Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How My Husband's Affair Was Good For Me

“So whatever you do, don’t shut off your pain; accept your pain and remain vulnerable. However desperate you become, accept your pain as it is, because it is in fact trying to hand you a precious gift: the chance of discovery, through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow. ~Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Kinda sounds crazy, doesn't it? Opening yourself up to your pain? We human beings will do just about anything to avoid feeling pain. We'll shop. We'll eat. We'll inject chemicals into our veins. We'll have affairs. We'll watch TV. We'll check e-mail every five seconds. Anything to avoid feeling that horrible sense of loss, or emptiness, or betrayal. 
And yet, teacher after teacher, from Jesus through Buddha through Eckhart Tolle through Rinpoche, tells us to do exactly that. To open ourselves up to the pain we're feeling. To let it wash over us and in so doing, realize finally that it won't wash us away. That when it has passed – and it will pass – we'll still be standing. What's more, we'll be standing with the awareness that we are bigger than that. That we can withstand pain/loss/betrayal more excruciating than we ever imagined. Pain that brought us to our knees doesn't haven't to keep us there. 
What I'm not advocating is obsessing. I'm not suggesting that you pour over the details of your husband's affair like a forensic detective – seeking out every detail, every possible scenario. That is called pain shopping it's not feeling pain but manufacturing it. It's distracting you from feeling because it's giving you the illusion that you're doing something. You're not. You have all the evidence you need right now.
What I am advocating is to let yourself get in touch with that tiny part of you that  has likely spent a lifetime avoiding exactly the type of pain you're experiencing now. That part of you that was, perhaps, betrayed by a parent. Or a sibling. Or someone else close to you when you were a kid and who you trusted – indeed needed – to keep you safe. And they didn't. 
The women who struggle the most to get past betrayal are, I believe, those for whom betrayal reopens old wounds that many of us pretend we don't even have.
And I'm about to say something even crazier than opening yourself up to pain. What I'm going to say is as shocking to me as to anyone else.
My husband's affairs were good for me. 
If it wasn't for me finally facing long-buried pain and shame from childhood, I wouldn't be – perhaps – the happiest I've ever been. No, not happy. Happy is for birthdays. But peaceful. I've never felt so at peace with myself and at home in the world. 
It's a wonderful feeling...and a new one for me.
And it's because I allowed the pain to wash over me. To fearfully (there was nothing fearless about it!) go back and revisit all the pain from being betrayed as a kid that was triggered by my husband's betrayal. 
And what I discovered was that I survived. It was horrible and painful and confusing and frightening and no child should feel like that ever...but I survived.
You did too.
And you'll survive this as well.


  1. Thank you for this. I am in the first 3 months after learning my husband had an affair with my best friend for 9 months. I was pregnant with our first child when the affair began. Its so shocking to me still. We are trying to work things out because he is doing everything to make this marriage work. However I find myself obsessing over every detail. It's like a broken record playing over and over in my head of how did this happen and how could he have done this to me. I can only hope and pray that I will be where you are one day. I use to say I was a very happy person. Now I feel empty and resentful. I like to read your posts because it gives me hope for a better tmrw. Maybe one day I will feel happy with my life again. And look at my husband the way I use to. Lovingly.

    1. Shanna,

      I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I'm always amazed at how often it's pregnant women/new moms who have to deal with this. As if taking care of a baby isn't enough stress!
      The "mind movies" can be killers -- obsessing over every detail. And they ultimately serve no purpose except to keep you locked in pain.
      At this point, it sounds as if you know everything you need to know. Now's the time to look forward.
      Focus on your baby, making sure to take care of yourself first and foremost. Your husband's affair was about making an incredibly bad (and painful) choice...but ultimately was about HIM, not you.
      If you can use this to figure out why he would seek elsewhere what he could have in his marriage -- and perhaps get to the root of some of your own stuff -- this can be a building block for a stronger marriage.
      I honestly used to think people who talked like that were full of it. Or in denial.
      Now...here I am. I wouldn't choose to go through that to get to where I am...but there were lots of painful experiences in my life that I wouldn't choose...but that ultimately brought me to a better place.
      Hang in there. Keep focusing on the now and let tomorrow unfold.


