Monday, March 4, 2013

There is Only One Right Path to Healing: Yours

There's been a bit of...debate...raging on another Web site dedicated to helping women deal with infidelity. It began with a post about infidelity being abuse. Similar to a guest post on this site, that blog post was adamant that infidelity is abuse.
I commented that while I think it can be abuse, it isn't always abuse.
I won't revisit the issue. If you're interested (trigger alert: please don't read it if you're feeling fragile!!), you can check the site.
But I want to examine what happened in the wake of my comment and subsequent address by the woman who runs the site. My argument was deconstructed. Commenters offered up pity to me. They offered plenty of well MY ex was a rat-bastard and though I hope I'm wrong I pretty much think yours is too and you're abused but simply can't see reality.
Of course, the site's motto is "leave a cheater, gain a life" so it's not surprising that my plea for open-mindedness around reconciliation wasn't embraced. Most commenters admitted that reconciliation hadn't exactly worked out for them. Fair enough.
Nonetheless, the response took me back to post D-Day when I was so damn confused and afraid. When I wondered what the hell had happened to my life and what I could possibly do to get it back.
And it took me back to how few people in my life were able to be with me in my uncertainty.
Humans hate uncertainty. Humans "have a desire to impose certainty on something that it inherently uncertain," says Malcolm Gladwell. Like our future, for example. 
Even watching another grapple with uncertainty makes us acutely uncomfortable. But what are you going to do? we ask those at crossroads. And when they don't really know, we tell them what we think they should do.
What's more, if we've gone through it ourselves, we have a hard time entertaining alternatives, as if someone else making a different choice somehow threatens our certainty that we made the right choice.
But, when it comes to infidelity, there is no right choice. There is only the choice that's right for us.
But getting clear on that can be a challenge.
For one thing, our cultural conversation around infidelity lacks nuance. Those who kick the cheating bastard to the curb? Well, after we've silently judged the woman for being cheated on (she let herself go, she's a shrew, blah blah blah), we applaud her chutzpah. Those who stay? Kinda...pathetic. After all, who puts up with that? Unless they're codependent. A doormat. Abused. 
But as Cheryl Strayed reminds us in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar,  "Most people don't cheat because they're cheaters. They cheat because they are people.... Which is a complicated way of saying, it's a long damn life..."
BWC member Laura S. puts it this way: "We cannot judge another woman's choices, and unless we have walked in her shoes we cannot know what her world is like."
All this is not to say that the answer to whether you should stay and rebuild your marriage or toss it on life's garbage heap and move on is an easy – or clear – one. 
It is to say that nobody knows what's right for you, except you. Even if you don't think you know, you do know somewhere, perhaps deep down in a place you've forgotten about. A place that bends towards healing like a flower bends toward the sun. 
It's also to say there are no guarantees. You might choose to stay and discover that your husband never stopped his affair. Or has another one. Or the marriage might fail for other reasons entirely.
You might choose to leave, thinking the whole problem is the cheater...only to discover he was a symptom of your unhappiness not the cause.
Certainty is a construct. 
So ignore the people in your life who think there is just their answer. A friend of mine, who'd left her husband after his affair, dismissed my confusion with "well, I could never stay." Which might have been true. But was hardly helpful. 
Equally unhelpful were the pleas to "think of my kids." I was thinking about my kids. I did little more than think about my kids. But did that mean I should stay and show my kids that sometimes we give those we love second chances? Or did that mean I should show them that when someone betrays our trust, we don't give them the chance to do it again? 
I've chosen to stay and rebuild. My husband, thus far, has worked harder than I ever imagined he could to exorcise his demons and become someone who deserves redemption. And I've become someone who's lost a lot of her moral certainty and made room for nuance. For possibilities I'd never thought I could consider. 
I'm happier than I thought I could ever be again. I'm able to witness others' pain without thinking I know what they should do to stop it. I see beauty in imperfection and strength in struggle where before I saw failure and disappointment.
I don't wish this pain on anyone. And I still refuse to say it was "good" for me. But I've followed my path toward healing. And it's been just right for me. Right now.


