Monday, February 11, 2013

The Only Thing You Need to Know to Heal from Your Husband's Affair

In the minute that we find out about our husband's affairs, so many of us create an imaginary scorecard in which we're on one side and the other woman (or women) are on the other.
We go down this mental list ruthlessly, assigning scores. Is my body better or worse? Am I older or younger? Prettier or uglier? Fatter or skinnier? Smarter or dumber? Kinder or meaner? More successful or less?
We demand details from our husbands about the entire affair. It's not that we're total masochists. It's part of our score-keeping. Did he give her gifts and were they thoughtful or thoughtless? Take her to nicer restaurants? Was the sex better? Was she more sexually adventurous?
The thing is, once we've compiled our scorecards (and exhausted our husbands), we're often baffled. The results often just don't add up.
And it's then, with the agonizing details of our husband's affair nagging at our tired brains and the lash marks still fresh from our self-flagellation, that we finally understand the most surprising and misunderstood thing about most affairs: They have nothing to do with us.
Well, that's not entirely true. Of course they have something to do with us. We're, after all, the ones at home putting the kids to bed, or paying the bills, or making sure dinner includes all four food groups. Without a wife, a husband isn't cheating, he's dating.
But it doesn't have anything to do with us specifically.
Here are the reasons we believe our husbands cheated:
•We're old and our boobs sag.
•We wear ratty pajamas to bed instead of silky negligee.
•We've let ourselves "go".
•He's seen us give birth.
•He's seen us at our worst.
•We haven't given him a blow job since the first Bush administration.
•Our hair has gone grey.
•Our idea of a big night is watching back-to-back episodes of Downton Abby.

Here are the real reasons he cheated:
•He thinks he's old and his boobs sag.
•His boss makes him feel like an idiot.
•He's let himself go.
•Watching you give birth has made him realize he's responsible for a vulnerable little soul.
•You've seen him at his worst.
•He misses blow jobs.
•His hair has gone grey.
•He lies awake at night worrying about growing old. About dying. About "missing out."
•He's never really examined his pain at his parent's divorce. His father's absence. His mother's criticism. His unrealized dreams.

Of course, I'm simplifying for sake of universality. But the point is...his affair wasn't about you. The wife, to put it bluntly, is just collateral damage.
It boggles the mind. I once asked my husband what he was thinking about me when he was driving to the OW's apartment for an early-morning romp. His response? "I wasn't." At first I was furious. How could he NOT be thinking about me. How could he NOT be feeling guilty that I was at home, trying to cram toddlers into snowsuits, persuade a preschooler to brush her teeth, clean up from breakfast even though I'd been up four times in the night to soothe restless tots. Surely, I imagined, he was telling himself something about me. Nope, he wasn't. Nothing. Nada. I had faded into the background and he was looking firmly ahead.
His response is surprisingly common among men who've had affairs. They really weren't thinking about us. They really didn't cheat because our boobs sag. In fact, they hadn't noticed that our boobs sagged. They were too busy distracting themselves from their own failings by being flattered that someone seemed interested in them. They were remembering that they could feel sexy. Interesting. Smart.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Affairs are about the reflection seen in the eyes of the affair partner. They're about fantasy. They're about ego. They're not necessarily about upgrading to a newer  sexier model.
This is, shockingly, good news.
You don't have to be beautiful, smart, charming, warm-hearted, etc. to keep your husband from cheating. In fact, even if you are all those things (and you are! You are!), it won't make a whit of difference if your husband is looking outside of himself to heal things inside himself.
Good news because even though you might want to give your marriage a makeover in the wake of an affair, you don't need to give yourself a makeover.
Because, again, this had nothing to do with you. And everything to do with him.


45 comments:

  1. New here. Great post. Succinct and to the point. Agree with all the points. Sometimes the hardest trials in life have the simplest answers. Just like losing weight. You want to lose weight? Eat less and exercise more. One last comment I would add to his list of problems. I believe most cheaters are either narcissists or have strong narcissistic tendencies. Any body that can carry on with that kind of behavior with no regard to the collateral damage to their families have great personality flaws.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome. Glad you found us.
      And thanks for your thoughts.
      I hear from a lot of people that their cheating partner was narcissistic, though I wouldn't say that was the case in my situation. I'm inclined to think that narcissists are highly likely to cheat...but that all who cheat aren't necessarily narcissists.
      But yes, it does boggle the mind how someone can lie and deceive with such little regard for those affected. As one betrayer has recently posted, he really had no idea how much damage his affair would cause. He's genuinely shocked. And I've often said on this site that I never dreamed how traumatized I would be by my spouse's affair. I was of the "I'd kick him out" mindset, thinking I'd wash my hands of him and be done with it. But, as too many of us know, it's not quite as simple as that. Whether we stay or separate/divorce, we have much emotional pain to slog through.

