This is my first post.  I have been reading posts on this site for just over a month and everyone's situation is so different.  Many seem to have had long term affairs, or multiple relapses.  My question is does the length of the affair impact recovery? Below is our story, and this is why I am asking. Sorry this is so long.  

We have been married 23 years and have two children.  The past 4 1/2 years has been a bit stressful due to living and working in separate towns and issues with an injury one of our children sustained.  However, I felt we were in a good place and really beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I was also working on getting us back to living in the same place.  

Late night, out of town, at a party in July, a woman pushed my husband into a chair and kissed him after blowing him up with compliments for an hour or so. He acknowledges he should have stopped her immediately.  When it was time to go home, he got in his uber and headed to his hotel alone.  She had wanted to join but he told her there was no way she could as her husband was coming to get her. He said as soon as he got to his hotel she started sexting. (unfortunately, he gave her his card)  She ended up going to meet him early the next morning.  He said he could not get aroused and that they did not have intercourse that day but "messed around." 

My H claims that he really thought that would be the end of it and that he would never see her again.  We had a few trips planned right after this and were together for several weeks.  She started sexting him again immediately, told him she wanted to have sex with him etc.  He claims he told her that he was with his family and couldn't be communicating with her.  However, somehow in the days we were not together (which was only 7 or 8) they did.  23 days after meeting, they planned a rendezvous and had sex.  He said it was awkward and that the sex was not "good", claims it was nothing like the texting.  He said told her that he never thought he would do something like this and also told her that he was not unhappy in our marriage.   They continued to text, talk on the phone, FaceTime etc.  He said he did a lot of listening about her issues in her marriage. They met once again 11 days later.  They "messed around" but he said he  could not get aroused, as he knew what he was doing was wrong and then her husband started texting her so she left.  She was caught and a week later, they cut off contact.  Her husband messaged mine and mine asked him not to tell me, promising he would never contact her again. This was all during the summer. After it ended so abruptly, my husband felt the need to write her a letter to try to get some type of closure and let her know the the cared about her and wanted her to be happy and that he didn't think of her as a one night stand.  Reading that letter was brutal as there were lots of feelings emoted in it.  She lives 4 hours away and my husband had to be in that area in October.  He drove to her town and tried to find her car to put the letter under her windshield wiper.  He even said that if the letter constitutes "contact" that he was willing to take that gamble.  He never found her car.

My husband did not reach out to her again, she reached out to him in early December and he responded. She told him that when she heard his voice, her feelings all came back.  He told her about the letter and she wanted to see it.  She was caught two days later, trying to message with my husband.  Once again he messaged mine and my husband asked him not to tell me and said that she reached out to him etc.  He honored this request until he learned that my husband had mailed his wife a phone with the letter,  so that they could communicate.  He claims it was so they could get "closure". 

When her husband caught her communicating with mine the second time he asked her to go to solo therapy. They had already done an intensive back in the fall and been to counseling together. My husband claims that he spoke with her before she went and said to her that she was clearly unhappy in her marriage but that he was not and that he wasn't willing to change his marital status, nor did he think it was fair for him to have his cake and eat it too and that he didn't see anyway for them to see each other but that maybe they could talk occasionally.   He claims that she told him she wanted all or nothing.  He advised her to take advantage of the intensive and try to figure out what will make her happy but that he could not be a part of that equation. She went off to a solo intensive and from  there sent my husband a message telling him to never contact her again etc. on December 31st.

I received an email from her husband about the affair January 4th, 2020.  He said that learning about the phone made him to decide to tell me.

We were not together when I found to so you all can imagine how intense the phone conversations were.  I was VERY angry and hurt etc.  He was also angry and a bit defensive.  By the next day, he was not.  He was remorseful and promised to go to therapy etc. He said he never loved her and that any feelings he had are gone.  It is so hard because it is all new to me but he hasn't seen her since August and was physically in her presence 5 times.  I want information and details and they are fuzzy to him now, though he has been willing to answer all of my very hard questions.  Since DD day, we have had lots of time together to talk, we have each seen our own therapist, and have scheduled an intensive.  He is extremely remorseful. We have not told anyone other than our therapists.  We have expressed our love for each other, we are committed to moving forward but he is still working on finding out why this happened.  I need that and frankly, so does he. I also need to understand how all of the emotions expressed in that letter can simply vaporize seemingly overnight. 

So back to my question.  Does the length of the affair matter?

Thank you all for your responses.  I have never felt pain like this in my life.  He is in a lot of pain too and hates that he has put us through this.  I am praying he is sincere.  He told me that he had such clarity the day after DD day.  He said he asked himself if I left him, would he want to be with the AP and the answer was a resounding "no".  He said all of his dreams have always been with me and our family.  That was absolutely true of the man I married and I pray he is still in this new person somewhere!
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beach5 wrote:

 I also need to understand how all of the emotions expressed in that letter can simply vaporize seemingly overnight. 

