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A return to me


This process has been torturous for all involved.  Who knew that one split second decision to give a woman flirty attention, perhaps a kiss, or respond to a flirtatious gesture could turn a whole series of lives upside down?   I know my husband didn’t.  If he had, he would have walked away.  He should have walked away.

D-day was so long ago.  Looking back, I couldn’t wait for the time to pass, so I could be where I am now.   Now that I am here, I can’t believe how long ago that was.  So much has happened since then.  My kids have celebrated three Christmases, three birthdays…we’ve moved, they’ve changed schools, etc.  Not much is the same as it was then, and I am thankful that no remnants exist. I wanted to pack that life away, and never open the box again.

I mentioned this in another entry, but the day after D-day, I was scheduled to work with a family with two young children.  I had to watch him put his arm around her, snuggle her after they laughed about a mutually understood inside-joke, watch the dad scruff the hair of his son, and coddle his daughter.  I had to watch a family BE a family.  It was the hardest thing you could have asked me to do in the wake of finding out.  I wanted to die.  I tried as hard as I could to put a smile on my face, to pretend that all was ok with me.  I wondered whether my eyes showed signs of the beating I’d put them through the night before, crying, and holding back screams as I muffled my mouth with a towel.   I hoped they wouldn’t suspect.   I was likely overcompensating for their benefit and my own, forcing smiles and cracking jokes.   It was horribly fake.

In the days and weeks that passed, I continued to work, as I had pre-scheduled appointments that I had to keep.  I couldn’t take any leave.  I am self-employed and my company doesn’t run without me.  I am the life-force of the company, the manager, the worker, the advertiser, the salesman, the technician, the everything.   Desperately trying to keep my head afloat, work provided me with a distraction from my pain, but it was also a barrier to giving myself the gift of healing time.  I was so preoccupied with work, I dove into it.  I took on more of it.  Moments of quiet were dangerous.  Keeping my mind busy and my plate full was a good thing…most of the time.   The down-side was that I wasn’t giving myself time to grieve, and was allowing myself this time only in between.  Punctuated moments now and then, and only for limited time, as I had work to do, clients to please, a community to engage with, kids to raise.

When my mother died, I did the same thing.  Not having anticipated these losses, I wasn’t ready when the time came, and had no way of giving myself any time off.  I continued on, plugging away.

What I feel most sad about, when I reflect on the last few years, was the effect my emotional condition had on my children.  I became a bad parent some of the time.  I had no patience.  I was quick to anger, and yelled a lot.  I lashed out at my kids for seemingly minor infractions because inside I was at the end of my rope, and I didn’t have enough reserve.  I was hanging on by a thread, and while my kids had no idea, I am sure they noticed that mommy just wasn’t so nice anymore.   Between my inner grief, and my work schedule, I didn’t sign them up for many activities after school.  In as much as I attended school functions and contributed as much as I could to their school life, I wasn’t doing much for their extra-curricular life, and I am sure life at home wasn’t very fun.   I didn’t smile much, rarely joked, and my husband and I were probably not very affectionate in front of them.  How could I be?  I wasn’t sure I wasn’t opening myself up to further heartbreak.

One of the reasons I became a mom was to make a difference.  I wanted to raise beautiful children.  I wanted to create human beings that would go forward in their lives and make meaningful contributions.  I wanted to create generous, kind, compassionate people who would do something good with their lives.  I wanted to mother them.  I wanted to bake for them, cook for them, teach them, love them, hold them, read with them, guide them.   As much as any working mother could, I tried to make those things happen.  But the years from 2009-2012 were fraught with insecurity and pain.  I didn’t even know if we would survive as a family.  I gave the bare minimum a lot of the time, and I feel bad about that looking back.   My kids deserved more, and I wasn’t giving them what they needed.   Thankfully, kids are resilient, and we did a good job despite our situation.  They still don’t know, but I am sure they notice that mom is more fun, more prepared to give them her time and attention, and less quick to anger.  \

The OW was hell bent on taking my family from me, and while she wasn’t winning in the way she had planned, I feel as though she did cause damage, and took ME from MY family emotionally.

I made a decision this summer that will benefit my children.   I am closing my business next month, and taking the time to focus entirely on them.  I want to cook, I want to bake, I want to fold laundry, I want to drive them to school, I want to attend rehearsals, and be the lunchroom monitor on special days.  I want to be involved in their school life, and active in their personal lives.  I want to be fully available to them.  It’s not that I hate my job, it is more that I no longer want to allow my job to pull me away from what is important, and I am wanting to make up for lost time.  I am fulfilled just loving my kids, and I want to spend some time repairing the damage I feel was caused.

As I reflected on my decision to stop working the other day, I realized that a part of my happiness over taking this step is also another clean break from something that carries remnants from the affair days.  I want to purge all things that were a part of my world then, and start anew.  Like I said, I have a new home, we drive different cars now, our kids attend a different school, and my husband has relocated his office since the affair.  Almost nothing remains that once was during the affair.  It is all new, different, and clean.   My business is one of the last constants that has been there through it all, and while this isn’t the reason I am giving it up, it does feel good to let go of something that also felt tarnished from the affair.  She knew where I worked, she’d offered to have a rendez-vous in my office space once.   Taking this out of my life, leaves me room to fill it with something new that wasn’t there during the affair.

I don’t know what the next years have in store for me.   I know that I will miss my job a little, but I will cherish the memories made with my kids more.  I may go back to school.  I may not.  For now, I will just wait and see, and am grateful that I have the option to not work while I figure it out.  I feel like I am finally taking the time for me that I denied myself before.

 

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In his own words…


As many long-time readers and subscribers of this blog know, I have wanted my husband to document his journey in his words.  It’s hard to put the entire journey into one piece, because it spans many years, has many aspects (as you know from reading my side) and many turns, valleys and victories too.  To try and capture it all in one piece is impossible.  I hope he will write more, or compartmentalize the task into smaller sections and talk only about those things (i.e. his vulnerabilities at the time, his true feelings for the OW, why her, the struggle to free himself from the affair, the decision to tell me, the story of how he told me, the fallout, the healing, forgiveness etc.)

Four years ago I took the first step of a journey that would alter the course of my life.  I didn’t know it at the time, but by accepting an invitation from a co-worker to engage in an affair, my life would never be the same again.  It seemed relatively benign at the time.  A holiday from the “everyday” life of a busy professional.   A break from the stress that comes with entering middle age where one has to balance a busy career, a budding family, and ailing parents.  There was no balance, there was stress, hard work, and vulnerability.  In fact, the affair partner wasn’t even good looking!  My wife was and is a beautiful woman, she turns heads and commands a presence when she enters the room.  A woman that any man would be proud to marry.  When we started to date, I was surprised that she would even be interested in me – I felt that she was out of my league (as the saying goes).  By contrast my affair partner was short and stout, had a big butt and uneven breasts.  She used to make funny faces during intercourse that would freak me out, and sometimes turn me off.  Her breasts were fake, uneven, a no frills plastics deal.  She would walk into a room and typically pass judgement on people, make enemies, and develop a delusional condescending story about people.  I never knew if she was telling the truth or fabricating a lie.  I grew to question her words, her honesty, and her integrity.  So why did I engage in an affair with such a person??????  Why did I risk it all, destroy my life, and destroy the lives of those around me?

The question of why did I have an affair has been the focal point of self exploration for the past 4 years.  It is that question that has inspired me to depart from the safety of my “planned” life on a journey of exploration that will likely never end with an answer – only raise more questions.

My affair partner tricked me.  She told me that she was in love with a long term boyfriend.  They were living together.  Their relationship was as long as my marriage had been.  I discovered later that she lied about everything, there was no boyfriend.  Either way, I was made to believe that we were on equal footing and both taking an equal risk to be together.  She told me that it was just for fun, a holiday, and that at the drop of a hat, either one of us just had to say the word and it would end.  No questions asked!  No hard feelings!  No consequences!  This was safe.  What could be safer for a stressed out middle age professional who needed some kind of reprieve?  Life was hard for me at the time.  Some people turn to drugs and alcohol, I turned to sex.  Neither one a good solution.  I later discovered that people dig themselves deeper into a hole when they use a maladaptive response to a difficult situation because not only is one left with the difficult situation left unresolved, but they also have to contend with the consequence of their poor choices.   Instead of sitting down with my wife and sharing the burden of finding a solution to some of the challenges I was facing, a healthy choice that would have eventually brought us closer together, I sought out ways of resolving the situation on my own, and got caught up in an affair.

