Advice about Infidelity

Parent Q&A

  • Recommendation for marriage counselor

    (4 replies)

    Seeking recommendations for a very good licensed marriage counselor for parents who have had issues with infidelity but want to make things work. 

    I really cannot recommend Dr. Lisa Lancaster strongly enough.  My husband and I were dealing with infidelity last year and it nearly ended our relationship (a horrible, horrible prospect since we have three young children).  She was kind and so effective.  We were able to get through a really, really rough patch and I'm not sure we would have been able to without her.  She is in Berkeley near the new Safeway.  

    Carol Jenkins -- (510) 845-5178 -- is a remarkably skilled couples counselor. Her compassion and calm were crucial to us as we navigated a similar situation. We came out of the work together -- and better as a couple.

    For the couple who is dealing with infidelity, I highly recommend Karen Levine, MFT in Berkeley.  She is experienced working with couples around all sorts of issues, including infidelity, and is warm, grounded and practical. She is smart and insightful, and her clarity helped us sort through some very thorny issues when we went through a difficult period with our marriage. I encourage you to contact her.  Her number is 510-761-5303 and her website is

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Lies and Infidelity - how to get through this

Dec 2007

Hi, I am trying to come to terms with finding out that my husband has been seeing someone for ages...and I didn't know. I thought he wanted me and the children to move to Canada with him. It turns out he didn't want that at all - it was all too convenient for him that I stayed in the States. He took a job in Canada, and this was the second time he had asked me to emigrate. With five children here in the States, two at college and the younger three in school, I decided to stay, to wait and hope that he would want to return, that he would find another academic job here. But it turns out that he's been lying to me all year, and has been travelling all over the world with this woman, while giving me absolutely no child support for the children. I have been a SAHM, since moving to the States. I've watched his career go from good to stellar...and stayed home, and given my time, energy, love, to the children. I feel used by him. He knew my devotion to the children and went off to conferences...and then these turned to vacations with this woman. I feel sick. And the lies...I've asked him all year whether there was someone else, kind of jokingly. He denied it every time. I can't get visions of them together out of my head. She knows that he has a wife and five children. She is a high school teacher. I can't understand how she could know that he is treating his family like this, no child support...and she is trying to encourage him to divorce me, as fast as possible, and from Canada, so that the issues of property, visitation etc are simply not addressed. Anger and disbelief and I just can't sleep at all. The children found out actually - not me - and it was my fifteen year old son who told me about the affair. He is really upset. How can I get over this? It's not the sex so much as the holidays abroad - he's taking her all round the world right now, they are in New Zealand, Turkey, Costa Rica...and he won't answer my emails about whether he would like to see the children for Christmas. It's as if he is dropping us like a stone. And it is very heavy. He has actually filed for divorce without telling me! How can I get over this? How to get through?

