Prev Next
Can a Marriage Survive an Affair During Pregnancy?

Can a Marriage Survive an Affair During Pregnancy?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I love your advice column and the frequent laughter that often ensues after, but unfortunately I need advice…and it’s much more heavy than your usual posts. I’m not really sure where to turn; hence my email to you.

How do I know when it’s time to seek the dreaded d-word? Divorce. Is there a magical checklist that helps one make that hard decision?

Let me back up. Nutshell version of events: my husband and I have a 1.5 year old beautiful baby boy. When I was 8 months and 3 weeks along in our pregnancy, I found out that my husband had been unfaithful…essentially our whole pregnancy with his ex-girlfriend whom he indirectly works with. He swears it was just an emotional affair -nothing physical, and I only have proof of racy emails back and forth (including ones signed with “love you” and “love you too.” Oi.) This spiraled me into a crazy pre-partum depression, one that I’m convinced caused my water to break early, that ultimately ended with 61 hours of labor and an emergency c-section (but a healthy baby boy).

Anyways, fast forward a year of couples therapy. I have also since then contacted the ex and expressed my anger with her involvement in a mature and articulate way, which much to my surprise was met with apologies and “I’ll never contact your husband again.” In the words of Katy Perry: Swish swish bish.

You’d think I’d have some closure at this point, right? I would have thought at this point I’d trust him more and resent him less. But if I’m honest, I don’t. I’m still mad that he cracked the foundation of our marriage; one that might never get repaired. I’m upset that the last month of my first pregnancy was drama, stress, depression and self-loathing. That I was so overwhelmed by the emotions caused by his affair (emotional or otherwise) that I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy crying in bed instead of decorating the nursery.

So back to my questions. Does the sting of betrayal ever go away? Are couples who have faced infidelity inevitably doomed? Or is this a crazy bumpy road in our marital life that I should try to ride out? Now that my son is involved, I want to try to make this work but I’m a bit defeated that I still harbor negative feelings towards my husband (who by the way, still runs into the ex-girlfriend at work from time to time). When do I know it’s time to call it quits?

I thank you for any guidance you can give a new mother in this emotionally turbulent, confusing time.

Signed: the defeated wife

I am so, so sorry you’re going through this. It all sounds incredibly painful and hard and just plain sucktastic.

I have not walked this particular path in your particular shoes, but I don’t believe there’s one path for everyone on the other side of an affair. There is often divorce, yes; there are also temporary separations that lead to reconciliation. And for many couples, yes, there is also ultimately forgiveness.

I can’t tell you which path should be yours, nor would I judge you for taking any one in particular. For now, I certainly don’t blame you one tiny iota for not being ready to fully forgive and trust him again. I can also only imagine how impossible of an idea that probably even feels to you right now. The fact that this all went down when it did — while. you. were. pregnant. with. his. child. — is completely, objectively loathsome. (And I don’t give a rat’s ass that it wasn’t physical, by the way. Some people might have an easier time with that distinction, while others view affairs that are simply about sex and sex alone easier to move past. Others can’t stomach either! Like I said, there is nothing one-size-fits all for navigating these kinds of situations.) He straight up ruined the final weeks of your pregnancy and essentially tarnished all your important memories surrounding it. You spent your first weeks and months of motherhood trying to process all the normal postpartum crap and stressors of a newborn, along with, oh hey the father of my child completely betrayed my trust.  I mean, there’s a reason that in the Hall of Dirtbags, men who cheat on pregnant wives/girlfriends hold an especially high ranking.

All that said: Is divorce the only inevitable option? I have no idea. I have definitely known couples that have moved past affairs and stayed together. I have also known couples that did not. I’m glad you guys have tried couple’s therapy — that’s obviously the first step to take. I THINK, at this point, the next logical step is to integrate individual therapy for you and you alone with your current therapist. Not because there’s anything WRONG with the fact that you are still harboring negative feelings and need to be “fixed,” but because you’ve been tasked with navigating an ENORMOUS emotional/psychological minefield here. There might be bombs going off in your brain that you don’t want to let detonate unfiltered in your couple’s sessions, or you aren’t ready to reveal to your husband that you’re at a point where you’re writing for divorce advice from people on the Internet. But these are things your therapist needs to know and can help you work out a communication strategy with your husband. I don’t think it’s abnormal (or a sign that it’s not “working”) that you’ve been going to therapy for a year and still don’t know “what to do” about this. It’s just ALL SO MUCH, on top of being a new parent.

I think it’s very important, by the way, that any individual therapy should be done WITH the couple’s therapy. Everything I’ve read suggests that marital problems of all stripes (not just cheating) should be dealt with by a therapist who has worked with both partners and seen first-hand how they interact and communicate with each other. It’s natural for someone who feels wronged to present things as all the other person’s fault, and without the full context a therapist can start to “side” with their patient against their spouse, rather than help the patient do their full part to improve the relationship. (Here’s an article that explains it better.)

Your wounds could just be too fresh right now, but will heal in time. Or you may find that the scars are too permanent and prominent to ever really forgive him for, or at least enough to stay married to him. I don’t know, but I really do wish you the best no matter what you decide.

