Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Should She Confess to Her Husband?

Meanwhile, over at Slate, Emily Yoffe was advising two married women who were basically asking the same question: Should they confess their sins, both of thought and deed? Link here.

The first, a self-described happily married woman, had a one-night stand with an old friend. Now, in the light of day, she is consumed by guilt. She cannot shake the feeling that she has betrayed a man that she loves.

Apparently, she has convinced herself that she will feel less guilty if she explains it all, openly and honestly, to her husband, and if she then promises never to do it again.

Somehow, somewhere she has gotten the impression that open and honest communication is the key to marital bliss.

And she is about to turn this very bad idea into some very bad behavior.

So, she asks Yoffe to help her to figure out the best way to break the bad news.

As I would have expected from one of my favorite advice columnists, Yoffe offers the best advice. She advises the woman not to tell her husband.

Yoffe has been in the advice business for quite some time and she-- as I-- has heard of the horrors that such a confession can visit on a good marriage.

There is a great virtue to learning how to keep a secret. Telling all is a form of verbal incontinence. It should not be encouraged in the name of open and honest communication.

Strictly speaking, it is impossible to share everything. Learning to have enough self-control to keep certain things to yourself will build your character and make you a better person.

In truth, people who pretend to be open books are not very attractive. They are oppressive.

When someone confesses all to you, you impulse as an ethical being is to reciprocate. If you would rather not divulge some of your secrets, you will be placed in an uncomfortable position. You will feel torn between the need to maintain balance in the conversation and your decision not to share certain secrets with that person.

Where is this advice-seeking married woman going wrong? Simply put, she cannot see beyond her own struggle with her own guilt. She has not thought about how her husband might react to the news.

Confession might be good for the soul, but only if it is practiced with a trained confessor. You should not take your spouse as your confessor.

To regain her moral footing, this woman should ask herself how her husband might interpret her unwelcome news?

And she needs to understand, as Yoffe suggests, that if her one-night stand is not, presently, an issue in her marriage, once she confesses it will become the central issue.

Does she have a reason for making it an issue between her and her husband?

If hers was merely a singular mistake, one that had no relevance to her marriage, then the best way to ensure that it does not come between them is to forget that it ever happened. If she tells her husband he will never forget and probably never cease reminding her of it.

If she tells her husband, he will start thinking: Why is she telling me this?

He will feel betrayed, and he will feel, quite reasonably, that the woman he married, the mother of his children, cannot be trusted.

If he did not suspect anything, he will start asking himself how many other times she deceived him. And he will start wondering how many other people know about it. In who else's eyes should he feel humiliated? Is he the last to know?

All of this will cross his mind before he even gets to thinking about whether or not his children are really his.

What possible reason could she have to confess? Is she looking for a way out of the marriage? Is she afraid that he might hear the news from someone else? Or does she want him to punish her for her transgression?

As Yoffe suggests, nothing good or positive can ever come from confessing infidelity.

In the same column Yoffe addresses a problem that is very similar to this one, even though it is quite different.

Another married woman-- she does not say she is happily married, but does say that she loves her husband-- writes that she has developed a wild crush on her married boss, a man who is old enough to be her father and who has grown children. The two work and travel together.

As of now, she has not acted on this crush, but since she describes her feelings as extreme and dangerous and overwhelming, she would clearly be powerless to resist if, as she puts it, her boss were a lesser man.

She also informs us that her husband is not doing well at work himself and has been somewhat depressed.

Since depression is often associated with diminished libido, it would not be strange to imagine that this woman would find herself attracted to an older, more successful man, a man whose libido is not waning.

She does not tell us what her husband does for a living or whether he is of the same socio-economic status as her boss. We are left to suspect that the boss has higher status, higher income, and more prestige and authority.

As it happens, her husband suspects that she has a crush on her boss, but she has deflected him by saying that her boss is so old that she cannot be attracted to him.

But, how can you have a crush on someone you say is not really very attractive?. Isn‘t that a contradiction?

Clearly, this husband does not want to know anything about his wife’s crush.

I would infer, without any further information, that this woman’s husband only wants to know whether or not she is going to leave him. Given that his own libido is less than it should be, he seems to be willing to accept that she might develop feelings for a man who is more of a man than he is.

