How Do I Assert Myself After My Husband’s Affair?

By: Katie Lersch:  I often hear from wives who feel somewhat powerless after their husband cheats or has an affair. They often also struggle with societal beliefs which seem to embrace the notion that women who try to work it out with men who cheat are lacking in self esteem or assertiveness. This societal message can be so rampant that the wives begin to wonder how to be more assertive while still trying to save their marriage.

I heard from a wife who said: “I feel like I’m almost losing myself while I’m dealing with the aftermath of my husband’s affair. I want to stay married because this is a commitment that I made and I feel that it is the best thing for my children. However, sometimes I really worry that I am going to lose my sense of self. I wonder how a smart, successful, and generally decent woman could stay with someone who cheated on her. I do believe that my husband has ended the affair. I also believe that this was his first indiscretion. But this doesn’t make me less angry and hurt. He does seem remorseful and he said he will consider counseling. But somehow, this all seems grossly unfair. I feel like it is me making the concessions. I am the one who has to get over the hurt and move on. I am the one who has to put my feelings and worries on the back burner and trust in this man who frankly has destroyed that same trust. How is this fair? I was talking to my sister about this the other day and she said I shouldn’t push down my anger like this. She said that I need to assert myself. The problem is that I don’t know how. I like peace and harmony in my family. I hate conflict. And I’m a little embarrassed for being this emotional. Plus, I’m not sure if my anger would even help anything. What is done is done. How is verbally expressing my anger going to help anything? How can I express my anger in a more positive way?”

Journaling Is A Wonderful Start: I can tell you what helped me when I felt exactly the same way in a similar situation. Journaling. I know that you may be rolling your eyes or thinking that you haven’t journaled since high school but please hear me out. I too hadn’t journaled since I took a writing class in college where we had to do something called the “daily pages.” The idea behind this was to just let your thoughts flow in free hand until you had at least 750 words.  The whole idea was to unleash your unconscious and to get into the habit of daily writing.

So after my husband’s affair, I decided to try to daily pages again just to give all of the thoughts in my head an outlet. I did it exactly the same way as I had in college. I got out an old notebook computer and wrote until I had exactly 750 words and no more. It felt awkward at first. I had to force myself to do it the next morning. But over the course of a week, I started to look forward to it. I put a password on the notebook so that I didn’t have to worry about anyone reading my feelings so that I could be free to express any petty, hateful, or spiteful feelings that I was too ashamed or embarrassed to actually express out loud. It felt wonderful to release those thoughts and feelings.

And, even better, it eventually moved me to take some action. Do you know why? Because when you write 750 words per day and you notice that day after day you are trying to work through the same hurtful issues, eventually you see a pattern. And you are motivated to break that pattern because you don’t want to show up at the page the next morning griping about the same thing when you didn’t take any action.

I know that this might sound corny, but I would encourage you to try it. Consider that it’s totally free and it’s completely private. No one has to know but you. And you can even delete the words at the end of your writing session if you want. But I suspect that eventually you may feel a similar sense of relief.

Asking Your Husband For What You Need Is A Good Place To Begin Asserting Yourself: When you journal, you may find that you have identified or isolated some themes for your anger. This will hopefully help you to pinpoint what you need or want. And when it does, you should not be shy about sharing this. Frankly, if you do not tell your husband what you want or need, then you run the risk of not getting it. And you deserve to get it. You will feel better and more in control if you don’t wait for him to read your mind or to take action.

I know that the initial conversation might be awkward, but if you can make it clear that you are asking because you want to move on, most husbands will be receptive to this. In fact, many husbands in this situation tell me on my blog that they feel helpless and that they really want to help their wives to heal, but they just don’t know how to go about it.

So to answer the question posed, my short answer would be that a wonderful way to start to asset yourself is through journaling because it feels so safe. And from there you can begin to assert yourself with in your marriage. If there is any positive that comes out of infidelity, it is that it can be a wake up call that allows you to craft the exact marriage that you want if you only ask for it.

I know that the idea of journaling might be silly to some, but I can’t overstate how much this simple task helped me.  I really cultivated an attitude of wanting to speak the truth, which had never been true for me before.  And this made quite a difference.  If it helps, you can read the whole story on my blog

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