When something traumatic happens to us, our world shatters.  What we knew before is now changed, and we question what we ever saw as “truth”.  Many of us struggle with the idea of what we could have possibly “done” to have “deserved” what happened to us.  The simple truth is that none of us brought upon ourselves the circumstances that led to our suffering, and we aren’t karmic collateral damage.  We are victims of the unfortunate and stupid, careless and hurtful actions of someone who vowed to protect us.

Today, while at the support group that I lead for betrayed spouses, we talked about our respective “deal-breakers”.  Each of us took our turn sharing what, for us, would be the ultimate deal breaker in our recovery.  For some, it was that their wayward spouse seek and attend therapy.  For others, it was that the wayward spouse grant the hurting spouse the opportunity to seek and receive support from others outside of the marriage.  For me, it was an interesting question to ponder, as I don’t think I ever had one dealbreaker.  For me, having the affair was supposed to be the dealbreaker.  I was “supposed” to walk away from my marriage, kick my husband out on his ass, and get on with my life.  Wasn’t that, after all, how I said it would be when he and I would talk about infidelity?  Isn’t that what I had vowed I would do?  Why then, did I not do it?  What was my dealbreaker???

In the wake of my husband’s affair, the deal breaker became whether he was going to support me or not.  Would he blame me?  Dealbreaker.  Would he find ways that I led him to, and threw him into an affair through my actions, our marriage, or my lack of je-ne-sais-quoi?  Dealbreaker.  Would he refuse to listen to me when I cried, or deny me the compassionate ear, the receptive shoulder?  Dealbreaker.  Would he tell me that I raise the affair too often?  Fail to look inside himself at what he was lacking and how his own issues led him down that path?  Restrict me from seeking support, prevent me from telling those I needed to, deny me the right to be angry, pick on him when I needed to, or just cry spontaneously in every-day moments becoming embarrassed by my reaction?  All dealbreakers.   I came to realize, as I drove home from the support group, that I have no ONE dealbreaker.  They were ALL dealbreakers.  For me, the dealbreaker was in preventing me the opportunity to be a victim, and to play that out in whatever way I needed to at the time.  I needed my husband to give me complete permission to say, do, seek anything that I needed at any time in the name of supporting me as a victim of his crime (an affair is not a mistake, after all, it is a CRIME against the marriage – thank you Anne Bercht).  If my husband had not allowed me to complete immerse myself in whatever I needed at whatever time, in order to allow me to wallow in my victim role, it would have been a dealbreaker for me.   I needed to be a victim, and I needed  him to honour that need, and to allow me to play that role.  It played out differently from day to day, but I needed it, and he gave me that.

The truth is, my husband completely owned what he did, and never made an issue of me seeking what I needed.  The only “restriction” he ever placed on me was the decision to talk together about who I was going to tell, and to be mutually comfortable with the idea of doing so.  I came to realize that by announcing my husband’s infidelity to anyone who would listen, I was bringing embarrassment to him, and I needed to be careful of who I told.  I had told a few friends, but I haven’t told all of my friends.  There are some couples that we hang out with who have no idea, and would likely be shocked.  I didn’t want to cause my husband pain and suffering, and so I chose to respect his privacy, and we would decide together who “needed to know”.  His parents don’t know.  Our neighbours don’t know.  Many of his colleagues who are close friends don’t know. The good news is that I no longer NEED to tell them, the way I once thought I did.  I don’t need the support anymore.  I do feel, sometimes as though I am living an unauthentic relationship with them, with them not knowing this significant story in our lives, but there are many things we don’t know about one another’s pasts, and we can still be friends.  Maybe some day we will feel the need to tell them, and we will decide that together.

Going forward in my healing, I had to make the choice to continue wallowing in my victim role, feeling sad, helpless, pathetic, sorrowful and pitied, or whether I wanted to stand up, shake off the past, and learn from it with my eyes on the future.  Was I going to be defined by this?  Would this become the headline of my life?  I didn’t want this to be the most defining thing that had ever happened to me.  I didn’t want it to be the most significant (albeit in a bad way) thing that had ever crossed my path.  I wanted to be a victor in my life, not a victim.  I have influence over how my life will turn out, and although I can’t, and could not at the time, control my husband’s behaviour and choices, I do control mine.  I chose to be a victor in my life, and to no longer be defined by this horrible trauma that had been dumped in my lap.

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 5.24.05 PM


Was does being a victor look like?  Well, for some of us, it will mean having the courage to leave a spouse who isn’t supportive, and who isn’t remorseful, and who refuses to face his actions.  It will mean harnessing the courage to be on our own for the first time in a long time.  It will mean standing up and starting over. For others, it will mean facing the task of rebuilding our marriage, despite the obstacles that lie ahead, living with the constant reminder in your face, and choosing to fight for something we feel has value left.  For all of us, regardless of whether we keep our marriage or let it go, it will mean finding a new “us”.  Many of us get so caught up in who we are as a spouse, that we forget who we were as a person before we became a couple.  It will mean having two feet solidly on ground, and no longer being lulled into the false sense of security that comes with the belief that “this will never happen to me”.  We now know that that is a lie, and it does not serve us.  Perhaps being a victor is choosing to live our lives to the best we can, with or without the one we married, in the hopes of finding true happiness within ourselves, through activities we enjoy, friendships we cherish, and new skills we want to learn.  Perhaps being a victor just means standing up, after being kicked down by this trauma, or waking up every morning with a willingness to give this day our best shot.  Sometimes we will win at the day, and other days we won’t, but we will have tried.  Maybe that is being a victor.

