Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guest post: Awesome advice from a betrayed wife

"Steam" often comments to this site, offering up her experience as a guide to others, and supporting those who aren't as far along the path as she. 
She wrote this awhile back and it's so succinct and compassionate, that I requested her permission to re-post it so that more can read it.
I love that this site has become a hub for so many who feel isolated and confused. I love how respectful we all are of each other's experiences, always recognizing that we each need to walk our own paths.
Thanks, Steam, for helping make this such a great space.

I was immediatly diagnoised with PTSD in our 1st MC session. Our counselor made it very clear to my husband that my reaction to his selfish and fucked up action was completely NORMAL, not that that makes you feel instantly better, but it was good to have a name for it. Reliving it over and over again is hard to avoid when you cannot stop thinking about it. I am 10 months out this week and I have done my best to "reclaim" the places and things that gave me joy, that he stole, that I thought he had stolen forever. Since most of his affair was online with only three in-person meetings – when they met (in another country) and two months later when they had sex twice (in another country) –  there is not much to reclaim. All I have asked is that he NOT take me to the place they had their one dinner. He said it was bad anyway and he would never go again, good I dont need to go there, it was never mine to begin with. I am starting to feel safe again, and although I cannot ever trust him again like I did when I was blind, I do trust him a lot more. I no longer hit every e-mail address and social media page of his every day or even every week, I no longer search for her online. But I watch the cell phone bill like a madwoman. Something I never ever checked which had all I ever needed to know.
I feel a lot more like a better me, and our relationship has changed so drastically it's almost a miracle. And the hardest part to admit? It was not just him who had to change. I had to do my part too.  

If you are brand new to this, don't think YOU need to do that immediately. You need to heal and he needs to help. It's only then that you can find a better version of yourself...she is in there, I promise. 

It's not your fault, it was never your fault, you are not the one who cheated. You are not the one who risked everytihng, so just take it minute by minute – don't rush it – go through it, not around or over or under it, and if you have a new relationship with your partner (we could never have found one without counseling, relish it. 
BTW, I had EMDR about 20 years ago and it was quite astonishing. If I was still living in the land of PTSD I would not hesitate, but first I wanted to beat my H up in counseling for a while. 
Look at that, I just laughed. You will will get through this unless your husband is an absolute a-hole and you are with a bad man, not a good man with issues and mistakes. Hang in there if he is worth staying with – and he will show you if he is – and thrive.  

All I have wanted to do other than save my own relationship was to be able to help others who have been through this. The spark came while I was googling within hours of finding out on that horrible d-day. I was of the school "once a cheater, always a cheater" and "if anyone ever did that to ME, he would be gone SO fast".  

Arent we all?

But when he DID do that to me, I gave him an immediate (and I add, loud and hysterical) choice he had to make – her or me. When I saw the absolute devestation in HIS eyes, seeing what he had done to ME, seeing his tears, hearing his words, feeling his absolute remorse, sadness, and looking into an opening into his soul I had never ever ever seen before. When I locked myself in the bedroom and he sat outside talking to me through the window, I surprised mySELF when I realized that even though I could not touch him or look at him right NOW, I wanted him to stay.
I wanted to know if we could survive this.  
I wanted to know I would be ok (because how could I EVER be ok again??) 
I wanted HOPE. 
and this was the only place I found it.  

I hated the name "club" – lol. I thought it would be just another husband bashing site, but it was not. [Elle's] words, as someone who had been through this, gave me HOPE – her essays and her links and her answers to others – so much wisdom and compassion, smart funny and sarcastic, but not bitter – it gave me what I needed. I wanted to get "there" where [she is], and I am on my way.  

No one could have told me that I would ever get through this, but honestly, somewhere on this blog that very first day – [Elle] actually did.



  1. AMEN! Thank you so much - both of you - for sharing this.

  2. Steam, I am 3 years out from my husband's 6 month affair. He was going to divorce me for her but at some point, his fog lifted. I have been trying to recover ever since. I truly believe I suffer from PTSD, as well but was never diagnosed. I still think of it daily, though not every minute. I have trouble separating what he says and does now with what he said and did then. I feel like it will never end. Is there any hope for me?

