If you are the faithful wife facing an unfaithful husband, this post is for you.
It doesn’t matter whether you label that third party the “mistress,” the “other woman,” the “homewrecker,” or whatever comes to mind.
What matters is that she and your husband already did the damage.
The future of your marriage is threatened: do you want to stay, which will require both of you to do the work, including some tricky, unpleasant navigation?
Do you want to play just as dirty strategically as the mistress? If you choose this option, you will be playing chess, not checkers, which means those moments of wondering about the mistress’ new highlights, her better skin, her better IQ, and her non-frazzled demeanor all have to go. She probably isn’t exercising more than you are, and she’s probably not a supermodel – that’s not boilerplate consolation for you; it’s literally the truth about most affairs.
The mistress’ perfections aren’t driving the affair. Your husband’s imperfections are, but your husband and the mistress likely don’t know that. You do. You have been present for every setback and disappointment that he encountered in your partnered lives together. You have been present for every time he compromised on what he thought he wanted out of life. Your presence is the mirror that reflects his true self accurately, and if he doesn’t like that self, he’s not going to like you much right now either. The mistress offers the funhouse mirror – one that he designed. He can reveal what he wants to reveal and be a new person without the baggage of those compromises and disappointments. This image is inaccurate, and it’s equally seductive to both your husband and the mistress.
Do you want to leave? Maybe you can’t answer because you genuinely don’t know. This question is easier to answer if your partner engaged in a short-term fling that had both a beginning and an end date with no future potential and no emotional entanglements.
But that’s not how mistresses work, is it?
The mistress is synonymous an actual affair in which there has been time invested and in which the emotional attachment is thriving. Yet, you can’t call it cheating right now because your husband may not think of it as cheating. Cheating, in his mind, is something that cheaters do…and he’s not that kind of man. No one said this was going to be logical.
Because of your husband’s choices with her, your marital future may not be so straightforward.
Divorce lawyers identify the holiday season and just after as “the mistress season,” as mistresses often make themselves known, especially if the cheating husband decides to spend the holiday season in the marital home. The mistress is alone. She may be motivated to do something about it, such as issuing an ultimatum.
Regardless of what the mistress does, the faithful wife will likely find out about the affair sooner or later. When there are holiday gift receipts, for example, there is a higher likelihood of discovery. The receipt might reveal the affair, but so might a hairdresser or waiter, or the neighbor or a friend. Your husband himself might make the grand reveal.
The typical scenario is that the faithful partner finds the incriminating evidence, feels the emotional upheaval, and approaches the straying husband in this agitated – and highly unflattering – state. And why wouldn’t she? Confrontation is best….right?
However justified the faithful wife’s response may be, the unfaithful husband may weaponize her reaction: “See how you accuse me? You immediately think the worst. See how crazy you are? See how you never asked for my side?”
The faithful wife’s reasonable outburst can become fodder for the unfaithful husband to justify the affair: “I go to my mistress to escape you and your behavior.”
Each side grows more polarized into their defensive positions, and the divide grows wider. The situation grows worse when the mistress and the unfaithful spouse can now unite against the “crazy” wife – she brought it on herself, right?
Remember that divorce lawyers can be expensive for both sides, especially if you don’t have a prenuptial agreement in place.
If you have discovered infidelity, here’s your immediate – not long-range – game plan:
- You will not confront anyone, especially not the unfaithful husband. Find a safe place for your rage, grief, loneliness, and shame, such as a therapist’s office, where confidentiality is assured.
- You will not tell your friends or family. We don’t need additional third parties in this mess. These people may or may not know what is in your best interests. They have a high likelihood of advancing their own agendas, insecurities, and protective tendencies.
vYou will not say a word online, including the using cryptic inspirational quotes. Passive aggression is a bad look on everyone.
- You will not mention divorce to anyone.
- You will say yes to as much self-care as you can fit into a day. Choose not to be the victim. Have your own back in this.
- You will gather as much information as you can about the affair before making accusations or considering a direct confrontation.
- Meanwhile, focus on resuming all your interests and your duties at home and at work.
You can rely on something intrinsic to being the faithful wife: you have a longstanding period of trust with your husband, even if he chose to trash it because of a midlife crisis or his failure to heal childhood wounds. Most likely, your cheating husband still trusts you and your time together more than he trusts his mistress, who has shown that she is fine with deceit. The mistress by comparison is a novel figure, full of mystery and therefore potential, which is the majority of her appeal. Capitalize on his trust right now; do not push his limits at this delicate juncture.
Use this time to present a postnuptial agreement calmly. At this time, you have said nothing about an affair or about divorce; keep it that way. Your cheating husband likely has some remorse over the betrayal, so he may be open to a better divorce outcome for you – if you approach him without drama and without accusations or assumptions.
Unfortunately, if you as the faithful wife act out with sadness or anger, the cheating husband may retreat further away from your trust bond. Similarly, if you try to control the situation, you will drive him further away, as Laura Doyle, author of the Empowered Wife Podcast, learned the hard way. Laura is a relationship coach and New York Times bestselling author who took her own advice when she was facing divorce and saved her marriage.
You, as the faithful wife, should ideally present a postnup that is favorable to you as a mom, even though child custody is specifically addressed by a formula managed by the court. The postnup is presented as merely an option, but an optimal one, since at some point in the future, you two may or may not divorce – make sure to state this practical position calmly and aloofly.
Interestingly in this regard, both you as the faithful wife and the mistress are united in a common position: your husband can get out of the marriage via this postnup. The burden is now on your cheating husband to find a resolution, one way or the other.
If you do want to continue the marital relationship, realize that you are in a marketing campaign for your marriage. Marketing campaigns are image-based with curated messages that highlight some aspects on center stage while moving other facts to the rear stage. Decide where and how the spotlight should fall on you, and then act the part.
There is another burden on you in taking this strategy. You must adopt steps to protect yourself from you. At this level of betrayal and high stress, acting out is the last thing you want. Don’t become the crazy, awful persona that justifies your cheating husband’s perceptions. You can’t let yourself get to the point of snapping as acting out can kill any chance of reconciliation, and it can kick your self-esteem in the teeth. Laura Doyle offers group support and group coaching, both of which can restore sanity and functionality quickly.
Talking with a therapist or coach may show you that you don’t want to stay with an unfaithful partner who might ditch you again and who has already cut away a chunk of your self-worth. Consider a marriage coach to assess the damage and to see what can be salvaged and to see if you, as the faithful spouse, want to continue the marital relationship.
*We know these terms have substantial baggage with a misogynistic history; in fact, all these terms are loaded (see this Dictionary.com article about these terms, which is NSFW reading, given the strong, explicit language).
Warning: All posts on this website and its partner website, DADvocacy.com, contain general information about legal matters for broad educational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. This blog post does not create any attorney-client relationship between the reader and the DADvocacy™ Law Firm or between the reader and JustPrenups.com.