I like to believe that I am a powerful man.  A man who is in control of the situation around him, independent, successful, a go getter, a bread winner, a person above average.  I like to believe that I rise where all others fail.  I like to believe that I don’t need help.  However, over the years I have learned a very painful lesson.  I can’t do it myself.  Unlike my romantic notion of a hero who stands alone and wins the day, I have developed a wisdom – I cannot do it alone.  I require the help of others, and work best with others assisting me.  Unfortunately, my delusion of grandeur had led me into a trap.  I wasn’t able to do it alone, and as a result, I was failing.  As I was failing, I was vulnerable.  My affair partner identified my vulnerability and exploited it.  As I reflect on the affair, I believe that she did her homework.  She knew where I lived, the car my wife drove, my wife’s hairstyle.  She knew about things that I told her, and things that I did not tell her.  After all, what kind of strait guy discusses his wife’s hairstyle with anyone?  That should have been my first clue.  She was stalking me.  I was her project.

After my vulnerabilities were mapped out by this person, the rest must have been easy.  Just slip in and begin with intercourse, and the rest is driven by blackmail – and that’s exactly what happened:  My interests magically became her interests.  I was complimented, validated, and made to feel like the hero that I believed I should be.  But when I wanted to stop the affair, when I said we’re done the affair, the blackmail began.  She threatened to disclose it to my wife, my friends, my work colleagues, and my professional circles.  So I complied with her requests and continued our relationship.  I was trapped!  As long as I complied with her wishes, I would be okay, my world wouldn’t be torn apart, but if I didn’t comply, then she would rip me apart socially , personally, and professionally.  I stayed with her, I needed time to find a way out.

Stockholm Syndrome develops when the prisoner becomes close to their kidnapper.  This woman was tearing me away from everything that I held dear, against my desire to be with her, and yet I would engage with her in intercourse.  Stockholm Syndrome is the only way that I can understand and explain my actions.  My days were dark, I was in a prison, but walking amongst others.  I was beaten down, feeling powerless and did not know what to do.  Every day I hoped I would think of some kind of solution, but as her and I spent more time together, she trapped me even further.   I was sinking!

It all stopped when I took away her power over me.  I told my wife about the affair and braced myself for the storm that was to come.

The darkest days of my life had come upon me.  Attacked by my affair partner, and on loose footing in my marriage – my life had crumbled apart.  In order to put it back together I spent the next three years of my life seeking out wisdom to help me understand myself and the new world around me.  I have engaged in many conversations with my wife, counselors, friends, and advisors.  I have read books, scoured websites, and travelled to marriage enhancement retreats.  I have begun to understand the complexity of marriage, the fragility of marriage, and the reasons why over 50% of North Americans divorce.  I have understood my vulnerabilities, my strengths, and my shortcomings.  I have become wiser, more humble, and scarred.  I am no longer the man I was 4 years ago, and sadly my journey has taken me away from that man, the man I was before the affair, and I will not know him again.

So what have I learned?

Love.  I have learned about love.  I have learned that love is a conscious choice that we make every day.  It is not a romantic notion that sweeps us off of our feet, draws us in, and commands our lives.  I have finally understood what happens after the prince rides off with the princess into the sunset.  I have understood that loving another person is distinctly different than falling in love with that person.  The difference is that the act of falling in love is selfish, and short lived, while loving someone is selfless and infinite.  It’s confusing because the word “love” is used in both situations.

