Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to Make Couples Therapy Work

Couples therapy taught me that no one can change someone else’s habits (which is pretty much the only goal anyone has when they go to couples therapy,) but you can shake things up for the other person. Just change what you do yourself—it’s like a system of inter-locking gears. If you turn one gear, all the gears respond. Small changes you make to one habit ripple through to others in unexpected ways.
~Penelope Trunk

The first couples therapist my husband and I went to was a jerk. We were there because I felt detached from my marriage. My husband and I were busy with three kids and two careers. I had found myself attracted to a guy I met through work. I recognized this as unhealthy for my marriage, which I nonetheless thought was pretty solid. 
The therapist told me I had rose-colored glasses about my marriage. He told me I was angry. He suggested I was full of resentment.
I told him he was wrong. 
He wasn't. I just wasn't ready to admit it yet, even to myself.
What I didn't know what that my husband was already cheating on me. Had been cheating on me since pretty much day one of our relationship. And while I'm not convinced the therapist knew, he sensed something wasn't right. So while he might have been a jerk, he wasn't an idiot.
Nonetheless, once I found out about the cheating, I found this therapist's confrontational attitude more than I could stand in my fragile state. What's more, I wasn't sure I wanted to stay married. It seemed dumb to spend time with a gruff, unsympathetic therapist to save a marriage I thought wasn't worth saving.
So I fired him and put my husband on notice.
The next guy, about two years later, suggested that my husband was bisexual, though my husband insisted (and continues to insist) he wasn't. His most frequent recommendation for our marital distress was "wine time" – an hour or so at day's end during which we were supposed to decompress and reconnect (and, apparently, polish off a bottle of wine). Might work for garden-variety relationship issues but we felt little incentive. It felt like we were skating on the surface of a pond that still held some monsters.
We waited another couple of years – during which we continued to, sporadically, have individual counselling. 
By the time we found our current couples therapist, we were on solid ground individually. We were through the agony of the early post-D-Day period, had made our way through the plain of lethal flatness, and felt fully committed to being in our marriage. We were looking for someone to help us clean up some residual stuff, like my trust issues. Like my husband's desire to pretend I didn't have trust issues. 
From the beginning, she was wonderful. She made it clear that she wasn't there to pick sides. Nonetheless, I thought she was secretly on my side and my husband felt that she was secretly on his side. She has a masterful way of getting each of us to really examine our behaviour within the relationship, and ask ourselves whether it's getting us what we claim we want – a deeper intimacy with each other. Suddenly, fighting over who did the dishes more often seemed a distraction more than the problem itself. She was equally masterful at getting us to peel back the layers of our problems to get to the root beneath it. For me, usually, it was about fear. For my husband, usually, it was about fear. I suspect, for most of us, our problems are rooted in fear. Fear of abandonment. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of intimacy. Fear, fear, fear.
Thing is, once you pull that fear into the light, it loses its power. Put under the microscope, it seemed easy to see that fear was stopping me from getting what I wanted. Stopping my husband from getting what he wanted. It was a wall between us that prevented us from letting each other into the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. It held us back from a deeper compassion for each other but especially for ourselves.
And that is what Penelope Trunk is getting at in the quote above. 
Couples therapy might seem like the chance to get an ally in your battle to prove that you're right and your husband is wrong. It's so tempting, especially if you've long felt silenced in your marriage, to give voice to your complaints and be rewarded with someone who agrees with you that your husband is an ass. And sometimes, it's necessary to point out when either partner is truly being an ass, especially when one of those partners has betrayed the other. There's no way to split the guilt with that. He cheated. That's on him.
But if we're genuinely interested in rebuilding a marriage, couples therapy is the chance for each of us to examine the role we play, which gear we turn by our actions. And by shifting our own behaviour within the relationship, we can often move the whole relationship closer to one that serves our needs and feeds our soul.
You can never change another person. Going into therapy with the desire for that person to suddenly see the light is a waste of everybody's time. That might happen, absolutely. But it more likely won't.
However, going into couples therapy with the goal of learning where you fit in, what role you've played and even whether or not this relationship is is worth saving, can absolutely change your life.


