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Remaining true to myself and my journey


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This weekend, I had the opportunity to be exposed to an individual who really pushed my buttons.  He had requested to be a part of the support group that I head up in my city.  It is for betrayed spouses only, and our only pre-requisite to join is that you are a betrayed spouse seeking support who has never, in turn, betrayed someone else. I will call this member, “memberX”

We meet in the same place every month, and we take turns sharing an issue which is coming to a head for us at that moment, that we need support on, or share something that has helped us in the hopes that it helps someone else. Over the months since I started the group, we have developed quite a strong and supportive network, and we look forward to our monthly meetings.

As we sat together this week, we had a couple of new faces.  As is usually the case, I take some time before the meeting to talk quietly with the new members to reassure them that there is no need for them to feel pressured to speak, and that they can share the details of their story at their own pace, if at all.  I hadn’t shared any of my story, or the details that my husband and I had fully restored our marriage.  I simply started the meeting, and allowed it to take its course.  Within a little while, as a member was sharing something about her pain and grief and the process she had undertaken and some choices she had made, he piped up and mentioned how he had done things totally differently, and how he saw no value in how she had handled it.  It was in respect to telling friends about your spouse’s affair.  This woman had opted to not share the details of her husband’s affair with anyone.  She felt shame and embarrassment, and didn’t want to burden others with her pain.  Instead, she was suffering silently.  I see value in sharing the details with friends, but being very selective in WHO you tell, as I had told some now who I wish did not know.  I feel regret. The support I got wasn’t worth the regret I now feel.  I chimed in that she need not suffer alone, and that she may want to tell one close person who she feels would be able to help her.  The other members piped in and suggested she might have family, friends, or people overseas that would allow her to share her feelings, but not burden them with the immediate compassionate response one would feel compelled to give when sitting face to face.  MemberX interrupted with the comment that he couldn’t understand why she hadn’t told anyone, after all, he had told EVERYONE. Completely discounting her feelings and showing no compassion for her process, he undermined her completely, offering instead his advice based on what he himself had chosen.  The ‘rulebook and healing wisdom’, as compiled by memberX.

Later in the meeting, I was asked how a wayward spouse can ever be certain that they won’t betray their spouse again.  My comment was a fairly straightforward one. ” If a wayward spouse has done the internal work on themselves and thoroughly made an effort to understand HOW and WHY their affair happened, to see what decisions led them to the path that they found themselves on, then when in the future, they come to that same fork in the road, it will arise in them a feeling of discomfort and familiarity.  They will know that they are sitting at a fork in the road, and be able to make decisions backed by a knowledge of where they are at, and why they don’t want to go that way.  The first time they were on that path, they were blind, led only by unconscious feelings.  Bringing those to consciousness and having a desire to understand is what will prevent them from going down that same road”.  “Bullshit”, memberX yelled from across the table.  With suggestions that he and I might have to “agree to disagree”, he told the members of the group that all wayward spouses will reoffend, that it will only be easier the second time.  The horror and pain in the eyes of those at the table who had been working to reconstruct their trust was palpable, and the discomfort around the room was thick.  “So you think that each of our spouses will do this again?” I asked.  “Absolutely” he replied.  I found it almost comical that someone who showed absolutely no insight into affair recovery, and who had done very little self-work or marital work, and wasn’t given a chance to heal his marriage, could do so with such certainty and faith in their position. I think opinions are great, and I welcome debate when it is done with intelligence and knowledge, but this was simply blind opinion, fed only by his own jaded and bitter perspective, and I felt sorry for those around the room that were hurt.