    2. How are you now?

  2. Shanna,
    My husband's affair also occured while I was pregnant (with twins). All affairs are horrible, no doubt, but 'affair while wife pregnant' one takes the cake! I deeply empathize with you and had all of the feelings you mention. I truly didn't think I'd make it but after 18 months and a lot of therapy (both individual & couples), a lot of talking, a lot of reading, a lot of fighting, fearing, crying, loving, hating, hoping and even some meds to help me through the darkest days... I now feel, er, know, that I'll make it and we have these terrific babies (now toddlers) to boot. Wishing you the very, very best.

  3. It's so great that you spelled this out so great! Thank you for this article ... it is great for women to read this! I too am the wife of a recovering sex addict and although I wouldn't want to go through any of the shit we have been through I am a completely different person now because of it. I am empowered, I am confident and I just have started taking care of myself in a way I haven't done in a long time. And those things are WONDERFUL! And my hubby, Ed, and I have started connecting in ways that we haven't in a LONG time too!!!! Thanks again for your awesome article .... keep up the amazing work!!!!

    1. You call it "pain shopping", I call it "emotional cutting", same animal with very large teeth that can rip out large chunks of your soul.
      I never thought about the fact that I was avoiding feeling the pain by reading the emails my WH shared with OW over and over until I memorized them. I rationalized that I was trying to understand what she had that I didn't. My biggest pain avoidance mechanism was plotting revenge. I was so good at that. I felt much stronger when I was angry than when I was a broken hearted, depressed shell.
      If I had been able to handle the pain, if I would have faced the pain, I know I could have healed faster, not easier...just quicker.
      Hope & Hugs, Shawn

  4. My couples counselor said something quite simple & pensive that I thought I'd share -- "may you experience the benefits of the struggle"... Feels relevant to what you wrote and to where many of us are!

    1. Thank-you for sharing that. And very apropos for most of us, I think, no matter where life takes us.

  5. Hi Shanna,

    Hang in there!!! I can sense that you are a fighter. I may not be pregnant when i found out my husband had an affair but I wanted to have another baby and it turns out to that the OW got pregnant. It was devastating but manage to pull myself up for the sake of our children. its been 7 months since the Dday, so far there have been changes with my emotional state and when haunting images strikes I just let my tears flow and pray. I am happy that you are looking forward for that ONE DAy you will be happy, its one of the signs that you are a resilient woman. Keep it up. xxx

    Brave wife

  6. I suspected my husbands affsir with co worker. Although he denies it to this day too many signs and other people confirmed it for me as well as the fact that they suddely became best friends when we split. Now they are together. I have been divorced for 1 year but when he recently told me he had slept with several women during our marriage it was as painful as if it just happened. To make matters worse both he and his mistress are family therapists. I am now in love with a wonderful man but i cant move past the pain every time i have to deal with ex. We have children together.

  7. Man Satan its working over time trying to destroy marriage. My best friend of 11 years took all the information of my husbands problems and weaknesses and started an affair that lasted 1 year tell they were caught. All asking pretending to be the best friend i feel she's a sly. Once it came out her anger towards me was outrages. Her poor husband who has had to put up with all the lying. She's truly an actress. Scary that the deception was do deep. I'm not sure i can stay with my husband. I don't want Satan to win but man its just to painful. I trusted this lady and not only was she not sorry for what she did she had such anger toward me for bringing out everything. I broke up her whole plan. When her husband found out that was out She had even more anger towards me. I do believe she has some type of mental disorder. Her behavior had been out of Control. She has big issues. Bigger than i ever knew about. She's been acting for many many years. she was a pro at lying. Just no Never talk bad about your husband to anyone. These type of woman are out there you just can't spot them because they are master manipulators and and brilliant liars.



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