affair traumaBy Sarah P.

This post is part two of a three part series on Affair Trauma.  (Click here for Part One)  In this post, I will discuss the real reasons you feel like you cannot fight the battle against trauma anymore.

Once we understand why trauma and subsequent symptoms of PTSD are so difficult to fight, I will also discuss things that you can do to somewhat successfully fight PTSD.

The reason I say ‘somewhat’ is because fighting PTSD is a long process. Thus, the things that help to fight PTSD will only feel ‘somewhat helpful’ in the short-term.

There is a shortage of information online that specifically targets how to recover from affair trauma. (If you have found a lot of information on this topic, let me know because I have not found truly helpful material on infidelity trauma.)

The great news is that the Gottman’s have just finished groundbreaking research on this topic and have just released their findings. I have attended their brand new seminar and will cover their findings in part three.

But, before part three, I wanted to take a good look at how PTSD affects the brain and the body. I feel that it is necessary to do this because it provides the whole picture of PTSD. In this post, I will also cover the role the wayward spouse must play in healing and what to do if he or she does not want to help you heal.

The Neuroscience of PTSD

Has someone ever told you that PTSD is “all in your head”? This statement implies that maybe if you think positively you can just “get over it.” Well, such a statement to get over it is offensive. PTSD is not about being in a bad mood that will respond to a positive outlook. Nope. PTSD causes brain damage. Consider this:

“As PTSD progresses, neuroscientists in China have recently discovered that brain structures literally change. A shrinking left superior parietal lobule was distinctly linked to PTSD. A study released in November 2013 is the first brain imaging study to identify and compare specific brain areas of individuals who had a similar traumatic exposure as connected with developing PTSD…It is interesting to note that chronic PTSD literally causes very specific regions of the left and right hemispheres of the cortex to lose brain volume. Below is a summary of their findings:

  1. Chronic post-traumatic stress disorder patients have gray matter structural damage in the prefrontal lobe, occipital lobe, and parietal lobe.
  2. After post-traumatic stress, the disorder symptoms are improved and gray matter structural damage is reduced, but did not recover to the brain volume of the control group without PTSD.
  3. The Left superior parietal lobule could be strongly associated with chronic PTSD.” (1)

It is becoming more and more clear that PTSD damages individuals from the inside out. PTSD is so serious that it causes physical changes in the brain!

If we take this idea further, we can extrapolate and realize that PTSD caused by an affair can lead to similar changes within the brain. Therefore, when PTSD is present, standard affair recovery programs may not work.

How Does Affair Trauma Feel?

You feel as if you are suffocating- as of all of the air was sucked out of a room. You struggle to breathe and to remain calm.

No matter where you go, you cannot shake that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach.

You see others smiling and laughing, yet you feel so utterly disconnected- as if watching a television show or movie because you are there and not there at the same time.

You cannot eat. When you try to eat or drink something, you either lose your appetite or you vomit.

When you are triggered, the room spins and you cannot get your bearings among the chaos.

You either sleep all of the time or you do not sleep at all.

You cry uncontrollably and find yourself often unable to shower or follow a regular schedule.

Existing feels painful; existence is your enemy—or at least that is how you feel at that moment.

You look at your life and cannot sort the lies from the truth.

You develop internal self-loathing and you secretly compare yourself to the other person.

You don’t trust anyone or anything any longer.

You most likely have full-blown PTSD or at least many symptoms of PTSD.

Consider this from the AffairCare website:

“While not all betrayed spouses experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many experience it to varying degrees. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD affects 7.7 million American adults. For most people, the symptoms of PTSD appear within the first three months of the trauma. For others, it can take years and another triggering event before PTSD emerges.

Those suffering from PTSD may have the following symptoms: They startle easily and have persistent, heart-pounding anxiety about what this all means for them. Not wanting to be fooled again, they often become hyper-vigilant, on the constant look out for any sign that things aren’t as they appear to be. That hyper-alertness tends to extend to other relationships as well because being betrayed by the person you trusted the most can make you feel like you can’t trust anyone. They may lose interest in things they normally enjoy. They may constantly relive the facts around the betrayal and/or the moment the betrayal was uncovered. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult. They may have trouble concentrating and problems sleeping. They may feel hopeless and helpless. They can have crying jags or feel numb and detached, especially with people they were once close to. Emotions are easily triggered. If the husband is 15 minutes late getting home from work, his wife is a wreck when he arrives because that’s what he used to do when he with the Other Woman.”(2)

 

Why Does it Hurt?

Anytime you lose a relationship, you lose a part of yourself. Infidelity is the loss of the relationship that you once had; you lose the self that existed in that relationship. So, to a great extent you lose both yourself and your spouse.

You also lose what you thought you had. You lose the very narrative that you had internalized about your life.

Prior to the affair, your narrative could have looked something like this:

“Other people have affairs, but not us. We are one big happy family and my spouse would never consider an affair. I feel safe in my marriage and know we are going to make it to our 30th wedding anniversary and beyond.”

After an affair, that narrative changes to something like this:

“I cannot believe we are that couple. I cannot believe my spouse had an affair! My whole life has been a lie up to this point and I feel so angry at myself for being so foolish. I don’t think I can make it through the day, let alone to our 30th wedding anniversary. I no longer feel safe and I don’t know what is real any longer.”

Events have a great deal of impact on us, either for the good or for the bad. How we react to them largely has to do with our internal narrative. These are two drastically different internal narratives and each will cause a person to feel one way or the other.

Even Amid the Damage, There is Still the Power of Individual Choice.

We have the power to react to the events that come our way. If you think about it, events that have emotional consequences can be seen as neither good nor bad—just neutral. It may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out.

After an affair, your internal narrative will change, but it does not have to change drastically. Nothing has to be all good or all bad and how you perceive the event will shape the course of your life.

