Q: “My husband has been working abroad since last June 2 for 3 months at a time. We, as a family, are supposed to join him at the end of May for the next 4 years. My husband came home last week to support our family in preparing for the move. During this time I noticed a huge change in him and felt huge distance between us. Finally yesterday I questioned him and he admitted that he has been sleeping with another woman. To say I was devastated and shocked is an understatement, as I thought we were working towards a common goal of moving together, as a family. He claims he was lonely, finding the new country hard and work stresses too much. He says stresses within our family and me not being more supportive of him has exacerbated this feeling. He says he loves me and our family and still wants us to join him. He realises he made a mistake and gives me his word that this affair is over, and he will never cheat happen again. He leaves next week to go back. Should I decide to still join him, we are supposed to move at the end of May. I don’t know how to deal with this. My heart is broken and my children will be devastated if they find out and we are now not leaving, as the last 4 months has been taxing on all of us and the expectation is that we will have this whole exciting adventure and new opportunities ahead of us. I am torn. Can I ever can trust my husband again? What if we go and he continues the affair? What if he genuinly does stop seeing her but I am unable to forgive him?.He sobbed and sobbed, when he told me, saying how sorry he is and he never intended for it to happen. He suggested counselling and the fact that he admitted it to me counts for something … but, right now, it’s not enough. In all of this, we made love and it was amazing and tender and the best it has been in years. I love him and still want him. If anything, this has shocked my core but at the same time made me realise after 20 years of marriage how things can be taken for granted. If I’m honest, yes, I did neglect our relationship to a point BUT I never strayed. Through all our trials and tribulations, I respected the weddings vows we made to each other. What do I do?”
A: ” Watch Esther Perel. On Ted. here’s one, for starters … https://youtu.be/P2AUat93a8Q, then read her book: Mating in Captivity.”
” Another Ester Perel fan here. Look her up and listen to her podcasts. She says we will all have a few marriages in our lives even if it is to the same person. After a crisis, the marriage can survive, but it is a new marriage. You have both changed and the marriage has to change with you. You can get through this. Be gentle with yourself and him. We are all human and sometimes make dumb decisions that end up hurting those we love.”
” This is so difficult. If you think you can make it work, then you need to be serious about it and seek counseling and give it huge amounts of time, expect a massive rollercoaster of emotions ahead. For me, I couldn’t trust anyone again after that kind of deception and betrayal and I walked away. Problem is, it gets easier to cheat after the first time someone does it. Both of you have to be committed to make it work and it’s risky moving to a new country for someone who you possibly don’t know so well anymore.”
” Regrettably no-one really knows what you should do about broken trust. Only you’ll know. My invitation is to pay especially careful attention to your self care so that your residual resilience is strong to deal with the way forward whatever that is.”
” Take the plunge. Do the best you can to make it work, with the info you have and your own limitations.
Your hubby sounds like a decent bloke. He’s open to counselling… Marriages can recover and be better, stronger and wonderful.”
” Expat life is not all glitz, glamour, excitement and fun. It is difficult to adjust at first and is an emotional roller coaster for the first year – especially as the wife and “trailing spouse,” (a term I despise, but it sums it up for the first year). I totally understand your dilemma and that your kids will be devastated, but I feel that I have to caution you too. Finding out that your husband has been unfaithful is hurtful and emotionally it’s going to be a difficult journey for you, no matter where in the world you are. If you do move, you will not only have to deal with culture shock and find your feet, but you will be totally isolated with no support system in your new country, and dealing with his infidelity, in an ideal world, you would need that. Added to this are the family stresses you mention, which will mean finding new institutional support in a strange country. I don’t mean to be negative, I just need you to understand that there is so much to consider and a major move is going to be difficult. I suggest googling expat marriages so that you can get a good understanding of the challenges that that choice places on a marriage. I am an expat, and I have had to deal with infidelity and not having my friends and family to support me was seriously tough. Always remember that YOU and your feelings are just as important as the rest of the family.”
” Go….you can always leave, but if you don’t, you will always wonder.”
” I think in this context you need to think only about what YOU want anď what YOU could cope with. If you go, you will have no support system there for a little while. You will be dealing with two huge life events and this will inevitably take its toll on you, so be very clear about your limitations, and needs, to yourself, first. Accept that whatever decision you make will be difficult at first. I hear you in that there is so much to consider but I would definitely encourage you to think about what YOU need and want. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary sometimes. I hope that whatever you decide….you will do it with much love for yourself.”
” Go and give it another chance. The shock if the cheating and change of scenery might be exactly what you need to get back on “track”……if with time you realize you cannot forgive you deal with it then…..”