  1. I shared the other article with my cheater. He brought up some good points to consider... Firstly, if you're a Christian (betrayed or betrayer) the chump's post ignores the possibility of Atonement of Jesus Christ (sorry to get churchy).

    Also it insinuates that there are flawless perfect people out there. Which we know just isn't true.

    My husband definitely made multiple choices throughout his life that lead him to one month of passionate infidelity. But what I see now, as he goes through a 12 step program for drug and porn addiction, I see him make a NEW string of choices... good choices... choices that build his character and our marriage. I think I am one of the lucky few (???) whose spouse sees the harm he has down in his own life AND MINE. What I have learned from that is it is nearly impossible to generalize infidelity to one definition or set of circumstances... the circumstances of infidelity in each marriage is unique (millions of different combinations from reasons, to frequency, to number of partners, etc.) How the betrayed choose to (or are forced) to handle it also range in difference. What I see as something more consistently similar in infidelity is what we, the betrayed feel... we feel hurt, angry, worthless, fury, forgiveness, understanding, resentment, violence, self-hatred and what you do here is address those feelings... that sameness. What you are doing here may not be the answer for everyone but it is the healthier way... helping us to deal with our hurt and anger and most importantly HEAL without it.


    1. Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your thoughts.
      I often think that if anyone saw sex addiction (or any addiction for that matter) up close, they would lose that idea they have of "choice". Of course it's always a choice -- why this woman and not that one; why this day and not that one. But up close, addiction is about shame and compulsion and fear. Who "chooses" that?
      And don't apologize for getting "churchy".The best of each religion reminds us that we're deserving of forgiveness.
      And I believe what has helped me heal more than anything was finally recognizing myself in my husband's actions. Or put another way, acknowledging that, had I lived his life, I might well have made those same "choices."
      I'm glad you're here and sharing your wisdom. You're right in that, while the circumstances of the betrayal vary, the emotions we experience are incredibly similar. Which is what, I think, makes coming together to validate and support each other so powerful.


  2. My understanding of my husbands affairs is that there is a darkness that takes over his mind. He does not see reality the way I see it, he can justify himself and blame me and "warp" reality to suit his needs. To cope with his brokenness.but I think the warning signs were there...years before...someone that doesn't have a huge problem with lying about stuff will find it easier to hide the affair...feel less guilty.but I have been walking the road of healing with the Healer, I have been forgiving because I have been Forgiven and I have hope because He is Hope.

  3. I read the other websites post this morn, thought I'd be thick skinned enough too deal with it...I wasn't. It's set me back so much, haven't been able to stop crying all day. Feels like I'm drowning in my own misery, struggling for breath. Can't see anyway out. If it wasn't for my children, well i can see why some would rather not be here. I've always maintained that's the cowards way out, today I feel too cowardly to deal with this farce that is my life. I've called the doctor, I can't deal anymore, I think I need some happy pills to get me through this for the time being. My therapists office just called to reschedule my session this week, she's sick, typical, just my luck :-(

    1. Oh Nadia, I'm so sorry.
      Please don't let others' thoughts around this affect your sense of value in yourself. There is, of course, a way out. There are a number of ways out, though I remember well that feeling of being trapped. It's the pain that's trapping you, not circumstance. And the only way out of the pain is through the pain. And that's the case whether you stay or go.
      Just focus on getting through the next minute. And then the next. Don't think about tomorrow or next week or next year. I recently quoted E.L. Doctorow who said something like, you never see further than your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.
      You're NOT cowardly, you're in pain. And making the best choice for you – whether that's staying or going – is NOT cowardly. It's honoring yourself.
      Happy pills can be exactly what you need to get you through. I took ADs for about 18 months, Long enough to get me back on solid ground and had a bottled of anti-anxiety meds "just in case". Though I only took them a few times, they were like my security blanket.
      You WILL get through this. My concern with many of the women on that site is there's such anger. And it seems not only directed at their ex-spouses but at anyone who doesn't agree that leaving is the ONLY smart thing to do. It's exactly what triggered me too.
      Please keep breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. I don't remember your exact story (did you post it here? Might help if you haven't already...) but please trust me in knowing that you're so much stronger than you realize, even if you're tired of being strong.
      If you haven't already discovered Surviving Infidelity (, there are plenty of wise survivors over there who can respond in real time to crisis.
      There's also a phone counselling line that a woman on this site, Laura S., recently introduced us to. Counsellors are women who've dealt personally with infidelity and been trained to counsel others. It's free and you can find it at: or call the counselling line at (650) 521-5867 x 101

  4. I have been checking here everyday since the other site posted that.

    I knew you would have exactly the right words.

