How to deal with husband's pseudocheating and inadequate remorse?
October 22, 2015 8:25 PM   Subscribe

My husband engaged in particularly hurtful nonphysical cheating, and I had to catch him at it to find out. Now when we talk about it he seems remorseful, but that remorse doesn't translate to the rest of our life. How can I handle it and what should I do?

Recently, I caught my husband (we will call him Dean) sexually flirting with an ex (Anna) in a way he knew was explicitly outside the boundaries of our marriage, including talking about how his sex life with me was bad and talking about the kind of sex him and Anna would like to have if they were having sex. Anna also sent Dean sexually explicit fantasies about the two of them, and invited him to a hotel room.

According to Dean, he said no and Anna's proposition freaked him out, but even after that, he kept talking to Anna and (before I knew) talked about how he'd like to hang out with Anna.

He says he was just feeling lonely and wanted to feel sexy, and that "ideal sex is attractive in a way real sex isn't", but I'm still incredibly hurt. (He has had low libido with me for a year or so)

Also I think I want him to show more acknowledgement that I am the wronged one right now - more consideration in disputes, etc. I feel like he should have to be proving himself to me given that he wounded me so deeply and in such a way. What do you guys think? Am I out of line? Or does he need to step up? And most of all what the hell do I do? I just want to cry all the time now.
posted by sockeroonie to Human Relations (53 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ugh, I am so sorry. Your feelings are valid and he's being a huge, huge asshole. You are completely justified in your anger and sadness, and for what it's worth, I personally would not call this "pseudo cheating", to me, it is straight up cheating. It's ok to give it that label if you feel that's what it is. In any case it is a terrible betrayal.

His lack of remorse is concerning to me because, having very recently been through somewhat similar circumstances, this is an indicator that he's no longer invested in his relationship with you. If you want to try to salvage the relationship, you can try to get him to agree to couples therapy, but more importantly I believe you should get into individual therapy right away.

You may also want to consider packing up some essential items and staying with friends or with family for a few days to sort out your feelings and decide if you want to put the emotional energy into trying to save this relationship or not.

I'm so sorry.
posted by a strong female character at 8:35 PM on October 22, 2015 [46 favorites]

Try again if you want to, but this seems to me to be more or less the harbinger of the end. When a partner disconnects like this, it's incredibly difficult to rebuild the relationship, even if both partners want to. Which it doesn't seem like your husband wants.
posted by durandal at 8:41 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You can't make him care more than he cares. You can't make him be sorrier. Your choices are to accept the amount of sorry he is, or walk.

You get one shot to tell him that this is extremely serious to you and that you need something more or you're going to have to make some life decisions, but if he hears you and doesn't care, you can't do the caring for him.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:52 PM on October 22, 2015 [73 favorites]

Your partner had an emotional affair. It does neither you nor your marriage any favours to couch it as anything else. I would suggest reading through the FAQ at Surviving Infidelity. I don't always suggest it but you might consider the 180 you'll find in that FAQ; your spouse is not remorseful and that's not a good sign. You'll also find support in the forums; it's normally for this to be a terribly confusing time.

I am very sorry you've been hurt this way.

Acronyms in that FAQ: WS = Wandering Spouse. BS = Betrayed Spouse. O or OP = Oyher Person. EA = Emotional Affair. R = Reconciliation.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:00 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

You are correct that his behavior does not indicate that he wants to heal the relationship. (Well, maybe he wants you to forget about it; that's not the same thing.) He should feel like much more of an asshole, but clearly his top priority is his own sexual satisfaction (not building a sexual relationship with you) and he's checked out.
posted by easter queen at 9:01 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

this seems like another manifestation of his selfishness and emotional immaturity that you've detailed before. you can't make him see you or value you. you deserve to be seen and valued. i'm sorry he's being so awful. you aren't asking for too much. he seems unwilling or unable to be a good partner to you.
posted by nadawi at 9:21 PM on October 22, 2015 [31 favorites]

So I'm trying to think of a way to put this without sounding like I'm on his side and not yours. I'm really not. He's definitely done wrong. However, I question your choice to frame this as "I am the wronged one and he should act like it."

Being in a sexually unfulfilling marriage is not fun. Please, please don't misunderstand- I am not saying that you directly caused this or you owe him sex or some bullshit like that (it sounds like he's the one turning down sex with you anyway.) I'm just saying, it's one thing if you have a wonderful, strong, happy, loving sexy marriage and this happens because he just felt like having his cake and eating it too, had double standards, or felt entitled. It's another thing if you already had a shaky, distant, sexually unfulfilling marriage in which you fight often, and this happens.

I think there are multiple deeper issues in your marriage that probably involve blame on both sides and if you seriously want to save it, you will have to brutally examine them, most likely in couple's therapy. I think this is a symptom of other problems.

Of course, this is only my answer to "how to save this." If you decide all these problems are insurmountable or not worth the effort to try, by all means, get out.
posted by quincunx at 9:39 PM on October 22, 2015 [21 favorites]

You have to be around people who make you feel good about yourself or else you end up really sacrificing your sense of self worth. Not having a sense of self worth can be incredibly dangerous in a number of ways. You get used to him being childish and selfish and then you might start believing you can't do any better.

The people who know their self worth never put up with people who make them feel awful. You have to put yourself first. No one else will do it for you.

And it's better to be alone than to be with someone who makes you feel like this. It's so much better.

If it helps, you're not the first woman to find out they're married to a shitty partner and you won't be the last. It's not your fault. Don't waste time trying to understand him. You be on your own side, figure out what you need to do to for yourself.

