Monday, November 14, 2011

Happiness In the Wake of Betrayal

There was a time I doubted it was possible. How could I ever – EVER! – get past what he did. I couldn't, I was sure. I resigned myself to a life half-lived, to gritting my teeth and sacrificing my own happiness so that my kids could remain in an intact home.
The truth is I felt trapped, afraid to actually take steps to end the marriage, and decided to assume the role of martyr. Blech.
In moments of candor I admitted that I believed marriage was a lifetime commitment (that's not to say I blame anyone for walking out of a marriage that kills their soul). And I desperately wanted my family to remain intact. I also, thanks to years of childhood training by alcoholic-turned-former-alcoholic parents, believed in the power of people to change. To become as wonderful as I always thought they could be. And though I'd learned the hard way that this change had to come from their desire not from my wishful thinking, old habits die hard.
I also kept working. As did my husband. On communicating. On healing. On creating true intimacy. On learning who each other really was. On accepting myself and him...just as we are.
It was hard. Exhausting. Demoralizing at times. Wonderful at others.
And, recently,  I realized that I'm something I never thought I could be again. Happy.
I had thought I might achieve contentment. A sort of acceptance that life wasn't so bad. But I never expected to experience the joy I had in the "before" part of my life.
And it's not the same. I'm not sure I'll ever ride those highs again. But then again, perhaps I will. Because I'm well and truly happy. Not just content. But full of joy and hope and eager to watch the rest of my life unfold.
My marriage feels...solid. My husband is someone I'm falling in love with all over again. He's surprised me in ways that are miraculous after 15 years of marriage. He has become, as he promised me he would try, the "man you already believed I was."
To all those wondering if it's possible – wondering as I did if all those reports of a "marriage even better than before" was total Pollyanna BS – I'm happy to report it is indeed possible. Even, with a lot of hard work on both sides, probable.
I told my husband about a week ago that I really feel as if those horrible days/weeks/years following D-Day are now just part of the fabric of our life together. Not the predominant pattern, simply a part.
I'm on the other side.


  1. I'm so happy for you. Your posts have provided much-needed perspective and hope over the past few months for this betrayed wife. I'll settle for contentment with flashes of happiness right now. My sincere wishes for your successful and happy new marriage.

  2. Thanks for giving the rest of us still deep in the trenches some hope. Very, very happy for you. It's been a long time coming your way.

  3. I am SO HAPPY for you! I have high hopes to be where you are now... This post just made my day... thank you!

  4. Thank-you. This blog has done a lot to help me get to this point. To know that there are others like me – really wonderful women who were blindsided by betrayal just like I – has made this journey a whole lot less lonely.
    And there have been plenty of time when comments have given me a much needed injection of hope and purpose. So thank-YOU...

  5. I want to thank you for this site, as it has helped me through a dark time. I look forward to your posts and, although I wish betrayal on no one, it is nice to read about how other wives have gotten through a husband's affair. I especially liked this last post about finally being happy, again. I also feel like I am happy in my marriage and with my husband. It has been almost two years since I discovered his affair. I guess I am lucky, (if you can call anything lucky in regard to an affair) but, my husband's affair was short lived and he ended it when I made the discovery. The OW was also married, but feeling neglected from her spouse, so she found an old boyfriend, my husband, on FB. I knew they were communicating, but did not realize they had gotten together a couple of times to have sex. She lived a couple of hours away and was married, so I mistakenly wasn't too alarmed by the contact. At any rate, I became concerned when I discovered they were texting quite alot, did an investigation on my own and discovered there was more to this new found FB friend. My husband told me that he was also feeling neglected, as I was always busy with the kids and he felt cast aside. So, I guess the two of them turned to one another for some much needed attention. Neat! I think talking to me about the distance that had developed in our relationship would have been the wiser choice, but clearly my husband was thinking with the wrong head. But, once I found out, he ended the tryst and apologized over and over for the terrible "mistake" (choice), he had made. He never wanted to leave his family or me, but apparently just wanted a little on the side! So, after marriage counseling and lots of open communcation, we have found a way back to our marriage and why we loved each other in the first place. We have two great kids who need their mom and dad, so we have made the effort to reconnect. And, for us it has worked. My husband has done EVERYTHING I have asked him to do, in order to make amends. That is how I know he is truly so sorry and wants to make our marriage work and even, maybe, make it better. So, as much as the affair has torn me apart, in ways we are closer than ever and because we were so close to the edge, we have worked together to crawl back. I understand what you are saying...even after an affair, things can work out. I also read a very powerful book called "The Power of Now" and realized I did not want to dwell in the past, full of anger and sorrow, but wanted to live my life to the fullest, now. And, now includes my husband, so I am working to make it be a great marriage and trying to put most of that dark time behind me. It still surfaces it's ugly head and my husband and I talk during those times. (I never told my family or many friends about the affair, so I have suffered alot in silence. I just couldn't deal with others advice, whether it was to stay or to go.)
    Again, I thank you for your posts and for those of you who are in the midst of just finding out, I wish you you best on whatever decision you make. Either way, with time and a good counselor, you too will find happiness, again.

