Infidelity


This post was submitted anonymously to the Exponent II Blog.

About six months ago I found some pictures on my computer of my husband with another woman. We are temple-married for 7 years and are active Mormons. My husband, H, travels with work a lot, and had, apparently, cultivated somerelationships with women in other cities. In the pictures he and the other woman were at a tourist attraction, smiling. After I found the photos I confronted H and insisted that he tell me what was going on. He explained that when he traveled he sometimes took off his wedding ring and acted single. That he had just ‘dated’ other women in a friendly way and had upheld Mormon standards on his dates (never doing more than kissing these other women). He promised to stop seeing them and told his boss that he didn’t want to travel anymore, which his boss was fine with. I insisted that H talk to the Bishop and confess. Bishop has had him stop taking the sacrament for a few weeks and referred H to an LDS counselor.

In all of this I have felt alone and confused. I went to see our Bishop, too, and he advised me not to talk to my family about what H had done because telling them would hamper H’s ability to repent. Bishop suggested that I find someone in the ward that I could talk to about this. So I opened up to someone in the YW presidency that I serve with. This person admitted to me that she had had some similar flirtations via the internet and that it was no big deal. One of my closest friends is my son’s schoolteacher. She’s not LDS, but is Christian and has values like mine. One day when I was helping her after school I told her about what had happened with H. She warned me that one of the other teachers in the school had a crush on my husband and had purposefully ‘run into him’ at a local restaurant that he frequents. I came away from talking to her feeling even worse.

I haven’t found anything in the Ensign or in any church books that specifically addresses infidelity. I feel betrayed by the church because I feel like the Bishop has taken H’s side in this issue more than mine. I’m also really scared because I don’t know that I trust that H has been truly honest with me about ending his relationships. So I want to post this to the Exponent II Blog because I just want to get it off of my chest. I have felt alone and frightened over the past 6 months. I’d also like to know if anyone knows of church materials that address infidelity?

I was listening to Dr. Laura not too long ago and she suggested that it’s not necessarily important to know the details of a spouse’s infidelity, instead, you should just move on together and try to repair your relationship. But I find myself insanely curious about what my husband actually did with those other women. I suspect that he might not be telling me the whole truth, like maybe he actually had sex with some of them, and I don’t know if I can ever trust him again. When I prayed about this trial I haven’t felt like I should leave H. I have also told H that I am committed to sticking with him as long as he has really changed. Oddly enough, in some ways this problem has brought us much closer together-he’s been home a lot more because he isn’t traveling, he’s more helpful with the kids and is much kinder to me, and he seems very afraid that I will leave him and seems to be truly committed to changing. So even though I feel hopeful that my marriage will improve, I am also completely scared that someday I will discover that he’s still hiding things from me. In some ways this experience has brought me greater sympathy for the early women in the church who lived through polygamy. I feel like my worries must have been similarto what they felt. I tell myself that I can’t care about who my husband may have flirted with or had a past relationship with. I just need to forgive and forget as well as remember that he is trying hard to make our marriage work.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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21 Responses

  1. Geoff J says:

    Wow. That seriously sucks. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this.

    Trust is a byproduct of trustworthiness, so it makes perfect sense to me that you don’t trust your husband again yet. With any luck he will earn your trust back over time and actually become the type of man he had previously pretended to be…

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are in a painful and vulnerable place. Your Bishop is wise to counsel you to keep the situation quiet at present; it will be more difficult to preserve your marriage if family or ward members know everything that has happened, and/or your situation becomes an object of gossip. However, you need someone to confide in to help you handle the emotional pain. In my case, I told one sibling and two close friends about my husband’s infidelity, and managed to keep it to only those people — plus my Bishop — for many months (and my husband was involved with a woman in my own ward, which was very uncomfortable, to say the least). Ultimately, when I made the decision to divorce, more people became aware of what happened, but it is still not widely known in my ward.

    You should consider seeing a counselor yourself; you need support as much as your husband does. And, this IS a big deal, regardless of what your friend says; it is devastating to your relationship; marriages require trust to survive.

