The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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How do I cope with the discovery that my wife loves someone else?

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Mike, you say your wife loves someone else?


Mike:               Yeah. It’s basically one of those Facebook, I guess they met over Facebook or something. I came to know about it by taking a look at her computer when she wasn’t there and I saw some correspondence between her and the guy. I was really shocked by it. We’ve been married for almost 21 years, two children, and I’m not going to say I’ve had a perfect marriage. To date there hasn’t been any infidelity, but I’d say over the last couple of years, it’s like I’m the one struggling to hold onto the marriage. And this is the latest thing. It’s been kind of in the background now for about a year, but she likes to go out with this group that this guy is a part of, and now I’m not allowed to go, and I pretty much know what’s going on. I confronted her, asked her, “Do you love this guy or what?” And she says, “I kind of did,” and now she doesn’t, claims she wants to stay married. I’m losing my mind over it. I think about it all the time. I’m having a tough time working and being there for my kids.


Dr. Kenner:      And the kids are how old?


Mike:               My boy is 8 years old and my little girl is 5.


Dr. Kenner:      So two children. It’s very traumatizing and it sounds like she’s been deceitful about it. She’s not been up front with you and it’s possible to become attracted to somebody else, but if she’s doing it on Facebook, it looks like she pursued it. You can be in a work situation and you can have an attraction to somebody else and one of the best things you can do if you want to stay in a marriage or a long-term relationship is to go home and tell your partner, “Guess what? I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I’m having them toward somebody else,” and just by saying that, sometimes it diminishes them. But if you keep them secret, it intensifies the romance, the taboo nature of it. So what can you do for yourself? Do you want some tips to help you cope?


Mike:               Yes. Honestly, she did admit it to me, but she said she doesn’t like the guy like that anymore, even though they still correspond. They go out and do their event with people.


Dr. Kenner:      Has she had an affair with him? Have they met on the sly someplace?


Mike:               I don’t know of one. I don’t think so. But I don’t know. If I did think she had, I would have probably tried to find someway of a divorce or something, because I need her faithful. I’m faithful and I’m truly trying to make the family work.


Dr. Kenner:      Here’s what can happen - the question is what constitutes an affair? Is this considered an affair? For some people it would be. Because your emotional intimacy has taken outside of the marital bond. So just going on Facebook or going in a chat room or meeting with a group. She’s met him face-to-face several times, right? It’s a group that gets together, so it may be more than that. She doesn’t want you around, so you’re getting a lot of signals that she wants you out of the picture. You need to look at your long-range happiness, and sometimes, in long-term marriages, this is a kick in the butt to get closer to one another. In the best-case scenarios. You can say, “What are we missing in our marriage? Are there patterns that we’ve gotten into? Did we build up resentments? You’re not doing enough with the kids or we don’t go out anymore or you watch baseball too much,” or your complaints about her. “Sex isn’t good anymore,” or whatever. It’s very common in long-term relationships for that wonderful delicious feeling you get to disappear. You become friends. So it takes a lot of work to keep that alive.


And so on the best-case scenario, she and you could work together to rebuild the trust. You could go to a counselor. I’m going to recommend a book to you in a minute. On the worst case scenario, worst-case for the marriage, is that you don’t trust her, she’s broken the trust and done things behind your back, kept you in the dark, and the pain is so deep and you don’t know how you could mend it, or she decides she loves the guy and you are heading toward a divorce - how do you make that determination, rather than destroy yourself? Number one, you need to know that what you’re going through is absolutely normal, meaning the upheaval that you’re feeling, that you’re in right now Mike. I want to read one of the opening parts of a book that I will recommend. It’s from a woman’s point of view, but you can think of it from a male point of view too.


“When I was 15, I was raped. That was nothing compared to your affair. The rapist was a stranger. You, I thought, were my best friend. When I first uncovered your secret, I stopped feeling special to you. But on a deeper level, I lost trust in the world and in myself.” Those are the opening comments of a book. The book is After the Affair, and so that feeling - what is it like to experience the betrayal of a loved one? Because you found everything on the computer when she wasn’t around. She wasn’t upfront in sharing it with you. Plus she’s isolating you, right? I want to continue a little from this book. The author, Dr. Spring, talks about the profound and sweeping losses that any of us would experience when we find that someone we’ve loved and trusted has betrayed us. She says, “There’s no way to prepare yourself for this crushing revelation. Your view of life and the world you live in may be ripped apart. Whatever self-assurance and security you felt in the past may now seem naive or false. Where have I been, you ask yourself. Do I live on this planet? Your mind and body are likely to be in shock. Gone is your fundamental sense of order and justice in the world. Gone, too, are your sense of control over your life, your self-respect, your very concept of who you are. You may feel abandoned by everyone, a stranger to yourself. You may swing wildly from one extreme to another. Determined and confident one moment, humiliated and needy the next. Battered by feelings so intense, you may wonder am I going crazy? I want to assure you that you’re not. That in fact, what you’re experiencing is a normal and appropriate response to an acutely traumatizing experience.”


That’s what I want you to hear. The book is called After the Affair,  healing the pain and rebuilding trust when a partner has been unfaithful.


Mike:               I will definitely get that.


Dr. Kenner:      I’ve written a book too, The Selfish Path to Romance, which is how to love with passion and reason. So if you’re looking to rebuild after the affair, you can get my book on Amazon. This is the book I’d recommend because it sounds like you’re injured the way a person who has been through an affair is injured. I wish you a lot of happiness in the future, for your kids too. Thank you Mike.


Mike:               Thank you Dr. Kenner, I appreciate it.