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This blog has been nominated – come and vote


This blog was recently nominated for the Toronto Top 30 blog sites by moms.  I am really flattered, and wanted to let you guys know that you can show your support by voting too!  No cash prize, no flashing lights, just the knowledge that people like what I write, and support the cause 😉

You can vote here

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The big W


When we discovered our husband’s affair (or when it was disclosed willingly), the first set of questions we had were:

Who did you have the affair with?
When did all of this happen?
Where did you two go together?
What did you two do together?  What did I do to lead you to an affair? What is it about me that makes you not love me?  What gave you the right?  What were you thinking?

These form the bulk of our questions in the first months following the discovery of an affair. We want the details. We want to make sense of what has happened to us. If you are like me, you want to put the missing pieces of your marriage’s puzzle together so that you can see the picture more clearly (I can’t make decisions without all of the information). We ask question after question, ad nauseum. We feel like a broken record, going over the details again and again, asking the same question five different ways. But, above all, the question that most plagues us, and the one that eludes us the most is the question of WHY.

Why would a man, who has made a commitment to love and cherish you, suddenly turn his sights on another woman?  Why would he betray your trust so painfully?  Why would he risk all that you have built for this seemingly meaningless encounter, or second-rate relationship?   It is the foundation of what most bothers us, and the question that few ever get the honest answers to.  As painful as it would sound to hear it, we almost prefer to hear “She was thinner than you”, to “I don’t know why I did it”  After all, don’t we all have enough self awareness to know why we do the things that we do?  Don’t we all have some measure of self control over our lives, our decisions, and our circumstances?   The answer to that is “not always”, and most of us are less self aware than we think we are.  I think it gives us a measure of safety to think that we are in control of ourselves, and that our decisions are all made consciously with good intentions after much research and contemplation, but the fact is, they are not.  More on that later…back to the WHY question.

In the wake of my husband’s disclosure, I yearned for the why.  I wanted to know why a man who I *thought* I knew so well could have gone behind my back, lied, created opportunities for himself to philander, and have gotten another woman pregnant?  Why was I so unaware?  Why was I so blind?  Why didn’t I see the signs????  The biggest why of all, however, was “Why did you cheat on me????”.  He didn’t have the answer, and that hurt almost as much as the news itself.  It sounded like a cop-out.  It sounded like yet another lie in the web he’d created, and saying “I don’t know”, sounded like a way to avert the truth, to avoid hurting me, to avoid looking like an idiot.  It just sounded like a pathetic excuse.

Within an hour of ‘finding out’, I locked myself in my bedroom and pulled out a journal and began to furiously scribble my thoughts.  My pen could not move as fast as my thoughts, and I was having a hard time keeping up.  Here are some excerpts of what I wrote:

” …I am thinking that this is a nightmare, and I’ll wake up soon – I hope.  I fear tomorrow I will open my eyes and realize that the day is just beginning and this is real, and not going away.  I feel so stupid, so naive, so ridiculous.  Deep down, I know that I am not the fool, you are.  I’m just the one who opened herself up too much, trusted too much, and naively believed that I was the luckiest woman in the world…You and I used to talk about infidelity and how we felt lucky that we’d never find ourselves there, and yet here we are.  You told me that you’d never have eyes for another woman, that I was beautiful, smart, and everything you’ve ever wanted.  You gave me such a strong feeling of security and enclosure.  I never dreamed of this…Why wasn’t I good enough for you?  Why wasn’t I enough?  Did I get too fat?  Did I lose my youth?  Do you workout for her?  You started cheating around our anniversary and that kills me. You were intimate with another woman and that sickens me to the depths of my core.  You’ve touched and been touched by someone else.  What gives you the right to act so selfishly?  To turn my life upside down?  The kids lives?  How could you turn to someone else.  How could you turn to someone like HER?  I am insulted that I was picked over in favour of someone as sorry and pathetic, as mean, as superficial, and disgusting as her.  I am sick that my love for you has been made a mockery by you two…I find myself in a place I can’t describe.  On the one hand, I see you suffering and I want to reach out to you and make it all better.  I want to run to you and hold you and tell you that we’ll be ok, and have you wrap your arms around me.  You’re the only one who comforts me, and the only one I can turn to, and now I feel all alone. On the other hand, I want you to feel hurt, pain, and worry about our future. I want you to be DESPERATE and WANT ME.  Turning to you to comfort YOU makes me feel like the world’s biggest idiot after what I’ve just learned. She is carrying your baby – that is surreal.  I am the ONLY one who should have that priviledge, and that has been taken from me.   How could you be so stupid????”      

Looking back over my words, expressed over two years ago, I can remember vividly where I was, and how I felt.  My first entry was all questions, centred around my worth as a wife and partner.  I wanted to know that I was loveable.  I wanted to know why I wasn’t enough.  I needed to be reassured that it wasn’t because of ME or because I’d fallen short in some way.  My bruised ego simply couldn’t take that.  I wanted to know what she had that I didn’t.  I wanted to know why someone he had described as being so pathetic could ever have been considered as anything more?