I wanted to give an example of four different possible reactions to adultery. Of course, a reaction is as unique as the individual and there can be as many reactions as there are people.

So, let’s suppose that a couple has been happily married for 30 years and has three children. The children have all been ‘successfully launched,’ have finished college, and have good jobs. When the kids were small, the family took many fun trips. The two parents had an idyllic relationship and both partners believed the marriage was ‘affair proof.’ One day, the wife found out her husband had been cheating on her for three years with a co-worker. After D-Day, the couple decided they wanted to stay together and the wayward spouse broke it off with his co-worker and got transferred to another division. The betrayed spouse could have one of many reactions, but here are the four:

  • The betrayed spouse could believe her life was a lie, hate her husband, and believe she would never be happy again and could never trust anyone.
  • The betrayed spouse could have mixed emotions, yet know she could be happy again one day. She would enter onto a path to forgiveness since it became apparent her husband was deeply remorseful and aware of his mistake.
  • Not knowing how to feel, the betrayed spouse could go to marriage counseling with her spouse so that their recovery could be professionally facilitated.
  • The betrayed spouse could look at the big picture and realize she had experienced an enormous bump in the road. She would realize that the affair was not about her, but was rather about a broken spouse. She would dip into the internal ‘love bank’ that had been built up over many years due to good experiences with her spouse. The affair took a huge withdrawal from the bank, but she would realize there was still a lot of love there. She would put herself on a path of spiritual and/or personal growth and she would partner with her spouse to create a stronger marriage.

Does number four seem like that person is just glossing over the affair and in denial? It may sound that way, but it is not about denial. It is about seeing the truth of the situation – her spouse was broken and the affair was not about her – then using this knowledge to embark on a growth phase. This woman is tapping into her highest self to be lifted above the despair and devastation.

Most of all, this woman has made the conscious choice to do so.

Most people do not make such a choice and I am not condemning, criticizing, or overlooking the years of devastation the affair has caused. What I am trying to do is to show you that you make the choices about how to react when life happens to you. Your reaction is your personal power.

But Then There Is PTSD

If you developed PTSD as a result of an affair, none of the above advice that has to do with “reframing” will work. So, if you did not feel it resonated, you might have PTSD. The above advice only works for those who do not have it.

 

How to Deal with Negative Emotions – The Key is in Your Second Brain

When you have developed PTSD as a result of an affair, systems in the body take over. This is because trauma registers in the right-hemisphere of the brain—it is coded as an emotion and visceral response long before it is given words. The body rules, but not thinking. In the aftermath of an affair, betrayed spouses are bombarded with negative emotions and negative thoughts. These cause the body to be in fight or flight mode. But there is a way to regulate the fight or flight response and it has to do with the vagus nerve.

Did you know that your gastro-intestinal tract is like a second brain? Several years ago, scientists found that stomach and intestines acts as a second brain to the body. At the center of it all is the vagus nerve.

“The vagus nerve is the prime driving force of the parasympathetic nervous system which regulates our “rest-and-digest” or “tend-and-befriend” responses. On the flip side, to maintain homeostasis, the sympathetic nervous system drives the “fight-or-flight” response. Ideally, within your autonomic nervous system, the ongoing tug of war between these two polar opposite mechanisms creates a “yin-yang” type of harmony marked by homeostatic balance.

From a simplified evolutionary perspective, one could speculate that our ancestors relied on the sympathetic nervous system to kickstart neurobiological responses needed to hunt, gather, and ward off enemies. Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system probably fortified our innate drive to nurture close-knit human bonds, procreate, and build survival-based cooperative and supportive communities. Recent studies show that all too often, social media and other modern-day factors exacerbate perceived social isolation and feelings of being unworthy of love and belonging. Additionally, the individualistic “every man for himself” zeitgeist undermines collective “tending-and-befriending” and can put someone’s “fight-or-flight” response in constant hyperdrive with no reprieve. Luckily, there are some easily accessible and highly effective drug-free ways for you to activate the “vagusstuff” producing power of your parasympathetic nervous system by stimulating your vagus nerve.” (3)

Basically, the vagus nerve demonstrates the tremendous mind/body connection. Most importantly the vagus nerve is the counter-balance to the fight-or-flight mechanism. There are behavioral actions you can take in order to counter the fight-or-flight tendancies and tap into the “vagusstuff.” Such actions include:

  1. Using Breathing Exercises such as those used in yoga
  2. Daily gentle physical activity such as walking or gardening
  3. Spending time in nature, even if it is in a park with trees
  4. Journaling
  5. Empowering Self-Talk
  6. Meditation
  7. Volunteering for causes you believe in.

These things can help promote calm and they help counter the cortisol and adrenaline overload that trauma causes.

Your Spouse’s Role in Helping You Heal

Most people know intuitively that their spouse can help them heal. But, this is generally unchartered territory and one fraught with land mines. Still, healing from infidelity is a two-way street; each spouse has a role in healing.

One of the keys to recovery is to have the wayward spouse ‘witness’ and empathize with the narrative of the betrayed spouse. The wayward spouse must drop all of his walls and give up guilt, shame, and perhaps arrogance in order to really hear and understand the experience of the betrayed spouse.

First and foremost, the wayward spouse must give up the other person. This point is not up for negotiation if you want your relationship to heal. Your wayward spouse cannot help you heal from an affair and you cannot heal from an affair (or heal your marriage) if your wayward spouse still has contact with the other person.

True healing of marriage begins after the affair is over. If you believe that your spouse can stay in contact with the OP and that you can stay married and heal the marriage and yourself, you are only fooling yourself. In addition to that, believing you can heal your marriage while the wayward spouse continues contact the other person is a form of extreme codependent thinking; it is also profound denial. Therefore, if the other person is still in the picture, none of the things I recommend will work.

“If you haven’t ended the affair, now is the time to do so. There simply is no way that you can repair your relationship, your honesty, your integrity, and your life if you are still engaged in an affair.