    The late Carlfred Broderick, a widely respected therapist and LDS Stake President, dealt with infidelity in some of his books. “Couples” which was published for a non-LDS audience, has a chapter on infidelity that is applicable to church members. There have also been some helpful essays over the years in “Dialogue” and “Exponent II.” I think the “Ensign” has had a few articles on infidelity over the years.

    Dr. Broderick liked to quote the scripture about being “wise as serpents but harmless as doves.” You need to be wise, to not automatically give your trust, to protect your own interests, to keep your eyes wide open…and at the same time to offer full support to your husband in rebuilding your marriage. Give yourself time — many months, unless something drastic happens — before making a final decision as to what to do. It takes time to rebuild trust; you will need to witness how your husband behaves over time before you know if you can trust him again.

    Meanwhile, be kind to yourself, pray, read the scriptures, keep your head up. You can get through this with the help of the Lord.

    Best wishes.

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m sorry too–I know how devastating this can be, because I saw my parents go through something very similar about 13 years ago. My Mother felt alone and betrayed and didn’t want to talk to anyone apart from the church leader they had gone to, because she felt like she had to preserve my Father’s reputation. So, one day, unable to bear it alone any longer she decided she would tell *me* about everything and ask for *my* advice. Not a nice thing to do to your oldest child! (I was 18 and in no position to offer any help, emotional or otherwise. I’m sure she just wanted someone on her side, but I didn’t want to take sides!) Looking back, I wish my Mother had gone to a professional LDS counselor. (At the time she wanted marriage counseling, which my Father wasn’t interested in, and since she thought HE was the only one who needed fixing there wasn’t any point in her going alone.) I think it would have helped her, and our family, in many ways. I don’t think everyone needs professional help, but my Mother did, if for no other reason than to have someone to talk to who could be objective about the situation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m so sorry for you, anon.

    Building trust is the hardest part after an episode like that. Even if he tells you more, you’re never going to know for sure that there are no more secrets. It’s going to be a matter of time, and watching, and communication, and prayer. And he may have wanted to be found out, putting pictures on your computer.

    Each couple sets their own relationship boundaries. Only you can say how much this matters to you and to your relationship. It will have an effect. How much effect depends on you, and him.

    There are very few official church materials. You may want to look at:

    Janis Spring, After the Affair.
    Willard Harley, His Needs, Her Needs
    Shirley Glass, Not Just Friends
    Marcella Weiner, Repairing your marriage after his affair.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The most important thing is don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. It’s his problem.

    Even though it is his problem, rebuilding if you choose to rebuild will be a joint effort.

    -Another anon.

  6. Caroline says:

    This doesn’t respond directly to this post, but I have had a certain mental evolution when it comes to thinking about infidelity.

    When I was in my teens and early twenties, I used to think that if my husband cheated on me even once I would immediately end the marriage. No question.

    But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to really value what my husband and I have built over the years. And if he made a stupid one time mistake and felt horrendous guilt over it, I’m almost positive I would forgive him and try to make the marriage work. If it were a multiple time thing and he didn’t confess but I had to find out on my own, it would be much harder for me. But I’d still probably try to keep the marriage intact.

    This evolution of thinking on fidelity has really been a surprise for me. I am an outspoken feminist and really believe in women not being trampled on in marriage. I suppose, however, it’s just a part of me getting older and the world not being as black and white as I once thought it was. I think I’ve also come to an understanding of how fallible I am, so that also probably makes me a bit more understanding of mistakes (even HUGE ones, like this.)

  7. Anonymous too says:

    I was in the same situation a few years ago, although in this case I found emails rather than pictures. Having already gotten my degree, I was working to put my husband through school; he was having an affair with one of his classmates. I gave my husband a second chance, and the same thing happened again. (Not saying this is something you necessarily need to worry about, I’m just explaining my situation.) I told him he needed to choose between her and the family (we had two children, and I was pregnant at the time). He chose to leave.

    I told my bishop, who was incredibly supportive, and later on, when other people in the ward found out we had separated, although they didn’t necessarily know the reason why, they were incredibly supportive too. I don’t think I could have gotten through that time without their help. But I also saw a counsellor, and that is something I would highly highly recommend. Ultimately you’re going to have to get through this on your own, but it really helps to have good, strong, knowledgeable people in your support system. My counsellor was not LDS, which for various reasons worked well for me, but that’s up to you.