Later into the meeting, as we sat and talked about ways to maintain and restore trust, I talked about the ways in which partners could openly and together reinforce the boundaries of their relationship by constantly patrolling the integrity of their marital fortress, and patching any holes in its foundation.  Sometimes one partner can see what another can’t, and just like the umpire in a baseball game giving the pitcher direction about which way to throw to avert the other team, a spouse can offer insight and vision to his spouse about threats to their marriage that the other partner is blind to.  I told a story about another couple who have it as an unspoken rule that if one partner suspects someone else is interested in their spouse, they tell the other, and no-questions-asked, the exposure to that individual is limited.  They, as they say, “have each other’s backs”.   MemberX laughed loudly, tossing his head back with a non-chalance.  Once again, my story and perspective was called out as “bullshit”, and we were going to have to agree to disagree.  According to memberX, his wife was a grown woman who made her bed, made her decisions and should have known better.  While I agree wholeheartedly with that, I also know that there are a myriad of other factors, and that it isn’t as simple as that.  He commented that if an individual needs their spouse to externally govern their behaviour because they don’t have the internal fortitude to govern themselves, than the fault lies with the one who can’t be governed.  He also went on to say that he himself would never find himself in that situation, would never hurt and betray his spouse, and wouldn’t need someone else to be his eyes and ears.  I think that is wonderful, if he believes that, but I also know that no person and no marriage is immune.  I also know that to think that one is completely impermeable to an affair, that it is the biggest vulnerability that he can have, and is what makes him the most vulnerable of all to it.  His comment that he could have a woman naked in his lap and not be tempted simply showed the simplicity of his thoughts on the matter.  It isn’t about sex, it isn’t about being tempted.  It is very black and white thinking to think that every affair is borne from someone being tempted and then succumbing to the temptation and making a choice to have an affair. Yes, some affairs are pre-planned.  I would wager a bet that this is the minority of them though.  Most affairs aren’t intentional, and until you take the time to actually read up on, and understand the anatomy of an affair, and how they happen to otherwise GOOD PEOPLE, you will simply just go on being bitter.

I think the thing that perturbed me most about the exposure to this person was that his comments were made in an attempt to invalidate my experience. What I felt important were scoffed at.  What I felt had helped me (and countless others) to heal and find peace, was laughed at, and given no credibility, no weight, no acknowledgement.  I have just fought the war of my life for the one that I love, and I have been through hell and back a few times.  I’ve been bitter.  I’ve been jaded.  I’ve wanted to kill myself. I’ve wanted to not wake up.  I’ve gotten up, tried again, fallen down, and kept rising.  I’ve found resources to help me understand what has happened to me.  I have attended seminars and teachings about how to heal.  I have listened to countless stories from betrayed spouses, wayward spouses and couples trying to heal to see the pattern we all share, what works, and what doesn’t.  I’ve used this information to forge tools to help in my healing.  Not only did they help us to survive, they helped us to thrive.  When you have been through the devastation of an affair, and have put in the work to REBUILD your marriage, which means dropping the bitterness, dropping the sense of entitlement to your pain in order to hear out your spouse, dropping the feeling of superiority in order to get a true and honest appreciation of the COMPLETE picture, not just your side of it, and taking the time to LEARN things you perhaps DIDN’T KNOW, you learn to appreciate the tools you used to rebuild.   They have deep meaning for me, those tools., and I will be damned if someone is going to come in and ridicule them. These beliefs and tools continue to help me along this path, and have also helped countless others who forged the same tools.  Some things just WORK.  But to sit in a room and listen to a person discredit what I have found to work, to undermine the power in the techniques that I *KNOW* work, and to undermine my healing by telling me that I am full of shit, well that really impacted me.

You see, memberX, I don’t need people to agree with me or my methods, or my perspective.  All I ask for is to show COMPASSION for another person’s journey and what they have found has eased their pain.  Agree with it or don’t, it isn’t your place to ridicule it.  I won’t ridicule how you go about your healing and I certainly won’t tell you that you are full of shit because you choose to see those who cheat as eternally flawed and not worth being redeemed, even though I do disagree.  And when I do disagree with you, I will keep it to myself and simply allow you your time to speak because I am there to support you, in whatever way YOU need that to look like.  If that means stomping my feet and standing beside you while you scream out that the world isn’t fair, and that cheaters suck ass, then I will do that.  What I won’t do is ridicule you when I don’t agree.  Instead, I will simply remain quiet and give you the chance to process your feelings.  I simply ask you to do the same for me, and for all of us around that table because it is, after all, a support group.

And with that, I will say that I remain true to my feelings, and my process.  I have done amazing work and am proud of what we have accomplished.  I am not a naturally forgiving person, so to have the biggest hurt possible thrown at me, and to come out the other side able to forgive…I think I will pat myself on the back thank you very much, and I don’t need or ask for anyone’s agreement or recognition.  I was given the choice to be bitter or be better, and I choose to be better.  Choose whatever path makes you happy, and brings you peace and comfort.

