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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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Comments

  1. I’m so glad you both enjoyed the weekend seminar. We left feeling the same way, and it helped move us in the right direction towards healing. Before the seminar, I too thought that one day a switch would go off in my head and I would be ready to forgive, but I’ve learned that forgiveness is a choice and it will happen when your ready. But I think knowing that brings you one step closer to it.
    I’m so happy for both of you. 🙂
    Wendy

  2. “Perfectly happily married men (or women) have affairs”

    I cannot wrap my head around this. I’ve tried, but I can’t. I DO NOT get it. If they’re happily married and they love their wives (or husbands), how can they do something so grossly unloving to their spouse? I’ve heard all the explanations about compartmentalizing sex and vulnerability and low self-esteem, etc., but to be perfectly honest, those statements only trigger my “That’s a load of BS; quit making excuses for yourself, you self-centered bastard” reflex.

    I really am glad that you and your husband are at a better place in your marriage. I know this road to healing has not been easy for you, and I believe wholeheartedly that marriages can heal from something like this. But I don’t get it! This is not something I would do to someone I loved, so maybe I’ll never understand it. Not really.

    • Thank you for your honesty Maren in your comments. I really appreciate that. I completely understand where you’re coming from, because I have been in your shoes.

      I think I’m going to do a post about this very thing. I think it’s mind blowing to many people, not just you. It was only once I was able to wrap my mind around this, but I was able to heal. I thought to myself “how could my husband said that he loved me, but he never stopped loving me, and had sex with another woman?” why would he want to hurt me? Why would he do something on purpose that brings pain, if he professes to love me? It’s So hurtful.

      If you’re interested in hearing about it, I would love to do a post about this. The seminar that I attended isn’t the only thing that illuminated this for me. My husband and I spent a lot of time in couples therapy. We talked about her childhoods, our hurts, and opened up to each other in a very deep level. I knew where his soft spots were. I knew what his vulnerabilities were. And I put myself into his mind space around the time of the affair.

      A few weeks after I discovered my husband’s affair, a male friend of mine who is also working as my real estate agent, spend some time with me over coffee. I told him about the affair, and about the child. I guess my admission of something so personal, caused him to also open up to me. He told me that he always found me attractive. When I didn’t rebuff him, 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 a 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. I will admit, it felt very awkward, but also felt so good at the same time. My husband had just cheated on me, he must not find me attractive, I thought, 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.

      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 her bra and underwear. His reaction was intense. He affirmed once again that I was absolutely stunning, and I was on cloud nine.

      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 testing. I simply bask in the glow if his loving comments. I ended up telling my husband about it, and he was incensed. He ended up calling the gentlemen, and asking him to never speak with me again. The list 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 have 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 could 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 been 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, I haven’t for bed we actually tell our spouse!! I now understand that I was naïve and thinking before that my husband would only ever find me attractive. I have features that my has been 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.

      • Thank you for posting such a thoughtful, heartfelt, honest reply. I’m a little amazed you took so much time to respond so thoroughly to my comment. It means a lot to me that you would share so much of your experience like that.

        I understand insecurities. I understand being vulnerable. I understand attraction to people other than your spouse and craving attention and unfulfilled needs and all of it. But I don’t understand an affair. Everything a cheating spouse is thinking or feeling about himself, I promise you I have felt myself at some point in my life. You probably have too. But neither one of us hopped into bed with someone else and then lied about it for months on end. And the thing I just can’t reconcile is this–a married man is struggling and feels bad about himself…so he runs out and does the very thing that is guaranteed to make his wife feel even worse about herself? All to make himself feel better? That’s how a spouse who loves you behaves? He sacrifices the wife he claims to love for himself?

        Even in your case, talking and exchanging texts with your friend–you could have crossed that final line, but you didn’t. Something stopped you. It sounds like your emotions were a wreck and you felt like your life was in shambles, and because of that, I’m willing to bet you felt more vulnerable, raw, and insecure than your husband ever did when he got involved with the OW in the first place, and yet made a different choice. You could have snuck around. You could have done a lot more than sneak around if you wanted. You could have hurt your husband just as badly as he hurt you if you wanted, but you didn’t. That different choice you made–THAT is an act of love to me. Not the one cheating spouses make. I’m sorry, but it’s just not. A cheater’s actions and rationalizations are selfish and cruel. Calling it anything other than that feels dishonest and insulting to me.

        Sorry if I’m rambling. I more thinking out loud than anything else. I really don’t expect you or anyone else to explain something that, for me, won’t ever have a good explanation.

        Thank you again for your generous response. I hope you get all of the wonderful things in life that you deserve.

      • I will comment more on this over later, as I’m currently picking up my kids from school.

        But suffice it to say that I don’t think men are actually thinking of us at all when they’re having affairs. They are sacrificing us in favor of themselves, because they are thinking of us at all. They’re fulfilling a primary need within themselves, without giving any intention was not to us whatsoever. And that, is the problem. It isn’t intentional, It’s not midst harm or to hurt. Perhaps in those marriages were husbands and wives are toxic, and hate one another, maybe. But in an otherwise healthy marriage, where husband-and-wife deeply love one another, which is what I think this makes the least sense, it isn’t because he was actively looking to hurt her. He completely compartmentalized her feelings out of the equation altogether, selfishly fulfilling his own.

  3. Summer says:

    WOW!!! I am so happy for both of you!!! I need to get to this seminar, sounds like it would be worth the trip. I hope you continue on the journey to your happy place!! I cried for you both when I was reading what you wrote to your husband!! Absolutely beautiful words, and he is lucky to have you!!!

  4. Serenity says:

    No, I agree with you. Despite all the hurts my husband has caused with his infidelity, I still do love him. That is the only reason why we would ever give the marriage another chance. Love doesn’t just go away. In my case, we’ve been together for a total of 14 years (since I was 19), including 5 years of marriage. I discovered the affair a week before our 5th wedding anniversary. Devastated, yes. Hurt, yes. Anger, at first yes. Hatred, no.

    It can be so difficult to explain to others who don’t understand but I do. That love is so precious, it gave you strength to move on, to continue. Your husband is so lucky to have your love. If he should ever lose you, it will be his great loss.

    • The question I had was whether I could love someone who acted so unloving towards me. What anchored my decision wasnt that the love wasn’t gone on my end, it was dependent on how my husband went about rectifying it that made my decision to work on it. Had he not abandoned her immediately and committed 100% to me, you am bet your ass I’d be gone. I’m only here today because he did the right thing. Otherwise, he’d be nothing more than a monthly cheque to me and the dad to my kids. Nothing more. Love or no love I’m not demeaning myself to stay with someone who doesn’t love me, and who doesn’t act lovingly towards me.

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