asked my H if 3 things were true. He denied one of the three for days. I knew it was true and found the black & white proof.

          He finally admitted the truth. Days later after I showed him the proof.

          If I had known his lying was going to continue for the next 9 months I would have walked out the door right then. His character was already in question and he thought he coukd lie his way out of this mess.

          When more details came to light a month later and I caught him lying again about details relating to the affair I was devastated.

          I am here trying to get past this and he keeps digging the hole deeper.

          We argued for 8 months on whether he loved “her”. I saw it in emails etc. he DENIED it. Maddening to say the least.

          I think you have a limit as to how much you can take. Let her know this – she needs to understand if you are not willing to put up with this treatment much longer.

          Like I said there was a guy who pulled the plug 48 hours later. I applaud him b/c he just knew it was never going to stop (the lying and gaslighting by the wife).

          I hope your wife realizes the damage she is doing.

        • Hopeful

          Robert so sorry you are going through this! I agree that deleting an email is unacceptable. And giving you the reason that you would freak out is unacceptable. She knew it was wrong and she deleted it. They avoid any confrontation related to the topic.

          I cannot remember do you see a therapist? I decided I wanted to try to salvage our marriage, but realized that it was going to take a lot of work and healing. And of course it takes both people. Have you decided what you want and have you had these discussions with her? If she is not willing to go to therapy with you then maybe going by yourself would give you clarity and support. I went by myself and it was the best thing I did. I was able to have a resource, support and an outlet just for me. I did decide to work to save the marriage but it was the work after that in the end that made the difference. After my husband having bad habits, behaviors and decision making for so long it really took him about 6 months to adapt to my new expectation. And his affairs had been over for over a year on dday. But it took him a long time to figure out and change his ways. Not that he did anything terrible but it was volatile for a while. I worked with my therapist to set the boundaries I needed to feel that it was worth staying in the marriage. And in turn I began to see progress. That is what allowed me to stay, forgive and rebuild our marriage. One thing is it still comes up all the time. I have realized that this will be something that is always there and a topic that never disappears. We have really good conversations about the affairs, trust and a million other topics. In the end my husband has said his biggest goal is to be the best husband and father and to live an authentic and transparent life. This has served him well and has allowed us to move past a lot of the betrayal.

          Hang in there!

        • Robert M.

          And at least the other guy has his emails and text messages answered, as well as being my wife’s number one search on Facebook.

    • Rachel

      Doesn’t anyone have any morals anymore???? I am witnessing married men and women carrying on as they are single!!! This infuriates me and no, I have no control of it but geez why get married????
      The flirting, meet ups, giggling phone calls that I witness in the work place is just over the top!!
      This world is full of no respect!!
      Sorry, had to vent.

      • TheFirstWife

        Rachel. I agree with you. I was at a job 2 weeks and a very good looking married man hit on me. What a slimeball.

        People buy into this “I deserve to be happy” mentality.

        What a bunch of crap. You don’t deserve to be happy at the expense of your family/spouse. Or at the very least the disrespect of your spouse or partner.

        It is so typical now. Such disrespect. No morals. All about me.

        Just sad. What I see is the ruining of families and lives to satisfy some unfulfilled need or issue. Cheating is not the answer – but most don’t learn that lesson until they are caught cheating.

        Then they are sorry. Too late in some cases.

    • Rachel

      The first wife,
      Sounds like my ex’s words. I need to be happy. It’s my time now, I need to put myself first.
      Oh please, wish he just packed his bags and left instead of his hurtful comment that he said in front of the three of us.

      • TheFirstWife

        Rachel. Here is one I heard when I thought our marriage was going well.

        One night out of the blue my H told me that if we divorced a ton of guys woukd want to date me. I told him I really don’t care about that. He named one of our best friends – told me I know he would date you.

        I looked at him and said well I would not date him. and besides I am married to you.

        Few weeks later he wanted a divorce.

        Hahaha he was trying to convince himself a divorce would be ok with me b/c other guys are waiting for me to be single.


    • Rachel

      Yikes!!! What is their problem???
      I asked my ex if he will be jealous if I date another man. He thought about it and said no, it will actually be a turn on. ???
      At a “trying ” part at the end he wanted me to have “relations” with his friend. And he watch.
      At that point I really realized that he didn’t love or care about me.
      When I think back this is what really hurt and still does. How could anyone married for 25 years say that to their spouse? His words spin in my head constantly. So hurtful.
      And now he wants to be my friend. I think not or never.