Why then would this woman want to tell her husband something that he does not want to know? And what advantage would she gain by failing to respect his wishes?

She says that she would like her husband’s advice, even though she knows that he is the last person she should ask for advice.

But, if she tells her husband that she has fallen in love with another man and that the feelings seem to be reciprocal, she is not really treating him like a husband or a lover. She is treating him as a therapist or confessor.

Some might say that she is trying to show her husband that he had best get his act together. His moping around and refusing to treat his depression is alienating her.

But then, will the news be a morale stimulant for a depressed man or will it be a mortal blow to his self-respect?

She says that she wants to keep her job, but if she tells her husband about her feelings, how then can she go off on another trip with her boss? Confessing to her husband might well doom her career.

Or, look at it in a different way: Is she asking to be admired for her restraint or asking for permission to act on her feelings?

When a woman tells her husband that she is in love with an other man and that he loves her, the conversation most often spells the end of the marriage.

Might she be testing the waters with her husband, perhaps to see how he would react to her leaving him? And if the conversation precipitates a discussion of divorce, would she then mention it to her boss to see if he too might want to get a divorce to be with her?

While the first married woman seemed committed to her marriage, this woman does not.

Still, Yoffe gives her the best advice. She tells her not to mention it to her husband, but to talk it over with someone who will listen to her in a professional capacity.

I also like her suggestion that the crush she feels for the boss is more like a test of character than a desire that needs to be acted upon.

I think the advice correct even though I also believe that this woman seems to be looking for a way out of her marriage. If that is true, then Yoffe is quite correct to refuse to collude.

If this married woman chooses to have an affair or to end her marriage, it is not for any advisor to push her toward the exit.

As it happens, we do not know whether this woman has children. I suspect that she does not because she did not mention them.

Perhaps she has not had children through a ten-year marriage because she and her husband do not want to have any. Or else, she may not have wanted to have his children? Or perhaps, given the problems at her husband's job, she might be facing the prospect of being mother and breadwinner.

Apparently, when it comes to skills at providing, her boss would do much better than her husband.

How would the situation be different if she is telling the truth about the fact that her boss is too old for her to feel attracted to him physically, but that she is really saying that she is attracted to his status, his prestige, his authority, and his financial solvency?

If that is true, she may well be trying to engineer a double divorce and a new marriage. Can you think of any other reason to confide in her husband?

29 comments:

Marsh said...

"Somehow, somewhere she has gotten the impression that open and honest communication is the key to marital bliss."

How does treating your spouse like a pet create marital bliss?

Doesn't the husband have the right to know this piece of information when it effects his life? She decided to discount him when she slept w/ her old friend, should she continue to devalue her husband by not being honest about what she did?

"Does she have a reason for making it an issue between her and her husband?"

If she truly wants to become a woman of integrity, then ending her secret life w/ her old friend might be a good beginning.

She didn't just have a one night stand. She began by secretly rekindling her 'relationship' w/ her old friend. All behind her H's back. She knew she was crossing lines she shouldn't have been, but continued down the slippery secret slope anyway.

I'd argue that if she comes clean w/ her H, she is treating her H respectfully.

Giving him the information will allow HIM to choose to stay in the M or get out. Why should the wayward spouse get to decide for her husband by w/holding her affair from him?

Moreover, if her H decides to remain in the M, won't he make certain that her "old friendship" ends? Won't it give them a chance to discuss how they can protect their M by shoring up their boundaries?

If she doesn't tell her H, then she and the other man will have a powerful secret between them that will continue to draw them together. That is the nature of secrets. They are bonding.

"He will feel betrayed, and he will feel, quite reasonably, that the woman he married, the mother of his children, cannot be trusted.

If he did not suspect anything, he will start asking himself how many other times she deceived him. And he will start wondering how many other people know about it. In who else's eyes should he feel humiliated? Is he the last to know?

All of this will cross his mind before he even gets to thinking about whether or not his children are really his."

All true.

Is sparing his feelings more important than his having the truth about his wife and marriage?

The time to have worried about his feelings would have been before she did the deed. It isn't the telling of the deed that will rock his world, it is the deed itself.

"But, if she tells her husband that she has fallen in love with another man and that the feelings seem to be reciprocal, she is not really treating him like a husband or a lover. She is treating him as a therapist or confessor."

