Skip to content

Stay focused post-affair

Three years ago, after 25 years of marriage and three children, my husband had an affair with a woman. It ended when I found out. They spoke often on the phone and sent emails back and forth, as well as had sex.

Three years ago, after 25 years of marriage and three children, my husband had an affair with a woman. It ended when I found out. They spoke often on the phone and sent emails back and forth, as well as had sex. They planned to remain friends but she couldn't handle that. Recently she has been in touch with my husband, which I feel is not appropriate and he should tell her so, gently. I question, among other things, why he needs this friendship and what it says about his respect for me. I would appreciate your input.

Answer:

There is nothing like an affair to blow a marriage out of the water. Once it's out there the best thing to do is to take a long hard look at it. Unfortunately, most people tend to focus on the affair rather than on the marriage.

It sounds like you have been able to step back a bit and wonder what your husband's connection with his ex-lover says about his relationship with you. This is a good place to start. I think of an affair as a symptom or signal that something is out of balance in the life of the individual who engages in the affair.

There are many events that can create this imbalance: professional pressures, health issues, the death of a friend or family member, financial concerns, worries about children, etc.

Such concerns can contribute to marital discord and a breakdown in communication.

Given enough pressure, people can get shaky and lose their moral footing. Affairs don't just happen. There is an underlying emotional dissonance that fuels the decision to risk the loss of one's marriage and family. Knowing more about that dissonance may help you understand both the affair and your husband's recent decision to engage in a friendship with his ex-lover.

It may help to go back a few years and consider the tensions that were playing out in both of your lives around the time of the affair. What challenges were each of you up against and how well did you address them? Look too at how open and honest your communication has been since the affair ended. Have you been able to ask your husband directly about what he gets from the friendship with his ex-lover? Have you let him know what concerns this re-connection presents for you?

If you can get clear about your part in the triangle and define your position to your husband in a calm and thoughtful manner you may get some relief from the present tensions. Further, don't underestimate the importance of staying well connected. Being cool and distant will only ratchet up the intensity. Working on yourself rather than pressuring him to change is your best bet. This is not easy in the face of a past infidelity.

It may be a small comfort to know that there is a saying in the field of couples counselling that "affairs have saved many marriages." There can be numerous subtle betrayals in the life of a marriage that get overlooked or go unaddressed.

An affair delivers a power punch that can serve as both a wake up call and a catalyst for improvement in the marital connection. The thoughtful tone in your question suggests that you may be able to stay focused on yourself and pull up the maturity required to best address the present challenge. Good luck with what lies ahead.

Margaret Anne Speak, M.A., C.C.C. works with couples, individuals, and families from a Bowen Family Systems perspective at Family Services of the North Shore. Questions? Write onthecouch@ familyservices.bc.ca or call 604-988-5281.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks