Monday, March 31, 2014

After his affair: You must acknowledge your suffering

A woman recently asked an important (and common) question: Her husband, it seemed, withdrew when she wanted (needed!) to talk about her pain. She knew he was tired of it, recognized that he was losing patience with her. She also wondered why she wasn't "over it" yet and wondered if her need to talk about it was actually prolonging the pain. So she asked, "Should I just STFU?"

It was wonderful to see the betrayed wives that rushed to tell her, resoundingly, "no!"

It's simply not possible to heal if you silence yourself. You might be able to fake healing. You might be able to convince those around you that you're just doing jim-dandy and are completely over that unpleasant affair thing.

But the truth will live on in your body. The truth of your pain. The truth of your suffering. The truth of the deep wound that remains where trust and joy used to be. By ignoring that, by denying it, you're hurting yourself in a far deeper way than anyone else ever can. You're telling yourself that your pain doesn't count. That you don't count.

Betrayal can sometimes makes us believe that. We feel cast aside. We feel unvalued.

And yet, those of us who've read this and this and this know that's not why our husbands cheated. We know that it wasn't because of us or her, but about him.

But that doesn't make it any easier when we're desperate to share our pain with the person who caused it. When we so badly need a witness to our suffering and though it might defy logic to seek it from the person who caused it, we also know that the only way to reconciliation is to show our wound to the one who caused it and trust that his acknowledgement of it and expression of genuine regret will lead us to greater healing, alone and together.

Denying that pain, in the service of not rocking the boat, might seem wise in the short-term. After all, who wants another occasion ruined by tears. But it's a false sense of happy. It forces you to wear a mask. It forces you to pretend to be something you're not.

If we accept that our goal in reconciliation is to rebuild a marriage with the collected wisdom of our healing, then it only makes sense that we rebuild based on honesty and transparency and a mutual respect for each other's pain. Otherwise, we're rebuilding not only our marriage but our sense of who we are within it on a profound lack of self-respect. And, I would argue, a lack of respect for our spouses. Even if they won't (or can't yet) see it this way, sharing your deepest pain with him is a gift. It's a chance for him to make good. It's a chance for him to be that better man. Whether he takes the chance is up to him. It doesn't diminish you for offering it; it does diminish him for not seizing it.

Danielle Laporte puts it this way: "Our suffering does NOT want to be denied or avoided... It wants our attention.When we paint over pain ... we’re actually delaying our healing. We’re denying a critical part of our experience — the actual suffering, in which there is incredible power and agency."

So, dear BWC member, do not STFU. Never STFU. If there is to be one lesson learned from this experience, let it be this: We must be heard.


  1. STFU is what I get all the time from my husband. I guess you do not want to remember or have the biggest mistake of your life talked about all the time. We would all be the same.
    But like a earthquake that caused the tsunami the aftermath goes on and on.

    I've been with my husband since 1981. We love each other deeply but because of life circumstances he made a selfish decision. Yet I do not trust him and still a year on check and question his movements and actions. We have our 30 year wedding anniversary in July, yet I don't wear my wedding rings! how do I deal with it. My heart and head are saying different things.

    As humans we know when someone has done something wrong, but we do not talk about it. Brush it under the carpet, so to speak. Its a human game. Like when someone bitches about a friend to another friend rather than discussing it with the person they are upset with.

    I can't STFU its annoying to me let alone everyone else. I will try and get him to read yet another amazing post, thanks Elle xx

    1. Jane,
      I've been getting so much of this lately. What's more, I occasionally get it from my husband. I'm long past needing to go over and over it...but I don't think I should have to censor myself when I'm feeling sad or vulnerable or insecure. I can't unknow that he did this. And if he could simply say, "I wish you didn't have to deal with this..." we'd both be better off.
      To that end, read my latest post. It's for you...and all the others.


  2. Jane, I too have stopped wearing my rings. I always said I would never take them off, that someone would either have to take them off my cold dead body or cut my ring finger off. Now they feel like a painful reminder of a broken vow.

    At times I do feel bad for him, I would want my spouse to get over it too; I would not want to be constantly reminded of an awful mistake. A few weeks ago when we were lying in bed at nite talking, my husband asked if he can expect to still be discussing it 12 years from now. Not in a sarcastic way, not saying that he wouldn't. But yet I felt guilty & bad for him anyway. On the one hand he has suffered too (although not nearly as much as I have). Yet on the other hand, I find every time that something happens that bothers me I have insomnia until we discuss it. Before d-day I would just take it like a martyr. I find that since d-day I have changed. If I don't get it out then I don't sleep, so I have to get it all out. Therefore, I can't & won't STFU. That is the price of staying married to me & those are the consequences of his actions.