You need to get a lawyer. Usually I offer the advice that couples should be in mediation, but you will need someone to help you figure out your rights, what you can do financially, etc., and your husband is not around for mediation. Check the Parents' Network listings for good lawyers and start dialing. This is going to be very hard, and I wish you the best of luck. It will probably help to get angry rather than sink into depression. The depression is self-directed anger, whereas it needs to be directed at your husband right now. Good luck. divorce is better than abuse
This is what I am reading through the lines of your message: You guys are completely through/finished! Your husband is one of these brilliant people, probably raised by a mom who taught him that he always comes first and that he is super special in what he does. This most likely results in a sense of entitlement, that he may do as he pleases, and that his only true responsibility is to his talent/work, which affords him all the freedom he wants. I get along with men like that for about 5 minutes, that's all. In order to marry one, you would have to be a special match. A kind woman who fosters his specialness, who builds his ego and success, who sacrifices her own career for him, who gives him children but will take care of them all by herself, so he can continue developing his genius - basically a woman who keeps providing the special treatment he got from his mom/parents. He needed a woman to serve him and you are a woman who was happy to serve him. So far so good for a nice co-dependent relationship. He just went on in his self-absorbed way (he didn't change a bit), but you felt entitled/expected payback for your efforts (love,loyalty, a good husband, a good dad). He was your investment. I'm sorry, but nobody ever taught him these skills or openly demanded them from the minute he entered anyone's world! How to get over it? I don't know how long it will take you, but here's the path: drop the victim role (deep prolonged hurt may trigger cancer a couple of years from now), do some therapy until you find out why you believed you need to serve men at your own expense, later envision a man who loves you the way you want to be loved and be open to finding him and forget about the other woman your husband is with (she got what she deserved, just hasn't found out yet). You owe it to yourself and your children to find happiness. It would be so much healthier if the current bond with your children is based on happiness rather than on your victim role. None of this is meant harsh, I just want you to realize that you finally need to look after yourself (not your husband, not your kids). Start a new chapter in the story of your life! And always remember that you are the author and that you are also your own very best friend. And that best friend should tell you to eat organic, eliminate refined sugar, take all important vitamins/minerals, go for long walks to reconnect with nature, and take herbs at bedtime that will stimulate sleep. In order to heal your emotional state, you need to bring your physical body in balance as well, so it can properly detox you from the emotional poison. Anonymous
I'm a bit agog... it sounds like this guy walked out the door years ago, and has no intention of coming back; find yourself a good divorce attorney, and secure what you need--including custody and child support--without expecting anything any help from him. It's probably to your great advantage that he's left the country, as far as divorce law will go. But I'm surprised that you're at all surprised. A Bit Agog
I am sorry, that is just so disturbing. I do not have any advice, but I have much empathy. I am posting because the exact same thing just happended to my mother-in-law. The situation is almost identical. She gave up a career in medicine to raise their 4 children, and now all of this has unfolded and he is gone--out of the country.

The difference (I am assuming) is that she is older than you (about 60). I am concerned for her because she has little other identitity than being a mother. She is also focusing on him and her anger toawrd him, and we would like to see her think about her life and what she would like for herself.

I am sure you are up against a very difficult battle and things will get harder before they get easier. However, can you focus on other things in your life that you can now do? Did this marriage prevent you from doing things you have always wanted to do? I know this sounds simple, but was finding out now (instead of going on this way) a blessing in disguise? anon

Seeking a divorce based on infidelity

May 2006

Has anyone worked with a good attorney for divorce involving infidelity? Any recommendations / experiences are welcome. ~Just begiinning a dreaded process.

I don't know an attorney, but I do know that the cases in which infidelity counts for anything in no-fault divorce are rare. That a lawyer will be able to ''go after'' an adulterous spouse is not part of California law, except in limited cases in which a spouse spends the family's money on a lover, the lover gives the spouse a sexually transmitted disease which is then transmitted to the other spouse, or something else that has a material effect (not an emotional one) on the family. For example, a recent case that found in the favor of an aggrieved spouse was overturned because of the no-fault law: ''A California appellate court held that a marital settlement agreement that provided for liquidated damages in the case of sexual infidelity violated state public policy.'' If you have the idea of asking a lawyer to seek damages for emotional suffering, that's not part of the law, and you may end up paying a lot of money for a litigious action that won't go anywhere. in favor of mediation

My Suspicious Mind

April 2004

Here goes: A few weeks ago, while my husband's work email was up, I saw a message from a female former co-worker of his, regarding a lunch date they had made. He and she used to work closely together, but I have never had any suspicions about their friendship, because I have met her, he's spoken about her, and because there was no reason to suspect anything (we have a good marriage). However, as someone whose previous marriage broke up over my ex's infidelity, I got a familiar feeling of dread. Since then, I've been sneaking into my husband's email and monitoring their occasional notes, which have all been to make plans, never any lovey-dovey stuff, or any real information. I know it's really bad that I'm reading his email, but if you've been in my shoes, you know how desperate you become. I know they've gotten together after work at least once with another male friend, but my husband never mentioned that she was out with them. I found her number on my husband's phone under a male name, and likewise have found things on his schedule that are with the same male name (when I can confirm that they were with her). So I know that he doesn't want me to know about it. Maybe because it is really no big deal and he thinks I'll be over-sensitive due to my past? Or maybe it's more?