He'll blame everyone but himself. He's childish, has no character, and no integrity. Don't ever trust him to react the way someone with integrity, character, or even a smidge of empathy or compassion would. He just won't.
posted by discopolo at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2015 [11 favorites]

I looked at your other questions after nadawi's comment and I agree that he seems uninterested in being a good partner to you. He was largely unsupportive and unempathetic after his friend sexually assaulted you and is now cheating on you and offering you only excuses for his behavior. You're not out of line. Your feelings are valid. It sounds like he has been mostly absent from your partnership. I think it is beyond "he needs to step it up". I hate it to put it so bluntly, but you can't get a person to care about you who is too selfish to do so. I'm sorry you got such a raw deal. You deserve so much better.
posted by sevenofspades at 9:56 PM on October 22, 2015 [19 favorites]

My ex did this three (3) times before I finally broke up with her and dear lord do not choose that path. We too had not had sex for about a year, things were not awesome, and I now know that space between us was a giant billboard blinking "THIS HAS RUN ITS COURSE." I'm curious - how did you catch him? I found out when I was using her phone to text her on my phone (that is neither here nor there, but point being I was not snooping). She texts me and while I'm responding she gets a text from an old out-of-state friend about how he's thinking of her and wants to do 'x' to her right now. I then look through the hundreds of old texts and this has been a thing for about 5 months. I grab her computer and see hundreds of emails a day between them. Really truly, hundreds. What do I do? Ask her about it, she lies to my face and I know it, and I rationalize it to myself. Same thing happened with another person three months later (while the first was still going on). About a year after I found out about the first guy she gives me flowers for Valentine's Day and later that night I find a card from the florist in the trash - she regifted the flowers, which she received from her coworker to celebrate their three-month anniversary, because he had no fucking clue she was living with someone she had been in a relationship with for several years. The first flirtatious whatever was still going on at this time, ftr. Oh and all three included actual physical cheating as well. BUT I STILL DIDN'T BREAK UP WITH HER!!! until three days later, when she went to an after work happy hour and stayed out until 5am - obviously sleeping over at his place. (I mean, at the very least, props to her for managing to cheat on people she's cheating on people with.) I'm sitting at the window at 4:30am wondering where the fuck she is, crying, and I actually say out loud, "Why is she doing this to me?" When I said it something finally clicked and I thought, "Why am I do this to me?"

Give him another chance if you want, please. But set expectations with him based on your needs, and if he demonstrates anything less than perfection trust me, it will not get better. And if you cannot shake the urge to snoop please don't blame yourself, save both of you the pain and trouble of that and end it. After I found out about the first guy that night, from then on I could not stop snooping. It was awful and I drove myself crazy. Please, you can ALWAYS get back together with someone you broke up with if you both want to but you cannot get back the time and anguish and insanity of lying to yourself and trying to pretend a dead relationship is alive. Absolutely do not blame yourself for any of this or think that you are crazy or unforgiving or cold. It took me a long time to get there myself.
posted by good lorneing at 9:58 PM on October 22, 2015 [19 favorites]

It's possible that your husband doesn't realize that the way he is communicating his remorse makes it seem inadequate. The book The Five Languages of Apology really helped clear up a similar issue for my partner and I; I thought he was failing to sufficiently make up for hurting me because he wasn't very remorseful, but we were able to figure out that he was just not communicating his remorse in a way that was helpful to me. Maybe telling your husband that his response is not enough and working through the book together to figure out what would be enough might help.

I'm sorry this has happened to you. There will be a day, eventually, when the thought doesn't bring you to tears anymore -- I promise.
posted by Pwoink at 10:08 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

He says he was just feeling lonely and wanted to feel sexy, and that "ideal sex is attractive in a way real sex isn't", but I'm still incredibly hurt.

Can't both of these things be true and valid?

Also I think I want him to show more acknowledgement that I am the wronged one right now - more consideration in disputes, etc. I feel like he should have to be proving himself to me given that he wounded me so deeply and in such a way. What do you guys think? Am I out of line? Or does he need to step up? And most of all what the hell do I do? I just want to cry all the time now.

Do you want to be right, or do you want to work on the problem? Him "owing" you for what he did wrong isn't going to fix your marriage all by itself, nor will it make you happy. You two have some stuff around intimacy to work out that can only be solved by tough and perhaps embarrassing and vulnerable conversations, you need to reconnect, you need to both feel desired and valued.

Look, if his final answer to you is that he'd rather ignore you and engage in fantasy sexytalk while solely blaming you for the lack of a sex life, THAT is a shitty way to treat a partner. But likewise, if you're more invested in him proving his remorse and groveling than you are working on the issues, then THAT is not cool either. Focusing on your marital issues doesn't mean that your feelings of betrayal don't matter or that what he did was okay, it means that you deal with it in context and concentrate on your relationship together, rather than vilifying him while simultaneously expecting him to be a better and more engaged partner.
posted by desuetude at 10:15 PM on October 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry. From this and your other questions, he sounds too destructively selfish to be a good partner or a good father.

I know things feel terrible now, maybe this is your rock bottom with him? Maybe this experience will help you see how much better your life, and your daughters, could be. I wish all the happiness in the world for you two.
posted by pennypiper at 10:52 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

you aren't asking for too much. he seems unwilling or unable to be a good partner to you.

I was about to write basically this exact sentence, but i was going to say you are asking too much... of him.

