It’s time to come out of  the affair closet.  We all have to take into consideration that after finding out that our spouses have betrayed us, our story has changed.

the affair closet

By Linda & Doug

A while back, one of our Affair Recovery Movement members, Peggy, wrote a fabulous post in the Motivation and Inspiration forum, in part suggesting betrayed spouses must come out of the “affair closet” and rewrite their personal story to where they are the heroine or hero – instead of the victim.

We felt we had to share this with everyone else, so we got her permission to do so – which she was more than happy to do. Please read on…


Personal Stories – Coming Out of the Affair Closet

By “Peggy”

I listened to Ash Beckham today on Ted Talks.  She is a lesbian.  A human being and a wise one at that.  She talked about being in a closet and that all of us have been in a closet at one time or another in our lives.  Everyone has had to have a hard conversation and there will always be those that will judge you. There are always those that will not be able to accept you, but it is imperative to be authentic.

In January of 2011 my husband came out of his closet and told me he had been in an emotional affair for 4 years and it had been his intention to move it into a physical affair, but she left him for another man. 

What happen in that instant gave me my closet.  Now we both had a closet and the closets were completely separate.  After his initial unveiling of his affair he went back into his closet and crouched in his and hid.  I walked out of mine and was opened to what had just happened to me.  But to my surprise I found that everyone I told my hard story to wanted me to go back inside my closet and crouch there quietly unheard.  They were very uncomfortable with my openness.

I initially was given sympathy, but not understanding.  My  parents were sad, but were not able to be supportive.  My sister was angry, but not patient.  My adult children were sorry, but not willing to allow me to grieve or speak past the initial coming out of my closet.  They all were very comfortable in their own closets and I seemed to them a threat in some way to the orderly appearance of their closets.

Ash said that every hard conversation is just that, HARD.  Hard is hard.  No one’s hard conversation is harder than anyone else’s  hard conversation.  Whether it’s telling your parents that you are gay or telling your spouse that you cheated on him or her.

In the beginning of this journey I didn’t have a clear view of what I wanted or needed.  I couldn’t get help from people close to me so I began my research.  I needed to know everything about relationships. In the last 3+ years I have compiled and read over 200 books, listened to hundreds of audios and read so many blogs, all on how to handle, recover, and understand why we cause and receive suffering .  What I learned was that both myself and my husband needed to find a space in which we could become a WE and work together to repair the extreme damage to our marriage. We needed to learn each other’s needs and desires and work at accommodating them with love and affection for each other.  We needed clear and concise communication with each other. 

See also  Don’t Take the Cheating Spouse’s Story Personally

I was hopeful and brought all this information to him so that he could join me in this new stage of our life and together work at finding the love we had again for each other.  But what happened was that I learned that he and I had experienced completely different marriages with each other.  His was filled with secrets, deceptions and lies to himself and me.  He had convinced himself that he was not happy in this marriage.  I, on the other hand, experienced the most wonderful, free and honest relationship of my life.  Two completely different stories living in the same space and interacting with each other in harmony for 10 years. 

We each have our own stories

Peggy QuoteDon Miguel Ruiz, Jr. talks about our personal stories in his book, “The Five Levels of Attachment.”  We each have our own stories and we assume that this story is the same for our parents, siblings, and friends, but it isn’t.  Each person is the star of their own story.  In our parents, siblings and friend’s  stories we are either major or minor characters that play a supporting role.  In our story we are the Star.  All the other significant people in our lives are reduced as we in theirs to supporting roles. 

I had a very good example of this brought to me by my sister at age 30.  We were both pregnant at the time so emotions were high.  We were playing cards with our husbands at the time and she got angry over not winning.  She told me in her anger that I had ruined her childhood.  She resented the fact that I was always hanging around with her and her friends.  Until then I thought we had both shared the same story.  In my story she was my best friend.  I loved being near her and doing everything with her.  I was crushed and devastated to learn that she held such passionate animosity towards me.  It affected our relationship from that day forward.  I was forced to see my childhood in a completely different light.   Not unlike what I had to do when told of my husband’s affair.

This earlier experience with my sister opened me up to listening to other’s stories about themselves and the role I played in their stories.   But it did not prepare me for my husband’s.  Ironically, we had talked at length about our families and their stories of who we were, but he didn’t make the connection until much later, after his affair, when he revealed who I was as a supporting character in his story of our life together.

My husband has not been a willing participant in the repairing of our marriage.  He has used many excuses such as depression, being in denial, too busy with work, etc.  He chose to wait until I got over it and remained in his affair closet.  So I went back inside.  I suffered my pain and screamed at my situation and mourned my illusion and slowly but surely died a little more each day.  I found myself further in and lower down in my closet.