At the end of the meeting, as we were saying goodbye, he smirked and said ” I hope I wasn’t too hard on you”, to which I replied “absolutely not, because I will always be tougher”.  He scoffed as I turned to leave.  After going through what I have, I firmly believe that I am tough.  I won’t cower to anyone, and if you choose to ridicule my process, and undermine what has been truly inspiring and helpful to me, you WILL see a strength you don’t expect.  Trust me, I didn’t know it was in there either, until I had to rely on it to survive.

 

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The key to my heart: A tale of forgiveness


It is a New Year, a new beginning, a fresh start. How will you write this chapter of your life? You have 365 pages, and today is day 1. What have you done to move your story forward, to propel yourself toward happiness? Are you stuck? Do you feel lost? Or are you in a place of contentment? Do you feel you are settling for what you have, and if so, do you have the courage to reach out and grab that thing that eludes you? Is this your year? Is this the year it finally comes together? Are you ready for the wonderful things that are coming your way? I hope so 🙂

As 2012 drew to a close, and with the golden rays of 2013 on the horizon, I offered my husband a gift. Not only was it a gift I had never given him, it was a gift I have never given anyone. I forgave him. I’d made the choice to forgive him some time ago, but wanted to tell him in a way that was meaningful to me. At first I thought I wanted fanfare and streamers, fireworks and hoopla. But as it drew closer, I just wanted something quiet, something personal, something warm.

I sat down to write my husband a letter this week. I wanted the letter to represent the emotional journey that I have been on over these past 2 years and 9 months (and let’s not forget the extra 15 days tacked on there either, it has been a long road). I wanted to take him on the journey with me, or at least the Coles Notes version, transport him briefly through the experiences that I have had in healing, and the ways in which he has helped me to heal. I wanted to thank him for all that he has done, for being a good man and for always putting my need for support above his need for shelter, for listening, for answering, for sitting in the shit with me (and this blog documents that there has been a lot of shit). I wanted to share my appreciation for all that he has done in this journey, and to convey to him that he has been my hero. I sat down, and slowly started to write, and when I was done, I had the following letter, which I am publishing for you all to read, which was presented to him last night.

One thousand and twenty days ago, you held my heart in your hands and crushed it, slowly suffocating the life out of me. As I sat there across from you on the sofa, trying to comfort you because you were crying, you pushed me away, and told me that you needed to tell me something. You told me that I deserve to live my life with full knowledge and awareness, and that I hadn’t been doing that. You then proceeded to tell me that my deepest fears were true, and that you were in a relationship with another woman, and had been for some time. As my stomach hit the floor and the room started to spin, you told me that she was pregnant with your baby. The floor fell from beneath my feet, and I stood paralyzed on what was left of the small bit of earth that I was perched upon.

The man I thought I knew stood before me, but he was gone. His familiar gaze now gave way to empty eyes that stood emotionless in front of me. I allowed the words to penetrate, but I could not respond. I felt completely paralyzed. I just sat there and listened to you, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t sure whether I was real or not, whether I was in a dream, or whether I had just died. The truth is, a huge part of me died that day, and that part was the part I call “us”. “We” were no more. We were just “you” and “me”, because the safety and sanctuary that was “us” had just been violated and torn apart. It lay there, broken, hardly recognizable, and the only thing I wanted was to put it back together again. The only thing I wanted was for you to tell me that you were kidding, that it was some prank, to shake me awake. I wasn’t asleep, and you weren’t kidding, and this was to become my new reality.

When I awoke the next morning, for a fraction of a moment, I was certain I had dreamt it, and felt a lightness I can’t explain. It was like nirvana, but then I remembered that you were not with me in bed, and it had not been a dream, and that moment of serenity imploded. I woke up to the broken reality that would become my new “normal”. “My husband cheated on me with another woman, and she is having his baby”. The words tasted bitter in my mouth, but they would become my new mantra, repeated daily in my head for months and months and months, and years. I heard it in songs, I saw it on TV, reminders were everywhere. It was a new reality I had not invited, but which I was now forced to contend with. The phrase “life isn’t fair” suddenly had a personal meaning. I wasn’t sure what I had done in my life to deserve it. Was it karma paying me back for some horrible misdeed? Was I simply a cosmic collateral damage in the universe? Was I a bad wife? Had I gained to much weight? Was I no longer attractive? Had I “lost it”, and by “it”, I mean everything you used to find of value in me? Why was she chosen? Why was she better than me? Why did you pick her? Why had you done this to me? Why was I now having to pay the price for your bad decisions? Was I unlovable? Was I unworthy of being loved the way I needed to be?

