Staying Married For the Kids: Is it worth it?

staying married for the kids

Staying married for the kids is a huge issue for many couples after there has been infidelity.  Does it make sense?  Is it worth it?

by Sarah P.

As you know, EAJ tends to be a pro-marriage and pro-recovery blog. Doug, Linda, and I tend to believe that if a marriage can be salvageable, a couple should try everything in their power to save their marriage. To be clear from the get-go, this post applies to marriages where the spouses have biological and/or adopted children together.

If spouses do not have children and if one spouse cheats, I have always been of the opinion that it might be best to cut ties. That is, unless there is a large financial endeavor between a couple that has become like a ‘child’ of sorts and cutting ties would cause too much financial harm to a betrayed spouse.

Yes, there really is a gulf between my opinions on marriages with children and marriages without; but suffice to say, children are a game-changer.  If anyone is interested in why I have a different opinion on relationships without children, there are many reasons and that would be a topic for a different post.

Plainly, marriages without children are a different kind of marriage on all levels, especially since there are no other lives to take into account except those of the couple. Thus, this post specifically focuses on married couples with children. Still, there are some points that are universally relevant to all couples and really to all relationships in life.

Chronically Troubled Marriages

Before I dive in, I wanted to get out of the way a few scenarios where divorce is probably the best option.

Before I entered my Master’s program, I was very savvy about some parts of the human experience and totally clueless about others. The topic about which I was most naïve involved adult victims of childhood abuse and how this abuse colored their worlds.

I did not grow up in an abusive home and my parents were very clear about what kind of treatment I should expect from others. They were strong on educating me about my personal boundaries and that I could say “no” to unwanted advances by any adult, whether friend, stranger, or God forbid, a family member. I knew well when someone was in my personal space and that I could tell my parents if I felt uncomfortable. Because of this experience, I grew to expect certain things from people without even thinking about it. I assumed everyone was like me and that they were equally strict about their own physical boundaries. I had not yet come across the idea of my normal versus someone else’s normal.

But, then I started meeting people who grew up in what would universally be defined as abusive households. I noticed how these adults did not have the same sense of personal rights that I had. For example, I was shocked to learn that women who were molested as children quite often marry men who go on to molest their children. And for many of these women, it never occurs to them that their experience is outside the norm. The abusive that they suffered was part of their normal world and it was what they knew.

I know of women who have invited their sexually abusive fathers to give them away at their weddings. In my world, that is about as messed up as it gets. But, within their family systems, this is normal.

In family systems where there is abuse, people inherently know that it is not a subject to be discussed and so many families deal with abuse by ignoring it and pretending everything is normal, especially when it is not.

So, people from abusive family systems grow up and often marry what seems normal to them. (Quite often, normal to them appears to be abusive to people raised in non-abusive homes.)

But, when an affair happens to a person who was abused as a child and is abused by a partner, suddenly the sky is falling in.

While physical abuse or even sexual abuse may be an adult’s normal, infidelity is not.

Well, this is one of those situations where the marriage needed to end a long time ago because of the abuse. In this case, the affair is not the problem. In marriages where someone is hit by their spouse (whether the abuser is a man or a woman) an affair is not the problem—the hitting is the problem and the person should have divorced long ago.

So, for the purpose of this post, marriages where there is abuse and/or chemical dependency prior to an affair, these marriages will be referred to as chronically troubled marriages. Those scenarios include marriages where there are chronic forms of abuse: emotional, physical, sexual or other circumstances such as long-term drug addiction to alcohol or other substances.

To be clear, it is not okay for women or men to solve marital problems by hitting. I believe that women who hit men in order to wield their power are completely in the wrong, just as men who hit women to wield their power are wrong. (I am speaking outside of the context of infidelity here; people will do very out-of-character things when they find out about an affair.) So, I am talking about general and pervasive violence in a marriage that has always been there and marks the quality of the marriage.

I also wanted to discuss chronic alcohol or drug use. This is a case where prior to an affair and regardless of an affair, one or both spouses have always been dependent on alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs and meet the criteria for addiction. Please reference the DSM-V to find definitions of addiction, since I am not talking about occasional use.

What about Emotional Abuse?

Now let’s discuss chronic emotional abuse.  A common scenario is where one spouse plays the abuser role and the other spouse plays the victim role. I believe that men and women experience emotional abuse in equal numbers. People who are emotionally abused become a shell of their former selves.