There are four possible ways you can let your affair partner know that the affair is over:

  1. Simply do not contact her ever again
  2. Tell her over the phone
  3. Send her a letter
  4. Send her an e-mail

Do not meet with her in person to end the relationship. It probably won’t turn out very good. 

Regardless of the way you choose to contact your affair partner, you should make this final contact almost business-like and in the presence of your wife. By doing this, you are actually starting the trust building process.  If you are ending it by phone, let your wife listen in. If you choose to send an e-mail or write a letter, allow your wife to read it and offer suggestions prior to sending it.

Make it clear that this permanently and unconditionally marks the end of the relationship and that you will not be in contact with her anymore and that you will not respond to any of her attempts to communicate with you.  

Let her know that the affair was wrong and that you have chosen to work on your marriage.  You will not be friends with her or respond to her if you happen to run into her unexpectedly.

You don’t have to be an asshole about it if it’s not necessary, but be quite clear to her that the affair is over and that any remaining connections you have to one another must end as well.

After you’ve ended it, there may be times when your affair partner will try to contact you.  Again, do not respond. If this happens, tell your wife.  If the affair partner sends you emails or letters, do not respond and show them to your wife. 

None of this will be easy but you must suck it up and face the pain if you want to save your marriage.” (4)

 

More Ideas to Help the CS to Help You Heal

Having gotten that out of the way, here are some ideas to help your wayward spouse help you heal after the affair:

  • Listening unconditionally to the feelings of the betrayed spouse
  • Reinforcing to the betrayed spouse that the wayward spouse only wants to be with the betrayed
  • The wayward spouse must drop all justifications for his behavior
  • The wayward spouse must understand at the deepest level that he or she had a choice in the matter
  • The wayward spouse must not blame the betrayed spouse for being too fat/too thin, too funny/not funny enough, not pretty enough, too flat/too curvy, 15 pounds over/15 pounds under, too assertive/not assertive enough, not blond/not a brunette, being unavailable/being smothering, being to interested in his life/not being interested enough, giving him too much space/not giving him enough space, being too career-focused/being a ‘boring’ stay-at-home mom… this is only about 1% of the things that a wayward spouse can blame you for. Here is why: when a wayward spouse wants to have an affair, he or she will take all of your qualities, whether they are good or bad, and turn them into a negative. So, if you are a stay-at-home mom and he has an affair with a coworker, he might blame the fact that you are a stay-at-home mom. He could blame you for not being as excited or driven and the other woman because you focus “too much on family.” On the other hand, the roles could be switched. You could be the career executive and your husband could have an affair with the soccer mom who coaches a team with him. He would blame you for being too driven and too edgy, whereas the stay-at-home mom focuses on “family.” This could happen with the very same husband. My point is, even if you are flawless and there is no fault to be found in who you are, your spouse will make what is flawless into a big flaw. For example, woman who has her act together and holds a good job will be called a boring perfectionist. Alternatively, he will take the flaws of the other woman and turn them into assets. For example, the other woman could be tattooed from head to tow, never hold a job, and have a severe drinking problem. A husband would say of the other woman that she is spontaneous, trendy, and knows how to have fun. A wayward spouse must give up all justifications.
  • The wayward spouse needs to understand that the betrayed has a different healing timeline and the wayward spouse must respect this timeline
  • A wayward spouse must not lie to the betrayed spouse. The truth always, always, always finds a way out. If a wayward spouse attempts to conceal a major aspect of the affair, the truth will come out. When it does,
  • Do not act defensively
  • Do not stonewall
  • Keep the agreements and promises you make with the betrayed spouse
  • Put as much effort into the betrayed spouse as you did the other person
  • 100% commit to marital reconciliation
  • Do not demand forgiveness—you have no right to demand forgiveness from a betrayed spouse
  • In a similar vein, do not demand trust. TRUST IS EARNED and it will take you awhile to prove to both yourself and your spouse that you are trustworthy.
  • Treat the betrayed spouse as if she is the center of your universe
  • Do not blame the betrayed spouse. Here is the scoop. The betrayed spouse could be an alcoholic. It does NOT matter. The wayward spouse chose not to address the issues at home—or if these issues could not be addressed, the wayward spouse chose to stay. Everyone has choices in life and the wayward spouse chose to stay in the marriage while doing the ultimate harm to the marriage and the family. So, I do not care how allegedly ‘bad’ the betrayed spouse is—the wayward spouse made a terrible and life-altering choice. And hey, even if the betrayed spouse is a bad person, the betrayed spouse is going to be 1,000 times worse after they are devastated by an affair. Finally, if a betrayed spouse were so terrible in the first place, the wayward spouse is emotionally unhealthy since he or she chooses to stay in such a situation. Therefore, never blame the betrayed spouse for your choice. I don’t care what the extenuating circumstances are—there are 100 different ways to solve any given situation and none of them involve making a situation worse by having an affair.

Consider this advice from the Linda and Doug’s “Cheater’s Guide”:

Take responsibility for your actions – and/or inactions

“Oftentimes when you are a cheater you feel a tremendous amount of guilt, so you will justify your actions believing that that will make it better.  I think you can agree that is nothing but bull$#!+.

Whenever you use a justification to explain your actions – or lack of taking action – you are either telling the world that it was not your fault or you are telling your wife that it was all her fault.

For example, if you say, “You weren’t meeting my needs, but it’s not your fault,” those are two opposites. Whenever you use the word “you,” you are taking responsibility off of you and putting it on your spouse. You need to take full responsibility. “I did this. I did that. I felt this way.”

As they say… “Man up!”  Admit you were wrong.  Admit that you totally screwed up for no good reason.  Then get busy making up for your screw up!

Taking responsibility earns you respect. We can’t be perfect all the time, we all make mistakes. When we accept responsibility we are accepting the blame for our actions and also accepting the responsibility for making improvements in our lives.

