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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 😉

Seeing the affair through the eyes of a mistress


Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese Military General once said, “Know thine enemy”.  According to him, the best way to defeat a force is to know it well, have an ability to predict its next move, remain one step ahead, and to never be surprised.

I made a decision, about halfway through the last year, that I wanted to better understand the situation from all sides.  We all have a different perspective of what took place, coloured by our experience within that place, and the role that we played.   In our marital therapy, we are learning that true forgiveness for my husband is going to come him stepping into my shoes in order to truly feel what it must have felt like to be me, to be deceived, to be betrayed.  When I am confident that he truly FEELS what it feels like, I will have greater confidence in his fidelity, and our marriage in general.

The act of consciously trying to see the affair through her eyes is a big deal for me because:

  1. I am wounded
  2. I have been betrayed
  3. I hold grudges like nobody’s business

On examining the data as I have it thus far, here is what I see when I look through her lens.  When my interpretations have been informed by factual events, I will indicate so.

She met, and fell for a man who is married.  She probably fell in love, and if not was at the bare minimum deeply attracted (fact).  His reciprocal interest in her, his sharing of personal details that transgressed the boundaries of co-worker, made her feel as though the feelings were reciprocal.  When the mutual attraction was confessed, it quickly escalated into sex. After that first sexual encounter, she probably felt intensely satisfied, like she had somehow snagged her catch.  The bait was working, and she was slowly seeing her desires come into view.  Trying to maintain a professional relationship at work while secretly involved in a relationship with a co-worker probably ignited a wave of excitement as well, amplifying the effects of the endorphin rush that accompanies the start of a new relationship.  It probably felt magical.  Here she was, sleeping with a wonderful man, who has great earning potential, but is simultaneously also kind, warm, sweet, sensitive, and compassionate.  He likes shopping, fine dining, travel, will watch chick flicks of his own accord – I mean, what is NOT to like?  I get it…I like him too 🙂

Even though she had proposed the exit clause for each of them, when he asked to use it a couple of months into it, she felt hurt.  She was enjoying what they had together, but it didn’t quite feel normal.  She longed for dinners out, time together outside of work, a REAL relationship.  She accused him of using her for sex( fact), and told him that she didn’t want to have sex at the office anymore (fact) – she wanted to go somewhere private, so they hooked up at hotels. I can’t imagine that didn’t feel cheap for her, but it was better than the office. The threat of possibly losing him led her to feel that she had to do something to prevent him from leaving.  Knowing that he was in a vulnerable place because he was being unfaithful to his wife, she knew that she could hold this over his head, and manipulate the situation to her advantage.  Worried that it may not be enough, she turned up the degree by simultaneously painting herself in a highly desirable light by inventing a boyfriend on the side (fact), and talking about how much male attention she gets. She did this, of course, so that he would believe her to be desirable. I mean, if all of these others guys see something in her, then it must be there…right? Not when they don’t exist. She figured that these lies, couples with the threat to tell me would keep him where she wanted him. It worked for a little while, as he remained in the relationship and didn’t make regular requests to “end it”.  Whenever he did, she felt threatened, and turned up the heat again, using the best tactic she had – the threat of disclosure to me.

When they stopped having sex for a few months, she was likely worried that they were returning to “just friends”, or “co-workers”.  She knew she wanted to be with him, and she had tried everything possible to make herself desirable enough in his eyes that he would want to be with her willingly, but it wasn’t working.  He was remaining with his wife, and there was no indication that he was ever going to leave, or tell me.  Feeling that she was going to be playing second fiddle in this relationship, she decided that a pregnancy would be the best way to hang onto him.   She went off her birth control pills.  Having his baby would mean that they would be forever linked.  If this was never about attraction, and only a money grab, a baby would then be a guaranteed meal ticket. She initiated sex with him in February, and conceived a child. Yay her.

