Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I read a posted letter to you from Young and In Love and I saw myself in this. The only difference is, I am 54 years old and have been married to my husband for 28 years now. We have four kids, all past the age of 18.
I have been sacrificing for so long living with this cheating husband of mine for my children’s sake and I have always blamed him for making my kids and me suffer. He doesn’t care how I may feel regarding his infidelity because he does it again and again. I feel he knows I get hurt but he does it anyway.
Only now did it occur to me, after reading your advice to another person, that I am to blame by not knowing how to demand respect. He has cheated with so many women that I cannot keep count with both of my hands. I know that I am in this situation because I let him get away with it. At the end of each affair he comes back home to me, but only to start a new one with another woman in a couple of days. And the cycle continues…
Right now, we live in the same house, but he is intentionally ignoring me. My children are beginning to treat me with the same disrespect. I want to learn how to assertively request to be treated with respect. If he or my children cannot treat me with respect, I want to know if it is time to walk away. I really want to walk away, but I am not sure how to do it. I Married a Serial Cheater: Is Walking Away the Right Thing to Do? I am afraid to leave because it is going to be lonely out there.
Please, I need your advice.
Confused and Lonely Wife,
Dear Confused and Lonely Wife,
Sorry to hear about the infidelity and disrespect that you are experiencing. However, learning how to assertively request to be respected, is not your biggest challenge or problem. Your biggest challenge in regards to your marriage and children is your lack of self-respect and self-love.
Demanding respect and convincing others that you deserve it is different. Respect starts with you. You can say what you want, but your children and husband will not listen unless you can demonstrate what you want. You need to work on yourself and inner healing before you start demanding respect.
This is difficult for people to comprehend, but I am going to say it anyway: Love does hurt, but not intentionally.
It is not my intent to hit you when you are down. I am just being honest with you. Sacrificing for your husband and children has caused you to become the villain in your own household. Remaining in an abusive and unhappy relationship for the sake of children can have negative consequences. As in your situation, staying contributed to your children learning how to be disrespectful. It is difficult for children to learn to be respectful when they do not see respect.
Unfortunately, you sacrificed your happiness and inner peace for disorder. Your husband has not added joy to your life in recent years and has not served any exciting purpose in your life. This is difficult for people to comprehend, but I am going to say it anyway: Love does hurt, but not intentionally.
Your husband continues to drag you down and make you feel unhappy. Given your husband’s self-centeredness and egotistic behavior, I highly recommend that you seek professional counseling so that you can receive guidance about how to move forward.
I understand the fear associated with feeling lonely after 28 years of marriage, but I would argue that you are lonely now. Your fear of loneliness stems from the fact that you have not learned how to live with yourself.
You have to decide if walking away is the right thing to do. No one can make this decision for you, but remember that forgiving and forgetting are different. You might be able to forgive your husband, but you will never forget. If you remain married, you will have to work hard not to allow bad memories to resurface. If you want inner peace (a deep sense of calmness); you might have to walk away. Please seek professional help.