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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
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Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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I cheated on my husband, not because I didnt love him, but because I wanted to

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I cheated on my husband, not because I didn't love him, but because I wanted to know what it was like to have "normal" sex. My husband has premature ejaculation, sometimes only lasting 12 seconds (literally), and I he refused me attention and affection for years...I told him for years that if he didn't give me affection that I would find someone else that would, I never really thought that I would. He also wasn't there for me a lot when I needed him to be so I felt alone and like I didn't matter. He lived with me for a year after the affair and then one morning I woke up to him packing, he works nights and just came in one morning with a police officer and said "I can't do it anymore" and packed and left...we have had little contact since, he still pays the bills, but doesn't really interact with me or the kids. He says he wants the marriage but is not ready to stop being mad at me and will not discuss anything. He also says he can not get the image of me and someone else out of his he
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue; but do you have a specific question I could address? I presume the question is, "What if anything, can I do about this marital situation when he is mad, and won't talk or interact with me?" I will pause here and let you explain and elaborate on your main question. Incidentally, how long has he been gone?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi, thanks for responding.He has been gone for a month. He has always told me that he would never leave again, that he would never give up. We made love the day before he left. He kissed me before work and told me that he loved me and would see me in the morning. .... I don't know how to get through to him, to make him realize that he is loved and needed. I want to work on this marriage, he said that he wants it too.. but said that he is not ready to stop being mad at me. He also says that he needs to talk to someone (counselor) but that he is not ready to do that either. We have 3 kids and we need to have some sort of idea about what is going on but he will barely communicate with me. We can't keep living in limbo like this. He says that he plans on coming home but he doesn't know when or how. We have both made some big mistakes on this marriage, how to I get him to realize that it's not just all my doing and to communicate with me? He admitted to turning off his feelings several years ago. How do I get through to him? He has a severe sleep disorder also that he refuses to treat and working the night shift doesn't help the situation. He also works in a prison so the negative environment is not a bonus...
I'm needing to step away from the computer for a time, but I'll get back to you later, if that is o.k...............
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
ok, thankyou. I appreciate it
Your husband is in significant conflict about the marriage. The conflict is as follows: First he is of course angry at you for cheating. On the other hand, he believes on some level that there must be something wrong with him, which very difficult for him to face i.e., how own feelings of insecurity----probably related to his poor sexual performance, his premature ejaculation problem and his understanding that he isn't a very skilled or patient sexual partner. So you can be sure that he is both angry at you and at the same time, feeling very insecure and fairly inadequate. He is also upset that you are not happy with him 'as is', which you aren't, and can't be expected to be (i.e., he has sexual and health problems he refuses to do anything about. Rationally, you can only do what you can regarding yourself, your own behavior correct? So first, you can begin by reading and contemplating the conflict your husband is facing so you have a full appreciation of it. You may not know the 'why' of it, but at least understand that this is what he is probably experiencing. Why is this important? Knowing this will allow you to frame some verbal messages and responses to him that will be helpful and therapeutic. But they require empathy or an understanding of what he is experiencing. For example, one message you may be able to share with him when the time is right is, "I realize you are facing a great deal of stress and conflict about this relationship and whether it is worth fixing, whether it can be fixed, and how to go about doing that if it is repairable. I fully understand your anger at me and I realize your anger is justifiable. I realize also that the cheating episode undermined your sense of your role as a husband and lover. So I suspect you are both angry and hurt, and feel I have unfairly acted on complaints I had in the past that you were not meeting my sexual and emotional needs. I'm very sorry we are having this conflict and hope we can talk to someone soon about how to fix it, or how to move on as single adults."

I might therefore, think about writing him a letter, maybe not in this much detail, but at least enough to demonstrate that you have a sense of the conflicts and stress he is going through and that you feel badly about it. Now, it is clear your husband has many things to work on to fix this marriage; but I would delay presenting these issues to him for the time being. Your job is to exercise patience and present as much consistency and stability to your family as you can; and, listen a great deal and only respond with empathic statements that represent your understanding of what he is going through. This is the formula for starting back in with any communication, once he is ready to do so. Unfortunately, the rest is more or less a waiting game, because no one can get inside of his head right now and influence his thinking and emotions, because he isn't allowing it.