As I spent my days dragging along the floor behind me a drawstring bag, carrying what was left of my self-esteem, I was inundated with hurtful emails from the woman who claimed to be so caring and understanding, so warm and personable. She took what remained of my self esteem, and held it tightly in a vice grip, dipping each piece of what remained into the acid that came through her words. Her words confirming my deepest fears: “I am ugly to him, I am fat to him, he laughs at me, he chose her, he is only staying for the kids, he never loved me…” She hand-plucked each one with deft precision. It’s as if she had lived inside my head, and knew exactly which buttons to push, and she pushed them with a satisfying and demonic enjoyment, her every move designed to wedge the knife deeper into the still bleeding wound. And when it would seem that she hadn’t done enough, she went in for the kill: She told me that due to words that I had spoken, due to action I had taken, that she had made the decision to keep the baby. She took the worst possible outcome (having the baby), and made it the result of something *I* had done, as if it was decided by me. No, instead it was to be my punishment for having fought for my marriage. I either lose my husband to her, or I keep my husband, whose love I don’t even trust anymore, he gains a daughter, and I gain a 22-year child support sentence. It was the ultimate lose-lose, and I felt like she held all the cards. I was broken, and death seemed more palatable.

Although I had my suspicions that something was wrong, I trusted you, and felt you would tell me if anything was really wrong. When you assured me everything was fine, I allowed your words to quench the fears I had, and the slate was wiped clean each time. The trust I had in you far overcame any fears, and I knew I could just trust, and I did just that.

I never snooped in your emails, and I never checked on your phone calls. I didn’t monitor your texts, and I didn’t have you followed. I had no reason to doubt what you were telling me. I didn’t have to investigate anything on my own, because you summoned the courage to tell me, and for that I am thankful. Although you do say that you were pressured to tell me, and had no intention of ever telling me, and were only doing so out of duress, I can tell you that I would have fared far worse had I learned it from her, so I thank you for telling me quietly, in the privacy of our own home, far away from her evil. Thank you for not letting me find out any other way. Thank you for being a man, and telling me to my face, despite the shame that such a moment brought to you. It is a shame that I can’t even imagine, and something that I would not have had the strength to do, had the situation been reversed. Thank you for being strong enough to do the right thing.

In the weeks that followed, you attended marital counseling with me. You attended regular weekly sessions, and faced head-on the shameful situation of having your mistakes placed on the table for open commentary and evaluation. You watched me cry and break down, witnessing firsthand the carnage that you created in the one you professed to love and protect. But you kept coming, and didn’t complain. You didn’t back down, you didn’t refuse, and you didn’t stop.

You took the time to look deep inside of yourself and your situation at the time, with the guidance of our counselor with a desire to learn what had led you there. Thank you for seeing the possibility of there having been a lack of something within you, something broken, something that needed mending. Although I do own my share of any marital breakdown that resulted in your inability to feel that you could come to me with your feelings, I also understand that your decision to have an affair was yours alone, and wasn’t something you did as a result of me, or our marriage. You had plenty of healthier alternatives to deal with your situation, but made a bad choice. I don’t think it makes you a bad person, and I don’t define you by it. Thank you for trying to find what it was within you that enabled this situation, no matter how painful, and for having the strength to examine it. Thank you for being strong enough.

You listened to me gripe and complain incessantly. You watched me hurt, and you listened to me ask the same questions over and over again. You answered them honestly, whenever there was an answer, and struggled to give me comfort, even in times when there wasn’t an answer to give. You placed all of your cards face up on the table, and gave me the truth at the speed at which I needed to hear it, not at the speed at which you were willing to face it. You followed my lead and proceeded at my pace, even when it was uncomfortable. Thank you.

