Repeated infidelity in a marriage


#1

Hello I am new to the forum but am need of some serious spiritual and mental help.

I have been married to my wife for 18 years and we have four children but I recently caught my wife with another man. After some serious arguing it came out that there had been a sexual affair. My delema is that this is the second time we have gone thru this. About five years ago we went thru the same issue. At the time I was going to college and she felt I was having an affair because I was interacting with other females in class. I was not having any affair but understood where she might think that. Because of this she went on a series of incidents that came to my knowledge at at later date. I was devestated and left for a couple of months. We reconciled after an attempt at therapy and talking with the priest at church. A year later I could not stand the thoughts running thru my head along with the talk around town about our past and I left again for a year. This time I felt I needed to "pay her back" so that I would feel better. I did, and believe me I did not feel better. It left a hole in my heart that i continue to ask for forgiveness for. We again went to therapy and counceling and this had lasted until about a month ago when i started having my suspisions. I have truly tried to understand my wife and based on what I know I feel she suffers from trauma of abuse as a child, Im suspecting of the sexual nature. I have tried to be as understand and supportive as a can but I am torn as to wether I should try again. I know I must try to forgive, as we have four children together, but I am not sure she really wants to go the whole 100% to get to the root of her unhappiness. I know our marriage has not been great but it has had it share of good. I love her and want to help but I can not live with the fact that we continue to ride this rollercoaster. i have tried and failed numerous times to try to connect her to the Holy Spirit but she seems to not want to find the root of her issues as each time we have gone to counceling it has ended in her thinking she is cured and walking away before the real healing could take place. I know this is long winded but I need help, my heart and mind do not feel we can endure this pain again.


#2

You don’t say whether she is a good person in other areas of her life. But at some point, does it matter? Is she a good mother? Does a good mother set such confusing examples for her children? What happens to them when they begin to encounter these “rumors” about mom around town? (This can be especially devastating for sons.)

This behavior has disturbing implications for your own physical health, not to mention your mental and spiritual health.

And that’s leaving aside the whole notion that she and you both are using the abandonment of sacred vows as a means of “punishing each other.” First clean up your side of that street and keep YOUR vows. You can’t control whether she keeps hers.

You have very serious decisions to make. Whether keeping a nominally intact home for your children outweighs your desire to “punish” her or save your own sanity. Divorce doesn’t so much as solve such issues as it does create a whole new set of problems that distracts from the original issue.

If she has repeatedly been unfaithful (Two times in 18 years is minimal to some people who lurk here. They’ve been through worse!) there is a question of psychological capacity to be married and whether she ever entered the marriage (or could enter it based on her background) with the expectation and ability to be faithful. That has implications for the validity of your marriage.

Are you willing to be her friend and stay with her or set her loose to live like she seems to want to just so you don’t have in your face, but still be able to have a respectful relationship for the sake of the children?

There are certain personality disorders that involve persons seeking help who never get to the root of the real problem, and as soon as therapy makes them feel good about themselves, they stop the therapy before dealing with the original underlying issue. That presents a situation where resolving the disorder is unlikely.

Please have a real heart to heart with a trusted confessor. At some point you have to decide whether you’re strong enough to continue this or whether more infidelities will weaken your ability to be a good father and concentrate on your job.

Get yourself tested for STDs, it goes without saying.

And before you abandon ship, try a Retrouvaille weekend. It will at least bring some issues to the forefront and you can find out what she is really thinking and whether you do indeed have anything left to work with. You sound like there is a possibility there. You recognize that her whole attitude of sexuality and her whole image of herself as a person may have been corrupted at an early age by abuse. A COMPETENT therapist would not let her just walk away without dealing with that issue. Please find someone to help HER see that “feeling better” does not equal cured. That it’s like people who quit taking antibiotics too soon and the real infection comes back stronger than before. Otherwise she will take this behavior to other relationships with men who may not be as nice as you (or as good to have around your children.)

