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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5824
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I've cheated on and have used my wife for five years. She

Customer Question

I've cheated on and have used my wife for five years. She has supported me financially throughout the relationship and over the past year, as my behavior has come to light, she has stuck with me through intensive therapy which has not have had a significant effect on my behavior or on our relationship. Today, she feels like a fool and as if she has been raped. Her pain has been debilitating, confining her to her bed.
Everything I say to apologize turns out to be insulting and evidence that I am only in touch with how I feel. Even though I'm trying (I recognize she is pain and I want to help clean the mess I've made), it just seems like I can not connect with how she is feeling. Please help me understand what's happening within me, what's happened to my sense of empathy, and and how I can start connecting to my wife's deep pain.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like the two of you are going to a very rough time. Your wife is hurting and you are hurting.

From what you have said, it seems that there is a lot of pain in your childhood. Often times, it takes a long time and a lot of therapy to work through that amount of pain. I was struck by your statement that you sabotaged some of the therapy you went through with your wife. That says that you might be dealing with some personality issues here.

Sometimes, when someone is abused, they can develop personality defenses to protect themselves. For example, someone who experiences the deep pain of abuse may become either very dependent in personality, or narcissistic. Both hide the deep pain and create a way for the abused person to cope with the world. This may be where you are right now and may explain your need to hurt and sabotage your efforts to get better.

In order to connect with your wife, you are going to need to be honest with yourself. Your wife is feeling used and hurt. She needs to know you are being honest and open when you talk to her. She probably feels she cannot trust you, so taking a look at your issues and being honest with how you feel about the situation will help. Also, take steps to fix yourself and the relationship. Your wife needs to see you working on your own to make progress. Read books, return to therapy, talk to trusted friends and family. Most of all, talk with your wife. Take responsibility for your actions and do not burden her with anything emotional right now. Let her express herself as needed and do not judge. She may say things that hurt, but for now, she needs to heal and giving her the chance to do that will go a long way to her recovery.

Here are some books that may help you get started. One is called After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful by Janis Abrahms Spring and Michael Spring. Another is Field Guide To Personality Disorders: A Companion to Disordered Personalities by David J. Robinson. You can find these on or your local library may have them for you.

There are also some excellent sites to help you with repairing your marriage:

Please let me know if you have any further questions I can help you with.


TherapistMarryAnn and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your response.

I've been considering that I may have some sort of personality disorder. When I read about the behavior of sociopaths and effects they have on their partners, there is very little that differentiates myself from them. My therapist and psyciatrist have both stopped short of diagnosing me with a personality dissorder with the concensus that I suffer from mood disorders. Yet when I consider that I essentially duped her into believing I had fallen in love from the start, tried to make her believe she was to blame for our issues (which, I really believed but see how twisted my thinking was), and that I never took my therapy seriously (believing change would be easy), I have to wonder.

Another factor I would like you to consider is my exhibitionist (masturbating to unsuspecting women while in the car) and peeping behavior, and secretive use of porn - the focus of my therapy until now. It's taken me a while to realize how this behavior is a non consensual violation of other's rights. Similar to how I've violated my wife.

I still go into denial that my problem is so severe or that I've really treated my wife with such cruelty. The fact is, I am stunned at how cruel I can be. I never thought of myself this way and it's hard for me to accept.

I really want to know if I am a sociopath or similar. I'm interested because the treatment plans will be much different. The bot***** *****ne is that the impact to my wife is the same and I fear there is no repairing the damage done, our marriage, and the effects on our 3 year old son, whom I love so dearly, and am at risk of loosing forever.

I don't know what else you can tell me that you haven't already... I'm just feeling desparate.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

It certainly sounds like you are very clear on your actions and the effect of them on others, especially your wife. That is a good sign. However, you are separating yourself from the feelings related to your actions. So the focus needs to be on integrating yourself again so you can experience those feelings.

Talk with your therapist about our conversation and see what they say. I certainly do not want to go against their recommendations since they do have the advantage of seeing you face to face. However, they may want to know what you have told me and the idea you have that you may have a sociopath disorder. Although you have some of the symptoms, you may be dealing more with a narcissistic personality disorder. You are hurt and you show many more signs of narcissism than Sociopathic disorder. Additionally, I highly doubt you would be writing me about your behavior if you were a sociopath. Instead, you would see nothing wrong with what you are doing.

As for the exhibitionist behavior, that may also tie in with the need to dominate and use others, just like you pointed out. It would be a good idea to bring that up in therapy as well. I think it is just a way to comfort yourself and it comes from the need to control because of the lack of control you had over your childhood.

As I said, it is good that you want to work on these issues. Keep trying. If you can make progress, and I think you will, your wife will notice and there may be good chance you can repair your relationship.