Why became my biggest question over the coming months, and I was desperate to know how it came to be.  I wanted to understand it, anatomically pick it apart. I needed to see the affair from the vantage point of my husband, with all of the details. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t asked for so many details so quickly, but I was just emotionally wrecked and didn’t think I could take another blow, so I wanted it all at once.  Some of the information was tolerable, if I imagined it wasn’t really him, but a Hollywood actor, and he was telling me a story.  When I would snap back to reality and realize that he was describing true events that involved HIM, I was sick.  Some of the information was completely intolerable and left me with flashbacks for months.  In May 2010, I asked him whether he had ever done anything with her sexually that he hadn’t done with me.  His response was no.  I asked if the sex was better.  His response was no.  But, then he decided to add a little detail, saying “well there was this thing she did with her hips once that was amazing”…and I was right back to square one.  From that day on, I tried to imagine what it was she had done, and wondered why I couldn’t do it?  Did I dare try?  “No”, I thought, “I don’t want to aspire to be someone like HER”.  It grated in my memory for the longest time, and caused such flashbacks when we were intimate for the longest time.

We all want to know WHY, and yet it is the one thing they can’t answer much of the time.  Much of that comes from a lack of awareness of why.  After all I have learned, I think that many men really don’t realize WHY they did what they did, and it was that exact LACK of self awareness that put them there in the first place.  A few weeks ago, I posted about vulnerabilities and what factors can pre-dispose people to affairs.  Most of them shocked me.  I wouldn’t have known they were flags, let alone red ones.  I guarantee you men don’t know either.  Most men don’t make a conscious plan to have an affair.  It is a situation in which they suddenly find themselves after having slipped down a slippery slope, having allowed their moral compass to shift somewhat, allowing them to perceive previously actions previously described as irreprehensible as suddenly “tolerable”.  Little by little they slip, rationalizing and justifying their actions to themselves along the way until there is NO DOUBT that they have crossed that line, and now it is a matter of damage control.

Finding the why is hard.  It takes a man (or woman if you are a man and your wife cheated) who is willing to patiently answer all of your questions, who is willing to repeat as needed all of the details until you are satisfied, and then often repeat them some more.  It takes a person who is willing to be introspective and to look inside themselves at what was going on for them at the time, what the affair was giving them that they felt they were lacking.  It takes someone willing to do the work.

I can’t say enough good things about the “healing from affairs” weekend, offered by Anne and Brian Bercht.  Seeing the affair of other men, and realizing that my husband was not unique in his situation was tremendously healing for me.  Being able to see his lack of self awareness as just that, and not a bunch of lies aimed at avoiding the real reason for WHY.  The Beyond Affairs website has a lot of great tools and resources including the tele seminars which are recorded, and which you can listen to at your desk, or on a tablet in the privacy of your room.  The in-person seminars, are, however, the best option, if you can manage it.  If you are both willing to do the work, this will get you there, and WAY FASTER than what we have endured.  I recommend everyone to take a look at the site, and consider attending a weekend.  You will be so glad you did.  You’ll get your why.

**Edited to add as an afterthought***:

For those struggling with the why….it wasn’t about you.  It wasn’t something you did, or didn’t do.  It wasn’t because you aren’t pretty.  Studies have shown that strangely enough, men often cheat with women inferior in looks to their spouse.  It isn’t because you aren’t thin enough.  It isn’t because you burn dinner, or forget to starch the ironed shirts.  It isn’t ANYTHING you did or caused.  In fact, if you were the epitome of perfect, he still would have cheated.  I mean, take a look at hollywood and you will find a beautiful star who has it all:  looks, fame, money, a body to die for, and a husband who cheated.  It has everything to do with them. Sure, there are bad marriages, but a bad marriage doesn’t make an affair – it makes a bad marriage.  You need to separate the two because they aren’t linked.  Many men in bad marriages never cheat, and men in good marriages do.  Marital issues are marital issues.  They need to be worked on and settled.  Affair issues are entirely to do with the vulnerabilities in the wayward partner, and the opportunities that presented themselves at the right time.  Marital issues = both responsible.  Affair issues = Wayward spouse’s issue.  Please don’t mix the two and assume one has anything to do with the other, because they are separate, and need to be dealt with separately.  You aren’t responsible for your spouse’s affair.   The only thing we are guilty of is loving and trusting too much – and that isn’t a crime 😉

 

Forgiveness


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Forgiveness…it’s the other almighty F-word. We are always taught as children to “kiss and make up”, to “share”, and to “forgive”. None of those are easy, especially in the face of a trauma inflicted upon you by the person you are supposed to forgive. It is often the last thing that we want to do, or even consider. I mean, really, why would we forgive someone who has done us wrong, and done so INTENTIONALLY…why?

Forgiveness feels like the end of a long road, the final stage in the healing process when we have been wronged. It is what we ultimately strive for, isn’t it? Those of us who choose to stay, and even for those of us who don’t – to be able to put the past where it belongs, and to make a willing and thoughtful CHOICE to forgive. But, what is forgiveness, really? I can tell you without a doubt what forgiveness is not:

Forgiveness is not forgetting, it is not undoing, condoning, justifying, rationalizing, and it is not allowing. It is to make the conscious choice to no longer allow the event to rule over you, or for you to hold it contemptuously over the head of s/he who has wronged you. It is to acknowledge that something horrible happened to you that was not your fault, but to consciously decide to no longer give it power over you, your life, your choices, or your happiness. It is to free the one who has wronged you from the ongoing torment of your vengeful thoughts, your desire to want to exact revenge upon them, or to wish them unhappiness. It is to choose to be better, not bitter, and to move forward with new strategies to protect yourself and your relationship going forward, without the past holding you both back.

