Project Happily Ever After, following a post by a therapist on how to cope with an affair. Even I, who rarely has opinions on this sort of thing (cough, cough) weighed in.
But I'm astounded at the number of commenters, clearly in pain, who apologize for entering the debate because their husbands "only" had an emotional affair.
My father "only" had an emotional affair, but it unmoored by formerly invincible mother enough to launch her into a decade-long alcoholic-and-prescription-drug stupor. He never could quite get why she was so affected by it. My mom and I talked a lot about it as adults because that one event, quite literally, altered the trajectory of our lives.
My mother, after a childhood of abandonment (father died at five, mother left her with various relatives, she started a new school every year of her childhood...) finally felt safe. My father adored her. And she him. So when he began lying (overtly and by omission) to spend time with a "friend" at work who was going through a tough time, it devastated her and destroyed her sense of safety.
And that, my friends, is what affairs do – whether they involve torrid sex, tepid sex or no sex at all. They are a trust violation, which is the worst form of betrayal.
My own husband had sex all over the place with all sorts of people. Yet it's the fact that he could lie to my face and that he was willing, on some level, to lose me that's been the hardest thing to overcome. Once I managed to get the mind movies out of my head (in which the sex was always anatomically impossible but wildly exciting, I was sure), I was left with the feeling of total fear. I no longer felt safe.
So to all those of you who are beating yourselves up for being completely unhinged by "only" an emotional affair, I say you need to look at the situation as a trust violation and recognize that such a betrayal is devastating, no matter the details.
And stop apologizing for your feelings. You can't control those. Actions, yes. You can definitely control those (though it may not feel like it in the early days following D-Day, when you find yourself shredding wedding photos, rifling through old receipts and doing other crazy things apparently without any control at all!) But your feelings simply are. And anyone with blood coursing in their veins is going to feel like hell when they discover an affair.
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