What are the basic elements that need to work together to help you heal from the affair?

By Sarah P.

heal from the affair

 

This article is about some of the ‘must-haves’ that need to occur during the healing from infidelity. Conversely, there are other actions and processes that are more nuanced that need to occur, but this article is meant to address fundamental items that need to be in place and not the nuanced ones.

Certainly, both men and women engage in extramarital affairs and the elements required to heal from the affair are basically the same for both genders, but for the sake of brevity, I will be using the scenario of a betrayed wife.   

 

First Step to Heal from the Affair…Removing the Affair Partner

As they say, “two is company and three is a crowd.” The first absolutely non-negotiable thing that must occur to heal from the affair is that the affair partner must be sent packing. But, don’t do it with your husband; he really needs to do this on his own. Otherwise, he might get a real narcissistic kick out of two women fighting over little, old him. Plus, seeing the affair partner could set you back in the healing process.

If she is a stranger, she will become a real person to you, rather than a nameless, faceless entity. She might actually take her anger out on you and view herself as the victim. This will make the grieving process harder because she becomes very concrete in your mind.

If you happen to know the woman personally, I feel very badly, indeed. The reason I feel bad is because you will learn the tough lesson: contrary to what we women were taught about the sisterhood, there are women who say they believe in it, while happily stabbing others in the back.

heal from the affair

There is no question about it: your spouse must get rid of the other woman.

Don’t fall for excuses where he might say he needs more time to think through what he will say. What he is really saying is that he is not really sure he wants to give up the affair and is planning a way to be more secretive.

When men are in the affair fog they are capable of saying what the wife wants to hear and also what the mistress wants to hear. Believe it or not, many men are not comfortable disappointing others or drawing lines. This attitude can get twisted by the affair fog and men wrongly consider the needs of the other woman. All the while, no one, especially not the other woman, is considering your needs. Such is the affair fog and your husband must put down the ‘drug’ immediately.

It also might be helpful if you purchase a one-way ticket to Antarctica in the winter and send it to the other woman. But, alas, that won’t be possible because why would you spend another dime or second on her? That chick has got to go!

Featured Download: “The Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Affair Partner Now”

If you’re the unfaithful, get it, read it and carefully consider the advice. If you’re the betrayed, give it to your unfaithful spouse.

 

 

Working Through the Grieving Process

heal from the affair
What to do and not to do while going through the grieving process.

 

I don’t know anyone who has been happy going through the grieving process, but I do know that many have felt happy after they went through it.

The grieving process has five stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

David Kessler, who specializes in grief studies, has a lot of wisdom to offer. As hard as it may sound, it is necessary and it’s a process that we need to flow through us.

Denial

Denial is the first stage of the grieving process and I am sure we are all familiar with the cold comfort it provides. Embrace denial and accept the process. David Kessler explains why:  “In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief.” (1)

That’s right, denial helps us pace our feelings so that we don’t get eaten alive by them. Denial knows the lion is in the room, but denial is like the lion trainer cracking a whip so that the lion circles you but doesn’t devour you. Denial helps anesthetize you for a little while and that is a good thing.

Anger

But then you move on to the next stage: anger. Again I will say that you are allowed to embrace it. Anger can even be your friend because it mobilizes you. Kessler continues, “Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing.” (1)

So, embrace the paradox that is embracing anger. Rage while kneading bread, pound your feet on the treadmill, write the kind of letters that would make a sailor blush, and then shred them. Contrary to what we are told about anger not being a nice quality in women, we are actually allowed to feel anger and to sit with the feeling. Let it flow through you. But, don’t take it out on others because that’s what pillows are for!

Bargaining

After the anger starts to fade, you will start to bargain with the universe or God.

Kessler adds, “We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored [to the way things were prior to the crisis]. We want to go back in time …if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt.” (1)

Once again, do not rush this process along.

Depression

Depression is surely to follow. Depression is kind of like a bad word. People hear the word and they cringe. This society has developed a deep-seeded fear of depression. For some, it conjures up images of mental institutions that have everyone locked up with a key that has long since been thrown away. For others, it conjures up a profound sense of shame. People tell themselves, “Depression is for other people, but I am healthy and I am ‘better’ than that.”

Well, guess what, depression is probably the most equal opportunity employer in existence. It does not see age, gender, race, body weight, income level, education, or geography. To depression, there is no such thing as healthy or better than that. Nope, just like death and taxes, depression is the universal leveler. It does not care who you are or who you were in the past. But, most importantly, it is an essential phase of the grieving process.

Kessler adds, “After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all?” (1)

I believe that Kessler says it best: depression is not a sign of mental illness. Personally, I would go as far as to say that depression is a sign of being connected to one’s innate humanness.

So, throw out the shame and allow depression to run its course since depression is not a sign that you are mentally ill or that you are flawed. Get rid of all of those false beliefs about depression. Don’t suppress it. Allow depression it to visit you like the friend you thought you didn’t need, but ended up needing in the end. This is the surest way to make depression leave for good.

Acceptance

Kessler adds, “Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live…. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones.” (1)

Notice that acceptance is not interchangeable with forgiveness and that acceptance will never mean that you approve of or agree with what occurred. Acceptance simply means that your good days will outnumber your bad and that your triggers will no longer throw you back into full-blown depression. There is personal power in acceptance. Plus, gaining acceptance a sign that you ran your own personal emotional marathon and won.

 

We’ve put together what we feel will be a helpful guide for you called: “An Introductory Guide to Coping with Grief.”  You can download it by clicking here.

 

 

Rebuilding Trust

heal from the affair

To trust or not to trust? That is the question….

