“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)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.