Q. I’ve been married to someone for almost a decade and I feel like much of our relationship has been built on lies and deceit. A few years in, I found out he had been cheating on me with multiple women for the entirety of our relationship. We had a young son, so partly for his sake we decided to give it another shot. We went to therapy and worked hard to rebuild trust, and for a couple of years things were really good. Until now.
Once again, I found out about multiple women, some of which were full-blown relationships! Pictures of my child have been sent to these women, they’ve conversed daily, and my husband has confided about his personal goals and ambitions. I confronted my husband and told him I think he has abandonment issues from his childhood. I said he is a compulsive liar and I think he is afraid of letting anyone truly get to know him. He had a complete breakdown and admitted he has a serious problem and doesn’t fully understand it. He asked that I help him find help. I told him I cannot continue this journey with him but I fully support that he gets the help he needs — not just for his sake but for our son’s relationship with his father. Finally, I asked him to move out so he can really take the space and time he needs to work on these things.
I think I am doing the right thing but it is so, so hard with a young child in the mix, and especially because he really is a great dad. He has let me down so much by now that I’m not sure I should even leave a crack in the door for a future together, but there is a small glimmer of hope left inside of me that he will do the work to become the real, devoted husband and fatherly role model that our family deserves. I guess my question is: Am I doing the right thing? And while no one can predict the future, how do I know whether I should keep that little glimmer of hope in my heart, or seal things off for good, especially when there has been so much hurt and mistrust throughout our time together?
MARRIED TO DECEIT
A. It sounds like you did the right thing and that it required a lot of bravery. Good for you.
I’ll admit that when I got through the first half of your letter I thought, “Is this person going to stay in this marriage? Are they going to tell me they don’t want to leave, and ask for advice about how to make it better?” I was thrilled to learn that you’d already set a boundary. You know you can’t fix your husband, so you sent him off to deal with his own issues. Now you can be better co-parents to your child.
I will not lie: I don’t see much of a glimmer here. I do believe people can evolve, get better, learn how to be good partners, etc., but that takes so much time. I don’t know where he’ll wind up, assuming he does the work. He might learn that he’s not cut out for a committed romantic relationship. Maybe he’ll be able to stop lying when he’s more honest about what kind of lifestyle is best for him. This might take years to figure out, and I wouldn’t want you to wait.
It would be nice for you to be with someone who isn’t battling a desire to cheat or lie. It’s lovely to be around people who find it easy to focus on you and tell the truth. You could seek out people who are more like you, sooner than later.
It’s OK if you want to keep your glimmer going for a bit. These changes are new, and your hopes will evolve over time. Just know you did the right thing because you listened to your gut. It’s a difficult step, but please, when you get a second, celebrate your own courage.
Congratulations on thinking clearly through this difficult time. There are plenty of men out there who crave a devoted, monogamous relationship. There’s no need to put up with somebody for whom it will forever be a struggle.
Instead of thinking into the future, focus on the now. Get counseling for yourself to work through your feelings of betrayal.
You’re on your way to doing the right thing — but some tweaking to your thinking, if I may: Your so-called “husband” is not a “great dad,” OK? When he’s cheating on you, he’s cheating on your child too and destroying your family.
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