Follow Up: Torn Between Wife and Girlfriend

Back in early May I wrote What To Do When You’re Torn Between Wife And Girlfriend. The short version being a guy was torn between two women and I talked him though the options and which I though would work best.

I had a lot of negative comments about the original poster on that blog, because obviously he was cheating on his wife. I also had some negative comments directed at me for not reaming him out for cheating on his wife. So much so that I wrote a follow up post explaining why I seemingly played him soft.

Positive and Productive… the good bits…

Now the purpose of other people expressing moral outrage, is to get you to change your behavior by evoking shame or guilt. When this happens, typically you experience one of two reactions. (1)  You fold up like a wet napkin and admit to your badness, or (2) you engage your Rationalization Hamster and deny you did anything wrong. If your reaction is (2), then you change nothing about your situation and never return to Ingrid Von Banhammer’s blog because obviously she’s a heartless bitch.

My assumption is that when you write to me about a problem, you’re already unhappy about the situation and motivated to change it. Thus I don’t need to jump up on a soapbox and try and shame you into changing your behavior… because you’re already motivated to change your behavior. All shaming you does is make you defensive and thus less likely to change what you’re doing. The question is simply what do you need to do to to solve your problem and be happy?

I get that if you’re used to arguments for sexual ethics based on a pre-existing moral position, my approach seems extremely counter-intuitive at best and sinfully depraved at worst. Just bear with me, with a little patience you might be surprised at how often I can explain that doing “the right thing” is the answer to the problems caused by doing “the wrong thing.” But if the comments drive the readers asking the questions away, they will likely continue doing “the wrong thing.”   Or put another way… if MMSL was a credit counseling blog, it would be really unhelpful if some comments just said the reader was just fucking stupid with their money.

And we never heard back from the original poster again… until today…

Those who commented earlier on this post may be glad (or disappointed) to know that I ended my relationship with my girlfriend two months ago and have recommitted to my family. My wife and I are engaged in counselling. After two months, and still-unfinished grief on my part, we’re not yet back to “normal”, but we’re quietly convinced we’re on the right track and are determined to succeed. My wife has been a heroine throughout all of this: unstinting in her devotion to her (undeserving) husband of 20+ years and our children.

All in all, fabulous news and everything going as well as can be expected. Yes it’s hard and non-perfect but it’s on track and heading in the right direction. So glad to hear back that things are on the mend.

In terms of the grief, often people leaving an affair and returning to their spouse have no one to grieve the loss of the affair with. So the pain and longing never go away. So while this is very counter-intuitive, if your wife is able to tolerate it (and she may not be), if you can cry with her, it’s very effective. On one hand it releases all that pain you’re holding onto, it makes you feel accepted and forgiven, and your partner sees you letting go of the affair partner in real time. It’s just a very intense emotional experience.

Swing by the forum. There’s more support that way too…for both of you.

Jennifer: The whole grieving thing is painful but a positive step.  You are giving up a relationship that you were very invested in.  For your spouse it’s another twist of the knife to see how much you grieve for the affair partner relationship, but it’s also a step in the right direction if you can see it as such.  He chose you, even though it wasn’t easy, and he’s working on getting back to a life centered on your marriage.





  1. John Q Galt says:

    Lucky man….

  2. Oh, those poor cheaters. They have no one to grieve with. Wow . . .

  3. “In terms of the grief, often people leaving an affair and returning to their spouse have no one to grieve the loss of the affair with.” I resonated with this a lot, but in a different way. When my partner and I got together we had both just left long term relationships. It was obvious that we both were ready to move on and really wanted to be with one another, but we also still had a lot of growing to do out of our former attachments. We still really cared about or ex – probably even loved them in one way or another. We off and on would ask each other if we were missing them that day (for the first few months) as we reminisced about the good times and worked on moving into something new together. In any other situation I suppose we would have both stayed single for a bit after splitting up with our respective partners, but we were quite quick to get together and it was (strangely) refreshing to me to be able to admit my past affections to my current partner and not have him feel jealous that I had at one point loved someone else.