And if she keeps her dangerous relationship to herself, is she treating her husband as a husband or lover?

"Can you think of any other reason to confide in her husband?"

If she tells him of this threat to their M he will insist/urge her to look for another job...perhaps THIS is the advice she says she wants from him.

Anonymous said...

Re the second question: an important key is that her husband is "not doing well" at his job. We CANNOT conclude that he is a bad provider, lazy, dumb, or any such, he might just be having a run of bad luck or suffering industry wide problems. But women very frequently, probably even more often than not, lose attraction to a husband who is going through a career crisis for whatever reason. Even if she doesn't leave him or have an affair, she will very likely make his life miserable. This lack of emotional support when a man needs it most seems to be the most common form of female unfaithfulness, even when it doesn't directly involve sex with someone else.

Maybe in this particular case the guy is just a loser, but there was no evidence of that. And maybe he doesn't need treatment for depresion so much as he needs more support from his wife.

There will ALWAYS be someone of higher status than any given husband, regardless of how successful and high status he is.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear

This is about the worst marriage advice I've ever seen. Almost as bad as on-line based therapist, Al Turtle's statement "I see an affair as a perhaps foolish attempt to stop a relationship that sucked. I see them as often the first healthy sign of moving to something much healthier. Of course affairs are risky, but probably not as risky as staying in the relationship without solving the pains".

Please do not give marital advice anymore. You and Yoffe have not a clue.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the comments, even the less-than-flattering ones.

I think that the first woman did not tell her husband because she did not want it to effect his life?

I will have to say that I still agree with Yoffe on the point that nothing good is going to come from her confession. True enough, she did not exactly behave very well, but telling her husband will almost surely threaten the marriage or make it very unhappy.

Of course, in some situations, people find out without being told, and that is quite a different situation.

Here the first woman regrets what she did, vows never to do it again, and does not want her husband to see her in that light.

Keep in mind that she has already cut off communication with the person she had the one-night stand with.

Perhaps she should talk about it with a minister or a therapist, the better to come to terms with what she did, but she is not the only person who has slipped up once. Ask yourself this: if everyone who ever had a one-night stand confessed to his or her spouse, how many marriages would have been destroyed.

Now, the second person is quite different from the first. This husband knows that he is losing his wife's affection. It seems likely that he has turned away from her because of some kind of business distress.

As the second commenter notes, it would be better for the wife to be more supportive. But, from the limited information available in the letter, we do not know that she was not. I suspect that she was.

I think it is clear that the husband knows that something is going on between his wife and her boss. Here we are not dealing with a one-night stand but a sustained relationship, though one that seems not to have a future.

The husband knows and does not want to know any more about it. Sometimes we do better to respect such feelings rather than to violate them.

Confessing might well cause her to look for another job, but it seems that with her husband having work problems, they need her job. I do not know how easy it is for her to get a new job. And keep in mind that if she is no longer working for her current boss, this would remove one of the barriers to their getting closer. And if her confession alienates her husband or causes him to start behaving badly toward her, then her marriage will be in danger.

I don't know whether the husband's business has hit a rough stretch for no reason of his own or whether he bears some responsibility. Of course, there is always someone more successful out there, but I got the impression that the husband was moping around, needing help for depression, and needing help beyond what she could offer.

I believe that she might be trying to find an exit from the marriage. If she treats her husband as a counselor or pastor, then she is telling him that she no longer sees him as a husband.

Or else, she wants to hear that she should maintain the status quo, and thus try to salvage her marriage.

As for the last comment, the author does not seem to be willing to explain why she thinks that my or Yoffe's advice is so bad. Thus, I cannot respond.

Anonymous said...

That's a lot of mental gymnastics to rationalize and justify CONTINUED dishonesty. Adultery destroys the very foundation of marriage. As Marsh said, it's destroyed by the act of infidelity not the act of revealing infidelity. There is no true happiness or intimacy to be found in continued secrecy. The ONLY shot these couples have a loving and lasting marriage is honesty. Honesty and truthfulness is the narrow path to intimacy. Sure they can withhold the truth and stay married, but at what cost? What a disservice you people are doing for these people. Your advice actually denies them their only shot. The husband doesn't want to know...of course he doesn't, who would? Doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be told (or that you have the right to advise whether the truth is good for him or not). I'm glad you're not my friend nor my husband's "life coach".

