I often hear from women who are struggling with the fact that the man they love has had an affair. Yesterday was no exception. I heard from a wife who had her doubts as to whether a husband who had an affair could actually love his wife. She wrote in part: "I keep asking him if he loves the other woman. Because to me, sex and love go hand in hand. He says he doesn't love her and that he loves me. How is this remotely possible? He can't possibly love me if he had an affair. Men who love women do not cheat on them. Betrayal isn't what love is. But when I tell my husband this, he gets very upset. I've even seen him sobbing. He swears he never stopped loving me and that love really didn't have anything to do with his mistake. He says he doesn't know why he did this but that he's desperately sorry and he's devastated that I doubt his love for me. Can you help me understand how a husband can claim to love a wife but then have an affair?"
I can and did certainly try. Of course, I'm not a man who has had an affair. I am a woman who has been through an affair. And, I've conducted tons of research on this topic and have done a lot of work to heal. I can share what I have learned, which I'll do below.
Sometimes When A Man Who's Had An Affair Claims To Still Love You, He Is Telling You The Truth As He Knows It: It's my belief that most of the women who write me on this topic think that their husband is out and out lying about his love for them. They think that he is telling her what she wants to hear or that he's trying to limit her anger and fury at him. And sometimes, she's right.
But a man who is having an affair certainly isn't always thinking that he doesn't love his wife or is acting on that same belief. I actually believe that often, he's acting because of his own self doubts and insecurities combined with poor impulse control at one point and time. This is certainly no excuse. But I believe that often, an affair has more to do with the way a man feels about himself and his place in the world than about the way that he feels about his wife or even his marriage.
Sure, at the time, he may not be feeling loving feelings toward his wife or his marriage. He may not be thinking about her at all. But it's likely a safe bet that he's not thinking rationally or having deep emotional thoughts or debates. This doesn't excuse his behavior, but it does let you know that not all men who have affairs do so because their feelings about their wives have died or are lacking.
Frankly, His Behavior After The Affair Is Sometimes A Better Indicator Of His Love For You Than The Affair Itself: I often tell wives that it's their husband's behavior after you find out about the affair that is really going to give you a true glimpse of whether he loves you or not. Because the period after the affair is often what will really show you what your husband is made of.
Because he's going to be under a lot of scrutiny at that time and men who don't love their wives tend to make a run for it rather than hanging in there and insisting that they love you and want to rebuild your marriage. Going to counseling, having difficult conversations, having accountability, and taking responsibility are all difficult things that sometimes do not come easily to husbands. Men who don't really love the women in question will often flee instead of stay.
Or, they'll make you feel at fault, shift the blame, or become indignant. But men who truly love you and care about your best interests will stay put even when you are less than kind to them and even when they are under scrutiny. They do this because they are sincere that they want you and their life back.
Sometimes, wives will tell me that they see different personalities in their husband. At times, he's the sweet sorry, remorseful guy who is begging for forgiveness but eventually, this gives way to a defensive guy who gets sick of all the questions and need for reassurance. This is relatively normal and doesn't necessarily mean your husband doesn't love you. This is a very trying time for everyone. Both people will become angry, frustrated and doubtful. But, if both people truly love one another, they will often stick it out even when it's not easy to do so.