Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What the *@#% was he thinking?

It was 6 a.m. after a long night of me interrogating my husband. But why? I would ask, over and over in many different ways. What were you thinking?
"I wasn't," my husband finally said. "I wasn't thinking about you at all!"
Bam. There it was.
Though he'd said variations on that same sentiment – that his cheating had nothing to do with me – plenty of times, there was something about his candid admission that, as he left our house in the morning to drive to her house for a pre-work quickie, he simply wasn't thinking of me that hit me like a lightning bolt.
He wasn't thinking about me. This wasn't about him battling his conscience, torn between the pajama-clad wife at home wiping her toddlers' faces or the showered, perfumed Other Woman.
He wasn't thinking about me. At all.
It's crazy right? And crazier still that this made me feel good. In that moment, I got it. I finally understood that his cheating really had nothing to do with me. This was about a parallel world he believed in where he was free to do what he wanted. Where he didn't have obligations or responsibilities. Where it was all about him. He didn't care about her. Didn't even like her. She was escape. And escape was what he craved.
So often when women write to me within their letters is the question "why?" over and over and over. Why would he do this? What was he thinking? How could he ruin our relationship? What about our children? Didn't he think about them? 
Aren't I enough? they ask. How could he throw away five/ten/twenty years? Didn't he think about what he was doing?
I doubt it.
Cheaters become masters at compartmentalization. Some are so good at it because they're truly narcissists who simply don't care about anyone else. They aren't thinking about you because they never think about you except in how you can be of use to them.
But the others, like my husband, are garden-variety fuck-ups. They've got issues, often deep issues, that haven't been addressed. Childhood abuse or neglect. Emotional detachment. Mother issues. Unprocessed grief. An inability to recognize or manage their own fear – of growing old, missing out, failing.
And then someone comes along who offers escape. Someone in whose eyes they loom large and exciting and interesting. The someone is less important than what that someone offers. A parallel universe. Escape.
It's the reason so many of these guys are stunned when the affair is dragged into the real world and suddenly it seems so ridiculous and cliché and embarrassing. They can't believe what they've done. They're acutely aware of just what they have to lose.
It's not always immediate. Sometimes this parallel universe has such a hold on them that it takes them a while to shake it from their psyche. Like someone in the dark arriving, blinking, into the bright sunlight. They're not sure which one is reality, the light or the dark.
But a lot of guys know immediately that they've really messed up. That this escape has been a total illusion. That the price of this fantasy is going to be high.
They're the ones who insist that they're not that guy. That they didn't know what they were thinking. They don't want to talk about it. It's humiliating. It's confusing. They can't really explain what they were thinking because they weren't.
If they really think hard about it they might acknowledge that they were thinking variations on such things as nobody will get hurt. Or I feel young again. But mostly they just weren't thinking at all.



54 comments:

  1. Another great topic and message from you Elle~ this is exactly where I am right now and what I keep asking him over and over..WHY? It's all I think about day and thru long, sleepless nights. If only he could give me a pat answer to the question then I could maybe understand and get somewhere. I now know the who, what, where, when...but the why is the missing link. Thank you for shedding some light into the dark world I am in right now.

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  2. Hi. I know we are all different and no one can read minds - I get that, so no need to answer with that. My question to you, Elle, if you don't mind and I hope you will answer after thinking a long time, even if you are super duper busy with family stuff, but because I read your blog and obviously value your thoughts:

    Why do you think there are women like YOU and uggh, me, who have stayed - we have very different but similar stories....

    Yet - I go to Surviving Infidelity - and read so many things so opposite...like today, a woman divorced her husband over an internet affair.

    What is your take on such EXTREME decisions/outcomes. And yes - I know, we are all different...what else do you think? I'm sure you've struggled long about this also. Or maybe you don't read infidelity forums anymore. I know I only feel worse when I read them......

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    1. Anonymous,
      I don't think it's unlike people who believe they're "right" about anything -- homosexuality, social assistance, evolution. There are people who simply see the world in black and white, wrong and right, bad and good.
      Those are the people who speak in absolutes and feel comfortable generalizing. "Once a cheater, always a cheater."
      But, in my experience, they're also the people who are so terrified that their world view might not be absolutely correct that they can't even entertain the possibility that there might be another point of view.
      That shift is one of the gifts of this experience for me. It forced me to give up my insistence that I was the "good guy" and my husband was the "bad guy" and recognize that we all make choices that don't always jibe with who we want to be. It forced me to decide whether or not I was willing to acknowledge that he could do this horrible thing...but not be a horrible person. And to give him the opportunity to be better. To know that forgiveness of him was also forgiving myself for all the mistakes I've made in my life, big and small. In other words, to allow each of to be human.
      It all sounds very Zen and, trust me, there was plenty of fury and hate involved. But ultimately I don't want to be someone who refuses to even allow for the possibility that there are other points of view. Those who want to divorce? Absolutely your choice. Not my business. But that wasn't what I chose to do. I chose to rebuild my marriage with a man who is heartbroken at his own broken-ness and has worked incredibly hard to be a better man. That doesn't make him "worse" than someone who never cheated. Nor, in my opinion, does it make him a greater cheat risk than someone who never cheated. In fact, I would argue it makes him less likely to cheat again because he was so disgusted with himself.
      In the end, however, we are left with our own choices. So we'd better be damn sure we made the one that was right for us...not the one we thought we should make to fit some prescribed cultural model of how to respond to cheating.
      Like you, I tend to feel worse when I read those other sites. The anger, the vitriol, the lack of compassion... However, I'm aware that my discomfort also says something about me. Perhaps a touch of ambivalence about my decision? A residual fear that I've made a mistake? It's worth noting and, when time allows (darn kids! darn pets! darn everything!) explore further.

      Elle

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    2. This is in response to anonymous who wrote in on 2/5.

