Friday, April 21, 2017

How-to Apologize for Breaking Your Wife's Heart: A guide for husbands

Often I hear something like, “I told you I was sorry about the affair ten times so let’s drop it already.”  That won’t cut it. High-stakes situations calls for an apology that’s a long distance run—where we open our heart and listen to the feelings of the hurt party on more than one occasion. There’s no greater gift, or one more difficult to offer, than the gift of wholehearted listening to that kind of anger and pain when we are being accused of causing it.
~Harriet Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger and Why Won't You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

Okay husbands, this one's for you.

Most of you likely didn't respond to your wife's pain around your betrayal the way renowned relationship expert Harriet Lerner suggests, above. If you're like most guys, you said you were sorry, promised it would never happen again, it meant nothing for chrissakes, can we drop it already? And then you really really hoped that she would forgive you, you'd have makeup sex and then move forward into the rest of your lives. She might even be a little bit more appreciative of you now that she knew you had other options, right?
If you were a bit more realistic than that, you figured you'd go to a marriage counsellor a half-dozen times, let her cry, bow your head with genuine remorse and even endure the insults she'd throw at you. And then, thank god, move forward into the rest of your lives.
It likely hasn't worked out like that. 
But here's the thing: It hasn't worked out like we hoped it would either. Never did we imagine how excruciating betrayal was. Never did we think we'd come as unhinged as we did. We figured we'd be mad. We might execute some funny but biting revenge, like in the movies. We might meet our girlfriends and sob into a martini. But we didn't imagine there would be days we couldn't get out of bed. We didn't anticipate the confusion, the mental fog, the dull dread that took root in our stomachs or the stabbing pain in which, we swear, we could feel our hearts actually breaking. 
We didn't think that, even months later, a song on the radio could reduce us to a sobbing ball on the floor. Or that a chance encounter with your affair partner could unleash in us a fury that threatened to swallow us (and you!) whole. 
I've been there. So has my (still) husband. Ten years later, we know a thing or two about getting through this.
You? My guess is you're in uncharted water. Well, so is your wife. So, in the interest in helping you help her through these treacherous days, weeks, months, here's your guide to apologizing for breaking her heart:
1. Apologize. Sounds simple, right? It's not. Do everything you can to imagine her pain. Look directly into her eyes and don't look away. See just how deep that agony goes. And then tell her how sorry you are that you weren't the husband you should have been. That she did nothing to deserve this betrayal. Repeat, as often as necessary.
2. Be transparent. Here's the thing about asking us to "trust me again because I've learned my lesson": Ain't gonna happen. She's sad, not stupid. You've shown her you aren't to be trusted. That's the problem with lying and cheating. It's easy to squander trust. It's really hard to earn it back. And that's what you're doing now. Earning it back. Bit by bit. By showing her, not telling her but showing her, that you are where you say you are, that you're with who you say you're with. I know you feel like a child. I know it's humiliating to have no privacy. Do this right and you won't live like this forever. But for now, you need to prove that you're worth taking another gamble on. And you prove that by being willing to sacrifice your privacy. If she's not worth it to you, then do yourselves a favor and leave. 
3. Work really hard to understand why you did what you did. Face your demons. You wouldn't have done such harm if you weren't struggling with your own self-worth. Go to a therapist. Doesn't matter if you don't "believe" in therapy. There's a reason you risked everything that mattered to you for someone who didn't. Figure out what it is with someone who's been trained to help you. You're no good to us until you've worked out your own shame around what you've done. Until then, you're going to try and deflect, you're going to minimize, you're going to defend. None of which moves us toward healing. All of which compounds our own pain and isolation. Fix yourself first. Oh, and by the way, don't ever cheat on her again. Ever. 
4. When she tells you what she needs, give it to her. If she wants you to read a certain book, then read it. If she wants you to call home if you're going to be late, do it. If she needs space, give it to her. If she needs closeness, give it to her. Understand that you're asking her to do the hardest thing she's ever had to do: Forgive her best friend for lying to her, for jeopardizing her physical and mental health, for subjecting her to humiliation and gossip, for betrayed the promise you made to her. What is she asking you to do? Bring her flowers. Make a bit more effort to select a Mother's Day card. Compliment her. Make yourself uncomfortable by talking about your shame. Doesn't seem like too much after all, does it?
5. Help her carry the pain. You do this by understanding it. You do this by really listening to her, over and over and over. Yes, it gets exhausting (it is for us, too). It doesn't mean you have to endure abuse, emotional or physical. Its just means that, by listening to us, by answering our questions even if we've asked the same ones repeatedly (you'd be amazed at how fuzzy our brains are), you're helping us process our pain. You're shouldering a bit of the burden for us. You're showing us that our hearts can be safe with you again. We're grateful for that, though it might be a few months before we can show it. 
6. Be patient. Healing takes a long time. Three to five years, by many experts' calculus. That doesn't mean you'll both be miserable for that long. But it does mean that there will be setbacks. There will be triggers, large and small, that reduce her to a sobbing mess, that feel as though you're back where you started. You aren't. It's a setback. And it can even be a chance for you two to remember you're on the same team, that you're working together to rebuild your marriage. Double down on the genuine remorse for creating this pain. Remind her again that you're working hard to make sure she never goes through that pain. And then, for good measure, tell her that you're the luckiest guy in the world and that you're going to spend the rest of your life earning the second chance she gave you. And that she'll never have to give you a third.

None of this is easy. But it is worth it. If rebuilding your marriage is what you want, I guarantee that following these steps will get you a whole lot closer to that goal. I can't guarantee that your wife will be able to move past the pain. I can't promise that she will forgive you. I have no idea whether she'll respond with a revenge affair, or file for divorce anyway, or just make your life miserable for eternity. But I do know that you will have done what you could to begin to make reparations for the damage you caused. And I also know that, no matter what happens, you will have begun to live your life with integrity. Which means that, whatever happens next, you're going to be a better man for it. 