I don't want to over-react and accuse him of something, when it might be harmless (I do want to give the benefit of the doubt). I mean, I used to have male friends who I had lunch with who I might not have mentioned, just because I didn't think it would be of any consequence.

However, I also don't want to be a sucker, and I'm terrified that there is more to this than is healthy for our marriage. But how do I bring it up without him knowing what I was up to in regards to invading his email/phone privacy? There have been no other pieces of evidence of their meetings. If I come clean, he could just change all his passwords and I'd never be able to ''monitor'' anything?

Also, just to add to my unease, last fall a psychic told me that this spring I would suffer a ''betrayal, or a perceived one''. How's that!? This is eating me up, and I need some constructive advice. Thank you. anon

This is a tough one. I understand your concerns completely. You said your husband knows about your past, and maybe this is truly why he hasn't mentioned to you his going out with this woman--so you won't worry, but because he seems to have gone to some length (using an Alias) to cover it up, I would be concerned if it was something more. My gut feeling is that you should bring it up to him. You might try something like ''the other day I noticed while your computer was up you had an email from so-and-so? What's she up to?'' And see if he responds with the truth. If he doesn't, you may have to go so far as telling him your suspicious thoughts, and you could say something like, ''I know it's not the most honorable thing to do, but maybe you'll understand my motivation given my past history, but why didn't you tell me you two had lunch?'' He may be angry at first that you invaded his privacy, and may in fact change his password so you cannot ''monitor'' him in the future, but if that is the case you may have bigger issues to worry about.

The reality is that if he is not having an affair, why is he being dishonest with you? No marriage should have this kind of deceipt, even if the motivation is to protect you. It's always better to be honest. You won't really rest until you talk to him about it. It will be difficult and I feel for you. But isn't it better to know the truth? Good luck.

I know exactly how you feel. I went through a rough period two years ago. Once the trust is broken, it's broken (although I haven't transfered it from one to another person).

As hard as it may seem at the moment, you have to stop snooping around for evidence. It's instant bad karma for you, because your body stresses as you are looking and if you find something remotely doubtful you can't talk about it and have to hide and internalize it. And, you probably dispise yourself for it - feels like an addiction. Oh - and if you don't find anything, you feel like an old fool and wonder where else to look. Our bodies don't like this sort of thing and over time, I'm sure, we'll have to pay a hefty price - healthwise. It's best to start with a vision. The path unfolds. Here was mine. In the midst of dislike and despair ... imagine for a minute - a life so simple where you are fine with your husband when he's there and you're fine when he isn't. When he's out you can freely do your own favorite things and eventually he'll show up and you can ask him about how his day/evening went and what it was about. He'll share an anecdote or two and that is truth for you and that's all.

If this is what you want, fake it until you make it! It works. First you stop any sort of snooping. It's actually a relief (you're spending less time with negative energy). Second, for everything that officially (not snooped) triggers insecurity, you can and must ask your husband about (you owe that to yourself) as nice as you can (avoid harsh start-ups but be direct)and listen wholeheartedly to his response - so you will understand more than just his verbal response. Recall his response when something triggers your fears when he is not around. The memory of his voice and response can calm you down and allow you to ''switch channels'' and move on to other things. You can stop the whole ''trapped in a thought-circle'' process by promising yourself that you will ask about the trigger when he gets home.

This way you will eventually eliminate many triggers, because of what you learned. I don't think the trust problem will ever go away completely, but it sure can be managed in a respectful and sometimes even playful way. Also don't blame anyone for the trust issue you developed - a blame and victim attitude leaves you 100% stuck in the mud. Just look at it as something that comes up, like some people get colds or pimples they need to attend to. Here it comes into the body, here it leaves the body. No more internal or external drama!

You see that I am not helping you ''to nail'' your husband with infidelity. That is an entirely different issue and I think with the above approach it would still come out sooner or later. The main point is to build a bridge to connect with each other, reducing the fear and the estrangement you feel from him and most likely yourself (when you're snooping).

As far as the pychic goes - nice psychological, self-fulfilling set up. It came true - but please interpret it that way that most of all you betrayed yourself in your values. Now forgive yourself (no need to confess to anyone) and let your own psyche tell you that it sees you leaving the dark.

