So, what does being vulnerable again after an affair really mean?

being vulnerable again after you have been betrayedBy Linda

Last Friday was Doug’s annual outing with a bunch of his old high school buddies.  It’s when they go golfing, attend a baseball game and hit the bars afterwards.  Basically they act about 35 years younger than they all are.  Then they go home and recuperate for the rest of the weekend!

Anyways, after their golf outing Doug texted me and mentioned that they were heading to their hotel and that one of his friends took a group photo and posted it to his Facebook page.  Now, neither Doug nor I are frequent Facebook users but I went onto his page, looked at the picture and then just started clicking around.

I viewed pages of some of our mutual friends, family members and even some of Doug’s old work friends.  On one such old work friend’s page, whose picture do you think appeared in front of me in the little “Friends” box?  Yep, it was HER! 

Now, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited her Facebook page and since I was home alone, I thought I’d give it a little look-see just for kicks and giggles (as Doug likes to say).  I viewed her main page and then looked at some of her photos. 

A Different Story…

I’m happy to report that since the last time I looked at her Facebook page, it would appear that time has not been so kind to her.  She looks much older and has some more wrinkles.  On the other hand (if pictures tell the true story), she also appears to be getting along much better with her husband these days.

I remember when Doug told me how she rarely had anything good to say about her husband and complained about many of his little quirks and habits.  From the looks of the photos it appears that she has somehow been able to get past these complaints because they looked quite happy together.

It looks like she’s been able to rebuild her marriage and find the spark again for her husband.  (I don’t think I’ll send her a congratulations card of anything though.) This made me wonder…If he was supposedly so bad 6 years ago, how and why is anything so different with them today? 

False Reconciliation – Perhaps More Devastating than D-day

Questions Many Betrayed Spouses Struggle With

So, I asked Doug the same question as we were headed to the grocery store on Sunday. (Yes, I told him I looked at her Facebook page.) His response was something like, “I’m sure he wasn’t as bad as she made it seem.  Her complaints were more like rationalizations or excuses to allow her to justify in her mind what she was doing.”

I really knew in my own mind the answer, and what Doug said made sense and I agreed (though I wanted to add that she was saying those things as a bit of manipulation as well), but I know that this is a similar question that many betrayed spouses struggle with.

See also  Open Discussion: Healing From Infidelity

They ask themselves…“How can I seem like such a bad person while the affair was going on and now that we’re reconciling, I’m the apple of his/her eye again?”

“Was I really that bad?”  “Did he/she really think I was an awful person at one point?”   “Am I really the apple of his/her eye?” “Are these feelings now for real?” “Who was that man/woman I married who had the affair?”

It can be a huge blow to trust, our self-esteem and it’s yet another reason why we choose to guard ourselves.  We shut the door to being truly intimate and/or vulnerable. We don’t want to fall for that again and get crushed with pain once more – while at the same time questioning our self-worth.

Being vulnerable again is hard.  Really hard.

The Power of Being Vulnerable Again

So, what does being vulnerable after an affair really mean? To me it has a very simple definition:  Opening myself up to the risks of being hurt.

That could encompass such things as rejection, triggers and betrayal, for instance.

It’s natural in any relationship to want assurances that you will not be harmed if you are vulnerable, but after an affair that assurance becomes even more important – and even less likely.  How can one risk vulnerability and possibly being betrayed once again?

It’s a logical and natural question.  But I’ll suggest (Thanks to Brene Brown) that if one isn’t willing to be vulnerable at some point, then they instead risk losing out on the possibility of true, deep intimacy and connection.

A few years ago I found great strength in the Brene Brown’s message, and if you haven’t seen her video about “The Power of Vulnerability” yet, you may want to watch it now (below).  After doing so, you might want to download this STUDY GUIDE that was created by our friend Tim Tedder, LMHC, NCC, and together with your partner, work through the questions and answers and discuss them.

See also  9 Ways to Not Recover From an Affair

A Reader Struggles with Being Vulnerable Again

Recently, I had the pleasure of mentoring a woman who was going through a similar situation in which she was afraid/unable to open up to being vulnerable again after her husband’s affair.   

It didn’t help that her counselor told her that it pretty much takes a miracle or divine intervention to continue on with her cheating spouse in a way that would allow her to be completely vulnerable.  As a result, she may have already been of the mindset that being vulnerable again would never happen again no matter how hard she tried. (As a side note, she was about a year removed from D-day and her ex-cheating husband was doing everything in his power to make amends and help her heal from his betrayal.)

She was stuck.

