There are a lot of new betrayeds to the site lately. And one thing I'm hearing about a lot is husbands who refuse to talk about the betrayal. They take either (or sometimes both) of two approaches: The husbands who like to believe that they're nice guys insist that they don't want to talk about the betrayal because "it will upset you". They swear that they have only your interest at heart and they see how agitated you get when the topic comes up. So while they would talk about it, they really don't think it's the best thing for you. The second group refuse to talk about betrayal or the marriage because they don't want to talk about it. They get angry and defensive and double down on whatever their story is and continue to insist that you know everything so really, what more is there to say? And why should they have to talk about this. It's "in the past".
Anyone who's read my responses to the betrayeds with husbands like these who come here seeking advice on why they're stuck know that I have absolutely zero patience for these guys. Actually, that's not true. I have the tiniest sliver of patience for the guys in the first group but none for the second. Both groups, frankly, make my blood boil.
The simple truth is: You cannot heal from something that you cannot talk about. A wound requires air to fully heal. Particularly when you're being asked to forgive the betrayal, being also told that you mustn't speak of your pain seems to compound the cruelty. It sounds an awful lot like emotional abuse. It tells you that your pain is less important than his comfort. And, let's not forget, he's the one who created this. Not you.
Unfortunately, you can't force someone to talk to you, especially when he's convinced that he knows what's best for you (though if he's so brilliant at knowing what's best for you, tell me again why he cheated?) and that the best way for you to move through pain is to ignore it and "put it in the past". Which is sort of like telling someone who's been run over by a truck that the resultant broken bones shouldn't be spoken of or treated. Pain is pain and it doesn't vanish because we pretend it's not there. Indeed, pain that isn't expressed in healthy ways will find its expression in unhealthy ways: depression, self-harm, substance abuse...the list goes on.
So what do you do if your partner refuses to discuss what he did and how it has harmed you and the relationship? Well, though this site is known for its support of women who choose to stay, I urge women whose husbands can't or won't talk openly about the infidelity to think long and hard about why they're staying. A marriage in which one partner is silenced is not a healthy one. Staying might keep you married in a legal sense but it's not a partnership nor a friendship if you can't fully express who you are and what you're going through. Women should insist that their partner learn how to communicate about this and any other difficult topics. Often the affair itself was partly a consequence of broken communication between spouses. Learning to communicate will make any marriage healthier and less vulnerable to infidelity.
Those who resist are often prioritizing their own comfort and their own fear at experiencing the shame of their actions. Some, of course, are garden-variety assholes who simply can't be bothered hearing about your feelings. To them, I encourage you to say 'good riddance' and to you, I say 'lawyer up'. But to the first group, who have spent a lifetime keeping their own shame and self-disgust at by refusing to acknowledge it, learning to face consequences and express empathy to others is a crucial step in being a good person and, I promise, a happier person. Wading through the muck inevitably delivers the waders to dry land. Eventually. Insisting that he face his demons is an act of kindness, even if he doesn't see it that way. A benefit, of course, is that he becomes better able to support you in your pain without demanding that you deny it.
What do you say to a resister? "If you want me to stay and learn how to forgive you, then we need to talk about this." I always urge couples to seek out a good therapist to help them. It's crucial to have a safe space where partners learn how to talk about such an emotionally loaded topic with respect and honesty. And it's hard to create that space without an objective and compassionate third party who can also point out where partners aren't really hearing each other. If your version of "talk about it" always leads to recrimination and screaming and hysterics (somewhat to be expected at first but must give way to healthier communication), then he's going to retreat emotionally if not physically. But if you two can learn to really hear each other, then you're on the way.
If he won't attend counselling with you, then go alone and solicit the support of your therapist in how to begin asserting boundaries that keep you emotionally safe.
An affair is a deep wound but it needn't be a mortal one. However, any partner who further wounds you by refusing to acknowledge your pain and allow you to share it is telling you that your heart is not safe with him. Believe him.
- Feeling Stuck, Page 22 (PAGE FULL)
- Sex and intimacy after betrayal
- Share Your Story: Finding Out, Part 5 (4 is full!!...
- Finding Out, Part 5 (Please post here. Part 4 is f...
- Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Separating/Divorcing Page 9
- Finding Out, Part 6
- Books for the Betrayed
- Separating and Divorcing, Page 10
- Feeling Stuck, Part 23
- MORE Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say