Erasing the Fantasy After the Affair

After the recent revelations of several  couples we know who are suffering from infidelity, I began to think about if our marriage will ever be safe.  Will I ever feel secure that Tanya will never enter our lives again?

Willard Harley’s book, “Surviving an Affair” paints a grim picture when he discusses contact after the affair is over.  He suggests definitely leaving your job if that is where you met your affair partner, and even so much as moving to a different city or state.  For many of us that is just not possible.  Am I destined to worry that if Doug runs into Tanya someday our marriage is doomed? Is that the way we want to live the rest of our marriage? 

What if I told Doug before we got married that if I ran into my high school boyfriend, I couldn’t guarantee that I will not fall back in love with him? I am sure that Doug would have told me to hit the road.  Why should this situation be any different?

I believe that eliminating the threat of  re-igniting the affair  involves eliminating the fantasy that is associated with the affair partner and the relationship.

For many years after the break up with my high school sweetheart, I used to wonder if he still had feelings for me.  Did he still think about me and love me? Those thoughts alone make the situation a lot more romantic than it needed to be.

About six months ago Doug wrote a comment concerning Tanya.  He said he didn’t have any desire to contact her, but he was curious about how she has moved on after the affair. Those words alone demonstrated that he may have been keeping the fantasy alive.  I may be reading into this a little, but this makes me think that Doug wondered if she still had feelings for him.  When you are trying to save your marriage after the affair, those types of thoughts and feelings are dangerous.

A person who was involved in an affair needs to say to himself that the affair partner has moved on and realize he is happy and in love with the person he CHOSE to be with – his spouse.

Those revelations allowed me to get over the fantasy I had when I thought about my high school sweetheart.  I knew that I was in love and happy with Doug and my ex-boyfriend felt the same way about his wife.  There was nothing left between us and no spark to ignite.

I also began to see my old flame how he really was and not as I wanted – or fantasized – him to be.  I came to the conclusion that he really wasn’t someone I would have been happy with.  He was a little too redneck for my taste, and still stuck in the old high school mentality.

I hope that Doug has done the same thing.  I hope he has put all the feelings associated with being in an emotional affair  aside (the fantasy), and thought about what it would be like after the infatuation phase wore off and they were living a very normal and mundane life.

I hope that we have made our marriage secure enough after the affair that the temptation will never surface.  I really don’t want to live the rest of my life having that worry hanging over my head.  I know that I have tried to do everything to make our marriage the best it can be and I hope that Doug has done everything he can to erase the illusions, make realistic comparisons, and learn what it feels like to be in real love.

 

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22 Responses to Erasing the Fantasy After the Affair

  1. ruth November 18, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    That has been on of my big concerns. I worry still that if the trigger exist for me they exist for him and he would contact her just to see how she is doing. Even though we have been doing very well and my h says he is back in love with me how can I be sure that he is still not in love with her? Thats why honesty is so important. All the lie he told I dont believe him. I believe he loves me but he always told me that before his affair and during his affair. I am so confused to what is real for him and what is not. I still check emails, texts and phone calls even after 7 mos of no contact. And in those 7 mos he has tried to contact her just last week and when I called him on it he said I just want to see how she is doing. When will I be able to trust him again, I cant live like this for very much longer. I keep telling myself that if he does contact her again I will have to let go. It shows me he is not commited to me at all. Sometime I think I should of done the tough love but I was afraid I would lose him forever. Now I wonder if I made the right decision because I live with the fear and the trigger on an everyday basis. I am strong and I know I can make it on my own but I love him I always thought he was my soulmate. I Dont want to hurt anymore.

  2. D November 18, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Maybe it’s because I”m in a fighting mood lately, but this topic makes me mad. F**k ’em. What if we said, “Look, the only way I’m going to get over this and be able to really have any sort of meaningful relationship with you is to have my own emotional affair. I don’t know who it will be with, when it will happen, or how deeply in love I’ll fall. I don’t know how long it’ll last – and there’s always the possibility that I may prefer that relationship to this one. But all the while I’ll need you to be supportive and patient, to endure my moods, doubts, and confusions, to understand that this is a step in my journey that I need to take. And if it should end one day, I’ll need some me time to mourn the loss, to let go of the shame, to heal and somehow find my way back to you – again, if at all.”

    How well would that go over? Yet we’re expected to endure all that on top of this whole re-igniting the affair contact bs?

    I finally got to the point (thank god) where I realized I have no control over her thoughts or actions. She’s going to do what she wants to do. I refuse to be held prisoner to her selfish whims. I’m worth devotion, affection, love. Rather than worry about her re-igniting an affair with “Tiny” (apparently I really am the bigger man) she should start worrying about why the marriage isn’t as valuable to me as it once was.

    I’m not afraid. There is a world outside the world we made.

