Infidelity is difficult enough to deal with in a marriage. In fact, many therapists specializing in couples' treatment classify infidelity cases among “their greatest clinical challenges,” according to “Treating Affair Couples: Clinical Considerations and Initial Findings,” a study published 2006 in the “Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, An International Quarterly.” When a pregnancy results from an affair, the situation becomes exponentially more complex. Choosing to make the marriage work after infidelity is a two-person decision because success requires hard work from each partner. Working in partnership with a therapist can help.
Look Within to Be Sure
Making a marriage work with a husband who fathered a child during an affair will demand a lot from you. Take some time for deep, honest reflection on just how much you can or want to give. Unlike other situations involving infidelity, with the new baby, the affair can't really be fully left behind. The baby and his mother will be a part of your life for years to come. That's something you need to be sure that you are willing and able to live with. Think about forgiveness and what it means to you, reflecting upon your capacity and willingness to forgive your husband. If the affair is forgiven, that places it firmly in the past and, according to “Treating Affair Couples: Clinical Considerations and Initial Findings,” there should be no more punishment for it.
Discuss Perceptions and Definitions
You and your husband quite likely perceive the affair and the baby very differently; you may also have differing perceptions of what needs to be done to make your marriage work. Communication is important, but its effectiveness will be limited without shared definitions. If your husband considers forgiveness of the affair to mean things will proceed as though it never happened and your definition differs, or if you define taking responsibility for the baby as paying child support and his definition is joint custody, there will be conflict. With each issue the two of you face going forward, discuss individual perceptions and definitions. This will help reduce conflict because your actions will be based on shared expectations.
Present a United Front
There are two basic elements to healing after an affair -- the ending of the affair and the restoration of trust. Completely cutting ties with the person with whom your spouse had the affair is the standard recommendation. However, a baby means your husband has obligations. Meet these obligations together, as a couple, with no private interaction -- including phone calls, emails and texts -- between your husband and the baby's mother without your consent. That way, the process of rebuilding trust isn't threatened. Presenting a united front to the baby's mother makes it clear that the interaction is about the baby and that the affair is definitively over. Be courteous and polite to her, but keep firm boundaries that your husband is equally active in maintaining. Limit contact with the mother by using the baby's day care site or a family member's or friend's house as a visitation pick-up and drop-off place.
Love the Child
Loving the child is going to be important to making your marriage work. Being born of an affair isn't the baby's fault, and the child shouldn't be deprived of a loving father. Making your husband choose between your marriage and the child isn't fair, and it will damage your relationship. Your husband and the child will be able to tell the difference between polite tolerance and genuine feeling, so work towards actually loving the child. Through your actions, make it clear that your husband can love the baby without upsetting you. Let him see you admiring, playing with and caring for the baby. Use that same positive approach when speaking to the baby and, of course, never speak badly about his mother within his hearing. Come together to make the raising of this child something you do and enjoy as a couple.
- Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, An International Quarterly: Treating Affair Couples: Clinical Considerations and Initial Findings
- Psychology Today: Redefining Reality: Psychology, Science and Solipsism
- Australian Institute of Professional Counselors: Coping With Infidelity, A Life Effectiveness Guide
- Beyond Affairs, Surviving Infidelity and Recovering From Affairs: When There is a Child From an Affair
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images