Man Up to Your Wandering Penis

Dear Dategirl:

About a year ago, my wife discovered I’d been having an affair with a co-worker. When she found out, it was like a switch went off in my brain. I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid. I cut things off with the other woman, who has since found another job. I told my wife I didn’t want to lose her, and pledged I’d do anything to regain her trust.

This has proven to be more difficult than I’d assumed. We’re in therapy, but I get the feeling that the therapist is on my wife’s side. However, my wife likes her, so I’ll keep going. I’ve also noticed that although I was the one who strayed, I have what might be described as a victim mentality about the situation.

My upbringing was very chaotic and violent. There was sexual abuse, and I believe that had something to do with my infidelity. Obviously, that wasn’t the only reason I cheated (the other woman was sexy and much younger), and my wife is understandably impatient when I try to reason with her. I know I’m the one who screwed up and she’s the one who has to suffer. I don’t know that her pain will ever go away, even if she forgives me. I keep saying I’m sorry, but on some level, I’m a little resentful about several things—like how long it’s taking us to get past this—as well as her complete dismissal of my childhood issues.


I’m sure growing up in an violent home and being sexually abused has had a profound impact on your life, but you’re a grown-up now. You should be dealing with that separately from what’s going on with your wife. You don’t mention that you’ve had therapy on your own, so I’m guessing you haven’t. Grudgingly showing up for couples counseling isn’t going to make everything all better. Marriage counseling isn’t the place to figure out what happened when you were 5—it’s designed to make your marriage suck less. So find your own licensed mental-health professional and get your shit straight on your own time (and dime).

And while maybe your background made you more likely to betray your wife’s trust, emerging intact from a crappy childhood doesn’t entitle you to a Jackass Pass. I don’t blame her for not whipping out the good china and throwing you a pity party.

Here are some ideas that might help you two get past this:

• Keep up the couples counseling, but supplement it with your own individual therapy. This way you have a place to vent, and also an appropriate venue for working out your past. Because believe me, any sympathy your wife might have had for your childhood evaporated when she found out you were bending some twinkie over your desk.

• Practice complete transparency. If she’s having trouble trusting you, hand over your e-mail passwords and give her access to your phone. Yes, it’s annoying, but you’ve lost her trust, and now it’s up to you to re-earn it.

• Don’t lie about anything, no matter how minor, because when she finds out, it’s just going to rip open those infidelity scars.

• Be patient. While nobody deserves to be a whipping boy forever, let her voice her anger and show her that you both hear and understand what she’s saying.

• Quit trying to explain away your affair. Blaming your wandering penis on a pervy uncle or mean mommy only makes you look like a bigger asshat. Abusive past or not, most hetero men would be tempted by a sexy younger woman, and many would act on that temptation. Man up and take responsibility for your actions.

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