    And you're right. It's a long life indeed.

    And I am glad to know that I took a breath, took my time, and my spouse proved himself to me as being worthy of a second chance. I have gently tried to speak up on that site before, but have been told I am mentally ill for staying. And weak. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    But that's a lesson that people have to learn along the way as they heal. And anger can be a great motivator for change, But I would posit that anger on top of more anger, and flailing at people who choose differently than you? Isn't healing. And maybe some of the people who belittle reconciliation should think about why that is.

    1. Thank-you so much for sharing your thoughts.
      I'm sorry you've been dismissed when you've spoken up on that site before. Though, as someone on the site made clear to me, with a tagline like "leave a cheater, gain a life", what the hell did I expect?
      Nonetheless, I simply don't see the point in cruelty (mentally ill? weak? really?). That doesn't serve any of us.
      Yes, anger can be a motivator when it's used to spur us toward frightening but positive change. But it can also be toxic and simply a mask for fear.


  5. Hi Elle - A month or two ago I saw that blog listed at the top of your blogroll and though 'oh, interesting, I think Elle has great points of view & a very supportive audience so I'll check this other blog out too'. WOW. I posted a question about something (can't remember what) and gave some context about my situation - H's 6 month affair while I was preggo, very remorseful, we've both been in IC & MC for 2 years, have a very different relationship now but I still trigger a ton.
    I was very surprised by the responses I got, most of which essentially said I was a naive doormat for staying. A lot of 'you should head for the hills' comments. It really set me back in a big way, compounded the existing confusion I already had, and, well, made me feel like the doormat they were saying I was. (And I'm not a doormat - I know that deep down.) I've puzzled over that limited interchange a lot and wondered if I had the response I did because I *wanted* the people on there to think & say 'oh wow, Erica, you are one of the few who can make it!' and would feel good about that knowing that most of the people there don't think relationship post-A can survive.
    Anyway, after I recovered from my experience on that site I was actually considering asking you to remove that link from your blogroll (or at least move it down) because the point of view is so one-sided but I thought that maybe my reaction was too harsh, that maybe I was too thin-skinned, etc.
    Curious to hear your thoughts.
    PS - I don't go to that site anymore. I'm usually fairly thick-skinned but it was objectively brutal over there.

    1. Hey Erica,

      I'm so sorry for your experience. I posted the link that the Chump Lady site after I'd read a few posts about the Other Woman that seemed quite relevant to my experience and, I believed, that of my readers here. I now regret that I included it in my blogroll. Though there might be some great posts there, I've already heard too many comments from readers here that they were triggered or injured by something they read there. I want this site to feel like a "safe" place for women to bring their thoughts, fears, hopes without judgement or vitriol.
      I'm NOT usually thick-skinned though I'm becoming better at separating myself from others' disagreement -- ie. that rejection of my point of view isn't a rejection of ME. ain't always easy.
      Again, I'm really sorry. In the future, please bring anything like that to my attention if for no other reason than your voice deserves to be heard.


  6. "And I am glad to know that I took a breath, took my time, and my spouse proved himself to me as being worthy of a second chance."

    I am trying to do just this ^^^ - to sit in the uncertainty long enough to see what my husband can do, what changes he can truly make and sustain, what I can forgive and what I can heal from, what we can rebuild together. I am trying so hard to just sit and breath long enough, give myself the time. The uncertainty is uncomfortable - I feel it pushing in on me sometimes, nudging me toward quick decisions, pressuring me to act and decide and be... certain. I am a doer, a fixer, an action-taker. Sitting in this is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

    Thanks for the trigger alert - I am going to save myself the possible pain and skip reading whatever the other site has to say. I already question myself and my sanity for staying this long constantly - I don't need anyone else pouring gas on my self-doubting fire.