Photo source: Unsplash/PabloHeimplatz

****************

Dear readers, you can leave a comment without having to register. Just sign in as a “guest.”  We love and appreciate your insights!

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Nikki
Guest
Nikki

I went through something similar. I found out at 7 months pregnant and had a very stressful rest of my pregnancy that I delivered four weeks early. And honestly I think my son has some serious side effects from the stress unfortunately, he has quite the temper and gets frustrated very easy and is super hyper. My husband takes some responsibility for it and tries harder to have more patience for our son. It has been 2.5 years now since it happened and thank goodness the sting is finally starting to subside. It probably took me a full two years… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

First, I ditto everything Amy said – there are lots of possible outcomes here, and you and your son will be okay no matter how this turns out. I personally found out about my husband’s affair with an ex-girlfriend when I was eight weeks postpartum with my second kid; my first child was three. It had happened during most of the pregnancy and was supposedly “only an emotional” affair but looking back, there were signs it was physical too…I was so deep in the postpartum hormonal stage, and also just so totally blindsided, that I tried very, very hard to… Read more »

Annalisa
Guest
Annalisa

In addition to continuing individual and couples counseling (with a counselor that you like and trust!) as Amy suggests, you might find some insight and even support in the works of Esther Perel. She is an amazing couples therapist who has written and given talks about many topics with a special focus on infidelity. I myself like to do a lot of reading and research to help myself cope with situations in my life and have found her stuff wonderful. Look for her TED talks on infidelity and lust, and even better, her (free) audible series where she does recorded… Read more »

jordan
Guest
jordan

I also went through something similar a few years ago, although it was the discovery of my unplanned 2nd pregnancy that led my then-husband to confess to an ongoing affair. We spent my entire pregnancy “working” on our relationship (although in hindsight, he had checked out already and I was the only one working on it.) We split up for good shortly after our second son was born, and have both moved on. He is still with her, and I am engaged to be married this fall. My point in all this is if you feel like you, or both… Read more »

Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

Do you think it’d help if your husband didn’t work with her anymore? That right there would be too much for me personally, even if I 100% trusted him (which it sounds like you might not) Best of luck, mama

S
Guest
S

So…disclaimer: I am the one who had an affair – and it wasn’t while we were pregnant, so all I’m here to offer is yes to the couples therapy, double extra yes to individual counseling with that same therapist, and…even though you are a year out, if you both are really digging in and doing the work, it may get even harder before it gets easier. And easier could look like a lot of things, including divorce. Or not! And none of it is linnear. One question I would ask – what coping or communication tools have come out of… Read more »

Jeannie Shirley
Guest
Jeannie Shirley

First, I’m so sorry to hear your story and that you’re going through this. Second: while I haven’t gone through what you have, I *have* dealt with infidelity in a relationship and I truly believe that relationships can be saved if both people truly, deep down, want it saved. Mine was unsaveable because he didn’t want to save it; I’m now with someone who invests in us because he wants us to last. I don’t know if you can trust your husband’s word in this but trust your own instincts: does he act, all the time, like someone who wants… Read more »

Beth
Guest
Beth

Oh, LW, I’ve been there. I wasn’t pregnant, but I I know the pain of an emotional affair. He left on a deployment and when he came back he was just different and I found his hidden email account. We never went to therapy, which probably would have helped, but it was 10 years ago and we’re still together. But I will say that I still have flashes of pain to this day. In the emails I found, he told her “I miss you more than you’ll ever know,” which seems pale in comparison to what you found but has… Read more »

Anonymous for this one
Guest
Anonymous for this one

Oh, LW. I am so, so sorry. I have been there. I found out about my husband’s affair in the middle of my second trimester with my son in September of 2014. I always thought women who “stood by their man” were… well, I didn’t understand until I went through it myself. If I had not been pregnant, my husband would have been out on his ass, but I decided to give him one chance- one!- as a gift from his (not yet born) son. I sent him packing to his parents’ and my sister moved in with me for… Read more »

Survivor
Guest
Survivor

Unfortunately, I know this pain too. I found out about my husband’s (physical/emotional) affair 36 hours before my first was born. Afterward, I hardly slept for months, since the pain was the worst when I was alone – even when I was dead tired. The postpartum horribleness wasn’t how I had pictured family life, and it took a long time to work things out (and several years afterward of being blindsided by finding out about their continuing, “secret” communications). Luckily, my husband, though completely dense and self-serving at times, was also remorseful and very much wanted things to work out… Read more »

Heartbroken Wife
Guest
Heartbroken Wife

I don’t understand why this happens. I know its so common but its such a horrible feeling. My husband and I have been together 10 years. We have a daughter, 2 years old and 8 months. He started having an affair with a co-worker when our daughter was 9 months old, who followed him to the new city we moved to. This woman was after him from 2 years before, because I remember a conversation we had when I responded vaguely regarding our plans for kids (before I got pregnant) and she specifically asked if we were using condoms. So… Read more »