I want to share a response I had for her when she asked me how to get out of this stage.  I hope that it might help any of you who find yourself in a similar position, and at the very least give you hope for a better future.

Here it is:

I agree with your counselor’s remark to a point, as it is difficult to be completely vulnerable after you have been betrayed.  That scar will always be there and you will remember forever how you received it.  It is only human to be afraid.  Over time that feeling does go away. However, if there is a trigger or something feels off, that feeling will quickly come back. It is a matter of survival for the BS.

I will tell you though, it is just a twinge compared to what you might be feeling now, and the feelings go away very quickly.  Mainly because throughout this process you should/will learn how to communicate your feelings of uneasiness to your spouse.

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I also feel that you are still going through all the stages of recovery.

I know it seems like it’s been going on forever, however it has not been that long and you still have things to work through.  You still need to mourn the old relationship and learn to accept the new one.  It takes time.

I will also tell you that if you are patient and continue to do the work individually and as a couple you can again look at your husband with adoring eyes.  You will be thankful that you are still together. I know that every day I am thankful that Doug and I are still together and we are able to share our lives with our three children.

With time you will be able to put the feelings that you have right now behind you and grow an appreciation for the relationship that you have built after the affair.

I realize that I’ve barely touched on this very important topic, and I think it would be wonderful if you could share your struggles, failures and successes with respect to being vulnerable again after you have been betrayed in the comment section.  Thanks!

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    30 replies to "Being Vulnerable Again after You Have Been Betrayed"

    • TrustingGod

      I couldn’t even get myself to watch the video right now. I can’t imagine letting myself be vulnerable at this point. I have just been disappointed too many times, and hurt even more by allowing myself to be vulnerable to someone who’s just not repentant, and doesn’t really want to help me “just get over it already.” There should probably be a warning that this post is for those whose spouses are actually trying to repair the relationship. Being vulnerable with someone who can’t face up to the consequences of what he’s done is a dangerous thing to do.

    • Deni

      It’s coming on D-day on July 9th. Two years since I discovered my H’s affair. Vulnerability is still very hard since my H works with his AP. She is his direct supervisor, they work together in another city and still are on one-to-one friendship terms. Meaning they associate on a professional and personal level. Nothing like they were since D-day but still close. Being vulnerable is a day to day choice, one which is trying to say the least. In Brene’s prologue of Daring Greatly, I am reminded of this line, “We must walk into the area, whatever it may be-a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation-with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”
      Over the last 2 yrs, both my H and I have gone through depression, denial, excuses and a rainbow of emotions. Being open and receptive to vulnerability has been the biggest challenge, especially on the road to recovery. It’s not easy being stuck in shame! But vulnerability had formed a tie that binds. Being open, honest, kind and connected has been the driving force in our relationship. Right now it’s a day to day choice.

      • CBb

        You are very brave! Not sure I could still have the AP in contact with my spouse daily and live through it. That is tough.

    • CBb

      My therapist walked me through this years ago. To make the marriage work after a betrayal, you, the betrayed spouse has to be “all in”. If you are not all in, you are doomed for failure.

      Easier said than done in my opinion.

      We talked about the potential of another EA or PA. How would you react? What would you do?

      I would do the SAME thing I did the first time around. I would calmly and rationally tell him we are through and please leave. Except this time there would be no further discussion, no opportunity for reconciliation, no listening to him try and explain himself (like I did the last time). It would be a swift divorce b/c at that point you have done everything possible.

      Right now I am “all in” hoping this marriage survives the past. I believe it will. I am lucky my CH wants us to succeed and be together and be happy. I am lucky he realizes what he put on us.

      But I live now for the what if and I have a plan in place in case it ever happens again. I am vulnerable to the potential of the EA/ PA but I am not vulnerable for being up a creek without a paddle. In my mind there is a difference.

    • Fragments of Hope

      This is timely as just a few days ago I explained to my husband that, despite his (apparent) remorse that it was still (15 mth post D-Day 1 and 9 mths after she recontacted him and he kept in touch while trying to unravel his feelings) difficult for me to let my guard down. I told him ‘normal is not enough’. Since he put her first on several occasions and made her extra special, since he let the OW say things to me and didn’t stand up for me against her at certain times, since he’d become so cold and hostile, it’s been hard for me to believe that now he cares, that I’m safe being affectionate. Despite what my head tells me that he is real about reconciliation, those trauma fears still remain. I told him that I feel I’m walking on thin ice, it’s dangerous. Like Esther Perel said in her video, if he doesn’t bring up the affair and repair the walls that he broke down, make it plain in actions, and straight out declaration that he is working to keep the marriage safe then I feel unsafe, I feel I must pace the perimeter walls. I told him, normal is not enough. We need to be affectionate to rebuild the care, but he must do more, special gestures, words, thankfullness to balance out what was taken. Otherwise I feel too vulnerable, too unsafe to come close again. We were made fools of, or at least feel that way. Those of us who remain to reconcile do everything we can to understand from a position of risk. The straying spouse need to be PROACTIVE (not just responding to our lead or our pain) so that we can believe that they get it and the relationship is worth staying for.

