Retired Soldier: My Wife Cheated on Me

Ms. Vicki
Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I'm retired Army. My wife and I have been married for 17 years. During that time, we had to endure separations due to me being in the field or deployed.

After I retired, I had trouble finding work. I was eventually hired by the Military Sealift Command. I'm doing very well in this job; however, it requires me to be away from home for months at a time.

My wife feels I am being unfair to her because of the job I have, but she also travels throughout the state for her work. I strongly believe if I were at home wallowing away in self-pity, giving into despair because I wasn't able to find work, then I would also be unfair to her.

During my last time home, I looked for work on land. I haven't found anything close to what I currently do that compares to what I make.

The ultimate part of this is that she has cheated on me. And she "justifies” her actions by saying we have argued throughout the years of our marriage and I have not shown her any appreciation for what she has done.

I will admit, I was wrong for not showing her appreciation throughout the years. I'm trying to make up for this, if such a thing is possible.

Plus she forgot that I spent time in war. I suffer from depression because of it, and I am currently receiving mental health treatment.

My wife says she still loves me and that this is a complicated issue. The fact of the matter is, regardless of the "complication," she cheated on her husband.

I have never cheated on her. I asked her if she wants a divorce; she says she doesn't want one. I asked her if she wants me to quit MSC; she said no. 

I love her. I don't want to lose her, but I don't like the fact I feel she's avoiding the issue. In other words, I don't know what to do from here.

-- Soldier/Mariner

Dear Soldier,

I’m really sorry to hear this. Cheating in a marriage is serious. This situation is worse because your wife is justifying her behavior and doesn’t appear to be accepting responsibility. Moreover, she is not behaving in a way that shows she is trying to fix the problems in your marriage.

In my opinion, this is immature behavior from a woman who has been married for 17 years. Your wife is also acting like she is confused, like she is not sure if she wants to stay married.

This reminds me of one thing I see frequently among my clients. Military service means that the service member can be deployed several times during their military career. They can be assigned to faraway schools and trainings and time in the field. They can do a tour or two as a geographic bachelor.

What I find among some of my clients is that the service member's absences helped sustain the marriage.

Surprised? Look at it this way: If you are gone/not home, you and your spouse can avoid dealing with tough issues in the relationship. The problems never get solved. They only get transferred to the next duty station, and the cycle continues.

There are unresolved issues in your marriage that have to be resolved if your marriage is going to survive.

You should also know that marriages can survive cheating and infidelity. Many do and emerge much stronger. Yours can too, but this has to be handled by two mature adults who love each other (hopefully, you do).

Now here’s something else that is very important: You have to take care of yourself. You should continue to take your medication and visit your therapist. Your therapist should be able to help you get marriage counseling.

Hopefully, your wife will agree to participate. If she doesn’t, then your therapist should be able to provide you support and insight and connect you with the correct resources if a divorce is imminent.

I hope things will get better in your marriage. Please keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing.

-- Ms. Vicki

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