Emotional abuse includes chronic gaslighting, confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, control, intimidation, infantilization, lying to others about their spouse in order to make their spouse appear crazy, and any other method of behavior that diminishes a person’s sense of self.

It is important to note that if a victim calls an abuser out on his or her behavior, the abuser will tell the victim that the victim is actually the abuser. Emotional abusers have no ability to take responsibility for the even smallest things.

Another issue is when marriages have a spouse where one spouse has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder. Unless such a person seeks long-term treatment, infidelity is the least of that marriage’s problems. Someone with a personality disorder makes a terrible spouse and/or parent.

Finally, I would like to state that life throws stress our way and different people react differently to stress. There will be times in life when a marriage has issues or phases from the chronically troubled marriage. Thus, I need to make a very important differentiation. The difference between a chronically troubled marriage and what I will call a garden-variety marriage is that chronically troubled marriages are always troubled and the elements above are all pervasive. (This is true for everything except sexual abuse—this belongs in NO marriage, even under times of stress.)

An Example

I wanted to provide a real-life example of a chronically troubled marriage. This is an actual example of a former acquaintance and was very open and quite often bragged about how she treated her husband. In this marriage, the husband is the one who suffers in silence and I will refer to the couple as Tina and David.

Tina and David are a mixed-culture couple with Tina coming from an Asian-American home and David coming from an African-American home. David owns a business and Tina works for a corporation.

Even though Tina knew David smoked when they dated, she arbitrarily wanted him to stop. Since he was unable to stop and when Tina would smell smoke, she would punch David in the face and kick him until he apologized. Even though David is over 6 feet tall and Tina is around 5 feet tall, her treatment of David is wrong and is abusive. David, who is a very gentle and introverted person, has never hit Tina in self-defense or otherwise.

David would stop smoking after he received a “beating” and then he would resume again. Since David never stood up to Tina about the beatings, she started hitting him every day any time she did not get her way. The beatings stopped working and David kept smoking.

One day, Tina got so angry that she drew up a legal document with a terrible punishment built in if David were to smoke again.

David had purchased a small home for his grandmother before he got married to Tina. Tina’s legal document stated that if David were to smoke again, they would get a divorce and Tina would get all property, including the home where David’s grandmother lived.  After much threatening, David agreed to sign.

Now, even though such a legal document would not hold up in my state, it is still an awful thing to do to someone. David did stop smoking (or at least he was better at hiding it) and Tina went on to attempt an affair with a supervisor because she felt he was a better deal for her than David. Fortunately, Tina did not break up that supervisor’s marriage—the supervisor was smarter than that. Tina never stopped hitting David when she did not get her way.

Yes, indeed, truth is stranger than fiction. But, Tina and David’s marriage is a chronically troubled marriage and it is not because of David’s smoking. It is because of Tina’s hitting. It is just as wrong for a woman to hit a man in order to wield power as it is for a man to hit a woman.

Garden Variety Marriages

Unlike chronically troubled marriages, garden-variety marriages have moments of stress where someone can fall back on gaslighting, or start drinking, or say some very unkind things for which they later apologize. But, these instances are not the norm in a garden variety marriage. What happens when conflict hits a more or less normal marriage? Should you stay or should you go? About staying together, Wayne Parker for The Spruce says,

“A number of parenting experts see one of the major risks to children of staying in a family that is loaded with anger, frustration, and pain is that they learn bad parenting skills that they will carry on to the next generation. Parents who can’t deal civilly with conflict or who contradict one another’s parenting decisions model an ineffective and potentially damaging style.

In addition, some children may be at risk of neglect when parents are so wrapped up in their own issues. The neglect may be physical (not taking time for healthy meals or being so angry that the parents check out of parenting) or emotional (parents won’t go together to important events for the child or they may try individually to alienate the child from the other parent).

If parents can’t live together in the same home without working effectively together as co-parents, and if that co-parenting would be better served living in different homes, that may be one indication that divorce would be a better option.

Judith Wallerstein, the author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, is convinced, based on her research, that children are almost always better off if the family remains intact, even if the parents are no longer in love. If mom and dad can remain civil and work together to parent, even if they are sad or lonely, and can avoid exposing the children to fights and squabbles, then co-parenting under the same roof is better. And while parenting clearly is a sacrifice of one’s self for one’s children, living in a miserable marriage for ten or more years can be quite a bit to ask. 

Wallerstein’s research found that the effects of divorce on children, and particularly among these children who grow up to adulthood, are so devastating emotionally that parents should stay together at virtually any cost. In her view, a marriage kept together for the kids, is better than the best divorce.” (1)

 

I tend to side with Wallerstein on this one.