    I miss my husband deeply and profoundly. We're still together but I am distant and guarded, which is an improvement from raging and swinging (verbally and physically) all over the place. I miss the certainty that he represented to me, the grounding of him, the sense of having a "place" in this world, a heart to call home. I miss him so so deeply.

    Memories of the affair feel like lesions on my heart and brain, physical manifestations of pain. I FEEL them - raw open sores, tender spots that I avoid touching with my conscious mind. When my consciousness brushes up against them, I wince and pull back. They are deep, difficult wounds; I think the scars will be vivid and ugly. I am afraid they will disfigure my heart and mind.

    But then I read your posts, Elle, and I see hope. Maybe my scars will be bright while they heal but will fade. Maybe. I read a Pema Chodron quote today: "we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice."

    I am trying, ever so hard, to keep my heart open to possibility and not rush toward certainty. Uncertainty scares the shit out of me. Everything about this has terrified me. Staying in it, breathing through it, has been the hardest thing for me to do. I have wanted to run, to bolt, to escape into the righteousness and certainty that only evil, rotten people cheat. But my damn heart... it can't accept that my husband was evil and rotten. What he did was surely evil and rotten, no doubt, but through the haze of my own pain, I have not lost sight of him as a person, as my friend. Even in the darkest, most surreal moments of discovery, when I couldn't fathom how this could be reality, somewhere deep inside there was a voice that said "something is deeply wrong - this ISN'T who he is." So I stay and I wait and I watch. It is the hardest thing I have ever done; I cannot accept anyone calling this cowardice.


    1. you are NO coward Leslie. your dedication to walk through the darkness is a testament to your bravery and strength. you are NOT alone.

    2. Leslie,
      I can't recall how far out you are from D-Day. It took me a long time (like three years?) to trust that my path would become clearer. And even now, I struggle with missing that conviction I had that my husband was my safe place in the world. I'm learning to create my own safe place, which is something I should have learned in childhood but didn't.
      The root of our suffering, as Pema Chodron reminds us, is our fear of uncertainty. In my better moments, I'm able to recognize the lesson in all this. In my less better moments, I hate that I need to learn this.
      Like you, I've kept my husband at arm's length. Loving him and appreciating his friendship while nonetheless keeping myself from being totally vulnerable. I know that's still something I need to work on. By closing even a part of me off to him, I'm closing myself off to the world. By not allowing myself to engage fully with him, I can't engage fully with the world. I've just started EMDR to see if that helps. My husband did it (my husband, the same guy who thought therapy was for other people!!) and felt that it really helped him. Seem a little woo-woo...but in the interest of research, I'm giving it a try. :)
      Hang in there, Leslie. We'll all get each other through.


    3. Elle, I've posted a bit on the hysterical bonding thread. Anyway, I've done EMDR and found it helpful as long as you're addressing a situation that you have worked through already. In other words, you don't have things you need to address. It worked for me for one situation that was "haunting" me even though we'd done everything we could to get past it. It did not work for another situation, which is still open ended. Does that make sense?

  7. Elle, my husband and I just had this discussion this past weekend!

    In our situation, I told him that because he has 1) refused to enter in MC with me or 2) IC for himself besides not giving me 3)full disclosure (he is a truth trickler) and 4) full transparency that he is engaging in further 'emotional abuse' of me. He uses, IMO, his anger when I ask him about the affair details to keep me at a distance and to keep me from talking about IT. As a rug sweeper he just wants to "move on" and thinks we should just put in the past. I disagree.

    But I agree also with the CL website, I visited a few times, and yeah, unless I was part of their 'kick 'em to the curb' mentality then I wasn't fit to be a part of the dialogue, I felt. I too am a Christian. And I am a mother. And because I am NO SAINT I would hope that had I hurt someone that they would let me have another chance too. So for me, and my family, forgiveness & that one more chance, is what I decided to do. So far the forgiveness has not come, at least not the 100% way I thought it would, but I am working on it.