Jim said...

The Bible says "confess your faults, one to another" and it also says "be sure your sin will find you out". In today's very transparent world, the first wife's adultry is bound to be discovered sooner or later. It might be best to tell the husband before he finds out from other sources. King David thought his adultry with Bathsheba was undetected after he arranged for the murder of her husband, but it was discovered anyway.

The second wife's "mental" adultry may already be evident to her husband. No man likes to think that his wife would leave him for a "better brand" of husband once things are not going well for him. The vow was for "richer or poorer, etc". Jesus did say that to look upon another woman in lust was adultry in the heart and just as bad as the real physical act. Perhaps both women should confess to their husbands but also request that they both go for marriage counseling. Both marriages are definitely lacking and in need of repair. Letting sleeping dogs lie would not make things any better because, all sleeping dogs eventually wake up.

Retriever said...

I think it's okay to keep unimportant secrets (like idle female gossip with a friend) from a spouse, but not an affair, even a one night stand. It's a betrayal. Yes, the person is embarassed, ashamed, afraid of the injured spouse's reaction. Perhaps they know they will be devastated or rageful (they should have thought of that before). But their actions may have jeopardized their spouse's health (STDs, AIDs), and are a clear sign that their commitment is flagging. It should be the injured spouse's choice whether they want to stay with the adulterer or not.

A person would rather hear the truth from the person who has injured them, than as gossip or from a detective or find it out on an email left up carelessly on a computer. I've had friends who divorced adulterous spouses after finding out about the affairs, having them denied, and feeling that the lying about it was worse than the sexual infidelity.

Of course, easy for me to say as I am long married, and have never cheated on my husband and he has been faithful to me. My family jokes about the motto "Divorce never, murder maybe..."

The recovery movement has a saying "You're as sick as your secrets" because when you hide something important, you are living a lie. One lie tends to beget another until you are all twisted up. A person would be right to wonder "If they did this to me, how else have they betrayed my trust?".

To give a trivial example: both my spouse and I are devoted photographers. Both of us spend way too much money on camera equipment (our own money, we have separate accounts with our own earnings, savings). When one of us sneaks off and buys some hideously expensive camera lens or camera and conceals the purchase from the other, it is usually a sign that they are mad at the other or resentful about something and being greedy and secretive as a way of getting back at them. Eventually they fess up, and things improve. "I was feeling neglected after you spent so much time taking the brat back to college and were so caught up in their academic triumphs--what am I, chopped liver?" (the spouse who splurged may say). Revealing the self-indulgent sneaky purchase may make the other mad, but may help talk about stuff that was going unsaid and festering.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as using the truth as a weapon. Telling a depressed spouse who is having job troubles that you have a crush on your boss? Cruel and unnecessary. Having a crush is not something that requires confession. Acting on the crush would. The woman in the second example should get therapy or spiritual direction, and make a full confession of her feelings to someone professionally committed to keeping her secret. She should also seek out friends who are long married, and who she knows will give her encouragement to do the right thing and avoid what the traditional CHristian would call "occasions of sin". Not to talk about her crush, but about how to improve her marriage. Plenty of people have attractive bosses, and can be professional, and not blur boundaries. We are not animals. In this day of scarce good jobs it would be stupid to quit a good job (especially if the man is doing badly ) unless the boss is actively pursuing the woman sexually, or harassing her. If it's just a mutual attraction, they are grownups and can take cold showers and concentrate on work.

This has not happened to me since I was married, but when I was single I once supervised a guy who had a huge crush on me (and who I thought was the cat's miaow). A variety of circumstances made our dating out of the question, chiefly the fact that we worked together and it was forbidden. So we just worked together. And went our separate ways. Nobody died. Life does not end if people restrain their impulses when necessary.

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: As Bob Hope Would Put It....

THHAAAAannnks for the 'memories'....

Actually....

...not.

It all comes back in a 'rush' and it isn't particularly pleasant. However, it wasn't an 'admission' of infidelity on her part. It took time for me to realize just how 'had' I had been 'had'.

Regards,

chuck(le).....

Class factotum said...