    At this point, let them go to their lovers. We are worth more. We choose the people we allow in our lives. We control our own happiness. Why are we worried about not being accepted or loved by people who have treated us so poorly?

    Rise up, betrayed brethren. We are our own joy.

    • michael November 18, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

      D,
      I certainly understand how you feel. I have been there. Still have that feeling sometimes. I struggle with it the same way.

      To be brutally honest, maybe even further than you will admit. I have three women that if not kept in check, I would easily fall down my wife’s same rabbit hole. Yes, I do. But I make the conscious effort to realize its not what I want while I struggle at home. Its not what I want.

      I have two great friends that I can talk to. That I, at some point, have opened up to. That I have not felt those feelings for, but if I were to let it get out of hand, who knows. Because its not what I want.

      Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.

    • karen November 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

      D, You just posted what I believe all of us betrayed spouses have felt, are feeling or will feel sometime during our recovery. As you conclude, we all have to let it go at some point and move on and forward, with or without, our cheater spouses. On that one issue of character integrity: not having an affair to avoid dealing with problems in marriage, we can hold our heads high and not have to deal with the guilt that engaging in an affair should result (unless the cheater’s narcissistic traits are so overwhelming). Thank you.

  3. ruth November 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    d BRAVO!!!!

  4. Jane November 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Thanks for this post. You are right. There’s a little part of me that wonders, but recently, I’ve been listening to that internal self talk and redirecting it when my mind starts wandering. We have to retrain ourselves after the affair. And you are also right when you say that you have to work to safeguard your marriage against those things.

  5. michael November 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    As far as the concept of erasing the fantasy.

    I think this is in part what I struggle with the most about my wife. I don’t believe that she fully understands why she ended up where she did. And her avoidance of it keeps her from understanding it. So by avoiding it she keeps the fantasy, and reality, about what happened from coming to light. She is in no way at the same point Jane (secretlifeofjane) is at. Even though they are about the same time out of their affairs.
    Perhaps it is due to the way I have handled all of this compared to the way her husband has. Then again, we are all different people.

  6. jessica November 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Oh, the fantasy. Do not all relationships start out as infatuation? Who is to determine when the infatuation ends and turns to love? Is there a time limit? How many of you were married within the first year or year and a half since you met? (hopefully none of you) Could that have been infatuation? I definitely agree to not rush into any relationship, but I do think everyone is different when it comes to love.

    I also think if someone is addicted to an EA then it is not the person you are having it with, but the feeling derived from it, especially if it had not lasted very long. I would fear it happening again and with someone else because the “feeling” is a drug and you would want to feel the excitement of the newness again. That said, if it was a long EA or PA I have to think there was more to it and more meaningful. My EA lasted a little over 2 years, so I have to believe some of it was not fantasy.

    Truthfully, I do not want to reignite my EA as I have seen what it has done to my H, though I still do think about the OM. I hope over time this will fade.

    D, you make some valid points and I have to say I love your prose.

  7. D November 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Are you coming on to me, Jessica? ; )

    My wife told me recently that I am romanticizing the affair more than she ever did. That comment opened my eyes. It’s true. I see their time together as blissful, carefree, effervescent. After all, why continue something for 18 months if it isn’t fun? But she claims there was a lot more pain than pleasure. She felt trapped, obligated to him, to me, to everyone but herself. I kind of get it, though not really. I couldn’t continue an affair beyond a month or two, but then again I’m in love with my wife.

    But to address Linda’s original post once more: I work in real estate. I constantly have prospective tenants worried about me leasing to competing businesses. They’re afraid of losing customers. But what’s interesting is that I’ve never had a tenant say to me, “Great, I won’t have to go very far to steal THEIR customers.” Kind of the same thing with our wayward spouses. We’re so damn worried they’re going to cheat once again or hurt us. Instead, we should be focused on ourselves, on building up our confidence to the point of not giving much thought to where our spouses might be, or with whom. Like I said, f**k ’em. If we are to be worried about anything it should be about what it is we’re going do for ourselves (and our children, if any) next.

    • Doug November 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

      Another good post D. I’ve enjoyed your comments and your perspective on things. Focusing on you is very important and has been one of the things that helped Linda and is something we always recommend people do. It’s those damn thoughts that get in the way sometimes though.

    • Doug November 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

      D, I am very guilty of romanticizing the affair and by doing so I believe I kept the fantasy alive for Doug. I really do picture it as a wonderful, carefree relationship with out conflict. I thought if it wasn’t that way, why in the hell would you be involved in the first place. I believe in many ways it was similar to the relationship my teenage daughters talk about, one that contains jealousy, possessiveness, drama, hot and cold feelings, etc. Something I’m a little too old for but I guess it beats the boring life that we were living, it added a little excitement to his day. Linda

    • Holdingon May 29, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

      I hope I get to the place you are someday.

