Friday, May 29, 2015

Guest Post: Everything Your Therapist Needs to Know to Help You

Merilee Lane, one of our BWC sisters, posted this the other day in response to some discussion on another post around how a therapist can help...or harm. She has beautifully articulated what every therapist should know about betrayal, and what each of us needs to know in order to benefit from therapy. 
She's given me permission to re-post her comments here so that they're more widely read.

by Merilee Lane

I would like to begin by stating that I have the utmost respect for this field of study. Those of you who put your hearts and souls into your work and studies make huge contributions to your patients. For those of you truly dedicated and who wish to reach out to the betrayed, I would like for you to know, understand and be perfectly clear on the following:

First of all, beginning any conversation with the words, "I don't mean to minimize your pain, but..." is designed to do nothing more than exactly what it says...minimize our pain. Never, ever say these words. I understand that you may be trying to diffuse the situation, but that cannot be done. When feelings are raw they are intense and that intensity cannot be extinguished until it has completely burned itself out.

Secondly, in treating patients, do not work from the out-dated theory that an affair is a symptom of existing marital problems. Here is the truth: affairs happen in good marriages, bad marriages and every marriage in between. An affair is not necessarily a symptom of existing marital problems; it is a symptom of existing issues within the perpetrator.

Asking us to "take responsibility for our part in the affair" is like telling a rape victim that she is somehow responsible for enticing the rape. Perhaps she wore provocative clothing or flirted with the perpetrator? NO! A woman is in NO WAY responsible for being raped, just as a wife is in NO WAY responsible for the actions of her straying husband. Infidelity is a CHOICE on the part of the unfaithful and has NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH THE BETRAYED.

I don’t know a woman who isn’t willing to take responsibility for her part in an existing unhealthy relationship between she and her husband. However, whatever issues may exist in a marriage are in no way responsible for his choice to stray. The choice to stray is about sex, not existing marital issues. The choice to stray is due to deep emotional issues within him, not existing marital issues. The choice to stray is exactly that — a choice. Don’t read into it something that doesn’t exist just so you have a logical basis from which to begin a healing plan. There is nothing complicated about infidelity. It is quite simply at its core a selfish, self-centered decision to please himself. There may be existing emotional issues, but the act itself is just that — a selfish act.

Do not tell the betrayed that she has asked enough questions and needs no further information. Do not advise the unfaithful not to participate in or to be anything less than 100% honest and upfront about every single thing. The betrayed is trying desperately to process the information. Is the information crushing her soul? Absolutely! Is it causing great pain for the unfaithful to relive his transgressions? Absolutely! But full disclosure and constant conversation is VITAL to both parties in order to heal. He needs to take complete responsibility for his actions. He needs to feel his wife’s pain and take an active role in her healing. He needs to feel remorse for his actions and show that remorse openly to his wife. She needs to hear things over and over again until she has finally desensitized it. She needs to be shocked over and over in order to accept the full scope of what happened and make an informed decision as to her future. She will not stop asking questions until she has processed the entire matter. She needs and deserves his full cooperation if she is to heal her relationship with him. His cooperation is VITAL in honoring his wife and helping her to restore her self-respect and dignity. And his cooperation and participation is VITAL in learning to respect and honor his wife.

I am no authority on counseling, but I AM an authority on infidelity. I AM an authority on what the betrayed is living through and how hard she is working to come out on the other side as a whole human being. I can also tell you in great detail of my husband’s pain in all of this. He is finally talking to me without hiding behind fear and shame and he is suffering greatly. I understand his pain, and I also see immense growth as a direct result. There is nothing easy about this. Sharing the details and reliving the pain is the only way the unfaithful comes to the realization of just how far-reaching his actions were. My husband had absolutely no idea the full impact of his decisions. It never even occurred to him. He knows now and he is having a very tough time living with himself as a result.

The ironic thing here is that there will be no healing unless the unfaithful takes a full and active role in the healing of the betrayed. He must be there 100% to support his wife or she cannot heal within the marriage. It seems odd to me that her healing would be so reliant on him after what he did but if the marriage is to survive with a strong relationship intact, that is exactly what is required. She needs his unwavering support in order to regain her sense of self and get the closure she needs. And, just as she needs her husband’s support in her healing, he, too, cannot heal without her 100% participation in his recovery process. This is something unique of marital relationships — a couple truly does become one in a marriage and healing from life’s blows really is a joint effort. True healing can only take place when both parties are fully participating in one another’s lives.


  1. This is so refreshing, thank you Merilee for sharing your heartfelt words of wisdom. And thankyou to Elle for compiling yet another useful post for us women.

    Sam xx

  2. This is so true. Although I have a great therapist, I accused her of being betrayer centric. In other words she never really addressed his issues it seemed but it was all about getting me to calm down, stop raging and look what was going on NOW. She was upfront and said she was marriage biased which I appreciated her honesty. She said she would help me no matter what I decided. She didn't focus on him enough and his issues. Finally one session I said why don't you pick on him for awhile, I'm not the one who let a psycho-kindergardenteached give me a BJ after her hip surgery and she has Parkinsons, now whoever does that my H has issues. I'm very honest with the therapitpst and she is equally honest with me but I do feel like she minimized my pain and hurried me along the healing path. She has a way of getting down to the facts of the matter when I didn't know what was up or down. She has really taught me so much it is indescribable.

