Episode 82: Q&A: My Husband Cheated. Now What?

by | Last updated: Jul 8, 2024 | Podcast

How can he have an affair if he truly loves me? Should I tell my best friend about his betrayal? Why do men cheat (and what defines cheating)?

In this episode, I’m answering these questions (and more) from real listeners who’ve recently discovered their partner’s betrayal.

I cover everything from how both partners can get support to what’s required if you choose to stay together – plus the reason I think every married couple should have a conversation about betrayal (even if there hasn’t been one yet).

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

0:36 – Dee just found out her husband had an affair after 30 years
4:33 – Should she tell her best friend?
8:34 – Why men & women cheat (for different reasons)
14:23 – She discovered that her husband regularly hires escorts
19:33 – “If he loves me, why would he cheat?”
25:48 – Why every married couple should have a conversation about betrayal (even if there hasn’t been one yet…)

Featured On Q&A: My Husband Cheated. Now What?

Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage? Book a Truth & Clarity Session.

Want even more tools to navigate a disconnected marriage? Join me on social media: Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube

If you have a suggestion for a future episode or a question you’d like me to answer on the show, email us.

Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?

Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make – and execute – the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

Welcome to the Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope. Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is the loving truth. This is our call where I answer your questions. And both of the questions that we are going to explore today are related to affairs, specifically when you've been cheated on.

So let's hear from Dee, who's our first caller? Sharon? My name is Dee, and I just found out my husband had an affair. We've been married almost 30 years, and I'm torn on what to do. I just found out three weeks ago, and I know everything's still fresh, but I'm. Whether if I want to see or not, I don't know if we can get past this. We. He wants to do everything he can to make it work.

It's only two months of there somebody at work which is going to make it hard when he goes back to work, but can't seem to let it go. And I keep picturing it in my head, and I don't know I'll ever get over it. I see him happy or laughing. I'm afraid that he's not hurting as much as I am. Valentine's day found the messages that it was emotional.

When I made him take the phone to a private investigator is when he confessed to everything. It was a couple months. It was a coworker. She's 20 years younger than me. I'm 57. He's 60, and it'll be our 30th anniversary in May. I can't get it out of my head. We are seeing a marriage counselor right now. We've only been through one session, and we have to go through another one next week.

I've had no one to tell. I finally confided in a co worker, and I'm not sure if I want to stay or not. I can't picture him. I mean, if we divorce, I picture him maybe with somebody else, and I think it would still break my heart. So I don't know if I should try or just cut our ties. I'm very confused. Still kind of want to tell my sister because she's, like my best friend and keep it from everybody else for now.

So anything you can give me in will help. I love your podcast, and I really do get a lot out of it, and I've been listening to it before I even knew there was an affair, just to try to make it better, and that's it. I know my husband suffers from a lot of depression and anxiety, too. So I know his self worth is always low as it is.

So I think the validation of other women might have played into it, I guess. But that's it. Thank you. So, Dee, first of all, I just want to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this is happening to you. And I know how disorienting, finding out that your husband of 30 years has had an affair. I know that that's got to be super disorienting for you. I'm glad that you two have started couples therapy.

That is a long walk, so give that the time that it's going to need to work. Okay. Therapy works very gently and very slowly, and this is a very deep wound that you're trying to heal. Now, I would also encourage both of you to consider doing some individual work as well. That can be with a therapist or a coach, but you're going to need some help in processing what's happening.

Now, the reason why I say to do both couples and individual is because his work is to get really introspective about what he was seeking and what he was feeling and what this affair meant to him and what it's going to mean to his future. And I feel like that introspection is going to be much, much more difficult to access if the woman that he loves and the woman that he betrayed is sitting a foot away from him every time you're exploring these really hard questions.

So that's where individual therapy might be helpful for him as well, in addition to the couples. But I also want you to have support because like you said, you don't have anyone that you can talk to now, at least you have a therapist, but you're still getting to know that therapist. They're still getting to know you, and you don't have anyone to share this information with and to process your own pain.

Now, you had mentioned, should you tell your sister, who feels like she's your best friend? And to be honest, probably by now you've already told her. And there's no right or wrong in that. But I do want to just give you and or anyone else who has that same question something to consider, and that is that if you turn towards a family member or a friend for support, which seems logical and seems rational, it does create a new problem.

Because now, let's say you two do all this hard work and you end up remaining in the marriage and you've forgiven him and you're feeling really close and hopeful and wanting to remain in the marriage. The problem is this person, your sister, your best friend, they have not done all that work. They have not forgiven him, and now they have opinions that now, let's say what would happen if your sister hated him forever because he hurt you?

