The initial conversations after the affair is discovered mainly deal with the cheater justifying why they entered into their affair.  

The reasons often cited are:  “My needs are not being met.” “I found what was missing in our marriage with my affair partner.”  Or, the most popular excuse of all…” I love you but I am not in love with you anymore.”

Most betrayed spouses are so blindsided by the revelation of an affair they really don’t understand exactly what the cheater is saying.  What do they mean by the words, I am not “in love” with you?

In the beginning of our journey I wish I would have explored specifically with Doug what he meant by those words.  What did love mean to Doug? 

I know for months following d-day he would say he just wanted that “in love” feeling.  He wanted to feel like we did when we first met.  I felt very frustrated because I felt that we had grown beyond that and I was very comfortable with the phase we were in.

If I could go back I would have questioned Doug what he believed love was.  I would have asked him to make a list that would describe what love was to him.  I even would have challenged him to read some good books about “real love” so we could discuss our differences and thoughts concerning the subject and how it might be different than the “affair love.”

Last weekend I was rereading Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages.”  There was a chapter on falling in love.  This chapter discussed the premise that marriages often fall apart because we have a misconception of what love really is.  Most of us believe that we should feel this euphoric high toward the other person for the rest of our lives, and when we don’t we become angry and resentful.

Presently, 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce as many couples leave their marriages and move on to find that “in love” feeling. Unfortunately, that isn’t very successful either because 60 percent of second marriages fail and 75 percent of third marriages end up the same way.

Chapman states : 

“There is a better alternative than jumping ship and looking for someone else to give us that illusion.  We can recognize the in-love experience for what it is – a temporary emotional high -and pursue “real love” with our spouse. This kind of love is emotional in nature but not obsessional.  It involves an act of will and requires discipline and recognizes the need for personal growth.  Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct.  I need to be loved by someone who chooses to love me, who see in me something worth loving.”

This kind of love requires a lot of effort and discipline.  One person is making a choice to expend energy in an effort to benefit the other person, knowing that if their life is enriched by your effort, you will find a sense of satisfaction.  It does not require the euphoria of the “in love” experience.  True love cannot begin until the “in love” experience has run its course.

Chapman states that we cannot take credit for all the wonderful things we do while under the influence of “the obsession.”  We are pushed along by a force that goes beyond our normal behavior patterns.  However if we return to the real world of human choice and we choose to be kind and generous, that is real love.

When most of us enter marriage we have misconceptions concerning love.  I used to believe that if I had to work on the relationship, then it must not really be true love in the first place.  I simply didn’t know any better.  Nobody ever told me what real love was.  I have learned that love is an unselfish and conscious choice I make every day.  

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    16 replies to "Unlike Affair Love, Real Love is an Unselfish Conscious Choice"

    • Disappointed

      My husband and I separated two months ago and I am still hurt and confused. He is finallyemerging a bit from the fog and is starting to recognize that his EA with a married mother of two was never going anywhere, that he really does not know her and she was just an idea and yet he speaks of his gratitude for her bringing him to life and says he will love her forever. Says he was in love with her. Last night he said that she is toward the end of his list of thoughts and that I am at top. He said that he cried the previous night watching me drive off in the opposite direction. But he says he does not want to be married in the way we were before in my expectations of what a husband should do. In one breath says not moving closer to returning home and prefers separate living but then says has not decided. How long do I wait? I want a real marriage not a boyfriend… Guess he thinks real love too much work…

    • Anne

      My H and I have been discussing this very question, and exploring the topic with our respective therapists. We have talked about the fact that a long-term marriage/relationship is about having the space and safety for personal growth. We have to continue to evolve personally–and as a couple–for the marriage to thrive. This sounds obvious, but I think people get married and forget that their needs and stage of life might be very different at 45 than it was at 25. Early on, we might look at love or marriage as companionship, sex, feelings of infatuation, raising kids. Of course it is all of those things, but it’s more than that. It’s a journey you take with someone so that you can evolve and move through the stages of life (and of maturity) with all the triumphs and the setbacks that naturally occur. The commitment in marriage is to stand by your partner as they move through all the things life throws at them, and as Linda says, that’s a conscious choice. It won’t all be fun and games, sweetness and light, roses and wine. “Real love”–like real life–can be messy.

    • D

      I read this Confucius quote the other day, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” My own marriage philosophy has felt similar. I’ve often heard and continue to hear that marriage is hard work. But it’s never felt like work to me (that is until DDay) because I love my spouse. Whatever arguments we had or disagreements were all part of that love and just because one of us might be struggling with our jobs or personal achievements, or just the ennui of suburbia didn’t mean we stopped loving each other. Realizing she didn’t quite feel the same way was a huge blow, but to be fair, I can’t say for certain she ever actually stopped loving me. Her love for me just diminished or changed or morphed into something different for a while but really had nothing to do with me.