When one falls in love, they are overwhelmed with emotion for the person that they desire to have.  Their need to be with that individual is only satisfied by being with that individual. It is selfish.  I hate to sound unromantic but two people who have “fallen in love” are coexisting in a selfish state.  They are mutually fulfilling a desire to be with the other person.  In being together they are satisfying their own selfish need, and coincidentally satisfying their partner’s selfish need.  The “in love” phenomenon ends as the newness, or as some term it the “ Honeymoon” phase of the relationship comes to a close.  At the two year mark, the work of choosing to love another person begins.  This is selfless work to satisfy an altruistic desire to foster a partner’s growth, wellbeing and happiness.

I fell in love with my wife when we met, and I continue to love her.  Over the years, since the affair, I find myself seeking out to experience her pain.  I enter a frame of mind that I believe she may be in, and I experience her pain.  The feeling is chaotic and indescribable.  I can’t make sense of it, explain it, or relay it to anyone.  I can’t think of an analogous way to describe it.  It’s horrible.  It is pure pain and agony.  Sometimes it brings me to tears, but mostly it brings me beyond tears.  It’s hard to believe that the mind has the ability to transcend into such darkness, but it is how I would imagine feeling as death descends upon me.

I often engage in the act of empathizing with my wife.  She has struggles, as any person, and she is more feeling than I am.  As I experience that which I believe she experiences, I strive to understand her needs and desires, and I yearn to fulfill them.  When I make the choice to love her, I make the choice to let go of myself, my needs  and wants and to step into her world.  Only from there can I be the man who I want to be for her in order to create a world around her that will foster her personal needs and growth.

In addition to love, I have learned about the power of vulnerability.  We are all vulnerable.  Stress, hard knocks in life, our own insecurities make us vulnerable.  Anyone who can identify another’s vulnerabilities can exploit them for personal gain.  As I have learned about the notion of manipulation of others through their vulnerabilities, I have discovered the value and importance of privacy and intimacy.  Before the affair I lived an open life.  I knew that there were people who were extremely secretive, and I condemned them for their secrecy.  It seemed like they had a poker hand that they were slyly going to play at any given time.  I was proud to be open, transparent, and non secretive (with some socially appropriate exceptions).  In retrospect, it was a naive way to be.  My affair partner identified my needs, my weaknesses, and my insecurities.  Then she simply gave me what she believed would satisfy me.  She reeled me in close enough that she got her meat hooks into me.  Once I was trapped, her true colours came out.  I have learned that one must be aware of their vulnerabilities, whether it be work stress, a fight with the spouse, a sick parent, or conflict with their children.  By exposing this to others, one may place themselves at risk.  It’s not hard for a prospective affair partner to play the role of a perfect “friend” in order to draw a vulnerable person into an affair and to draw them away from a more constructive approach of solving their problems.

Lastly, I have learned about the fallibility of humanity.  Humans are imperfect!  I raise this point not as an acceptable excuse for my adulterous behaviour.  I raise it to emphasize the importance of a salad of human instinctive behaviours.  Firstly, tolerance, understanding, and acceptance:  I have been with my wife for nearly 16 years if we count the years we were dating.  Never had I cheated on her except in this affair.  In fact, I had never cheated on anyone who I had ever been with.  However, I have been labeled a philanderer.  Although not by my wife, I have been tried and sentence as a guy who will probably do it again – my historic track record of fidelity has been deemed unimportant.  I believe that it is a human quality to protect oneself from further pain by making such accusations.  In order to not rise up in battle against the unfounded notion that I would cheat again, I find comfort in accepting and understanding the source of the belief.  Second, there is a belief that knowledge and insight brings one illumination and growth.  Specifically, when I look back at my journey, am I a better man for taking it? Have I learned, have I changed?  I think we as humans have learned to believe that personal growth, knowledge, and insight are positive.  Ignorance, although blissful, is considered negative.  However, I have lived through the darkest days of my life over these years.  I almost lost everything that I had worked to build; money, career, and family.  I still have pangs of anxiety when my lawyer’s office contacts me with regards to requests from the affair partner (yes it went to the lawyers and to the courts).  I have no more benefit in my life from this experience than a concentration camp survivor has from their experience.  I just recognize that there can exist a very dark reality, and regretfully I partook in it.  Although maybe I need to have some further maturity around this point – all I can believe is that I wish I had never had the affair, I wish it never happened.    Thirdly, I feel aged.  This affair and the aftermath took the wind out from under my sails.  I don’t know if perhaps it’s just aging in general, but I find myself feeling older, looking older, and generally less ambitious than I have been in the past.  In recent years, I have become very aware of my humanity, fallibility, and mortality.

