What Are Reasons That A Man Hesitates Or Refuses To Leave His Family For An Affair?

By: Katie Lersch:  Sometimes, I hear from women who are either still actively in a relationship with a married man (or who were in a relationship that has just ended because the married man / husband broke it off.)  Some of the time, these women have the goal of stepping up the relationship so that the husband leaves his family to focus on the affair.  Often, this strategy backfires when he ends the affair instead.  In essence, the “other woman” gives the husband an ultimatum of sorts – his family or her.  And he picks his family.  But she can’t understand why.  I hear from some of these women with comments like: “I can’t pretend that I didn’t know the guy that I love was married.  I did know that.  He did not lie or hide it.  But he made it seem as if his marriage was in trouble.  And he would talk, admittedly in vague terms, about his children being grown and us eventually being together.  So I very sincerely (but probably very stupidly) thought that we would one day be together.  Well, this weekend, I thought that we were meeting for a nice dinner, but instead, before we even ordered, he told me that he was ending the affair for his family’s sake.  I was stunned.  I was heartbroken.  This man has told me that he loves me and that he can not live without me.  His children will always be his children.  That will not change.  So why would he choose his family over me?  I will never understand that because I feel like he could have both if he really wanted to.  But when I try to convince him of this, he seems hesitant.  I can tell that he would like to stay with me, but he also seems conflicted about his family.  I don’t understand this.  Why is he acting this way?”

From the tone of this, I have to assume that the person asking these questions does not have children.  Because I suspect that if she did, she may understand this dynamic a little better.  I have no idea how the husband felt about the other woman.  Sometimes, the husband feigns feelings that may not entirely be there in order to carry out the affair.  Sometimes, he may have feelings, but for many people, the feelings that they have for their children trump all.   This is why people who try to blend families in their second marriages can struggle greatly.  Most parents’ allegiance is going to go toward their own child.  It is just human nature.  Most parents would do absolutely anything for the well being of their children.

And frankly, you can’t blame someone for this.  It is a parent’s duty to want the very best for their child.  A broken home is usually not considered to be the best.   Many men in affairs actually DO have feelings for their wife and for the mother of their child – even if they try to downplay those feelings for the benefit of the affair.  And so when those relationships are threatened or at risk, many married men will end the affair to end that risk (or to at least see if they can save the marriage.)  They feel that they owe that to their family.  And at least some of them have been continuing to carry out their marriage (and the sex / intimacy that goes with it) with their wife at the same time that the affair was happening. ( This is true regardless of what they have claimed to the other woman.)

I know that this is hard to hear if you are the other woman.  But it might be reassuring to hear if you are the wife.  In my experience and observation, very few married men who have affairs ever intend to abandon their families or to leave their marriage.  They convince themselves that this will be a short-term thing that they can end at a convenient time so that no one finds out.  Sometimes the wife does find out, and sometimes the husband becomes paranoid or careless and starts to worry about his wife finding out.  And this is when he will end the affair and start to turn his attention toward his family.  He will often cling tightly to his family at this time because he realizes what he has put at risk.

Sometimes, the other woman asks me what they can say or do to change his mind.  Frankly, he is often very motivated to save his family.  And I’m not sure why these women strive to break apart families.  Yes, it was not great behavior by the married man to cheat.  And yes, he likely mislead her and it hurts to be lied to in this way.  I can understand why she is upset.  At the same time, she knowingly began a relationship with a married man.  So she knew that there was someone else in the picture.  Perhaps she wanted to believe what he claimed and she wanted to believe that he didn’t love his wife anymore.  But if that was the case, wouldn’t he already be separated or divorced?  If I could tell women considering an affair one thing, it would be to wait to start a relationship until the man is single.  If his marriage is truly that bad, he will be in the process of pursuing a divorce or he will have already gotten one.  Only then is it a good idea to start a relationship.  If he is still married, then there is a good chance that he will stay married.  All you have to do is look at the statistics to believe that.

Not all men maintain their marriage after an affair.  (Some of their wives divorce them or have no interest in saving the marriage.  And a small percentage of men do leave their marriage for the affair.)  But statistics show you that this is the exception and not the rule.  Most people try to work it out, particularly if there are children.  For most men, no woman and no affair is more important than their families, although that is not true in every case.

I do have to give my husband credit – he was very clear early on that his family was much more important to him than the affair.  He did not hesitate to give it up.  And then he worked pretty hard to restore my trust – although we hit plenty of rough patches.  I have never regretted maintaining my family.  As a child of divorce, I would have had a very hard time walking away.  But I didn’t always share this with my husband.  There’s more about this on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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