What do you think?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I agree with your response, however, at the same time, when he does speak to me he is bitter and angry, and very unresponsive, and I suppose that to a certain degree, I deserve it. Let me just say that I am not the type of person that "cheats", yet I did it, I have layed awake many a nights over the last year wondering how I could have done something so stupid, so cruel, and other times, I think that, well, I told him for years and years that I needed attention, and affection, and that the number one thing that I needed from him above anything else, was to be able to count on him. Now there have been some very significant times in our lives where he should have been there for me and wasn't. I had a miscarriage and was supposed to be on bedrest for a week...he bailed. Another time, I had an anaphalyactic shock and literally could have died and he jumped up and patien down, flailing his arms, stomping his feet, essentially throwing a temper tantrum because he had to miss work. Here I am scared out of my mind that I am going to die and he was making me feel like I was a problem. Making me feel like I didn't matter. Another time I fell down the stairs and got hurt so badly that he had to help me get dressed for 6 months...he missed zero work because of it and sick time is one of his benefits at work. I got to a point where I realized that I couldn't trust him, couldn't count on him, and here he is supposed to be the person that I can count on the most in this world, so after a certain point I guess I felt like I just didn't matter and in order for me to cheat like that, I had to be in a pretty dark place myself. I know that we have many, many things that we have to work on in this marriage and I will try to be as possible. He tells me things though, that it is my fault that the kids are hurting because he is not there, and that it is my fault that he is hurting, and yes it is, but it is not all my fault, there were many, many factors that led up to me doing that, and while what I did hurt him, it also hurt myself, because that was so not my personality, and what I did, did not hurt my children, I never left them, I never stopped taking care of them, I never even stopped taking care of my husband. I was always there. I have a prolapse and most likely need surgery and he was unable to please me and we talked for weeks and weeks that I should know if whether the problem with me down there was related to him or strictly to me and we talked about me being with someone else, as messed up as all this sounds, and I do know that it does.....oh boy, does it, but none the less, it all happened. We even shook hands on it. We said that I deserved to know if I could feel something down there before I resorted to surgery because that was not a place I wanted scar tissue...I still can't believe that I did something like that :(. I am so sorry for what I did and I want to put my family back together. I have told him the details, I didn't even really end up doing much with the other guy because he was too just ended up being an embarrassing situation for both of us...I am trying to be patient but at the same time my children are asking and beginning to wonder if dad is going to come home. I just don't know what to tell them so I tell them that their dad and both love them very much and that we always will but right now dad is just taking a little break away from home and that sometimes people need to do that and that in no wc aay is it their fault. I have been trying to spend as much time with them as possible and have been trying to keep things as normal as possible but there is so much uncertainity that it is very difficult at times. In the mean time I am going to continue counseling for myself and hope/pray that in time he would like to go with me. I should also mention that he is Baptist and from and extremely Baptist family, they don't believe in dancing, most music, a lot of tv, they are not affectionate with one another at all, never call unless they need something fixed, unless they are calling to guilt him for not being at church. He is not like them, we would go to the movies, out to restaurants, etc..but none the less,, he still feels guilty that he is not doing what is right according to his parents. He would even go so far as to tell us not to talk about music or video games or movies or anything like that that we do in life around his parents, I tried to explain to him that that was sort of disrespectful towards us and that we shouldn't have to pretend that we are something that we are should I deal with this issue?
The last post I sent you outlined how you can relate to him if and when he decides he wants to communicate with you meaningfully. Once he is reasonably engaged by the empathic responses you offer, there will certainly need to be a full discussion of both your behavior and his. Because, frankly, your husband may have what psychologists refer to as a personality disorder or personality disorder traits. In particular, narcissistic personality disorder traits. He may not fully meet all of the criteria and may have some features in mild form, but his behavior is not very functional. Individuals like your husband are fundamentally highly insecure and mask this by being demanding, even aggressive in 'expecting' respect and attention from others. They have a sense of entitlement about them; when interpersonal conflicts arise, they never accept their 'fair share' of the blame, never appreciate the role they play in the conflict. They have grave difficulties empathizing with others. Sex for them is oriented toward personal gratification and their sexual partners feel that they are objects of their partners sexual pleasure goals; they never feel that it is a truly a mutual, loving exchange or 'sharing'. Sex doesn't usually build true intimacy in a relationship with a person who has narcissistic traits. When their egos are insulted or wounded, the person reacts with a rather extreme, excessive reaction---usually externalized anger and blame, intense feelings of 'insult' are felt. You can Google the topic of personality disorder and narcissistic personality to read more about these individuals.

My point is that if you want to salvage this relationship, you will have to bend over backwards to draw him in to conversation or couples therapy. However, he will truly have a great deal of 'reforming' to do, if your relationship is ever going to be a healthy one. On balance, he will probably have to do more changing than you.

I realize you feel badly about your affair. However 'bad' it was from a moral and ethical standpoint, sometimes affairs can be the catalyst for change in a relationship. They can introduce a very serious crisis into a stagnant, unhappy marriage. When a serious emotional crisis occurs, people who make the mistake and their spouses, who may be have been unkind and neglectful, are somewhat more open to change, because they realize the relationship is in serious danger of breaking down or even dissolving. Let me just say that the 'good thing' about this event was that it represented a much-needed crisis---to disrupt the status quo and turn your husband on his head so to speak. Prospects for him changing now are probably better than they were in the weeks or months prior to the affair. Some crises may occur through a sudden decision by a spouse to separate and leave for a time, again---disrupting the status quo and monotony of the ongoing problems. I think you see what I'm getting at there.

Now, did you discover what you hoped to discover about your sexual feelings or ability to enjoy normal arousal through the affair?

Oh, incidentally, another feature of narcissistic personality is the tendency to be a 'chameleon' i.e., acting in ways that are ingenuine and 'phony' to draw admiration and attention--to make oneself 'look good' in the eye of others, even when it is unrealistic and even when it is a serious misrepresentation of reality. The image he wants to portray to his parents about his religiosity is a good example of this.