You allowed me to start writing a blog to express my feelings, in the hopes that publically sharing it, that I might gain support from objective others, and also possibly help others in the process. You didn’t stop me from making public our struggle, and I agreed to protect our anonymity. Writing the blog has been a great triumph for me, is something that I enjoy, and which has brought me a great deal of support. It has also helped others. Thank you for giving it your support, and for being a faithful reader, and my first subscriber.

You never made it my fault. You didn’t blame me, or equate any of my inadequacies with your choice. You didn’t deprive me of support, and never denied me the opportunity to talk about it when I needed to. The door was always open, and you always made room for me, and you didn’t shut the door on me, or tell me I was raising “the affair” too often, was asking too many questions, or was being “unreasonable”. You tolerated my teasing and rubbing your nose in it, when I felt I needed some “payback”, and you took it without anger or disdain. Thank you for not retaliating and allowing me this momentary feeling of satisfaction. I sometimes needed it.

You allowed me to tell certain friends about the affair, and gain support from them, even though them knowing was embarrassing to you, and shone a light on your shame. You put my need for support above your need for secrecy, and I thank you.

You willingly attended the “Healing from Affairs” weekend with Anne and Brian, and never once questioned the purpose or need, nor the cost. You made the arrangements, attended, were a full and willing participant, and enjoyed a weekend that brought us closer together and for which I will be forever grateful.

You allowed me to attend the “Take your life back” seminar with Anne and Brian last month in November, taking charge of the kids to allow me to experience a weekend with other betrayed spouses, and the healing that comes from that. You didn’t stop me, you didn’t suggest against it, and you made it easy for me to attend without guilt. Thank you for that support, and for that gift. It, combined with the previous seminar, the learning and the introspection has helped to bring me to the place I am today in my healing, coupled with your support and care. Thank you.

Thank you for helping me to heal, and for acting as my healer in this journey, taking on the weight of my load when I didn’t think I could do it anymore, despite also having your own load to carry. Thank your for your patience, and for never asking me to “move on”, or “get over it already”. You accepted the repercussions of your actions as a burden you were willing to bear as a result of your actions, and you allowed me to do, say, or feel whatever was necessary, as a result, without making me feel stifled, or stupid, or judged. Thank you.

Throughout this journey, you have proven to be my hero. You have tackled situations that I don’t feel that I would have had the opportunity to tackle if I had been the one who had the affair. You have graciously stepped into the shameful places you needed to go. I know that I would not have had the ability to tolerate the constant nose-rubbing, the shame, the embarrassment and the constant exposure of my errors. You did, and for that, I recognize you as the pivotal reason for my healing, and the biggest force, outside of myself, that allowed me to heal in the way that I have.

I now have greater insight into how your affair came to be, and I no longer wish to hold it over your head, or to make you feel remorseful, or guilty. I know that you are remorseful, and I know that this has been your life’s biggest tragedy. It has been mine as well. Instead, I want to help heal you also, and move forward from this tragedy together.

When we first sat with our marital therapist, at our first marital therapy appointment, he told me that the end goal of affair recovery was to seek and grant forgiveness, and that forgiveness could only ever be considered once I felt as though you had stood in my shoes. I remember feeling such torment at the idea that I was to be expected to forgive you. “Forgiveness” was not the F-word that I had in mind, and wasn’t something I was prepared to consider. Last spring, at the end of the seminar with Anne and Brian, you were asked to write a letter, asking for forgiveness. I appreciated the letter, its heartfelt contents, and your genuine request for forgiveness, but I simply couldn’t grant it. I felt badly, like I was expected to. I wanted to, but simply couldn’t. I loved that weekend, and the feeling of togetherness that it helped to reinforce, and I did not want to forgive you simply because you had asked me to, or to comply with the programming of a seminar.

In the weeks that followed, I didn’t want to forgive you simply because I was running on a “post-seminar high” or trapped within the memories of that weekend. Instead, I hoped that the moment that I offered you forgiveness would be more genuine, and coming more from inside of me, not because you were asking, and not because you were programmed to request it. It needed to be real, and it needed to be heartfelt and pure, and it needed to come from me.