      In the end there is love between us and as a result of this affair it has changed from feeling stagnant to feeling deeper, more rounded, oddly fulfilling. Hard to explain, exactly.

    • Paula

      D, I really love that call, about work, and that oft-quoted saying. I had never linked the two (work and love, and the enjoyment of them not feeling like “work.”) My relationship was the same, never any kind of work, we both loved that about it, and have discussed that ad naseum! I don’t really even like the idea of having to “work” at this for the rest of my life, shouldn’t most of it be pretty organic? That’s not to say I haven’t done my share of compromise to “make it work” – but I did that willingly, now there is some resentment at what I gave up for him. My OH did tell me he didn’t love me anymore, and I didn’t really know what to do with that at the time, it blindsided me, I’ve always felt deep love for him, even in the absolute depths of despair during this recovery period.

    • changedforever

      Just re-read Chapman’s section of his book re: falling in love. Still, 15 mths as of tomorrow (wow, 60 weeks of ‘this’ already,) and its eye opening to read it again…but still very painful. Like Paula, my H never daid he stopped loving me, he just told me he ‘thought’ he had fallen in love with her. Later, he told me she constantly presed him to tell her he loved her. When ‘cleaning out’ the documents file of our family PC this past summer, I found a document he sent her during the ‘height’ of their 9+ week PA: after he had cut & pasted a paragraph about how, statistically, she should manager her adult ADHD, he wrote, “I love you. …and type/signed

    • changedforever

      Sorry…hit the ‘post comment’ tab too soon in error…

      He type/signed his name after that comment. THAT would’ve been my DDay had he been able to hide & finish the affair as he told me he’d planned to do. The fact that he couldn’t tell me he loves me for almost 1 year after DDay #1 was so hurtful. He still can’t. It seems that saying ‘i love you’ is my H’s trigger. I continue to ask myself daily just how? HOW could a 9 week PA with such a screwed up loser have ruined so much of 2 peoples’ lives…?

    • ifeelsodumb

      “I have learned that love is an unselfish and conscious choice I make every day.”
      I think that’s why we all have such a problem forgiving the EA’s and PA’s….because it IS such a selfish act…and true love is NOT supposed to be that way…

    • Swivet

      I have learned that love is an unselfish and conscious choice I make every day.

      What a powerful and true statement. I have never thought of love this way but maybe because I love my wife very much that it is now in my subconscious. For the BS I feel now that we are making this choice every day we wake up, we choose to love our spouse and try to put our feeling aside for the better of our marriage, talk about unselfish!

      Doug (great name by the way ;)) and Linda I want to thank you for creating this website, this has been therapeutic for my recovery and has given me some great insight on what I should and shouldn’t do.

      My wife was supposed to be coming home today but she decided to stay two more days at the hotel because she is beginning to realize the gravity of her mistake and how much pain and anger it has caused me. We had a normal conversation last night on the phone and again she told me how sorry she was for causing all this, I feel good about this now! I did not handle the EA very well, but who does, and thanks to Doug on posting what not to do after discovering the affair I have managed to control my anger and approach my wife differently. I was the cause of her leaving and going to a hotel because I was so angry that she could not deal with it, I understand that some people might be thinking to bad for your wife, but I was not providing a good environment for us to have a discussion. She became angry and when two people are angry nothing is going to get resolved and neither one of us are going to concede our points. She said she is no longer angry at feels hopeful that our marriage will get back on track and actually has a positive attitude about it.

      My senses are still on high alert, deep paranoia, and wandering thoughts run rampant but it is how I control these that will help in our recovery.
      God bless you all!

      • Doug

        Swivet, Thanks for the kind words (and appreciation for our great name!) It’s good that your wife has come to the realization of the pain she has caused. It’s important now to get her back home so you can work on things. Best of luck!

    • Workingthruit

      To disappointed- research midlife crisis, I’ve found a lot of answers in books related to this subject. Husband totally not like himself, very immature and selfish behavior, not knowing who he is or what he wants. Book titled “men in midlife crisis” is good written by a man who has gone through it 🙂

    • Donna

      HI everyone, great post and it is very relevant for me today. I do have one question though. How do you deal with the paranoia? Linda, how did or do you seal with it? what I mean by this is today I came across some written stuff my husband wrote in the thick of the affair.

      His word, “I don’t like to choose what to eat when out for tea. Now I have to choose between Donna and OW. I know which one I want, but I feel so much pressure as to whether it is the right choice. I’ve always felt what was right so choices have been easy. I naturally feel Donna is the right choice, not because I want it, but beause it is right. Right for her, right for our children. Everyone’s opinion is that’s the right choice. Everyone at church that is. Everyone else says I need to be happy. If I’m not I’ll just make my family miserable. THEY ARE MY FAMILY.”