So back to my question.  Does the length of the affair matter?

I think the answer to that question is probably different from person to person.  For some, time and repeated exposure would increase feelings of attachment.  In others who need the chase or the feelings of limerance, it would probably start the "familiarity breeds contempt" feeling.  

But I can answer how "feelings" can vaporize overnight.  Remember when you were a teenager and you liked a guy who you only knew marginally and you built him up into something amazing in your head?  You fell madly in love with this "concept" of him, wrote notes to your friends extolling his virtues, planned your amazingly romantic courtship, etc.?  Then you got to know him and your prince turned into a frog.  Suddenly all those emotions that felt so true and so real, nearly bursting your heart, were GONE. 

MANY, MANY, MANY of these affairs (though not all) are like that.  When you were that young girl, you wanted to experience a feeling, you wanted to be swept away, you wanted to be a part of something exciting.  And he was the best candidate for that feeling.  Well, in this case, most of our spouses were dissatisfied in some way with themselves, their life, some sense of not "being enough".    A very healthy, self-aware person would sense this in themselves and use their pre-frontal cortex to reason with themselves and figure out how to make their life improve - or at least their perception/experience of it improve.  It's a form of self-regulation.  But our spouses weren't that firmly rooted in themselves, nor did they have the emotional intelligence to do so.  So they took the average teenager's approach to getting away from bad feelings/low self-esteem.  They found a distraction that made them feel better - one that said they were valuable, sexy, worthwhile, etc   They NEEDED someone or something outside themselves to make them feel that way because they didn't have enough self-love to do it for themselves.  

Some people turn to drugs, drinking, spending money they don't have, etc.  But others, when facing this crisis of self-value, discover that adulation, the feeling of being pursued is their drug of choice. Usually this happens when someone they meet at work or in social circles starts paying them way too much attention and they find that it makes them feel good, alive, young, etc.  And they fall in love with that FEELING.  The person is mostly irrelevant - just as an alcoholic has a "favorite" drink - but when they need a "fix" they will drink anything available.  But here's the thing - many of these people have lived generally honorable lives.  They don't see themselves as cheaters, liars, etc.  So they MUST find a reason to justify this craving for the attention, to tame the cognitive dissonance, so they begin to associate the feeling of "love" (for the feeling) with - "Oh, I must love this person.  That is the only plausible reason that I could possibly be doing this out-of-character thing."  

And then like you as a teenager they put emotional energy into building up this fantasy of the other person because it FEELS good.  Granted when they think about the guilt and about you, it doesn't.  But they work hard at keeping the two things separate in their minds - and for a while it works. 

Then DD comes and they are suddenly faced with losing everything real.  They can't keep the two things separate anymore.  They can't tell themselves it is a "victimless" crime.  And now they are faced with HUGE consequences.  They may lose their family - their emotional HOME.   Before it was like they got to "add" this little extra thing to make them happy in ADDITION to all the things they NEED and LOVE.  Suddenly they are looking at being left ONLY with the little extra - and losing the BIG STUFF they care about.  It's like buying a pool you can't afford - and then losing your house to foreclosure because you can't pay for the pool.  Yeah, for a minute the pool was awesome - but not if you have to lose your HOUSE to have it.  Now it seems stupid and you remember you hate the smell of chlorine!

My husband has talked about his abject shame when he realized that his "feelings" for the AP pretty well vanished overnight too.  He said realizing with such clarity how he'd used her - and hurt me, our daughter and himself (because he has to live with it for the rest of his life) - all to make himself "feel better" because he didn't seem to know how to deal with his depression and loneliness, was horrifying.  That he'd tried to sell that it "meant" something to himself to smother the shame (even though he was clear that he had no plans to leave me or continue the affair after the project ended and he went home).  But then after DD he realized that even if I left him,  he didn't want to be with her.  And he was horrified that he'd nearly lost it all for something he didn't actually want.   

It is such convoluted emotional/mental gymnastics that happen in their brains that this may still not make sense.  But hopefully it helps some...
BS - Female
Married 27 years, one adult child
DD May 2016

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” - V Frankl
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Thank you for replying.  I have wondered about some of this myself.  He has said he never loved her, never used that work at all with her and, as my therapist pointed out when she read the letter, never used it in his letter to her. So what was it that made him lose his mind for that time period and then almost again in December? It must be close to what you describe above.  I so hope that because it was short lived, we can bounce back as a couple.  I asked him recently if he ever thinks of her and he said "no"...never and isn't even curious about her.  It would be wonderful if that is true!  
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My husbands affair was 4 years long. Like your other half’s OW, she actively and vehemently pursued him at his work place and beyond. The difference was that this woman was single. Divorced apparently, and no children.

it was convenient. He could live another life with his concubine in complete seclusion from his real life. She lives 360 miles away and at the time he was working away from home for 3-4 months at a time and flying out from an airport just half an hour from her home. How easy is that? Wife and family at one end of the country, and a bit on the side with enough distance for the two never to clash.