The only reason Wife #1 wants to confess is to ease her guilt. If she is truly committed to her marriage, she needs to endure her guilt and move on. She wants to make herself feel better at her husband's expense. She should keep her mouth and her legs shut.

Marsh said...

"I think that the first woman did not tell her husband because she did not want it to effect his life?"

Again, it's not the TELLING that will effect his life. It was the DOING the deed that has effected his life. Even if he is unaware of it.

In her letter she said she was lonely. Said her H worked alot and that both of them were children centered. All of this made her M vulnerable to an affair. If she doesn't tell him about her affair what will ensure that she won't turn her one night stand into a long term affair?

Affairs are EXTREMELY addictive. She may say she vows to cut off all contact w/ the other man, but we know how seriously she took her marriage vows, don't we?

"True enough, she did not exactly behave very well, but telling her husband will almost surely threaten the marriage or make it very unhappy."

What you don't seem to understand is that the marriage is ALREADY threatened. This wife has terrible boundaries, and has learned to deceive her husband. She thinks her guilty feelings will save her from taking her clothes off for this OM or a future one. But, that is nonsense. It was her following her feelings that got her into the mess she's in now. (She felt lonely and followed those feelings to another man's bed.)

Shouldn't her husband know this about his wife?

"I think it is clear that the husband knows that something is going on between his wife and her boss. Here we are not dealing with a one-night stand but a sustained relationship, though one that seems not to have a future.

The husband knows and does not want to know any more about it. Sometimes we do better to respect such feelings rather than to violate them."

The letter said he suspects something is going on between his wife and her boss, but believed the lie his wife told him. This does not mean he doesn't WANT to know his marriage might be in danger.

If she respected her husband, valued her marriage, she would RUN from that job.

Sadly, I suspect that any counseling this wife would get would tell her she can stay at her job, while resisting her growing feelings.

She will not be able to. And two marriages/families will end up destroyed.

Her only hope would be to quit her job. But, seeing as how her feelings have already grown to the point where she is afraid she may "do something stupid", she will not quit her job on her own.

If she told her husband that she is afraid her feelings will threaten their marriage, he would help her to see she must quit her job.

Marsh said...

"The only reason Wife #1 wants to confess is to ease her guilt. If she is truly committed to her marriage, she needs to endure her guilt and move on. She wants to make herself feel better at her husband's expense. She should keep her mouth and her legs shut."

It doesn't matter WHY she wants to confess. What matters here is doing the right thing after the wrong thing has been done.

Anonymous said...

The irony of the story is that both these women likely have husbands that are, in turn, screwing their secretaries. They didn't do it that often and they tried to stop it many times. They even wanted to confess to their wives albeit their "life coaches" talked them out of it.

Anonymous said...

Are we this removed from reality?

Of course she shouldn't tell him, 'cuz he'll probably beat the shit out of her.

Oh, he's a big pussy who would never beat her ass bloody for cheating?

No wonder she cheated on him, he's a pussy....

(You can deny it, but this is how this fallen world works....)

--Gray

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, all, for the spirited discussion.

I think that I come at this from the same place that Yoffe does. I have known any number of people who have tried to soothe their guilty conscience by confessing an extra-marital fling.

Every one of them has lived to regret it. No one would ever recommend that anyone else do it the same way. On those rare occasions when the marriage survived, it was never the same again.

Some people say that they want to know, but I am not sure that they know what that feels like.

I also know people who have had a one-night stand and not told. I have found, from observation, that their marriages were far better than were those of the people who confessed.

When people consult with me, or when they write to Emily Yoffe, they want to know the best course to save their marriages. Isn't that a noble goal?

Clearly, if a cheating spouse has been caught, he or she would do better to acknowledge his or her affair or dalliance or one-night stand.

Otherwise you would be accusing your spouse of being delusional.

And yet, ask yourself the next question. How much detail should the cheating spouse divulge?

You will recall that Tiger Woods went to sex addiction rehab to cure his sex addiction. And you may recall that one aspect of the treatment was for him to tell his wife all the details of his many affairs.

At the time, I said that that was a bad idea. I still think it was. It may be that what with the publicity, the Woods marriage was doomed anyway, but I doubt that the tell-all sessions did anything more than precipitate its demise.