It's not that what you're asking is unreasonable, it's that it's like asking a huffy teenager to wash the dishes. Even if you get him to do it, he's going to leave spots of food on everything and make loud slamming noises the whole time with lots of groaning and sighing. The sort of thing where you realize that it would have been better to just do the job yourself and get it done right the first time.

In that, there's no point in asking him even though the request is reasonable because he doesn't respect you or your reasonable request.

He says he was just feeling lonely and wanted to feel sexy, and that "ideal sex is attractive in a way real sex isn't", but I'm still incredibly hurt. (He has had low libido with me for a year or so)

He has checked out on this, and is checking out in the most wimpy half assed passive aggressive way possible. He doesn't want to deal with the hard work of ending it, but he's completely done.

What he pretty much literally said here is "the idea of having sex with someone else is better than than the idea or reality of having sex with you", which in the next sentence he has basically stated, he is completely bored with and uninterested in.

I tried my hardest to not frame this in a totally hurtful way, but he so obviously does not even give 1/4 of a shit about you here.

Also I think I want him to show more acknowledgement that I am the wronged one right now - more consideration in disputes, etc. I feel like he should have to be proving himself to me given that he wounded me so deeply and in such a way. What do you guys think? Am I out of line? Or does he need to step up? And most of all what the hell do I do? I just want to cry all the time now.

I disagree that this is a do you want to solve the problem or be right sort of thing. This is a reasonable, and normal thing to feel. The problem is, lets say he gives it 110% for a while to prove that he cares. He's already shown that he didn't and that he was capable of not caring this much, and disrespecting you this much. How does he prove he wont just slip back into this, or that it isn't how he feels anyways while he acts nicer?

This, and the way he presented it, read as a totaled car to me. Just because he didn't "full on cheat" and do 100% of the value of the relationship in damage doesn't mean that he didn't do say, 75% of totally ruining it. And at that point you just take the check and buy a new car.

Basically i'm saying i don't see a satisfactory way to move forward from here because i don't really see how he could recover from this. This is basically the opposite emotionally of "we were drunk at a work party and fucked in the bathroom". He's demonstrated that he's "bored" with you, and he orchestrated this whole bullshit fest.
posted by emptythought at 1:19 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]

From an anonymous Mefite:
I’m in a situation where I’m the Anna, except I can’t bring myself to act on it because I would hate to be in Dean’s wife’s shoes and I don’t want to ruin his life.

My Dean’s marriage is completely sexless according to him. He is desperate for affection and romance and sex according to him. I almost believe him but I’m also distrustful enough of cheaters in general to not be able to make the final move and sleep with him and start a full-blown physical affair.

I think your Dean did the wrong thing by staying in touch with Anna when he allegedly freaked out after she propositioned him. I think he betrayed you badly by telling her that sex with you is bad without working through any issues with you first. I think Anna did the wrong thing by propositioning him (assuming she knows he’s married) but I can understand her determination or desperation. My heart fights with my head about my Dean all the time. That’s why your Dean should’ve gone no contact from the time she propositioned him. He should have just cut her out of his life. While he stays in touch, she will have hope.

From my perspective as an Anna type, I think you need to seriously re-evaluate staying in this marriage. He doesn’t respect you enough to stop contact with Anna. She doesn’t respect his marriage. He doesn’t value you enough to move heaven and earth to make up for his transgression.

You shouldn’t accept your Dean treating you that way. I would give the same advice to my Dean’s wife but I’m hardly in a position to do so.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:04 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm really sorry, Your husband is being an asshole.

A story beginning with flowers: the only time I ever got flowers from my fiance was after I handed him his phone and saw flirtatious texts from a woman, I said, "WTF you asshole," and a non-cheating-but-emotionally-cheating story unfolded.

The only time he ever brought me flowers was the day after he was caught. He wanted to give me flowers and never mention it again. And I was like, "Uh, this is a serious problem and how did all of this happen and there's stuff we need to figure out."

His response was that he fucked up. It was a mistake. There was nothing to talk about and it was better to move on.

So I was where you are now and I know what you mean by I wasn't expecting him to be groveling around me 24/7, but it would have been really nice if he tried to demonstrate extra kindness. I thought I needed him to appear apologetic, he wanted to bury the whole thing, and it never got better after that.

But what I really needed was for him to open to a difficult discussion about how the fuck it ever happened and to be fully cognizant in the ensuing weeks that I was hurt. My ex wasn't willing to do that.

There was nothing I could to make him want to make things better because he thought one apology and some flowers would cover everything. I was going to marry a child who screams at their mom, "I said I was sorry!!"

I suggest you have a serious think (and yeah, maybe with a therapist) to make sense of what you really want and how you want to be treated and ask if you're getting this right now. Then make some decisions. You may be able to get counseling with your husband. You may not. But I suggest you talk to someone about this.

(But as a sidenote: the whole "she came on to ME" story is probably a lie.)
posted by kinetic at 2:54 AM on October 23, 2015 [23 favorites]

Your husband is going to keep doing this sort of negative behavior baring some big sea-change, like couples therapy. Blowing you off when you were sexually assaulted, not trying to make your sex life together work, and this.

He's treating you with a mixture of contempt/disregard and scraps of warmth.

It may be that couples therapy would sort him out. If he's willing to work hard on this.

But it is useless, or rather, pointless to push him for a display of contrition that doesn't involve hard work on the relationship, because there's the fundamental flaw of contempt/disregard to try to sort out. If that basic matter is not sorted out through you're going to see more inconsiderate behavior.

