Backsliding during reconciliation can be a big deal and you each have to be on alert for it.

Backsliding During ReconciliationBy Linda

After a couple has determined that reconciliation is their goal, they typically work their tails off for months, maybe years, to mend and strengthen their marriage.  They manage to rediscover lost elements of their relationship and they may eventually even get to a point where they feel their marriage is going great – perhaps even better than before.

Then it starts to happen.  It might only be an isolated time or two, then it becomes more frequent until one day they find that they are back to many of the same patterns and behaviors that existed prior to the affair.

They started to backslide.

As we were brainstorming for a topic for this week’s post, we took a look at the reader’s fears that were mentioned in our last survey. Though not the number one fear by any stretch, backsliding or reverting to old patterns and behaviors was mentioned quite frequently.

Here are some reader quotes:

“I am afraid that we will fall back into old bad habits of relating to each other.”

“That we get into the rut that caused it to happen again.” 

“That things will revert back to how they were before the affair, meaning not being connected enough and not dealing well with issues ( such as needs of children and parents) that have always been stressors.” 

“That our relationship will go back to one of being taken for granted. Not being connected and allowing everyday struggles interfere with our emotional and physical connection.” 

“He stopped going to counseling in Jan after going 21/2 years. I can see him returning to his old ways already.”

Backsliding during reconciliation can be a big deal and you each have to be on alert for it

There can be many reasons and/or excuses that can cause you to backslide.  As in any marriage, there are cycles that you go through.  Sometimes you are having crazy fun. Other times you may feel bored or indifferent.   Or perhaps there are times when outside influences try to steal your time away, like work or kids activities, and you feel your relationship takes a backseat.  Whatever the cycle is, it’s obvious that stuff happens and you have to navigate through it or around it.

See also  Improving Your Sex Life After the Affair

We go through these cycles all the time but we are quick to notice the cycle, press pause, and then refocus our energies on one another and our relationship. We’re certainly not anything special like some of these hokie, beyond believable, over-the-top marriage gurus that you see around the internet.  We just notice when we’re disconnecting for whatever reason and we do something to fix it.  Simple.

And our way of fixing it might be something totally different than your way. 

A big change for me…

As you may have heard, I’m no longer a third-grade teacher.  I made a decision to step away for various professional reasons and go back to teaching first grade, which I did about 25 years ago.

First graders are easy, right?  They’re cute, shy, reasonably well-behaved and I don’t have to deal with those idiotic state tests like I did when I taught third grade.  I can actually be creative and really teach!

Well, I was right to a point, but I quickly found out it was like I was a first-year teacher all over again.  I’m working longer and harder now than I ever have.  I’m at school by 7AM.  I get home around 5:30.  I work on school stuff until about 9:00.  And I crash on the couch until we go to bed at 10. 

But wedged in all of that work and stress, Doug and I take time to go for a hike each night.  We eat dinner together and we talk about stuff.  That is our weekday fix.  We are still connected even though we don’t spend a lot of time together.  Then we really make up for lost time on the weekends!

See also  Why Affair Sex Matters: An Unflinching Look at Sex and Its Harmful Affects

Another example…

A few years ago Doug was going through some radical changes in his business.  As a result, business was always on his mind.  When something is that front and center for him, he tends to be much more quiet and contemplative. He also tends to awake in the middle of the night, goes downstairs and does some work on the computer because he can’t sleep.

At that time, giant red flags started to wave in front of me and I became concerned (more like panicked) that something more sinister was going on.  It reminded me of when he was in his EA. 

I had to say something.  It turned out of course that nothing was going on, but I had felt that he had taken a step back by not communicating with me fully about the stress and hardship that he was under at the time.  

It happens.  

Old habits are hard to break

When we backslide, we find ourselves allowing old behaviors, habits, mannerisms and old ways of engaging our spouse and our life to resurface.  Backsliding can be an easy thing to do and in many respects it boils down to not doing what both of you did early on in your recovery or reconciliation.  And this doesn’t only occur with the CS, as the BS can backslide as well.