    • Alice

      I’m curious- does seeing Tanya’s picture still cause you pain after six years? I remember in past posts that you used to google her pictures and think “she is so pretty, why is Doug with me?” What do you think when you see her pictures now?

      • Linda

        Alice, no, seeing her picture does not cause me pain anymore. This time it was nice to see that she wasn’t aging very well! In fact, I was openly able to talk with Doug about it and we both had a good laugh. Now, when I see her picture I feel that I’m the one who is prettier, more confident, fun, exciting and stronger and Doug would have been one dumb person to have chosen her over me.

    • Patsy50

      I think once both husband and wife have decided to stay and work on the marriage you become vulnerable. Little by little it starts to fade as your spouse helps you in every way possible to heal along the way. I always said to myself, what’s the worse that could happen. I can’t be hurt anymore then I already have. There is no deeper pain. I can stand on my own two feet financially. I don’t have small children to worry about. I will be OK with or without him. It has been four years since my husbands EA. We are still together in a new relationship. Linda I also have a question for you. You said both you and Doug have a Facebook account. Did Doug have that account during his affair and after?

      • CBb

        Thank you for those encouraging words. That is what are working towards. Almost 2 years out and I am hopeful I will have those same thoughts one day.n

      • Linda

        Patsy, Actually I do not have a Facebook account. As a teacher it just didn’t seem like a good idea and besides, I don’t have the time usually to mess with it. Doug has had an account for several years including during his EA that he rarely uses. Excellent comment too! – Linda

    • Shifting Impressions

      Once again, such a timely post. it’s been 18 months since d-day and I believe you have touched on the heart of my struggle, Linda. To love is to be vulnerable……to love someone who has betrayed you is even more so.

      I am by nature a fairly open person… other words I have the tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. Over the last year I have had to put a protective shell around my heart and often pretend that everything is fine when the sadness is overwhelming.

      I will never be the same but don’t want this to harden me and fill me with bitterness. Sometimes I feel like an outsider in my own marriage……or actually don’t feel really married anymore. How strange to feel this way after being married for 41 years.

      I so long to be open and vulnerable again and yet the fear is overwhelming at times, even though I have seen progress. I’m afraid I’m not going to get there.

    • exercisegrace

      It’s been three years since d-day for me. I think for a long time, I confused “vulnerability” with “gullibility”. I agree with what Patsy said above. If you choose to stay and work on your relationship, the vulnerability comes back ever so gradually over time. It isn’t a switch you can consciously flip. It is both earned and regrown. However, because I will always bear the scars of my husband’s choices, I will never be the same person. We live a new normal with new boundaries. Traveling alone with a woman for business would be a non-starter. Going to lunch alone with a woman would raise my anxiety high, whereas three plus years ago it didn’t even raise my eyebrows. I have confidence in my instincts (there were dead on) and I have confidence in the fact that truth always comes out sooner or later. I have zero tolerance for excuses when something bothers me. I give him the same latitude. We both have more veto power if something makes us uncomfortable and we are able to communicate this more effectively these days. And if he ever decides he doesn’t like that, well. There’s the door.

      • Shifting Impressions

        As usual so well said… have a great way with words. I so agree with you.

    • theresa

      Cheaters, what do you go through on the anniversary of d-day(s)? Are you more or less vulnerable to “just see how she Is doing”? What triggers are you experiencing? How are you “seeing” you wife right then and there? No rationalizing. What is your knee jerk reaction? Are you relieved that you were given a second (3rd, 4th….) chance?
      Or are you mooning over what you had lost?

      • Shifting Impressions

        That is a really good question…..I would love to hear some answers on that.

        • CBb

          I am going to ask my H these questions and report back. Hope it does not turn into an argument haha

    • TheFirstWife

      My H gave these very honest answers:

      He does not remember dates or things of his time with the OW. He says if he remembers anything they are usually bad memories associated with his betrayal.