  3. Our husbands are so pathetic that they had such llow self confidence. They have to realize that they gave up on themselves by doing what they did. Weare all capable of cheating .the choice is always there. The thought of being with a loser who knows he is cheating with me would be scary. He is not trustworthy and I am giving myself to him? That's exactly what a cheating husband is doing. The cheap thrills are all they're getting. Being successful at your real life relatiisonship is the true test. Many men have complimented me and admired me before. Sure it's tempting, especially when my husband was thesource of my misery. A cheater always ends up alone if that's the road he chooses. No wife no mistress.

    1. I'm able to see my husband now through more compassionate eyes. He wasn't "pathetic" for not having self-confidence and self-respect -- he was damaged. He was the product of damaged parents. The lens through which he viewed the world was distorted. I, too, was damaged, the product of an unhealthy family. But that didn't make me "pathetic", even when I was self-destructing in my 20s. It made me hurt. And hurt people hurt people.
      Once we've been able to adjust the lenses through which we see ourselves and our world, we're better able to identify those who create damage. But that takes time and healing and support. Judgement, however tempting, doesn't get us very far.


  4. I am so torn about approaching him to talk about it vs. trying to put it behind me and move on. We are a year and a half past DDay, married 20 years, and he has been attentive, loving, wonderful. It pains and embarasses him to talk about it because he doesn't want to think of himself as that lying cheat who did this to me. I am not blameless in the failure of our earlier marriage. I was a bitch because I was lonely and angry that he stayed away from home "working all the time", but if I were him, I wouldn't have wanted to come home to me, either. We don't know which came first - the chicken or the egg. Doesn't matter. We are giving, loving and comfortable with each other now. But I still think about it every single day many times throughout the day, especially when we are not together. I also think about the OW constantly and want to flaunt our happy marriage and tell her one more time what a low life selfish whore she is. I got to do a little bit of that when we talked and texted each other the day I found out. She tried to get me to leave him by telling me how he much he loves her, how he isn't attracted to me (not true--I am attractive), how he doesn't enjoy sex with me, the two of them are "soul mates", he took her on a trip, she was at my house, and how she couldn't believe I didn't know because they were together so often over the years. I've written a letter to her but won't send it. Better for her to know that she is insignificant. I've talked to our marriage counselor who says maybe we haven't talked about it enough. We talked a few times in the first couple of months; he was remorseful. When I bring it up every six months or so in sort of a passing comment, it creates an uncomfortable moment and I don't get what I need out of it. If I'm going to do it, we need to block some time out and do it either with our counselor or alone. But I've also read from the cheating husbands that they don't want to deal with a wife who can't get over it. My husband is truly sorry. He wants to move on. We are very happy. I want to move on. I want these thoughts to go away. I also don't want to burden our great marriage with the old marriage that is dead and gone. Reading this site helps. Thanks Elle, I like the way you think. I've read a dozen books on infidelity and searched many sites -- keep looking for the magic something that will help me heal.
    Signed: Desperate to Heal

  5. I understand the pathetic comment in the sense that at the time my husband was having his affair in an attempt to try to escape his world at the time (tough time in our marriage, I was focused on the kids, we never had any alone time together, he was always working trying to make a go of his career), I was experiencing the same things & yet I wasn't dumb enough to think an affair would make ME feel better so why did he? Unlike Elle, my husband did not come from a dysfunctional family (at least no more than the usual dysfunctional families).

    But I can still see him thru compassionate eyes. Is the smoker or drinker or overeater or person who turns to drugs pathetic? Maybe but then we all have our vices. Unfortunately my husbands was adultery. I'm trying to understand that he is only human & it wasn't meant to hurt me, much like so many of the other things I listed


  6. One thing I don't feel is compassion for my husband mainly because his cheating broke me, has hardened me and I feel as though I have lost that happy carefree side of me forever . He kept going back tl her her knowing the pain I was in over it and knowing he was destroying our once solid marriage that no one could have touched but she did. I still can't grasp to this day just how he could have justified his actions regardless of what was going on in our marriage or in his mind.



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