Change Within Before You Can Change WithoutBy Sarah P.

In my last blog we discussed how to stay empowered through the holidays and beyond. The key point of that article was the idea that our thoughts can influence our lives. Because thoughts can influence our lives, these thoughts can cause us to act in ways that create outcomes.

In empowered thinking, we also know that the only person we can change is ourselves. But, we also know that we can choose our reactions to situations. We can choose reactions that lead us to better health and happiness. We can also say no to situations or actions of others that no longer for us.

Louise Hay once wisely said:

I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves. I change my life when I change my thinking. And it is time for me to acknowledge that I create my own reality with my thoughts. If I want to change my reality, then it is time for me to change my mind.”

Louise Hay is the founder of Hay House publishing, the largest self-help publisher in the world. One might think that Louise Hay is a naturally advanced soul to have started such an empire. This could not have been further from the truth.

Louise Hay had grown up in a poor home with a violent stepfather and had been sexually assaulted by a neighbor twice during her teens. As a young woman, Louise found temporary happiness with her husband. But, her husband abandoned her fourteen years later for another woman.

At some point, Louise got very ill because she had cervical cancer. She came to the conclusion that if she wanted to be healthy, she needed to drop the tremendous resentment and anguish that she had been carrying around for years. She decided to let go of all of her anger, resentment, and trauma and heal herself from the inside out by starting with her thinking.

Louise penned her ideas down and eventually wrote a book called You Can Heal Your Life. This was the book that led to Louise starting Hay House in 1984. Louise would have been in her late 50’s at the time. Today, Louise is a healthy and happy 90-year-old who still helps run Hay House. Hay House publishes Dr. Wayne Dyer, Anita Moorjani, and Gabrielle Bernstein, among many other self-help authors.

Louise’s story has always stood out in my mind because of what she accomplished. This accomplishment was born out of a crisis that caused her to hit rock bottom. At some point she realized that something had to change or she might meet an early death. Louise intuitively knew that carrying around so much negativity inside was influencing her health.

Two Categories of Events That We Face Everyday:

Oftentimes, we are resentful because we cannot control what happens to us. We believe that events that happen to us dictate our lives.

There are two categories of events that we face everyday:

  • Things that happen to us over which we have no control
  • Things that happen to us as a result of our thoughts (and choices.)

It may appear that we have no control over the first category. But, the first category and second category are one in the same when it comes to the emotional fallout.

The origin of the event does not matter as much as the fact that we can control our reaction to it. Whether or not we control our reaction to the event will dictate how we feel about it.

We can let an event haunt us or not and feel victimized or not. We can own our power or we can give it away to the event.

Someone might be able to make you feel a certain way in the first instance, but you can choose whether you feel that way the next time you think about the hurtful event.

The battle is always internal.

However, the battle can still be initiated by external circumstances OR by your thinking.

I think this concept is clear when we think about extramarital affairs. Being the victim of an extramarital affair falls into the first category. Like being rear-ended by a drunk driver, you did nothing to cause the situation. You are the victim of someone else’s careless action. Feeling extremely victimized when you find out about an affair is normal. Finding out about the affair is the first instance of the event and a person will always feel victimized.

But, the second instance of the affair happens in your mind. Oftentimes, you will relive d-day over and over again in your head. This makes you feel like you are constantly being victimized and creates a fight or flight reaction. Your mind does not know the difference between something happening in front of you or something happening in your mind. It does not know the difference between walking in on your spouse in the act of an affair or the replaying in your mind the day you caught your spouse. To the mind, watching something and ruminating about something is the same thing.

Here is where you have the choice.

Let me state up front that changing your mindset is not easy. It is an on-going process and takes time. There are large victories to be had even if you take small steps.

Your mind is like a vinyl record and it contains a lifetime of habits, ways of perceiving the world, and memories. After an affair occurs, it writes a traumatic song onto that metaphorical vinyl record. Sometimes the needle on the record player gets stuck on that same traumatic song. When this happens, it can create feelings of PTSD because you re-live the trauma over and over again.

At some point, that trauma song needs to be changed and that needle on the record player needs to get un-stuck. But, this takes time and it takes conscious awareness. It requires active thinking on your part to get rid of the traumatic messages and to create messages that contribute toward your emotional wellbeing.

There is always a caveat though. If you have developed PTSD from your spouse’s infidelity, then getting over it will be more work. Having PTSD makes the situation more urgent because PTSD slowly steals a person’s joy and wellbeing.


Flashbacks & Panic

When my ex first broke up with me, I started having panic attacks for the first time in my life. A friend suggested I see a therapist. Since I had never seen a therapist before, I was not sure that they could help. My friends who had seen them had mixed results.

I found a lovely female therapist, Karen, who had been practicing for almost thirty years. She was wonderful and she treated me as if I were her daughter. Karen recognized that and said she did it (countertransference) because she said I reminded her of her daughter who lived on the other side of the country and whom she missed terribly.

Karen was a wonderful and caring therapist. But, one day she told me that I met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Honestly, I did not believe her because I (falsely) believed that PTSD was only for soldiers returning from war. I believed that if I had PTSD, I was somehow making light of those men and women who so bravely fought for our country. I did not believe someone could develop PTSD as a result of a relationship.

She and I continued therapy for about 6 sessions. I was feeling better by then and no longer having panic attacks. Problem solved, right?


Fast forward to 15 years later…the night of December 20th, 2016. My husband and I had taken our kids to a vacation home we were renting in the mountains for a week. Everything was going well, maybe too well.

I was having trouble falling asleep. You see, everything fell apart with my ex in the holiday season, only I had to find out in retrospect. My ex never came clean with anything. So, my mind wandered toward the last Thanksgiving and Christmas we spent together. We had spent those holiday’s at my ex’s parents house.

I thought about the awkward Thanksgiving and how my ex sent me off on a snowboarding trip right after a morning Thanksgiving meal. He told me he would catch up with me that night because he was having some old friends of his come to a separate Thanksgiving with his parents.

I found out after the break up that he sent me off in the morning from his parent’s house so that he could have his parents meet the other woman during the afternoon. He did this so that his mom could compare us side by side. Ouch.

Then I thought back to the Christmas at his parent’s house and how his entire extended family was acting strangely. Since I had no idea that there was another woman, I chalked it up to family stress. On Christmas Eve, he gave me a second ring that he referred to as another engagement ring. His mom got up and left the room. And he looked at me with cold eyes and said, “I hope you are happy.”

I found out in retrospect that his mom had liked the other woman better, but that his dad, who was a retired psychology professor, liked me better. My ex was still undecided and so he surprised me with a second ring that he had custom made for me. I would like to make it clear that I never asked for jewelry or expensive gifts. For me, a good relationship is the most valuable thing in the world and all I wanted was to get married and to have children.

I thanked him for the beautiful ring and asked him what was wrong. He claimed nothing was wrong. I spent the rest of the Christmas holiday walking on egg shells, not knowing what was going on. He, the other woman, and his mom were playing a game that I did not even know existed. I hardly knew I was a mere pawn on an invisible chessboard until he decided whom he would choose.

So, last week when I was falling asleep, all of these events rose up in my mind and I burst into tears. A panic attack was close behind. I was thinking that if I could be fooled and abandoned once, that I could be fooled and abandoned twice. I thought that my husband could do the very same thing and I could not stop crying. I was immediately whisked back to the break up with my ex and was reliving the painful emotions as if they had just occurred. My mind and body did not know the difference between a memory versus reality.

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That is PTSD: Intrusive images that cause a panic attack years after an event has happened. My mind believed I was there in the painful moment. Suddenly I could not breathe, my body was convulsing, and my heart was racing.

Fortunately, my husband woke up and talked me through it. He listened to me until I was calm. Then, we talked about his painful divorce all of those years ago. My husband’s first wife had left him without warning. One day he came home and found that all of the furniture had been removed from their apartment and that all of the money (including his student loan money) was gone from the bank account. Ouch.

We both reprocessed what had happened to us and talked it through. My husband is fortunate because he did not develop PTSD from his divorce. There had been no affair involved in his divorce and he said that in the back of his mind he knew his wife would leave one day. Her parents and his parents had gotten into a feud before their wedding. He felt their marriage was doomed from the beginning. In the end, he had not been betrayed and had known in the back of his mind one of them would eventually leave. He just did not expect his ex-wife to stoop so low and take all of the furniture and money.

My husband is lucky to have never been in a relationship where there was infidelity. He has said several times that one of the many reasons he married me is because he could tell I would never have an affair, no matter what the circumstances. He said that being cheated on is his worst fear. He intuitively knows how bad it hurts, even if he has never been the recipient. On the other hand, I often wonder if it is in my best interest to be the reliable girl. Some seem to take reliability for granted, whether they are men or women. Reliable people are also emotionally safe people.

So, last week I discovered that I still have very real trauma for what happened years ago. I am going through a time where I am very resentful towards my ex. I realize that a part of me has been stolen and I do not think it will ever return. I think that my ex should have to pay the price for that which was stolen. But, those thoughts are irrational. He may never have to pay the price for what he stole. And I will have to be okay with that.

As a result, I have finally realized that I went from being a securely attached person to being a fearful/avoidant person after my ex broke up. As one of my prior articles said, people can change attachment patterns in adulthood. But usually, people are supposed to go from a harmful attachment style to a secure one. I went from a secure attachment to a harmful one. Now, I have realized that the fearful/avoidant style I have developed is mild. It is something that I struggle with inside my mind, but I generally do not allow it to influence my actions. It only influences my actions in moments where I am being flooded with images of the past.


I am sure some of you have also developed PTSD as a result of your spouse’s affair. It is not fair, but it is an unfortunate side effect. Now I acknowledge that people can absolutely have PTSD and possibly even severe forms of it after a spouse’s affair. It was not that I did not believe this possible when I was younger, I had just assumed that I was minimizing the experience of war veterans if I believed relationships could cause PTSD. At the time, I did not want to dishonor war veterans.

