Monday, January 27, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex

Ugh. Sex after betrayal.
As if it's not enough that we feel as though our hearts have been plucked, still beating, from our chests and feasted on by the OW, we will sometimes sooner sometimes later be expected to bare our bodies to the person who betrayed us.
Double ugh.
Even after the hysterical bonding has cooled down, perhaps after a period of sexual anorexia, eventually – hopefully – we will want to respond to a physical need for intimacy and an emotional need for connection.
For some of us, the healing that can follow betrayal will easily make its way into the bedroom. For others, like me, the healing that has followed betrayal screeches to a halt outside the bedroom door. But, I'm increasingly forced to admit, that's a huge sign that there's still much healing to be done. And it needs to be done largely within myself.
My therapist calls it "sexual trauma" and for a long time I resisted that label. It made me feel damaged. But betrayal does damage us. Not irreparably, not all of us anyway. But profoundly. Betrayal, for far too many of us, is confirmation that we're faulty. That we're not enough.
Our path to healing involves understanding, truly and deeply, that is a lie. The "faulty" or "not enough" script comes from long before our spouses cheated. It's rooted in childhood or adolescence. It's a message we got from our parents, or siblings, or teachers or schoolmates or the culture around us. And then, just when we thought we found that person who sees us, truly sees us, as whole and that maybe, just maybe we can begin to believe it too, we discover the betrayal. "See?" we say to the universe. "I knew it. I knew there was something wrong with me. Why else would he cheat?"
The answer, as those of us further along the path to healing know, is that there was something wrong with HIS thinking. The answer lies in the stories he was telling himself about his own worth, his own needs. But that's not your stuff. Your stuff is about about ensuring that you don't build such a hard shell around yourself that sex becomes little more than scratching an itch, or becomes such a frightening prospect that you ignore it altogether.
Which brings me back to the point of this post. Sex, post-betrayal, is scary. But so are a lot of things worth doing.
My therapist, who I've recently begun seeing again for the sole purpose of helping me get my groove back, said something recently that resonated with me. She often takes groups to Kenya. Some clients take the trip more than once, and to those clients she says, "see Kenya through Zen eyes." In other words, she explained, no matter how many times they've seen the same things, she urges them to look at it as if for the first time.
My husband and I need to come together as if for the first time. We need to banish the baggage of betrayal to the basement (how's that for alliteration?) and come together as if we know nothing about the other. To find out what each other likes. To learn what each other doesn't like. To look at each other as if we've never really seen each other before.
Which, post-betrayal, is a really great approach but no less scary. We are different. Far different than the couple who clung together on D-Day as if we were drowning in pain. Far different than the couple who slogged through that first, and then second, year, wondering if we had the strength, the patience, to rebuild a marriage that had revealed a lot of holes.
And now we've fallen into a comfortable pattern. We talk more, we share more, we love better and more deeply. But I, at one point, drew a line around sex and put up a whole lot of Do Not Cross police tape around it. I became terrified at the prospect, despite a lifetime of loving sex. I wept at the idea of being naked in front of my husband – I felt so incredibly vulnerable.
He couldn't understand. "Because I feel hideous," I managed to finally say. His face measured pain and surprise. "But you're gorgeous," he told me.
No matter. I might feel gorgeous when I'm fully clothed. But take that armour away and I'm a woman terrified that he'll see I'm "faulty" or "not enough."
That's the old story, I know. That's the narrative I've spent years trying to erase or rewrite.
Sex after betrayal is where our wounds are laid bare. It's the arena in which we feel, perhaps, more vulnerable than anywhere else.
I'm learning though that it's an arena worth entering. That my vulnerabilities are also where my power lies. My strength is in letting my husband see those vulnerabilities, confident that I have built a strong enough foundation that no matter what anyone else says or does, I can know that I am enough. That I am not faulty.
That I am gorgeous.

64 comments:

  1. Elle - this is exactly what we needed to read today. At nearly one year out this is the biggest cause of suffering for me since I'm not concerned there was a significant emotional connection between my husband and the OW. I must have been not enough - not good enough - for him to want someone else. In fact what he wanted (he says) was someTHING else - from the way he was feeling. It was not about my perceived inadequacies and certainly not about the OW. It was about him. I like a comment Frank Pittman makes about the OW falling into the internal machinery of somebody else's marriage, let's agree that's an action vertiginous and extraordinarily unwise. We should issue a warning.

    I love your therapist's advice and I'm very glad to find it, I wondered if I might need to find a therapist specifically for this issue. I'd almost felt I was betraying myself by enjoying sex with my h so much more than before, because there's a greater vulnerability and presence, less of a distance between us. Did we have to go through such trauma to get here? Am I not letting down the sisterhood by staying around AND sleeping with the enemy?

    I bet you are gorgeous, I'm gorgeous too. The comments here are full of goddesses. Bless you.

    Such a good post. Many thanks x

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    1. Iris,
      You make me laugh. The "sisterhood" just wants you to have great sex. I can speak on behalf of all of us, I'm sure!
      I experienced something similar during hysterical bonding -- an incredible intimacy because, for the first time in a LONG time, my husband was truly present. What a difference. But as he's struggled with recovery from sex addiction, he began to wonder what was healthy, unhealthy, etc. and we slowly retreated from each other because it all just seemed so complicated. The rest of our marriage felt so much deeper that it seemed a reasonable replacement. But no more. I want physical intimacy.

      Elle.

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    2. thank you the sisterhood ;)

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  2. Those last few lines you write Elle are key, you have to be happy and confident about your body. What is it about being naked that makes you vulnerable? I think therapy around this issue will help. How does your husband respond to your ' sexual trauma' is he compassionate?.
    As you know I had just given birth when I found out about d day, my body was at my worse and I felt horrible. However, That didn't stop the hysterical bonding which has now subsided and we are back to a more ' normal' sex life. I have lost the extra weight I put on and I feel much more confident about my body. It's been 4 months since d day and I've had my fair share of grief having lost my father and friend in space of a week.
    Losing a parent certainly made me rethink life and death. Although the affair is not central to my life anymore it still creeps up on me. I don't dwell on it like I used because I have better things to be thinking of. The affair seems pretty trivial in comparison.

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    1. Sam,
      It's not a rational thing. Not really. Yes, my body has aged (I'm closing in on 50). And I'm no longer running marathons so the old grey mare, etc. etc. But that's not really it, frankly. It's the feeling of vulnerability. The feeling of being exposed. Clearly I haven't completely learned to trust. To be honest, I don't think I ever have completely trusted another person. Childhood wounds never completely heal, I think. And now I want to.
      We're getting there. Though I know this is dredging up some fears of mine, I'm also aware that it's clearly time they were dredged up. We're ready for them.
      How are you? Losing a parent does give perspective, but it also adds another layer of grief. I found my grief became all entwined until I was never sure just which event I was more sad about. The loss of my mother, or the loss of my fantasy marriage. And even now, close to seven years later, I still find myself missing my mom. I don't think that ever really changes though the missing is tinged with gratitude for having had her as my mom.
      It sounds as if you're navigating your own grief with gratitude. I hope so.

      Elle

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  3. Elle
    It sounds like you have done a whole lotta work on your marriage and the sex post betrayal is the icing on the cake. You will get there and when you do, you got a lot of catching up to do :). And 50 is the new 40 isn't it?? You have reinvented yourself and your marriage well done to you!!

    Let us know how you get on :) well not in so many words.

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  4. straight after I found out about the "affair" I was terrified - because I too felt inadequate and all that jazz. My fear of completely losing my husband (and my mind) is why I almost immediately amped up our sexual intimacy. I was afraid that my own complacency was mostly to blame for the affair - however unconventional it might have been I think forcing myself to be intimate has kept us together, It opened communication lines about things we had never spoken about before - there's a lot to be said about "pillow talk". We have three kids, three busy, nosy kids :) - so sometimes in bed is the only time we can really get a good discussion going. I still compare my self to the OW daily, hourly... I still watch her online profile on fetlife, I'm still trying to figure out what makes her better, why he neglected us for her... and so on. I find that for me, this affair was like a car accident - sex the equivalent of driving. Had I not gotten back in the driver's seat immediately, I may have never drove again.
    Elle, I love this blog - DD for me was September 8,2013 - I would not have survived had I not had this to turn to. You are wonderful!
    April

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  5. That whole sex thing is both interesting as tiring ;-).

    We've had hysterical bonding for about 6 months. After that about a year of my sex drive being much much higher than his.
    And now my sex drive is sort of back to normal, but I feel I still 'need' sex for reassurance. It feels that if he doesn't want to make love to me (even if I don't want it myself) I feel like he doesn't 'want' me after all.

    Confusing. And I'm so tired still needing confirmation from him that I'm enough. That he's not going to come home one day and say: Well, I've been thinking about it once more and I think I'm going to leave you after all, as I need someone (or something) else.

    Thank you so much for your posts. I keep them in a special folder and sometimes forward them to my H.

    It's good to have some sort of community, even though it's online!
    Wish there was a support group near me. There are weeks where I'm fine. There are days where I'd really really like to talk to someone who's been through the same....

    Mara x

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  6. I had a similar mindset to you April. I wanted to keep the hysterical bonding going because our sex life suffered for so long. I now understand that my husband was not fully present long before the affair, as was I, which was a major barrier to our emotional and sexual intimacy. HB brought me back into enjoying sex as well as wanting to assert sexual needs I hid from my husband. I am glad I had the presence of mind early on, to work hard to push negative thoughts outside of the bedroom and focus on my own pleasure. Sex and the accompanying pillow talk has been valuable as we work through the rest of the betrayal. Keeping our sexual connection has definitely helped my husband go through the fog. It has shown him that he is not coming back to the deadness we had before. Of course, we may be an exception and we are not that far into recovery so I imagine things can change.
    Also, feeling good about my body from suddenly loosing 10 pounds doesn't hurt either. However, I have been trying to maintain feeling good about my body by doing yoga and not relying on temporary crisis weightloss for that....

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  7. This is something I've been struggling with too. Not the sex part so much, but the body image issues post betrayal. A lot. It makes me sad but also SO ANGRY that my life has become this. The almost constant chatter in my head that I must truly be ugly, old and uninteresting for him to turn to someone else. Closing in on 50 sure doesn't help. It sucks to get old. It sucks even more to have to deal with anxiety over my looks when I’m old enough to know better. I really miss the strong, confident woman I used to be.

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    1. Ramona,
      You've got the shut that voice in your head up. I often remind my daughter that it's not what others say about us that's the problem, it's what we say to ourselves. On some level, you believe the negative self-talk in your head. My guess is your husband's betrayal had nothing to do with your appearance. Guys don't generally cheat because they think their wives are ugly. They might feel flattered by an attractive woman's attention...but ultimately that's not why they cheat.
      I'm with you on the nearly-50 thing. But, on good days, I remind myself that this body has served me pretty well. It has carried and nursed three children, an experience I wouldn't change for a flatter stomach and zero stretch marks.
      Ramona, you still are the strong confident woman you used to be. She's just lost in the barrage of self-recrimination. Send your critic away (literally, say out loud, "go away. You're not wanted.") and remind yourself that the wolf you feed (the one criticizing) only grows stronger. Starve him.

      Elle

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    2. Elle,
      You are so right, and thank you for such good advice. I know better, and hate it when I “need” reassurance from him that I’m good enough. He’s no Brad Pitt, that’s for sure. Why am I the one feeling ugly and worthless? I would give my daughter the same advice. It’s not okay to beat myself up about this. It’s getting easier to starve the wolf, but he’s sneaky, esp. on bad days. The last comment posted about the “beautiful temptress” made me laugh and put this into perspective, so thank you, anonymous, for that too.

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    3. So many of us are absolutely shocked when we discover that the OW isn't great looking...in many cases, she makes US look like supermodels. Which just reminds me, over and over, that affairs aren't about that at all. The OW is a convenient distraction. Nothing more.

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  8. Dear Elle and Ladies,
    It's a battle! Before the affair having sex was just " having sex" after that you feel like you're in a competition- back at High School with the other girl being top academically or the best in the sports team. I did the hysterical bonding, only realised I was not abnormal after coming to this site and finding it had a name. 1 year on I was starting to feel exhausted by this constant, " I must be the best, I need to satisfy" when I woke up one morning and thought, you know what, he needs to impress/seduce/arouse me. That was the first thing, secondly, after putting her in the league of beautiful temptress I started to recall the things he didn't find so exciting. The slight odour, rough skin, eyebrows that smudged off, spray tan that was never even, bad hair extensions, saggy boobs and the underwear 2 sizes too small. Okay, she obviously had something, but it wasn't her as a woman that I needed to compete with, it was my husbands depression and fog that I was dealing with. Gradually I have enjoyed the intimate calmer moments when I can tell that just spending time in bed with me, enjoying the clean smell, the smooth body albeit now approaching middle age, the trueness of me and those calmer moments have turned into spectacular moments. We need to realise that we have given a rare gift to our partners in staying with them. Confidence will come back and eroticism doesn't always need to end in sexual intercourse. I've finally added another dimension to what we already had, and we're loving it.

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    1. Hallelujah! So glad to hear you were able to recognize exactly what/who the OW was...and that she had nothing on you!

      Elle

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    2. Well said. Thank you.

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    3. Beautiful words. Thanks!!


      Just reading the book recommended by our therapist "Intimacy After Infidelity." It offers some good advice on how to navigate these issues.

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  9. I actually have a question somewhat unrelated to the topic but I just don't have anyone else to ask. I'm haunted by the thought of my husband having dreams about the OW while he's sleeping next to me. I wonder if he misses being with her. Is this normal? I know that if he does miss her and dream about the sex that he had with her, there is nothing that I can do about it. But I don't know what to do with that thought. I also wonder about that when we are driving in the car together and a car passes by that looks like hers in some way, if not the same make and model, I think to myself "he's wondering if that is her" or I just think that he's thinking about her. I'm so concerned about this because I read many of you ladies' stories that are over a year out from D-Day and you seem to be so far past stuff like this, if ever at all. I'm at the year and a half mark and still have to get up from my bed angry, crying, etc. because I wonder if he misses her or at least sex with her. I don't know what to do, I feel like it's driving me crazy and I can't afford therapy. Any feedback would help...Thank you!

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    1. Anonymous,
      It's a totally legitimate question...and something I suspect most of us have dealt with (or deal with still!).
      The thing is you're trying to control something you simply can't control. You know that. But I think what happens to us after infidelity is that we're hyper-aware that we can't control it. Discovering a spouse's cheating makes us feel completely out-of-control. We recognize, on a totally different level, just how little control we have over this person. So the pendulum swings the other way and we want total control. We not only want to know where they are, what they're doing and who they're with, we want to know what they're thinking and what they're dreaming. Makes sense within the context of our fear post-infidelity.
      Thing is...we can't have it. Truly healing and recovering from infidelity means acknowledging that there are things in our lives we simply can't control. It includes things like whether or not we're struck by a car, get cancer...or someone in our lives betrays our truth.
      The betrayal was such a shock to you and has shattered your sense of safety. So you, sensibly, try to ensure you will never be blindsided by that again.
      Life, however, doesn't come with guarantees. You might get cancer. You might get hit by a car. And your husband might be dreaming about the OW or some person he saw in a restaurant.
      You need to learn to let it go. To let all of it go.
      You might start by talking to your husband about this and telling him of your fears. Is he good at reassuring you? It might go a long way toward helping you banish those thoughts.
      But you can also start by recognizing just how toxic those thoughts are. Just like the person who worries about whether she'll get cancer, obsessing isn't going to change tomorrow. It's just going to make today miserable.
      Do you meditate? It's a really great way of teaching you how to control your thoughts. It doesn't involve banishing thoughts, but it teaches you to gently bring your mind back to breathing -- in and out. To recognize that those thoughts are facts. They're fears. And fears don't need to control us.
      You can also try putting an elastic around your wrist and snapping it each time you wonder what he's thinking. To remind yourself (and reinforce) that these thoughts are hurting you...and changing nothing.
      Hang in there. But you're right...it's time to take steps to eliminate those fears. I suspect openness with your husband and some mindfulness techniques will do the job.

      Elle

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    2. I've had and still have those same fears, What's he thinking about, What's he dreaming about? I've helped myself by controlling those fears by not only what Elle and the others have said, but by thinking about my own dreams and thoughts. We can't control what we ourselves think or dream about. I have had crazy dreams and I wake up and think, What the hell was that about??? I then tell myself, it was just a dream, it wasn't real. Dreams are the subconscious and just reassure yourself that if he IS dreaming about her it's a What the hell was I thinking? kind of dream. You know if he's truly committed to you. If there is a dream and there quite possibly is, neither you nor he has any control over it, and it's only that just a dream. Fact is IF he wanted to be with her he would be right? After they've come out of their delusion the dreams or thoughts are only a negative reminder of what a boneheaded mistake he made. Let go of it.

      I am happy to say I have very few problems in the sexual area. I'm not holding back anything and I am making him make up for all the "lost" time. I wear sexy, nighties, and lingerie. No way she could compare to me in bed!!! Headaches, HA, too tired, HA, Stella has got her groove back and I'm not letting it go ever again!

      You ladies are all Awesome and Beautiful. Know it, own it!!!

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    3. Thank you ladies...I don't know what I would do without this BWC!!

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  10. Hello Everyone
    Its so interesting reading your comments, thank you

    Our sex life is certainly different now. But I can't say better. That part of our marriage has always been amazing. Even looking back to the 'Affair time' it was good, it didn't change Always inventive! He couldn't complete the deed with the OW (they only tried once and messed around another time) but that still makes me feel insecure. I hate my boobs and have started to cover them in front of him. He gets really angry with me. But I can't help but think that he CAN compare even if he says he doesn't

    I would love to wake up and not have the 'Wolf' around. Its destroying me and could end up destroying our marriage.

    Life is certainly a journey, I think we have just gone down a bumpy road.

