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Should I Make Her Fess up?
December 11, 2006 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
After 27 years of marriage I have realized that my wife has been having sex with others, at times over the years. . . .
She and I had a little too much to drink one night and she spilled out the info. . . . It was quite explicit and believable. . . . She even mentioned a name of someone I have been suspicious of in the past. . .
Next day, however she said she blacked out and didn't remember saying it. . . but the facts are still there, which she denies. . .
Even though facts seem to line up and looks a lot like she is lying. . . well, after many days of heart wrenching talks. . . we know we still love each other. . . but it is very difficult for me to move on. . . .
My question: even though I keep reliving this, should I continue to press her to fess up and then see if healing would happen. . . or should I just let it go and try to heal. She knows I don't really believe her explanations. . . .
Hurting a lot here, so thanks for helping me make sense of what's happened and advising me on how to go forward from here.
I'm afraid that having her fess up by providing you will all the gory details of all her infidelities won't help you and it won't help the marriage. Instead, the details will feel more like rubbing salt in an already gaping wound. At this point, it hardly matters whether you know every detail of her indiscretions or not.
The point is, she cheated and in order to move forward we need to understand why she's been unfaithful.
I'm going to suggest something very radical. Don't fall in to the trap of blaming her for being the wrong party and viewing yourself as the innocent victim.
Instead you want to be asking what you did to drive her away from you. I'm not saying that her behavior was right, but I am saying that you had a hand in pushing her away. She should have talked to you about what you were doing to drive her off, instead of having gone into action. As you can see, you both had a hand in what's come down. To move forward you will both need to see the infidelity as a symptom of a sickness that has infected the marriage. See the infidelity as a sign that something has been very wrong or missing in the relationship.
So focus your energy on understanding what the affairs say about how you each feel internally and how you each feel toward each other. You also want to know what the affairs say about how each of your feel about your marriage.
You also must know that cheating is always an expression of anger. The cheater is saying in action 'screw you' to the partner that is being cheated on. You want to find out why she's so angry with you. She needs to state in words, not actions, the negative feelings that she has been expressing indirectly through her cheating behavior.
I've given you the road map for resolution. I know it's tough, but I've helped many couples reconnect following infidelity. I know that you both can heal and move on. The key is for her to learn to put all her negative feelings into words, not destructive acts. She must state what she wants from you and you must move heaven and earth to be as responsive to her as you can. This will immunize your relationship against future infidelities.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
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Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
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Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
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