4 Lessons Learned from 2+ Years of Hell

lessons learned after infidelity

By “Jack”

Several months back we had a mentoring client, “Jack,” who was betrayed by his wife.  Recently he sent us an email expressing his desire to write a post sharing some of his experiences and lessons learned after infidelity.   Please read on…


I am very sorry you are reading this.  You are undoubtedly going through one of the most difficult, stressful, & painful periods in your life.  I personally found solace in the Emotional Affair Journey website and read several of the articles multiple times. 

One thing I always wondered was “when will this get better?”, “when will I be happy again?”, or “how long will it take to heal?”  I tended to be impatient and did not want to let things run their course.  While everyone’s situation is different, I hope sharing my own story may help you. 

Names have been changed to protect the guilty…  

The Timeline:

August 2014: I took a promotion that required me to travel substantially.  I was also less available mentally & emotionally due to the stress & challenges.  This was my stink.

December 2014: My work stress began to subside.  My travel did not.

April/May 2015: Sarah (my wife, the wayward spouse) started training for a marathon with John (the affair partner) from our running group.  They spent a lot of time running together and sharing stories.

June 2015: John’s wife expressed concern to Sarah about how much time they were spending running together, texting, etc. 

August 2015 (D-day): After one business trip, I noticed a text from John and read through the entire string.  Innuendos like “quickie”, asking about my wife’s sexual history with men of a different race, and a picture of a statue’s penis haunted me for months.  I asked my wife to stop texting him.  She agreed, but changed her passwords, and started texting him in the bathroom.  I discovered this after a week; she uncharacteristically blew up and we agreed to enter weekly marriage counseling for the first time in our 11 years together.  We also got individual therapists.

September 2015: I was labeled as insecure.  During our third marriage counseling session, our therapist mentioned that Sarah & John’s relationship seemed like an emotional affair.  It was the first time I had ever heard the phrase.  After researching the term and confronting my wife, I was in tears.  I found additional messages that John constantly looks at his phone waiting for her texts, described my wife as “hot as hell” and a “long lost lover”.  Sarah took her wedding ring off.  I left mine on.  I started having heart pains due to the stress. 

November 2015: I confronted John.  He & Sarah both claimed I was taking the messages “out of context.”  I explained there is no proper context for using the term “long lost lover” with my wife.  Sarah deleted John’s contact information twice, but later reinserted it: once under his name and another time under her therapist’s name.  Sarah got a secret apartment that she later told me about.  I never knew exactly where it was.

December 2015: My stress and heart pains reached an unbearable level; I was afraid of having a heart attack.  I explained to my wife that if she needed to have John in her life, that is fine…but I could no longer be a part of it.  She agreed to stop communicating with him.  When she communicated with him again, I blew up and finally took my wedding ring off.  Later, John sent her a simple “Merry Christmas” text.  I responded and asked that he no longer communicate with her.  She was mad at me for 2 days for setting that boundary.

February 2016: Sarah did not want me home due to the conflict/discomfort.  I increased my travel to accommodate her wishes.  I believe Sarah stopped all contact with John, other than sending a “good bye” note that I later found out about.

May 2016: Sarah was fired from her job.  She could not keep up with the paperwork due to the stress of her personal circumstances, work volume, and marriage imploding.  

July/August 2016: Sarah started emotional affair #2 with Jim.  Passwords were changed.  I started to see Jim’s name on our home router after work trips.

September 2016: I overheard Sarah on the phone with what sounded like a male.  She said “I miss you too.”  She claimed it was her sister.  I asked her to show me.  She got upset, fumed, stormed out of the house and deleted her phone’s history.  I told our therapist that needing proof it was her sister was the final straw for me.

October 2016: When trying to pull the phone records, I found thousands of text messages between Sarah and Jim.  I explained how it made me feel and we both agreed to divorce.  I felt an immediate relief/release.

November 2016: We filed the paperwork to divorce.  No lawyers were needed.  No kids involved.  She wanted the house.  I wanted to move so that I would not see John or Jim.

February 2017: Our divorce was finalized.  I opened an expensive bottle of wine.

March 2017: On the last day prior to my move across the country, Sarah began expressing some remorse.  I wondered if I was doing the right thing, until I realized remorse was 1 of 3 things I needed to see.  The other 2 were honesty and transparency, which I never saw (to this day).

April 2017 and beyond: I have not been this happy in 2 years.  I still ruminate about everything I put up with, though it has lessened over time.  I feel proud that I did everything I could to work things out.  There is a part of me that will always love her, but it is healthier to not have her part of my life.