  1. Elle, such a timely post and well written too. Although I continue to have intrusive thoughts I have pretty much stopped wanting to talk about them so much with my husband because he gets so triggered in shame. I'm not sure that is a good thing over all but at 22 months out the voices in my head no longer need to lash out. I think they just want to be heard and I fear that my tendency to ruminate about the past is not helpful for healing. As time goes on I still think there are things I want to talk about but I stop myself because it is like I have my own "asked and answered" session in my head. There will never be a satisfactory reason why my husband made the jump from active porn to prostitutes and he will never tell me what the hell he was thinking when he called that first whore to his hotel room. Just typing this makes me feel intense disgust, hatred, anger towards him. I think because he was always the sanctimonious Mr. Clean-cut do the right thing guy who led a secret life, I feel like I can never trust myself ever again to trust a single person. When I get those thoughts I work hard to recall the new facts I've learned about his early life with porn and poor parent boundaries and lack of nurture. Intellectually that helps me feel compassion for the child he was although I struggle to find that same compassion for the man who decided to betray me. I'm not sure if there will ever be anything he can say that will soothe my heart completely because I've not found the magic key to accepting all those verbal promises of love, commitment and faithfulness that he expresses daily but overall we are moving in the right direction. He tells me it hurts him when I don't believe him. (really? I hurts me that you lived a private sexually driven secret life for 35 years and you feel hurt because I have a hard time believing that you love me and promise to be faithful to me from here on out?) Maybe you or someone else on this site can tell me why I struggle with his promises! We laugh a lot and talk a lot but I still feel like there is so much more that needs to be said and explained. On the rare occasions that we do open that dialogue he will often say something like, "I was crazy. There is nothing rational about what I did. I was out of my mind. I wanted to die. I thought I was going to die.I hated myself." He tells me when I ask how his mind is doing that he is doing great. His mind is mostly quiet. He rarely lets things rattle him and when they do he practices his breathing exercises. It looks like he is doing everything he needs to be doing to take care of himself. Will this ever be enough for me? Does anyone here ask themselves, "will what he does to make amends and stay sexually sober ever be enough?" I desperately want those memories of his prostitutes to fade away but massage parlors, prostitutes and prostitution and porn is everywhere. It's as if I cannot go outside my house, open email, look at news or listen to a conversation without reminders of what he did and the choices he made. Does the fact that we are coming up to our 2 year anti-versary have anything to do with this? Feedback appreciated.

    1. Beach Girl, I feel all of your words! So similar in so many ways. My husband has changed so much and says very similar things. He is also surprised sometimes when I do not automatically feel his genuine words are 100% true. He acts so surprised. I understand since he has such strong feelings. But even after two years I think it changed before so what is to stop him now. He tells me over and over how he is different in every way. He says if he had feelings of any issues between us, him wanting something else whatever that he would come to me first. I want to believe all of this but it is hard for me since he was equipped the first time and did not do that. I also struggle with as you talk about your husband, my husband talks about how he was miserable and so unhappy with the secret life he created. I just don't think I will ever get that. On some levels though that is an issue for me that he did not know how to protect and watch out for himself. Even if we take me/us out of the equation. He did something for 10+ years and was miserable and unhappy. I ask myself the same questions.. is this enough? is this what I want from my life? will it ever be enough?

      I do think anniversary or milestone dates do bring this out somewhat. I am pretty far past the 2 year mark and it hits me still. I am not sure what the answers are. I swing between the positive/focus on today and then what am I doing building a second life with someone that was capable of what my husband did. My husband has brought up the concern that the stress and anxiety he felt through the affair years has been transferred to me. He feels free and absolved and I seem now to be weighed down by it. I sort of agree with him but I do point out he made those decisions and had to live with them and I had no say in his decisions. It is complicated and I keep trying to focus on positive self talk, the present and listening to myself as to what is my reality and what do I need and want.

    2. Beach Girl,

      OMG, your husband has created a huge amount of damage! Most people probably wouldn't even be speaking to him let alone sharing healing. That certainly speaks to your strength! I do understand that each person has to decide what the line in the sand will be, but if I were in your shoes the flash backs would be like a tidal wave. My husband's 2 affairs were only 6 mos each nd not that much sex allegedly and I still after almost 30 yrs can make myself sick with pictures in my head if I let them. For you, this is very fresh damage, the rawness will fade but only time as trite as that sounds will give you relief. My husband has spent the yrs after in regret, we both have, and it was only for the young kids that we stayed together. So I'm not a good example but the elephant in the room never went away tho faded with time. We all get pain, how much you can take is up to you.

      Wishing you strength and peaceful thoughts and a good therapist. I've spent yrs in therapy not just from the affairs but from a screwed up childhood.


    3. Beach Girl,
      I can only speak to my own experience but at 2 years, I was pretty much where you are. Couldn't quite believe that I'd ever move past my disgust, even if I was able to have some compassion for him. I wanted to be past it; just couldn't get there.
      You ask why you can't trust his promises? Because he's shown you he lies. He's shown you that his promises are worthless. That's what we're dealing with at 2 years. Someone who's trying to be a better man. But is still pretty new at it. Over time, I saw my husband change. I saw him become that better man. I saw him deal with his self-loathing, I saw him struggle. And by watching, I began respecting him again. In a way, I respected him even more because I knew it was hard for him to deal with his pain without his "drug" of choice.
      Your husband sounds a lot like mine -- someone who didn't set out to hurt us so much as numb their own pain. We just got caught up as collateral damage.
      I can't promise you that you'll ever get past the disgust. But I can tell you that I did. I can think back to those days, to the things my husband did, with a detachment. I know they happened but they have nothing to do with the live we've created since. Or rather, they were a part of the catalyst for the life we've created because he never ever wanted to go back to living the other way.

