She Cheated... Now What?



Dan often tells people who come out to parents to allow them a period of time to not be the good, supportive parents they ought to be to their LGBTQ child, often six months, and then insist the tantrum stop on threat of the child removing themselves from their parent's life. It's time for you to do something similar.
You could accept your husbands legitimate anger at your infidelity for six months, you cannot accept it as an indefinite excuse for him not working to restore your marriage and not getting sober. Tell him that if nothing changes, in three months you're going to separate. If another three months goes by and he still doesn't change you're going to move on.


I did not even read the advice guy response.
The answer is that you two addicts, in recovery or not, just need to walk away from each other and begin new lives. No contact, bye-bye. Plenty of people in the world to form new relationships with.
Otherwise you are willfully walking off a cliff. Guaranteed.


Everybody should be able to earn a pass for behavior when they were using once they are in recovery.

But they need to be in recovery.

Either he gets into therapy ASAP or you walk. Otherwise he's just going to pull you back down.

If he does get into recovery, LW will have to forgive him for his behavior while he was an addict, although LW seems like she won't have much trouble with that.


L-dub, you two are deep in the shit! Almost everyone is going to tell you to end it, and... duh. The question I have though, is how patient are you willing and capable of being? Hope long can you endure? How important is this relationship to you, and what sort of husband do you believe you'd likely have on the other side of this if you can make it there? People can stick out some crazy shit and be happy about it in the end, but randos on the internet are always going to tell you to bail, because we only hear the problem and don't know anything about the bond you may or may not have.


You kids have a lot going against you, and your past infidelity isn't at the top of the list.
You should move on and get a fresh start (assuming, dear god please say, you don't have any kids...)
Ignore what Dan said about monogamy, you don't have a problem with monogamy, you were stuck in a shitty toxic relationship.
Fresh start.


The Letter Writer should just move on. I think it is unhealthy to continue to be married to her husband. I think she should get some praise for being sober, and wanting to change. I think it is better for her and possibly her husband to split, no matter how painful and final that decision is to both of them. She should also move on from the CPOS label. She is trying to make amends, and learn from her mistakes. She should be commended for that, not branded with a CPOS on her forehead.


I agree with @3 Biggie.

LW: you don’t even have a year of sobriety under your belt and you are living with someone who has yet to admit that he has hit his “rock bottom.” His substance abuse is a constant threat to your sobriety. Hell, sobriety is ridiculously hard for those who live with non-addicts and with those who are supportive. your hubby is neither of those things.

Suggestions: (1) in addition to the 12-step or other recovery program in which you might be involved, seek out Al-Anon meetings in your area to help you deal with your hubby's active addiction. (2) consider creating a sobriety plan with him, one that includes his getting into a rehab program, which includes therapy, and attending daily 12-step or other recovery meetings (if he won’t go to rehab, he can attend therapy and meetings without the rehab). I second the suggestions that you separate for a finite period of time and then revisit as to whether the separation should continue, be converted to a permanent arrangement (AKA divorce), or, if he is actively sober (and not a “dry drunk”) at that point discuss a plan to possibly move back in together. (3) once he is working on his sobriety, go back to marriage counseling.

I wish you both the best of luck.


Does "I was unfaithful three times" mean she slept with the same person three times, or that she found three different partners before getting caught? If the latter—where do people find the time?


I was an addict for almost 10 years. I saw so many couples who were using try to stay together and just keep dragging each other down. I know a lot of them really cared for each other, but sometimes if you really care about somebody you let them have a better life without you. Your husband wants someone to be with while he's using and now he's trying to get back at you for cheating. Things aren't going to change (except you might start using again). Many substances affect a guy's ability to have, or interest in, sex. I generally abhor cheating, but you were in a marriage with little prospect of change and you've been honest and apologetic. If it helps, think of you leaving your husband as removing one of his excuses to keep from getting clean. Obviously staying with him isn't healthy for either of you. And when you decide to leave remember that until he decides to take responsibility for getting clean he will always have an excuse - don't let him guilt you into staying.


I have a relative in a similar situation. He got clean but his girlfriend didn't. It lead to a lot of drama and a restraining order. If someone isn't willing to get sober you can't make them.


These letters have just gotten too depressing.


@10 I was in that situation. My bf would bring me the drug on my clean anniversaries and say I should "celebrate". I thought I could deal with it, but eventually a really stressful situation came up and I started using again. I finally broke up with him and ended up with money stolen off me debit card and a car that took 6+ months to get returned (with camera tickets he "couldn't pay"). I finally said I was gonna report it stolen and he parked it on my street w/expired tabs, which it got ticketed for (on a cul-de-sac in an un-incorporporated area where I had never seen cops).


@11 hahaha - more sex! More sex! More sex!


Was this letter to Dan printed a while ago in a previous SL? It sounds familiar.
@13 Kitten Whiskers: That's what Savage Love is all about.


Wow. Great fucking advice, Dan.
I see why they pay you.

You too, @4
but you're most likely pro bono
good pro bono tho.


@14 Grizelda Oh, I've noticed :) I enjoy all the sex (letters and comments) and hope I didn't sound snarky.