    And as for wondering if your husband actually had sex with these women, that’s not just curiosity, that’s practicality speaking. If you’re not sure, you may want to have yourself tested for various STDs. I don’t want to sound gross or fatalistic, but it makes good sense.

    We ended up divorcing, and again, I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen to you, it was just my experience. But I have my three children, and I’m seeing someone now who has become bar none the best friend I’ve ever had. It takes a while, but it does get better.

    Normally I’d sign my name, but given the sensitivity of the situation, today I’m just going to be…

    Anonynous too

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’d recomend getting additional suport through an LDs fmaily services councelor.
    and remember to pray for guidance- the Holy Ghost can lead you to the whoel truth.

    Whiel I agree that moping and dwelling isn’t helpful to you, you are entitled to the full truth so you cna make informed decisions. furthermore, he can’t be fully repentant if he’s still keeping secrets. So the details must come out.

    I hope and pray he IS repentant and willing to work to rebuild, because all CAN be well, if you both make it so.

    We’ve come out of a related siutuation MUCH happier and stronger. but it took wholehearted commitment to eachother, to honesty, to change, and a good bit of time to progress.

    PS- to any for whom p*nography or addictions are an issue, go to providentliving.org for awesome LDS 12 step groups.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “This person admitted to me that she had had some similar flirtations via the internet and that it was no big deal.”

    It IS a big deal. Please don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, or that infidelity and flirtations are harmless or even the norm. They are not.

    I would recommend seeking a non LDS counselor as well as counseling with your bishop. Bishops are great, but they do not have the professional qualifications to deal with a situation like this, and I have seen more than one bishop make terrific mistakes when counseling women in this situation. I also agree with keeping it quiet, only because you owe it to your children not to have the ward gossiping about their father.

  10. AmyB says:

    I don’t have much to offer except my deepest sympathies. I hope that telling your story has helped you, and that you feel supported here.

    Your situation is probably a little more common than many realize. Perhaps your voice can also help others know they are not the only ones either.

  11. Starfoxy says:

    I would second (fifth?) the notion of going to a professional counsellor/therapist. He may have been the one that acted, but you both have to work through it, and both need as much help as you can get.
    I’m not sure I would pry for details or not. I definitely think you *must* know if he had sex or not, so you can check for STDs. But other than that I would get a professional’s advice on seeking out more details.
    This is a really tough thing to work through, and I wish you the best.

  12. Deborah says:

    I’m struck by how many people, even in the cohort who read this blog, have been touched by this issue. I helped “nurse” a friend in the months post her husband’s affair. After some time apart, they have decided to try to make another go of it. But without substantial couples therapy — the guidance of a trained, impartial third-party — it wouldn’t have worked. (Friends are *great*, but they/we tend to take sides . . .). It’s been slow rebuilding process for my friend — but they seem to be on a smoother road these days. I wish you the best, wherever the road leads. . .

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’d only add that I’d probably avoid LDS social services, or at least check out the person’s credentials very carefully. While it’s probably good to have an LDS counselor, who understands your culture, I’ve not heard a lot of good things about LDS social services. Also, you might want to think about letting some of the people close to you, whom you can trust to keep a secret, in on what’s going on. My husband’s father had several affairs, and my MIL did not tell her children what was going on, even though the children were adults. It was obvious that something was really bothering them, but since they chose not to talk about it, we couldn’t understand what was going on. Depending on your own situation, some of your loved ones, perhaps a parent or sibling may be wondering what is wrong.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am sorry to hear of your struggles. That is such a hard situation, and no one can counsel you what to do. You need to do everything you can to figure out what is right for you. There are many stories of both sides-spouses changing and spouses repeating the action. In this situation you have to determine what you can live with. The benefit of seeing a therapist is that they can help you figure out what you want to do-they can provide support to you in this situation and be strictly looking out for your best interest.

    I am sorry and truly hope you find the help and the strength you need to get through this and determine what you need to do.

  15. Mike says:

    I’ll avoid the normal guy thing to give advice and just sympathize. I think I understand the bishop’s advice for you to keep it quiet, and I’m sure he didn’t mean to take sides in doing so. That said, I think I understand your feeling that he did take sides.

