#ReachOutThursday: My Husband Is Having An Extramarital Affair, What Do I Do?

Posted: December 3, 2015

Every Thursday, the Women’s Web expert panel with the support of Healtheminds, answers questions from readers facing relationships issues, emotional and mental challenges and other such issues.

In this edition of #ReachOutThursday, a woman talks about her boyfriend who is 36-year-old and another whose husband is having an extramarital affair.

Query: 1

I am a 28 yrs old divorcee with an 8yrs old girl child. I had been in my first marriage for almost 5 yrs and then separated and finally divorced 2 yrs back. I have a boyfriend who is single and 36yrs old.  Right now we haven’t discussed marriage but I am really very scared on how things will shape up as he stays with his mum and I don’t know if she will ever accept me with my daughter. I sometimes feel I should end this relationship as he deserves better in life. But I truly love him and can’t imagine having second life with anybody but him. Please help me in taking a decision.

Answer

I understand that a decision to end a marriage is very painful and divorce would have been hard on you and your daughter. In spite of the hardships, I must congratulate you for the fact that you have made the decision to move forward in life with your boyfriend.

When a relationship matures and you have a history together, things begin to feel safe. You may feel safe to argue, to agree and to disagree. At the same time, it is natural to feel afraid of the social forces that seem beyond our control. The anxiety and uncertainty that come with entering a new family can be overwhelming. Are you letting your presumptions and inhibitions hold you back from pursuing a happy relationship? Are you in control of your feelings or are they controlling you? It is normal to grapple with issues like how the family will react to a new partner. But if you are jumping to conclusions without establishing a connection with your partner’s family, slow down. Take one step at a time. Reset your expectations and start afresh.Communication plays an important role in building a strong foundation for any relationship. Have you voiced your concerns to your partner? Talk to him about your fears and apprehensions.

While your goal is to continue having a healthy relationship with your partner, it is normal to experience approach- avoidance in the course of your relationship. Approach is when you want to move towards your goal and avoidance is when you want to move away from it. It is not possible to move towards and away from a goal at the same time. As a consequence, it may cause you stress and anxiety. When a goal has both advantages and disadvantages, you may want to look for equilibrium.

If you are carrying your past along, you might not be able to enjoy your present and future. Your boyfriend may not get a better partner than you. Introspect to see if you are you carrying any emotional baggage from your past that is haunting you. Are you feeling guilty about something? Are you blaming yourself for your past? Our beliefs about love and relationships are influenced by our past. Sometimes our worries may not have a rational explanation. It is important to separate fact from fiction while trying to understand the dynamics of a relationship.

Do not feel afraid to embrace a new relationship whilst your life is giving you a chance to reinvent yourself.

Aparna Ramya

Query: 2

I used to have a fear for penetrative sex in the initial days of marriage and the sexual encounters between my husband and me always used to end up in a fight or with me crying. Despite this, I am now mother of a two year old. Recently I underwent counseling for this psychological issue and discovered that my bitter childhood with minor child sex abuse experience and also adverse effects of my co-sleeping with my parents had led to this impression about sex in my mind. However after counseling I have realized the importance of sex and the role it will play to strengthen my marriage. Unfortunately, I have been late in understanding all this because my husband is already into an extra-marital affair. He now doesn’t want to get physically intimate with me at all. He used to physically abuse me in the initial months of marriage and now after the affair happened; he is starting to get aggressive. I am going through a lot of emotional abuse and physical abuse (he steps on my feet, pushes me as we argue, etc). He says he will ruin me and my family if I take a divorce and walk away with our daughter. My in-laws are very attached to our daughter and would never let her go. I think they wouldn’t even bother if I leave the house, but they will not let me take my daughter with me. I feel stuck in this relationship. What should I do? Everyday is a battle.

Answer

Unaddressed traumatic sexual encounters can be detrimental to a marital relationship. Most of these experiences leave the victims feeling hopeless, confused and guilty. Since you now understand the reasons for the fear of sex, you have a chance to reconstruct the dysfunctional and painful childhood memories by nurturing your inner child that has been exposed to the sexual assault. You were only a child back then, may be scared and alone, unable to control and understand what was going on. Once you learn to establish a connection between your adult-self and inner child, you will slowly learn to work towards healing the emotional wounds you suffered as a young girl. Most of the children, while growing up, are exposed to certain amount of Public Display of Affection and physical intimacy. It is important to understand the expression of love and meaning attached to intimacy, age appropriately. If not, one tends to grow up feeling confused and will have difficulty in establishing boundaries in relationships.

Under the mentioned circumstances, I can understand why it has not been easy for you to have positive and intimate sexual relationship with your husband. There is no logical connection between your traumatic childhood experience and your husband’s extramarital affair. It is not your fault and you do not have to feel guilty about your husband’s behavior. A successful marriage thrives when there is trust, interdependence, emotional intimacy and love between partners. If you are unable to receive them from your partner, maybe it is time for you to assess the pros and cons of staying vs. moving away from this marriage.

Every woman deserves to be in a relationship that feels safe and positive. Acknowledging and recognizing domestic violence is the first step to getting help. Abusers usually follow a pattern- they abuse (physically and/or emotionally), feel guilty, rationalize their behavior, try to act normal to keep the victim in control, think how to abuse you again and create a situation for the abuse.  It is a vicious cycle and the dangers of remaining in an abusive relationship are very real. Most of the abusers have deep rooted and unresolved psychological issues.

You may confront your abusive partner and assert yourself in stating that you will not tolerate his behavior. If your husband is using your daughter to keep you in this relationship, please meet a legal expert to know your rights as a woman, wife and a mother. This will help you understand about the legalities of child custody. You may exercise various alternatives like getting a restraining order against your abusive partner or turning to domestic violence agencies in your location. Help is available for women who go through abuse. Talk to a therapist or a trusted friend in order to maintain a healthy emotional balance.

It may not be an easy ride. But you will have to fight for what is yours. There is no excuse or explanation for putting up with abuse.

– Aparna Ramya

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