And there is the real issue you as the father and protector of your children needs to handle. Can you suck it up for several more years to maintain a semblance of stability and normalcy so your children are not living with her and a parade of men coming in and out as your wife deals with her unresolved issues of worth and dignity with the kind of men who would happily exploit such a confused person for their own ends?

You did make a vow to this woman for better or for worse till death do YOU part. As it is now, in a way you are protecting her too. She has not been completely turned loose on the world out there. If she were and something bad happened with her, would you blame yourself?

You have some very difficult questions and issues to consider. I will pray for you. It’s not just about you. It’s about 4 children also. It’s about their wounded mother. It’s about years of collective damage to your relationship. I don’t get the feeling you’re ready to throw in the towel completely. You probably don’t even know yourself whether you want us to say “Leave her” or “Hang in there. It may get better.” And when there is so much internal doubt, the best thing often to do is to pray a lot and do nothing. Don’t make big decisions. Be the face of Christ and the mercy of Christ to her. Let your children see you putting their needs to have an intact home over your own pain for a while. Let her see you as the one dependable man in her life. Do you really think the kind of man who would prey on a married woman with 4 children has her interests or theirs at heart? Whatever cheating she’s done is with unstable people in unstable relationships. If you walk away from her and the kids, you cede the field to that kind of man in their lives. And don’t think for a moment the courts will consider her behavior when determining child custody.

The courts don’t care.

She may not get counseling, but YOU can go get counseling to learn how to deal with someone with her issues and to deal with your own anger so that it does not make a bad situation worse.

Good luck. I know it’s a hard situation. But based on the little you’ve said here, I personally would not advise you to throw in the towel just yet.


#3

Thank you for your guidance and prayers. You are right there is alot more to be told. During the first episode there were several instances of infidelity as far as I know this is the only one this time. As far as my “paying her back” you are right it did not solcve anything and made it worse for me. I have talk with and confessed to my preist and he helped me thru that but I will forever know what I have done. She is and does try to be a good person, she is also a good mother, I feel a lack of faith and not knowing God has always kept her from getting the help she needs. My faith is the ONLY thing that has gotten me where I am today in dealing with this situation. You are right I am really torn as to what to do and have seriously thought about what your saying as to the well being of my children. i just don’t know if i have the inner strenghth to go thru this for another five years. As far as the retreat do you know of any in the Corpus Christi, TX area. I think i would be willing to do this and see what her response would be and the effort she would put into additional counceling before I make any decision.


#4

Here's the 2010 schedule of Retrouvaille sessions in Texas. There are two in CC.

retrouvaille.org/dates.php


#5

In cleaning my house and some drawers I came across the letter my xh wrote me when he was dragging me to Retrouvaille 14 years ago. I had dim expectations it would work (it did not, but that was not because of the program, which I really think is a good one). His whole attitude was "I'm the saint trying to make this work and you need to come to this to fix you."

I wadded the letter up and threw it away. My kids do not need to find that someday and use it to rewrite history. Daddy was doing the bare minimum to get back into the house (he had left at that time and was living elsewhere. And the woman he was living with (supposedly renting a room at her condo) was due to marry someone else and move (or so he told me. But everything he said was a lie. Why should I believe that.) So he needed to get back into my good graces, or any graces at all.

Long and short of that unnecessary detail is that when you suggest going to Retrouvaille, do NOT NOT NOT NOT approach it like "you need to fix yourself."

I'd suggest more along the lines of "Honey, I love you and I want to make this work and we're heading in a bad direction. How about if we try this. I hear it's a great way to reestablish the communication we need to keep our marriage going. Let's rediscover each other and what made us fall in love with each other in the first place. I want us back."

Much better than "Do this or I'm walking. You're a problem and these people will fix you."

I remember feeling very ganged up on and even called the poor Retrouvaille couple that was doing the retreat and trying to find out if it would be another instance of xh finding allies to tell me how much I sucked.

The only thing good that came out of it was I was able to say I did try everything. (HE did not go to the follow-up meetings. Or do the follow-up exercises. He was back in the house by then. Didn't need to jump through any more hoops.)


#6

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.