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Husband's affair harms marriage


"Paul was wonderful during the long hours of my difficult delivery," recalls Amy, 29, the mother of an infant daughter. "The whole time he stood by my side and whispered in my ear how much he loved me -- words I don't often hear anymore." When their daughter was finally born, Amy adds, Paul plucked a yellow rose from the bouquet his law partners sent and told her he wanted to take it as a souvenir of the most wonderful moment of his life. "Then, he left the hospital, drove to his mistress' apartment and presented her with the rose," Amy snaps.

"One woman, a loving wife, isn't enough for him," Amy claims. "He says he wants to be married to me, to be a good father to Kimberly, but he also wants the sexual freedom of an uncommitted bachelor."

Thanks to Paul's mother, who gave them the money, they at least have a beautiful, historic house. "We're knee-deep in repair work, but one of these days, it will be a wonderful home," she sighs. But the joy she felt giving birth is shadowed by the realization of her husband's infidelity.

Paul, 30, feels trapped. "Amy reminds me more and more of my mother," he says. "They both treat me like some sort of management problem, choreographing my life, planning my every move."

Life with Amy has never been easy, Paul continues, and it's getting worse. "She's totally dependent on me; she has no other friends or interests, except, of course, the baby. Whenever I walk in the door, my sweet little taskmaster has a two-page list of chores I must do."

But if he tries to have a civil conversation with his wife to express his frustration, she gets defensive or angry. He's not condoning his infidelity -- he admits it's wrong -- but he feels he has no choice. "Trudy is a sculptor and a wonderful, undemanding listener who really enjoys my company. She makes me feel free," he adds.

Beyond betrayal

"To the beleaguered Paul, the free-wheeling Trudy represents an escape," notes Evelyn Moschetta, a New York family therapist. As a child, he perfected the art of rebellion by trying to escape his domineering mother. But it's time for Paul to grow up, and that means ending the affair and the deceptions that are more the rule than the exception in his life.

Though she knew about his affair, Amy was afraid to confront her husband. Understandably, she is enraged and wants to strike out in every direction, as well as blaming herself.

If broken trust is destroying your marriage:

* Commit yourself to resolving problems when they happen. Shift from blaming your partner to expressing your needs and feelings at the moment.

* Nonstop anger won't help you or your marriage. Instead of saying bad things about your partner to others, use your energy to improve your relationship.

* Instead of reacting blindly to his mistakes, or replaying the way he hurt you in the past, concentrate on the good things he does now.

* Instead of standing with one foot in the door and one foot out, drop the frosty, negative attitude and be genuinely open to a mutually fulfilling marriage.

Once Paul ended his affair, he and Amy were able to work in counseling on ways to better balance their relationship so that neither felt smothered or controlled.

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