    Jane

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  11. I am a year and a half past dday and am experiencing something abit different than you mention. Not sure if it was hysterical bonding or not but for over a year I wanted sex constantly as my drug. For me it was emotionless and served as a quick remedy for a short endorphin high. Just what I seemed to need. Now still emotionless about sex I'm disgusted that the "moves" he puts on me are most likely what he did to her and it plain disgusts me. I put on a good act and try to enjoy it but blah. Not so great. 20 years of marriage and I should be in my prime enjoying myself and I'm just sad that the magic of sex seems gone. It now seems like just a sex act. I am much stronger now and feeling more happy and fun times but this is becoming a problem. Must add not ashamed of my body at all just cant reach the fireworks. Any words of wisdom would be great.

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    1. I'm at that almost 2 year mark and struggling after a time of hysterical bonding. I've read a lot of comments from BS that the bonding ends at some point and reality sets in and the real sexual struggles begin. I don't have any answers but just letting you know that it's not just you that is experiencing it.

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    2. Anonymous,
      It sounds as if the OW is still in bed with you and your husband. She was there when you were performing to win him back...and she's still there. I think if you can stop yourself from thinking about her at all, your sex life might get back to being about two people sharing intimacy, rather than an endorphin rush or an ego contest. It will take some practice...stopping yourself from going down that path when you wonder "did he try this with her?" etc. And in the short-term, it might even mean stopping sex if she enters your brain. But with practice, I think you can abolish her. Which can only be good for your sex life.

      Elle

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  12. I know, it's difficult thinking of them using the same " moves" with the o/w, but basically sex is sex and there are only so many positions so there will always be repetition. He would have eaten the same way in front of her, held his pen the same way, sipped his drink the same, in fact, most of the things we do in everyday life will be the same habit/way. However, your bedroom antics are unique to you as a couple. After 20 years of marriage the sex side might need revamping regardless of the affair. Tell him you want surprises, let him go away and think about it. Perhaps meet in a different location taking separate cars, chat at a bar/hotel as if you don't know each other. Have you tried intimacy without actual intercourse; massages and arousal to THAT point and then stopping? If you suggest that, you must keep to it and allow things to end there until the next time.
    For the lady who hates her boobs at the moment.... Make love but say to your husband you want to keep your bra on. Go out and find the best fitting, sexiest bra and work around that until confidence returns. After my first child I felt the same way and actually after breast feeding didn't feel turned on by him touching them. I went and bought a really sexy bra with matching knickers, the knickers flew off but the bra stayed. A few months on I was the one who took my bra off. Another thing I did was leave a beautiful black silk scarf by the bedside, when I had a wobbly moment afterwards or during, I just draped the scarf over me, it was a comfort blanket but still looked quite sexy just draped over.
    There are ways around everything and with each others help, we will get there and hopefully have some fun at the same time.

    Good luck you wonderful women.

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    1. Anon
      I couldn't agree more. There are just so many things you can do sexually and in the end really, it's all pretty much the same just a different head attached to it.

      Now the lies and emotional investment, that's another story.

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    2. I'm not sure I agree that it's just the same - when I look back, about two months prior to him being outed, he pressured me for anal sex - something we didn't do (painful) - I chalked it up to him needing heightened stimulation - but now I wonder if it was something she did that I did not. He will not say and it has not reoccurred since then...

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    3. I am very interested in this as it is something that my OH has been interested in for a while. We talked about it, before, and it is something that I was considering when I felt safe in the relationship. Now, after, and maybe still in the late stages of hysterical bonding, it is something he is subtly but obviously pushing for. I haven't had the guts yet to ask him whether he has done this with her. I don't feel safe with him again yet to this capacity. We are going to have to talk about it, but as we struggle to talk about everything now, this will be a particularly tough conversation and has the potential to go very badly.

      Has anyone else dealt with this?

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    4. You're right in that it's not always the "same". Each of us brings our sexual repertoire to any relationship, sometimes especially an adulterous one because the OW is using sex as currency.
      But it's important to note that sex isn't something one is inherently good at. Like being a good cook, we can learn.
      That can be fraught, however, in the wake of betrayal because we feel like we're being asked to compete with the OW. If at all possible, try to look at it not as competition but a chance to explore your own sexual boundaries.
      It can be one of the stranger bonuses of post-affair marriage -- the chance to discover each other as different than you were.
      I tried anal sex during the hysterical bonding phase -- something I hadn't felt comfortable trying before then. I didn't love it...but I didn't hate it either. In a way I felt like I took it from being something that was part of "their" repertoire to making it part of my own.
      That said, you both need to be able to say without fear of judgement, that certain things just aren't for you.
      But it never hurts to ask yourself why. Why aren't certain things for you? What do they represent to you? What messages do you have around certain acts that make them off the table for you? There's no right/wrong. But it only helps a marriage, I think, to be able to talk openly and without fear of judgement about who we really are.

      Elle

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  13. So I'm having a different sex related question. I am 6 months post D-day and in the hysterical bonding phase, although his sex drive is about 2x per week. He says hes not in the mood if hes too tired or too full (just gone out to a work-related dinner and he keeps really long hours so he might really be too tired). Problem is when I first found out about the affair which ended 2 years ago when she moved out of state, one of his excuses was that we hadn't been having sex, that I was always too tired (I used to fall asleep in my then 4 year old daughters bed because she was afraid to sleep alone), and that he thought maybe I wasn't interested. The truth is all of the above. Our marriage was indeed having problems and I would have rather slept than had sex (we have been married 10 years but together 20, so sex was kind of dull).It just didn't seem worth the effort.
    Now I see how important sex is to a healthy marriage, helping us both feel wanted. But I also think part of the reason we weren't having sex was that he withdrew from the marriage, maybe just subconsciously, to help him justify his affair.
    So now every time I offer sex and he's not in the mood I have insomnia. I think to myself so in 2 years when I find out he was having an affair in 2013-2014 is he going to say, "well, we weren't having sex"
    Of course it's irrational; hes allowed not to be in the mood just like I'm allowed. So how do I get these thoughts to stop?
    -Sam

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    1. Sam,
      I suspect his "you weren't in the mood" is something of an excuse. An in-hindsight rationalization for his affair. While it's important for you both to acknowledge what wasn't working in your marriage, it's also important to note that "fixing" those things doesn't magically "fix" the marriage.
      Perhaps his sex drive just isn't that strong. Perhaps he's still struggling with guilt or shame. Perhaps he wants things that he's afraid to ask you about. What is he saying beyond the "I'm tired"? Can you two have a really open discussion about what a great sex life would look like for each of you? It's really important to get to a place where you can discuss things openly -- free of shame or fear of judgement -- and be equally free to say "that's just not for me". Sex is so loaded for us -- brings up all sorts of issues around our self-worth and so on. When really we should be able to speak about it the same way we might talk about take-out. "Feel like Chinese tonight?" "Nah...gives me gas. How about Mexican?" "Not crazy about it, but I'll give it a try."...

