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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 😉

 

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Comments

  1. I am so glad to have found this forum. I found out about my husband’s affair Oct. 1, 2009 and am still devistated by it. We had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary two months prior to my finding out! I found out by a text message that was supposed to be sent to “her” but as fate would have it, I got the text instead. His text told her he loved her more than life itself and that she brought him happiness! Imagine me standing in my kitchen waiting for him to come home from work after texting him telling him that the steaks were on the grill. After several minutes of not hearing back from him, I got that text! At first, I had to read it several times because I thought it came from someone else. But it clearly said it was sent from (Mike) my husband and the begining of the text said her name! (which by the way still sickens me to repeat.) I looked at my phone and started screaming to my 26 yr old daughter who was at the house that day, “Oh my God, Oh my God!!” She saw my husband through the kitchen window who at the time was actually sitting in his car on our driveway when he sent the text, From what I know, the affair probably just reached an intimate phase around the time of my discovery. They work together and had been “friends” and shared daily conversations about life, family……..etc. When I found out that day and questioned him about it, he lied of course and said they had not been intimate, they were just friends, but that it turned into something deeper. No sex. Just lunches down by the lake and “hugs.” I believed him. He was so ashamed or so it seemed to me. He cried with me. He said he had to think things through that he didn’t know what to do. He said he was at a crossroads in his life! Married 25 years, three grown children and three grandchildren, a wife who he said he loved, who he told me at least every other day I was “hot”, “sexy”, and yet he is at a crossroad in his life?? He left for a couple of days to get away and think about things. He went to visit his dad and stepmom who lived eight hours away. Left me alone the very next day with all these emotions to handle by myself. I have never felt so alone or cried for 48 hours straight. I didn’t sleep for days. The second night he was gone, I found myself so exhausted that I had to be somewhere in the darkness that I felt inside myself. I felt empty. I went into my bedroom and into the walk-in closet, closed the door, sat down on the floor hugging my knees to my chest and screamed. The tears came again. I cried for hours and found myself in a fetal position remembering the gun that was hidden in my closet. Where did I put it? I started searching like a mad person through things and finally found it in the black purse on the shelf. My husband is a cop. He always wanted me to have protection in the house and he gave me this gun which I told him I didn’t want. I am afraid of guns! I wasn’t afraid anymore. I just wanted the pain to go away. I wanted to feel physical pain because I thought it might take away the pain I felt inside. The pain of a broken marriage, a shattered heart. My life was over anyway. I struggled with my faith for years always questioning if there was a “God.” I wavered between believing and not believing in Him. Sitting on the floor of that closet with a gun in my hand, I screamed out, “Oh my God! If you are real, if you exist show me, help me!!!” All at once, I felt a sense of calm over me. It was if He was there in the closet with me. He told me He would see me through this. I was saved that day. I made a promise to God that I would walk with Him and trust in Him. I put the gun away and prayed that this nightmare would end. I prayed my husband would come home and love me again, only me and tell me it was a mistake. Tell me he never loved her. He did come home Oct. 5th, 2009, four days after my finding out and told me he was going to seek counseling with the pastor at the church in our neighborhood. He was a believer in Christ, but not a follower. He didn’t attend church. Things were o.k. for a few weeks and then not o.k. This pattern would continue for four months. Good days, bad days, really bad days. We joined the church, got involved in a weekly bible study group and attended every Sunday service. I just couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew in my heart something was not right. I could still feel the distance between us. In Feb. of 2010, I came home from work that evening and found him sitting alone in the living room in the dark with a drink in his hand, his head hanging. I went to him asked what was wrong, he said, “nothing.” We ate a wonderful dinner, although he was very distant and quiet. After cleaning the table, we sat there and I initiated the conversation. We had been going through the motions for four months now, him trying to comfort me, trying to convince me of his love, me wanting him but not trusting or believing him. I kept asking him what was bothering him. He kept shaking his head, he couldn’t tell me. I had to know. I had to ask. I finally had the courage to tell him I thought what he was trying to tell me was that he was initimate with her and they did have sex. I was right, of course. Four months after that text of him professing his love for her and telling me it was just lunch and hugs, the truth started to come out. It was like he kicked me in the stomach for the second time, only this time it hurt worse! For four months of counseling with the pastor, going to church thinking we were trying to rebuild our marriage, then I find out the “friendship” was still going on and they indeed had sex. How many times, I asked? He says just a couple. Where? A hotel. When? Why? He was continueing to lie to me, our pastor, himself and her. He was also seeing a therapist who said he needed to get away for awhile. Our pastor gave him the opportunity to use his condo for a week to pray and think and meditate to see if he could find the answers he was looking for. He decide to do just that and was gone for another six days. When he came home, he said he had long talks with God, he walked and prayed and read his bible daily. He came home and said he made his decision and that was to stay with me, love me and be a better man and husband. Much happened over the next year until March of 2011 when we got into an arguement one day and I told him I just did not feel the connection we used to have. There was still a distant feeling about him, about our relationship. He was not the man he used to be. We argued for what seemed to be hours until I point blank asked him if he was still seeing “her.” Bingo! Yep, he was still caught between his love for me and his feelings for her! Another blow! So now it’s been almost a year and a half after finding out. This is the third time of hearing more lies. I decided this time that it would be me to leave for awhile. I wanted him to see what life would be like without me there. I never went away on my own before in all our years together. But I had no choice, I felt I had to go and give myself time to think about what I wanted now. In my heart, I knew I wanted our old life together. I wanted what we