Dear Neil: I left our house because my husband of 14 years did not want me there, and he was treating me very badly. He now treats me like an outcast, like I have done a great wrong, and has a great deal of anger toward me. In the past year, I discovered he was having an affair. Why is he treating me so badly when it was him that has been having an affair? I still care for him. Can this be worked out?
Wounded In Kentucky
Dear Wounded: Some people, in order to break free from a relationship, demonize their spouse/intimate partner. That means that whatever he does will most likely be blamed on you (you weren’t giving enough, a good enough mother, you didn’t contribute to the household enough, etc). He does this as way of severing the ties and breaking the bonds, and also as a way of justifying his own behavior.
Frequently, people who are breaking off a relationship enter a transitional relationship with someone new. Such a relationship allows them to avoid looking at the really hard questions of why the relationship fell apart and what their role in the breakup was.
So while you’re grieving, asking yourself what you did wrong, and generally going through a lot of pain, your husband is delaying the grief process and the pain. But since transitional relationships seldom last, he will have, at some point, two relationships to understand and to make peace with, and his pain and loneliness will likely then be magnified.
I’m sorry to say, but I hear very little in your letter to suggest that your husband wants to save the marriage. He is clearly very angry at you. If your marriage has any chance of surviving, it will be because someone assists him in talking about his anger, why it’s there and what he wants different in order to give the marriage another chance.