A friend of mine cheated on her husband, and she hasn't even been married a year. Before marriage they dated for years and even lived together. I know she loves her husband. So far, she hasn't told him about the affair, which she says is now over. She confided in me because I'm a good friend and a good listener. I've also been happily married for more than a decade. I just don't know what I should say to her. She says the man she had an affair with paid more attention to her. I don't think she has a very realistic view of what marriage is, but I don't want to tell her the wrong thing. Maybe if she had some objective advice, she might get some insight into what to do to save her marriage.
-- Too Close to Be Objective.
Dear Too Close:
I don't know how objective my opinion is, but I certainly have a whole lot to say. From what you've told me, I think she has some romantic notions of marriage that are impossible to maintain. It sounds so simplistic, but it's true: Dating, even living together, is nothing like being married. Dating can help you find the right partner, but nothing prepares you for marriage except being thrust into it.
I don't have anything to contribute about living together. She is one of the rare people who actually got married after living together. That's a rare statistic. She seems well on her way to becoming a more common statistic: Those who lived together first are more likely to get divorced.
If your friend wants to stay married, what she needs to accept is that the high that comes in the beginning of a relationship doesn't last. In a good marriage it's replaced with a comfort and security and a peaceful kind of love. Going outside of her marriage to get attention or sex was merely an attempt to recreate that high. I think even she knows that. And she did the right thing by breaking it off.
Now the tough part. What should she tell her husband and how can she improve things so she isn't tempted to stray again? A strong marriage can survive infidelity. But we have an X factor here. I don't know the husband, and I don't know how he would react. If my man cheated on me so early in the marriage, I would probably bash his head in with a frying pan and file for divorce immediately. But that's just me.
Is there any way the husband may find out about the affair on his own? If yes, then she may want to confess, because if he hears about it another way -- from the fling, or it just gets blurted out at an inopportune time -- she can just about guarantee her spouse is going to walk.
Let's say the husband will never find out unless she is the one who tells him. I recommend not telling him specifically about the infidelity, but they should definitely talk about her feelings and why marriage is not the rave she thought it was going to be. If she is disillusioned already, it's going to get worse. I even recommend counseling. Actually, I strongly recommend premarital counseling for everyone, but it's too late for that here, so marital therapy now is the only option.
Ultimately your friend must decide. Does she wants a man who will fawn over her and give his undivided attention? Or one who will hold her hair back when she vomits and make her some tea? I say do what ever it takes to get the latter.