Forgiveness is scary, and feels elusive in the beginning. I used to think “if I forgive my husband, am I sending him the message that what he did is OK by me?”, “Am I telling him that he can repeat the same behaviour again and all will be ok?”, “Is it showing weakness to allow him to have harmed in such a deep way, and to “let him off the hook?”. I no longer see forgiveness as a weakness, nor as letting him off the hook, because for me, forgiveness comes at a significant cost. I know that some will not agree with me, but for me, forgiveness requires that my husband acknowledges what he has done, and shows adequate sorrow for his actions. I cannot forgive a man who does not acknowledge his actions, nor a man who cannot apologize properly for those actions.

What is a proper apology?

An apology, in every day life, has three parts:

1. An acknowledgement that you are aware of the particular act that you have committed which has brought pain to another.
2. An ability to view empathically, the situation through their eyes, and to be able to understand the feelings that your actions likely brought about (i.e. I can imagine you felt hurt, ashamed, frustrated with me, unsupported….)
3. A desire to never again bring such harm to the individual, and a desire to put into place certain safeguards, or to perform certain actions which will prevent re-injury.

With affairs, there is simply more to it than that. I could not simply forgive my husband if he said to me: “I understand that my affair was wrong and hurt you. I can imagine my actions made you feel foolish, belittled, uncared for, undervalued and betrayed. I will never do that to you again”. That simply would not be enough. So, what DO we need exactly, as betrayed spouses? Well, I think we will all vary on what we need to feel healed and supported, but for me, I need to re-establish trust in him, and that is accomplished by him:

1. Attending marital therapy, not because I make him, but because he genuinely wants to improve our marriage
2. Allowing me to ask as many questions as needed, as often as I need to ask them, even if I have asked them dozens of times already
3. Answering those questions honestly and without reservation (except for my feelings, in which case gingerly stepping around areas of sensitivity is appreciated, while being honest in the process)
4. Taking an interest in discussing our marriage openly
5. Trying to see the affair through my eyes
6. Being able to vocalize and express how his actions made me feel
7. Learning to see that we are all vulnerable to an affair, and learning what makes HIM vulnerable to an affair.
8. Setting into place safeguards to protect himself in those areas in which he is vulnerable
9. Promising to talk to me openly in the future whenever a sticky situation arises so that we can work on it together
10.Showing true and honest remorse
11. Taking the lead in helping me heal by taking the initiative to ask me if I have questions or needs around the affair, before I have to ask
12. Reassuring me that he loves me often, and treating me with kid gloves when necessary

I am sure there are more, but for now that list feels right.

Forgiveness is something which takes time, and no one can expect to get there quickly. In fact, I would surmise that someone who is trying to forgive too soon is simply trying to “sweep it under the rug” and trying to make it “go away”. True forgiveness comes with putting in the work, and watching your partner do the same. It is a private journey, undertaken on your own, while simultaneously part of a team. It isn’t the team who will get you there, it is YOU, but the team’s support is vital along the way. One day, you can just wake up, and feel like you are ready, maybe not entirely ready, but closer than before. Remember though, that forgiveness is a choice, and isn’t something that falls out of the sky for you. You don’t wake up one morning and say “I have forgiven”. You wake up and decide to start trying to go through the motions of no longer holding contempt for the person, and every day becomes easier, and you become lighter.

For those who are early in the journey, and who may have just found out about your partner’s affair, I give to you this song. I am a big lyric-listener, always trying to see my life in the lyrics of a song, and finding myself identifying with song lyrics. These really need no explanation, so I’ve pasted the lyrics here, and the link to the video for those who just aren’t ready, and to you I say: “take your time”.

I always said that’d be it
That I wouldn’t stick around if it ever came to this
Here I am, so confused
How am I supposed to leave when I can’t even move?

In the time it would have took to say
“Honey I’m home, how was your day?”
You dropped the bomb right where we live
And just expect me to forgive

Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man
And I’m not sure I can
‘Cause I don’t even know now who I am
It’s too soon for me to say forgive

I should ask but I won’t
Was it love or just her touch?
‘Cause I don’t think I wanna know
So get you some things and get out
Don’t call me for a day or two so I can sort this out
[From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/r/rebecca-lynn-howard-lyrics/forgive-lyrics.html ]

Well you might as well have ripped the life
Right out of me, right here tonight
And through the fallin’ tears you said
“Can you ever just forgive?”

Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man
And I’m not sure I can
‘Cause I don’t even know now who I am
It’s too soon for me to say, forgive

You know what they say
Forgive and forget
Relive and regret

Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man
And I’m not sure I can
‘Cause I don’t even know now who I am
It’s too soon for me to say forgive
Oh, it’s too soon for me to say forgive

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Marriage is easy…it just takes love. Right?


I never understood what people meant when they said “marriage takes work”.  What were they talking about?

“If their marriage needs ‘work’, I would think to myself, “then clearly they shouldn’t be together”. 

Marriage doesn’t take work, it takes love.  Or so I USED to think.