Picture this: the cheating spouse is haranguing you because you no longer have the same level of trust for him that you had prior to his affair. He is whining and doesn’t understand why he can no longer be the beneficiary of unconditional trust. For husbands who do this, psychologist Dr. Willard Harley, says this:

Many unfaithful spouses have demanded that the betrayed spouse trust them. They argue that without that trust their marriage cannot thrive. They don’t use that argument to build their marriage, but rather to avoid doing anything to regain trust. They don’t tell their spouse what they are doing in secret, but they want the spouse to believe that it is not anything harmful to the marriage. Demanding trust is simply a tactic to get away with further thoughtlessness and dishonesty. Part of this problem is that spouses are often led to believe that trust is something you are required to do when you are married. But trust is not a requirement for marriage; it’s a reaction to experience. It grows as each spouse shows himself or herself to be trustworthy.” (2)

On the other hand, 21st century philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, says this of trust:

One may rely on an alarm clock, and to that extent be disappointed if it fails to do its job, but one does not feel deeply vulnerable, or profoundly invaded by the failure. Similarly, one may rely on a dishonest colleague to continue lying and cheating, but this is reason, precisely, not to trust that person; instead, one will try to protect oneself from damage. Trust, by contrast, involves opening oneself to the possibility of betrayal, hence to a very deep form of harm. It means relaxing the self-protective strategies with which we usually go through life, attaching great importance to actions by the other…. It means, then, living with a certain degree of helplessness.” (3)

The gosh-darn thing about trust is that it requires one to live with vulnerability. I believe that this is the crux of why it is so hard to trust after an affair.

A man should not worry about whether or not his wife is being slow to trust after an affair since a wife has a much bigger burden to carry. If a woman trusts and therefore opens oneself to vulnerability, she knows that if an affair ever happens again, this time it might kill her.

Trusting after an affair is kind of like walking through a war zone without a bulletproof jacket. So, like Willard Harley, I believe you can have a marriage without fully having trust after an affair has occurred.

But if your husband still complains about trust, here is what you can tell him: one regains trust by consistent actions, both when seen and unseen. Your spouse’s daily as well as future actions need to demonstrate behaviors that engender feelings of trust in you. He needs to be consistent in his actions and this consistency must last from here on out. He needs to understand that each act that is incongruent with trustworthiness re-sets the clock. In short, he can’t just talk; he must act because actions speak louder than words.

It is also helpful if you let your husband know that there are concrete behaviors, which he can employ daily that will help build trust. These behaviors are called the three A’s:

  • Affection
  • Attention
  • Appreciation

If he is able to practice all three of them, then he is going to go a long way to rebuilding trust.

But, the most important element is that the cheating spouse must take full responsibility for his actions and choices in the past. Then, he must realize that both in the now and in the future, he is accountable to his actions and choices. There is no longer a blame game to play. The blame game cards have been burned and the table overturned. From now on, there is only accountability. In the end, rebuilding trust is your betrayer’s job.

So, the next time your spouse complains that you are taking too long to trust him, say this: “Sweetheart, it is not me who is taking too long to trust—it is you who are taking too long to be trustworthy.”

 

Listening 

Now for a 5 second intermission. You can imagine the elevator music they are probably listening to…

heal from the affair

I wanted to bring in a little uplifting photo to break the heavy mood. This is a photograph taken during the golden age of radio. These two little darlings show us how important it is to listen to whatever message is being conveyed at the time.

Listening is pretty self-explanatory, so I will discuss the essentials. Listening and actually being heard in return is so important. It really builds trust, understanding, and intimacy with others. When your husband feels listened to, it helps him feel understood, and that is a powerful thing for your marriage.

How many of us hear someone out, but instead of listening, we are planning our response? Active listening involves being in the moment and allowing your partner’s every word to sink in, without planning a response.

On the other hand, this goes both ways. Your spouse will also need to listen to you and actually hear your feelings without being defensive. But, you will also need to really listen to him without being defensive when he speaks to figure out what the affair was about.

For example, was it a cry for help? It turns out some men actually have affairs to improve their own marriages. (I know… seriously?!) Then, others are just plain, old sex addicts. Still others are using extramarital sex to anesthetize some kind of hidden, psychological pain.

Finally, there are those ‘good guys’ who are at work, trying to mind their own business, when an affair partner eagerly presents herself. It’s as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being like the frog in the pot.  The frog is being boiled so gradually that he feels like he is in a hot tub, not in a death pot. The frog never realizes that someone has made a meal out of him until it’s too late.

Many good guys do get caught in this situation, especially if there is a female coworker who has specifically set her sights on the guy. This is especially true if she a spouse poacher. These women are experts at knowing both how to make it seem like his idea and also like nothing is happening and that his marriage is safe.

I am going to digress with a personal story: Unfortunately, my husband is someone that many women would consider a desirable partner. I love him and I know other women can see his good qualities, too. I have at least fifteen stories of women at his workplace throwing themselves at my husband in a way that is really blatant.  It doesn’t matter that these women all know he is married and have even met me on several occasions.

In addition to that, he has about 50 pictures of our kids and me on his bulletin board as well as kid’s artwork decorating his work area. I stop in on holidays to bring homemade baked goods or hot dishes like lasagna. Of all the stories, I will tell you the one story where there in no grey area and someone would literally need to be blind not to see this woman’s attempt.

So here is the story…about 1.5 years after we married, his regular secretary decided to work 4 days a week. He was assigned an assistant to help him on Fridays whom I will refer to as Friday Secretary. She was a mother of four and she had children by three different men- all of this and she was under the age of 30.

