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Unable to stop wife's affair with colleague

Asked by Male, 46, Married
I found out last month that my wife of 20 years with 2 children age 15 & 13, is having extramarital affair with an ex-colleague. I discussed with both of them and they agreed to stop immediately. She told me that she wants to work on this marriage but she cannot stop talking to him abruptly to which I did not agree. I feel she is still chatting with him as she has a password on her mobile phone, checks it frequently, takes it to the bathroom and immediately closes her phone whenever I am nearby. Please help.
Thumb komal
Counseling Psychologist

Hi Writer, thank you for writing in. It takes great courage to reach out for help.

It seems that you are facing difficulty in your marriage. You recently found out about your wife's affair which has been devastating for you. You also confronted with both of them regarding this and tried to stop it immediately but your wife seems to have a different opinion on this. Her behaviours have made you suspicious of her continuing the affair despite your efforts to stop it. I understand that it must be a difficult position for you to be in after 20 years of marriage and two children involved, you did not expect this of your wife.

I am able to sense the frustration and anger in your words as you write. You are unable to accept that your wife cheated on you and broke your trust. The thoughts of it are causing you a lot of pain and misery. The pain and wound is yet to heal and living with the wound is certainly not easy.

Given what has happened, it is understandable that you find it difficult to be interested in intimacy with your wife. You can take your time to get there when you feel comfortable. What you are going through first needs to be processed to move further with this. You are unable to forget the pain she has caused you. You are also not convinced of her being honest, truthful and trustworthy anymore at this point of time. You are worried of how to rebuild this marriage. You are not willing to entertain her false attempts.

At this point, what is needed is to work on these efforts from both your sides to rebuild the relationship by trying to forgive and accept each other. This of course will take time and effort and a lot of patience. The emotions that you are going through as a result of all this also need to be processed. A lot of unprocessed and unexpressed emotions need validation here. You both need to give yourselves a chance first to be able to give this marriage a chance. Since you both are willing to work on your marriage and are already trying ways in your own capacity, this willingness will help you work towards rebuilding the marriage.

You can begin by establishing clear boundaries. It isn’t about being confrontational or assertive or mean. It is simply about being clear on what you will accept and what you won’t accept, clear in your communication and clear about who is responsible for what.
You cannot be responsible for someone else’s emotions, reactions or actions. You are completely responsible for your own actions and emotions. Nobody else can be. Notice I used the word “can” up above and not “should”.

Here are a few articles you can read with your wife and discuss further with her on what is it that you both can do for each other to rebuild your relationship:

This article is on how infidelity can affect your marriage. It will help you both understand why the incident took place to begin with.

This article is about what you could do and should not do while trying to rebuild the relationship.

This article is about what you can do to rebuild trust in the relationship.

This article will help you implement effective communication skills that you both can use throughout the process.

When things are calm, talk about the relationship. You can start the conversation by saying “You’re important to me and I want you in my life. There are some things in this relationship that are deal-breakers for me. My hope is that we can work them out and the only way that could happen is if I tell you clearly what they are.” Then explain instances you found unacceptable to you and suggest ways of resolving those issues mutually.

And finally something to keep you both going in the future years of marriage to come as well.

Now I notice that I have shared with you a lot of content. Do take the time to go through each one, preferably, if possible, along with your wife. This should help you both get to a space of mutual willingness in understanding each other and then towards working with each other to rebuild the marriage.

Hope this helps, all the very best for your marriage.

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