  3. Merilee - this is wonderful, thank you, thank you. I really needed this today!

    cheers Elle :)

  4. To all the beautiful women on this blog, we have the insight and power to educate those who have no idea how devastating infidelity is. Today in Washington, DC Christina Ferguson will be having a ribbon cutting ceremony to launch the very first infidelity speaks awareness day. You can visit her website for more information about it @

  5. Thank you Merilee - I was beginning to question myself and my role in my husband's infidelity because he was saying that something must have been wrong if he was looking elsewhere. But you're absolutely right, straying is a choice. If things were bad in his opinion - I was unaware and never had the chance to do anything about it. He chose a different path, the selfish path, and now I am dealing with the aftermath. But knowing that these were his actions and he will have to take responsibility for them is something I will not let go of as we try to figure out if our marriage can be saved.

    1. Broken,
      While no marriage is perfect and sometimes there are issues that precipitate an affair, the choice to cheat is completely that of the cheater. What's more, some cheaters who actually have a conscience have this weird logic by which they figure there must have been issues in the marriage or else they wouldn't have cheated. In other words, they look at their behaviour and then work backwards to figure out what they did it, settling on the most typical excuse. The truth is that many deal with issues within their marriage (or don't deal with them) without cheating. And a further truth is that many relatively happy marriages are marred by cheating when one of the partners has personal issues that they're not dealing with.
      All this is a long way of saying that your husband needs to look a bit more closely at himself and the stories he was telling himself about you and your marriage, etc. before he starts pointing any fingers.

  6. Merilee and Elle,

    I have printed this out and will mail it to a certain “therapist”. The therapist working with HIMSELF to be sure - needs - to read this. The “therapist” working with me will also receive a copy.

    Thanks again each and every one in this “band of sisters” - you have literally saved my life. It is about one year since DDay #1 and about one week since DDay #2.

    I’M ALIVE!!!!

    1. Alive today! Thriving tomorrow (tomorrow being a metaphorical reference to the future, of course.).

      Yay you, SS.

  7. One of the first things out of my mouth when my husband told me it was a mistake..."you made a choice, a concsious decision to betray me, to lie to me, to destroy our family unit"

    An affair after the fact can be viewed as a mistake by the betrayor if they see it as such, but the initial act of the affair, the first date, the first knock on the hotel room door, whatever the first contact was is a choice!

    Yes, there are usually problems within the marriage, but the right choice would be to talk about things... with your spouse, not run out and have an affair, to live in a fantasy world because you choose not to do with the realities of, kids, money; whatever the issues are!!!


    1. And I might add,

      Call her and make the appointment, shit, shower, shave, purchase condoms (WE HOPE), buy the wine, Register for the hotel room, pay for the hotel room,
      yada yada yada...

      Oh yes "R" it is a choice. Affairs NEVER "just happen".

    2. Although I would add that in my H's emotional affair, it began by "just happening." He got too involved trying to help her solve problems he had no business helping her solve, but he was trying to help a friend (which she was at that time). But, as I told him, maybe it began by just happening, but the first time you hid it from me, then it became a choice. 10 years doesn't "just happen." 10 years is a choice.

    3. C,
      I've always thought Dr. Phil's litmus test for married people is perfect: If you wouldn't do/say it with your spouse standing right beside you, you shouldn't be doing/saying it. Pretty simple.

  8. It was his choice and here is why, I read this some where early on and read/discussed this with my husband.

    Who stopped you from having that talk and maybe hearing that I felt the same way about you?

    Who stopped you from being honest with me, and working a separation so that you could freely and morally get involved with someone else?

    How did I communicate to you that I would prefer that you cheated on me instead of having an open talk about our marriage?

    Who stopped you from talking to me and working together to see if there was anything we could do to get us back on track? Had you thought about it you might have seen that I felt overloaded and stressed, and primarily responsible for keeping "you in the lifestyle you had been accustom to".

    Did you come to me to talk about this and hear me say that I wasn’t interested in how you felt, that I didn’t care, that you were unimportant, or that your views didn’t matter to me? Who stopped you from seeing that I too felt overlooked and uncared for.

    Who stopped you from asking me about how bad you viewed our marriage, and talking about both of us making changes? Who stopped you from suggesting, counseling or even just time set aside every day for us to talk? You never asked me to come home.

    Who stopped you from releasing resentment and frustration with me, instead of rationalizing your resentments this in the affair so you could justify it to yourself.
    You had other choices and there were other choices available. You made the choice that suited YOU best. You didn't have the affair because you were out of options. You had an affair because you wanted to have an affair. Why would you buy her a Christmas present? You didn't buy any of your other friends a gift - you wanted to see what an affair was like and it made you feel good. You wanted it all along.
    An affair is NOT the result of marriage resentments– it is a result of your choice.