As I alluded to earlier, in many ways our marriage has returned to its normal, stable, secure and uneventful relationship that it was prior to the affair.  Perhaps the same has happened for you in many ways.  But don’t confuse this normalcy with complacency.  This is a very important situation where you can’t settle in.  You can’t backslide into complacency and into the relationship that you once had prior to the affair.  That relationship is gone.

See also  Only You Can Make You Happy

Strengthen the Foundation

You have to continue to solidify that new marital foundation that you’ve worked so hard to rebuild and make it as strong as you possibly can. 

This may not be the best advice for all of you, but if you are further along into your reconciliation, I would suggest you take a good look at your situation right now. Perhaps one spouse has indeed taken a step or two backwards – or maybe both of you are going backwards rather than forwards – and it’s time to admit that you both are exhibiting old behaviors.

But remember, it’s not about who started the backsliding behavior, rather it’s about deciding neither of you want to go back to that life ever again.

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    16 replies to "Be On the Alert for Backsliding During Reconciliation"

    • Falling Ash

      This is one of my biggest fears. We are only 18 months out from DDay so are still in the working hard to repair our relationship phase. But I do have concerns that, once the dust settles, my OH will revert to his “norm”, which is to keep everything locked up inside and hidden from view. It was this behaviour which allowed for him to create a distance between us that led to his 8 year EA with a work colleague. It took me quite a while to see that this distance was different to his usual “need for privacy” that he had always insisted was important to him. I will try very hard to not allow him to revert to that behaviour, but why does it have to be such HARD work???

      We were also going for walks in the evening for a long time, but stopped for a while due to extra busyness. Definitely need to get that going again.

      • Patsy50

        Falling Ash — Sounds a little like my husband. He became very quiet, always was “thinking about work” and going into work some Saturday’s to finish up some work.
        We stopped communicating. Until one day, four years ago, he told me he was sexually attracted to a young coworker half his age and was in an EA for about a year. I never would have suspected it. His contact with her was through work, using work computer, IM’s, lunches, and talks in each other’s office. We now have better communication. We know how each other feels and will always talk about anything that bothers us. We do different things together then we did before.
        I don’t want the same marriage I had before. I told him, if he wants to rebuild the relationship, things have to change. Since the EA, we have renewed our Wedding vows. This EA came out around the time of our anniversary and was always a trigger for me. I don’t acknowledge my official wedding date as those vows were broken. We have to start anew.
        It gets easier as time goes by but only if the two of you are willing to do the work to get there together.
        I wish you well in your journey.

        • Falling Ash

          Thank you, Patsy 50. We too have started our relationship from scratch and things are going much better these days. Doesn’t make me miss the relationship I thought we DID have any less though.

      • Shifting Impressions

        It is also my husband’s pattern to withdraw or mull things over so to speak. During the EA of over a year I just couldn’t reach him. There were other things that he was dealing with in his business that were a huge part of the problem.

        I was at a loss at how to reach him…..and this, after almost 40 years of marriage. I discovered the EA purely by accident but it sure explained a lot about his behavior during that time.

        Maybe it’s not our job to “let them revert to that behavior”. I asked him outright what he would like me to do if he went down the “rabbit hole” again. He said to hit him upside the back of the head…..I just laughed and said is that really going to work?

        I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s not all up to us….the betrayed spouse….to manage their behavior.

        My son gave me some really terrific advice. I was telling him that I don’t want to become bitter and that I want to be my “best self”. He said “But Mom, you need to do this for you. You need to find your happiness and take care of yourself, regardless of Dad’s behaviour.”

        I guess I just pick up in the comments and in myself how we somehow we feel have to “handle it all”. And there is that underlying fear if we don’t, they will betray us again, and it will somehow be our fault. Faulty thinking to be sure but it’s there.

        • Falling Ash

          Totally agree, SI. I wish I could stop trying to control the situation and allow him to do all the hard work from now on, but I doubt I will.

