Once again it’s discussion Wednesday!

I often wonder what does a good, successful marriage look like. I know that during the time I had just found out about Doug’s emotional affair I looked around at our friends, neighbors and acquaintances who I believed had okay marriages and felt that our marriage was similar – or in some ways better than theirs.

I blamed much of our discontent on our life at the time. We were in the middle of tag-team parenting. There was little time or money to enjoy the activities that we used to, while honestly experiencing a different kind of comfortable, committed love.

Foolishly I wasn’t too concerned. I was confident that once this stage of our life was over we would pick up where we left off and sort of begin our marriage again. I felt that we had still so much in common, enjoyed each other’s company and were committed to our marriage that our empty nest would be carefree and fun.

Obviously I was very wrong and stupid to believe that a marriage can go unattended for a period of time without some kind of repercussion. Now that I look back, I know that there were many things that we could have done to strengthen our marriage that would not have taken a great deal of time or effort.

However I wonder what makes a good marriage. What does a successful marriage look like? I am sure that most of us have difficulty finding couples that we can say have the “perfect marriage”.

Also I am sure that those of us who have experienced infidelity are trying to strive for a better marriage, but what does that mean?

See also  Discussion: How Important is it to Understand Why?

In your minds what would be the perfect marriage, and since the infidelity do you feel you are moving toward that goal?

Please be sure to respond to one another in the comments section!

Take care!

Linda & Doug

    21 replies to "Discussion: What is the Perfect Marriage?"

    • Paula

      Interesting idea, Linda. I also felt, when looking around, that we were in as good a, or even “better” than most, kind of relationship. And I was so MAD that it “happened to me” – note I say me, as I didn’t really think anything bad had happened to my OH at first, after all, he was having a lovely time with his paramour, lucky, lucky him. Of course, he was very, very confused, so he tells me that it was never really that great for him, as he was filled with so much guilt, and she didn’t really give much to him, she was pretty happy to “take” all the emotional support he could give her, without giving much in return, and that went for the physical side of their relationship, too, and when he tried to extricate himself from the OW, he found he’d got himself in way too deep, and she wasn’t going to let go without a fight. Obviously, I take some of this with a very large grain of salt, as why would you continue if it was SO terrrible, lol, but I know that, with the passage of time, he has been able to see it more clearly, and he’s just amazed, and obviously extremely disappointed, that he got himself into such a strange situation instead of simply talking to me. My frustration is that he seems to have processed it all so quickly and cleanly, understands the whys and wherefores, and moves right on along, while I still struggle with my heartbreak on a daily basis.

      Tag-team parenting, to be fair, I think we all expect that we are co-parenting, and that we know that this job can be boring and time consuming a lot, the assumptions you had about your marriage “getting back on track” once the hard yards of the busiest parenting years were over, are common. I still feel that I knew these years would be the hardest, but that we had set up a loving team that would weather anything (and anyone!!) that the world threw at us. Kind of like we had some credits up our sleeve, savings to draw on during these toughest of years. The love and fun we shared would be remembered in the tough times, sadly, it was just me that “banked” those times, my insurance policy I thought I held with him seemed to run out, just when the natural disaster hit! Maybe I hadn’t been paying the premiums? But I thought I was.

      The judgements (even though they are not intended to hurt) that we have endured by friends and acquaintances have been difficult for me, but my OH always says, look at how many marriages have crumbled along the way, even since we first moved in together, almost 24 years ago, and all of our friends and comtemporaries have marriages much younger than our own, as we were young and first to take the plunge, the three or four close friends that followed in the next few years have all divorced. Most of the (some re-)married ones still have pre-teens, toddlers and babies, compared to our children who are young adult and teens. My OH says, just sit and breathe when you’re feeling judged, as many of these couples have yet to weather whatever storms they will face, and in a small way, I think he’s right, we already see so many chinks in many of these much younger marriages, sadly. I can remember feeling so safe with my darling love (who was my hero, a better man than any of them, I know it sounds corny and naive) when friends’ marriages, over the years, crashed upon the rocks of infidelity – and most of the divorces we saw were for this reason, when I look back.