    You chose to try on the new relationship before talking to me. You were prepared to lose me after when you felt secure in your secret relationship with Pychobitch kinder garden teacher.

    You chose this to keep you securely in place You didn't allow the same to me, explore their options, without talking to me.

    You chose to cheat you created a fantasy world world that entitled you to pursue what you needed. You chose it because the affair was worth more to you than the what you had at home.

    Nobody stopped you, not even yourself. You found the appeal in the affair. You actively chose it because it suited you to choose it. You got something out of it – you enjoyed it from the outset and that’s you chose to pursue it and never stopped. I wasn't one of your options for over two years. Do you see why NOW is so difficult? I wasn't even a possibility to you. That hurts a wife most of all.

    1. Bravo!! I printed it out and read it to HIMSELF. I don't think he hears well.

  9. May I post something funny??

    OK good...

    My cross street neighbor came over and showed me a photo of my food flying out the front door into the front yard. Evidently she is good with Photo**Shop software. She had the cans flying through the air with wings. Caption "Husbands, look out below". I laughed until I wet me britches. Seems like she is a past recovered member of this "band of sisters" -- same church different pew.

    Ah, such is life...

    ((Note : had major meltdown last week threw all food out front door. No squirrels, rabbits, dogs or cats or humans were injured))

    1. SilentScream,
      That is hilarious. The solidarity of the sisterhood. Bravo!

  10. Silent Scream- I enjoyed that, I could picture it. I threw food also, just not the kitchen. The hospital therapist got a kick out of the fact that I threw a cabbage. I told him that it didn't have the right effect that I was looking only bounced, so I threw things that smashed to pieces after. I threw a bowl of grapes also. It was ugly. Someone said that infidelity is "incitement to psychological violence". This is so true. I wrote it down so I could remember it.
    This article is very well written and really should be handed to a therapist before starting sessions with them to see if they can agree to be that therapist. Luckily, I have a therapist that "gets it". The OW does not. She called and said, and I quote "Its been a year, why couldn't you have just moved on". Well, sorry she is just upset that I found out more on my own and told her husband...her life sucks now....sorry for your luck OW. She told me that my therapist is not doing me any favours by allowing me to wallow in self pity and drag this out....well she has no idea. She told me she has a therapist and that they have many conversations about me....okay so she is upset that I told her husband and the MY husband prefers me to her I guess...I don't know and as I told her "I don't care what she tells her therapist about me, she knows nothing about me". Any therapist that believes we should move on before we are ready, doesn't know a damn thing about the effects of infidelity. Unfortunately, all of us on here know all about the effect up close and personal. I am so pleased that there is an Infidelity awareness day....its about time that the effects are exposed for the reality of destruction that it truly is.

    1. Silent Sream,
      Bravo to you and a stand up applause and several rounds of you go girl!

  11. I just had a melt down over the phone with my husband. I lost it completely. I asked him if he really thought that I didn't have times during our marriage while he was doing his thing and gone 5 out of 7 nights while I was at home taking care of EVERYTHING where I needed to hear that I was special and that I deserved better and that I was a great person. Did he not think that I didn't feel abandoned and that he was losing or had lost interest and I could have used someone to make me feel special....but I didn't go looking for another man to fill that void. OW told him how great he was and how she would treat him if she had someone like him, how her husband spoke to her horribly and made her feel bad....even she told me how horrible her husband treated her....well guess what OW, you deserved it...he believed years ago that you were having an affair with my husband and I am 100% sure that during that 9 year period when you thought he wasn't treating you well that it was eating him up inside because he knew and couldn't prove it...why because you told my husband it was better that he called you so that your husband wouldn't see the calls and he did it. So it ate your husband up inside and I was too trusting that I didn't check up on my husbands calls. She would complain about how her husband treated her to my husband and my husband would tell her that she doesn't deserve to be treated like that and she deserves I tell my husband, she deserved it because he knew hat she was lying, it was him and me that didn't deserve to be treated like the two of them were treating us. The two cheaters that were destroying their families felt that they deserved better...guess what, WE deserved better. I was at home worried about making sure he wouldn't be upset that his dinner hadn't been thought about yet, worried about his mood. I did EVERYTHING at home with the exception of the grass cutting. I took care of the household while he was out screwing his girlfriend. How is that not a HUGE slap in the face. Well, I could have used someone to tell me how great I was, but I had a husband complain about not having food when he wanted it, that I wasn't a good parent when I was trying to teach my son to make his own lunches and do some chores. He put everything at risk for this affair, our marriage, our lives, my health, his career, his sons respect, everything just to have this affair...for a woman he said he never loved but he admits he did tell her he did...but doesn't know why. I am so tired of all this shit. OW told me that I love drama and that i have made this all about me.....WHAT. Yep, I wanted this shit storm in my life, I wanted my heart to be broken into little tiny bits because I like drama. I am the LAST person who likes drama....all I have ever wanted was a happy, stress free, serene, loving life with a faithful loving husband....thats all I have ever wanted. I hate drama and people who cause it. I find it very stressful and I don't like stress. I just want to live a happy calm life, thats all I have ever wanted. I didn't ask for this shit and now its a permanent part of my life.

