Terry Real Answers Your Questions About Cheating and Marriage

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You asked about how marriage could recover from the devastating effect of an affair, and family therapist Terry Real answered.

Real appeared on "Good Morning America" to counsel Kevin and Dawn Nordin, and their story resonated with you.

Here are some of the questions you had, and Real's answers.

Questions have been edited for clarity, and only first names have been used to protect writers' identities.

Click HERE to visit Terry Real's website.

Real Advice for Marriage in Trouble

Michelle writes:

I've been married for 18 years, and about three months ago my husband admitted to an affair. Of course my heart was crushed. We were going to separate but chose to stay together. I love him but I'm not in love with him ... ever since that day I can't feel anything anymore. Do I sort out the feelings or do I just walk away? We have four children: ages 19 through 8. I really need some advice, I'm really confused and not sure what route to take. It stays in my mind and in my heart and I find myself angry and mean to him ALOT!!! Was our decision wrong? CONFUSED!!!

Real answers:


Your decision was absolutely the right one with four children on board. There are times in most marriages where one or the other partner doesn't feel, "in love." Of course you feel distant and mistrustful. You're in a state of shock - truly traumatized by the rupture of the bond between you. You should run, not walk, to a good couples therapist. You can get over this but you might need some help with it.

Kathy writes:

Forgiving my husband's unfaithfulness three times was a quick decision in the moment, to the denial and expense of allowing myself to feel my own pain. It has been a few years now and sometimes I can barely stand to be in the same room with him. Underneath the "forgiveness" lies the resentment that has grown from seeds of excruciating pain never dealt with in counseling! It is like a silently growing cancer that has metastasized into something more deadly for my marriage than the adultery itself - denial of my own value. Now we are in counseling, however my husband is having a hard time "letting" me feel my pain now. He thinks I haven't really forgiven him. Is it true that if I am still feeling the anger or pain that I haven't forgiven him?

Real answers:


It sounds like your husband's right; you haven't forgiven him. But my question is: how could you? By rushing into a superficial resolution you shut the door on your own true feelings and needs - just as you say you did. Forgiveness comes after the work of grief -- staying with those feelings of hurt and anger -- not instead of it. And what do we mean by forgiveness anyway? Certainly not that the behaviors are "okay" with us. Rather that we're ready to let go and get on with our lives. Glad you're in counseling which will help you there for real this time.

Trent writes:

Well frankly, I was an idiot and messed around with another woman back in April. My wife found out about it on the first day of our trip to Italy in May (her dream vacation) and I ruined it for her. She just moved out of the house we bought one year ago and now she lives in an apartment and we are hanging by a thread to say the least. I never stopped loving my wife but thought I may have loved the other at the time. So many twists and turns to this story; it's easier to tell in person. Anyway, we have been together for about six years and married for almost three. Oct. 27 makes our 3-year anniversary. (This one isn't going to be kind to our hearts I fear.) She wants to divorce or says she does but I know she has doubts and we have been in limbo for months now. I have never been more in love with my wife and we are in a bind. Serious pickle indeed.

Real answers:


BEG, bribe, implore your wife to attend one session with a good couple's therapist. And then be sure to find a good one - you may only have one shot. A list of therapists trained in my model can be found on my website. Good luck!

Kim writes:

I cheated on my spouse and ... was just looking to talk with anybody. My husband and I split but he does (not) think he was any part of the problem. Why does the spouse who was cheated on feel they have not contributed to the problem?

Real answers:


A great many people would see the egregiousness of an affair as trumping whatever the issues were that lead up to it - others would be willing to look at their part in what might not have been a great marriage. When you have an affair you take your chances.

Monica writes:

I have been with my boyfriend for six years. We have been to counseling for over two years together. He has cheated multiple times. There were times he actually did the act and other cheating was done through e-mail. My question is: are there any tools that can truly help us? I have invested many years into this relationship and want it to work more than anything. Much of his cheating has revolved around drinking but now that he is sober I am hoping things will improve. I am a great girlfriend, have been loving supportive, caring etc. I need to know how to I begin to trust again, isn't that something he has to earn back and how? Please help me I do not want to invest another six years for nothing. Thanks, Monica.

Real answers:


You speak in the present about your boyfriend's cheating and drinking. If you've been in therapy for two years and this is still going on, I'd say things don't look great. His cheating on you multiple times isn't a great sign either.