Now I realize that any kind of severe trauma can cause PTSD. Now I know that it is not dishonoring or minimizing the experience of our veterans if I recognize PTSD is a much larger trauma. The brain handles trauma in very specific ways and the brain is not capable of saying: I can be traumatized by going through the Gulf wars, but I can’t be traumatized by going through bad relationships. The brain does not rationally differentiate between types of trauma and all kinds of situations cause PTSD.

In time, you can heal from PTSD, but the brain is not capable of sifting through trauma in the moment and choosing not to be traumatized. No, trauma leaves its mark. Any situation that tears away your sense of security can cause trauma. There are many situations that fit this criteria: fighting in a war, almost losing your life in a car accident, having your home broken into, and realizing your spouse has been having an affair. All of these experiences rip away any sense of security you had before and all of these experiences will leave their mark in one way or another.

Here is a helpful visual aid that defines PTSD and also shows Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help with PTSD.  (Click the graphic to view a larger version)



Your Mind is the Battlefield

PTSD is a real condition that affects every aspect of an individual’s life. Fortunately, there are ways to work with it. Now I am going to discuss more about the inner workings of the mind, automatic thoughts, schema, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Earlier, we looked at different types of events: the kind that happens to you and the kind that you can create as a result of your actions or thinking. I talked about how the first event is not something you caused or created in your life. Affairs fall into this category.

Then, there is the situation where your thoughts or your actions can contribute to the situation. An example of this would be a wayward spouse who decided to have an affair. He or she should not be surprised if a spouse leaves the marriage. The spouse’s action – the infidelity– caused him to be abandoned by his betrayed spouse. He created this situation—it did not just happen to him out of the blue. The betrayed spouse has experienced the first kind of event—the one that happened to her. The wayward spouse experienced the second kind of event—the one that he caused.

But, here is the thing—whether or not an event happened to someone who was innocent or an event was caused by the person himself, there is still a battle to be fought in the mind.

Your mind is the battlefield and your mind can destroy pieces of you (or not.) Your mind will remember the event, but from there, you have a choice on how you are affected.

In the 1960’s, a prominent psychiatrist named Dr. Aaron Beck invented a system to help people overcome problematic thinking and even traumatic stressors. The system that he developed is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it has helped millions of people overcome thinking patterns that no longer serve a purpose in their lives.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the battle is specifically against automatic thoughts. If a disorder such as anxiety can be visualized as a tree, automatic thoughts can be visualized as the roots of the tree. Anxiety is often born out of automatic thoughts.

These are the first thoughts that pop into our heads in any given situation. If they are not stopped in their tracks, they can cause all kinds of mischief.



Here is an example scenario of automatic thinking using characters named Anna and Josh:

Anna’s husband Josh is thirty minutes late for dinner. Anna and Josh are in affair recovery because of Josh’s affair. But, for the past six months, Anna and Josh have been making progress and Josh has not seen the other woman.

Since Josh isn’t answering his phone and he is a half an hour late for dinner, Anna automatically thinks: “I knew it. Josh is seeing the other woman again.”

If Anna does not stop this automatic thought in its tracks, it will cause a whole army of thoughts that tear down Anna’s trust and sense of emotional safety. One thought then becomes:

“I knew I never should have trusted him. Of course, he is a liar and I am so stupid to be taken in by his lies. I cannot believe I fell for this again! I am such a fool!”

This causes Anna to stomp around the kitchen while she calls Josh ten times in a row. Josh still isn’t answering.

Anna thinks, “This is the last straw. I am going to call a divorce attorney. I knew this would never work out. I cannot believe I have wasted so many years with him!”

Anna gets ahold of a divorce attorney and leaves a message with their answering service. She stops making dinner and paces the floor. She is growing angrier and more panicky by the second.

By the time Josh walks through the door and hour later, he finds all of his clothes out on the porch. Josh walks in and says, “What’s going on?”

Anna says, “We are through. Get the heck out of my house and don’t contact me again. We are done and I want a divorce.”

Depending on how Josh responds, they both might be filing divorce paperwork the next day. Josh could be reactive in the moment and turn around and leave.

But, let’s say Josh is intuitive enough to understand why Anna is so upset. He says, “Anna, please hear me out—just for a minute. I ran out of gas on that stretch of rural road five miles away. My battery from my cell phone is dead. Look outside, I have no car—I had to walk home and couldn’t even contact you or anyone else because my cell phone is dead! I am so sorry!”

If Anna listens and looks outside, she will realize that her thoughts have gotten the best of her. Anna will feel very badly for thinking poorly of her husband.

Some call this process Schema Activation. Schemas are beliefs that have developed based on earlier experiences in life. Even if we have a schema based on giving people the benefit of the doubt and seeing the glass half full, our schema can be affected after we find out about our spouse’s affair.

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Therefore, events that involve our spouse no longer are filtered through a mindset that gives him or her the benefit of the doubt. Now, events that involve our spouse are filtered through a distrustful and cautious mindset. There is no problem with the negative filter—in fact, it can be a survival mechanism after betrayal.

The issue with a negative mindset or schema is that sometimes it can take over your life and create all kinds of automatic thoughts that trigger uncomfortable and untrue perceptions and emotions. These negative perceptions can often be self-reinforcing. Often, they cause us to behave in ways that shape the behavior of others around us through negative reinforcement.

Example #2

Let’s use another example with Anna and Josh. One day when Josh is home, he keeps escaping several times a day to the bathroom and stays 20 minutes each time. Anna wonders if he is off texting the other woman, but she doesn’t want to confront him.

Anna becomes very closed off, silent, and irritable. Josh doesn’t know why Anna is acting this way and so he too becomes irritable and closed off. Later that day, Anna blows up at Josh as they are doing to dishes. She accuses him of all kinds of behavior with the other woman.

Josh gets so angry that she won’t trust him and that he leaves the house and takes a long drive. Of course, this only reinforces what Anna believes—that he is going to talk to the other woman. The assumption that Josh is texting the other woman caused her to perceive him to be untrustworthy.

Only later does Anna find out that Josh was too embarrassed to talk about the consequences of eating a convenience store hot dog on the way home. (The consequences were lots of stomach issues that caused Josh to spend all day in the bathroom.)

Here is an illustration of how a negative schema impacts an individual’s perceptions and thinking about situations. (Click on the graphic to open a larger version)


Now, lets back up to the original automatic thoughts that started it all. They were: “I knew it. Josh is seeing the other woman again” and “Josh is off texting the other woman again.” These thoughts from the two different scenarios were the root cause of feelings and communication that could lead to possible divorce. The automatic thoughts were the problem and the battle was solely in Anna’s head.

Now, let’s imagine a different scenario that involves a therapist. Anna has been seeing a separate therapist and he has been teaching her about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Anna will realize that she is dealing with an automatic thought. She will stop in her tracks and she will use the CBT techniques that she has learned to examine the thoughts.

She will ask herself if there is any truth in the idea that Josh has gone back to the other woman. She will review all of the explanations for Josh’s behavior that give him the benefit of the doubt. She will remember that Josh’s old cellphone frequently loses its charge. She will consider whether or not Josh was called into a late meeting and couldn’t leave on time. She will wonder if he got into a fender bender and has not been able to call. Then, she will be concerned about him, rather than angry at him.

Then, she will remember the progress that she and Josh have made in the past six months. She will recall the genuine remorse in his eyes and remember all of the times he has apologized for being so stupid. She will remember that Josh is not a serial adulterer—that he was an easy target for a woman from work after he became depressed and was struggling with a mid-life crisis.

Then, she will take out a CBT homework sheet that her therapist gave to her. She will work on it until Josh comes home.



The above worksheet is an example of a CBT homework worksheet by therapist Judith Beck. I would encourage you to print out a few copies and keep them for the next time you feel as if automatic thoughts are going to ruin your day. Taking time to do the worksheet is important because it provides you with structure and prompts to answer.  (You can download and print the worksheet here.)

Back to Anna and Josh.

The two scenarios I provided only work because Josh is no longer cheating. I have created a scenario where Josh is no longer cheating and they are on the way to becoming a strong couple again.

If Josh were cheating, then trying to give Josh the benefit of the doubt would not be advised at all. Giving a cheater the benefit of the doubt would be unwise because it will take you onto a path full of denial. When reality eventually makes itself known, you will be worse off than ever.

Thus, I am asking you to remain in a state of awareness. When a thought comes to you, I would like for you to stop and ask yourself whether you are dealing with an automatic thought or not. If you are dealing with an automatic thought that serves to sabotage you, then you can use the CBT worksheet to battle the untrue thought.

I do not want you to use CBT techniques to attempt to fool yourself. CBT is only for situations where you are trying to tackle a thought that is either unhelpful or leads to an incorrect conclusion.

So, if your husband or your wife is still having an affair, you could use CBT to tackle untrue thoughts in regard to your self-esteem, your self-worth, your future, and your trust levels.

Here’s a situation of a couple where one spouse is still having an affair

In this example, Tina will be the wayward spouse and Mark will be the betrayed spouse. I will then demonstrate how Mark can use CBT to combat toxic automatic thoughts. Here is the scenario:

Mark got home a little late and Tina was still not there. She was not answering her phone either. When she came home, she was tipsy and smelled of male cologne.

Mark said, “I cannot believe that you don’t even try to hide the fact that you are still sleeping with him.”

Tina responds, “So? If you were man enough, maybe I wouldn’t have to stray.”

Mark feels that he is ready to explode and so he leaves and takes a drive. He knows exploding in front of Tina will give her ammunition to use against him.

When he is on the drive, he thinks back to her comment: you are not man enough. An automatic thought follows: “If you made more money, she wouldn’t have to cheat. You aren’t man enough, are you?”

Mark pulls into a local bar and asks for two double whiskeys on the rocks. He finishes both of them within two minutes and notices a man is looking at him strangely. He feels his fist tightening and says, “Who are you looking at, you jerk!”

The man stands up and walks over to him. Mark takes the first swing because he wants to prove what a man he is. Someone calls the police and Mark and the other man spend the night in jail.

If Tina wants a divorce, Mark has just unknowingly created ammunition that she could use in court.

Mark is not a bad guy and this is the first time he has ever done such a thing. His automatic thought that he wasn’t man enough or rich enough started this domino effect that ended in jail.

What could have Mark done differently?

Well, he could have challenged the automatic thought. Was Tina having an affair because he was not man enough and did not make ‘enough’ money?


He would have reasoned that since Tina was having an affair, she had to come up with a reason for her behavior. Mark knew Tina was someone who deflected blame and assigned blame to others. She did not like to take responsibility for the situations that she caused.

Mark would then realize that this was just another example of Tina blaming the victim. He realized that he is more than man enough because he was trying to work through the marriage with Tina.

He would realize that Tina was the problem. She was not trustworthy, had a tendency towards flakiness, didn’t keep her promises, and was generally materialistic.

Mark would realize that he was actually casting pearls before swine and that Tina’s recent action was just another example of how low she was willing to go. He would realize Tina had never really cared about him but just saw him as a pawn to meet her needs. Now that she found someone who she believes will better meet her needs, she no longer has any use for Mark.

Mark will not go to the bar. Instead, he will pull into the office of the nearest divorce attorney.

In the end, Mark will realize that he no longer wants to be married to Tina and that he is the one who deserves someone better.

In this case, techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will have helped Mark see the truth and move on with his life.

Of course, these are just scenarios and do not mirror the complexity of real life. Real life is much more complex and recovery is often like a winding river rather than a straight line. Like a river, it can wind several miles south and then just as quickly turn and wind back north for several miles. But, eventually the river reaches a tributary and drains into the ocean. But, it may have taken many seemingly unnecessary miles to reach its goal. The examples I provide are more like a straight line from A to B, whereas real life takes many turns on the way from A to B.  


Practical Mental Steps

There may be times when you are not able to take time out of your day to fill out the CBT worksheet. And I do not blame you. Most people are not able to drop whatever they are doing at any time of the day. Therefore, there needs to be a more practical way to stop automatic thoughts.

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As I have said before, these techniques are worthwhile even if your partner is still having an affair. In this case, the automatic thoughts you need to get rid of are ones that serve to tear down your self-worth. Deepak Chopra once said, “You alone are the judge of your worth and your goal is to discover infinite worth in yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks.”

Rejecting and Replacing

So here is a short cut for the times when you cannot take the time to fill out the CBT worksheet. You simply need to do the two R’s – reject and replace – when dealing with unhelpful automatic thoughts.

Rejecting unhelpful automatic thoughts and replacing them with the truth of the matter is a short cut to CBT. It is a short cut that I use, but I am not aware of other people who use this as a short cut. So, take it with a grain of salt.

Rejecting and replacing is as simple as it sounds and it can be a powerful method to chip away at unhelpful (automatic) thinking when you are triggered. Here is an example:

Automatic thought: “My spouse will abandon me for the other person.”

Rejecting: “That is nonsense since my spouse and I have made great strides in the past year.

Replacing: “My spouse and I will work out our issues together and grow stronger as a result.”

Once again, rejecting and replacing should not be used as a mechanism for denial. It should be used in the case where you know that an automatic thought is not true, but when that automatic thought keeps triggering you. Here is another example:

Automatic thought: “I am worthless without my husband and don’t know how I can continue without him.”

Rejecting: “My worth is not determined by what my husband does or doesn’t do.”

Replacing: “I possess inherent worth that doesn’t not depend upon external circumstances or the opinions of others.”

How do you use rejecting and replacing? Here are the key elements:

  • It is used to get rid of automatic thoughts that are untrue and it is used for thoughts that are unhelpful and serve to ruin your day.
  • In rejecting, you counter the lie with the word “not.”
  • In replacing, you create a statement in the positive.

Rejecting and replacing is a short cut to doing a CBT worksheet. But, it is not a replacement for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Rejecting and replacing is a way to stop automatic thoughts that are quickly getting out of hand. Rejecting and replacing can help you bring yourself into the now, which is always helpful during affair recovery. Truly, the only moment any of us have is the now. We are not existing in the past or in the future—we only exist in the now. We need to cultivate a quiet mind that helps us exist in the here and now. Rejecting and replacing can assist with that. Rejecting and replacing should be used anytime automatic thoughts try to take your down a path that is not true and that does not serve your higher healing.

On the other hand, there are times when rejecting and replacing can be harmful. So, this technique really is narrow in scope. Rejecting and replacing should not be used in the following cases:

  • Do not use it to reinforce codependence. Codependence can ruin your life because it does not help you stand on your own two feet in life. You can be an independent person and still be married to the wayward spouse. Codependence also crushes your self-worth.
  • Do not use it to assist you with general denial. Denial is never helpful.
  • Do not use it to make excuses for your spouse’s bad behavior.
  • Do not use it to try to create a mindset that has no basis in reality.

Exposure Therapy

Some find exposure therapy to assist with PTSD and the distress surrounding the memories.

“In exposure therapy your goal is to have less fear about your memories. It is based on the idea that people learn to fear thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of a past traumatic event. By talking about your trauma repeatedly with a therapist, you’ll learn to get control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. It might seem strange to think about stressful things on purpose. But, over time, you’ll feel less overwhelmed. With the help of your therapist, you can change how you react to the stressful memories. Talking in a place where you feel secure makes this easier.

You may focus on memories that are less upsetting before talking about worse ones. This is called “desensitization,” and it allows you to deal with bad memories a little bit at a time.” (1)

I believe that exposure therapy might help some people, but may not help others. Admittedly, it seems counterintuitive to re-live feelings that cause so much pain. Surely, this is a type of therapy that needs to be done with an extremely skilled therapist. This type of therapy would have to be handled very carefully in the case of trying to heal from infidelity. Have you tried exposure therapy? If so, how did it go?


Developing a Higher Consciousness

So, what is the goal of all of these challenges in life?

I have always been of the mind that we must use the most difficult lessons to develop a higher consciousness. Instead of allowing these lessons to grind us down, we must learn how to love in the face of despair. In one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s last blog posts he said:

“Think of the people you know who give love in response to negative energy that’s directed their way. There aren’t many people who respond lovingly in that situation. The ones who do are able to because they have love to give away. They know that it’s impossible to give away what they don’t have, and they’ve gone that extra mile to acquire what it is that they want to both attract and give away. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, then begin by taking stock. What have you got to give away? What are you giving out to the universe, and thus, what are you attracting? Remember that you can’t give away what you don’t have, but you can change your life by changing what’s going on inside.

Low energy attracts low energy. Low energy thoughts, such as anger, hate, shame, guilt, and fear, weaken you. And they attract more of the same. By changing your inner thoughts to the higher frequencies of love, harmony, kindness, peace, and joy, you’ll attract more of the same, and you’ll have those higher energies to give away.

To begin to change what’s inside you, become more loving toward yourself. In your thoughts, cultivate an inner voice and attitude that’s 100 percent on your team. Imagine an inner self that only supports and loves you.” (2)

Your love toward yourself manifests in your thoughts, you actions, and the boundaries that you set with others. But, there will be many situations when you will be punished for making your needs known, practicing kindness toward yourself, and for maintaining your boundaries.

After an affair, you have tasks besides recovery. Those tasks are using the pain to grow toward wholeness and using the pain to develop more love and empathy. But, most of all, you must take stock of what you can control and realize that in choosing your responses, you take back your control. You must treat others how to treat you by setting boundaries that are born out of honoring yourself.


Recovery is never easy and I would never pretend it is easy. I believe that it challenges every aspect of an individual and taxes internal reserves. I take my hat off to those who are able to repair their marriage. The tremendous love, unselfishness, and maturity this takes is not for the weak willed.

Infidelity can cause PTSD and leave the best of us with PTSD. There are ways that we can combat PTSD and I believe the most effective way to combat PTSD from adultery is through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques and loving ourselves so much that we set appropriate boundaries.

No matter what happens to you, your power is in your response. You can control your life through responding in ways that are self-honoring. Someone can only mistreat you if you decide to go along with mistreatment for a prolonged period of time. Otherwise, you can say enough is enough by refusing to tolerate bad behavior from your spouse.

You do not have to leave your marriage to do so. You only have to ask yourself the question: “is what my spouse asks of me in my best interest or does it cause further victimization?” If it causes further victimization, you can make the choice to simply refuse to participate in that activity. Once again, your power is in your choice and your power will always be within your choice.  This is not to say it will be easy—it is only to say that you have rights and can say no.

In the new year, never forget that you have the power of choice, no matter what life brings you. I offer you best wishes and many blessings in the New Year.

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    63 replies to "Change Within Before You Can Change Without"

    • Butterball

      “is what my spouse asks of me in my best interest or does it cause further victimization?” If it causes further victimization, you can make the choice to simply refuse to participate in that activity.

      I’m in a bit of a bind. There’s something that I know my husband wants of me that actually I find tiring and I just want to withdraw from. However, at the same time, it’s something that I know if I put on a good show, it will help my husband with time see the negative realities of the OW more because it will push her to show her true face, and for that reason it is to my benefit to cooperate. On the other hand, cooperating will make my husband happy at the moment and keep our relationship calm, but it will also allow him to not to face the reality of the deficiencies in our relationship. I’m back and forthing on what to do. I’m thinking to just put up with it for a while until the OW starts to lose her luster and then withdraw from it once she turns really ugly in her behavior in order for my husband at the same time to face the reality of what he is losing with me.

      • Sarah P

        Hi Butterball,

        I am going to provide my opinion, but it is not meant to be harsh. Here is what I see:

        I see that your husband is in a situation where he is currently having his cake and eating it too. He wants everyone to play their part so as to not disturb his perfect fantasy world. Everyone is doing what he wants and he is the only winner in this situation. Obviously, you are conflicted in whether or not you want to play your part (and for good reason.) There might be a long term pay off, but no short term pay off since playing your part means he won’t see the deficiencies in your relationship. Playing your part will in the short term create calm, but there is the trade off off too. You are hoping to stick it out long enough for the OW to show her true colors.

        You have the goal of staying with your husband and repairing your marriage. I can infer that you want to make the choice that contributes to this goal. You will have to follow your intuition on this one because only you know which one is the best. But, I would recommend taking out a sheet of paper and writing a pros and cons list. Brainstorm all the pros and cons of each choice and then see what feels right for you.