I come from a family where we don’t have children before marriage and we marry, well, once. My parents are married as are his and family members and we all just work it out regardless of what happens, even if there are affairs.

Anyhow, I will admit this woman had two things going for her. The first thing was that she did absolutely everything my husband asked and more— and she hung on his every word. (That is, she listened to him!) The second was she was attractive enough, though a completely different physical type from myself in every way. (She kind of looked like January Jones and this is probably why I recently ranted after seeing The Last Man On Earth).

Anyhow, it was secretary’s day and my husband told me he wanted to take out his regular secretary, a gorgeous, smart, older woman who was married to the head of the organization. His regular secretary and I got along great and we would often have dinner with her and her husband. Of course, I would be coming along to this appreciation dinner as well.

So it was that he asked his regular (4 days a week) secretary to join him and me for dinner. But, being the nice person she was and is, she told my husband that he should invite the Friday Secretary too. One of the rules my husband and me have is that we do not have lunch or dinner (one-on-one) with the opposite sex unless I am present or unless it’s a family member.

When my husband asked Friday Secretary to go to dinner as a token of appreciation for secretary’s day, Friday Secretary jumped at the opportunity to go to dinner and did not bother to ask if anyone else was going along. Dinner was scheduled for a Friday and that day of the dinner, Friday Secretary showed up to work in a skirt and a piece of actual lingerie for her alleged shirt. She openly flirted with my husband during the day, assuming it was a ‘date’ or something.

The female office manager actually sent Friday Secretary home to change during lunch because her clothing actually offended several clients and management was approached about it in the morning. My husband came home and on the way to dinner, he told me what had happened with Friday Secretary (the flirting and all) and that he was really embarrassed.

Friday Secretary showed up at dinner in another revealing top and was astounded to see my husband, his regular secretary, and me all chatting happily. Friday Secretary pouted during the entire dinner and then left. Apparently Friday Secretary was bored with being a Friday Secretary and wanted to join the oldest profession in the world.

Back to the topic…. While listening involves the obvious act of listening to your husband carefully and focusing on what he is saying, it also involves paying attention to his non-verbal physical cues. Part of active listening involves being aware of subtle body language as well as what some call the ‘temperature of the room’. (I simply call it the vibe).

There are going to be times when he is depressed, in pain, stressed, or upset and his first instinct might be to go into his office and have alone time. That is fine too, in small doses and being aware of that and giving him space is key. Sometimes listening just means knowing where he is at in his mood. As a result, you can be sensitive to his needs in the moment and give him space.

As I said earlier, cultivating listening without judgment is also extremely important, that is if you would like to rebuild you marriage. Always remember the affair was never about you, so when you can listen without judgment, you can create a safe space for communication as well as and learn more about your spouse than you have ever dreamed.

 

Improving Communication

Improving communication between you and your spouse is so important when going through the healing process. But, the communication needs to center around rules of engagement such as the ones I have discussed in fair fighting. But, there is also the element of honesty. There will come a time when you ask questions that are going to make your spouse very uncomfortable.

So what about full disclosure?

I am starting to change my views a little bit about what is disclosed in full disclosure. I was watching a video by a Marriage and Family Therapist who, many years ago, had cheated on his wife with her best friend. OUCH. As he spoke, his wife sat next to him adding parts to the story. He said something interesting about full disclosure that caught my attention.

Basically, he disclosed whom the affair was with (his wife’s best friend), how long it had been going on, how sorry he was, and the fact that it had ended. But, he also let her know that he was in a state of limbo where he realized that if he told her every single, sordid detail about the affair, the chance of him keeping his marriage would diminish.

Therefore, he discussed this conundrum with his wife and said he would discuss factual things but he wasn’t comfortable going down the path of mentioning specific details that would continually add salt to her wounds. On the other hand, he (her husband) always answered his wife’s questions and he was not defensive when she asked questions.

But, the most helpful thing was that he realized he had to get his relationship with the Lord right before he could recover. In the video he said, “If there was no God, I had no hope for stopping this behavior. I realized I was completely powerless over this [addiction].” But, some don’t have a relationship with God and that is okay as well. You don’t necessarily have to believe in God to have a renewal. I also believe in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit and it is a powerful thing. If a person wants to change badly enough, that person can change.

So, full disclosure? It’s complicated.

You deserve complete honesty from your spouse, but there are going to be hot topics. Your husband is allowed not to talk about something at that particular moment, but your husband needs to be honest about why he doesn’t want to discuss an event or detail, rather than lying about an event or getting defensive.

In other words, he always needs to be honest in his communication and never lie about events, but he may not want to talk about it in the moment. On the other hand, he is also not allowed to stonewall you and refuse to talk about the affair. Stonewalling doesn’t build trust.

 

Forgiveness

heal from the affair

If you already know my stance on forgiveness, you will remember that I have mentioned that forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. I like the way that The Greater Good Foundation at Berkeley University defines forgiveness and they do it much more eloquently than I have done it in the past:

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability. Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.” (4)

However, there is still a sticking point for me in this definition specifically about letting go of negative feelings. I believe that you may never let go of negative feelings, but you will accept them. I believe accepting them allows you to no longer allow negative feelings to define you. That might be a paradox to some because how can you forgive and still have negative feelings.

The answer is that your negative feelings will be focused more on the time and place and be compartmentalized around that time and place, rather than on the other person. So, you can exist in a state of forgiveness and acceptance while still knowing that negative feelings are present.  The only difference is that these feelings will no longer trigger anger or define you.

Some therapists may not agree with me and that is okay. We all have our personal takes on things based on research and experience. I know personally that I will always hold negative feelings toward my ex; however, they no longer trigger extreme anger or define me. I have accepted them, grieved, but they still are present. They simply co-exist and are linked to a past that no longer exists.

I believe someone would require a lobotomy to truly let go of negative feelings; we all remember the events that triggered such feelings. As long as there is memory, in theory, we cannot make experiences that made impressions on us completely disappear. Thus memory keeps negative feelings associated with events alive in memory. But, that’s okay and it’s also okay to live a life of paradox.

 

Making Self-Care A Priority

When I was with my ex, my life revolved around him. Every waking moment, our couplehood occupied my thoughts. I kind of lost “me” in “us”. All of us are capable of this, but we must not forget ourselves. It is very important to make self-care a priority even if you feel fully recovered.

I will admit that after my ex and I broke up, something shifted in my thinking and I realized I could no longer be swallowed up in couplehood. So when I met the man who was to be my husband, I had a conscious awareness of not losing “me” in “us”. This does not mean that I have let go of love; I have just made a conscious decision to let go of the very codependent aspects of a relationship. I believe that my marriage of several years is better because of it.

So, in the evolution of self, I believe that letting go of codependence is extremely important. In letting go of codependence, you find a sense of emotional freedom and paradoxically a more profound intimacy. Self-care is the ingredient that allows you to do this.

Self-care involves not only treating yourself well, but also thinking well of yourself. Instead of working against yourself, you do things that add to your physical and emotional wellbeing. You go out with friends, you exercise, you eat healthy foods, you forgive yourself for whatever perceived flaws you have, etc.

 

Time

Time is the ultimate healer, or so this truism goes. In time, new experiences begin to replace the old. The newness of the sting becomes dampened as the days go by. We may not forget, but the pain subsides as we gain time, space, and insight.

With time and in retrospect, there becomes great beauty in sadness and we trade tears for the hope of a better future. Winter always turns to spring and the cycles of life tend not to unhinge us as much as we grow older. In fact, this article from the Huffington Post gives us some really good news about time in general: “a growing body of research has proven that we’re wrong to think that happiness is correlated with youth. A wealth of scientific and anecdotal evidence demonstrates precisely that it’s when people have surpassed many of life’s big landmarks that their overall satisfaction and happiness peaks…Though it may sound counterintuitive, the Gallup poll found that 85-year-olds are generally more satisfied with themselves than 18-year-olds.” (5)

So, time can help you heal from the the affair, but aging in general means there will be much happiness ahead of you. I call that great news, because there has to be some positive payoff for getting older.

 

Summary

In summary, this article covers the basic elements of things that I believe need to work together to help you heal from the affair. There are probably more I have not thought of, so these are the bare minimum.

But, what about you? Is there something I have forgotten or something that has been very effective for you in healing? Tell me your story!

For a more comprehensive guide to recovery and healing from an affair, you should really check out Linda & Doug’s program, “Survive and Thrive after Infidelity.”  It goes deep into everything from D-day and beyond.

 

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We’re here to show you the right way to survive infidelity so that your marriage doesn’t become some sort of statistic.

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Sources:

Kessler, David. From http://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/

Harley, Willard, PhD. From http://www.marriagebuilders.com/graphic/mbi8121_trust.html

Nussbaum, Martha. From: https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/05/03/martha-nussbaum-anger-and-forgiveness/

The Greater Good Foundation. From http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition

Gregoire, Carolyn. From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/scientific-proof-that-the_n_5110179.html

 

    29 replies to "The Nuts and Bolts of Affair Recovery – The elements that need to be present in order to heal from an affair."

    • TheFirstWife

      These are great thoughts and ideas. It is unfortunate that some of them don’t actually occur.

      Whose CS is going to be truthful? I doubt anyone ever gets a truthful answer unless you have proof – email, text, cell phone bill etc.

      Removing the affair partner. I know many of us have big issues with this one. My H (as he told me) ended it with OW. Next day she emails him and he turns to me and says “what do I do now?” I looked at him and said to type in response “please do not contact me anymore” and then hit send. Yeesh! Did I really need to tell you that?

      Rebuilding trust is challenging if they continue to lie.

      In a perfect world these are all valid points. In a perfect storm, which is where most of us live, the BS knows all this but trying to communicate this to the cheater is difficult or impossible.

      I believe if you are dealing with certain situations such as your spouse won’t get rid of the AP or still has contact or drinks or has other addictions that prevent recovery, self preservation is number 1. The BS needs to preserve their sanity until a better opportunity presents itself to try and deal with issues.

      Of course that is my opinion based on my experience. I spent too long being down on myself and trying to fix “us” when it was never me and I was ok. It was him.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello The First Wife,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response and you make great points– in real life affairs are messier. Your personal experience and what you have learned is key.

        In almost all cases, none of these things happen in sequence. Unfortunately, affair recovery is not a novel plot where all the lose strings get neatly tied up toward the end of a cycle. All of these things eventually need to occur in order to have recovery, but the truth of the matter is, it may take a long time for all of the pieces to fall into place. The messiest thing is that some of the pieces may never fall into place and yet women desire to stay in their marriages. Like you said, most live in a perfect storm and self-preservation is first priority.

        It sounds like getting men to give up their affair partners (at least in their minds and sometimes physically) along with getting them to tell the truth are the top two most challenging things.

        Here are some article topics I have been mulling around:

        1. More on how to break through the affair fog

        2. What to do when a partner continues to lie

        3. What to do when he continues to see the other woman

        4. The idea that a woman must put preservation (and preservation of children) first and how to do it.

        But more importantly, what topics would be most helpful to you?

