Dear Therapist: “Life after infidelity

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“Hello! I’m 33 years old, married for 7 years, and I have two kids. 

My husband is a foreigner. We live in his country. I don’t have an official job, I work freelance with Russia. Doing this with kids is quite problematic, so I don’t actively seek customers. A job comes along – I never decline.

About three years ago, I found out about my husband’s affair. It probably never made it to the bedroom, but that’s not so important. He swore to God it wouldn’t happen again. I believed it. When I got pregnant with my second child, I found out he wanted to get back together with the same lady. I went to Russia to think about it with the baby. I decided after all that it was better not to give birth in Russia (objectively, the conditions are better, the attitude is better, the birth went the way I wanted, and I’m very glad that I gave birth here).

My husband visited a psychologist while we were in Russia, that is, he tried to work on himself. But he soon got into debt (he became a shopaholic) and he doesn’t go for sessions anymore. He still buys various crap from time to time, though.

I don’t want to have sex with him. This is probably due to these experiences, or maybe even it’s the hormones after childbirth and the fact that I’m breastfeeding. In any case, for a long time now my libido has been non-existent. 

Overall, I can’t trust him anymore. I know how easily he lies even when he looks you straight in the eye.

He’s very volatile; winds up easily; his emotions often go off the charts, like a kid. Right now, my child is in his three-year-old crisis, and it looks very similar to my husband’s behavior. It feels like my husband never fully left that period, and his family is the same – they can’t handle their emotions and always resent each other. And, yes, my husband has a tough time putting up with our son’s childish tantrums; it’s like he turns off his whole brain at once and goes mad. And it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to help my child with his emotional distress, and my husband at the same time, so that he doesn’t add oil to the fire, and doesn’t start hysterics of his own.

He’s also addicted to his phone. He’s almost always on it – on social networks. He likes to watch videos there. 

He has some good qualities, too. He admits his faults, he’s not afraid of household things like needing to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner with three courses. (I can’t stand cooking, and now we have to cook for the kids), and he likes to eat good food. I breastfed my eldest for a long time (he was never against it) and my eldest still sleeps in the same bed as me. My husband doesn’t really like the idea of sleeping with kids in the same bed, but he just nags me about it.

I don’t know what to do. Divorce? If so, I’ll definitely go to Russia and take the kids. This country is far from Russia; it’s expensive to fly to and takes ages. And I can’t just fly back on the weekend, I don’t really want to deprive my children of their father. And it feels like there’s no reason for that now – he’s trying to change. It’s like I’m going to ruin a family all of a sudden. Well, that’s understandable, it’s scary. I’ll return and I’ll be out of work, out of money, naked and alone with two little kids. 

If I stay? It feels like I’m in a swamp and it’s pulling me in more and more.”

Hello, I.!

I’ll answer you following what you’ve written.

Hello! I’m 33 years old, married for 7 years, and I have two kids.  My husband is a foreigner. We live in his country. I don’t have an official job, I work freelance with Russia. Doing this with kids is quite problematic, so I don’t actively seek customers. A job comes along – I never decline. About three years ago, I found out about my husband’s affair. It probably never made it to the bedroom, but that’s not so important. He swore to God it wouldn’t happen again. I believed it. When I got pregnant with my second child, I found out he wanted to get back together with the same lady.

In general, judging from your letter, your relationship with your husband is not very close. I mean, it’s definitely worth considering working on the relationship and, as an option, you can consider family psychotherapy. 

Something important that needs to be thought about right now is;

  • Why are you two together? 
  • For the kids? They’re never going to thank their parents who, because of them, never broke up. It’s a massive burden to understand that because of you, some people weren’t happy and were being tortured by living with a partner they didn’t want to live with.

Now let’s talk about the cheating. 

This is a big blow to women and relationships. It’s actually a blow to relationships, but almost all women tend to blame themselves for cheating, or feel like something is wrong with them. By cheating, one of the partners violates the integrity of the couple. 

Is it important that you address the question: “What does cheating mean to you”?

It’s only when you understand this that you will be able to forgive him honestly, and whether it’s possible for you to start from scratch.

