My two boys attend a small private school. My wife came home the other day and told me one of their teachers had asked her out for coffee. She said she was interested. He is married as well. I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. Nothing has happened yet and she told me right away. So that is a positive. But there is some back-story here. I had an affair a couple of years ago. My wife found out, called the woman to tell her to stay away, and has not been able to forgive me since. Couples counseling, books, individual therapy for us both—nothing is working. I am a much better husband now than I was. Now I really understand how devastating my affair has been to her. I truly want to save my marriage and keep my family together. What am I supposed to do now?
Dear Sorry Husband,
If “nothing” had happened, we wouldn’t be having this little chat. A lot of damage has been done and your wife is crying out for help. So far, we know that “teach” has heard her cries. The questions is, are you ready to hear them? And are you ready to fight for your marriage without compromising yourself as a man?
If you’ve apologized, and I’m sure you have many times, there’s no need to keep doing that. Words won’t fix the mess you’re in. Only your actions have the potential of making it safe for your wife to come back to you and to trust you again.
Through all the counseling and reading, what have you learned? Have you identified what it was about you that allowed you to ignore the state of your marriage and seek the company of another woman? Have you figured out why you didn’t have the “cojones” to address your issues at the time? Do you have any idea what you learned as a boy that’s enabled you to put your own sons at risk?
These are some of the questions you need to answer. If they haven’t come up in therapy, find a new counselor, preferably a strong man who can help you figure out the man you would like to be, and exactly how to bring that man home.
I suspect that your wife, in any number of ways, has communicated what it is she feels she hasn’t received from you. If you’re not clear, ask her again. But this time, care enough to listen. Take action on what you hear. If you don’t know how, ask for help. And keep asking for help.
You’re going to have to make a commitment to do your best to be the husband and father you want to be. And you’ll have to stop living with your tail between your legs for your past mistakes. Instead, be the strong, confident and compassionate man your wife wants to be with.
Now, how are you supposed to do that when the prospect of a failed marriage looms large? Well, that’s where being a man comes in. You have to want to make changes in yourself regardless of what may happen to your marriage. The truth is, you can’t control this outcome. All you can do is be clear about the man you want to be, and be that man in every way possible.
As for the teacher, if your wife decides to pursue a relationship with him, you may want to consider what you’ll need to do to protect your sons. In a small private school, word will spread instantly. What are the possible consequences for your sons when the community learns of the latest gossip? How safe will school be for them when the affair ends, or when one or two marriages blow up?
Perhaps the welfare of your children is a good place for you and your wife to begin a new conversation.