The other day I received an email from one of our mentoring clients who asked some questions about some of her feelings and thoughts related to why her husband chose to end the affair and stay in the marriage. I believe many of you are either experiencing these sort of thoughts now, or at least have in the past.
Since I could have written the exact email a few years ago, I think that my response might be helpful so I’m going to do something a little different today and share our correspondence. (I’ve changed the names of course for privacy reasons. I’ll call her “Jenny.”)
I could have written your comment. I used to think the same thing but time and therapy has helped tremendously. How long has it been since your D-day? If it has been within a year, I would say that this is very common and expected. However, in my case I kept thinking the same exact thoughts as you do for a very long time and it really took a hit to my self esteem as well as my recovery.
I also could not accept that Doug did not choose me but instead he chose our family and the package. I would beat myself up for not being “good enough” or worthy of being loved. I also believed the same ideals about the OW as you do – that she was outgoing, etc. However, in Doug’s words, that was just a façade. And when you really think about it, a person cannot be that way 24/7 and Doug only saw the positive side of the OW. It is unfair to compare ourselves to a person that does not really exist.
Going to therapy really helped me with my insecurities and feelings of unworthiness. My therapist told me that I have the OW way up here (as he pointed above his head), believing that she was some kind of goddess, and myself down here (the ground), believing that I didn’t have anything to offer. It was true. I did believe that and together we tried to figure out why I felt that way. It stemmed from my fear of rejection and doing everything and anything to feel loved, which went back to my childhood.
It has helped me to be aware of these feelings and that they have nothing to do with reality. I have worked on gaining back my self-confidence and believing that I am worthy of love. It has really been a struggle for me and I often have to question if my actions portray someone who loves herself and is asking for what I really need and deserve in our marriage.
I know that for a long time I tried to be someone that I thought Doug would love. Now I have realized that I need to be someone that I love. If that isn’t someone that Doug wants then that is his problem, not mine.
My suggestion (which I wished I would have done a long time ago) is to forget about the OW. Stop putting the focus on her and focus on all the positive things about you. I was keeping her way up there, which is the last place I wanted her, and almost brainwashing Doug about all of her positive attributes.
Honestly, I think back and realize how crazy I was. I wish I would have sought help for my issues long before I did. The way I felt wasn’t really just about the affair and the OW, as it had been with me for a long time. The affair just magnified my insecurities and made me crazy!
Please share in the comment section below if you’ve had similar thoughts and experiences so that others can benefit.
You may also want to listen to the short audio recording with Dave Carder on why men stay after an affair. You can access it here.