I was never ready to forgive you because of what I thought “forgiveness” meant. I always thought that forgiveness was the act of ‘excusing’ someone for what they had done. I thought that it meant ‘condoning’ someone’s actions, and finding something ‘acceptable’ in those actions. I thought that it meant ‘pardoning’ them from their responsibility, and telling them that what they had done was “alright”. I could never come to a place where I believed any of that to be true, and I felt that to ask me to forgive was to deny me my right to be angry, to feel betrayed and to claim that someone had wronged me. I thought that forgiving meant that I could no longer claim to have been betrayed, or own that, and that it took the value of what I was feeling away. I owned those feelings and I didn’t want to lose them. They were the expression of my broken heart, and they weren’t ‘wrong”, they weren’t ‘pardonable’, and they certainly weren’t ‘acceptable’. In speaking with other betrayed spouses, and those who have been hurt in other ways, I learned to define my own meaning of forgiveness, and this one felt better. It was to be the definition that I would then strive towards.

Forgiveness, as I now see it, is the act of letting go of the “better than” attitude that I was able to hold over your head because you had had the affair, and I had not. It was the decision to not see myself as a “better spouse” and to let go of the comparison. Being a spouse isn’t a contest to be won, and we aren’t on opposing teams. Forgiveness is the conscious choice to no longer hold your actions over your head, and to no longer engage in behavior that accentuates your shame, or which holds your actions under a microscope with the intention of helping me to feel better at your expense. Forgiveness is the choice to let go of the victim mentality, and to no longer be defined by it. Forgiveness is making the choice to see that you were a man who made a series of bad decisions, but not to see you as a “bad man”.

1020 days ago you broke my heart when you disclosed that you’d been having an affair. 2 years and 9 months, and 14 days ago, my life changed completely, and my reality was irreparably altered. These 145 weeks, these 24,480 hours, these 1,468,000 minutes, these 88,128,000 seconds have been the most painful, but also the most transformative of my life.

I do not condone what you did. I do not accept what you did. I do not pardon what you did. We both know that if you should find yourself on this path in the future, that the outcome will look very different from this. But, I trust with every fiber in my being that we won’t find ourselves in this place again. I trust that you will talk with me about issues which render us vulnerable, and that we will work towards fortifying our relationship and making the necessary steps towards keeping our union safe from any outside threats. I trust that we will actively work at strengthening our marriage, and no longer fall to the path of least resistance, the easy-way, the “comfortable way”, and I agree to work outside of my comfort zone and work at the ways that I can be a better spouse to you, going forward.

And so this New Years, 1020 days after you broke my heart, I find it mended. It will always hold the scars, but you have helped me heal in a way I didn’t think would be possible 1020 days ago. I thank you for being my hero in this, and I would like to offer you my forgiveness.

To honour this step, I wanted to offer you something as a symbol of forgiveness, so that you could carry something with you as a reminder of our story, and where we are. I tried for weeks to determine what that would be, but then realized that it was too personal a choice, and you needed to be the one to make it. I will let you decide what you would like that to be, if anything at all. For me, I purchased a Pandora charm for my bracelet: a heart shaped lock with a small golden key. This is highly personal for me, and symbolic of where we stand because 1020 days after our tragedy began, you once again hold the key to my heart. I love you.

Welcome to my new beginning.

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I was not built to break


The title of this post sums up my recent feelings perfectly.

I am a fighter and a survivor.  I am not taken down easily, and I will not fall and crumble.  I will give every ounce that I have to protect what is dear from me, and will be damned if someone insignificant is going to take away my Joy.

I had the opportunity to attend the “Take your life back” seminar this past weekend with Anne and Brian Bercht.  I’ve referenced them in other posts, but for those who don’t know, Anne is the author of “My husbands affair became the best thing that ever happened to me”.  Since her husband’s affair 12 years ago, Anne has written her book, an auto-biographical account of her journey through healing from the pain of her husband’s affair.  She also started offering seminars to couples and individuals, certifying her skills and abilities through various programs, courses and certificate programs herself and her husband take.  Together, they formed “Passionate Life Seminars”, and offer three different and distinct weekend workshops aimed at helping those whose lives have been touched by infidelity.