        I am going to assume that as the wife, you have more power than you think. I believe your husband knows this too and that is why he is asking for you to play a role. As long as everyone is under his control then he can continue to live selfishly.

        Here is a question: what do you believe will happen if you assert your right to having a committed relationship and stop cooperating with his terms?

        • Butterball

          I don’t have a problem with the cake eating part, although 100% you are correct that is what is happening. I know you may think that is strange that I accept that but that’s not really the issue. Trust me on that.

          I know the OW’s colors and she already is showing them quite clearly (to me at least), but of course early on in the relationship my husband can’t see them. I have no self-esteem or self-confidence issues. I know in every way that I can control, I am at least as good if not better than her or can be. Her biggest advantage at the present is she is new, as far as I see it. However, there are also issues beyond any of our control that she potentially can fulfill a role I will never fulfill. But if that really bothered my husband, he would not still be with me.

          Yes, he is living in a fantasy world with everyone playing a role but I would argue he is not really winning. I have known him for many years and now he does not smile, does not laugh, he doesn’t seem to have much emotion of any kind at all.. Good or bad. Frankly, I almost would be happy if he got angry, because he doesn’t even seem to do that anymore either, at least with me, although I think OW is getting some of that. Small annoyance here and there from him, but nothing that lasts any longer than the time it takes for him to express his annoyance to me. In a way, he is ACTING the model husband when he is with me but he just has no FEELING whatsoever and I suspect to a great extent he is that way with OW too. This may be an emotional affair web site, I know, but actually my husband didn’t get into this for emotional reasons and he seems to have none at the moment, for anyone. I think if he does he won’t be able to handle it. At one point early on he told me he explicitly said he has feelings for me but he is afraid to express them. I think that was pretty self-insightful. He doesn’t even want to know my own. The other day he asked me “How are you doing?” I’ve had an infection the last week and I was silent when he asked that and then he quickly added, “I mean your health.” It was like he was afraid I might actually tell him how I am feeling.

          I know I have a lot of control but for 2 reasons I am holding off on outright asserting it: 1-Waiting for his limerance for OW to wear off a bit so that I am in a better position and 2-Because it might cause some turmoil and I want him to be able to focus on his studies and pass his exams that are coming up in a few months. I’ll let OW be the one to cause any problems in that regard. I’ve got a date in my head when I plan to change strategies.

          He wants to believe he controls things right now and that is very important to him. He even admitted early on he can control OW but he knows he can’t control me. Whether he can control her completely remains to be seen. But I don’t want to rock that boat yet either.

          If I were to assert my rights now it won’t get me anywhere right now. He’ll say if I want a divorce I can have it, not that he wants one, but he will say that nonetheless. And he also knows if he gives me my rights it will cause turmoil with OW. He plans to give me my rights at some date in the future, he has said that and I believe it. He already has taken some baby steps where he clearly was testing OW’s reaction in that regard and she reacted badly. She;s selfish, even more so than him.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Butterball,
            This situation must be difficult on a day to day basis because of the stress that it causes. You said that you have been dealing with an infection. Do you think your immune system is comprised by the stress of it all?

            So, I would like to understand how I can best be of help to you since there are so many aspects to this that are happening at once. You say that you are not bothered by the cake part and that you don’t want a divorce. It seems that if divorce is on the table it will have to be initiated by you because your H does not want a divorce. Yet, there is still the OW in the picture and it seems she is not leaving as of yet. I know that your goal is to keep your marriage. So what are the most immediate concerns? Is it keeping your stress level down? Is it making your H see through the OW more quickly? Is it ensuring that your marriage stays together? Or is it something else? What do you think the most pressing priority is right now for you? I am sorry that you are going through all of this.

            • Butterball

              The infection is not likely due to stress but rather was a sinus infection due to dust exposure because I was doing some major cleaning and it got in my nose.

              I’d say my top priority is for my husband to face reality and see how he is doing damage to all 3 of us so that he corrects his behavior and makes things right. I’m not going into the details of how he can make it right but it is all very clear cut and he knows it but refuses to do it, at least not now. And I have told him this. I told him that he will face problems down the line because he is not handling this in the proper manner . I have told him I feel like he is driving a car in the dark because the road is very dangerous and he is afraid if he actually could see the dangers he would be too scared to drive at all, so he chooses to drive blindly, and that me and OW are passengers in the car and eventually he will run into a wall and we all may be injured. There’s nothing really stopping him from doing the right thing except demands the OW made on him and promises (which were completely unacceptable) he made to her in response to those demands that showed absolutely no respect for me. And he came up with some lame excuses for it but in the end it probably serves his perceived needs as well. He could make everything right immediately in a day. He chooses not to, but when he finally realizes it I will get back what was taken and more. There will be no flexibility on my part when that day comes.

              Last night I did casually tell him that I wanted time with him just relaxing and he didn’t get upset that I said it but he made the excuse (which is probably true) that he needed to study. Of course, he could have come and studied with me but he chose not to do so.

          • Butterball

            Well, I got what I wanted today…he got angry. OW did something careless which could have been dangerous(although I didn’t know if it was him or her that did it) and I got blamed for not stopping it from happening even though I knew about it (but didn’t think it was dangerous). He flew into a rage and accused me of trying to hurt him and her.

            But this was not really the interesting part. In the middle of his getting angry, he totally changed topics and asserted that he did not “need” me and if I wanted to leave I could and if I needed to stay in our home (not needed him, but needed the home) I could, but that I shouldn’t think he was staying with me because of a certain reason that had nothing to do with the topic of the conversation. What is interesting is I am certain, although he does not come out and say it directly, that he is absolutely afraid I will think he is staying with me for this reason because there are a lot of bad people in the community here that use women for this reason, but I have never felt that he was like that even though his actions could be interpreted that way. It’s his Achilles heel and I have already had a feeling that he will have to face this issue head on before he can get out of his midlife crisis, because I think he regrets his actions in the past even though his intentions were not bad. I told him of course I don’t believe that about him although I pointed out to him how he had encouraged me to do something that could be interpreted that way but that it also showed he was thinking about us staying together long term. The fact is though that the issue he raised in the middle of the rant had absolutely nothing to do with the issue he got angry about in the first place, but perhaps he realized he went too far with his anger and that I might try to get revenge by bringing up this other thing to him or others. I did tell him I didn’t understand why he turned the argument to this unrelated topic. It was very curious and really showed me what he fears most. I just wish there was a way I could make him see these fears are unfounded.

            • Butterball

              There was one last thing I wanted to mention here, toward the end of the rant he made a horrible horrible accusation to me about my intentions. I basically said to him “how dare you think that about me, just leave, go.” And he did. Then I called him back again about 20 minutes later and told him to come. He came and I asked him directly, “What makes you think such a horrible thing about me?” I expected some sort of excuse or justification but his response was a simple “I don’t know.” I wasn’t trying to call his bluff or anything but it turned out to be an opportunity to demonstrate to him his irrational thinking. He couldn’t even come up with an excuse. He at least admitted he had no idea why he was thinking of me like that. They say a man in mlc is confused and that was pretty clear.

              Anyway, half an hour later it was like nothing had happened and we had lunch together and he asked me to do a small task for him. Out of the whole incident though I realized there is a boundary I need to set with him, or at least let him know what to expect and not expect from me.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Butterball,

              You are correct that there is a boundary you need to set and make it clear what he can and cannot expect from you. If you do not believe you are in danger of divorce, then there is good reason to set your boundaries.

              I get the impression that your husband wants to control the situation. And you are also hoping you can control certain aspects of it. I can also imagine that the OW wants to control the situation to get her goals met. All of us hope that we can control aspects of our lives, even if we don’t say it. No one wants to be blind-sided.

              But ultimately, there is no one to control except yourself. It would be good for you to decide what behaviors you want from your husband and what behaviors are not okay with you. Then set boundaries around them. This is the only way to alter your husband’s or anyone’s behavior. You must first create a different dynamic and then this generates a different response. But, we still cannot control the outcome.

              It sounds to me like you are in competition with the OW and this is what your husband wants. I think he is hoping for two people who will bend over backwards for him even if you do not want to bend over backwards for him. But, the OW is not really your competition because you have your inherent strengths and your husband has to ultimately decide he wants those strengths. Or, he might decide that he would rather roll around in the pig pen with the other woman. But his decision to roll around in the pig pen is no reflection on you and you cannot compete with a pig. You must build up yourself and your best attributes and then set boundaries around your husband having access to those best attributes. He needs to prove his worth to you and not vice versa. Obviously his MLC is making him behave in ways that he never has before, but it does not matter. You have to continue being you and building up your best attributes. You need to be clear on what you will and will not accept.

              If you do this for yourself, do you think your husband will leave the house for the OW?

              Also, is your husband a MD or is he waiting to pass board exams to be a licensed MD for the first time? If he is a MD, does the OW work in his clinic? If she does, you need to be aware of some things that could affect you. But, if she doesn’t, then it will not affect you as much.

    • Shifting Impressions

      Sarah P. This is a great post. I have truly found that the battle inside myself is epic. When those “thoughts” hit, I often ask myself “What is true today?” I like that reject and replace strategy.

      Very early on after d-day I decided that negative self-talk was NOT the way to go. I was pretty traumatized and often couldn’t sleep and the tears….so many tears. But deep inside I knew, no matter how much I hurt, this was his fault not mine. I had loved with my whole heart and given him my trust and loyalty.

      I agree, all of this is a process, with many twists and turns and ups and downs, but slowly the battle becomes a little easier. I am actually starting to see that there are valuable lessons to be learned and slowly I’m a little more open to learning them.

      The other day I was at the hairdresser’s and my regular hairdresser was sick so the owner of the shop did my hair. She started to pour out her very devastating story…..Somehow she must of sensed my understanding, even though she knows nothing of my own situation. As I left the shop she hugged me and said “you were the angel I needed to today.” Maybe all of this does make us more open and understanding.

      Thanks again, Sarah… much good information.