I come from a generation where it seems as if half of us have divorced parents. All things being the same, I have personally noticed a marked difference between the lives of those with married parents and those with divorced parents.

My parents are still married and they certainly have a garden-variety marriage, but they are not super close. Then, I think of one of my peers whose parents divorced early on. She and I have the same degrees, work experience, ambition, intelligence, and we are very similar in all ways except for one thing. She has not been able to get married yet.

One time she was in a wonderful long-term relationship with a man who was a catch. But, she ended the relationship; she literally could not remain in a healthy relationship because she had no template for healthy relationships. First she felt bored, then she felt so trapped she had to break it off. Every time she finds someone wonderful and every time that person draws close, she takes off. But, if that very same person were to be aloof and start ignoring her, she would panic and it would consume her life. She tends to dedicate her life to men who ignore her because it is the only thing she knows as “normal.” 

What to Consider Before You Divorce

First off, realize that many states in the United States split custody 50/50. That means that your children will be out of your reach and your jurisdiction 50% of the time. If your wayward spouse has gone off the deep-end and starts bringing into their new home a revolving door of lovers, then your children will be subject to these strangers.

Even more, your wayward spouse will be modeling poor long-term relationship skills to your children. The message will be: “if the slightest thing goes wrong, dump the other person.” You will have no control over whom your children see or what happens to them while at your ex’s house.

So is divorce inevitable even in the most troubled marriages? Or should people attempt to patch it up? Here is another opinion by Michele Weiner-Davis. She is well-known for bringing even the most hopeless marriages back from the brink:

“I’ve specialized in work with couples for nearly three decades. At the start of my career, I was one of those people who believed that staying together for the sake of the kids was foolhardy.

Now, after seeing the havoc that divorce wreaks on the lives of families, I am an unabashed marriage-saver. And since I became dedicated to helping people resuscitate flat-lined marriages and keep their families together, I have learned a great deal about the process and the benefits of working things out. 

First, I learned that implicit in the question, “Should you get divorced if you have kids?” is the assumption that if the couple stays together, they will inevitably remain miserable in the marriage. This is insanity. Over the past decade, we have learned a tremendous amount about what constitutes a successful marriage. We actually have a very concrete understanding of what spouses need to do and stop doing to make marriages work. 

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is another thing altogether. It requires skills — relationship skills. We learn about relationships as we grow up and unfortunately, most of us didn’t have great role models…

Parents who want a divorce often say that, although it won’t be easy, children are resilient and they will be better off in the long run, but here’s what the research says about this: Divorce takes an enormous toll on children. 

Change is very difficult. Dissolving a family has enormous repercussions. Children often are shuffled from home to home. Family finances suffer due to the need to maintain separate households. Parents are often preoccupied with their own emotional well-being. 

Frequently, there are moves to new school districts, requiring major emotional adjustments. And then there are second marriages and the unique challenges of step-families. Plus, second and subsequent marriages are less likely to succeed than first marriages, requiring more changes to children’s lifestyles. Studies also suggest that even when the adults are happier in their new lives, there doesn’t seem to be a trickle-down effect to the children. Children, it seems, get the short end of the stick. 

So, should you get divorced if you have kids? Here’s one more thing to consider: There is never just a single reason people remain together; there are many, many reasons couples decide to stick it out. Marriage is a package deal.

People choose to remain married because they want companionship, sex, financial security, family ties, extended family, someone with whom to share responsibilities, a person to grow old with, a preference to share life as opposed to going it alone and so on.  If one of the reasons people choose to remain together is for the sake of the kids, I say, “Bravo.” That’s great.

The bottom line is this: We only have one go-around, and we all deserve happiness. No one should plan on simply acquiescing to a life of misery.

Having said that, given the miraculous changes I’ve seen in couples’ relationships, even in the 11th hour, I feel like a psychotic optimist. You don’t have to just stay together for the sake of the kids; get happy for the sake of the kids! It will be a gift for a lifetime.” (2)

 

And I do feel like many couples have the opportunity to get happy for the kids or otherwise. To some extent, happiness is a choice because happiness is in part a culmination of many of the small choices we have made.

If someone chooses their marriage, their life-partner, and their children and if they make this choice over and over again, there is a good chance that couples will have a shot at happiness.

But, happiness will be impossible if someone does the opposite—if they constantly choose people and things outside of the immediate family. Heck, even chasing the almighty dollar above the needs of a spouse can cause unhappiness in the long run.