When he said that he didn’t want another baby, and wasn’t prepared to be involved in the life of another child, she stated that she would terminate the pregnancy – kill her child – if he would confess the affair to me and leave his family (fact).  Unprepared to lose his family, she said that perhaps she might keep the baby, that she was undecided (fact).  In any case, she said that would raise the child alone, if need be, and would never ask him for a single penny (fact) (sorry but I find this statement laughable since she is currently doing her best to milk us out of every penny she can).  Convincing him that he was going to lose me either way (either he would tell me and leave, or she would tell me and I would kick him out), she rehearsed how he would tell me, and they set a date for when.  The brass ring was in sight, all shiny and ready to be grabbed.  Victory, as she saw it, would soon be hers. and she would finally have the man she wanted, free and clear of the encumbrances of his family, and they could start the relationship that she had always hoped for.  Excited that the man she loved would soon be hers, and believing that his willingness to confess meant that he too wanted to be with her, it was merely days away, and he would be hers.

When she texted him the morning after he was supposed to have told me, she thought her early morning text would come fresh on the heels of the devastation and that she could ride in, and save him from the flames.  When he told her that he’d actually told me 2 days earlier, she was alarmed that he was still at home, and happily playing with his children as if nothing had happened. When he told her that I was also there, and that things were fine, I imagine she was incredibly sad and very angry.  She now felt the sting of betrayal.  The plan that she thought they both wanted wasn’t coming to fruition, and had been foiled by the fact that neither of them had anticipated what move I would make.  My unwillingness to throw away my marriage and kick my husband out was a wild card that neither one anticipated would be played.  It came as a shock to them both. For him, it was a relief.  For her, it was devastating.  Reacting on anger, she immediately started doing what she does best: threatening.  It was her way of acting out in the wake of losing the relationship she wanted and she saw ME as the reason it would never be.  She was furious with me, and now she had a baby on the way, and no one to help care for it, or her.

The way she saw it, he loved her and wanted to be with her.  He’d turned away from his wife, and turned toward her.  That could only mean that he loved her, and not me, right?  He’d had sex with her, so it meant he loved her, right? This falls in line with the Myths of Infidelity I wrote about earlier. In her mind, the feelings were mutual, and then suddenly, they weren’t.  She’d been deceived, or maybe, just maybe, she had miscalculated the depth of what this relationship was really about, and made it into more than it ever was.

I understand her feelings, and what has led her to do what she has done.  I understand that she has been hurt.  I understand that she has inappropriately directed her anger at me, when it really should be directed at herself for getting involved. She has to demonize me in her mind in order to justify her actions to herself. Women are possessive, and she felt she owned him, and had rights to him. Knowing that he was coming home every night to me – to my bed – was probably unbearable for her. In fact, she became most crazy when we were on vacations together, in which case she would text like crazy, and turn up the threats if she didn’t hear back from him immediately. She wanted him hanging on the end of the line for her every text. He wasn’t, and that drove her nuts. On the nights after they’d been together, in order to remain connected to him when he was safely returned ‘home’, she texted him all night, probably to interfere with anything he and I might be up to. She wants to believe I am the reason that they aren’t together, when in fact my husband never asked to leave – he asked me to take him back, if I wanted to. I would like to say that she should also be angry at my husband for deceiving her, but he didn’t.  He told her many times how he felt, explained that it was just sex, and not love, professed his love for his family, and his desire to not lose us.  She refused to hear any of it, and believed instead what made her feel better: that he loved her and wanted a relationship with her.  That he would leave me to be with her, and that they would have a baby together, and live happily ever after.  She sees me as the reason that he is not with her, when he made it perfectly clear to her that if he and I were no longer together, that he would not be with her.  He told her that if he were not married to me, he would be married to no one.  I don’t think she can be angry at him when he made it perfectly clear.

In the end, I feel very badly for her.  I think she is in a horrible situation, and was too naive to see it clearly.  She chose to have a child, thinking that it would bring my husband closer to her, and is now raising a baby on her own. Perhaps she also had a fantasy, as we all do, about motherhood being blissful, with a little person to love you, and it is all rainbows and butterflies, and then 48 hours into it, having logged two sleepless nights, you realize it isn’s the picnic you thought it was, except unlike me, she is doing it alone.  I do sometimes wonder if she feels any regret.  I wonder if she will take the time to try and see the situation through my eyes, to realize the depths of what she has done, the degree to which her actions have caused so much hurt, so much pain, so much trauma.   Will she take the time to consider anyone else’s perspective, and will she see where she has been wrong, or will she be blinded by her own sense of self-righteousness?  I guess I will never know.