      Elle

      Delete
    2. Almost 4 years after D-Day, I am first now coming to terms with growing up with a Narcissistic MOTHER (or, as some put it, Borderline Personality Disorder). The irony is, through this I came to realize my dad married "his mother" (who was universally acknowledged to be a witch by my cousins. She died before I was born). In examining this, I came to realize my husband married HIS mother (me!). His affair was his avoidance of my percieved narcissistic tendencies. I also realized that the Other Woman can be the Narcissist preying upon the vulnerabilities of the husband(s). It's as much an entitlement mentality in their minds as anything. Ironic that in avoiding examining their own personality flaws, and avoiding what they perceive (falsely) as YOU victimizing them, they often open themselves to a greater victimization.

      Delete
    3. Like you, once I had enough distance (emotional and time) from my husband's betrayal, I was able to see a lot of things in my life more clearly. I could see that my mother, despite her alcoholism, was a better mother to me than HER mother had ever been to her. I was able to see that my husband also perceived me to think like his mother, though she and I have completely different lenses through which we view life. He built resentment toward me based on stories he was telling himself. Not based on me at all. Even now we struggle with him getting angry for what he thinks I'm thinking...rather than what I'm actually thinking.
      It's really quite interesting and I often note how much wiser we are post-betrayal. It's a silver lining perhaps.
      It sounds as if you've done a lot of examination of patterns in your family, which will certainly help you ensure that the cycle stops.

      Elle

      Delete
  2. I don't think my cheater was a narcissist either - rather the opposite actually. Instead of having an excessively inflated opinion of himself, he seemed to have an excessively negative opinion of himself.

    Your posts are always so timely, Elle. I just started anti-depressants and they seem to be making it possible for me to see beyond my own misery and consider the things he's been telling me: serious depression, low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, repressed anger, blaming me for his unhappiness because he couldn't/wouldn't take responsibility for it himself.

    Today, for flashes of moments, I have felt like the affair was something that happened rather than EVERYTHING. Does that make sense? I actually get afraid when this happens - healing scares me. Does this feeling mean I'm accepting what he did? That I'm making it ok? But I have to rationally stop and tell myself that I have very clear expectations: he will continue in therapy, we will continue in therapy - and even then I can't say that in the long run it will be enough to make me stay. But for moments today, I finally feel a bit of distance between me and the awful events.

    My husband tells me over and over that the affair was about escaping himself, numbing himself, masking how he felt about himself. He says she could have been anybody - it wasn't about me and it wasn't about her either. It wasnt that she was so special or better than me - it was that she was convenient and was the slowest moving of the herd, as broken as he was and thus he didnt feel inferior to her as he did with me. We refer to her as "the symptom" - like the bloody cough of tuberculoisis, she wasn't what almost killed us but she sure was the outward sign. What almost - and may yet - kill us was my husbands internal wounds.

    Leslie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I laughed out loud at your "slowest moving of the herd" reference. That's so perfect. That's EXACTLY what so many of these Other Women are. And yes, many of them are just as broken or they wouldn't tolerate the scraps they get from these men.
      I understand your reticence about healing. But you gaining perspective and letting in a sliver of light isn't letting your husband off the hook. It's letting YOURSELF off the hook. It's giving yourself the chance to life rather than survive. You being depressed doesn't serve anyone.
      In fact, I would argue that you having a clearer perspective will improve your ability to insist on what you need to move forward.
      What your husband describes is so familiar and the common refrain of the unfaithful husband. I'm not saying it's not true. I suspect it's all too true. Reminds me of what someone said once that "hurt people hurt people."
      I'm so glad to know that the medication is doing exactly what it's intended to do. And making clear to you that (as a friend of the site and soon-to-be guest blogger said) healing happens when we can stop asking "why did this happen to me?" and start asking "why did this happen?"

      Elle

      Delete
    2. "slowest moving of the herd"

      Hah, I still refer to the OW as the camel faced whore! Thanks for the Valentines Day laugh!

      Leslie, you are not alone. I share your confusion. How do we move on and heal while making it clear that the cheating was NOT OK, IS NEVER OK and WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. I was in a group of friends who told me that I was a bad example for wives and my daughters because I took my husband back. That really hurt. As if I didn't feel conflicted enough?! I still hurts but I know that I have made a commitment to healing and truly forgiving. Not because I am a saint or so religious but because I cannot carry this burden of pain anymore. I cannot empower the cheater and the OW anymore by allowing them to bully me anymore with the pain of insecurity, humiliation and rage that this affair brought into my life. Elle is right... HE was the one hurt (work, my higher income, frustration of fatherhood...blah blah blah) and he sought out in the OW someone who was damaged too. In trying to help him heal I am healing myself (I hope.)

      I am only one year past DDAY so I am nowhere near healing. Elle and blogs like hers help. I have had some setbacks but committing to staying positive, counseling and learning to be independent (in my case not having ANY friends support me) has been very helpful.