Over the years, I have made many attempts to write about my experience and my insights. I’ve had a lot of difficulty expressing my thoughts on this with clarity.  I hope to share my experience, the lessons learned, and the wisdom gained.  I hope to impart this wisdom to others who may walk down the same path.  It is my sincerest hope that no one ever does what I did as it will ruin their life, the life of their spouse and the lives of their children.

 

Feel free to ask any questions or make comments.  I will pass them along to him, and get him to reply to the specific comments directed at him.

 

Thanks for reading and for your continued support of our story.

Man of honor: words from a husband


My husband wrote me the following last night, after reading the previous blog entry. It speaks to his experience of the “man of honor” weekend, what he pulled from it, and how he sees his future.

I am sharing it in the hopes that it can help give some insights into his thinking on his affair.

With respect to the blog post that I prepared for you…I was disappointed that it did not speak to you in the way that I had developed it in my mind. I can see how you would receive it to be a disturbing, insensitive, and emotionless post. I was surprised that it came out to be that way – but I understand how it came to be, and I would like to share with you my thoughts.

I had spent a year developing various ways of expressing myself with regards to this very important post. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to sit down and spend a few hours writing. All I achieved was a chronology of the events of the year, and the recovery following. It was very unfulfilling, and added nothing new to the situation at hand. When I learned about the Man of Honour weekend, it gave me the hope that I would spend a weekend with men focussing on the affair, dissecting it, and rising to a revelation about the situation. In the end, I think that I did that. I regret that it’s not palatable to you. If there’s one thing that I learned from the weekend, it’s that men and women approach the affair situation in very different ways. It leaves me to wonder if the critical elements that are required for men to understand, digest, and recover from the affair are not, and perhaps never could be, the same kind of elements that are necessary for women to recovery irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator of the infidelity.

As the weekend progressed, I became acutely aware of a need to develop a vision of myself as the man who I want to be in the future. Clearly the man who I was in the past was not suitable. This vision is important not only because it of the way I want to see myself, but because it will engulf the man who I intend to be as a husband to you, a father for our children, and the career man who I want to be remembered as. People often use the idea of writing one’s own eulogy as a way of identifying the key means of direction for their moral compass. Bryan Bercht and the Man of Honour weekend helped me transcend that overused eulogy creating exercise. It was from that weekend that came my blog contribution.

There are three key elements that came out of the Man of Honour weekend that changed my vision of who I aim to be. The first is the notion of the Man of Honour, the second comes from the words of Victor Frankl, and the third is just me putting it all together into a vision of the future.

On Friday night, our group of approximately 20 men ate our dinner, we were engaging in polite conversation, and cautious of broaching the delicate issues of infidelity. We then assembled in a meeting room and upon the request of our leader, we assembled a list of qualities that we unanimously agreed would reflect a man of honour. I find it ironic that a group of men, disgraced by their infidelity, would have any right to develop a definition of the man of honour – it’s like asking a group of criminals to re-write the criminal code (with the anticipation that it would be a better document than the original). However, from the broken rubble of our lives, we developed the following list of characteristics that would represent a Man of Honour:

The qualities of a man of honour are:

· Honesty
· Integrity
· Trustworthiness
· Accountability
· Reliability
· Loyalty
· Courage
· Loving
· Committed
· Friendly
· Humble
· Compassionate
· Empathic
· Sincere
· Role model
· Patient
· A good listener
· Willing
· Transparent
· Victorious
· Enthusiastic
· Understanding
· Dependable
· Hard working
· Genuine
· Resilient
· Consistent
· A leader
· Forgiving
· Generous
· Strong sense of conviction (spiritual, hope, core values)
· Optimistic
· Perseverance
· Unselfish
· Cooperative
· Servant
· Team player
· Looking out for others