The Other Side of the Coin

What about those people who tell you that you must get out and do so at the drop of a hat? We all have family members and friends who believe it is time to scram at the first sight of trouble. Here is another opinion and excerpt from the Huffington Post to provide perspective:

“If you find out your partner’s cheating, and you have little kids at home, you may have a lot of well-meaning friends who are saying you should get out. (But) you’re saying, how will I do that? How will I survive? How will I separate my family from their parent? What if I still love my partner?…bring the power struggle into the open,” which can help set a better tone for the rest of the marriage if you choose to try to save your marriage after an affair. Mars/Venus author John Gray even suggests that an affair can be a catalyst for a stronger, happier marriage in the long run. “There’s this idea that if my partner has an affair, we have to get a divorce (instead of asking) can we find forgiveness? Can we find what the problem was that led our partner to that? And that’s the whole key to everyone growing up. In truth, you can’t know what real love is until your heart is broken. Real love is based on not expecting someone to be perfect, but realizing that all humans make mistakes, and part of love is learning to forgive, accept and grow.” (3)

 

I like all of the points made here, especially the point about not having to listen to friends who tell you to leave. There are too many practical things to consider, most of all the ongoing financial and emotional wellbeing of a family.

But, I have to admit I got a little stuck on the idea brought up by John Gray. That is, finding what the problem was that led a partner to have an affair. As we all know too well, if a betrayed spouse asks a wayward spouse about the problems that led to an affair, an (unrecovered) wayward spouse will point the finger at the betrayed spouse and announce that the betrayed spouse was and is the problem.

So, when looking for problems that led up to an affair, I stress that we look for problems within the wayward spouse that caused the wayward spouse to stray. If there is and was a problem, it is the wayward spouse and the choice he or she made. His or her choice had nothing to do with the betrayed spouse and each wayward spouse must own that.

Staying married for the kids – or leaving – is a tough decision and I would err on the side of staying unless staying would mean that grievous physical harm would come to a betrayed spouse and/or their children.

 

Ask Yourself the Tough Questions

In the end, each of us must ask ourselves a series of questions beginning with the deceivingly simply inquiry: why would I leave?

This is a question you must answer yourself.

Your parents cannot answer it for you; your siblings and best friends cannot answer it for you; and even your counselor cannot answer it for you. You must reach down into the deepest, most private and protected part of your heart and ask yourself,

“Must I leave? Why would I leave? Will life be amazing after I leave and what will that amazingness look like?”

After we have explored this line of inquiry, then we must ask the same question, but from a different direction: why would I stay?

Ask yourself, “Would I stay out of fear or loneliness? Would I stay because of fear of the future? Would I stay because this is what my (family, friend, pastor) expects of me?”

Think on all of that for a while; then ask yourself the same questions with one word change—and this word is a big differentiator: must. “Why must I leave” and “why must I stay?”

Must you stay because your church tells you that you must stay? Or must you leave because your counselor tells you everyone deserves a fully-actualized life?

Well, again, it is not up to your pastor, your parents, your therapist, your friends, siblings, or even your hairdresser.

To find your answer, you must look inside that hidden place where you hold your deepest inner truth; you must constantly assess whether or not it is even your inner truth or if it is someone else’s inner truth. You must gauge whether or not your truth is what you want for yourself or what others important to you think you should want for yourself.

In this journey, you are both the sailor caught in the storm and you are the lighthouse. Your inner truth is that lighthouse that helps your inner sailor navigate through this particular storm.

If you are a Christian or believe in a higher power, then you can also lean on God or your chosen higher power for direction. The Bible talks about God being a “lamp unto thy feet” while you are in the darkness of chaos, fear, or uncertainty. Ask God and/or your higher power to give your wisdom through this situation.

God has a much higher perspective than we do. God can see the bigger picture including future generational repercussions of actions. In the end, I believe that if you do have children with your spouse and if you have a “garden variety marriage,” you should do everything in your power to stay.

But, Staying Married for the Kids Does Not Mean Being a Doormat

If you choose to stay, that is great. However, staying does not mean that the wayward spouse now writes his or her own ticket and uses his or her proverbial ‘get out of jail free card.’ It does not mean that the wayward spouse has power over the family and can keep having an affair while the betrayed spouse becomes frayed at the edges just trying to hold the family together.

No, a betrayed spouse must stand his or her ground and demand that the wayward spouse tend to house and home instead of trying to kindle fires elsewhere. The wayward spouse must find a bucket at put an end to those fires kindled elsewhere and start repairing the marriage.