        • Sarah P.

          PS-
          I talked about what to do when he sees the other woman in a prior blog post, but I am thinking of a deeper dive that will show what specific actions and words can be said/taken. There have also been articles about the affair fog, but once again, maybe a deeper dive is needed.

    • Hopeful

      Tfw I totally agree. This is a great outline and guide. But for me it was a lot messier. I mean maybe if I got rid of my husband right away and never had to talk with him. But that can never happen as we have kids. This feels so neat and clean like if I was grieving a death.

      At least in my case my husband I think was in such a fog even though his affairs had ended a year before dday. All he did for years was keep it separate, feel bad and hate himself. So once he told me he looks back and says he did not know what he wanted. He did not know if he could get over it and make the necessary changes in his life. I tell him things he told me after dday and he is shocked and does not remember. I think he was in repair/band aid mode just trying to move on and make it go away.

      I feel like as we have gone through this we have bounced around a lot and not been very linear. I think something is past me and then it hits me again. Things are a lot better I just keep wondering can I get past all this enough to have this be my marriage forever.

      • TheFirstWife

        Yes to all of it. First DDay with same OW both times was crazy. My H came home and admitted the affair so I always had that in my thoughts. But then the next few months I could tell he was one foot out the door.

        Then they resumed the affair (DDay2) and he ended it with her 2 days before I found out (by calling her b/c hecwas acting so crazy).

        Those 6 months were hell plain & simple. He asked for divorced 2-3 times and was planning on leaving. He ended it by saying he was staying married b/c his kids needed him. You can imagine how I felt reading that but he swears he was trying to let her down easy (probably b/c he was afraid of backlash or retaliation from OW).

        So I agree. Progress has been made but it has been slow and painful and gut wrenching. He has left me in a crying heap far too many times over the past 3 years. I just don’t get it. I never wanted to be that couple- we had no serious marriage problems. I accepted him for all he was – he was a great father H and friend.

        Now I get to have frustrating communication conversations and “remember you said this” I honestly feel like I could lose my mind.

        Example: he told me after DDay1 he was disconnected and I did not communicate. In reality HE did not communicate to me. I was ok with it. Now when he says things and I ask him “why didn’t you tell me that 2 months ago or 2 years ago?” I get upset. So now I am facing a frustrating battle of trying to get a behavior changed that I was ok with and it is maddening to me.

        So I say yes to everything you wrote but it is hard and I dont get his decision to cheat a 2nd time plus his EA if 4 years he denied 20 years ago. he tells me he worries about our marriage. I tell him I don’t b/c I don’t. Whatever is going to happen will happen. You made the choice to be a cheater not me. He made those decisions without any regard for family, kids, marriage etc. he is lucky I love him as much as I do and have patience.

        Others would have bailed after repeated mistakes (not cheating) and lying and not communicating important things. Yeesh it is like a third child sometimes

        • Sarah P

          Hello TFW,
          It sounds like your husband had several emotional affairs and maybe some others crossed the line. Do you know anything about the other women and you see a pattern anywhere? Can you identify any triggers around the affairs themselves ? That is stress at a job, birth of children, birthdays etc? Do you know how old the other women are and if they were married and where he met them? Do you know how old the other women are and if they were married and where he met them I guess I am trying to identify his triggers for affairs and figure out how you can get through to him and also understand triggers and look out for them in the future. I hate to say it but some men just love attention and that love for attention becomes so excessive that they don’t even bother setting boundaries around it, thinking it won’t go anywhere. I have heard many stories from women swear their boyfriends and husbands plainly just love attention and that need is so great that it impacts their marriage in negative ways. When the need for attention becomes more important than a marriage, it shows me that a person is not a whole person on the inside. Positive affirmation is wonderful and everyone needs it but it cannot come in ways that are destructive. Yet I think there are men and women who only feel “full” when the attention involves sexual prowess or sexual beauty. This kind of need sets marriages up for failure for sure.

          • TheFirstWife

            Hi Sarah

            I have actually figured it out as to why this happens or happened. He likes to feel needed and help people. Both affairs were with women who had deep emotional problems. The last OW had a tough life, was much much younger, tattoos all over and a long bad history with relationships w/ men. First EA coukd not get along with too many people w/ constant drama. He was going to save them or help them.

            Second he is a good looking guy who was very shy w/ girls. He had 1 girlfriend in HS and we met in college. He is making up for lost time b/c women love him and he loves the attention.

            I have told him this and how I realize now he is the kind of guy in a bar that I dislike. Out w/out his wife and all flirty flirty with the women.

            Also both OW were not super attractive or great bodies or that type. He goes for the melodrama psycho with major issues type.

            Maddening!

            Me? Not that type at all. Stable, level headed, in good shape, smart and raising two boys with good values and morals. After 30+ years together you would think he would be happy. His friends all tell him they wish their wife was as easy and understanding and flexible as me.

            And the last affair trigger was mid life crisis. Hecwas turning 50, hated his job, was making less $ for a better opportunity career wise (which I was ok with) and HE had been unhappy for about 18 months. Never said anything, didn’t communicate for 20 years with me, and chose to have an affair and practically divorce me.

            Luckily for him I remained calm and level headed for our kids sake. He tries to deny that he was planning on leaving but I saw the emails he wrote begging her to hang in b/c things are changing and he is getting divorced.

            So yes, I have figured it all out. I was able to clearly see who he is. And I was duped all these years that he was not one of “those” guys. I was impressed with his honesty and values and truthfulness when we were dating (5 years).

