Deciding whether to divorce him

Hello group,

I'm new to this forum and hoping that someone can help me to clarify my thoughts about whether to divorce my husband.  A few weeks ago, I found out about my husband's 3.5 year long sexual affair and numerous other romantic and sexual flirtations or internet relationships (that he claims did not result in actual face-to-face sex).  We've been together for 12 years and married for 6.  We had maybe 8 really wonderful years.  Things between us have been really bad during the last few years and especially the last year.  He's treated me horribly.  He's been defensive, combative, uncommunicative, and nasty.  His ADD problems and sex addiction led to him getting fired from his job and a cascade of other problems.

The one thing that most makes me want to stay with him is the fact that we have a 2 year old together.  I don't want her to experience the trauma of divorce, and I don't want to be a single parent.  I am certain that my husband would have another family within 5 years and will most likely forget about our daughter.  (It's actually the pattern in his family with his father and 2 older brothers, yikes I know.)  I also always wanted a second child but it is hard to imagine a future where that would happen after getting divorced from him.  He is newly aware of his ADD problems and says he really wants to stay together, but at this point his words are essentially meaningless as he's lied to me for so long and his actions do not indicate that he values me or his daughter.

The reasons to leave are that he's been so awful and lied and given me an STD.  He betrayed me and so did his friends.  Entire circles of his and then our friends knew what he was doing and even in some cases assisted him, for example, by providing him a house to have sex at.  So I really feel degraded and humiliated.  I really adored him and idolized him in some ways so the shock that he of all people did this to me leaves me wondering what good there is in the universe.  I thought he was such a good person but the whole time I was thinking that, he's been building what is effectively a secret life to cushion himself from acknowledging parts of himself that he dislikes.  

Looking to the future, he is in therapy and thinks he can become someone worthy of my trust and love again.  But if he wavers on this path, it would be devastating for our family.  OH MY GOD I regret having a child with this man, but at the same time, I really want another baby, if he could be my old husband again who was a good person, I think....

What is best for my daughter?  What is best for me?

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance to anyone who can help me get some perspective.  I'm really in the depths right now.


Go Ahead and Divorce Him Before Something Major Happens

I have come to stay with my oldest daughter for a few weeks and the African she married is having a fit. He calls me bad names and stays up all night drinking. He acts like a caged animal because he feels threaten by me. I believe that he has no respect for any female. My daughter married him 3 years back to give him a green card I believe. She no longer wears her inexpensive wedding band nor does she sleep in the same bedroom anymore. I understand what you are saying about the anger, frustration because I see my daughter age every day from the negative vibrations in the house. She has given him permission to remain in the house for some odd reason but he hates me so much that he continues to threaten her and me. I would like to know how to get the government/immigration involved in this situation. I worry that if I leave her now, he may do something to her physically so that he can get the house she has built. She did do the right thing and put the house in my youngest daughter's name though. Help me figure out what to do about this situation. I am so tired of being calling out of my name and disrespected. My daughter is tried and I don't know how much more she can take. I could leave but why should I when he needs to go back to Africa where he came from. I know that the Ivory Coast is a poor nation but he can't continue to control anything here in this house.

Divorce Him?

Marriages can, and do, recover from affairs.  However, rebuilding trust is critical to this.  You would benefit, I think, from laying down some very specific boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not, and then sticking to them for your own feelings of self worth.  This is a delicate balance, sometimes, as getting past affairs often takes time and, sometimes, a couple of false starts.

Staying in a bad marriage in order to keep your young child from the trauma of divorce may or may not be a useful way to think of it.  You do your child no favor if he or she grows up in a house of misery, lying and anger.  On the other hand, you do your child a huge favor if the two of you do work it out and are able to find happiness together again.  Since your husband has just recently started to treat ADHD, and since doing so takes time, I think you are in a transition period right now.  By that I mean it may be too early to make the decision.  Treating ADHD can make a huge difference in a relationship - will it in yours?  Too early to know.

Part of your own healing will be your husband's acknowledgement of the pain (mental and physical) that he's put you through - with no excuses.  You'll know he's really starting to think through things - and possibly make things better for good - when he is able to hold you and say simply "I'm sorry I did that to you and I'm doing everything in my power to not ever be in that position again."

As I've posted elsewhere on this blog, my husband and I each had an affair at the low point of our marriage - and these do make the pain and recovery harder.  Getting out of them is not always straightforward if you genuinely care for the other person in the affair, and takes a great deal of effort and dedication.  In order to remove any further question marks about whether or not we could trust each other, we finally agreed that if either of us had another affair we would simply divorce each other.  This lifted the cloud of "what if" for each of us, and made it easier to learn to trust again.  But don't make this vow until you know that your husband is ready for it.  It sounds as if some of his issue has to do with impulse control, and he will need to treat that symptom effectively to help him stay focused on you.  (In addition, I would suggest he voluntarily block access to specific internet sites he has been using - you can do this with software.)

I would suggest also two books you can read to think further about your question:  Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum and my own book, The ADHD Effect on Marriage.  The former will give you some very specific questions to think about to help you assess your relationship.  (Be a bit wary to include some consideration of how ADHD symptoms might impact your ideas).  My book will give you specific information about the impact of ADHD, and a path you may wish to follow to help your relationship improve.

