Cheating but Religious

Q: My wife and I have been married for 17+ years, with four children. Recently I caught her cheating with her former boss. This is the second affair she has had in our marriage. The problem here is that I love her. The second problem is that I was at times somewhat controlling and jealous. I even crushed one of her dreams, without realizing what I was doing. I can forgive the unfaithfulness, however she is extremely bitter toward me, and say she really doesn't want the marriage to work. The reason she isn't just filing for divorce is that we are/were very active in our church. Everyone is telling her that she should wait and work it out, that working it out is the right thing to do.

I can tell her that I have been working on issues in my life, yet she feels that any changes I make may be short lived. Obviously she needs to make some changes as well. My question is how can her anger continue for more than a month like this. There seems to be nothing I can do to ease it. I have agreed to stay outside the residence for the time being, as she said I was smothering her. -- Kyle, 36

Dr. Susan: When the people who know you in your church tell her to work it out, they don't mean she should just sit around and fume over how evil you are. They probably mean the two of you should take positive steps to get at what's upsetting you both so you can feel okay with one another again. You've been together for such a long time, with several children, so I think your friends may be right in this case that it's worth some effort.

Perhaps you could get one of these friends whom your wife trusts to approach her and open up some communication. It must be very hard for an admittedly controlling jealous person like yourself to discover that your wife is indeed giving you reason to be jealous. Change can be challenging, but when so much is at stake, it's possible to remake a relationship, if not an entire personality. You may need a third person, such as a therapist or a really wise friend, to help you list out the most urgent changes you both need to make. Then you can determine how to manage small changes that can be seen by both of you.

As for the tenaciousness of your wife's bitterness, I can't explain that to you. She may be acting angrier than she is so as to throw the blame for her recent affair back on you. You need to talk to her about exactly what she means by feeling smothered. Is it that your need for reassurance is keeping her from seeing other men? Or were you really pressing her on these issues without a break to where she felt overwhelmed all the time? Get some help.

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