Accepting responsibility is a measure of one’s self-worth, their level of security, and the true sign of strength and courage. Having this ability can empower you to grow in ways that would bring you great rewards and accomplishments in your life.” (4)

 

Unwilling Wayward Spouse

What if your wayward spouse doesn’t want to help?

Ann and Brian Bercht recommend this:

“You take control of the part you do have control over. You recognize with confidence that his expectation of you is unrealistic. You start deciding what is and isn’t okay with you as far as the standards of how you will be treated after an affair. I recommend writing in a private journal (one he will not read), a journal that is your place to find sanity in the midst of the chaos. In your journal make a list of qualities that are your minimal standards of how you will be treated by your spouse. Not a “pie in the sky” “prince charming” dream list, but a minimal standards list. If I’m to be married to anyone, this is how I will be treated.

If your spouse refuses to do what you think needs to be done in order to heal from the affair, go to counseling, attend our seminar, read books, or talk with you, fine. It’s not your role to tell them how to become the person he/she needs to be. If they want to stay with you, as long as they reach your standard, how they get there is not the issue. Set a reasonable time frame for them to achieve this.

This is one of the strategy’s I used to mentally survive this mess. One of the hardest places to be is exactly where you are, in the place of unknowing, not knowing what your future will be. These time lines gave me a sense of control over my future.

Initially my timeframe was three months, not expecting my husband to have achieved everything on my list in that time, but to at least have moved forward. After all, how long are you willing to wait, without any progress at all, while your spouse is making it all about you?

I promised myself if I didn’t feel any better about my husband’s efforts towards me and healing our relationship in three months, I was free to leave. If it seemed to be moving forward, and if I wanted to, I could reset a new time frame.

In the meantime, I focused on me, my healing, and becoming the woman I could be. I focused on reaching my full potential instead of worrying about what my husband was or wasn’t doing. This change actually scared my husband. He noticed I wasn’t acting so needy, and he told me later (after we healed), that although it was frightening for him at the time (because I was changing the “dance” in our relationship). He started to realize, I was growing as an individual and if he didn’t “man up,” and grow and change too, he was going to lose me.

I did not share my standards with my husband, nor did I tell him about my timelines, nor was I mean to him in anyway. I just changed because I was focusing on becoming a better person, and I had taken back control of my life.

I promised myself that if he didn’t reach my standards within a given time frame, I would leave. You don’t have to make that promise to yourself. Remember what you do is up to you. But it is a great idea to focus on what you can change instead of what you can’t change, and to realize you do have a CHOICE.” (5)

 

Summary

It is hard work to heal from the trauma of the affair, but it can be done. In my next post, I will provide a summary of Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s findings on PTSD caused by affairs and how to heal from affair related trauma. This information from the Gottman’s is brand new and hot off the press—so please stay tuned!

 

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The Cheater Must Become the Healer
“The Unfaithful Person's Guide to Helping Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair”

If you want to discover the 24 healing ‘tasks’ that the unfaithful spouse needs to carry out, then you should check this program out now.

 

Sources:

Bergland, Christopher. The Neuroscience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. From https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201311/the-neuroscience-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

AffairCare. Infidelity and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. From http://affaircare.com/articles/infidelity-and-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

Bergland, Christopher. A Vagus Nerve Survival Guide to Combat Fight-Or-Flight Urges. From https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201705/vagus-nerve-survival-guide-combat-fight-or-flight-urges

Healing from an Affair:  A cheater’s guide for helping your spouse heal from your affair – By: Linda & Doug. 

Brian and Anne Bercht. What if My Unfaithful Spouse Refuses to do their Part in Healing? From http://beyondaffairs.com/how-to-rebuild-your-marriage/unfaithful-spouse-refuses/

    29 replies to "Affair Trauma Part 2: Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore"

    • Hopeful

      Great post. It was really an important stage when I realized it was all him and no matter who or what I was he would turn it into a negative. Exactly as you said. I was too into exercise but if not then I would have not been in good enough shape, I focused too much on the kids but then if not I would have not been a good mom, I could go on and on. It was all in his head so he could justify his horrible decisions and make himself feel a tiny bit better.

      I cannot wait to read the next post!

    • Sarah P.

      Exactly– it was all in his head. I have first-hand observed men trample all over amazing women because of their affair. I am talking about things I have seen in my day to day life in my town. These are women who would be valued as ‘real catches’ if they were single. And yet, they were not good enough for their husbands. And always the affair partner has been ‘less than’ the wife in terms of the people I have observed personally. Occasionally I look up my ex and the other woman. They are married now. I look them out because I am still trying to get my head around why I was thrown under the bus for her. Yes, I logically know that this was all about him, but I still wonder if she knows something about feminine allure thatI do not. And that is the only human part of me that thinks these things. What I have learned is that she is 10 years older than me and my ex. (My ex and I were born 20 days apart in the same month in the same year.) She is the daughter of immigrant parents from SE Asia and I heard through the grapevine that my ex spends about 3/4 of his income on relatives in SE Asia whom he has never met. So, what I figure is that the stakes were higher for her– she was 39 at the time– we were 29 at the time and both high earners– she had relatives who needed to be supported. So she was willing to take out tooth and claw to fight for him. I was not. I gave up and bowed out. So, I have come to the conclusion that she was acting out of desperation to a great extent. And she was willing to do anything to win him. I was not. This doesn’t make it right. It makes it 100% wrong. But it allows me to understand why I was blind-sided. I was playing fair and she was out for blood if she needed to be. Now, she was a US citizen and also had a high-paying job. But I guess that was not enough for her.

      The thing that will always bother me is that some people simply do not care how many lives they destroy in order to get their own needs met. I have always played fair and will not resort to such tactics. In a way, that leaves me at a disadvantage. But, I also trust karma runs its course in time.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Sarah….the thing about playing fair is this….you can look at yourself in the mirror. And you can sleep at night, knowing that to the best of your ability you “take the high road”. This is what your children see and what better legacy is there.

