While it’s safe to say there have always been wives who cheated on their husbands, and husbands who cheated on their wives, it’s nearly impossible to get a sense of how many marriages end up derailed by infidelity. Data is scarce, in part, because, well, people who are unfaithful aren’t always the most forthcoming. But social scientists do know that rates of infidelity have risen steadily over the past decade. That cheating occurs is no surprise; the why, however, is always a bit more surprising. It’s hard enough to ask, “Is my spouse cheating on me?” Or “My wife cheated on me, now what?” But it’s just the first of many questions that can lead to deeper uncertainty, and a lot of pain. How can you cope with suspicions of cheating, and how can you manage the aftermath of a confessed affair?
Eric S. has been married to his wife for more than 10 years. They have three children, the oldest of whom is 7. Eric and his wife’s relationship was great for a while. Before the birth of their third child, however, they started drifting apart — and Eric soon realized his wife was having an affair. Divorce was never an option for the two, not only because Eric S. doesn’t really believe in it, but also because they also can’t afford it. So for the time being, he’s stuck in his relationship, unsure of what to do.
Here, Eric talks to Fatherly about how he figured out his wife was having an affair, what he felt about it, and why he’s staying together for the kids — and the money.
So … what happened?
We’ve been married for about 10 and a half years. Things were great for the first three or four years, even after my first child was born. But things just went downhill, I guess, towards the birth of my third child. We basically just started distancing ourselves from one another. I don’t think it was intentional. I was working a lot. She was working a lot. We both pretty much lived our separate lives. But again, it wasn’t intentional. That culminated, basically, about a year and a half ago, when she ended up cheating on me.
So how did you find out she was cheating?
I had a hunch. There’s a difference between being distant to someone and actually going through and committing a “crime.” I just asked her straight up. I wasn’t expecting the truth in her response. But I got it.
Where did that hunch come from?
Her indifference to everything. I’m the type of person that doesn’t care much about anything. I don’t mean to sound extreme. There are certain things in life that I do care about: my children, my financial performance. She is the opposite of that.
It wasn’t something that I ever thought that she would do. She has a pretty strong foundation in terms her upbringing and where she came from. About a year before I actually asked her, I started feeling that there was something going on just because of her indifference to everything.
So how did you feel when she admitted she had an affair?
When you grow indifferent to someone, you stop caring about what they are doing in their personal lives. I didn’t really care anymore. When she told me, I wasn’t extremely upset because we had already grown so far apart. I would come home from work, I would take care of the kids, and then I’d go right back to work. I was living my own life. I guess that’s why, I hate to say this, but it didn’t really bother me all that much.
So why do you think she admitted to it, given the point where your relationship was?
In the limited communication that we were having at that point, she basically understood that we weren’t going to get a divorce, no matter what. I think that’s why she told me the truth. Otherwise, she would have lied to me. When I had my hunch, I started laying the foundation for letting her know that I wasn’t going to do anything drastic. I basically just wanted the truth. And I told her it was going to be okay. I told her I wasn’t going to do anything drastic.
Why was it important for you to let her know that cheating wasn’t going to lead to divorce?
The number one thing that mattered was the financial stability. Obviously the kids matter and all of that stuff, but I wasn’t going to do anything drastic primarily because of our financial situation. You can’t just get up and divorce someone. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not that easy, especially when you have kids.
So you guys are still together.
We’re together on paper. We still continue to live our lives. We don’t have that much to do with each other. We’re responsible. When it comes to taking care of the kids, we’ll speak to each other about it. But other than that, I don’t ask her what she’s doing at night. She doesn’t ask me what I’m doing at night. And that’s about it.
To be honest, I don’t want to say I’m happy, but I’m pretty content with where I am right now.
Do you know if your wife is still having affairs?
I’m pretty sure that it ended, but to be completely honest, I really don’t know. I’m out of the house at least five nights a week. When I say I’m out of the house, I mean the earliest I’ll come home is 12:30 at night, and that’s the earliest. I don’t think that is happening, but even if it was, I just … I guess I just lost all care.
Given the fact that it seems like you two don’t really talk anymore, have you had any relationships with other women?
I’ve never cheated on her, not out of revenge or in general. I don’t think I would cheat on her in the future, either, just because, I would like to think I wouldn’t, because it’s just not something that’s in me. I think if you’re in a relationship, you should be with only that person physically. Not just emotionally. But, you know, and if you don’t, and if you can’t handle it, then you should get divorced.
It doesn’t really appear that you’re doing either with your partner, though, right?
Ideally, I’d get divorced. But like I said a few minutes ago, for me, my number one concern is financial. I don’t make six or seven figures a year. If I were to get divorced, my life would be even more miserable than it is now.
Was going to counseling, or talking through the infidelity, ever an option for you and your wife?
She tried to bring it up one or two times. I told her, flat out, “Look, I don’t want to say I don’t care, because I do care a little bit, but I don’t care that much to go to counseling.” I find it very hard to believe that counseling is going to help.
My father cheated on my mother. That’s why I would like to think I would never cheat on my wife even though she cheated on me, and our relationship has grown so far apart. It’s just because of what happened between my father and my mother.
Aside from the morality of it, I don’t care about how my wife would feel if I cheated on her. I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. In that regard, I don’t think that counseling would help me because no matter what the therapist says, or whatever we go through in counseling sessions, it’s still not going to change the fact that I’m not going to forget about what she’s done to me.
And you two never tried to work it out between yourselves?
Obviously, when it was very fresh and new, we spoke about it one or two times. We’re not compatible for one another, but neither of us want to leave, probably because of the financial part of it.
So you can’t afford divorce?
She’s a worker in a daycare. She makes about $35,000 a year. I don’t make much more than that. Both of us would be in a very bad situation if we got divorced. So we stick together because of that. We also have three kids.
Do your kids have an idea of what’s going on in your home?
They’re very young. Our oldest, our 7-year-old, understands a tiny bit. I think she can probably sense it. But she’s still too young to know. Do I think that they’ll sense it in the future? For sure. You can’t keep that from a 10- or 11-year-old. They’ll sense it right away. They’ll go over to friends’ homes and go to normal houses and and come home and say, OK, something’s not right. I’m not thinking too much about that now. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
And you see no future of reconciling with your wife.
Even if I did — I just don’t. It’s not even if I did. I don’t see any reconciliation. A major part of my upbringing was trust. I believe you should never cheat on your spouse. I’m not going to go cheat on my spouse out of revenge now, you know. I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.
Yeah, it sucks for me that I’m not able to be physical or enjoy or be happy with another woman, but that’s just my situation. That’s just how it is. Maybe when my kids turn 18 and I won’t have to pay child support, hopefully by then I’ll be making more money, then obviously, I’ll get divorced when my last kid gets out of the house. But until then, I’ll just live with this.