This past weekend wasn’t as much about the affair, as it was about me.  It was a weekend designed for those who feel stuck in their healing, and for those who are healing alone to find ways to heal themselves so that they can move on.  It was about finding and tapping into your own unique gifts and using those gifts to break through the pain of what has happened, and start to put it behind, in the past, where it belongs.

I think it is easy to carry the baggage of an event like this forward.  It can become so defining of who we think we are.  It touches us to the core, and fractures the very things that we believe to be true about our selves, our marriage, and the world around us.  Our sense of justice is forever changed. Our feelings of deservedness and worth are questioned. We move forward with the baggage of being a betrayed spouse.  We carry that new identity around, and it colours everything we see from the moment of discovery onward.  It’s as if we put on betrayed-spouse glasses, and see the world through the hue and shade that they cast upon our eyes, allowing us to see the world slightly differently.  We carry these glasses, or the baggage of the affair around our necks, with us wherever we go.

Can you imagine spending a day with a heavy bag around your neck?  Each day that you wake up, you put it on.  You carry it around.  It needs to be pushed aside when it gets in the immediate way of a task you are undertaking.  It causes you to sometimes be a little off-balance, as you fumble to avoid its bothersome presence around your neck, whilst you reach for other things.  You bend forward, and the bag smacks against your knees.  You curl up to sleep, and you have to wrestle the bag out of the way, carefully tucking it into your abdomen to give your legs room to curl up.   When you turn quickly, the strap tangles slightly, putting pressure around your neck, and reminding you of its presence.  When you greet others for an embrace, you have to move the bag to the side, so that your bag doesn’t impact them, and for a moment, you each pretend that it really isn’t there.  But, it is there, isn’t it?   Moving it out of the way just temporarily shifts it, but you are nonetheless still aware that it exists, and you still perceive it.  It doesn’t leave.  This baggage that we carry from the affair is no different.  We push it aside when we need to, and hope others don’t notice it, but in the end, we feel it every day.  It gets in the way of us truly enjoying ourselves and the joys that our lives do have in them.  Instead of seeing the beauty and the blessings that surround us, we are forever reminded of the bag that hangs around our neck.  Sure, we may look beyond it to see the beauty of a particular moment, like our child’s graduation, or the wedding of a friend, or the birth of another child, but before we were able to look past it, we had to knowingly move it aside, and in that action of moving it, we were made aware of it.  See, it never really leaves us, until we choose to take it off entirely.

I invite you all to consider taking off your bag.  I did.

This weekend invited me to participate in a series of exercises designed to rid me of the baggage that hangs around my neck.

Having done extensive work with my husband on the trauma of his affair, the outstanding troubles I had concerned the OW and her forever presence on the outskirts of our life.  She lives in the shadows on the boundaries of our lives, and while she is not with us every day, we know that she is there, like the bag around our necks.  She was the missing piece I needed to let go of.  She was the thing that remained with me, day in and day out.  I found myself obsessing about how she would attack me next (when I say “me” here, I mean “we” because in truth, she is directed at my husband and his money, but WE both feel the attack), trying to read  her mind and understand her motives.  I would try and stay one step ahead so that perhaps I could anticipate her next move, and not be shaken off of my feet the way I have been when things come out of the blue, as they last did on Halloween day.  I am a planner.  I like to anticipate things.  For me, not being caught off guard is what helps me feel grounded when she comes around.  But, the consequence of all of this ‘preparedness’ is that I found myself worried, anxious, & obsessive.  I plotted schemes in my head about how I could harm her first and not get caught.  I thought of ways I could bring suffering to her life and not be implicated.  I dreamt up ideas, I considered and reconsidered the ideas from every angle, and every time I had the opportunity….I’d chicken out.  I found myself spending so much time in thought about this, that it took away from other things.  It took up so much space in my head that there simply wasn’t room for anything else.  She was taking up precious real estate, and essentially was taking more away from me.  I already feel robbed by this woman, so why am I allowing her to take up MORE time, MORE space, MORE THOUGHT??   It had to stop, and so I registered for the weekend at http://www.beyondaffairs.com .  During the weekend, I focused my energies on two things: 1. Increasing my self worth, my self confidence, my focus on ME.  2. Moving towards a place of compassion for the OW, towards forgiveness.