      Perfection, how elusive, but I think it comes back to “perfect for you,” and yes, you do need to know what that looks like, or at least have some idea, and that is why I still grieve, I loved the relationship I had, and I can’t have it back in the same shape (I’ve known that all along) but it is taking everything I have to try to accept the new “beast!”

      Apologies for another long one, it’s been a very long day!

    • changedforever

      As we try to build our ‘new’ marriage, I often think of how great it would have been NOT to have experienced the pain of my H’s affair with his co worker who was single & who knew we were married. Like you Paula, I thought our marriage had the same ‘insurance,’ the resiliency needed to withstand any storm…not true on my H’s end. Regardless of who pursued who…Pursuing someone who is married or allowing yourself to be pursued by someone married, reeks of all around disrespect and — let’s be honest here– these ‘infiltrators’ are the dregs of the earth. Early on following my discovery day, I read a blog which included the following comment that really resonated with me:
      ‘A person who knowingly begins a relationship w/a married person is the equivalent of a rapist, the lowest form of life bestowing a most violent act upon another human being. Additionally, infiltrating the most sacred unit on earth – the family – brings that intruder to an even lower level.’ Imagine.
      We knew we needed some type of marriage counseling PRIOR TO my H going outside of our marriage, but a family trauma distracted us and during our dealing w/that trauma, let’s just say the devil took over (in the form of a sob story carrying low life.)
      Perfect marriage? I know I don’t have one but I will continue to strive for whatever we can make of our 25 married years together…

    • Notoverit

      I think there is no “perfect” marriage. That said, I do believe that with work and love you can have an equal marriage. By that I mean, through communication and expressing your needs, you can know what your partner needs and what you need – an equality which promotes a happy relationship. The one thing I learned from all this mess about my husband’s EA is that I was the one doing all the work on trying to make the relationship work before the EA. I did everything for him, cooking, cleaning, cutting the lawn, paying the bills…everything. At the time I didn’t feel like I was overwhelmed; I was doing this because I loved him and wanted him to relax when he got home from work. I never told him that I felt lonely or that I wanted to do more with my life. Then I found something that made me happy (a new career) and I began to pay less attention to him. He is in his mid-fifties, has high blood pressure and other non-life-threatening health issues but he never talked about how that made him feel. He just kept everything to himself and that’s when the barracuda moved in. It was like she sensed blood and that he was vulnerable (This doesn’t excuse him actively taking part in the affair but it explains a lot, at least to me). After 8 months of this hell, I have finally come to a place where I can actually think. He is sorry, ashamed, embarrassed – all those things Doug has expressed before. With counseling we are starting to talk. So, to have an EQUAL marriage, everyone involved has to talk and express feelings, both good and bad. Nope there is no perfect marriage but there are marriages filled with love and understanding. I think to say that there is an ideal marriage is to set oneself up for failure. Marriage is hard and tough work. My problem began with not talking. To me, a “perfect” marriage is when everything is laid on the table and nothing is held back. Share the good and the bad.

    • Paula

      Changed, I’m interested in the rape analogy, weirdly, that is the nightmare I endure night after night, it has brought back a whole lot of pain and bizarre memories of the time I was raped, and my nightmares include being raped by each of them, and the two of them together, all odd “special effects” stuff. To try to teach the brain that the danger is over, to trust again is the thing I seem unable to maintain. My brain keeps telling me that there is danger, and I should flee, no matter how much bargaining and reasoning I engage in with my mind. It’s a huge challenge, and one I can’t believe is still such an issue more than two years in, and it’s damn exhausting constantly monitoring my thoughts. Of course, I regularly seem to get to the end of my tether and question whether it is worth all of the effort, but I have tried separation, twice, for reasonable periods of time, and it didn’t help the nightmares and mind battle, and I knew I still loved him, and that he is repentant. The mind battle is the thing he never really anticipated (neither did I) and the thing that absolutely kills him to watch me struggle with, and I try so hard to keep my battle with it “not in his face” – I don’t believe he needs to be punished daily, especially not after this period of time, and with the efforts he makes and has made to try to restore my faith in him. I just want to let go of all of the negative and bad, but my brain keeps wanting to protect me from further pain, stupid brain!!! 🙂

    • Pippi

      Paula — Shortly after Dday I was talking to my therapist about how I didn’t feel ‘safe.’ She said she could understand feeling ‘exposed’ but didn’t get my ‘safe’ comment. I recently found this article by a therapist and she repeatedly writes about the BS feeling safe or unsafe. I’m not sure it will be helpful to read for you . . . but maybe. Here’s the link — http://hlcounseling.com/articlenum10.html

    • roller coaster rider

      Paula, your brain is clearly not stupid. You write some of the most thoughtful and insightful things (and I truly don’t believe in flattery). With that said, perhaps it’s a matter of needing something bigger than either of you to trust in. I don’t think I could ever recover from the pain of this betrayal if I was depending on myself or my H alone.

