Relationship Connection: My husband’s new hobbies started during his affair

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Question

My husband and I have been married for twenty years and a few years ago he had an affair with a woman who is nothing like me. We have stayed together and mostly healed from it. The part that is still hard for me is the fact that my husband became interested in some new hobbies as part of his relationship with this other woman.

He never exercised much before the affair, but she was into fitness and he began taking care of himself during the affair. There is a part of me that is grateful that he’s now physically healthier than he’s ever been. But, just about every time he exercises, it reminds me of her and their affair. This doesn’t feel fair to him, but the whole affair doesn’t feel fair to me. I have no idea what to do so we can both get what we need. Any suggestions?

Answer

The fallout from affairs can show up in the most unexpected places. One of the difficult things about affairs is that the double-life opens up new possibilities for the unfaithful person. They often discover or experiment with new ways of living that they then bring back to the marriage. It’s common for the unfaithful person to struggle giving up these new discoveries. In an ironic twist, it’s as if they don’t to betray themselves and their newfound discovery while actively betraying their spouse.

Please know that your reaction to this situation isn’t unusual. You’re not crazy or being difficult. Your husband opened himself up to influences that have forever changed the landscape of your marriage. Exercise is now one souvenir he’s kept from trip he took away from the marriage. Don’t tell yourself to let this go because exercise is a good thing. This isn’t about exercise. It’s about him truly understanding the impact he’s had on your feelings of safety and security.

Affairs are selfish and it’s selfish to continue living in ways that threaten the emotional safety of the injured partner. If you need him to stop exercising until you can feel secure again, ask him for this temporary accommodation. It’s not going to hurt anyone, especially since he already went decades without exercising prior to the affair. You’re not controlling him. You’re asking him to pay attention to how his affair affected the marriage.

He needs to completely forsake everything that was part of the affair and then work closely with you to understand what you need to feel secure again. The first priority isn’t exercise. The first priority is for him to do everything he can to see what changed for you after breaking your trust in the relationship. It’s common for the injured partner to become more open and flexible once you know he’s putting you first instead of putting himself first. If you see him going forward taking care of his needs and disregarding your concerns, then it will be hard to believe that he will do what it takes to protect the marriage long-term.

No activity or hobby is more important than the emotional security of a spouse. Take as much time as you need to make sure you are fully understood before moving forward. Your job is to speak up and let him know what you need from him. If he can’t hear you, please don’t give up and go silent. Remember that the exercise isn’t the biggest threat to your marriage. Your husband’s refusal to hear your distress is the biggest threat to your stability as a couple.
Stay connected!

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

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • anybody home September 21, 2016 at 10:26 am

    The answer here is confusing. I’m sympathetic to the wife (been there, had to do that), but suppose during the affair her husband had quit smoking. Would the advice be to encourage him to smoke again? Cheating spouses cause all kinds of wreckage and sometimes the best thing to do is just get out of the marriage. Period. Start over without the baggage. If this wife is going to feel bad forever when her husband exercises and takes care of himself, I see nothing good in the future. By the way, my guess is he has another honey already. Guys like to be fit for new conquests.

    • .... September 21, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      LOL ! typical Sheriff anybody home of Mayberry giving his professional opinion. shouldn’t you be out there writing parking tickets

    • Jimmym September 21, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      I find your comment patronizing. The wife has committed to making their marriage work. She loves him. And is willing to give him a second chance.

      Yes, he screwed up. Big time. And created emotional baggage that she may never get rid of. But rather than bring that baggage into new relationships, I would recommend she work through the garbage, with her husband, and restore (as much as possible) the 20 year relationship. I know I wouldn’t want to start over.

      Of course, this won’t hold true if he wanders a second time. But hopefully he will learn from this mistake, and be willing to put forth the effort to make this marriage work.

      There’s a lot of love established in 20 years. Pain and joy are both part of happiness, and hopefully they’ll be able to rebuild and enjoy a happy marriage.

      • ladybugavenger September 21, 2016 at 10:20 pm

        The rebuild part is not going to happen. He can easily be the one to get over it because he is the cheater. Her, on the other hand won’t ever get over it. And I bet $5 he doesn’t want her bringing it up and when she does bring it up he shuts down. Divorce him!

        • Jimmym September 22, 2016 at 1:43 pm

          I find this sad. It sounds like you’ve been hurt before. So sorry if this is the case.

          I have been in the reverse situation as the woman in this story. It certainly took some time, and I experienced plenty of pain, but we have rebuilt our marriage and have emerged in a better place than we started.

          I learned that we all make mistakes. Some bigger than others. But what’s important is what we learn from the mistakes, and what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to rectify things. I would never wish the pain I’ve experienced on anyone, but I also appreciate the point we’ve reached.

          I hope you can find trust, and love, and happiness.

          • ladybugavenger September 23, 2016 at 9:45 am

            I find this whole relationship connection segment BS. What is this Dear Abby? To try and analyze and answer relationship issues in a couple paragraphs not knowing all the facts is crazy but entertaining.

            As for me finding trust love and happiness, girl, I found that 14 years ago and he would never cheat on me. Nor would i cheat on him. It’s simple, divorce the person before cheating on them.

            You always have that stain in your marriage. And girl he’s probably cheating on you right now. Have a good day!

  • .... September 22, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Hiya ladybug ! Wooooooohoooooooooo ♡♡♡♡♡ . I say buy a new truck pack her stuff up and adios

    • ladybugavenger September 22, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Hey Dot! It’s a slow day for traffic accidents. I hope things get back to normal.

  • ladybugavenger September 23, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I didn’t know exercising is a hobby….

    • .... September 23, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Lmao ! nice shot Ladybug !

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