      Happy Valentines Day fellow BW. Betrayed we may be but we also f'g ROCK! We are sexy, smart, and just plain AWESOME! Our CS's already got the best present they ever had when they married us. In celebration of us on Vday I am taking the day off to buy myself a new purse and perhaps get a mani/pedi! Followed by a nice cocktail. Cheers friends!

      Delete
    3. Flaca --
      Woo hoo! To you and the rest of us!
      You are absolutely right. None of us knows what we're made of until we're tested.
      One year out, you sound absolutely great. A lot further along the road to healing than I was at that point.
      Your "friends" absolutely infuriate me. And I'll venture to say, they're not your friends. Friends don't judge others or shame others. They support them. I believe that a lot of people support the "kick him to the curb" approach because they, mistakenly, see it as more powerful. And infidelity makes a lot of us feel powerless, even those who haven't experienced (but know it could happen). So believing that we'd kick the bum out makes us believe we hold the power.
      It's a fantasy of course. I always thought I'd kick anyone out who cheated on me. Famous last words.
      And, finally, the right path isn't necessarily the easy path. You've chosen to stay with your husband, which is the right path for you right now. That's nobody's business but yours, and nobody can possible know what's best for you except you.
      I think the example you're setting to other women and your daughters is that sometimes good people do bad things. And when they take responsibility for it and do their very best to make repairs, we learn from it and grow from it.
      Your kids will make mistakes in their lives. And I hope they've learned from you and your husband that owning up to them and seeking to make amends is a mature and responsible thing to do.
      That said, each of us has to find our own path through this. For some, leaving (or asking him to leave) is the best thing. But no-one should propose that there's only one right way to deal with a spouse's betrayal.
      I hope you find new -- and true -- friends. I suspect you will.
      Happy Valentine's Day, Flaca. Enjoy the shoes, the fancy nails...and the cocktail.

      Elle

      Delete
  3. There is a difference between being a narcissist and having narcissistic tendencies. Anyone who blames others for their own failures is exhibiting narcissistic traits. We all have them. It's part of our survival but we don't act on them in destructive ways ie cheating, drug/alcoholism, gambling etc. I would encourage anyone trying to heal read/google narcissism. I think you will be surprised. Not all narcissists drive around in corvettes and look at themselves in the mirror all the time. They don't all have inflated views of themselves. I'm just saying...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Happy Valentine's Day, ladies! My husband didn't mention it this am so we're off to a great start. My therapist asked what I'd like from him today, and I said a nice note. But I don't want to have to tell him to do that. So she told me I might write him a note instead. Isn't that always the way--we have to do the work! I said I couldn't do it, felt too vulnerable and giving to me. But then I went and wrote one. Just saying I am glad we're still together and I hope we stay this new way that we are. He says that I don't always show him I think he's special, so I touched on that, too. Now, I just need the balls to give it to him....
    Liz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liz,

      I soooo know how you're feeling. It's so hard, dealing with infidelity, to feel as if it's still up to YOU to reach out your hand. And it's tempting to nurse your hurt feelings and resentment. However...I'm going to suggest you just give him the note. No expectations that he'll receive it with great love and gratitude. No expectations of reciprocation. Just a note written with the purpose of giving him the love you nonetheless feel, even after everything.
      I know how vulnerable you feel. But I suspect that comes from a fear of rejection. Or disappointment. Doing your best to eliminate any expectation allows you to give so much more freely and easily. And it frees him up to receive your gift without fear too. Fear that he doesn't deserve it. Fear that he's now expected to do something that he doesn't quite know how to do, or if he'll be rejected.
      The dance between such hurt partners is fraught. Like dancing in a minefield. But you can at least control your part of it.
      It was one of the hardest parts for me to accept and understand. That I can never control another person's feelings or actions. Even now I struggle with it. But when I "get" it, I'm able to deal with everyone (my moody daughter, my depressed father, my husband...) so much better. I'm able to see that their issues aren't mine. That their problems are THEIR problems. It's my job to remind them that they're loved.
      I hope you can give yourself the gift of generosity and kindness.

      Elle

      Delete
  5. Nothing to do with me? I sort of get that now, but I think there will always be a part of me that beats myself up for not paying attention, for missing all the red flags. They were everywhere, during the EA, before the PA and I ignored them. I could've...No SHOULD'VE...seen what was right in front of my face.
    That's not really the same thing as the affair being my fault in anyway, but I gotta own where I screwed up, too. I need to face all of the reasons he cheated.
    I totally agree that the A was all about him. Even if I was the world's worst wife, sagging boobs, work obsessed, ratty sweats and a lousy lover (for the record...I was none of those. I was and still am a pretty damn great wife! Just sayin'...) cheating is NEVER the answer.
    Communication is key and WE lost that somewhere along the way in our 30 years together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shawn,
      I'm curious why you think you "should" have seen the signs. I think I know what you mean. We often feel kinda stupid that we missed what, in hindsight, was glaringly obvious. I just think, by saying "should", you're being really judgemental of yourself. My guess is you did the best you could at that point. And not wanting to see something incredibly painful is pretty human.
      However, it sounds as if you've come to an acknowledgement that you could have done things differently...and clearly he could have too. Painful lesson learned.
      Sometimes it takes a two-by-four to smack us into realization.