      Perfect marriage? I’m with you, notoverit. Just doesn’t exist! But I do believe, as you so effectively expressed, that in having open, honest communication and facing the fires of this trial we’ve been through we have a better-than-average chance of having a wonderful marriage.

      BTW, Linda and Doug, my copy of ScreamFree Marriage arrived yesterday and I really like the ideas presented and the thought that “you do not need to squeeze your marriage into some perfect fit of compatibility, trust and oneness.” There’s a lot more, too. Sometimes the fantasy of perfection only gets in the way of the very real, very flawed human beings who are desiring more than anything to find a deeper connection. Perfect isn’t my target, and it never has been. Good thing as I am so far from perfect! 🙂

    • mil

      Has anyone else noticed that an awful lot of the cheaters on here are in the 50s sort of age group. Like my H they often have health problems or some sort of identity crisis. This obviously doesn’t excuse their affairs but it does maybe explain their behaviour to some extent.
      Also, while I am on, could anyone tell me if their spouse stopped the cheating as soon as it was discovered or if they had the need to carry it on? If my H had stopped the first time I found out I’m sure I could have got over it by now because I accept that I was being unloving and distant at the time but he continued contact with her after we were back in love’s young dream and him swearing undying love and that’s the deceit I can’t get over. He says he had to ‘phase it out gradually’ but was that for his or her benefit or both?

      • Still hurting

        My H was only 38 when he conducted his year long EA with a married co-worker. He claims he was experiencing an identity crisis of always having to be the “good husband, son, brother, etc.” He wanted “to be bad for once in his life” and actually went out looking for an affair partner and he found one who was quite willing to cheat with him and on her own husband and children too. I wish he would have taken up drinking instead of another woman. So not only did he cheat on me, he inserted himself into another marriage and the lives of three children with no care about the pain he could be causing another man or family. All this so he “could be bad for once in his life.”

        He stopped the EA the same day I found out. I noticed thousands of text messages to a number I didn’t recognize on our cell phone bill. Although truth be told the reason why the EA probably stopped immediately after I found out was that I called the OW informing her that I knew and would tell her husband if she ever contacted mine again. Guess having an EA and sending sexually provocative messages and photos to my husband suddenly wasn’t so fun and she wasn’t willing to risk her husband finding out. My H was aware of my threat to the OW and perhaps like the OW realized that their EA had some very serious consequences. Even though my H ceased all contact with the OW, has given me access to all his e-mail and phone accounts, has gone to therapy and read relationship books, I still don’t feel safe. There will always be a part of me that will be guarded from him. Five months from D-Day and our marriage seems better and he probably thinks it’s stronger than before the EA, but as I said, there will always be a part of me that will never trust him again or believe in the “perfect” marriage.

    • Paula

      This thread has been one of the most interesting to me for a while, thanks for all your comments! Pippi, that link is concise and completely to the point, thank you. I have recently been doing a lot of reading, which has been very interesting, all stuff I already knew, but put in an organised way – my brain still had a lot of it very scrambled, but best of all, I had a real breakthrough with my psychologist yesterday. My OH is away at our lakehouse with our son and two of our son’s friends, and he HAS TAKEN TWO BOOKS to read! This is huge for me, he is your typical bloke, tried hard to help me, but probably hasn’t really realised that I was trying to help him, also, as he believed he’d dealt with all of his confusion and pain, and so has been very reluctant to read a “self-help” book. He rang me last night and was amazing, after reading just a couple of chapters, realised some of the mistakes he was making, and can now see that I’m not crazy, this IS a normal way to react to an affair. My problem has been the length of time that it has taken for me – I still feel “unsafe.” I have searched desperately, trying to find what is wrong with ME, why I’m “not better yet.” My shrink went through some stuff with me yesterday (third session with a new shrink, I’m really impressed with him) and says he had consulted with two colleagues after my second session with him a couple of weeks ago – I had disclosed something to him that rang some warning bells for him in that session – and he says that all of my searching for “why am I not alright yet” stuff is not the point. I have spent two years panicking and with my fight or flight mechanism on full, without respite, and there was good reason for this. He says because of my circumstances, this was the correct response, and my brain isn’t stupid (thank you RCR! The flattery is mutual 🙂 ) He says he cannot “treat” me, because there is nothing wrong with me, he would be doing me a disservice trying to do so (treating me, because I am responding in a perfectly normal manner, not over-reacting, etc) and has referred us to a couple who he recommends as the leading relationship experts in our country. They are a couple of hours away from our home, but I am excited, because I have tried several people, and haven’t felt a “fit” yet.

