Editor’s Note: Infidelity spotlights more differences between the sexes. To help see through the fog of marital war, I presume you the reader to be the victim of a cheating husband. I ask that you advise me of the ease, discomfort, or difficulty you imagine if you had to live through what follows in this series. You might stir some significant dialogue. Also, keep this thought foremost: A man won’t return permanently to the same woman on whom he cheated. On his own that is. She has to provide the incentives and rewards that keep him at home.
There are two parts. This article concerns you changing into the woman that invites his return. The next concerns how to treat him such that he wants to return to his ‘madeover’ wife.
SITUATION. Your husband cheats repeatedly while still living at home with you and children. You want to recover his devotion to you and restore family life. You have been talking for months trying to stir a dialogue, find out what went wrong, and otherwise talk him into seeing the value he adds to you and children. Talk avails you nothing.
NATURE. He cheats, she wants to talk. It’s a typical female reaction but not a good idea for recapturing a wayward mate.
Each time you speak accusingly or complainingly about husband or explain yourself to him, you directly or indirectly demean him. At the minimum, he hears blame and goes on defense. All attempts to inflict guilt on him fail; unlike women, men have an innate ability to avoid or resist guilt. Also, he appears more unlikeable to you, which weakens your respect of him, and you simultaneously and subconsciously absorb greater misery about your victimized self. In short, bring-him-back-to-you chatter digs you deeper and drives him further away. You as the relationship expert need new skills.
Pardon the harshness, but you should quit complaining, quit explaining, and especially quit trying to win him back. All that you do drives his heart further away. You should also quit seeking advice from others. Until you develop mental toughness and self-discipline skills to hold anxiety and misery inside and unexpressed, you’ll not be able to take the actions necessary to restore husband’s devotion to your home. It takes a tough woman to keep a man and a tougher one to recover a cheater. You should also swallow your pride until it returns with a victory for your family.
There’s nothing wrong with you as a person or a wife. However, your skills as relationship management problem-solver are contaminated with outside influences. The complaints you cite about him reflect more masculine- than feminine-think and more feminist- than female-attitude. It amounts to this: You need a mental makeover.
To be less masculine means to avoid competition with him—e.g., you have nothing to say; your mind is made up, and you refuse to discuss or hear his arguments. More feminine means you act more dignified, ladylike, self-composed in the face of adversity, silent when provoked, and outwardly show faux-if-necessary pride. To be less feminist means you show great respect for husband as a person and man. To be more female means you show great respect for the man you married without condemning the man he has become. Thus, you can do much better if you rely on your female nature more than the contaminating thoughts that flow out of masculinity and Feminism.
OBJECTIVE. Near-silence can be made golden and work this way. You can’t change him. You can only change yourself and hope that he responds favorably and renews his respect and interest in you. Thus, you need a recovery plan to re-earn his respect and restore his devotion to you and family.
Husband needs to see a metamorphosis. You transform yourself without talking about what’s happening inside the cocoon. You slowly wiggle out, take time to dry your wings, test them in flight, and appear as the gorgeous butterfly that he married.* The more pleasantly surprising and mysterious and less challenging to him, the more effective your game plan.
PLAN OF ACTION.
Shock and Awe. Let’s face it. You as a recovering wife seek to conquer husband once again, this time for a more permanent marriage. Being retired military, I call the strategy Shock and Awe. You throw every ounce of your strength at husband and send him rocking back on his heels unprepared for the aftershock. Without the shock effect, he won’t pay enough attention to you. Without the awe, he won’t appreciate your mystery and determination to single-handedly care for yourself and children.
Your apparent ability to proceed without his presence earns his respect and reminds him of what all he’s missing on the more pleasant and comfortable side of his life. When what he sees or imagines at home outweighs the thrill of adolescent-minded sexcapades, he will likely see a brighter future with you. (If not, either he can’t escape his immature adolescent-mindedness, or you chose him wrongly in the first place.)
If you can shock and hold him in awe of a ‘new self’ that he’s not seen since courtship, he will likely redeem himself. Not perfect or guaranteed, but it beats continuing with wifely misery.
Success works on this principle: The more you can restore his respect for you as his wife and his lookalike bride, the more likely he will return. You can restore his respect by becoming a different woman than he expects—prettier, tougher, more independent, and saucier (but not directed at him), and more like the woman he married some time ago. You appear unworried, unstressed, dedicated to your own life, uninterested in him and his interests, willing to forget past offenses and move on with life without him, and reflective of mature and forgiving judgments about his adolescence and adolescent girlfriend. The main question is, how do you get there? The answer lies inside all that follows.