      Elle

      Delete
    2. When I say should, I'm not trying to beat myself up, I'm just facing reality. As much as I want to lay it all at FWH's feet, I NEED to own my part. I'm not saying my part was a pass for FWH to cheat..NO WAY! I'm just saying, there's a chance, even if minuscule, that I could have preempted the whole deal.
      The part I'm referring to is the large gaping hole in our communication skills that developed before the A. We'd been married 30 years. We became complaisant. I was oblivious to what was happening to him. I SHOULD have seen that the man I have loved for over half of my life was changing drastically right in front me. I missed it all.
      It's not that I didn't want to see...I didn't even freakin' LOOK! It took a friend of mine to get me to open my eyes.
      So, it's not about blame. It's about being honest with myself. I expect him to learn from all this pain, so I need to do the same.

      Delete
    3. Wow. Your ability to really take a hard look at yourself in this light is quite amazing. You're an inspiration to all of us. Thank-you.

      Elle

      Delete
  6. I agree 100% with everything you're writing here, Elle, but there's also a part of me deep down that thinks that if I had been a better wife this wouldn't have happened. (Geez, feels weird to even type that!?) My husband was a good guy. At one point several months before the A started we even had a conversation that he didn't ever want to become like one of his many friends who have As, but he felt that our s-x life was lacking, that his feelings weren't heard, etc. He tried to communicate his pain to me, and I didn't listen. I didn't want to see that we had problems. I was too focused on things being perfect and my own issues (that I didn't feel 'special') that I just ignored his feelings. And then he had an affair to feel wanted. It was not the right thing to do - I know that and he knows that too. Having an affair was entirely his fault - bar none - but I can't help but feel deep down that if I had been responsive to his conversations then maybe this wouldn't have happened. I'm working on our relationship now, but sometimes (especially lately) it feels like spilled milk. S-x is worse now than it's ever been (mind movies galore for me!) and now I feel I can't fully open myself up to him.

    A new girlfriend of mine commented the other night that my husband is really great. "A catch" she said - he's so focused on me & our little family. She's unhappy with her husband at the moment so was making a contrast. My first mental thought - "he may be great NOW & your husband might not be great now, but did your husband cheat on you?' Will my first thought always be about his cheating?

    Sorry for the ramble. About to head to MC together after a couple rough nights. Not the best Valentine's Day (today marks the 15 year anniversary of our first kiss too)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly get your point. A few BWClubbers have mentioned the same thing. But, as I said in my post, this is what YOU need to know to heal. It's the first step in being able to separate out yourself from the affair. As long as wives are comparing themselves to the OW, we can't heal ourselves.
      That said, in order to heal the marriage, we certainly need to own our part is the breakdown of it.
      To me, it's two very different steps. Step one is to stop beating ourselves up for not being _______ enough, assuming that if we were whatever it is, our husbands wouldn't have cheated. Step two is looking at the marriage and figuring out whether it's worth salvaging -- and that includes our part in what sort of shape it was in prior to the affair.
      It's interesting too how our perspective shifts. At first we tend to look at the external -- were we pretty enough, successful enough, skinny enough. And yet, after we really understood what the affair was about, we begin wondering if we listened enough, supported enough, doted enough.
      While I think it's crucial for us to acknowledge our role in the marriage, I nonetheless wonder if women (generally speaking) are more inclined to take responsibility. If, perhaps, it's a way of feeling back in control after feeling sooooo out of control.
      Just a thought...

      Re. your friend's comment: I have a friend who doesn't know about the affair who often remarks on how great my husband is and how "lucky" I am. I know, in the grand scheme of things, I am lucky. I have healthy kids, fresh water from a tap, a job I love, etc. But the comment nonetheless chafes. Perhaps it's because it makes me feel fraudulent.

      Elle

      Delete
  7. Well said!! This is absolutely the most important blog post ever written on surviving a husband's infidelity! I think that for me, just one year out from the first d-day, I have really gotten to understand this to my core. And yes, you are absolutely correct! That is the most important thing we need to know to heal.