    1. 'OW told me that I love drama and that i have made this all about me.....' extraordinary. She walks into the most intimate part of your life and is surprised to find you there. Absolutely no more contact with this resolute narcissist, mon petit chou, now you've done the decent thing by her husband. There's a saying which might be helpful: 'Don't wrestle with a pig: you just get dirty and the pig likes it'.

    2. Anne,
      Ugh. Your husband needs to take a long hard look at himself and his total disconnect between what he was saying and how he was actually living. Is he willing to do that? Is he owning his total culpability in this shitstorm?
      And I second Iris' insistence on no more contact with this woman. Cut her out of your life like a cancerous tumour. She is toxic. How can anyone utter those words to a betrayed wife without choking on them? It's beyond the pale.
      In the meantime, YOU start mapping out what YOU need going forward. You want serenity? How will that look in your life? You can never control others but you can control yourself. I will mention one thing that stands out to me in your letter: I wonder how much of yourself and your own needs you've sacrificed in order to achieve "calmness". There's calm and serenity...and there's co-dependence. Make sure you're on the healthy side of that equation.

  12. Dear Anne,

    I am so sorry for your pain. You did not deserve this. You did not create it. But you are here now. I think it's great that you are telling your husband exactly how you feel. Keep it up.

    If I could make one suggestion, it would be to stop talking to the OW. She is stirring the pot even more, trying to manipulate the situation. But not before you tell her one last thing: tell her she's right--it IS ALL ABOUT ME!! MY PAIN, MY RULES!! Then never give her the time of day again.

    Good luck! I will be looking for you to see how you are doing.

  13. Anne--I can completely feel your pain---completely. I will never understand this logic either "she deserved better" while he was busy hiding the fact he was beating your heart into a zillion pieces???? I listened to a BF who at the time, had helped a woman downsize from her home to an apartment (against my wishes-- she had complete designs on him, I spotted her coming a mile away). She cried on MY bf shoulder that she thought by now (late 30's ) she would have a husband and a baby He told me he felt bad for HER--yet they were the exact things that I TOO was lacking because he was too much of a narcissist to settle down and too much of a baby to break off the relationship. Hearing the words come out of his mouth, I think helped me eventually break it off with him.
    My H told me on day one when he wrote his "no contact" letter, he felt bad that he had helped (t)his dancer/hooker/whatever lose her trust in men. HA, SHE lost her trust in men? WTF about me? I hear you sister, I hear you.

    1. I feel you guys.... Really.... Geez.... I feel that way and I have to admit I truly get ticked in the inside... I kind of picture myself punching them in the face to knock some sense into their miserable existence ,) It's truly amazing that we have all kept that part of our feelings in check. Kudos to all of us not letting everything land us in the slammer ,) love you girls stay strong!!!! - Ann from Texas

  14. Makes me think of good old Abraham Lincoln when he said


    Are the ones that Murder both their parents.....and plead for mercy on the grounds that they're an orphan.

    It's a Relentless narcissism.

    1. Ha! Never heard that one before. Love it.

  15. Steam- "Beating my heart into a zillion pieces"- that is EXACTLY how I feel. What is wrong with these men that they can't see what they are doing to the person they profess to love the most in this world....I just don't get it. I could get my head around the one night stand, drunk or lost my mind and I am so sorry kind of thing...but a NINE year on, of then on again emotional and physical affair? He says he doesn't know what happened to him, like he was in a fog....for NINE years? When I ask why he didn't feel guilt and if he did why did you keep going back? He says he put it away in his head because of the stress and has no idea why he kept going back. His firs therapist told him the reason for his affair was stress and anxiety that made him make a bad A bad decision 1 bad decision. I think not. How about thousands of bad decisions. Every call, text, meeting, touch, kiss etc. Literally thousands of bad decisions. And he tells me how sorry he is....BUT would he still be doing it if I hadn't caught him? Would he still be lying to me if I hadn't caught him in more lies? Maybe he is still lying to me. Who knows. There should be a mandatory course on the effects of infidelity before ANYONE gets married. They should have to listen to us on this site or others and what we have gone through BEFORE they are issued a marriage license. There needs to be SOOOOOOOO much more awareness out there. Too many people hurt over immature, selfish people who can't think past an orgasm or their inability to cope in the adult world to think about the consequences to their loved ones. I still can't get past that he was telling her that her husband wasn't treating her cheating ass like she deserved to be treated while his faithful wife (me) was at home trying to make his life a happy one......what about me....didn't I deserve to be treated better? I think so!