I have also learned a few things along the way:

  1. I focused a lot on understanding the mechanism & mindset of the cheater. I was hooked on Emotional Affair Journey to help try and explain everything.  Focus instead on how YOU are feeling.  It is OK to be compassionate, but allow yourself to get angry too.
  2. I really struggled with boundaries. I wanted everything to work out.  When does it become not OK?  Is a weird text fine?  Are changing passwords OK?  Is taking off a wedding ring acceptable?  How about a secret apartment to escape to?  New sex toys, even though you are not having sex?  I am amazed I put up with so much. 
  3. I found that “bilateral music” did wonders to alleviate my stress. 90% of my heart pains evaporated after a day of listening to it with headphones.  I cannot explain why it works, though it is worth trying.
  4. A lot of the pain you are experiencing is because your trust has been shattered and you might be holding onto the past relationship. It is gone.  Trust me when I say that you will be happier no matter how this works out.  You now have to choose between:
    1. Leaving since you do not deserve to be treated this way
    2. Or forming a new relationship with someone who really hurt you. The new relationship will be stronger & deeper than ever.  I held onto this dream because it was easy for me to envision.  It just didn’t work out for me that way.  I hope it can for you.

Thanks for sharing your story with us “Jack.”  If you’d like to share your story in the form of a post, feel free to contact us.

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30 Responses to 4 Lessons Learned from 2+ Years of Hell

  1. Shifting Impressions January 9, 2018 at 1:29 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing your story….that couldn’t have been easy. Also thank you for sharing what you learned along the way. I love your statement “It’s okay to be compassionate but allow yourself to get angry too.”

  2. TheFirstWife January 9, 2018 at 4:05 pm #

    I would be curious to read what we all learned on this roller coaster ride called infidelity.

    Please share if you wish. Happy New Year!

  3. TheFirstWife January 9, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    I learned I am strong and will face anything head on.

    I am not a doormat or push over any longer.

    I will make good decisions and can put my kids first and think of their needs first.

    I am a better Christian as a result of my H’s Affair.

  4. Untold January 10, 2018 at 6:41 pm #

    Jack, thank you for sharing. Your story is well written, concise but including key meaningful events and issues to those of us like you going through this. Like you I am a betrayed male, but I’m still in the relationship. Not sure I should be as things have not been better than ever, but good enough for me not to take the final leap. Often wonder if I should have, or should still, especially after hearing of the relief you found once out. My marriage is now 30 years, 5 since first discovery and 3 since last. It has not been fun – insufficient remorse and honesty in my opinion, but no more clear infidelity as far as I can tell. I’m def going to try that bilateral music, though Pearl Jam works pretty well for me too!

    Happy and proud for you man. Best wishes to you in 2018, and hope you find that special person that respects an appreciates you the way you deserve.

  5. Joey January 11, 2018 at 12:40 pm #

    Jack – thanks so much for sharing your story and being honest with how it has affected you and how you have come out stronger. I could have written your story with a few minor differences. My ex cheated for years, kept going back to the AP, false reconciliations, multiple DDays. I stayed for years hoping the person I thought I knew would come back but she never did. I, like you, finally said enough is enough. The process and journey sucks but I admire your strength so much.

    I think what I have learned is, although all of our stories are different, there does seem to be one common thread: these “once in a lifetime” love stories that our cheating spouses concoct in their minds while in the affair can’t be further from the truth. The APs aren’t special – they could have been anyone. Just two broken people who come together at the right moment because the circumstance allowed for it. That helps me move forward and be open to a new relationship eventually because the affair wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t such a horrible partner/person as my ex and her AP made me out to be.

    • TheFirstWife January 11, 2018 at 5:07 pm #

      I think another common thread in the A is the rewriting of the M.

      The lies I heard during those 6 months were mind boggling. It was just petty nonsense IMO.

      One I heard was I didn’t support him. So let’s review that. He travels all over the world. I was at home with two children and no nanny or live in help. I never complained. Our child was two weeks old and he went to a foreign country for weeks.

      So I feel the CS makes up these bizarre and untrue things in their mind to justify the A.

      Almost every BS says it. So sad.

      • Rachel January 12, 2018 at 7:57 am #

        The first wife, so TRUE!!!! They will use any excuse. The best one I think is my ex saying he wanted a divorce because my parents don’t have a lot of friends. ?????
        They are in their 80’s their friends are dying!!!
        Just an excuse. I have a list of his excuses. I’ll have to write the, down for a good laugh.