Feel free to comment again..........
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thanks again, I appreciate the input...and to answer your question about whether I was able to find out what I had hoped for through sex with someone else...the answer is no...the guy was too drunk and couldn't really get an erection, it was pretty embarrassing for both of us...another BIG issue is that my husband can't get the thoughts of me with someone else out of his head, and I know that what he is picturing is way worse than what happened because not a whole lot happened. Yes, the guy was finally able to get it somewhat erect, he couldn't keep it...very embarrassing. But my husband pictures me rolling around with some big, fat, greasy hairy guy all over me...I didn't even take all my clothes off. I've never even held hands with another man in my life. My husband and I have been together for almost 19 years, almost 15 of that married. We always seem to fight over the same things, almost always about me wanting more attention/affection, more time being spent together, me feeling like I didn't matter and me always feeling like I am doing all the work inside and out, for him it was about me being disrespectful, and at times downright mean and nasty. I admit that I can be mean, but am generally a very nice person, unless provoked. I have talked and talked until I have been blue in the face to my husband (Rob), but it has rarely, if ever, made a difference. I haven't seen him try to really make any improvements in his life. He sleeps a lot, I mean a lot, like he works the 11-7 shift an he will come home and sleep from like 8-3 or 4 and then go back to bed around 7 and sleep until 10, so we don't really get to see him much. He also needs several, several cups of coffee just so he can function. I am far from perfect, but I do try to work on things that I no need working on, I a always trying to learn new things and we had always agreed that he would get his career going and then I would go back to school. (Our kids are ages 11,10,and 7) I asked/told him over and over and over that I was going to need more help so I could take that never came. He almost always falls asleep if I try to talk to him, he falls asleep driving, standing, talking...he just can't stay awake. There are whole conversations that he doesn't remember. The dr;s gave him meds to keep him up but he will rarely take them. When he is on the meds, I really enjoy being around him. He is coherent and on the ball with things. He is the man that I remember him being. I love him so much and it kills me to see him suffering so, and I feel like it is my fault. I know, deep down, that it isn't all my fault but I just still can't help but feeling responsible. It kills me to see what my kids are going through, they miss their dad so very much. He calls to talk to them for about a minute or two each night before bed, but that is not enough, they need more than that. We need to not be living in this "limbo", It is very scary. He generally is very short with me when I speak to him right now, I try to keep things as upbeat as possible but it is not always easy. I am really worried about him, he is barely eating, barely sleeping, he sees no way out of this. He admits that he hasn't accomplished much by being away but just doesn't know what the next step is, just that he is really, really angry with me, he feels hollow and empty, and numb. If I ask him a question (over the phone) he will sometimes answer me. For example, tonight, I asked him if he thought that we were going to be okay, and he said ya, I asked if he really believed that, and he said ya and that he does plan to come home at some point, and then he will say that he hopes it will be much just up in the air. I am not the type of person that usually just sits back and does nothing, I am usually a person that "makes things happen", so playing this waiting game is killing me. I know that I have to work on my patience and anger issues, but I am trying, and I am going to stick with the therapy. I just wish that he would get help, talk to a counselor or something, but all the wishing in the world won't help now will it? I just have to be patient, I know, and I'm trying. It's just really hard. He also every now and then throughout the years, would come out with the "we need to be in church more", that's what's wrong with this marriage. I am not a big church person, I agree, that it can have it's place, but I am not one of those people that need to be controlled, my brain (usually) works just fine without someone telling me what I should be thinking or feeling. I believe in God, I just don't believe that the only place you can find Him is in the church house. I believe that He is everywhere and in everything. I am more of a spiritual person than a religious person whereas he is more the opposite. I just wish that there was something more that I could do...I know that I am doing a lot just by providing some stability
You might try pushing the idea of seeing a clinical or counseling psychologist again. What you want to do is identify 2-3 main problems he is having in his everyday life and highlight the idea that he can be helped with these problems. I'm just taking a shot at this of course: "I have identified a doctor who I know can help you with the stress your are experiencing. I know you aren't eating or sleeping well; beyond going to work, you have little energy or interest in things; these are problems I know this doctor can help you with." Or,"I know you simply don't know what to do about this situation. I have identified a doctor who can help you sort out the issues surrounding your upset about our marital situation and help resolve it". If he asks who it is, you might want to have a referral handy--- a PhD. or PsyD. clinical or counseling psychologist. He will probably more likely to accept the idea of a doctor than a masters degreed counselor or therapist. Then tell him that if he will give you approval, you'll make an appointment for him.

In short, right now about all you can do is respond to him as I've suggested in a prior post, identify some psychologists in your area who could see him. You may want to consider whether he will get along better with a female or a male psychologist---your call of course. You can also begin reading up on narcissistic personality disorder so you may come to understand some of your husbands underlying issues. The other thing you may want to think about is an evaluation of your current job skills and career opportunities; you may want to think about taking classes to upgrade your skills or slowly pursue some form of vocational or university certification---either through a local campus or through an online program. The point being that your husband may just throw up his hands one day and file for a divorce; I don't think it is very likely because I think that despite his demeanor, he is quite dependent on you and realizes he isn't truly interested in living alone, and that he isn't in any emotional condition to attract women in his life at this time. But it never hurts to think seriously about improving yourself vocationally; you may be o.k. in this area, but I toss the idea out for your consideration.

