My name is Cassie. I would rather not say where I’m from and try to remain anonymous. My question is this:
This man is good to me…
…and treats me so good and has always been such a good dad to our children, and almost has this second life that he can’t seem to not do. I can’t even trust him to go to work now. I don’t know if I should try to walk away. If so, how do you do that? I spent my entire adult life with this man. I’m 38 years old. I don’t know who I am without him. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know whether to keep fighting for my marriage or walk away. I’m so exhausted.
I’m so tired of it.
I truly thought he had learned his lesson last time. And then I get blindsided by this two weeks ago, as I’m looking at a get-a-way for our anniversary. So, yeah, my question is can I fix him? Can he be fixed? Can therapy fix him? Can a person who lacks a conscience develop one. That’s my question.
First of all, thank you, Cassie, for taking the time to share your story and ask your question. I can really feel the frustration in your voice. I could hear what you were saying. And it speaks to a lot of people who are in your situation. But, of course, that doesn’t really help. (Except to say that you’re not alone.)
This is not as unusual as you would imagine.
Especially when you talk about the fact that on the one hand, he does have a history of being a good dad and of being a good partner for you. It seems to me that the issue that you’re looking at is monogamy much more than it is one of, let’s say, the other characteristics.
So, what I am hearing is that you are asking…
“Can someone who has what appears to be a habit of different liaisons and non-monogamous behavior become someone who is monogmous?
And, I have to honestly tell you, that is an age-old question. You’re not the first person to ask it, and you will probably not be the last person. So, what I want to do is I just want to go back over your question a little bit step by step and speak to several things that were mentioned.
One thing is, you are saying you don’t know what to do. And so it feels like you are teetering on a decision. Do I stay and keep fighting for this marriage, or do I let it go? And I have to tell you, that that’s not a decision that I or anyone can make for you. That’s definitely something that you’re going to have to make peace with (whichever decision you do come to).
The only thing I can say to you is this:
Whichever way you go, you’re going to have work and you’re going to have struggle. So, there’s no pain-free decision when it comes to the place that you’re at (with deciding whether to stay or to go).
Either door you take, either path you walk… you’re going to have a certain amount of challenges with that. So yes, what I’m saying is that there’s no easy option. The other thing is that there is no way to tell on the front end of making a decision, whether it is right or wrong sometimes.
Sometimes you have to check in with your heart AND your head…and come to a consensus. Because at the end of the day, what we all want to do. All of us and you as well is you want to do everything you can To avoid regret.
So maybe the question I’d want to ask you is:
When you are looking at both decisions, which one do you feel or sense you would encounter less regret doing?
We could even take a step back from that approach.
Maybe even say to yourself, how do I make decisions? What are my rules?
And for that, I have a lot of tools on the website (GoAskSuzie.com) that you’ll find. The common ones are, of course, weighing the pros and cons. But when it comes to a marriage, sometimes it’s a little bit deeper than just a surface things.
So, ask yourself as you move forward:
Which decision am I least likely to experience regret after making…regardless of the outcomes?
The other thing that you talked about is exhaustion. And I really heard that in your voice.
I can understand because you’re going back and forth in your head. You’re vacillating between the two versions of him. There’s the version that you that you love, respect and admire. But then there’s this other side that just throws you for a loop. And so, as long as you continue to vacillate between those two things, unfortunately you will still be caught up in that pendulum swing of emotions.
And so, what I would advise in this case is for you to decide which version you want to focus on. Which version do you want to grow? Which version do you want to put your energy and your strength behind? And that’s the version that I would say you can really put some effort into.
The other thing that you talked about is being blindsided… again.
And I know this can’t be easy. That word is the thing that most of us really dread. We don’t even fear the idea of being blindsided….we dread the idea of being blindsided.
And so, for you to find yourself here again, I could just imagine that there’s parts of you that are questioning things like, how did I get here again? And asking yourself things like if you made a mistake by giving second chances.
When it comes to speaking to Blindsided-ness, I want you to understand that you’ve got to give yourself a chance to adjust to this new reality and this new information. So I strongly encourage you to take care of yourself, to be gentle in your thoughts towards yourself.
Any one of us can be blindsided.
And it’s never a negative thing, in my opinion, to give second chances. Whether the person earns that or turns out to be someone that deserved it is not on you. I still feel that your gift of a second chance was just that… A gift.
Another thing that you mentioned in your question is: Can this be fixed?
For me, a red flag shows up on the word “fixed”.
It’s my approach as a coach that none of us are broken. I don’t believe in “broken people”. However, I do believe that we can break our promises. I do believe that we can have a broken heart. I do believe that some of us encounter dreams that can be broken. But people are not broken. That my fundamental belief in philosophy. So, the word “fixed” is definitely going to bring up a red flag for me, because it suggests that there’s something in that person that’s broken.
So, I would like for you to consider re-framing this in your mind from a situation that you have to “fix”, and to instead maybe look at it from a perspective of this:
What are the strategies that this person is using that may or may not be giving them what they want?
So… I don’t know that people are broken, but I do think people use strategies to get their needs met that are not appropriate. From a coaching perspective, we consider an affair to be an inappropriate response to a legitimate need. The need is legitimate. But the way that needs are getting met– using deceptions, having second lives– THAT is what is inappropriate.
And so, if I were talking to your partner, I would want to know:
What needs is this behavior meeting?
And that would be a question. I would suggest that you sit down, ask, and look because the need is going to be legitimate. It’s going to be a human need. What we have here is a strategy, a way of meeting that need that is dysfunctional, inappropriate, and harmful (as it is hurting his family and his marriage.) And in some way, probably also harming himself.
So, that is where I would go and change the perspective from wanting to “fix” the situation or behavior, to instead looking at what is not working.
To wrap it all up, I can’t tell you whether to stay or go in a marriage. I will tell you that I don’t give up on people, but I’m also not a “marriage at any price” person either.
So, you will have to make the decision as to what whether you want to continue to emotionally invest in this relationship and in this person. And if you do want to continue, what version of him are you going to put your strength and your belief behind?
I hope you found that helpful. And I wish you guys all the best.
And remember Cassie, in the end,
Remember… Love Wins!