Many of you who are struggling in your efforts to recover from infidelity are voicing the concern that you are doing all the hard work to repair your marriage, while the cheater is contributing very little. You are confused as to why, since it was the cheater who caused all of these problems, yet it is you that is picking up the pieces. I fully understand where you are coming from because I felt exactly the same way at one point.
I was the one reading all the relationship books, planning date nights, trying to be complimentary and encouraging while at the same time pleading to Doug to meet me half way. I needed so many things from him to help me to get over his emotional affair, yet there was very little effort on his part.
Of course I had formulated many reasons in my mind as to why he was being resistant, but most of these reasons contributed to my loss of security and self esteem. I just kept thinking that if I could learn and be the perfect wife then our marriage would be OK and my pain would go away.
I have since realized that I was truly off base in my thinking.
My pain couldn’t go away until I felt secure and safe enough to continue in this marriage. I couldn’t heal until I felt loved and cared for in the way I deserved. This, I determined, was Doug’s responsibility.
I am sure there are many reasons why the cheater is apprehensive to go this route. For one, it would take a lot of effort and patience on their part. Honestly, I believe in many cases the cheating spouse entered the affair because it was easy. There was little work involved, yet there were such great returns. To be told after the affair that they need to put forth some effort to make you feel secure may not be up their alley.
Another obstacle could be their lack of ability to honestly communicate about their feelings and the affair. After all, if they were able to communicate their feelings before the affair happened, they probably wouldn’t have ended up in this situation to begin with.
In many cases the cheater really doesn’t know how they can help. In their eyes everything they do is wrong. They can’t seem to win. Often when they try to make things better it only makes us more emotional and upset. So most of the time they are pretty clueless as to what we need.
I would suggest that for a time you need to stop putting in so much effort to make your marriage perfect. Take the pressure off of yourself and transfer some (if not most) of the responsibility to the cheater.
In our case, I think Doug knew that I would be the director of things. Since that was my primary role throughout most of our marriage, he was comfortable just sitting back and letting me take care of things.
When I decided that I wasn’t going to focus on our marriage or on being the perfect wife, it gave Doug the kick in the ass that he needed, and he realized that he had to take some of the responsibility to repair our marriage.
Believe me it was very difficult because I was afraid to stop working. I was fearful that he would return to Tanya or think that I didn’t love him. But really it was a good thing because I didn’t focus so much on our relationship and I started to spend that time focusing on me. I focused on what I needed and how I could help myself feel better.
It also gave me time to think about what had really happened and what Doug needed to do to help me get through this. I had spent so much time focusing on everything else that is was comforting to put myself first. I knew that the first thing I needed was to feel safe again and I needed Doug to do his part to allow me to feel this way.
This included being transparent, predictable in his behavior and patient when I was having troubles with triggers and obsessions. I tried to convey to him that the way he acted toward me greatly predicted how I was going to feel.
If he told me that I was crazy, or was impatient when I had asked the same question a hundred times, then I would in turn be insecure and anxious. That cycle would continue until I felt some sense of reassurance on his part.
It took Doug a while to grasp this concept, but by explaining to him why I felt the way I did and what I needed from him to make me feel safe, finally sunk in. The way he handled my insecurities greatly helped to diminish my pain.
Even though it was more or less by trial and error, I believe we finally reached common ground on what I needed from him so he was also able to put his guard down and not be so anxious and frustrated every time I had an episode.
If the cheater takes the responsibility for their actions, a couple can definitely recover from infidelity and build a better marriage. It’s not going to happen overnight, so be prepared for a long hard road ahead, but you can get there eventually. You just need to give the cheater the map to get there!