I don’t like closets.  As a matter of fact I’m very uncomfortable in all small spaces.  It gives me a feeling of being trapped and confined.  I much prefer opened and airy places where I can grow and feel my freedom.  I have decided to stay out and be who I am whether it works for other’s stories or not.

Grieving After an Affair: When Will I Get Over It?

What I’ve learned to be true is this… 

It is literally impossible to change another person’s perception or story.  You can beg and scream and cry and all you are going to accomplish is your experience of the emotion and your reality of the situation.  And nowhere in that experience are you going to alter anything more than perhaps your own perception of what it is.  What has to be accomplished is your ability to accept another’s story to be their truth until they understand that their story needs to be changed or altered in some way in order to move closer to you, if that’s their intention.

We all have to take into consideration that after finding out that our spouses have betrayed us, our story has changed.  Whatever our spouse remembers now that they loved about us is just that, a memory.  It’s not the person they are looking at today.  The hair may be the same.  The body may seem similar, but none of us are that same person who trusted and love our spouse prior to their affair. 

See also  After the Affair: Giving Linda What She Deserves

Our spouse has changed, too.  Whether he comes to know that his story was a distortion in order to fabricate a reasonable excuse for his need of his affair or not, he has changed.  He has changed in his mind and story and he has changed in our mind and story as well.  Nothing is stationary in this life. 

My illusion wasn’t any less or more an illusion than his was.  An illusion because I wasn’t given a complete script with all the characters written into my story.  I have been the victim in my story for 3 years and I don’t wear that role well.  I plan on rewriting my story.  He may be uncomfortable with my openness now because of his fear that I will affect his supporting role in other people’s stories.  Not my problem.  My only problem is creating and keeping it real in my own story. 

I won’t deny that I would be more than happy to join him in this experience of change and renewal, but if he needs to stay in his affair closet I have no control or ability to make him get out other than, figuratively or literally, burning the house down. 

When you are in the affair closet it’s very hard to get out and risk the other side of that closed door.  Once you do you find that the world has continued to move forward and didn’t miss you at all.  Our insignificance is what makes us so grand.

Rewrite your story.  Change the main character into the heroine or hero instead of the victim.  Redesign your set to create a more fluid movement to your stage.  Change your wardrobe to better show off your new and exciting image.  Change up your supporting actors if it will help to enhance your character.  Add more lighting to better illuminate you.  Speak with clarity for all to hear.  Be the best leading man or woman in your own story.  In the end your story is all that will be left for you to rejoice in or regret.


Much appreciation to Peggy for posting this and we’d love to hear your comments below about what she wrote. 

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*This article was originally posted on 2/28/2014 and updated on 3/22/2022

    12 replies to "Personal Stories – Coming Out of the Affair Closet"

    • tryinghard

      Hey Peggy great insight. Love what you wrote. Thanks a lot, I just bought my 29th self help book with your recommendation! All we can do is raise our own level of awareness. You’ve made think in different terms with this post.

      Thanks

      • Peggy

        thanks, I’m doing my best, too.

      • Peggy

        Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. is the son of Don Miguel Ruiz and Dad wrote several really fabulous books. The first one I read was “The Four Agreements”. They are:Use your words impeccably, don’t take anything personally, don’t assume anything and do your best. I recognized from this book that my knee jerk issue was taking everything personally and my H’s was assuming everything. It’s a powerful book. He also wrote, “The 5th Agreement” and several more. I have given “The Four Agreements” to everyone I feel would be opened to the concept, which is me assuming:), and pretty much anyone I have had contact with and can get their address. That’s how powerful I believe this little book to be. Clearly I’m struggling with not taking everything personally, but I’m actually getting better at it. It’s in my head every time anyone says something that feels personal to me. Once you read it you won’t be able to get the concept out of your head and in my opinion that’s a good thing.

        I’m so glad you are buying the book. You’re going to love it.

    • JennyN

      Thanks for the post! Peggy I am curious what not being in the closet looks like for you? What are you working on with it right now and what do you hope to work on with it soon?

      • Peggy

        Thanks for asking Jenny.

        My closet was the closed door to my studio.

        When my H told me about his affair he also told me the reason for it was that he has lost respect for me because I hadn’t made enough money on my art. It paralyzed me. I couldn’t even pick up a brush. I had two galleries and I had just the year before been given an art show in China and 5 weeks of travel over there, totally free, (He was also invited, but made the excuse that he couldn’t miss work. That was when he was having his affair.) and came back with money in my picket. I felt ashamed that I had pursued my art career instead bringing in a steady paycheck working outside of the home.