    1. Re-trauma, or PTSD, is much more common than people realize with betrayal. Your best bet is to seek counselling with someone who can help you recognize when your response is based on what happened...or what's happening now.

  3. Steam, thanks for your encouraging words. We've been in reconciliation for 11 months and I'm still a mess, but I'm a mess with my H by my side, doing everything he can for me and our family, trying to show me he can be a better man and husband.

    In that time, I've been through 3 therapists and it's odd that none of them have diagnosed me with PTSD. The latest one said I'm depressed but isn't worried as long as I'm getting out of bed each day. So I'm glad that you mentioned your previous success with EMDR, which I've been looking into and think it will serve me well.

    I, too, am starting to laugh again. And I even ran my first marathon this weekend! I agree with you that we'll make it through this, and like you, I've had to take a look at myself and attempt to change the things that weren't working.

    1. AJ,
      Congratulations on your marathon. Exercise can go a long way in helping us feel empowered. My first marathon taught me that I was capable of far more than I imagined I was.
      Laughter is equally good.
      EMDR is also a great thing. I tried it a couple of years ago and though I still haven't a clue how it works (hocus pocus?), it opened a door to the sunlight that I happily walked through.

  4. THANK YOU!!!! i am only 3 short months out of d day... but, i can see happiness somewhere in the future. i felt like i was writinf your words... the second i found out, i actually didnt want my husband to leave. i also yelled at the top of my lungs HER OR ME? it was an instant YOU YOU YOU!! Its all so confusing. somedays, i laugh, smile, am happy that we are working through this horrible time. somedays i wake up with a pit in my stomach, cry, hate that im not strong enough to do this on my own. i always say, i love my husband even after what he has done, and if in the future things change, i know that i have done everything that i ever could to try to make it work.
    thank you for your post and insight.

  5. I stopped trying, I had a man that loved me and 33years together I thought it was ok to be comfortable. I was over weight and when our business stopped working I put on more.
    He found a woman that was also unhappy in her life, very in tune with her sexuality and dressed as a women with confidence. not tarty. She was 10 years younger than my H. I had no chance.

    I've changed that now. He can't leave me alone, looking at me and wanting to touch me all the time. Hes like a love sick puppy, afraid of what he might lose, afraid I might go off and have a good time! after all I'm unhappy, that's what you do...right?

    Men like a women to be a women to dress and look feminine he don't want a super model..just a women.

    He wants to forget and move forward incapable of talking. I want to talk and understand. Its been 19months since DDay. It is getting a little easier in that I don't feel sick but do get really really angry for about 10mins most days. I still don't understand HOW and he says nor does he.

    I'd love to tell all the women in the world that are lucky to have a husband that loves them deeply, don't ever think they want cheat. Not all will but don't rule it out. I could have stopped it in 6 weeks if I had not trusted him completely, How sad are humans!

  6. Thank you to both Elle and Steam for this post. This is not the first time I read it, but it still gives me goosebumps.


  7. I look for a big dose of hope everyday. Just when I see hope and progress the I get these visions or thoughts that start so stupidly. Like I put my hair up and my husband says I like your hair up looks good. Simple statement nothing intended but the OW wore her hair up my mind goes then I have this vision of him tenderly wiping back that small strand of hair from her face then did he touch her tenderly like he does me or was it just sex lets get to it. I think it was the first then off I go to the hurting in my chest. I have previously hit him, torn off shirt, physically violent, called him some words I didn't know I ever knew so going back there only makes me feel bad in the end. He has heard it all before. What do I do with all this hurt? Is there hope all this hurt will ever leave? It lingers like smoke on jacket. I hope it will. My therapist asked me to write a letter to my dad how his affair effected our family. Which was not as hard as what I thought. I still love my dad. Why is it so hard then to get over this from my husband? She said I don't have any really positive memories to draw from our marriage. I discussed this with my husband. He was surprised to hear this. I told him I never really thought he cared about me. He said he did but just didn't show or tell me and he felt bad about it now. It is all intertwined which lead to an unconnected marriage, I know this in my logical mind but I still hurt. I still hurt over the choice he made for 2.5 years with the kindergarten teacher. What keeps my hurt going instead of hope is how can he say he wanted to get out of it, he admitted he didn't try very hard. He wanted out but kept going into her bed.? Up to the month he got caught. Doesn't make sense and his explaination are just not very good. I have been thinking lately we give them too many "outs". I wasn't a mistake it was a bad choice, a mistake is an accident. I'm beginning to think the fog is just an excuse to justify their behavior. How can he be in a fog when they discussed what they would do if they got caught? He was not in fog when he told her he would never leave me. He told her, he was not going to take care of her ever. He did buy her gifts, flowers, dinners and gave her money for bills. He did draw a line with her to some extent but that doesn't sound like a fog. He was in control of his dual life. I'm looking for hope it just goes away and we can continue to enjoy each other since we are talking, really talking now. The turmoil in my mind is never ending.