  6. As a lurker, I have been following your blog for 9 months and have gone thru the entire archive finding wisdom and parallels in so much of what you've written (as well as the thoughtful comments by readers). Counseling and books have been only marginally helpful during my 2 1/2 years of dealing with this. But your site has always been Hopeful. It had been disheartening to read of 3-5 years before really feeling healed. But knowing that you have actually gotten to a point of feeling joy again is so encouraging. Thanks so much for put it out there for us.

  7. Thank-you so much for commenting. I hope this site is a place of safety and compassion...and a place where we all gain from each other's experience and wisdom.
    I remember feeling completely disheartened by the three-to-five year schedule. I figured I could fast-track...or skip it altogether by leaving.
    Turns out...neither. It'll be five years this December. Within that five years, I've also dealt with the death of my mother and a second D-day, where I found out my husband was a sex addict, not simply a garden-variety philanderer. So I'm sure that moved me somewhat back on my healing trajectory.
    But feels really wonderful. I'm bursting these days. Almost like the "old" me.

  8. Thank you for sharing it gives me a ray of hope. I still cry everyday and wonder how to keep going. I keep looking to have one day where the affair doesn't haunt me.

  9. Yes, that day will definitely come. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and work hard to maintain your own sense of self-respect and dignity...and the rest will happen. Either your husband will join you in mending the marriage or you'll have the strength/will to be on your own. Either way, the affair will become something that happened, rather than something that defines you.

  10. Reading your blog is helping me a lot. But, my husband died before I found out. I do feel like a complete idiot that I trusted him and believed all of his lies to explain away my suspicions. When I got tired of being treated like I was nobody, he refused to give me a divorce. For 26 years I let him tell me it was me being insecure, reading things the wrong way. And I can't even tell him how much pain he has caused. I don't understand how to get these thoughts out of my head.

    1. Joy,

      I'm so glad my blog is helping. Being in this place can be lonely – we certainly need each other to get through.
      You've got a lot to deal with. You can't even go through a "normal" grieving" process. It must be hard to hear the typical "he was a good man" stuff without wanting to scream.
      One notion that I stumbled on literally days after finding out about my husband's affair was living in the present. Sounds all new-agey when all I wanted was pure unbridled anger...but it allowed me space to catch my breath. I was in a bookstore trying to find a book about how to deal with a cheating husband when I found The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle's book. It's a tough read (his Oprah-endorsed New Earth book is easier...but not as powerful, I think). A heavy dose of living in the moment might be exactly what you need right now. You can' undo what happened...and not even being able to express your pain to the person who caused it must be incredibly frustrating. That said, expressing your pain to someone who can't or won't acknowledge it is pretty darn frustrating too. There's no easy way out of this, no matter our circumstances. All we can do is try to focus on where we are right now...acknowledge our own painful past...and try to move forward into a life that matters. And the only way to do that is to remind ourselves, constantly at first, that right now we are fine. We can still feel pain, rage, frustration, hurt, confusion...without letting it define us.
      You've certainly got a situation that's more complicated on one level...but on another, you don't have to deal with what many others do: wondering if he's still cheating, wondering if he's telling the truth, wondering if you can ever trust him again. I don't mean to sound cavalier because, lousy marriage or not, losing a partner is painful. But in some ways you're now free to create the life you were meant to live.
      I think you need to excavate a lot of rage about how you were treated all those get to a place where you can accept that all of that is behind you.

  11. Thank you for giving me hope. I spent last evening crying and feeling crushed and hopeless again, for what feels like the millionth time. As the one year anti-versary of D-day approaches, I sometimes feel like it will never get better. It really helps to have reassurance from someone who has been there that I really will be happy again one day. Your life story is much like mine, and everything you write resonates so much with me. Thank you for this blog.


  12. It's been 5 months since D-day. We had our 2nd marriage counseling yesterday. My counselor asked me to learn to love and hate my husband at the same time. No one is perfect. She also gave me an assignment to talk to my husband 2 times in a week for about 15-20 minutes, not about the affair and not about work. I felt it is so hard. I still feel he is a very disgusting person. I don't want to face him. Could you give me suggestions regarding how your every day life looked like and what I should force myself to do? Am I normal? I am totally shut down....

    1. Anonymous,
      While I think your counsellor is well-intentioned, I think she might be pushing you to do things you're not ready to do. I think it's fair to ask you to have conversations with him that aren't about the affair, assuming you're also able to have conversations with him, in which he's totally open and honest and supportive, about the affair. Otherwise, it's the elephant in the room.
      I had to wait to go into marriage counselling. It took quite a while (a couple of years?) before I felt ready for it. Instead, we each focussed on individual counselling -- where I got to process all my rage and disgust and sadness, and he dealt with why he had made such horrible choices. By the time we went for counselling, I could see that he was someone I could respect for all the courage he'd shown and work he'd done. I'm not sure I could have done that at 5 months.
      My advice? Don't "force" yourself to do anything. You have been so deeply wounded and your priority absolutely needs to be your own healing. Figure out how to access all that pain so that you don't need to "shut down" in order to function. Focus on you -- self-care, kindness, mercy. I wonder if, once you take the pressure off yourself to like this guy who broke your heart, you might find the odd thing about him that isn't so bad.



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