Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Christmas Wish to You

The other night my family hosted its annual holiday party. The only year we missed it was THE year. The one in which I found out, two weeks before Christmas, that my husband was cheating.
This year, a houseful of family and friends gathered. Some I see regularly; others I see only once a year but all are cherished.
This year, three of the women at our party are dealing with betrayal. One friend told me about it at the party. She just found out a week ago, though she has suspected for ages.
As another of those women said to me, when I told her of the others, "don't you wish you could just save them all?"
And yes, I do. I wish I could save all of you from the agony of this. I wish I could give each of you a hug and remind you, as often as you need to hear it, that you do not deserve this. I wish I could convince each of you that the day will come when the pain of this experience won't have the same sting. That you'll get through this. That the day will come when you can look back on this, not as something you're glad of, but as something you learned from. As an experience that took you from one place in your life to a better place. Where you value yourself. Where you can give yourself deep compassion for being imperfect. And where you can extend that compassion even to those who've hurt you, whether or not you continue to share your heart and body with them.
In the meantime, while I might not be on this site as often over the next week or so, I think of your stories. They stay with me. And I wish you all a measure of peace over the holidays.
If at all possible, take time each day to sit alone. Remind yourself, in that moment, that you are fine. That you are strong. That you will get through this.
I promise you will.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Seven Lies We Believe After A Spouse's Affair

It's hard to overstate how much being cheated on messes with our heads. Marriage experts refer to betrayal as a "trust violation" and note that it's one of the most psychologically damaging experiences. It shakes our sense of safety in the world. It triggers our fears of abandonment, threatens our primal need for security and love.
But though all that is true, we often do the most damage to ourselves. In the wake of betrayal, we tell ourselves all sorts of untruths, based on a deep fear and a conviction that, if we've been betrayed by someone we trusted, there must be something wrong with us.
Not all of us do this, of course. Though among us with healthy self-esteem often go straight to outrage. I remember reading something, post-betrayal, where a marriage counsellor said that he didn't worry about the women who got angry. He worried about the ones who didn't. They, he said, were the ones more likely to blame themselves.
Blaming ourselves can be strangely appealing. If it was somehow our fault, we reason (fallaciously), then if we fix ourselves, our spouse won't cheat again.
It doesn't help, of course, that our culture piles on. If a guy cheats, it's because his wife was frigid. If a guy cheats, it's because his wife is frumpy. If a guy cheats, it's because his affair partner was hot and performed like a porn star. His wife was a nag. He fell out of love with her. And on and on. On some level, a lot of us believe those lies, even when our husbands are swearing that's not it at all. Harder still, of course, is when our husbands join in, blaming us for their choice to cheat.
Before long, the chorus of lies reaches a crescendo, making the truth almost impossible to hear.
With that in mind, I've compiled a list of the lies…along with the truth.
Which, a wise soul has said, will set us free.

1. The lie: "I'm a fool"
I hear this one a lot. "I'm such a fool for believing he loved me." "I'm a total fool for thinking he'd never cheat." "He made a fool of me."
The truth: You're a loyal wife and friend who trusted someone who betrayed that trust.

2. The lie: "I'll never get past this."
The truth: Yes, you will. It will take time. Far longer than you would expect (experts generally say three to five years…I was closer to five). But within that time, you'll inch your way closer to a better marriage (if you choose to stay) or a better life (if you choose to go). You'll work through the pain and get to a place where you recognize that this wasn't about you. You were collateral damage. You'll get past it to a place where being betrayed is something that happened. A memory. If you've truly healed, it won't even feel like a particularly painful memory.

 3. The lie: He cheated because she must be amazing in bed.
The truth: He cheated because he was seeking something outside himself that's missing inside himself. He cheated because he liked the reflection of himself he saw in her eyes. He cheated because it felt exciting and dangerous. He cheated because he was able to convince himself that it was somehow okay. That he deserved it. That nobody would get hurt. He cheated because he's capable of self-delusion. He cheated because he has addiction issues. Still think it's because of the sex? Read this.

4. The lie: "She must have had something I didn't."
The truth: What she had, you don't want. Being an other woman is rarely like in the movies. While there might be champagne and roses (at least at the start), there's also cancelled rendezvous, erectile dysfunction, arguments, lonely nights and holidays…and a future that's more about promises than plans. What's more, to participate as an OW, you need to convince yourself that you somehow have more claim on this guy than the person with whom he promised to love, honour and cherish. That life (or his wife) is complicating your future together, not him. That all that stuff he says to you is true, even though you know that, at some point, he said the same stuff to his wife. That lying about you and hiding you away is evidence of his love. You want that? Didn't think so.

5. The lie: "He cheated because I gained weight/got pregnant/got depressed/got sick…"
The truth: He cheated because he wasn't emotionally equipped to deal with his own issues. He cheated to escape. Any guy who cheats because his wife gains weight, gets pregnant, is dealing with a disabled child or an aging parent or whatever is a total dick who needs to shown the door anyway. Any guy who cheats is, frankly, someone incapable of having a healthy relationship, one that includes really tough conversations. Marriage has a steep learning curve. Sadly, few of us saw healthy marriages played out for us. So it's hard to know how to broach tough topics, like waning attraction due to weight gain or pregnancy, fear of fatherhood, feelings of abandonment. Many of us don't even really know what we're feeling…we just know we're feeling lonely and misunderstood. An affair can seem appealing. But the smart ones among us recognize that's a dangerous path to go down. That it will cause a whole lot more problems than it will solve. They're the ones who give their marriage a fighting chance before they blow it up. The others…well…we know what happens.

6. The lie: "My happiness depends on him."
The truth: Your happiness depends on you. It always did. Too many of us have bought into pop-song wisdom about finding our soul mates and living happily ever after. Happy comes, generally, with enough soul searching that we exorcise our own demons and discover a deep sense of worth in ourselves, no matter what the world says about us.

7. The lie: "My marriage will never the same (it will be worse)."
The truth: My marriage will never be the same (it can be better). I would have called total bullshit on that a few years ago. I would have scoffed, of course it can be better if he's not sleeping with other people. But really good? Nah.' But here I am, eating my words. It takes a lot of work. It takes a deep commitment on the part of your husband to recognize how badly he's hurt you and how he's damaged your relationship. And it takes a strong desire to want to be a better person. To deserve your love and trust. And you've got some work too. To take a good look at your marriage and take responsibility for your own shortcomings. (This is in no way to say you were to blame for his cheating. That's on him. But there isn't a marriage in the world in which just one partner is to blame for issues within it.) And then, slowly, you rebuild. A few years later, you just might be amazed at how strong that marriage feels. And how deep the love goes.
And that's the truth.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where Does the Hate Go?