After dday, he was a twat too. Apologised to her, (and asked her to apologise to her mother for him apparently)..for getting involved with him. Later he was flabbergasted at his involvement with someone who was willing, alongside him, to persecute his family for their own self gratification. He actually said she was a viscious and bitter individual. I agreed..when she came after me and my children because he refused to leave his wife and children I had her incarcerated....

I didn’t recognise my own husband and had no clue why he was being such a vile Cee yUo Next Tuesday.. only that he was, and I was ready to consider a divorce..then I uncovered a text message that wasn’t meant for me....🙄

To answer your question, does the length of an affair make a difference? I believe it does, but there are so many other things to factor into such complicated situations. 4 years, no matter that they were only together for a week or so every three + months is still a bloody long time to be communicating with someone behind your wife’s back no?

The grass always looks greener..until the dog pee’s on it....
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I don't know if the length of the affair matters or not.  I do know that having been cheated on for 34+ years is very hard to get over (if you ever get over something like that).  There was also mistreatment during those years.  How do I know that DDay was the turning point.  How do I know that "I love you" is meant now and wasn't meant for all those years.  What changed?  I do know that it takes a long time to forgive and reconcile.  I have forgiven, but reconcile?  Not yet.  It is just very hard to want to reconcile with someone who didn't really want you for such a long time.  Why now?  I have no answer to that.
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4 years and 34 years? Wow you all have been through it.  I can't even imagine!  I have asked my WS to think about his guilt to regret to remorse timeline.  I am curious about that. He is very remorseful now, which is good.  He has been so patient and tolerant of all of my questions.  Sometimes he asks for time to think about his answer, and I give it, reminding him to not temper anything in his response out of concern for upsetting further. At this point I just want answers, no matter how difficult.  One thing that really does bother me is that I have to ask all of the questions.  Because someone else told me, and gave me information,messages, etc, he has never had to "tell" the story on his own.  I have always had to ask the questions.  I have told him that it bothers me that he never gave me information.
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My husband didn't offer much information either.  He claims he can't remember anymore even though DD was less than 10 months ago and the affair lasted almost exactly one year.  I believe that is mostly out of their shame and fear of hurting you further.  I believe they also fear that what you hear will change how you see them forever.  As a betrayed spouse, I feel that the length of the affair affects me greatly.  I can't speak to how it is for him.  For me, what makes recovery difficult is dealing with the memories of good times that happened during the affair that feel false now.  It also makes it feel like it was more meaningful to them otherwise they like some would have ended it on their own.  My WH admitted that they discussed that they knew they should stop but couldn't because "it felt so good"..  They said that we (she was also married to my husband's best friend) would understand if we could feel what they felt.  They thought that as long as they didn't get caught, we wouldn't be hurt and everyone was happy.  I believe that the longer it goes on, the harder it is to get over the fact that they continued on dispite the consequences.  They actually told themselves they couldn't stop unless they were caught.  I often read that they don't think about the consequences or about getting caught.  I don't believe that when it is long term.  Mine surely did...  Your husband sounds like a good man who just got addicted to the attention. 
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After catching my wife in too many implausible explanations and accounts, she admitted she lied about her relationship with her AP in order to 'protect' me. Your husband sounds genuinely repentant and I admire his being deliberate in asking for time before answering some of your more difficult questions - rather than giving knee-jerk "I don't remember", "It's not important", pseudo-answers. I suspect his not volunteering and 'giving you information' is his way, a much better way, of protecting you. He probably only wants to give you the information that YOU decide is important to know, that you have prepared yourself to handle. Believe me...a full-on data dump on his timetable instead of yours could probably do you some serious harm. He's letting you set the pace. Smart.
BH, 5+ Mo EA, DDay 3/8/18
"...regarding all as God after God."
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@Cam28 For me, what makes recovery difficult is dealing with the memories of good times that happened during the affair that feel false now.  

I agree with the above! I feel like everything from early July to January 4th when I found out was all an act.  My WH has said otherwise and that it was genuine for him.   My WH was also a bit snappy and unkind during the fall and I am sure that was caused by his affair ending abruptly in August when his APs husband caught her.
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@AnywhereButHere perhaps so however, I got the lion share of the information, messages etc. on DD day from his APs husband.  I did have to ask him for the letter, and told him not to edit it but send it to me as it is.  He complied and warned that it would be hard to read.  He said that when he re-read it he didn't have those feelings anymore. He did not reread it before sending it to her. I wonder if he had if he would have sent it.