    For those of us whose husband's infidelity really did include us (read my blog for the gory details) it is a bit harder to fathom but still I tell myself it had nothing to do with me. Yes, I was "collateral damage". Very hard bit of truth to swallow and not choke on, but thank you for your great insight. You helped many many women today.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ladies, I am new here and not sure how to post my intitial blog. I am a soldier in afghanistan right now and my husband started cheating 9 days after I left him and my two year old son. Its six months in now and I am finally able to come to terms. Its with a woman I thought was a friend and she used her kids to get my husband to do play dates. She and him swore they were frineds and I believed it until he started pawning my son off on my family 3 nights a week and he is sleeping at her house. He keeps my son away from her but continues to deny everything. I have picture, videos, cell records. I am playing stupid till I get home but its hard. Any advice.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      I can't imagine how difficult this is for you. The last thing you need is something like this playing in the back of your mind while you're doing such a difficult job. I'm so so sorry for what you're going through.
      And, though I'm usually able to muster up some empathy for the cheating spouse, in this case I'm ready to castrate the bastard.
      You sound so...sane. I'm guessing it's part of your training to learn to compartmentalize. Is there any counselling available to you there – so you can integrate what's happening at home and start to process it? Why are you "playing stupid?" Have you thought about what you want when you return home? Are you interested in reconciliation?
      I'm not sure what sort of advice you're after so I'll offer the best advice I can for now. Take care of yourself. Keep yourself safe as best as possible. Trust that you'll always know the next right thing to do. Don't think too far down the road. Just get home...

      Elle

      Delete
    2. Elle,
      Im playing stupid to allow him to hang himself. I have more than enough evidence but flipping out and causing him stress makes a stressful environment for my son. Im ready to castrate him as well. For a long time I felt like we could work it out but now its gone on to long. I will never trust him again. They think there funny. Everyone sees them together and she changed her FB status to in a realtionship, really are you proud its with a married man whos wife has not idea. Im more shocked at her. She is a mother, dragging her kids in this mess. What woman does that to another woman. Apparently a lot. Thanks, i am seeing the chaplain and I am really staying sane. Not sure how, maybe with prayer. This site is wonderful and it makes me feel less alone in this mess.

      Delete
    3. Yes, your approach makes sense. And I have no idea how women do this to other women (or men to women, or women to men, etc.). Except that it generally comes down to people who feel entitled in some way. Who feel that they "deserve" it, either because they feel like they never get what they want or that other people get what should be theirs. It's people who are messed up. And who don't stop to think about what it's doing to their children, or your children, or really anyone but themselves.
      You've got the upper hand in that you'll have had the chance to formulate your next moves without him knowing. So you'll have the advantage of surprise. Both of them are likely in for a shock, though I never quite know what cheaters think is going to happen. Surely they know that, at some point, something's gotta give.
      Hang in there. I'm glad you found us. This site was created for exactly the reason you're here. Because I felt alone and crazy...and once I was feeling better, I didn't want others going through the same thing to feel alone and crazy. We're neither. There's a lot of us, here to guide others through, hold their hands, acknowledge their pain and remind them that the day will come when life will be once again look bright.
      Stay safe.

      Elle

      Delete
    4. THIS OTHER WOMN KNOWS YOU THATS TERRIBLE !!!!!!! IF IT WASNT FOR YOU WE WOULDNT BE SAFE YOUR A FIGHTER IN EVERY WAY KEEP THAT HEAD UP AND KNOW THAT YOUR THE BETTER WOMAN IN EVERY WAY .......I FOUND UT ABOUT MY HUSBANDS A WHEN I WAS 3 MONTHS PREGNANT .I KNOW MEN CHEAT BUT HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND IN A NUTSHELL FOR ABOUT 7 MONTHS I FOUND OUT AND CONFRONTED HER .SHE SPOKE TO ME AND WAS MORE THEN HAPPY TO TELL ALL AND NOW I SAY TO MYSELF WHO WOULDNT FEEL SHAME TO SPEAK WITH ANOTHER MANS WIFE WTF IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE .......BUT ITS CLEAR SHE WASNT TOO SWIFT SAYING SHE HAD NO IDEA .I TOLD HER WHEN YOU DONT MEET FAMILY OR SEE YOUR BOYFRIENDS HOUSE OR NEVER MEET A FRIEND YOU WOULD BE THE SIDE PIECE TAKE NOTES .....WITH ALL THIS SAID I HAVE 2 KIDS AND ONE ON THE WAY VERY CONFUSED ..........I DONT WANT TO STAY ,TOO MUCH FOR ME

      Delete
  9. It's been 7 months and 2 days since d-day. We got back together after I kicked him out. He couldn't throw her under the bus fast enough, so your words are ringing true for me. He is trying harder than I would have thought him capable of, but I've had a rough go of it. I still obsess and go into a spin some days, despite individual and couples therapy and support from friends. Today and yesterday were hard. I found your blog when I couldn't sleep tonight and was grateful to you for being here. Just wanted to say thank you, Elle.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Welcome and...you're welcome. I was still pretty messed up seven months out. In fact, it took me a long, long time for the clouds to part and even a crack of sunlight to peek through. In my case, my husband's affair triggered long dormant issues of my own around abandonment, fear and mistrust. In hindsight I can see my husband's betrayal as spurring me toward a healing that was long overdue. I'm able to see a silver lining in all that pain.
    Hang in there. I'm glad you found us. It's crucial, I think, to have a support network of people who can give voice to your experience...and give you space to talk about your feelings among people who completely get it.