My husband and I had the perfect marriage.  We were in love, we adored one another, we were physically and sexually attracted to one another, we enjoyed each other’s company, and more than that, we admired one another.  We each saw in the other, things that we admired and appreciated.  We saw each other as capable and recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  We had perfected the dance of marriage, with each of us compensating for the other, stepping up in the areas where the other was weak, and hanging back, when necessary to let the other shine.   It was a dance perfected over time.  If you had asked either of us, in a candid moment, whether we were happily married, we would have said YES unquestionably.  My husband and I would often comment to each other about how lucky we felt to be together.  While friends and acquaintances appeared to be struggling with their partner, we really weren’t.  We would sit and listen to friends complain, “My wife is so controlling”, or “My husband puts me down”, or “My husband never tells me that he listens to me”.  We would remark how unhappy they seemed, and basked in the thought that we were above them, that our marriage was better.  We were, in essence, impermeable to problems.

Sure, our marriage had its problems like all marriages.  We would fight, and I will admit, I am NOT a good fighter.  Fights send me into “Fight or Flight” mode, and I am a expert at the latter.  I flee.  I run.  I hide.  I then pretend like it’s all better, and plead that we not talk about it anymore.  It passes, and we get back on track. Until next time…

Despite the occasional dispute, we really had no complaints.  We didn’t have money problems, he has always been a good provider, a wonderful father, and an exceptional example in his career.  We would sometimes hear of affairs, and it would further reinforce for us our impermeability.  “Well of course he had an affair”, we would think, “they fight all the time and she is all over him like a wet shirt…he needed his breathing room”, or “I just knew she would find someone else to give her the attention he never gave her”.  We would then make the natural comparison to ourselves, and feel reaffirmed that we were better, stronger, impermeable.   My husband has always told me that he loves me.  He tells me often that I am beautiful, sexy, or ‘hot’.  He complements me on my abilities.  He takes me out for nice dinners, and buys me thoughtful gifts without me having to drop hints.  He knows me very well.   How could a marriage like that suffer an affair?  We were, after all, impermeable.

It was that very belief, that very statement that brought us comfort and security that would later to prove to be our greatest downfall.  We thought we were perfect.  We thought our marriage was better than others.  While we may have been right on that last one, it didn’t mean it was perfect, and that it didn’t require work.  But, what does WORK mean in a marriage?  Counselling?  Learning to fight fair?

The very fact that we thought that we were in a great place and impermeable to this problem is the very reason I never looked for the signs.  It was the very reason I had never educated myself on infidelity, even though both my father, and my husband’s father had both cheated in their respective marriages.  It was the reason that when my husband found himself becoming “friends” with his work colleague, that he didn’t put boundaries in place, talk to me, communicate about his feelings, or even second-guess them,  because we were both living under the assumption that it would NEVER HAPPEN TO US.

It was the mistake of our lives.

25 months into my journey to healing from my husband’s affair, I now know many things:

  • Talking does not mean that ‘communication’ took place
  • I have to learn to be a better listener
  • Men and women need to be aware of what makes them vulnerable to an affair, and to put into place safeguards, the largest of which is to communicate with your spouse
  • Couples need to share complete honesty about their past hurts, their childhood scars, and learn more about each other and what has happened to form them the way that they are
  • No matter how long you have been married, and how many times you have said it in the past, every partner needs to know that they are valued and loved, attractive and invigorating, captivating and irresistible.
  • Couples need to schedule time specifically for the purpose of discussing their marriage.
  • Couples need to use this above mentioned time to discuss the ways in which they will continually try and improve it
  • Couples need to build trust with one another, by meeting and sometimes exceeding the needs of their partner.
  • They need to learn to anticipate these needs, and fulfill them before ever being asked, simply because they know one another well enough.
  • Couples need to be  honest with one another about their feelings INSIDE and OUTSIDE the marriage, including their physical attractions to others
  • Couples need to learn to communicate in a way that ensures that their partner feels 500% convinced that they have been heard, and in a way that validates their feelings.
  • Couples need to learn that sometimes, communication is a one way street, and all you need to do on this particular episode is listen and make your partner feel heard.
  • Couples need to have fun together, and to remember that their partner is a fun person, not just the father/mother of their children, and their spouse, but a person with value as well.

Doing the above takes a lot of work.  It takes time, dedication and a willingness to put it together.  It requires scheduling the time together, setting aside other plans, having uncomfortable discussions, facing their own hangups from childhood which impede them from being the spouse that they need to be in order to create a fully functional ‘whole’.

Marriage is HARD.  It isn’t enough to just love one another.  It takes WORK, and I now know what that work is.  It is a constant checking in, a constant re-evaluation of where you stand, and where you wish to be.  It is a work in progress, with each day offering you a new opportunity to overwrite and re-write the formula for your marriage.  That kind of thing doesn’t just happen, and it won’t just magically fall into your lap.  Couples who have great marriages have them because they put the work in, and they recognize when work is needed.  They didn’t just happen.  They aren’t just “the lucky ones”, because luck has little to do with it. They don’t blindly assume that they are impermeable and they take the steps to protect themselves.  They recognize their faults, and that they aren’t perfect spouses.  But they also take the time to try and grow for one another in ways that help their relationship.

In a sense, I guess for me, the word “partner” has taken on a whole new level of meaning.

Support through listening


For those who are experiencing the aftermath of an affair, listening to others who share your journey is really healing.