    I have committed to 40 days of 'purposely positive thinking' for Lent so that means 1) NO sniper comments about the whore or 2) angry outbursts about the affair. If I want to ask or get his response on why he did, said, or acted the way he did during the affair I follow your formula: 1) Why do I want to know? For pain or for healing? Then I wait 24 hours (per your advice, again, THANKS!)to cool down/reflect)and then I pose the question as a way to grow in understanding in CS but not to hurt my CS or myself.

    Ugh, sister its no fun. Thanks for your posts. I admire you site SO much. I wish my CS was better at making things work. I know he is trying but his PRIDE is still in the way. I struggle with it but I see how happy my kids are to see him at home again and I know I am on the right path. I still love the stupid jerk and he is still my best friend.

    THANKS as always for your timely posts and REAL understanding. It really means the world to me!

    1. Flaca,
      I'm a big fan of Barbara Coloroso whose parenting books are really people books. She refers to "Cons" or "countermoves", those things people do (consciously or more often unconsciously) to stop us from sticking to our boundaries. One of the most common is anger and aggression. It's my husband's countermove of choice...and I've only recently learned to a) recognize when he's doing it and b) not give in or react with my own anger. Once we're able to recognize others' behaviour as countermoves it gives us that space between their response and our reaction to stop and respond in a healthier way. Works with kids. Works with husbands. Works with mothers-in-law...
      I think it's great that you're using Lent to develop healthier behaviours on your end. But I'm still concerned that he's not meeting you even half-way. Until he's willing to acknowledge your pain, take responsibility for what he did to cause it and ultimately take necessary steps to understand why he did what he did, you're kinda alone in your healing. That's not to say YOU can't get to a healed, healthy place. But it is to say that while your marriage may survive, it certainly won't thrive.
      Have you asked him what he IS willing to do? Would you consider removing yourself from the marriage in spirit (ie. no longer being a "wife" to him -- emotional support, sex, cooking...)? Not to be manipulative but to make it clear that he can't have it both ways. It's called the 180 and it's outlined quite clearly on the Web site. I didn't need to do it but those who do say it really works for helping you set clear boundaries around your needs. And boundaries, I know, are what a lot of us struggle with here.
      I with YOU sister, in that this is no fun. And I know how important it is to know that your kids feel secure and happy. Which is great. But I also want you to put your own needs at the top of the list. As long as you don't insist on your boundaries being respected, no-one else will. Keep in mind that your kids are looking to you to model healthy behaviour including self-respect.
      Check out Barbara Coloroso. Like I said, works for kids. Works for husbands. :)
      Here's her list: The Three Cons
      1) Begging, Bribing, Weeping, Wailing, Gnashing Teeth…
      2) Anger and Aggression
      3) Sulking
      We tend to give him to Con 1 and we often are hooked into Cons 2 and 3 and react similarly. Unless we recognize them as Cons -- intended to get us to back down -- and are able to simply restate our position calmly, like a broken record.


    2. Hi Elle, thanks for the book tips. I will look into them for sure. And you are, as usual, 100% correct. My CS is NOT doing what he should be to help me heal. It's been 6 months of delay on his part (6 months since we reconciled to him moving back home and trying to save our marriage) and I have warned him that it wont last much longer.

      As for the 180- yes, you again are very timely in that advice. As a matter of fact, I was going to anger management classes recently and getting some really crappy advice to be more open, vulnerable, more compassionate to him... basically to swallow my pride and 'move on' from the affair. SO F'G LAME. So while I was mad, in the middle of my anger management class, I went online and read about the 180 method. It was actually on the CL website! Some folks there were bashing it and saying that if you had to resort to the 180 then you were pretty much just as f'd up as the CS was. Well I guess I am f'd because it appealed to me and yes, I started to employ it. And so far it is working for me.

      It works because I am not being mean to my husband but because yes I am setting boundaries. My husband is so used to me wanting to talk, to nurture, to support... now I remain polite but I don't extend myself. It's sad - we have little to no affection and I can't bring myself to say, "I love you" when he says it. I know I love him but saying it, well, I said it so much during the time he was treating me like dirt that I feel foolish saying it now. And sex, well that's gone, I just can't banish the images. But it has helped because I can tolerate to be around him, I don't want to scratch his eyes out, and I can manage to keep from bursting into hysterical tears. And I know he's noticed... he keeps asking me to talk more. And I told him he knows what I need that until those needs are met he can't expect me to keep hurting myself. He just apologizes and gets sullen. Oh well.