I suspect she is a very hurt inside and longs for someone to love her. She needs and craves love and attention, and believes that the only way to get it is to manipulate. I suspect love never came easily to her, and she’s had to fight for it her whole life – it is what she knows. She fell into a situation that was way above her head, and made poor decisions without considering the collateral damage. She was selfishly focused on herself, and still is. She has, thus far, provided no indication of remorse for what she has done to me, or tried to do to my children. I feel badly that she will raise this child alone, and will suffer the pains of single parenting. This is a choice she brought upon herself, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to bear. I wish the best for the child who is an innocent victim of choices made by two people who should have known better.

Debunking the myths of infidelity


In both my reading on the topic of infidelity and in my casual polls taken among friends, it seems there are many myths that come with the territory of infidelity.  Some of these myths are held by women, some by men, and some by both.   Some are held by mistresses, some by wives.  I’ve learned a lot this past year, and thought I would go over some of the more popular myths that exist and debunk them.

1. Affairs only happen in unhappy marriages.

While this does tend to be the reason why women cheat, it doesn’t usually apply to men.  Men who live in very happy, sexually fulfilling marriages have affairs.  For women, this is hard to understand because we equate love with sex, and if he is having sex with someone else, he must not love me.  Believe it or not, this isn’t true.  I wouldn’t have believed it a few years ago, if I hadn’t been on this journey myself.  I am sure his affair partner felt that he loved her.  As a woman, her paradigm is to believe that sex=love and so he must love her.  False.  He did, by his own admission, tell her he loved her in the midst of an orgasm, something he immediately regretted as the blood flowed back to the brain that has the higher functions of reasoning and intelligent thought.  Idiot.  I digress…

Women who are unfaithful have usually already fallen out of love with their partners, and have emotionally disconnected.  For many women, then, they feel they can justify their behaviour because to them, the relationship was already over – even if he didn’t know it yet.

Men have the ability to compartmentalize sex and love.  The two can coexist together, as they do when a man loves his wife, but they need not coexist all the time.  Men can have sex with a woman for the sake of the physical release it will bring, and nothing more.  Men don’t have to find her beautiful (although it helps if you have something nice to look at), and they don’t have to find her intelligent.   If you are the mistress, and your relationship isn’t a deep emotional connection, but just sex, then chances are he isn’t looking for you to satisfy his need for intelligent conversation – you fulfill a very basic need- sex.  That’s it.  You might as well wear a t-shirt that reads: “Have Vagina, will travel”.

2. Men cheat more than women.

As a society, men tend to be more outwardly sexual in nature than women, so we have an easier time justifying men’s behaviour when they stray, and assuming that they do it more often.  Men’s brains are very different from women’s, and they are hardwired to sexually pursue QUANTITY, while women look for QUALITY.

While the stats for infidelity may be tipped slightly more in favour of men, it is the REASONS for the infidelity that differ.  Women cheat because they are no longer satisfied in the relationship.  What was once a satisfying relationship has lost its glimmer, and it is safe to say that most women who cheat have already emotionally abandoned their primary relationship.  With men, this is not the case.  Men can be completely satisfied in their relationship, having frequent and great sex at home, and still take the opportunity to get a little more on the side, if the opportunity presents itself, and there is a low likelihood of getting caught.  He may be getting fine dining at home, but a little dessert would also be nice….especially if I won’t gain weight.

One key thing to realize is the different ways in which men and women view sex, and how these views allow them to cheat for different reasons.  More on that in a future post.