I’ll tell you what it can look like to forgive someone for cheating when the couple lives on but trust isn’t coming back. 

– The wife nags her husband for all sorts of reasons; he just pisses her off.

– The wife is indifferent to her husband and does not want him. 

– Everything seems to be forgiven, but some things can upset the wife a lot: a text message from someone, husband being 10 minutes late from work (or 30 minutes, an hour…), unbearable business trips, etc.

– Digging through his phone (without his knowledge or even with), smelling clothes, looking for other people’s hair, sudden visits to work (I was just passing by…), etc.

– Blaming everything on him. No matter what happens – he’s guilty.

– Sex is either non-existent or has become very rare.

I went to Russia to think about it with the baby. I decided after all that it was better not to give birth in Russia (objectively, the conditions are better, the attitude is better, the birth went the way I wanted, and I’m very glad that I gave birth here).

My husband visited a psychologist while we were in Russia, that is, he tried to work on himself. But he soon got into debt (he became a shopaholic) and he doesn’t go for sessions anymore. He still buys various crap from time to time, though.

I don’t want to have sex with him. This is probably due to these experiences, or maybe even it’s the hormones after childbirth and the fact that I’m breastfeeding. In any case, for a long time now my libido has been non-existent.”

You can boost your libido, but it doesn’t seem that everything stems from him.

If you’re holding a grudge, then the only way out here is to work on your own feelings. When you don’t reveal your feelings, a depressive-like condition is formed (not depression in the clinical form, but the feeling of depression, for example, seeming like you don’t feel anything while in actuality you feel a lot but it’s all veiled, hidden). 

“Overall, I can’t trust him anymore. I know how easily he lies even when he looks you straight in the eye.”

That’s what’s ruining the relationship – the lack of trust. You don’t live with the person you love anymore, it’s like you live with a friend. Of course, there’s not much happiness in this life for either of you. Suspicion, doubt, distrust. What intimacy can be had here?

“He’s very volatile; winds up easily; his emotions often go off the charts, like a kid. Right now, my child is in his three-year-old crisis, and it looks very similar to my husband’s behavior. It feels like my husband never fully left that period, and his family is the same – they can’t handle their emotions and always resent each other. And, yes, my husband has a tough time putting up with our son’s childish tantrums; it’s like he turns off his whole brain at once and goes mad. And it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to help my child with his emotional distress, and my husband at the same time, so that he doesn’t add oil to the fire, and doesn’t start hysterics of his own.

He’s also addicted to his phone. He’s almost always on it – on social networks. He likes to watch videos there. 

He has some good qualities, too. He admits his faults, he’s not afraid of household things like needing to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner with three courses. (I can’t stand cooking, and now we have to cook for the kids), and he likes to eat good food. I breastfed my eldest for a long time (he was never against it) and my eldest still sleeps in the same bed as me. My husband doesn’t really like the idea of sleeping with kids in the same bed, but he just nags me about it.

I don’t know what to do. Divorce? If so, I’ll definitely go to Russia and take the kids. This country is far from Russia; it’s expensive to fly to and takes ages. And I can’t just fly back on the weekend, I don’t really want to deprive my children of their father. And it feels like there’s no reason for that now – he’s trying to change. It’s like I’m going to ruin a family all of a sudden. Well, that’s understandable, it’s scary. I’ll return and I’ll be out of work, out of money, naked and alone with two little kids.”

So far, you can see that you’re not ready to make a decision. Maybe your relationship can still be saved by attending family psychotherapy sessions, but it’s also important that you get involved in your own life.

For example:

1. Sort out your career. Whatever your income is, it will always make your life easier. It’s worth looking for opportunities to get back on your feet at any moment.

2. Work with your thoughts – start with the questions that I asked you throughout my answer.

3. You should establish clear contact with yourself and get rid of as much of the load as possible. Reading your question, it’s not quite clear what you want. What your desires are, your needs, your goals… and all of this is necessary for a single person and for a person in a relationship. 

This will lead you out of this swamp.

Take care of yourself.

Mindspa Consulting psychologist, 

Natalia Nikulina