      Reading this and even typing this hurts. Husband has been home 12 months coming up. His choice which I am glad. As I said, this was written nearly 18 months ago, but why do I struggle with it today. I asked him not long ago why are you here, why did you choose me. And he said this is where he wants to be. I guess after reading the above makes me rethink, is he just here for me and the kids, not really himself, he would rather be elsewhere. I hate the negative thoughts and the paranoia that comes with it.

      He is home, I am grateful for that, I just don’t want to be second best. Do you know what I mean. Can you help me with this,PLEASE.

      Side note, I am nearing 2 years D day in March

    • Elizabeth

      Hello Donna,it does get easier that i can say with hand on heart.Not something you want to here right now plus being Female we tend to want everything now.If you go into older posts on this site you will find nuggets of storys that you may relate to and in all you will find that all of us up to this point have fallen in love with ourselfs again,not totally but it is heading in the right direction.I think once you have done that you can look at the bigger picture,and step outside yourself when in company of friends and family and you will see just how great you are.I felt second choice for a age,always comparing myself to the OW,not in looks but in personallity,yeh she looks great and is his vison of his dream looking W,but looks are not everything ,deep down she is rotten to the core,but not you,never you.Try be yourself, so what if he does not like to choose,it is not your fault that he is weaker in mind than you,that will be his undoing in the end.Be the wonderfull person that you are and pull on the many fantastic things that you do. xx

    • D

      Elizabeth, I love how you say, “fallen in love with ourselves”. So true. You go through this feeling of bottoming out, feeling worthless, and then you start to find yourself again. But more than that, you realize you don’t have to be what you were before, you can be anyone. Our mate betrayed us so what allegiance do we have to be what they want. We start being who we want to be, start putting our needs first. We forget that this is how we used to think when we met our mates in the first place and what probably attracted them to us. It’s a great feeling to fall in love with yourself.

      Donna, two things: one) what was written during affairs should be thrown away and forgotten. The mind of the cheater is never rational or even sane so how much worth can be given to words spoken or written during their affair?

      Two) I hope you get to a point where you stop asking yourself why your husband chose you and start asking why you choose your husband, because you don’t have to. You matter the most to you. You come first. You choose your own happiness, your own worth, your own destiny. You are never second best to YOU. Marriages ebb and flow. Your husband may revisit his debate from time to time as I imagine we all do that to some extent. He may also think himself the luckiest man in the world to have met someone so forgiving, loyal and loving. The bottom line is that life happens in the here and now, not in the past or future, and while we can’t control the events surrounding us, we can control how we react to those events.

    • Swivet

      The bottom line is that life happens in the here and now, not in the past or future, and while we can’t control the events surrounding us, we can control how we react to those events”.
      D – This is what I am working on now…how I handle my thoughts and emotions. I know when I get angry and bring up things that were said between them it sets us back. Very difficult process.
      Thanks for emphasizing this point!!

      Donna – I too am struggling with the paranoia!! I posted this in another area but I find myself searching for connections that they are still communicating. I dig and dig and when I don’t find anything you would think I would be relieved, but I’m not, I think they are getting smarter. I am pretty tech savvy and my wife knows that I will find out eventually but what I don’t want to hear from her is “I’m not stupid to contact him that way, you will find out.” I want to hear, I have no desire to contact him!

      Elizabeth – Thank you for letting us know it does get easier and that we need to fall in love with ourselves. I have not fallen in love with myself yet because it has only been about two weeks out. I have come to accept that this was not about me and I am not taking any responsibility for the EA but I do take responsibility for where our marriage was prior and after!

    • Elizabeth

      Swivet i know where you are,2 weeks out and the fog will be thick,Golly i sound like a jedi.Its been 17 months out of DDAY and it is only now that ive found out some more truth, It still hurt,as he confessed to telling the OW that he was lonely after she told him she was falling in love with him,he failed to tell her that his lonelyness was in fact that he was to busy with work ect,he told her because he needed to continue the connection,in in the light of things that was the only thing that they had in common.And now i really dont give a rats Arse,Swivet you dont need to take responsibility for your marriage before,but you do need to drive it forward for you,you already know that you are stronger in mind ,body and spirit.Hang in there xx

    • Rachel

      Two months since d-day. Down 15 pounds and aged 25 years. In therapy but I have to say a waste of money because I get more out of this blog then from a happy therapist who is happily married and has never been in a situation like this.
      My husband and I are at a trying point. He loves me but not in love after 24 years. Well doesn’t that go away some after so many years anyway? He doesn’t want to break up the family but does wonder if he can feel more emotionally connected with someone else. This is totally a mid life crisis. He turned 50 last year. Does this mean it will be all over when he turns 51?
      Workingthruit, thank u I will definitely get that book and add it to my collection of self help books.
      D- thank you for blogging your comments and thoughts make total sense.

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