Is 9 months of leniency for a cheating spouse too much?
A question of how long is too long is raised when one knows of the cheating of a spouse but “tolerates” the cheating. This dilemma is posed by Dr. Huizenga and Vicki with responses from readers.
Way to Go Vickie!
(I decided to let you in on the continuing saga of Vickie, your responses and my comments. The first part of this article you’ve already read. But, the last part is new and might be a surprise.)
1. Way to Go Vickie
How do you effectively confront a cheating husband – so you get his attention and maintain your integrity and pride?
That’s what I attempt to teach in my e-book, Break Free From the Affair.
Easier said than done, obviously. But some really get it.
Vickie sent this note. I want to share it with you.
See? It can be done. And it is powerful!
What I did to “hold my head up” to myself and in front of the kids, was to say to my cheating spouse, “You are hurting me, so compensate by doing something to make me feel better. You can continue live at home if you spend the money you would have spent on rent on five special trips for me – one with each child. Also, my mood can change at any time and I may abruptly ask you to go to the downstairs room or I may leave to go work out.” He gladly agreed. Having been pursuing women for two years – but only recently finding the right one to have sex with, he has finally put an ending date of nine months for his “needed” activities. If there weren’t an ending date that I really believe in, I couldn’t make this deal work.
The foregoing just let’s me hold up my head during his current activities, but after he is finished, he still owes me for having put tears, disturbed sleep, and strain into our family life. He is open to anything I suggest.
PS: I have gathered so much knowledge and comfort from your web offerings (frequently in the middle of the night) as well as your book, the relevant parts of which I have started to read to my “proving desirability” husband.
You may put my story on your blog — with pride!
2. Bob, your advice sucks
Here’s the email response and my comments:
Just needed to drop a note because I am very confused about why Vickie is able to “hold her head up”. If I understood her note correctly, she is allowing her husband to continue to cheat on her for another nine months (he has apparently given her some kind of ridiculous “ending date”) so that he may fulfill his “needs”?????!!!!
For the LIFE of me I cannot understand why you would showcase that note as an example of “getting it”! What she is “getting” is a non-husband who is continuing to cheat, hurt and humiliate her for “another nine months”! Does she actually BELIEVE that just because he told her he would stop in nine months that he will stop?
If she truly wants to be able to “hold her head up” – she needs to kick that idiot to the curb and start pulling her life back together.
I wonder how her husband would feel if she told him – fine, you go ahead with your “end date” and I will do the same – I will see other people – sleep with them as I choose and at the end of nine months I will re-evaluate my life to see if I even WANT you back. What’s good for the gander is also good for the goose!
Sorry, I usually agree for the most part with the letters and articles I receive from you by email, but this time I am completely at odds with your advice. Tell Vickie to get some spine and dump the looser! NO ONE should tolerate that kind of ultimatum from another human being – either he is committed to her and their marriage (NOW, not in some date to be decided) or bye-bye!
3. My Comments
Thanks for you input. Good thoughts. Allow me to give a couple comments. And, I would like to post this in the blog, to get conversations started.
Here are some further thoughts:
Keywords you use: “allowing him to cheat…” In reality Vickie has no power over whether he cheats or not. She can’t make him stop. A direct frontal assault, ultimatum usually is fruitless, except in the “I Don’t Want to say N0” affair if the ultimatum is backed with consequences. Also the “I Can’t Say No” affair might be a situation in which an ultimatum is given, provided his/her cheating behavior is rapidly deteriorating.
The other kinds of affairs have much more gray area. In reality, one of the best tactics to get a person to stop is to take a powerful stand and position, as Vickie is trying.
In a high number of cases the cheating partner loses one of his game playing partners and his/her fun is spoiled. (The cheating partner relies on the spouse to maintain her patterns – anger, depression, victimization, pleading, pleasing, giving ultimatums – whatever that pattern might be.) But, taking a strong position, charging neutral often truly baffles the cheating spouse and S/he MUST adjust.
Can this be game playing and manipulation? Sure can. But if one truly charges neutral and states his/her position (which, by the way, is extremely difficult) you take a great part of the game playing out of the picture.
