By Hara Estroff Marano, published on December 7, 2005 - last reviewed on April 5, 2006
I have been married for 10 years; my husband and I have two kids. A friend of a sister-in-law reports that she saw my husband with another woman. Her number comes up a lot on his cell phone bills, so does another number I have been unable to trace. I confronted him but he denies it, saying whoever told me is jealous of our relationship. He refuses to leave the house, insisting I should be the one to go—but without the kids. He continues to go out "riding around" almost every night for hours. I don't know how to handle this; my nine-year-old daughter would be devastated if we separated. I still love him but I couldn't tell you the last time he told me he loves me. What do I do?
Your husband is emotionally terrorizing you, and he has the power to reduce you to a quivering mass of uncertainty because you have handed over all the power in the relationship to him. Not everybody abuses power, though it does provide temptations, but your husband certainly seems to enjoy doing that. He knows you wouldn't walk out of the house without the kids, and he apparently likes rubbing your nose in your powerlessness to stop his running around and pretending he is a single guy.
Under no circumstances should you leave now without your kids. Should it come to a divorce, you wouldn't have to leave the kids. He does not have automatic rights.
If you don't want a divorce (and even if you do), then you have to get some power back—and I can assure you that will definitely increase his respect for you, which may just bring him into line. Not only would it be a necessary step to saving the relationship, it will be essential for resurrecting your sense of self—something you need in any relationship.
But first things first. If you can hold on to the cell phone bill, by all means do. If not, get a notarized copy. Then pay a visit to a lawyer. You have a witness, and you have some suspicious evidence. A husband who learns about the seriousness of such evidence from a lawyer just may be jolted into something resembling reality. He may realize that you mean business. He may realize that arrogating all the power for himself may make him feel strong, but it also alienates those around him. He just might be forced to grow up and remember he's married. You would then be in a good position to suggest that you both visit a marital therapist and work on building a relationship that satisfies both your needs without sacrificing anyone's sense of self.
I admit: I cheated. The reason I did it was curiosity. Plus he is also emotional and better able to fill my desires. I know that my husband loves me, but he also can be very verbally hurtful.
Sorry, but nothing justifies cheating. Curiosity should be a signal to you that you need to expand the range of emotional and sexual interaction with your husband. Of course, as living breathing human beings we are curious. You're supposed to take your curiosity and ply it back into your own relationship. Otherwise, commitment and marriage mean nothing. You have some beefs with the way your husband treats you? Who doesn't? It's your job to sit him down and tell him in a positive way that furthers the relationship and that is likely to bring about the change you want: "Honey, I know you love me but sometimes your ways of loving don't feel so good. Perhaps you don't mean to be, but you can sometimes be very hurtful with words. When you say X or Y or Z, it makes me feel bad and reduces my respect and love for you. I am afraid it will drive me out of this marriage. How can we fix things so that we both can talk openly to each other without hurting each other? If you are disappointed with something I do, I would like you to tell me in a straightforward way. And I would like to be able to do the same with you." When you can preserve the love and build the ability to talk comfortably with each other, you will find the sense of closeness return. That is very sexy indeed.