After all, if a wayward spouse put half of the effort into his or her marriage that he or she put into the affair, the marriage would be fantastic. Thus, a wayward spouse must redirect herself (or himself) toward her marriage, whether she/he likes it or not.

It is up to a betrayed spouse to set boundaries with the wayward spouse. The burner phone must go in the garbage, the passwords must come off the computers, the wayward spouse must break-up with the affair partner.

If anyone out there is having an affair and reading this, I would like to digress. For any wayward spouses out there, I would like to tell you that you owe your affair partner NOTHING.

Quite often affair partners will try to keep a hold on you by using emotional blackmail. They will make you believe that you owe them something and owe your marriage nothing. But, that is one enormous lie and it is also the only power that affair partners have. As long as they can control you and make you believe that you owe them something, they will be able to ruin and run your life. You owe an affair partner nothing, but you do owe your spouse and your children everything.

For betrayed spouses out there, you must find ways to help your wayward spouse realize this same truth—that they owe the affair partner nothing but do owe you everything.

The affair partner will be in the picture as long as the affair partner can keep control over your wayward spouse. And your marriage CANNOT begin to heal while the affair partner is in the picture. So, this is a line that must be drawn in the sand.

The first order of business is to get rid of the affair partner once and for all. And, it may get ugly. The affair partner might send you, the betrayed spouse, all of the emails and texts that he or she has exchanged with your husband or wife. The affair partner will do this to get you off your purpose. They will do this to tear your marriage apart so that (through your anger) you naturally drive your spouse back to them.

So, I do not care what kind of bombs an affair partner has to drop—you must not respond and you must keep your eyes on the first order of business, which is to get your spouse back.

Should you confront the other person if they won’t go away?

Well, one wife got a chance to confront her husband’s mistress on Dr.Phil. This betrayed spouse’s husband was murdered by the husband of the other woman. Does that other woman look truly sorry? I don’t think so!!

 

So, if you do confront the other person, you need to decide what you want out of it. If you want to put the fear of God into them so that they leave your spouse and family alone, then I am all for it. But, if you expect them to show even an ounce of remorse… don’t hold your breath.

Almost everyone having an affair with a married person knows that person is married and it does not stop them. So, they certainly won’t feel remorse if a betrayed spouse wants them to; they already decided long ago on some level that what they were doing is okay. Otherwise, they would not have done it.

I simply do not know how spouse poachers and family-wreckers can look themselves in the mirror, but this is an entirely different topic altogether.

In Summary

When there are children involved and when you are in a “garden variety marriage,” I believe it is best to stay. However, even if I believe it is best to rebuild your marriage in most cases, I am not the final authority since I do not have to live with the consequences. Only you are the final authority in your life and you must do what is best for you, regardless of what others recommend.

In the end, you must live with your choices so you must do what your heart and intuition tells you to do. In these cases, there are no “right answers.” There are only choices to be made and some choices will probably be better in the end than other choices.

Here is the crux of it: there is no getting over an affair, just getting through an affair.

In affair recovery, you are tasked with taking a profoundly imperfect situation and making it workable. You are tasked with getting through this imperfect situation in the best way you know how to do it.

You will be navigating terrain where you must make your own map. Sure, you can rely on the notes of others and get warnings about pitfalls, but it does not change the fact that you are making your own path. You must rely on your own internal GPS or intuition to navigate your path. Others will be there to help and cheer you on, but you still must take the path that seems right to you.

Therefore, use blog posts and affair articles as guides and rely on the support of others. But, in the end, take the path that your soul tells you is best for you; only you can know that path.

Thoughts?  Please add them below in the comment section.

 

Sources:

Parker, Wayne. Should You Stay Together for the Kids? From https://www.thespruce.com/should-you-stay-together-for-kids-1270800

Weiner-Davis, Michele. Got Kids?,,, Stay Married, it’s that Simple. From http://www.yourtango.com/experts/michele-weiner-davis/got-kids-stay-married-its-simple-expert

Should You Stay or Should You Go? Experts Weigh In on What Is Better for Children When it Comes to Divorce. From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kidsinthehousecom/should-you-stay-or-should-you-go_b_5038833.html

Image by Xavier Vergés

 

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18 Responses to Staying Married For the Kids: Is it worth it?

