By: Katie Lersch: Many spouses initially attempt to stay together after one of them has an affair. I find that this always shocks people. There is an assumption that the discovery of an affair has an immediate and dramatic effect (and it often does.) But ending your marriage on the spot is something that few are willing to do – especially if their are children or other joint responsibilities involved.
Why The “Throwing It In His Face” Thing Happens: Many couples take a sort of “wait and see” approach. They sort of stumble along and they hope that things get better. But what they typically find is that, without help, it’s very hard not to hyperfocus on the shock, resentment, and anger. And so the faithful spouse might always lash out with reminders about the affair. This behavior is known by the very unscientific term of “throwing the affair back in his face.”
The vast majority of husbands who I hear from accuse their wives of this. And I think most of us can understand why the wife does it: She’s still reeling. And she never wants him to forget what he has done. Plus, she is often trying to get a reaction out of him so that she can better understand why he has done this. She doesn’t wake up in the morning and say “gee, let me see how many times I can remind my husband of his mistake. Let me see how effective I can be at throwing it in his face.” No, it’s just kind of something that happens. The words come spilling out of her mouth before she can stop them and her husband’s reaction perpetuates the problem.
The Impact: When this goes on for too long, it can become every bit as detrimental to the marriage as the affair because the husband can begin to think that he is going to have to deal with this for the rest of his life. He begins to think that he can’t go for many more days of being constantly reminded of his mistake. And that might be when he leaves. Of course, the wife can think that this is horribly unfair. She might say: “After all of my cheating husband’s begging me not to leave him, I agreed to work on our marriage. This was somewhat against my better judgement, but I did this for my kids. Now after I made this big sacrifice in good faith, my husband has informed me that he is leaving me because I ‘throw the affair in his face all of the time.’ I plead guilty to this. You bet I do. I admit that I probably bring up the affair a little more than I should. Sometimes, I don’t mean to but it just sort of comes out. But what does he really expect from me? It’s very unrealistic for him to think that I’m just not going to talk about it or not to mention it. I feel that I have that right. And if this is something that he did not want to discuss, then he should have thought about that before he decided to have an affair. So now he is willing to throw our marriage away even though four weeks ago, he begged me not to do the same. I just don’t get it. So now I guess I am going to end up divorced anyway.”
Ask Yourself What Your Husband Really Wants (Because It Might Not Be A Divorce:) I understand your thought process, but I can tell you that many couples struggle with this issue. And certainly not all of them end up divorced. I also suspect that right now, your husband is trying to get your attention. It’s possible that what he really wants is for you to back off on the whole “throwing it in his face” thing rather than wanting to actually be divorced – especially since not more than a month ago, he was begging you to save the marriage.
Many men actually do understand why you bring it up, but they don’t want a life sentence of having to listen to it everyday of their life. And, because they are so close to it, they can’t see a scenario where it will taper off.
Seeing The Light At The End Of The Tunnel: I can tell you that once you get some sort of help or gain some sort of momentum, you often begin to bring it up less – because you begin to feel that you are making progress. I can’t tell you the last time my husband and I discussed the affair. But to be fair, that was over years ago. We have moved on, and it just is no longer part of our lives. But in order to get to this place, we had to do the work first. And during that time, we did have to talk about it quite a bit. Once we started counseling and I started some self work, I didn’t feel the immediate need to talk about it ALL of the time because I knew that it would be addressed regularly. This really helped and I think that it could help you also.
Because really, you just want to feel as if you are being heard. You just want some relief. If you know that say, once a week, you will be able to have your say, then you will be less likely to keep bringing it up. And if your husband knows that he might go from hearing it once a day to once a week, he will be more likely to cooperate to regular (but more limited) discussions. If he still insists on leaving, then at least the counseling can help you to co-parent. That’s beneficial by itself. But many couples find that this type of counseling ends up helping them as a couple also.
For whatever it’s worth, I think that it’s possible that your husband doesn’t actually want a divorce. He just wants a break in being reminded of his mistake. He may eventually come to understand that the fastest way to stop making this the primary topic of conversation is to start to heal. Once you’ve healed your marriage, there’s no longer any need to keep bringing it up or to throw it in anyone’s face. If it helps, you can read more about my own journey with this on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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