My husband has a child by another woman
Dear Dr Pam,
I’ve just had a month of hell because I found out that my husband has a child by another woman!
She was dating a family friend and we would go on double dates from time to time. My husband always said how funny and nice she is but because she was quite young (in her twenties) and he is generally a friendly person, I never thought that he might actually fancy her. After a few months together, our family friend broke up with her and we never heard of her again…up until now that is.
One night my husband came from work really worried, at first he didn’t want to tell me what was wrong but finally he confessed the truth – after our friend broke up with that woman, my husband met up with her once and they had drinks. He tried to cheer her up because she was still very upset about the end of the relationship. One thing led to another and they ended up having drunken sex.
My husband told me that she had called him and said that she is expecting his child. My first reaction was: ‘It’s not yours!’ But apparently she hasn’t slept with anyone else since and she’d also agreed to take a DNA test if necessary.
I’m beyond devastated and I have no idea what to do. My husband begs me on daily basis not to leave him but this just changed our relationship and the way I see him. The fact that we don’t have any children although we’ve been trying for a while is making this even harder...
Now I don’t even know what I should be angrier about - the fact he cheated on me or the baby news! I still love him and I don't want this to ruin my marriage but is it wise to stay with him?
Dear 'beyond devastated',
My heart absolutely goes out to you - this is a nightmare situation. As you say it's hard to disentangle what hurts more: the fact that he cheated or the fact that he's potentially fathered a baby when you two have been trying.
The very first thing I’d say is he must insist on a paternity test. You simply shouldn't take the word of a woman who'd have drunken sex with a married man. Who knows who else she's had sex with? You should tell him that this is a prerequisite for any discussion of you two staying together - even if you haven't been insisting so far.
So how do you move forward? Let's put aside the very painful issue of paternity because you cannot know 100% until after that test. The first thing any couple should do after infidelity - if there's any chance they'll stay together (and you say you don't want this to ruin your marriage) is to explore in an emotionally safe way why the cheating happened. I say 'emotionally safe' because you won't get very far if you're having a massive row trying to get to the bottom of why he cheated.
There needs to be a point where you both feel calm enough to discuss it sensibly and rationally. 'Sensible and rational' is a tall order when you probably feel in a state of emotional chaos.
- My first tip is to wait until you reach that point - and can really discuss things honestly - before you decide once and for all if you want to put 100% effort into saving your marriage.
- When you get to this point of discussing things honestly you need to feel in control of how much detail you want about what happened. Some people want all the details leading up to the cheating and exactly what happened with the sex, etc. Others want to avoid any gory detail that might upset them further. This should be up to you - he must respect you setting boundaries on what you want to know.
- Some classic reasons why people have these drunken flings have to be faced head on and can be quite traumatic: they were sexually bored so looked elsewhere, they felt neglected, they were going through a phase where they really didn't care about their partner so thought 'why not?', they have a drinking problem and alcohol was the gateway to making bad choices, or they had a stupid moment where they took an opportunity that was presented.
- Don't present these reasons to him - instead ask him what was going on in his head when this happened. If he was so drunk he can't recall he needs to think about whether he has a drink problem. Or if he gives you that reason - and you think he's using that as an excuse not to tell you the truth - you need to press him for the truth. And let's be honest here - if he was that drunk how did he have full sex?
- Let him know that honesty is the only thing that can help understand why this happened. And tell him this honesty may show both of you were neglecting each other. That's NO excuse for cheating but it certainly doesn't help!
- Once you have a clearer understanding you have a stronger platform for make a decision about the future. Hold on to this thought.
- You may decide relationship counselling will help or you may feel you two are getting through it together. Consider relationship counselling if you find you're not making progress.
- Lean on your most trusted friends or family members for support while going through this. Don't let pride stop you and isolate you from people that might give you much needed support.
- If they stick their oar in, in an unhelpful way, like saying you must be crazy to stay with him, let them know that's not helpful.
Final tip: if you can get through discussions with him over what went wrong and get back on an even keel - plus he shows he really means to make it up to you and is remorseful - I think you'll find you can face whatever the outcome of the paternity test is.
Do let me know what happens - I'm really wishing you the very best,
Dr Pam x
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