    1. Lynne,
      "Like smoke on a jacket." What a great description of that lingering hurt. You're a poet! :)
      I think, however, that you're trying to apply logic to a situation that isn't logical. He wasn't thinking logically. Even trying to figure out how to keep secret a relationship that he didn't ultimately want is illogical. Like a lot of us, men get caught up in something that feels bigger than themselves. It becomes easier, especially for conflict-avoidant men, to simply go along with it. It sounds crazy because it is crazy.
      My advice is to stop expecting his affair to make some sort of sense. Either he's a better person now or he's not. If he is, then focus on that and on making your marriage a place both of you want to be. If he's not, then show him the door.

  8. Thank you for hope. I am six months since his telling me about the last OW. He didn't tell me to confess; he told me to hurt me. He had no emotional tie to the OW - said she was an easy whore - his anger and resentment towards me had festered for years and toss in our son disclosing his addiction to opiates/narcotics/heroin right after the OW disclosure, it's been a fucked year.

    He reluctantly gave up the Friday fucks and traded them for therapy. Our joint psychologist just said it is time to consider couples counseling. We were both such a mess after years of 'settling', much damage has to be overcome individually before even considering repairing the joint damage.

    I still deal with hurdles of resentment, toward him and my Self, of how I allowed my Self to be treated the last five years. I accept and acknowledge my contribution to our relationship drama; he is kinder and more gentle but habits resurface and I have to use tools I have learned to not 'take the bait'.

    I have GPS tracker on his new phone and on Google history so I know he is where he says he is. I use to check it daily - now just every so often.

    To quote Louis Wilkerson 'Coffee With God": Resentments are like Anchors, They will slow you Down and Even Stop you from Moving On In life.

    My therapist [she works with him also] helps me work on my resentments and it is a process. I am scared of couples therapy. My heart - although healing - is still fractured. I have 40+ years in this relationship and the first 25 were great. If God allows, he and I might have another 15 years together - I want them to be positive and productive.

    The best advice my therapist gave me was immediately after the OW disclosure. She said: If you want to save this relationship, NEVER draw a line in the sand with demands or threats because he might cross it and then, what do you do.

    I have never drawn the line. I erase in my mind any barrier and keep moving it further out.

    Good luck sisters. So blessed to have found this site!

    1. We're blessed to have you among us.

  9. It is so funny how our stories can be so different, yet the pain is all the same!

    I found out 6 months ago, although the affair itself has been over for over a year.

    I have good days, I have bad this particular time, it is a struggle...I am crying a lot again, I want to rip his face off again, a lot of raw emotion.

    We have vowed to each other to get through this, but some days, I'm ready to throw my hands up in the air and give up.

    I just want to say thank you to all for sharing their stories, makes me feel a little less lonely, like I'm the only one!

    1. You're most definitely not alone. Perhaps we need some sort of secret salute or symbol so that we recognize our "sisters" in real life. There are many of us.

  10. My response, in hopefully 2—no sorry, 3 parts. I do not have the gift of brevity like you do Elle.
    I have been out of town for days and am seeing this for the first time. Elle, thanks so much. And thanks to all responders. I am proud of us and sad for us, what a hard lesson this is.

    I do wish there were an easier way--I wish there was a way to do this, for all of us to recover publicly without shaming my husband or our husbands when the reality seems to be sadly, that most men do it, Even the ones who we “know” never would but the subject is so taboo and everyone is so judged.
    What did “we” the wives do, that “made” him do this?
    Ugh! In the past, I too was guilty of thoughts like this because of course, “it would never happen to me”

    I wish we could banish the shame we wrongfully take on on when we are cheated on.

    Until that day, I hope every betrayed woman or man can find this site and find a little hope.

    Looking at these comments for the first time, and thinking about them and seeing the active and lingering hurt, i wish i had answers. I wish we all had answers.

    I have no idea the statistics on who stays in a marriage and who leaves, even after therapy and trying to stay and salvage and BETTER a shattered marriage, no idea why some people can make it through and some can't, even when everyone is currently doing the right thing.

    I completely understand living with anger and hurt and suspicions daily. I am not sure why after such hard hard work it can click for some and not others.

    There are days I check in here, and i check his stuff, and check my gut, JUST to make sure that I am OK, and not just blindly moving on. There are days I don't trust my own recovery, let alone his.

    But if we break it down to something as cold as math, I trust him in higher numbers than I distrust him, but that number will never be 100 percent and that's fine and I am happy to live with it.

    Sometimes i look at him and laugh silently, wondering why he was SUCH a fool, and I am aghast at the same time that he tried for over a year to get something going with someone else, when all he REALLY had to do was let me know that he was a little bored or he felt that I was less than interested, or that I was taking him for granted. I probably was, well, now I know I was, but I tell ya, if he would have given me a little hint, or even dirty talk I may have perked right up.

    He had to make a lot of decisions (his words) to get where he ended up. It was not an impulsive or easy task for him (shocking because he's quite quite quite handsome)

    He had to decide to look online via a fake e-mail account , only to find many of the online 'ads' are just scams, then meet a couple of strippers and got their e-mail and try to get something going, he had to posted on craigs list (ug) and sent naked pictures (ug—dick pics? My man sent DICK pics!) a joined a DATING site and so many other things, including fake name reviews of strip clubs and brothels---with a combination of real life events and because those interactions were not enough? he threw in a lot of fantasy too. I was a VERY HARD SELL getting those stories separated, but thanks (?) to the internet , I got a pretty good picture unfortunately, of the night he met the woman who would lead to the unraveling of his entire poorly thought-out year, which I call “the storm”

    I only rehash this out of bewilderment---I mean, geez, how have I survived? Really!! How does someone get through this? How do any of us? I don't know how I am standing and how I can look back, right now (this week, this moment) and feel like it happened to someone else. That's right, 90 percent of the time it feels like it happened to someone else. It's so far removed from what my life, and our life together is like now.

  11. So why are others so hopeful and others remain crushed? I don't know. I would only say delve deeper, go to the thoughts that are scary, but don't DWELL there.
    Ask the questions you NEED to have an answer to, but not more. If you need the answers repeated, ask again. I know my brain just did not retain knowledge or information for MONTHS and although he might say “we've been over this” I would wail “but I honest to God, don't REMEMBER” and he would answer again.
    There are things you cannot unsee and unthink and unknow. So know exactly what you it is that you want to know.
    One of my questions was “what did she do that was disgusting” just tell me something AWFUL about her. I NEEDED that, you might not. I didn't need to know her age, or what he did or did not do to or with her, (or them—there were two physical encounters with others and I know one was a blow job and nothing else) but I DID need to know that he used protection and made him get tested too. I could have given a damn about what any one thought about that. You fuck up, you face it.

    Maybe if your husband can't face it, wont talk about it and wants to sweep it under the rug, insistes off the bat that what's done is done and it should stay I in the past, just MAYBE he is more angry, shallow or crafty than you know. That is a man that I know I could not live with.

    If I had to have gone through this alone while living in the same house, with him, then I would have done it alone... after I had kicked him out. I would not live in a house where the extreme actions of one--him, that affected us both, would only be addressed by me. No way, no how.
    I do not think he is stupid enough to try again though or I don't think either of us would be here, still talking, still reclaiming, and also approaching this in some fairly unorthodox ways that would not be comfortable for everyone. .

    The part that I know is my fault, My H was WILD when I met him. A combo of good looks, huge intelligence, a shy demeanor that women found charming, a lot of available women who only wanted to sleep with him and nothing more.
    When I felt serious about him and he told me he would give it all up to be with me I BELIEVED him, and maybe people really don't change easily even when they want to. I wanted a traditional relationship, you know, when you sleep with one person, and although I realize for many, that is NOT easy, if you say you are going to do it---then you keep your word.