      • Sarah P

        Hi Shifting,

        It seems there is a much larger purpose to all of this. I am glad that you were able to talk to the shop owner. Obviously it was no coincidence that your regular hair dresser was unavailable. Situations where you are able to minister to someone else in pain always happen for a reason and you were sent to minister to her. I believe in guardian angels, but I also believe that those of us on earth can serve as angels to others if we are willing to let God use us in this way. None of us are perfect, but all of us have something to give and share regardless of whether or not we are perfect. Perfection is not even the point– growing in understanding, love, and compassion is the point of it all. I would never wish infidelity on anyone ever. But, I do believe that when life deals us lemons, we must make a choice. We can be soured and bitter or we can make lemonade.

        Many blessings to you and I hope that your heart continues to find healing and that you are able to bless many others with your understanding and compassion.

    • Fragments of Hope

      Thanks for this comprehensive post Sarah P. As a psychology grad and having used the techniques of CBT to combat depression in the past, I’m familiar with a lot of the material here. As a person with a very associative brain (I’m a fiction writer as well) I’ve really struggled with getting over the difficult memories of a month of mayhem and shocks when he revealed the affair and then shunted between the two of us, lying along the way. I’m facing into the three year anniversary of this in January. I’m doing a lot of work at the moment using Steven Stosny’s books to reframe these incidents and to pair them with empowering thoughts about my own values and strengths.

      I do wonder though what you have to say about trying to repair while WITH the perpetrator. Louise Hay and Pema Chodron were able to make positive movements out of their difficult situations. I find it very difficult when my husband himself is a trigger. When normal life itself sometimes feels like a trigger because he was meeting and interacting and texting this person behind my back but alongside normal life to the extent that he was thinking of them having a life together (he told me to unburden himself and help him decide.) He also did lots of work and wanted to make things work with us (telling me directly in heartfelt texts WHILE AT THE SAME TIME in renewed contact with the OW who had pinged him online.(He was working through his feelings and finishing it but it meant more lies and deception). How can you use the CBT techniques to say, ‘he is most delayed at the train station’ when the fabric of your normal reality was torn apart. You have to operate on probablitiies that he is not doing something wrong but, as in my case, I took his remorse at face value but he slipped up again (and was found out, did not stop or reveal it himself, second time round). CBT operates on the premise that our thought processes are probably wrong but at one point blind faith was wrong, giving the benefit of the doubt was wrong, assuming innocence was wrong. We can try to use the CBT techniques once our spouses have put in the effort but we have learnt a primal lesson that our nearest and dearest can stab us in the back. As you described the memory from your ex, these feelings are seared onto our cells. When you are repairing while in the company of a wayward spouse, the warning signals are flaring up at the same time as you are trying to reframe your thoughts/feelings. It’s a massive task.

      Finally my spouse finds my anxiety, upset, anger (from triggers) too hard to deal with. He comes from a non-conflict family and he deals with my upset with defensiveness and frustration (he feels incompetent at ‘saying the right thing’ (words are my language, his is touch)). I know i need to take responsibility for my own healing but it feels desperately lonely to not get the emotional support I need.There are also a lot of family stresses that make us never far from the edge I think we could make it otherwise but, facing into another trigger month, I think this difficulty could break us for good.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Fragments,

        I can empathize where you are at emotionally. Honestly, had I stayed with my ex, I know that I would have dealt with triggers for a long time and I do not know if I ever would have fully gotten over it. But, my situation was different. We did not have children and the way he handled the whole thing was lower than low. My ex had a vicious, violent, and vengeful streak that came out after the affair. That is why I could not return. So, it was less about the affair itself and more about the violent and vengeful streak that came out. He showed his true colors (aside from the affair) and those were deal breakers.

        I agree with you that CBT operates on the premise that our thoughts are wrong. If a wayward spouse is making an honest effort and has been, then CBT is helpful to combat the thoughts that continue to tell you unhelpful stories. If a wayward spouse is not making an effort, then CBT is useful to tackle thoughts that effect your self-worth and mood. So, for wayward spouses who are still causing a betrayed spouse pain, the betrayed spouse’s self-esteem might be affected and so CBT needs to be used to combat self-esteem issues. Many betrayed spouses struggle with thoughts that they are unlovable, not good enough, or somehow naive. None of these thoughts are helpful and they also are not true. CBT can help combat these thoughts that affect self-esteem. May I ask what some of those thoughts are that you deal with? If I know what they are, then I can suggest how to reframe them.

        As far as taking responsibility for your own healing goes, I believe that it is not entirely on your shoulders. I believe that your husband needs to be more cooperative and you need to have signs and validation that he is doing his share. I believe a wayward spouse needs to make an effort to heal the betrayed spouse by listening, being attentive, and understanding why a betrayed spouse feels the way he or she does. If a wayward spouse is doing this, then the betrayed spouse can be responsible for their part of the healing. But, it sounds like your H is not doing his part well. It is not your burden to heal alone and it is not your burden to do 100% of the work. There needs to be cooperation. I understand why you feel lonely with all of this going on. Please come here often and leave comments because someone is always around to help and I check in at least once a day.

        Can I ask more details about what happened? When did the affair end and was it a coworker or someone you knew? Does he ever talk about why he did it?

        Even if he is from a family where they don’t like conflict, he still needs to do his part. Often families who don’t like conflict do a lot of ‘stuffing’ and ‘suppressing’ instead of meeting difficulties or difficult feelings head on. When this happens, the feelings don’t go away. They cause a world of trouble beneath the surface and set people up for failure in their relationships. Conflict is not fun, but it is necessary. There is such a thing as conflict that doesn’t have to be a destructive force.

        Do you see anything in your husband that indicates he feels bad about what he did? Or does he just want to suppress all uncomfortable thoughts and have everyone pretend like everything is okay?

        By the way, how is your fiction writing going?

    • Robert M.

      I’m in a tough situation, as I found out about my wife’s indiscretion right before she went into mourning the death of her father. So I’ve forgiven her and am moving past it, but we can’t really talk about it now in her grieving process. She also doesn’t believe that “a kiss” (and more than 900 text messages over three months) constitutes an affair and doesn’t feel the need to close things out with her friend, who, from old Facebook messages, has been in love with her for some time (i.e., the one that got away). He is also about to lose a parent, so my fear is that this could be another reason for them to get back together. We live in another state than the friend, but my wife travels back home once a month or so to help with her father’s estate/business.

      The sad part is that I made a huge commitment to save my marriage and become more attentive and affectionate towards my wife after she became angry with me for not being supportive. While this was going on, she was still communicating with this guy and finally told me after I said that she had all the signs of someone having an affair.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Robert,

        I am really sorry that you two are going through all of this. Thank you for commenting and reaching out for feedback. I hope you find this blog to be a supportive place.

        If I am interpreting your story correctly, it sounds like your wife was trying to find fault with you since she was having an affair. This is a common and unfortunate pattern. The wayward spouse doesn’t want to feel guilt or discomfort for what they are doing and so they find fault with the betrayed spouse. They build up a story in their head about the betrayed spouse’s imperfections and so this allows them to feel justified in their actions, absolving them from guilt.

        Exchanging 900 text messages with someone who your wife knew was in love with her is an emotional affair. Exchanging a kiss is crossing the line to a physical affair. Your wife does not get to redefine what she thinks is an affair (or not) because the world generally agrees that her actions constitute an affair. If she keeps in contact with him, it is not a good thing for your marriage. She eventually needs to take ownership of her actions instead of pretending like what she is doing is okay.

        I am sorry that your wife lost her father, but that does not give her permission to hurt you.
        I do not know what your marriage was like before, but I would like to know if your wife has a history of needing to seek constant validation outside of herself. In my mind, she is using her friend for validation and it is unfair that she expects you to stand by and take it. She won’t see it that way, but she is acting in a way that would suggest this.

        Robert, what do you think you will do if she continues her relationship with her friend? Do you think your wife is willing to listen to your side or do you think she will use grieving as an excuse? Her grieving is separate from your marriage with her and it doesn’t give her permission to keep doing things that hurt you.

        Do you have a pastor that you can talk with? Do you two have children at all? Do you think she would be open to talking with a third party or is she completely against that right now?

        Many blessings to you, Robert,


        • Robert M.

          Thank you for your reply. I have spoken to a husband and wife counseling team, which helped a lot. My pastor was little help at all, and the therapist he recommmended to my wife for her grief agreed that it wasn’t an affair! She is willing to go to counseling together, however.

          Overall, I’m not happy with my wife’s lack of accountability, but I don’t think she’ll see the friend again. She said it wasn’t emotional, she just wanted some attention, which I wasn’t giving her.

          We have one daughter.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Robert,
            I am surprised that a therapist actually told your wife it was not an affair. I don’t see how a trained therapist could actually come to that conclusion. On the other hand, maybe your wife filtered the story in such a way that omitted key details. Perhaps the therapist made that comment based on a biased story.

            I do want to say something– even if you were not giving your wife the attention she felt she needed, it is not an excuse. The first trick in every wayward spouse’s book is to find a reason to defer the blame to the betrayed spouse. However, let’s assume that your wife felt she was not getting enough attention. It does not in any way excuse her action. She needs to come and tell you and then communicate her needs. No one is a mind reader and people need to communicate specifics to their spouse.

            I hope that she is able to find accountability because she will not understand the full impact of her affair until she is accountable for her actions. I hope that you and your wife can go and see the husband and wife counseling team together. They sound like your best bet. It sounds like you want to stay with your wife and so she really needs to get to the root of what causes her to behave this way. I do not really believe in situations taken at face value. There is always some kind of root underneath it all. Often the wayward spouse is not even aware of what is causing their behavior. They think it is all about attraction, but I believe there is something else going on that would cause someone to be in that situation.

            I sincerely hope you can work this out. You are modeling honorable behavior to your daughter and that in wonderful.

            • Robert M.

              Thanks again for your reply, Sarah.

              To my wife’s credit, she has communicated her need for more attention over the years and stated that it didn’t excuse the betrayayal. Now, as we’ve discussed, the accountability seems to have waned.