On the Saturday, our group hiked through the mountains of Colorado, 9000 feet above sea level with stones in our nap sacks, short of breath and tired. While we did that, we reflected on our lives, the damage that we caused, and tried to find ways to support one another in our journey (both to face the physical demands of the hike, and to help repair the emotional damage that we brought into our lives). Our course leader reminded brought our attention to Victor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a Psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. All members of his family, including his wife and brother were killed. Dr. Frankl survived and during his ordeal, he developed a philosophy and treatment methods that helped many people. The one point that struck me as most relevant to my situation was the Dr. Frankl stated “One cannot always control the circumstances that lead up to events that happen to them, but one always has control over their response to those circumstances.”.

Out of the rubble of my mistakes, I am actively building a vision of the person that I want to become. I want to be a man of honour. In fact, it’s sometimes a trigger for me that guides my values. It can be as simple as paying for street parking. It’s no longer about a desire to avoid a ticket, paying for a ticket to park on the street becomes a brick in the foundation that I am building to be a man of honour. It guides everything that I do. I sometimes fall short, but I continue to work at it regularly. The second part of that vision involves the words of Victor Frankl – I may not be able to always choose my circumstance, but I can always choose my response to those circumstances.

When I think back to my acts of adultery right now, I am in disbelief about my actions. Regret is an understatement. I have an incredible wife, wonderful children, and an enviable life, how could I have done what I did???? The act destroyed the lives of so many people-it’s truly unbelievable. To truly be a man of honour, I have to take accountability for MY actions. Naturally there were circumstances that were very difficult, but in the end, I chose the wrong actions! Dishonorable actions. Yes there were extreme circumstances, yes I was cornered, and yes I was isolated from anyone who could help me, but my personal recovery, my first step towards a more honourable life requires me to accept accountability for my actions –fully! Why? Am I being too hard on myself? No, because a man of honour must act with honour, dignity, and fortitude. The price for being a man of honour may be a high one, but the price for being a man of dishonour is even greater.

As I move into my mid forty’s I begin to see my mortality on the horizon. I don’t mean to evoke feelings of sadness or pity. In order to live a fulfilling life, one must be aware of their mortality. Recognizing that there is an ultimate finality, one’s actions are guided differently than that of a person who has no appreciation of the short time that we have on this planet. The way we experience the world, the decisions that we make, and the way we spend our days changes when the days become numbered. To that end, I bring the first part of my life to an end – I close that book altogether. It was formative, and I will never forget it, but I feel that it no longer represents the person who I am today. With the many lessons that I have learned, the experiences that I have had, the mistakes that I have made, and the triumphs that I have achieved, I begin to develop a map for the way I intend to live the second part of my life. Most importantly, I intend to live my life with honour.

I am sorry that I hurt your feelings with the blog post that I wrote for you. Perhaps I was too brash, bold, analytical. Too much time spent looking at the situation from above rather than experiencing the importance of the moment from within. I love you deeply and I find it hard to live with myself every day that I think about what I had done to you, to our family, and frankly to this world (albeit, very small part of the world). I am hopeful that by becoming a better man, a better person, a better husband I can make an impact and make it right.

Becoming a man of honor


I know I talk a lot about the seminars led by Anne and Brian Bercht, author of “My husband’s affair became the best thing that ever happened to me”.

Anne Bercht Book on Infidelity

I do so because I believe strongly in what they do, both theoretically, but also practically, as I have participated in two of their weekends, and was asked to coach at upcoming seminars for betrayed wives.  They are the most compassionate couple, who sincerely want you to thrive, and find your way through this horrible experience.

There is a weekend designed exclusively for men, called “Man of Honor”.  This weekend, which takes place in a beautiful outdoor retreat in Colorado, allows men to come together and learn what it takes to be a man of honor, to build character worthy of respect, and to leave a legacy.  It welcomes unfaithful men, as well as men who have been betrayed.  This is the only seminar, other than the healing from affairs weekend for couples, where the betrayed and the unfaithful come together to learn, to share, and to grow.

