By: Margarita Holmes
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
My husband and I have been married 30 years now. Recently, I discovered he was having an affair with his gym instructor. We go to separate gyms and I just let him have his “me” time, which lasts three to four hours on any given day. This is where he gets to fool around with other girls like the one I recently discovered.
He denied it, but further proof surfaced. While he was playing online poker, I got hold of his phone and saw several incriminating sex videos. His face is not actually visible, but being together for 30 years, I know every mole and mark on his body, and his voice.
This triggered lots of fights between us. He said he gave in to peer pressure for his actions. He threatened to leave me or commit suicide because of the distress of confessing to this affair.
The woman is now working abroad as a dancer and their communication via video calls and Viber are still ongoing despite his protests. It has been only a few months and I doubt the sincerity of his promises to end the affair and move on with our lives.
Dear Doubting Wife (DW),
There are as many types of marriages as there are married couples. Each is unique but certain generalizations can nevertheless be made. There are for example spouses who tolerate certain behavior (infidelity, gambling, drinking, extended absences for work in exchange for material well-being (nice house and car, credit cards, good education for the children etc.) or an association with power (politicians, businessmen) or an important position in the community (civic leader or pastor).
If you have just discovered that your husband of 30 years has been unfaithful, in the normal course of events you would discuss it with him and decide whether the parameters of what you could agree between you coincided sufficiently with your definition of a marriage worth pursuing. However your husband seems to have preempted this discussion somewhat by threatening that he will either leave you, or commit suicide because of stress brought on by his confession. You significantly do not mention reconciliation which is understandable if he is pursuing his relationship with his mistress even if she has left the country.
By your account there is very little common ground for continuing your marriage. Your husband has his sights, dead or alive, on a future that does not seem to include you and so even if you still choose to strive for reconciliation you would be well advised to prepare as best you can for that outcome.
All the best – JAF Baer
Dear Doubting Wife:
Thank you very much for your email. Taking note of your self description as a doubting wife, I presume that wondering whether his promise to end his affair is credible is one of your concerns. If so, then here is my opinion: No, he has not ended his affair. My reasons for this:
If he is unable to take responsibility for the affair—blaming peer pressure and not himself for his actions, it is likely he will find it even more difficult to take responsibility for something even more proactive like ending it.
If his response to confessing is to frighten you by either threatening to leave or by ending his life, again, chances are he will have similar leaps of logic, and come up with possible repercussions, that do not naturally stem from his actions.
Finally, if he is still communicating with her via viber and video calls, chances are he feels ill equipped to end their relationship.
You also wonder about the possibility of moving on. I am afraid that in your case moving on seems highly unlikely. Your husband seems to have no inclination to change, just to come up with excuse after excuse about how the affair started in the first place and/or how your very understandable need to process this will lead him to suicide.
In my clinical experience, a stalled relationship is like a stalled car. If one passenger doesn’t really care whether he gets to the destination or not, he will have no interest in actually doing what needs to be done to get there. He might claim the fan belt is broken when all the car needs is more gasoline.
I am so, so sorry to be the bearer of, if not bad news, then bad probabilities. But I have always believed it is best to know where one stands instead of living in a fool’s paradise. Good luck—MG Holmes