  1. Hopeful September 5, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    For me my number one motivation was and still remains my children. I decided on dday I would do my best and put every ounce of me into salvaging our marriage. For me it is our responsibility since we chose to have them. Granted I have been resentful to my husband since he pushed me to have kids and then did what he did. But as you say I cannot imagine 50/50, half the holidays etc. This still motivates me over two years later. But in general I think my kids motivate me in all aspects of my life. I feel as a parent everything I do I am modeling for them. So yes if it was abusive or if we were in complete misery I would leave since I do not think that would be acceptable. As we get farther from dday my expectations continue to increase.

    The flip side is I can see how motivated my husband is by our kids too. So it is promising to me that we both feel the same way and are putting these feelings into action. I think what has kept us so close even through the affair years is we hold so many similar beliefs. In the end I will never know what I would have done if we did not have kids. Maybe he would have never had an affair. The pressure of kids and a busy life add a lot of stress. Would I have walked away from a 20+ year marriage even without kids who knows. I find a lot of helpful information from John grey. We have both benefited a lot from his writing.

    • Sarah P. September 6, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

      Hi Hopeful,

      Glad to hear you are dedicated to your marriage. I believe it’s the right thing to do and don’t believe what your husband did is a deal breaker at all. I wanted to say something about the kids though. I don’t think children influenced your husband. Yes, they are stressful and bring stress to a couple. But I have the feeling there is something within your husband. Stress comes in all forms and if you didn’t have kids, you could have still found yourself in the same situation. If you didn’t have kids, it could have been that he worked even harder than he already does. That would have been an equal stressor that caused him to act out. So in the end, he needs to ask himself why he acted out in the first place and tackle those beliefs or lack of boundaries or whatever else that caused him to act out. As you know, I don’t like to put even an ounce of blame for affairs on external sources. While external sources and events put stress on marriages, each person needs to meet those stressors by making good choices instead of bad ones. In the end, he needs to take a hard look at that part of himself that acted out. Please don’t ever slip into the belief system that sources such as children might have caused an affair. It leads to a slippery slope and takes the focus off a wayward spouse. Affairs happen because of something within (or lack of something within) the wayward spouse that allowed them to go down that road.

      So here is a question. I have not read a lot of John Grey. What are some of his most helpful ideas? Does he have any books that address infidelity?

      • Hopeful September 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

        I understand what you are saying. He takes 100% of the responsibility. He maintains his selfish way he lived his life was a major reason. He then allowed boundaries to shift really gradually. Then he maintains that he should not have gotten married when he did. I don’t disagree with you but I am at a loss as to what it is beyond his selfish mentality. I still wonder how much is what he told himself for years. He told himself he was “not in love” with me anymore but would always love me. I know this was his coping/defense mechanism for 10+ years. I struggled with this a lot but I think since his affairs were sporadic this was hard to detect. He would go for 9-12 months acting awesome then off. He always blamed me, work etc… but now I know what it was. There really was no pattern and on top of it being two different affairs overlapping. In a way that makes it easier which seemed strange at first. But honestly he was so messed up that even one affair did not matter to him. He was not one of those guys professing his love rather he said at times he would avoid the ow. At this point we talk about this once in a while. It is just a circular conversation. He just apologizes and explains what and how he is living his life now.

        • Sarah P. September 10, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

          Hello Hopeful,
          As always, I have a lot of hope for your marriage and continued recovery. As I told nearly normal, sometimes after people have affairs they appreciate their spouses all the more. I am certain that your husband appreciates you. You have shown your depth of character and the fact that you love him and your family enough to work through it.

          Your H’s affairs strike me as a type of acting out versus an affair. In the end, it is almost as if he was trying to harm himself by acting out in this way. It makes no sense as to why someone would do that, but self-destructive behaviors come in many forms. What do you think? Does any part of that ring true?

          • Hopeful September 17, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

            Yes I think that was true. I think even though it was not mid life it was also due to a changing identity and overall self centered and selfish way of viewing the world. He comes off as very confident too but now hearing him open up he is not. So in the end I stand by the fact he lied directly to me even when I would try to talk with him. Morning I could have done except leave him. In the end so far things are working out well. I will say a huge fear I had was if I leave him and he enters another relationship I had a feeling he would live it as a changed man. It sounds dumb even typing this and I have never expressed this to anyone. But I had a huge fear of that and being sick that nave he could change and we could work this out together and save our family. I was not willing to do this at any cost if I was not seeing changes in his behaviors and would not do it at the cost of my happiness.