I am pleased to say that my husband will be attending the upcoming weekend for men on May 3-5th, 2013.  Although he has come so far, and made great strides in repairing what he did through his affair, he still sees value in learning more, protecting more, and growing more.  I respect and admire that about him, and am pleased that he doesn’t ever consider himself “done”.  It is a lifelong growth curve that he feels he will always be on, and this issue and its ramifications will forever be in the wings of his mind, acting as a guiding force as he navigates boundaries with other women, co-workers, and friends.  This experience has shown him that this can happen to ANYONE, and that unless you are taking active steps to prevent an affair, thinking that you are immune is the greatest vulnerability your marriage will ever experience.

For anyone whose husband is struggling with how to support their betrayed spouse, for men who have healed but want to take it to the next level, for betrayed men who want answers to how to heal, and for any man who just wants to be BETTER, this seminar will get you there.  I respect and advocate for their work so much, I wanted to blog about it 🙂

It can be costly to attend these weekends…it’s true.  But, you also need to ask yourself how much it will cost emotionally and financially to lose your marriage?   It’s worth it.  Go.

Seek out like others


Being betrayed by an affair has to be the most devastating thing a person can go through.  It has been said that the pain that comes from someone betraying the most intimate part of your life is far worse than going through the loss and death of a loved one.   Seeking appropriate support is necessary.

What is appropriate support?

Well, that definition will be different for many, but for me, it was in finding people who would support me without judgement and equally importantly, would support me without putting my husband down.

I had made the decision to work on my marriage and to heal it after his betrayal.  I knew I needed people to talk to, but I didn’t think bad-mouthing my husband was enough.  That was surface shit, and I needed deeper.  I wanted people to hear ME, listen to ME, heal ME….tearing up my husband was just anger-management, not healing. It feels good in the moment, but long term…it’s crap.  Besides, I’d made the decision that he was worth fighting for…and if they didn’t stand by that choice, they weren’t good enough to let into the “circle of trust”.

Shirley Glass calls these friends, “friends of the marriage”.  They are friends who will stand by you and your partner, helping you navigate the journey without suggesting separation, bad-mouthing the other, or sabotaging your efforts at regaining intimacy.  They can play devil’s advocate – sure – but in the end you need to feel like they do so only to help you clarify, not to dissuade or influence you.

I lost friends as a result of my husband’s affair.  Now, I may have lost these friends anyway, but it was the beginning of the end.  In one friend, she was unable to see my husband positively, and I felt the tension every time we were together.  I knew it would never be the same.   In another friend, my husband’s affair and the resultant conversation from it took up too much space in our friendship.  I was in the heat of the pain and needed to talk, and I am sure I talked about it a lot.  The main problem here?  She is an unmarried friend who doesn’t have the same insights into marriage and commitment that I have.  That statement would no doubt be perceived as condescending by her if she read it, but the simple fact of the matter is that until I was married, I too thought I knew what it takes to make a marriage work.  I had no idea.

Finding “LIKE” others means finding those who are like you.  Find those who have gone through it, or who are going through it.  They will listen.  They will tolerate your rehashing of the same sticky point over and over, and help you move past it.  They will offer invaluable insights.  They will be patient.  They will not judge.  They will care.  Have more than one.

Attending support groups, like the ones offered through Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) are a great resource to find local people who are willing to meet and share their stories.  The support feels great.  You aren’t alone, and there are those living within your city going through the same stuff who want to hear you.

Attending seminars and talks, reading books about infidelity, or seeing a therapist TRAINED IN AFFAIR RECOVERY are crucial too.   I mention the latter in capital letters because a therapist isn’t enough.  You don’t want someone who just sits and nods their heads. You want someone who understands the devastation after an affair, and how to navigate your feelings with you.  The same goes for marital therapists….they need to be AFFAIR RECOVERY TRAINED.  Otherwise, you are getting marital therapy, and that isn’t what you need right now….right now you need crisis management around an affair. The marital work comes later.

No one can understand your pain who hasn’t been there.  Many times, often our spouses – the ones closest to us – don’t even understand it, so how can we expect a friend to?

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Finding “Like” others is helpful….I’d be so bold as to say it is crucial.  Surviving an affair is hard.  It is even harder alone.  Please reach out.

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