You see, affairs are more than sex. They are often, maybe always, game playing, with three people, to avoid true intimacy, knowing and being known in a relationship.
Another point: affair resolution takes time. 9 months is not a long time. I say it usually takes 2-4 years, if the old patterns are maintained, 6-18 months if pattern changes are made.
And, finally, giving an ultimatum, as you say, getting a spine, often is a reaction against. It’s done out of rage. That may be fine in certain situations, but I personally prefer to live my life not out of rage but out of my core values which means that no one around me can do me in or get me upset.
You make an excellent point about tolerations. I would guess that at some point, if his behavior continues, Vickie will cease to tolerate his acting out and pull the plug on the relationship. But, for the time being, Vickie is taking that first and vital step of disentangling herself from any emotional game he is playing with here (and he obviously is playing one if he’s giving HER 9 months!) and taking a stand that he might not like, but will at one level respect.
Thanks again for your stimulating letter.
4. More…Bob your advice sucks
This whole Vickie story is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Ok go ahead and do your thing for 9 months and make it up to me. Allow him to have his cake and eat it too. Then he will make it up to her? What happens down the road when he gets bored again? Another 9 month stint? This is absurd. I agree with your writer’s letter. She needs to get a backbone and dump the loser.
I’ve read the letter from Vickie and the comments. I disagree with what she’s doing.
Having been on the short end of this stick myself, let me tell you – my spouse would be out if it didn’t end right now and a serious program of counseling and repentance begin. I may not divorce right away, but the kids and the house and the comforts would be mine – everything that would likely be awarded me in a divorce – to give them a taste of what’s coming.
5. Guess What happened to Vickie
Here’s a follow up letter from Vickie:
Dear Dr. Bob,
I don’t have time to even read your article fully until Monday night or Tuesday morning, let alone compose a response; however, you must know that a gigantic change took place. My spouse had told me that he was only going to screw someone once every couple of weeks, but still keep up his home duties. He also told me, as you know, that he hadn’t even found someone yet, but was just on the verge and needed to experience this or he could never count on being able to control himself in the future.
Last week, I went into his emails and found out that he had had a 22 year old mistress for seven months. I told him this wasn’t a Proving Desirability affair, but a Dick and a Wallet affair. I told him, “Stop or leave, you can decide by nightfall,” threw things at him, etc. Within five minutes of my hour-long tantrum he composed an email to the new 23 year old girl breaking it off. He gave me access to his secret email account, regular email account, and texting for a week until I got down to the dregs of his activities. He answered every question I had for hours every night in the middle of the night. He knows he can never make up for what he did, and is working every day to help me with my emotions and show his commitment to me for the future. He is says he is glad that there was such a dramatic stop to it all, because he doesn’t know how he could have stopped the pattern. Also, having the truth out will be better for our marriage in the long run.
Several things contributed to the problem, I had given him permission to “Go have fun,” about a year into the two year situation, his therapist fueled the flames by saying he needed to get this out of his system, and he went too far into his fantasy land.
6. More my comments
First thank you everyone for your responses. ALL of them have are appreciated.
You see, infidelity is exceedingly complex. That’s why I outlined 7 different kinds of affairs. Throw him/her out? Yes, very helpful for the “I Don’t want to Say No” affair and probably the “I Want to Be Close to Someone, but can’t stand intimacy. For the “I Need to Prove my Desirability, don’t throw him/her out is a general rule. For the rest of them, hmmmmmmm varies, might be effective, but probably will blow up in your face.
And, there are sound reasons for each of these decisions.
Also, when you discover infidelity you enter the stream of healing and confrontation at different places. Remember my 8 paths. Each of you have a different set of strengths (and weaknesses) that you can address and must address to make your interventions most effective and timely (such as throwing him/her out, if that’s the case.)
Vickie needed to work her way to the strong powerful confrontation. Others of you don’t need to do that… your anger and disdain makes you ready.
Here’s the big takeaway from this scenario. Learn to stand back and see the larger picture. Confrontations work best when they emerge not out of our internal reactions and fears but come from planned strategies that consider your values, level of tolerations and good of those around us.
I know. Easier said than done.