Frankly, I agree with the other replies that
I suggest you have a serious think (and yeah, maybe with a therapist) to make sense of what you really want and how you want to be treated and ask if you're getting this right now. Then make some decisions. You may be able to get counseling with your husband. You may not. But I suggest you talk to someone about this.

and then either a couples counselor or a divorce lawyer/mediator.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I did that thing where you look through a poster's question history; it always feels a little intrusive but so often sheds a great deal of light. Sockeroonie, this is the husband from your previous two questions, correct?

He is not a good partner. He has trouble being an adequate partner. Relationships can recover from affairs, but your husband's willingness to shift the blame, combined with his previous stuff, suggest that he lacks the bones of good partnership and is not going to work on getting better.

It is not your fault he cheated. It is not your responsibility to prevent him from cheating. That was his decision, and a deliberate action, and no matter what else is going on in your marriage, he could have chosen at any moment to be a responsible, supportive partner. It's really fucking easy to avoid cheating: you just don't do anything!

I suggest you read the epic emotional labor thread, paying particular attention to any comments with over a hundred favorites. Does anything ring a bell?

I'm really sorry you're going through this. The only way you can avoid going through it again is to leave him.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:04 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]

I guess I feel a little sympathy with Dan, since it's a difficult situation, but he's an adult. An adult who's lost interest in their partner gets therapy, talks about it with their partner, goes to the doctor to check for medical causes. They do not cheat. (I am so full of contempt for this guy after your last couple posts that I cannot help but note that he chose to cheat in the most noncommittal, ass-covering, lazy way possible, which does seem typical of him. Still absolutely cheating, though.)

Also, haven't you only been married to him for a little over a year? And he's been uninterested in sex with you much of that time? This does not sound like a salvageable relationship, but I can't bring myself to tell you I'm sorry. You can do better, lady. Single is better than him by a long shot.
posted by chaiminda at 5:02 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: So to clarify: he hasn't seemed emotionally checked out of the relationship - he's constantly telling me he loves me, that I'm the best thing in his life, that I'm the best decision he ever made. It's not like he's been in a marriage without affection, it's just that we haven't been having sex, which makes the rest of it hard.

About the sex - he says part of it is that we have a daughter in the next room and it's hard to be sexy, and I think part of it is also that the kind of sex at least that Anna wrote to him about is not the kind of sex we have. After this all broke he did agree to go to a doctor to see if there's something wrong with him physically, though, so that's something.

I'm kind of glad some of you brought up my past question actually - that's kind of one of the things that has me so upset. He freaked out that I didn't tell him right away when I got sexually assaulted, but he didn't tell me about actually cheating on me (and yeah I guess in my head i do consider cybersex type stuff cheating, I just feel weird about it because he didn't actually physically do anything)

In regards to remorse, I asked him about it again after reading you guys and he said that he actually does feel deep shame about what he did, and that's why he doesn't like to talk about it or think about it, because it makes him feel bad and makes him depressed. He used the words "a taint" and says that any good he could do can't "balance" that he did wrong.

After reading those infidelity forums (thanks DarlingBri) I asked him more about the current contact. He says that he has gone No Contact with her and actually deleted a lot of the stuff, which I have mixed feelings about - it kind of feels like deleting the evidence but also I'm glad he won't be looking at it again.

Ugh I'm sorry this is so disjointed, my head is just whirling.
posted by sockeroonie at 6:06 AM on October 23, 2015

Yo, I am seriously concerned for you. This combined with what happened with Charlie shows that your husband has no problem disrespecting you and your marriage when it suits his totally warped brain. This is not how you act towards people you say you love. You deserve SO MUCH BETTER.
posted by slime at 6:11 AM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: It kinda doesn't even matter if it's cheating or not. It is just so shabby and nasty of him to go tell some woman he has the hots for that your sex life is bad. I mean, what a betrayal of your privacy, from someone who is supposed to be there for you; to be on your team.

I really honestly think that this is not working out. You two don't have a daughter, you individually have a daughter. I say this as someone with a son, who has had to navigate the whole blended family thing: it's not worth it if everyone isn't in it to win it. It's not worth it if they subtly pressure you to spend less time with your kid. That doesn't mean I'm saying break it off ASAP or whatever. I am saying think about whether you are settling for less than you and your daughter deserve. Take a while to think about it, and while you do, consider all of his actions in that light.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:16 AM on October 23, 2015 [16 favorites]

Too bad if he feels shame. When you're in relationship, you still have to communicate.

Couple's therapy ASAP. Possibly sex therapy.

Also maybe you could ask for the passwords to his phone/computer for a while.

I'm trying to give you practical advice that isn't "leave him" may need to prepare yourself to take that step. Or you won't have any leverage.
posted by quincunx at 6:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

he doesn't like to talk about it or think about it, because it makes him feel bad and makes him depressed. He used the words "a taint" and says that any good he could do can't "balance" that he did wrong.

What you need here isn't for him to tell you how bad he feels and how hard it is for him to talk to you about it. Or how unsalvageable it all feels. You need him to demonstrate that he can be stable, loving, supportive, and committed.

If he's said he's going to see a doctor about the physical side of things then that's something, but I'd be looking for a more concrete plan for the future, and that includes getting over the whole "daughter in the next room" thing. FFS, as if that's something only he has ever had to deal with.