Good on you LW, congratulations on your sobriety.
You can’t stay with this man, no matter how entwined you are practically. He is not being fair, you have shown remorse and are working hard to turn your life around and he uses it all as an reason not to put the hard yards in to get off the gear himself. Whatever the gear is.
Watch an Australian movie called Candy. With the sweet and late Health Ledger and Abbie Cornish. She who caused a little havoc on hitting the US. This movie was made long before, and both show the ravages of addiction and recovery. They just couldn’t repair together.


I saw my dad work for years to give up smoking. It isn't illegal, but man is it hard to give up. That was with a supportive wife and a strong personal desire to move on by my dad. I don't think you can hang out with your trigger, aka your husband, and stay sober forever. It sucks that he doesn't want to get clean, but with that he is especially likely to eventually drag you back in.

Maybe, when you separate, he will find the means to get clean. Maybe he won't. But if you stay with him, odds are you will be using again, cheating again (because I bet that is linked to the using now) and eventually things will end up with either both of you just stealing from each other to get a fix, someone OD'ing, or best case, the divorce that could happen right now but with a lot more animosity and much less level heads.

But if you walk right now, you 1) have a better chance of not just staying sober but of actually changing your life, 2) can get out of this spiral while you have a level head even if you do go back to using (and let's be honest, that's going to be a real possibility for the rest of your life) and 3) are young enough to start over comparatively easly.

And it's not just you. Your -professional- marriage counselor thinks this isn't worth her or his time if he isn't getting help on his own. That's surely not a good sign for the longevity of your relationship as it now stands. It's also a reason to stop beating yourself up about the past and do what is right for you and maybe for your partner, aka separate now and take the opportunity to enter a new phase of your life, find some new friends (don't go back to whoever you cheated with) and be closer to the person you clearly want to be, without carrying temptation and blame around with you forever.

And PS: if this guy is using something you did, but aren't doing as an excuse to keep doing something that hurts you, be it physical harm or emotional hardship or temptation and it is not going to end, then your partner is abusive and you need to DTMF.


@16 Kitten Whiskers: You don't sound snarky at all. By the way, I love your screen name!


Reading between the lines: "Sex was a point of contention. I was unfaithful three times" and fast forward to him not having sex with her now, it sounds to me like the relationship had become sexless or near it when she cheated. LWs in this situation are often given passes (by Dan and by many of us commenters). Hubby is punishing her for cheating, at least six months after the fact, although she has made amends and shown she is trustworthy by not cheating while he denies her sex. Either he forgives her or he doesn't, and if he doesn't, there's no point in staying together. Separation seems a good next step, so that he can see whether he misses her enough to do his part in fixing their relationship or not.


Her husband has to be willing to deal with his addiction independently of everything--of the tap dripping; of the lack of support, or the too-ready and preempting support, of his mother; of the cat's illness; of his persnickety boss--and certainly of his wife's cheating--before the marriage becomes a goer.

A big issue to me is their lack of sex since CPOS's cheating was discovered. It’s possible he no longer wants to have sex with her. Her cheating changed something for him, perhaps--violated trust; made him reassess what they had together. He could also be withholding sex to punish her. Or as a desperate rationale for clinging onto his drug/alcohol abuse. In my relationships, as they've turned sour, sex has been one of the last things to go.

It’s also possible to me that CPOS has internalised the conventional morality about cheating too easily. Clearly, she didn't want to break with her husband. Maybe her cheating was ... a cry for help? A way to try to get through to him? To say their life had to change? Yes--do penance for it, apologise, explain, make amends; but if you can come to see it in this light, don't beat yourself up too much about it.... I also want to express my support and good wishes for the LW in her recovery and journey back to sobriety.


@6. ferret. Yes! Let her move on from that label.

@9. KittenWhiskers makes a good point. It’s not loving to be round your husband while he's using. It would be more loving to help him formulate a recovery plan and be more distantly there if he needs help or guidance enforcing it (alongside a more conventional sponsor or buddy).

@18. Phyzzi. Well said on all counts.


CPOS, I agree with Dan. Your husband of course needed some time after finding out about your dishonesty, but you shouldn't have to wait this long (6+ months?) for him to get help.

Some substances (alcohol for example) have the unfortunate affect of preventing emotional processing/psychological growth. In such a case you could wait forever for him to move forward.

I hear that "separation...feels too difficult", and I'm sure that for a while it would be even more difficult than the status quo, but I don't think it could be more difficult than living like this forever. And one way or another to be happy you need to stop living like this forever. You've 'grown apart', you're not compatible now.


One thing every recovery program, CAC, or psychologist treating people with addiction issues is that if you are in recovery do NOT continue to associate with people who are abusing drugs / alcohol.

It's not a matter of judgement about them. It's the simple fact that it will undermine your recovery, period.

If the LW is serious about her recovery and her husband is not then there is no real chance for them other than her falling off the wagon, which is not the outcome that would be best for anyone.

As hard and painful as it may be, walk away. At least if you value your life and sobriety.