    1. Damn right you should have been treated better. Absolutely. And Anne, you don't need anybody else to tell you that's true.
      Part of the problem post-infidelity, I think, is that the world seems so nuts that we're forever looking around for others to validate what we see/feel/know. We're like the kid who's pointing out that the Emperor is totally naked while everyone else is applauding his new suit. We start to think WE'RE the crazy ones.
      We are not. We are operating from a place of honesty and integrity and assuming that those around us are doing the same. If they wanted to change the rules, perhaps they could have let us in on that decision.
      And while I agree that a mandatory course on the effects of infidelity is a good my own situation, we sat down and discussed how we should ever respond if we found ourselves tempted to cheat before having children. I thought I could inoculate our marriage against infidelity by being open about the possibility of it. He agreed wholeheartedly that we would always talk about issues blah blah blah. All the while...he was already feeding a sex addiction. Talk about compartmentalization. It's crazy-making.
      All I can say is that he made the choice to become a better, more honest person and I gave him the chance to stay in the marriage. And now, eight years past D-Day, I don't often think about that "old" him. Though when I do, like right now, I feel almost sick. It was hell. But I'm not there any more.

  16. Elle and Anne, as you saw from my other post ... I was the wayward spouse in my first marriage. Because of that horrendous experience, I will NEVER stray again and had multiple conversations with my second husband (first marriage 4 1/2 years, second marriage 19 years ... and counting) about simply not putting yourself in that situation. Do not make a habit of talking to or spending time with a person of the opposite sex, especially if there is any attraction. But even without an initial attraction… We spoke of the fact that it could happen. And here we are; he became attracted to a woman that he felt he would never be attracted to. In fact, on his initial visit with the marriage counselor he told me that he told the marriage counselor my wife had warned me about this. In life, in general, unfortunately, our greatest teacher is experience. It's like telling a child "don't run here, you could fall and hurt yourself." It really falls on deaf ears, until that child does fall and hurt himself ... And in this case, in our cases, hurts many, many other people as well. Xoxo

  17. 'Talk about compartmentalization.' We should do that. My husband said only a few days ago: 'I thought I was really good at everything. But now I see that I was really just good at compartmentalisation'.

    I am SO glad Elle that your husband took that chance.

  18. Anne,

    I know how hard it was to wrap my head around 2.5 years of choice after choice, I can't imagine if that was compounded by three. You are being hit at one time by so much. I get amped up again just reading your situation. And the OW sounds like less than dirt. It is hard to know what to believe, expect the story to change because it will, expect him to minimize because he is, expect half-truths because it happens, no matter what. Figure out what is best for you knowing he had his chance. My husband never broke it off either until he got caught. You were faithful because you want to look in the mirror and see someone that you want to see. Someone who honors their word, and you can count on. No regrets baby. He wasn't strong enough to do the right thing UNTIL YOU CAUGHT THEM not because either of them wanted to stop at the time. That's a very cruel. Stay strong we are right there with you.

  19. It's so true, what is called a mistake is a decision, even if it's a BAD one. I remember two instances, both when I was married the 1st time. Once I was at a work party. I was young, and idiot and married less than a year. A coworker was handsome and fun and we were often paired on work projects. As the party wound down he asked if I wanted to come over. I said sure (I know--I know I was an IDIOT) but you know what? I thought in my head, because I was married, I was somehow INNCOCULATED and IMMUNE. That no one would hit on me and I myself would NOT be tempted, "because I'm married".
    When a beer and work talk started to lead somewhere else, I left. it took me a while, when I would ask myself how "that happened" I realized how many (crappy, stupid) decisions it took to get in that position, and they were MY stupid decisions. That was over 25 years ago and I remember it to this day and if I ever ever am going to spend alone time with a member of the opposite sex, I TELL my husband. I tell him before and I tell him after. I tell him I have walked away if hit on, and tell him I have walked away if I felt attracted to someone. I have done this for 15 years. I knew if I was NOT telling him that I was hiding something. I really expected the same from him.
    Well I sure Didn't get that!
    But, luckily he did change, right in front of me on D-day he changed, or I would not still be with him. They can change, but they have to want it and you more than anything else in the world.

    1. Steam,
      I would also say that they have to believe it's possible to change, as well. I think there are many people who genuinely want "it" and want their partner, but their life experience is such that they simply don't think they'll ever be able to be that person. They come at it from a feeling of perceived failure if they've never been able to believe in themselves. I've seen it with alcoholics and other addicts, and with people who consistently screw up because that's who they believe they are. People who don't deserve good things.
      It's why, I think, it's so crucial to have support through this. The cheating partner needs a template for how they CAN be if they're willing to relearn relationships. Just wanting it is a great starting point...but some are even afraid to want it because it seems impossible.