Otherwise, you need to start thinking about leaving, or asking him to leave, at least for a while. You owe it to yourself but especially to your daughter who will be soaking up all this upset and anger. Don't delay your decision too much either - it sounds like he is an only part-exploded bomb of unhappy drama and you have more of this to come unless things change in a big way, whether in the sense of him changing his ways in a BIG way, or you guys taking a break.
posted by greenish at 6:30 AM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

He tells you that you're the love of his life, but does he show it?

Also, feeling like a lousy person is how we human beings learn not to do lousy things...but having SexyChat for hundreds of messages is not a single lousy thing, it is hundreds of decisions over and over to keep going. And when did he stop? When his conscience told him? No -- when he got caught. So frankly, his bad feelings don't seem to me to be relevant because they aren't the end of a process of self-reflection and genuine remorse. They're the result of being caught and held accountable.

I feel like I am watching you talk yourself out of your initial upset about this. You are upset because a deeply disrespectful thing went down.

I actually do have poly relationships online and engage in chat like that with the consent if my spouse, and like any deep relationship I also talk about how things are at home. But I do not, ever, continue to complain about a problem with my spouse behind his back because that is lousy. And if there's a problem with sex then I turn off my phone and go have a date with him! Because that is how respect and healthy relating works.

I feel like you are taking basic and frankly, easy stuff like him saying nice things as proof of a good relationship while also describing things that are pretty fundamentally uncool.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:07 AM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

What troubles me is how there have been three major issues in your marriage, and you've only been married, what, a little over a year? Any one of these issues alone would be enough to derail a marriage. This seems like a lot of stuff in such a short period of time, during what should be a happy point in your relationship. It really shouldn't be this difficult. Healthy relationships aren't this difficult.

In your follow-up, you say that he tells you he loves you, and that he tells you how much you mean to him. Does he SHOW it? Based on your previous questions, it doesn't look like he treats you with love and care. (On preview, what warriorqueen said.)

It's easy to give advice for someone else's situation, but since you have a daughter, I can't help but think you would do well to end it. Right now you need to protect yourself and your daughter, not his feelings. He's a grown-ass adult and should be acting like it, not like a selfish, immature dolt.

If you want to give him one more opportunity to do right, non-negotiable couples counseling. And if he waffles, well, that tells you everything you need to know.

One more thing to think about: if this is how he treats you, how does he treat your daughter? How will he treat her in the future?
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:16 AM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

Some notes on therapy: first off, it's not a car mechanic. You don't drop your marriage off there to be fixed like a car. Alternately, it's not like your car has to want to stop making that noise in order to be repairable. Therapy will do nothing if one person isn't willing to do the work, or if they're just planning to coast as long as they can get away with and then leave. You can't make someone go be therapized if they don't want to be.

Furthermore, people in couples therapy need to be in individual therapy, ideally with separate therapists and not the couples therapist. This should start before couples therapy begins.

Couples therapy is basically just communication coaching and facilitation. Individual therapy is for the personal introspection that leads to better things to communicate about.

Also, "sex therapy" is for sexual dysfunction and also is not really a thing that's legitimized in much of a non-medical academic sense, or legal in most states. Not having sex for years or ever because of an injury or disease is mostly the only recognized legitimate application of the methodology (if there can even be said to be such a thing), basically a very specialized physical therapy. Not having sex for a year because of non-physical problems is an intimacy problem, not a sex problem. Any talk-therapy counselor can address intimacy problems, though I would say this is one place where celibate clergy is especially not in a position to assist you, if that was a route you were considering going.

But anyway, OP, if he has mentioned going to therapy himself, that's great and you should encourage it. At the same time, you should continue investigating your divorce and separation options, while you get your own therapist for support and assistance with making and maintaining good healthy boundaries in your life.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:22 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

This guy has been a needy piece of shit since your first question.

He is a lying, selfish, childish, loveless motherfucker.

Why are you still tolerating this? Why are you modeling "love" like this for your child? What do you get out of this marriage? Please help yourself and get out.
posted by French Fry at 7:23 AM on October 23, 2015 [21 favorites]

I know this gets tossed around lightly but - DTMFA.

In your first question he was getting jealous of your daughter because he was used to more attention and didn't realize that you had other priorities outside of him, in the next question he didn't believe you after one of his friends sexually assaulted you, and now he's talking shit about you while emotionally cheating with an ex.

You deserve better. Your daughter deserves better.
posted by bgal81 at 7:29 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

So, I'm going to leave aside the past issues, because enough other people have brought them up as a red flag.

I totally, wholeheartedly, understand where you're coming from, because I've been in a similar situation. But I also think that "I feel like he should have to be proving himself to me given that he wounded me so deeply" is asking too much.

A long, long time ago, my boyfriend betrayed me deeply. It wasn't an affair, but it was a sustained, long-term lie and some gaslighting that cut me to the core. When things finally came to a head, it was really bad, and I felt a lot like you do now and I wanted the same kind of constant proving. It was awful for me, because I knew he'd successfully hidden this thing for years - what proof was there that he was being honest now? What proof was there that he was sorry enough?

But with many years of hindsight, I think it's probably really exhausting to be in a scenario where whatever you do, whatever remorse you express, it's never enough, and it's going to be a get-out-of-arguments-free card for your partner for as long as you can see. Especially if it's something you're ashamed of and you just want to stuff it into the past and make it go away and pretend it never happened.

I'm not saying that people should be allowed to stuff deep betrayals into the past and pretend they never happened, but it is a pretty normal human instinct, and different people handle having to face the bad things they've done with different amounts of grace.