      Mil, I agree, that demographic is over-represented, and I think it is fairly obvious why, trying to make themselves feel something, better, sexier, happier, etc, but just getting themselves and those who love them in so much pain and despair. I found out about my OH’s affair after he had ended it, he also, “had to phase it out gradually” – she was blackmailing him – the OW told me eventually, about a month after he had ended it, which was what my OH was trying to avoid, hence the “phasing out,” but there have been complications since (see above!) and I think that would be one of the most confusing and distressing situations, when the participating partner is unable, or unwilling to give up the OP, and I feel for you. This happened with my OH, but I was blissfully unaware of the affair whilst they were “winding it up,” – the “winding up” process took about nine months!! So the pain of watching him continue after D-Day wasn’t really there, at the time, but of course, you look back and realise what was going on in your life at the time, and it still hurts, retrospectively.

      Of course, none of us expect perfect, wtf is perfect? I just want to enjoy the journey, with respect, humour and a lot of fun, like I used to 🙂

    • Michael

      Maybe that demographic is pictured here because of the maturity it takes to speak up. Just a thought.
      Mil-
      My wife continued right in front of my face for a month. Then as I discovered how bad it was it went behind my back again for who knows how long. Your may be right that, that is one of the reasons I cent just get over it. All the while telling me how she was re-committed to me. Even to the point of lieing to our therapist. So yes, that kind of deceit is almost unforgivable. I think with time it may come back but I know it not there yet. Right now I’m just angry.

    • Jackie

      Mil,
      H also in same demographic. H was clearly going thru a Midlife identity crisis when the EA kicked in. Yes, he found it hard to stop the EA even with the OP not wanting to be part of the EA! H just didn’t or couldn’t stop the high he was getting off the fantasy.

      I felt it was just like an addiction. I would try to get him to see reason, which just led to him blaming me, lots of angry raising voice, and rationalizing that it was our marriage that drove him to this. Even in marriage counseling, his heart was still in the EA fantasy. So H was going through the motions of doing things with me to repair or help our marriage, but still thinking of her. Marriage counseling seemed to only make him feel more shame and defensiveness. Now he refuses to go to marriage counseling when it actually might help us since he now is not mentally with her in his fantasy.

      I too felt if H had just stopped the EA after he had told me he was in love with someone else, we would have gotten over it. Instead he chose to attack and blame me and the marriage, which has done much more damage to me and the kids.

      But like I said, it was more like an addiction…he would try to stop, but just wouldn’t or couldn’t cause the EA just felt so good. So what it was a fantasy. Isn’t that what alcohol is, “Fantasy escape from life, in a bottle.” This is just fantasy escape in the form of a lover. The pain and chaos it causes is just the same.

      Phasing it out gradually, is really part of the problem. Like an addiction, you need to stop cold turkey. But it is hard to stop something that you believe is making you feel alive again. Even if it is causing so much pain and sorrow to all around you. So they keep going back, and then stopping again out of guilt. The never ending pattern of addiction.

    • Lori

      Paula, I wanted to comment about your brain/mind battle posting, because I feel like I’m going through much of the same thing. I call it being “stuck” and feeling like “running away” – it is simply so exhausing being on guard all the time, especially from the one person that you should be be most comfortable with. I started seeing a new therapist who tells me that this is simply my “psyche” protecting myself, and that it won’t last forever. She says that because the options I have are both hard and painful (staying and trying to deal with the pain daily or leaving with all its repercussions), and that because I’m not ready to make such a decision, I feel stuck. Mostly, I just want to get away, by myself. I haven’t tried separation, but think about it sometimes- I wonder if anyone there has done this and found it to help or hurt?