3. An affair is about sex.

An affair involves sex, but it is usually never ABOUT sex.  People don’t seek out affairs to get more sex, or to have better sex.  Sex is simply the natural progression that happens when someone seeks out a new relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  For men, sex is like a sport; something you enjoy that invigorates you, makes you feel energized, potent, alive.  For men, there need be no emotional connection whatsoever, and it has very little, if anything to do with love or emotion.  We’ve all heard someone say “He’ll have sex with anything that has a pusle”, and for many men, this may very well be accurate.  Men simply need an outlet, and who it is, or what she looks like has little bearing on why she was chosen.   Men don’t need love for sex, or sex for love – they need sex for sex.  Whether you are beautiful or smart won’t really matter….whether you are sexually available at the time will have much more of an impact.

So, if affairs aren’t about sex, what are they about, and what purpose do they serve?

Often times, men report that it wasn’t the sex that made them stray.  It wasn’t the beauty, intelligence, warmth, compassion, or personality of the woman he strayed with.  It was something about how he was FEELING while he cheated, and how the other woman made him FEEL when they are together.  The rush and the exhileration of knowing that they are doing something forbidden causes an endorphin rush, which amplifies and creates a rosy glow (can you say rose-coloured-glasses?) over the entire relationship.  She probably showers him with compliments, boosts his ego, tells him how smart he is, how powerful he is, how strong, fit, and capable he is…something that perhaps his wife doesn’t do as much as she used to now that their relationship has settled into a comfortable pattern.  Just like women need and want continuous feedback that they are valued, men also need this, although most won’t admit it.  They want to be told they are attractive, sexy, a great lover.  In marriages, however, we settle into a pattern of comfort and security and no longer shower each other with these compliments, even if we DO feel them. I guess the difference is that when women need to hear it, we find ways of encouraging our lovers to tell us, while men feel foolish doing so.  So, if a man is feeling needy for that kind of attention, he may never provide any clues.  So keep the compliments flowing…that is even more important than being sexually available – it tells him he’s important to you, that you love him, and that he still ignites that spark for you.

4. If a man is having an affair, it is due to a deficiency in the wife, aesthetically or sexually, and the mistress is seen as superior in these areas.

While this will always be the case for SOMEONE, it isn’t the case most of the time.  As per the above answers, men aren’t looking to improve upon anything, and having sex with the mistress didn’t mean there was a competition in his mind between the two.  Just like sex and love are mutually exclusive, so are the wife and the mistress.  So, if your husband cheated on you, it doesn’t mean he didn’t and doesn’t love you.  If you are a mistress to a married man, just because he is having sex with you does NOT mean that he loves you or wants to be with you long term.  You’re scratching a temporary itch, and yes he is having sex with his wife and enjoying it, which brings us to the next myth:

5. A married man engaged in an affair isn’t having sex with his wife.

This is completely false, although I am sure most mistresses would like to believe it.  Most affair partners are shocked to discover that the man they thought they were ‘stealing’ and ‘one-upping’ from the wife is actually engaging in regular sexual activity with her.  In some cases, he may be having more sex with his wife than with the mistress – she just doesn’t know it.  Married men sleep with their mistresses and return home to their marital bed every night.  They snuggle in with their spouse, they say “I love you” before rolling over, they hold each other in their sleep.   In fact, because an affair boosts a man’s self esteem so much, many have reported returning home from their rendez-vous with invigorated, excited, and ready to make LOVE to their wife.  Therein lies another main difference….he fucks the mistress, he makes love to his wife.  It makes sense because that is what each relationship is based on – casual meaningless sex vs sex for love.

Now that isn’t the case in ALL extra-marital relationships.  Some marital relationships may very well be on the rocks, and a man MAY turn to a mistress to satisfy the sexual needs that aren’t being met at home.  But, this isn’t ALWAYS the case, and certainly wasn’t the case for us.  We are very much “in love”, exchange kisses each morning before we part ways for work, affectionately greet each other when we return at the end of the day, find reasons to tell each other that we love one another, exchange playful sexual advances like we did when we were dating. But, I would wager a bet that his mistress wouldn’t believe it if he told her.  In fact, he DID tell her, and she didn’t believe it.  She accused him of being delusional, and then painted her own story that matched what she wanted to believe.