And then there is the case of David and Clara Harris. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the movie I just saw about them, but at one point, after David had been caught cheating, he was advised by his pastor, I believe, to tell his wife everything that had happened, in detail.

I recall that as I saw this I cringed to see them getting such bad advice. He was being advised to submit his wife to an extreme form of humiliation, to no real end.

It may have been true that the Harris marriage was doomed anyway, but I would certainly have wanted the problem to resolved otherwise than the way it was.

Dennis said...

I have to admit I am continually amazed at how quickly those who are committing the act, especially if they are women, are given justifications that make their spouses, especially men, into the reason that all things bad happen. Where did we develop these ideas that only men are the bad actors? It totally ignore a few thousand years of experience. Just amazing!

JP said...

Stuart says:

"When people consult with me, or when they write to Emily Yoffe, they want to know the best course to save their marriages. Isn't that a noble goal?"

This completely depends on the moral subroutine you are using to analyze actions.

For example, if truth is on the top of your list, then confession is best.

If "marraige saving" is on the top of your list above truth, then confession is a bad idea.

To me, since there was moral error involved, you need to analyze if using a moral reasoning framework. However, one of these frameworks is correct. One is incorrect.

I generally look at situations like this from an analytical framework. Since this is a moral question, I believe that there is a absolutely correct answer here.

Kind of like 2+2=4.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

That's a fair point, JP.

And I believe that Yoffe and I would both agree with your analysis.

Then, I would ask whether it would not be better for her to confess to a confessor, a counselor, or a therapist, than to confess to her husband?

And does everyone who thinks that she should confess to her husband believe that the act is justified no matter what the consequences.

Anonymous said...

I see a big difference between the two cases. The first might really have just been a "fling"//obviously there are problems in the relationship since she said she's lonely, but maybe they can now focus more on each other & the a little less on the kids. Agree with your recommendation on this one: don't tell him about it.

The second is much more serious because of the husband's career vulnerability. What I predict will happen: If the boss does NOT approach her sexually, she will begin to doubt her attractiveness, and will seek an affair with someone else, maybe justifying it as being lower risk than the one with her boss would have been.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree, there is a very big difference in the two cases, and I'm glad that you re-emphasized the point.

A one-night stand with someone who can easily be separated out of her life is not at all the same thing as a crush on someone a woman works and travels with. The level of emotional connection in the case of the woman and her boss is surely far more dangerous to the marriage.

I am far less optimistic about it. In fact, I think you make a very good point, to the effect that this woman seems to have moved away from her marriage in a significant and meaningful way, and that if nothing happens with the boss, then the chances are good, as you say, that she will look elsewhere.

In a way, the fact that the older man is much older, married, and is her boss seems to give her latitude in allowing herself to develop an emotional attachment to him-- he is in many ways safe. I think you are right, the next one will probably not be as safe.

Marsh said...

"Every one of them has lived to regret it. No one would ever recommend that anyone else do it the same way. On those rare occasions when the marriage survived, it was never the same again."

Have you ever met a betrayed spouse who wished they were kept in the dark about their wayward spouse and marriage?

Wayward spouses should have ZERO expectations for recovering their marriages after they committed adultery. And I mean ZERO. Those who confess b/c they hope to GAIN something from it (like easing their guilty feelings)are certain to be disappointed.

They should confess b/c it is the right thing to do. B/c they believe their betrayed spouse deserves to make an informed decision whether or not THEY want to continue the marriage.

It is a shame when waywards regret TELLING more than they did the infidelity. Repentant waywards would NEVER complain about the fall out from the telling.

Unfortunately, many waywards stay in the wayward mindset...even after their marriage ends.

"When people consult with me, or when they write to Emily Yoffe, they want to know the best course to save their marriages. Isn't that a noble goal?

Clearly, if a cheating spouse has been caught, he or she would do better to acknowledge his or her affair or dalliance or one-night stand.

Otherwise you would be accusing your spouse of being delusional."

Isn't that what the second wife did when she denied her feelings for her boss? When her husband asked her about what was going on, she lied and said, don't be silly he's too old for me to be interested in him. Silly, delusional, ridiculous, out of his mind...whatever.