I hope this interaction has been helpful to you. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please hit the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks. Feel free to keep me posted about your situation, as it unfolds.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi, I am sorry that I haven't been able to respond for a few days, the kids and I have been sick. I do appreciate the depth of your responses however, I do not believe that it is of a narcissistic nature, but perhaps, more of an egotistical nature. He admitted to me yesterday that he has never gotten over an incident regarding a plant 12 years ago. It had been my birthday/valentines day and we had little money so we agreed to not get each other anything. I spent the day cleaning and preparing a "special" dinner for the day and I remember how happy I was to be able to be doing this for him and how much I couldn't wait for him to get home from work to spend time with him. When he got home he had a gift for me, it was a small plant, and he also told me that we were going out. I perhaps overreacted at the time, but I was very hurt. I was hurt that my dinner that I had worked hard on and put love into meant nothing. I was also hurt that his word of agreeing to not get each other meant nothing. We ended up arguing with him storming off down the hall and me throwing the plant behind him. He admits that he has never gotten over it. He also told me that he made a promise to himself that day that he would never open his heart up to me again and that he would never buy me another gift. Promises which he kept. He has essentially been punishing me for twelve years over this. He has denied me attention and affection for years. I never gave up on him, never stopped loving him, stood by him by way more than most would have, but I love him. I love this man, despite everything I love him. When the situation is put on paper like this, I can more clearly see why I may have done the things that I did. I had/have needs to and I was so desperate for attention/affection that I ended up having an affair. I am deeply sorry for what I did, but it makes more sense to me now how it happened. He was not fulfilling his job as my husband. I had/have so much love to give this man, this stubborn man. How could he think that it was okay to live like that for all of those years? We could have had so much better of a life but he "checked out" that day with the plant. He shut right down emotionally and never put another ounce of energy or time into this marriage. He literally never bought me another gift again and we have gone out less than five times in the last fourteen years. Not acceptable by any means. I am dealing with a VERY stubborn man. He has this "poor me, poor me" attitude and I am frankly losing my patience with it. I am bending over backwards to make this work, but at the same time, I need to have enough self-respect to not be a doormat. I asked him yesterday if I had any reason to think that he was not going to be coming home at some point and he said no. He said that he wants to come home and that he just doesn't know how. He also said that he realizes he needs to get over things that he has been carrying around with him for all of these years and that he can't even contemplate how to do it at this time. He has no idea when he will be coming home and it could be a very long time. He can't stand to look at me or be around me right now. I wish he would realize the part that his behavior over the life of the marriage played in all of this. I would never have looked for attention elsewhere if he had been giving it to me all along, for crying out loud, I gave him thirteen years of chances.....I wish that he would realize the effect that this is having on the children also, the fact that he is just not around any more.....he is not the only victim in all of this. I hope that he is able to come to a realization that in order for this to be better he is going to have to open up his heart again and if he can't what am I still doing here. Marriage takes two...period. I also have needs and he needs to realize that my needs are important too and that this just can't be about him taking me back. I also have to take him back...because I don't want to spend the next thirteen years of my life without love and attention like the past thirteen years. I deserve to be loved and I don't deserve to be punished for this many years over something like that. He said that he never once saw his parent's that is how we should be. I told him that our kids do need to realize that it is not a perfect world and that people do fight, as long as it is being done in a healthy manner than I see nothing wrong with this, it is also equally important that they see that people make up and that people don't give up on each other. What do you think is going on here and is there any way that I can help him with forgiveness and getting over things? Thank you

I'm very impressed by your last post because it perfectly captures the dilemma you and your husband face. You are quite correct: The ONLY way to repair this situation is for both of you to review what the issues are in the relationship that you must 'put behind you', let go of, and FORGIVE AND FORGET, so you can literally start over again. This will require both of you to stop blaming the other person for you unhappiness, to start forgiving one another for past hurts, and start putting effort into regularly 'dating', finding mutual interests, traveling together, etc. I think that couples therapy can help you 'kick-start' this process. I believe you are willing to do this; but so long as your husband is holding an episode of past behavior over you and remains stubborn in his victimization position, you two will go no where. There is no practical future in your relationship as it now exists---except to do the above, or, finish raising your kids and after they are gone, splitting your joint assets and going your separate ways, so you can each possibly find love with someone else. The status quo is a ridiculous, unacceptable, state of existence for any marriage; you deserve to be much happier than you are, and your husband does as well.

