When you are faced with a spouse involved in an emotional affair there is really no textbook way to navigate through the pain and emotions that exist as you try to save your marriage.
Most advice out there is very good, and as you have come to learn, most affairs follow the same patterns and characteristics. However, because every situation is different it is difficult to know for sure what path to take and what works and what doesn’t. And since it is such an emotional time, your vision may become blurred so that you have difficulty really seeing the whole picture clearly.
It took me over a year to really look back at everything objectively and think about what I did, what worked and what I wish I would have done differently when recovering from an affair. So here is my “woulda, coulda, shoulda” list:
1. Pray. There were nights when I was in such physical and emotional pain that I really didn’t think I could face another day. So I started saying the rosary. I would repeat the same prayer over and over until I would eventually calm down and fall asleep. I would wake up the next day with a renewed strength to get through the day.
2. Don’t isolate yourself from everyone. When I first found out that Doug was unhappy in our marriage I was an emotional wreck. I didn’t want my family, friends and colleagues to see me that way. I was afraid to be around them for fear they would see the pain in my eyes. So I stopped spending time with my parents, stopped eating in the teacher’s lounge and cut down on the time I spent being with my children. In some ways I didn’t want them to know because I didn’t want to look like a failure. I also didn’t want them to know because I was protecting Doug. I didn’t want them to see him in a bad light.
Thinking back, the choice to isolate myself was so stupid. For one, I shouldn’t have tried to protect Doug. At the time he began the affair, we both were not doing a very good job at meeting each other’s needs. I felt just as unloved, ignored and bored as he did. However he made the choice to begin an emotional affair with someone else. He gave up the right for protection. Secondly, by isolated myself from others I was missing out on opportunities to feel better about myself. When you are surrounded by people who love and respect you it is inevitable that you will feel positive about yourself.
3. Don’t expect your spouse to support or reassure you. Doug had always been my go to person. He was my best friend and he was always the one that I depended on to make everything better. When I first began this journey I continued to rely on him. However it just didn’t happen. He wasn’t emotionally able to do that for me. By continuing to ask for support, I was pushing him away and confusing him even more. This is when I should have stepped back and found a trusted friend, counselor, mentor or someone to guide me through this.
4. Get angry. Since I truly found out about Doug’s affair in chunks, I really didn’t have the opportunity to get angry. I really just wanted to process the information and move on. I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want him to see me in a bad light. Looking back I should have really let him have it. I should have told him how I really felt.
There were plenty of things I was thinking but I just kept them to myself. Unfortunately, they surfaced many, many months later when we were really making progress in our efforts to save our marriage. When they did, Doug had a hard time handling my delayed anger and therefore wasn’t very receptive to it. So let your spouse have it immediately, then try to let it go.
5. Be you. When I first found out about the emotional affair, I wondered what I should do or how I could change to help save our marriage. Doug would say to me “just be you.” I didn’t understand that. I thought he obviously didn’t love me since he was with someone else, so why would “being me” help the situation? You have to believe that your spouse fell in love with you because of YOU.
What your spouse fell out of love with was the relationship and the state that the relationship was in at that time. Try making your spouse feel like he is the most important person to you, like you did when you first met, then there is a good chance he can regain some of those lost feelings and fall back in love with you again. The other person would then become insignificant.
6. Learn all you can about relationship and affairs. I dedicated every free moment I had to searching and reading everything I could about relationships, affairs and how to save my marriage. It gave me some kind of control. I highly recommend that you do the same thing. However, I have to warn you to not let it consume your life. I spent way too much time on the internet, and in the bathroom secretly reading affair books.
Take some time for you. Read a trashy novel, search how to do something new, find something else to take your mind off the situation. Additionally, if you begin reading something that makes you feel uncomfortable or hopeless then STOP! Sometimes I would get on forums and feel so defeated and began to second guess my actions.
7. Don’t try to control the situation. I stopped going shopping and spending time away from home for fear that when I left Doug alone he would be on the phone with Tanya. I followed him around every second of the day thinking I could stop him from contacting her. I eventually learned how stupid that was. He was going to contact her no matter what.
I believed I could stop the affair. Now I know there was nothing I could have done to change the course of their relationship. It was all in Doug’s hands and he had to make the choice. I also should have believed the books that I read and should have been more confident in knowing that most affairs end after the fantasy involved runs its course and dies out.
8. Demand cell phone, email, Facebook etc. passwords. Most emotional affairs (and sexual affairs) depend a lot on communicating through these channels since getting together in person can sometimes be very difficult. It took me more than four months to finally see our cell phone bill. When I would ask for the password, Doug would become very defensive and turn the situation back on me. He would imply that I didn’t trust him, or I was being crazy, and would say things like: “What kind of wife was I?”
He was good at changing the subject and acting very attentive and caring so I would just dismiss it for awhile, and since I didn’t want to rock the boat, I would let it go. If I would have seen the cell phone bills from the very beginning I would have had solid proof that they weren’t “just friends” and that it was much more serious than I ever imagined. I would have totally changed the way I reacted to this situation. I also believe that I could have saved myself a lot of pain.
So there you have it. I’m sure there are other things that I “coulda” or “shoulda” added to the list. Perhaps some of you might have some that you can think of. If so, we would love to hear about them. Take care!