  2. Beach Girl,
    I am just now coming to realize that some of these intrusive thoughts are just here to stay for me. I'm a year out, and feel really good most days, but I am still cooking up scenarios that drive me nuts from time to time. I, like you, do not always bring them up now. They are not productive. I can still get flooded with anxiety if I go over those questions about how in the world did he do this then? I'm most at peace when I live in the moment and turn the question to, who are we NOW? We are both very different people. All my rambling is to say that I am also doing well and still plagued by these same thoughts you have. I don't think they will ever stop. It's like a chronic condition where there's no cure, but only ways to manage. I do worry that someday I'll get Alzheimer's or dementia and just tell everyone what's going on in my mind on a daily basis and wreck all the hearts of everyone in my family. Does anyone else ever worry about that? About suddenly losing your ability to keep it in from people who would be really hurt? I don't want to heal our marriage and get so super-close and then spill it all to the rest of the family while under anesthesia or at a nursing home. Leave it to me to come up with a terrible scenario, but maybe someone else has already worried about that?

    1. Ann
      Yes! I too fear blurting out when I reach the age of my dementia! I'm currently caring for my mother and her dementia is getting increasingly worse with time. She still insists on living alone and I'm told by her Drs. that's her right as she just needs some assistance with decisions and can still feed and bathe herself. So knowing I have a high probability of getting dementia, I've had those thoughts but yet I know if that happens, my h will just have to deal with it and so will anyone that learns about it at the time. However, that said, it's not an everyday thought and for the most part I'm finally able to enjoy life again! We had our grandsons out to the lake and each one caught their first fish! New memories, happy memories are slowly replacing those horrible mind movies that used to roll through my mind! I'm watching my h grow into a better man daily!

    2. That's funny! I've wondered that myself. Or rather, I've wondered if my father, whose memory is failing and who sometimes says some pretty wacky things, will one day decide to share what he knows of my husband me with the whole family (who does NOT know). I'll just shrug and roll my eyes and say something about "crazy old dad". ;)

    3. Ann, wow, thank you for your thoughtful post and update on your life. I don't think I've ever asked myself, "Who are WE now?" I will try and remember that question as I move forward. I'm looking at new tools for triggers because I really need them.

  3. Beachgirl, I have just sent this whole thing to my husband. it's about the 10th article along these lines i have sent. Despite how beautifully are rationally this advice is presented, I know he's read it, I don't know if he's read it in it's entirety or really thought about it or absorbed it, but he did comment that it feels like what he has read before. That many of the things I send feel repetitive to him.

    I gave UP on full books for him to read and now send short meaningful and to the point articles that just pound the point home. "Say you're sorry as often as I need to hear it"
    . It's not that fucking hard. Yes, I'm sure it's hard to be reminded of the most painful thing you've inflicted on another human being---but he did it--an there are conversations to be had, that somehow to him, must feel like consequences. I am NOT without compassion for him, I remind him as often as I can that I am pulling for him, I am in his corner, and i say it OFTEN.

    Doesn't mean I might ever trust him like I once did, I doubt that I will, but I love him and despite loving this kind but deeply flawed man, I still could have made the choice to end the whole thing, I really could have and no one would ever have faulted me (except maybe his family, but that's just a weird dynamic that really has nothing to do with me). so I send them along still, in hopes that he'll friggin GET IT.

    Our day to day is pretty damn good, it really is, but I'm not over this--how could i be? he was gone for just shy of two days and I was anxious. he got freaked out when I facetimed him, which was not me checking up on him. I hate facetime myself but felt especially cute one night and thought I'd dial him up for a face to face.

    just before this trip I was triggered recently, and got through it on my own, because it was not a bad one, it passed quickly.

    A few days later I had a bad one which we actually discussed at the time and I did everything but FORBID him to do something. I'm not his mommy. he made the choice to go through with something i was very uncomfortable with (just a 5 minute issues, but how defensive and insistent he got about doing it because he claimed it meant nothing to him REALLY got to me, it was very insensitive, but we were in the car and I didnt feel like having that convo there when we were both over tired with many miles to go.
    I told him about within 48 hours--and i told him gently and he got all sorts of defensive about it

    . It just gets to the point where I am not Interested in why HE thinks I was triggered, despite him telling me why i WAS triggered-- and the condo turns to how it effects HIM.

    I know he is triggered on his own and he's not making the decision to tell me about it unless I tell him about mine first, so the convo ends up being about HIS pain. and like you BG, I wonder how the hell he expects my triggers and emotions to stop after knowing what i know-- multiple situations that happened over a 3.5 year period (and a couple of indiscretions before that) and we're less than a year out from the 2nd D-Day. One year is NOT enough time to get through all of it (although i thought it was after his false recovery in 2014--he was so great I was convinced he would NEVER do it again and he did.)

    So i got the double whammy of more pain poured on top of a still fresh but healing would. How do i just accept the one or two "i'm so sorry"s that have recently slid into flippant one word +sorry+ statements that sound just so superficial to me.

    If he's sick of saying "im so sorry" you would think he would understand how sick I can feel over his repeated behaviour. even if it has stopped.

    1. HUGE TYPO ALERT ABOVE and I promise there is no drinking involoved

      THIS paragraph "It just gets to the point where I am not Interested in why HE thinks I was triggered, despite him telling me why i WAS triggered-- and the condo turns to how it effects HIM."

      should have said THIS:

      "It just gets to the point where I am not Interested in why HE thinks I was triggered, despite me TELLING him +why+ i WAS triggered-- and the convo turns to how it effects HIM"

    2. Wondered why the "condo" was suddenly part of the convo! Thanks for clearing that up.
      I'm curious how often he's seeing a therapist. Cause it sounds an awful lot like he's not doing much work on himself but is, instead, avoiding thinking too much about it at all. I think it's easier to get defensive or frustrated about talking about it when you're spending so much energy trying to avoid thinking about what you've done. If you're actually working through stuff, then you have progress to report and, I think, you're better able to show up emotionally for your partner. So...just curious how much work he's doing on himself.

