“David” shares his observations about the affair recovery process based on his own journey.

Photo by larisikstefania 

By Linda & Doug

It’s not easy surviving an affair, whether you choose to stay together in the aftermath or decide that it’s best to part ways.

David is someone who has been through this difficult journey with his wife and understands just how challenging it can be.

Nine months dealing with initial pain and shock followed by nine more working through the forgiveness stage marked a long recovery from what seemed impossible at first – yet here they still are today.

In this blog post, we combine a few different comments made by “David” and “Mary” focusing on his observations from his own personal experience of navigating the affair recovery process.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, struggling with finding your strength amidst all the hurtful emotions that follow an affair; read on for David’s observations about the affair recovery process…

(Note: We did some light editing of the content for grammar, spelling and readability only) 

observations about affair recovery

David’s Original Comment

(This comment was made to the post, Q&A With An Unfaithful Wife.)

I read this post a few months ago and dismissed it as rubbish. It’s been 6-months since I discovered my wife was having an affair with her boss. It’s been a 6-month emotional roller coaster ride that I hope will eventually come to a stop. Re-reading this post, in my current and more stable emotional state, I appreciate Sara’s perspective and have compassion for her situation.

My wife and I are trying to repair our relationship, and we are stuck in this spiral where I need to talk about the affair and my wife reluctantly agrees, but clearly has no interest in truly opening up. I interpret her reluctance and defensiveness as “fence-sitting”, which triggers more pain and more hurt.

This spirals further because she pulls back when she senses I’m hurt, which is the opposite of what I need. On top of all that, I still have raw trauma and flashbacks from seeing the texts on her phone, knowing they were together intimately, and knowing the affair didn’t end immediately. I know these flashbacks will subside over time, but it further complicates a very delicate period in our recovery.

Empathy

Lately I’ve been trying to put myself in my wife’s situation because I wanted to understand why she and I were following the same predictable behavioral script every therapist describes for couples going through our situation. Why does every betrayed spouse want to face the affair head-on, and why does every betraying spouse want to avoid the topic?

When I try and put myself in the position of the unfaithful spouse, I imagine how I would feel if my deepest, darkest, and most regrettable actions were made public to my spouse and then became the entire focus of our day-to-day relationship. I ask myself what would it feel like to see the person I love crushed by something I intentionally did, and something I can’t begin to explain?

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I imagine looking at pictures of happier times as a family and feeling like my bad decisions created a cloud that will forever hang over our memories. I wonder how it would feel to suddenly realize every justification I built up in my mind to sustain the affair was immediately revealed as a shallow lie.

Emotional Toll

None of this considers the emotional toll stemming from my wife having actual feelings for this person. In addition, as a result of the affair she walked away from a job she loved that gave her a sense of purpose.

When I try to put myself in her position, I can understand why she wants to keep her feelings and emotions bottled up. I can understand why, when she sees me hurting, her reaction is to pull back. It makes sense that she would look at me and believe I will never get over this, and how she will always be reminded of her mistake and always feel like a horrible person.

As the betrayed spouse, it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that we are entitled to every feeling and should expect our spouse to respond to our every need in the exact moment we need it. There is no question the betraying spouse must play a significant role in healing the pain they caused. However, the betrayed spouse has to be empathetic to the fact that their spouse is dealing with their own emotions, which in many ways are the exact opposite of our emotions.

To those who are working through their own experience with infidelity, it’s important to remember we interpret things through the lens of our current emotional state.

I remember reading this post a few months ago and dismissing it as cheater propaganda. Yet today I have compassion for the cheater. If my response to this post can change so dramatically in a few months, then what subtle emotional changes is my wife experiencing?

Mary’s Reply to David

Hi David, I wish I could know how you guys are doing now? Everything exactly how you described it is how I feel. I cry typing this because I feel the exact same way you are describing your point of view on your wife, and me as the unfaithful woman…… I essentially don’t know what to do. When you are hurt, what do you need your wife to do? Also, what did you do or are doing for yourself? Are you guys still together? I am so sorry for what you are going through. I thoroughly mean that… Please don’t listen to the naysayers. Everyone is different and maybe their spouses were not sincere.  It definitely doesn’t mean yours isn’t. I wish you guys the very best and I hope and pray you both made it through.

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David Shares His Observations About the Affair Recovery Process

Mary – Happy to provide an update, and terribly sorry to hear about your situation. How long since the affair was discovered? Have you stopped all communication and contact with the affair partner (AP)?

My wife and I are still together and doing much better. If I had to chunk out our recovery, it was 9 months dealing with the shock and initial pain. It was another 9 months to work with a marriage counselor and get through the forgiveness stage. We’re now in the healing phase, which is basically learning to love again as a couple. We’re not fully past all the trauma. It’s still tough, but I’m glad neither of us threw in the towel.