  4. enlightened1 says:

    It’s so simple to blame the cheater. They look so obviously at fault because it’s the fault you can see. Affairs are not the cause of divorces (although it frequently works out that way). They are a symptom of an ailing or dead relationship where needs are not being met somewhere. My heart catches with joy that this husband was able to renew his love for his wife and set aside the emotional ties with the other woman and my heart does grieve for him and her. I am so happy the wife can receive him back and I truly pray that that is done with honesty and not with the emotional extortion that could be a temptation to wield. Praying for their wholeness and an even greater intimacy than they ever had to begin with.

  5. AM, your single comment speaks a thousand words of ignorance.

  6. This whole “last dance with Mary Jane” view of grieving for the loss of opportunity to sin is ridiculous. Much less using your victimized marriage partner to do it. I especially feel for the husband of the woman the guy cheated with. I grieve for him.

  7. Joe_Commenter says:

    @Alpha, the grief the cheater feels *is* completely ridiculous. You are correct here. But calling it ridiculous does not make it go away. And it does nothing to help the situation. The grief is still there and must be dealt with somehow.

  8. @Alpha: speaking as “the other guy” in an affair, (she was married), and without going into details about her relationship, all I can say is that you cannot understand the depths of what you’re commenting on until you’ve been there. (And for your ignorant self’s sake, I hope you never are.)

  9. @someguy: to me, you are the talking dead. Yes, cheating on your wife is bad, but that’s not what bothers me as much as sleeping with another man’s wife. That used to be punishable by death, and so was a married woman committing adultery. It sounds extreme now, but it makes sense. Without a truly motivating reason not to commit adultery, it happens. You think the man and the woman in the story would have had such an affair if they thought that getting caught could mean their deaths? Hell no.

    These are particularly ignorant comments. Honor killings are barbaric and serve no purpose. Please consider this a warning.

  10. @AM:

    “Yes, cheating on your wife is bad, but that’s not what bothers me as much as sleeping with another man’s wife.”

    Aaaaand you’ve just defecated on any good points you were making. I will type this slowly cuz I know you can’t read good:

    Women are not property. And yes, cheating on your wife IS as bad as knowingly sleeping with another man’s wife. Seriously, WTF is wrong with you?

  11. If my husband cheated, came back to me, and actually grieved over the whore, that would be the end. I pick and choose from the MMSL (I think we all do to some extent) and no. Just no. You don’t get to cheat and then twist the knife further.

  12. I don’t think I could stomach having a husband grieving the end of an affair. How insulting. No masochistic martyrdom for me thanks. I pray I am never in that position.

  13. The more I live the less I judge and the more I accept people as they are.

  14. Once one has been on the receiving end of that speech they all give and gazed into those cold dead shark eyes that look at you like garbage after years of sharing everything, one has no idea of the pain infidelity inflicts. The idea that one should allow an unfaithful spouse to cry on their shoulder over some Turd who would have relationships with married women/men is beyond ridiculous.

    Personally I don’t know how one can heal something like that, as it would take true remorse on the part of the unfaithful spouse and a Christ like forgiving nature on the part of the betrayed. That might exist I suppose, but I think it’s more likely in the majority a case of “Phew, that was close” on the part of betrayer and ” I’ll take her/him back because I can’t exist without her/him” on the part of the betrayed. As the betrayed I’d always be wondering if I was just second choice, the idea of spending the rest of my life playing CIA on my formerly unfaithful spouse holds no appeal for me.

    The only case I’ve seen that I can agree with was on a youtube video, I don’t recall their names, but they also wrote book about it. The couple had a very comfortable lifestyle, a marriage with no conflicts, beach house and two young children. The wife became “unsettled”, wondering if “is this all there is”, had an affair and served with divorce papers with no warning at all. She left and found out that the grass was not greener and tried to get back with him two years later. He did not take her back until she proved her remorse and had been on her own for about another four years, they’ve since remarried. A case like this would appear to be really rare and I wish them all the best.

  15. Without the grieving, the spouse who had the affair, will continue to be in love with their affair partner.

    Whether that happens alone or with someone, they have to grieve or the affair essentially continues on unabated in their head as a painful loss they cannot move past.

  16. I remember this guy. His affair partner wasn’t married, as I recall. And yes, women are not property. We are human beings with desires and needs and emotions, oddly, much like men. I think that makes us all human. ;) I’m glad the guy and his wife are getting back together. She needs to own up to her side of neglecting the relationship, too, and FIX IT, if it’s going to work. Sackcloth and ashes will get you so far but no further.