    3. He admitted to me last night--Zero. the claim? not enough time. Yawn. I do my 12 stepping which I think guilts him into doing his, sometimes as often as once a week. It's a far cry from the 90 in 90 that he was so proud of at the start. I don't know what stops a person from wanting to make progress. The shrink that I found as a couples counselor, and we saw together twice I really like. I don't want to see him alone because it will stop him from being OUR counselor. We are waiting for my H to come up with the cash to do a poly, and i decided may was a good time for that. So, I'll give it a couple more weeks. If he wont go by the end of May it's not for me to sit around and wait when I see a good resource for me. This guy has a womens group I will probably start attending.

    4. Elle
      I too wonder how my h works through his own triggers because he's a classic avoider of confrontation of any kind! One of the reasons his affair took so long to completely end! He avoided her confrontation as well! I sent him this article to read and waited to see if he would mention that he read it and just like I thought it was not mentioned by him or me. I sent a text explaining how I know that he's doing or has done most of these suggestions already but I thought it could lead to a productive discussion of how far we've come as a couple. Well truth is, a huge tree limb had fallen into the flower bed and he had to spend an hour cleaning it off while I prepped dinner so there wasn't really time for an in depth discussion but curiously, he was a bit impotent at the end of the night when he was attempting to make love. He's had issues with impotence before but I can't help thinking that he read the article and it was on his mind and he triggered! I'm hoping we can discuss it together tonight. Anyone else having issues with this type of discussion interfering with sex life?

    5. H''s interesting that I find talking about this stuff makes me feel closer to my husband (and therefore more interested in intimacy) and for him, it kills his libido. Brings up too much shame/guilt.

    6. Elle
      Update to this post is that today I asked my h if he read the link I sent and he said yes at least two if not three times to make sure he understood it all. And it led us into a very interesting and matter of fact discussion as to understanding that the ow was/is emotionally damaged and likely always will be. I felt like some of those hostile feelings just melted away and this gave me even more hope for rebuilding our better marriage! I'm fairly certain I finally understand where my h was emotionally when the affair began, how much fear he had as she was threatening to expose him the last year of their affair and how he feels now that we've finally had our first full year without her constant interference. Thanks again for not only giving us as wives living through betrayal insight, but also giving our h good sound suggestions to enable them to meet some of our needs!

  4. Beach Girl,
    My heart and soul goes out to you. Your post could have been written by me, word for word.
    And yes, Elle, what a timely post for me, too. Thank you so very, very much for this very insightful and perceptive and extremely helpful blog. I plan to share it with my husband. As always, your blogs are so well written and so helpful, and always exactly how I feel. I, like Beach Girl, am 22 months from our second Dday where I learned the full truth that my husband has been using porn, masturbation and prostitutes for 30 of our 38 year marriage.

    Beach Girl, I feel I can honestly say I can relate almost word for word with your pain and all your emotions. My husband is also very remorseful and says to me similar things- that is, that he was a different man trying to "escape" his miserable life (this on gets me, because I keep telling him that I was part of his "miserable" life, and he says no, it wasn't me, it was his job and that he felt like a failure, but I know he was highly respected at work, so I don't get that one)
    and used sex and porn to feel better. He also says he felt humiliated and embarrassed for paying for sex, and he is totally disgusted and ashamed for what he did, and will never go back to that.
    Just like you, I hear daily his commitment to me of love, and faithfulness and also how beautiful I am and how I am the most important woman in his life, but like you, it is so hard for me to accept that, as I just can't get past that he did this for 30 years AND the ONLY reason he stopped was because I found emails on his phone (I found them by accident, I was looking at his phone to see if his cell phone service was very strong or not), and it hurts so much to know he would still be living the secret life if he hadn't got caught.
    I, too, have these horrific images/triggers constantly, as Beach Girl, you are so right when you said the reminders of what he did and his choices are everywhere. It is constant, and I want it to fade and become tolerable, but I wonder if that is even possible when we are coming up on 2 years and I am still having those gut-wrenching thoughts and feelings. Like you and your husband, we also have some good times and seem to be able to enjoy each other, and I guess our life is trending for the good, but I wonder will I ever be able to put this horrific stuff in a place in my mind where I can feel good about him and our marriage? I feel at times maybe I am "pain shopping," as the images and reminders never stop, and my husband is doing everything to build my trust back, but then I think, oh my God, 30 years and he never stopped on his own? My husband, just like yours was the model of decency and was also so sanctimonious about everything- he was ALWAYS the perfect gentleman and polite and law abiding and seemed so intolerant of people who were rude and insincere. Those were traits I loved and cherished in him, and then to find out he had a secret life of sex and porn, it is just too overwhelming to fathom, much less live with.
    Beach Girl, I want to thank you for your post. I feel that you and I are walking the exact same path with this devastation. I would also welcome feedback.
    Would it be possible to somehow private message you? I hope I am not being too forward and I would never want to intrude, and only if you would like someone to talk with, I would be honored if you would like to correspond somehow.
    I am so very sorry that you are in this horrible situation, too. I send many hugs and prayers for you.
    Elle- Again, thank you so much for this so very helpful and insightful post. I am going to share it with my husband. So often when I am hurting and losing it, he retreats into shame and starts making it about himself instead of me and my pain and what his choices did to me. This will be very helpful for him to realize that when I ask questions (and many times the same questions) over and over and over again and again, it is what I need to do to process this crap. Thank you so much.

