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January 19, 2010

Would Your Guy Cheat? Would You Know?

shirtless guy wearing only a white tie with woman sitting behind him in bed

Photo Credit: btrenkel/iStockphoto

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...and the 5 Ways to Intervene

Whether you definitely know or only suspect that your husband is having an affair, how you deal with it is critical — not only for your marriage, but for your own sanity. Jennifer Knopf, Ph.D., a sex and marriage therapist in Chicago, offers these tips for navigating the explosive emotional landscape of cheating:

  • Don't attack. "Your instinct may be to come out swinging, but this will only make matters worse. As soon as one partner starts using accusing language, the other becomes more defensive and less truthful and will distance himself even further." Sure, you need to vent, but do so to a therapist or a trusted girlfriend.
  • Don't blame yourself. Knopf often sees wives who react to their husbands' infidelity by heading out for liposuction or marathon sessions at the gym. All of this stems from the woman's belief that she's not sexy enough, or that whatever went wrong with the marriage is simply her fault. "While you may be a part of the problem, you are also only part of the solution," she says. "You alone cannot fix your marriage. Your husband must contribute."
  • Get counseling together. An independent third party has the obligation to explore your husband's point of view, which will keep him from feeling backed into a corner. According to Knopf, the biggest mistake you can make is insisting that you're right, he's wrong, and that's it. Taking a hard line encourages you both to dig in instead of dealing with your anger and hurt feelings.
  • Consider his childhood. "If you have a partner who comes from a tumultuous background — where his father or mother strayed, or they had six divorces between them — there's going to be a lot more going on than the issue of your marriage," Knopf says. In this case, individual therapy for the husband, allowing him to explore the personal connection between how he was raised and why he cannot remain faithful to you, may work best.
  • Don't let his behavior kill your self-worth. Any affair will damage your ego, so remind yourself of areas where you shine. While you may not feel successful as a wife right now, remember what you do well: whether it's at work or as a mother, a daughter, a friend. Nurture yourself and treat yourself to things that make you feel good. "You need to allot some downtime just for you," Knopf says.

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