Below is a link to a tele-seminar with Anne Brecht, the author of “My husband’s affair became the best thing that ever happened to me”. It covers the healing process, and touches on some of the points in my last post.

I hope you find it helpful 😉

Teleseminar

The anatomy of an affair


Happy marriages experience affairs. It’s true. Hard to wrap one’s head around, I know. I’ve been there, and shook my head in disbelief too.

Being betrayed by your spouse, someone who is supposed to love, honour and cherish you, is the most significant betrayal of all, and cuts so deeply. Trying to understand an affair with a rational mind is not an easy task, partially because affairs aren’t usually a rational thing.

I would like to recount an experience of mine, if I can, in the aftermath of my affair, something that made me vulnerable to having an affair of my own (No, don’t worry, I didn’t, but the vulnerability was there).

A few weeks after I discovered my husband’s affair, a male friend of mine who was also working as my real estate agent, spent some time with me over coffee. I told him about the affair, and about the child. I guess, in retrospect, I wanted a man’s opinion on why it happened, not from the mouth of my husband, who, at the time, I felt would tell me anything just to clear his name. I wanted someone OBJECTIVE. My admission of something so personal, caused him to also open up to me. He told me that he always found me attractive, and that the first time we’d met, he’d felt something for me. I was flattered. When I didn’t rebuff him for that comment, he took a step further, and told me that he sometimes thinks of me in sexual ways. Again, feeling awkward, I didn’t rebuff him, but I expressed gratitude for him having shared that with me. So he took it another step further…

He ended up sending me a picture of himself naked. He also shared with me the fantasies that he had been having about me. They were pretty graphic. I will admit, it felt very awkward, but also felt so good at the same time. My husband had just cheated on me, so I assumed, as many wives do, that he must not find me attractive, and here is this man, professing his attraction for me, and going out on a limb to send me such a personal communication. I was so flattered, and wanted to spend more time with him, so that I could hear more about how he felt I was attractive. I was drawn in at a time when I needed that kind of attention.

Eventually, he asked me to send a picture of myself as well. I am pretty body-conscious, so I wasn’t prepared to provide a naked image of myself, nor did I think it was appropriate. I knew that I was married, and that my husband wouldn’t approve. But I was also angry with him, and wanted to get him back for what he has done. I ended up sending this gentleman a picture of my self in my bra and underwear. His reaction was intense. He affirmed once again that I was absolutely stunning, and I was on cloud nine. It felt so good to be appreciated by someone.

I started to feel incredibly guilty, and this had only gone on for a couple of weeks. I have not had sex with him, touched him, or kissed him. I simply basked in the glow if his loving comments. I ended up telling my husband about it, and he was incensed. He ended up calling the man, and asking him to never speak with me again. Suffice it to say, he is no longer our real estate agent 🙂

I say this because, in that moment, I was incredibly vulnerable. I was vulnerable to his advances, the attention, and the affection. I had just been told my husband had slept with another woman, and I desperately needed attention. I sought it in a very destructive way. Looking back, I loved my husband. I was head over heels for my husband. I would never want to do anything to hurt him. And yet, I found myself quickly involved in something that I couldn’t get myself out of, without telling him about it. I needed to tell him, so that he could help me get out.

All of this to say, it’s very easy to slip down a slippery slope, when you’re not feeling good about yourself. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with your spouse. Maybe you are passed up for promotion at work, maybe you feel like you’re in a dead-end job. Maybe you just experienced the death of a parent. Perhaps a new baby has come into your life, and the stress seems insurmountable. You’re looking for an escape, anything to get your mind off of your struggles. You need something new, something fresh, something different, or something completely destructive. This is how affairs happen. It isn’t because you worked pretty enough. It isn’t because you’re not thin enough. It isn’t because you don’t satisfy him. It’s because of something deep within him, that only he knows, that he needs to explore. Individual therapy around this is incredibly helpful.

Learning what the vulnerabilities are, and how to look out for them, is crucial. Learning how to really talk to your spouse, to communicate, to admit when you have an attraction to someone. That last one is a biggie. Most of us think that is a no-no. We’re attracted to someone on the street, and heaven forbid we actually tell our spouse!! I now understand that I was naïve in thinking before that my husband would only ever find me attractive. I have features that my husband finds attractive, and I share some of those features with other women. He’s naturally going to find them attractive as well. But it’s being able to admit that one find it attractive and someone else, and talking to your spouse about it. If that person works with you, putting up safeguards to prevent yourself from taking it a step further. Having knowledge of your vulnerabilities, allows you to protect yourself from yourself.

We are ALL vulnerable to an affair. Affairs happen in good marriages, and to good people. You don’t see them coming, the slope is slippery and gradual, and before you know it, the moral compass that has kept you on track, suddenly slides a little to one side. You don’t even know that it’s moved. You see what you are doing as OK because ________ (add your own justification here). The change is so gradual you don’t see it, like someone losing weight slowly over time. Before you know it, you are in an affair, and feeling badly about yourself, stuck, and unsure of how to make it stop without destroying your spouse.

According to Anne & Brian Bercht, there are many factors which render an individual vulnerable to an affair. They fall into several categories: Personal (work, family, self esteem, sex life), Marital (bad communication, money, childrearing, equality), Environmental (friends, the effects of others, pornography, work situations), and Opportunity factors (opportunities which make an affair more possible).