    1. Janice, thank you for your post. It is shocking how my story is not just "my" story but "our" story for so many of us. I wish there were a way to connect in real time. Right now, I am hurting. I had bad trigger this morning after a few this past week and I melted down this afternoon. So much deep pain. I'm not sorry I stayed and I am not sorry I gave him a second chance but I'm not sure that will remain true. I'm trusting that Elle's experience and the experience of others whose husbands were able to walk the narrow path will be my story too. Nothing about this is easy. What part of the country do you live in? I live in Washington, that state.

    2. Hugs, Beach Girl! I'm sorry you are hurting. I read a lot but comment much less. Please know that what you share helps. Even if it's hearing that someone else is hurting at the same time as you. Know that right now I'm thinking of you and hoping for a better day for you. ❤

    3. Beach Girl, Thinking of you!!!

    4. Beach Girl, your right - each of us, it's not 'my" story it is "our" story. A nightmare we wish we could wake up from. Thank you for sharing. I hope you are having a better day today.

    5. Janice and Beach Girl,
      I'm struck by how often wives on this site will note that they "don't understand" how their husband could feel like failures, etc. Or how they could have thought their lives "miserable" when, to us, everything was jim-dandy. Problem is, we're applying logic to something that isn't logical. They're like the skinny girl who thinks she's fat. The gorgeous girl who thinks she's ugly. The one who really really believes that the mirror is lying to her. Because it isn't about what the rest of the world thinks, it's about what each of us believes about ourselves. It's the voice of that critic in our head who says that, no matter how good things look, that we're a fraud, that we're one mistake away from being fired, that we've fooled everyone into thinking we're more than we are. Not rational at all but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel real.
      Rather than try to "understand" how your husband could feel those things, try and just accept that he did. That was his reality. It isn't about you at all. In fact, part of it might have been this sense that you didn't really "know" him because if you did, you wouldn't be there. You would have picked someone else. Treat his description of his feelings as HIS truth. Not objective truth. And then...proceed from there. Try and extend compassion for his pain while honouring your own pain.

    6. Elle, this is what I am struggling with big time. It is the insane idea that I could ever understand how this man could ever do that! I may need to write something down (my memory is shot) about his feelings of nothingness was real for him. It makes me so sad to think he suffered like that forever. If I can accept that his reality filled his soul with pain and that his pain relief drug was porn and sex, I may be able to move forward. He may always battle with sexual images and things that remind him of his past I think he is now able to recognize those voices that still try to cut him off. I just wish I could stop my spiral and remember his pain and be there with it. We are both moving forward. Slowly.

    7. BG, I long ago stopped trying to "understand" how my husband did what he did. The closest I got was that, if I had lived his life, I too might have responded like he did. Can't quite imagine it but...who knows, right? I've accepted that none of us really knows the choices we might make if we were to walk in another's shoes. That's enough for me. I can accept that he did what he did and that it was about him, not me. And watching what he's done to life differently has been good for me to see. Like watching an addict chose sobriety. Every single day.

    8. BG
      My husband is also a lot like yours he was addicted to porn and prostitutes. My husband is also a very successful man and people look at him as a man with a lot of integrity. So it was very difficult for me to listen to him in therapy talking about his demons telling him he was a worthless piece of shit I couldn't understand it because that's not what I saw in my husband. Our therapist dug deep into his childhood during our sessions and it helped me realize why he was so tormented in his mind. But I couldn't understand the decisions that he made and needing to escape pain why couldn't he reach out to me and talk to me. Our therapist helped me understand he didn't want me to see his true self or the true self that he thought he was. I remember one time in therapy I just looked at them like what the hell are you guys talking about I don't get any of this, and my husband looked at me and said you don't want to understand it. The therapist helped me realize this is not logical thinking and it's hard to understand it because we are trying to think of it logically and we just can't because it's insane. That was a very hard thing for me to except but once I did realize that what my husband did had nothing to do with me it was him escaping pain from himself everything he did was not logical at all. When I have an off day I just start reading notes that I've made of everything that I've read about depression and addiction it helps me go back to realize it just isn't logical thinking! Another thing that has helped me is I found a picture of my husband when he was three years old with the sad puppy dog eyes. I put this picture by my bathroom sink and every time I look at it it just makes me want to hug that little boy and make him feel loved, because he was raised by two cold hearted non loving parents that helped create these horrible demons.

  5. My husband is pretty good at saying he is sorry and expressing his regrets overall. What I find interesting is as we get farther and farther along I see things bother him equally if not more than they bother me. He does not always express that initially. I always figured he had the time of his life with these women and since he had ended everything 15 months before dday that he has moved past his actions. I was so wrong. I think it will take him a lot longer. Seeing his dedication to working on himself helps me but wow seeing how deeply he hurt himself. It is sad. I too find it hard to consider how he was miserable and hated his life for 10+ years. But that is on him. I know I made the most of my life, was a great mom, a great wife, had a great career, and so much more. I did ask him many times If there were ever other women at all in any way and he always looked me in the eye and said " absolutely not". So that is all on him. He was a liar and he has to live with what he did to himself, me and our kids each day. I see it is hard for him. I am interested to see where this takes him and us. It is not easy. I question him and myself daily. We were younger when this all started which does not make sense. No mid life crisis here and he was/is so successful. Tons of friends, everyone loves him. I work really hard to focus on the positive. One thing I do now is I speak up and I tell him what I need and want even if it is hard for him. i still think of what Elle has always said what is the right next step. Focus on that. It has helped me so much.

    1. That was helpful for me too -- to really recognize that what we perceive as sexy and interesting and fun was actually sleazy and shame-filled. Coming to terms with it all can be really hard for these guys. I know once my husband had to face it, he felt horrible for how he'd treated this other women. He said to me that he hadn't really thought of them as fully human. They were blow-up dolls to him. And that made him feel truly horrible.