My husband made every attempt to paint a very clear picture for her about what this was for him.  “This is only about sex for me”, he’d said.  I was shocked to hear him say that because this isn’t something that I ever would have imagined him saying.  My husband is one of the most emotionally sensitive men that I know, and he very much equates love and sex….when it is between US.  “I love my wife”, “I love my children”, “I love and want my family”, “I don’t love you”.  All of these comments were met with resistance.  Resistance to believe that it could be true, when all of the signs she was seeing were pointing to the opposite.  I can’t blame her for thinking that – she is a woman and we equate sex with love…and that belief gets both the mistress and the affair partner into trouble inside their own minds when evaluating the affair and what it really meant.

In Shirley Glass’ book, “Not just friends”, she writes: “A distraught wife said to her husband, “How could you do this to me? You always looked down on those men who had affairs and broke up their family.”  The husband replied…”I was always committed to you.  I never once intended to leave you.”  She was enraged. “What do you mean you were committed?  How could you be committed when you had sex with another woman?”. He answered, “It never meant anything” (Emphasis added)

6. If a married man is having sex with his mistress, he must love her.  If he isn’t having sex with his wife, he must not love his wife.  He has chosen the mistress over the wife.

If I have learned any ONE great truth out of this whole year of discovery, it is that the differences between men and women are staggering.  We are so vastly different, and the ways in which we see and evaluate relationships is remarkably different.  We can’t evaluate a relationship with a man through OUR eyes, because our eyes are female.  The opposite is true for men.  We simply aren’t hard-wired to understand it from their perspective. Sometimes it takes a crisis to propel you to a place where you are forced to look at it, examine it, and understand it, and for that I am thankful to have had that opportunity – it has been life-changing.

When I first learned that my husband had had an affair, my initial thought was “he doesn’t love me anymore”.  For women, sex and love go hand in hand.  Women want to feel love in order to have sex (prostitutes and manipulative mistresses are the exception…but even then, deep inside they long for a loving connection too).  If we feel love, we will have sex, so if a man has sex with us, it means he loves us – right?  Wrong.  Men have sex for sex. It has nothing to do with love or emotion.  Men have the ability to compartmentalize sex into its own category, and love and emotion are not required.  A man can have sex with you without feeling an ounce of love.  A man feels no guilt about engaging in loveless sex because the two are mutually exclusive.  This is why he can have sex with the mistress and still LOVE HIS WIFE.

Once I learned and understood that he was capable of separating the two, it became much easier to understand his perspective and regain the faith that he may still love me.  There was a chance for us after all.

7. The mistress must be more attractive/smarter/more fit/more beautiful than the wife.

This is rarely the case.  In all of the reading that I have done, rarely is the mistress more beautiful than the wife.  Sometimes she is younger, but usually not prettier.  Because women fret about their appearance, and because we know men are visual creatures, our first fear is “he found someone prettier than me”.  This is rarely ever the case.

When my husband first made mention of this woman at work who was now working closely with him, my first comment was “oh a blonde woman working with my husband, should I be worried?”, said with a smile.  He replied with: “Oh goodness no, absolutely not, she isn’t even slightly attractive to me”.  Now, of course you are thinking “well he told you that at the time because he was DECEIVING you”, and I would agree, except that he still says it now.   When we talk about what led him to being with her sexually, he is stunned that he ever strayed towards her.  He doesn’t find her physically attractive or sexually attractive, he has no memory of what she looked like naked except for the fact that she had breast enlargement surgery and corrective surgery for inverted nipples.  He remembers these things because he found them odd, and yes, my husband prefers natural breasts thank you. The sex was “nothing special”, “not very good”, and he doesn’t remember any details about the actual sexual interactions they had together.

According to Shirley Glass, in her book “Not Just Friends”, she states that “outside observers will speculate unfairly and ignorantly that the betrayed wife must have been inadequate in the bedroom.

8. Once a cheater, always a cheater

This is one where there is no absolute answer. Heck, there isn’t an absolute answer to ANYTHING, but this one is truly variable.  Because men cheat for various reasons, the things that keep them cheating or not also vary.  If a man is incapable of fidelity, and has an inability to commit, then yes, he will likely re-offend.  When the infidelity is the result of a deeply seeded problem within him, it will take time and commitment to reversing it.  If it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led him to make choices he normally would never make, or if he was in some way coerced or assisted by the affair partner into starting a relationship, that’s different.