      Elle

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  14. I really needed to read this today, many things in this post resonated with me. Thank you for this site- even though everyone on here is a complete stranger to me, the commonality of our experiences helps me to realize that I'm not alone in my pain.

    I'm 8 months post D-day and still feel like this roller coaster I'm on is in no way ready to come to and end. The ups and downs have also extended into the bedroom, not just sex, but my body image too. We went through hysterical bonding for almost 6 months, but as that has now come to a halt- a screeching halt- I'm finding myself increasingly insecure about my body and increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of having sex with him. I lock the door when I shower now as well, I'm too uncomfortable having him see me naked- which is crazy! We've been together 18 years. He's seen me at my best (the 18-year old athlete), to a hugely pregnant woman 4 times, to my postpartum, leaky breasts body and everything in between. But now, I can't stand for him to see my naked.

    And sex- it was great during hysterical bonding and strangely, I rarely thought about her then, but now... Now I think about her. Did he make those expressions with her, did he do this to her, did he like this better with her, did he like her body better..... Ugh. And then I'm left feeling dirty after sex because I feel as if I gave in to the temptation for physical intimacy even though it didn't feel right (how can it feel right when you're thinking about the OW throughout?!) and I feel like I'm no better than the two of them. Giving into a temptation that isn't right. And that causes me to spiral back into a black hole of anger and resentment- it shouldn't make ME feel dirty to have sex with my own husband- the only man I've ever been intimate with. That shouldn't make me feel dirty.

    For those of you further along in healing than I obviously am- how do I make myself stop thinking about her during sex? Does anyone else relate to the feelings I'm having- feeling dirty being with your own husband? And I've read enough on this site to know I'm not the only one who deals with body image issues, and I know intellectually that this wasn't about him finding me unattractive- in fact, like many have commented as well, she practically makes me look like a supermodel- but I don't know how to stop feeling insecure about my body. For me, it's especially my breasts- they are small and deflated from breast feeding and from what I can tell in pics- she was much more well endowed. The sad thing is, I know exactly how I'd counsel to my own daughters if they had body image issues, yet I can't seem to heed the same advice for myself!

    Thoughts or advice?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      Your story sounds a lot like mine. I was fine for quite a while immediately post D-Day. Sex was fantastic. And then...screech. My mind entered the scene and ruined everything. And now, here I am years later, barely having sex at all.
      Please learn from my mistake. It became easier for me to just not go there at all, then to have to experience the pain and hurt and anger of thinking about her when I was having sex with my husband.
      I wish back then I'd taken steps to STOP thinking about her. I can't offer much more advice than the mindfulness stuff I've suggested to others -- picturing a stop sign when you begin thinking about her for example.
      One woman on this site suggested buying gorgeous lingerie that makes you feel really good -- including keeping a bra/top on until you're totally over that particular neurosis. I haven't tried it...but think I might.
      And I'd love to hear others thoughts.
      One other thing I will say though. Our marriage counsellor has my husband and I hug each other for three minutes daily -- full-body hugs that are NOT to lead to sex. Just hugs that remind us that we love each other and it feels good to be close. Slowly, she says, we'll move toward being intimate...but really slowly. Starting with just touching each other. Exploring each other's likes/dislikes. But with no sex, at first. It's a way to remind ourselves that we don't completely know each other. That we're always changing and things that felt good, no longer do.
      Anyone else??

      Elle

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    2. Thank you for your reply and honesty, Elle. I'll try to take it to heart. Every time I start to feel this way, the anger wells back up. I still have a long road ahead in the healing process. Thank you for this blog. It's been such a valuable resource to me!

      *and I'm sorry my comment posted twice! Not sure what I did!

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    3. I am also about 8 months out, the OW also was much more well-endowed, but also much bigger than I am everywhere and I, too, have just started having thoughts about "did he do this with her?" etc. that are causing me so much pain, I wonder how far I have really come. My husband INSISTS that I am desirable and he is much more attracted to me, and much more aroused by me, than he ever was with her, etc., etc. But, like you, he was my one and only, and she is a certified marriage wrecker with a long history of relationships with married men, encouraged him to watch porn with her (out of character for him), took his to X rated book stores to buy sex toys, etc. I have zero confidence compared to what she might have done with him and my ability to "measure up." I have tried the lingerie to feel better about myself, it isn't helping me much right now. He loves it! How do I ever know I am enough?

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    4. It's so interesting to me how quickly we believe negative things about ourselves and how we resist believing good things. Doesn't seem to matter how often my husband tells me he finds me sexy and beautiful, I don't quite believe it. But he once insulted an outfit I wore and I can remember every word of that insult.
      Ask an author whether or not they believe the dozens of good reviews of their book...or the one that says the book sucks! You know the answer.
      It's human nature to believe the negative because it confirms what we secretly think about ourselves. My daughter was once upset because some girls had said something about her (can't remember exactly what -- along the lines of she wasn't popular or athletic, both which she believed). I asked her if they were making fun of her for having purple hair, if she would be upset. "No," she replied, "because I don't have purple hair." Exactly, I said. It isn't what they're saying to you, it's what you're saying to yourself.
      Your husband is telling you that he finds you desirable, attractive, that he loves the lingerie. But you're telling yourself that the OW was more exciting or interesting or provocative. If that's the case, why is he with you? Is it possible that he DOES find you sexy and provocative and interesting and exciting...and what's more, he wants to be with you when the sex is over?? My guess is that's far more true than any story you're telling yourself.

      Elle

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    5. I showed this to my H and he asked me to print it and stick it next to my bed ;-)

      Mara x

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  15. I really needed to read this today, many things in this post resonated with me. Thank you for this site- even though everyone on here is a complete stranger to me, the commonality of our experiences helps me to realize that I'm not alone in my pain.

    I'm 8 months post D-day and still feel like this roller coaster I'm on is in no way ready to come to and end. The ups and downs have also extended into the bedroom, not just sex, but my body image too. We went through hysterical bonding for almost 6 months, but as that has now come to a halt- a screeching halt- I'm finding myself increasingly insecure about my body and increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of having sex with him. I lock the door when I shower now as well, I'm too uncomfortable having him see me naked- which is crazy! We've been together 18 years. He's seen me at my best (the 18-year old athlete), to a hugely pregnant woman 4 times, to my postpartum, leaky breasts body and everything in between. But now, I can't stand for him to see my naked.

    And sex- it was great during hysterical bonding and strangely, I rarely thought about her then, but now... Now I think about her. Did he make those expressions with her, did he do this to her, did he like this better with her, did he like her body better..... Ugh. And then I'm left feeling dirty after sex because I feel as if I gave in to the temptation for physical intimacy even though it didn't feel right (how can it feel right when you're thinking about the OW throughout?!) and I feel like I'm no better than the two of them. Giving into a temptation that isn't right. And that causes me to spiral back into a black hole of anger and resentment- it shouldn't make ME feel dirty to have sex with my own husband- the only man I've ever been intimate with. That shouldn't make me feel dirty.

    For those of you further along in healing than I obviously am- how do I make myself stop thinking about her during sex? Does anyone else relate to the feelings I'm having- feeling dirty being with your own husband? And I've read enough on this site to know I'm not the only one who deals with body image issues, and I know intellectually that this wasn't about him finding me unattractive- in fact, like many have commented as well, she practically makes me look like a supermodel- but I don't know how to stop feeling insecure about my body. For me, it's especially my breasts- they are small and deflated from breast feeding and from what I can tell in pics- she was much more well endowed. The sad thing is, I know exactly how I'd counsel to my own daughters if they had body image issues, yet I can't seem to heed the same advice for myself!

    Thoughts or advice?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I can relate. The whole notion of sex as "dirty" has eclipsed my formerly healthy ideas about sex. My therapist insists I've experienced sexual trauma, which is what makes me view it as "dirty" now. I think she's probably right.
      The challenge now is healing from that.

      Elle

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  16. This is such a scary subject. I felt I had soooo much to deal with around the affair I couldn't let the whole "did he do this or did he do that or was she better" etc even into my conscience otherwise I believe I truly would have gone stark, raving mad!!! Trust me, all that entered my mind but I guess as a true self defense mechanism I have pushed it out. I have really worked hard re-building my self esteem and self image. I know that what men, and my husband is no exception, love is a woman who is self confident. So I guess what I did was "fake it till I made it". We also have to remember the reason men cheat is for the ego boost. It's NOT what they had physically or how attractive they were, it was ALL about how she stroked his ego. If it were all those things every whorehouse across the country would be filled with men, married or otherwise. No really attractive woman would be safe and every man would be out to bed down beautiful women. No one would be safe!!!! Most men affair down because there are certain women who are willing to do whatever they can to get the attention they want from a man. Most of them do it for their own personal agenda ie money and support or job advancement. So yeah most of us are not supermodels but guess what neither were the other women. And as you know they were probably not in as good a shape as you or as beautiful or accomplished. I totally get the locking of the bathroom door but you are only hurting yourself with that. Girl strut that stuff in front of him and TELL him how beautiful you know you are and how lucky he is to have you!!! I think I am a lot older than you and if I can do it, (because trust me you haven't even seen sagging yet:) I know you can. He's with you because he WANTS to be with you NOT HER, not her big boobs or anything else. He wants you to be confident so go out there and make him regret he EVER thought he needed anyone else. You can do it!

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  17. Don't know why on earth I'm sharing this, but to all those betrayed that are having difficulties with bedroom issues, here are some things that have worked for us. They will not work for everyone. This is going to be in list form. Here goes, hang on to your knickers, bloomers or G strings.......

    1/ Music. Spend some time creating a gentle calming playlist/cd for the bedroom. Turn the lights down and just listen whilst holding each other.

    2/ Special candles with oil which can be used for massage. Be careful that its not too hot but the warm liquid being massaged feels glorious. Tell your partner to close his eyes and drizzle over.

    3/ Feel horrible in knickers that are like dental floss and the obvious erotic underwear. How about trying white frilly bloomers with a white corset, the kind of milk maid look. I felt better with these as I had issues after the baby, it started off as a costume for fancy dress but it turned my husband on that I kept them.

    4/Try to create a night without the kids and go to a prepared different room. Candles, rug on the floor, no television, no getting dinner ready and put on really different clothes. Not sexy, just completely different. If you're in workwear and don't normally dress down, put on jeans and a sweatshirt, put your hair up/down, if you're usually in sweatpants all day, try putting on a skirt and blouse. What did you do when you were courting. Try to go back to the music, games, food, perfume and hobbies that you had when you first met, no matter how stupid.

    5/Try a bodycon all in one that pulls in all the bits. The black colour is best. I used one for a dance underneath a long dress, as I was getting dressed my husband said it looked nice, although these are meant as underwear pullers in, It made me feel confident and because you cant rip them off, access was just gained by lifting up the bottom of the garment. Anything to get you through that moment when you have body issues.

    I'm going to come back with some other suggestions and just for the record, my husband who often peeks as I'm writing this says " He only ever lost his erection if the o/w ever passed through his mind!" So, yes, they may think about her but the same way we feel about those old boyfriends that had halitosis and kept farting.

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    Replies
    1. Thank-you so much for that! Those are some great ideas, beyond what women's mags usually tell us. I love the idea of simply making it...different. It ties in with my therapist's suggestion of looking at each other through "Zen" eyes -- a lens that recognizes we don't know everything about each other. That we can still explore and discover new, interesting things about our partner. I appreciate you writing this list...even if it made you a bit uncomfortable.
      And yes, I've heard way too many stories about the embarrassment some of these guys feel about their liaisons...and how they really weren't all that amazing at all. Farting indeed!