Kathy writes:

Two years ago my introverted husband of 22 years decided to get a Facebook account without my knowledge because he felt it would hurt me. Six months later one of my friends commented she saw him on FB and sent him a friend request. Looking dumbfounded, he told me, 'Oh I just got it. I'll send you a friend request.' I came to find out he had lied about the time frame and who asked who to befriend the other on FB. There were 128 friends on his list, 88 were women. One of them was a well-known w***e here in town when she lived here. He would send virtual flowers and hugs to these women on his list but not send real ones to his wife. He has never believed he did anything wrong because he supposedly never had sex with these women. I don't know that because he conveniently can never remember things. He also can't seem to find a place to take a lie detector test. My question is, why don't men think an emotional affair is an affair?

Real answers:


I'm not sure I get what you're saying here - that your husband is having an emotional affair with 88 women? That doesn't sound right. But then again neither do his actions as you describe them. I'm not sure what exactly your husband is doing, but it sounds unsavory as you portray it.

Louise writes:

Last year I found out that my husband of 40 years had been having what he says is a 2 1/2 year friendship with a single younger women. I knew nothing about her until I saw them coming out of a restaurant and then driving down the road in his car two separate times.

He was giving her money for massages, facials, gas for her car, then came a loan for a down payment on a house. I checked the telephone bills and found hundreds of calls between them over the 2 1/2 years. My world came to a stop in Nov. 2009. Yes, I kicked him out six times, but we are back together and still trying to make a go of it.

He is still trying to say that it was only a friendship, but I will never believe it. He crossed the line and so did she, because she knew he was married. I found out this is her way of making a living by using men to help support her lifestyle. But in reality I think she is just a downright W***E.

I will not let someone like that walk into my life and try to take it away. I love my husband and have for the last 41 years, and I will fight for him and our marriage with all that I have. By the way, we had to take her to court to get our money back that my husband loaned her. We won the judgment and now we are in the process of collecting it back.

Real answers:

Looks like a skunk, smells like... Hundreds of phone calls? Money for facials, massages, a down payment? Sure seems like more than a friendship. Glad you're standing up to it.

Ashley writes:

My name is Ashley and I am 21 years old. I got married almost three years ago and six months ago I had an affair . During this time I found out my husband was so hurt about what I did he also cheated.

We just recently reunited after being split up and it's been very hard trying to even respect each other. There has been so much damage between us that I am not sure how to fix what's happened or if my husband and I can work through all the hurt. We definitely need help and therapy of some sort. I hope you may be able to help. Thank you.

Real answers:

Ashley, what the two of you sound like to my old ears is mostly young. You don't get back at someone who's cheated by cheating yourself. Yes, you do need marriage counseling to see if the respect you once had can be restored. It's for you both to forgive, if not forget.

Lashelle writes:

Is it always necessary to confront the mistress once you've discovered the affair, especially when the mistress has shown signs of being emotionally and mentally unstable?

Real answers:

About as necessary as wiping your face with poison ivy. Don't get involved, particularly if she's unstable. Just concentrate on putting your own relationship back on track.

Robin writes:

I caught my husband in a 9-month affair two months ago. He slowly has decided to quit the long distance affair and wants to try to make our marriage work.

He isn't as excited about coming back to me as he was two weeks ago. Are things going too fast? Are they ever going to be better? Sometimes I really think he wants that free life he had (or thought he had).

I know there were things I have to change but basically he is a man who gets bored with life about every five years. He starts something new or moves, or builds a new house and he knows this. We are going to a marriage counselor, but he HATES this counselor. I told him I'll go to someone else, but we HAVE to go! My crazy mood swings and emotions are almost too much for my husband. Any suggestions?

I mentioned being a couple on this show, and he said, 'No way! Letting the whole world know?' I dont think he would do it, but we would be a perfect couple for this. Thank you! I think today is just a good day for me. We hopefully will make our relationship work. I pray he really wants to be with me. I pray I can get over this eventually.

Real answers:

Yes, you can get over this and it can get better but you both have to be willing to put in a great deal of work and effort and it's not clear from the way you write that your husband's fully on board. Do switch counselors but don't drop out of counseling - that would be a terrible idea. And pick a counselor who is fair but tough enough to stand up to your husband. Good luck!

To all: Anyone looking for a marriage counselor trained in my method is welcome to visit our website for a listing of trained local therapists around the country.

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