              FYI: she grew up in a troubled household and often sabotage s things for herself while also being a great mother and very reliable to other people.
              Accountability has never been her strong est attribute, either.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Robert,
              I would like to offer insight and have another way to look at the situation. Did your wife grow up in a home where there was too much alcohol, neglect, or abuse? I do believe family of origin impacts people and I think there are things that everyone carries from childhood, both good and bad. But some things they carry from childhood may not lead to healthy functioning as an adult. For whatever reason, I am getting the impression that there was some alcohol abuse in the family. Often children from those households become ‘parentified’ at an early age and tend to pick up the pieces around the household, both emotionally and physically (cleaning, cooking, care of siblings etc.) As adults, they over-extend and overcompensate. Oftentimes adult children of alcoholics (ACOA’s) are some of the most successful people I have met in terms of how they are toward others. People usually love them because they are great caretakers. But, it comes with a price. They are emotionally drained and running on empty while appearing to have it all together to the outside world. But, they are also always afraid the ‘other shoe will drop’ and sometimes engage in self-sabotage. It gives them a sense of control, even if they do not recognize it as such. I have known several ACOA’s very well and counseled some of them. But, someone with these attributes could have come from other troubling circumstances too: abuse, neglect, drug abuse in the home, abandonment etc. But, the profile seems to be most common in adults that had a parent who abused alcohol. Is this your wife’s case? If so, it adds a different dimension toward her behavior and I can point you toward a series of books that you can read. In these cases, affairs can be seen as either a form of self-sabotage, something to do when a person is emotionally running on empty, or perhaps a form of emotional caretaking. They seem to choose affair partners that remind them of a family member with whom they have not worked things through. None of this is done on a conscious level. Does any of this ring true in your wife’s case? (The family of origin pieces?)


            • Robert M.

              Yes, you are correct. She has ten years of sobriety herself and her mother was an alcoholic. Her father was also not very nurturing and raised her and her sister by himself. My wife was always the stronger of the two siblings (good grades, stayed out of trouble, had a good career, etc.) but she also tends to be her own worst enemy at times.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Robert,

              If your wife is not already in AA and Alanon in an active fashion, then I would recommend she go to meetings at least once a week and speak with her (hopefully female) sponsor. In AA and Alanon they believe this is a lifelong battle and that one has to continually work through the false thinking and unhelpful actions that are the result of alcohol use. I had to visit quite a few of these groups as part of my degree (with the group member’s permission, of course.) As a Christian, I believe that God can help lift the burden but there also needs to be the human steps involved in recovery and that means going to meetings. It sounds like your wife is relapsing in her thinking and this is probably causing her to act out. Would you be opposed to go with her to Alanon meetings once a week and serve as a support? I think that would be a great way to bring you two closer in many ways and I would highly recommend it. This way you show her that you are involved in her life emotionally and there for her. Women are not mind readers (and neither are men) but many women need to have their husbands to willingly do these emotionally difficult things with them. It really helps. If she is not already going, I would suggest taking the lead and finding a weekly Alanon meeting that you could attend together. This would go a long way toward bringing you two closer. This way you are actively there for your wife in concrete ways that she understands. This should help remove the need for her to speak with her friend every again. I am going to guess that she would prefer to have a deep kind of emotional intimacy with you and she needs this intimacy. Once that void is filled, she will stop talking to her ‘friend.’

              Here is a link:


            • Robert M.

              Also, the man that she had the affair with is a lot like her dad in the fact that he’s from the same area and likes working on old cars, something other men in her family are also into.

            • Sarah P.

              It sounds to be like she really needs to work on childhood issues.

            • Robert M.

              UPDATE: My wife is still in contact with the other man, as his mother and former father-in-law just passed away. She sent him flowers on behalf of her family and told her cousin she wished she could’ve been there. While I’m obviously sympathetic for his loss, he can’t keep popping up in our lives if we’re going to move forward.

              Also, after a great deal of soul searching, I realize that my wife is also emotionally abusive towards me. She has created a terrible home environment for me by making me walk around on eggshells while projecting a different image to everyone else.

      • Butterball

        Robert-I say keep it up. A lot of people say that the wayward spouse sees these changes simply as a response to their waywardness and not as genuine changes. You need to remain consistent and persistent so that she can see your changes are real and not just a ploy to get her to stop her relationship.

        There’s something that my husband always complained about regarding me. To some extent it was my fault but after we moved I also realized the place that we lived had a big impact on me being the way I was and where we are now everything is so much easier for me. Also, when I used to do the thing that my husband wanted me to do and he saw me in the middle of doing, he would come criticize me as if I wasn’t doing it at all. It was very frustrating and it made me lose motivation to do it because if he is criticizing me while I am doing it, why bother?

        I already was improving after our move due to the better environment, but then he used this as one of his excuses for his relationship with the OW. The thing is she can’t fully replace me in this, and it doesn’t absolve me of responsibility myself for these things. But he has been laying off of me about it anymore, and I finally feel free to do what he wanted all along and I have been putting more effort into it. And while I see that the OW is active in doing the same things, she also is not great at it as far as I can tell, but I am sure now he will harass her to be sooner or later. And frankly she doesn’t come from a good background to even know how to do things at a top level, so if I work hard I can surpass her.

    • Hopeful


      Great article and so much I relate to! I am the “reliable girl” in every aspect of my life. I have thought about this a lot recently and I am happy with that. What I have done is be more assertive. I am working to be less defensive and protective of myself since I went to an extreme but gradually I am becoming more vulnerable and open. It has been hard! But I am making progress.

      My husband is trained in CBT as so many mental health professionals are so I too am familiar with this. In the end I have had to tell myself it is mind over matter and I had to tell myself to focus on today and my current reality. There is no way to change the past and they was so important for me to focus on. I still have triggers and PTSD symptoms from time to time. I feel they are improving but become more frequent when we are bussier and under more stress. When my husband and I focus on our selves and our relationship I feel better. I also feel the part about sending out positive energy is so true. This has made all aspects of my life and my own disposition a lot more positive. It is such a gradual process.

      One thing I find interesting is I really have not changed or adapted much with the exception of being more assertive with my husband and less flexible. But as far as everything else I feel the same. He acknowledges this but our dynamic has changed. even though I was optimistic, upbeat and took great care of myself and us it was different since I was living with someone who was flat, non authentic, and not transparent. So even though I have not changed our dynamic has changed.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Hopeful,

        This idea about you acting more assertively stands out. Being assertive is a good thing. It’s something that all women need to work on since many of us are trained from the time we are young to be people pleasers and smooth things over. Being assertive with husbands (or wives) is an excellent thing. Some people (unfortunately) will do whatever they can get away with. This is true of many spouses whether they are male or female and being too nice in these situations makes the problem worse.

        I can see how just being assertive has changed your dynamic. You are the same person but now expect a certain level of behavior and probably enforce expectations in positive ways. I went through something similar with my H too. He has an extremely argumentative and intrusive family and for several years I responded by going quiet and being extra nice. That did NOT work at all. It caused them to be even more aggressive, intrusive, and take more of a role in coming between us and trying to run our lives. Our marriage went through a rough time and I realized I was going to have to assert my needs or lose myself. Giving up myself was not a worthy trade off at all and I knew I had to save myself and my family. Asserting my needs and expectations was the best thing I ever did. It has actually forced both him and his family to communicate in more constructive ways. I stopped tolerating bad and hateful behavior from them and stopped seeing them for a long period of time. It sounds like being assertive and less flexible is the best thing you have done for yourself and your marriage since women who take good care of themselves and their families can be taken for granted by some. It needs to be tempered with assertiveness in order to work well. This is my opinion anyways because being too nice and non-assertive almost ruined me.

        I think the same thing can happen to men though. Some men are ‘nice guys’ and they are in a situation where a wife tries to get away with anything. Sometimes these men respond by acquiescing and trying to please. But, I believe this is the wrong thing for men to do. Men can also be assertive without being aggressive and I think male betrayed spouses need to assert themselves and draw lines as to what they will tolerate from wayward wives. Unfortunately some men feel like their hands are tied because of no-fault divorce laws and I understand that concern. (I do not like no fault divorce laws. I have been thinking for a while now that there needs to be a nationwide action to reinstate alienation of affection laws in ALL states. Too many people get away with soul-crushing deeds because of no fault divorce.)

        Hopeful, has your husband become more of an authentic person since you have become assertive?

        • Hopeful

          Thank you for your reply. I agree that this can be a common trait. In general the women I am around take care of others first and in general the men are more self centered. Even something so simple as basic responsibilities around the house. My husband just does not notice. If I point them out he will do them but I get tired of that and having to be the one to ask. And it am far from OCD. He recognizes he needs to take more intiative and has stepped up in general and especially with our kids. He used to say it was not his laundry or his bathrzoom to clean. That has changed.

          And yes he has become more authentic. I think a lot due to his own personal choices and changes he has made. I think he feeds off of me being more assertive. In the end it had been his decisions. That is the best part he has made the necessary changes and he is authentic and transparent and has never been happier.

    • TheFirstWife

      One of the things my therapist said to me was that if the CS chooses to cheat again, it has no reflection in the BS but everything to do with the CS.

      You can choose to remain in the marriage, or not.

      But at the end of the day it was their choice to cheat. The BS can change, be more assertive, lose weight, take up golf or hobbies the CS is into etc. etc.

      However it may not make a difference. It should be something the BS does for themself. Not for any other reason.

      I know I have changed as a result of the affair and hopefully for the better. My H changed too and recognizes mistakes he made in the past that are not being continued today.

      I am more assertive and I no longer give in on things. I don’t bend over backwards to make everyone happy anymore. I actually put myself first sometimes.

      And I am happier – I was not unhappy before but changes have resulted in increased happiness for me/us.

      Changing yourself should be for you – not for someone else. And when you like yourself more you have renewed confidence and that can lead to so much for you. And hopefully your spouse will see that.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello TFW,

        You make very good points and I could not agree more.

        The best thing to do with a wayward spouse or former wayward spouse is to be assertive and let the chips fall where they may.

    • TryingHard

      Great article Sarah. You are spot on about fixing your own internal voice of who you are and what is real.

      I don’t think I ever experienced much self blame. I kept my self estreem pretty intact during the whole ordeal. What I had trouble dealing with us my own ignorance and complete trust in light of very obvious red flags. Yes I still worry I could be fooled again. Because right now this many years past I still think he could pull off the charade again. I’m pretty vigilant. And I wonder if the OW reaches out to him because I am not convinced he would tell me.