Hi; You are creating a painful situation for your self. It might very well be that she is just a friend, but your husband has to hide his meetings with her, because he knows you will blow it out of proportion. My sugestion is, change your behavior. dont be so suspisious. If something had to happen , it will happen. You cant change it by worrying.

One thing you can do is, Suggest to your husband to invite some of his friends for dinner. If he doesnt mention her, you suggest to invite her too. Be casual.

You will get an idea if it is casual friendship or if there is any thing sneeky going on.

Ppl are entitled to have friends, but husband wife relationship comes first.

take care.and dont worry yourself over nothing

It's hard to give fair advice because we don't know you and while you sound ''rational'' in your email, we don't know if because of your unfortunate past, you are now very suspicious of your current husband and are overly jealous. I know some women who are like this, and it makes a very supportive and trustworthy partner more likely to conceal such non-threatening events like having lunch with a female friend. When the woman finds out, she then accuses her partner of lying and hiding things, which is all partly true, but she never realizes that it's because of her actions that her partner does this. I'm not blaming you for being like this, if you are; it's actually quite sad. But, it's something to consider when you are in a current situation such as you are in now.

I think that you may have other problems, even though you say you have a good marriage, because why would you start sneaking into his email and things if you didn't? When you start suspecting that your partner is cheating or just hiding things from you, there has got to be other problems in your relationship.

On the OTHER hand, I usually say trust your intuition. If it's not because you're overly suspicious or overly jealous and you DO have a good marriage, then I'd trust my intuition, if I were you. It's strange that your husband would go through the trouble of hiding this woman's phone number under a man's name in his address book, etc. etc.

no specific solution - just things to contemplate on

There's no real way to know the facts without following him. You've already looked in his email so why not that too? There's also no way you are going to be able to keep your husband from not doing these things. If you beg & plead w/him not to see her or show him how insecure you may be or whatever. If he wants to do something w/ someone else, he will no matter what. I have always been a suspicious mind but finally realize why.. my own temptations. I have just realized how hard it is to reject a person that means a lot to you & has for ever. So in your situation, or rather your husbands I think you do have a just worry/suspicion. This person is obviously special to him & the question you probably have is what it may turn into. The excitement of something new/different is exciting. Can you not agree? If someone came up to you and propositioned you...could you turn & walk away? Especially if you had a great relationship w/ this person. It may be true, the reason your husband is covering up his lunch dates w/ a male name instead of hers is to not alarm you, but you'll never really know. Even if you do confront him, are you going to believe his answer? Advice... maybe keep yourself busy w/ some friends of your own. Have some time for yourself, movie nights, massages, etc. Try to spice up what you do have at home, get new sheets, candles, loungerie, etc. Just a few thoughts.
As a man, I don't believe there are any ''innocent'' relationships between men and women, barring those between some siblings and parents. Otherwise, libido and sexual attraction taint all relations between men and women, at least from the man's side. I have spent most of my adult life as a married man in exclusive committed relationships. I cheated on my first wife twice (she never found out) but have so far remained faithful to my present wife of nearly ten years. Suffice it to say that, though I remain committed to my marriage, I have little confidence in my long-term ability to resist the temptaion that daily threatens to tear my world apart. Some studies indicate that around half of men cheat in their marriages and only a quarter of women do. Other studies aren't so generous. The incessant pull to spread my genes as widely as possible always threatens to make a mockery of my promise of fidelity and my professed love for my wife. This is part of the human condition that I (and, as far as I can tell, virtually all men) find myself in. From where I stand President Clinton was not exceptionally libidinous, only exceptionally exposed. Not to put too fine a point on it, but beneath the thin veneer of civilization ALL MEN ARE DOGS. Really, no one should be surprised at another man's adultery, but only at his fidelity. As much as I wish it were otherwise, this is the actual world I live in. The tendency to stray is only tenuously held in check by commitment to relationship, natural cowardice, fear of being caught, fear of rejection, fear of looking foolish, etc.

That said, some of the things that strengthen my resolve to remain faithful are the closeness I feel with my wife, the extent to which I feel she is a friend who is ''on my side,'' who knows and supports my dreams and goals. When our relationship turns adversarial or when I feel taken for granted or used, my resolve becomes diminished.