YES! I strongly second what @24 said! I'm actually pretty shocked and disappointed that Dan didn't recommend the LW distance herself from her husband simply for the sake of her sobriety. The relationship, sex, etc are all secondary to her sobriety (which could very quickly end her life if she relapses. Don't believe me? Listen to the podcast "Dopey" - two dudes talking about their sobriety...right up until one of them dies from a relapse.) If he's still using, she needs to put as much physical and emotional distance between them as possible until he's also sober. Once they're both sober, they can get into therapy and begin to deal with the other issues in their relationship. But no sobriety, no relationship. It could LITERALLY kill her.


So, as someone with extensive experience with drug abuse issues, allow me to take a slightly different tack.

LW you very obviously feel guilty about the stuff you did while you were under the influence. Or maybe even stuff you did when you were NOT under the influence. You refer to yourself as a CPOS not once but twice (I'm not going to honor that even though it's the way you signed your letter, because that's not who you are now).

One reason addicts often stay together is that both sides builds up an arsenal of the the terrible things the other one has done that can be deployed strategically in arguments. "You did this terrible thing to me back then so you have to let me get my way now" is how that line goes. And because the other partner DID do that terrible thing and DOES feel awful about it, it often works.

But you see that part where feeling awful is built in? Yeah, that's where you are.

To stop that, BOTH sides need to agree to universal disarmament. Truly forgive and let it all go.

30 years after the Cold War ended, there's a reason why the US and Russia both still have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet and we still can't get along. Universal disarmament and forgiveness is HARD.

At the height of my own addiction, I was in a very long term relationship that was very financially entangled. My partner wasn't using. He desperately wanted me to quit. And he would sometimes do terrible things to make that happen. And I would use that against him. We got cast into our different roles within the relationship.

And when I finally did get my act cleaned up, one of the things I saw was that I couldn't return to the relationship or I'd very quickly go right back where I was before. Not because I wasn't willing to change, because HE wasn't. Even though the problem had been MY fault. So it had to end.

There are couples out there who find a way to make it work. That is true. And it possible that you and your partner are one of them. But the odds are extremely slim in the best of circumstances. And seeing how your partner has been acting over the last six months, I'd rate them as even slimmer than that. It's up to you whether you want to give him three months to change or get out now. My suggestion would be to get out now.


LW, are you in personal therapy? If so, have you raised this issue with your therapist?

"We've broached the idea of a temporary separation, but our lives are so intertwined that that feels too difficult."


Thanks for laying out @26, I learned some things.


Kitten Whiskers you’re getting my avatar all worked up (even though I know I shouldn’t be thinking about underaged kittens). Call me in 9 months when you’re ready to start breeding.


When when when will people learn that not regularly using drugs can destroy the most important relationships in their lives? Sure, sobriety can be fun and all, but at the end of the day, is it really worth the cost and pain it causes others? While I think they're free to abstain from psychoactive substances if they like, I do think the sober should consider the destruction they often leave behind them and take an honest moral inventory concerning whether they might want to seek help to address their disordered aversions to drug use and the chaos such irrational aversions can induce in their social circles.


A perverse thought. Maybe he gave her a second chance so that he could punish her for her cheating on him


@19 why thank you!

@ 29 your avatar already looked pretty worked up. It's hard out here for a pim- kitten.


LW, I am not certain if this is too long after the OP for you to read this, but I hope that it gets to you. I have been a longtime reader of Savage Love, but this is the first post where I ever felt a real need to reply.

I have been in recovery for over a decade now, and I have been in a relationship with someone who has relapsed multiple times for the majority of that time. We have had our own share of issues, some similar to what you discussed.

I want you to know that, as you refer to yourself as a CPOS, that we are not responsible for what we do in our addiction, but that we are responsible for our recovery, and for what we do in our recovery. I am sure that it feels like your partner is being selfish and manipulative, and he is, but the truth is that he is using whatever is available to make his continued use OK. This is not a situation that is going to right itself any time soon. We have a saying, He is going to pull you down before you can pick him up. You cannot make him get clean, just as he cannot make you use. That does not mean that dealing with the pain of the situation will not make using a more and more appealing option as the pain continues to build.

You have not been clean long enough to have developed the coping skills necessary for this situation and I fear for you. My relationship eventually worked out, my fiance has now been clean for almost two years, but even she didn't thank me for continuing to coddle and enable her throughout her addiction. My biggest regret doesn't even pertain to myself and my fiance, but that so many other people in my circle saw us "working", and decided that they two could make staying with a using addict work. This worked well for no one else.

I hope you break away for your own safety and sanity. The best perspective I can offer, and what I assume others in recovery are telling you, is that losing you MAY finally be the straw that gets your partner to seek help for himself. This is not a burden you can take on, nor should it be.

As an aside, I also wonder what drugs your partner is doing, and if they have changed or if he is taking more now, as certain substances have a MAJOR impact on how much someone wants to have sex.

The long story short is that if you had not cheated, but had still gotten clean, that he would be too stressed out from work so it wouldn't be a good time ... or dealing with family ... or he would manufacture fights with you and be too upset right now to try to stop. You CANNOT blame yourself for his lack of desire to get clean, it is a pretense, nothing more.

Please take care of yourself and continue on with your treatment.