Life

Ask Fiona: Nothing feels the same after my husband's affair

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective to a woman trying to cope after her husband's affair and another who

An affair is a traumatic and damaging experience in any relationship
By Fiona Caine, PA

SIX months ago, I found out my husband had been having an affair. It was a great shock and after a truly spectacular row, I made him leave. Our children were also deeply hurt and troubled by this. We stayed apart for about four months, although he did visit the children.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, I let him come back after, he had apologised and said he'd made a huge mistake. He also said he really did love me and that nothing like this would ever happen again. It was OK at first, but as time has gone by, I feel as though it's just not working and it doesn't feel the same. Everything between us feels contrived and forced, especially our love life, which has become almost routine, something we do because we don't know what else to do.

I now worry that perhaps the only reason he came back was to be near the children, and not me. I also cannot shake the certainty that he is still seeing this other woman, even though he promised it's over. I find myself checking his phone and tablet whenever I get the chance, to see if there are any messages from her. I get suspicious whenever he goes out, and I am sure he is getting fed up with the number of calls I make while he is at work.

I am tired, stressed and occasionally angry, and I just don't know what to do for the best. The children are clearly happier that he's back, but I am not, though I think I do still have feelings for him. I wish things could go back to the way they were, but they clearly can't, and I worry I've made a mistake in letting him back, but I really don't want to hurt the children again. I'm so confused.

KF

FIONA SAYS: You have every right to be confused, angry, resentful, and hurt – however, I don't think it was a mistake for you to give him a second chance. After all, you indicate that you still have feelings for him, and of course you have the children to consider as well. Given that, it was perhaps the logical thing for you to do, if you wanted to try and rescue your marriage.

What you probably didn't appreciate at the time, was just how traumatic and damaging an affair can be to a relationship. The reality is your husband slept with another woman, and in the process betrayed the trust you had between you. He hurt you and has badly undermined your self-confidence. So, it's not surprising that you still have doubts – and your husband needs to understand that it falls to him to do the heavy lifting in terms of reassuring you.

In that context, though, it's probably not a good idea to constantly check your husband's phone, social media posts and physical whereabouts. It'll be exhausting, as you've found, and no way to re-establish trust, as sooner or later he will grow to resent the constant scrutiny. Better to work together to find ways to overcome these difficulties and give yourselves the best chance of saving your relationship.

It's time to start communicating, only then can you hope to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it's hard to start the process so you will almost certainly find it helpful to talk with a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk).

MY HUSBAND MAKES ALL OUR DECISIONS

OVER the past few years, I have turned my life around.

When I got married, I was quiet and uncertain about everything. I was nervous around people and panicked any time I had to do something outside of my comfort zone. Now I have a good job, some good friends that I see regularly and am genuinely happy. I am also actively involved in my local swimming club.

A lot of this change was due to the support and encouragement I got from husband. Early in our marriage, he would make all the decisions, where we would go on holiday, what bank account to have and how much we would spend on things. At the time, I was happy for him to do this – but now I would like to have my say about things and take part in the decision making, but he's not letting me.

For example, we spent a lot of time recently trying to choose the right colour to paint our bedroom. Although we hadn't decided, he went ahead and bought his choice anyway. This probably seems trivial, but it really annoyed me. Then last week he came home and announced he had booked a trip to the West Country for our holiday. We have been holidaying here regularly for the past six years, but I really wanted to go somewhere different his time, and he knew this.

When I told him I was upset about this, he got angry and accused me of being argumentative and no longer respecting him. I lost it at that point – we had a big row and have hardly spoken since. The fact is, I do love and respect him but am finding it hard to like him just now. What do I have to do to get our marriage back on track before it falls apart?

LE

FIONA SAYS: You've changed – and it seems your husband is struggling to come to terms with the new, more confident you. Given that he actively encouraged you, it's odd that he should react this way. However, the fact he is makes me think that he may be feeling insecure and threatened.

He's been accustomed (or perhaps even needs) to being in control of everything around him. He may resent having that taken from him, or perhaps he is worried about losing you. You're a different person now, one that may no longer be attracted to him, or could even think about leaving him for someone else. Alternatively, to be happy, he may simply need someone to need him.

We could speculate forever, but the bottom line is that your relationship is no longer unequal, and he needs to adjust. This will mean discussing things with you and reaching an agreement, rather than assuming he can continue to make all the decisions on his own. So, encourage him to talk – explain that he has helped you to become a stronger, more rounded person and that excluding you from the decision-making process is now unreasonable.

Emphasise that you love him and that if he loves you, there is no reason you can't make this work. It should make your marriage stronger, not tear it apart. Hopefully he will accept this and let you in. However, if he can't or won't, it's possible you may need counselling to work out your differences and find a healthy way forwards. I would encourage you to contact Relate (relate.org.uk).

SHOULD I GO BACK TO MY EX?

OUT of the blue, my ex-fiancé recently emailed me and said he really wants us to try again. He says he is genuinely sorry and thinks he made a terrible mistake before. He also hopes I can forgive him and wants us to meet up soon to talk.

I was very much in love when we split two years ago, so I am not sure how I feel about this. The other problem is, I have started to see someone else and he's really nice. It took me a long time to feel ready for another relationship and I have only just started to feel happy again, though it's probably too soon to know if the relationship is going anywhere.

Now this has happened and I am totally confused. What should I do?

JN

FIONA SAYS: You need to think carefully about this and not let your emotions take over. I can't decide for you, but I can suggest a few things that you may need to consider before deciding.

First up, do you still have feelings for him? Can you forgive the fact that he treated you badly? What reassurance do you have that he won't do so again? Has he really changed? What motivated him to want to come back to you now?

You say that things with the new man you are seeing are looking good and that he's making you happy, so now may not be the time throw it all away. If you feel that you have a real chance of developing a loving relationship with him, perhaps you ex should remain just that? I wish you well, whatever you decide.

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO BREAK UP

WHEN I first met my boyfriend, he was fun to be with and caring. For the past few months though, things have been more than a bit strained between us and we spend a lot of our time together arguing about nothing.

I no longer look forward to being with him and have suggested that perhaps we should split up, but he then gets all ‘hurt' and says he loves me. The problem is, I'm now certain I don't love him. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I really need to split up with him and I don't know how to.

AJ

FIONA SAYS: If it's over for you – then the relationship is over. Unfortunately, I suspect there is not going to be an easy and painless way for you to make this split, especially as it seems he still has feelings for you. Nothing will be gained, though, by dragging out this relationship when you are clearly so unhappy.

All you can do is be direct with him and make it clear, gently, that you want the relationship to end. Stay calm and explain that you're unable to return his feelings and that, as such, you see no future for the relationship. Hopefully, he'll be able to accept this and move on; though, as I hinted above, I think he will be hurt.

You shouldn't let this deter you from doing what needs to be done though. Any delay will only allow your feelings to fester and your resentment to grow, to the point where a friendly split becomes much harder.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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