Although the list has more than 200 of them, and it is growing daily, some of the vulnerabilities include:

Personal:

  • Financial setbacks at work
  • Demotion
  • Workaholism
  • Boredom at work/feeling like this is all you will ever have
  • Feeling small, impotent, or unimportant
  • Loss of parent
  • Recent move to a new neighbourhood
  • Self-conscious about changing body (receding hairline, bulging mid-section)
  • Menopause
  • Medications
  • Boring sex life
  • Flirty personality
  • Change of career
  • Depression
  • Lack of same sex friends
  • Unresolved childhood issues
  • Naive thinking “this will never happen to me, I am not that kind of person, I would see the signs, my co-workers aren’t attractive…”
Marital
  • LAck of openness and communication
  • Feel unheard
  • Unresolved conflicts
  • Unloved
  • Lack of spousal support
  • Unrealistic domestic responsibilities
  • Feel “put down by spouse”
  • Lack of admiration/attention/affection
  • Lack of time together
  • Pornography usage interfering with marital sex
  • Lack of sex
Environmental
  • Interference from others/family into your marriage
  • In-laws or family moving in with you
  • Aging parents and the stress of caregiving
  • Are affairs condoned in the workplace?
  • Married friends who complain about their marriages/sex lives
  • Having friends who are single
  • Working shift work
Opportunity
  • Work closely with opposite sex team members
  • Out of town travel
  • 1 on 1 dinners with opposite sex
  • Work promoting non-spousal events
  • Flirting with others at social events
  • Coaching kids sports teams
  • Holding a position of authority
  • Wearing a uniform to work
  • Having outward signs of financial success
  • Being pursued by the affair partner
Although the above points are far from complete, there are simply too many to list, and I don’t want to reproduce the hard work that has gone into compiling this resource for couples who attend the retreat seminars.
What I didn’t realize was how many vulnerabilities there are to an affair. It is never as simple on the inside as it seems on the outside. Men/women don’t wake up one morning and decide that they are going to risk their marriages for a cheap fling with an easy lay. Instead, they are vulnerable for many of the reasons above, and then an opportunity exists for them. Without talking to their spouse openly about their feelings, their self-esteem, their risky behaviours, etc., they are at high risk of slipping down the slope.
Affairs aren’t always about sex. As women, we equate sex and love and assume he must love her. Not true. Men have sex for sex. Women have sex for love and connection. We can’t judge our husband’s decision to engage in sex by looking through the female lens – that will only lead to hurt when we think that we are the same. We aren’t. We need to look at it the way that THEY did, so that we can understand the intentions, because intentions matter. Affairs may have nothing to do with wanting sex or the quality of the sex they are getting from the OW. In my husband’s case, sex with her wasn’t better, in fact it was meaningless and that felt bad emotionally for him. It was mechanical. She would make strange faces which he found creepy, and his genitals burned when they were done (she is acid….are we surprised? No, there was no STD). Was her vagina tighter than mine? Yes. She’d never had children, so in that way, we were different, but the tight sensations didn’t make up for the intimacy that he was missing. Some men want to feel valued, some want to feel sexy, others want to feel young, others want to feel important to someone, others want to feel dangerous and adventurous in what they have deemed to be a boring life, and some just want reaffirmation that they still “have it”. Many times, it speaks to men lacking something emotionally, and that brings me to a whole new paragraph….
Men are not in touch with their feelings the way that women are. Men are conditioned to not talk about their feelings, and to deny them. They grow up emotionally starved and then we ask them to thrive emotionally. We wouldn’t ask a handicapped person to walk when they can’t. We wouldn’t ask a child to do something that they don’t know HOW to do, and mock them when they fail. We would understand that they are limited, and try to optimize their potential by exercising that muscle. When men aren’t in touch with their feelings, and are suddenly demoted at work, their potency, their impact, their influence are considered null and void. They are nothing. Men are also trained to be good providers, to always move forward, and to climb the ladder of success. To fail, to be fired, to be turned down for a promotion…it makes them feel shameful and embarrassed. Their self esteem is gone. Now, as women, we would say “losing your job says nothing about who you are, or how much you are loved and valued”, but men won’t come to us to gain that insight because they don’t talk about their feelings. The result is a man who feels badly about himself, and has no one to help alter this disastrous thinking for him, so it is absorbed and becomes part of his self-evaluation. All he needs now is an opportunity to meet a woman who is interested, single (or married but looking), who will shower him with compliments about his abilities (something his wife may not be doing because she doesn’t feel she needs to – we take for granted that he knows this, but rarely do we continue to reinforce this for them when life gets in the way). Now the woman who is interested is making him feel good, and he likes feeling good, so he wants to spend more time with her. She flatters him some more, strokes his fractured ego, and before he knows it, he is going out of his way to see her, and not telling you about it. He justifies it by saying that he hasn’t done anything WRONG, so you don’t need to know. He sees no need to mention something so insignificant. Slowly, his moral boundary which used to be firmly planted, with clear demarcations for proper and improper behaviour is shifted two degrees to the left. What was once close to improper is now seen as “ok” because it is justified away. Slowly, it moves further and further away, the slope becoming steeper and steeper, until he does something physically or emotionally that would devastate his wife. He is on the WRONG SIDE of his moral compass, and now can’t get back. What he needed to do was talk to his wife, when he first started feeling an attraction to spending time with her, and ask his wife to help him figure out what he is missing. If he feels supported and they can have these open conversations without her going mental, he can feel safe to tell her, and vice versa. She will help pull his moral compass back, and he won’t cross the line. It is the crucial ability to be able to COMMUNICATE that makes the difference.
My husband is a good man. He is an upstanding gentleman in a position of authority who works closely with members of the opposite sex. While his work schedule does not require travel, he does do shift work. At the time of my husband’s affair, his father had been arrested for having committed an act that he didn’t realize was wrong. As an only child of divorced parents, his same sex parent, with whom he felt most connected, was suddenly at risk of going away to jail. We had a 15 month old child at home, leaving me tired, and likely not as interested in sex. We had two other older children whose programs and schooling took up a great deal of our parental attention. At the time of his affair, he’d come to the realization that this was as good as it was going to get at work. He was bored, unstimulated and unfulfilled. Our children, who are young, prevented us from having a lot of alone time, and by the time we were alone, we were tired. It didn’t bode well for constructive conversation, patience, or understanding. In fact, we spent a lot of time competing over whose life was harder. And then he met HER. She was young, in the same line of work so they were able to have conversations about shared knowledge that I don’t possess, seemingly fun, energetic, and representational of a time in his life that was long gone (university days and all that comes with it, and she was still living that life, and he missed it). She represented fun and freedom (she is single). She praised him. She told him he was smart. She sought his advice in their field and now he was feeling important, and that he was useful (was bored before). She told him he was attractive and praised his physique. In essence, she fed his ego at a time when he needed it. He slipped, and then he justified his actions. Then he felt bad about it, and about himself, so he did it more (it’s like self soothing, I guess, but with a destructive soothing mechanism). When it got to be more than he could bear, guilt-wise, he told me, and asked for my help.
His affair happened, not because he was looking for an affair. Not because of any lack of anything on my part, not because he is a bad man. It happened because the stage was set, and we didn’t even know there was a play 😉