      He plays his cards pretty close to the vest. I dint know that he would trust me to tell me if there were communication that I may enact some kind of retribution.

      The trauma is part of me now forever. But at my age i think it’s pretty normal. I’ve learned to live with it and should he make a wrong choice now I def know what I would do. id be ok too.

      • TheFirstWife

        Trying Hard. I used to worry about the OW contacting my H and him not being honest. The last time she did was about 3 years ago snd he told me immediately.

        I used to worry there would be a new OW.

        But now I do not even think about it. I look at reality now and I don’t believe he is cheating and would be shocked if he did again. But even if he did it is his choice to do it. If I found out I would be angry and mad and hurt, but it would not be devastating to me.

        It would be the end of our relationship though.

        But I refuse to waste time on unproductive thoughts. It is harder at times than others but when they come, I just dismiss them. I move on b/c allowing them to linger is a waste of energy and only upsets me.

        I used to cry every day over the same thought “why wasn’t I good enough?” Until I realized I was good enough but he just Didn’t notice or appreciate it. His loss.

        But now it is different for us and I focus on that. Keep looking forward & be positive & live in the moment, not the past.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Trying Hard,

        Thanks for chiming in and I hope that your holidays are going well.

        Trauma… it is so unfortunate that trauma seems to stick with us. It’s one of those cruel things about life. Broken people hurt innocent people in a bull in a China shop manner. Broken people do all kinds of selfish things to the last people who deserve such things done to them. And they leave innocents with trauma. I am sorry that you have had to go through everything you have with your husband.

        I think it is healthy to realize that since your husband holds cards close to his chest that he may not tell you everything. Trust needs to be earned back after these things happen and it may take a while. It is okay to live with the ambiguity as long as your spouse does things that more or less build toward developing a trusting relationship again. That burden is theirs to shoulder. Unfortunately many don’t have this insight so I think they can get a bit of a pass if they stop doing the behaviors that led to them straying. Behaving differently (consistently) and not setting themselves up for failure is also significant.

        I believe that having a plan, knowing what to do, and being okay (if it were to happen again) is one of the most important aspects of recovery. This is especially true with coming to the point where you know you would be okay within yourself if a spouse were to slip up.

        Trying, I hope that all is well with you and that you are getting through the holidays without too much stress.

        Big hugs to you,

        • TryingHard

          Hi Sarah and TFW
          You are 1000% correct to live in the moment and let the past stay there. But history forgotten is bound to repeat itself. I don’t dwell anymore. That thought about contact with the OW is the last specter of his betrayal. And if I’m going to live with the credo “better the devil you know…” than I better damn well know that devil and not live in some fantasy again.

          And you’re right. It is his burden. He’s had his visit from the good old Karma bus and I have to believe he knows this Karma visit is a result of what he’s put out there. This may be the one thing that would keep him honest. He’s felt humility and has learned to be humble. I think this is a very important aspect of the cheater healing after being in the high horse heady experience of an adoring illicit affair. I know he doesn’t want to cheat and will never put himself in that vulnerability. But it is her motives to contact him that worry me. And I even trust he would tell her to piss off. But this is something I’d want to know. I’m not certain he respects the fact that this is important to me. It’s simply a nagging gut feeling I have. Yes it’s crazy making

          The holidays were not so good Sarah. There’s still all that family drama but I didn’t go off the deep end. I tried to keep it positive but my h is pretty pissed at our son and how he allows the BS from our DIL to occur. It is awful. But holidays make it even worse. Next year we will def not be in town!!! Cruising to Europe is what I’m planning. He wants to stay stateside. But I acquiesced this year and he saw how that turned out!! So we will bundle up and enjoy the sights of Europe. I’ve had enough family stress to last me to the end of my life!!!

    • theresa

      Isn’t it all about priorities and choices? His actions and choices makes it very clear what his priorities are? Each and every event that he has made the wrong choice is a new infidelity.

      In any Given situation, how many times has he NOT Chosen you?

      For me, once was too many.
      For him, 100 is not enough.

      • Butterball

        I know what his priority is. And while he chooses to be with the OW, she is not actually his priority. He isn’t choosing her over me. She is just a tool to achieve what his priority is. He has a misguided idea that spending most of his time with her at this time will help him achieve his own goal. The reality is whether he spends a lot of time with her or virtually no time, the goal will either be achieved or not. Whether the goal is achieved or not is not something he can’t control. The man he was before knew this very well. Unfortunately, the man he has become has come up with excuses that have replaced his previous correct thinking.

        One time may be too many for you but there are certain circumstances here that make my situation different. It’s not that I agree with how he is handling things, but I need to give it time to increase the chance of turning things around. First of all, because I need time to observe and study the situation to know the best strategy. Second, to give him a chance to correct the situation on his own, because that would be better for both of us. Third, because it simply won’t get me anywhere to pressure him now. Because even though he knows very well I need him to act differently, I know very well he is not prepared to do so now.

        I have a timeline in mind, although of course my feelings may change and the circumstances may too. But i know a good time to put a plan in action due to certain events and knowing his personality during certain weather conditions that could be conducive to achieving what I want. If he is already starting to come around by that time, I will loop him into joint activities that increase his spending time with me and gradually try to restore the relationship. If he isn’t starting to come around by that time, I will withdraw and force him into spending more time with the OW, because that will be a good time to let reality hit them and let the flame burn out for them due to too much time together in unpleasant weather that makes him very agitated and for him to start worrying that he may lose me. That’s ahead of his self-described timeline to straighten himself out, but I won’t be giving him an ultimatum at that time, just start letting him feel I don’t need him. I’m willing to give him a chance to turn himself around on his own and wait this out longer but I will live my life on my own terms during that time, not his.

        I don’t know what prompted your husband’s affair but mine is in a midlife crisis and really it’s like they are sick in their minds and you can’t reason with them. You can’t pressure them. You can’t use logic or even the appeal to the morals they used to have. They are a different person entirely. That’s part of the reason I need time to observe him. He’s not the man I married anymore. Oddly enough he is better in some ways but worse in others. He’s like a stranger. I don’t know him so I need time to get to know him as he is now before I can really know what will work.

    • theresa

      Have you seen bob huzienga’s “charging neutral?
      This tool helped me to determine my path by answering questions of myself, focusing on myself, giving me concrete direction.
      It’s not easy. And you must be completely honest with yourself. Some of my answers were tough to acknowledge. I accept that I am responsible for my happiness. I was not happy so I needed to act. I needed to do the right thing for myself.
      My actions were no longer based his behavior. I was taking control of my life. I stopped waiting for him to do the right thing for us. He was already doing the right thing for himself. He liked his life. Why should he change?

    • Butterball

      I have read about charging neutral. I didn’t find it particularly clear though.

      I am honest with myself but the biggest issue that precipitated all this is not something that I can do anything about to change our circumstances. It’s not that I did anything wrong, if there was any wrong done that led to it, it was joint decisions the two of us made, but really in the end it was our destiny, not our error. Our life just turned out a certain way and from my side there is nothing I can do to change that.

      In fact, in the end, it might turn out the issue was from his side or has become something from his side (and also something he cannot do anything about), not mine, or from both of us. Only time will tell about that, so the big issue is actually not something I need to be “honest” about as it is simply impossible for me to do anything about it. And it may turn out his attempts to do something about will all be in vain too. If there is anything that I should be honest about in this regard is that if he is successful or is not successful in his self-imposed timeline, our relationship will undoubtably change. It could be one month, or it could be 3 years. It’s out of my hands.

      Yes, there are other issues that bothered my husband and that he has used as excuses, but I know that if the primary reason didn’t exist, none of this would have happened.That’s a big part of why I have a lot of self-confidence about the situation because I know the real reason is one he can’t blame me for. I’m honest about the other issues and am working to rectify them so that they are no longer issues. And strangely enough, one of those issues that he was complaining about 8 months ago as an excuse, suddenly now he is complimenting me about the same thing almost every day, although nothing has really changed in that regard.

      Maybe he needed the other reasons because he promised me he would not do what he has done in spite of the primary reason, and he broke that promise. So he has to have other excuses or else he cannot justify breaking the promise.

      • TheFirstWife

        Butterball you are right that his mid life crisis is a cause of an affair

        That was my exact situation. And you are correct there is very little you can do – the CS has to make the change or come to their senses.

        And I think you are correct in that they are not in their right mind during a midlife crisis. I watched my H become something else or someone else overnight and Thete was nothing I could do to stop it.

        I am sure you have a plan and understand your situation. I felt like I was on a boat in high seas for more than 2 years with my H. First was the affair and second was the aftermath of the affair. He handled all of it poorly and the two years after the affair was so bad I almost left him!

        He just didn’t get that in his attempt to “fix and repair” he was actually making things worse. The continued lies and denial of his behavior and issues was maddening to say the least. Even though he wanted out marriage to work and heal, his efforts were not helpful.

        I am sharing this b/c you may want to be aware in case you experience the same thing. There were times I doubted him and doubted whether we could repair the damage. I wish I would have been more prepared for some of the fallout.

        As an example the first month after the affair I saw how hard he was trying and I was so happy he finally came around and ended the affair and chose our marriage.

        I asked questions and he answered honestly or do I thought. When the OW in revenge mode sent me all the emails between them I realized he lied to me. About everything and I was crushed and devastated all over again.

        I hope when your H makes a decision you won’t be left feeling like the roller coaster ride has just begun. That can only add to the misery and pain.

    • Butterball

      I’m not entirely sure about that. As I mentioned before, the OW is a means to an end for my husband. He wasn’t seeking another woman actually, but she’s more of a tool. Yes, he had symptoms of a midlife crisis but if there had been another way not involving another woman, I am almost certain he would have preferred that. The problem is once he got involved with the OW, this triggered the normal behavior you find in a man having a midlife crisis. He’s following the script exactly.

