Reader Crushed writes:
I just found out my husband had a one night stand. It was with some random girl from a bar in the back of our minivan seven months ago. We have been together 13 years, and he says this is the only time. He didn't fess up, I called him out on it.
I just knew somehow. We have two kids and I am six months pregnant. I feel so betrayed and angry and I hate him. I can't stop thinking about it, and I've always said that it would be the only reason I would ever divorce him.
And at the same time, I'm not sure I could divorce him; he's my only love since we were kids. I'm so confused. I don't even know what steps to take (aside from getting tested).
I feel for you. What a terrible thing to happen, and the timing couldn't be worse, when you are pregnant and feeling overwhelmed. I want to assure you that your conflicted feelings toward your husband are completely normal. Dr. Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligencebelieves that the "new shame" is staying with a partner who has been unfaithful, since nowadays, the common "wisdom" is to immediately leave someone who has cheated. Yet, many times, things are not that simple. For one, as you say, many times, you still love your partner, and have a family together.
Just because he did a terrible thing does not mean that your husband is a terrible person. There is the possibility that your relationship will grow, and you will become closer than ever if you can look at this affair as something bad that happened to your marriage, rather than you viewing your husband as the enemy.
There are many paths to recovering from infidelity, and many couples are able to look back at the affair as a time that facilitated tremendous growth in their relationship. Sometimes, it helps shine a light on problems in the marriage, or opens up a dialogue about sex and intimacy.
Right now you are reeling, so it is necessary for your husband to express his sorrow and to apologize, and to empathize with how you feel. This is crisis mode for your marriage. You will likely feel a lot of ambivalence, like you suggest in your letter to me. Some moments, you will hate your husband, other moments you will beg him not to leave. You will be consumed with questions and with figuring out if he has ever cheated before or wants to again. This would be a great time to get into couples counseling if the conflict escalates out of control.
At a later point, if you want to repair the marriage, it will be time for you both to empathize with the other. This would include you asking your husband how he felt that led to him cheating. This doesn't mean that you excuse or condone his behavior, but that you try to understand it. If you want to build your connection stronger than even before, you need to be open to taking his perspective and understanding what this one night stand meant to him.
Maybe he felt overwhelmed with two kids and one more on the way. Maybe he has felt sexually unattractive, and he feels like a sexless dad rather than a sexual man, and this one night stand made him feel alive (feeling alive is a common reason that people have affairs). Maybe he has never felt confident in his ability to be with other women, since from what you say about him being your only love since you were kids, it's possible you were his only partner.
If you want to reconnect on a deep level, you need to know where your husband was coming from. And, of course, he needs to completely acknowledge and validate how you felt, and how it may be difficult to trust him in the future.
Thanks for writing in, and keep me updated. And 'til we meet again, I remain, "The Blogapist Who Says There Are No 'Right' Answers in the Aftermath of Infidelity."