            He has always treated me well. No complaints. Not a big drinker, great father, good friend to many etc. In fact everyone who knows about the affair says we are the couple that they never would have suspected would be in this mess.

            In my mind there are 2 affairs I know about. I suspect there are more that were EAs that were minor however I am certain some of these friendships crossed boundaries and were EAs. he loves the attention. I guess he needs outside affirmation he is still attractive to others.

            For some reason I do not.

            • Sarah P

              Hello TFW,
              Your husband reminds me of Bella’s husband. Bella is a pseudonym for the friend I wrote about in one of the recent blog posts. Her husband was super shy and I am pretty sure that she was his first real girlfriend. Now that he is older, some women also love him. The reason I say that is because the first time I met him I was watching Bella perform in a recital. When Bella went up to snag him, her husband was schmoozing with one of Bellas other friends who was dressed provocatively and all over Bella’s husband. Then she brought him over to me and he flashed me the smile as if to say “oh yay more potential narcissistic feed for me.’ Well, that didn’t work out for him because I had already made up my mind about what type of guy he was and this was before Bella even found out about any of the affairs. They are divorced now because he was pretty serious about staying with his affair partner and this was even after about four years. He is currently with her still. But, the difference with your husband is that he did drop his affair partners and so there is something to work on. The thing that concerns me though is his flirty flirty attitude. My husband went through that phase with waitresses and I nipped it in the bud. But, he also heard me when I asked him to stop doing it. Now I doubt my changed internally for him because I have seen that all men love attention even the nice guys. Everyone loves attention and everyone deserves attention but it’s all about context. What does your husband do when you tell him that he is turning into those guys in bars that you dislike?

              Did your husband saw for any kind of emotional trauma or unhealthy family dynamic when he was growing up?

            • Sarah P

              PS
              I was dictating into my phone. The last sentence should read:
              Did your husband see any kind of emotional trauma…

            • TheFirstWife

              Well not sure of trauma. His mom was verbally abusive but he was the favorite so not as bad for him (until I came along) and then she tried to break up our romance and marriage. But we had no contact with her for 20 years due to her behavior (his call not mine).

              His dad doesn’t communicate on topics he finds uncomfortable (health issues etc). He will avoid and stonewall just like my H does so I know that is learned behavior. His whole family does it.

              So I think that is all I can realize in terms of his upbringing.

              I really believe he has/had a big ego and just thought nothing wrong of a 4 year EA and then his last EAS became a PA and coupled with his mid life crisis he lost sight of himself and me and his family.

              He has deep regrets and is feels badly. He has curbed his behavior when we are out socially together but I still wonder what happens when I am not around. He has curbed the drinks and dinner related events and goes with clients but then leaves when dinner is finished (I am not part of these events at all).

              So there are positive changes and he sees all he did that was wrong. I just hope that he is happy in this marriage b/c if not, he needs to leave. Plain & simple.

              If this doesn’t work for you then move on.

    • Shifting Impressions

      Great article, Sarah.
      What I find so difficult about the stages of grief is that sometimes they all seem to run into each other. If one could only deal with one stage at a time and be done with it…..life would be so much easier. But truth be told the stages keep cycling round and round. And then slowly, but oh so slowly one starts to recover. It’s hard when you think you are “done” with one stage….only to have it return with a vengeance.

      • Sarah P

        The stages of grief were originally identified as the process one goes through when a loved one dies. But I have always believed they apply to affairs too. The affair is the death of the relationship you thought you were in. It’s the death of trust and many other things. I personally believe that it would be easier to lose a spouse to death than to an affair. Because when a spouse has an affair, we can get thrown back into the grieving process many times over. When there is a death it’s more straight forward and the grieving process can follow a sequence. Not so for the affair. So, yes you will feel as if stages overlap and that you are thrown backward. I think the ultimate cruelty in the affair is that the person having the affair gets to feel a sense of pleasure even if fleeting. But the innocent spouse gets to suffer. That’s probably the worst part because it seems karma visits on an innocent party and not on the party who deserves the day of reckoning. I will never make peace with this phenomenon. On the other hand, if cheaters let their guard down they will admit they deal with guilt and shame, albeit that the guilt and shame is not so strong that it acts as a deterrent.

        • Christy

          Sarah P
          The other difference I pointed out to my husband when comparing it to a death is… The spouse makes a conscious choice/decision to have an affair. A death is an unfortunate/uncontrollable event. This point is what also adds to the entanglement and increased difficulty moving through the grief stages. Thank you for your article.

    • Emily

      As far as the stages of grief go it’s an endless cycle if you let yourself stay in those moments. When I found out my H has cheated I was furious and then sad and then a bunch of other things but the main thing was I needed a ton of information. And I kept wanting more and more. That was unhealthy because it kept me in that space that for my own self I needed to be out of.
      My advise to you ladies from someone who has been there is to get some alone time and think. Really think. I kept reliving everything because I didn’t want to admit what I knew deep down to be true – that my cheating H was not trustworthy and never would be – I kept reliving stuff to figure out all the lies but the biggest lies were what I was telling myself. Get alone and look yourself in the mirror with the information you have and be brutally honest with what you know to be true about the person you are with.
      Then get up and get back to the process of living. If you want to move forward in your marriage move forward and start that process earnestly and if you can’t trust your partner and never will then admit it. There is no worse a pergatory than the one we women put ourselves in during times of trouble. Don’t let the affair rob you of anything more than it already has!

      • TheFirstWife

        I love the purgatory line! So true.