When a man makes a pledge towards honesty, confesses the affair, and lays all of his cards on the table for scrutiny and examination, he has taken the first step towards earning back your trust.  Instead of more lies and covering up, he has chosen to tell you, and that is a good start.  When he chooses to enter therapy in order to better understand himself, you, your relationship and why the relationship was vulnerable to an affair, he is showing an interest in identifying and fighting the demons that led him down the affair path.  When he listens, when he cries with you, when he takes responsibility for what he has caused and feels true remorse, and when he puts himself into your shoes to feel what you are feeling, and to grasp the intensity of the pain that he has caused, you can now say that he truly GETS IT.  I would venture to guess that someone who knows the pain of infidelity from the other side, and who respects and loves the person to whom he is married, will not want to hurt her that way again…especially if he wasn’t aware, at the time, of the impact his actions were having.

Men can cheat once and never again.  Some men are serial cheaters.  Not all men.

9. Men initiate almost all affairs

Obviously in cases where the wife is the cheater, this doesn’t apply.  This response will be directed to married men having affairs. I think it can be true that men will seek out an affair, but I don’t believe that a man wakes up one morning, and says “Today, I am going to seek out a woman whom I can engage in an extramarital affair”.  It isn’t as much a CHOICE as it is a CIRCUMSTANCE they find themselves in.  Men who find themselves in affairs, sometimes do, not because they were actively seeking it out, but rather a set of circumstances presented themselves in such a way, at such a time when a man was vulnerable to an affair.

In our case, my husband did not seek out his affair.  He was ‘befriended’ by a woman at work, who soon became privy to the emotional turmoil he was going through.  Casting herself as his “friend”, and as his “ativan”, she justified her overly-caring behaviour as part of her ‘loving, caring, compassionate nature’.  Looking back at it now, my husband sees her approaches disguised as ‘friendly banter’ through a more informed lens, and feels conned.   Interesting when the betrrayer also feels betrayed.

My husband’s mistress set her sights on him early, and he was a target.  We are convinced that if it hadn’t been him, it would be some other high-earning professional in his office.  She set her sights on him, knew what she wanted, and made it happen.  She knew men love sex, so she outwardly professed to “never getting enough to be satisifed”, and how she would have sex “8-10 times a day if possible”. She catered to his male side, and painted herself as “every man’s dream”; sexually available, sexually interested, and no strings attached.  Unless you define a purposeful pregnancy which resulted in a baby, an attempted collapse of your family, manipulative threats toward your family and professional mobility, and a monthly child-support payment “no strings”, you’re right on.  Women who see what they want and go after it are very easily capable of igniting an affair with a man, as long he is in the right place from a ‘vunerability’ standpoint.

10. Infidelity means the end of a marriage.

I, and countless other women are proof that this is not the case.  Don’t get me wrong, this is the hardest road I have ever traveled, and I’ve logged many miles soaked in tears, but I will survive this, and our marriage will be better because we’ve been through it.  A compassionate and understanding husband who takes responsibility for his actions, open and honest communication, marital therapy to assist couples in communicating effectively and filling the potholes which made their marriage vulnerable – all of these things assist a couple in rebuilding the trust and intimacy of their marriage.  I am sure at one point, or maybe even at many points, I considered our marriage to be “over”, unsalvageable, irreparable.  With time I am starting to see that this affair, his infidelity and this crisis may simply be a catalyst for a new beginning.

Two in the bed and three in the head


One of the most difficult things I’ve had difficulty with, on this journey to recovery from his affair, is seeing him naked.  His naked body reminds me them together, and that makes me enormously sad.  The intimacy and privacy that we once shared has been shattered, and I wonder if it will ever be the same for me.  My hope is that a year from now, or two years from now, or maybe 6 months from now, I will re-read this post and have to update it because my feelings have changed.  I hope.

