Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
My husband and I have been married 30 years now. Recently, I discovered he was having an affair with his gym instructor. We go to separate gyms and I just let him have his “me” time, which lasts 3 to 4 hours on any given day. This is where he gets to fool around with other girls like the one I recently discovered.
He denied it, but further proof surfaced. While he was playing online poker, I got hold of his phone and saw several incriminating sex videos. His face is not actually visible, but being together for 30 years, I know every mole and mark on his body, and his voice.
This triggered lots of fights between us. He said he gave in to peer pressure for his actions. He threatened to leave me or commit suicide because of the distress of confessing to this affair.
The woman is now working abroad as a dancer and their communication via video calls and Viber are still ongoing, despite his protests. It has been only a few months and I doubt the sincerity of his promises to end the affair and move on with our lives.
Dear Doubting Wife (DW),
Thank you for your email.
I was filled with sympathetic indignation by your story until I read it a second time and saw your words: [the gym] “is where he gets to fool around with other girls.”
This strongly suggests that a) his infidelities have been going on for a while and b) you have been aware of them too. However, you might have intended to say that with hindsight you have now realized that the gym was his ground zero for extramarital sex. Our problem is that this is unclear.
Dealing first with the "prior knowledge" interpretation of your words, there are as many types of marriages as there are married couples. Each is unique but certain generalizations can nevertheless be made. There are, for example, spouses who tolerate certain behavior (infidelity, gambling, drinking, extended absences for work) in exchange for material well-being (nice house and car, credit cards, good education for the children etc.) or an association with power (politicians, businessmen) or an important position in the community (civic leader or pastor). Others might tolerate controlling behavior from their spouses if what was offered in exchange was acceptable to them. The fact that we ourselves might not enter into such a bargain is irrelevant; this is their choice.
Of course, if there is coercion it is an entirely different matter.
You, DW, seem to have accepted your lot and so this late conversion to righteous indignation seems odd, to say the least. Perhaps you are seeking support for your as yet undeclared intention to leave your marriage. You certainly have ample grounds for calling it quits.
Turning to the interpretation that you have just discovered that your husband of 30 years has been unfaithful, in the normal course of events you would discuss it with him and decide whether the parameters of what you could agree between you coincided sufficiently with your definition of a marriage worth pursuing.
However, your husband seems to have preempted this discussion somewhat by threatening that he will either leave you, or commit suicide because of stress brought on by his confession. You significantly do not mention reconciliation which is understandable if he is pursuing his relationship with his mistress even if she has left the country.
By your account, there is very little common ground for continuing your marriage. Your husband has his sights, dead or alive, on a future that does not seem to include you and so even if you still choose to strive for reconciliation you would be well advised to prepare as best you can for that outcome.
All the best,
Dear DW (Doubting Wife):
Thank you very much for your email.
Taking note of your self description as a doubting wife, I presume that wondering whether his promise to end his affair is credible is one of your concerns.
If so, then my opinion is that he has not ended his affair. My reasons for this include:
If he is unable to take responsibility for the affair—blaming peer pressure and not himself for his actions, it is likely he will find it even more difficult to take responsibility for something even more proactive like ending it.
If his response to confessing is to frighten you by either threatening to leave or by ending his life, again, chances are he will have similar leaps of logic, and come up with possible repercussions, that do not naturally stem from his actions.
Finally, if he is still communicating with her via Viber and video calls, chances are he feels ill equipped to end their relationship.
You also wonder about the possibility of moving on. I am afraid that in your case, moving on seems highly unlikely. Your husband seems to have no inclination to change, just to come up with excuse after excuse about how the affair started in the first place and/or how your very understandable need to process this will lead him to suicide.
In my clinical experience, a stalled relationship is like a car that has stalled.
If one passenger doesn’t really care whether he gets to the destination or not, he will have no interest in actually doing what needs to be done to get there. He might claim the fan belt is broken when all the car needs is more gasoline.
I am so, so sorry to be the bearer of, if not bad news, then bad probabilities. But I have always believed it is best to know where one stands instead of living in a fool’s paradise.
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.