If you think it might help, you should perhaps cut and paste some of the details of our posts together, share them with your husband, and communicate to him that you now KNOW for certainty that you need to either put serious effort and discussion into what it will take to put the past behind both of you and try to rebuild the marriage. And, if not, you know that you would have no real choice except to wait until the kids are out of school, complete your own education, and the get divorced, splitting all of your assets.

I hope this information is helpful to you. I believe that as you have thought about these issues and wrote your thoughts on paper, things have become clearer to you. As I said, I think the last post you wrote is "IT"---the right answer. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of your screen. Thanks.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Once again, thank you for your answers. I promise not to keep "bugging" you, lol. Do you think that it is a good idea to maybe NOT discuss the problems that we are having and maybe instead work on building up the areas that had been lacking in the past such as going out more, etc. and then when we are "stronger" as a couple, then we can work on the bigger issues?. It is EXTREMELY upsetting for him to be reminded of the problems at hand right now. He is unable to discuss anything relating to them at all. Part of me wants to tell him to suck it up and start behaving more maturely but I know that it is not the "right" thing to do and that it would be counter-productive. It makes me angry that I have stood by him through so many things and that he is so quick to run and hide. But, I guess he is in a sense a "product of his environment" to some degree, as he was largely raised in a "bubble", protected from everything and now that he is an adult he lacks the skills to live in the real world. I hope that at some point in the near future he will realize just how good that he really had it and come to his senses. I have been very pleasant and optimistic when speaking with him and hope that one day he will realize that I too deserve a "second-chance." I will continue to work on improving myself because ultimately, life does go on, whether he is here or not. It would be in both of our best interests to try to work it out but only time will tell as far as that goes. I deserve to be loved as well and if he can not give it to me I will have no choice but to move on and I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX it does not come to that. I also want to really thank you for your time, it has really helped me to put some things into perspective as we go through this difficult time, so from the bottom of my heart, Thank you! Sincerely XXXXX XXXXX


What you suggest is a very good idea. Simply identify some things you want to work on individually or together and have at it. It is better to do and act, than to rehash and talk about the past, sometimes. As you suggest, this is very important when a (verbal) topic pushes someone's buttons and they become upset, get immediately defensive, etc. Constructive progress then stops. So I do like your idea to focus on something that can move the relationship forward and in which you might both see some success. You might identify some actual 'doing' sorts of things and present them as ways to strengthen the relationship. This will be a refreshing change from focusing on 'problems'.

I think you are 2-3 steps ahead of your husband in terms of good ideas for helping the situation. I suspect you are emotionally 'wiser' than the man you married.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of your screen. Thanks.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Not to toot my own horn, but I am more wise in many areas than my husband is. That is one of the factor's that intimidates him, that's not to say he is stupid. He does learn things very differently than most other people and it can be VERY frustrating at times and that is definitely one of the factors that is holding things back for us right now and making me so concerned....I just don't know "how" to get through to him and I feel like if I could bridge that gap then we could actually start to make some progress.
I think your latest idea will tell you fairly quickly whether things can improve, without revisiting the details of past problems at this time. Eventually, they may need to be discussed if they crop up again. And, eventually, you will 'run out of ideas' and have to decide if this is a fairly hopeless situation you face. But I think you feel the need to turn over 'every stone' to find an answer before deciding it is 'hopeless', as you should.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I was wondering if I may please ask you one more question. If so, here is the question. My husband said that the one thing he is having the most trouble with is the images he is "seeing" in his head. He can't stop picturing some other guy all over me and if he can somehow get past that then he will better be able to work on things. Is there any advice on how to stop those images from recurring in his imagination? Thank so much, Jessica
If his mind wanders off into these images, he should attempt to substitute himself in the 'movie playing inside of his head', so he imagines himself doing the things he imagines. Tell him that the best way to get past these images is to understand that he needs to start engaging in a new form of imagination and visualization---thinking about and planning how to introduce some creative sexual activities and how he can take the lead in adding some 'novelty' to what the two of you have always been doing together. In other words, he should fantasize about constructively moving forward to improve your love life and that if he does this 'revision' of his fantasies, he won't be bothered by the old ones as often. They will eventually go away with the mere passage of time as well, if your relationship in general, improves.

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