Dear Life Matters,
I am feeling really confused and emotionally torn. My husband had an affair while I was near the end of my pregnancy and it has been very difficult if not impossible for me to get over.
We have a beautiful child together and are great co-parents. The problem is that I, after a couple of years of being too angry to know or feel anything, find myself attracted to him and actually feel like I am still in love with him.
He claims that he has always loved me and still does. He doesn’t really have a good explanation for his infidelity. He says he is unsure why he did this but tries to blame it on the lack of sex during the last trimester of our pregnancy. He also says that I seemed more interested in our baby than I did in him.
We are not currently living together, but he really wants me to forgive him and live with him again. He swears that he is sorry and will never do it again.
I wish I could believe him, but I just don’t know what to do.
Why does this happen? Is there really a chance of my getting completely over this and do you really think he has or can change?
Want to Believe
Dear Want to Believe,
It is difficult to know where to start. This problem is so pervasive.
As you probably know, there are countries that punish infidelity by death (to the women) or attempt to prevent it with circumcision. But here in the United States we tend to view it more like a nuisance, unless it happens to us. Then it is far more than a nuisance. It feels like a deep betrayal to most people who are in committed relationships or a marriage. Jealousy is very common. In fact, it usually prevails.
Jealousy is not just anger and suspicion; it actually is much more about our feelings of being in an insecure attachment. And of course we will feel insecurely attached if our committed partner has had a relationship of whatever sort with someone else.
Unfortunately I have no way to say whether your husband would ever do this again; I cannot guarantee anything. There are countless stories of both men and women promising never again. Some actually mean it, but end up cheating again.
However, if he really loves you that should count for something. We all need our attachments and attachment is a driving force, an instinct just like sex.
While infidelity is definitely on the rise and very high according to statistical data, we need to recognize that there are often factors in the relationship that contribute to it.
In your case, you say you were in your last trimester of pregnancy and if you didn’t feel sexual there is a good chance that he did not feel it with you. The birth of the first child is often the beginning of marital problems for a myriad of reasons. In this case, let’s start with the real possibility that he began to see you more as a mother than as a sexual partner.
You add that he felt you were more interested in the baby than in him, then he must have had hurt feelings and resentment, which is bad for any relationship. Unfortunately, you two did not recognize or talk about it because perhaps you could have worked it out. So many couples have these exact problems.
Another situation that is very common is what we think of as the mid-life crisis when the kids are gone and both of you are looking for new identities or how you fit in this world. This can bring with it new ideas and thoughts about your relationship. Also, if you have devoted yourselves to being parents and somehow forgotten about your relationship along the way, you will find yourselves strangers and the probability of going your separate ways is high.
Infidelity rates are quite high in the U.S., with estimates being anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of all relationships engaging in it at some point, although most of it is never discovered.
Men tend to cheat more than women and they say that it is almost always about sex, whereas women tend to engage in outside relations for love and connection. In fact, women do not always take it to a physical level. Having said that, biological research indicates that monogamy is a difficult task for most humans.
Clearly, the best hope is to pay attention to our relationships, take good care of them, be empathetic to our partners and communicate.
The secret of staying in love is honest communication.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters, because it does.