      My d-day was in August & I found surviving infidelity to be too triggering for me; the emotions were so raw that it depressed me even further. Elle's blog is amazing in that her entries recount the his single emotions we are feeling and yet they always seem to end on a positive note.

      I knew immediately I wouldn't divorce my husband, though I wasn't sure how our marriage would continue. When I searched the internet I found most sites to be pro divorce.

      Several books that really worked for me, making me feel that I was not alone with all my crazy emotions & actually walking you thru several affairs as well as understanding differences between the male & female perspective as well as societal factors were:

      After the affair by Lois kirschbaum,

      Not just friends by Shirley glass

      And every book by Peggy Vaughn.

      All these can be ordered on amazon & are geared to helping the betrayed spouse understand what happened and come to terms (although not forgive & forget).

      I found beyond affairs network too sickening when I read entries by Anne, she was way too happy for what I was going through.

      Btw, to reiterate what so many other women have said before,

      God bless you Elle. I have read & reread every one of your articles. You have helped me personally so much.

      -sam

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    3. Hi, Sam again. Forgot to mention in above entry I just found betrayed spouses 101 on line which I also found helpful as to why (nothing to do with us), obsessing, & reconciling.

      Something the author wrote which really resonated with me was although we don't have to forgive our cheating husbands, we have to learn to forgive ourselves for wanting to reconcile & work things out. This was a real tough one for me, when almost every song & every article, advice column, & radio station sends the message once a cheater always a cheater.

      I myself choose to give my husband the benefit doubt. I choose to believe him when he says he made a mistake. (Or technically speaking over 6 months of mistakes). The books I read have shown me how so many good people make this same mistake & although I'm pretty sure I would not have, I can see how my otherwise ethical good natured loving husband who would have scoffed at other men cheating did.

      I think so many woman would benefit from reading these books as they were written by women but help us get inside the head of the cheater, esp the husband, who sometimes seems like an alien to me now.

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  3. This sums up my husband I think, though I still, after two years, keep wanting him to reflect on if there was anymore to learn from the experience or the BS he spouted to me, her, himself for four months after my discovery.Those four months of guilt-ridden confusion were almost worse than the nearly 2 years of intermittent hookups and constant EA of calls/texts to a rat-faced girl from California. Ughhh....sometimes it just feels so pathetic and embarrassing (for them). The word "douche baggy" comes to my mind even if nothing was on theirs but some highschoolish hyperbole.

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    1. Douchebag is just such a perfect word, yes?
      I think so much of affair behaviour is total douchbaggery. But perhaps nothing more than the foggy conviction that this relationship rooted in deceit and hurt was "meant to be". Puh-leeze.

      Elle

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  4. The irony is that he (with the assistance of the OW, in many cases) certainly DOES think about you when he's (they're) demonizing you to justify what they did...Sad. Double-whammy.

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    1. I'm aware that my "he wasn't thinking about you" post has struck some of you as just plain wrong. So let me explain: of course he has to think about you within the context of 'how can I sneak away' and so on. What I mean is that he's not thinking about you as fully human. We become props to some degree. Collateral damage. They turn us into caricatures (if they think of us at all) -- either the long-suffering wife, or the shrew, or the sex-withholding manipulator. There are exceptions, of course. But mostly we just don't register to them during the time they're living in this parallel world.

      Elle

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    2. Elle, I very much agree with this. But I think we become not so much "props" as co-actors on the same stage. So when "life" happens, things they need to escape from (job stress, financial pressures, inlaw issues, etc) we are right there next to them. And it oppresses them. And stronger people would "deal". Seek counseling from a therapist or priest. Verbalize the internal struggle and depression that is weighing them down. Weaker men (and women) seek the bright shiny object being dangled in the form of an affair. Someone is essentially saying "Look at me! I will make you feel like you are king of the world! Stress does not exist with me! Money worries disappear when we are together! I will make no real demands! You don't have to do anything but complain about life and have sex with me! And I will tell you it's everyone's fault but yours! I will find people to blame, because we know it's probably your wife's fault anyway!"

      Feel free to add to the list above! Because that is essentially what happens. I told my husband with all the stress in our lives, it was like we were struggling to keep a leaky dinghy afloat. He jumped ship to a cruise ship, except once on board he found out that nothing was as advertised and he got sick because disease was rampant on that ship!

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  5. I hope thats true is my case.
    I want that to be true. I want to share this with my husband and have him say you are 100% right.
    He hasn't really said much about what he was thinking or what he has thought about since. We are just opening that conversations so I don't want to lead him by giving him this. But ohh, I want to hear something like this come from him in an authentic way. But truthfully, right now, I just feel like he saw this woman as a viable option for "real" love and a fullfilling relationship. I feel like he still thinks this. He might. He is very dense and veeery slow moving in his insight (thought when he get there, it is from the heart).

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  6. I am so glad to read that I am not alone. My H has told me over and over that he never thought about "us" when he was headed to meet his whore. I have had a very hard time believing that it was true, it makes be feel better that in fact may be the case.
    Our MC counselor even said that my H was the master compartmentalized, what happened at work (which is where the A happened) stayed at work. He has sworn that he never thought about her when he was at home, also. It is all so foreign to me, because I always have my family on my mind. Our MC says that we are just wired differently. Men are waffles (with all the little boxes for each thing) and women are spaghetti (where everything intertwines). I keep trying to focus on the face that he never wanted to end our marriage or be with her outside of their weekly/monthly meetings at the hotel, but it is so hard.
    Reading blogs like yours, at least gives me some sanity. Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us!

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  7. So true!

    Luckily, he's thinking now! ;-) And he knows he was so so so wrong!

    Why we stay? Because we love them? Because I've made lots of mistakes too and he's always forgiven me. Because we can have a better marriage if/when we come out on the other end?

    It took my husband several months to get out of the affair fog, after I discovered what was going on. He was sorry for hurting me (in the beginning), not for the affair. It was beyond devastating, living with a man who was still in love with someone else. But we made it.

    I don't read anti-marriage blogs/forums. I get why some people get divorced, but because I want my marriage to work, I don't go to these places. Because I know there are many who have survived and are writing about it. Reading stuff about *once a cheater always a cheater* confused me! Because you don't know if you can ever trust your husband again (and that will take time!!), these websites will make it even worse. Just don't go there if you want your marriage to work. You've got enough doubts in your mind already.

    I'm even reading a guy's website (he was the WS) who is (now) very much anti affairs and gives advice http://affairadvice.wordpress.com/

    Mara x

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  8. Elle
    I agree the affair was all about them, but to say that the CS does not think of us is not true. In fact they did think of us, they just didn't care. The ends justified the means in their minds. In other words whatever repercussions, that they knew would have ensued had or when we found out, was worth the risk. In my H's case, when I looked at the phone records, he would call me on his way to her house and always call me on his way home. This does not say he wasn't thinking of me. He was covering his tracks and I think totally feeling guilty for what he was doing. I'm sure the calls to me on his way to see her was to make sure he knew where I was and what I was doing and actually by talking to me on the way to her house made the act even more titillating for him. Every morning during his affair he would ask me what I was going to do that day. Now some of that may have been feigned interest in my day, but I now see he was planning his day and he needed to know where I was so I wouldn't be checking up on him. Funny how after the affair ended he never asked me what I was going to do that day. It all just adds up.

    I'm glad this notion helped you, but I do not believe he wasn't thinking of you or his commitment to you. He really believed he was so smart he would NEVER be caught. I'm sure he felt tremendous guilt, but the fantasy was worth it. The guilt was punishment enough for him. The guilt was his "hair shirt". Sorry but I call BS that he didn't think of you. How could he NOT think of you.

    I may be all wrong and this is just my experience. I think these poor slobs just don't know what to say :(

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    1. TryingHard,
      I know my experience is different than many in that my husband was acting out his sex addiction. Like an alcoholic who doesn't think about his spouse as he pours himself another drink, my husband simply didn't consider me at all. And the more I heard from other spouses, the more I read, the more it struck me that men who cheat (most, not all) simply aren't thinking about their spouse. See my comment above to Anonymous for more of what I mean.
      Of course, if that wasn't your experience, that's completely valid. There's never a one-size-fits-all understanding of this. Though I'm always amazed at just how similar our experiences are. In the end, our differences all come down to fingerprints... :)

      Elle

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    2. Ya know, I kind of agree with tryinghard. The night I actually caught my husband in the back of whore's van my son actually talked to him on the phone so we could gauge where he was and how soon he would be at the rendezvous spot. And I texted with him about what he wanted to do for dinner about 5 minutes before he pulled into the parking lot to meet OW. But when he was out of town with his business and traveling all the time - he was compartmentalizing to the max and he was living a total other life and he didn't 'think' of me at all....

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    3. Exactly Elle,

      They think of us in demonized terms as the shrew/warden keeping them from their fix. You are so correct to compare it to the alcoholic. The reward justified the means in their compartmentalized little minds :) Yeah we women don't get that maybe it's because we are more mature and evolved, who knows. I had to quit asking that question of why, what were you thinking, a long time ago. There is NO answer at least no cut and dry answer. Yes, the OW is just a plaything. A diversion from the reality they need to escape for whatever reason they come up with at the time or even when trying to explain their past behavior. I truly don't think they know and they search like hell to come up with answers to our incessant questions just to shut us the fuck up!!! A very wise woman told me many, many years ago when I had just started dating "...remember TH a stiff cock has no conscience"! A huge statement that went wholly un-understood at the time however, truer words have NEVER been spoken.

      BTW--You and your blog rocks :)

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    4. My husband was like yours, Trying Hard. He was sneaking out at night after I had gone to bed, and when I woke up I thought he had gone to work early - until one morning I woke up at 4 a.m. and he wasn't there. Then I knew. He did this for almost a year. At first he acted the same at home but withdrawn. I thought he was just tired. Then he started being hypercritical of me. He had cancer and had lost so much weight he looked terrible, but he felt superior to me and denied that he was sick. Then after months of this he started telling me in so many words that he was getting sex and I wasn't - just being cruel right to my face. A couple of times he even talked to her on the phone sitting right next to me and would laugh at me. Then he got really sick and found out he had a week or so to live and all of a sudden I was so pretty, he was never sorry he married me (even told his coworkers this - they told me so), etc. I took care of him his final week and he died. He never said he was sorry. I never knew who she was or anything. Was he going to divorce me after 35 years of marriage if he hadn't gotten sick? Was he seeking revenge on me because I had interstitial bladder disease and Sjogren's syndrome and couldn't have sex any more? I think he thought I was just cutting him off, even though he took me to the drs. & knew better. Maybe it was just an excuse to do what he always wanted to do. I don't know, but I know he was a broken, sad, guilty man when he died, and I never said a word of rebuke to him. Not one, because I knew he was going to die soon. Sometimes I wish I had at least asked who it was and why? I feel ashamed to live in this town with everyone knowing what he did, so I am going to move and start over at 67 years old and this time live the way I want to live. I know one thing, I learned I never want to die with the guilt he had to have had. I want to die with my children and grandchildren beside me and proud of me and the way I conducted my life. I would never want to die a cheater, in shame the way he did.

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    5. What a sad story. As a physician myself I'm sure a lot of what ur husband did was related to his psychological response to his having cancer. U don't have to ask why- it was probably his escape from the real world which u were a part of. The affair is fantasy. Sometimes I tell my husband he took the cowardly way instead of trying to face his problems whatever they were: our marriage being in a rut, child centered lives, feeling neglected, being depressed because he was always working (he's an overachiever workaholic extremely successful physician himself), he chose a fantasy way out of his real life responsibility.

      I myself am agnostic, so I can't say that u will be rewarded in heaven for what u have been thru. I hope there is karma. But if not, I can tell u u have a beautiful admirable attitude of where & how u want to carry urself in ur life. God bless u & thank u for ur post.

      -Sam

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  9. Let's try stay positive btw, many women of on this site turn to others for encouragement and support unlike other sites we understand each other as many are reconciling with our husbands. I would hate to think that unhelpful comments made could set us women back. I prefer to believe that my husband didn't think about me and my feelings, he was thinking of himself. Much of what we tell ourselves post d day is what gets us through the day. People may be quick to knock our decision on staying, however if we have made the decision to stay we have the right to defend that decision, that's how it certainly feels at times x x

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    1. yep - and what matters is what he's thinking now, which may well consist of 'What the *@#% was I thinking?' as well as sadness, remorse, shame .. growing up is difficult, especially in mid-life when you imagined you had.

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  10. My husband told me he barely thought of me during the affair. He recognizes that he was a self-absorbed child needing indulgence. If I (mommy)/his life wasn't giving him what he wants, he decided he would take whatever made him feel good. But he wasn't thinking about who I really am and how I deserved to be treated. When someone is truly thinking of another person in a loving way, they are thinking of them with empathy and consideration. I might have come into the picture for brief moments, but he wasn't thinking, "what am I doing and how is it going to affect the person I promised fidelity to?"

    I love that quote about a stiff cock...

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  11. Elle, soon I am going to give myself a "real name" to use here. You have not clue one how much you have helped me since day 3, at the start if this year. You have no idea what this blog has gifted me with.
    It took a while.. I could not face the "club" aspect for the first 48 or so hours, lol..until like others I had gone through the all the other "divorce him" websites.
    As heartbroken, crushed, pissed, confused, COMPLETLY and utterly blindsided, shattered, shaking, crying, and disgusted as I was, after a few days I wanted HOPE.
    I found that here.
    For whatever reason, I never asked him why, I still have not. I know that no answer will ever satisfy me. I have asked him why he did not talk to me if there was an issue, told him I will never understand that part of this.

    I also immediately, instinctually knew that it wasn't about me. I instinctively knew he had to write a letter and say good bye and then delete this entire fake email account, give me his passwords to everything. He complied with every single thing I asked for all within an hour of discovery. Yes, I discovered, I was not told. Anyone reading this knows that feeling I would wish on no one.

    Others online told me he was a liar. Once a cheater always a cheater, that this was all a show, that he would do it again, that there were more (there were two I discovered, along with a whole bunch of failures he instigated, ouch)

    He agreed to immediate MC, I don't know how anyone can get through this without professional help. he answers every question (I never ask about her, her name is not uttered in our home) he assures me everyday, in many ways that he will go through hell for me and with me.

    I have not made the last month easy for either of us, this is the hardest thing I have ever been thought and it's no walk in the park for me, but I think it's just as hard for him, I really do.
    So thank you, I hope every woman who reads this comes to know it's not about her and there no why that will make sense, your husband, our husbands had a chance to come to us first, or divorce us and chase someone else. But they didn't. They made big big mistakes, but this is not about you or me. THEY made the mistake, and if they are man enough they will cop to that and work with us.

    I would not believe that if. Had not found your blog Elle, thank you. For everything you post, thank you

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    1. Thank-you for your heartfelt post. I'm glad you instinctively took such positive steps in the wake of finding out. My guess is you've got really strong boundaries in place, something I've had to learn post D-Day.
      I'm so glad this site has been helpful to you. I do indeed know how important this site is for many women, me included. It's the site I wished I had found after D-Day. And the women who come to it are incredible, compassionate and smart women trying to navigate a difficult (and publicly unpopular) choice.

      Elle

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  12. Thank you everyone for your words of wisdom. I really related to this post Elle...i often think what was in your mind man?! Or more appropriately what wasn't! One thing that I have found helpful was something Peggy Vaughn said that our husbands are not necessarily rejecting us personally, they are rejecting their role of husband, father, etc...rejecting responsibilities and a long lasting deep commitment to a wife that takes work. It is intoxicating to have a "butterfly in the stomach...teenage like forbidden love affair" just like an addict with no thought of how much his actions are devastating others...his wife, children, family members. My husband (who is a recovering drug addict) told me he did it simply because "it felt good". Plain and simple selfishness. I try to keep these things in mind on the really hard days when it feels so personal and all I can think about is that my husband picked her over me for a time, or perhaps he just picked how she made him feel...she personally was irrelevant. jen

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    1. Jen,
      You hit the nail on the head with your observation that "he just picked how she made him feel..." There's much research to indicate that affairs create much of the same brain chemistry as drugs. Your husband, being a recovering addict, can be susceptible to that quick high, particularly if he's not very far along in recovery.
      This isn't personal, any more than choosing a needle over a spouse is personal. As the child of an alcoholic, it took me a long, long time to understand that my mother didn't "choose" alcohol over me. She was an addict. It was never a "choice". And she did ultimately choose to give up an addict's life, but it was never, ever easy. It took every ounce of willpower and determination and support she could muster.

      Elle

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    2. In our case, the affair revealed what a truly addictive personality my husband has. He was always a thrill-seeker, loved to have a good time, uninhibited, prone to overimbibing (though not frequently, and able to tolerate alot of booze in one sitting), unable to limit himself, always looking for escape, and indulging in much fantasizing. Addiction runs in his family. While he wasn't unsafe or a "drunk," the addictive sensibility was something we were always aware of. But it wasn't until he admitted to being a porn and love addict, that everything clicked. Though it was something I never ever imagined was going on, it has finally opened him up to being able to really see the affair for what it was for him. Attending Love Addicts meetings has really opened him up to seeing how his mind works--seeking escape through fantasy and pleasure--and it is a huge punch of truth in the gut for him. He has to own up to a very dark part of himself that he has been trying to escape and put on me or others for his whole life and our whole relationship. This has allowed us to address deeper, longstanding issues in our relationship that have nothing to do with other women.
      Above someone mentioned "once a cheater, always a cheater" much in the way one is always an alcoholic. But the label "cheater" is unfair, atleast in my situation. Cheater is so judgement loaded and defines the person as a who is always emotional or sexually unfaithful to his spouse. And it bypasses the real issue. I think it is more accurate to say "once an addict, always an addict." He can clearly see that the action of cheating is just a symptom of being an addict--a person whose brain chemistry is dependent on pleasure and escape. My husband was not a cheater before his affair and he is no longer a cheater. He has decided that he doesn't want another woman and unlike alcohol or drugs, it is harder to pursue love or sex addiction once you admit it. But he is now willing to really look at his other escapist behaviors that have been the deeper issue in his life and our marraige.

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  13. I too appreciate this blog and thank you for your gift of writing! I am 15months past DDay or as I prefer to call it the day I got my marriage back...my husband had a 2year affair that fell on the heels of his father's death...I have to say that I have asked the why...what were you thinking...why was I worth loosing...you all know the drill...and in all reality he WASN'T!!! not about me his 3 kids or the man he used to be who always said, "THE BEST PREDITOR OF FUTURE BEHAVIOR IS PAST BEHAVIOR"....he was broken and he found another broken married woman (who actually divorced her husband during their affair) a woman who was my competition in high school...that was hard to take but that's the ego taking over... I can say he WAS NOT thinking then but boy is he thinking NOW! and I thank GOD for that every day....I really think the WHY is almost a rhetorical question...this is my first post here but I have been reading it for quite a few months...I agree with so many others in that this site is HELPFUL and positive...and I need that more than the others I have seen...May I suggest another book that we BOTH have read and found it very helpful...The Secret to Surviving Infidelity by Dr. Scott Haltzman...and also PISD Post Infidelity Stress Disorder!!!

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    1. Thanks for your post here. I'm glad you choose to come out from the shadows and share your thoughts. :)
      You're right -- the "why" is a rhetorical question because I don't think we'll ever get the type of answer we expect. Which is why my husband's honesty -- "I wasn't thinking about you" -- was actually helpful. Made me realize that I'll never really understand his "why".

      Elle

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    2. I have read so many of these posts & articles that I'm not sure where Elle wrote this, but I recently read where she would argue that the fact that her husband had the affair makes him less likely to do this again. I wholeheartedly agree with that. It's human nature; as many times as u tell someone not to play with fire or they will get burned, for many if us we still have to experience it firsthand to learn our lesson for ourselves; otherwise it is forbidden fruit tempting our curiosity.

      Yesterday morning 6 months plus 1 day after d day, when we were cuddling in bed together before starting our day (which we do regularly now) out of nowhere my husband said: I'm sorry u found the email (how I discovered the affair which took place over 2 years ago). Then he followed it up with: I'm sorry for what I did.

      That is why I stayed. My heart melted.

      & btw someone recommended affair advice written by a former cheating husband. Great site that shows how they are suffering too.

      -sam

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    3. Also to blogger who shared men are waffles with so many compartments women are spaghetti with everything intertwined: what a great analogy! Thank u for that; it is so true.

      -sam

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  14. Elle
    I am right in the middle of the "toss the creep to the curb" and making my marriage work. I believe it's very important to look at all the options. I have learned so much from all the people who post, whether they have chosen to stay in their marriages or toss the cheating bastard to the curb. By enlightening myself with both options has made me even more resolute in my decision. I will say even though I have chosen to stay and try to forgive and rebuild my marriage, I am in firm agreement with the adage "Once a cheater, always a cheater". Trying to erase the fact of the arguably most egregious act our spouse has committed in our marriages is like putting your head in the sand. They cheated, they are cheaters and we are choosing to give them a second, or in some cases, a third chance at a marriage with us. Sure some of them may have rehabilitated and you are convinced that they will NEVER cheat again, but that doesn't change the fact that they are cheaters. Much the same as an alcoholic may be reformed, or a drug addict (Philip Seymour Hoffman) may be sober for many, many years there is NO changing the fact that they are addicts and are perfectly capable of falling to the temptation again. Cheaters are of the same ilk. Every book I have read says that cheating is the same as drug addiction. It rewires the brain. Those good feelings with the contribution of feel good chemicals is intoxicating and they loved it, just like the drug addict. This road is not for sissies and we need to be armed and educated or history will just sadly repeat itself. We are NOT dealing with the same innocent person we first married. This is a different person. Doesn't mean we can't make a life and even a happy life but let's just not be naive anymore.

    So I say to those women who have chosen to get divorced and move on with their lives without their cheaters. Good for you. I wish you the best of luck. You didn't deserve what you got and maybe you are way smarter and independent than I. To those of us that are staying, I say the same. We all have our reasons for staying. For some it's the children, financial reasons and also for the mere fact that we just really love these meatheads! In my case divorcing would have affected many more people than just me and my H. It would have been a dissolution of a company. The thought of affecting so many people's lives including many family members just to assuage my own pride was daunting to me. It would have been a legal war and for what?? I can't use the excuse that I wanted to set an example for my children because they are adults and way past any kind of influence I can impose. I actually believe one of my sons thinks I'm crazy for staying. Such is life. So yes we are all making decisions based on what is going on in our own lives. I don't judge any of us and all betrayed spouses have a lesson and a story that deserves to be respected. I haven't read many blogs that are visceral towards those of us who are staying. I'm sure we are being judged as whimpering nitwit women who can't get along without a man. But I know who I am and what my motives are for my choices.

    Elizabeth Edwards stuck by her husband. Jenny Sanford tossed him to the curb and left him to go "walk that Appalachian Trail"! Both women made their own choices and I respect both of them. We can learn from both these women and the tough choices they made.

    I do not however respect anyone who judges others.

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    1. TryingHard,
      I agree. There is no right path and any of us who thinks we knows what another "should" do is fooling herself. I think betrayal triggers deep feelings in people and is, therefore, really polarizing. But we need support and compassion, whatever choice we make. Judgement doesn't help any of us and, I think, speaks more about the one doing the judging than the one judged.

      Elle

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    2. Tryinghard - you hit the nail on the head. I appreciate everything you said. We are all somewhere on the the same boat together, but still have our individual circumstances. I too felt it was too daunting to toss the lying scum to the curb. Too many people that would be too hurt. Including myself. I stayed for 2 reasons. Financial for one, as I'm older and would not be able to support myself and it would have been hard for my husband as well. The other reason is the simple fact that we had been married for 36 years when the first train hit me broadside. I simply could not envision life without him and I did love him. I've never been so destroyed as I have been over this last 2 years with all of the trickle truth and finally catching him in the 'act' and then full disclosure. I know for a fact that one of my son's thinks I'm crazy to stay, but all 3 of our kids are very forgiving and have also chosen to love their dad back into the family. It's been 2 years from the beginning of this hell to where we are today. I never want to do this again. I won't. But I also believe I won't have to because the brain of my husband is being re-wired yet again to being healthy. I believe it can be done and he will not forever be a 'cheater'. He was once a sinner and a 'cheater', but with God all things are possible. Thanks again for your article. Bravo!!

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    3. Trying hard I hear you loud and clear! The "judgers " out there are just that...judgers! Everyones story is different! Although I told my husband once that I feel like what happened to us reads like a textbook case! Married 34 years (at the start of his affair) empty nest...his father died...last of both sets of parents...I'm sure the sex was predictable ...and now "this is it?" He feined trouble with "ED".....once his affair was full blown he cut me off...(he has since told me it was SLEAZY to sleep with 2 women ....no comment. Ha!) last night I asked him for probably the hundrrth time did he ever bring her into OUR home. He has always said NO. I asked him why should I believe that answer.... well he broke down and said he was so selfish.... and it was because he didn't want to get caught....we have lived here 30 years and everyone knows everyone AND their cars! Also there are lots of people in the music and Hollywood buisness. They do NOT keep regular hours....soo I think I FINALLY have my answer ...NO he did not bring her inside our house...I wish it was because of some 'boundry' he had in place for me but it was a boundry to save his own ass none the less... I am 15 months out and I would say that year one was about REALITY. Year two is all about survival...I have more melt downs than I did in the beginning...and find that it's more about sorrow and sadness ... I really believe he won't do this again because he truly sees real RAW pain...and he never leaves my side while I sob uncontrollably ...he went into IC immediately and has been going 3x's a month for over a year...he is the man I missed for those 2years during his 'nomad' life.... I try my best not to judge him and I am finding empathy for that broken man...we will survive this...and we will be wiser for it. Slightly scarred BUT wiser nonetheless...again thank you for your site...
      L

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    4. TryingHard - 'Those good feelings with the contribution of feel good chemicals is intoxicating and they loved it, just like the drug addict.'

      You can crave something for a time but later understand better that your craving was mixed with disquiet, even dread. And not want to relive the experience. I had encounters in my 20s I'd rather forget, infatuation wasn't a pleasant experience.

      I don't see my husband as 'a cheater'. His other qualities haven't disappeared because he chose to do something he's now very much ashamed of. I don't mind anyone else saying he is, or that all adulterers are, it's just the way I see him. I love him, and he's learnt a hard lesson. I don't believe his brain has been permanently rewired to cheat (our brains are being rewired all the time - from the BBC: 'Being online does change your brain, but so does making a cup of tea.')

      I have two friends whose husbands had affairs. One was a serial adulterer who never expressed remorse, blamed my friend and even, she realised later, had a ten year affair with a woman who worked for them both! So she'd been sitting in their office for ten years, unaware of the grubby frisson of sexual tension under her nose. After 25 years of marriage he finally told my friend that he didn't see why he couldn't openly see other women and carry on living at home with his family. She threw him out. I saw him as he drove away - he felt.. misunderstood. He continued to blame his wife. He thoroughly enjoyed cheating for decades, I'm sure he felt entitled to the chemical high. I'd call him a cheater, no question.

      The other friend's husband is a good man who had an affair and deeply regretted it. He emerged from the fog in a state of shock. He was discovered, the repercussions were terrible for two families, he felt humiliated. He's worked hard to recover his marriage, the respect of his adult children and to understand why he did something that afterwards made little sense. Some people told my friend she should leave him, which surprised me at the time (I was inexperienced, unlike now). It didn't seem to me a good enough reason to leave a man who so obviously loved her, whatever he'd done. I didn't then understand the magnitude of her pain. Still, I agree, no one should judge those who stay or go. When people are in deep suffering we can only offer compassion and listen, as Elle does here.

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    5. Hi Iris
      What you said makes a lot of sense to me. I do hope the "re-wiring" can be reversed. And the difference in the two scenarios makes perfect sense too. Some people are just incorrigible. I hope my husband is not in that camp and his actions since the affair has shown that he is not, mercifully. I hope I have made the right choice and more so that he has. There is no doubt about his love for me or I him. Even during the affair his love for me never wavered. He's admitted to that and to being terribly tormented.

      I've tried the road that says, he's learned his lesson and he will never do that again. This notion only left me guessing if I was right. When I stick to the facts of what occurred and that I stand by my choices to remain I am much more peaceful. Believing the former only made me question my own sanity. Living and accepting the reality of my circumstances brings me peace of mind. The same with all this forgiveness crap. I don't know if I've forgiven or not. I think so but now I am to a point where it really doesn't matter. My H doesn't believe he's forgiven and I'm not sure he wants to be because he can't forgive himself. All I know is he's good to me now. He shows me every single day how grateful and sorry he is. He never misses a moment to touch me, kiss me, hold me and tell me how much he adores and loves me. We vacation at least once a month. Sometimes it's just short weekend trips and sometimes it's longer. We are always together. He's even helping around the house. This is NOT the same man so I can tell by his actions that I am important to him, that our marriage is important to him. I'm not sorry about reconciling but I do however understand, respect, and yes in some cases admire those women to left. The way I see it, I would have still gone through all the same turmoil (plus more!) had I decided to divorce him. It would have been seriously ugly and all I can think is the music of Flight of the Valkyries would have been playing the entire time. It would have been a war. I'm glad I didn't make that choice.

      These forums and blogs help so much. I really appreciate your input because it's given me hope that those wires are being disconnected PERMANENTLY!

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    6. TryingHard - I'm hoping the same. And I haven't forgiven either. I'm only a year out, it's only recently stopped seeming insurmountable. I thought (and sometimes said): as much as I love you, I just can't stay with you. I want to but I can't. I don't think the pain will ever end. I was angry too - I'm still angry but it feels distant. I'm chewing over what happened, my second friend calls it 'rumination'. My husband's actions, over time, are giving me solace. And I'm in therapy. So is he. We've extended the mortgage..

      There's a site called 'mindhacks' which explores among other things popular misconceptions about the brain - if you like it look for a post about Neuroplasticity. 'It’s currently popular to solemnly declare that a particular experience must be taken seriously because it ‘rewires the brain’ despite the fact that everything we experience ‘rewires the brain’. So those weekend trips and vacations, his remorse and devotion, are rewiring his brain. And yours too.

      You may well have regretted divorcing him, going by the stats. My first friend however is re-marrying after years establishing herself in her own right. She was strong, she was wise and she's been rewarded. I'm proud of both my friends.

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    7. Thank u to the above women. Very early on I read an on line article written by a betrayed wife who reconciled & said she never regretted it. She relayed the story of a married female friend who divorced & got remarried & always regretted it saying although she loved her second husband, not as much as her first who was still her best friend, if only she could have gotten past her anger.

      & to both of u, to me it sounds like u both have achieved forgiveness, which is not to be confused with condoning. U seem to have both come to terms with what happened & have moved on to some degree. That is forgiveness (not forgetting)

      - Sam

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    8. Hi Sam x

      Not quite come to terms with, but certainly moving on to some degree. It really helps to not be alone with this. x

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  15. Thank you Elle for the support and vulnerability. That is what makes this group so special...what is said here is so uplifting and helpful for us who are rebuilding marriage relationships. I feel blessed that I found this blog within days of d day. Jen

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  16. Ok, done with your site

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  17. To all of u who want to know what they were & are thinking, I highly recommended a site which one of BWC ladies said she reads: affair-advice. It's a blog written by a former cheating husband. He wrote a post about what he was thinking during affair & after d day. Not one size fits all, but I think it goes a long way towards recovery & healing. If u want to understand someone u have to walk a mile in their shoes. If u want to "forgive" (which doesn't mean condone), u must find a way to empathize & I think a lot of us can benefit from reading this gentleman's writing.

    -Sam

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  18. Hi Elle (and all),
    I'm hoping you might have some encouraging advice. My husband has been talking to/seeing the same girl off and on for about 3 years. She shows up for a few months, then she's gone for a year, then she's back. Long story short, he moved out 7 months ago. Quickly their thing died out, and we got back together (not moved in yet, but talking about it). 3 months later, she came back. Now they are dating, and he is open with me about that. But still tells me he loves me and doesn't know what he wants and calls me almost daily. I'm trying to hard to hold out for my marriage. I believe he's still in the affair fog and it isn't really about her but about other things in his life right now. But how do you know when it's addiction, or when they are really in love with this other person? He said before (when he came back) that he didn't know what he was thinking, and that she was like a drug, etcetc. But now that they are dating and seem happy...? I'm so confused. Thanks to all of you for support!

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    1. You're husband is a classic fence-sitter (I won't say what else he is, but you can probably guess). He'll sit there, having his cake and you too, as long as you (and she!) will let him. Surely you want more than this. Surely you can see how you're disrespecting yourself by allowing this. You've made it clear that you want to rebuild your marriage. He's made it clear that he's happy having two women after him. Whether or not he loves her or is using her as a distraction doesn't really matter at this point. What does matter is that he's willing to sacrifice you on the alter of his "confusion".
      I think it's time to cut your losses and cut him loose. I'm sure he'll come running back again. But this is who he is, someone who only considers his own needs. You deserve better. He's not it.

      Elle

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  19. Dear Elle and all you ladies! My story is kinda different... We are young and engaged. Our love story is 6years old. And in these 6years I caught my bf cheating on me at least twice. I can tell he loves me, (in his own selfish way). Can a guy love the girl who he's cheating on??? The first time it happened I tried to end our relationship but he tried so hard to win me back and make me believe... Our story had its ups and downs, when we were far from each-other he had other stories which he hided from me, even though we were far, he keept calling me daily and telling me he loved me...blahblah. So this time again I chose to forget everything and when we finally got back to each-other, we got engaged, hoping that we had grown up, I was hoping he had learned from his mistakes and from that day on, everything would be ok. 1year after our engagement I find out he keeps talking to his bitches, has fake accounts, hides things from me... Even though, he was always kind to me, he loves to spend as much time as possible with me, but in the same time he acts like a playboy with other girls, with many other girls. He doesn't care about any of them. When I found out and he saw the pain I was going through he felt so sorry, he swore he would never ever do that again to me, he was crying and saying he didn't deserve my forgiveness because I was always there for him and caring about him, I gave him everything and I am much better looking, smarter and blahblah than all of the other girls. So he had no need to do what he did. When I ask why, all he can say is: I don't know, I was not thinking, I am ashamed to even talk about it... it has nothing to do with you. I just don't think. I assumed I would never get caught and nobody would get hurt because those stories mean nothing to me. I know it all sounds bullshit because he said the exact same words the first time he cheated on me. In the same time, I see he means it, he really feels sorry. He felt sorry the first time as well, so why did he do it AGAIN? What should I do??? I know he loves me, I know he is sorry, I love him too, I know he doesn't wanna hurt me and really wants to become a better partner but I am not sure he is not gonna fall again in the first opportunity he gets... What type of cheater is he? Please help, I am in deep pain, ashamed to talk to friends because they would consider me crazy still destroying myself for this liar. And I also can not talk to my cheater, because he says he is ashamed and keeps avoiding the topic trying to protect me from feeling worse.
    Respect to all of you! **eli

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    1. Eli,
      You've had too much to deal with...and you're not yet married. I hope you'll take my response as the advice of a woman who's not so young anymore but far wiser than my younger self (who also overlooked a boyfriend's cheating) and who would love to spare you the pain of a cheating husband.
      Of course, you're in deep pain. The person you've trusted with your heart is breaking it. This should show you that he doesn't deserve your heart. That doesn't mean breaking it off with him will be easy. It sounds as if he's a master at wooing you. But getting someone to fall in love is easy. KEEPING them in love is the tough part. And he has shown himself to be incapable of that. It could be because he's young. It could be because he's inherently dishonest. It could be any number of reasons. But none of them change the fact that he's showing you who he is. And unless you want to be married to someone who cheats on you (and, trust me, you do NOT), walk away now.
      I know you love him. But you need to love yourself more. You need to treat yourself with the respect that he isn't treating you with. We accept the love we think we deserve. (That's from The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- great book.) Why don't you think you deserve someone who loves you enough to not hurt you? You are worthy of more and better.
      You're aware that your friends would think you're crazy for staying with him. That's because you know they want better for you. You need to want better for yourself.
      He won't talk to you about it NOT because he's protecting you from feeling worse but because he's protecting HIMSELF from feeling worse. This guy is focussed on what he wants, when he wants it. He does not deserve you.
      Please take my advice and let me know, years from now, that you're with a guy who realizes just how lucky he is to have you.

      Elle

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    2. And please read TryingHard's advice to you below. She has put it far better than I did.

      Elle

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    3. Thank you very much Elle. I tried add coment below but due to problems with my connection I don't know if it was posted.

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  20. Anon

    OK well you are not going to like what I have to say.

    Run, don't walk. You do not have that much time invested in this guy and mercifully there are not children involved. OK so you love him and he loves you. Good for you, I'm sure you are both lovable. Enough said about loving. There's all kinds of ways to love and be loved. Love is NOT the issue. Respect and boundaries are the issue and this guy doesn't have them and you are NOT the one to teach them to him. He will keep doing and get better at his lies and deceit because he is learning how to work you.

    You are young. There MANY wonderful, respectful fish in the sea. Please do not set yourself up for this pattern of abuse. Some cheaters change, many do not. It takes a lot of maturity and effort. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! There is no such thing as a one and only, there are no soul mates there are only mature, respectful, moral people in this world. This man is having a hard time grasping that. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, ITS A DUCK. Walk away and let him be someone else's problem.

    I was Googling last night and found an interesting article regarding these men. The writer called them Cakemen because there are men who just want their cake and eat it too. I think if you google Cakemen and infidelity you might find it.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but I can't stand thinking about young women continuing to give these losers second, third, and fourth chances. Get out while you have very little invested in this guy. Read books about liars, sociopaths and narcissists and I think you will see a pattern.

    Good luck to you. And if you stay with him you are going to need it.

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    1. Thank you very much for your worry and honest advice. Xxx

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  21. Love you ladies! Thanks for your advices. I would answer the same as you did to a young girl trying to fix a serial cheater. So I realise that I know what should be done here, I just don't have the guts to do it. So I keep fooling myself, trying to get a different answer. I am not a coward, not at all. I am Albanian, Albania is a small country, very conservative. And ending an engagement is not that easy, it will affect a lot of people, my family at most. It was different when we were just dating. I live in a small city where I can not find a job whatsoever even why I graduated in accounting... So what is keeping me stuck with this guy is not only love I guess. No doubt I do have strong feelings for him and everything happened hurts so much, but now I realise I can not save this, I can't change him. And I did try so hard. 6years was long enough for me. I did a lot of reading these days and I think he is a sex addicted cheater, the worst! I don't wanna worry about this anymore, I should focus on myself, on my future, I am hoping to find a job overseas and dissapear for a period, it would make everything easier. God help me and all of you!

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    1. e
      Oh my. This does add a new spin and I so feel for you and your feelings of being almost trapped in this relationship for cultural and family values. I am so sorry. But maybe you can be the change that everyone needs to see and put an end to this type of behavior and acceptance of this behavior.

      Please don't feel that this is only a situation particular to your country. Trust me there are many American women that stay in abusive situations and worse than this. It may seem that American women have so many opportunities, and we do, but there are many who choose stay because they are scared of the same things you are scared of.

      Maybe you feel this is your only opportunity to marry given the cultural circumstances but that is a choice only YOU will know how to make. Marriage is not everything, I don't care what country you live in.

      I am so sorry that such a bright young woman such as yourself is having to face this. You know when we old, crusty women face it at least we have a little more experience under our belts to know somewhat what to do. We know where to find the resources to help us. I hope we have at least given you something to think about.

      Hoping and praying you find the right answer for YOU.

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    2. Thank you dear! Yes, you made me see things from a different point of view. Hoping for the best. :*

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