I Think My Spouse Had An Affair Simply To Get Power Over Me

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who think that their spouse was not motivated by sex, by romance, or by emotions when they had an affair.  Instead, they are pretty sure that their spouse was motivated by the quest for power.  Or, their spouse was trying to level the playing field in their marriage.

For example, someone might say something like this: “for the last three years of our marriage, my husband told me that I treated him badly.  He said that everyone thought that he followed me around like a little puppy dog.  He said that everyone thought that he had ‘lucked into’ marrying me.  This always bothered my husband.  And he said that I did nothing to raise his self esteem or to reassure him that I was happy with him and with our marriage.  Sometimes, he would accuse me of not being sensitive enough to his feelings and he would say that I took him for granted.  He would say that I treated others better than him.  He actually told me ‘one day you are going to regret treating me like a dog.  One day the tide is going to turn. Wait and see.’  At the time, I thought he was just blowing hot air and complaining.  But now, since I’ve learned about the affair, his words are very pointed and memorable.  The other woman is not even that great.  I am much prettier.  I am much more accomplished.  She was just someone who would cheat with him.  And he left clues everywhere – like he was almost desperate for me to find out.  Now it’s as if he expects me to fall all over myself crying.  But I refuse to do that.  He says he wants to save our marriage.  And I am open to that.  But I am not going to redefine my marriage where he has the power and I do not.  I am not going to be the wounded one while he feels as if he is holding all the cards.”

I certainly don’t blame you for not wanting the marriage that you describe.  I don’t think anyone would find that type of marriage ideal.  And regardless of how badly your husband may have felt, there is no valid excuse for cheating.  Still, he may well have been motivated by trying to balance the power in your marriage.  And he may justify it to himself by telling himself that he tried to communicate the inequality to you, but you ignored him.  So he may have told himself that the only way to get your attention was to get “caught” having an affair.

This is faulty reasoning, of course.  But that might be an accurate description of his incorrect thought process.  Neither of you can take this back.  The affair has happened and what you are left with now is the future.  You get to define how that goes.  You get to mandate how your marriage is going to look moving forward.

I’d like to make a suggestion, if I may.  Things didn’t work when your husband felt that he was not an equal partner.  And you are very clear on the fact that you will not play second fiddle. So why not make this a marriage of equals?  If you are both still invested in your marriage, neither of you deserve anything less.

There has to be some way that he can feel respected and as an equal while you feel empowered and triumphant.  There are ways to negotiate this.  I can tell you that in the weeks and months after the affair, there is a real tendency to keep score or to constantly remind your spouse that you are the injured party.  And there is a real tendency on his part to get defensive and to want to still claim his part as the original injured party.

This is understandable, but from experience, it really doesn’t get you anywhere.  You can’t heal because you’re clinging too tightly to your pain.  I know that it takes some time before you can release your grip on this.  And sometimes, you need professional help to remind both of you of this goal.  But score keeping and clinging to pain are two major reasons that marriages fail after an affair.

It can take time and be hard to move past this, but I want you to remember that the main goal in recovery after an affair is to be truly and genuinely happy once again.  It’s nearly impossible to do this when you are in a lopsided marriage where both people don’t feel equal.  Your husband’s feelings are not always your responsibility and under your control.  But yours are.  And controlling yours is at least one thing that you can do to move toward healing.

I am not defending your husband.  As someone who was cheated on also, I would never do that.  But I can tell you how many men think.  If you want to save your marriage moving forward, you will have to carefully look at how each of you evaluate your place within it.  Power struggles have no place in a healthy marriage.  So always be aware of this.  And try to negotiate the stance that will make you both feel respected and on equal footing.  You can read more about my own struggles with recovery on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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