      • Untold January 15, 2018 at 7:50 am #

        TFW that is a major issue in our recovery too, even now 4 years after the affair. I hear it all the time. At Christmas she triggered on some memory of a dinner 27 years ago. She could not remember circumstances just that it made her feel badly. I tried to remember and reconstruct with her to understand. She wouldn’t talk about it. Her point was how badly I treated her and that’s all we need to remember. Almost never reminisce about great times in 30 year marriage, two fine sons. She’s too busy reminiscing about high school with old friends on fakebook, which is how the whole damn thing started.

        How do you counter the history rewrite??

        • TheFirstWife January 15, 2018 at 2:23 pm #

          Untold. I hear you on the rewrite and focusing on the wrong things.

          I just never held a grudge. Stuff happens. Resolve it. Move on.

          Now here is where it gets dicey. My H had a long long history of being late and no accountability on whereabouts. Lateness learned from his parents. Dinner at 5 pm means they would show up st 7 pm. Like nothing is wrong. That issue was resolved while we were dating.

          But the no calling lasted 15+ years. He would say be home at 11 pm and walk in door at 1 am. No call. Didn’t want to wake me. A bunch of self serving crap.

          We fought about this for Decades. I finally realized HE was not going to Change. So I stopped saying anything.

          And HE accused ME of not supporting him and not communicating.

          For once I was not a doormat. And I stood up to him and shot down every one of his “reasons” as to why he cheated. On one issue I called him on it in the midst of his A and said “ok let’s discuss it”. He had nothing to say.

          After the fact when he was in the middle of a job issue he asked for my advice. So I brought up his “no support” statement made during the A (similar issue) and said i don’t want to say anything b/c you harbored 15 years of resentment when I offered my opinion years ago b/c I did not agree with you.

          I made sure everyone of his “theories” were shot down and made him to see they were untrue.

          So I made sure I “corrected” his memory.

          At one point he was using the “we were disconnected” line of crap. One night I was angry and told him that HE may have felt disconnected but that he did nothing about it AND that I never felt disconnected from him and to stop trying to justify his cheating by telling me how I feel!!

          Of course post A he regrets all of it.

          But some things just cannot be undone. Sadly.

          So I guess I reacted by making sure his revisionist history of our M was corrected to more accurately reflect reality.

    • Tired January 22, 2018 at 12:38 pm #

      Joey you are so right…the affair partner could have been anyone. It just happens that these people are in contact at the time that one or both are broken and looking to self medicate. I am sorry to hear your story…from your posts you sound like a very kind and thoughtful person. How unlucky for your wife that she did not see that.

      My husband, who had an emotional affair, recently told me that WE were “soul mates.” Now I really hate that term, and Im thinking this was a stupid line his affair partner said to him. People can go on deluding themselves that a “perfect” relationship is out there. In the end, I think that type of person will move from one relationship to another searching for that perfect connection. I hope Im not talking about my husband. They are not mature enough to see that there is no such thing. Appreciate what you have now, for goodness sakes. In today’s time it is even worse…I felt violated that husband’s affair partner was even intruding into my home, sending messages all day and night.

      Just think about the future. The cheating person will be forever stuck with that label. They are a cheat. People do not forget this. Keep your head up high and no matter what it feels like now, it is you who has maintained your integrity. And integrity is everything.

  6. Sarah P. January 12, 2018 at 1:20 am #

    Jack,

    This is very well-written and from what you have described your experience was very much NOT about you. You could have been someone else and she would have strayed.

    I am so sorry what you went through and absolutely believe divorce was the right thing for you. Your ex seems to be a serial cheater. (And she defiles the name “Sarah” too! We are supposed to be the girl next door types and we are loyal to the core.) May you find someone worthy of all that you have to give. There are many lovely women out there and in time I know a good woman will come along.

    Sarah P.

  7. Tony January 12, 2018 at 10:33 am #

    Well said. My situation was similar. I wished I had done things differently like tough love. not sure how to “lift” the fog. I don’t think you can go back and be happy after the pain of an affair. Trust is gone…

    • TheFirstWife January 12, 2018 at 6:53 pm #

      I think you can be happy b/c you refocus your life. As in my H is no longer my #1 concern. I make my happiness and life a priority.

      Not in a mean way. Not selfish. But if I want to go to an event I sometimes want to go with my friends. So I go with my friends.

      If I want to lay in the yard and read a book for 2 hours I do.

      My happiness is my priority. And that’s what I learned from his A.

      If he cheats again then I move on. I will be hurt and all but I will just be scraping myself off the floor ever again b/c of him.

      so yes I am happy. He is making amends as best he can. He has changed.