lost, what was taken from me. But, I might never have that again. I packed a suitcase one afternoon while he was at work, gathered up resumes, important papers, wrote my son and my nine yr. old grandaughter a letter and booked a flight 2000 miles from home. I was going to stay with my cousin until I figured things out. He took me to the airport and as he left me at the baggage counter, he walked away to leave, turned and looked at me tears running down his face and said, “I love you.” I didn’t know how to feel. I was sad, but I almost felt free. I think I was happy to be leaving the pain there at that airport. I was scared. Scared that at fifty-one yrs. old, my life was falling apart and I had no control over it. I ignored his calls for the first few days. We ended up talking on the phone by the third day, having short conversations about the weather, the house, the kids and grandkids. By the first week of me being gone, he was telling me to please come home. He wanted me. He loved me and missed me. He was scared of life without me. I asked him if it was over with “her.” He told me he would make the call to her telling her it was over after hanging up with me. He called later that evening and said the call had been made. It was done. I asked him how she took it and he told me she was angry. Of course she was! She thought he was going to marry her after all! He told me he booked a flight and was coming to get me to bring me home! He did just that. We stayed a few days extra to extend our time together and reconnect our feelings. I had written him a letter while I was gone spelling out conditions of me coming back home. I gave him the letter on the flight home. He read it and I could tell he was upset. We landed and got our car and drove three hours home in silence. It was back to the distance feelings once again. April came a month later and the night before Easter, April 24, 2011 we argued again about his distance from me and how I still felt something was wrong. He always seemed to turn it around and blame me for the way I felt. It was always me, not him. We woke up Easter morning, got ready for church and felt like we both forgot about the night before. I was having the kids and grandkids over for Easter dinner that day and was hoping we could have a nice day. He seemed to be in a decent mood much of the day. I had to send him twice to the store for some things I forgot to get. Both times he left and came back within 20 minutes. We ate, cleared the table, went outside with the kids, took a walk. All in all a nice day. The kids started leaving one by one and my oldest daughter hung around a little while longer when my husband said he was taking his motorcycle up to the gas station for some tobacco. He would be back in a few minutes. My daughter gathered up her two kids and I walked her out and she asked me if I was o.k.. The tears started flowing and I told her how there was still this feeling, this distance I felt between her step dad and I. He had been gone now for about 45 minutes. That was strange, I thought. What if he had an accident on the motorcycle? I started to panic and told her I had to go look for him. She offered to drive me, but I told her no. I got in my car and drove to the gas station in town where he said he was going. The streets were empty and everything was closed being Easter Sunday. God, I prayed; please let him be alright! I turned the car around back in the direction of our house. Instead of turning back into the subdivision, God spoke to me and told me to drive to the lake. The lake was only about seven minutes from our house. The lake he told me where they ate lunch and hugged. There were many cars parked around the lake, families at the park playing. I drove around the circle looking to my right not knowing what I was expecting to see. I didn’t see his motorcycle and was really starting to worry now. I was also furious! I pulled into a paking spot to text him. My text simply said, “where the hell are you??” I sat there for a minute longer not knowing where to go or what to do……………….then I saw “her.” A woman walks up to my car window. She looked familiar, but it took me a minute to realize who it was. I rolled my window down. She called me by my name and said that we needed to talk. At first, I wanted to just run her over with my car. God gave me the strength to calmly open my car door, get out and have a conversation with “her.” First I have to tell you, looking at her I couldn’t believe that my husband would even be attracted to this person. She was 15 yrs. younger than me but struck me as trashy. Nothing like I would expect my husband to even look twice at. It turns out as I drove around the parking lot looking to my right, they were on the other side of the lot with his bike between two cars so I didn’t even see him. He happened to be facing the parking lot holding her and he saw me drive in and told her, “Oh my God; my wife just pulled in!” He told her to get in her car and leave. She wanted him to stay there and confront me and get it all out in the open. He hopped on his bike and left before I even knew he was there! She asked me if I had seen him drive by on the bike and I suppose the way I was parked and that I was texting at the time, I was oblivious to all of it. I was at the lake from 6pm until nearly 10:30 that night talking to her, crying, comparing notes, digging for information. At one point it started to get dark and cold and I suggested we sit in my car. She did and we continued talking. I offered her a jacket because she had on a sleeveless dress. I know, I can’ believe it either! I hated this human being! I wanted to rip her throat out! She told me things I didn’t want to hear but needed to know. She showed me pictures on her phone of him he sent her. Some were the same ones he had sent to me! She told me he said he was going to marry her he just needed a little time to get the house sold and work things out. She told me he had already talked to an attorney. Blow number four! He went home and got some clothes and personal items and left before I got home around 11pm. He called me and just said he would be at a hotel. It was another two days of not sleeping and crying. This happened Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011. Tuesday, April 26th was day one of our new life. It would take me another two hours to finish this story, and I will if anyone would like to hear it, but I can tell you we are still married, still together and although it’s been very, very hard; we are mending. We are still very much in love. I still hurt. I still cry. He, however has turned back into the man I once knew before the affair, before all the pain. He is now a different man, a better man than he was before the affair. Having this forum and being able to read about how other women have gone through the pain that I have has helped me so much. I wanted to share my story in hopes that I could in turn help someone. It is a pain of loss that is truly undescribable. A loss much like a death, but worse. Only those that have been through it can truly know what it feels like. Thank you for this opportunity to share with all of you. Respond, please if you like or if I can help. God bless all of you that are hurting as a result of an affair. It helps to talk with others who share in the same pain.

