Doctor's Advice on Overcoming Infidelity

Psychologist and author Dr. Keith Ablow believes infidelity does not have to be the end to a marriage. Although infidelity is painful, Ablow said that the couple can use the opportunity to recreate their marriage. Below is some of Ablow's advice.

One woman wrote that she caught her husband sending intimate text messages to another woman. He denied that there was a physical relationship, but she cannot get past the memory of the texts. She asked Ablow if she should believe what he said.

Answer: No, it is not believable. It's going to be hard to get the text out of your mind, until you understand that you already have the truth in hand. You need to assume that your husband was physically intimate with his "text message friend" and tell him that you aren't looking for him to confirm or deny it anymore. Then do all the things you would do to rescue the marriage, if that is in your heart to do.

I guess I'd be tempted to tell your spouse that being cheated on is one thing, but the fact that he thinks you're an idiot is another. Tell him you'll never bring up the affair again, if he stops insisting there never was one (physically). And tell him that another condition is that he tells you what kind of night with you would make him feel like sending a passionate text message your way.

One "GMA" viewer asked how she can get past the anger after being cheated on.

Answer: I think the anger and hurt are totally understandable. Share those feelings with your husband. Tell him the real fears his wandering has sparked in you -- maybe about whether you're attractive to him, about whether he will remain in your life, etc., etc. Try to help him understand that whatever he has been withholding in terms of truth about his feelings in the relationship could be turned into a path to re-energize the relationship.

Also, I think it helps to get past the anger and hurt if you realize that people generally elevate sex to mythical status, thinking it is the highest form of intimacy. It isn't. Ask your husband whether he would have wanted you or his former (I hope) lover to take him to a doctor's appointment where he would be learning whether or not he has prostate cancer. Then ask him whether hurting you was actually worth feeling good sexually, for as long as it lasted.

In other words, open up a discussion. Try not to be threatening in tone. Just tell him you want to understand him and that you can be hurt and still love him. That's a tremendously powerful message.

Another woman asked about how to deal with a past mistress who kept calling her husband.

Answer: I think you need to tell your husband the feelings that his behaviors provoke in you. He needs to know that he is actually hurting you by the brazen way he allows this woman to continue interacting with you (by sending mail, etc.)

Make him wonder with you whether there might be something "wrong" with someone who has such poor boundaries as to visit a hospital where your grandson is so ill. Then, make him wonder whether there might be something a little wrong with him, too.

Maybe no one honored his feelings as a child. Maybe he stopped being able to resonate with your feelings. Sit him down. Ask him to do better for the two of you. And make it a little harder for him or this woman to be unkind to you. Why not call her a few times now and again, just out of the blue, and let her know how much it hurt you to have her involved in your life in the way she has been. She's intrusive to you. Maybe she'll get the point when the energy starts to flow in her direction.

A woman who has been married for many years discovered her husband is having an affair. She asked Ablow how they can finish their lives together happily.

Answer: Reexamine everything. Figure out ways that you can bring some of the passion back into your relationship. Maybe ask your husband out on a "date," and make dinner room service at a local hotel. Be creative.

Also, let him know that it does hurt you to think of him with another woman. Tell him your innermost feelings about it. Then ask him to think about whether having some sort of passionate experience with his "friend" is really worth causing those feelings in you.

A woman wrote Ablow to ask how she can put passion back in her marriage when she was the one who cheated.

Answer: I think you might try reproducing the structure of "dating" your husband. Be creative. Maybe it's meeting for room service dinners at local hotels. Maybe it's being willing to tell one another one fantasy that each of you has shared with no one else.

It's an individual thing, so it's hard to respond with the right strategy for the two of you. I do have an article coming out in Good Housekeeping about rekindling romance within a marriage, so you might check that out.

Also, I wonder about whether you can "remagnetize" the relationships through a period of abstinence. Maybe try NO sex for 30 days, but increasingly provocative conversations with him. If you still feel nothing after 29 days, we'd have more to worry about.

A woman wrote that her husband does not want to try counseling even though they are going through a difficult time. She asked for other options.

Answer: Some form of counseling is truly the gold standard when it comes to intervening in troubled marriages. But you could try a retreat or workshop. There are several good ones you can find through online search and by making sure to insist on talking with a few prior participants. Maybe your husband would be willing to invest a weekend, at least. And that might even help him see the value in counseling over the longer haul.

If he is unwilling to invest even a few days in your marriage, you need to hear that and wonder whether fighting to keep him in your life is really worthwhile.