” I’ve been through this and it’s heart wrenching. It makes one physically ill and you think you’ll never get over it. Right now you shouldn’t have to feel like you MUST move on with or without him. You don’t know what you want to do, because truth be told, you don’t. You actually don’t. You’re going through the stages of grieving and you haven’t even begun the process of healing. It is FAAAARRRRR off, trust me it is. All you can do at this stage is sit down with your husband and speak to him. Let him know how you feel and what he’s done to the family. This is no longer a unit, it just cannot be… For now… Ask yourself if this move is beneficial for the children. Will it create opportunities for them, that this country cannot give them right now? Are you willing to go for counseling, with him and then on your own. Are you willing to KNOW in your heart that you have every single right to be angry and not want to be with him even if it makes you physically ill and then the next minute feel like your life will be irrevocably changed if he’s not in it? Are you strong enough to ride that rollercoaster? You will survive this, even if you do it another country, with or without him. You just need to put pen to paper, think clearly about what it is that you need to do. Wanting to do something now may not always be the best decision. You know what you NEED even if you don’t know what you want…”
” I am certainly NOT downplaying infidelity in any way – you are feeling betrayed, but if your husband was only in a physical relationship- not emotional- your marriage stands a better chance of being repaired
You have 20 yrs investment – not gonna be an easy decision- but if the love is still there then I believe it is worth fighting for
Your marriage may end stronger at the end of it all.”
” I had a very similar thing happen to me. I stayed behind in SA to let my youngest daughter finish school. I moved to join him overseas. 10 days after arriving there he told me he had been having an affair for 2 years. I understood all the reasons why it had happened, but he was determined to make his new relationship work. I felt we could get through it as we had 28 very happy years of married life behind us. At that stage no-one knew. He was very caring through the process, but felt I was stronger and she needed him. (Blah). Anyway we divorced,. In my opinion, find a really good therapist, work through the pain, the trauma, the disappointment, honestly and give your marriage and family a chance. I am in a happy relationship, now, but I miss my whole family and my best friend of 30 years. I have also been diagnosed with PTSD as it was such a shock.”
” I always think that there are three questions to ask in circumstances like this; 1) has the guilty party apologized wholeheartedly, taking responsibility for his or her actions? 2) has he or she undertaken to do whatever emotional work is required to regain trust and repair the relationship? 3) has he or she told you that she loves you and that she or he wants the relationship back above anything else?
They seem like very simple questions but they do cover a acknowledgment of responsibility, love and a desire to repair… you’d be surprised how few transgressing spouses don’t say these things. Of course saying them doesn’t mean that things will work out but I think it’s the lowest possible expectation to give any broken relationship another chance.”
” Do not under-estimate how tough forgiveness is to achieve. Some people cannot overcome the trauma, the pain of the disloyalty, dishonesty and lack of trust. In itself, trying to, creates a lot of extra stress on a relationship. You will have to have those fights, those moments of misery, in a strange country without a support system. You would have to be super human to be able to just snap back into a smooth, harmonious and mutually supportive relationship. This is a big ask of anyone. I don’t think anyone can achieve this without external help, so for me, the help of a therapist on the other side would be a non-negotiable. For both of you.”
” I’ve been a trailing spouse in Nigeria, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. We moved to SA last year and will move again. Being an expat wife is hard work! There’s so much temptation around for the men. It’s either the younger women who see them as a passport and heal ticket or a single lonely colleague who is stuck out there. The insecurity used to freak me out so much. All that being said, it really does sound to me that your husband is sorry. If it was me, I’d go and try everything to get things back on track. People make mistakes and screw up, we all do.”
” Once a cheater – always a cheater. There is no excuse for what he has done. NO excuse. There are many sins one can forgive but in my opinion – not this. I’m so sorry to hear of your heartbreak. You were doing all you could to fend for your family from this side. You didn’t go looking for sex somewhere else! He’s an adult. Sure he owned up – not good enough. I don’t think he should get a free pass on this one. Sorry.”
” A quote from a very wise friend of mine…
“One of the most damaging beliefs I see out there is this idea that true love can only be experienced if a person dedicates their love to just one person. NOWHERE in our lives do we believe this to be true except for in romantic relationships.
Parents have multiple children and love each of them fully and uniquely; each person has multiple friends they also love fully and uniquely; we all have loves for multiple extracurricular activities, pets, cultures and can’t quantify one over the other; even all of our gods love their creation fully and uniquely.
In each of these instances we NEVER think that we have to choose one kid, one country, one culture, one friend, one pet, or one anything to prove our love is real. So then why when it comes to romantic relationships is there this belief that it can only be expressed with one person?
Love is love is love is love. Period. “
In my opinion: Your emotional and familial commitment to each other is far more important than a single mistake brought on by loneliness and stress. It’s just sex, not life.”
” If you guys still love each other and can work it out go for it. Marrige is not for sissies and mistakes are made but if he is sorry and wants to work it out that is a good sign.”
” Don’t believe him …. I’m sorry to sound jaded, but once a cheater, always a cheater …. he will find a way to keep her on the side even if you move over there. We women are way too naive and sometimes we don’t want to see because then we have to make a decision about our family’s future which is too difficult …. what do you want ? Ultimately?”