  6. I am 14 months out from dday when I found photos and videos that he had been sharing during cybersex sessions with a lonely Chinese woman. At this point I must add that my suspicions were first raised in 2015 when I found a Visa statement with a motel booking in Nov 2014 for the same period that he was staying with our son for our grandson's 5th birthday. Not wanting to believe that he was cheating I buried my head in the sand. Turns out he paid flights and accommodation for a "friend" from Malaysia, . He started travelling overseas alone while I was recovering from major surgery. He got talking with numerous women on WeChat and in November 2015 went to China on business and decided to meet one of them, a divorced 37 year old (he was 60). He said he was staying in one of her apartments but it turned out that it was the apartment she and her 11 year old son live in. He has always been a very touchy-feely person, he hugged her and that was it... Instant attraction. She is desperate for a man and he is besotted with her. He says he is her confidante and tells him things she can't confide in anyone else. He has promised he won't leave her and he says he loves us both and won't leave me we celerate our 40th wedding anniversary in May.Well when I found out I demanded that he finish with her but he steadfastly refuses to. He says she only sees him 2 times a year he said they were just very close friends. Since that conversation he has visited her twice more and fucked her. Her son has obviously seen them in bed together because he has told her she is a bad woman sleeping with a married man. He is going to visit her again this week, he has booked into a hotel but that means nothing. Nothing I say will make him give her up, he thinks she will give him up eventually but I know she won't. Everything I have predicted about her has been correct. I have kept this to myself for so long it is making me sick. I am so ashamed that I can't even tell my sons.

    1. Kiwichick, have you considered packing up all his things and changing the locks when he goes to visit the OW this week. Elle has many good posts on here about boundaries please look for them in the search function at the top left. You must insist on him having NO contact with her ever again. Thinking of you.

    2. Kiwichick,
      I am so sorry for what you're going through. I know the pain you're in and it's excruciating. But please know that this isn't YOUR shame. It's his. You do not need to cover for him.
      Please take him at his word when he tells you that he's not giving her up. He's making it clear to you that, if you stay with him, you will be sharing him with someone else. If that's not okay with you (and I can't imagine it is), then you need to make that clear. That you will not share him. I would see a lawyer and protect yourself financially. And then I would present him with a separation agreement. There's a chance that will force him to wake up and realize what he stands to really lose. But he might not. Either way, you will be the one taking control of your own life and not letting him dictate the terms of your marriage.
      So...get a lawyer so that marital assets aren't going to support a woman and her son in China.
      And then, please, find yourself a therapist who can help you through this. You need to a place where you can talk openly and get support, where you can trust someone to be objective but to have your interests at heart. By all means, continue to post here. WE've been in your shoes. But I think a real-life therapist will help enormously.
      And, again, I'm so sorry for the pain you're in. I'm glad you found us.

    3. Kiwichick, I am SO SORRY for you!!! Your husband is acting like an idiot.

      My H after 25 years of marriage had the same thoughts - he did not voice them to me but to the OW. As in "my wife cannot tell me who to be friends with but I want all of us to be friends". Who the hell was he kidding? He realizes now that it was all nonsense and stupidity on his part.

      Your Cheating Husband is counting on, no feeling like he is guaranteed that you will not DO ANYTHING to make waves. You will go along. You will keep silent. You will continue to allow him to cheat and be married.

      I say call him on his crap, lies and blatant disrespect to you. If he runs to her then he does. Unfortunately no matter what you do you cannot stop him.

      You can, however, stop him from draining bank accounts, sending $ to her, hiding assets and everything else.

      I suggest while he is in China you get a lawyer and therapist. Get your lawyer to act IN YOUR BEST INTEREST. Having been married for so many years you are entitled to assets, pensions, retirement accounts, his social security, value of house, etc.

      What made my H turn around was my telling him to LEAVE. Get out - and I am done playing second fiddle to your mid life crisis and affairs.

      When he begged me to stay and reconsider and all that, I said fine, I will but I made him sign a post-nup. Yup a post-nuptial agreement. We had no $ when we got married but I made sure he has no access to ANY MONEY or assets in my name. I am financially protected.

      If I were you, I would restore the balance of power in the relationship. I would make sure that you have a support group/team of people - therapist, lawyer, estate planner, financial planner, etc. the whole nine yards.

      I would start bank accounts in your own name and put funds in it - in a separate bank. Plan for the inevitable - if you don't divorce then you still have the money, but at least it cannot be used for the OW.

      And I would tell the grown adult child(ren) of the whole sordid affair. I would make sure they knew the truth. My H claims that he "told his family" the truth - however he left out the major details of how he was planning to divorce me and leave me with the kids to be with her. He just made it seem like some short lived little fling - like an emotional affair.

      It was so much more than that - but of course he did not want to tarnish his reputation and have people think less of him.

      So in my experience I believe that you need to take control of your life. Your H may be shocked back into reality or run to another country. If he goes away then (in my opinion) that is what he was planning all along.

      I swear these grown men act like stupid teenage boys. And when his $ runs out so will she.

      I actually told my H that I hope if he ends up with the OW that she is prepared to live at the same level financially - because once he is done with alimony, college tuition, child support, car insurance, cell phone bills and HIS rent on the crappy apartment he will be able to afford, there will not be much left. If anything.

      And I will have the life insurance proceeds, half of his IRA and retirement accounts, half of the value of our home, etc.

      That is a real eye opener. Call me greedy. That's ok. But we worked hard together and no OW is going to take away what I have worked hard for all my life. I made sure of that.

    4. I agree with everything you said, Anonymous. I hope Kiwichick takes steps to protect herself financially and support herself emotionally.

  7. This is a very well written article. Having been the spouse who saw my H have two affair - the first was a multiple year EA (which occurred before EA was a term AND of course in his mind, no sex=no cheating - typical) and the second was a 1 year affair that was very serious.