    I thought it would be that easy. It took years before he betrayed me. It must have been more difficult for him than I can imagine. But still, no excuse. Funny when situations fell in MY lap, it was pretty easy to flash my ring and walk away, even when I was bored.

    When things started to go south, my fault was not asking. His drinking was accelerating and I was SURE that was all that was going on..alcoholism does tend to accelerate without cause of anything outside of the disease.. What I did not know was what was fueling this acceleration, and I kept drawing that line in the sand that he better stop drinking “or else”. Well, the “or else” always came down to what I would do “next” time. I should have been at least acting on this stupid line that I drew and he kept stepping over.

    D day, when that line was drawn in COLD HARD CEMENT—that made the difference. This time it was REALLY there and not something that could be blurred with a wave of a foot. You are in, or you are OUT, and you cross it, and we are done. But again, maybe that is just me.

  12. I see a huge change in my husband and a huge change in did not come easy. There were a lot of tears in therapy, from this situation and of course from many unaddressed issues from childhood (his and mine) awhich probably at least in part lead to this...this... this... GAME CHANGER.

    Feeling not worthy, stuffing my feelings, ignoring all things uncomfortable, settling for what things were instead of seeing what they could be.

    D DAY I suddenly KNEW exactly what I wanted, needed and would not stand for anymore, from him and from me and from US.

    I wish I could offer a magic wand that worked faster than time and knowledge.

    I know what made it easier for me was that I did NOT need to put on a happy face daily, and I have nothing but respect for you who need to go into an office every day or deal with your children, your babies, your pregnancy, or see THAT 'woman' around town, or the fact that she was your friend, his secretary, or God forbid your sister.

    I had endless days and nights when I could go without sleep or showers or getting dressed or brushing my hair or my teeth. I could work in my home and go for days without going out and 'faking it'. As a matter of fact that first time I did go out with him to try to "fake it til you make it" I ended up a ball of tears just seeing very young, happy attractive couples holding hands in the sunshine. My thoughts immediately went to “of COURSE they are happy, she is not living with the fact that he CHEATED on her” I sobbed all the way home.

    It's your life, it's your time and I certainly hope there is hope for all of us.
    And I hope we use our time wisely with the right person. Only you know that, deep down in side, with maybe a little more time, you WILL know it.

    Thanks again Elle. I cannot believe that you were moved to highlight my posts, I could not be more honored and hope with this wordy response that I am not overstaying or over stating my welcome.

    So much love and compassion for all of us, sometimes my heart could burst.

    1. Steam,
      My heart is bursting -- with gratitude for your wisdom and your presence here. And with compassion for the pain you describe so perfectly and that all of us know entirely too well.
      I hope everyone will read this (above) response.

    2. When my SO cheated on me, and I had no idea what the future looked like and couldn't bear what was happening, I went in for one obligatory day of work to complete the things i was responsible for and that needed to be taken care of THEN, and then explained that I needed time off, "a week or two" that ended up being 2 weeks. I understand that not everyone will be as privileged that they'll get it, but that's what I needed, I got it, and it was the right thing to hold both myself and my relationship together, so I would recommend at least going ahead and requesting it. Because if it's at all possible, it's entirely worth it because it allows you to protect yourself during a time that no one else can do it for you. I needed to be at home and I wouldn't do it any differently, even if I knew the future would be better.

  13. RANDOM THOUGHTS: I am so sorry for all of us, for what we have gone through and continue to endure. This is the most painful betrayal I have ever experienced.

    I've had a rough few years. I recently lost my sister to breast cancer and I have given up on relationships with some of my other siblings. I haven't told any of the remaining family members because I don't want them to hate my husband or throw it back at me later.

    I told our 21 year old son but not his younger brother. I can see the sadness this has caused our son, I wish I had been strong enough to keep it to myself.

    I have friends who say they are jealous of our marriage. God, that is painful to hear now. Do I have the right to ever hear that again without correcting them? Ugh!

    I have disturbing dreams, paranoid thoughts, and panic attacks in random places, most recently while putting groceries into my car. Why does that happen? How can I be functioning normally one minute and then some random thought knocks me on my ass and sets me back to day one? Maybe I need counseling, just can't seem to get my head around talking to someone about this.

