Q&A How Do I Deal with His Inability to Talk about Our Marriage?

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My husband sat with me through the pain of multiple affairs. He was willing to answer questions. Despite what I would consider significant deficits in our 25+ year marriage, he acknowledges that it was his choice to have these affairs; he owns his decision to act out this way and does not blame me for his choices. He has been very good at supporting me through the pain I have been feeling about the affairs, thanks to him doing almost everything "right". He has been so helpful that even though it is only 8 1/2 months after the first D-day, I am finding some peace with the thoughts of the affairs, and now my mind is turning more to the original deficits of the marriage. I do firmly believe that the discovery of the affairs acted as a catalyst to a different, new, better relationship between us. We are still working to figure out some things, but the basics - communication, recognizing feelings, empathy - all those things I felt weren't very strong before are now probably the best they have ever been. When I raise any of his contributions to the original marriage deficits, I find he can't sit with me and the pain those deficits caused me the same way he could sit with me and the pain related to the affairs. I know he really regrets not seeing some of my hurts from the past and only seeing his, and feels guilt and shame about it, and I am guessing that is why he is struggling. That said, one would have thought he would feel the same way about the pain the affairs caused. I am also guessing he really regrets so many lost years as we are in our late 50s/early 60s. I always regretted them. Maybe he's just catching up now that he sees them fully/differently....Do you have any thoughts because I am really struggling to figure out how to deal with this completely different reaction.



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I could have written this. 25

I could have written this. 25+ years of marriage. From D-day (15 months ago) forward my husband has been willing to empathize with me. He immediately ceased contact with the AP on that day, begged to stay in the marriage, went to counseling with me, completed bootcamp and EMSO, and signed himself up for HFH. He’s been honest and accountable and does whatever I ask - even sold his beloved truck.
He too gets stuck when discussing his contribution to our marriage difficulties in the years leading up to the affairs (there were 4 in 4 years). He thinks he tried everything possible to be a good husband and meet my emotional needs and that all of his efforts to improve the marriage failed. He says he felt hopeless and lonely and that’s some of his reasons for seeking approval and acceptance elsewhere. We had a lot of conflict and he saw no end in sight. Sometimes I think that if he were to honestly look at himself in our pre-affair marriage, it would mean removing some of the justifications for the affairs. I think he feels better when he can say that he was “lonely and desperate for attention” and that he had good cause to feel that way. He doesn’t see how his own actions brought him to that place of loneliness.
If that makes sense.
I ran from conflict and from his strong reactions to things, I was afraid that his anger would explode. I don’t think he sees himself as an angry person, yet that was always his go-to and it made me fearful. He never physically harmed me, but his excessive anger kept me from really speaking my needs and opinions. So I hid out from him and there was no intimacy. I often felt better when he was not at home because of all of the tension. So it makes sense that he was lonely, as I was avoiding him, but I don’t think he sees his contribution to my avoidance. He doesn’t blame me for the affairs, he says that he could’ve handled his distress in healthier ways.
We are doing much better now and learning a lot from the Gottman materials. When flooding, we practice the time out protocol. We are both learning more about heartfelt listening. Maybe some day he will be able to look at the past a bit more honestly and see his contributions to our issues, but for now we’re trying to build a better future for ourselves and our marriage is much healthier. I’m not running away anymore, I’m trying to run toward conflict. Conflict doesn’t have to be harmful, it can be constructive. That’s something I’m learning!

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