He gets undressed in the master bedroom walk-in closet.  I have an unobstructed view from my side of the bed.  Under most conditions, you could consider that a “bonus”, but in my case, it is a catalyst for flashbacks.  I can no longer see my husband naked without imagining her underneath it, on top of it, it pressed up against or wrapped around someone else.  His nudity is now a trigger, and that makes me sad.  Married couples, in my mind, share the privacy of only being seen naked by one another.  For me, that is a thought that brings comfort because to me, it signifies the intimate connection shared between a husband and a wife.  I like the thought that no one has seen me naked but him and vice versa.  That reality is no longer, as I have shared my husband unwillingly with another.

I think the hardest part of losing the intimacy in a marriage is trying to rebuild it when your trust is shattered.  In the hours, days and weeks following an affair, it is very typical for couples to experience something called Hysterical Bonding, where they engage in frequent and rampant sex.  Couples do this for many reasons; for some couples it is a way of reclaiming their intimacy, intensely bonding over one another in the face of what could have been a near-loss, and for some betrayed wives, a way to emotionally connect to their husband and claim him back as her own.  I know that in the days and weeks that followed my husband’s admission of his affair, we were sexually active daily, sometimes several times daily.  We couldn’t get enough of one another.  Flirty text messages. sexting, graphic descriptions of what we hoped our evening would involve, emails and phone calls  replete with compliments and excuses to say “I love you”.  In the wake of such a horrible and devastating event, it was both the saddest time of my life, and the most sexually charged.  Bizarre co-existence.

The problem for me, over the course of this past year, is getting her out of my head when we make love.  Thoughts of him with her will flash into my mind, and I have to push them out.  Sometimes when we are together, I will fantasize that she has a bird’s eye view, and it is intensely satisfying.  I wonder if he is thinking of her, comparing us sexually.  Where do I rate?  Was sex better with her?  Was he more aroused with her?  Does he think about the times they were together, and do the flashbacks turn him on?  Is she a better fuck? (I was going to say lover, but it felt wrong because the love wasn’t mutual). I am slowly learning to vocalize these fears in order to help myself process, digest and heal.  It isn’t healthy for me to wonder about these things, question whether I am sexually satisfying to my husband, wonder if he has thoughts of her.  It only eats away at me slowly and causes me pain.  So, I’ve started asking very direct questions about it, and he is very honest in his answers, which helps me a great deal.

Thankfully, and for the record:

  • He doesn’t think of her when we are together sexually
  • He didn’t find sex with her gratifying
  • He finds sex with me much more fulfilling because we have an emotional connection that was absent with her, so it was empty
  • I have a higher rating in more ways than just sexually
  • Sure he was aroused by her temporarily, but in the long run finds me more arousing.
  • He doesn’t think back to the times that they were together and frankly doesn’t remember much.  The thought makes him physically sick.
  • He is willing to answer my questions about this, and assuage my fears and insecurities about this at any time.
  • Any flashbacks he has to her are non-sexual in nature, and are more traumatic, recalling the degree to which he was manipulated and threatened for the greater part of a year.  He feels free of her grasp.

I am sure that if she were to read this, being that she is entirely cynical of any feelings that he has for me, our happiness, or his preference to be with me, she would say “well of course he is going to tell you that to make you feel better, it doesn’t make it TRUE”.  Sure, I’ve thought of that.  I now question every single thing he tells me.  There is no more blind trusting.  However, I also know that he has been incredibly honest with me in answering all of my questions, even when the answers have hurt.  He has shown me over the past year that he won’t lie to make me feel better…it’s all coming out, good or bad.

I am sure, in time, that she will disappear from my head.  There will come days when she doesn’t come to mind at all, I hope. I can’t wait for that day because I’ve given her far too much of my time and energy already.  I am ready to release her.  If she were ever to read this blog, and that would require that she actually care enough to learn about infidelity from the betrayed spouse’s perspective (doubtful indeed), she would probably find a sick satisfaction in knowing that she has impacted me.   She would like nothing more than to know that she has caused pain, suffering and trauma to me.  I won’t give her that satisfaction – she doesn’t deserve it.

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