What are the unique challenges these husbands & wives face?
(Please note: anytime gender differences between men and women are discussed, these are generalizations. There are always exceptions to the rule.)
A husband and wife sit in our office beside each other on the sofa. She is pregnant with the other man’s child. “I don’t love my husband,” she tells us and part of me cringes.
How much does this betrayed husband have to endure? I wonder. He loves his wife, but is devastated because she’s been unfaithful. Not only that, but she’s pregnant with another man’s child, and now he must hear the words, “I don’t love you.” Yet, there he sits, man of honor, willing to take responsibility for ways he may have failed her in the marriage, willing to work on himself, willing to work towards reconciliation.
I understand the wife FEELS she doesn’t love her husband, and I know pushing her to stay in her marriage is not the answer. She cannot be forced to love. Love must always be a choice.
In another situation, I am working with a betrayed husband. It has taken him months to reach out for help and support. He’s a 6’6” handsome bodybuilder with a successful career. He tells me he’s not normally one to talk much, nor to show emotion, and really not too aware of his emotions.
Yet he explains to me how the pain of his wife’s affair has overwhelmed him and caused him to feel emotions so intense he didn’t know he was capable of feeling these things. At times he tells me he’s found himself huddled on the floor in the fetal position, feeling nearly unable to bear the emotional pain.
It’s hard. Normally high-functioning, moral, good people finding themselves feeling, doing, and considering things they once never thought they would or could.
When the wife has had the affair it is often more difficult to get her to give up her affair and to be willing to put effort into the marriage. She has already checked out.
A husband may have the ability to have feelings for more than one woman, whereas a woman tends to give her devotion to only one man, so when she has come to the point of engaging in an affair, she has generally withdrawn her affection from her husband and given it to the other man. When a husband cheats, generally his love has remained steadfast for his wife, even while he’s given part of himself to another. When the wife cheats she is more likely to have entertained thoughts of leaving her marriage for her affair partner.
The cheating wife has often gone to her husband, pre-affair, time and again wanting to “talk” about their relationship, to tell him how she’s hurting, to ask for what she needs, but for whatever reasons she has not been able to get through to him, so she has given up trying and shut down.
She feels she’s given him chance after chance and now “that’s it!” After the affair, she’s more reluctant to give him a chance to win her heart back. Wives in general tend to be more “relationally tuned in,” and aware of a disconnect within the marriage, so more likely to make effort to read books, go to counseling or marriage retreats, or even engage their spouse in a “let’s fix our marriage” conversation prior to the time she’s gotten sucked into an affair.
If a man has been unhappy in the relationship, he is less likely to be direct in asking for help. He is not likely to say, “Honey, we need to talk about our relationship.” He is fearful of being vulnerable in this way.
Some of the factors we find common when the wife has been unfaithful include:
- She didn’t feel heard in the marriage.
- She didn’t feel understood.
- She felt the heart connection was missing.
- She lost herself in the marriage giving too much, and losing a sense of her own identity.
- Her husband was an absentee father.
- She felt a disparity in fairness in roles in the relationship.
And if she’s a woman of faith, she may have felt frustrated that her husband wasn’t taking on the role of spiritual leader in the home. She’s tired of trying to be the “good” person in the relationship, and she’s been carrying the responsibility for too many things for too long.
Today’s wives are under more stress than ever, because they generally work full-time outside the home and still carry the responsibility for most of the work in maintaining home and children. Plus women do not carry stress in the same way men do. Studies have shown that they feel twice as much stress at work given the same job/stressors as a man.
When a man comes home he generally has the ability to relax. This is how he de-stresses from the day. A woman on the other hand comes home to a second job and her stress now multiplies four times. Her Cortisol level (the stress hormone) shoots through the roof. Even if her husband says “here relax, I’ll take care of the kids, make dinner and do those extra loads of laundry,” she’ll only relax for a couple of minutes, then think of more things that need to get done and get up and start doing. The wife cannot relax until the work is done. Today’s women are generally experiencing far too much stress.
Wives are more likely to struggle with “greener grass syndrome.” “If only my husband would learn
how to ___________ like so and so’s husband.”
The unfaithful wife often is not honest because she wants to hide the fact that she doesn’t want to get rid of the other relationship.
When a spouse cheats our society tends to assume there were problems in the marriage, which led to the affair. While marriages with problems are certainly more susceptible to affairs, problems in marriages are not the only reasons for affairs. AFFAIRS HAPPEN IN GOOD, STRONG MARRIAGES TOO.
When a wife cheats it is more likely that the husband has failed her in the marriage in some way, than when the husband cheats. When the husband cheats it is more likely nothing to do with his wife, or satisfaction in his marriage.
When a man is the betrayed spouse he is more likely to be concerned with counting the number of times the wife had sex in the affair. He wonders, “How good was the other man in bed?”
When the woman is the betrayed spouse she is likely to be more concerned with thoughts of “you must have loved her if …”
When the wife cheats she is more likely to have had a strong emotional connection to the other man. It’s less likely that her affair was only for sex.
When a husband cheats, while many times there is a strong emotional connection, there are also many times when the unfaithfulness was only about sex.
When a wife cheats she often gives sex to gain the emotional connection that is satisfying her.
When a husband cheats he is more likely to give the emotional connection to gain the sex he wants with this person.
When the wife cheats she suffers a greater social stigma and rejection. Her girlfriends are not likely to admire or support her in anyway (unless they’re desperate housewives protégés.)
When the husband cheats some of the men in his circle of influence may look up to him and envy him a bit, even if it’s never said, and he knows this. In some circles the man’s unfaithfulness is basically accepted. This is not likely for the woman, so she suffers with a greater sense of quiet desperation.
There is tremendous hope for couples where the wife has been unfaithful, because the betrayed husband is serious about becoming the man he needs to be for his wife, and the changes he makes stick, so now more than ever the wife can have the husband she always wanted with the man she married. The illusion that things will be better with the affair partner is exactly that, an illusion. In real life the other man comes with his own set of character flaws, and the loving courtship behaviors that are present in the secret relationship, don’t continue if the affair becomes a marriage.
What can a betrayed husband do who wants to win his wife’s heart?
1. Really love your wife. Read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Speak all of these languages for your wife, and find out what her primary languages are and do more of those. A woman longs to be pursued and cherished.
2. Refrain from being vindictive. Don’t throw stones. She’ll just continue to see you as a “jerk,” something she’s likely been struggling with while caught up in the affair (and possibly before.)
3. Be consistent. Learn how to fight fair.
But it’s not fair you say. Yes, I know. There is nothing fair in affair.
Suggestions for the wife who has had an affair:
1. Recognize that generally your affair partner is not better than the one you’re with.
2. Create reassurance for your husband, and give him lots of encouragement.
3. Reach out for support for yourself from sound, safe sources. This journey is way too hard. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do it alone.
Conclusion: What became of the couples referred to in the opening?
The wife in the first scenario committed to putting her whole heart into the work we would guide her through for a 3-month period of time. If she felt like leaving after this we agreed she could, but she was not to entertain the thought of divorce during that time. By 3 months they had moved significantly forward, her feelings of love for her husband were returning, and they decided to continue the work. They purchased a coaching package for one year, and attended 3 of our seminars. By the time her baby was born, they had fallen in love again, and were well on their way to healing. The husband adopted the child as his own and they have a wonderful family and life together today.
The husband in the second scenario moved forward quickly once he reached out for help. His wife had already ended her affair and was fully committed to doing whatever it took to heal the marriage. They attended a Healing From Affairs Intensive after 4 months of coaching. When they came to the Healing Intensive seminar it was a last ditch effort for them. The husband just didn’t see how he could continue to live with the pain he’d been feeling. The weekend became their turn around point. They set aside weekly time after that to work through all the materials we provided them with. Then they took their marriage to a whole new level at the Love & Passion weekend five months later. Today, they are stronger than ever, and helping others in their marriages.
These are just two brief examples of many, many couples we’ve helped. If they can do it so can you. Don’t delay reaching out for help. Don’t go through this pain any longer than you absolutely have to. Nothing can do more for your wealth, health, children, career success and overall happiness than not only healing your marriage, but also making it a passionate one. We know the way. We’ll show you how. We guarantee it. What is getting from miserable to happy worth to you?
©Copyright 2010 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.