Words from a husband


I have asked my husband if he would kindly be a guest blogger on this blog. I think it’s important to see both sides of an affair, in order to truly wrap your head around it. With all of the insight that he’s gained, and all that we have learned together, I think it tubes us to share that on this blog. Therefore, I have asked him to spend some time writing some articles for me. Things like, how the affair started, and what was going through his mind. Explanations of how he was able to compartmentalize, to love me, but to have sex with another woman at the same time. How he felt about revealing the affair to me, where he was stuck, and the fears that he had that our marriage would not survive. Contrary to public opinion, spouses who betray their loved ones, also need to heal after an affair. The guilt, shame, the intense pain for the hurt that they’ve caused. It can sometimes take the cheating spouse longer to heal, and the betrayed spouse, believe it or not. I think his opinion, and his experiences, will be valuable. Stay tuned.

**updated may 24th to say that he is conceptualizing what he will write. There is a lot to say, and we are figuring out that more than one post will be necessary**

Finding my happy place


I love my husband.

There is no hesitation when I write that, or when I think about that.  I’ve loved him for almost 16 years, and a day hasn’t gone by that I’ve doubted that.  Despite the love that I have for him, he cheated on me with another woman for ten months.  Lacking something in his life that he couldn’t explain, he was inexplicably driven to seek out something destructive, and he found it. He tore me apart emotionally, broke my heart unconsolably, and almost shattered our beautiful family and our happy home.  Despite all of that, I love my husband completely.

For those who are reading this for the first time, or for those who have been recently affected by an affair, my words won’t make sense.  In fact, it would be easy to write them off as “just another woman with low self esteem who is ok with letting a man treat her like shit, and she will come back for more, and claim to love him because she doesn’t think enough of herself to leave”.  Easy to say, given the circumstances, but it would also be dead wrong.

We have done an enormous amount of work, he and I.  From the moment that the affair was revealed, my husband and I got to work, mobilized our best resources, and although drowning, fought to come up for air, convinced that we were going to come out of this hell hole alive.  We joined forces against the borderline personality disorder-afflicted other woman, sought out legal counsel, obtained advice from a marital therapist, attended weekly marital therapy every week for 18 months while I attended my own personal therapy every week.  We fought, we cried, we talked, we hugged, we held each other, we hated each other, but through it all, we also loved each other.  I have never stopped loving my husband, and that has been the hardest part sometimes.  I think, with all that we have been through, that it would have been easier to hate him.  It doesn’t hurt as badly when someone you don’t love hurts you, so hating him may have relieved the incongruity that I felt loving a man who had hurt me so badly.

I feel like I have been living in a bubble, surrounded by the affair.  Living inside the affair, you have a different perspective, and it can be easy to have your perspective affected by the constant, in-your-faceness of it all.  This weekend, I stepped outside of the bubble, and had the privilege to see it from all sides, not just the inside that I was living in.  I use the word privilege on purpose, because it was just that.

My husband and I attended the Healing From Affairs Seminar this past weekend with Brian and Anne Bercht.  You may know Anne, or have heard of her book, “My husband’s affair became the best thing that ever happened to me”.  She and her husband Brian travel the continent offering support and seminars to couples devastated by an affair, and I was fortunate to have learned that it was going to be coming to my city this past weekend.  I jumped on the opportunity, told my husband, and had his full participation.  We left the kids with responsible others for the first time in the time that we have had kids, and decided to give ourselves not the gift of time away, or the gift of a romantic weekend.  We decided we were going to save our marriage.  Together.

