Relationship Connection: I’m being pushed away in my marriage

Question

I’ve been married about 21 years. Six months after we got married we had our first child. When this happened, my wife utterly changed from being an easy-going person to being mean all the time. She developed a short temper, mood swings, became physically abusive toward me, and yelled at me constantly. When this happened, I felt betrayed. This was not the person I married anymore.

This has continued for the entire marriage up until I had an affair. I felt like I was driven away from her. I wanted to feel connected again to a loving human being and not the person my wife had become. I have stayed in this relationship because I love her. Although it has gotten more tolerable over the years, she is now menopausal and has no interest in physical intimacy. I am so frustrated. I made the promise to myself to never do that again but again, I feel like I am being driven away from her. What do we do?

Answer

If you’re serious about keeping your marriage together, you can do things differently this time. I don’t doubt the pain you’ve suffered in your marriage, but turning away from your wife toward another woman a second time isn’t going to soothe your aching heart. Your marriage has serious injuries that need immediate attention. You have to choose whether you’ll turn toward your marriage or turn away from it.

I have some tough feedback for you regarding your situation. Even though you feel your wife was difficult to live with early in your marriage, engaging in an affair has created additional damage that you will need to repair, regardless of how bad you’re currently hurting.

You’ve probably experienced a similar dynamic in your parenting. Have you ever gone over the top in disciplining your child for something they did wrong and overwhelmed them? Perhaps you yelled at them or scared them in your attempt to discipline them and they completely shut down. In that moment, you were faced with a choice. You could stay aggressive and pretend you didn’t just injure the relationship between the two of you, or you could back off, take accountability for your overreaction, and then address the original issue later.

Your affair was an overreaction to the pain you were feeling in your marriage. I recognize you have a lot of pain you want to share with your wife to let her know how difficult things have been in your marriage. There is a lot to share with her regarding how betrayed you have felt in her treatment of you over the years. She needs to repair those injuries with you so your marriage can heal. However, if you minimize the impact of the affair or justify having another one, you will never heal as a couple.

Lead out with accountability and remorse for the damage you’ve caused with your affair. Let her know that you want to restore trust with her and have a good marriage. I like the simple wisdom found in the song “Divisionary” by the band Ages and Ages:

Do the right thing

Do it all the time

Make yourself right

Never mind them

Don’t you know you’re not the only one suffering?

If you want to save your marriage, don’t wait around for her to own her mistakes and make things right with you. Own your own betrayals and make them right. If she chooses not to take accountability for her behavior, you’ll have to make some difficult decisions about your relationship. Working with a marriage counselor who knows how to work with these issues will help you navigate this fragile process of repairing your bond. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it doesn’t create more regret.

Chances are, if she sees that you’re willing to lead out with accountability and prove to her that you won’t choose anyone else, it will make it easier for her to see her own contribution to the marital dissolution and you can both actively work to repair the ways you’ve hurt one another. Even thought there is a lot of work to do, if you’re both turning toward each other to repair years of damage, it can hold both of you in place while you find your way back to each other.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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9 Comments

  • Bobber August 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    He’s been married a hella long time and the guy wants a younger thing to play with. It’s normal…

  • DAVE August 20, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Speaking from experience, in one life’s hard-learned lessons:

    Saying that you have stayed in a relationship because you love her, is a cop-out. A man has an affair, because he enjoys the notion of having a “side-chick”, without the worries of a commitment. His only fear is the consequences that can come along with actually getting caught.

    Women become irrational (short temper, mood swings, yelling) because there is an obvious problem… (Duh!?) – Whether the man, or society, wants to blame it on hormonal imbalances, is yet another cop-out. However, if ever there is also physical abuse from either party – the relationship needs immediate counseling or just simply needs to end.

    Pointing out all the negative aspects (while stating nothing of the benefits of your relationship), to another person – and then asking for advice from them, is nothing more than trying to con that person into agreeing with you. This is your twisted sense of justification for your immoral thoughts or actions. There are no “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” – as you are mentally capable of distinguishing between right and wrong.

    The sense of guilt doesn’t set in, until after the act of adultery is committed – and adultery, is a calculated risk. You hope for the perfect experience as a way to escape the reality of an imperfect one – and then try to find excuses to either forgive yourself, or a single / undeniable excuse, to continue.

    You need to man-up and take full responsibility for your own thoughts and actions – not blame them on someone else.

    We all need to remember that creating yet another mess, is never an effective way to deal with the mess that you’re currently in. Clean it up, first – and then move on.

  • What? August 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    No St George guy should tolerate that. Get back in the kitchen where you belong, woman!

  • KOOLAID August 21, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Don’t more women make a guy more worthy? Isn’t three to five women the ideal number? Instead of calling it an affair, consider it taking on another spirit wife. Stay worthy.

  • Dana August 21, 2014 at 9:00 am

    “… I had an affair. I felt like I was driven away from her. I wanted to feel connected again to a loving human being and not the person my wife had become.”
    You’re an adulterer who wants to blame your affair on your wife. Man up and admit you’re a liar who can’t stay faithful…and stop blaming your wife for your unhappiness. Grow a spine and leave. You’re more than likely making your wife miserable too.

  • The Rest Of The Story August 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Talk to her about separation and possibly divorcing. Lots of people do it and they are much happier. Get your advice from the right place(s). First and foremost, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should stay married because marriage is some sacred institution or blah, blah, blah. Religion is mind-poison (and psychologists are not immune to it). If the two of you can’t be happy together, you owe it to each of yourselves to let the other go.

  • David Daley August 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    He needs to take charge over there. She just wants to be taken charge of. Some time in the kitchen will learn a stubborn woman like that!

  • Koolaid August 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    How many additional women are acceptable in the environs of St George?

  • Ox January 4, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I feel your pain bro…. (…) if you do or dont.. I still dont know what to do.. Exact same situation.. The worst part is that if you move on, there is no guarantee that the new woman wont act the same way down the line.. History shows they all do…. Its as if there is nothing in life but to make as much money as you can then let the chips fall where they lay… But thats just a thought… I have yet to hear something groundbreaking that I can just rely on…

    Ed. ellipsis

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