Like, in one sense, at first, that would feel super supportive. But then once the two of you are back together and trying to, you know, make that work for the two of you, well, now that becomes another hindrance because now your sister hates your husband. So now family functions are difficult. Whenever you're wanting to go away with your sister or talk on the phone hours a day with your sister or whatever, that's going to be a challenge because now there's strife between these two people and all because you were looking for support.

So it's just something to really consider before you go confiding in family and friends in order to process this information. Your family and friends, even though you love them madly, do not belong in the middle of your marriage. So I think you need to process this, and I think you need support. I just think you need to get it from a professional and not someone who's just, of course they're just going to love you.

That's their job, our friends and family, their job is to love you. So they're going to show up and they're going to do that, but then they're also going to form their own opinions and they're going to get a little protective of you, and that's just going to layer on more challenges on top of this other really big challenge. So my recommendation is that you don't do that until you're on the other side of this, until you've done some processing and some healing yourself.

And you need support. Of course you need support. You can't just keep all this inside and expect to heal it all on your own magically, that's not going to happen. And I also don't think that a couple can come through an affair without some help. So this is another reason why I'm just really glad that you're getting that support. Like, certainly there are couples where an affair has happened and it's been found out and the couple has come through it.

That happens all the time. But the only time that you can come out stronger as a couple is when you have help and support, like a professional helping you through that process. I actually don't. I think the only way that couples have done it on their own, like a DIY project, is where one of them or both of them pretends. They pretend it didn't happen. They pretend it didn't hurt.

They pretend time has healed it. But I feel like you have to lose a part of your soul in that process. So there's always a cost, and that's just too big of a cost. So get help, get support, but make it professional support, and that can look any way you want it to look. Obviously, I'm here, but there's also a lot of other options that you can explore as well.

Whatever feels good for you. Now, one of the questions that you're asking is in regards to why men cheat. Like, you didn't ask me that question specifically, but it's embedded in there. And when men cheat, they don't often cheat as a way to end the marriage. Sometimes, if you're not feeling good about yourself as a man, if you don't feel confident or you feel like you're losing, like you're getting older and you're losing some of that chutzpah that you had in your younger days, and someone 20 years younger comes along and pays you attention, treats you with admiration and respect and desires, you, boy, that can be quite the ego boost, right?

And that can really, that can feel very intoxicating. So that is a story that has been around since the beginning of time, but that's his ego. And we all operate from our ego selves more often than we would care to admit. And so he was operating from his ego. He was operating from what's going to make me feel good in this moment, or valuable or worthy or desirable.

Okay, so that's probably the reason why he chose to cheat. And I am not surprised that he doesn't want the marriage to end. He was just seeking that quick fix, and she showed up and supplied it. Right? Any, you know, that love and respect and admiration and desire, maybe that wasn't there after 30 years together anymore, and he was craving it and he didn't know how to ask for it, or you didn't know how to give it, or you two have just grown apart and you've stopped sort of feeding each other that way.

But clearly, that's something that he needs, but also that many men need. Right? Just like women, we want to feel appreciated, and we want to feel seen and heard and valued. Men also want to feel valued, but they also want to be respected and admired and desired. And so those are the things that. Those are the buttons that we each need to sort of press for each other in order to remain connected as a couple.

Now, you had mentioned that when you think about if the marriage ends and he's going to go be with someone else. That. That would break your heart. That's just like, that's your ego showing up. That's all that's happening. And it's a little bit of jealousy, and it's understandable. But what I would offer is that people aren't possessions. Right? And so he's not yours to keep. And you two will have to choose one another if you're going to remain together.

You two have to start choosing one another actively every day. Not staying because you're married and because this is what you've done for 30 years, or because it would be really hard to undo it, but because you're actively choosing each other, because there's nowhere else that you'd rather be than here with this person. Even when it's hard, I'm still going to choose you. That's the kind of attitude that you're both going to have to bring to this in order to heal it.

And when you are in the thick of this, like you said, you just found out about this affair, when you're in the thick of this, with all the emotion and all the upheaval and how disoriented you are, this is not the time to make a decision. So you don't have to know right now. You don't have to make a decision this minute. I want you to get to a calmer, steadier place to see if this relationship can evolve to a new place that can feel better for you.

And I'm going to tell you something. I have seen couples come out of an affair, come through an affair stronger, better, closer, more connected than they ever were before the affair. Like, I don't think any of them would ever say, oh, thank goodness you had that affair. I don't think anyone would go that far. But this is a disruptor. If ever there was a cry for help, this is the cry for help, and now we've got to deal with it.

