By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from women who feel as if they have been dealt a double blow. Just as they are trying to process the fact that their husband has been cheating, they have found out that this isn’t the first time that he has cheated. Even worse, it is clear that their husband has been cheating throughout the entire length of their marriage.
I might hear a comment like: “I found out that my husband had been cheating on me with someone who he went to high school with and with whom he has recently reconnected. I demanded that we go to counseling immediately and my husband has complied with this. The counselor suggested that we both go to counseling individually also. My husband hated this idea, but he agreed because he knew that he didn’t have any choice. We have been sticking to this schedule for about five weeks. The other day we had our couple counseling session right after his individual session. The counselor told me that something had come out during that session that my husband now wanted to share with me. At that point, my husband proceeded to tell me that this was not his first affair. I braced myself thinking he was going to tell me that there was another woman before this one. But it was so much worse than that. Instead, he told me that he has cheated off and on during our whole marriage. This means for ten years, he has cheated with multiple women who he has met on business trips and at the gym or at the dentist or wherever he goes. He said that none of these affairs lasted very long and that none meant anything to him. Although the counselor asked me not to make any immediate decisions, this matters a great deal to me. It tells me that my husband has a serious problem that is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. And I feel like the betrayal level has just gone up dramatically. I thought that he cheated with this other woman because she was special to him when he was young. But that’s not true at all. Because he will cheat with anyone who is breathing, apparently. This makes me feel as if our entire marriage has been a lie. I can not even fathom staying now. The counselor is urging me to give him a chance to get treatment, but can this really work?”
Before I try to answer, please know that I am not a mental health counselor. I can tell you my opinion from experience and research, but it’s just an opinion. I’d certainly think that your counselor is more qualified to advise you. With that said, I tend to agree with your assessment that this kind of repeat cheating does show an issue that is obviously one that has never gone away for this husband. Some people will actually tell you that this is good news because once you are able to address and solve this issue, then you can move on. And they think it is positive that it is not an issue with our marriage but rather, an issue with him. Some wives would actually rather have this type of situation than one in which the husband has fallen in love with someone else and who is hesitant to let the other woman go. The thinking behind this is that it is good news that none of these women really mattered to him.
I am not sure which train of thought that I agree most with. I do know that I have heard of marriages in which repeat cheaters were rehabilitated very successfully. However, it can’t be an easy process. You need to have a husband who is extremely committed to figuring out what is wrong and then who is willing to work for a long time in fixing it. You also need a wife who is both willing and able to stand by him as he is going through this rehabilitation. Not every one can or is willing to do this. And I can not make that decision for you. I ultimately did chose to stay with my husband after his affair and I have never regretted that decision. But, there was only one infidelity. I am not sure what I would have decided if there had been repeat infidelities. I suspect that the process of recovery would have been similar, but it likely would have spanned and a longer period of time and required more intense professional help. If my husband had been willing to seek that help, then I might have been willing to consider just waiting to see what would happen without making any guarantees or promises. But that is just my own opinion for my own situation. I know that this is very painful. And that is why I’m very glad that you are in the good hands of a counselor.
Regardless of what you decide, I would encourage you to keep seeing a counselor of your own choosing. Regardless of what you end up doing with your marriage, a good counselor can support you through the process and help you navigate each step. And this is true even if you decide not to save your marriage after all. I can’t make that decision for you. I can only say that I have seen marriages return to healthy and happy places in this situation. And I have also seen people end their marriages over this but then, with help, go onto to live their lives in a good and happy place. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. I just think the question is what is the right answer for you. And that might not be immediately obvious. Which is why I agree with the counselor and think that it is a good idea not to make rash decisions. I always took the “wait and see” approach during my own recovery. I told my husband that I wasn’t making him any promises but that I was willing to be open the process. I have never regretted this. But every one must chose the right course for themselves. If it helps, you can read more about my healing process on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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