  20. My husband had his therapy yesterday. He felt positive about it after and began telling me about what took place and what was said. Didn't his therapist say the very first thing in this post "I don't mean to minimize her pain but" well I completely get why this is the first thing on this list. Right after saying that statement, minimizing my pain is exactly what took place. I understand that my husband has been through a lot lately. I have had several melt down and have yelled and even screamed at him. One time it was a solid hour and a half of me venting how I feel. She said he needs a break from it. I do understand what and why she is saying it. She is his therapist and trying to assist him in dealing with his stress, anxiety, guilt and suicidal feelings. However, HE caused all of this. HIS choices have led him to this place that we are in now. It is time that HE learns how to deal with the consequences of his actions as they are.....NOT me being told that I need to let up on him.....maybe I do need to try to control it more. I have been trying to control it. It is very very new, it is very excruciating and sometimes the feelings just well up inside and the rage of what he did explodes. I don't think I am unusual in my reactions. I think most if not all would explode on a fairly regular basis. I don't know why its me who has to try to give him a break. He spent nine years building this shit storm. I left the house and went for a drive and he also did after he got home. He was in a state of panic as was I and while talking on the phone I screamed at him. We both calmed down and went home and talked. Thankfully, my therapist who is also our couples therapist "gets it". She has said IF its possible for me to give him a break then it would also be helpful to me BUT I shouldn't be trying to suppress my feelings in favour of his. I felt better after my appointment but he did not. In the evening, we are sitting on the couch watching TV and he is very stressed and scared of what I might say next. He is living his life right now terrified of what I might say and that I might leave or tell him to leave. As we are sitting there I notice scratch marks on his wrist, two on one and one on the other. I ask him what happened. He wouldn't tell me and finally after more coaxing told me he cut himself. He did this before. I asked him why and he said to punish himself. We went to bed and I was hoping the morning would be better. Unfortunately, he was still in a state of panic. He went out in our backyard and sat in the grass crying and staring into space. He spent the rest of the morning basically catatonic and crying. I empathize with the guilt he is feeling and would like to make it better for him by telling him I forgive him but I am not able to do that yet. I have not reached that milestone and not sure how long that will be. I feel such guilt for venting at him for so long and making it so that he is so filled with guilt that he is catatonic, however, again, I did not cause this, its a result of HIS choices and I was an innocent victim of those choices. My next appointment, my therapist said she is going to try hypnosis to help me deal with triggers and to be able to calm myself. Even though I have been seeing someone for relaxation and deep breathing to relieve stress and calm myself, any additional assistance is greatly appreciated.

    1. Anne,
      My heart is breaking for you and (don't hate me) for him. You are both in such pain. And yes, I know this is pain that he created. I absolutely get that. And I am not in any way minimizing your pain. But I'd like to ask you this: Is your screaming at him and venting moving you in any way toward where you want to be?
      You are going to need to scream. And you are going to need to cry, and rage and curse him up and down. But behind all that anger is deep deep hurt and fear. And I suspect that your hurt and fear isn't going to assuaged by hurting him and making him terrified.
      He will absolutely have to accept a full and total accounting of everything he's done in order for you two to rebuild a marriage. But right now, he's so blinded by his own agony that he can't do that. And he won't be able to do that until he feels as though it's safe to do that. I get that this is not fair. We all deserve someone who can face this clearly and resolutely and will absolute remorse and courage. We don't always get that and it sounds, given the self-harm he's engaging in, that he needs to keep himself safe first before he can unpack all the brokenness in him that allowed him to create such a shitstorm.
      So...where does that leave you? It leaves you needing a place or a person where YOU can unload all your pain and anger. It leaves you needing strategies to help you vent in a way that isn't causing further injury to yourself or to him. You'll get your chance. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to make him understand how devastating this is for you. But right now, he can't take it in a cognizant way. He can only shield himself because he's simmering in his own shame. I suspect that anything you're saying to him isn't nearly as bad as what he's saying to himself. I suspect, given his self-harm, he believes he doesn't deserve anything good ever again.
      He's broken.
      So are you.
      Right now you need to deal with your individual broken-ness as best you can without causing further damage to your relationship (I's hard to believe it can be damaged further).'s in your best interest to find a better way to express your own pain. You won't be perfect. You'll slip and let loose on him. But try and strategize about where and how you can vent so that you can give him some space and time to re-establish solid ground beneath that he can better support you. He's useless to you right now, emotionally. Who isn't useless to you right now? A friend who can just listen? A pillow you can beat the shit out of? I used to go running -- I swear I could have run a marathon fuelled entirely by my rage. I would run at night when I could also cry. I would pound the pavement and imagine it was his face and her face. And when I came home, I was physically and mentally exhausted. Is there something like that you could try? A boxing class? Karate? Even just a quick walk might help. Just to give you time to cool down.
      Think about it. We're always here too...ready to listen to you pour your pain onto the page.

    2. Elle and Anne,

      This is such very good advice. My heart goes out to you, Anne. You are going through so much. But I think Elle is right. I think it took my husband an entire year to be totally honest with me because of my rage. Every time he opened his mouth and another piece of trickle truth came out, I became enraged and all hell broke loose. I knew in my heart that he didn't feel safe enough to talk to me, but I found that I just couldn't hold back. In fact, when I started to feel empathy for him, it even made me madder. I found myself yelling and screaming to hide my tears. I didn't want to show him one single tear because I was afraid for him to see my vulnerable side. I would go in our bedroom, close the bedroom door, go in the bathroom, close the bathroom door, turn on the exhaust fan and get in the shower in order to cry. That's how I protected myself from being hurt...that's how I hid my tears from him so he couldn't hurt me anymore.

      One day, to my horror, my tears came out during one of my yelling sessions. I tried, but I couldn't stop them. They came flooding out. And once the floodgates opened, I started sobbing every time I yelled. I think of it as Devine intervention, because it wasn't until then that my husband saw my anger and rage as what it really was...sheer pain. That seemed to get us started on an entirely new path of healing. We both sobbed together. And when we both began crying together, healing started to both of us.

      There is nothing easy about any of this--for either party. I hope you have someone with whom you can vent honestly and unashamed. Get it all out with this person because there is no holding back--it needs to come out. And when you feel the tears coming, don't be like me and hold back. Let them flow, especially in front of your husband. He will begin to see you in a different light and you will begin to see him differently, too.

      My thoughts and prayers are with you both as you navigate this mess. I will look for you on this website.

      All my love to you,

    3. Elle, your compassion and understanding never cease to amaze me. Thank you for your love and support. I see it in everything you post; in all your responses. You really have an amazing gift. In fact, I think you should be a therapist for betrayed wives. You are truly one of those rare and gifted people with an uncanny insight into the hearts of others. Thank you for being here for us all.


    4. Elle, thanks for your response. I completely understand what you are saying. Its actually what his therapist is saying. I understand it, however, when my emotions start to escalate, I am blinded by the hurt and the rage. I have decided, I will not discuss my feelings or thoughts with him any longer unless he asks and I will probably keep most of it to myself from now on, at least until he is more able to hear it. Thing is, he was more grounded and so was I and then I found out about more lies. He IS simmering in his own shame and IS broken (as am I), he does feel like he doesn't deserve anything good. He does think he is a bad person. I know screaming and venting to him does not help the situation at all, I am and have been fully aware of that, I certainly don't do it on purpose as I have seen the outcome. It seems to just happen, I lose it, I can't control it any longer and it all comes out. Unfortunately, the reasonable me gets overtaken by the rage. Over the past year even without losing it on him, just questions, he goes to the dark place and I spend the next few days after that trying to bring him out of the dark place. I know he doesn't know what to do to make it better for me, I don't know what can be done to make it better for me. He knows that I post on this site so now he is reading my posts here which brings him down farther. I feel like I have to censor myself everywhere. I am censoring myself now. I get it, because he is not stable right now, I have to be the stronger one. As he told the therapist, I am the only one who can put him in that place. So, his stability seems to be dependant on my emotions. So in the end, it is up to me alone (with the help of this site and my therapist) to help me which will in turn help him. I have kept this situation to myself as I don't want any of our family or friends to know about it, why? Because I have every belief that we will make it in the end and I don't want it to be uncomfortable in the future because of this. So, I have NOBODY other than my therapist and this site to vent but I will have to just read for a while it appears. It is up to me to heal me and it is up to him to heal him. I will keep repeating that to myself as I wake up every morning.

    5. Oh Anne, you're in such a difficult spot. And when I offer you advice it's from a 'here's what I learned from my mistakes' point of view. I overturned a television, almost destroyed an expensive watch my husband's best friend gave him for his 40th birthday, and ruined the chain of a diamond necklace. So yeah...rage. I know rage.
      In hindsight, it accomplished nothing. Didn't make me feel better. In fact, I think it contributed to me spiralling further down. It was when my husband's therapist gave him "permission" to stop answering my incessant questions or at least take a break from them that I began to realize that we both needed that break. I was almost feeding my rage by demanding to know more and more and more. None of the details of which, incidentally, I can now even remember.
      So is up to you to heal you and it is up to him to heal him. None of us are capable of a healthy relationship with anybody until we are well along in that process.

    6. Anne - Elle is right, let the tears flow in front of him. Eventually we learn that the extreme emotion wears us out too. But it's unavoidable. He has to learn to manage his anxiety. This was probably always part of the problem in terms of his coping strategy (I'm guessing not to anything alarming you were doing, would have been the same in any relationship). Now, he has real physiological reactions to your anger and distress. I'm guessing he 'floods' and shuts down. He will have to take breaks to calm himself. But he has to learn how to deal with this, and he has to find a well of empathy for you. The empathy will help him.

      It isn't only your husband who is 'flooding'.

      I am not a doctor, however. Think of this as the myopic leading the visually challenged. I am concerned about the self-harm. If you were in the UK I'd ask if you'd seen your GP.

      I'm not a Christian, but I'd recommend Rick Reynolds at Affair Recovery, possibly even calling him. Look on his site for free articles about emotional flooding.

  21. Merilee,

    I already printed this out for HIMSELF therapist and my 'current' therapist. Madame Current Therapist is being replaced in 3 weeks. Just reading all the responses here I will now print this out for the new therapy 'group' I am consulting -- and read it to them on the very first visit. I want to make sure new therapy 'group' understands the gravity of this betrayal.