    That being said, he is doing what he can to make amends and try hard to address his issues, etc.

    What I think MOST cheaters fail to recognize, and is probably recognized by the betrayed spouse is this: The Cheater made the affair happen. The Cheating Husband twisted himself into a pretzel to be open, communicative, available, tender, loving, emotionally supportive, etc.

    So many of us betrayed wives have seen the texts and emails. It really truly HURTS that you could give that level of attention to someone (because the cheating H had to in order to win her attention and affection) but yet you think it is just fine to walk in the door, say very little, sit on the couch and watch basketball or hockey and have very little interaction with your wife.

    Yes, please give me the LEFT OVERS of your attention and love and communication. I am your wife and deserve better.

    What the cheating husband is missing is that we feel hurt by this treatment. WHY did the OW get so much more from you?

    And IF the cheating husband even tried just a little bit to offer up that level of interaction and communication, I think many many betrayed wives would be much happier. If the husband even TRIED to send flirty texts, or have an actual conversation about something other than the weather or work or some mundane topic, WE WOULD BE THRILLED!!!

    Sadly, most men just don't get it. I never forced my H to talk because I was willing to accept him for what he was. We spoke and had intimate conversations enough - I never complained. I felt he was open and talking to me. Until he came home, told me he felt disconnected FROM ME because he was interested in someone else.

    And the infatuation of their affair was the hardest thing to compete with. I was not the 30 year old OW, I was the 30 year relationship. So he felt disconnected from me - his own doing. He felt bored and unhappy with his career - his own doing.

    So I think that while the Cheating Husband can make all kinds of justifications for the affair, the betrayed wive will see what their H is capable of and have some resentment that they are not the recipient of the same level of interaction and love and passion.

    Seriously, I think if the H pursued and romanced the wife the same way they romanced the OW, it could make a difference in the recovery period. We would feel like we mattered and they cared and they truly wanted the marriage and not leave us guessing and wondering and over-analyzing.

    1. I think you are right on this. From what I have read (which is a lot) you can call it mature love or whatever but over time any relationship can become ordinary, less exciting, mundane, or there is stress in the relationship or from other areas of their lives. The wayward spouse does not handle any of this well. Maybe they are not looking or maybe they are for something more exciting. On some level they have to make themselves open. Once this exciting option appears they take advantage of it. And once that happens I know at least for my husband he has told me that he would tell himself anything negative about me to not feel worse about himself.

      I think any relationship but especially ones that are not new and exciting need and take effort. They should not be super hard all the time but it does take work. My husband always says now love is a verb. It is action. It is not just this magical feeling. That was when we first met but now it is more. And it is not always easy. And my husband has had to really work at and learn not to be selfish. He has to turn down a golf game, not watch what he wants on tv, not go to the movie he wants. One article that really helped him and he brought home to me was in The Atlantic magazine by John Gottman, Masters of Love is the name. It really hit him and he still uses what he read in there over 2 years ago to motivate and inspire him. In general I really like Gottman's books, writing and research. It has helped me since so much focuses on successful marriages and really communication.

      Also after the initial pain and a lot had gotten better with us I was still struggling. We sat down and I was very direct with what I needed. I told him what I wanted and didn't want. Some things he was doing I could care less about. Some things I needed more or different. Part of what i realized was even though things had improved which was great I expected, needed and wanted more. I found this was helpful for him.

    2. All true. If people put a fraction of the effort into their marriage that they put into an affair, there would be far less divorce. Or cheating. Marriages die from neglect.

    3. I think AFTER the affair it would be nice to know they still think of us as the hottest thing. Some romance and candlelight and flirting and sexy lingerie and making us a priority is all it takes to make an impression

      That is if the H really wants the marriage.

      The H has shown what they are capable of with the OW. Put that energy towards your marriage.

    4. Too right. I feel like my h's attentions to me are just little crumbs from the type of bread I don't even like. It is clear that the OW was getting the equivalent of gourmet pastries...

    5. This one can be really tricky. The CH doesn't always necessarily neglect his wife, or not flirt with, or romance his wife. I never suspected my husband's affair largely because his behavior toward me didn't change.

      My husband always wanted to have sex, always wanted to sext, always wanted the lingerie, etc. The mature relationship did not fill his needs. He liked living in the infatuation phase of a relationship, and I enjoyed the comfort and stability of the mature relationship.

      Looking back I think we just weren't fulfilling each other's expectations. After the kids came he still wanted the same level of attention on himself, and I wanted a partner who was "in the trenches" with me an infatuated with parenthood.

      His level of need for that kind of attention started to become a pressure to me. I'm. Or really given to effusiveness, and he wanted effusive. Every email or text or phone call or FaceTime he wanted what he called "flirting", but it was really sexuality that he craved. I really can only do that for a bit, and not very well at all on demand. I really don't want to do a striptease via FaceTime when I'm calling my husband from overseas. I don't want to give him a 900 number script reading over the phone so he can get off. It was becoming exhausting to me and he felt rejected every single time. And I felt that the only expression of love that mattered or got through to him was sex. And then he would get so consumed with needing that expression from me that he would just get single-tracked on that until we had sex or I did something just for him, to get past it and get him to be "right" again. Whether or not we were in an appropriate place for it, whether or not we had actual other responsibilities to take care of in that moment.

      It exhausts me really. I want to go on a car ride and if we hold hands, great, or if I have my hand on his knee, great. He want to go on a car ride and should the kids fall asleep in the back seat he wants me to reach over and give him a hand job. Not once, but he'd be happy if every car ride to everywhere included a hand job. I'm just not that sex-focused, nor do I need it as often or as intensely as he does. He always blamed that on me, never took a moment to reflect that maybe we're just at different places on a libido spectrum. Nope, in his mind, he's completely normal and I had fallen off the chart, despite my having tried to discuss the possibility that his ADHD might be a factor. Instead of hearing me and entertaining the possibility that it wasn't "just me", he ends up getting involved in an affair, and even after that, it still took me and the MC several months to get him to agree that it might be him.