Now, some of you are reeling in your seats, wondering how on earth I could consider FORGIVING a woman who is so evil, who is so hell-bent on ruining my family.  Well, forgiveness is not condoning or supporting, remember.  Forgiveness is making the choice to no longer dwell and focus angrily on the actions of another.   It is not allowing her binges to throw me.  It  is trying to compassionately see her actions as pitiful reflections of where she sits, and contrast that with mine and see once and for all that I have won.  It isn’t being a doormat, and laying down.  Instead, it is standing up, and seeing more clearly the situation without being bogged down with anger.

In summary of this weekend and its’ realizations:

She is a child of God, and despite how dispicable and mean-spirited she is, and how horrid her actions are, she is a fallible human being who will walk her journey on this earth, and face the consequences of those actions.  It is not for me to judge her, or to condemn her, for that is not up to me.  I need to trust in a higher power that someone, at some time, higher than me, will have her in front of them and she will one day reap what she has sown.  It is not for me to punish her, or to cause her distress, for that will be taken care of by the universe.  All I can do is hope that she will turn her life around, that she will make good choices, and that she will save herself from damnation that will follow if she surely doesn’t.  I don’t need to be the one pointing the finger.  I am not so powerful as to be worthy of judging her.  I can not like what she does, but it doesn’t have to OWN me.  I can look at her compassionately, try my best to understand that she does what she does out of selfishness, and understand that each of us wishes the best for ourselves, and that I too have at some time or another put myself before others, wanting to personally prosper, knowing that others would not as a result.  The situations are, of course, very different, but I try and see her actions as a mother doing what she can for herself and her child, and a human being, being very fallible.  I can see her actions as horrid, but not feel that I need to be the one to exact the revenge, and simply trust that it will be taken care of for me, by someone or something more capable than me.  I can wish the best for her even though she intends the worst for me.  Why?  Because I don’t need her to do anything positive for me to know that I have something worthwhile in my life.  Regardless of what she says and does, it doesn’t change my feelings of being blessed with what I DO have, and she can’t take THAT away from me.  It is an internal feeling of peace and wisdom that is untouchable, and something she cannot have.  I feel sorry for her.  I feel pity.  And, while I may feel anger from time to time, I will try my best to remember that she simply needs compassion, and that she isn’t taking from me….she is just trying to do well for herself, and they can be mutually exclusive.

I am feeling very good these days.  I know I will have days when this perspective is hard to keep, and that these thoughts WILL be tested.  I will slip, I will sometimes fall, but I will remind myself of this place, and do what I can to get there.  I’ve taken off the bag.  I don’t want it back.

This weekend, I wrote down what I am holding onto….and on a little index card, I wrote the words ” I need to release her”, meaning that she takes up too much space.  I flipped the card over, and wrote the words “I RELEASE HER”.  Moments later, I stood and watched as that card curled at the edges, burned, and disappeared into ash blowing in the wind.  The wind had carried my grudge away.  It diminished and then floated away, no traces left.  It was very freeing.  I foresee myself having to repeat that from time to time, but I know it will always be worth it.

So, with that, I start a new chapter.  I no longer wish to vent about her on this blog.  I no longer wish to sully this place of healing with words of anger and resentment.  I want it to be a place of healing and comfort, and as much as reading about the trashy behaviours of another woman feels good to readers, it also just adds to the bag that hangs around YOUR necks, reminding you and triggering your own situations that keep you stuck in a place of pain.  I want to move forward, and I hope you will join me on this continued journey.

And with that, I leave you with my new battle cry.  It is a song I heard this past weekend, and when I heard it, I knew it fit me perfectly.  The words convey EXACTLY how I feel.

“…I was not built to break”

This weekend, Anne Bercht gave me a gift. She too is one who finds meaning in lyrics, as I do. Knowing all that I have faced, and survived, she gave me a song that she relates to my situation and wanted to convey. She wanted to remind me that despite all that I have faced, that I need to focus on what is GOOD now, not on what ONCE was bad. I am alive and well, and I can carry around the bad, and count up all the pain, or I can focus on the beauty of life that surrounds me, and that is what these lyrics mean, and why she chose that for me. Thank you Anne 🙂

Forgiveness


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

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

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

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

What is a proper apology?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know what they say
Forgive and forget
Relive and regret

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

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The anatomy of an affair


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal:

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