Before you can make any decisions, you first need to take care of YOU. Here's how ...
If your husband tells you, "I love you, but I'm not IN love with you," do not panic. You will survive.
Usually these words come at the wrong moment and you were not prepared for them. So, take a long, deep breath of compassion for yourself.
Stay grounded ... and keep listening.
First, you may not believe the part about loving, but not in love, particularly when told your partner has another person he feels "in love with" in his life. How can he imagine he loves you, but has feelings for someone else?
Research indicates in 65% of times, a spouse really does believe this when they say it. Your partner's infidelity does not signal the end of your relationship, if—(and this is a big)—you stay and find a way to keep talking.
Your first reaction will most likely resemble something close to rage. That's normal. You both took vows to remain faithful and his turning to someone breaches that trust. Usually, your wish to throw things and kick him out covers over the important, softer feelings of hurt and fear of abandonment.
Since this is someone, whom up until now you felt you could depend on, you may feel desperate to know where to turn. Here you are, totally in a crisis, and you can no longer reach out to him for comfort.
What can you do?
1. Talk to a friend.
If you have any control, focus on these feelings with a well-chosen friend. Identify someone who will not tell you what to do, but can deal with extreme feelings and let you discover what is right for you. You do not need someone to tell you to call a divorce lawyer.
Someone who listens, understands, and is simply there will help you survive. Ask them to tell you if you are asking too much, or if you are taking up more time than they have to give.
2. Take time before deciding what to do.
You may wonder why I am suggesting to you to drop down and feel your way into what you want to do. After many years of working in this exact situation, I've determined that couples need time to sort out the meaning of this betrayal and discern what they will do.
Your continued outrage may confirm that you are a cold and vindictive person, and you deserve what comes your way. Your reaction may cause him to justify moving closer to the other woman. If your partner says this, it does not signal the end. Many times, he is as confused about this as you are.
You may never have imagined your partner doing this or having these values. Many times, men feel aghast that they let themselves fall in love with someone outside their marriage. They never believed themselves capable of being that guy, either.
3. Handle yourself delicately.
You both are extremely vulnerable just now. If he begins to express remorse, challenge yourself to recognize his desperation now that he sees your level of hurt.
You may want a pound of flesh, but the shame that approach ultimately brings will only make your partner unwilling to talk and sort out what he wants to do. Trust that there might be genuine ambivalence. Remember that you have years of history, or even children, which can foster a decision to return.
Allow yourself to heal for some time. You both need to engage in counseling. For your partner, this means some decision therapy to decide if he wants to move back toward you. You may also need support to get through different phases of infidelity recovery.
4. Realize that the relationship does not need to end.
If he expresses remorse and a genuine commitment to exploring new possibilities in the relationship, let yourself work through the first stages of "shock and awe" before you make a rash decision.
Remember, at this early stage neither of you need to decide if you want to stay in the marriage. You simply need to have the willingness to do research; after gaining new tools and skills for making the relationship vibrant and alive again, decide what the two of you can feel toward each other.
What are the reasons you've arrived at this point?
Often, when your partner begins to fall out of love, one or both partners begin to feel the other did not care. He may have tried to talk about it with you before and even suggested therapy, but felt unheard. In time, he gave up hope that communicating about it would make any difference. Drinking, working too many hours, parenting, or the sickness of you or a relative could all be factors in the distance that developed between you.
5. Stay hopeful throughout the recovery process.
Still, there are ways of working through the traumatic pain. If you face it together with help, the two of you will become a team again. 80% of the couples who come for infidelity recovery therapy successfully build a new life together.
The couples begin to put a story together of what made the marriage vulnerable to an extramarital affair. They learn the fine art of becoming cheerleaders for each other's goals and aspirations; they learn to work through conflict with less venom or destructive criticism; they develop a new rhythm for having fun, and have good sex together. In short, they come to truly appreciate the joy of joining forces ... together.
If you live in NYC or Bronxville, call to make an appointment with me at 914-548-8645. For other areas, go to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapist website or the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists website.