Trying to Control Your Spouse

Whether betrayed or unfaithful, one of the biggest struggles for many to overcome is the cold, hard truth that you cannot control your spouse or their behavior.

No matter how passionate I was, or even how proactive I was with my own recovery, I just wasn’t able to make Samantha heal any faster.  Sure by doing what I needed to do, and owning my own failures and indiscretions, I did create space for her to heal and move our recovery along. However, there was no successful strategy to get her to hurry up and heal. The best hope I had was to do all I could do to get healthy and then see what happened next. In fact, even when I did all I could do, saw Rick personally, went to an EMS weekend and worked hard to own my shame, things were still hard incredibly hard sometimes. 

Samantha also had to realize that I didn’t arrive at dysfunction overnight, and I wasn’t going to come out of the fog overnight either. I was in too deep with my affair partner and my justification of my affair to just snap right out of it. She became incredibly frustrated with my inability to be as empathetic as I needed to, or as open as I need to with recovery, forgiveness, sexual reconnection and establishing new patterns of intimacy and accountability. She couldn’t control me any more than I could control her. We were both mad we couldn’t control each other and then took it out on each other.

Neither of us were powerless to make changes, but there was no guarantee the personal changes we made were going to ensure reciprocating changes in our spouse. I found that to be incredibly frustrating. In the long run, it ensured my motives truly were to see personal healing and restoration in my life no matter what; not just to see change in Samantha. If you’re working so hard to make changes only to see your spouse change and reciprocate, you will be incredibly frustrated when that doesn’t happen and you will be tempted to throw away your own recovery. You will also discredit that what you’re doing is working in your own life which may lead to discouragement, frustration and hopelessness. Such a process in your recovery timeline will then create space for either relapse (if you’re unfaithful) or bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness if you are the betrayed.

The betrayed also must arrive at the lonely but sober reality that if their unfaithful spouse wants to cheat again they can and will. No matter how many methods of accountability and installed tracking devices, if they want to cheat, they will. It’s a hard reality to digest, but the fact is, you simply cannot control their behavior and part of your recovery is to acknowledge that and begin to pursue your own recovery first, then possibly, the marriage’s. Samantha very early on arrived at this conclusion, yet had a difficult time not punishing me for my past choices. She wanted me to suffer and wanted me to pay!

We both had control issues.  As we surrendered our need for control in life, in recovery and in regards to being in control of one another, life, recovery and restoration got easier, faster. What we were both looking for was found more through surrender than it would ever be found through control.

I hope and pray you learn the power of surrender. It is only then you will find the lasting freedom and peace I know you so desperately crave. 

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My husband has continuing work contact with his affair partner

I appreciate your focus on surrender and I totally agree that I can't control my husband's behavior. So much of our marriage problems have been a direct result of our having lost every dime we had when we were 40. We are 66 and 67 now and are 5 years out from D-day when I found out my husband was having an affair with his managing partner. My husband comes from EXTREME poverty and is deathly afraid of being poor again, especially now that we are aging. 44 years of marriage have been like a roller coaster ride. Presently, my husband is continuing his work relationship with the AP as it is at least 50% of his income if not more, and he flatly refuses to give up that income, and truthfully, we are a long way from having enough money to retire. While I don't believe that the affair is still going on (her husband of course knows they are seeing each other on a work basis), I pray every day that God will somehow take her out of my husband's life, that other sources of income will make up for that lost piece. But this is where surrender comes in: although I hate his working with the AP, we do need the money, and if I forced him out of a very lucrative business because of the AP's participation in it, what would I really be doing but trying to control what I can't control in the first place? Any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

tough one for sure

Mia, that's a tough one for sure. I don't pretend to know all the answers for sure,but I can see how this is a tough one for sure. at some level, i guess i wonder if he couldn't make the same, money, or more, or even a tad bit less, somewhere else? to say he can only make money in one place seems a bit ambitious, however, if it would mean starting over again, i get it. i think you have to ask yourself can i handle the insecurity of it all while he works there and we make money, or would i feel more secure and better myself and our recovery by him working somehwer else even if it means he would earn a bit less? if he is not open to it, then perhaps there isn't much leverage there to work with and you may have to find a way to make it work. peope do make it work and this isn't new to our team, but it's not easy at any rate. what help have you all been able to get for recovery and for him still working there? has he had anyone else working/communicating with him at all about the situation? hope to talk again soon.

Self employed

Thanks for writing. My husband has been self employed since 1976. the piece of the business that the AP is in is only one segment of that business, however, she is involved somewhat in a second facet of one branch of the business as well, and may possibly be soon in a third branch. There is so much intertwining of people who work with her and my husband it would take me hours to explain. If I should put my foot down and say I am leaving if he doesn't get rid of her, there would be many, many people who would not understand and it would be the demise of more than one segment of my husband's business--which by the way he has had to rebuild from scratch since D-Day 5 years ago, as she was an integral piece even then. My husband has said that in the best of all possible worlds, there would never be any more contact with the AP, but she is so integral to some of its functions, the whole thing might come crashing down if I drew a line in the sand. This is NOT at all about his just finding another job, and if you know anything about self-employed men, it is their lives. I am between a rock and a hard place.

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