A reader shares 6 defining moments that made reconciliation possible for he and his wife.
By Linda & Doug
We received an email the other day from a reader and past mentoring client that we thought we just had to share with you all.
This person, who we will refer to as “Dan,” shared several key elements that helped he and his wife a great deal after her affair.
“Dan” was more than willing to grant us permission to post their defining moments that made reconciliation possible. We really do appreciate his willingness to share.
Here’s the email…
Hope you and Linda are doing well.
Wanted to pass along the attached study that I find fascinating. Not sure if you’ve seen this, but it provides empirical evidence that the grass is not greener on the other side of the divorce-fence.
It’s been 10 months since D-Day and my wife and I are finally fully engaged and fully committed to addressing her affair and the underlying issues in our marriage that created an environment for an affair.
It’s been a roller coaster ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but fortunately we see light at the end of the tunnel.
Looking back on it there are a few defining moments that tipped the scale in a way that made reconciliation possible. Those include:
Continually reminding myself that divorce was a permanent solution that shouldn’t be used if the affair was a temporary problem. There were days of unimaginable pain where it would have been easy to walk away. I managed through those times because I never wanted to look back and regret not sticking it out. I knew once the wheels of divorce were in motion, there was no turning back.
Accepting that I would be okay alone. This was the hardest mental hurdle to clear, because I never stopped loving my wife. I eventually came to terms with the reality that the affair fundamentally changed the chemistry of our marriage, and I couldn’t remain in the marriage if the affair wasn’t fully addressed.
Getting individual counseling. I spent 4 months working with a counselor to help me understand the affair so I could repair my own self-esteem. My goal for counseling was very clear. I was facing a decision that would significantly impact my life and the life and future of my family. I needed to be emotionally stable before I could make such a life-altering decision.
Through individual counseling I came to realize marriages aren’t inherently happy or unhappy, but are the by-product of the happiness of each spouse. I started focusing on my own needs and putting myself on a path to happiness. I was able to make peace that while I didn’t want a divorce it could be a rational and logical choice. There’s a bit of irony in the notion that to save your marriage you have to be at okay with getting divorced.
Accepting that my wife had to process the affair in her own way and that wasn’t consistent with what I needed. All I wanted was for her to have a complete emotional breakdown and apologize profusely, take full ownership of the affair, admit her grave mistake, and profess her love and appreciation for me as her husband. I got bits and pieces of that spread over many months, but never got that one big emotional release.
I now realize what I wanted was overly simplistic. The only way my wife could engage in an affair was by shutting herself off emotionally and building a lot of mental walls. She needed the time to process what happened and unravel all her emotions. This was the second hardest hurdle to clear because she was emotionally detached during this time and it was the same time I was craving emotional connections.
Time away. I spent a month in Florida while my wife was in Colorado. We positioned it with the kids as a work trip, and my daughters both came down for Spring Break. We had no idea how much emotion and stress was bottled up in our house. Being away allowed most of that emotion and stress to dissipate.
Fixing it means fixing it without keeping score. We’re deep in marriage counseling and there is no way we could have started this level of intense counseling until now. If we tried this 1, 3, or 6 months after D-Day we would have failed because the emotions were too raw. We are at a place where we both want to fix this and we can talk about the affair without spiraling out of control. My wife has opened up about all the feelings and emotions that created an environment for the affair. I disagree with 100% of those feelings, but fixing it means accepting (not judging) her feelings.
These are the defining moments that helped me navigate this journey and make reconciliation possible. There are plenty of things that didn’t help or were counterproductive. One thing I wish I hadn’t done was open up to my friends. The problem with telling friends is that everyone has strong preconceived notions of what they would do if their spouse had an affair. It’s easy to see this as a black and white issue where one spouse did something inexcusable and the other spouse is the innocent victim. The reality is that nobody can understand the conflicting emotions associated with an affair until it happens to them.
I’ve spent 10 months trying to wrap my head around the fact that the person who caused me such intense pain is the same person who has provided innumerable moments of joy and shown countless acts of love over 30+ years. My friends have been very supportive and have told me they only care about my happiness. I believe that to be true, but I also know the affair will change the dynamic in the relationships between me and my wife and my friends and their spouses.
Sorry for the long email. I’m a consultant at heart, and I wish I could give people who are going through this a roadmap. I don’t think a roadmap exists or is possible. Everyone has to chart their own course.
Shortly after D-Day I confided in my sister about the affair and her immediate response was, “Marriage is hard, Divorce is hard, Pick your hard.” The attached study would suggest I’ve picked the right hard.
Once again, we really do appreciate Dan’s willingness to share some of his experiences that made reconciliation possible and what he and his wife have learned along the way.
Please feel free to share any comments about what Dan has written, as well as some of the defining moments for you that either made reconciliation possible – or not.