I confronted my husband. He admitted to the affair, and he said she told him about the pregnancy when she was nearly due. (They had ended the affair months earlier and hadn’t talked anymore.) He says she refused a paternity test back then and told him that her boyfriend was the father and that the boyfriend had signed the birth certificate and paid her child support. He says that, when the child turned three, the mother contacted him again and told him she then believed he was the father, and she insisted he come see the child. He refused. She threatened to tell me, so he went to see the child and agreed to pay “hush money” (and then saw this child at least eight to ten times over an eleven-year span, without, during the same period, any sexual or emotional affair with the mother). He says he paid a total of $700 “hush money” over the last eleven years.
We decided to reconcile six months ago (we separated six months after the child’s mother contacted me). Since we reconciled, she has been sending me cryptic messages on Facebook to which I don’t respond, saying things like he needs to “man up,” he slept with her for months behind my back, and she’s getting a lawyer to sue him for support.
Is it a mistake to reconcile?? What legally should be done about this child?? I always try to do the right thing, but I just don’t know what that is. — Reconciling a Betrayal
The first thing that needs to be done is a damn test to confirm paternity. If your husband is not the father, then, obviously, that provides some sense of closure, at least in terms of child support and what is owed the mother, financially. It does not close whatever emotional tie your husband has made to this child over the years, with somewhat regular visits and thinking that this child is his. And it does not close whatever trust issues or feelings of betrayal you may have from his years of keeping this huge secret from you. Both for his sake, and for the sake of your marriage should you continue to stay married, these issues need to be addressed with the support of a good counselor.
Should a test confirm that your husband is, indeed, the father, then that is a little more complicated. He needs to decide how to move forward with that knowledge, he needs to determine what kind of relationship he’d like to have with his child, and, of course, he needs to be financially responsible in a way he hasn’t been so far.
Whether or not you stay together is something only you and he can decide. Twenty years is a long time to invest in a relationship, marriage is a commitment, and I would assume you have much you love about each other and a life you’ve built together that would be very difficult to disentangle. That’s not to say you should stay with him. Those reasons are not necessarily enough to stay in a marriage that isn’t working or can’t be salvaged. But there is a lot to say for working through the kind of challenge you face, together, and rebuilding a stronger relationship. I just read an article the other day about infidelity in marriage and the benefits of staying with a partner who cheats. This particularly might resonate:
“People who’ve been betrayed need to know that there’s no shame in staying in the marriage — they’re not doormats, they’re warriors,” said Ms. Michele Weiner-Davis, a psychotherapist in Boulder and author of “Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair.” “The gift they provide to their families by working through the pain is enormous.”
Ms. Perel concedes that “some affairs will deliver a fatal blow to a relationship.” But she wrote, “Others may inspire change that was sorely needed. Betrayal cuts to the bone, but the wound can be healed. Plenty of people care deeply for the well-being of their partners even while lying to them, just as plenty of those who have been betrayed continue to love the ones who lied to them, and they want to find a way to stay together.”
I thought this, too, was insightful:
“Ms. Weiner-Davis readily admits that recovering from infidelity is hard work and the process cannot be rushed. Yet, as she wrote in her new book, “many clients have shared that had it not been for their partner’s affair, they’d never have looked at, discussed, and healed some of the underlying issues that were broken at the foundation of their relationship.”
Rather than destroying the marriage, the affair acted as a catalyst for positive changes, Ms. Weiner-Davis maintains. In her new book, she outlines tasks for both the betrayed spouse and the unfaithful one that can help them better understand and meet the emotional and physical needs of their partners.”
Of course, your challenge is greater than overcoming some infidelity in your marriage. Your husband has basically been lying to you for years. He’s paying someone to keep quiet about his having a child, fathered through an affair shortly after you were married. That is really an enormous and ongoing betrayal. I’m not sure if you get past that. But I think, if your marriage is good in other ways and you feel invested as you must after all these years together, it’s at least worth going to therapy together and seeing if this is an instance where you can rebuild stronger than before.
It’s ok if you end up not staying with your husband. It doesn’t make you a failure, and it doesn’t make your marriage a failure. That you’ve already worked through so much together is a sign of success. That your husband has finally started opening up to you is a positive sign. I hope you two can continue working through these challenges and, even if your marriage doesn’t survive, you are able to grow as individuals and be stronger people from this. Good luck.
Over the summer, I discovered Víagra in his briefcase (he has never used Víagra with me) and then checked his phone and saw a “what’s up” number from a prostitute with the contents of the message deleted. I confronted him about it, and he said that he only sent her a message, found out her fees were very high, and never met up with her. I decided to forgive him and try to put it past me. However, after I recently had to go away for the weekend with my daughter, I discovered my boyfriend had lied to me as to his whereabouts while I was gone, and, again, I found Víagra in his coat pocket, which he did not have there prior. I don’t have any other evidence as I suspect he is now careful in deleting any cheating-related messages, but I do have evidence that he lied to me.
If I broach the subject with him, I know it will be over with our relationship as I have already discussed the subject many times with him. He denies there is a problem and makes out that it is me with the problem. He refuses to go for any counseling. He claims that what’s he’s doing is perfectly normal and that all men do this. I feel that if I talk to him, I need to be prepared to walk away from getting married and living together. I am confused as to what I have to gain from walking away, as I love him and feel he is otherwise a very good man to me. — He Sleeps With Prostitutes
What you have to gain by walking away from a lying, cheating dirtbag is your dignity, your health (I hope you have been tested for STDs and are clean!!), and your availability to someone who better deserves you. This man does not love you. He is a warm body, yeah, and he’s company for you and you aren’t “alone” in the sense that there is this person who is willing to marry you. But being alone is better than being with someone who cheats on you all the time and screws prostitutes behind your back, tells you you’re the problem, and takes zero responsibility and makes no amends for his betrayal. THIS IS NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR!! I don’t care if the nasty president cheats on his wives all the time and screws porn stars, this kind of behavior is not normal at all and only sleazy dirtbags engage in it. Not all men are sleazy dirtbags, I promise you! You deserve one who isn’t. You deserve a man who isn’t lying to you all the time and sleeping around behind your back and telling you it’s normal to sleep with hookers. IT’S NOT NORMAL, IT’S NOT NORMAL, IT’S NOT NORMAL! Please dump this nasty person and MOA. Do not marry him. Whatever you think you gain by getting married is not worth the price you will pay in your dignity, your health, and your peace of mind.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.