Q: My wife has had multiple affairs over the past 10 years. She wants to put things back together; we still love each other. I'm having a hard time trusting her due to the fact that it has happened more than once. What are some things we can do to mend our relationship?
Juli: Recovering from infidelity is a long and involved process. You're right to be hesitant, given the fact that your wife has been unfaithful more than once throughout your history together. Sometimes a spouse can be in a pattern of cheating, getting caught, being remorseful, and falling into the cheating again after the marriage has gone back to "normal." In your efforts to repair your marriage, you need to make certain that you're breaking this pattern.
My guess is that you are a very forgiving person, but you may have been so quick to forgive in the past that you offered a superficial version of it. You can only forgive as much as you acknowledge the offense and the pain that it has caused you. You cannot forgive an affair in a week, in a month or maybe not even in a year. It takes time and vulnerability to understand how deeply infidelity wounds a marriage and a family.
It's also critical that you require a true change of behavior from your wife. There's a big difference between a person who is remorseful because she got caught and one who genuinely accepts responsibility for her horrendous behavior. Initially, you can't tell the difference between the two. There will be tears and promises regardless.
Your wife needs time and accountability to prove to you that this time will be different. How does she do that? This is where counseling comes into the picture. She'll be willing to work through what caused her bad decisions in the first place, and she'll be willing to abide by boundaries that a qualified marriage counselor helps you determine.
Be encouraged. Marriages do survive infidelity, even multiple affairs. However, substantial change is not easy and will require dedication and effort from both of you.
Q: When I was growing up I always received an allowance, and I'd like our school-aged kids to start earning one as well. But my husband says they need to work without being paid, because that's part of being in a family. What do you think?
Jim: There's no right or wrong answer here. Some parents offer a weekly allowance, others pay only for occasional big chores, and still others pay nothing whatsoever, choosing instead to give their kids money for purchases based on their overall attitude and helpfulness.
Whatever system you adopt, it's important to remember that one of your major goals as parents is to prepare your kids to live in the real world -- which will include earning and managing money. With that in mind, perhaps you and your husband can compromise. It's reasonable to expect kids to perform certain tasks around the house simply because they're part of the family. This might include cleaning their own rooms, picking up their toys, and taking out the trash.
On the other hand, it's a good idea to pay children for chores that demand more time and energy. Depending on your kids' ages, this might pertain to activities such as mowing the lawn, washing the car or, in the case of a responsible teenager, baby-sitting a younger sibling for the afternoon.
There are also resources available to help kids learn the value of hard work and basic money management skills. Regardless of whether you decide to start paying an allowance, it's important that you teach your kids these principles sooner rather than later. For more on helping kids manage money, visit Focus on the Family's website, Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org) or Dave Ramsey's website (www.daveramsey.com).
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)
(Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com)