  1. Thank you Elle. So true and such an important topic.
    I am grateful for so many here who have found good couples therapists. My h and I saw our first couples therapist before we were even married. It was cognitive behavioral therapy - after the first session the therapist gave us homework for the next session, which we dutifully completed. At the next session, we were ready, with our homework in hand. She never asked for it; at the end of the session, she simply said, "I have homework for you, the receptionist will print it out for you." So, just like the week before, we waited as the receptionist printed it out - it was the same homework- the exact same. We never went back to her. About ten years later we were having trouble and tried again. We wanted couples therapy and saw the therapist together for the first session. After that the therapist felt he should see us individually- and did, for a number of visits. I actually chose this therapist because he was a presenter at our workplace on anger management. My husband definitely had anger issues (he still struggles at times, yet has come so far.). In any case, my husband decided to stop therapy - I chose to continue, yet at the next visit the therapist said, "well, you don't seem to have any issues to work on as a couple - come back if you do. (Mind you. at one point he even thought I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and gave me a handout and told me to find my voice. A few weeks later, we had no issues.)
    The next time, about four years later we went to another therapist, recommended by my individual therapist. I thought he was very good - yet he placed a lot of blame on my h for our marital problems - we went for a number of weeks/months - and then my h no longer wanted to go (I found out later, the affair had started just prior to us starting therapy.). The therapist called me and even wrote us a letter urging my h to come back to him on an individual basis. He did not.
    Years later ... D-Day. Back in therapy at my insistence. A young woman whom specialized in couples therapy, and had her share of affair patients - she presented herself as more "fair" in her approach to both/each of us. yet two things worked against her - we were so fresh from the affair that we just could not do it. She tended to want to speak of long standing problems in the marriage when I could think of NOTHING but the affair. As well, she had a nervous laugh - I recognized it as such, yet she did laugh (almost fell out of her chair) at something my h said in sincerity. This happened on two occasions- basically he did not feel safe with her.
    A few months pasted - we went to our final therapist for several months. She was older, made us feel equal and was very matter of fact. We were making progress, yet my h decided to stop again. I saw her one final time on my own - will we go again one day? Who knows? It's been a hell of a ride. At this point I'd rather meet weekly with my h and read together, talk about issues etc. Oh how I wish we would have had a really great couples therapist BEFORE the affair ... we did not. And now a man, my h, who's not a big fan of therapy to begin with ... now has less faith in it. In my last solo session our therapist told me this, when asked if I should discuss specific boundaries with my h, she said, "I would not. I would say wait until something specific comes up that really bothers you - then talk it out, come to a solution. That's my couples therapy story. I do hope you all have better luck ...

    1. Melissa,
      I'm sorry you've had such a hard time with therapists. Though I often notice that those who don't have much faith in psychology often don't have much "luck" with psychologists/therapists. It certainly helps to go in with an open mind. And it can help to give it time for the relationship to develop. I also encourage people to talk to the counsellor about things that don't feel right, like giving out the same homework. We're all human. Sometimes we screw up or have bad weeks or, god forbid, discover our spouses are cheating on us and can barely hold it together.

    2. I'm referring, of course, to your husband Melissa -- re. not having much faith in psychology. It just seems that those who are convinced they can solve their own issues (or that they don't have any issues at all) need the most help.

    3. Thanks Elle. Not so funny story that I want to add. My very first experience with the psychological services, was after my divorce. I was having a very difficult time and decided to seek out help… I had never done such before. I went to a psychiatrist, rather than a psychologist, actually not knowing any better. The psychiatrist had a simply lush, and beautiful office. She had been in practice a very long time. On my first visit with her as I was telling her my story… She fell asleep. True. Her sleeping did not last long, and I was able to arouse her back awake by increasing the volume of my voice and moving my arms about in expression. Mind you, I was much more shy and less assertive as a young woman. I managed to wake her up and we completed the session, although she dosed several times after that. At our next session I had decided to speak up, especially if it happened again. Sure enough, she fell asleep again. I woke her up and pointed out to her that she had fallen asleep and that she had done so at our previous session. It was bad enough that she fell asleep on our only two sessions, yet what she did next I felt was deplorable. She, the psychiatrist, blamed me for the fact that she fell asleep. She said to me, "Well, you have a very monotone voice." I was in an extremely fragile state of mind and the last thing I needed to hear was criticism from the person I thought could help me. Thank God I had the wherewithal to report her to the American Psychiatric Association and of course, I never went back to her. So, I do believe if I were not in healthcare and with some of the various experiences I have had with the psychiatric community, I may not have continued to pursue therapy as I have. Finally, the cost of a good therapist ( in our area the more highly recommended therapists are out of network) is exorbitant. I wish Ester Perel lived in my area and I wish she was in network for my insurance LOL. My husband and I have watch several of her Ted talks and YouTube videos together.
      Good Day All :-)

    4. Oh my goodness, Melissa. That is unbelievable! What a horrible, horrible therapist. God help someone who's suicidal. That would be enough to make them jump off a bridge. I hope she was severely reprimanded. And thank goodness you had enough self-worth to realize it was her problem. But still...how painful.