        • Hopeful

          I agree it is what I can live with and I can fall asleep every night knowing I was true to myself. I used to believe in karma but not really anymore. It is hard to know but I honestly feel like more and more in society the low level selfish people claw their way to what they want and others give in. I see it with my kids. I feel like they end up on the raw end of the deal often. Teachers give into those kids and parents all the time. I still will not give in or fall into line with that way of thinking or behavior. It will not be tolerated at my house.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Hopeful,
            Those parents and kids you speak of who claw their way to whatever they want can be quite formidable. I am glad that you stand up for your kids.

            I do not have daughters and in a way I am glad I do not. Female high school culture was vicious when I went to school and I believe it has gotten worse. If I had daughters and if they were bullied, I am pretty sure I would lose it. I was the new kid in a public high school in the Midwest because my parents had to make a cross-country move. We came from the Southwest. I was terribly bullied simply because I was new. Everyone else had grown up together since kindergarten and they were not used to new kids.

            As an adult, bullies are one of my triggers. And there are a lot of adult bullies. Most recently, I have found myself standing up to them in ways that surprise me (and surprise them too). In the past, I never did that. I was always the quiet one who wanted to make peace. It must be periomenopause!

            Has anyone else gone from a quiet peacemaker to standing up for one’s right’s when aggressed by bullies?

        • Sarah P.

          Very good point, Shifting. Plus, I have never wanted anything unless it was fairly earned. I am not interested in getting something if it means I must compromise integrity. Yes, my kids see that I always take the high road, no matter how hard it is. My husband still does not understand why I did not get revenge on my ex and his wife. I don’t believe in revenge because revenge harms me. It causes me to act against who I am at my core and I will not stand for that. What I have learned is that if one of these women who wants to fight tooth and claw enters my life again, I will NOT give up. I have children now and I refuse to go through being thrown under the bus again.

    • Sarah P.

      PS- Sorry for the typos. My brain runs faster than my typing.

    • Rachel

      Great post.

    • Jeanette

      Had a horrible day yesterday. I went to the Dr for some problems I’ve been having and found out that my bladder dropped and will most likely have to have reconstructive surgery. I’m all honesty that news was not a big deal just the straw that broke the camel’s back as they say.

      It led me into a real deep sobbing spell. My h planned a night of a fire in the fire pit with me and the kids and we sat there and talked about the last day of school and played games. I held it together until after the kids were in bed and i helped him shower (he is recovering from surgery) And get dressed.

      We were sitting on the couch and he was playing some game on his phone. Then I noticed he was texting and the radar went off. No idea if it was the ow but i can’t help the paranoia which is not my self. I’ve never been this way.

      I got up and started cleaning the bathroom. For some reason scrubbing things has always been therapy for me. So I’m sitting in the bathroom floor scrubbing the tiles and sobbing. I’m walks my husband. And he asks me what’s wrong….very irritated with me. I sob….at some point in time I really need some answers. I have no idea what is going on with my life and I need some clarity.

      He left and came back later with I don’t understand why you can’t just,accept the changes I am making and take things one day at a time. I’ve been trying really hard to make changes.

      I tell him I know he has and I’ve noticed. But I still don’t know what else he is doing. Ie is he still with her. I get no answer one way or the other. I tell him I don’t know how he expects me to hold it together all the time. My world is shattered and i feel ugly and unlovable etc. I was not enough for him. Again no validation just rolling of the eyes. And i wouldn’t be with you if I didn’t want to…blah blah

      I tried to kiss him he withdrew. I cringed he tells me please don’t take it the wrong way. Wtf is the right way to take that? I just needed to vent

      • Hopefull

        I have been there and it is really hard. The littlest thing will and has set me off. For a long time my husband would get upset or defensive. These were ways he was coping with his guilt since he knew I was going through this and feeling this way 100% due to him. My upset and pain made it come to life for him. He would shut down and close up and make me feel bad for my reaction. I think at this point it sounds like for you that you need to know if there he has established no contact. Without knowing this no one can maintain any stability. Even knowing there is no contact it is still hard but this is a huge road block. And my husband has had to learn I will be triggered even if he is doing something innocent. His years of taking advantage of my trust have created this. My therapist says these are the consequences of his actions and decisions.

        Are you seeing a therapist even for you. It helped me a lot. Shirley glass’ book not just friends and all the gottman books were great. But I think from what I am hearing from you that you need clarity regarding no contact.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Jeanette
        I’m sorry, that’s just so miserable. It’s good to vent….we have all been there. After d-day….my adult son told me “Dad will probably have his head up his Ass for quite some time!!” And that is exactly what happened. They have a way of making everything about them. Slowly slowly….and I mean very slowly my husband started to understand what he did to me and I started to see genuine remorse.

        Initially they just aren’t in the right state of mind to give the BS the validation they need. You have every right to know if the affair is still going on. Calm assertive will get you more than tears…..but I know, that is almost impossible to pull off when you are so shattered.

        So what are these changes he is making….if you don’t mind me asking?

    • Jeanette

      Shifting impressions and hopeful

      Thanks for your help. I do know that his behavior is typical and normal and only time will change it. I hope one day he can truly treat me with the respect I deserve. I did nothing wrong. He did a lot wrong and i have every right to be shattered and sorry if it makes him feel guilty but he chose to have an affair not me.

      The changes he’s been making is spending more time as a family. Talking with me more….of course about non taboo subjects. He had just been more considerate and less like the alien he has become.

      He’s been buying me little thank you gifts he says they are to thank me for helping him after the surgery and for not smothering him in his sleep. On point 2 pretty valid…lol. On point 1 the thank you gifts are actually insulting. I am taking care of him because I love him. Getting me a gift is like thanking a neighbor for mowing the lawn. Does that make sense?

      The absolute most difficult thing for me is the lack of him showing me any physical affection. I need that so badly I feel like I’m wilting. How did anyone else deal with that part? I don’t even mean sex. I mean just touching my arm or leg or kissing me ….anything

      • Shifting Impressions

        The part about him withholding affection might be a great topic to talk about with the therapist. If I remember correctly you just started seeing one. Are you going on your own or with your husband?

        Or you could just address it with him. Saying something like…when you withhold affection it makes me feel……etc. But be prepare for denial, defensiveness or disdain etc. And of course he might absolutely refuse to even discuss it. So the absolute worst thing you could do is break down and beg. Do the opposite …..start taking care of you and take your focus off of his needs.

        Perhaps start journaling…..pour your heart out….but for your eyes only. Start looking for things that make YOU happy. In other words pull back somewhat. You don’t have to prove to him that you are enough. Know this, Jeanette, YOU ARE ENOUGH. He is the one that is behaving in a LESS THAN manner.

        Spend time with some close friends, get counseling and educate yourself regarding affairs. Hold your head up high……you do not deserve to be treated this way.

        And vent to us anytime you want……we are here for you!! We understand.

        • Hopefull

          Also have you read or even taken the online quiz for the 5 languages of love. I think this has a lot of useful information and can be a talking point. It is hard to recover and align expectations when each of you wants and gives love in different ways. At over a year past dday things had gotten a lot better but it was feeling just flat. I told my husband he was doing a good job checking off the boxes I guess you could say but I said my expectations are elevated now and I need more. Recently I told him if he wants to go out with his friends he can find somewhere else to sleep and it does not fit the kind of life and marriage I want. Granted these statements took time for me to develop and feel it was what I needed to say. But things do change and evolve.

          Also I love the journal idea. Early on we decided to talk once a week about the affairs and/or us or really whatever. But something more than what tv show to watch or what to eat for dinner. I wrote daily in a journal. Some days it would be a quote, other days a list of questions, some days happy or sad thoughts. What was good about this was looking back I was able to see how far I had come. It is hard to measure from your current point and really see how bad it was or at least it was for me. Also it allowed me before our weekly meeting to see the hot button issues that were bothering me. I could see patterns develop. And I was able to really think through what I wanted to talk about. Otherwise I tended to rant or talk about too many random things. Then at the end I would feel unsatisfied and unresolved and my husband would feel confused and attacked.

          But each person and couple is different. I think the key is finding what works for you and then both of you.

        • TryingHard

          Jeanette–please listen to SI and Hopeful. This is the only advice you need.

          Other than mine which is to go ahead and smother him with that damn pillow!!!!

    • Patti

      I believe my husband is truly remorseful, he is trying his hardest to be attentive and to understand the emotional difficulties I am having. He listens to my heartache and answers questions that I know are uncomfortable for him. He has read articles on how to help me, and what he needs to do to help me get over his affair. He texts me during the day to tell me that he loves me and sticks to the time he says that he is going to come home. He allows me to look at his cell phone, he has given me passwords, and permission to do what I need to do to feel safe.

      But it’s not enough.

      We have six children and five grandchildren. I am a teacher. What I am trying to say is that I am used to being SO busy that I can put negative thoughts aside and focus on what is happening at the moment. Now I find myself alone in the house while he is at work. Don’t get me wrong, I have a 1000 things that NEED to get done, and 1000 things I WANT to do, but I have ZERO motivation to start anything. All I want to do is sleep, or stalk the OW on Facebook, look at her pictures, and think about ways to make her life as miserable as mine. Although my husband let her go from the office, she is now working for another attorney that my husband knows. There will be times he will have to speak with her in the future, and I know that to be true. What bothers me most is that her husband, (also an attorney, retired) has no clue what his wife has done with my husband, and she is merrily going on with her life as if nothing happened. Her plan was to put her husband into an assisted living facility so that my husband could move in with her. Her husband has the beginnings of Alzheimer Disease, but it is not far enough along for him to need such care. He has been accepted and then denied at two facilities after he was admitted. She sold her house and bought a condo for herself and my husband to live in. Luckily, I guess, I caught them before this could happen. I believe him when he tells me that he found himself in a place with her that he didn’t know how to get out of. That she was aggressively demanding that he spend more time with her, and that she was the one making plans for the future of them, not him.

      In the meantime, I am miserable within myself. She is 7 years older than me… 60 years old. My husband says that he was attracted by all of the attention she was paying to him. As I stated earlier, I am a mother of 6, grandmother of 5, and an elementary teacher. Not a whole bunch of time to swoon over my husband of 24 years. Especially when he was “working” until 9:00 pm with his “secretary.” The affair began shortly after she came to work for him in 2016. In fact, according to emails that I recovered, their first “sexual encounter” was on the same date that my daughter gave birth to my grandson, I was away from home attending to her needs. I remember him telling me early on, that she was “his savior” and I was actually thankful to God that he finally had an assistant that was so experienced, effective and helpful. I feel like a fool. I suggested to him to give her a generous bonus for Christmas last year because she was doing such a good job. I was actually feeling that he was working too hard for us, working late… The night that I caught them, my heart was pounding because I was fearful that he had been in an accident or had a health emergency because he wasn’t answering my calls or texts, so I went to the office to check on him. I had no idea… then he told me how she was such a good person, that he loved her, and that his relationship with her was not about the sex but about the “Connection.” What about our “connection?” We had 24 years together!

      I feel unsafe, that at any moment I could be left alone. I was a confident, strong woman, who was able to be a leader among her peers and I is now a depressed, sad lump of emotions.