      • Doug

        Lori, I felt that way for a very long time, I was stuck between staying and running away. I will tell you that it will not last forever, I now understand that I wanted to run away to gain some kind of control over my pain and feelings. Eventually it will go away when you realize that you are able to handle the pain without running away from it. You need to face it head on and totally focus on yourself and what you need to heal. It will not last forever you just need to give it some time and patience. Linda

        • Paula

          Lori and Linda

          Thanks, I know all of that, it really is the “stuck” feeling, but my problem is the length of time I have been feeeling this way. I am 2 years and 2 months past D-Day, and I still feel the pain as intensely, actually, more intensely, very often, as I did for the first few weeks/months, when I was actually coping as well as could be expected, we were going to be fine, a mistake had been made, but it was over, and he regretted it and apologised profusely, feeling like the biggest dick in the world for doing what he’d seen so many sad people do, and we were NEVER, EVER going to do to each other. I thought I would feel pretty distraught for a few months, and it would fade, that by two years, it would just be a dull ache. There does appear to be a reason for this, about lack of closure – the details of which are complicated – (closure, such a stupid word, I think!) which is what we are about to embark on some new work regarding. I know that my OH made a VERY bad call when he was in the midst of some extremely stressful stuff going on in our lives, and I forgive him for that, he is a good guy, and I still love him as much today as I did 23 years ago, I often wish I didn’t, and unlike any of the serial cheaters – who are a different breed, and to be avoided like the plague – that some of the “haters” here go on about, he made a very bad mistake, and he was foolish enough to think they were just being friends, he says he actually often almost “forgot” he was screwing her, he just considered her an ear to lean on from time to time when he wasn’t coping, but did eventually try to “fix” it when he realised that running away and hiding in someone else’s arms wouldn’t “fix” the problem, sadly, it took him a very long time to extricate himself from the OW (my so-called friend) because she wanted to keep him, and was being very difficult about him leaving her, with lots of nasty blackmail and backstabbing going on behind my back (amongst other truly bizarre things, she’d bought a wedding dress and told her family members she was getting married that year, which he knew nothing about until after D-Day, because her aunt had told me about OW’s plans for marriage, and the aunt had no idea the man involved was my OH!!! He swears that he never loved her, but was very fond of her, he knew he didn’t love her, the whole way through, he never said he loved her, he actually told her he didn’t love her, and she never said she loved him, and he told her outright that his preference was that they finish up, and he “went back to his family” and everyone would just act like nothing ever happened, erase it from history) He was trying to smooth over the nastiness she was starting to show, with her, and gently pull away (like he said, hoping she just wouldn’t notice he was not there anymore, lol!) but how does that help me with my distress over nightmares and flashbacks, etc? I am sooo sick of this, and have felt like there was something wrong with me to grieve (and panic, etc) for this long, especially when I have had other distressing things happen in my life, and I coped really well. The psychologist I consulted recently tells me that he doesn’t believe there is anything wrong with me, per se, but that my OH did something (and the shrink was able to identify it) to keep me in this state, without him even realising it. This is the next step in our journey, to sort this issue out. OH has now seen what the problem is, and is kicking himself over it, as he realises he has put us right back to square one, actually, before square one, as two years have now passed with this behaviour, on both of our parts, being imprinted on our psyches, and it wasn’t for lack of trying to repair things, both of us, he made a fundamental mistake, and even though I told him about it, he just didn’t realise the damage he was continuing to inflict on us. Makes very little sense, sorry, I just don’t want to share the details, yet, if ever 🙂

          • Doug

            Paula, I believe your shrink is correct, I think either consciously or unconsciously the cheater, by their words or actions will keep the BS in an insecure state. I really believe it has to do with the cheater’s issues and insecurities, many of which JimBob mentioned in his comment. What really helped me with the frustration of not feeling like I was getting better was to really look at some of the personality disorders. I educated myself about issues that were going on with Doug and I. As with anything knowledge gives you power and the opportunity to identify and not take too personally what was really going on in our relationship.