        My story was that he was completely supportive of my art. He had always seemed to be completely supportive and encouraging so his story made no sense to me at all. His story was that I had told him I was going to do this and didn’t care how he felt about it. Just the words alone were nothing I could ever have said to him. I knew it wasn’t true, but it devastated me. It sent me into shame and shock. He knows now that his story was fabricated to excuse his behavior.

        I have to say that very recently he has finally gotten it after 3+ years. It really hit him when he read my post. He’s been saying for a couple of years that he wanted to see me painting again, but it was just out of guilt for what he had said to me. The few times that I did try and paint I would ask him to please not disturb me and he always came in with some unimportant question. It was impossible for me.

        I suppose I could say that it did take me to make the commitment to be my authentic self for him to see the difference in me now versus me completely consumed in pain to remember who he fell in love with 14 years ago. It also took him to do the reading I’d been asking him to do for 3 years and, in his own words, finally grow up. All this has happened since he read this post. He hasn’t bothered me once since I made the shift in myself. I have to believe now that he means it when he says he’s so happy that I’m painting again. It’s a step forward and that’s more than I’ve had from him in a very long time.

        What does your closet look like?

    • Gizfield

      Thanks, Peggy, I’m going to check that book out. I got one for my Kindle last night for $2.99 that I really enjoyed. The Traveler’s Gift, by Andy Andrews. I was not familiar with him but he also has others that look good as well.

      • Peggy

        You can get all Ruiz books on Kindle. They are worth reading for sure.

    • JennyN

      In many ways I did not have a closet….my husband ended up leaving, and it was all very public and out in the open.

      What it has opened up for me is that I don’t want any secrets any longer….

      It is freeing to not remember who I have said what to about myself because I am pretty much willing to tell anyone, anything (about myself).

      It also wrenched open some very old closets that needed cleaning out from WAY before my husband of the affair. That would have been needed regardless of it he stayed or not. My closets were less about my relationship and more about me and “how I did it in the world.”

      • Peggy

        I think that’s what happens to all of us. I had taken a year and lived alone in a little house at the foot of a mountain and did a lot of house cleaning for myself prior to meeting my H. When we did meet we talked a lot about what we had learned up until then. Obviously, I found out that he hadn’t quite accomplished what he said he had. He’s doing a lot of cleaning now which is good. Trust has never come easy for me and he was the first man I had ever truly trusted in my life. I hear that a lot, too. Why do the ones we love so much hurt us so badly? I hope you are in a better place. I think it is actually harder to work it all out alone. My son is 4 years out from his wife leaving him after he found out she was a serious serial cheater. He’s still suffering from the impact of it all. He’s not over her. I wish he could find closure. It’s heart breaking to watch and see the struggle he goes through. At least he knows he can talk with me. Unfortunate that we have this to share. I sometimes wonder if it happened to me so I could be sincerely empathetic. Hard to find people that understand unless they’ve been through it.

    • JennyN

      My experience has been that it is hard to recover from….especially when I am not willing to cover it up and pretend it is all better.

      I am just shy of four years also from the affair, and just over three from the divorce.

      I have held very dearly that it takes two to five years to recover from an affair. That has been my experience too.

      For me it is about progress, not perfection. The relief though has been that I don’t have to “stuff” or pretend because I think it will save my relationship or someone else. That might mean that it “looks” like I am worse, but in reality that was a big closet of mine that needed to be changed. It would have been harder for me if the relationship had survived.

      I had lived alone a number of years, completely on my own before meeting my loved one. I had also done therapy, and other support for years for my own stuff…..this experience however “forced” me to get to a different level. I am not grateful for the lessons, but the learning has been invaluable.

      I believe I only get a piece of the puzzle at a time…..it is only in retrospect that I see the bigger picture and how in many ways it all works out like it should. In your instances it sounds like getting you out of a place you needed to get out of.

    • Suzie

      I really wish that there was a supportive website for those who made the biggest mistake of their lives by having an affair. Did I hurt my husband by having my affair? Yes! beyond anything I could imagine. However, I am SO grateful that he hasn’t decided to tell everyone and anyone under the guise of his healing. In fact, he told one person and it was like he was sharing our secret.

      Does that mean that he is “in the closet” and not living with authenticity? I don’t think so. We are going through this together.

      I am thankful that he doesn’t hold my lapse in judgement over my head. Can I tell that our story is rewritten by what I have done? Oh yes, but we can come out of this with a better and more connected marriage than we had before. I am blessed that he feels the same.

      It has been 2-1/2 years since the discovery and things are so much better than they were before.

      Please allow your husband a better perspective on your story together. It will be the hardest thing you will ever do, but one that could last a lifetime of happiness.

    • Amanda

      Peggy

      I know this was posted a long time ago but I’m wondering if you and your H are still together and how everything turned out?

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