      He is very grateful for the opportunity for us to still be together (and he shows his appreciation often). There is no evidence he misses his AP or anything about her.

      Songs – no memory or defining association to her.

    • Tiredofitall

      Fragments- you nailed it for me. Normal is not enough when you have been married to and betrayed by a “nice guy”. I am struggling.

    • TheFirstWife

      Fragments, everything you said is true!

      I learned in therapy that men really do not know how to communicate AND really don’t know what to do to repair. Half the time we (as women) have to tell them but find that anti-progress. If we have to tell them and they do what is asked, how do you know they really mean it?

      It is crazy logic. The person who caused the mess is expected to fix it.

      Have you gone to counseling as a couple? Did you go alone? That may help sort out your feelings and help you deal with the fall-out.

    • Fragments of Hope

      Hi Tiredofitall and The First Wife, I too struggle with having to suggest ways that reparation can be made. I realised when the affair was revealed that I had spent years being the emotional engine of us as a couple and that he’d been coasting. Post affair he went to counseling but I found many of the books for us to go through and so on. We also went to counseling as a couple for a time but I haven’t done individual counseling although I felt I really needed it at times, I was also all talked out. I found great comfort from these sites and books. My husband had a relapse when she contacted him 9 months after D-day and kept in contact without saying for some time (as friends.) Post D-Day 1 he was so remorseful, cried with me and so on but looking back, he was again taking my lead and reacting to my feelings without processing his own and being proactive with regard to me. His processing/remorse was not deep enough so he ended up in recontact.

      In the last couple of days I’ve expressed the need for him to take a far more proactive approach and he has begun to suggest some reparation events (he suggested gathering up things that are triggers and burning them in a sort of cleansing ceremony for instance.) We’ve also really talked about where he was in himself at that time and his new emotional understanding on this is finally reassuring me that he may indeed have ‘got it,’ for real now. One key thing that I wonder if others have thought about is the ‘romantic’ part of the relationship. I can risk being his friend, his children raising partner but it’s a massive leap to want to be emotionally engaged once more with someone who had no regard for me on that level. If we were dating, first time round, we’d never choose to go out with someone who treated us that way. It makes sense they have to show that we are special to them before you can logically cleave back to them on the romantic level.

    • TheFirstWife

      I find it interesting that many of the people on this blog have the same experience. What I mean is there are 2 rounds with the OW or AP. It starts. It ends. It starts up again.

      What a shame it had to happen that way but I tell my H all the time that if he did not resume the affair, we would not have made it together. He would still be “idolizing” her and there is no way I can compete with a person 20 years younger, single, drama queen, major issues and covered in horrible tattoos (neck, arms, chest, legs).

      At least he realized on his own she was not going to be anything more than an EA (at the end). He realized there was no future.

      However it took another 4 months in the EA for it to come. Before that I was losing the battle (I could see it with my own eyes). I was being compared to her on many levels.

      As much as finding out about round 2 hurt it also helped (as twisted as that may be).

    • Tabs

      In what way did round 2 help? It sounds counter intuitive.

    • TheFirstWife

      It does and I agree. Here is the short version of the saga. The EA started and they were out one night and kissed. He came home that night and told me about it. Three weeks later he ended it / no contact at all. However he treated me poorly and it was obvious he put her on a pedestal and I was being compared to her.
      And I was not winning in that department.
      In September she called him after being dumped by some guy. And the EA started up again but I had no idea it was going on.
      When he finally told me 2x in one week he wanted a divorce, I had no where to turn. I was in crazy land with him trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
      So on a Monday night I came home from a meeting at church and called the OW who told me they had been seeing each other.
      He told her that he was ending it a few days before and Che could not accept it. He chose to stay married b/c one of the things he realized during the period he was with her was that he really did not love her but had an infatuation for the past year (mid life crisis) and was consumed by the feelings he had. However when he came out of the fog he realized what he wanted and the mistakes he made.
      I was lucky in that they did not have sex (confirmed to me by the OW). So we do not have those aspects to deal with but it would not make a difference. Cheating is cheating snd an EA is cheating.
      Had he not ran back in the fall after a 6 week break, I would be fighting the ghost of her. He needed to see the light on his own (which he did). That helped our recovery somewhat.
      I did throw him out when I found out about the second go round and it was ugly for us.
      When I finally stood up for myself he realized I was at the end of tolerating this crap.
      So without round 2 of his EA I believe we would be divorced. I was not willing to be treated so horribly while he continued to romance his EA and idolize their relationship.
      I also made him sign a post nup to protect myself in the future. Any $ I have in my name is no longer part of our marital assets. I need to protect me & my children.
      He has deep regret for all of it. The funny thing is we are so opposite – she is drama, crass, foul mouthed, covered in tattoos, an artist and lives her life in public via her blog. Now he looks back and wonders what the hell was he thinking!
      I think the seduction of a new relationship and that euphoria feeling takes over their brains.
      My H once asked me if I was going to have a mid life crisis. My first thought was “right now you are my mid life crisis”. Haha.
      Sounds cliche but he was the guy you would never expect this to get caught up in this.

