Thursday, October 6, 2011

Letter to a Newly Betrayed Wife

A woman recently commented on an old post. She shared her story of her husband, who's involved emotionally (and likely physically) with a woman from work. This woman is also a friend of the family. The wife is hurt, bewildered, confused. Like so many of us, she simply can't fathom why her husband, whom she loves, will continue to hurt her like this despite begging him to stop.
I wrote this to her in response and thought it might help other women who are just finding out. It's been almost five years since I found out, but hearing others' stories takes me back to that horrible time when simply breathing was painful. I wish I'd had someone to help me put one foot in front of another... 

Dear Newly Betrayed Wife,
I'm so, so sorry for what you're going through. It's hell, I know. 
Your husband is so far into the fog of an affair (whether emotional or physical) that he can barely register you except as an inconvenience. Affairs are selfish. They are about seeking something in another person that you can't find in yourself. But none of that is your concern, though you'll likely, after the dust has settled, want to determine what exactly your husband was seeking outside the marriage that he didn't think he could find within it.
You say this has been going on for 1 1/2 years? And though he's denying a physical affair, you've certainly got evidence of emotional betrayal. E-mailed "I love you"s certainly constitute betrayal and don't let him hide behind the "but we're not having sex" defense. Who cares! He's intimate with this woman, whether clothes are on or off. And you've asked him to stop because you perceive – correctly – that it threatens your marriage. That's all you need to know right now.
You've got to set some very clear boundaries and – this is key – THAT YOU WILL ENFORCE. You're handing over your power to two people who clearly don't much care if you're being hurt. It's time to take it back. If you want your marriage – and it certainly sounds as if you do – you need to insist that your husband cut ties with this woman immediately and start the hard work of earning back your trust and respect. That means NO CONTACT with this woman. 
He'll likely continue gaslighting: "But I'm helping out a friend," he'll say. "She needs me right now more than you..." etc. DO NOT GET INTO IT WITH HIM. 
And if he gets angry, don't engage. Anger is simply a countermove intended to get you to back down. Take a breath and restate your boundary: "You need to stop seeing her or you need to leave." Or whatever it is you determine is a consequence you will stick with. Decide: Does he leave? Will you leave? Does he sleep on the couch? Do you no longer give him the other privileges of having you in his life -- sex, comfort, companionship. It must be something you will follow through with or you're simply teaching him that you're making empty threats.
This is NOT about manipulating him, it's about taking care of yourself and ensuring that you are treated with respect and dignity and honesty. He won't treat you that way until you start treating yourself that way.
You do NOT deserve this. You are his wife and he made a commitment to you and he's violating that, whether there's sex involved or not (and brace yourself, because I'm guessing there is).

He might walk out of the door. And you might desperately want to call him back and beg for his forgiveness. DO NOT. The only way for him to realize what he's missing by walking out is to...miss you. To truly face the consequences of his choice. If he keeps walking, then it was simply a matter of time before he left anyway. He's already been living with one foot out the door for 1 1/2 years. You either want him IN the marriage or OUT. He can't have it both ways. 
You need to fight like hell for your own dignity and fight like hell for your marriage. And that doesn't mean putting up with being treated like you don't matter. 

I would also advise getting yourself over to and going into the "Just Found Out" section. You'll find lots of wonderful people who can give you advice and coach you in real time. 

You will get through this, I promise. I hope your husband smartens up before you realize you're better off without him.
You're stronger than you know. And we're here to tell you that whenever you need us.



  1. Indeed! I breathed through for months following my dday. Truly a pot of gold in terms of this sad experience and wisdom.

  2. Yes, there are so many great people there to guide you through. My only caveat is that, when you're still raw, there are a few people who are a bit...reactionary and can stir an already stirred pot. So you have to be able to ignore the advice that doesn't work or seems to stem more from the person's own hurt than your own...and hang on to those who have a bit more perspective.

  3. Definitely, all those who told me to run and never look back (at 20 years and 3 children and two dogs...) well... I felt bad for them and their pain but I was able to discern where that advice was coming from. Overall it has been great. I find though that I lurk now but I don't post so much. I've moved along... not to say I got over it but I am in a good place now and don't spend hours on the boards any more.

  4. Janice,
    I've got three kids and three dogs (and three cats, a rabbit and guinea pig). I couldn't leave because I couldn't fit them all in my car. :)
    I haven't gone back to those boards in years either...but they were a Godsend when I was freshly betrayed!

  5. I agree with He can't have it both ways. I stuck with "You need to stop seeing her or YOU can file for divorce." My husband is the definition of passive-agressive...if I said "you need to leave" that would be twisted into "She kicked me out." (My "fault"). I told him that I believed that moving out was just avoiding confronting the problems (and I still believe that). And also, I was *not* going to file for divorce...if he wanted out, he could file. Our state is no-fault divorce *except* if one party doesn't agree (in which case he'd take the hit, as it should be). I honestly don't know what that lawyer said to him when he did the initial consult, but I'd love to have been a little fly on the wall. He came home in tears. The lawyer got through to him where I, his family, and the counselor did not.

  6. I dont understand how a 50 plus aged man who has a long term long, distant affair cant offer any viable answer to why it started or continued. It drives me crazy. 7 months out from discovery day I have started having anxiety issues . When will it get better?

    1. As long as you're still with him and he's not doing any real work to determine why he allowed himself to make the choices he did, it likely won't get better. The only way forward is to get completely clear on why he did what he did and then to see that he's taking steps to ensure that he doesn't do it again. It sounds as if he just wants to sweep it under the it's not surprising that you'll experience anxiety. Anxiety is a natural response to a stressful situation in which you don't feel you can trust him.
      Are you in counselling? It could certainly help you determine what you need from this relationship and whether or not he's capable of giving it to you.




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