I do get some "I don't remembers" but I have asked some very detailed questions.  It is just my nature.  I don't know why I feel compelled to ask so many but I guess it is how I process and try to understand.  He is still meeting with a therapist to try to understand why he did this.  I am trying so hard to be patient.  He has only been able to see him 3 times so far.  
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I also got all of my information from his APs husband.  His information came from discovery but a lot from his wife.  Your husband sound like he is on a path that will be worth the wait.  He seems to be doing all the right things.  I wish the best for you.  I know this is a very hard situation to find yourself in.   
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Its a tricky one. I don't think it matters in terms of devastation it causes. It would be comparing pears to apples, you just can't no two people are the same, no two affairs are the same and therefore how people deal with them neither. My husband's affair lasted only weeks but the damage was pretty severe nevertheless. In my case it tapped into trauma from childhood, which made healing/recovering a lot harder and brought me to the brink of insanity more than once. What I would say though is that a long term affair spanning over years and years, is a whole different level though. Infatuation wears off after after a while so keeping the affair alive in my books, is leading a double life with a whole new level of lies and deceit...and for me, I don't think I would have been able to even be willing to try to reconcile, however, I have met people on my journey with 10+ years of being betrayed by their spouse and they managed to move faster in their recovery than me with my weeks. This just shows though that it can't be compared. Pain is pain, loss of trust is loss of trust, betrayal is betrayal. How long it takes to heal, is personal. I do feel however, that your husband is on the right track but be wary of a quick fix. Recovery takes a looooooooooong time for both BS and WS. 
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Esther Perel notes that infidelity 'robs one of the coherence of the story of one's life.'  When you think your life is one way & it turns out that there was another whole drama & storyline going on behind the central relationship in your life, that shatters your story into shards.  So there are two major aspects to the betrayal: yes, your spouse reposing affection & physical connection in another person, but then the deception that that constitutes & the continuing deception for however long the spouse continues to conceal it entirely or only trickle-truths about it.  During that entire time you thought you were making decisions together about jobs, vacations, children's schooling, etc., according to one set of assumptions, but in fact you might have made different decisions if you'd known about the secret drama. 

In my case, there was one affair, at least that I know of.  The physical involvement might have been five months.  The emotional involvement was a couple of years or so.  But it was 16 years before I even knew it was physical, & then lots more years of stonewalling, trickle-truthing & hysteria if I tried to get to the truth.  Meanwhile we were making all sorts of major life decisions for our family & our children.  Some of those might have been different if I'd known the truth.  All this has been very, very damaging.

So, as many continue to note, there's the infidelity & then there's the lying.  The lying is as damaging as the infidelity. 

In the 2017 movie 'The Child Act' Emma Thompson plays a British judge too preoccupied with her cases to tend to her marriage.  Her professor husband, played by Stanley Tucci, is frustrated & tries to draw her back into real marriage.  When she refuses he announces to her that he's going to spend the night with a woman graduate student of his & then he does that.  (He's not been having an affair with her, but he knows she will welcome him.)  Not a good decision, obviously, but much better than deception – he announces to her in advance what he's going to do.  That stands out to me as a decision that is much more respectable than the deceptive sneaking around that is the stuff of practically all adultery. 

You ask, Does the length of the affair matter?  Yes it does, but that varies a lot from person to person.  Obviously a one-night stand may be easier for some to recover from than a year-long series of affairs that prompt one to question whether one can ever trust again, but there will be variation even there.  But equally important is the 'length' of the lying, that is, the extent of it & the period of time that the lying continues.   
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Cam28 wrote:
I also got all of my information from his APs husband.  His information came from discovery but a lot from his wife.  Your husband sound like he is on a path that will be worth the wait.  He seems to be doing all the right things.  I wish the best for you.  I know this is a very hard situation to find yourself in.   

I hope so.  I still hate that he hasn't really told me anything unless I have asked.  Maybe that's because he doesn't like talking about it.  We discussed this last night and he said he understood and would work on a timeline of sorts.  They "ended" in August when the AP's husband caught her and they cut off all contact.   But, she reached back out in early December.  He seemed happy about that based off messages I have read but he said those messages are not the whole picture and that the conversations and deleted messages tell a different story.  That is what he said he would work on for me.  I still would like some clues as to why this happened. I think it will take my husband and his therapist a while to get answers in regard to that.  It is all just so hard, as you all know.  And somehow, I need to try to stop thinking about all of the "what ifs" and just focus on what actually happened instead of  what could have happened. 
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@GuyInPain. You hit the nail on the head with that Esther Perel quote.  Is that in one of her books? If so, do you mind sharing the title?  I am struggling with the lie as well.  That part lasted 6 months.  Looking back now, it makes me feel like that whole period of time was just not genuine, like I was going through that time with a stranger.
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