  8. mil November 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    How does anyone get over it?? The thread a day or two ago about is our marriage doomed to fail because one of the partners has already strayed and how can you go on knowing that your spouse may be still looking for their ‘perfect’ partner so you might as well throw in the towel now has really upset me. As hard as my h is trying to show remorse and how much he loves me, that post has convinced me we are all heading for doom and it is just a facade trying to paper over the cracks caused by the infidelity.
    I feel that any hope I had is wiped out by that post and we are doomed to fail because it’s already happened.

  9. Rushan November 19, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    Ruth I could have been written that post of yours. it is exactly how I feel. and all I can say is I do not want to hurt anymore. Can you ever believe them again or are you always thinking they are lying to you?

  10. Epiphany April 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Hello. I don’t know why, but I sort of feel like a traitor for even being on this website. I just had an EA end. The way it was abruptly ended has been more difficult to process than the end of the contact in and of itself. I feel stupid for believing that what we had was somehow more “special” than what he had with his wife or what I have with my husband. It is like a light has been turned on inside the corner of a dark closet I have been living in. You are right it is all a fantasy. I am in all other regards a very realistic, logical person…some would say to a fault. Throughout the entire EA, I was the one trying to think about it realistically and trying to pull myself and him out of the fantasy…but, for me, it was the EA that allowed myself to at times get lost in the fantasy. To escape my own self-imposed rigid outlook….for me, it became my creative outlet. I feel like a traitor because my husband never discovered the EA. His wife did. I now know that I have a lot of work ahead of me to rebuild my marriage. My husband definitely noticed a shift in me and has made a lot of effort to save “us”. I wonder though…how to work on rebuilding our marriage without him knowing about this EA?…or can I? I desperately want to hide from my shame and the fear that his knowledge of it will make him the one who wants to leave and reading the posts of those who do know about the EA and still struggle with emotional triggers and feelings of emptiness months or even years later…can I spare him that pain while I work to understand why I did it and work to learn to better communicate with him before I go outside the marriage? Should I spare him that pain? Is that even within my right?

    • Holdingon May 29, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

      I wish I had never found out. Maybe this will help the next person that comes along with this question.

  11. suziesuffers May 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Epiphany, you are absolutely on the right post. My husband was the cheater, so I don’t know what the answer is for your questions on revealing the affair, although I know I would not want my spouse to keep that….it’s as if the “elephant” would always be in the room….but only you could see it. Eventually these things come out, and I can tell you I would have much rather my husband tell me upfront than find out….right there it would have minimized alot of the trust issues……AT least something truthful would have come out of his mouth….the question about how to brooch this conversation?? that’s one for the experts. I think the greatest thing about you being on this site is the input you can give us from the perspective of the CS. We can’t always get the answers we need from our spouses, but somehow vicariously through you we might get a look at the other side….understand alot of what happened and the feelings associated with the attraction to another person outside of your marriage. You’re in the right place. It seems most of the BS’s want to save the marriage…..it is alot of pain, but it’s less when the CS works hard at it….and it sounds like you want to work with your spouse……that makes it alot easier on us….the BS.

  12. Gizfield July 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    All I can say about this is, If I have to move to another state, our even another city, to keep my damn husband, I guess somebody else can just have him, lol. Seriously.

  13. Dee October 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    My husband wants to desperately end the EA in his head. They have know each other for 13 years and 10 years ago I felt I lost him to her then. He states he started giving in to his emotions for her a year ago. We want to save our marriage but he states he can’t stop the thought of her and loving her
    Desperate.

    • Tammy tolerant September 3, 2016 at 10:08 am #

      Dump him. Once you cease to show an interest in him he will become interested in you again. I finally resigned myself to the end of my marriage when his adultery reached the six month mark. I quit doing things with him and just focused on establishing my own life with my children. If I went to my parents on a Sunday he was no longer invited to go along. Once he started to feel the loss of me and his children he realized what he was losing and in fact that he was trading down. Things changed quickly and although it did not cure his depression right away it put him on a path that he could end the behavior (adultery) that was causing his depression (depression is anger turned inward).

  14. Tammy tolerant September 3, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    Oh boy is this ever a sore subject. My husband’s former paramour contacted him 20 twenty years after the adultery ended. She called his cell phone to find out how he was and to catch up. She then called him two years later to tell him that she was separated. Then two years later to say that she had reconciled. Then a year later to ask him for a work reference (they were co workers). Then he spoke to her two years later and she asked if speaking to her made him feel uncomfortable and he told her yes. She then waited six years and called the day before Thanksgiving in 2013 and he told her that her calling was a problem and that he couldn’t talk to her. Her husband doesn’t know about the adultery but my gift to her in the next year will be outing her to her husband. Karma.

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