Here are 3 general observations about the affair recovery process.

First, many couples decide the affair is the straw that broke the marriage and get divorced. It’s huge if both spouses decide the marriage is worth saving. The process is incredibly hard. Find comfort knowing you and your spouse believe the marriage is worth fixing.

Second, whatever happens will happen and you’ll be fine. Affair recovery is hard, and I’m sure divorce is hard. Regardless of which hard path you find yourself, either by your choice or your husband’s, you will be fine in the long run.

Third, recovery is not a straight line. There will be steps forward, then steps backward. It is challenging, confusing and often disheartening. There’s no way to avoid it. Keep focused on the fact that your marriage is worth saving.

Understanding the Pain of an Affair

Pain Phase

I was an emotional yo-yo. My wife had to deal with these ups and downs, which I know wasn’t easy. Prepare yourself to watch your husband suffer and know there’s little you can do to make that easier.

Prepare yourself to be monitored and tracked constantly, which won’t be easy. There will likely be times you think the “punishment” far far exceeds the “crime.” Looking back, I wasn’t legitimately concerned my wife was up to no good. I just wanted to have some sense of control.

If you haven’t yet, share all your passwords. Get off social media. Do everything you can to provide your husband with peace of mind that you are 100% sincere about minimizing his pain and hurt. At the same time, expect none of your efforts to be recognized or appreciated. Answer all his questions whenever he asks them, and prepare to be asked the same question over and over. Be completely honest. Hiding information will only make it harder in the long run.

See also  The Essential Role of Follow-Through in Affair Recovery

Forgiveness Phase

This will be much harder on you than your husband, because therapy will focus 100% on the affair. Affairs don’t happen in a vacuum. There are usually issues in the marriage that pre-date the affair, but unfortunately none of that gets discussed initially. The best thing you can do in this phase, is attend therapy and be a willing participant.

You will feel the need to provide context about the affair. When you do, don’t explain the affair in relation to anything your husband did or didn’t do in the marriage. You need to fully own your actions and help him forgive you, before the two of you can have an honest conversation about what was wrong with the marriage pre-affair.

I knew our marriage wasn’t perfect before the affair, and I was willing to hear my wife’s assessment of our problems. However, it was tough to hear anything negative about me or my role in the marriage that occurred after she had an emotional connection with her boss/affair partner. Be mindful of this when you are in therapy.

Like I said, I was willing to own my short-comings in the marriage. However, once she was emotionally connected to someone else, I felt like she was looking for reasons to find fault with me as a husband.

Save Yourself: You Can Recover From Infidelity Even If Your Partner Is Not an Active Participant

Healing Phase

This is the eggshell phase, because both of you have been walking on eggshells for so long you’re stuck in a mode of analyzing everything said (and not said). Every mode change by either person is interpreted through the trauma of the affair. For example, if I look “serious” while sitting on the couch and don’t laugh at a TV show, my wife assumes I’m mad at her about the affair. In reality, I just had a stressful day at work and don’t find the show funny. I don’t have any advice on this phase because I’m still in it.

I hope this helps on some level. I sent and email to Doug and Linda under a different name, which they posted on this blog. It’s titled 6 Defining Moments That Made Reconciliation Possible – An Email From a Reader.  I sent that shortly after we started working with a therapist. Look for that blog post. 

Good luck. You are human. You made a mistake. You will not be defined by this mistake, so please take care of yourself. You and your husband can get passed this and this doesn’t define who you are as a person or who you both are as a couple.

Thanks to “Mary” and “David” for their comments.  Please share your thoughts on David’s observations about the affair recovery process in the comment section.

 

    7 replies to "Observations About the Affair Recovery Process: Insights From a Reader’s Journey"

    • Exercisegrace

      When we went to counseling, my husband immediately wanted to try and shift blame for his affair. I stopped this and told him and our counselor (who wholeheartedly agreed with me) that we would NOT be discussing marital issues until the affair was addressed, AND my husband had worked through whatever issues caused HIS moral failure. There were a number of reasons for this.

      First, marriages are always imperfect because we as individuals are imperfect. We can always learn, grow and do better. But I was in the same marriage, AND treated terribly by him during the affair and still never cheated. It goes against everything I believe in. Fix YOURSELF before you come to talk to me about what I need to do better.

      Second, during his affair he and his AP rewrote our 20 plus years of marriage. It was astonishing and frightening to hear the exaggerations, twisted truths and outright lies he would spin. When confronted with proof and truth? Shrug. Doesn’t remember. For example, he didn’t go with me to the hospital when our daughter had surgery because the AP threw a fit (he blamed it on work at the time). In counseling he was outraged and insisted he went with us.