    Elle

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm glad I found this website. Although my experience is somewhat different in that there are many women, not just one. Just over three weeks ago I found out about the first affair (which was mostly physical, as far as I know) - and since then I've had revelation after revelation of many, many others (which I only found out about because of my constant questioning - things didn't add up). I now know it's been going on the entire length of our relationship - 15 years - so I know it is definitely not about me. It's about my husband having low self-esteem, and using these women (even when he's paying them) to stroke his ego. But when I found out about the first one, I asked the same questions: was it because I wore ugly slippers? Was it because he'd seen me give birth, because he saw me breastfeeding?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry. I just noticed your comment. I would have loved to respond sooner. Like yours, my husband had many affair partners (or sex partners, more truthfully) for the duration of our marriage. I found out at about 12 years in. And you're right -- it is completely about him.
      Is he in treatment for sex addiction? Are you reconciling or separating?

      Elle

      Delete
    2. That's ok! Yes, he's in treatment for sex addiction. He sees a therapist and goes to SA group meetings. We have separated - at my suggestion, after I realised we weren't just dealing with one recent affair but a whole lifetime of deception - but are both wanting to reconcile.

      It is 7 weeks past D-Day for me, and like the person commenting below, I also wonder if I am recovering too soon. I feel positive most days, apart from a few trigger thoughts; I am grateful for what I do have - a husband who wants to reconcile and is really trying hard to recover; and I know his behaviour is not about me, and am confident I can be happy with or without him in the future. I feel like I have the power since he desperately wants to be back at home with me and our baby. Without wanting to offend anyone else on this site, I also feel grateful that he hasn't had an emotional affair, and isn't wanting to leave me for someone else, however misguided that might be. I know it seems strange that I could be grateful for dealing with 'just' sex addiction (ha!).

      I certainly was not like this in the beginning - I was a complete mess for several weeks, and don't know how I would've got through without anti-depressants, sedatives and my mother. I definitely had my moments of identifying with Lorena Bobbitt. But now ... I think I'm actually happy. Is that weird?! We have our first joint therapy session tomorrow, so I realise how early this is still. I read the book you recommended - 'Mending a Shattered Heart' - and felt like I got at least 10 therapy sessions out of it! I know this is going to be a long road either way. But I know I'm not going to be defeated by this.

      Delete
    3. Anna,
      That's wonderful. I'm so glad that you're feeling empowered and positive. We all travel this path at different speeds. We'll sometimes feel as if we're not moving, moving too slowly, moving backward, moving forward. But that's okay. There's no right way to get past this.
      Like you, I felt better when I learned of the sex addiction. It was like, suddenly, that final puzzle piece, which had been baffling me, made the whole picture more clear. I got exactly what I was dealing with...and could therefore determine how to proceed.
      Keep us posted. It's a tough road. And sex addiction, of course, carries with it the risk of acting out again. But as long as he gets completely clear on what his triggers are and why he used sex to self-medicate, he can move past it too.

      Elle

      Delete
  12. Thank you to all of you for sharing. This is the friendliest site I have come across. I am 6 weeks out from D-Day. At this point, I feel like I have been wearing blinders for the last 13 years. First, I completely trusted him because he had been cheated and said he would never hurt anyone that way. Second, it happened three months before D-Day and there were ZERO clues until he friended the OW on Facebook and started deleting internet history. Third, there is way too much cheating going on all over the world - all the sites, articles, books; I'm afraid for the whole ideal of monogamous relationships. Initially, I felt alone: Unfortunately, I have way too many companions.

    It almost feels as if I have gone through most of the recovery process way too quickly. I already realize that the affair was his issue; he has a huge lack of self-esteem; we were pulling in opposite directions before the event because of our new house; she could have been any one of the many women who find him attractive; she only heard his side, so she was sympathetic; I am everything a man would want in a wife; and there have been many opportunities for me, but I chose him instead.

    I am still devastated and sometimes ambivalent about staying. For the most part, I am focusing getting both of us to be proactive in the recovery. We each got a counselor for individual issues and we have a couples therapist to work together.

    We have shared every detail about the emotional and sexual parts of the affair, which made everything really easy to understand. He has been open to me and closed off to her. We have discussed all the nasty feelings and problems this has caused.

    I think I have asked about 3000 questions. He has been answering every one of them, supportively and honestly. I think part of this is he was craving attention - this has certainly given him more than he ever wanted. Hopefully, he will not miss the constant attention when we get back to a new, but "normal" relationship. Our communication is certainly much better now. But, will it be enough?

    I have yet to run into the OW at the store,gas station or anywhere else about town. I do not know how I would react to seeing her. Some days I have weird thoughts, like "What if she shows up at my door? Perhaps I'll invite her in for a coffee and a chat."