We did get past it, and mostly it took time. The next year was pretty rocky because I had such a hard time trusting him and probably questioned him a bit too often. I was also really wounded by the notion that he didn't stop until he got caught and that made me really question his character. BUT: we did get past it, and 14 years later we're married, with kids, and he's a good man.

It's my sense that Metafilter has very high standards for what constitutes a supportive, loving relationship, and I feel like there's a very high level of "If $person won't engage in extended emotionally supportive discussions of $problem, you should DTMFA." And, I mean, maybe you should DTMFA. I can't comment on that. But I just wanted to contribute my anecdote that remorse can be real even if it's insufficiently demonstrated; this kind of problem can be gotten past with time; and not knowing if you'll ever be given fair footing in an argument again can be really taxing on a person.

On preview, it sounds like the number of red flags (past and present) warrant a really serious consideration of leaving this marriage. But I'll still post my experience in case it's relevant to you or someone else in the future.
posted by telepanda at 7:38 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

One more thing to think about: if this is how he treats you, how does he treat your daughter? How will he treat her in the future?

Yeah, I have to admit, it makes me really sad to think of your daughter having to live with this man and watch him treat her mother like this.

It's such a difficult age, so many new feelings, body changes, social changes. It's hard to imagine how your husband and his drama leave any "air" in the house for your daughter, or you with much emotional energy for her. Not to mention this is a prime age for imprinting "what a romantic relationship looks like".

It breaks my heart to think of. I know this is a really hard place for you. Try to think about what this relationship is to you and your daughter, not what you want or hope it will be.
posted by pennypiper at 7:47 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]

What do you guys think? Am I out of line? Or does he need to step up? And most of all what the hell do I do? I just want to cry all the time now.

I've been thinking of you since your last question and I'm so sad to hear your husband's treatment of you hasn't improved. No, you aren't out of line. This is the second time in just four months that he's done something incredibly disrespectful and hurtful to you, the second time you've had to come to Ask for a sanity check because you know deep down you shouldn't have to try to convince yourself to be less upset about his behavior, and the second time you've had to go out of your way to extract adequate remorse from him because he's declined to express as much of his own volition.

He doesn't have the right to decide that he isn't going to talk about or acknowledge the bad shit he's done because it makes him feel bad and depressed. He should feel bad and depressed. And trying to blame all of this on a possible physical ailment rather than owning up to the consciousness and deliberation that were required for him to repeatedly make the decision to cheat is just. No. No. Don't let him get away with that.

Read this. If you stay and he keeps doing things like this to you, believe me, you'll watch the miserable "am I just overreacting?" days turn into weeks and months and years before you even know it, you'll keep scraping and bowing for crumbs of respect and affection, you'll realize that it really would be easier to just convince yourself that you're crazy than it would be to acknowledge that he simply doesn't care enough to treat you well, and when you finally get out, you'll feel like you'll never be able to forgive yourself for throwing so much of your time, energy, and love into a relationship with someone whose first instinct is to make you doubt yourself whenever he fucks up.

There is a path out of this, I promise. Your husband just keeps making it clear that he's not really willing to walk it with you. Love to you, OP.
posted by divined by radio at 9:34 AM on October 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

I understand you're very hurt right now, and I can't say whether this relationship is worth saving. But if you want to keep this marriage going, fix things and find a way back to being happy together, dwelling on your vengeful desire for him to actively demonstrate his remorse in ways you deem fit is not going to help with that.

It is clear that you two have communication issues that are a barrier to dealing with this infidelity. And I'm sorry if this is sexist and over generalized, but men don't want to talk much if at all, and women want to rehash the same thing endless times. If you want to work this out, you have to meet halfway. Writing him a letter is a good method of compromise, so that you can get all your thoughts and questions organized - tell him how you feel, but remember you are talking to someone you love and not an enemy, curb your venom. And he should also respond in writing. If you both make an effort to write these letters with the intent of reconciliation, it could help you both a lot more than trying to have difficult conversations in person right now.

If you're going to a counsellor, talk to them about this idea and get help writing it if you need.
posted by lizbunny at 9:46 AM on October 23, 2015

When your preteen daughter is an adult and if she faces something like this, what would you tell her?
posted by k8t at 9:56 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

How did you catch him? Have I missed that info somewhere? That might be helpful information to consider.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:05 AM on October 23, 2015

"he should have to be proving himself to me given that he wounded me so deeply"
You are not wrong or unreasonable to expect this. Especially in light of his past very bad behavior and betrayals. Given the history, I don't think he's actually interested in doing the work to be a good partner to you. And, the fact that he's so quick to make his terrible actions into something you have to soothe him about is really awful. His bad feelings about what he's done should not be left on your doorstep to contend with.

If your daughter wasn't in the mix, I'd say that staying and racking up more disappointments is your choice. But, you're modeling relationships for her. She's watching and feeling what's happening in the house and is learning that this is what marriage looks like. You two may think you're doing a great job of shielding her, but parents often underestimate how much children pick up and intuit.

Add to this that he's still not identifying the problem accurately. His behavior is not due to a physical problem. He has profound emotional immaturity and selfishness. He seems completely unwilling to address it meaningfully and when you ask him to, he reverts to being the wounded party. If he actually felt deep shame about what he's done, he would have ended it on his own and made sure that you never found out and doubled down on being a good husband. That's not what he did. He continued until he was caught.

This is a very painful situation and I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I wish you the best of luck in finding a healthy resolution that honors both you and your daughter.
posted by quince at 10:32 AM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

he said that he actually does feel deep shame about what he did, and that's why he doesn't like to talk about it or think about it, because it makes him feel bad and makes him depressed. He used the words "a taint" and says that any good he could do can't "balance" that he did wrong.