      Third, because he spent almost two years trying to block out the horrible things he was doing, and at the same time nitpick my every move so he could justify his choices, this made him completely unable to look back with any real clarity.

      Affair fog is real. Until I felt he see our marriage honestly and with true clarity, i was not willing to discuss working on the marriage. My analogy was…when most people are broke they get a second job and work harder. They don’t go rob a bank and then blame “life” and lax bank security for pushing them into a criminal act.

      My single biggest piece of advice in affair recovery would be….don’t rush the process. You as the betrayed spouse deserve to be put first and dictate the pace of recovery. You must feel safe in the knowledge your spouse isn’t rushing you to forget and move on. They must own their actions and the consequences that follow. Then it’s time to build a new foundation.

    • Jennet

      Hi I don’t think 18 months is long enough to get to where he says he is. It takes much longer for the cheater to get out of the affair fog if they ever do. They lie to themselves as well as to you about having stopped contact with the AP and you catch them out in many different ways s not always on purpose and back you go to the beginning again!! From my experience this happens over and over again and it hurts like hell everytime and everytime you think is any of it worth it!! And if you are like me you still love your husband you start again but maybe not with rose tinted glasses that everything is going to be ok. I am nearly four years since DD and I don’t know how many times I’ve found out about contact with her. I’m still here making the most of my life and I am not going to let this define me. Some days it’s harder than others
      But you find that inner strength from somewhere and carry on. My husband has promised there will be no more contact I’m taking that with a pinch of salt as trust is a long way off for me.
      I’m looking after myself I am more independent than before and I’m enjoying life. I accept what has happened and realise there wasn’t anything I could have done differently but now I am a changed person and want to enjoy life.
      I believe that David will probably have a few set backs in his recovery but I wish him well.
      Take care JENNET

      • Shifting Impressions

        Jennet
        I have to agree with you….18 months is barely enough time to scratch the surface,

    • Jennet

      Hi shifting expressions we keep popping up on here!!! Just goes to show it takes a very long time to get through this hell we have been put through. I think the worse part for me has always been being blamed for the trouble in our marriage as far as I was aware there wasn’t anything wrong in our marriage. I had over the years overcome many illnesses i.e. cancer,surgery of various sorts but the worst for me was clinical depression that had be the most awful place to be and that is when his affair started with a so called friend because he says he was unhappy!!!
      He should have been in the black hole of depression then he would have know unhappiness that’s for sure. Not a place
      I ever want to go to again.
      But the truly hurtful part is that she never gets blamed for anything,nothing at all and she never will by him. How wonderful to be such a perfect person!!! That’s what you’re up against and that’s why I think David Is going to have more than a few surprises during his recovery and not nice ones at that. I hope I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure I won’t be as it’s all part and parcel of recovery but I wish him well as I do for all you wonderful people that are going through this swamp of lies and pain
      Good luck to you all JENNET

    • David

      Jennet & Shifting Impressions – It’s worth reiterating what I stated in my response to Mary, that my wife and I are still dealing with the trauma of the affair.

      By the 18-month mark I was able to hear and internalize her sincere apology for the affair and I was able to forgive her. That doesn’t mean the page has been turned and the affair is in the rearview mirror. There is still pain, doubt, and insecurity. Intimacy is still a challenge in our relationship. I will probably never claim “success” in affair recovery.

      My intention in sharing anything on this site is to provide perspective on my experiences in the hopes it can help someone else who is going through this unfortunate hell many of us are experiencing. My intention isn’t to sugar-coat the recovery process, but to provide hope for couples who want to restore their marriage.

      My perspective could change at a moment’s notice. I truly want to restore my marriage and want to spend the rest of my life with my wife. However, there are boundaries that can’t be crossed (i.e. contact with the AP) and wounds that must heal (i.e. restored intimacy). We are working through the recovery process, and I am willing to endure the continual pain, insecurity and doubt because I believe in a better future. I am at peace leaving the marriage if certain lines are crossed or healing doesn’t occur in a reasonable time.

      • Shifting Impressions

        David
        It’s nearly 10 years since D-day. In my own experience, I can honestly say that we barely scratched the surface in those first 18 months let alone came even close to anything that resembled forgiveness. It would have been helpful to see a therapist but my husband refused as is not uncommon.

        We are still together and doing well….but it’s taken years. I don’t know if I will ever claim success or full recovery either. The betrayal broke something deep inside of me. D-day came two weeks before our 40th wedding anniversary. I was completely devastated!!

        Do I still love him and am I glad we decided to fight for our marriage? Absolutely!!! It’s a journey I don’t wish on anyone. But when our partners betray us we are left fighting a battle of epic proportions through no choice of our own.

    • Jennet

      David we all wish you good luck it is hell and whatever the outcome for any of us is that we can say to ourselves we tried our best jennet

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