    If one more person tells me "you need to move on" I'll scream. I was moving forward and making some progress (very slowly) then HIMSELF dropped the reveal of the 20 year relationship -- one year after DDay #1. Can you say "sling shot"?? Better yet "boomerang".

    1. SS,
      Tell them you would love nothing more than to "move on" and that you're doing everything in your power to do exactly that. But it will be on YOUR emotional schedule. Not to simply create comfort for those having trouble with your feelings. It really is a phrase designed to shut us up. It has its roots in others' discomfort with pain, emotional or physical. It's not unlike people who assure cancer patients that their illness is a "journey" that can lead to "growth". can also lead to death, so piss off.

  22. Anne - 'I don't think I am unusual in my reactions.' Hell no. I managed not to scream with the children in the house, is about all.

    You are suffering profound trauma, in my opinion. Never mind what we call it. We can call it 'anxiety and depression' if you like. Nine years AND that appalling woman projecting onto you like an ape throwing its own shit. I really, really feel for you.

    I'm very sorry that your husband is cutting himself. So, so sorry you're both in this state. I hope you're both under the care of a doctor, not just a therapist. I don't like meds but they were useful at one stage, btw, you can take a low dose. You do not have to live at peak experience all the time. Just don't drink. A glass of wine was like rocket fuel for me at this stage.

    Do you have Netflix? I think they should have an infidelity sub-section of silly films to take your mind off it. Perhaps we could all recommend something for you? Or you could for us?

    It is all very sad and awful and I wish people realised this is how these things turn out. We're so fortunate to live without war and destruction (unlike thousands now, today; displaced, terrified) yet we still can't manage not to fuck it up. But you're far from alone. The entreaty here is to start with self-compassion, stay with the breath, keeping your heart safe and warm if that's where you need to be. We will be thinking of you.

    1. Iris, thank you so much for you words. It is good to hear that I am not completely losing it or a shrew. Its good to know I am not alone in how I feel. So far, I am having trouble concentrating on anything. I have loads of shows that I would like to watch and have them recorded but can't concentrate on them. Some days are okay and I can and others not so much.

    2. Iris,
      You've got such a way of summing a situation up -- "like an ape throwing its own shit". That is perfect.
      And yes, it does seem insane that those of us with relatively privileged lives (ie. we don't live in a refugee camp) can't stop messing it up for ourselves and the people around us. And by "us", I mean "those idiots who can't keep it in their pants."

    3. Elle - ha ;)

      Anne - you are not a shrew. You may be losing it but I promise you will get it back. Promise. Don't worry about concentrating. Not being able to concentrate does sound like a symptom of perfectly understandable depression. I would not go for a boxed set, just something silly or distracting. I knew there was a story about recovering from cancer - - it must be the endorphins. I don't think we need to start analysing the research (or lack of it) at this point. But I do need to tell you that I once played Harpo Marx, which was an easy part in terms of lines. I had a wig and everything. I found myself chasing girls around backstage, honking at them with a bicycle horn. This has literally never happened to me since.

    4. Iris,
      You sound like a whole lot of fun! We should have an experience with a bicycle horn, I think.

    5. Pass me that harp...

    6. Hi. I have changed my online name from Anne as I see there is someone else now using it and that will just be confusing.

  23. Silent Scream,

    You have been through the mill and back with Himself dropping a bombshell like this one on you a year after D-Day!! It's no wonder you chucked those canned goods out your front door! I think you showed restraint when you didn't aim them at him!! And I love how your neighbor photoshopped those cans flying through the air with wings, lol! It was a great way to reach out to you, take a bit of the edge off of your pain, and show her solidarity. Kudos to your neighbor!

    I truly hope those therapists read what you've printed with an open mind and heart and take it seriously. This business of people telling you to "move on" gets my blood boiling!! And that's why I said in my original post that you almost need to find someone who has personally experienced the same thing and came out the other side healthier. I really don't think a therapist can be effective in a matter such as this without having gone through this particular brand of hell. I also think there are major differences in male and female therapists, just as there are major differences in the male and female perspective and definition of infidelity. There are those therapists who are gifted in the art of empathy with an uncanny ability to truly feel and anticipate their patient's needs. Unfortunately, they are far and few between.

    No therapist is perfect--they are all human, after all. So no matter who you settle on in the end, you will need to use good old fashioned common sense and trust your own instincts. As long as we are being honest with ourselves, we know what we really need. We all have the ability to decipher between good and bad information. Albeit, we're pretty shaky on our feet after betrayal, but we still need listen to our inner voices and trust that inner voice to guide us in the right direction. If something feels "off," we need to listen and act accordingly.

    I think the most important thing is that we all need to empower ourselves to take a proactive role in choosing a therapist with whom we feel comfortable and who has the ability to lead us in a positive direction.

    Good luck! I'll be looking for you to see how you are doing!

    Merilee xoxo



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