We spent three complete days immersed in understanding the affair, ourselves, our personality types and how that plays into our recovery as well as our married lives together.  We learned about affair vulnerability, why the affair happened, how it happened, and completely dissected it.  We learned about trust, forgiveness and intimacy in marriage, and how to strengthen our bond, our communication and our marriage.  It is no small thing when I say that my husband and I emerged completely changed by this past weekend.  It was the best investment that we could have made in our marriage, and I am so glad that we went.  I learned things about my husband that I didn’t realize were contributing factors, and he learned about me.  Having a couple like Anne and Brian who have been through an affair, and completely recovered, stronger than before, was inspirational.  I felt privileged to be asked to share my story with her, and to gain her perspective.  My husband, and the other wayward spouses had the same tete-a-tete with Brian.  My husband finally had the chance to speak to another man who had not only “been there”, but who listened to him without judgement, offering only loving support, and a willingness to help us succeed.   My husband later had the chance to speak with Anne, and hear a woman’s perspective on an affair, NOT from me, the woman he had betrayed.  I had the chance to learn about the affair through the lens of a man, thanks to Brian, who helped to solidify for me the knowledge that my husband’s affair had NOTHING to do with me as a person, as a lover, or as a wife.  It’s one thing for your husband to say that to you, but it is completely different and transformational when you learn that he isn’t just saying that to make me feel better, but that this is the case for most affairs.  Men don’t cheat because they aren’t happy at home.  Marital issues do not lead to affairs.  One does not depend on the other, and perfectly happily married men have affairs.  Their wives are devoted, loving, caring, compassionate and sexually available.  They, however, find themselves in a vulnerable place due to a myriad of factors.

I feel closer to my husband than I have in a long time, and I dare say, closer than I may have ever felt before.   We learned such deep things about each other, and ourselves as a couple, that we truly feel privileged to be together, despite all of this.  He is my one and only, and I am his.  That won’t change.

The seminar provided us with such hope for the future, and restored a lot of trust in my husband that I was missing.  It helped us to repair and rebuild.  In some ways, it feels like we are starting over, but with better tools to build a more solid structure than we had the first time.

It’s like my husband said at the end of the seminar: I wish we’d been able to gain these insights and have access to the knowledge that we now do, without having had to make this journey.  But, I have also come to realize that the journey is important.  Our struggle, the difficult days, the painful moments, the agony and despair – it was all necessary.   We need to have gone through that to see how resilient we are, to prove to ourselves how hard we would fight for one another.  If I’d been given the knowledge for free, without the mess, I’d just have the knowledge of how to make a strong marriage going forward.  What I would be missing would be the awareness of just how much I am loved and valued, something I learned this weekend, thanks to Anne and Brian, but mostly thanks to my husband who was willing to show that to me.

If you have the chance to attend, I would strongly recommend that you do.   Whether you want to reconcile, or whether you are still on the fence, your path will become more clear after you experience the seminar.  Hopefully your husband shows remorse for his actions, and shares with you a desire to make things right, to take responsibility, and a desire to be your healer in the journey.  To listen to a teleconference with Anne and Brian about how the spouse who had the affair can become the healer, and how to start on that path, click here:

http://www.beyondaffairs.com/MP3s/TS-2009-June30.mp3

 

I am in a much better place, and I am so thankful to Wendy, for her recommendation on attending this seminar.  She was completely right.

Where I was stuck was in how to forgive?  How to stop feeling contempt?  I was making the mistake of thinking that I would just wake up one day and feel healed.  I was thinking that I would suddenly no longer feel hurt or betrayed. I was thinking that I would wake up and no longer have a need to rub his nose in the affair for sport when I was feeling badly about myself.  I now know that moving forward to a place of forgiveness is a choice.  It is a choice that involves active effort on my part.  It won’t be given to me, and it won’t appear in my lap.  It will be something that I will choose to feel, when the time is right.  Knowing that it is under MY control makes it tangible and more attainable.

And because my husband will be receiving this post in his inbox as soon as I hit “publish”, and will read it, I wanted to say publicly:

I love you with every ounce of me.  You are my heart, you are my soul, and it is a privilege to be your wife.  I will work every day to keep strong what we have, and to foster a healthy, passionate, and fulfilling life with you.  I am so appreciative of your willingness to come with me this weekend, and so touched that the weekend has impacted you in the way that it has.  Seeing how much you enjoyed it reinforces for me that we are touched in the same way, and want the same things.  I am so thankful for your willingness to take responsibility for your actions.  Disclosing your affair to me voluntarily showed me that you have great character.  I am thankful that you have never blamed me for your affair, and for being honest with me in the details when I have asked.  I appreciate your sensitivity and your compassion to my pain, and am thankful that you have been willing to put yourself into my shoes, and see the affair from my side.  I appreciate your patience while I have been healing, and your willingness to act as a healer for me.  You know my heart better than ever, and I am confident that we are closer than we have been before.  I want to remain that way.   I look forward to deepening that connection with you.  Thank you for sharing your life with me.  I love you with all of me.

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