  2. Nearly Normal September 6, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi there. Longtime lurker, first time commenter.
    One aspect that I didn’t hear in the article was that children can benefit from seeing their parents work through a difficult reconciliation. Too often, I think people ditch a relationship on the least pretext. If our children see us struggle through and put in the hard effort to save a relationship, that will benefit them in the long run.
    Having said that, I must admit that my wife and I never told the children, who were pretty young at the time. They still saw that something very wrong was going on, but we did not throw in the towel. I think that helps.

    • Doug September 6, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

      Thanks for the first comment, NN! I agree with you 100%, yet we followed pretty much the same path as you.

    • Sarah P. September 6, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

      Hello Nearly Normal,

      Welcome! You bring up an excellent point that I overlooked. I do believe that it is good for children to see their parents work through all marital difficulties, whether it is an affair or otherwise. It provides them with essential tools that they can one day use in their own families. You mentioned that you and your spouse did not tell your children. Did they ever end up saying anything about the stress in the air? And do you think there are benefits to not telling children? This is one of those things where it’s hard for me to say if people should tell children (or not) because every couple is different.

      Thanks for your comment !
      Sarah

      • Nearly Normal September 7, 2017 at 8:58 am #

        Hi Sarah.
        I do not recall the children saying anything. They surely noticed (there was some slamming doors and screeching tires at one point). But this was also 16 years ago, so it may be that they said things that I do not remember.
        As far as benefits to not telling children, i think it is not so much a benefit as protecting them from information that they are not ready to handle. I could be wrong, there may be benefits of which I’m not aware.
        I think i agree that each situation is so unique, and telling depends on a number of complex factors. One size does not fit all.
        I’d like to add that parents should be very forgiving of themselves when they make mistakes in the middle of their mind-numbingly difficult crisis. If they tell their children (or not) and later regret it, how could anyone blame you when you were going crazy with stress?

        • Sarah P. September 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm #

          Hi Nearly Normal,
          I can certainly see why you did not tell your children. It seems for the best. What did you and your wife do at the time to recover?

          • Nearly Normal September 8, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

            The bigger question is what did we not do. We did not get counseling. We did not always communicate very well. It was largely a cautionary tale of what not to do.
            To fill out some details: My wife had an EA that also became a PA. While it was going on, we had confrontations, which sometimes included the OM’s wife. My wife and the OM never admitted that what they were doing was wrong, and they kept the physical part secret. It only ended when he and his wife moved away to another state.
            When DDay happened, Jan. 14, 2001, she admitted to it only because of a promise she made to the OM that if one spouse found out (his wife got him to admit it), then the other would. So it was not a complete shock since I knew that things had been going on.
            At the time, I said that hearing more details was not necessary, (bad move on my part in hindsight) although she agreed we would go to counseling, where presumably more info would also come out. But when it came time to make plans to go to counseling, she said she could not.
            On the plus side, she voluntarily cut off all communications, and offered for me to verify whenever I wanted to.
            I was determined to continue trying to make the marriage work, and she was too. This mainly consisted of us working on our marriage and communication problems. Of course, these did not cause the affair, and she admitted full responsibility. Because of that, it was not hard to forgive her fairly quickly. (Too quickly? Perhaps)
            I’m not exactly answering your question Sarah, because there was no formal strategy or guidelines followed. I could see that she was working on herself, and both of us were able to comment to the other on what we wanted to see more or less of in the relationship. But this means that our recovery was very slow and very painful. There have been significant setbacks, but we have worked through them as best we can.
            Is healing complete? Not even now. I consider myself near normal, but it helps realistically to know that there will never be a normal like there used to be, at least for me.
            There are still triggers, although not as bad as previous years.
            Sometimes there are trust issues. Sometimes I need to assert myself more in the relationship, which goes with my generally low self-esteem. In recent years, I have been picking up little techniques here and there online to help. I found that EMDR helped me get through a few episodes. This website is particularly good. Four Horseman were a little helpful. Gottman (sp?) is good. Sarah P. is very wise and helpful, too (No wonder you have a human-appearing icon instead of an anthropomorphised polygon)
            Other things that worked for me: Praying, especially the Psalms. Exercise is a life saver. My wife’s general attitude has been helpful. She definitely has worked hard and is supportive. She is disgusted with the kind of person she used to be.

            • Sarah P. September 9, 2017 at 12:18 am #

              Hi Nearly Normal,

              Thank you for sharing so much about what occurred in your marriage. It seems to me that you and your wife are a success story. And it also sounds like you guys were younger when all this happened. I have observed people doing some very out of character things during their 20’s and early 30’s before their personalities are fully formed. After their personalities are formed, they hold so much regret in their hearts and cannot believe what they did while younger.

