Question: I read your blog entry for October 12th and if I didn’t know better I thought this entry came from my husband. I have been married to a man for 21 years who has frequently sought the attention of female companionship, for some of the same reasons as your October e-mailer. This has occurred off and on for the majority of our marriage. Now it’s happened again and I’ve determined to leave, not only for the sake of our 3 children, but for my own sense of worth.
The only problem is I still love this man and in his own way, I know he loves me. He’s pleading with me to stay and give him time to show me that this time is different; he is willing to change and to get the help he needs. Unfortunately I’ve heard all these things before. I never thought I’d be one of those women that stayed in a marriage for as long as I have, dealing with this kind of mental and emotional abuse but I’m grieving the loss of our marriage and don’t know how to actually let go. You’re advice to the man was right on, but what advice can you give the wife of a man who continues to seek other female attention?
Answer: Let me first say that I’m sorry for your pain. Relationships are messy and broken marriage vows one of the most painful things people experience. There are no easy answers for you here. If you leave you must grieve the loss of what never was or what you hoped could have been. If you stay you will continue to fear his unfaithfulness and inordinate need for female attention. Marital trust is broken, three children are watching and often we just don’t know what the best next step is.
Should you stay and give him another chance? If so, how many times do you do this before you finally say “talk is cheap and now I need you to show me some real fruits of your repentance before I start to hope and trust again.”
Is it possible to evaluate the genuineness of his repentance by telling him because of his repeated history of breaking his promises, you will not continue to repeat the same old dance by staying. This time, you will separate, but you will and watch and wait and give him time to show that he means business. That will involve him making an appointment with a competent counselor, going to his appointments on a regular basis, giving you permission to speak with the counselor regarding your concerns and his progress, as well as inviting someone other than you hold him accountable with internet chat rooms, pornography, e-mail and other temptations. If he agrees to these things and follows through consistently for a period of at least a year without any further lies or discoveries, then you will consider some joint marital counseling to put the marriage back together. It is his choice.
Understand, we are all broken in some ways (James 3:2). Your husband’s brokenness however has significant impact on the family and it is not healthy to continue to function as if it is no big deal. By taking a strong stand right now, yet giving him time to get the help he needs, you can know that you have done all you can do to help your husband face his brokenness and with God’s help, heal so that your family may be able to be reconciled some day. However, I don’t want to give you false hope. My experience with this kind of problem and person is that when you put your foot down and hold them to actually doing the work of changing, they usually do not stay the course. But if you do it as I’m recommending, at least you will know that it was his decision and that is wasn’t because you were unwilling to give him one last chance to change.