      • Hopeful

        What a mess. These people are so damaged! My husband said he really felt like whether it was cheating or even going out and having fun with his friend whenever was something he deserved since he worked so hard and provided so well for us. What?!? He did not start out this way at all. He would not even talk or look at another woman. Not sure if money and success went to his head, he says he did not deal with becoming a parent well. Who knows.

        I agree that it is hard to witness how so many people act these days. I feel like it is the spread of technology and reality tv and social media. I just feel like morals and society have gone down hill. With smartphones people have access to so much these days. It is sad how some people act and they really do not seem to care.

        • TryingHard

          Hopeful–And that is called Entitlement. He was entitled because he was such a damn good provider. BS is called again. No pal you don’t “deserve” anything.

          You know what’s funny when people choose to do crappy things they can come up with a million reasons why it’s ok. Even funnier is we victims let them talk us into it!!! “yeah, yeah you’re right you poor overworked sad little sausage YOU DESERVED IT”.

          gggrrr we just need to look in the mirror and slap ourselves sometimes!!

          • Shifting Impressions

            Almost fell off my chair laughing!!!!! Everytime he tries that bid for sympathy and I even think about falling for it you will hear a loud resounding slap….and yes it will be me slapping myself!!!

            • Robert M.

              My wife says that my trust and self-esteem issues are my problem, and that I need to sort them out with a therapist. This comes a week or so after I found her deleting messages to the other guy and staying up late with her phone while accusing me of doing the same thing. It’s getting ridiculous.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Robert M
              Ridiculous for sure……

              My analogy is this…….someone shoots you and then tells you it’s your problem that you are bleeding all over the floor and writhing in pain. No responsibility is taken for the fact that they are the one that shot you. After all they have their reasons, right.

              It really helps to educate yourself on infidelity. The responses of the CS are often so classic. It makes one wonder if they all read the same cheater’s handbook.

              A therapist is not a bad idea…….to help you deal with what is going on. Not to sort out your self-esteem issues or lack of trust. She broke you trust and needs to earn it back.

              So sorry you are going through this.

            • TryingHard

              Robert–It is ridiculous and nervy and shameful and unforgivable.
              She’s a pro at projecting her crap on to you. Typical narcissistic behavior. Not saying she’s NPD but having an affair is very narcissistic.

              I agree with her on one point. Yes our trust and self-esteem issues for ourselves are our problem. We are only in control of ourselves. On the other hand if we allow people into our lives that continually lie and cheat behind our back there by attacking our self esteem and self worth, THAT is THEIR problem.

              She’s cheating and she doesn’t want to end it or admit to it. She doesn’t care right now. You could even say she’s in the affair “fog” although I have come to loathe that term! It’s not a damn fog, it’s total freaking denial and abuse!!! They are like fat third graders, they want what they want when they want it. The rest of the world be damned!!!

              Until she fully realizes what she’s going to lose she won’t stop. None of them do. Look Robert you are a valuable commodity. You seem like a nice guy. A guy who loves his family and is a responsible citizen. Take a stand, rock her world, call her on her bs and start making a Plan B. But living like you are living is untenable for much longer. I took the crap for three months and that was two and a half months too long. Make your move. You won’t be sorry.

            • Robert M.

              Thank you so much. This forum, and others like it, has really been a HUGE help to me.

          • Hopeful

            I totally agree. At a certain point they all became dumb sounding excuses. And yes they will tell themselves anything to validate and make their decisions okay. It speaks so much to their lack of character. He said I could have been the top super model and he still would have done it. He had no complaints and always told me how great I was. The only glitch was when I said let’s work on our marriage to be proactive. He never liked that. And I would ask him about other women just because I am not dumb and clueless and he always looked me in the eye and said never.

        • Robert M.

          @Hopeful, Here’s a link to a good post about the Internet and cheating.

          • Robert M.

            The deception ever ends!!! Now she is usung the Text Now app, which gives her a new local number. Thought it was odd that she deleted the texts to this number so I had someone track it down.

            Banging head on the wall…

            • TheFirstWife

              Robert. I feel so bad for you. I know exactly what it is like to be in that position.

              I can tell you are feeling like you are living in the twilight zone b/c her behavior defies logic.