    • Wind

      I think you are very naïve to think they did not have sex. Adults fuck.

    • Jess

      I tried being vulnerable after I found out. But he continued to behave the same and ultimately cheated again. I gave him yet another chance, but this time he needed to put forth the effort and really try instead of me doing the work. He has continued to lie and behave the same. I guess the last lie was in November. He questions my patience, my forgiving and if I even will ever get over this. But when i try to Express my feelings or what is bothering me i met with defensiveness, anger, blame or just get ignored. He will just walk away and avoid me the rest of the day. Hes told me she didn’t treat him like crap, he loves me but not like this, I have taken everything that he loves in life away, imagine how she feels having to go through this, and his patience with comforting and.being there for me is wearing thin. But to tell you the truth I feel like the comfort and being there are little crumbs. And if he is comforting me if I say anything he will automatically pull away and say it’s my fault he cant comfort me. How do you continue to be vulnerable to that?
      One d day was Aug 2017 and the last one was April 2017

      • Shifting Impressions

        I am sorry your husband is treating you so badly. Being vulnerable does not mean you become a punching bag or a victim for someone else’s bad behaviour.

        Vulnerability can only come when your partner is showing true remorse and willing to work on the marriage…truly work on the marriage. When our partners cheated and lied they broke the trust in the marriage. They need to earn back that trust. Even when they are doing everything right…opening oneself up again is not easy and I believe usually a fairly slow process.

    • Jess

      I dont think I would even know what true remorse looks like. Yesterday he told me my images and nightmares are imagination and does he really have to be there for me all the time? And I was scrolling through instagram last night and seen a picture of the OW and I started panicking and went outside to just let it out and he sat in his chair pulled out the laptop and looked up baseball stuff. He did say sorry you have to see that stuff. But that’s it…. and that’s how it’s been. Truly feel alone and stuck.

    • Mary A

      I love Brene Brown’s definitions of vulnerability and trust. I want to be able to be vulnerable with my husband. We are a year and a half out from D-Day, have just started marriage therapy. I have been getting counseling since d-day. He has quit drinking, has been transparent with all online activity and financial information. But ultimately the big obstacle for me, is that his main affair partner still works by his side everyday. He will not fire her or come up with an agreement to let her go due to his fear of a possible lawsuit. We have gone round and round with this and the only solution appears to be him retiring early. This is not necessarily a good thing, and I don’t believe it’s the only way. But irregardless I just cannot be vulnerable or trusting no matter what he says about the affair being over, I have no idea what their relationship is at work,, What they talk about, if there are little touches, and flirting, etc. Also he has no idea what he’s going to feel like if he doesn’t see her as he has never gone more than a week or two for without seeing her in the six and a half years they have worked together. It was an intense four plus year affair that was financial, sexual and emotional. No it wasn’t his only affair, he truly lost his mind. But she was the main one. We are separated 8 months already, I moved out due to this circumstance. He is pushing so hard for reconciliation, but how can I when she’s still there? I can’t. I don’t want to say I’m confused because I’m not, but it definitely makes things a lot harder.

      • Dee

        If he really wants you back he will abide by your boundaries.

    • Connie

      I have struggled with being vulnerable… It seems like when I let my guard down then something happens that destroys and drags me right back into the depths of what happened ( more trickle truth and found out lies, some encounters with the AP where she verbally attacked me). I’ve shared my feelings of hurt with my husband about what happened when I ended up running into her and he was very dismissive about it. No words of support, no empathy… nothing. So once again, my guard is back up… We are coming up to D-Day (Feb. 23) and I am struggling more this year than I ever have before. The found out lie and last encounter have been almost too much for me to handle.. Ha has finally been willing to go to counseling and has his first session today. I think he finally realizes that I’ve been pushed as far as I can be pushed. I hear what Jess is saying about truly feeling stuck and alone.. I don’t know what the future holds for me, for us, for our marriage, for our future… all I know is I don’t want to be stuck where I am right now…

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