Cheating Husbands Confess

We first met Burton and Suzy on the show Back from Betrayal. Suzy decided to stay in their 30-year marriage after she discovered Burton had been cheating on her over a period of 15 years with three different women. Suzy explains the difference between forgiving and forgetting.

Suzy: I don't ever want to forget. Remembering the pain that I went through helps me remember the many blessings and lessons that came with it. There is a big difference between forgiving and forgetting. You forgive for yourself. You forgive because you who harbors the anger is suffering much more than the person at whom you're angry.

Oprah: It's interesting that you say that, because I think so many women do want to forget. They want to put it of your mind, move on as though it never happened…and you're saying that you can't really do that.

Suzy: While I was going through the experience, it's so terrible, it's so devastating, I would have swallowed any pill that you could have given me that would have just instantly obliterated this whole thing from my mind. But having been through this whole process and seeing the difference it's made in me and my relationship, I'm grateful for it.

Fred met Linda when he was still married. "I was not a very loyal husband to my first wife," he said. Linda explained, "He gave me the impression the marriage was on the rocks." So, Linda married him and any concerns she had she pushed aside. They had a baby boy, now 6 years old, but it didn't take very long for Fred to betray Linda, too.

"I had been married to Linda about a year when I met the other woman. We ended up being together that first night…and stayed together for over five years. She was my best friend. She was my lover. She was just a part of me." Fred began blatantly hanging out in bars with his girlfriend, often not coming home until 4 in the morning.

Just months ago, Linda discovered that her husband had been cheating for most of their seven years of marriage. "I never had a clue," Linda says. "I guess I should have known then, but I trusted him." She hasn't kicked him out yet. Can their marriage be saved?

Even though Fred betrayed her and their marriage, even moving in with his mistress for a while, Linda feels that it isn't personal. While she says she feels she contributed to the problem by being disengaged in their relationship after their son's birth, she says their life is actually pretty good. The only problem with their marriage, Linda says, is his infidelity. "This is a problem with him and his need for this adrenaline rush, his need for excitement… I consider this immaturity."

Dr. Gail Saltz, author of Becoming Real, says, "Linda, I don't think you like yourself very much. The reason I say that is you're saying the problem is about him. It is his problem, but he's doing it to you. It's really a form of abuse. Betrayal, rejection, repeated abandonment. … He moves out, abandoning you, abandoning your child…that is emotional abuse. If it was this problem that he hit you, it might come from something inside of him, but it would still be your problem. I don't see this as a workable situation."

Even though Fred has left his mistress, he says it's a work in progress and he's still wrestling with the feelings he has for her. Fred said that under the right circumstances, and if Linda didn't find out, he might cheat again.

"Absolutely no good. There is no marriage if there is no honesty," says Dr. Saltz. "If you are not willing to go do the intense work that it would take to change yourself, whatever it is…doing these risk-taking behaviors, and frankly not being respectful at all to women…. Unless you're willing to look at what drives you to do this, which probably, we see a common theme here, has something to do with fending off depression, anxiety. That's very common when they talk about those addictive feelings. It's a need to push away very negative disturbing feelings by doing repetitive, exciting behaviors. Unless you're willing to look at that and make real changes in yourself, there's no shot here, I'd say."

As we heard last spring from David and Andrew, Suzy and Burton's sons, infidelity not only affects the spouse, but the children.

Dr. Saltz explains to Linda, "Your son is going to grow up and cheat and he's going to treat women like garbage, because that's the lesson you're giving him. You're not demanding any respect for yourself. You're not telling him I like myself and this is the way I expect my partner to treat me."

Of Fred and Linda's situation, Burton says from experience, "The story itself, when you look at it and try to be logical, you would say there is no hope….I believe the reason that we were able to get back together is that Suzy decided that she was going to take care of herself. And when she did that, it made me react, saying that if she's going to take care of herself, I better do something too, or I'm gone. It was really the beginning of this connection, of this relationship to start up again…and to work through the problems….

"If you [each] find a way to take care of yourself, to find love within yourself, peace within yourself, once you get there, you then can come together and find love for each other. It's a long program. It took us years and we work on it every single day. … You find first this feeling inside that you trust yourself. I wouldn't be hung up on whether you trust him or he trusts you, I would be more concerned about trusting yourself. And once you get there where you really trust yourself and you're working together, then there is an opportunity to be a couple and to be in love and to move forward."

Dr. Gail Saltz says there are a few simple questions you must ask yourself if you're in an unfaithful marriage.

"You need to know: Who? Why? The basic, where it happened? Do you love her? Is it over?

"The answer to 'Is is over?' really has to be 'Yes.' The person [having the affair], a man or a woman, has to give up that other person. As you hear, it can be very difficult. I hope this is a warning, to some degree, to people who are even thinking about having an affair, because there is a myth out there that some people believe it will spice up their relationship. They think that it will actually help their marriage when they are feeling bored. But it never, never works that way. And so you need to end it and, unfortunately, sometimes that means you get hurt. And that other person who is involved gets hurt."

To help the healing process, Dr. Saltz says you should only know the basic details of your spouses' affair. If you know too little or too much, your fantasies will run away. "I recommend against getting the gory details. That's not good. What that does is basically create new memory trauma. Recovering from this is almost like recovering from post traumatic stress disorder. It's a traumatic event."