Amy recently posted on this page asking a really powerful question: Where, she asked, does the hate go? She wrote that it has been 2 1/2 years since she found out about her husband's affair. In many ways, she says, life is good. Her marriage feels strong. Her husband has worked hard to deserve his second chance. But, she said, in the early days of facing betrayal she poured so much of her anger and pain into hating the Other Woman. And now that hatred burns as fiercely as ever. It's eating her up from the inside.
Hatred is powerful stuff. It poisons us, while doing little to the object of our hatred. It casts a shadow over everything in our lives. There's little room for a broad range of feelings when hate takes up so much space.
However, in the early days of discovering a spouse's affair, hate can serve a purpose. I'd far rather see a betrayed wife filled with hatred for her spouse and the OW, than a betrayed wife who's being understanding or blaming herself. Hatred is outrage. It's a way of saying you can NOT do this to me. I do NOT deserve this. It's a way of saying No way, no how. It's setting boundaries. I will not put up with this any longer.
So yes…in small doses at a certain time, I'm a big fan of hatred in the form of outrage.
But then it serves us no longer. It turns toxic. It keeps us locked in a past that we need to move on from.
It keeps us tethered to a person who, honestly, isn't important.
I know it sounds crazy. How can someone who slept with your husband and helped unleash the destruction that became your life not be important? Because she's not. There are plenty of posts here, here and here about the Other Woman, in which I…ummm…express some of my own thoughts about the role these toxic people play. Weird thing is…I don't hate these women. They make me sigh out loud. They sometimes make me laugh. They make me roll my eyes. They exasperate me with their teen novel philosophies about love and life and destiny. Or they frustrate me with their "enlightened" bullshit about archaic institutions like marriage and "if you set something free…" lunacy. But I don't hate them. I don't even hate THE Other Woman in my life (though I hope she doesn't test this by showing up at my front door).
How did I get here?
By deciding I wasn't going to give her that much energy. By refusing to give up valuable real estate in my brain to her. By finally understanding that she wasn't the problem. She had never been the problem. She was willing and available. That was it.
And it was knowing, really knowing, that no matter how awful it felt to be me, I wouldn't have wanted to be her. I knew she hated herself. Not for what she'd done (she lacked the insight), but I understood that only someone who hated herself would allow herself to get involved with a married man who offered up nothing but misery.
I know lots of Other Women convince themselves that our husbands are their "soul mates". They spin fairy tales about how our husbands are misunderstood, or trapped. The convince themselves that they "couldn't help" themselves. Love, they say, is like that. (And let's be honest, our husbands are often active participants in these stories.)
We, of course, know that's bullshit. You simply don't get involved in the deliberate deception of another person unless you're capable of ethical gymnastics together with a deep belief that you don't deserve better.
The guys who stay with their wives and fight their way out of the hell that is post-betrayal marriage are caught in their own self-loathing.
In other words, these people hate themselves enough that we don't need to pile it on further.
So…where does our hate go? It slowly dissipates, as long as we don't feed its fire. It's smothered by compassion, for ourselves and our husbands and, with time, her. When we can recognize that our spouse's affair and his affair partner really had nothing to do with us. They're just two messed up people who lost their self-respect (along with their pants and any sense of decency).
The hate goes when you refuse to give it a home. When you will no longer be an incubator for an emotion that is turning you into exactly who you don't want to be. Her.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marital Magic Bullet?: Experts Propose That Cheating Can "Save" a Marriage

I stop short of saying that my husband's affair(s) helped our marriage, though there is at least one woman who hails it as "the best thing that ever happened to me". I think the emotional (and physical) wreckage from infidelity is simply too devastating for me to ever consider it a good thing. I can, however, recognize that all that agony also brought with it some gifts. Wisdom, for lack of a better word, that I might not otherwise have…and that has contributed to greater joy in my life.
But I worry, when experts are hailing cheating as something that can "save" a marriage, it's giving implicit permission to those considering an affair to forge ahead. After all, it might even be good for their marriage. Who wouldn't want the opportunity to screw with impunity, all in the name of self-improvement?
I understand the point these experts are making. I'm living their point. And I sing their same song post after post on this site: An affair does not have to sound the death knell for a marriage. It's a position contrary to…ahem…some others on the Web, with whom I've had my difference of opinion (and to whom I won't link because she tends to trigger those of us early on the path of healing).
I think it's important to offer up a different message to women facing their husband's cheating because, for far too long, we've been shown two options: Throw the bum out or sweep the affair under the rug for the sake of our marriage.
There is, of course, another way. To use the affair as an opportunity to deconstruct a marriage is crisis and then rebuild. But we can't gloss over just how brutalizing an affair is to the betrayed partner. We can't subscribe exclusively to an "he-had-an-affair-but-look-on-the-bright-side" way of thinking that does little for the betrayed or the betrayer. I remain convinced (though I am an incurable optimist) that if more people saw the effects of infidelity up close, they'd keep their pants on and their legs closed to all but their spouse. They'd think twice before they sent flirtatious texts to a co-worker. They'd walk away when opportunity arose, knowing that the brief pleasure simply wasn't worth the sacrifice of their partner's sense of safety in the world.
Unfortunately, given our cultural conviction that any woman who stays is a doormat and any woman who kicks him out is a warrior, we don't have much evidence of how betrayal impacts those of us who chose option 3 – to rebuild our marriage with the person who broke our hearts. We need to have that conversation too, along with the proposal that it's possible to learn lessons (incredibly painful lessons) from a spouse's affair.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

When you can't just "get over it"

Just as I think there must be a playbook for cheaters, I sometimes think there must also be one for husbands who stay in the marriage. It probably contains such lines as "You'll never let me live this down, will you!" Or "if you're going to bring this up every time you're mad at me, we'll never get past this." Or "I can't spend the rest of my life saying 'sorry'". 
Sound familiar?
One of the hurdles betrayed wives often have to clear is their husband's admonishments to get over it. It can be overt or, more often, subtle. But no matter, it's harmful either way. The thing is, we're trying to get over it. We want nothing more than to get over it. But, ultimately, we figure out that there really is no getting over it. We can get through it and get past it...but rarely do we get over it. 
It's not just a matter of semantics. To get through it, we need to process our emotions, to acknowledge the pain we're in, take steps to address the residual damage from betrayal. To get past it, we find that we've arrived at a place where we can accept what's happened and while few of us are glad for the experience, we can recognize that some good came out of it. Getting "over" it, implies leaping past all that damage to a new stage where our husbands are magically forgiven and their act of betrayal is never spoken of again. We get "over" the flu. We get "through" betrayal. 
A crucial part of getting through is exploring just how this has impacted us. We desperately need someone who can acknowledge our pain, who understands that each of us walks a different path, a different timeline. Someone who understands that betrayal changes who we are, and that we need to figure out who this new us is. It's one of the reasons I created this site. To give betrayed wives a safe place to process everything they're going through, with the benefit of the experience of those further along the path to healing. 
A therapist can be a lifesaver. Someone to help you examine the role you played in the breakdown of the marriage, without ever holding you to blame for your spouse's choice to cheat. My own therapist kept my head above water. But I've heard stories of therapists who, clearly, don't have a clue about betrayal. 
But there's another tool in your arsenal. It was a desire for a wise someone with whom she could talk – someone ideally who understood intimately the experience of betrayal having been through it herself – that prompted Laura S., a betrayed wife in California, to create the Infidelity Counselling Network, a free phone counselling service for betrayed spouses. Laura and I discovered each other on social media. Since then, we've talked personally and shared our stories. We've grown to appreciate and support each other's work, knowing how important it is to have that sense of community in the wake of betrayal. Her Infidelity Counselling Network has been busy training peer counsellors (who've been through betrayal themselves) to provide wisdom and support to callers. If you crave someone anonymous  with whom to share your experience, give Laura's counsellors a call: 650-521-5897, ext. 101.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Words to Live By

What does this quote mean for you?