  2. Our first couple's therapist was woefully ignorant about SA and told me I just need to "move on from the PA." I was pissed. Needless to say, we didn't go back. Then hubby lost his job and insurance.

    We found a place that will come to our home and do couple's and family therapy since his hours don't work with theirs.

    I've told my therapist if she is going to get me, she needs to read "Your Sexually Addicted Spouse." She's good in a lot of other ways so I don't feel like I'm stuck esp. with all this stuff that's going on with my daughter.

    Sometimes, I just needs to vent at him and he gets mad and we fight. I don't think he gets that we have to PURGE the hurt, fear and anger. And I think it's mostly fear too. I'm way to scared to trust him again.

    Anywho, daughter loses her insurance at the end of this month. So we're scrambling to get her help and we found some stuff. She goes for a psych eval today b/c I think she was thrown a bunch of diagnoses and looked them up online and now she thinks she'll have to live with them for life.

    I could write a book on how SA affects our children. My Dday was Christmas 2006 and not much was knows about PA and there weren't very many blogs out there so I didn't know what to do and then the anger hit. But before that, we fought so loud, the kids could hear every word. Some days, I hate him for that.

    Anne of VA

    1. I'm not sure how to describe my therapy. It was at the beginning of my relationship with my husband when we were dating. I lived my life with an abusive mother. She pretty much damaged all three of her daughters. I began speaking up for myself and then I was told that the truth about my biological parents was they were never legally married. She married my step dad and should have been a happy woman but she was consumed by hate for my dad as he was a very abusive husband mentally cruel when drunk. He did get sober and went on to a very happy life with my step mom and her three children. I became very close to this family and distanced myself from my mom. I was just 18 and some of the specifics of that year led me to depression and my mother had me committed to a mental health hospital. I received exactly the kind of therapy I needed for those issues and when I lost my first baby I went back for more therapy for grief. My h was in his last year of college and a neighbor who was working on her Ph.D. In psychology used my life history for her dissertation and at the same time helped me heal from the mother issues. Fast forward to the affair and my h had to pick a really crazy ow who happened to be a substance abuse councilor. He felt like he had been in therapy for the entire relationship but she knew just how far to push him. So as I screamed out we need help my h could not imagine trusting anyone in the field. That said, I went back to the things I was taught so many years ago and found this blog and slowly I was able to move through the process to the place I am now! I feel like I would have gotten here sooner if I would have went to a therapist but I didn't want to go alone when I felt like my h had more issues than me. We may consider therapy in the future but for now we are learning together how to better communicate with each other...one day at a time!

    2. Oh Theresa my hear aches i too have childhood mama drama and i spent alot of my 20s in individual therapy on my own doing i apply alot of that learning to me today and share with m h what i can we also not in therapy but have committed to talking spending us time and trying to work together rebuild and be strong. Thx for sharing good for soul holding in only pushes it down not out which then creates other probs a work in progess.

    3. Anne from VA,
      Yes, SA, like any addiction, affects the whole family. I'm sorry you're continuing to struggle. I think of you and your daughter often and wish you both strength and, I hope, peace.

  3. My H and I started couples therapy the day after Christmas - one day after Dday. A friend said I should find a couples therapist but I was doing good to make any decisions much less finding and deciding upon a therapist. She said she would find one for me. What a blessing that was! This therapist has helped us so much. When I set the first appointment she said she wanted us to start reading the book "Love Sense" by Sue Johnson right away. So we did. H has discovered so many about himself through this therapy. It has also made my husband aware and understand what I'm going through, that my anxiousness is valid (and not just drama...). I really don't think that we'd be where we are today without her. She is calm, doesn't take sides, and keeps me calm when I want to lash out. She makes us really think about each other and how we drifted apart and what we need to do to become closer.

    I still have anxiousness (oh how I wish I didn't) but now we know how to deal with it.