    My husband is doing everything he can to help me. Why do I keep relapsing into these doubts and feelings of inadequacy? When will it stop? I check this blog every few hours looking for new posts and insight. This is a very lonely existance.

    I wonder when he will just give up on me. He seems so happy now. I can see it in his eyes, in his smile, his gestures. He is back to being the man I've loved for so long...... He is patient, kind, attentive, loving, and gentle. He tells me "it" was the worst decision of his life and that he has learned so much from it. I just need to reconcile three horrible weeks against 26 years in a beautiful marriage. I hope he doesn't give up on me before I can resolve this. It must be overwhelming for him to he reminded daily of his royal screw up, but he accepts all of it and carries on. Our relationship is amazing, we talk, we plan, we love, we share .... And I wait until he goes to work and then I cry, and doubt, and worry. Now, I'm the one living two lives.

    1. Random,
      Everything -- EVERYTHING -- you've described is completely normal, under the circumstances. The feeling of isolation. The fear of being left. The paranoia. The panic. But just because it's a normal response to trauma doesn't mean it shouldn't be addressed.
      I hope you'll find someone who can give you a safe place to share all this and to guide you toward healing. I'm delighted that you're finding some solace and community here. And I hope you'll continue to visit and share your thoughts. But I think all of us need someone in real life, even a paid someone, to whom we can feel safe unloading all this. You've had a crap-load of pain to sift through. It's a wonder you're still upright. Give yourself the gift of healing. Trust that your husband recognizes your value and will give you the time and space and support to heal. Trust that you WILL heal.
      We've all been where you are. The important part is taking that first step toward healing.

  14. Random, if it's possible please do look into counseling. There really is only so much friends can do. People who are convinced they have your best interests in mind can and will continue to give you advice solicited or not based on NOTHING but what they (think ) would do. As you know now, unless you have been there, you have no idea what you would do. You thought you did, right? but you really dont. It can crimp a friendship for sure. I too worried that my H was going to walk away, because I was such a 'shrew" and he didnt. If he HAD, it would have been his inabilty to deal with it--not yours. . He did it, he knows he did it, he knows you know he did it, and at last he's being the guy you remember. Let him be a little more than he has been. I dont mean badger him, I just mean dont try to figure it all out on your own. He seems willing to help you, let him. He knows he owes you that. 3 horrible weeks against 26 beautiful years. It sounds like something you want to stay invested in. They just get horrificaly stupid, those men, and luckily your husband knows that too.

    1. Elle and Steam,

      Thank you....... Your posts and your responses are greatly appreciated. I know things will improve and I will get stronger. Thanks to this board and its members, I am definitely wiser.

      ~Random Thoughts, aka Legal Lass, aka anonymous. a different name for every mood. What a mess I have become.

  15. I'm all about Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness... But WHY does betrayal hurt so much? What did it damage inside me? What ever IT damaged I must hold higher priority over then forgiveness.
    Just want the pain to stop, one reason I haven't left is that it does not guarantee the pain going away... If I knew it would I'd be gone cause this is awful.

  16. Anonymous Grace-- this is exactly what it came down to for me too. My original thought was that I needed space to process "this" as up to that point one of my favorite quotes, and I am not sure where it came from was "do not go to the source of pain, for comfort". But at our first MC, the theapist asked us both if we wanted to continue the relationship. and if we did (which we did) it was a much 'easier' burden to carry, if shared.

    I knew that after being betryayed by the one person i trusted more than any other, there was a possibility of being betrayed again, by someone else. Maybe someone who didnt know just HOW horrible the pain could be.

    I know my husband had to know that finding out about his betryal would hurt me, but I doubt that he knew just HOW MUCH damage it would actually do. Yes, I am convinced he will not do this again and I do think, like you, if I knew the pain would stop, I would have left. But of course, I knew it would not so I stayed to work my way through it instead of leaving issues unresolved or worse yet, carrying them into another relationship.

    One thing I can promise, this horrible pain will decrease...nothing this CHARGED can last forever, at this intensity.. Lightning, a storm, a hurricane, an earthquake-- at some point they all stop, they leave a wake of desctruction, but in reality, many many things can be rebuilt, and always, with armed with knowlege, they can be rebuilt much much stronger.



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