      • Barb

        Very good advice Emily. I need to copy it and read it daily. At Dday + 5 months (found it interesting I refer to it as Dday also). I always hate myself after I lose it on my H about his EA (PA most likely). Today is one of those days.

        • TheFirstWife

          You should not hate yourself. It is not your fault you are in the position you are in

          I understand your losing it in him doesn’t help the situation. But step back and ask what is causing you to lose it.

          Is he doing or NOT doing something? Is he still being untrustworthy or not transparent?

          Don’t be so quick to blame yourself. I lost it (one of the few times I was really really angry at my H) a few months ago. We are 3 years from DDay 1. I said a few things I kept bottled up inside and I was very angry.

          Since then I have felt much better. He needed to hear it. I didn’t scream like a crazy person but I let my thoughts be known.

          Maybe he is doing something that is causing you to lose it. then he needs to hear it.

    • TheSorryHusband

      Thank you for the article. I am the one that screwed up and hurt my wife. It hurts me that I hurt her and my children so much from my stupidity. I did not have a physical affair or an emotional affair with any emotion behind it. What I did, was send some flirty text messages to a work acquaintance over the course of our normal conversations. I thought it was just harmless texting but, they were discovered by my son and I know just what you mean by D-Day. Yes, I’ve been getting counseling and there are issues that were present in our marriage. We had not been intimate for five years prior to these text messages. What was at first a physical problem became one of anxiety on my part. in retrospect, the situation could have been handled better. I guess that was probably the trigger for my flirty texts. It was just nice to get a little attention and feel whole again. I never meant to hurt my wife. I love my wife and wished that I/we could have fix the problems that have led to our lack of intimacy. I’m not using that as an excuse. I know now that it was not just harmless texting but very hurtful for my entire family.

      All this happened about six months ago and I was asked to leave the home about five months ago. In the interim, I have been getting counseling and I am not the same person that I was when all this started. I know I made a terrible mistake and will regret what I did for the rest of my life. I wish I could fix things with my wife. I know she is very hurt, angry and sad and says that she cannot forgive me. This is also hurt my children terribly. I appreciated the article because I want to understand what my wife is going through and how I can help her. I don’t want to lose her and I want to rebuild my marriage and regain her trust and any advice that you or your readers could give me is much appreciated. And yes, the day after the text messages were discovered I discontinued my relationship with the client that both myself and my work acquaintance were working on. I never had any desire to have any kind of physical affair or even share emotional intimacy with her most of our texts were just about work/business, some joking back and forth and a few of the texts had some sexual overtones to them. My wife has never seen the text but is basing her reaction on the reaction that my son had after he read them. I will say that I am rebuilding the relationship with my son after many months of hurt. Unfortunately my young teenage daughter has not talked to me since this happened.

      If I could give any advice to any guy out there that would listen and I know that nobody will but I’ll say it anyway… Don’t do it, it’s not worth it, it’s just not worth it. I am so sorry for what I did and I would give anything if I could take it back but I can’t so if I could use your experience perhaps to make things right going forward I would sincerely appreciate it. Thank you

      • TheFirstWife

        Hi Sorry. I am sad to hear you are in this position but I agree it is a slippery slope you were on. While the texts were “harmless” in that nothing came of it, no one can ever be sure it would have stayed that innocent. My H’s last affair started off innocent enough but in 6 months he was about to divorce me. Then it ended and rekindled a few months later (same OW) and he was about to divorce me again (this was very serious and real).

        We are still together. He has worked hard and tried hard to correct his past mistakes.

        But it sounds to me like this last text by you was the last straw for you wife. What else is going on between you?

        My H and his affairs brought to surface things he was never communicating to me. But when the affair erupted I heard every nasty thought he had about stuff that was 30 years old. He never communicated anything to me and then told me we were disconnected.

        So I had to correct him that HE was disconnected.

        So now he sees all that he did from abut if a different perspective and realizes all the damage he did.

        And I used to tell him all the years I knew him that if he ever got tired of me or found someone better please do not cheat. Be a man and act honorably. He didn’t do that either.

        But he chose to cheat. Plain & simple. But you can get past it if your wife is willing to try.

        Unfortunately her opinion of you is changed. Maybe she cannot accept that. It is very very hard to accept a Spouse as a liar & cheater.

        In my case I wish my H had only texted a few things. I could live with that (I think). But then again I am comparing to more serious things he did.

        I hope it works out for you. Your family deserves it.

      • TheFirstWife

        Hi sorry. I have a quick question that I am hoping you can answer honestly. At the point you were about to send the first text that may have been inappropriate– if someone had told you not to send it would you have listened to that person?

        Or just ignored the advice and thought you had it under control and it would not lead to anything?

        Just wondering if there is something that coukd ever be said to stop an affair from happening. Thanks.

        • bor

          I would like to know that one also. I have now had to deal with my wife changing all passwords and re contacting and possible continuing her PA. She asked me last night what do i need for reconciliation so I am still hopeful. The story I would like to share for me is I have become attracted to a woman at work who I feel also is attacked to me. I had this realization last week. I could spend more time chatting with her to feel better about my self and just feel good being with someone who want to be positive and possible romantic in the future. I know this kind of curiosity is intriguing but I also know it would be wrong. I stopped my self and have not been back into her dept and kept it strictly professional the times I have need to talk with her. no more off topic fun stuff and personal stuff. Its really our own internal voice that can stop this kind of behavior I think. I don’t think I feel vulnerable enough with anyone I work with and sharing this with my CS i don’t think will help us at this point. Maybe something I share if we reconcile later. I am proud of the self control and patience I have shown to stop that behavior.

