With Mark Owen, Tiger Woods, Ashley Cole and John Terry all hitting the headlines for their cheating, staying with a man who’s been unfaithful has been a big talking point on goodtoknow. We’ve got Agony Aunt Joan McFadden to answer a reader’s question on cheating and give her expert relationship advice.
Cheating partner question:
‘My husband and I are both 32 and we’ve been together for 10 years and married for four. Three years into our relationship he was unfaithful to me on a stag weekend abroad – he had to confess as he gave me an STD. I was absolutely shattered and the STD made me feel really dirty so I finished it and tried to get on with my life.
He was terribly upset, phoning and texting and begging me to come back. After three weeks I agreed to a big heart-to-heart and he swore that he’d been drunk and it would never happen again, and asked me to marry him. It took a while for me to trust him again and eventually I did, but then just after after our wedding I discovered he’d been with a woman he works with two weeks before we got married! She sent me a nasty text when we got back from our honeymoon with all sorts of personal details which made it clear they’d slept together. He cried and said that I’d been so wrapped up in the wedding preparations that he felt neglected and that’s why it’d happened.
I was so angry but I decided to give him one last chance and told him that if it ever happened again we were over for good and I really thought that was it sorted, but a month ago I got a phone call from my sister’s friend and she told me that they were having an affair! I am devastated by his cheating and am now at a total loss as to what to do.
My family and friends now know about this affair – but not about the others – and they all say I have to leave him. We’re still living in the same house but in different rooms and he keeps crying and begging me to stay, saying that we’ll have a baby and he’ll grow up and never do it again. I don’t know what to believe anymore, but I can’t imagine ever loving anyone else and we’re so good together that I can’t bear to be without him. I keep thinking surely he’ll change one day. I really don’t know what to do and I don’t understand why he keeps having these affairs. Please help!’
Agony Aunt’s answer
Joan says: You’ve been assuming that he’s going to change for the last seven years and it just hasn’t happened. You also threatened to leave him if it happened again and you didn’t, so from his point of view, he must be pretty sure that he can carry on sleeping with other women – and if he gets caught and cries enough or proposes or suggests having a family you’ll give in.
This might sound brutal but it’s really time to be honest with yourself, and you don’t have to justify your decisions to anyone else. You’re already very honest in admitting how much he means to you and that you cannot imagine life without him, but if you decide to stay, then something has to be different. Leave having a family for the moment and insist that you go to counselling together. You could demand to know where he is all the time, check his phone bills and generally watch him but you’re not a jailer, you’re his wife, and he has to prove to you that he can be faithful without such exhausting and demeaning measures. A relationship is based on trust and respect and he’s destroying that.
If you go to counselling, then you can work together to find out why he is unfaithful and try and come up with a solution which means he puts you and your relationship above any other encounters. Can you ever trust him again? It’s quite unlikely the pain of the betrayals will lessen and you’re likely to feel increasing resentment towards him.
It’s also very humiliating, as now others know about his behaviour, they’ll probably encourage you to leave him.
Some couples do manage to cope with one having a very loose concept of fidelity, but there’s a lot of game playing and turning a blind eye and once it becomes a pattern it’s unlikely to change – it’s time to ask yourself, is that all you can expect or deserve from a relationship?