    Some days I feel like he needs to suffer more for what happened, but I vent my really venomous thoughts out loud to the inside of my empty car. There are still some times when I have to warn him to watch for big mood swings because it is a bad day. The first couple weeks were the worst, but it gets better each week.

    Now I worry that it is all too easy. Why do I not feel worse? Is this a false-start recovery that is going to end in a huge emotional meltdown? Do I not care enough to be upset? Is it wrong to worry because I do not worry?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anon,
      I'm glad you found us and that we're "friendly". It delights me to think that this site is a warm, welcoming, friendly place. Cause God knows most of us could use friendly right now.
      I wish I could assure you that you're healing quickly and perfectly because it certainly seems as if you are. Honestly, I haven't a clue. I don't think there is a "right" way to heal from this. It sounds as if you've got a strong sense of self, which is undoubtedly part of why you've been able to move through much of this quickly. You haven't become mired in the self-blame crap that trips many of us up.
      It also sounds as if your husband has met you halfway -- answering your questions and being honest and supportive. That, of course, is crucial.
      Perhaps his affair has been a wakeup call for both of you and given you both a chance to recognize what matters before you've lost it. You'll likely still have your down days...but as long as you can stay focussed on the fact that this was HIS mistake and as long as he continues to take responsibility for it and make reparations, then I think you should stop worrying and simply enjoy the good days, weather the bad ones and call it life. You'll likely have occasional triggers. You might be blindsided by a sudden memory, or a chance encounter or something. But you also might not. Trust that you are exactly where you should be right now. That you're doing the best you can given what you've been handed.
      I wouldn't wish this on anyone...but I would wish that all of us had the ability to recognize, as you have, that we're whole with or without him.

      Delete
  13. I found this site on behalf of a friend who hasn't yet confronted her husband.... but the reason she called me is: I've been there.

    We're still married and although the first few months (years!) after D-Day weren't easy it's been 9 years now. It was multiple A, one local (& the local OW wasn't innocent - she knew he was married - she knew me), one medium distance (where the OW knew he was married but didn't know me), one (which he didn't admit to) overseas. After the initial pain, I remember feeling that the OW (particularly the local one) had trespassed on my "territory". Even now, I hope for her sake she never crosses my path.

    I remember D-Day being just before Christmas. I recall dreading the Christmas lunch with his family. I had no idea how I was going to survive it emotionally intact - they knew nothing and I had no intention of telling them anything until I had made a decision on what to do. On a long, late-night drive home, having spent two weeks alternately crying and wanting to kill him for causing so much pain, self-doubt and misery I made a choice: Let it go. Move on. It really did feel like a weight had been instantly removed. Don't get me wrong, I don't have "Welcome" written on my forehead and no-one who knows me would accuse me of doormat-like behaviour. But there didn't seem much point in hanging on to all the grief and continuing to torture myself with all the usual comparison-shopping questions (to which the answer was "no better, no worse, just different" as it so often appears to be).

    However, changes had to be made. A new job for him where he was home every night (he had been working away for weeks at a time - contributory factor and opportunity). I knew (and still know) all of his passwords. Even now I very occasionally check his phone/email. And he knows it.

    And then there was the self-esteem which had of course hit rock bottom. So I got my own back (with a very SINGLE man). It wasn't big, it wasn't clever and I have no desire to or intention of doing it again. But it made me feel I had some level of control back. Once I stopped feeling worthless, unattractive and frankly trampled on, we could start rebuilding our marriage.

    If I were to impart any advice to a recently BW it would be: Tell ONE friend you can trust to keep quiet. You need to have a confidante but blurting it out to all and sundry will severely limit your options - the social expectation for a BW is that she kicks him out but that may not be what YOU decide to do. Not letting the world know he's currently labelled as a "philandering idiot" means that you won't be labelled as "doormat" if you decide your marriage is worth saving. Websites like this are a great way to express the pain if you can't trust any of your friends with this. And give yourself time: important decisions are best not made in the heat of the moment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      This is a great post. I'm wondering if you would mind if I reprint it as a guest-written blog post. Let me know if this is okay with you.

      Thanks,
      Elle

      Delete
  14. Elle,

    Your blog is hands down the most helpful thing I have EVER read. One year past D-Day and I was starting to feel like I was defective for not being "over" it.

    The fact that he wasn't thinking about me was really hard, actually. I felt ignored and diminished, like I wasn't worth thinking about. Like he and OW had this little world to themselves that I wasn't a part of, and I was excluded. It's been really hard grappling with that.

    I just feel so helpless sometimes.

    Thanks so much for your amazing posts.

    -Elly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elly,
      Thank-you...and I'm so glad you found us. I think most of us are surprised to discover just how long it takes to get through this.
      And I can relate to your feeling of "diminished" but, for me, the realization that he really wasn't thinking about me finally allowed to acknowledge that the affair had nothing to do with me. It wasn't that I was lacking something, it was that HE was lacking something...and looking for it in unhealthy ways.
      "Helpless" is pretty standard though not true. I think we feel helpless when we hand the power for our happiness over to someone else, someone we're not entirely convinced we can trust again. Part of the healing process, I think, its taking that power back. Learning to trust yourself -- that you've always got what you need to be happy, with or without him. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
      Hang in there. One year out is, strangely, not very long in terms of healing.