We don't know how many lies the first wife told her husband about where she was the night she took her clothes off for her old friend. We don't know if he was uncomfortable w/ her renewing her old friendship. Or whether he suspected something was up when he saw her texting him a lot prior to her ONS. Doesn't this husband deserve to know that he wasn't delusional when he thought something was up?

"And yet, ask yourself the next question. How much detail should the cheating spouse divulge?"

How many details the cheating spouse divulges should depend upon how many details the betrayed spouse wants. Some betrayed spouses don't want to know any details. Others need to know everything.

Allow me to post a letter a betrayed spouse wrote her wayward spouse when he refused to answer her questions regarding his affair...

Marsh said...

(Letter)

"I know you are feeling the pain of guilt and confusion. I understand that you wish all this never happened and that you wish it would just go away. I can even believe that you truly love me and that your indiscretion hurts you emotionally much the same way it hurts me. I understand your apprehension to me discovering little by little, everything that led up to your indiscretion, everything that happened that night, and everything that happened afterwards. I understand. No one wants to have a mistake or misjudgment thrown in his or her face repeatedly. No one wants to be forced to "look" at the thing that caused all their pain over and over again. I can actually see, that through your eyes, you are viewing this whole thing as something that just needs to go away, something that is over, that he/she doesn't mean anything to you, so why is it such a big issue? I can understand you wondering why I torture myself with this continuously, and thinking, doesn't he/she know by now that I love him/her? I can see how you can feel this way and how frustrating it must be. But for the remainder of this letter I'm going to ask you to view my reality through my eyes.

"You were there. There is no detail left out from your point of view. Like a puzzle, you have all the pieces and you are able to reconstruct them and be able to understand the whole picture, the whole message, or the whole meaning. You know exactly what that picture is and what it means to you and if it can effect your life and whether or not it continues to stir your feelings. You have the pieces, the tools, and the knowledge. You can move through your life with 100% of the picture you compiled. If you have any doubts, then at least you're carrying all the information in your mind and you can use it to derive conclusions or answers to your doubts or question. You carry all the "STUFF" to figure out OUR reality. There isn't really any information, or pieces to the puzzle that you don't have.


continued...

Marsh said...

"You will recall that Tiger Woods went to sex addiction rehab to cure his sex addiction. And you may recall that one aspect of the treatment was for him to tell his wife all the details of his many affairs.

At the time, I said that that was a bad idea. I still think it was. It may be that what with the publicity, the Woods marriage was doomed anyway, but I doubt that the tell-all sessions did anything more than precipitate its demise."

Tiger's wife needed to know just how in the dark she had been kept. She needed to be able to make an INFORMED decision about whether or not she wanted to try to recover her marriage.

Coming clean was the least Tiger could do for her.

And facing the ugly truth of his hidden life by looking into his wife's eyes was the best thing that could happen to Tiger.

Marsh said...

Oh no. The rest of the letter didn't post.

Let me try to post the rest now.

Letter continued...

"Now let's enter my reality. Let's both agree that this affects our lives equally. The outcome no matter what it is well affect us both. Our future and our present circumstances are every bit as important to me as it is to you. So, why then is it okay for me to be left in the dark? Do I not deserve to know as much about the night that nearly destroyed our relationship as you do? Just like you, I am also able to discern the meaning of certain particulars and innuendoes of that night and just like you, I deserve to be given the opportunity to understand what nearly brought our relationship down. To assume that I can move forward and accept everything at face value is unrealistic and unless we stop thinking unrealistically I doubt our lives well ever "feel" complete. You have given me a puzzle. It is a 1000 piece puzzle and 400 random pieces are missing. You expect me to assemble the puzzle without the benefit of looking at the picture on the box. You expect me to be able to discern what I am looking at and to appreciate it in the same context as you. You want me to be as comfortable with what I see in the picture as you are. When I ask if there was a tree in such and such area of the picture you tell me don't worry about it, it's not important. When I ask whether there were any animals in my puzzle you say don't worry about it, it's not important. When I ask if there was a lake in that big empty spot in my puzzle you say, what's the difference, it's not important. Then later when I'm expected to "understand" the picture in my puzzle you fail to understand my disorientation and confusion. You expect me to feel the same way about the picture as you do but deny me the same view as you. When I express this problem you feel compelled to admonish me for not understanding it, for not seeing it the way you see it. You wonder why I can't just accept whatever you chose to describe to me about the picture and then be able to feel the same way you feel about it.

Marsh said...

Letter continued...

"So, you want me to be okay with everything. You think you deserve to know and I deserve to wonder. You may honestly feel that the whole picture, everything that happened is insignificant because in your heart you know it was a mistake and wish it never happened. But how can I know that? Faith? Because you told me so? Would you have faith if the tables were turned? Don't you understand that I want to believe you completely? But how can I? I can never know what is truly in your mind and heart. I can only observe you actions, and what information I have acquired and slowly, over time rebuild my faith in your feelings. I truly wish it were easier.

"So, there it is, as best as I can put it. That is why I ask questions. That is where my need to know is derived from. And that is why it is unfair for you to think that we can effectively move forward and unfair for you to accuse me of dwelling on the past. My need to know stems from my desire to hold our world together. It doesn't come from jealousy, it doesn't come from spitefulness, and it doesn't come from a desire to make you suffer. It comes from the fact that I love you. Why else would I put myself through this? Wouldn't it be easier for me to walk away? Wouldn't it be easier to consider our relationship a bad mistake in my life and to move on to better horizons? Of course it would, but I can't and the reason I can't is because I love you and that reason in itself makes all the difference in the world."

(end of Letter)

Marsh said...

Exactly, JP.

"And does everyone who thinks that she should confess to her husband believe that the act is justified no matter what the consequences."

Yes. I do. She needs to face those consequences so she can become a woman of integrity.

And her husband needs and deserves to know about the affair so he can adjust to the reality of his life.

Marsh said...

"I see a big difference between the two cases. The first might really have just been a "fling"//obviously there are problems in the relationship since she said she's lonely, but maybe they can now focus more on each other & the a little less on the kids. Agree with your recommendation on this one: don't tell him about it."

But, how can he focus on fixing the problems in their relationship if he doesn't know how vulnerable his marriage is?

The truth is, her excuse about feeling lonely was just a way to justify what she did. It was not what led her to her ONS. It was her poor boundaries. Coupled w/ her feelings of entitlement.

Those boundaries and feelings of entitlement will not get better by keeping her spouse in the dark.

Marsh said...

"A one-night stand with someone who can easily be separated out of her life is not at all the same thing as a crush on someone a woman works and travels with."

This wasn't a stranger she hooked up w/ for a night. He was an old friend. Someone she already had an emotional connection w/.

Do we know if she has cut off all contact w/ him? Has she blocked him from her face book? Her e-mails? Her phone?

Again, affairs are VERY addictive. She may firmly be committed to no contact TODAY, but when he contacts her again, saying he misses her or wants to talk "just as friends", it is doubtful she will not get sucked back in.

"The level of emotional connection in the case of the woman and her boss is surely far more dangerous to the marriage."

And yet, you don't think her husband should not be warned of this danger?


"I am far less optimistic about it. In fact, I think you make a very good point, to the effect that this woman seems to have moved away from her marriage in a significant and meaningful way, and that if nothing happens with the boss, then the chances are good, as you say, that she will look elsewhere.

In a way, the fact that the older man is much older, married, and is her boss seems to give her latitude in allowing herself to develop an emotional attachment to him-- he is in many ways safe. I think you are right, the next one will probably not be as safe."

She may have lowered her boundaries w/ him in the beginning b/c she figured there wasn't much of a danger in it.

She's since learned that when she allowed another man outside your marriage to meet your emotional needs it doesn't matter what his age is.

She is detached to her husband b/c she is attached to another one. The only hope for her marriage is for her to establish no contact w/ her boss...for life.

She fell in love w/ her husband once. There is no reason she can't fall in love w/ him again.

She will not be able to fall in love w/ her husband again while she remains in contact w/ her boss.

She has to go cold turkey. Get through the feelings of w/drawal from her boss. And then she can try to reconnect w/ her husband.

Anonymous said...

What a tragedy for wife 1. This is a burden she must carry the rest of her life in secret, because she dare not "share" this misery with her husband. It's a reason for the weariness in the eyes of some old people and their compassion for others.

Wife 2, on the other hand, sounds like a bimbo, and likely no advice will deter her from the course she plods.

That Girl said...

i wish that i had come across this blog a long time ago.

very interesting reading.