      But the hurt will ALWAYS be there. I agree with that. He hurt me in a way that you cannot explain. That no one else can.

      That is what infidelity does.

      • tony January 13, 2018 at 9:29 am #

        sounds like you’re living separate lives under the same roof? is that really a marriage?

        • TheFirstWife January 13, 2018 at 7:23 pm #

          Tony. We actually don’t live two separate lives. We have a really good M.

          We are good parents and get along well.

          It’s jyst that my priorities have shifted. I am a bit more focused in me rather than him. I always put others first.

          Now sometimes I put me first. I put my happiness and growth first. Not happiness as in “its my life I can do what I want” but more of a focus on my path in life. Things I value. Things I choose to spend time doing. Things I want us to do as a couple.

          Things I should have thought about for 25 years but did not.

          So I always talked about starting my own business and one day post A I did. I would not have done that in the past for a variety of reasons. But post A I realize life is moving fast and NOW is the time for me.

          And it works. If I am happy or happier I believe everyone around me benefits.

          Again hard to understand it is not being done selfishly. I often have to take a back seat to other priorities. That is life.

          But I was never the kind of person who wanted to be a 7 day a week together kind of life. I need some space.

          Which is why his traveling extensively worked for us for so long. When we were together it was b/c we wanted to be

  8. Lucas January 13, 2018 at 11:06 am #

    I am curious to know how you reconnected sexually with your partner after the infidelity. My wife cheated on me, took her almost 10 months to really end the affair and she is depressed now. We are living together again, but not intimacy at all (last time we had sex was 1 year ago). I am very close to start the paperwork for the divorce, but I am waiting a bit more since we got back together for 1 month only.

    • TheFirstWife January 14, 2018 at 7:09 pm #

      Lucas that is a tough situation to overcome

      It doesn’t seem like you matter to her. You don’t seem like plan B even.

      That can make reconciliation difficult. Not sure how to reconnect and get that living feeling back.

      Especially if your W is not doing anything to help you recover from her Affair.

      What have you done so far?

      • Lucas January 14, 2018 at 8:12 pm #

        Thanks vm for your words! You’re right, we are living like roommates. We get along, we talk and go out for drinks, etc. But our physical chemistry is almost zero now. I explained to her that this is not a couple relationship and we should separate. She told me is trying, but since is still depressed, there’s not much she can do right now. She also refuses to take medicines.

        We have been together for 10 years and she had an affair with a younger co-worker. No kids.

        She quit ~ 4 months ago, so I might wait for her to find a new job and move on.

        I am in a much better place than 1.5 years ago. When I found out, it was like I was hit by a bullet train. If I have to divorce, I know I will be just fine.

        • Shifting Impressions January 14, 2018 at 9:00 pm #

          Lucas
          I’m sorry you are going through this. It is possible that your wife’s depression is playing a large role in stalling your recovery. A really good read about the subject is the book DEPRESSION FALLOUT. Living with someone that is dealing with depression can be excruciating all on it’s own let alone as a betrayed spouse.

          It sounds like your wife is not willing to deal with her depression. Can you get some help for you?

        • TheFirstWife January 15, 2018 at 6:45 am #

          Lucas. What is your wife depressed about – the end of the A or that she cheated and caused you pain?

          Or is she just upset with herself for being a cheater?

          During my H’s last A 4 years ago it had ended (briefly). He was a nightmare to live with. Angry and moody and all that. And I was the target. I couldn’t do anything right. After 25 years of M I was suddenly the worst wife ever.

          Just wondering if your W is having the same mindset. And that is where she is emotionally right now.

          • Lucas January 15, 2018 at 11:01 am #

            Thanks so much for both replies. Yes, she took medicines 15 years ago when she first felt depressed. She is reluctant to take medicines again and trying yo solve it by her own, but clearly it’s not working. I will check this book out, it might help me to understand a depressed person’s mindset and how to cope with it.

            Before the affair started, she was not happy with her job. She was working as an account manager, too much pressure and not a great fit. She had the affair with a young single guy (probably he got tired of all the drama), she quit her job (3 years, first job), travelled solo for 3 months and now she is back. Thus, answering your question why she feels depressed, it could be a combination of all the factors above: not happy with her job, felt in love with another guy and being rejected, feeling guilty for blowing up a 10y relationship in vain, maybe she wanted to be a mom (she is 32 years) and did not know how to express it ( I was open to this idea).

            I worked a lit on me during this period. I went to individual therapy, started meditating every day ( did the Transcendental Meditation Course), lost 15 pounds and I am in the best physical shape of my life. As I said before, I am in much better place than 1.5 years ago and almost ready to trow the towel. Just wanted to wait a bit more to see if something miraculous changes or maybe she decides to treat her depression with a professional.

            Thanks so much again!

            • Shifting Impressions January 15, 2018 at 1:44 pm #

              Lucas
              The book is by Anne Sheffield and it really does focus on the one living with a depressed person. My daughter is a psychologist and she recommended it to me as her own husband battles depression.

              I believe that was also part of my husband’s problem.

              People with depression can become very self focused and dare I say manipulative as well. I found it extremely helpful.

              All the best to you in this difficult journey.

              • Lucas January 16, 2018 at 10:22 pm #

                Thank you so much! I just bought the book. I’ll let you know how things go.

                Best,

                Lucas

                • Shifting Impressions January 17, 2018 at 12:15 am #

                  Lucas
                  That’s good….hopefully it helps.

                  Take care

                • Hopeful January 18, 2018 at 1:29 pm #

                  Lucas, Depression can play a huge role in any of this, starting the affair, when it ends, recovery etc. I think it is critical to find out if both people want to be in the marriage and to try to make it work. My husband had two affairs at the same time over 10 years. He is in the mental health field. He has a lot of training, education and professional experience and he still did it all. On dday though since I was willing to not leave him on the spot he has told me now (almost 3 years since dday) that he was going to give it 6 months and give it his all and see how he did. He was worried that he was not going to live up to what I needed/deserved. Well it ended up being easy for him. He said he thought about how love is a verb/action not a feeling. It has not been easy for either of us and I would say right now it is harder on him since he has to live with what he did. I also went to a therapist and I think it is good to go as a couple and individually. Find an expert that deals with betrayal. Also what we did and this might help you was we set a time once a week to talk. The rest of the week if it came up we would talk about the affair etc but it helped us work together better. I would journal every day. Before our talk I would look back at what I wrote that week. It helped me a lot. I also worked hard to listen more and he worked to not be defensive.

                  Also one article that my husband brought home from work which was excellent was Masters of Love from The Atlantic. It really connected with my husband and since it is a magazine article it was more approachable than a book.

                  One last thing it really took me a year to even feel like I could function. At that point my husband started looking inward more. As I said I think he struggles with what he did more than me. In the end the saddest part to me is that he did this to himself. That is the biggest betrayal. I realized through this recovery that what he did had nothing to do with me. Of course it gets me down at times but in the end it was about him and falls on him. He told me it could have been anyone and I believe that. Other terminology that is powerful is he talks about living an authentic life. He recently said he is finally starting to like himself again after 10+ years and maybe forever. He goes to sleep every night knowing he is authentic, transparent and honest which he said feels amazing. This is a long road but with the right work and help it makes a huge difference if both of you are trying.

  9. Patsy50 January 13, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    Jack

    I am sorry you had to take this journey but on the other hand I applaud you for you took the steps to try and save your marriage, your wife did not.

    There comes a time and everybody’s time frame is different when you say enough is enough it’s time to divorce. My husband had an EA 6 yrs. ago with a coworker. I did not have to find out,he told me. I found this site and learned what an EA was as I never heard of it. I found the tools also to help get me and my husband on the right course to rebuild our marriage. He did everything that was asked of he to do. He had one chance to get this right, fortunately he did and we are still together today. Married 47 years. Otherwise I would have divorced him right there and then. Best of Luck to you.

  10. tony January 18, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

    it only works if you both try and want it. mine did not. she wouldn’t give up the homewrecker, but I guess she’s one too…and now they aren’t even together

    • Rachel January 19, 2018 at 6:31 am #

      Same with mine Tony. My ex actually saved me for wanting the divorce. Life is good!

  11. Terry January 31, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

    Jack, thank you for your post. I’m a BS from an EA. My H denied crossing boundaries, but I witnessed it firsthand and then showed him the door. He told me he broke it off immediately with OW (or so he said), but blamed the situation on me being insecure – he actually admitted telling her this personal opinion of me. He never had platonic female friendships beforehand, so why should ignore his dating type behavior with a flirty friend? He denied any wrong doing, showed no remorse, was reluctant to introspect to make changes to himself and see the damage done to me, us and himself.
    My hope for you Jack is that you can use this time to make sure the baggage from this infidelity doesn’t affect any future partner relationships you might want to explore. Please consider IC to help you with your pain and to also give you a roadmap to use in exploring any new relationships, so that you can feel secure to trust and love again.

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