      Elle

      Delete
    2. Yes it's a blessing and a curse isn't it? It's interesting how many wives/girlfriends stack themselves up against the other woman and find out - she's not some perfect, amazing woman, in fact she is often normal or even plain or mean. So it's true that it's not due to a deficiency in us, rather a deficiency in him.

      I guess what scares me is that I now know he has that ability to compartmentalize and remove me from his mind entirely. But that's a whole other topic.

      I always figured I'd be over it in six months. Ha...oh my. I think it sticks with you forever if you stay with him or leave him. My best friend was cheated on and left him. She still thinks about it and it has created trust issues for her even in new relationships. I guess we all have to work through it in some way or another, and there's no magic fix.

      Elly

      Delete
  15. You're absolutely right. It's not about us, it's about them. Someone told me it wasn't about me not being a good enough wife, it was about him being a bad husband. That rang true for me. His affair wasn't on my shoulders, that was all about him. I still can't understand how someone can do that though. Why throw away your whole life just to make yourself feel temporarily better? http://www.dowehavetotellthekids.blogspot.com/2013/04/throwing-it-all-away.html

    ReplyDelete
  16. It was 2 years yesterday that I found e-mail that he was having an affair with a "friend" of mine. He confessed because I had the evidence. I stayed with him but I no longer trust him. We also lost most of our friends over the deal. I no longer have even 1 friend. I have no one to talk with. He thinks everything is peachy between us but my heart is broken into a million pieces and wont heal. We had been married 30 years. Looking back I believe he did this before. The signs were there but I trusted him.....SILLY ME! I cry everyday...I am thinking I should have not let him stay. I look at him and I dont even know who I am living with. How does someone who supposed loves you have an affair with your friend right under your nose and think he will never be caught and cause so much pain? I just dont get it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Caangelbabe,

      It might have been two years ago but it feels, from your post, that it was yesterday. Even though you've stayed with him, I don't think you've addressed the pain he caused nor the mistrust you're bound to have. What has he done to earn your trust back? What have you done to tend to the pain you're feeling? It's crucial to not simply accept that betrayal took place but HEAL from it.
      Have you talked to him about how much pain you're in? Can he support you in moving forward?
      Just moving on (whether you stay with him or not) is like putting a band-aid over a broken bone.

      Elle

      Delete
  17. This is very enlightening.. :) I'm glad to find this..
    Just last night, my partner admitted to having affair with the same chic he slept with last year. Funny thing was the chic told me they have no contact whatsoever anymore. I'm so broken (now to bits because he just kept on cheating with the same chic). :'(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pink,
      I'm glad you found us too. And so sorry for what you're going through. Sounds as if it's time to tell him to either end it completely (and copy you on the letter he sends) or walk away. Three people in a relationship is one too many.

      Elle

      Delete
  18. Just shy of 2 months since D-Day. Husband admits he has issues, but doesn't think individual therapy will help. He'll go with an open mind for my sake, but hasn't made the appointment yet even though he's been promising. I'm having trouble with the difference between setting boundaries and giving an ultimatum...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AJ,
      When boundary setting hasn't been a habit, it can seem confusing. I think of it this way: Boundaries are about self-care -- a way to keep yourself safe. Ultimatums are about trying to control another's behaviour. You set boundaries when you make clear what you can't tolerate without jeopardizing your emotional or physical safety. It's not just semantics. It's about your intent.

      Does that help?

      In your husband's case, is him seeking therapy about you needing to feel safe (it was for me)? Are you making it a condition of reconciliation that he seek therapy in order to understand how to NOT go down that path again? It's a reasonable request. If he doesn't do it, what are the consequences. Remember, this is about keeping you emotionally/physically safe, not punishing him. He might not see it that way, but as long as you're clear on your motives then proceed.

      Elle

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Elle. Yes, I want him in individual therapy so we know why this happened and so we can prevent it from happening again in the future, to make me feel safe. He is now in therapy and I have since set up other boundaries and feel much better about it. That although we're in reconciliation, we don't know how it will turn out, so I have my safety precautions in place.

      Delete
  19. I'm fairly new here and just trying to catch up on all of the articles/writings...

    It is truly amazing how spot on everything is! I absolutely compared myself to the OW, afterall, she was younger, had a better job (they worked together), spent hours together, way more time with her than me.

    At one point after finding out, I made a comment about them feeding each other's egos and they both agreed with me...yes, I did meet with her after I found out and we continued talking for a bit until my husband asked me to stop. He wanted to help me get through this, wanted me to focus on us...and it made sense.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails