Recently I read an article in the New York Times about a husband who started an affair because he didn’t want to hurt his wife’s feelings by talking to her about their declining sex life. The article was written from the point of view of the woman he was having an affair with. She encouraged him to just be honest with his wife.
That article got me thinking about how many women out there have lost interest in sex-for whatever reason-but are too ashamed to talk to their husbands about it. So I decided to write an article to encourage wives who have lost interest in sex to be honest with their husbands about the issue and start working with them to seek solutions.
I got some great feedback from readers, but one in particular seemed to feel like I was blaming the wife for her husband’s affair (I wasn’t).
But, it also made me ask myself the question: Do we as women tend to take the wife’s side when a husband has an affair?
I think some of us do.
We imagine that the wife is at home, working selflessly to raise the kids, cook, clean and take care of her man while he carelessly tosses their marriage aside and chases skirts.
That view is too simplistic and honestly, it’s unfair.
My parents got divorced months after my mother realized my father was having an affair, and at first I was so angry with my dad. In fact, I found it hard to even look him in the eye or have a conversation because of how betrayed I felt.
But as time went on and I got married myself, I started experiencing the ups and downs of marriage. I started to understand that when my husband did something wrong, the way I chose to handle it could make things worse. I also learned that the way we spoke to each other and dealt with things became patterns in our relationship.
So now when I look back at my parents’ marriage, I see that they both played a part in its deterioration. My dad would do something, and then my mother would try to get revenge by hurting him back with her words. In response, my dad would retreat behind a wall of silence. They both were at fault. My dad’s affair was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
So in a lot of ways, our marriages are made up of all the patterns we establish with our husbands: patterns of communication, patterns of handling conflict-every thing we do and say has the potential to become a pattern. If we BOTH contribute to a negative pattern in our relationship, then we’re BOTH to blame if our marriage deteriorates. Of course, the actual decision to have an affair rests with the person who has an affair, BUT that doesn't mean the wife is always innocent of blame in the chain of events leading up to it.
We can't disconnect the affair from the chain of events leading up to it. Both need to be addressed.
So, what are some red flags that can let us know we need to get our marriage back on the right track before it’s too late?
John Gottman, a world-famous marital therapist and researcher identified 4 communication styles that accurately predicted divorce 80% of the time: defensiveness, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment. I’m sure most of us have done at least one of these at one time or another, but if they have become a pattern in your communication, it means that the actual issues aren’t being dealt with. Instead, your communication is stuck in a cycle of put-downs, casting blame, and emotional manipulation. Treating your spouse like this is a sure way to make them feel unloved and rejected, and will definitely do damage to your marriage.
Lack of communication
Some of us were raised to believe that our duty as wives is to make life as easy as possible for our husbands and cater to them in every way. So when we disagree with our husbands, or feel hurt by something they do, we push those feelings aside and pretend everything is okay. Others are so concerned with appearances that they sweep issues under the rug and refuse to acknowledge them. Our husbands may take our lack of communication as a rejection and disconnect. If you’re struggling with something personally, like an identity crisis, or postpartum depression, your husband needs to know. He’s your ally and friend.
Lack of Intimacy
If you find yourselves living separate lives, and simply sleeping beside each other in bed at night, there is a lack of intimacy. Intimacy is the sharing of your thoughts and feelings freely. Intimacy is the ability to be vulnerable about the things that matter most to you. It's talking about your day over dinner, or laughing over a TV show together on the couch. If you aren't being intimate with each other, that is a warning sign that something is wrong.
What You Can Do about it
1. Make a Happy, Healthy Marriage a Daily Priority
I think the first thing is to make up in your minds as a couple that preserving your love is your first priority. Your pride, your stubbornness, your selfish habits-anything that would damage your relationship, you’ll work through. Otherwise, any and every obstacle will seem insurmountable. And it isn’t if you’re determined to work through it together. That means that you have to make the commitment to work on your marriage every day. Make time to talk to each other after the kids go to bed, find ways to communicate during the day so that you stay connected, and do little things to show each other appreciation.
2. Nothing is off the table
Decide that you’ll talk to each other about any and everything. There’s nothing too embarrassing or upsetting to talk about to each other. If you want to remain deeply connected to one another, you have to be able to be completely vulnerable to one another. I know it’s not easy for everyone, but try your hardest to make it become a habit in your relationship.
3. See each other through God’s eyes
Seeing our husband’s through God’s eyes puts everything into its proper perspective. Instead of looking at our husbands as the enemy when they do something wrong, seeing them through God’s eyes, as flawed men that He wants to redeem-it gives us empathy and compassion. As wives, our husband’s character development is entwined with our own. Praying for our husbands, showing patience with their flaws, and forgiving when necessary will strengthen our marriages and make it more difficult for obstacles to rattle us.
As wives, it can be very hurtful to find out that our husband is having an affair, whether it’s an emotional affair or a physical one. In fact, even the thought of my husband sharing his body with another woman makes me cringe. It would be a betrayal of the worst kind, because the bond we share goes beyond our bodies and I can’t imagine trading it for anything.
But you know what? I can’t take our love for granted for one second. When life happens, if I let anything come between my husband and I, I’m risking our love. If we have problems that I avoid talking about, or if I start making my husband feel like I’m constantly bashing him, I’m risking our love. If I start focusing on the things he’s doing wrong and rarely take time to celebrate the things he does right, I’m risking our love.
Our connection with our husbands is sacred. It’s precious. So we have to make sure we guard it very carefully, and repair whatever is necessary to make sure our marriages stay strong and healthy. Of course, we can’t control what our husbands do. Whatever happens, having an affair is still a choice. But we can do our part by seeking solutions for the negative patterns in our relationship as soon as we recognize them. If we don’t address the issues in our marriage out of pride, fear, or selfishness, we become part of the domino effect that may do serious damage to our marriage.
If you know that your marriage is in trouble, or if you know there’s a pattern that has the potential to disconnect you from your husband, nip it in the bud right now! That may mean something as simple as a conversation addressing something that’s been going on, or it might mean something harder, like making an appointment with a therapist. Whatever it is, do it.
Your marriage is worth it!
Want to know more about how you can improve communication with your husband and resolve conflicts in a positive way? Download my FREE ebook "3 Secrets to a Happy Healthy Marriage" here!
P.S. I'll be doing a LIVE chat on our Facebook page this Friday night at 9pm EST on this topic. Follow my Facebook page to tune in!