      Elle

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  18. One other thing that I've just remembered and it's the silliest thing but it works. Rather than setting out for intercourse or going ahead when not really aroused, explain that this act is not to end in intercourse. Go just for foreplay but LOOK each other in the eyes. Feels strange at first, but you have to keep looking. Staring at someone for 15-20 mins or even less is a long time. I remember when I was 6 months post D Day I was desperately searching to maintain the sex after hysterical bonding had ended. I'm sure it has something to do with Tantric sex, anyway, the results helped us and for some reason we both ended up crying.

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    Replies
    1. The idea of staring at my husband for 15 minutes would probably make us laugh, but that's a good thing too !! I suppose in the right moment that would be a very powerful act and I can see how you could become emotional. Great ideas ladies keep them coming!

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  19. Hi Sam A,

    Yes, it made us giggle at first but we tried it a few times and each time we were able to look into each others eyes for longer. You're so right, laughter is a great thing between each other and it all leads towards that togetherness. It's so difficult to trust again and not to feel hatred for what they've done. When my husband explained that he really hated himself for what he'd done and he knew that I would be thinking the same thing it would just crucify him. Its a case of getting the o/w out of our minds or at least thinking they were nothing special. My husband said he knew she was nothing special, he was just amazed she was up for it but then thought, what kind of woman have I got wanting me? The kind of woman who is just available to everyone. I almost have to have the mind-set now that what happened to him was just as traumatic as it was for me. I pity him, its a huge rock to carry on your back.

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    1. That makes so much sense, I think I'm think I'm past the hatred stage. Im ready to rebuild something special with my husband and I'm sure there will be laughter and tears along the way. I might just ask my husband about the 'stare' see if he is up for it. I'm kinda intrigued : ) x

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  20. I will not be defined by his affair. I do not care if he was thinking about me or not, I don't care how much compartmentalisation he did. I don't care about the demonstrative women who say " once a cheater, always a cheater" What I care about is my life, my children's life and husbands life from this point. He knows how much he's hurt me, he knows what a fool he's been and he also knows how blessed he is that I will try and make a go of things. Its happened!

    I sometimes think it would make everyone else happier had I chucked him out, then they would feel that " their justice" was served. Meanwhile, I continue a life that will inevitably bring up disappointments and hurt again and what do I do then? Banish my children when they make awful mistakes, cut off contact with my parents when they fuck up? And thinking about it, what about when I, if ever, betray or do something awful to another.

    No one should be walked upon or taken for granted, but if you have a partner who can see the error of their ways, does everything in their power to lead a better life, then we should at least try and see what the future will bring.

    For the record, my husband said that he really didn't think about me during the affair, it was all about him, his needs, his addiction, his messed up mind. Yes, there were moments when he had to because he needed to make a call to cover his tracks, but it was his problem. unfortunately after discovery it was about us as a family and the consequences and heart break. But, couldn't give a shit about what he was thinking, I just know he did wrong, really wrong but we're working through it. Its a work in progress.

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    Replies
    1. Like you, I wondered what sort of choice I would be making if I left my husband. What would I be saying to my children? There are, of course, two sides: on the one, the message is that dishonesty and deceit and betrayal comes with a price. On the other, we each will make mistakes. Which is why, ultimately, I don't think there is a "right" response to this. We all have to make the choice that is best for us. Affairs don't exist in a vacuum. They occur within a larger context of the marriage, friendships, and so on. Our task is to determine whether or not the affair is symptomatic of a larger issue (which could continue to jeopardize us) or a horrible mistake that's unlikely to happen again. We get to decide, not our family or friends or larger culture.

      Elle

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    2. "I will not be defined by his affair. I do not care if he was thinking about me or not, I don't care how much compartmentalization he did. I don't care about the demonstrative women who say " once a cheater, always a cheater" What I care about is my life, my children's life and husbands life from this point."

      Considering that some of their encounters happened when he flew to see her on my birthday and when he opted out on a trip with the kids and me to go on a trip with her, I do still care about the fact that he was clearly NOT thinking about me, but I'm working to get past that. But like you, I too am determined - even through my tears and rage - that this affair will not define me, and that I too care about is my life, my children's life and husbands life from this point. She will not take my life. We're not broken, just (terribly) bent and we will get through this. - MYR

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  21. Think I just posted the last comment in the wrong section, should have been in " What we he thinking"

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you so much for the above post. I am 6 months post d day today and 2 years after the affair ended. This is EXACTLY where I am. It is so inspiring and encouraging to read what you have written.

    I never thought I would be a member of this club because I thought my husband was better than this, but I am so happy to have found all of you.

    Sharing really helps.

    -Sam

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    Replies
    1. Sam,
      We're happy you found us too...but I know each of us wishes you or anyone else didn't need this site.
      Welcome to the club nobody wants to join! :)

      Elle

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  23. Thank you so much for above post. You said what I am currently experiencing beautifully. It really helps to know others are in the same boat and trying to reconcile, as we are.
    Sam

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  24. Hi Sam,

    There are literally thousands of us. I'm glad that this site has helped. I was the person that wasn't going to join a blog, I didn't need people helping me with this, it was personal and we weren't like any other couple.... Well, it took me a few weeks to find out that yes, I did need a positive well balanced site, we were like other couples and although I remain anonymous, it wasn't that personal enough that I could remain without the nourishment and encouragement from Elle and other members. I have cried reading this site, I have literally laughed my socks off and I have gained valuable knowledge and ideas to help me cope. As we move forward, we may need to use this site less, but from time to time I will always come back to this blog to put a little something back to all the woman that gave me the helping hand I so needed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      Glad you're here and that you decided not to go it alone. I think it helps to have those who "get" what we're going through, even if circumstances are different. What's more, it's nice for us to be able to escape into this blog without having to share our pain with our day-to-day world. We can unload here and then, bolstered, put on our "party face" (as my mom used to call it) and get back to the real world.