      And guess what?! As I was typing this guess who IM'd me to say he'd called our insurance to schedule counseling??? Best thing I heard today, "So what days do you want to go? I want you to know I am trying." Perhaps it worked?!

    3. Elle, me again (just replied to the EMDR in your comment above..hard with so many of us here with the same name: anonymous!) Anyway, I have an issue with the Coloroso model you describe....It's not that I can't do it. I can and have. It's that with a child things are different. I don't expect a child to be my emotionally supportive life partner so this is fine for them to react with resistance. With my adult life partner, it's important now that he WANTS to be emotionally supportive. Yes, he does comply with my requests after a lot of protest, anger, resistance, rationalizing why my requests don't make sense, etc, etc. But that isn't enough because it shows he doesn't have a clue about what he's done and how it made me feel. If he did understand, he would be bending over backwards to help me heal. Does that make sense? I'm really really struggling with this. We just started joint counseling and I've done a reassessment and realize that while he's done enough to enable us to have this "time of uncertaintly" and even enjoy being together and feel very intimate--on the other hand, I need much more to get beyond this stage and be committed to staying married for sure. How do you deal with this? Does this make sense?

  8. Hi-- I read CL and yeah, I think it's But it has also felt like a lifeline at times. I try to look past the reflexive "jerks!" posts, and listen to the wisdom--because it is there. There are some wonderful posters. And frankly, it's the only site I have found to help me deal, inside, with the passive aggressive-"yeah, I promise I'll" try--"no, I haven't Done anything to help you heal" --"Yes, I was looking for a new partner and trying to cheat" (years before his actual affair. All the stuff I have to drag/interrogate out of CS. What I find so sad in my life is that any sense of safety, of love, of warmth is all gone. Consumed by the lies and the utter lack of trying by CS. Not the words--the words are there, but the actions are just not there. I have shifted modes into grieving what I thought was a 25 year relationship--it was for me, I loved him so deeply, but realizing that he checked out years ago. Like, 5 years ago. No love. He says he loves me now, but ???? After 5 years of distance, cruelty and infidelity? Hard to accept. I'm still trying to figure out my direction, but all the options seem sad.

    1. Vera,

      I'm glad you found CL to be a valuable site. It's important to have that diversity among perspectives so that those of us seeking can find a place that suits and supports us. I'm just sorry that some of the commenters have negatively impacted readers here who've sought support for reconciliation.
      I'm sorry that your spouse isn't meeting you even half-way (and I generally think a cheater needs to go way beyond half-way). And there is no easy way out. I think so many of us think that the "right" way to go will miraculously become clear and seem like a logical, easy thing to do. And I just don't think that's the case, especially when infidelity is part of the mix. Either way, there's heartbreak and necessary healing. I suspect you know what you should do. Five years is a long time to wait for someone to hear your cries.
      And I don't doubt that he loves you as best he can right now. But that doesn't make his best good enough.
      Please feel free to keep posting. There's a lot of support on this site...and a lot of wisdom from those who've stayed in their marriage and those who've left.


  9. I have been reading CL for 7 months now and I am so thankful for her site. After a second discovery day, I kicked him out, got a lawyer and tried the no contact as much as I could. It has turned my blind husband around and he's dumped her, slowly moved back home and I feel stronger for it. If he wasn't being good to me or I had any

  10. *******"I miss my husband deeply and profoundly. We're still together but I am distant and guarded, which is an improvement from raging and swinging (verbally and physically) all over the place. I miss the certainty that he represented to me, the grounding of him, the sense of having a "place" in this world, a heart to call home. I miss him so so deeply. "******


    Beautifully stated. Have you said those words to your spouse. I hope so. Your words effected me, a stranger, so profoundly. I know your husband will be profoundly effected by them too.