So it is possible to come through this. I want to give you that hope, but I also want to set expectations that it's really hard work and it's really deep introspective work, and it's going to take longer than you think it's going to be. It's probably going to be harder than you think it's going to be, but it is possible, and you might choose on the other side of this, that what he wants in this part of his life no longer works with what you want in this part of your life, you might come to that conclusion or you might be able to heal from this.

Right? My hope for you is just your peace, just you being able to heal from this so that you don't carry this hurt and pain with you. Right? So I'm here for your healing and not some agenda of you have to stay together no matter what or you have to leave him. He's a cheater. I don't have either of those opinions. Right? I want you to find your way through this.

I want you to find your answers and I know you can do that, especially when you have the right support around you. Best of luck to you. Now, we're going to go to our next person who she didn't call in. She wrote in. So I'm going to read to you what she wrote. I found out five months ago my husband of twelve years has been hiring escorts. It absolutely shattered me.

I've held off on deciding whether to file for divorce or to try to save this marriage. I didn't want to make this decision while I was still such an emotional wreck. I can't even get to the stay or divorce decision point because in my mind, if a husband truly loves his wife, he's not out patronizing escorts. Therefore, I do not believe my husband loves me. If he doesn't love me, I don't want to be married to him.

Since without love, trust and commitment, there is no basis for a marriage. He had other instances of infidelity early in the relationship. My husband insists he loves me and that his actions have nothing to do with our marriage. My response to him is that his actions have everything to do with me and our marriage and that he's attempting to compartmentalize his actions separate from our marriage. As in he's taking personal responsibility for his actions because he's going to counseling after I pushed him to do so, while simultaneously saying his going to escorts had nothing to do with me or our marriage.

I'm guessing he doesn't want to assign blame to me or our marriage because he's thinking it'll cause me to walk away. At this point, I don't trust his words based upon his past actions. Could you explore this concept in one of your podcasts? Can individuals who truly love their spouse really hire and patronize escorts or otherwise cheat on their spouses? I can't see it, but maybe there's an explanation out there that rings true.

So again, I'm going to start with I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this has happened inside of your relationship, and I know that you're probably reeling. So I'm glad that he's in therapy, but I really want you to consider therapy or coaching for yourself too, because you can't navigate all this on your own. And nor should you. Nor should you try, nor should you have to try. You're allowed to have support around you so that you can really understand your feelings and what this is going to mean for you.

There's a lot to process on both sides of an affair that needs to be addressed both individually and as a couple. I think we need both. Just like I had expressed with the Carly who called in or not Carly. I think it was Dee who called in before. Now, I think it's interesting, you know, we don't have this common definition that everyone has agreed upon as cheating or which is worse, you know?

But I do think it's interesting that he was always going to escorts, and it sounds like he had been doing this for a little while, that he'd been going to escorts versus having an affair. Right. So for him, it was about sex more than it was about the relationship. So it doesn't seem like there would be emotions involved if you're always going to escorts. So I find that interesting.

I'm not going to suggest that it's better or worse. I just think it's a different dynamic to consider. Now, when I think about why people cheat, many of the people who find their way to my work, they're cheating because something is missing in the marriage. Something that their heart is longing for is missing inside the relationship. Now, this is predominantly women. This is predominantly the reason why women have affairs is something is missing in the marriage, like connection or affection or being understood or seen and heard or valued at a deep level.

Not being desired. Right. And so for men, if something is missing in the marriage, it's usually being desired, being admired and not being appreciated. Those are typically the things that they would be seeking. But for women, another thing that women do that's different than men is women will more often than not, if they're cheating. They're cheating to sort of passive aggressively blow up a relationship where men are cheating to endure what feels like a relationship that isn't enough in some way.

That's the part, the missing piece. So this is the story for some people, is that the relationship was broken and or there was something that was missing that made our relationship vulnerable to an affair. But I don't think that's the case here. I think what's going on here, like you said, like he's saying that he was happy and that he loves you, but yet he still cheats. And so here's something that I just want to explore with you.

And this is a completely different concept that we've not talked about before, and this is entirely possible. See, we think if you love me, you would never cheat on me. But that's not true. Sometimes the reason why people cheat is they're not necessarily seeking another partner to replace you. What they're seeking is another version of themselves they're wanting. I don't want to say replace themselves, but this different part of themselves that either they never knew existed or that they weren't.

Yeah. They didn't know that it was there before or didn't know that they needed to have this. Many times. It's about a new sense of self or a different side of themselves that they don't think that they can expose inside the relationship. So that doesn't mean that we want to leave the person that we're with, but instead, we want to leave this part of ourselves that we don't really like very much.