And so the question:  What is YOUR dealbreaker?



  1. Thank you for this. After more than a year have concluded that my husband is not willing to support me and not willing to do what it takes to recover. He has said he is sorry but he just expects that I will get over it. It’s like he has no understanding that HE did this to us.

    I recently read your post that said many people have bad relationships and don’t have affairs and that many people in happy relationships do. I found it very comforting. I had been looking for my part in it all until then, wondering ‘what did I do’ and ‘why wasn’t I enough?’.

    My husband cheated with a woman I work with. It is incredibly difficult because I have to keep seeing her, and I never know when that might be. But every time I do see her I think, ‘Really? Her?’. She’s not very smart, she has a vicious personality and she’s not even pretty. And yet he chose her. I feel so ugly now. Every time I see myself in the mirror I feel that I’m just not attractive enough.

    After reading your post I can see that it wasn’t about me. As you suggested, I thought of all the beautiful Hollywood stars who had everything going for them and their husbands still cheated. I think it will take some time to sweep up all the shattered pieces of my self esteem, and even then some pieces might be permanently missing, like things lost down the back of the sofa.

    Last night I came to realise that my husband’s unwillingness to be part of our recovery is my deal breaker. Since I found out about the affair (via an anonymous phone call) i have spent hundreds of hours trawling the Internet for things to help me make sense of it all. I have bought books and read them. I have asked him to read them and he has done so reluctantly. I believe his affair is over (I believe it was over before I found out – I think that’s what led to the phone call). I believe he is sorry. But now I have to sadly accept that he just isn’t going to do what is required.

    • ShadowyLady25 says:

      Oh, Annabel! I feel EXACTLY what you are going through! I am giving you a “virtual” hug! My husband has the same attitude about his TWO affairs (that I know of). He likes to make comments like “it’s been a year why do you keep bring up the past?” WTF! Most women would tell me to get a backbone and leave him on his ass! In fact I did for two months after DD! But I wanted to work things out (actually he was the one who kept begging and pleasing and calling crying at 2:30am because he was away from his family.) He was so understanding and patient for a while but after my constant bringing it up, he started snapping. I can’t handle it anymore…

      I just want you to know I am here if you want to talk via email!


    • I too struggled with thoughts of “what did I do?” Through hundreds of hours of reading and thearapy, I’ve finally released myself of the self-blame. Maybe this article will help you understand the self-blame cycle. Recognizing the reasons for our emotions is the first step in changing them.

  2. I think my deal breakers were the same as yours. I pretty much just needed JR to allow me the freedom to heal in any way I needed to. I am very grateful that he did just that, and I can tell you that I have been no picnic. I have been hateful and mean many times. He always takes it in stride. He always aknowledges that it is his fault that I am having whatever awful feelings I am having. He still apologizes to me 2 years later. I do wish he would look into his own feelings a little more, he is working on that now. He says he couldn’t at first because he was too busy worrying about me,I can see that was probably true. He never placed any limits on who I could tell, and I admit there are some who I wish didnot know. I was a jilted womn in the early days and I screamed it from the rooftop. I sad it was his shame to bear, his alone. Of course when I did that, I didn’t think I would remain in my marriage. Oh well, what’s done is done. He never made me feel bad about any of it, that would have also been a deal breaker. I guess considering everything, we are lucky that they were supportive in our grieving.

  3. Another betrayed spouse says:

    18 months after d-day and with two periods of separation already, I am slowly coming to the realisation that my husband is never going to change. Having an affair is only one symptom of his major personality flaw – habitual lying. He still answers all of my questions with “I don’t remember”. My response is generally “that’s not good enough” to which he replies “that’s all you’re going to get” or worse, he will fabricate some outrageous lie to try and throw me off. I have had enough. If he can’t respect me enough to tell me the truth then he doesn’t deserve me. How he can claim to love me yet continue to harm me this way is just diabolical. He seems to think that time will heal all wounds and I will eventually give up asking. The wound never gets a chance to heal. It makes me so sad for myself and especially for my kids who love their father dearly. Starting over is terrifying.

  4. I remember being where a lot of you ladies are ( deciding to leave or fight for what I valued… And setting boundaries, ie. – deal breakers ). And this powerful song came on that gave me inner strength … I played it a lot as my mantra, because I needed HOPE in perceviering. So google the lyrics. (to read the poem) “Go the distance” by Michael Bolton. Maybe it will help ???