” To give you some hope – whenever my husband & I have hit rock bottom in the past in retrospect I see how it was an opportunity for us to grow to a deeper level of intimacy -as long as we were both willing to own our shit and own our mistakes within the relationship we have come through stronger and more in love than ever before! Thankfully we haven’t had to navigate infidelity but I can honestly say that if he’d been away for 3 months and got really lonely and had sex with someone else in the way your husband did – I would be prepared to try again. It’s worth another try as you have so much history & love together!”
” You are between the proverbial rock and hard place. Maybe understanding that you don’t have a “good answer” might help? Either choice, leave him, or go with him, will require a huge amount of energy, bravery and inner strength, from you. But please don’t kid yourself that a divorce will be easy. I don’t mean to be negative but perhaps, at least giving the relationship another try is a best worst solution? Divorce brings with it so many permanent losses and if you can pull of forgiveness and IF he can learn and rehabilitate himself, you have at least got the possibility of eventually, with a lot of work and support of putting this behind you. Lots of “ifs” to be considered.”
” I know three couples that I am very close to, who have gone through the same experience. All decided to work through this difficult time and all have come out the other side with stronger healthier marriages. It isn’t easy and it it hard to forgive but it is better than having the moments later of what ifs? Divorce is more difficult than forgiveness and I have seen more broken people because of the impact of divorce than the impact of forgiveness. Realizing our weaknesses is very difficult and your husband has had to face the fact that he isn’t as strong as what you and society have expected of him. It is a sad fact that more and more men are suffering from severe depression because it is very difficult trying to be the strong one in everything. We expect so much of our men but they find it difficult to cope with the stress of day to day life and supporting their family. This isn’t an excuse for bad behavior but it is perhaps a reason for it. The example that you can set for your children is that sometimes we face very difficult decisions and sometimes we have to forgive and work through difficult times but if you do the work and they can see that then it is likely that they will realize that relationships take work, compromise, forgiveness, love, understanding and that it isn’t something that just happens and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I sincerely hope that you give your husband a chance, consider that this isn’t habitual (which would be a totally different discussion) work together to improve your relationship
Understand that it isn’t just him that has work to do. Don’t use his indiscretion as a reason to throw everything you don’t get your way in his face (big temptation). If you didn’t love him you wouldn’t be heart broken. It will be difficult but take it day by day and consider your actions carefully before taking them.”
” There is more than one kind of love. Don’t feel pressured to display heroic indignation. You had your children and your home to keep you occupied. He on the other hand was cast into an unknown, unfamiliar and lonely situation. That could probably make anyone behave out of character. Sounds like there is still a lot of value in the relationship that is worth hanging onto.”
” I am sorry, I’m a sceptic. I understand how tough a move like this, alone, to a new country etc, is for the spouse that is financially responsible. I understand how, in some traditional marriages, this stress and responsibility puts some extra pressure on them, but our society lets men off the hook FAR too easily. The way a decent person shows love is to be trustworthy, honest and to be a respectful, decent partner. There are many other ways to let off your anxiety and inadequacy rather than having an affair. This behavior frankly, doesn’t speak to a very evolved man. I wouldn’t trust blindly. I’d go and get expert help to unpack who you are actually dealing with. Are you really sure he hasn’t cheated before? What support systems does he believe he needs to put in place to make a future possible? What genuinely is he prepared to do to ensure that he can be trusted again. In marriage, once one partner has crossed the line of infidelity, that means they do hold a larger responsibility for rebuilding going forward. He could have chosen many other ways to work through his feelings of loneliness and inadequacy than that, that didn’t involve breaking trust, lying, disrespecting his wife. I think before any choices are made, many tough conversations, with a trained third party, need to take place.”
” Cheating often a symptom of other problems… I really do believe that the damage can be repaired. I don’t believe that once a cheater always a cheater… People stray. I’m not saying infidelity is right and I’m not saying that it’s not devastating, but strangely enough, the freedom to come clean with you and receive forgiveness, can create the most amazing intimacy. It can actually establish a new level of trust and commitment that you’ve never experienced before.”
” Once upon a time, a wise counsellor told me to try distinguish between ‘contextual’ cheating and serial cheating. One can heal from contextual, if you address the context. But serial cheating is another thing.
Is it his first time?
Are you really able to forgive him (if contextual). If not, then it’s going to be more painful than it’s worth.
You both need to drill down to what the trigger is.
It’s not NOT OK what he did. But if you can work through it, it can be OK.
Not an easy journey. But if it’s the first time, it’s worth the attempt.”
” Please make sure you are financially sussed before you go. Get bank statements. Copies of policies. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
” I would not throw away a 20 year marriage and family life because of an infidelity under such specific circumstances, especially with your husband confessing to it and being so remorseful. Divorce is just not the answer I promise you. The toxic macho culture our men live in does not allow them enough avenues for sorting out their issues – and loneliness gets the better of many. I would hate to mess up so badly as he has done and not be forgiven and to know that I had wrecked my family for forever and not been able to fix it – despite desperately wanting to. Get some counselling and support for yourself to help with your personal emotions as a loving woman and wife.”