              I lived like that for a month or so and then one night I became enraged b/c I realized I was going to have to tell my children we were divorcing. His behavior was so bad he may as well invited her to live with us.

              Anyone I exploded with rage and anger and demanded an answer right then – her or me. I was furious and I knew what his answer was going to be – her. But I think he was hoping I would end the marriage to absolve him of any guilt. This way he had a clear conscience b/c he did not ask for the divorce.

              He was STUNNED and shocked at my confronting him.

              But I have to tell you it straightened him out for a few weeks. He chose me but only because he was scared at that time. He ended up picking up again w/her a month or so later.

              But it did set some boundaries and made his head spin.

              Maybe you just need to be very firm and clear. I can tell you when I would tell my H my plans for the future (that did not include him b/c he told me he wasn’t sure he still wanted to be married) he would get upset. When I asked him if he would be willing to live nearby for our children’s convenience he got upset. He was shocked I would ask him that as he had no plans to move out. I guess he thought I was going to live with him despite him having a girlfriend. Ludicrous!!

              The problem may be your wife doesn’t feel she has to give up her affair b/c she doesn’t think you are going to do anything to disrupt her life.

              If you stand up to her and she doesn’t end her affair, wouldn’t you want to know her true intentions? That was mistake – waiting around for my H to make a choice or decision. He would waffle – say he wanted me then change his mind. Ask for a divorce and next day change his mind.

              When I finally told him to leave – that was the day my power was restored and I gained control. I got my power back. He refused to leave as his affair was over. Well it was too late by then (6+ months) and I made a call and found him a place to live. He was begging for a second chance.

              So finally I regained control. You need to rock the cheater’s world – they count on the status quo. If she had to move out and live on her own, things would change quickly. And if they didn’t then she has shown her hand and true intentions.

              I wish you the best of luck.

            • Robert M.

              Thanks again. I feel numb right now. My wife tells her close friend that she wants to work things out, but I seem to keep finding/witnessing behavior that has eroded my trust in her.

            • TryingHard

              Robert– pay more attention to her actions not words. He words will screw with your head. ACTIONS is what count. They say and then do the opposite. I can’t tell you how many times my h said one thing and did the complete opposite. I can’t stress this strongly enough.

              Plus her friend saying that to you could have been because she knows that’s what you want to hear. She’s def not telling you everything. Be careful there too

            • TheFirstWife

              Robert I am sorry she cannot be completely honest with you.

              One of the things that used to bother me about my husband was when I knew he was lying to me or not giving me 100% of the truth. I would look him in the eye and I would say to him as calmly as possible, “I am sorry that you don’t respect me enough to tell me the truth. I’m also sorry that you doubt that I will still love you if you do tell me the truth.” And then I would walk away.

              It let him know I knew he was lying and just wasn’t going to listen to his lying another second.

              Actions speak volumes. Initially my H told me what I wanted to hear. But his actions proved what he wanted every time. And for too many months the OW was front and center and he wanted her. Despite his words his actions proved what a liar he was.

            • Robert M.

              Actions are definitely the key.

              So let me tell you all about some recent detective work I did. I noticed a text from her phone to a local number twice in the same minute. The text was deleted, which I found to be odd. So I had a PI look the number up for me. It’s a Text Now number, which allows you to call and text over WiFi with a new number.

              So I went to the website and attempted to register with her email. It came back as already being used. Suspicions confirmed.

              Fast forward a couple of days later and my wife, in a condescending manner, unfriends the other guy from Facebook and deletes his number from her phone. Oh joy! She then goes on to lecture me the next day about how I’ve blown this out of proportion and am not supporting her. This also all coincides with her going to another state for ten days, which is where she has to settle her dad’s estate and where the other dude is. Coincidence? We all know the answer.

              Thanks again for your support on this forum.

    • Rachel

      lol trying !!! Entitlement exactly. Mine also said I lacked self esteem too. So I guess he had every right to cheat on me for that reason! Bozo????
      Mine said it’s his turn now!!! What who tells their kids that it’s ” his turn” now???
      Mr entitled! I’d like to stick him up on that pedestal myself!!!!☺️

    • TryingHard

      Oh my dear Rachel you do have the dubious honor of having the most self entitled ex!!! I swear if we looked up entitled in the dictionary there would be a picture of him!!!

      I hope you are counting your blessings that you are out of that relationship. Not that he didn’t leave his scars on you!!! ???????????? is right!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.