    • Angel

      Falling Ash I so get your issue. My H had a 2 1/2 year EA and then a second EA out of guilt about the first one. I had always in our marriage been the one to notice when the distance would start. For instance, we used to go on weekend trips and when they stopped I realized we were not talking as much. It just frustrates me because why is it on me to determine when he is being distant. I remind him that he has to speak up it is a 2-way street. Plus I struggle with how I did not notice it while he was in the EA. What I do now is if I notice something and it triggers a flashback, I let him know that his behavior is reminding me of before. Most of the time he was thinking about something. I also remind him he has to include me in his life. Things are much better. We are almost 1 year from D-Day. My H has been great but I still see struggle with things. My husband no longer has his “need for privacy”. Because he realized I needed him. (that was his excuse for the EA that he felt I no longer needed him) I still worry about contact. He was only talking to her at work so he could still be calling her from his desk phone for all I know. I also understand the HARD work. I always felt like while our marriage had its ups and downs we got along well. Now I still feel like there is so much to struggle over and communication is harder because what comes to my mind involved the EA and I don’t want to bring that up all the time. I don’t want to remind him of her. If you don’t have time for the walks, then do something else. We were trying to do a date night Thursday and then stuff just kept happening so we had to change. Everything is just so much more thought now.

    • Shifting Impressions

      As much as I agree with the idea of “taking care” to not slip back into old patterns……I don’t think we should have that “fear” hanging over our heads.

      I can just hear myself saying “If I don’t do it right he’ll have another excuse to betray me again”, inside my head.

      We both lived in this marriage…HE CHOSE TO BETRAY…END OF STORY!!!!!

      I would hate to thing that if we fall back into old patterns, to some degree, that I would be to blame if he were to CHOOSE TO BETRAY ME AGAIN.

      I WILL NOT TAKE THE BLAME FOR MY PARTNER’S BETRAYAL…..and either should any of you.

      I don’t want to live under the fear of what if he does it again, because somehow we have let some things slide.

      Everything is harder as we work through reconciliation………but a large part of that is because of the betrayal. I better stop here before I go on a rant!!!

    • antiskank

      SI, You are sooo right!! We have already lost so much due to someone else’s selfish, cruel behaviour. It is NOT our responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. WE did not choose to betray the one person in the world that loved us most!

      I do get a little frustrated by the idea that we must always be on the alert, never relaxing for fear that we are not being the perfect partner. Once more, we would be to blame for the marriage not being all that they want and give them the excuse to betray us yet again!! I think NOT. Seriously, come on!! When does the cheating spouse take some responsibility?

      No marriage is perfect. We are all doing the best we can to save whatever we can from the remains of a once good marriage. As always, I will and am doing everything I can to make us both happy. For me, it is not so much worrying about falling back into the old ways as making it clear that I will not tolerate the old ways again. The onus is on him to keep up his end of the deal and ensure that I am happy so I let him stay!!!

    • exercisegrace

      FLAG on the play! Unsportsmanlike conduct, unnecessary roughness!

      “That we get into the rut that caused it to happen again.”

      Nope. This couple may have been in a rut, but that didn’t cause the affair. EVERY marriage has difficult seasons. EVERY marriage has times it gets in a rut. And guess what? To say that rut contributes or (hold me Jesus) even CAUSES an affair? Is to pander to the crappy excuses that cheaters everywhere trot out.

      Indulge me friends, while I preach. What causes the affair is ONE individual’s PERCEPTION. ONE person’s CHOICE. It’s the marital version of political spin.

      Prior to my husband’s affair, we were NOT fighting. We WERE having sex. We DID consider each other best friends. So what WAS going on you ask? Many things. Two parents died, twins were born, we moved, our business was flailing in the economy, and many other things.

      I, too had the chance to cheat during this time. But I RAN from this friendship. Ended it cold. But let’s pretend for a minute that I had chosen my husband’s route? What might my “spin’ have been?