    Anyway the deal breaker for me today, still 12 years out…. Is if that woman ever reaches out to him and he deals with her antics alone or speaks to her (more than to interupt her to say .. Put whatever urgency it is in an email, I will not listen to what you want to say) and he doesn’t immediately notify me of her attempted contact…. I will end our relationship. I WILL NOT ALLOW HIM TO EMOTIONALLY ENGAGE THAT PSYCHOPATH or handle issues about her without my knowledge and consent as to what to do.

  5. I think for me, the second I informed him that I knew, he recognized that he needed help and he needed to change. Him wanting to be a better person, him willing to take whatever emotional punches I had to throw (and they were plentiful!), and him wanting to continually work on our marriage and not give up, have all been dealbreakers. 2 years have passed now—-he is still regularly going for individual therapy, still practicing mindfulness and still making sure we have sitters for regular date nights and are able to enjoy each other. We have let our couples therapy slide, but still go for ‘maintenance’ occasionally. He feels that we will always need to work on our marriage and he is still not done working on himself. I think we should all be continuing to work on ourselves as well! I still find myself, at times, going into the victim role, and I will admit, he doesn’t ‘support’ that role anymore by completely comforting me. He will instead say “How is this making you feel? Is this good for us?” Not the support I want, but perhaps the kind of support I need. There is a time when the victim role needs to be put to sleep. Otherwise I find it can take over all the positive things that are happening.

    • My dealbreakers were the same…. I told him from day one of our marriage/relationship I would never accept him cheating. I would chop his dick off… Well, he still has his penis and he still sleeps next to me every night. Since d-day I’ve claimed things are dealbreakers but I’ve also questioned myself…. Why would that be a dealbreakers but the infidelity was not? I think my only dealbreaker is either of us not choosing our marriage. As long as we remain committed to our marriage and improving our relationship the deal will remain on.
      I loved eireann’s last two sentences: “Sometimes the victim role needs to be put to sleep. Otherwise I feel it can take over all the positive things happening.” I feel the same way. I want to not only be the victor in this chapter of my life, but I don’t want to miss the wonderful moments of day to day life.

  6. Better off says:

    I have gotten that lying, cheating pig out of my system. Today, I had to stop at my ex’s house. As soon as I got there, he started walking towards my vehicle. His current girlfriend came running out of the house, watching us but acting like she was getting something out of her vehicle. This is not the first time this has happened. It makes me wonder what he is doing that she is so suspicious. Of course, he starting walking away as quickly as he could. But I continued talking just to be annoying. For the first time, I am glad he was a cheating pig that walked out. It is over and I came through it and survived. I am no longer the victim. It has taken 5 years to heal. Now I can laugh at him and the mess he has made of his life. I hope the same for everyone else on here. I know what pain you are in and will say a prayer for all of you.

  7. He betrayed me, broke confidences, walked away. For me, that was the deal-breaker. There is no way I would ever take him back.

  8. Wishful Thinker says:

    I just don’t understand why she could only “tell” who he approved of. Was the wife not “embarassed”? For me, a dealbreaker, he has to clean up the mess and for me that would be “part of it, that he created. Excuse my quote marks, I went through this 20 or so years ago and now he’s cheating fiscally. It never ends for me. I should’ve left! 20 years, and it still can feel as fresh as yesterday. I’m not Nora Ephron. I watched the movie Heartburn and at the time, when it came out, it coincided with his promiscuity. The line I heard somewhere in the movie “you want fidelity, marry a swan”. Her father says that. It’s his way of giving advice. Please ladies, be careful with wasting 20 years. I wish I had been more careful.

  9. Wishful Thinker says:

    I am no Nora Ephron for sure. 20 years have gone by and now he is fiscally cheating. 20 years thrown down the tubes! That movie “Heartburn” her father says “you want monogomy -marry a swan”. Thats him trying to help, her father. Anyway, I do not understand the part where you could only tell those on the approved list. Embarass away at him I say. Your stuck with this for the rest of your lives. Its in the record books. Not being able to embarass him? Dealbreaker, for now. I personally lost respect for both of us. It was ugly. Affairs are ugly things. Really ugly. Seeing this brings everything back so perfectly. 20 years ago…still greiving. I should’ve left. Do not be me.

    • My marriage was on the table. It was enough to hold that together without having to also worry about whether our friends would be lost also. It wasn’t about getting his permission, it was about respecting the boundaries of our marriage, something we were trying to enforce, not violate them further. Just because he was disrespectful, doesn’t mean I have to be. I am bigger than that.

  10. I find myself wanting to respond to almost every one of your posts. So please forgive me. But I wish I had read this one a few days ago. When our ordeal started, he shared a bit of the story with his brother and his wife. So I thought it would be OK to share more information about more recent events with them (read my blog: I didn’t ask his permission and he is sad that I shared the latest events with them. He is embarrassed and doesn’t want to see them any time soon now. I feel like I’ve stolen his big brother. 😦

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: