Ask Allison: ‘My husband is cheating on me but I don’t care – as long as it doesn’t affect our family life. Am I in denial?’

By | March 15, 2021

I just found out that my husband has been cheating on me. We have been married for 15 years and have two children in primary school. I am writing to you as I want to pretend it never happened and stay in the marriage. We haven’t had sex in about four years. I don’t find him that attractive anymore but the marriage works in every other way. As long as it doesn’t interfere with our day-to-day life, I am ok with it. He doesn’t know that I know, but I saw a message on his iPad. My intention is to just carry on as normal. Am I totally in denial or is this something you have seen before?

Allison:

Naturally, you may be experiencing denial and delayed shock which may not have made its presence known yet. Your initial response is a strong desire for things to stay the same and this is so understandable. You don’t want anything to change your marriage, your family or your life and yet, unfortunately, it has. This is so hard to hear, but if you try to suppress or deny what has happened it will re-surface in other ways. It’ll either be straight-up anger or in a more passive-aggressive way, which ultimately will affect life as it is now.

What a painful revelation for you to find. Even if you haven’t been intimate for years, what was your initial reaction? This may change in a while as you process what this means. I have heard people say behind therapeutic doors that there was an initial sense of relief as there may have been worry or guilt over no sexual activity in the relationship.

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But that does not mean you feel this way, everyone’s relationship is so individual and different. The only relationship to explore is the one you have with yourself and your husband. It doesn’t matter how anyone else reacts or responds. It would be great to have a delete button, but unfortunately you cannot unsee or undo what you have learned, and even more unfortunately you can’t deny, suppress or pretend.

Well, you can, but there is always a high price to pay so ultimately it isn’t sustainable. Trying to push down how you feel about this will build up feelings of anger and resentment that will spill over into your day-to day life. Another possibility is, if you are prepared to ignore his affair, I gently ask what does that infer about your relationship or the relationship boundaries?

How do you find expressing how you feel? Does it feel like conflict to you, or do you avoid difficult conversations to avoid said conflict? These are intimate and vulnerable conversations which are incredibly hard and important. Have you ever gone to relationship counselling? What are your needs in the relationship?

Compartmentalising your relationship into being platonic parents may work as long as there are boundaries and your needs are met. The danger is, if your feelings and needs — and his feelings and needs — aren’t being shared, the intimacy dissipates and the connection divides. This is an easy thing to happen, so the question is, do you want to change that?

Like death, grieving over the relationship you had will first bring up denial, even if you knew everything wasn’t fully right. How are you feeling about what you saw and now know? What does it mean to you? When did your attraction wane for your husband? Was it purely physical or did something specific change for you? Was it physical and or emotional? How were your emotional and physical needs met and expressed in the marriage?

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Did you stop sharing private and intimate feelings with him, and if so why? Women can also shut down when they feel their worries or needs aren’t being heard, understood or validated. This often has a direct domino effect that ripples from the conversations not being had downstairs to stopping any intimacy at the bedroom door.

It helps to want to be physically close with someone if you like them. Negativity and unexpressed emotions block and naturally hamper desire. Working through when that attraction piece changed for you, and why, is important to connect back to yourself and what you are going to need going forward.

Check in with your beliefs about marriage, sex, the gender roles each carry in the relationship, romance, separation and or divorce. My concern is, if you ignore, you are ignoring your needs. Fantasy bonds can occur in marriages where it becomes surface and the connection to a secure attachment may be impacted by what is not being discussed. What are the emotional elephants in the room? What are your hopes and dreams when it comes to having a healthy relationship where you are not just the parent or mother, but you are also the wife and lover?

Many women experience a crisis in confidence when they become mothers. I’d like you to connect back in with yourself and give yourself some space to see the value that you have and to recognise your worth. You deserve a healthy, reciprocal relationship. The question is: what do you need and what do you want? The answer may lie in giving your needs permission.

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Allison regrets that she cannot enter into correspondence. If you have a query for this page email allisonk@independent.ie

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