I get a lot of submissions, but one in particular stuck in my mind this week and really got me thinking. A woman emailed me who had been married for twelve years and had recently found out about her husband’s affair. The affair had been going on for a number of years, and the exposure of the affair came as quite a shock.
But then the most unusual thing happened…
Instead of the husband pleading forgiveness or wanting to do whatever it takes to heal the marriage, he suggested that he shift out in the expectation that a temporary separation would help them establish what to do. In fact, it went one step further and he recommended that they cease communication for a while until he figures out if he wants to come back home.
What this illustrated to me was that this woman had given up the power in her relationship and was letting her husband decide whether or not their marriage should be saved. He had also maintained contact with the woman that he had been having the affair with.
I get annoyed when I read of situations like this happening. The one who had the affair was in complete control of what would happen from here, initiated the temporary separation, cut off all contact with his wife, maintained contact with his mistress, and left his wife dangling while he decided what he wanted to do.
This is totally unacceptable in my mind, and indicates not only a complete lack of remorse or conscience, but is also one of the most selfish actions someone could do in this situation.
When you expose an affair in a marriage, amidst the feelings of shock and betrayal is the need to determine a course of action as a couple. Despite the fact that one is the betrayor and one is the betrayee, you are both invested emotionally in this relationship and the outcome, whether it is healing or a separation, is something that has to be determined as a couple.
I recommended that the woman in question should maintain contact with her husband despite his wishes not to, and to establish clear boundaries for each other during the separation. A timeframe also needs to be set in which both parties can sit down and establish if progress is being made. Failure to do this is simply delaying the inevitable. I urged her to take back the power or walk away.
Giving all the power to either party can lead to problems, because one person inevitably ends up outside the marriage-saving process and misses their opportunity to process their feelings and heal.
While you may not feel like it, when it comes to saving your marriage, teamwork is better than doing it alone. If you feel the power in your marriage crisis is being taken away from you, it’s time to take it back.