      The other factor that I need to share is that this is his second affair. The first one was with my son’s Godmother. It went on for about a year, and he finally confessed to it nearly ten years after it was over (2011). But he promised her that they would be together when our kids were grown and out of the house. When he called her in 2011 to tell her that they had no future, she cried. What does that say?? Our youngest just graduated college in May. I had finally reached a point with dealing with affair #1 that I was not constantly thinking that our entire marriage was a farce, because I knew he had feelings for her before we started dating, but she was married at the time. I was finally believing that he wasn’t going to leave me and run off with her. I was finally getting my self esteem back together and was actually stronger mentally and emotionally than ever before. I actually told him in February, 2016 that I was over it. I was a different person because of it, and that a piece of my heart was no longer available for him, because it didn’t exist anymore. He took that as his “golden ticket” to pursue this #2 affair.

      Why am I sharing all of this information? Maybe I am hoping that someone will tell me that the best thing for me to do is to leave this marriage and chalk it up as a life-lesson. That I should have known/should know never to trust an attorney… LOL… Maybe I am hoping that by shouting this information out to the world, that my need for revenge on the OW will subside. Maybe my pain will help another women to not feel as alone as I am feeling. Maybe I am hoping that I will gain some form of power back over my life.

      I don’t want to end my marriage. I don’t want to start over. I don’t want to hurt this way anymore. I don’t want to live in fear of someone swooping in on my family and reaping the benefits of years of hard work and dedication that we have sacrificed to raise such beautiful children. Now that we are finally to a place where we can actually begin to feel the freedom that comes with successfully raising a large family and getting them all through college and to a place of independence.

      I want to live. I want to enjoy living. I want to take off on the weekends to the beach. I want to visit, play with, and spoil my grandchildren. I want to feel secure that my golden years will be spent looking over my life with a “you did a good job” not “you were so foolish”. I want to be appreciated for all that I have done and continue to do for my family. I want to love my husband and know that he loves me with as much dedication and intensity. Every choice I have made in my life, including my career, was for and because of my family.

      Is that too much to ask?

      • Shifting Impressions

        Patti
        I am so sorry….your story, breaks my heart. I can so relate. Thanks for sharing…I believe the more we can tell our story the more it helps us.

        Do you have someone you can talk to? A counselor or a close friend….or maybe both. I think it might be impossible to go through the trauma of infidelity on your own.

        I think sometimes it’s easier to project our anger and blame on the ow rather than on our spouse…where it belongs. Your husband had a choice in the affairs regardless of how many “plans” the OW was making. He is no victim here. He is the one that promised to be faithful to you. He is the one that betrayed you.

        Revenge on the other woman, as tempting as it may be will only harm you in the end.

        I know where you are coming from. The month our youngest little granddaughter was born is the same month my husband had “coffee” with the other woman to talk about their mutual attraction. And rather than realizing he was putting our almost forty year marriage at risk he started his Emotional Affair….it lasted 18 months…until I stumbled upon the emails purely by chance. A year after d-day, again, purely by chance I stumbled on the fact that he had an EA that lasted about 8 months about 15 years earlier. My heart was completely broken and my world felt shattered.

        I too found it hard to be alone in an empty house….we raised four amazing kids and have four of the loveliest little grandchildren. I believe I cried every day for almost three years. When I am alone…..I play music, whereas before, I loved the quiet.

        Only you can decide if your marriage is worth saving…..but maybe you don’t need the answer to that today. I told myself I didn’t have to know the answer….but I did feel my marriage was worth fighting for.

        You have spent years caring for your family……..take some time to take care of you. We are here for you.

    • TheFirstWife

      Patti. I am so sorry. I can tell you are confused by all this. Leave. Stay. No leave. No maybe stay.

      I don’t think you should make a decision about your marriage.

      At least not right now.

      You need to see a professional counselor to sort thru all the emotions.

      Once you have spent time talking to someone else you may then feeine you are in a position to make a decision.

      I wish you all the best and will post more later.

    • Jeanette

      Feel like a sponge because I have no help to offer anyone else yet since I am still learning and navigating this situation. Went to my therapist today. First off decided to fire her. She doesn’t clearly get it and we just don’t mesh. I am certainly at the point with all the nonsense in my life that I’m not staying with a therapist who isn’t right for me. I made an appointment with another who I have seen many times over my life who is out of network. The hell with the money I need help that helps.

      The good thing is my husband asked me how therapy was and it led into a fabulous conversation where neither of us lost our hair so to speak. We agreed to set aside 15 minutes a day that we would talk about us. He agreed to go to therapy alone and with me. And he agreed to breaking it off with the ow.

      Wow

      A major break through. He agreed that my read of his reaction to my sobing melt down the other day was because he felt guilty when he saw me cry and that when he doesnt know how to handle the situation his defense is to get mad.

      He took the language of love quiz when I asked him to. I feel so cautiously optimistic. Thinking of asking him on a date this weekend. Hey who knows? Maybe I’ll get a kiss?

      • Patti

        Jeanette, So, is his language of love gifts? And your’s is probably touch. We took that test, it is helpful if the other partner uses the information to understand how to love you. Mine is gifts. I naturally buy things that I think my husband would like/need. His is not gifts, so he doesn’t think to make those little purchases. But now he does… he doesn’t go into Walgreens without picking up my favorite candy bar. LOL. His is touch. My LAST one is touch, so I have to remember that the way he feels love is to be touched. He has always told me that… not in so many words, but when I touched him in the past, he said things like “I love the way your touch feels.” Now, I am aware and make sure that I do things to touch him everyday. It’s not that I hate touching, it is just not the way to my heart. But I will touch him, because it is the way to his heart.

        We also go to counseling. I love mine. She is roughly our age, and that is an important consideration. A 25 year old would not understand our place in life no matter how well they scored on the licensing test.

        My D-day occurred on January 6 of this year, so we are coming up on 6 months. You sound newer along this process. It is a rough road, every day brings new emotions. As I reflect back on the past 6 months, I know I have made tremendous progress, but I also know that I have a long way to go to get myself back.