      I mentioned previously that his reaction to being discovered was to buy $400 worth of sex toys (keep in mind he's not working right now), he also went to GNC and bought women's libido supplements for me. After his affair was discovered. Then when he finally gets around to accepting the theory that it's him and his ADHD, and other things, he wonders why I'm mad. He says "you're just mad because it took me so long to see you were right". To which I say no, I'm mad because you wouldn't even entertain the notion, and because of it you went and had an affair possibly destroying our whole life together, not to mention our kids' lives, even after that you STILL couldn't see that you had a problem. It took almost another year for him to engage on that point.

      Just offering that as another experience. A CH doesn't always necessarily neglect the marriage, but believes that he is being neglected in the marriage, whether it's true or not.

    6. Guys who cheat come in all shapes and sizes. But the one thing they have in common is that their cheating is about their own issues, not ours.

    7. You're right, Elle. And I know there are wives who feel neglected by their husbands and might not understand what I was trying inartfully to explain. But we always had an adventurous sex life and the frequency of 2-3x/week seemed better than average to me, but he never seemed satisfied. A lot of it is his neurochemistry of the ADHD, in other words sex was, in part, self-medication.

    8. Periwinkle I can relate and even when I think it seems good at times he still wants more and I wonder sexually can we be enough satisfy each other or has his is fantasy sex with no limits and real responsibility warped him? Hummmmm I feel you on this.

    9. Hi Periwinkle, Has your H considered sex addiction or love addiction groups. My H, who also struggles with many of the same behaviors as your, finds them very helpful and I think they have helped him own up to his shortcomings.

  8. My husband has done every one of these things to make me feel safe and secure. Trust was an issue before we moved across the country. Not concerning her but just trust in general. I knew that the OW was driving by our house all the time. She had bought a new car so that we wouldn't realize it was her. He told her that if she contacted him again that he would take legal action against her. It hasn't been easy but at almost 2 years we are in good place.

  9. I don't know where to write this. Reading this post I sent it to my husband too. I think he thinks he's doing this stuff but I don't think he is. The biggest for me besides waiting for an apology (yes he has not apologized except for hurting me) is telling him I need to feel wanted and loved and all he does is give me hugs and come over to hang out (I've left). He doesn't say he loves me. We haven't had sex or any indication of it from him in a year and a half (he was doing it with someone else, but now norhing). He seems to think I need to work on things that bothered him in our marriage and he needs to work on communication, then we'll address the affair. He says he's working on building our friendship again which is all great and we have fun but am I crazy? I want a husband not a friend and he says he wants that too.
    So i guess my point here is, how do I know for myself that he's just not into it? It seems like everyone else in this boat is either remorseful or gone, my hubby is neither.
    I don't know if I posted right or not if not ignore me. I'm just at a loss. I swing from this is great to forget him I'm done, back to but I love him give it time.

    1. Corrie McMutry
      You posted in just the right way and place and I'm so sorry you have the same need to be here! It sounds like he may be blame shifting if he thinks it's you that needs to be changing what he didn't like about your marriage! I owned my mistakes in our marriage but I sure as hell don't accept that I caused him to go have an affair! I was just as lonely as he was during that time but I held on to my beliefs in myself! My h has changed so much in these last two plus years! It sounds like your h just wants his comfortable friendship that in my opinion he's not showing that he truly values! I'm hoping you are in therapy and if not that you can get some and help him realize that he needs therapy too! Sending you hugs this is not an easy road to waddle down!

    2. Hi Corrie,

      I am so sorry you too have been betrayed but glad you found this site for support. I am just 6 mos. post Dday (but betrayal happened a decade ago).

      I am certainly not qualified to give advice, but I can share my story with you. My H & I have had so many ups & downs since Dday - the ups: he has done just about everything Elle recommends on this particular post "How to Apologize for Breaking Your Wife's Heart". The downs: early-on he was a classic gas-lighter and he broke some important promises (pot, porn, employment). The two things that have helped us the most are: 1) we went to Retrouvialle and, 2) we each go to IC and we also go to MC together.

      Even with all that I have retained an attorney and I struggle to make up my mind if I want to stay in this marriage. But I do know with out both counseling + Retrouvialle there would be a 99% chance our marriage would not survive. With them we at least have a 50/50 chance. So I guess that is my advice: IC + MC and look into additional support through some type of retreat for broken marriages and/or a proven faith-based program (not all of them have high success rates and some tell you that you have to forgive sooner than you are ready to, etc).

      Keep posting!

  10. Hi Corrie, welcome to the club none of us want to be in. Sorry for what your going through your not alone on this one I too find my h isn't remorseful nor willing to leave so like you I sit and wait for change of some kind. My h hasn't said he loved me since d day 2 and finds it difficult to accept I still love him. It's selfish and destructive behaviour, like they want to continue licking their wounds without doing the hard work of why they did what they did so they are not in that position again. So you see Corrie this is not unusual or uncommon I believe men who betray have very similar tendencies from much reading and coming here daily I find myself nodding, agreeing frequently with what other bw write.. there has to be a balance doesn't their I'm not sure I'd be convinced if my h was over the top with me either because that just isn't him..If anything Corrie I hope I've been able to reassure you that your not alone in your situation.. keep posting and take care of yourself xx

  11. It is always a sad thing to find yourself in such a spot as the investigator with your own partner because I was in this situation some months back,yet I didn't get him becuse he's a smart husband. A friend introduced me to this hacker cybernnectic at his work is amazing. I was able to read my husband chats with his mistress and calls.Then I was able to say it to his face that he's cheating on me.



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