If this is true (and you can see that many other mefites doubt this) then you really, really need couples therapy to get past this impasse. You need him to take responsibility for what he did and help you recover your trust and he apparently is unable (or unwilling) to engage in that conversation. A therapist can help you both figure out if it is "unable" (in which the case the therapist can provide the safety for him to deal with his shame and reach out to you) or "unwilling" in which case the couple therapy won't change anything and you will know where you stand.

Please don't just try to forget what happened and put the past behind you - it is not just about what he did but also about what is going in your marriage that this happened - because otherwise it is highly likely to happen again.
posted by metahawk at 10:34 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

ps. If decide that you don't believe him either, you don't HAVE to do couple's therapy just as box to check on your way out the door. In that case, you might want to find a personal therapist to help you figure out what happened and how you can rebuild a life that will make you happier.
posted by metahawk at 10:36 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

he doesn't like to talk about it or think about it, because it makes him feel bad and makes him depressed.


How nice for him that he can avoid thinking about the thing he's done. How's that strategy working out for you?

You are the injured party here. Your feelings and need to talk about this and need to be made to feel secure and all of that stuff are a direct consequence of his actions and he needs to take responsibility for that by shouldering those consequences.

I actually don't really love the SI forums or FAQ that much because it's very prescriptive, structured and harsh, but your partnership is exactly mirroring the one pattern they're structured towards. I think reading the book and consulting on the forums there might be the best first steps.

This is sucky and I'm very angry on your behalf. I'm (again) sorry this is something you have to deal with.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

But if you want to keep this marriage going, fix things and find a way back to being happy together, dwelling on your vengeful desire for him to actively demonstrate his remorse in ways you deem fit is not going to help with that.

I disagree with this advice. It's of course not necessary to be cruel to him in return, but there is absolutely no need to shield him from your anger, sadness and hurt. When I was fresh in the throes of discovering my husbands affair, my therapist pointed out that there is a difference between telling him "you're a terrible asshole" and telling him "I'm so fucking angry at the way I've been treated and I feel like you're not acknowledging how incredibly hurt I am by this." One is a criticism of him as a person and the other is just an expression of your own emotions.

Don't be afraid to feel your feelings and express them. This is a Big Fucking Deal. He should not be protected from the full consequences of his actions.
posted by a strong female character at 11:49 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

He can't have sex with you because your daughter's in the house? So all of this is actually her fault? Along with it being her fault earlier in the relationship that you spend time with her?

Just no.
posted by tinkletown at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2015 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: Just for a detail answer (I promise I'm reading everything, you guys are so great, I'm just trying not to threadsit)

I found out because Dean was home late from a drinking after-work function (which as I type it, suddenly looks suspicious, but everything does) and I was going to check with his work friend what time be left. Dean had left his phone home and I was worried he wouldn't be able to use mass transit without his apps. I went into the email to check for the email his buddy had sent and discovered an email from Anna with a super explicit fantasy about the two of them.

I don't know for sure he didn't break it off before I confronted him about it. I sat on it for about a month before saying something. Supposedly at the time of confrontation he had already stopped contact - I know a few weeks before that Dean had completely closed down his Facebook entirely, with some vagueness about it being healthier for him. He's opened it up again recently, but has deleted anyone not an old friend or his family. I didn't ask him to do that and not until just this moment did I actually think it might be related.

I think I am definitely going to call and make a marriage counseling appointment and tell him my expectation is that he go and fully participate. Anyone know how to find a good one? Do you usually have to go through your insurance? I've never done this before.
posted by sockeroonie at 1:52 PM on October 23, 2015

If your employer has an employee assistance program you can try calling them for therapist recommendations that accept your insurance. You can also call your insurance company for the same, or you can do what I did and Google therapists near you and then call them and ask what insurances they accept.

I would recommend having a plan of action in case he refuses to attend couples counseling. I know that sounds pessimistic but you must take care of yourself and your kid first. Your husband has proven himself to be untrustworthy. Believe people when they show you who they are.
posted by a strong female character at 3:11 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've done some bad shit a while back, and I know this stuff with you just went down, but I'm personally fascinated, maybe sometimes too much so, with the reasons as to why I fucked up. Because I'm terrified I'll do it again. I have a good man and I'm developing a good network of people after burning every conceivable bridge in my younger years, and I want to know what led me to burn those bridges, so I don't do it again.

Why doesn't your husband have a similar curiosity as to why he cheated one year into a marriage? Why doesn't this man say, I have a good woman, I fucked up, let's change course so I don't lose her. How do I do that?

Here's another random internet stranger who wishes you all the well in the world.
posted by angrycat at 3:35 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

he doesn't like to talk about it or think about it, because it makes him feel bad and makes him depressed.

Oh but you just LOVE to talk and think about it, because it makes you feel like you're dancing on sunshine!

Christ on EVERY BIKE, that jackass has made his bed and he can fucking well lie in it for a bit.

What do you guys think?

I'm sorry, but in your last question my first instinct was that you might need a line on a shallow grave and a shovel, and that instinct pretty well stands. I don't think your husband is any good at all, I think he is probably beyond redemption because he can't give a shit about shit, and I think that you should stop tying yourself up in knots trying to survive all of the fucking goddamn bullshit he is willing to heap upon you.

He sucks. You don't.

And most of all what the hell do I do?