        I tell my husband that it is no longer about what he did, it is now about how I am responding to his affair. I refuse to be a victim. Will our marriage survive? The jury is still out on that one, but I am not ready to give up yet.

        • Hopefull

          Patti,

          So sorry you are here. I think it is great that you can look back over the last six months and realize how far you have come. It is easy to not feel or notice the progress. I felt and still do at times like it is a horrible roller coaster ride. There are major highs and the deepest lows.

          I also think it is great you have a therapist that you like so much. For me that was crucial and also your desire to put in your full effort for you marriage.

          I am over two years out and I feel and have felt similar ways you do. We are at a different stage but my self esteem was shattered, I gave up a lot/made choices that were best for our family, question who my husband really is. Mine had two overlapping 10 year affairs. Some days I think how can I still be living with him. How is he the same person who did this. And I sort of think he is almost a different person. It is crazy how much he has changed. Keep working and give it time.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Jeanette…….so encouraging!!!

      • Hopefull

        Jeanette,

        Yeah! So happy for you. We all need a few victories. And good for you for firing your therapist. Just like any profession there are some that mesh with each patient better than another and some have better expertise.

        So glad you decided to set aside time to talk and took the quiz. My husband is in the mental health field and helps people daily with this but it is another thing when dealing with it at home. He had told me overa and over he was screaming no in his head as it was happening and he still did it so he knew it would be devastating when he told me, did not tell me everything, hurt me more and struggled with all of that.

        All I can say is giving it time, listening more, trying to stay calm, focusing on today is what helped/helps me the most. There are still hard moments and lots of work but that helped both of us push past the worse spots. For us there are aspects of my husband’s career that make it easier and he knows what needs to be done and said in general and that helps a lot. But he tells me that most of the time husbands just struggle with emotions, facing when they have let someone down. He says many never tell their spouse and just wait till kids are gone and leave/divorce. I try to look at this as a chance to know the truth no matter how painful and to give it my all. At least then I know I did my best and I can only control myself. Keep us updated!

      • TryingHard

        Jeanette–I can tell you indeed no the crying jags don’t help. It makes them want to run even faster.

        What does work is standing your ground, establishing firm boundaries, and being assertive about YOUR needs.

        Be very careful what he says. He may say it’s over. Keep your eyes wide open and do not trust him. At all. We’ve all heard the same words many many times.

        This was the best advice my therapist gave me once he fessed up to me and her he was lying his ass off in the beginning of our therapy. Yes he thought and believed he was smarter than both of us.

        It sounds like you are making progress though. Get smart and try to stop crying in front of him. Fake it till you make it. Show him your anger but never your tears!!! That shit scares them crazy.

    • Jeanette

      Patti

      Strangely enough ours is both touch. This makes his lack of touching me even more hurtful.

    • TryingHard

      Patti— I went to therapy for almost 2 years for my obsessive thoughts about revenge on the OW. They were driving me crazy. And even tho I knew intellectually revenge was not the answer I couldn’t stop!!!

      Besides I had enacted a lot of great revenge on her. One I turned her in to the state for claiming unemployment and faking looking for a job when she was already working and getting paid in cash. She had to pay back over $10k on a salary of $12/hour. Lol had to take on a 2nd job retail to pay it back or face prosecution !!! That’s just one example. I had others too.

      Now I have to say it did feel good. But that good feeling only lasts a while. It’s like a drug. You always want more. What I did was quite literally say “STOP you aren’t going to do that. It’s stupid. You aren’t stupid”. You aren’t stupid either. These thoughts are like biting your nose to spite your face.

      Seriously find something to do that is really great. Something you love that makes you a better version of you. And not just taking care of others. For you. I want to take art lessons and volunteer at the childrens hospital. My friend shoots her guns. Get involved and out of your own head. I know it sounds easy it isn’t. But you have got to start somewhere. If I can do it. You can too.

      Revenge doesn’t do that. It’s soul sucking and there is nothing as awful enough to do to them as what they have done to you that’s legal!!!

    • TheFirstWife

      I was forced to avoid any revenge as the OW was hired by my H to work for his company.

      I always too the high road. She however woukd post insults on social media. I just ignored her.

      I can at least look at myself in the mirror and know I have more class and grace than her.

      but I have to say I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading about revenge people get on spouses and ex-lovers. It cracks me up – but I know I would/could never do it. Just not me.

    • Jeanette

      Update…. My optimism of my last comment was misguided. Had a long long talk the other night. Basically he is still talking with the ow. He said he is not being intimate with anyone now and he is just letting things play out and see where they land. He has still not made any decision on which direction he wants to go.

      He said he feels that I abandoned the marriage many years ago. I lost all desire to take care of myself and he tried many times to get me out of it. He asked me to go to therapy and to take care of me and find what made me happy.

      This is all true but i never really got it and i think I was in a depression for years. He said after trying and trying he just have up since he felt I have up. He said he loves me and I need to work on me now. Put my oxygen mask on first to use the emergency plane analogy. He said I need to find happiness whichever way things go with us and do these things for me not for the sake of us.

      I get all this but so hard to separate the 2 and not focus on us when I am so fearful of losing him and shattering our family life. He said that I am expecting everything to just be back to normal so fast and it’s not going to be like that. We cant undo years of issues just like that

      I just don’t know how we can ever fix things without him stopping the conversations with the ow and without started some intimacy. He just isn’t interested in fixing us yet. So I guess I just have to try to live without thinking about that and just work on me. Just seems impossible to not worry about my marriage.

      So lost….

      Oh and it’s my birthday today. The only present I want is my husband back.

      • TheFirstWife

        I am so sorry for you. Your birthday was probably not the most memorable one.

        Your H had chosen to cheat AND blame you.

        I think you need to google 180 and cheating. Some of those ideas may help you in dealing with his cheating and justifications and rewriting your M.

        I think therapy could help you. I know it saved my sanity during my H’s A.

        Work on you for you. Not him.

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