      Elle

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  25. I am really struggling this week. The other night I felt like I was struck by a lightening bolt after we had sex. My husband for 8 yrs was having happy ending massages both during business trips to Asia, then continuing with "escorts" he found on backpage in our hometown. What brought me to tears the other night after sex, was realizing that "our sex" is no longer that....it seems to have been re-written to incorporate those women's methods and what was developed as his sexual preference for so long. I broke down at one point when he started to telling me to do something different....was it something she, or they did that he liked? Is this what led him away, am I not satisfying sexually? OMG, it was awful....
    fortunately he was compassionate and we talked but I don't want to have to perform like someone else. I feel like I am in a competition now and that I have to learn something new to keep him happy. Of course it is all so confusing and since we are only 3 months past D-Day, I am still emotionally raw. Part of me wants to shut down and withdraw, esp. from sex, but I know how wrong that would be.
    Thanks for letting me share.
    J.

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    Replies
    1. J,
      Yes don't withdraw unless you're finding sex traumatic. However, what I'm hoping you can do is recognize that each of you is always changing. Whether it's something you see in a movie that makes you decide to rearrange your living room, or something you see in a magazine that makes you decide to try a new salmon recipe...we're always incorporating new ideas into our own lives. Yet many many couples have the same sex for years and years and years. We feel at our most vulnerable when we're naked with another person. It brings up all sorts of issues about our attractiveness, body image, performance. Our culture doesn't help by constantly reminding us that a normal body isn't gorgeous enough.
      But, as I noted in my post, by trying to come back together with a recognition that perhaps you can begin to look at each as constantly changing people. Absolutely it's painful that your husband got some of his new ideas from other partners (as opposed to an article in GQ, for example). And you are completely within your rights to draw boundaries around what does and does not fly with you in bed. But if you can approach this as a chance to learn more about each other -- and it goes both ways; you get to suggest things that you might like to try too -- you might be able to reclaim "your" sex. Many of us have had sexual partners before our husbands and there's no question that we bring some of what we learned into our marriages. So it's the issue that this happened "during" rather than "before" that's really tripping you up.
      As I said, of course I'm not glossing over just how vulnerable sex feels post-betrayal. So you could even ask your husband to just put the brakes on anything new until you feel a bit less freaked out by it. But try and eventually consider it as a chance to learn more about the man who's always changing...just as you are.

      Elle

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  26. Thank you for this post. I have read all the comments and I find comfort in knowing that there are others here who have only been with their husband. Up until his affair I was his one and only. Boy this messes with my head big time. He has said to me on many occasions there is NO ONE else here and while I believe him(he was really good at compartmentalizing) I still 'invite' her in. Oh how I hate that I am soo accomadating!!!! ; / I have heard different ways of dealing with this. I read somewhere to picture her in the room watching you. Trust me she's not laughing. (My husbands AP divorced her husband of 30 years during their 2 year affair thinking that she had a future with him. She was also my competition when we were dating in high school ) I struggle with her presence and all the 'stuff' did he say that do that bla bla but as my therapist told me SHE DID NOT KNOW HIM and I find peace with that. I also know he wishes we could hit the rewind button and has said how ashamed he feels. It helps so much that he is doing EVERYTHING right. Ps...we make love.....THEY had sex.
    Here's to LOVE.
    L

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    Replies
    1. I was a virgin when I met my husband & have never been with any one else. He had sex with 3 women before we dated. But I used to think at least I'll be the last. But I never imagined that there would be another one DURING the time that we were together. Sometimes I wonder ( more so after the affair) if there's something I'm missing out on. But MY values are still the same. His cheating didn't change them -- I still believe that meaningless sex is just that-- meaningless & therefore I won't lower my standards just because he did. I am my own person have to answer to myself & look myself in the mirror every day. & I'm glad that I don't see a cheater looking back at me & I feel sorry for my husband that he does

      But I still wonder sometimes.

      -sam

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  27. After having been together for about 20 years, my husband night enjoy watching soft porn movies on cable TV as foreplay and even sometimes during sex. However, last night, as I was watching one of these movies, my head was substituting him for the man and the affair partner as the woman. I just couldn't stop picturing the 2 of them together as I watched . It really ruined the mood. I'm six months post today and this is the first time it really happened to this intensity. I hope I can get it to stop.

    -sam

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  28. Sam
    I agree totally! I can look at myself in the mirror ... and now I see a woman with a lttle more fear in my eyes but I also see someone stronger than I ever imagined...for that I sm thankful...but just today I was thinking of asking my husband who he sees when he looks in the mirror...I'll let you know what he says...
    L

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  29. First - thank you! Elle, for sharing and writing this blog; everyone, for sharing your stories. You've all been a God send. We've been together over 25 years, and are 6 months post D-Day of a month long affair. We are doing so incredibly well in so many ways, it's hard to believe how terrible our marriage was before. The hysterical bonding ended around 3 months post D-Day, but our making love continued on a more 'normal' level. I was often bombarded with 'images', but was somehow able to work through them and still enjoy our love making. About 3 weeks ago, this took a turn for the worse. I'm unable to get past the feeling of how he 'shared' himself with her. Not the actual sexual acts, but the intimacy shared with her. He tells me it wasn't really like that, and nothing like the deep bond we share. But I'm really struggling. Help, please!
    Cat

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    Replies
    1. Hi Cat, You've done so well 6 months D Day, you really have. Different things at different times come back to haunt us. After getting the awful images out of my head for part of the day, like you, I then was more angry by the intimacy. It took me a long while to realise that sometimes it appears as if we have bonded with someone when in fact we haven't. Think of the parents in laws that we normally wouldn't enjoy spending time with, but we look as if we're really getting along, the mum you cant stand at school but your son is best friends with her son so you make the effort, the health care workers that look after a loved one, we laugh and joke with them, buy them little gifts even though we think they are lazy and don't take a pride in their work but we want to make it better for our relatives they are looking after, the mechanic who looks after your car, we want these people to like us and feel that by being friendly and charming and appearing to be close to them, they will do a bit more or care a bit more. Well, its the same for the affair partner. My husband was a completely different man in front of her, these women are usually really needy and fishing for compliments and moments with our husbands. So they appear interested in things that they're not. My husbands mistress. according to him came out with such bullshit it was laughable, but he didn't care as he was never going to form a life with her, he just wanted one thing. They are only sharing one thing with the O/W: More bullshit and in return receiving it along with a few favours!!!!! My husband couldn't believe how naive she was and looking back after affair fog doesn't understand how he got away with the rubbish he told her. So hang on to that thought, you have done so well and so quickly.

      I wish you well.

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