Many wives who reach out to me do so because they are not getting the response that they hoped for by their cheating husbands. Sometimes, he is reluctant to end the affair or to show much remorse. Other times, he may unenthusiastically end the affair and promise to try to save the marriage, but the entire effort feels sort of half hearted and seems to fall short of what the wife truly wants. Some wives will describe this as “taking the easy way out.”
Here’s an example. Someone might say: “I found out that my husband is cheating with a woman that makes deliveries to his office. She does not work at his office. She works for a company that stops in everyday to pick up packages. So he has to see her all the time. When I caught him, he agreed to end it and said that it didn’t mean anything to him anyway. He said that he knew that he was wrong and that he was sorry. He indicated that he was willing to step away from the front of the office when she came in for deliveries so that he would not have to see her. But these are really the only concessions that he seems willing to make. There has been no talk that he should perhaps cut off all contact or explore why he might have cheated. He’s not even given me a heart-felt apology or shared any of his feelings with me. He hasn’t told me that he will do anything to save our marriage – like my neighbor’s husband did. He’s not done romantic things or tried to show me what I mean to him. He hasn’t talked about counseling. It is as if he thinks he will simply say he’s sorry, step away from his desk once per day, and expect me to believe that I don’t have to worry about him cheating again. Honestly, I’m already worrying about that – as well as the idea that he hasn’t completely broken it off. And I find myself wondering if this type of anxiety and unease is going to be my new normal. Do I have a right to ask him not to take the easy way out?”
You absolutely have a right. (Although I suspect that many husbands in this scenario will tell you that they don’t think that they have it very “easy.”) They’ll tell you that it’s very embarrassing and shameful to be caught in this way. They’ll tell you that things will be awkward at work. And they’ll tell you that they are sorry, even if you assume that they are not. (I’m not saying that they are right here, but this is what they often think.)
Still, you have every right to tell your husband what you require to make this better. None of this was your fault and if you have things that need to happen in order to make you feel more secure, then you deserve for those things to happen. That said, he may not know about these things unless you tell him. As much as we might like for him to be able to, he can not read our minds.
And if he’s like many men, he won’t make any effort unless we require it of him. Because let’s face it. Human nature means that most of us want to make life as easy as possible – especially when it is painful or embarrassing to face up to our mistakes. That said, it’s understandable that this type of avoidance is unacceptable to you because it means that you can’t have the confidence that it’s safe to trust him. You’re only guessing or having blind faith because he hasn’t shared his thought process with you and he’s doing no work to explore why this happened ( as well as what might keep it from happening again.) And these things are NOT too much to ask of him, at least in my opinion (although I’m admittedly biased.)
You might have to spell it out for him by saying something like: “I’m glad that you’ve broken it off and have promised not to interact with her anymore, but honestly, that is not quite enough for me. I need for us to spend some time uncovering why this happened. I need to totally believe that you are genuinely and completely sorry. I’d like to discuss counseling at some point. This is a huge thing for me to process. It is going to take time, but more than that, it is going to take effort. I need to see that effort. I’m waiting to see that effort, because so far, I am worried that I am not going to see enough of it. Do you understand what I am saying? Is there a way that I can explain it better? Perhaps if you were able to put yourself in my shoes and ask yourself what you might need from me if I had been the one to cheat on you, that role reversal might help us.”
Allow him time to think about what you’ve said, but after that, you should see more effort. If you don’t, then you may have to speak up again until it sinks in that you aren’t going to settle for a half-hearted effort. Often, husbands need to be made aware of our expectations. I agree with you that you have every right to expect him to rise to the occasion.