    Couples therapy has been crucial to my healing and helping us as a couple to reconnect. I know it is still early in our healing and I/we still have a lot to work on. We want to forward and while not forget the past, create a new future together. The many "firsts" that come up will be a challenge but through good counseling I'm hoping and praying we can get through this first year.

    This website has been immensely helpful. I'm sorry I have to belong to the BWC, but I'm grateful for the advice and support I've found here.

    1. My post should have said we started therapy one week after Dday.

    2. I'm so glad you found a therapist who's been able to help you. Perhaps having a friend find the therapist is a great idea. Someone who can be more impartial. And I'm happy you found us too.

  4. Part 1

    Therapy was one of my must-have's. No therapy, no chance at me staying. That was the deal. That was the very first thing I insisted on, at a time when I could barely hold two thoughts together.

    So we went together and we went separately. Every week. For months. My H did the whole trickle truth crap so in the first couple of months, I was in that horrible panicked place of knowing, deep inside, but not knowing. Right? And it's hard to get onto a therapist's regular schedule. And there's so many and how do I know if one is good or not? I blindly decided that I wanted an actual psychologist, which narrowed the field. This is what I remember about those first weeks after Dday #1... panic. Terror. A knowing that's not knowing. Being frantic to get onto a therapists schedule and frantic that we get a good one. Blessedly, by a grace, we wound up with a great therapist.

    My husband had been half-heartedly seeing an individual counselor between Dday #1 and #2 but after a couple of sessions, he came home and said the counselor basically told him he didn't need to come back. Husband made it sound like he didn't have any problems to work out but I suspect that the counselor knew husband wasn't being open and wasn't ready to do the work so he didn't want to waste his time. Then Dday #2 literally blew my shit apart - exploded everything I thought I knew and believed about him, about love, about truth, about God. Every damn thing. You all know.

    And that was it. He was either getting a therapist and doing the work or I wasn't having any of it. Bottom line. Whatever the hell he had going on, he was going to work his shit out with a therapist or he was going to be a single man. I didn't know how to breath. I could hardly figure out how to put clothes on myself. But on this point - I was clear. He found a new therapist in the same clinic as our couple's therapist and he did the work. I think with the first therapist, he was still hiding the depth of his betrayal even from himself. Once all that ugliness was out in the open and he had to look at it and really acknowledge that he did that - he went to work.

    It helped that at the same time, we were in couple's therapy and he could see me owning my own crap. Things he'd convinced himself of, lies he'd told himself, like I wouldn't ever hear him so why try to tell me things - he used those lies to justify his affair and then here I was in therapy, completely upending the things he'd been telling himself. I'm totally willing to own my part of where our marriage went wrong BEFORE the affair (not during... not even a little tiny bit during) so when he'd bring something up in therapy and I wouldn't shut it down, I think it really exposed his own bullshit to him.

    If he had not agreed to committing to therapy, I couldn't have stayed. Committing. Not playing at it, not putting on a show for me - committing 200%. After Dday #2 (and a few more TT episodes in the following weeks), I flatly refused to do anything to help us. I didn't schedule our therapy appointments. I wasn't fixing this. I had been pushing that boulder uphill, alone, for years and after I found out the extent of the affair, I wasn't willing to do it any more. So he did. He called the therapists and scheduled the appointments. He figured out how to take time off work for them - something that would never, EVER have happened before. He figured out how to make it happen. Those things were the start of me feeling like I mattered again.

    He had never taken care of me in all the years of our marriage before, not emotionally. And Lord knows he sure as hell didn't take care of me during his affair. But he took care of me after. I think I needed to see that before I could start participating in healing the marriage.


  5. Part 2

    I was also seeing my own therapist all the way through and I'd recommend to anyone going through this - get your own therapist. Without her, I'd have run. I'd have taken flight in panic and fear and I'd have been running blind. She kept me still long enough for the fear to wane a little, for my thoughts to get clear. Long enough for him to get out of the fog and see what he'd done and be horrified by it. She kept me close to the ground - I can't say she kept me grounded because there was no ground at that time but she kept me from absolutely loosing my way. She helped me find a way to sit with the pain instead of running and that helped me find my way through it. I think I'd have gotten lost in it if I'd gone off running. And I think I'd have carried it with me for a lot longer.

    I would not wish this on anyone (ok... maybe I'm still spiteful enough that I do wish it on the OW) but we learned so much. Early on, my therapist said that our marriage was kind of like someone put us on the road to California but never gave us a map. She said we did remarkably well and got all the way to Utah before getting hopelessly lost. I loved her for that image... we hadn't failed. We got lost. We didn't have a map. Therapy was our map. It taught us how to be vulnerable with each other. How to be honest, really honest, with each other. It taught me how to ask for what I need. It taught him that he can ask for what he needs and that I'll hear him. I wish to God that we could have learned these lessons before the affair but husband was never convinced there was anything wrong. Despite years of emotional neglect from him that he never saw or acknowledged because then he'd have to look inside and figure out the why's. Like in so many things, it took rock bottom for him to be willing to do the work.


  6. I am torn on this. My husband is a psychologist. It has been even harder for me because of this. He was far from a good husband and father but things were not terrible through the years. He was always complimentary of me yet detached and unavailable. Two days before he "broke up" with ow #2 he gave me a card saying he was so lucky to have me as his wife and he loved our life together. And that was not uncommon to hear that and other positive things. Yet he always had reasons all good. Work, helping his parents out. And of course his affairs were sporadic. He would go 6 months to a year without seeing someone. And the first one it had been 5 years since he had seen her and just random emails was it. I really think his job contributed to it. In order to be as good at his job as he is he compartmentalizes a lot and everything is confidential. So I think he naturally is good at that and it drew him to the profession and then he got better and better at it. He also sees really horrible situations so even though he knew what he was doing was terribly wrong he sees a million other things that are worse. So I think that fed into his mindset.

    So fast forward to after dday number 2 which was 5 months after dday. I was falling apart struggling to get though my days. I was a major mess. Dday 2 hit me harder than dday 1. He had told me he would be honest and I questioned him for those 5 months and he kept lying to me, I thought we made progress. Then he dumped it all on me. Then I had to push him for more of the truth two weeks after. I still wonder if there is more. So at this point I was falling apart and he suggested I might want to see someone since I do not feel comfortable talking with anyone I know. So I searched out a person out of town since he is in the business. I found a great person with all the experience, education and focus only on marital therapy including infidelity. Well I wanted him to come with me but that was met with resistance. He said he knows what he did wrong, why and how it will never happen again. The therapist said he would meet with me individually but once we start up then my husband could not join in. I told my husband that which he knows already and said if necessary he could handle coming into it. Then in a half hearted way he said he would come if he had to. I honestly decided on my own to go by myself.

    My therapist has been great, and I do find I have gained a lot from our time together. At times I regret that I did not make my husband go with me. I am not sure if it would have helped. My therapist had been most of all someone to talk with and validate my feelings. He helps me see that my side is the "normal" side and I am not crazy or over the top. He says my husband had made the most remarkable transformation he has seen yet he and I are troubled by it. If anyone knows what to say when and how to deal with this he does. It scares me some. He has had some missteps still but in general he has been on point with everything. He says all the right things and his actions back them up. The other thing my therapist helps me with is seeing aspects of my husbands behavior as unacceptable. It has helped me a lot but sometimes I feel like I a therapist for my husband. My therapist says he has not had a patient as aware and knowledgable as me. I guess that is good, I have heard all this stuff around the house for years... Both him and my husband say I should go back to school and become a therapist. Not so sure that is a good idea. I would love to use what I have learned but it has taken such a toll on me.

    Good luck to all in therapy!

  7. Therapy salvaged what was left of a marriage damaged, not only by the deception, but by years of poor communication skills and childhood crap so ingrained into our psyche's we believed it to be normal behavior.

    We were blessed to have found our psychologist and blessed to spend two years with her. With kindness, support, and guidance my spouse and I discovered our marriage worth saving and both dealt with how our fucked up childhoods contributed to our treatment of each other.

    It doesn't excuse the deception but two years later, therapy gave me the tools to move on.