Leave his ass so fast he sees a sockeroonie-shaped dust cloud where you were standing. And honestly if you decide to flatten several of his tires on your way out, I won't tell anyone.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2015 [27 favorites]

If you have a neighborhood parenting listserv, ask for couples therapy recommendations (say for a friend if you must), make a list and then call and find out if they are in-network for your insurance.
posted by k8t at 9:13 AM on October 24, 2015

Do you really want to spend the rest of your life wincing against the next unpleasant surprise he's going to have for you? Therapy in this case sounds comparable to patching a 60-year-old bike tire. Then two miles down the road...
posted by Scram at 11:29 AM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think part of it is also that the kind of sex at least that Anna wrote to him about is not the kind of sex we have.

And... yet another of many red flags. Yes, almost definitely this is part of it. I'm guessing some kind of kink, or particular fantasies?

Additional red flag. You think? So I'm guessing he hasn't actually talked about it with you, and just mentions your daughter etc as a cause?
Basically, there's more than one way to be a closet case.

I'd be wary that it's some kind of Madonna/whore thing, because people with sexual attractions they are ashamed of, often try and pick a 'Madonna' figure as a partner, but any conflict between the two images (ie like being a parent), just results in a shut down of sexual attraction. Or they just can't imagine having sex with anyone they're in a long term relationship with.

I'm throwing ideas out here, I don't know your partner, but addressing the sexual issue is pretty big.
If he can perform by himself, or get turned on by other people, it's not a Doctor issue, but a therapist issue.
posted by Elysum at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2015

Response by poster: Elysium, you're pretty much spot on with the Madonna/ whore thing. He's been very clear that he doesn't respect this woman and he does respect me, which I think is part of the attraction and that creeps me the fuck out.

Is there any special area of therapy that helps with that kind of thing?
posted by sockeroonie at 3:42 PM on October 29, 2015

This is not a thing where you send your partner to therapy and the therapist will fix him. This is a thing where you adult up, set a good example for yourself and for your daughter, and fix it by ending a relationship that, regardless of how much you love him, is damaging.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:28 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry because this is so sad, but no. There's not therapy for this.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:13 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Elysum, you're pretty much spot on with the Madonna/ whore thing. He's been very clear that he doesn't respect this woman and he does respect me, which I think is part of the attraction and that creeps me the fuck out.

Is there any special area of therapy that helps with that kind of thing?

Well, drat.
Ok, that isn't great, and I kind of wish I'd been wrong.
I'd be noping out of this relationship, but I understand if you aren't ready, especially if you have a kid together.

Do think about therapy, do think about a sex-positive and kink-friendly therapist (it's essentially because he's sex negative that he's 'splitting' like this). If you ever had a satisfying sex life, then at least you'll know you are attractive to him, and it's remotely possible that he can get a handle on not splitting sex and love up in his head. It'll require him working on it, though, not you.
And honestly? It's possible that he'll come out of it with a healthier mindset, but instead saving the marriage, might find himself able to respect a healthily kinky woman he's also sexually attracted to.

First, how serious are his kinks? Is there any overlap with things that YOU would actually enjoy?

I'm seeing a couple of interesting thoughts on this dynamic here and here.

The first one has a mention of encouraging his feeling of 'safety' by initially, not explicitly threatening his fucked up thought patterns, ie by implying you really aren't a sexual creature outside of this, specific, sexy-times with only him. I find the idea incredibly cringey, but I can see exactly how it would work within those damaging thought patterns.

You could possibly provide a safer context for him mentally splitting sexytimes from non-sexy times by specific rituals, signals etc.
You know how kink relationships often have very clear visual signals and markers for power differential/sexy times, versus not sexy times? I.e. collars or costumes or necklaces that ONLY come out for those times, or specifics phrases or terms of 'endearment' (Sir, Master, Babe, etc), or ritualised aspects - waiting while kneeling, etc etc?

This is how people healthily cope with similar 'splitting' in a kink/bdsm context in their own lives. It miiight help him have a clearer distinction in his head between the wife he loves and respects, and actually having what he thinks of as dirty, dirty sex, with that same woman.

However, you didn't sign up for this. I think you need to seriously consider what would be good and healthy for you, and not compromise on it if you do think any of the above tactics would work.
At the really mild end, I've heard of people who liked, essentially, roleplaying 50s housewife style imbalance in their own relationship, and the indicator for it (versus the rest of the time, egalitarian relationship), was a simple pearl necklace. So, when I'm mentioning collars etc, that is not to suggest that you do anything you feel uncomfortable with, but to consider whether there there are particular markers that you could pick, that by mutual agreement, would indicate that it is sexy time, not 'mother of my child' time.

When he's seeing a therapist, also consider one for yourself.
Also note that second link - people with very negative attitudes towards women and sex can come across as, ironically, very 'respectful' at first, but it is coming from a deeply flawed and unhealthy root.
You KNOW how creepy it is that he is emphasising that he doesn't respect this other woman as if that is ever a good thing to think about another human being.
That, is, yet again, another deeply worrying red flag.
posted by Elysum at 11:41 AM on October 30, 2015

Response by poster: Okay, uh, update. Things came to a head when I found out he was looking at craigslist personals, supposedly for "porn purposes". We had a blowup fight, and I said that he needs to give it a year of trying, marriage counseling and personal psychiatry were non negotiable, and if it doesn't work after a year we are getting a divorce. So, uh, I guess you guys are going to see me back at AskMe. Thanks so much for everyone's help and advice.
posted by sockeroonie at 4:28 PM on December 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

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