Many people (including those at this site) will tell you that you should divorce this man as punishment for what he has done.  Have faith that this is a very personal decision - one that only you can make.  But don't give up yourself in the process - we women are too likely to sacrifice our own well-being for the sake of our children...yet children need you strong and whole to thrive.  So think about what you need, be active in defining what a good life (note, I do not say "relationship") looks like to you, share these ideas with your husband, and do whatever work you need to do to have that kind of life.  He may come along with you, or may not.

Hope that helps.

Made me cry

Melissa, thank you. As you might know, my marriage is 'recovering' from an affair and your comment "You'll know he's really starting to think through things - and possibly make things better for good - when he is able to hold you and say simply "I'm sorry I did that to you and I'm doing everything in my power to not ever be in that position again." really hit home for me. This (for me) is a main focus in our counseling because I HAVE to feel that he's doing everything in his power to never do that to me again or I have ZERO desire to stay. You also mention the 'agreement' you made with your husband to just divorce each other vs. having another affair. My husband promised me this constantly when we first got back together saying he would just leave me if he were ever that unhappy again. Our counselor asked me "do you not believe him" and to be honest, I don't. I've seen him go through 'overload' one too many times, he is too afraid of losing me to ever just walk away even when he knows it is WRONG not to. So we will be focusing on this some in our counseling. I am just basically holding out hope that if the marriage is what we both want it to be, he'll never look at another woman 'that way' again. I know it was horrible when his affair started, hell I was miserable myself, and I saw the guilt eating away at him and the remorse (mistook it for him grieving his mother's death at the time), so I'm hopeful that all of these things together (our marriage being better than ever, him remembering the guilt and fear) will help prevent it from ever happening again. I just simply don't have the faith, at this point, that he is able to 'promise' me never to cheat again...or that he'll just divorce me if he feels that urge because I think he has very little control over himself during his times of 'overload' period. How could he promise me anything?

Made me cry by SherriW13

Boy, can I relate to your post.  I'm dealing with some of the same issues.  While we are no longer in counseling because of job related issues, when we were, we had pretty much made a similar agreement about divorce vs another affair.  I was not going to go through that hell ever again.  I have the same problem with believing my husband when he says this will never happen again because he too goes into 'overload' at times where he has little to no control over himself.  That is the scary part in all of this because literally nobody knows when, where, how and why this happens.  I'm sorry to say that my faith is not very strong at the moment either.  My husband has a hard time keeping promises.  In fact, in our case, we agreed that there would be 'no contact' with the other woman after the affair, on the advice of Melissa, here on this site and the counselor even worked with him alot on how to successfully get to closure of the affair.  Well, that lasted for about a year, while we tried to work on our marriage and get some answers to many of our problems resulting from his diagnosis of ADHD.  I'm sorry to say that he does still remain in contact with the other woman, even though it is not as often as it was before and claims that he no longer has the same feelings towards her as he did before.  He feels justified that things are OK because of this thinking.  To me, it still remains a dealbreaker and he knows it.  He just can't let go!  Right now, we are trying to dig ourselves out of debt for yet another time as we cannot afford to go our separate ways.  Perhaps things will change during this time.  I do know that Melissa has made the comment that getting over an affair can sometimes take a very long time.  I'm trying to remain patient and live my life the way I want too and not worry about him and all of his problems.  I do remain open to the fact that we still could end up divorced and he knows that I am OK with it if he ever wants to leave.  We are together for now as a work in progress and we'll see where that takes us.

I understand a lot more of

I understand a lot more of what you're feeling and going through than I wish I did. My marriage is 'recovering' from an affair (lasted 2 months) and I too was the last to know...a mutual friend encouraged him the entire way, even letting him come live with him when I kicked him out, because he was wanting to hook up with the mistresses best friend. So much for him as my friend.

I believe, as Melissa does, that marriage can survive affairs....but it isn't easy. Add ADD to the mix and it's downright hellish at times. We've had the 'false starts' more than once...thinking we'd made a huge mistake in ever thinking we could work things out...but after 10 months we're finally stabilizing and getting the counseling we desperately need. First and foremost importance to me was his acknowledgement of the pain he'd caused and I basically had to insist he jump through flaming hoops in order to prove to me just how very sorry he was. Saying so was not enough. Day-in and day-out he still makes gestures to prove to me that he accepts that my mistrust was earned by him and that my trust must be re-earned as well. At first I blocked 'her' number from our phones, checked cell records, checked his cell phones, e-mails, and wasn't comfortable with him leaving the house alone..I made him take our daughter with him (or the entire family if the situation allowed) at all times. Bottom line, you HAVE have no choice or you WILL lose all self respect and be miserable...ask for what it is that you need from him in order to regain some trust in him and he must be willing to give it...or nothing else will matter. As Dr. Phil once need to tell him what you need and he needs to give it to you..until...

I do feel that my husband's infidelity is directly related to issues with his ADD...impulse control, compulsive decisions that he almost immediately regrets (he swears that the first two weeks of the affair were the only time he really felt it was what he wanted..after that he was just living on borrowed time trying to figure out how to get out of it without me finding out/losing me).

I chose to try and forgive the affair, with the condition that we'd get counseling and figure out why the affair happened. Now we are working on better handling the ADD issues and will soon focus on the 'whys' of the affairs and such. He has never had the addiction to porn, but he did have an alcohol problem for a while. He has quit drinking.

If he's willing to get help, I think you have more reason than not to try and work things out.