QUESTION: I would like your wise opinion about how to deal with my husband who is involved with another woman.
He’s coming today & I told him I want to talk but I don’t want to argue or get into a discussion how he doesn’t want to reconcile.
What I planned was:
I was going to ask him to think & reflect before responding.
I want to tell him how great last week was & how it felt fun, amazing & hopeful.
I want to tell him I want love, affection, intimacy, sex, passion, fun, excitement, adventure, respect, trust & to be married & I want all those things with him.
I want to tell him I don’t want to be 2nd choice or a safety net.
I want to ask him to take time to reflect & think & then tell me how he thinks we can rectify all of this.
ANSWER: Regardless of your spouse’s gender, here’s what you can do. I would give the same advice to a woman whose husband is cheating as I would to a man whose wife is cheating.
Affairs do not discriminate.
You can tell him what you want, such as the list you made above.
Or you can listen to him.
If he cares about what you want, by all means gently and calmly tell him.
If he’s still wrapped up in himself or his LO, it might be better to ask him gentle, non-threatening questions and not react negatively to any answer that you get. Think of your objective as understanding him, not pushing him into a decision.
For example, a straightforward “What do you want?” can be threatening in that he may “hear” you trying to trap him or even to lure him into saying something he doesn’t want to say. Starting with easier questions, “How are you?” and then feeding back more non-probing questions to things he says can go much further toward having a genuine conversation rather than an argument or a guarded / defensive interaction. Frame it like this: Pretend the conversation is the one you have on a first date. You want to hear him but not to scare him away.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Go Back to the Basics
Think back to when you and your husband started dating. On the first date, you probably didn’t ask him, “Do you want to get married?”
Why? Because that’s threatening. He would have immediately thrown up walls, felt trapped, and wanted out.
That same concept applies now, even after years of marriage. Too often people lose sight of the foundation of friendship that should be always present in a marriage.
Especially when your marriage is in crisis, start by going back to the basics. There is no magic pill to get your spouse to suddenly want to salvage the marriage…just like there is no magic pill for losing 20 pounds (although many people will try to sell you that…)
Go back to the basics.
2. Prepare to Listen
There’s probably a million things you want to say right now. You feel like if you could simply say the right thing, it would set off a spark in your husband’s mind that would enlighten him to stop the affair and save the marriage.
There is nothing that you can say that will make your husband stop the affair.
Let me repeat that: There is nothing that you can say that will make your husband stop the affair.
While that might sound depressing, it’s actually not, because there is something that you can do that, if anything works, can lead your husband closer to ending his affair.
I bet right now you would do anything to know what it is that you can do.
It’s that simple. Ask non-threatening questions, and listen. Listen when he expresses anger. Listen when he expresses hurt. Listen, as hard as it is, when he talks about how much he loves the other woman.
Does listening express that you approve of his actions? No. Does listening mean that you should not stand up for yourself, and in essence be a doormat? Not at all.
They say that successful people listen much more than they talk. The same principle applies in your marriage.
Listen to your husband. Affirm how he feels. Respect that he feels that way, even if you don’t understand. Stand up for yourself, but only after listening.
And when you listen…
3. Look for Common Pain Points
It’s very likely that you will start to hear patterns in things your spouse says. Perhaps he consistently talks about feeling disrespected at work. Maybe he worries daily about finances.
There is probably a pattern of pain that is occurring in your husband. If you can listen and get him to open up about his pain points, then you can begin to start affirming your spouse in ways to help him through the pain.
Will doing this get him to end his affair? If anything works, this will.
Everyone wants to feel heard. Everyone wants to feel loved.
One of the aspects that makes relationship affairs so strong and addicting is that deep bond. Many people in limerent affairs will say, “My lover understands me in a way my spouse doesn’t.” What they typically mean is, “This person is listening to me and affirming me in ways that others haven’t in a while.”
If you can start doing this for your spouse, you will be leaps and bounds closer to saving your marriage.
Again, you must do what seems best to you.
The situations with which I am familiar where a spouse gently led a straying mate back have nearly all been by the method I mentioned above. When he feels accepted as he is – not as you wish him to be – then he likely will begin to open up (slowly) and start sharing is innermost thoughts and feelings. If you can create an environment that safe for him, you actually can gradually become his best friend. When that happens, everything changes.
If your spouse is involved in an affair, then the Affair Toolkit can help you navigate
- Exactly what happened that led to the affair
- How to act to your spouse to get your spouse to come back
- How to react to your spouse during conflict about affair
- and How to Rescue Your Marriage from the Affair