          • TheFirstWife

            From an experienced party your wife is stringing you along. IF she is still engaged with the AP she:
            1. Has very little regard for you
            2. Has little regard for your marriage
            3. Is good at giving you just enough so you don’t leave her
            4. Makes sure her happiness comes first and the hell with everyone else.

            I was in your shoes. I was in your exact position. My biggest regret is that I stood up to my H a few times. Why? Money. I had none and with two kids to support I was afraid he was leaving me flat broke. No $. Not going to take care of us.

            In hindsight I should have kicked him to the curb. My reward for being patient and understanding was for him to re-start the affair 6 weeks later. So I had 2 DDays to suffer through.

            The second one I no longer cared about $. I had some savings I put together and I asked him to leave. He refused. I called a friend and said he is coming to spend time with you as he cannot stay here.

            He was sick with regret. And shame.

            But during the affair and the affair fog he made sure I knew everything that made him unhappy over the last 30 years and blamed it all on me.

            My point is you are letting your wife control things. Mistake! She is hoping to have her cake and eat it too and you are allowing it.

            You can put and end to your limbo. Man up and give her a choice. Either in or out. If she wants him to be in her life then tell her it is only fair that you can have an open marriage too. And you will start seeing others. Or leave her. But you are ending the status quo while she waits to figure it out.

            my H is now afraid I will leave him. Once I got my power back it is very freeing and nice to be in control of my life instead of waiting around for a liar and cheater to “decide” my fate.

          • TheFirstWife

            To be clear I stood up to him a few times but backed down. One time I told him to make s choice -her or me. He chose me. I questioned him b/c I did not feel in my heart that was the honest answer. He swore up & down it was our marriage he wanted.

            In hindsight I was right. But I backed down a few more times until I had enough. It was 6 months of crap and affair and lying and him asking for a divorce and changing his mind and asking again and changing his mind.

            In any event I stood up and said I’m sorry but you have to leave. We are finished. I can no longer do this.

            Boy did his head spin b/c he never expected it. He thought I would be a doormat forever.

            • Bor

              I understand, No respect for me, has rewritten the marriage even our honeymoon was terrible, and we are not even friends. She has really entered the last stage of limerence I don’t know. I am looking for changed behavior and her actually asking what I need is a first.
              I am definitely not in a position to just leave. i have 4 kids. it is our house i cannot force her to leave. And I can’t just pick up 4 kids and find a new house to live in and not expect to disrupt my kids lives. But that is one of my boundaries after she contacted her AP in our house with my autistic son in bed with her at about 110:30 at night. I said I would pack them up and leave to her parents house not to return except for clothes and other items. So for now she and I are in separate rooms. We have been doing the married all is fine perception to all our friends who don’t know and she is happy to keep it that way. She is the one who wanted to divorice and separate. So at this point I don’t want to force the issue and have her leave me with 4 kids with out a mom. I have looked into legal separation and if she doesn’t stop with in the next few weeks( as I am losing my mind) and all the meditation and tapping in the world is not helping as much as needed. That is the next step. I need to see a good lawyer that could make her leave or at least find a judge that would have that happen. If that would be the only thing that would snap her out of this emotional limerence. Regardless I feel One of us needs to be focused on the kids. that really is only me. Even her relatives and parents called her out on that over the last year. She has not been able to give attention to where it is needed. I feel she is trying but still very much in fog and can’t make logical decisions. that is the problem with living in emotion, Logic is not possible.I have loved reading many of your posts and feel you have a good grasp of the dynamics. I hope you are not right.

            • TheFirstWife

              I hope I am wrong too. It is not fair to your family and children. BUT she can still be a mom if not living with you or married to you.

              You can make that work but only if she is willing and I’m not sure you know she is willing.

              Do you think she is having a reaction to stress or something? Maybe her affsir is how she deals with stress or trauma or other difficult issues. Having children with issues may have pushed her over the edge.

              Not fair she gets to check out and leave you with all the responsibility either.

              Prayers to you for hanging in there.

    • Hopeful

      Sorry husband,

      It sounds like you are doing a lot of the right work for you which I think is so good.

      I am sure your family and wife do not want to hear it but good thing you were caught. I know you say nothing emotional or physical would ever happen but as boundaries gradually shift it can be easy over long periods of time to allow behaviors you never thought possible.

      Why does your wife not know what you said? My kids do not know about what my husband did but we have decided he would take full responsibility. But we have come to an agreement that I am giving him a second chance with many expectations and boundaries in place. Is your wife willing to give you a second chance? What about therapy or working through a book together?

      For us it has taken a year and a lot of work. I have had to deal with my husband having two affairs over a ten year period. Complications of potential health risks and getting std testing, changing almost every behavior and habit, learning to be honest and transparent. It has been so hard but I knew I was not going to try my hardest to make this work. But ultimately the biggest decision was to grant him a second chance.

      Good luck!

    • Candi

      My husband has been unfaithful for years he promised me if i stayed he would stop lying and build trust, 5yrs later he continues to lie, blame me for being in pain and for not trusting him. He has made little effort to build trust. I told him he could help me through this by giving up his cell phone and he told me im unreasonable. Why is that unreasonable? I gave him the benefit of the doubt repeatedly and every time i did, he would betray me.

    • Katie

      But what if other woman is pregnant what do you do then. He has to communicate woth her some how about the baby.

    • Anon

      He does not have to communicate directly with her or talk to her.

      He can hire an attorney to set up a way for any interaction to occur

      All “discussions” can be vis email only and you are copied on all communications

      She can email you directly and only you

      You and your H can set boundaries with the OW and will need to have a plan for when the baby is born.

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