You need to do a mental makeover by yourself. What is it? Conversion of your anxieties into determined actions that serve your self-interest better than anything and anyone else.
Others can’t know the totality of your situation, so advice works against you. Only you can figure out what you can and will do, feel, think, and both determine and evaluate the price to escape your situation. Plus, only you by yourself—mentally isolated from others and perhaps taking heat from even family and friends—can complete a solid recovery that brings hubby home. Your mind and heart have to view you as totally in charge of your life. If you accept the advice of others and reflect that you’re not exclusively in charge, it contaminates your personality in front of husband.
Full recovery will come only through upgrading to become the Big Boss in your life. Are you willing to tackle it? I figure most readers are unsure at this point, so let me describe some principles that enable it, that add power to a relationship expert hell-bent on restoring her marriage.
- The first action of every cheated-on wife should be to deny sex to him. Kick him out if you’re sure you don’t want him back. Change bedrooms if you can and want him back. Even though you may lose a ‘battle’ or two in order to prevent violence, keep making sex with you less appealing to him. The more easily he arouses you, the farther apart you take yourself. Stop providing sex as soon as possible.
- Talk as little as practicable about relationship problems and especially never argue. Remain calm and even stoic. Act as if you have everything under control. Don’t apologize for anything and don’t admit to being wrong. This injection might help: “I have already forgiven you and her for what you have done to me. Now, I can get on with forgetting both of you.”
- Any wife sunk in misery loses her attractiveness, both mentally and physically. The first step to taking better control of your life comes from upgrading your attractiveness. Upgrade physically first to please yourself and mentally second to enable doing all the right things. If you don’t do ‘pretty time’, study the following articles and begin to practice it for yourself and NOT FOR HIM. (1440, 1441, 1146, 1143, and 806.)
- When you discovered his cheating, you got defensive and the bell rang for round 1 in the competition ring. Don’t answer the bell. Avoid all forms of competition with him, because he’s the expert that you are not. The best avoidance comes from expecting him to cooperate but don’t criticize when he doesn’t. Just you demonstrate a cooperative spirit without comment about his inadequacies. Let me phrase it this way: Smother his desire to defend himself competitively with your desire to not discuss, argue, or otherwise give him ideas to hit you with.
- Adolescents easily tire of one another. If husband and lover are immature, your patience and unwillingness to be involved will expedite their falling out of favor with each other.
- Recovery is everything, so wherever you are today isn’t important. Where you are tomorrow and the tomorrows that follow determine your future and recovery. So, you should quit looking back. Your miseries might be gaining on you.
- You can’t change him. I say again, YOU CAN’T CHANGE HIM. You can only change yourself, and a mental makeover can do for misery and depression what gold can do for the wallet.
- The spouse most fearful of losing the other will ultimately lose. In managing a relationship, fear brings defeat to the most fearful. So, the first step in a mental makeover convinces you that he’s expendable. If you lose him, you win because his lack of devotion would have taken him sooner or later. If you win him back, you win. (Your behavior with the conviction that he’s no longer essential to your life works to convince him that he needs you more than he needs anyone else.)
- If you don’t keep a journal, start one and keep it hidden from everyone. Enter these three sentences and start each day by studying them in detail: “I can’t change him, I can only change myself.” “The one most fearful of losing the other will lose in the end.” (They cave at the insistence of a dominant nature, such as men possess naturally and women don’t.) “I can’t not do what I intend not to do.” Confused? Good. It’s a catch-line to remind you that you can’t not think of whatever you intend to not think about. Intentions to do things differently must be replaced by actually doing things differently such that what you seek to avoid doing gets smothered by new and different thoughts.
DO NOT journalize about hubby’s behavior or your misery. Every day post at least three things in your life for which you are grateful (no repeats either). Post only positives, nothing negative about anyone or anything. Every grateful item over three will help expedite the mental makeover.
So, you can put yourself in charge, a mental makeover is simple. Your most immediate need is courage to do things differently and forgiveness for all your mistakes. Stop letting your emotions control your behavior. Think, adjust, pray, and act differently. Take charge of everything in your life that you can control. When your determined mind leads the way, forgives your mistakes, and shapes your life to your best interest, then your heart will follow. And so will a cheating husband, when he sees his wife restored to her former and much-appreciated and highly respected self.
*I credit Her Highness Anne for the great cocoon/butterfly analogy.