      Knowledge is power though. Some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth is so crazy that I can’t help but laugh. I know I shouldn’t, but I do, because I know it is bullshit. The OW spent the entire day crying and whining and fighting with him and then in the evening when I told him I just wanted him to be happy he shouted “I’m not happy and in the end I will leave you” and went to the OW who started crying on cue the moment he walked in the door to her. I have no idea what they were fighting about whether it involved me or not but the thing he has been doing this week is any time she does something, he transfers the blame to me.

      She did something really stupid and careless and dangerous but because she admitted she did it, it was OK, and I was the one who got blamed because I didn’t take strong enough action to correct her mistake. Even though my husband had been going on the last few months and even days about how actions are more important than intentions. So even she had no bad intention she could have destroyed a lot of property and even lives with her carelessness, it was OK, because she confessed she did what she did. Even though he could have figured out it was her who did it without her needed to confess.

      Yes, he wants to get rid of me so badly that he bought some apples and gave two to his mother, kept two for himself, gave THREE to me, and only ONE to the OW. Who is he fooling? Actions DO speak louder than words and he can’t even see it in himself.

      It’s one of those kinds of situations where you can choose to either laugh or cry because it is so absurd.

      • Sarah P.

        I have an inquiry. Can you tell me what his relationship with his mom is like? If he was able to give her apples, she must live close. The apples are very symbolic. He bought apples, which he could of kept for himself, and he kept all but one for himself. It seems that the apples symbolize parts of himself and he has to give various parts of himself away. This is subconscious on his part. It is also interesting because apples symbolize original sin. So tell me about his relationship with his mom. Is he someone who feels he needs to please her even if not conscious on his part? How is their dynamic?


    • Butterball

      No there is nothing symbolic about this. It’s just fruit for eating. His mother had actually already taken 2 apples anyway from the bag. It’s the divvying up of the rest that was interesting. And actually, I went and counted them again, he left me 2, but only 1 for the OW and 2 for himself. And he made a big production about it.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Butterball,
        So what specifically is his dynamic with his mom? Can you tell me about that?


    • Butterball

      There’s nothing particularly unusual about his relationship with his mother. It’s a good relationship.

      He’s a bit crazy though these days really. For reasons I don’t want to go into, I have a lot more direct insight into his relationship with the OW. He’s definitely an equal opportunity offender though and that’s sort of a relief of sorts. I told him he had made a mistake in handling something and told him how he should have handled it, although I added at the end that is my opinion. He didn’t flinch at my criticism. She did the same thing about the same topic and told him what she thought was the correct way, and he got furious at her and told her to never do that again. Even though by that time he had changed his mind and agreed with her. But he didn’t want her saying her way was the correct way, but only that it was her opinion. But maybe that is just the nature of our relationship from the beginning was different. He has always wanted me to help him make decisions but he doesn’t want her to do that all. But she essentially did the same thing as me but i got away with it and she didn’t.

    • theresa

      Butterball, couple of more questions.
      You mentioned his self imposed timeline.
      You said you have an “idea” for your timeline.
      You have acknowledged and accepted there are things you can not change.
      But does that mean you should be doing ALL the changing, ALL the work, by yourself?
      On yourself? For how long?
      How long will his midlife crisis last?
      His dismissive, distainful, disrespectful attitude toward you and your marriage borders on abuse. Some of his actions sound downright cruel.
      There is NO excuse for infidelity. No justification for the act of infidelity. Inaction is also a deliberate act.
      I have tried t instill in my children that it is a sin to deliberately say or do something that you know will be painful to another, especially to someone you claim to love.

      Butterball, empathy is one of the strengths of this group. My words are not meant to hurt. And it’s true enough that no two situations are exactly the same. But I hope you can find some insight that may help you on your journey.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Theresa,
        Those are all good questions that you pose and an insightful assessment. I very much admire you for teaching your children that it is a sin to deliberately say or do something that you know will be painful to another. In fact, if we could teach children one rule– that would be it: do not do anything that you know will harm someone else. And if everyone lived by that rule, we would have a very different and more gentle planet to live on. I have extended that lesson to NOT deliberately harming others whether they are people, animals, or even bugs. Anytime there is a spider or some other kind of bug my children don’t like, I show them how to capture it gently and put it outside in an environment that is more beneficial for it. All bugs get this treatment, even wasps. For me, it’s about both the bug and the lesson. Every living creature deserves to be treated kindly, from the largest to the smallest. But, this is the most true of us humans and we are the ones who are most aware of the ability to do good or to do harm. This is why I hate affairs. People who have affairs know as plain as day that they are going to devastate their spouse and harm countless innocent people in the process. They know better, they know what will happen, and yet they charge madly toward the other person and simply don’t care. I often wonder what the world would look like if everyone in the world was so emotionally evolved that infidelity ceased to exist. Thanks for your continued comments, Theresa.

        • theresa

          Hahaha, found another kindred spirit! I do the same thing with tiny livestock. And they make fun of me, but let a little time pass and watch them do the same thing!

    • Butterball

      Theresa-As I have mentioned before there are some fundamental differences between what is happening with us and what has happened to all of you. The outward appearances may be the same but inwardly this is not about either one of us needing to change actually. Honestly, if I didn’t make any effort to change, he would stay with me. I know that. I am looking at it more as an opportunity to make changes to have a BETTER life. I’m sure all of us can say we have room for improvement, with or without our husband being in an MLC

      My husband makes excuses, yes, but those are tangential to the core. He has a core reason that can’t in any way be called excuses.It is a legitimate reason that I would have preferred we handled in a different way but the reason itself is sound.

      Did your husband go through a MLC? I know it seems like abuse and believe me I am not in denial, but his behavior is typical and having known him for so many years I know when HE doesn’t even believe what he is saying or when he is lying. And he knows I know that. He says some horrible things, yes, but I also can tell from the look in his eyes and his voice that he doesn’t mean it. They say about MLC, “don’t believe anything he says and only believe half of what he does.” You can’t take everything at face value. I mention these things he says not to complain about “abuse” but because they are so out of character and so not him. He’s being someone he is not, and that obviously is part of the reason he is so stressed out. He’s not comfortable with himself.

      • theresa

        So, does being uncomfortable with himself, why does he continue this horrible behavior.
        His actions, inactions and words are wrong. He is not being held accountable for HIS behavior. There is no down side for him.
        Have you considered that your response to the situation is enabling him?
        Are you giving him permission to act out this way?

      • theresa

        ps. MLC is part of it, but this is not his first affair. MLC was not a contributing factor for past affairs
        And yeah, it makes me sick to admit this. I should have many things differently..
        First and foremost I should have treated myself better, refused to put up with this crap, I should have insisted on
        honesty (esp honesty with myself)
        RESPECT (this is huge for me), and respected myself.
        I should have trusted myself more.

        I think that by doing this (or not doing something) I only hurt myself and my kids. They did not walk away unscathed.
        I am very proud of my kids. They have grown to be good people and each of them has at least one special attribute that makes them special.
        I thank God every day.

        And I hate it when he says they have “come out ok”.
        Does this remove any of the guilt he should be feeling. That what he did wasn’t so bad?

        GOD! Help me.

        • Sarah P.

          Hi Theresa,
          Your thoughts on MLC affairs personally resonate with me. I am hearing that the lessons you learned were that you needed to develop boundaries, self-respect, and unflinching honesty with yourself. Plus, you thank God everyday. I say “Amen!”

          As for your H, it is perfectly fine to remind him of his accountability in the situation. After all, if they have come out okay, you can take the credit for it. The next time he says that, I would be thinking, “Yes, they have turned out okay despite what you did. But, they could have turned out better.” My goodness.

        • Butterball

          AffairS? Multiple ones? Your husband sounds like a player and sorry that is a whole different category than what I am dealing with.

    • theresa

      Butterball, as I said I mean no harm. My thoughts are based on the information you supplied. Maybe my comments do more harm than good.
      Hope you can find peace.

      • Butterball

        Yes, there is more to it. He has moral failings but they aren’t what you think they are or what you would judge them to be.You are totally right to think I am enabling in some ways, but that is my choice, partially due to the fact that there are things I accept that you wouldn’t accept and partially because I feel he can learn better from his own mistakes, but I have made it abundantly clear I don’t like the moral failings that he and I would judge as moral failings. He will be held accountable for them and be made to compensate for them when the time is right. Or better yet, he will choose to do that himself.

    • Sara

      Great article Sarah. I have read it several times and I truly believe now that the only person you can control is yourself. You do have more power than you think, you can move on in your life and be ok and you can live for the day and be happier. For me to know and believe that his affair is not my fault has been the most helpful. Everyday it gets better and i am learning also honesty and confronting him is better than staying silent. Thanks again.

    • Fragments of Hope

      Hi Sarah, you asked me some questions a while back and I haven’t been here to answer. My husband had an emotional affair, texting, coffee, holding hands with a woman he happened to meet in a voluntary group. They accidentally met again in a coffee shop in the town where my husband works and it went on from there. I do not know this woman but when my husband first broke it off with her she Facebook messaged me to describe her sad side of the story. The connection had gone on for a year and they had begun to talk about ‘a life together’ so she felt a sense of entitlement. This led to her recontacting him nine months later as she felt they were meant to be together. She had also spied on me on Facebook. The affair stemmed out of my husband’s depression – his sense of failiure (there were some issues at work and the amount of time he dedicated to it was a bone of contention between us). His mother had a debilitating stroke and, even though she survived, she was much changed cognitively and in a wheelchair. We also had the stresses of our Asperger son. You asked if my husband is and has shown he is sorry. Very much so. He has dedicated himself to change within himself and has tried to be transparent and so on. An ongoing problem has been how he can’t cope with my anger and pain because they fuel his own self-hatred. On top of that some serious work stresses remain. I think that we are both easily triggered into depression and conflict because we haven’t had much time out of the stress zone. Some recent chats have shown us both how we can support and understand each other more. I think we must take account of the stress and disappointments we both carry. We both are committed to trying to address the areas where we feel low self-esteem (for example you asked about my writing, I am committed to pushing it forward this year) and we are committed to treating ourselves and each other with more compassion after some very stressful years.

      • Butterball

        ” Some recent chats have shown us both how we can support and understand each other more.”

        Could you tell us more about that?

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