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5 Ways to Move Past the Affair When He Won’t

margaret rutherford, dr. margaret, midlife boulevard

After the post on healing from affairs 2 weeks ago, a reader wrote in.  She asked me to not use any of her exact words, preferring complete anonymity.

Thus I am speaking for her.

Question:  “All of these ideas sound logical.  But what if he had the affair and wouldn’t DO anything about it?  My husband just said to me the affair was over.  We needed to get on with our lives.  He was sorry.  Therapists just want to make a lot of money off people like us.  He wouldn’t go to therapy.  We didn’t need it.  Plus I felt I was in no shape financially to leave him.  I had been a stay-at-home mom and hadn’t had a career.  If I got angry, he might have left me and I didn’t want that.  He might go back to her! I felt completely stuck!  I just acted like I was okay and we went on.”


The last thing a lot of men want to do is talk about their feelings.  If they have had an affair?  You might as well ask them to give up their favorite sport and take up crochet.

The best advice I had for her, or for you or someone you know?  Realize that “acting like you are okay” will have an impact on you.  As well as feeling angry and a myriad of other feelings, with no place to put those feelings.

If he (or she) won’t “do the work”, then here are some suggestions.

1)  Affairs make you feel replaced.  That feels lousy.  You need to work on your own sense of worth.  Of competence.  That can happen in many ways: spiritual, physical, emotional, practical, relational.

2)  Consider altering that financial dependence.  Perhaps go back to school or consider getting some kind of certification.  Look into a part-time or even a full-time position.  Even if you stay together, you will know that it is not out of fear of not being able to care for yourself.

3)  Find ways to express those feelings. You can do it through activity, through art.  Through journaling or writing. Therapy can be helpful as well.   A conversation with/confrontation of the “other person” is something that can occur, (although ideally this is done by the couple together).  One word of caution.  Sometimes if you are feeling well-understood in therapy, and not at all at home, the therapy itself can seem to highlight more of the problems in your relationship.  Just be aware of that and how it might be affecting your decision-making. They are two very different relationships.

4)  Patience can be a virtue.  Sometimes it is the initial guilt that keeps someone from agreeing to “do the work”.  Fear that talking will only make things worse.  Once the dust has settled and he or she finds out you are not going anywhere, perhaps there will be more willingness to talk through some things.  We all make mistakes.  Some of us are horrible at admitting them.  Perhaps your patience will save your marriage.

5)  Realize that you have to repair the damage done to your intuition.  Your gut instinct.  If your partner won’t participate in a discussion about the whys and wherefores of their decision to have an affair, you are left with lots of questions.  Perhaps there were things you “picked up on” that now make more sense.  That was your instinct trying to get your attention.  He or she may still deny that those “things” had anything to do with the affair.

You may have to agree to disagree.  But it is important for you to reconnect with that instinct.  To not blame yourself.  Anyone can keep a secret.   Anyone.

The trust will be difficult to regain if he or she is not willing to actively work on it with you.  But if it’s your choice to hang in there, then look for ways that you can try to trust again.  If you can’t find them, then perhaps everything will need to be reevaluated.

midlife boulevard, columnist, midlife women, middle-age, midlife crisis

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012 with the website “NestAche”, and following with in April 2014. Her work can be found here on Midlife Boulevard, as well as the Huffington Post, Boomeon, WeWantMore, BetterAfter50 and Arkansas Women Bloggers.

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Thursday 10th of July 2014

So when you highlight the "Anyone can keep a secret. Anyone". Are you referring to "get even and have a secret affair" yourself? That is what my mind would tell me by reading that.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Thursday 10th of July 2014

Interesting take on my words. That's a reaction that some people have, for sure. But that's not what I meant. In fact, that choice usually breeds more chaos and hurt and doesn't solve any problems. AND involves a 4th person in this whole scenario - and their family, if they have one. What I meant was to realize that you not being able to somehow read between the lines or figure it all out - it's simply not your fault that you couldn't or didn't do that. Secrets are easier to keep than we all think. That's a little scary to realize, but it's true. A lot of people somehow blame themselves - feel like they could have stopped it somehow. Thanks for commenting!

Anne Parris

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Really solid advice, Margaret! I hope this helps someone who is reading it.

Dr.Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

I certainly hope so as well! Thanks Anne.

Carol Cassara

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Yes, such wisdom here. By all means, work on yourself if he won't participate.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Thanks Carol so much. This happens a lot so hoped it would be a question that others would find helpful!

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