If your husband is seeing another woman without sharing that with you, it is highly suspect. Hiding her phone number under a guy's name--- If he is not having an affair or considering doing so he may be a saint, or just hormonally challenged. Infidelity is a perpetration and a betrayal of trust. Spying on your husband, of course, could also be construed as such, so you don't want to expose yourself. But your suspicion is only human and probably well placed. My gut feeling is that if he is wholly innocent he would quickly forgive you, were you to confess your little subterfuge in a non-accusatory way. If, on the other hand, he were only to shame you in order to get the upper hand, I would take it as an admission of guilt. Ultimately, you must probably rely on your intuition, unless you can afford a private investigator. This is the charade men and women must play because we are afraid to be honest about who (or how?) we really are. My own attempts to share this perspective with my wife did not generate more trust and closeness, as I had hoped, but quite the contrary, diminished the same. Best of luck to you and your dog/husband. God knows we all need it.

I, unfortunately, can relate to your posting, since my own marriage has survived an affair. I too know the shame of secretly monitoring my husband's email, phone records, visa statements, and so forth. Of course, you may not be dealing with anything more than a harmless friendship here. Perhaps the safest course is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. For what its worth, you might consider making plans for a nice evening with just the two of you to give you a chance to check in with him and to let him know how much he means to you. You could probably find out a lot just by the way he reacts to this. Is he pleased with the attention? or uncomfortable? I probably wouldn't confront him with what you know, even though it would be so tempting to do so. You could consider continuing to woo him in this way, and perhaps his interest, if he has any, in his ex-coworker might wane.
I completely validate your feelings. I know what you are going through because i was the person you describe. Your husband may be having a kind of emotional affair. Not a physical one but a secret kind of ''harmless'' friendship. It is a hard line for you though as you suggest. There are no clear answers but you already feel betrayed or you wouldn't be checking up on him. Only you know your partner and what your relationship can support but the thrill of secrecy has a hold on him. My husbands ''strategy'' was to say it out loud. He would say ''Oh yeah that is your lover huh?'' Not in a threatening way, or angry but almost like a girlfriend would. That took all the wind out of it and ended the secrecy.Tread carefully Good luck
I guess you will get a lot of responses, but here is my opinion. If you have been in a situation that has resulted in the loss of trust with a partner, it is harder to build and maintain trust. There are many things that you can do to work on this, one would be individual therapy so that you can work on healing yourself. Another positive step is to have a healthy relationship with someone who understands your background and is willing to support you. Unfortunately, it seems like your husband is not acting in a supportive way by keeping secrets from you. My suggestion is to start couples therapy. It sounds like there are issues that haven't been discussed and so you aren't feeling supported in the ways you need to trust him.

My husband and I have been in therapy for almost three years. We have spent a lot of time working on rebuilding trust in our relationship. It is slow going sometimes, and suspicions rear their head at various times, but really what he and I both know is that what I need to feel I can trust him is honesty... that isn't a control issue, it is an openness issue. Fortunately, my husband values our relationship and keeping up trust more than privacy in his computer use, and knowing that has allowed me to feel less suspicious so that I am not monitoring his computer activities... but that has taken lots of work. rebuilding trust

I don't know how you can bring this issue up without letting him know how you found out. Eventually he will figure it out for himself. My red flag went up when you mentioned he wrote down a ''male name'' under her number. This would definitely make me want to know a lot more about the situation. If he is ''misbehaving,'' what would be your plan of action? Work things out or leave him? I think you would need to figure out/ plan how you will deal with the truth before you make any moves. If you're desperate enough to know and have cash, you might want to hire a private investigator since therapy is out. But suppose you find out he's not cheating, how will you feel and handle your relationship with your husband then? I think it's important for you to develop a trust with him or you will be forever suspicious. Good luck and I hope you make the best decision for yourself and s.o. Just a few things to think about or consider.

Can Cheaters Change?

March 2004

Hi everyone, Has anyone out there been in a relationship with someone who has been unfaithful and they've since changed and are now faithful? What did it take for that person to change their colors?