  8. It sounded like a great idea at the time...my therapist has said from day 1 that (I believe like almost all Mommies),I had really de-prioritized myself to an alarming degree. We in the Mommy game perceive it as caregiving. So I sought out fun constructive ways to take care of me--had some girly lunches, pedicures and today I went to the salon for a new "do". In my mind I was going to see that unicorn colourist who would give me a stunning come hither shade of blonde and I would be transported back to my glorious and (maybe?) Magical twenties where I was irresistable. Betrayal BE-DAMNED the man in my life would faint when he saw me. As I sat in the chair I watched things I didn't like, unfold...I noticed in the bright light that the two weird wrinkles over my top lip had deepened, the stylist was braless and I let my mind wander to that beastie from his one night stand--did it have breasts that looked like that?? All of a sudden all I wanted was to run away and go back to my house and the security of a dim room with a mirror that doesn't capture the topography of my 48 year old face so well. I am so grateful to Elle and each of you for the reassurance that beauty and sexy is defined by something far different. My problem now though, is that I may have allowed my pain and anxiety to extinguish the flame of that possibility. My therapist wants me to "claim" myself and rejoice in who I am. I on the other hand seem to get the most pleasure from online shopping--relishing in the delusion that I will look just like the model does in her "happy destroyed antique blue skinny jeans". This is when I want to pack it in--not because the man in my life is failing now, but because his litany of past failures seems to have re-written my story and I'm no longer in charge of the narrative. I'm sitting typing and staring at my 200 dollar hairdo that is an unfamiliar muddy colour and I keep choking on the memory that the beastie had the pale blonde hair I was longing to replicate. It is agonizing to feel like I failed at something I never had control over--it feels like my neighbour called to say that I fucked up the pie I didn't know she was baking. Sensing my own flaws so deeply makes me incredibly sad. Watching so many of you live so constructively delights me for your joy and confounds me--what am I missing and after hundreds of hours of therapy why am I not better at getting better?

    1. Hi one armed pie maker,

      I can relate to your post. It's only been 2 1/2 months since my Dday and I'm just starting to venture out with people again.

      My thought is...you don't want the hair color of the OW. What she had, you do not want. I thought I wanted that too at one point and commented that thought to my husband. He assured me I did not want what "she" had.

      If you can afford it, go find another hairdresser and find a new look for you. One that you like that may be a little different, one that makes you happy when you look in the mirror. And, as you pointed out, we are all sexy, beautiful, and we are so individually "us". I know I don't want the marriage I had before the A, I want a BETTER marriage. I hope you get to that better as well if that's what you want.

      As to your question as to what you're missing and why you're not getting better at getting better. TIME, it takes time. And as I've discovered, we all heal differently and in different time lines. Is it hard? H3ll yes it's hard. Please try not to compare your healing to anyone else (although I know that's so hard to do).

      I'm sorry you're feeling down about yourself. I hope you can turn your thoughts to being the beautiful woman that you are.

      Sending you kind, healing thoughts.

  9. Dear Anne of VA--I am sorry about the insurance. That adds a wretched layer to all of your battles and I wish it was just easier to access therapy and support and treatment. I often think of the women like you on this site who (inside the prism of pain and healing), roll up their sleeves and get on with the damn fight. I am in awe. I have been sitting at the kids' table at my own pity party for days and you have inspired me to try and stand up and function again. Thank you-- and thank you for the comment about PURGING the pain and hurt because as I read it I finally registered that much of my time lately has been spent taking all the mucky feelings and trying to reformulate them into something pretty--or at least benign. I would want to tell the man in my life that I could hardly swallow or breathe because hurt had overtaken the place my insides used to be. Instead I cajoled myself into saying (word for word): "I was having a lot of difficult feelings because of the betrayal and 20 year porn addiction". I wanted to scream and instead I spoke very calmly and told myself it was evidence that I was healing. He falls apart when I discuss it--he cries and takes responsibility and instead of really purging I become consumed with guilt and shame for causing him so much distress. On the 1st anniversary of D-Day (10/03/16), bizarre coincidence forced us to drive 2 hours away THROUGH the town where the betrayal occurred and I sat quietly fuming not daring to utter my truth. Instead I said "this makes me sad"--the rage inside cauterizing my heart. I don't need to whip him with my pain and devastation--I need him to carry some of the burden because I am tired. Thanks to each one of you: Mothers, Warriors, Teachers and Healers.

  10. "Not because the man in my life is failing but because the line of his past failures seems to have re-written my story and I'm no longer in charge of my own narrative" so Eloquent! So exactly how I feel!! Why didn't I write my own story! I lived the good girl, wife, mother. I gave my sexuality,youth and beauty to one man! Regret is a horrible thing to live with every day cause gods know we can't turn back the clock and do things different. It just seems so weird to suddenly not love the man you have loved for 35 years. I feel I made him up in my head like all 17 year old girls do. Now I'm here, where I never thought I would be and I don't know who I am! Probably cause I always thought I could fix everything and I should have spent that time fixing myself!! Amazing post!!


    1. I'm so glad you are reclaiming your life!
      I could have written your story! I know I lived the life that I was supposed to live, I delt with my mid- life crisis with lots of things that did not include the fantasy of an affair! I know just how we all feel... We were devoting our time to family life struggles and somehow our h checked out to find out if they were missing out on something since they been married to the same woman for all those years. We have to stop beating ourselves up for doing the right things in life... Being a faithful wife, mother and the fix me of everything life throws at us! Take a step back, breathe deep and hang on for dear life! It's going to hurt for a long while even if you are lucky to have a h that finally figured out that what he had was what he was right before his eyes! Hugs that you are reclaiming the life you know you deserve!

  11. Reading your comment hit me hard as I have been in your shoes. My moment was pushing the baby stroller in the mall 30 years ago and catching a glimpse of a woman in a full length mirror I didn't recognize. I literally thought when I saw my reflection 'she looks terrible'. What happened to me and how did I let it get this out of control?

    We can't return to the past. Life moved on and who we use to be is a ghost, a memory.

    Create who you want to be starting today. My therapist repeated a lot I had to start creating the life I wanted in two years NOW. It's a challenge when because of your circumstance it is hard to back the car out of the garage.

    If everyone you believe you depend on died tomorrow, who will take care of you? The answer is YOU.

    Don't like the new $200 hair? Call the stylist or shop owner and inform them its not working and lets discuss options. Those skinny jeans are within your grasp. What do you need to do so they fit and you feel great?

    I knew at age 50 what I would look like at age 60 and I started my plastic surgery savings account. This was years before my husbands deception but I did it for ME and I look amazing. Vain? Hell yes and if it bothers anyone, they can fuck off.

    I know nothing of your situation but reading between the sentences, until you accept his deception had nothing to do with how you look and everything to do with his shit, digging out of the past and what you were - not who you are now - will continue to be a drag.

    Gawd it is hard to like your self when life didn't turn out to be a Hallmark card and you think its your fault.

    Stay in therapy sister. The road is bumpy and we all have different size speed bumps.

    1. Anon
      Clapping my hands! It's all his doing and he has the rest of his life to make it right! No matter who we are and where we are on this path from hell, he created it, he enjoyed it, got tired of it, and now it's so totally up to him to make it go where it's best for all concerned! Stay strong! Life can be better after the storm passes!

  12. I totally get what you ladies are saying. We seem to lose ourselves when we have children, we become mummy's the hardest but most rewarding job in the world but I wouldn't change a single thing.

    Talking about change, yesterday whilst I was home and my husband was at work we started texting and it became sexting (I think that's what the youngsters call it) : ) anyhow it started of feeling a bit uncomfortable for me but I tried to let myself go a little and it felt good, I understand that this kind of thing would have been a daily thing with his ap hence why I felt a little strange. We used to be adventurous sexually before the kids then I got prudish but I'm willing to create a new exciting sex life with my husband. Wish me luck : ) xxx

  13. My Army husband of 5 years was soliciting women online via Craigslist, dating sites, etc. He did not come forward, I caught him, hacked into his accounts, and saw every detail uncensored. He didn't meet with women, he seems to have wanted the emotional excitement of being with someone new & went outside the marriage to get that for about 1.5 years. Whether or not penis met vagina is immaterial to me, this betrayal cut very deep as I had always wanted more excitement and fun in our marriage too, but had endured years of feeling suspicious and abandoned because of his selfishness instead.

    So I made all plans to divorce and rebuild my life. We are stationed abroad, and not high ranking, so I was trying to take advantage of a program the army has to let families go back home for free in circumstances like this. Then, of course, they sent him away for 2 weeks. He ended up sitting in a bunker alone with his thoughts, and the heartfelt letter he came back with & the rawness of the emotion he expressed made me second guess leaving the marriage.

    He has realized I am the only woman he wants in his life, and wants to make all changes I need to set my boundaries. He's willing to have keyloggers on all our phones and computers so I can see exactly what he's emailing and doing on them at all times. He says he will go to individual and couples therapy. He's taken more interest in our son. And he's done so with no pressure on me to stay. Except of course how could I not want to stay with these changes.

    After bad experiences with therapists before your post was encouraging. Besides being military we have had a rough couple of years, and on top of that I really did let myself go (gained 60 lbs, stopped doing my hair, exercising). I/we shouldn't have needed this wake up call and he shouldn't have cheated. But thank you for your post. It has made me realize that couples therapy may be exactly what we need to make the best of this situation. And thanks for your entire site, it's so hard to find people who understand considering staying is more than weakness.

  14. D-day for me was this past Thursday. My life has unravelled...I always had a feeling. But for me it was not the same women every time...there has been 3 years since his last indiscretion until this past January..I knew of none of them. This last one has blown up in his face and in my world. We are in the middle of building our forever home which is supposed to be finished in June. Our house is to go on the market in two weeks and we were trying for our second baby. I will not get into the dirty details but I do believe him when he says he has not had sex with any of these women especially the most recent..maybe this is why I am willing to forgive..I have no idea right now.. He has been open about everything else. I am reeling with emotion. Our life had come from a very dark place three years ago to where we were before D-day and we were I thought finally happy.. He said he was satisfied, happy and he was the one actually pushing for baby number two, he said this one was a terrible mistake that should never have happened and has owned his buckshot and reasons for the others years ago. This last indiscretion he said he was riddled with guilt he told no one and actual convinced himself it didn't happen because he knew he could lose everything. He says he wants to work on things...he says he knows I may never forgive him and he knows he doesn't deserve my forgiveness. I just keep thinking of the life we were finally happy in ...the life we were moving forward to. The fact that I love him still..but that am I stupid to believe he will change. That he will never hurt me again. The fact that I want the life we planned. The baby. The house. Our life. I am starting counselling Monday...feeling confused. But still wanting to believe there is hope.

  15. There is always hope and you must make the decision that is right for you but speaking from my own experience, I feel that if I had left my husband years ago when the children were little, I would not be in this situation now. Maybe? Who knows? I just know that I had a lot of power back then and I just didn't realize I had it. He would have been devasted back then if I had just walked out with the kids and had a little bit of space from him. Your h sounds like mine. In love with his wife and family and never had any intention of leaving but just had a feeling of self-entitlement. He felt that he deserved a little bit of fun but god forbid if I had ever stepped over the line. I didn't listen to that little voice cause it was my job to keep the dream alive and keep the kids safe. Fast forward to his midlife crisis and this time, I listened to that little voice! Apologies and heartfelt tears followed but this time it was different. I felt my own power and I set my boundaries. He finally realized how close he came to losing the things he cherished the most. Fun and games and a shallow desparate whore didn't stand a chance. She was thrown away without a thought. Now it's my rules. I am learning to feel my own power. I always had it and I expect you do to. He loves you. He loves his future with you and yes it it truly mind blowing how these idiots can risk everything they have for a stroke to their ego line a teenage boy! I'm getting there now but I think I could have bee there years ago!! But what is it they say "you can't put a old head on young shoulders". Life teaches some hard lessons and I wish I could spare you the pain! Don't be me in 30 years. Don't let it take that long. Take that power now!! There is hope for the both of you. I really believe he loves you and is looking forward to the future he has with you but make him be the man you need him to be now! Let him see what he has to lose! Thinking of you and hoping for all your dreams to come true. ♡♡♡

  16. HI Elle,
    What if I want to participate in couples therapy the way you described, but my spouse keeps being unable to consistently show up for me in the affair recovery? He has made lots of strides but his attitude is still one of entitlement, preoccupation with his own pain and avoiding mine. He can't handle his shame. He keeps blaming me for blaming him. Accuses me of punishing and testing him. He doesn't have humility for what his actions were.
    Sometimes I think he gets it--but just briefly, before he reverts to old self centered attitudes. I am really trying to focus how I can heal without him. How I can work on the stories in my head to keep me from sinking into self blame and self-judgement. Our new therapist is way more skilled than the one we were seeing for 5 years--2 years post A-- so I am somewhat hopeful to a point. But don't think therapy is going to "fix him." I am afraid he is still emotionally stuck in the place that led him to have an affair. It has only been slightly over 2 years since the A was officially over. How do I know how much more time to give to this?
    I read the book "How to help your spouse heal from your Affair" and he fits the entire bill of a "unsuccessful rebuilder." Even though he is in therapy and 12 step groups and has changed alot since 2013. Yet so much remains the same.
    The past 2 years have torn me apart more than the affair.
    I read your story that you were stuck for years after d-day, before things started to click which gives me hope that we can still heal. But then again my husband's problems, and our marital difficulty preceded the affair for years. The thing is--I think we both have the skills to rebuild the marraige into something better, if he could just do the work around the affair. But he is too ashamed. And my heart is breaking even more than it did after d-day.



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