My Wife Is Very Combative Toward Me After My Affair. Her Abrasive Personality Was Why I Cheated In The First Place. She’s Just Mean

By: Katie Lersch:  It’s very normal to be critical of your spouse after you’ve had an affair.  It’s human nature to want to justify your actions.  But what happens if your criticisms are really and truly justified?  What happens if these flaws are things that everyone notices?  How do you deal with them after the affair has been found out?”

Here’s an example.  A husband might say: “my wife has always been very sour and condescending.  When we were first dating, I actually thought that this was cute.  I called her my little grouch because rarely did her grumpiness and pessimistic outlook affect me.  Of course, after we had kids and have been married for a long time, it most definitely started to affect me – in a very negative way.  My wife is never happy.  She can be extremely critical and abrasive.  When I am around her, I feel as if I can’t do anything right.  This really started to weigh on me and I know it is a factor in why I had an affair.  Because the other woman was so attractive to me because she is so sweet and positive.  She is one of the most optimistic, naturally happy people that I have ever met.  And after being around my wife for so long, this was so unbelievably refreshing. It felt like such a relief.  That said, I am not proud of what I have done.  I know that the best thing for my family would be to save my marriage.  So I have committed to doing that.  But now that I have a taste of being around a positive person, it is hard for me to be accepting of my wife’s abrasive personality.  Needless to say, it is even worse now because she is furious with me for cheating.  She was extremely critical of me before, but now she is out and out mean to me.  Granted, this is understandable.  I cheated on her.  But knowing my wife as I do, I know that years from now, she is still going to be abrasive and hard to live with – because that is just who she is.  Do I have any recourse with this? Or do I just have to accept that it is my lot in life to live with a pessimistic, sour spouse?”

An Unconventional Approach That Helps You To Get To The Root Of The Problem: It does sound like you are living in a tough situation.  But I am going to ask you to do something that you probably haven’t considered and which may to be somewhat difficult and unconventional.  I want you to try to put yourself in your wife’s shoes.  Why?  Because I know from experience that it truly helps if you can understand why your wife is acting in the way that she is (and has in the past.)

I learned this trick in counseling, and I most commonly use it when dealing with my mother – who is also sometimes mean and abrasive.  Our relationship suffered because of this until I was asked to do this exercise.  That is when I realized that my mother is almost always acting out of fear and anxiety.  She grew up the child of an alcoholic and she never had a sense of safety.  As a result, she lashes out at her loved ones as sort of a preemptive strike – if she can hurt you first, then you can’t hurt her.

Knowing this, I am able to more effectively deal with my mother by trying to make her feel safe. I try to make her feel as if there is nothing that she could do to run me off – and that I am here for the long haul.  I also no longer take her personality personally.  Has this magically transformed her into a loving person?  Not exactly, but our relationship is now completely different and much, much better.

My point is that if you can understand WHY your wife is so abrasive, you would be in a better position to make improvements.  I would highly recommend getting a counselor’s help for a lasting and dramatic transformation, but putting yourself in her shoes is a great way to start.  People who are pessimistic are quite often people who are hurting and who are scared.  Once you understand this, everything can change.

I am not making excuses for your wife or telling you that you should just accept her harshness. You shouldn’t.  Honestly, the change would probably be a relief for her.  My mother isn’t happy when she’s acting abrasive and your wife likely isn’t either.  That said, it’s better to let the counselor approach her because she’s likely to see any feedback as critical coming from you.

And, she may see it as an attempt to take the focus off of your affair, which is completely understandable.  Her approach and her personality can certainly be ONE of the things that you address in counseling.  But there is likely plenty of blame to go around.  The bottom line is that you never have to “just accept” anything that is destructive to your marriage.  And if there is anything good that comes out of an affair, it is that it can be a good time to define what you want your new marriage to look like.

There were many things that my husband and I revamped in our marriage after his affair.  We hashed out many behaviors and tendencies in counseling, which is where I learned that it is tricky to not sound critical when you are negotiating these things.  It does take a bit of patience and finesse.  But it is so worth it in the end because you truly can end up with a happier marriage than you started with.  You can read more about my healing process on my blog at

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