I'm in a long term relationship w/ someone who has at least 2x's in the past 2 years stepped outside the relationship. One was a flirtation w/ a coworker, the second went further to dating another person. I have felt like i should just end the relationship but it is so complicated with 2 kids involved, one ours, the other his, but i am his kid's mother figure.

Am I foolish to believe that ''this time'' he will really be true? I don't believe it myself, but want to since sharing custody sounds awful, and i would probably move to southern california to have some family/friends support that i don't have here. it would mean the baby wouldn't see her dad or brother but once a month or even less! i really don't want my baby to grow up in a split household but don't know if i'm just fooling myself.

Your advice and wisdom are appreciated!
bewildered need your 20/20!

I think that cheating is like any other addiction...unless that person seeks some serious help, they will not change. There are deep issues behind his cheating and he needs to get at the root of them. I am married to a man who cheated on me the first year we were together and has not since. I believe his reason for cheating was motivated by a tremendous insecurity and his fear of losing me and not wanting to be alone. We sought help together and seperately and it changed our relationship. I believe now that he would never cheat for the same reason....fear of losing me, as he knows I would not stay. I should mention that we have been to hell and back (because of issues not relating to our relationship--death and like in our families) several times in the decade we have been together since, and consequently, this ishow I know he loves me and would not do such a thing....why go through all that with me just to throw it all away? that said, I think you should know I am married to the exception, not the rule, and in my mind most men (or women) that cheat, always will. It sounds to me like your husband is pushing you to see how far he can go...I would get out of that situation (unless he agrees to get some help) before it gets worse (and believe me it does). What's worse is you are sending the message to your kids that this is acceptable behavior in a relationship, and it's not. In my opinion it's never a good idea to stay in an unhappy relationship ''for the kids sake.'' I have a stepdauhter who sees her dad (my husband) once a month or so, and even though it's not ideal, they have a strong relationship. Her parents realized that they would be better parents to her seperately than together (she was an infant at the time), and you can definately see the difference. I say let go of the stigma attached to being in a ''split household'' and embrace the idea of having a healthy environment to raise your child (having family and friends close by will help too!) It's a difficult decision I know, but you asked yourself if you would be foolish to stay, and I think, yes you would....
What you see is what you get. His character will not change. Think of it this way - do you want your child to learn that emotionally abused women should stay with a cheater? Or that fathers are liars and cheaters?
Past behavior is the precurser for future behavior. If there are no consequences to his actions, why should he stop? He gets away with it..... you both should seek counseling, both separately and together to do one of two things-- resolve, change and go forward; or work your way out! of the relationship. Yes, a broken home is not top choice for anyone with children, but do you want your children growing up in a household that is ''broken'' anyway? Good luck and be strong!! If ''stepping out'' is a deal breaker in your relationship, then stick to that..... big Dr Phil Fan....
Yes, I believe with guidance and counsling someone can change. Start couples counsling and he should have private tharapy for a while. Try a little to moniter his activites so you can see if he is heading down the wrong path again and intervene. If really nothing works, trying seperating for a few months and then take another shot. Sometimes things just need time. Gertie
Do you both share the same definition of what it means to go outside a relationship? Maybe you purposely didn't go into detail, but flirting with someone would not even constitute a step outside the relationship for me. Dating someone? What is dating? I have male friends and I have lunch with them occasionally just like I do with female friends. So I see them without my husband, but I am not dating them, even if we go to lunch in regular pattern such as once a month or so. I also happen to be into partner-dancing and my husband doesn't like to dance. As I dance with different dancers in class, whenever the teachers announce rotation of dancers, I am also not stepping outside the relationship. I just know that and so does my husband. We are social beings and we should be proud if our spouses are liked and respected by others regardless of gender. Cheating to me means having a sexual relationship with someone else other than your spouse (secret or not), if your spouse prefers or expects to have an exclusive relationship with you (based on what you agreed upon when you got married). If your husband is simply socializing and not telling you, because you wouldn't allow it - you need to have a good open talk until you find common ground. If he has been cheating (by the definition above), I think it will happen again in time despite of good intentions or promises, if the underlying problems are not resolved or reoccur.