    “Marriage” is purely an artificial legal/religious construct anyway: “relationships” are (painfully, delightfully) real, though. So of course he is going to grieve the loss of his relationship with the affair partner; it IS a real relationship. Especially one that’s gone on longterm like his did.

    that being said, if you can figure out how to enjoy having a genuinely great relationship with the mother/father of your children, the person you’ve been with since your youth… all those years of shared past history and future family bonds combined with a deep, passionate sexual connection… that’s a high, rare thing to shoot for, but it’s so awesome when it happens that I think it’s absolutely worth taking the shot. Maybe that kind of relationship is the only one that really deserves the name “marriage.” Been together forty years, raised five kids together, and you still want to fuck each other’s brains out? OK, YOU can have a marriage certificate. lol young punters need not apply.

    Wish the OP a lot of happiness and love in his life. Life’s too short to live it on anything less than full blast.

  17. You know, if I found out my husband were having an affair… there are really two black-and-white options right?

    1. he’s a CPOS who can never be reformed. Those people exist. I chose badly. It’s over.

    2. he’s the great guy I thought I married, but I didn’t do my bit in keeping him happy enough to stay home. (the Martyr Tack)

    3. something in between: all right, so he’s not Job, but he probably isn’t a sociopath, either, and is there a way to fix this, and do I still want to? If “yes,” then I need to shed some pride, do what it takes to bring him back home in a way that he isn’t always feeling like being married to me is living half-a-life. Because if it doesn’t GET FIXED, it’s going to eventually be right back in the same place, once the shock and awe wears off.

    I don’t want to be with someone who’s with me out of some bizarre commitment to a life of quiet desperation.

  18. Let them grieve for their affair partner on their own, until they’ve done that there is no hope of reconciliation. I don’t think they can truly do that by ‘Coming Home’ before it’s done. The reality of what they’ve done is blunted because they have a safe harbor in a spouse willing put up with their crap. They truly need to spend the time it takes on their own, just as it takes the betrayed time to move on from their own pain. This can take years if it was an infatuation, if ever, all one has to do is look up all the cheating going on via Facebook with people hooking up with old flames from High School.

  19. Grief, by far the worst emotion IMO. That was the hardest part of my wife leaving. The one person that I could grieve with and find comfort, was the cause of my grief, and to make matters worse, she didn’t appear to be experiencing it.

    The guy having the affair was definitely in the wrong, however I still feel for him and what he must most likely shoulder on his own, the loss of someone he obviously connected with.

  20. I don’t know if that was his entire correspondence or if it is only partial, but I see the grief could be meant two different ways.
    The first is grieving the end of the affair, which if I were the wife in a similar situation could see it as somewhat positive. If he’s grieving then he does accept it as a dead relationship, moving away from it and realizing that it will have no place in his life again.
    Then I also have to ask is it possible that the grief he feels is in relation to the pain he caused his wife; that he is agonizing over it and that this will be a big factor in how he treats her, his marriage and relationship from here on out. If he is grieving how he treated his wife then he recognizes what he needs to rebuild with his wife to overcome the grief he feels and it would be a motivator to him staying on track with with his recommittment.
    This is why I ask if there was more to the comment that makes it clear what exactly is he grieving.

  21. Oof. I really hope I’m never put in that position. It’s so easy for me to sit here on the sidelines and say, “Well, I’d never take back a cheating partner. You cheat you get the boot. Done.” And that’s what I like about it: it’s easy. Just sitting here on the sidelines, making my abstract pronouncements having never dealt with the reality of it.

  22. John Q Galt says:

    I have been there – in fact, I’m going through this now. It is ending in divorce because she prefers the OM to me.

    I forgave the first affair. In my opinion, allowing your spouse to grieve is part of the work you both have to do, to get through this. You might decide that your marriage is NOT worth the effort. That’s your choice. However, if you do decide to stay and try, Athol is 100% correct that this is something you will need to do. If your goal is to have a happy, faithful marriage, it’s the only choice.

  23. I'm a man says:

    @Ben – agreed. I think a big decider is where you are in your life with respect to finances and children.