      1. my husband works twelve hours a day/seven days a week. He’s never there for me or the kids. I feel alone. INSTEAD? I said….look how hard my husband is working to provide for us. To keep us afloat. I’m sure he misses us too.

      2. I never get a break. I am exhausted. I feel like a single parent. INSTEAD? I chose to say….this is a difficult season. We will get through it. This is what I need to do as MY part of our team to be supportive. He’s working crazy hours and he is exhausted too.

      3. Figure it out honey! I’m not leaving our home, our family, our community. You’d better find the money to support us, where I want to live. INSTEAD? I offered to move. Go anywhere he wanted or needed if it made it easier on him. I told him I supported whatever his decision was, give up his business and go back to a company, or fight on to keep the business.

      I was not perfect during this time. I was tired and scared and depressed. I was overwhelmed at times with anxiety. I was mourning our parents. But when HE was given the choice, he took the selfish route. He chose the ego-stroking of a whore. He turned his back on his family. The people who truly loved him. He withdrew from us and put me in an impossible situation.

      My “old ways” would have saved us this hell. The way I did things would have prevented him from cheating. So what I am vigilant NOW over, is him. I remind him to check his emotions against facts. Don’t assume what I am feeling or thinking. Don’t assume I know what HE is feeling. Or what he needs. COMMUNICATE. TALK TO ME. That is on HIM. We are adults. If he has a need, it is entirely ON HIM to see that it is met in a way that is healthy for both him and our marriage. If it is a need I can meet, we can figure out how I can do so. If it is a need I cannot meet, we can figure out he can get that need met in a healthy productive manner. Counseling showed him that I am NOT his parent. I am NOT responsible for his needs. I am NOT responsible for “making him happy”. We are a team. We can set and work towards goals TOGETHER. But I will never live as though our marriage’s success or failure depends on me.

      • Doug

        Great stuff as usual, EG!

      • TheFirstWife

        Those are great thoughts. I loved your comparison on your viewpoints about the situation and how you view it.

        I also did the same thing. My H travelled extensively and weekdays I was a single parent. Never complained. It was his job.

        I always supported his career moves and choices. Until it was thrown in my face I did not support one opportunity. And that was part of his “justification” for his affair. Sorry that was 10 years ago. And he held a grudge over it. It was not a fight but a calm conversation.

        So yes I agree that they can put us in the “mother” role. My MIL was horrible. Mean on purpose to everyone including her children. I am the opposite of that. So I take exception for even being thought of in that way b/c I don’t treat my enemies that poorly.

        The affair is one of choice and justification. It does not have to occur. But you show your true colors when you become a cheater. And you cannot take back those awful words you said. You can be forgiven but they are never forgotten. I will always remember my H telling me:
        1. I only married him to spite my parents. Knowing him 32 years and treating him well meant nothing.
        2. I did not support his career. Really so when you travel to Europe for 3 weeks and I am home with two very young children AND I NEVER COMPLAIN – that’s not supporting you. Ok then. Tell me how else I should support you.
        3. I don’t admit I am wrong. Gee I never kept track but I would hate to think in 27 years of marriage I never once apologized. Sounds unlike me. But if it is true – sorry. And gee next time wait 30 years to tell me something that bothers you.
        4. My disability has made him unhappy. Again I have some limitations but if you saw me you would not know I have a medical issue. And I never complained. Complaining changes nothing.

    • Shifting Impressions

      EG
      Thank you!
      Thank you!
      Thank you!
      For saying almost exactly what I have been feeling!!! And you say it SO SO WELL!! That statement about the rut was the one that really got to me as well.

    • Rachel

      Doug,
      Are you not posting blogs on Mondays and Fridays anymore ? I look forward to reading them .

    • Rachel

      Doug any progress with the live chat?

      • Doug

        Hey Rachel, Not yet. I’ve tested a couple chat plugins but they slowed the site down considerably. We’re working on a possible solution where we utilize a second site. Hope to have something figured out soon.

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