  11. I have been pain shopping and now regret it. My husband let on that he had another email account and said he had kept the emails to OW (he has just had to face disciplinary proceedings at university after the OW made a complaint about him. He told me he was relieved he still had some emails which prove that the relationship was consensual and that she was actively pursuing him). So I read them,and am shocked and saddened by the contents, the thrill they had from keeping it a secret from their partners, the setting up of times to meet, the post
    Coital praise ( he had told me she was very passive in bed, which I found comforting, but now wonder if it was a lie). I don' t know whether to tell him, we have made so much progress and I wonder if I will sabotage everything. I keep telling myself that this was how he felt then, not now.I am wondering if I can contain myself and NOT let on to him that I know. We are in a good place now- she has moved home,her complaint to the university means that he risks losing his job if he contacts her, he has been so loving, contrite and honest with me and our sex life is great. I don't want to give her more power. I am thinking of trying to hold on the information for a week, and not tell. If I find myself feeling vulnerable, I may just blurt it out. I am feeling very angry with myself, but was so consumed by a need to know and felt he was keeping stuff from me (I'm sure he was protecting me from further pain)
    Any advice welcome.

    1. Anna,
      It must feel excruciating to have read what you did. I did a whole lot of pain shopping in the early days following D-Day. Some of it I'm able to see really helped me better understand what was going on in my husband's head...but much of it was like picking at a scab.
      The good news is that the memory of what I heard back then has faded. I recall the basic jist of it...but not the details. And what your husband does going forward is what really matters to your healing and your marriage. If you plan to rebuild, then just accept that the former foundation was faulty and rebuild from the ground up.
      Much of the appeal of an affair is the "thrill" of it. It's not so much the other person but how we feel -- young, interesting, sexy. It's the reflection in the other person's eyes that pulls so many people into doing what they thought they never could.
      It might help, if you can manage to stay calm, to tell your husband what you read. Let him know how hurt you are by them. He may be able to provide some context for them -- but then again, he may just react defensively, which can make it all worse.
      You judge whether he can support you through this. I'm not a big fan of secrets in a marriage. So I suggest telling him some point what you know. But you need to decide when that time is -- a time that you can trust your own ability to tell him without pain shopping, and trust his ability to support you without making it worse.


    2. Thanks Elle, I did end up telling him and it led to a helpful discussion. Only trouble is, I am having trouble sleeping, thinking about what they said to each other in the emails. I also had a trigger moment while playing soccer with my son just then- I was facing the room where they had sex and suddenly felt the old familiar sick feeling in my stomach. Despite this, we are doing well for 3 months post D day. I am grateful for your sensible advice, and the Peggy Vaughan site for helping me to recover from this. I can also say that while the affair has brought about pain for both of us, it has drawn us closer together and we are communicating in a far more respectful manner, instead of reverting to,our old defensive patterns.

    3. Anna,
      I'm glad he was able to support you when you told him what you'd read. But yes, those images are hard to banish. Keep in mind that so much of what you're imagining (scenes, tone of voice, etc.) are constructs of your imagination. You weren't there so you don't know exactly what transpired. It can sometimes help to realize that you're really telling yourself a story. And because you're doing the telling, you can do the rewriting. Picture the other woman with a saggy belly. Or farting. I used to imagine walking in and finding them together and seeing the fear on each of their faces, then I would imagine chasing her, naked, into the street. It generally would make me giggle. Eventually I tired of thinking of her at all, once I'd eliminated this artificial power I'd given both of them over me and my thoughts.


  12. one of my friends refuses to talk with me, since I still haven't decided if I want to stay with my cheating H or not. He went back and forth between me and OW within 6 months, and every time I decided I had enough and I was leaving, he would come back begging. But she had become an addiction for him.

    Finally, now, I think he has decided to stay and is doing everything he can to be with us. I'm still confused and hurt and trying to see where this takes us. Maybe he does deserve yet another chance. time will tell.

    1. Your friend doesn't sound very supportive or compassionate. Getting to that place where it's clear what we need to do next can take time.
      That said, I'm going to ask what it is you're waiting for? Has he shown any evidence that he deserves a second chance beyond simply wanting one?
      Perhaps what your friend is struggling with is watching you disrespect yourself. It can be hard to stand by while a friend allows herself to be treated poorly.
      What would you tell a daughter going through what you are? Would you tell her to give it another go? Or might you remind her that she deserves to be treated with respect and dignity?
      It's your call. Your life.




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