Dear Douglas,


I am a Vietnamese woman who is married to a foreigner. We have been together for three years. A few months ago, when I was pregnant with our second baby my husband cheated on me for one month with a woman in a town where he travels to. He admitted he was wrong to do this but I cannot forgive him, and many times have gotten so angry at him that I feel crazy. I cannot control myself when I think of what he did and now I don’t trust him. We loved each other very much before, but now I don’t know if I love him or want him in my life. We both know it is not fair to the children to break up… but we are having a really hard time staying together. What should I do?

— Hurting


Dear Hurting,


I am glad that you are seeking support because it is very difficult to manage all of these feelings and find your way through to the best solution. It is also good that you both realize that the children’s needs are a top priority — they are depending on both of you to offer them a good childhood.


When people learn that their relationship has been violated, when someone cheats, it creates a crisis that breaks the bonds of trust. Trust is the foundation of a close relationship. A crisis is a period of intense feelings when what we know to be true is disrupted, and everything feels like it is breaking apart. You have gone through this and now you are trying to find a way to have the broken pieces fit back together and for trust to be restored. It is difficult and takes some time.


Here are some guidelines that might help you to get through the process to see if you can re-find the connection you once had with your husband.


1) Manage your anger. Of course you are angry and it is important that you accept that it is genuine. But, where you can help your relationship is to not let your anger become too intense where you are out of control and saying and doing things that you regret or which drive him away from you. You have to teach yourself to divert your feelings by catching yourself thinking unhelpful thoughts, and stopping it.


2) Understand that anger is part of how you are trying to get control in a situation where you feel you have no control. Anger creates a feeling of power, and fear in another person, but is short-lived and not a real long-term solution.


3) Understand that beneath most anger is fear. Think about what you are afraid of — losing him and having two babies to care for? Being alone, without a partner to love? Being judged? Talk to him about your fears and about his also. Of course you are both scared.


4) Make an agreement with your husband to try to weather the storm; in other words to see it as a process that will change with time and that you have to endure together without making things worse. Promise not to break up for the next three months and see if things can change. That means not going back to what happened, but living day by day with what is happening now.


5) Ask your husband to make amends. This means that he does extra things to show you that he really is sorry and realizes that he has made a big mistake. When you see he is trying, it can help you to feel like he understands your feelings and his commitment to you.


6) Trust and forgiveness are important but cannot be forced to happen. At some point it becomes more and more a choice, and while you might not feel that you trust him 100%, you can offer to trust him more and more. Try not to withhold trust for too long because of anger (righteous indignation). It is important to move slowly towards trust and, at some point, you may discover that you can forgive. This can take a year or more.


7) It may be that you will find the connection that can keep your relationship alive — or maybe not. Because you have children you have the responsibility to try, for their sake. If you break up, be sure that the children’s needs are considered and that they have a life with access and care from both of their parents.


I recommend that you get support from a psychotherapist for the next few months, for you or both you and your husband, to help you with the process of overcoming the crisis and weathering the storm of your relationship.


I wish you the best.


— Douglas


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