            I know this may sound strange but I feel that Doug wanted me to stay in this insecure state. For Doug, the security of keeping me there somehow outweighed the pain of seeing me crying, constantly discussing the affair etc., not letting go of the whole ordeal. I believe that he was so afraid of losing me that he felt more some sense of control if I were afraid, insecure, felt not as good as the OW, etc. that was the only way he knew to deal with it.

            I believe what help me finally move forward was knowing that he is just as afraid as I am, he has is insecurities as well, he just deals with them differently than I do. I also realized that the only person I can control is me, and my self worth does not depend on Doug. I have read this over and over again for the last two years however putting it to practice has been very difficult. I hope that I finally get it this time. I feel much happier, lighter, more confident than I have in a long time. Linda

      • Paula

        OH, and Lori, sorry, I forgot to mention, the separation periods were of some benefit to me, and I think to my OH, also, he fully realised what i do for him on a daily basis, both pysically, and emotionally, and I got a little breathing space, everyone is different, and I don’t necessarily recommend it for all. We were lucky to have an untenanted, furnished house available on the farm, and this kept costs down, and we still had contact, and the children were calm and happy to wander betweeen us, without any additional dramas for them, so our circumstances were a little fortuitous there.

    • Roller coaster rider

      It really is horrible to feel stuck, especially if you’re stuck in a painful place and don’t see any way out. Sometimes, though, maybe the way out is just to walk through it. I am trying very hard to change my dance steps, so the dance itself can change. Just having the power to do that, or to attempt it, is giving me hope.

    • Paula

      Thanks Linda, I do all of that, and I think you’re right. I am educated, I kinda “know” what’s wrong, I’m just struggling to stop obssessing, still, and that is because of the “thing” that OH did for two years. My question for the therapists we are about to see is do some people, who love each other madly, who learn everything they can, change their behaviours, etc, still never get over this enough to function on a “normal” level again, because this has had me on edge for so long, it feels like learned behaviour, and I can’t seem to train my mind to stop it. I’ll keep you posted, as this is my only outlet for the pain these days!!! Exciting stuff

      • Michael

        Paula,
        I know we are all hidden behind the size of the internet but I think it is a brave thing for you to share what you did about your past. My wife was also a victim. She has always hid from her past. Ran from pain. And just friday said to me she doesn’t want to look at herself and what she has done because all she sees is ugliness.
        I have no idea what to do.
        She made another empty promise of friday.
        I know there is a bigger problem between us, but the affair was a catalyst for me to want more out of our relationship. The affair was just an episode..
        Were married people living separate lives. The only glue that keeps us together, and in her words the only beauty she she’s in her life, our children.

    • Irish Kate

      Like many of you I no longer believe in the ‘perfect’ marraige, I’m happy with the ‘best we can make it’ marriage….

      I guess one of the things I was soooo angry about when I found out my husband was cheating on me was the fact that it happened to me… I felt that the ‘perfect’ life we were trying to create was ripped out from under me and I felt blind fury towards the other (single, younger) woman… that type of fury that could strip the top layer of skin off her face with a look.

      Now nearly 2 years later I see that we both took each other for granted, however I didn’t need to cheat to feel better, but in a weird way I can understand why he did, not that I condone it, far from it… today we are working to have an open, honest relationship, one where we discuss our needs and hope that the other spouse can ‘step up to the mark’…

      But a perfect marriage, sorry but I don’t believe in it anymore, in the same way I don’t believe in ‘love’ or fairys at the bottom of the garden anymore 🙂

    • Mexi can forgive

      Let me bring another perspective of this issue.

      I think that marriage is always perfect! I believe that marriage is the greatest and strongest institution for mankind. Every couple (or at least most of us) has enjoyed the sweet taste of marriage and its perfection. Marriage has two meanings one is legal and is determined by a paper and the other is Divine and it is determined by a commitment and last as long as you are commited, this is the perfect marriage, this is where you find true love. When the CS betrays his/her spouse, also betrays that commitment and moves away from marriage, from that perfect blessing that we, the BS, miss so much. We miss the conffort and the great feeling of marriage, because we all have tested and we all love it, isn’t that what we are all fighting for?

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