What Am I Supposed To Say When People Ask Me Why I’m Still Married After My Husband Cheated?

By: Katie Lersch:  If you are going through the unfortunate time period after the discovery of your spouse’s affair and other people know about it, you’ve probably already realized that people have a tendency to think that you want or need their opinions and advice.  This can very annoying and hurtful.  It’s hard enough to process what is happening without having to deal with unsolicited advice on top of all of that.

Most wives have no idea how, or if, they should respond.  Someone might say: “unfortunately, my husband’s entire office knows about his affair.  He cheated with a coworker.  I very stupidly thought that I would surprise him with lunch and I walked into his office and found him with her.  Needless to say, I screamed out a string of obscenities and the whole office found out about this.  I know many of the women in the office.  And I am friends with many of the wives of my husband’s male coworkers.  So, people have called and come by to offer support.  Some of the women tell me that I should leave my husband immediately.  Others tell me that they too have dealt with an affair, but that they ended up being glad that they could salvage their marriage.  Some of the women are outright rude and they put their hands on their hips and raise their voices as if I have done something wrong, even though they are talking about my husband and not myself.  Some apologize that they knew about the affair and didn’t tell me.  Honestly, these conversations make me almost as upset as the affair itself.  For the most part, I just nod and hope that these conversations pass quickly.  But some of these women come at me again and seem to refuse to drop the topic.  What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to respond?”

I am so sorry about your situation.  I know how awkward and difficult it is to have this conversation with people who truly think that they are being helpful or who mean well.  Most of the time, these people truly do care about you and they are truly trying to offer you some comfort.  The problem is that having to decide how to respond is anything but comfortable.  After my husband’s affair, I was always careful not to tell anyone who didn’t absolutely need to know because I was trying to avoid such encounters.  But you have no choice here, so for those who just won’t take a hint, you may need to come up with an appropriate response.

You’re first inclination might be to say something like: “well, if I wanted your opinion, I would ask for it and it’s really none of your business.”  It also is sometimes tempting to agree that your husband is the biggest jerk on the planet.  But in truth, you might be co-parenting with this man or, (and I know that this may be hard to believe right now,) but it’s possible that you could eventually reconcile.  So you want to avoid saying anything that might come back to bite you later.

Here is a very genetic script, but one that is often effective.  It really doesn’t say anything objectionable or cruel.  It also acknowledges that the well-wisher truly is trying to help, but it shuts the attempt down right away.

Try: “I so appreciate your concern.  It’s so kind of you to worry about me, but right now, I have so much to process that I really have no information to share.  I’m taking things one day at a time and, if you don’t mind, I’d just like to focus on things that are more pleasant. In the last few weeks, I’ve spent more than enough time talking or thinking about this, so it would be wonderful if when we see each other, we could talk about things other than this unfortunate situation.  I know that you want to help me, and distracting me would help me.  So, what else can we talk about?”

You can see that I didn’t admonish the person for caring. I thanked them for their concern, pretty much told them I had no beans to spill, and then gently hinted that I didn’t want them to come at me with any more questions or “concerns.”  Most people will have the common decency to change the subject and respect your wishes.  For those that come at you again, just remind them of this conversation and change the subject yourself.  I tended to avoid folks that had to be told twice.  Who needs that?

You may feel bad about having to change the subject or to turn people away from this topic, but don’t.  Even if they are truly acting out of concern for you, it’s none of their business.  And even if it was, this is all very new to you. Things change very quickly in the time frame after an affair.  So you likely don’t have anything definitive to tell them.  It is your marriage.  These are your decisions.  And if you want to want to know someone’s opinion or want to seek their advice, you can certainly ask.  But you should not have to accept and listen to their spiel simply because they want to give it.

As I said, I limited the amount of people who knew about the affair.  I just didn’t want to discuss it or to have to justify / explain my thinking to anyone.  Of course, there are always a few that you will have to deal with.  But that should be the least of your worries, which is why you often need to shut it down.  If it helps, you can read more about how I handled the aftermath of my husband’s affair at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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