"You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are too heavy."
~C. JoyBell C.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More Evidence that Other Women Are Crazy

I've never declared war on the Other Woman. I know that not all of them are monsters. Some of them are young and naive (and perhaps have a not-quite-developed moral compass). Some genuinely don't believe they deserve better. I know of a couple who didn't realize they were the Other Woman. The moment each found out, they refused the title and walked away. 
But then I receive a letter like the one below, posted as a comment to my Open Letter to the Other Woman. And I'm reminded that some of them are bitter and self-righteous and able to rationalize (though irrationally) getting involved with a married man. Herewith, more evidence that some of these OW are downright delusional:
[Her copy is in italics. My responses are in square brackets]
If I was the other woman and you sent me this letter, I would think that your husband was right for wanting someone else. You came across in the letter as someone damaged, with possibly mental issues, who is lacking education and is unable to communicate diplomatically [Let's just start with your accusation that I'm unable to act "diplomatically"? So the OW gets to screw my husband but I'm called upon to "communicate diplomatically"? That seems a little unfair...] as well as unable to understand your husband's primarily needs [I assume you meant to type "primary", as in food, water, shelter, clothing, sex?] , and what was your responsibility and role and his role and responsibility in your marriage is. [I don't, in fact, lack education as you suggested in your second sentence. My education trained me to recognize a confusing, run-on sentence. It also trained me to recognize bullshit.]
You simply blame someone else who absolutely has no control over your communication skills, and your abilities to fulfill all of his needs and not just sexually but intellectually, and emotionally. [Just so we're clear, I'm not blaming her for whatever the hell you're saying I'm blaming her for in this, again, confusing sentence. I'm blaming her for knowingly sleeping with a married man. That's it.] You assume that the other woman knew automatically that he is married [she had dinner at my home so, yes, she knew he was married. And that he had three young children], but what if they communicated in business like manners [she mostly screamed at him about wanting a bigger office and larger salary], and talked over longer period of time, where natural connection and attraction took place over some time before either of them discussed the marital status? [Definitely NOT the case –  but I don't deny that it's possible to become attracted to someone without knowing he's married. But when you do find out? That's when you gracefully bow out until he's divorced.] What if your husband was captivated by her and that is his reality that he has to suppress because his wife is threatening him and making his life a hell? [Captivated? I'm guessing you read a lot of romance. And "threatening him"? As in, if you ever cheat on me I'll cut your balls off? Well then...maybe. As for "suppression", that's pretty much what we agree to do when we get married. Not that we won't ever be attracted to another person, but that we'll suppress acting on it because cheating damages a marriage and hurts the person we promised not to hurt. If we can't or won't "suppress", that's when we call the divorce lawyers.]
What if he did not tell you because he wanted to protect the other woman? [Part of it, sure. But more likely he's protecting himself. He wants his proverbial cake...and ice cream too.] How do you know that they did not discuss how to protect him but also protect her from you? [Probably did. Isn't that in the standard cheaters' manual? How to not get caught?] What if your husband is sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of children? [If he was "sacrificing his happiness" I'm thinking he wouldn't be having an affair. Don't you mean "sacrificing his wife's happiness"?] Do you care if he is genuinely in love with you or its not relevant as long as his your "husband" on the paper? [I'm baffled. What are you saying? If he's not in love with me, there's the door. And the divorce lawyer. Why cheat?]
Why do you think would matter to her if he was in your bed, if she was on his mind from 8 am when he texted her "good morning beautiful", went to work, kept communicating to her the entire day, went home and talked again until bed time at 11 pm? [I ask again, why stay married then? If this Other Woman means so much to him, give her the dignity of a relationship in the open.] Why do you think that your possessiveness [by this you mean my desire that he not sleep with other people?] of husband you don't even care about or respect ( unless he finds someone who does ) is a true love, and his affection and genuine care for the other woman is a fantasy? [Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but only 1% of affairs survive the light of day. So yeah...fantasy.] Cant you see how deluded your assumptions are? [Jaw hanging open.] Why do you believe that a husband can not POSSIBLY fell in love with someone else? [I don't believe that. I think some of them do. I think a great many more fall in love with the reflection of themselves they see in the Other Woman's eyes] Why would you want him to suffer and be with someone he feels obligation towards rather then genuine true love? [I don't want that either. Not sure where you're getting this stuff.] And why do you think that you should suffer with him too, don't you deserve someone who loves you and is captivated by you like he is with her? [Absolutely I do. Lucky for me, I got it in my husband.]
So every situation is different, every man is different, every woman is different, every wife is different, every husband is different, every other woman is different... [Every cat is different. Every pebble is different. Every raindrop is different. This is fun...] Not everybody does it for the reasons you assumed, not everybody is in the same category at all times, not all wives are angels, not all husbands are devils, and cheaters, not all other women are sluts. [Not all children like ice cream. Not all accountants wear suits. Not all cats have fur...] That's a shallow thinking and based on your letter, its clear that you do not love your husband. [Really? I kinda thought I did.]  If anybody is responsible for your marriage its you, and your husband. [Very true.] Leave other people alone and take responsibility for what you created. [Ahem...pot meet kettle. Please tell me you can see the irony of telling THE WIFE to leave THE OTHER WOMAN alone? How about she leaves married men alone?] And speaking of that, you created a prison cell out of which he wants to escape. [I did? No bars on the doors/windows – literally or metaphorically. And I wouldn't have this "betrayed wives" site if he didn't escape. He escaped quite frequently. Note to self: Install bars on doors/windows to prevent escape next time.]  And if he does not escape its not because he is love with security guard who keeps him locked and starved [have you seen my husband lately. Not starved!], nor it is because he likes prison cell. [Not sure any of us like prison cell. But, as noted, he doesn't live in one.] He does not care, it is perhaps because that is the only life he used to have and needs an extensive therapy to want BETTER for himself. [He did need extensive therapy to want better for himself. He was a very mixed up person who got involved with a very mixed up person. And he's thrilled that he's created better for himself and grateful for the chance to do so. But with his wife and family, not the Other Woman. Whether she's engaged in extensive therapy go create better for herself, I know not.] Some will pick up themselves and leave, many will be simply lost. It takes time to think like a free man and get used to true love and qualities in a woman he deserved. [I think what you're saying is pretty much what we say on this site every single day. Some of these guys are jerks who are incapable of a healthy, loving relationship. They will remain lost. Others will leave, though for the record, if they marry their affair partner they are twice as likely to divorce. Still others will do the incredibly hard work of rebuilding their marriage in order to deserve the woman they've hurt the most, their wife.]
Okay...now it's my turn. I honestly don't know what you hoped to achieve with this letter. I'm assuming you're in a relationship with a married man who has convinced you that his marriage is a "prison" and his wife is some sort of demonic monster from whom you need protection. It is remotely possible this is true. It is far more likely that this guy is a lying scumbag who doesn't have the balls to be honest with either you, his wife or himself. He's not treating you with any sort of respect. Secret texts and clandestine meetings are the stuff of fantasy and manipulation, not respect.
Affairs create devastation. I know you doubt this. You seem to have convinced yourself that we betrayed wives are hollowed out loveless people who only inflict pain, not feel it. I hope you'll read through the posts and comments here. The women on this site are lovely, warm-hearted people who are going through the worst pain of their lives. It's impossible to overstate just how damaging affairs are – to whole families, even friends. Betrayal affects our sense of worth in the world, our ability to feel safe, our trust in others. 
It really is as simple as not cheating. There are undoubtedly other problems in marriages that will either require addressing or, in many cases, result in the dissolution of the marriage. But to do so in a way that allows each party to move forward with dignity and worth should be everyone's objective, including that of the next person to get involved with either partner.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Funny Friday: Quote for the Day

"Whenever my husband is late coming home, I figure he's either having an affair or he's dead. I always hope he's dead."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do You Want a Happy Marriage? Or A Meaningful One...

There's been a fair bit of discussion on this site recently about the Other Woman. A few OW have posted their side of the story, and many betrayed wives have responded.
But it wasn't until I read this post by the thought-provoking Penelope Trunk that I had something of a eureka moment.
It's about the difference between happy and meaningful.
To some extent, our culture has sold us a bill of goods. There's much talk about happiness. The pursuit of happiness, or at least understanding happiness, has become something of a cottage industry. And if we're not happy, we're left to feel as if we're clearly doing something wrong. Happiness should be our goal, right? And for many of us, it is.
Trunk, however, backed up by considerable research, points out that happiness is empty.
Happiness is getting the job, not doing the job. It's getting the guy, not facing him day-in and day-out. Happiness is fleeting. Which is why, if we're asked, many of us kinda shrug and say, well, we're kinda happy. Or happy-ish. But a lot of us are thinking to ourselves, what is happiness anyway? Is this happiness? What does happiness look like?
What Trunk et al point out is that most of aren't so much interested in happiness...but in meaning. It's meaning that makes our lives worth living more than happiness. It's meaning that gets us up out of a sound sleep to rub our children's backs when they're scared. It's meaning that keeps us working on marriages even after the devastation of betrayal.
And where my eureka came in was when I recognized that the OW who have posted on this site are pursuing happiness. They think that it comes in the form of a man, even a married one. And they think that these men can't possibly be "happy" if they're seeking something outside their marriage.
And perhaps they're right. I think there are plenty of guys who feel a vague unhappiness and wonder if that feeling can be captured in an affair. But happiness isn't the point. Both sides are missing the point, which sets them up for an affair that generally only brings misery, with intermittant bursts of what they think is "happy".
If we're chasing happiness, I think we're doomed to disappointment. If we expect a "happy" marriage, what does that mean? An absence of conflict? Or is what we really seek a meaningful marriage? One in which there's a shared set of goals, a shared belief that the sum is greater than our parts?
Happiness is great. I'm all for it. But to make it a condition of commitment is dangerous. Happiness ebbs and flows. Sometimes life just isn't...happy. There are challenges with kids, with our health, with jobs, with the economy. There are the small things that get in the way, like who gets to decide how often the tile grout gets cleaned...and by whom. Sometimes there are big things that get in the way: addictions, family of origin issues, and plain old stupidity.
But meaningful? That's something that lasts. And that's something that too many OW just don't get.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Responding to the Other Woman: Elle Unleashed

Definitely not smiling!
A woman recently posted a comment on my blog post Open Letter to the Other Woman. Here it is:

Does anyone (like me) ever wondered why the other woman always gets the blame, and the husband gets welcomed back with open arms??

Does the Wife forget;
He tooks the Vows
Hes the one betraying his family
Hes the one telling the lies

In my case..He initiated the cheating and the chase. Lied about getting a divorce. 
And actually im educated..with a degree..; a single parent of two children.

I was the other women, and a month ago i decided to end it with him finally after two years. 
Only this week his Wife has been trying to call me on a witheld number and i refused to answer to her. Beacuse I know if i did answer..she would not like what i had to say.

As far as i see it. This is their issue, not mine. 

This also highlights to me, the major issue in cheating marriages. Why is the wife is calling the other woman?? Does she not trust her husband to tell her the truth??
Does she not trust him at all??
Do they have an issue with communication??

All he did in the two years was complain about her.
However I finally caught onto it, that things were never going to change. After asking him many times...if its so bad, why are you still there?? therefore something must be going right.

But Yeah i acknowledge my part. its My Bad. 

And as far as im concerned..the issues in the marriage are prevalent long before he has the affair/s. Im pretty sure, im not the first and wont be the last. 
You see...what he wants in the other woman, is what he doesnt have in his wife. The only reason he doesnt leave the wife, is either;

because of guilt
beacuse its easier to go back to the comfort of what you have
because he knows after confessing and worming his way back she is going to take him back eventually
because of kids (he had none)

but they do not stay for the right reasons. So the wife can blame the other woman all she wants. It still doesnt change who he is, and what he did.

Cheating husbands risk losing their marriage all the time. 
If they really honoured their committment, loved their wives,and family so much, do you really think they would take that risk??

Until the next time that is.

I felt compelled to respond:

You're a brave woman wading into these waters. But you ask a number of questions so I'm going to assume you genuinely want answers. Let me enlighten you.
You're right about many things. Chances are there were issues in the marriage long before you came along. And clearly the husband in your case wasn't emotionally capable of dealing with them so chose to distract himself with you. Happens all the time, right?
And then the wife finds out, all hell breaks lose and you start getting phone calls begging for info.
Let me put you into the wife's shoes for a minute.
She's probably aware that something hasn't been right. That her husband isn't around so much. That when he is, he's distracted or uninterested. Short-tempered. Perhaps outright hostile. That's pretty standard for cheaters with a shred of conscience. They feel crappy about what they're doing but don't want to stop doing it. So they look for reasons why what they're doing is okay. They convince themselves that the wife "nags", she doesn't like sex, she doesn't "support" him, blah blah cliché blah.
Sometimes it's even true. As mom of two kids, you likely know that there are nights you're just too damn tired for sex. There are times when you need to talk to your husband about helping out around the house. You need to discuss bills. Home maintenance. Let's be honest, grown-up life is sometimes incredibly dull.
Nonetheless, the wife loves her husband. And, frequently, he loves her too. They've known each other for years. They've looked into their newborns' eyes and been rendered speechless. They've sat beside elderly parents taking their last breath. They've shared birthdays and anniversaries and held feverish kids who can't sleep.
So when she finds out that this person she's opened her heart to is cheating on her, she's thrown completely off her feet. She trusted this guy. With her future, her children. Who the hell is he, anyway? She begs him to tell her why he did this. Sometimes he'll blame her, sometimes he'll blame his life, his boss, his drinking, his weakness. Sometimes he'll accept blame for just making a whopping mistake. Sometimes he'll believe he's in love with the Other Woman and leave. Most of the time, though, he hasn't a god-damn clue why he did it. And now that he truly realizes what he stands to lose, he's even more clueless why he did it. There's generally one reason: it felt good. Not the sex, but the escape. The banality of life was temporarily suspended. It's the reason people gamble. Or shop. Or eat too much. Or drink. Or take drugs. Escape. It's intoxicating.
Out of fear, in an effort to minimize damage, these guys often offer what's called "trickle truth". They minimize what happened ("we just kissed" "it was just one night" "she means nothing") or they outright lie ("I swear nothing happened" "she's just a work colleague"). In the meantime, the wife is frantically trying to piece together her life ("was he with her when I took the kids to my mother's? were they together when I was beside my dying father in the hospital? were they together when I was up all night with our son's ear infection?") in order to shine a light on where things went off the rails, on how much of her life is fact and how much is fiction. I can't explain to you, unless you've been there, just how terrifying it is to believe your life has been a lie. You wonder if anything is true, if you can trust anyone.
So, out of desperation, you call the Other Woman. Not for any other reason than you've got some missing pieces and you're hoping she can help you complete the puzzle. You know it's a risk. You know this person has the potential to tell you things that can destroy any shred of self-esteem you might have left. That she could take your broken heart and piss on it. And sometimes she does. But sometimes she recognizes that this wife likely isn't the monster her husband pretended she was to ease his own guilt and get her into bed.
Sometimes the OW is able to see that this is a flawed guy who made a colossal mistake. Sometimes, let's be clear, the guy is just a total asshole who feels entitled to whatever and whomever he wants. But you're referring to the couples who stay together, assuming, as you say, that none do it "for the right reasons".
I'll tell you one thing. Going back to the "comfort of what you have" sounds NOTHING like what marriage is like after an affair. It is HELL ON EARTH. 
It is excruciating for any guy with a conscience to see the pain they've caused their wives and know that they did it. Some guys simply can't face it. They're the ones who blame their wives for "never getting over it" and take the first exit. Some wives don't want to give them the chance to do it again. Each of us walks her own path.
Those of us who let them "worm their way back"? The smart ones among us demand that they face what they did and work hard to figure out why they risked their marriage for what so many of them insist meant nothing. There's many reasons, which often had little to with the OW herself. A sense of failure in life, fear of aging, job loss, inability to handle life's stresses, addiction...the list goes on. Again, it generally boils down to escape. An affair is a distraction. Men (and women) fall in love with what they see in their affair partner's eyes – that they're sexy and interesting and fun. There are no mortgages, not built-up resentments, no rude teenage kids, no "headaches". That's why they take the risk. Because they want adoration without the hard work of creating that within their marriage, over years and years.
You're right that some of these guys will never learn. They will cheat again. And they're not worth a second chance. They probably weren't worth the first one.
But not all of them.
And not all women blame the OW. We know it was ultimately our husbands who violated their commitment to us. But we also know that, when we were hit on by married guys (and we were), there was a wife at home who didn't deserve this pain. We know that if a guy is worth it, he'll do the right thing, get out of his marriage, and find a woman he respects enough to not hide.
We know that so many of these OW want what we have and are willing to be complicit in our pain to get it.
So yeah...we're not too crazy about you. 
In my case, the OW sat in my house, ate at my table, played with my kids...while screwing my  husband. Absolutely that's indication that my husband was one fucked-up dude. But, clearly, so was she.
I'm sad that you're so cynical. Please know there are decent guys out there. They're the ones who hit on you and don't have a wife at home. Please be a woman who deserves them.


Friday, September 13, 2013

The Other Woman: Revealed

This post was written by a reader in response to my post, Second Letter to the Other Woman. It's likely a familiar timeline to many Other Women. But to we betrayed wives, the affair can look magical from the outside. My reader, who's experienced her own betrayal, also wrote this:
Through my pain I can feel some sort of satisfaction knowing that at the back of the OW minds, they really must know deep down how gullible and stupid they are. My husband's failure is what I will deal with, hers, well, who cares. 

She writes:
A little insight into how the other woman feels. This was from a friend who doesn't know that I've been betrayed. I knew about her affair partner but I'm ashamed to say I only took an interest once it had happened to me and the fact that we didn't catch up much as we were thousands of miles away.

Week one of her affair: They met at a convention. Drinks after the meeting, mutual attraction. She was single he was married, which she knew. Ended up in bed by the end of the week. She told me of the flattery: He'd "never had sex like it", she was "the most beautiful woman" he had ever seen, she " got him".

Weeks 2 and 3. He went to her apartment for dinner and more sex. Took her some flowers and champagne. He opened up more about his wife, how the marriage was dead, and he was only staying for the kids.

Months 2 and 3. They meet at least three or four times a week. He has now told her he loves her. He can't stand being without her. She is having the time of her life. Dressing up, being admired, little gifts. I tell her to watch out. Her heart will be broken. And doesn't she think of his wife and kids? Yes, she did, says she felt terrible at first but now she realises they " were meant to be" and besides, the wife is a real ogre, moans all the time, they sleep in separate rooms.

Months 4 and 5. Still going well and she still adores him. Bit upset he couldn't spend her birthday with her and she was hoping to take a little holiday with him. She gives him the key in case he can turn up or if the old bag of a wife gives him too much grief he can spend some time at her apartment. After all, he will probably be moving in one day.

Months 6 and 7. She tells me she's getting a bit pissed about the situation. She really thought by now he would be putting some plans into place about leaving, you know, stashing some money in a different account for when he moves. She finds out the family are going on holiday together. Why would he do that when he can't stand her? Well, you know, united front for the kids and all that.

Months 8 and 9. He has started cancelling a few times. Still says he loves her and they will be together one day. She's had to keep him secret from her friends, so she's missing out on her social life.

Months 9 and 10. She decides to do a drive-by past his house. WTF, there he is in the front garden with the ogre of a wife, who quite frankly would give Julia Roberts a run for her money. How can he be laughing with her? She doesn't tell him she went by the house. Actually, he never told her exactly where he lived but she found out one day from his wallet. He always told her his wife never had Facebook. Oh dear, big mistake, especially when the photos are public. That holiday that was only for the kids, well, there was an awful lot of affection going on, and what was that picture taken at Christmas of the whole family on the bed opening presents looking like the Partridge family? Then a close up picture of the gorgeous eternity ring he bought her. She had never seen him look so happy.

Cut to the present day. She confronted him. Told him he had to make his mind up. That she wasn't going to wait. He apologised and said sorry, she was lovely but he did love his wife and his head was turned. Begged her not to tell his wife.

It cut like a knife hearing her story, I wanted to shout " You bitch, how could you?" But when she cried on my shoulder and said she felt such a fool, used and abused, he was stringing me along all the time. She said that she felt inferior to the wife and the compliments meant nothing as she knew they were just words to get her into bed.

The final piece of her humiliation: My friend, the OW, went to a book club organised by a friend of a friend. And yes, his wife was one of the members. After a few weeks of being in the same room, she hears one evening after a few glasses of wine what a great sex life this woman has with her husband. She seems a happy woman. My friend said she wanted to destroy her happiness that evening by blurting out the truth. She hasn't so far. 

I don't think she would benefit from apologising. She's humiliated enough already, she would feel even more like trash. She phoned the other day, but I felt I didn't need a friend like this in my life. I cut her short, said I would phone back. Haven't yet. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Healing From Betrayal: Why We Must Tell Our Story

Penelope Trunk, who was in the World Trade Center when the towers fell, knows a thing or two about trauma. 
We women, who've been betrayed by exactly the people we trusted with our hearts and bodies, also know a thing or two about trauma. 
[Before there's a pile-on about how being cheated on doesn't even rate on the same scale as 9/11, let me say that this isn't a pain race. Pain and loss is pain and loss. And all pain and loss deserves to be acknowledged and grieved.]

Here's what Trunk has to (brilliantly) say about trauma:
The way to deal with post-traumatic stress is to tell your story over and over again. The theory is that when you are in the moment of trauma, you have to turn off all your emotions to get yourself through it. After the fact, in order to stop having nightmares and panic attacks, you have to experience the emotions you missed.
And this is the step that cheaters, including reformed cheaters, just can't get.
We need to talk about what happened to us. We are desperate to talk about it.
It doesn't prolong our pain. It does exactly the opposite. It doesn't deepen our pain. It does just the opposite. 
By talking about our trauma, we are processing all those emotions that were stifled when we were going through the experience. 
How many of you describe your response to D-Day as "shock"? Or say, "I felt numb"?
I know that I somehow got myself dressed, out of the house and managed to make chit-chat with the other moms while picking up my kids. It was like some weird out-of-body experience. I could watch myself making small talk and smiling at the teachers and pretending with my kids that everything was A-okay. 
That, my friends, is a trauma response. That is survival instinct kicking in. And it's helpful. It's helpful to ensure that children get picked up from school, that dinner gets put on the table, that jobs get done, that life goes on. But, over the long term, it's not helpful, it's harmful. 
It produces post-trauma. It might show up as a numbness that simply doesn't go away even when it becomes safe to process feelings. It might show up as depression, or self-loathing (which is anger turned inward). It might be nightmares. It might be anxiety. It might be an out-of-proportion response to something seemingly benign. Like completely panicking when your husband is five minutes late coming home from work. 
I once went berserk when I couldn't reach my husband on the phone and he was at the grocery store. I went ballistic on him. To him, what was the big deal? To me, not being able to reach him was EXACTLY what had happened the morning I found out. This wasn't about him being unreachable at the grocery store. This was about me being totally transported back to that awful, horrible morning when my world fell apart. To that consistent 33-second wait while I listened to his phone ring until it went to voice mail. 33 seconds. I watched the clock. Over and over as my brain caught up to what my body had known for weeks.
This was about post-trauma.
And, as Trunk points out, the way to turn post-trauma into PAST trauma is to talk about it.
The key here is talk. This isn't about raging and screaming and dredging up every last unkind thing your spouse has ever done. In fact, that won't get you anywhere. It's about telling your story. It's about someone bearing witness to your fear and your confusion. It's about someone confirming that this happened. And it was horrible. It's about reminding yourself over and over again, that this happened...but it's not happening now
You survived. 
You survived to tell your story.
It can be really tough, however, to convince your husband of this.
You tell your story and he hears, over and over again, I'm a total asshole who did this. I'm a cheating, lying scumbag. No matter that you're not exactly saying that (though you might be thinking it), that's what he hears. And he doesn't WANT to hear that. He doesn't WANT to be reminded of what he did. Who would?
Though a therapist or good friend can also listen to your story, it's often those who created our trauma who we want to listen to our story. We want our husbands to listen to our pain and reassure us that we will never have to go through that again. That it's over. That they are doing everything they can to make sure they never walk down that same path. That they never want to hurt us like that again.
That's it. Most of us don't want our husbands to beat themselves up. We don't want the focus to be on them at all. This is about us
And the opportunity to tell our story, or part of it, each time we're triggered moves us forward. It helps us heal. And each time our husband is able to be with us in that pain, to listen without defending himself, or minimizing our experience, or telling us why we shouldn't feel that way, our marriage is strengthened. We're on the same team, trying to beat back trauma. 
But each time we're silenced, told we're "living in the past", told we're hurting ourselves, that we need to "let it go" and "move on", our trauma goes deeper underground and our marriage fractures a bit more. We're on opposing teams, each trying to nurse his/her own wound at the expense of the other.
The story of our betrayal is a key part of who we are, whether our husbands or we like it or not (and most of us...not so much). But sharing that story carries with it the power to heal, not only ourselves but our marriages.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Feeling Stuck: How to Deal with Triggers

My husband came home a few weeks ago from work and, like most days, gives me an overview of his day. A funny story, perhaps. A meeting that went well or not so well. This particular day he mentioned that he'd had lunch with a salesperson, noting that he'd offered up, what he thought, was a smart way this person's company could improve their business.
In the telling of this story, something was, to me, notable. He mentioned he'd had lunch with A salesperson. Singular. But as the story went on, he didn't refer to this salesperson as a "him" or a "her" but as "they".
Red flag!!!!
My body tensed. My heart beat faster. My mind raced.
I knew, without asking, that this was because this salesperson with whom he'd had lunch was a she. And I feared that there was something about this she that made my husband avoid any discussion of it.
So I asked him whether this "they" was a male or female. He told me what I already knew.
And then I screeched something about how I couldn't believe he'd lied to me and was this ever going to end and on and on (I hardly remember) about how I can't trust him.
He panicked and doubled down in attempts to placate me. That he hadn't "lied" (Bullshit, I said!), didn't want me to draw the wrong conclusion, that there was nothing. (Heard that before, I said.)
In short, we both blew it.
Our counsellor offered us a far better approach.
She said my response was normal and made it clear to my husband that when he seems to be hiding ANYTHING, that's a huge trigger for me. It takes me right back to where I was six years ago when I found out. That it's the deceit that's the trigger, not necessarily the lunch with a female.
And then she told me to ask my husband what I really wanted to know.
It's so hard for me to open myself up to vulnerability. It has been a lifelong struggle and though I'm better, it's really, really hard.
Nonetheless, heart pounding, I asked: "Are you attracted to this woman?" No. "Is there anything going on that you would not want me to know about?" No.
He insisted, got defensive, said all sorts of unhelpful things about how she's older and more mother-like to him and how he's never sure if he's allowed to be attracted to anyone but me ever again even if he never intends to act on it and on and on until our counsellor stopped him. She told him, pointedly, that this wasn't helpful.
And then she guided him through what was helpful. Reminding me that he's working hard on his issues so that he never again betrays me. Reminding me that he doesn't want to be that guy ever again. Reminding me that he loves me and values our marriage and family. That he won't jeopardize that.
I cried. But then I practically floated out of that session. It empowered both of us. Me to realize that allowing myself to ask for what I needed and opening myself to vulnerability isn't going to always mean hurt. Him to realize that by reminding me that he's NOT that guy anymore is also reminding himself that he's come a long way. That it's a source of pride about who he is now instead of a source of shame about what he did.
Triggers can appear no matter how far we are along the path of healing. And when they appear, they transport us right back to that horrible moment when our world spiralled out of control and we felt alone and scared. Trusting ourselves to ask for what we need in that moment, and our spouse to offer it to us binds us closer together. Triggers can be teachers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

He is I, I am He: Part II

Just came across this great post by the inimitable Danielle Laporte. Here's her take, which riffs on my post on "othering":

If you want the freedom that forgiveness promises, if you want to be liberated, then acknowledge the divine in the other person — it’s in there somewhere, even in cases of extreme darkness, it’s in there somewhere. Acknowledging the divine in someone who has hurt you, no matter how severely, doesn’t mean that you condone bad behaviour. You are not making a wrong a right, and you’re not engaging under false spiritual pretence to “play nice”. You’re seeing a spark of truth, and you’re making intelligent choices about how to proceed — all things considered. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

He is I, and I am He

Okay, so my title is a bit oblique.
But bear with me as I explain.
I'm writing this post in response to something I've noticed among many commenters, indeed in many betrayed wives (including this one).
It's the practice of "othering". By "othering", I'm referring to the very human (but not always humane) tendency to distance ourselves from those whose behaviour we judge as bad. We "other" drug addicts. We "other" homeless people. We even "other" rape victims ("did you see what she was wearing?") and obese people and mothers who breastfeed their kids until kindergarten. And, oh yes, we "other" the Other Woman.
But, in the wake of betrayal, we also "other" our spouses. We describe our husbands' betrayals as "selfish". We insist that we could never be so "cruel".
Our husbands are bastards who have ruined us. Their selfish acts jeopardized our physical health, our families, our emotional stability.
They're weak. They're self-centred. They're self-absorbed with the discipline of a toddler.
They're, let's be honest, not as good as us.
Because we would never do such a thing. We would never cheat.
Or would we?
What if we had lived our husband's lives? What if we had walked their path? What if our brains were wired differently? What if we had a Y chromosome? What if?
My point isn't that men are more likely to cheat (though there is some evidence that's true) or that certain life experiences lead inevitably to cheating.
And – please – I am not being an apologist for cheating. It's wrong. It's dishonest. And it's so excruciatingly painful for the betrayed.
But I've noticed something within my own healing and from listening to so many stories from betrayed wives: Seeing our husbands (or exes) as the "other" stands in the way. Looking at their actions as utterly abhorrent prevents us from seeing ourselves in them.
Which brings me to my title. It's only when we can see ourselves in others and them in us that we can truly begin to heal. I'll go even further. It's only when we can see ourselves in others and them in us that we can truly begin to live a life with compassion. And isn't that the whole point?
I didn't make the same choices as my husband but I haven't lived his life.
Nor has he lived mine.
My healing truly began the day I finally understood that while I might not have been the one who cheated, I could understand why he did.
None of this is to say you should stay with someone who cheated. Or who won't acknowledge the pain they've caused. You get to decide where you go from here.
But whether you stay or go, you're going to need to walk through some pretty dark places. Places that expose so many of our own wounds, around our worthiness, our ability to trust, our sense of who we are. By refusing to look deeply into those wounds – and into what behaviour we might engage in to avoid seeing them – we close ourselves off from compassion. For him, but also for ourselves.
Compassion isn't about saying it's okay that he hurt you. It isn't about saying you're going to stick around to see if he wages war with his demons. It's understanding that his choices were based on HIS life experience. That his betrayal wasn't about you. Not at all.
Compassion does the exact opposite of "othering". It opens our hearts instead of nailing them shut.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Changes to the site

I'm delighted that so many of you are using this site to share your stories. I believe it's crucial to have a safe place to share your experience and discover that others' experiences – while the circumstances might be different – sound a lot like your own.  To learn that others have survived this. To understand that you will too.
Because of the volume of women sharing their stories, however, my site is clogging up (if you've commented and don't see yours, I'll try to repost your comments. Or you can re-send). 
I'm creating a "forum" here where you can post your stories, just like blog posts, and then others can comment. *** Please put a descriptive heading so that people searching for a particular topic can find your post. Some examples:
•Multiple Affairs
•My Husband had a One-Night Stand
•He Cheated with My Sister
And please, let others know if their stories resonate with you. Keep comments kind, supportive or helpful (anything else won't pass). The easiest way through this hell is with others pulling us along in the direction of healing.

I'll continue to post periodically on my main page. If there's something you'd like me to write about, please let me know. 

To all of you who share this journey, thank-you for all you've given me. Without fail, I've received compassion and support and gratitude. I couldn't have asked for better company as I walk this path.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Creating Vs. Wanting

I recently listened to a podcast with Laura Munson, author of This Isn't the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness.
Munson's husband came to her one day with words that hit her like a sucker punch. "I'm not in love with you. I'm not sure I ever was." He told her he was leaving the family.
She refused to let him. She didn't rage or beg, scream or cry; she simply said no. There was no other woman but her husband was dealing with the failure of his role as breadwinner. She insisted on a "responsible separation", guided by rules that would protect the children but allow him the space to figure out his crisis.
But one thing she said really resonated. It's the difference, she says, between want and create. Want, she points out, is about reaching for something outside ourselves. It's dis-empowering. Create, on the other hand, is about holding on to the power to determine what they can control and letting go of what they can't.
Munson took some flak from readers who considered her a doormat, believing that her husband was having an affair – and that she was giving him free rein to continue.
Sound familiar?
But, says Munson, quite the contrary. Instead of fighting for something outside of her control, she took care of herself and her kids the best she could. She created as much happiness as she could apart from her husband's behaviour.
It wasn't easy.
She also experienced a frightening experience falling out of a raft in a Class 3 rapid on her 42nd birthday. Her choice? To completely surrender. "I was supposed to be scared but I didn't feel fear."
She needed, she says, to be her own safety, her own support.
The result, she says, is that she felt so much more powerful.
She had her moments of breakdown, crying frequently in the woods outside her Montana home.
The single most powerful question I know is "what can I create?"
It's nothing grand.
It's possible to create space for yourself by saying 'no' to obligations. Or create joy for yourself by playing with your child or your pet. Or create peace for yourself by taking time to exercise or meditate. Or create community for yourself by reaching out to a good friend.
Whatever it is, give it to yourself. Don't want it -- which puts the power in others' hands (we want love, we want support, we want designer shoes...). Create it.
For nobody else but yourself.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Steps to Healing A Marriage After An Affair -- Revisited

This post is frequently cited as the most viewed on my site (it originally ran in May 2012)...which indicates that there's a whole lotta women (and men) trying to navigate their way through the wreckage of an affair to rebuild their marriages. It's tough. But so, from what I hear, is divorce. There is no right path out of this. For some people, it's to rebuild their marriage; for others, divorce is the only option. For some, sadly, it's to stay silent and accept their partner's cheating.
If you're here, chances are it's because you're hoping to rebuild. No matter why you're here, you're welcome to share your story or simply relish the support and compassion of those who've been where you are.
Read on...

It seems presumptuous as well as pompous to suggest that I possess any great wisdom about healing a marriage after an affair. Yes, my husband had affairs. And yes, I'm still married. And yes, I would even consider myself and our marriage somewhat "healed" (if by "healed", one means that I no longer cry in grocery stores or fantasize about smothering my husband in his sleep). But wisdom? Not so much wisdom as life experience...which I suppose amounts to the same thing.
And I certainly know that, back when I was struggling to get through each hour of the day and wondering if I/my marriage was going to survive, I desperately wanted to know how others got through.
So, herewith, my thoughts. (And they are MY thoughts.  Take what you need, leave what doesn't work.) And remember too, this advice is for those who want to save their marriage...or at least preserve it long enough to determine if you want to save it.
Step #1: You have to both commit to putting the relationship first. Before your needs, before his needs...you serve the needs of the relationship, almost as if it's a child you're both nurturing. Once that is in place, you're far more free to hash stuff out without fear that one of you has one foot out the door.
This step is impossible with someone who's still deep in the fog of an affair. It takes two to save a marriage. You can try valiantly...but as long as he's refusing to take responsibility for the damage he's done, forget it. It doesn't mean it's over...but it does mean it's time for some tough love.
Step #2: You need to focus on healing yourself... Your main job in the early days following D-Day is to focus on taking care of yourself (and kids, if you have them). That means sleep, eating properly, avoiding excessive (or any!) alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling. It means surrounding yourself with supportive people. Avoiding toxic people. Steering clear of drama. And staying away from the OW. It's time to wrap yourself in a cocoon and nurture yourself back to a sense of safety.
Step #3: ...and don't manage his healing. As much as it will kill you to acknowledge, he's hurting too. Yes, he detonated the bomb that caused the damage...but likely you both built the bomb together through years of slights, lack of appreciation, misunderstandings. And as much as it will also kill you (and you don't need to be privy to much), he's possibly missing the OW and very likely missing the sense of excitement that the affair provided. You don't need to (and should NOT) have to listen to his tales of woe and self-pity. He brought it on himself. But you would do yourself and him some good to allow him to heal on his own. You don't get to dictate his feelings. You DO get to dictate the terms of what you need to give him another chance but (and here's the catch), they must be terms that are focussed on your marriage healing, NOT on punishing him. (Sometimes it may seem to be both...but always check your motives.) For example, you get to insist that he cut off contact with the other woman as a condition of you staying. You do NOT get to insist that he doesn't miss her. Get it? Stay focussed on YOU, what you need and what you can reasonably control.
Step #4: Don't take his affair personally. I know it sounds wacky. In the days and weeks following discovery of my husband's affair, I went crazy trying to figure out what she had that I didn't. And for a perfectionist like me, it was excruciating! I was fit...she wasn't. I was smart...she wasn't. I was an overachiever...she wasn't. I raised money for orphans...she didn't. You get the idea. My husband kept telling me it had nothing to do with me and I would scream at him "How could this NOT have something to do with me. You chose to spend time with HER not ME? How is this not personal?" He had no idea...he only knew that it wasn't.
Finally, one day the light went on. I wish I could tell you what made me realize but I guess months of analysis along with my husband's reassurance finally clicked and I realized that it truly, honestly had nothing to do with me. It wasn't that there was something wrong with me, it was that there was something wrong with HIM. And he took that brokenness to someone else because it felt safer. Because if she rejected him, it wouldn't hurt the way it would with me. Counter-intuitive, yes. The thought process of a fairly screwed up psyche, yes. But also a thought process that so many of us have and simply don't realize. We seek outside ourselves what is missing inside.
So...I'll say it again. Don't take his affairs personally. They're about his broken-ness, not yours.
Step #5: Don't use his affair as an excuse for your own bad behaviour. His cheating does not give you an excuse to cheat, lie, steal or be physically or emotionally abusive. I said some horrible things in the wake of finding out. I said he was a lying scumbag (which, at that point, was factually validated by his behaviour). I said I hated him. I said he had "killed me inside". I smashed a watch of his, broke a television. I was pretty wacked out. Discovering a spouse's affair can make you crazy. Just keep crazy to a minimum as best you can. It doesn't help you, definitely hurts your kids...and can hurt your marriage to unleash crazy. If necessary, schedule your breakdowns -- rage and kick and scream in your bedroom when the kids are at school. Pound on your pillow, imaging it's his face. But keep yourself inside the law...and the boundaries of decency. Which also means NO revenge affairs. That's simply inviting another person into an already nutty situation. It's tempting, I know, to seek solace in the arms of someone who reassures you that you're still sexy and appealing. But you are. You never stopped being so (unless, of course, you did...in which case, get thee to a gym. Physical health can go a long way toward emotional health and to self-confidence.)


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