Ask The Therapist: “How do I transition into continuing a normal life with my husband if he cheated on me?”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

How do I transition into continuing a normal life with my husband of six years, with whom I have three daughters, if he cheated on me with an American woman and had the dirtiest of affairs for 4 months? Upon being confronted with his sins, he chose to blame me and say that I have physical issues that keep him from getting intimate with me. In order to get past this, we put our house up for sale and he quit his job to move away from that woman who was his co-worker. He promised me that he’ll change and I, believing in him once again, gave him a chance. But now I find out about messages exchanged between him and his brother where he tells his brother that the reason we’re not moving to his hometown is because I want to stay close to my parents; he’s giving him the impression that I’m the evil controlling wife who keeps her husband from his family. My heart is completely broken and has no place for him whatsoever. What do I do?

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I’m so sorry. That sounds so painful. I can only imagine the kind of impact your husband’s infidelity must have had on you. Affairs can bring about a great deal of pain and damage to a relationship/marriage. While some recover from it, others may not. Let’s see if we can help you find some clarity and grounding in this situation. 

It Is NOT Your Fault. 

One thing that is quite common in the face of infidelity is the displacement of blame onto the partner in the initial stages – this applies to all genders. It usually comes about from a place of protecting themselves from shame and guilt. The best way to do this is to create their own reality, their own justifications. In their head, they were completely justified for having the affair and they are the victims in this situation. They will want to avoid taking responsibility for what they have done. But at the end of the day, it was their choice to make. Regardless of circumstances and what was happening in your marriage, the responsibility of the affair lies with the person involved. It’s important to remember one simple thing: your husband had a choice. And he chose to have an affair. That is not on you.

What’s Going On For You?

You might be experiencing a range of emotions right now, and that’s okay. When it comes to an affair, it can be thought of as a loss – not of the relationship as a whole, but perhaps a part of it. As any grieving process, there is no timeline, nor is there a right way to grieve. I would just say to take it as it comes. I would also suggest considering counselling for yourself at this time – just for having a safe space to talk about what you’re experiencing.

He Might Be Too Ashamed To Admit It To His Family.

The affair might be difficult for him to acknowledge due to the great deal of shame attached to it. Accepting responsibility and admitting guilt is something that he’s not ready to do. It seems that he wants to preserve the image his family has of him, and again, puts the blame onto you. This isn’t at all fair to you, especially after whatever’s happened. He might be ready later on, but that’s up to him. Perhaps it might be worth bringing this topic up at some point? 

What Can You Be Doing Moving Forward?

There is no right or wrong here – you can choose to stay and work on the marriage, or leave. The choice is yours and it’s up to you to do what you want. If you’re choosing to stay, there are things that can be done, and it requires effort from both sides in this case. It will take however long it needs to, but it will take time. Use this time to figure out what you want for the marriage and more importantly, what you want for yourself. 

Talk About It.

As painful as it might be, it helps to talk about what led up to the affair. What was happening in the marriage when it happened? Were there gaps in communication? Lack of emotional connection and/or physical closeness? This is not to place blame on anyone, but rather trying to observe your marriage from an outsider’s perspective. Taking yourselves out of the equation and just witnessing these two people interact. What do you see?

Explore The Idea Of Couple’s/Marriage Counselling

If a relationship is struggling, it might help to have a mediator. A neutral person who can help navigate some of the issues that might be present in your marriage. 

Anon, what you’re going through is extremely painful. I can really feel how heartbroken you are through your words and I wish there was more I could say to help. At the end of the day, the decision on how you want to carry forward is all on you. As said before, there is no right or wrong way to go about it – but I would stop to consider one thing: what is right for YOU? 

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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