    Like some others have said, I hope H will sincerely earn back your trust. Have you talked to him about your continued fears?

  16. Anonymous says:

    My spouse and I went through a tough time with a similar situation. At the time, my father (who was a good confidant in our case) gave me a piece of advice that stuck and helped me a lot. He said that our marriage relationship was like a boat that had been tipped over to the point where it took on water. When righted again, of course, it would tip to the other side nearly to the same point. A boat rocked to that degree would continue to sway dangerously for a while. Over time, that oscillation (we’re gonna work this out… no, this is unbearable… things might be okay someday… but they’re awful now… this hurts… but each day puts more distance between what happened and the present time…) would feel like swinging through the entire range of emotions all over again, but in fact the range of motion of the mast of that ship was getting smaller and smaller as it righted itself. Eventually, I can attest, in our case, it was smoother sailing again, but it took years, forgiveness, and conscious working on our physical and emotional relationship to make new memories to supplant the bad ones. And it took the erring spouse to commit to admitting exactly what happened and to end all contact immediately & permanently.

  17. Matt T. says:

    Your husband needs more help than just “repentance”. He needs to understand *why* he felt the need to seek companionship (whether sexual or emotional or both) outside of the bounds of your marriage. “Repentance” will not make the underlying problem go away. He needs therapy just like you do, but for different reasons.

    Second, don’t limit your search for help with this issue to books written by Latter-day Saints. Unfaithfulness is unfaithfulness, whether you are married for time or “time and all eternity”. Considering the size of the population, it would not be a stretch to suggest the best books on this subject have probably been written by non-Mormons.

  18. Téa says:

    I echo the sorrow expressed by earlier comments…

    First off, I would ask the Lord’s confirmation on the Bishop’s counsel to keep it silent to help H repent. It seems bizarre that you looking like an untrusting, cold, unloving wife while he gets to pretend that everything’s okay would really help him repent. Wasn’t part of the problem that he was putting up a false front to begin with–to you and to the women involved? Could it be that H doesn’t want anyone else to know because even more of the story will unfold? Given that you don’t know what H told the Bishop,the Bishop may not have the whole picture. The Lord will let you know if the Bishop’s counsel is appropriate in this situation.

    At the end you mention forgiving and forgetting–please don’t confuse that with letting him be in situations where that could happen again. You don’t need to know all the details if you don’t want to–but you should know how it happened to hold him accountable.

    My husband has a co-worker that has made the promise to his wife that he will not ride in a car alone with another woman, will not go out to lunch with females without his wife, no matter what. His safeguards might not always be convenient, but the standards keep him away from trouble that might be looking for him (like the teacher). You might think about what your husband will need to do to avoid the traps he fell into before.

    I know that “internet flirting” through e-mails or instant messages, is emotional infidelity just waiting to move into physical infidelity. I had someone I knew who struggled to keep her marriage intact after what started with chat rooms and progressed to meeting and kissing. It was painful to be her confidante, but I know more now about loving yet not enabling at the same time.

    I do think it’s wise to be tested for STDs–people lie, and infections don’t always show obvious symptoms.

    I’ll post reading materials in the next comment–this is really long, sorry.

  19. Téa says:

    Meridian Magazine ran series about recovering from betrayal that I’ve linked to here:

    Introduction Article

    Betrayal Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Matt has some good points about seeking out causes rather than just treating symptoms, as well as finding good relationship books by non-LDS authors. There are only two books that come up in a search for infidelity on Deseret Book:

    Surviving Infidelity

    I, The Lord, Have Seen Thy Sorrow: An LDS Guide to Dealing with the Pain of Infidelity

    My best to you as you struggle with the confusion and lonliness. I hope you found some comfort in the support offered by the commenters here.

  1. February 24, 2016

    […] “Infidelity” by anonymous: “About six months ago I found some pictures on my computer of my husband with another woman. We are temple-married for 7 years and are active Mormons. My husband, H, travels with work a lot, and had, apparently, cultivated some relationships with women in other cities. In the pictures he and the other woman were at a tourist attraction, smiling.” […]

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