When You or Your Spouse is Ambivalent

It seems like not a day goes by I don’t talk to a spouse who is dealing with a spouse who is ambivalent or undecided about where they want to be. I wish it was limited to just the unfaithful, but it happens to both spouses alike, unfaithful and betrayed. You just aren’t sure what you want to do or where you want to be.

The unfaithful become ambivalent about where they want to be. Should they pursue the illicit life of the affair with what seems to make them happy and fulfilled or should they return home to see if there is a future and a hope with their spouse?

The betrayed wonder if they can ever trust their spouse again and is it really worth it in the end? Should they be willing to expose their heart and vulnerabilities all over again, only to be raked over the coals one more time?

Both concerns are not only understandable but present a vast amount of fear, confusion and daily uncertainty. Push a spouse to do one thing and they will usually do another. Press them to make a decision and they will turtle up, hide, and utilize their ability to be ambivalent as a power mechanism to refuse to let you push them into making a decision.  To watch the game the ambivalent play sometimes is gut wrenching. I don’t believe it’s always a game, but more times than not it’s an attempt at control over the situation, their spouse, and the expectations placed upon them.

  1. If an unfaithful is ambivalent, I highly recommend not chasing them. Chasing after them to stay often times means you’ll need to continually chase them to remain with you. Whether it be physical intimacy, subservient behavior, or controlling tendencies, chasing them only fuels the fire of control they want and are probably exhibiting in the relationship anyway. If they do not want to be with you, or only want to be with you on their terms, it’s a sign of extreme dysfunction and desire for ultimate control. Alternatively, not being kind or accommodating to them will not do the job of creating a safe place for them to return to. In order to work on the marriage honestly and create the opportunity for vulnerability, a tough as nails approach will ultimately chase them away which is probably what no one wants in the first place.
  2. I’m not sure what betrayed spouse wouldn’t be ambivalent when it comes to this sort of strategy.  What I find helpful for many betrayed spouses who struggle with what they ultimately want to do, is take the pressure off to make a decision too early. There are usually too many uncertainties to make a decision anyway. Is the affair over? Are they still in contact with the affair partner? Is the unfaithful willing to do what it takes to heal and become trustworthy again? All of these are examples of just a few plaguing questions the betrayed face each and every day. More times than not, a decision may be to cautiously forge ahead, watching to see how the unfaithful carries themselves and their recovery. It’s not as simple as a “If you do this, I’ll stay” declaration as no one is perfect and very few recoveries are void of uncertainty and stupidity early on in communication. Often times it means giving the process 90 to 120 days to see how committed the unfaithful spouse is.

The quality of your restoration and potential restoration is directly related to the quality of care you receive. It’s not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. If you can’t trust the mechanism you are utilizing to find restoration and recovery, it’s time for something or someone new to help eliminate the ambivalence over time.

As always, if I can aid you in your recovery at all, please feel free to reach out. Also, if you’d like, please feel free to share what helped you in your own ambivalence. I’d love to hear your experience. 

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thank you for your insights, as the betrayed spouse I am finding great difficulties staying in the marriage. I understand it is for the best but after the grief of losing our child I have learnt that I really do not want to live with this grief of infidelity that my husband has imposed on us. He has shown great remorse and I am happy for him that he will finally "grow up"! However I feel he has brought both of us to the crossroads, and I really do not want to walk with him any longer. This saddens me, but I feel I will be a lot more peaceful without him.

for Scharfy49

Thank you for posting. I’m terribly sorry for your loss and the pain you must be feeling. Having said that, I’m not sure if you have done much research into this particular variable, but the divorce rate for parents who lose children is staggering. The struggle to save a marriage that has been affected by both the loss of a child as well as infidelity has to seem impossible. I think you have every right to want to walk alone or with someone else, but my question is why? Have you received any professional help or insight? Do you think you’ve received enough help to be able to make that decision? Reality is, for couples who lose children, divorce seems like the way to go yet they want to grieve and usually have grieve alone which makes things even harder. Who wants to grieve with an adulterer I get, but still think there is credence to the fact that the marriage can be restored to a place of honor and safety if given the chance. I would never judge you for divorcing, but I wonder if you’ve gotten the right help for YOU yet? After all, having to experience the loss of a child as well as infidelity, demands expert care for you. You deserve it my friend. You need that kind of help to be able to heal and find new life. I can’t even imagine that pain and I can’t fathom the journey you are on. I do know many who have felt what you have, and often times they choose divorce, but they don’t have to. I pray you find comfort whatever road you choose.

What can you do to help the

What can you do to help the unfaithful spouse not be ambivalent?

Ambivalent Husband

Two months ago I discovered that my husband of 19 years had been having a relationship with a much younger woman. Long story short, he tells me that he is staying with me for the sake of the children. He tells me that he loves me because I am a great mom but he doesn't feel in love with me. Still, he stays. He is very concerned about his public image. He said if he left me, people would think he is a terrible person. Sometimes I think he says and does things just to show me that he doesn't love me. If I mention anything about the relationship he had or has with this other woman, he shuts down. I am a Christian and my husband is as well. I am so hurt because I feel like he has one foot in the door and one foot out. I have watched several of the videos and they are so helpful. My husband refuses to get help. He just wants to "wait and see what happens". I need to know if there is hope for our marriage.

Tough love?

My UH is extremely ambivalent and has been in and out of the house due to this ambivalence. It is 3 months after D-day of his romantic 3 month affair. He admitted to still talking to her a month ago although I feel like it was probably just last week. I feel like a rag doll on a roller coaster and finally gave him the ultimatum that if he can not be transparent, he cannot live here. He is still very attracted to me and doing little things around the house, being affectionate, seeing a general therapist weekly and making bare minimum efforts. To him, this is him trying. To me, it's not enough. I'm scared after reading this post that I am being too tough by kicking him out and not allowing him to be affectionate with me. Has anyone been in a similar situation and found success in making their spouse get it?

I am in a similar situation,

I am in a similar situation, but I found out about the affair 13 months ago. I have been on a non-stop rollercoaster ride ever since.

I can say that my husband has moved from absolutely wanting to leave and being adamant that our marriage is over to not wanting to leave and considering a future together. I just wonder how much more patient I need to be in order for him to make an actual, lasting commitment to being with me as his choice.

My husband keeps saying that he wants to move out (we even bought a house for him to move into) but when it comes time for him to leave he doesn't. I have said that I can't continue to live this way; that I need him to either leave or commit to working on recovery. Each time he stays and puts in a little more effort. So, I think that he is leaning in to our relationship, but when something else comes up (another discovery) then he says that he is just staying because he doesn't want to leave and it doesn't mean that he is actually choosing to stay - just choosing not to leave.

I feel disrespected, used, and manipulated, but I don't want too be forceful in making him leave.

Have you found anything specific that you should do, rather than just what you shouldn't do?

What type of affair was it?

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