  24. All I will say is that if you were a loving caring beta male husband, and your wife cheated on you, being an emotional tampon for her to grieve over her lost alpha won’t work. I can see that other scenarios would work, but not that one.

  25. It’s so easy to judge when you’ve never been there.

  26. I have a genuine question: Can the cheater really respect their spouse if the spouse takes them back? I recall reading on some manosphere blog that if a (in the case I read) man takes back a cheating woman, she will never really respect him – because he took her back. I think that’s a valid call. Is it the same for men? Can he really respect a woman who takes him back?

  27. @girl4 I think so. It’s a very careful framing though. You have to frame it that she deserves to be divorced for her crimes, but from his mercy he’s letting her stay. Plus there’s obviously much less tolerance for her bad behavior. She has to toe the line or she’s gone.

  28. @Athol – Thanks. What if he was the one who cheated, and the wife took him back? Can he really respect a wife/woman who gives him the captaincy back after he broke her trust like that? Or does he (in the back of his mind) think she is weak to have forgiven him something he probably (or knows) would not have forgiven her for?

  29. John Q Galt says:

    @Athol: “You have to frame it that she deserves to be divorced for her crimes, but from his mercy he’s letting her stay. ”

    God is Alpha. Salvation through Grace.

  30. Girl4,

    I don’t think there any any absolute’s when it comes to the questions of loss of respect for a partner that takes a cheating partner back, male or female. The bigger issue at play is the loss of relationship committment that led to the cheating by either partner in the first place. If that gets fixed, then a healthy relationship can flourish, if it doesn’t, then it won’t.

  31. I am a woman who cheated. This all happened very recently and I’m just now – 3 months out from the affair breaking up due to discovery – feeling like I might actually get over the guy. If my husband had not allowed me to grieve that relationship our marriage would have been over. I absolutely had to process those very, very painful emotions. Probably equal to the emotions I felt when our first baby was stillborn. It has been that difficult. My grieving the relationship and talking it out with my husband is what has reignited our lost emotional connection. I didn’t respect him much before the affair but the way he has handled it since he discovered it has increased my respect, admiration, attraction – everything – towards him. He is absolutely an Alpha in every way he needs to be – his “take it or leave it” attitude, his self-care and improvement, and his protection of our family in crisis combined with his willingness to wait out my crazy has amazed me. Also the really, really good sex.

    Just wanted to put that perspective out there.

  32. “If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second.”

    ? Johnny Depp

    Now you’re siding with the cheaters…?

  33. Richard Cook says:

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but, isn’t being “judgemental” the way social ostracism worked? And by extension enforced the morality of the community. I though shame was one of the ways a stable society was enforced.

    You can’t shame the shameless. Thus you must reason. Also plenty of shaming was done for things that are harmless.

  34. Richard Cook says:

    Does not the community get to determine what is harmless and what is not? I do not believe because the system is not perfect we get rid of the entire edifice, Frequently the “shameless” do not know the power of community censure until it is exerted on them. You MUST judge in this life. What is right and what is wrong and have some standard for determining right and wrong. These are the unhittable targets such as the Bible, the Torah and various branches of philosophy. They are unhittable because we will never conform exactly to the standards they establish. Through these we determine that adultery is wrong and not in the best interest of the community. That is a judgement. People may not like it but there it is.

    You realize the Ten Commandments only applied to the Israelites? As soon as they got the Ten Commandments up and running, they committed genocide against the Canaanites and took all the female virgins as wives for the soliders. It’s only adultery for seducing another Israelites wife. It was okay to slaughter another tribal group for their daughters though. You really think it’s a problem we aren’t meeting this moral standard anymore?

  35. Richard Cook says:

    You notice I did not get into the weeds on this. Also notice that I did not mention specific religions, occurances or philosophies. My intent was NOT to mention specifics =, only to generalize a specific system. If i answered your question I would have to get into a theological discussion about God’s setting Isreal apart and that is not the intent of my post. All systems to some extent break down when emulation is attempted by humans. It does not mean that the system is corrupt, but, that the humans doing the emulating are corrupt. Notice, concerning adultery, how well removing darn near all systems of religion or philosophy from civic life has worked. Really worked well with marriage didn’t it? Not too bad with adultery either. Why not the return of fault divorce? Because it would stand in the way of “doing my own thing”. Damn that aiming at something higher than myself!

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