    • Linda thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so glad you found my blog too. Actually, your comment, calling it a ‘forum’ made me think that I would love to start one – a place where we can all openly talk in a forum environment, because we all have so much to give one another.

      Your story is so painful. Repeated cycles of hope and blows. Your intuition is very strong, it seems, and you could feel your connection becoming unstable as he felt pulled away. That is a gift, and I hope you can see that as a strength in your marriage. You are keen in your observations, and had a “feeling”.

      What you describe, with the blow after blow was what I was describing as trying to avoid by getting all of the information at one time. Of course, it was different for me in that my husband was willing to end all contact that same day, and also be completely honest, pulling all the cards face up on the table. Asking for all of the details meant not having to fight hard to stand up, and then get knocked down again with details that surface later. “Give it all to me now” was my motto. I would not have been able to tolerate the up and down, the way you did. It must have done such a number on your trust and self esteem to *think* you have the truth and are mending, and then more leaks out. I am sorry that your husband couldn’t fess it up all at once, but know that there was a lot of shame there too.

      So, it sounds like after the first discovery (I say that because it sounds like you had a few), he maintained his relationship with her for 18 months, feeling torn between what he wanted to do. Did he ever tell you that it was OVER when it wasn’t? Or had you just believed that they were “just friends”, and therefore were aware of the ongoing contact, but assumed it was just friendly? Obviously, we all know now that men and women should not be friends, but it is so easy to trust. I believed it was possible too, and was so naive. He would tell me that they were just friends, and I would believe it because I believed in him. It just makes you feel so stupid doesn’t it?

      I would love to hear what happened between April 24th and April 26th, and got you back on track. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • What an amazing blog! I’ve just found it and could have written every single emotion myself. This post is especially personal to me and was what I needed to hear today. We are six months into our rebuilding and my husband has done every perfect thing from the beginning – with the exception of answering the ‘why.’ It’s the hardest thing I can imagine going through and wish like hell there was another path to the place we’re heading – a stronger me and a better marriage. Thank you for your openness and honesty. It is helpful beyond belief. I will keep up with your blog and appreciate your story as well as everyone else’s.

      • Glad to have you along with us on the ride that none of asked to get on 😉

        I’m glad this post was timely. I find that as a I move to forgiveness, I have no current pain and turmoil to share, but I do have reflection and a whole whack of memories 😉

    • Linda, thank you for your story. The pain is indeed indescribable to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. I’m sorry for your pain and thankful and hopeful that you are mending.

    • Wow you are one strong woman!! I would love to hear more of your journey!! My husband also claimed only friendship, finally four months later I dragged it out of him, he didn’t want to hurt me with the truth??? (trying to believe that still ). Just trying to stay positive & hope I’m making the right decisions,,,,,,,,I guess time will tell!!

  2. silvia adelman says:

    Linda:
    I am now crying….the tears , oh my I can’t get them to stop and I have to get to work……..you just wrote my story , of pure hell that went on for 4 years…i also have him home finally,,,in love and working to heal our marriage. I would like to hear more of your story, but I need to go….thank you so very much for sharing!! I have so much to say but no time.
    I also went to that weekend very profound. I would love to go to the one they hold for the betrayed spouse to find herself again.
    Gotta go
    ~~S

  3. I have spent the entire morning reading every blog from start to finish. All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart. Today with just reading your story, I feel like I just took 4 steps forward and helping heal from mine.

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