              It sounds like you two can also pray together and that certainly helps. On a personal level, I don’t know where I would be without the presence of God in my life. The Psalms contain mighty healing power within them and they have helped me tremendously. They are prayers unto themselves.

              Glad you two are able to work through the past. It sounds like your wife is a different person and she probably regrets what she did every day.

              So what in your wife’s attitude has been the most helpful for you? Is she able to express her love fully and sincerely or does it have to do with concrete actions that are helpful?

              Thanks again for sharing your story.

              • Nearly Normal September 9, 2017 at 11:20 am #

                Thanks, Sarah, for your kind comments. It does not always feel like a success story, but when viewed as a whole it certainly is that.

                Lots of things she does help me. I’m not sure what is most helpful.

                Seeing her regret is good. That makes it easier to put a positive construction on her actions more often. It reminds me of her empathy and commitment.

                Consistency is good. She is not falling into old behaviors. She is continuing in the marriage with all the work that goes into it.

                Maybe the most helpful is that she has been willing to allow me time to myself. If I need to go somewhere and get away for a while, she supports me in that. It helps me feel like I am free to choose. I am not stuck or trapped in this relationship, but I choose to be here. I think that feeling alone has most helped me to deal with the negative emotions (which still come by to visit from time to time, but not so crushingly).

                Oh, and I’d like to say we were in our 20s. We weren’t, but I’d like to say it anyway.

                • Sarah P. September 10, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

                  Hello Nearly Normal,

                  Well, I most definitely consider yours a success story. You are both doing all the right things.

                  Something occurred to be about your marriage. I have found that after some people cheat and wake up, they actually appreciate their spouses a million times more. (I know, what a tough way to get appreciated!) It occurred to me that your wife is horrified by what she did in the past and appreciates your marriage all the more.

                  I am absolutely certain she appreciates you and your marriage or she would not be putting in so much work. I am also glad that she is giving you space when you need it. From everything I am hearing, she is grateful to be in the marriage and is willing to do everything required to make things right. It is fortunate that she is giving her whole heart to recovery.

  3. TheFirstWife September 7, 2017 at 7:05 pm #

    Is it worth it yo stay yogether of the M is not sustainable?

    I think that could be more harmful than a D.

    • Sarah P. September 7, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

      Hi TFW,
      I guess I would ask more details on the unsustainable part of the marriage. If it’s a chronically troubled marriage, then it’s best to get out.

      Then there is the situation where one or both spouses have fallen out of love. If people believe they have fallen out of love, that is often untrue and most are able to re-kindle that love with the right assistance. Even if a couple believes there is no love, it is often due to a deeper issue in the marriage. If the issue is worked through, love often blooms and returns stronger than ever. Of course, if another person is involved, that is the whole issue.

  4. TheFirstWife September 8, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    If one person no longer lived the other (assuming no cheating on that spouse’s part) – what I’d the point is staying in the M?

    For people who live each other but just cannot co-exist in a healthy environment, then why stay together?

    What if you are the BS and just cannot get over the A – it’s not going to work out therefore what is the effect in your children? Watching anger and bitterness and resentment last for years and years? That is not healthy either.

    I don’t believe you are doing your children any favors in these situations. Some can co-parent apart better than living together.

    There are people who post here that are shining examples of the Kids being happier that the M is over and they are not living with the parent who is causing the issues. Sad for the kids who get stuck living with the cheating parent or nsrcissistic parent or alcoholic parent etc.

    But I believe sometimes kids are better off with parents who do not remain together. Life is better without the M issues and drama.

    My parents are married and happy and love each other after 60 years of marriage. My Dad was a good spouse and very kind and loving to my mom and always out her on a pedestal. All my siblings are in long term marriages and very happy. Thanks to my parents we had good role models.

    But being around BAD role models in terms of M and relationships – I think a D has to be s better choice in certain circumstances (serial cheaters, addictions etc) if the offending spouse refuses to get help.

    • Sarah P. September 9, 2017 at 12:20 am #

      Hi TFW,

      Well, if there is addiction and serial cheating, that is a chronically troubled marriage. Chronically troubled marriages are usually not best for the kids.

      On the other hand, if a betrayed spouse cannot get over the betrayal, they say time heals all. But, in some cases that is not true. Everyone is different and there are some who are not able to let go of the betrayal. I do not begrudge them for leaving, especially if all other avenues have been exhausted.

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