So for women, when they're looking for a different sense of self, when I think about some of the reasons why women cheat, it's really about who they get to be inside that affair, inside that experience. And oftentimes, it's the woman that they've left behind. If you think about the roles that women play, we're a wife, we're a mother, but sometimes we forget that we're also a woman and that we're also a sexual being.

And so we sort of put that aside to really take on the roles of wife and mother. But at some point, we want to feel that sense of also being a woman and feeling desired and feeling a sense of desire in our lives. And that's what we get to explore inside of an affair. So why can't it be something similar for men? Because affairs aren't just about sex.

It's about desire, and it's about attention, and it's about reconnecting with a part of yourself that you lost or you never even knew existed. So I have a hunch here that what he's going to find through his individual therapeutic work, assuming that his therapy has, you know, a decent amount of experience in working with people and their secrets and their affairs, is that through his introspection that there's going to be a part of himself that he has not yet owned, and there's probably going to be some shame associated with that.

Now, you might think, well, why did he have to go out of the relationship? In order to explore that side of himself and what I want to offer, and I'm not making excuses for him, I'm just understanding psychology and human behavior here. Is that where there's shame about that part of him? Like maybe he's into something that you might judge as being a little bit too out there, right?

So there could be some shame associated with that. So him exploring that with you, or even bringing it up with you as a possibility carries a great deal of risk because you're his wife. That's where he's most vulnerable. He's not vulnerable with escorts. He can do whatever he wants to do, and no one's going to judge him and he's not going to feel shame, but he's able to live and breathe in that part of himself that is absolutely present.

So I think you probably know him as one person, one kind of man, and there's probably another version of him that you're not yet familiar with or you've turned a blind eye to because it sounds like this is not his first rodeo and that this has happened before. And so there's probably a part of himself that he's ignored and that he's told himself stories about to push it down and push it away because he doesn't like that part of himself.

But if that is a part of him, and if you are going to love him and you're going to be in your most intimate relationship with him, you've got to be able to see and hold all parts of him. And that's something that you two are going to have to navigate. What I would tell you, this marriage that you have had, it's done. This marriage is done. This marriage is over.

You have to make that mental shift that this is done. Now our only task is to explore whether or not we can create something new together or if there's not going to be a new version. But whatever it is that is inside of him that he's probably feeling some shame about, that he doesn't want you to see, he's playing that out in secret through these affairs. And until he heals that wound, this behavior is not going to stop.

Because if it's not an affair, if he's not using women to numb so he doesn't have to feel the shame of that part of his life. If he's not running from himself in this way, he's just going to run from himself in some other way. Overworking, gambling, drinking too much, whatever. There's a million ways that human beings can run from ourselves. Right. So this is either the time that he's going to come to terms with that part of himself and let you see it, or he's not.

But whatever you do, tell yourself the truth. If he's not willing to see the truth, then know that this behavior, if it's not healed, whatever's causing this behavior, this is going to keep happening. It might take on a different version, but it will keep happening. So he's either going to heal it and you two can come together in a new way, or he's not. And then you do have your answer.

All right, I hope that that is helpful. I know I talk about affairs pretty often because they're happening pretty often. And even if you've not experienced an affair or had that impact your marriage, first of all, congratulations. But you should still be talking about it with your partner, because we don't talk about it until it lands on our doorstep, and then we try to become an expert in it and try to wade our way through a myriad of really upsetting and painful emotions.

And so I think even just talking to your partner about what do you constitute as a betrayal? Is a productive conversation. Because is kissing a betrayal? Is sending a picture of you in a skimpy bathing suit? Is that a betrayal? Is flirting online a betrayal? Like what? Like, I think we've got to get more clear inside of our relationships, and this is very personal, what we constitute as a betrayal.

Certainly both of these ladies who have shared their hearts and shared their experience here today have endured a betrayal. And for that, I have a. A great big heart for them. But I also want them to know, to take care of themselves. Because when you are the one that has been betrayed, you have an awful lot of feelings to wade through and to make sense of, and so does your partner.

Of course they do. But you also need to be an advocate for yourself here, and you need that love and support and tools, frankly, around you so that you can get through this and come out the other side much, much stronger, whether you're with this partner or you're not. Either way, you have to heal from this hurt. All right? And that is always my hope for you. Until next time, take really good care.

If you have a question that you would like my insights on and you would like for me to address through the loving truth podcast, I would love to hear from you. Just leave me a voicemail at 727-537-0359 you can even remain anonymous if that makes you more comfortable. If you're listening to this podcast, because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a truth and clarity session with a member of my team.

On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application. Now that's clarityformymarriage.com.