ThrivenotSurvive

I was just looking for a very old file and I found this letter that I had begun to write when I rejoined the forum after a short break around a year and a half ago.  It was about two years after DD.  I don't think I ever actually posted it and I decided to finish it.  I ended it with an update of where I am NOW - 3.5 years after DD.

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I recently decided to revisit this forum after taking a break and I found that reading some of the posts really took me back to those early days after DD. 

When you wonder if you are crazy or broken for good.  If you are stupid for even considering staying – and if you will regret the time put into trying with someone who has broken your trust.

I remember searching through these threads looking for understanding – but even more – for a shred of hope.  That some day this pain would not consume me. That THIS, a pain I didn’t deserve or ask for, would not be what my whole life became about.  That I would feel good again, love again, trust again – whether with my husband or someone else. 

And so for those who may be asking those questions right now – let me say this.  YES, it can get better.  A LOT better.  At least in my personal experience and I doubt I am unique. 

I’d like to pay back all the beautiful souls I met here who helped me more than they will ever know, by spreading a little hope and light for those still struggling along this painful road.

Below I’ve listed some things I discovered/learned along the way.  I am no expert and what worked for me may not work for you.  But on the off chance it can help someone struggling right now, here it is. 

1)  Everyone’s path is different.  Everyone’s time frame is different.  Do NOT compare yourself to anyone else.  So many factors will be different from situation to situation that there is NO WAY to compare.  Seemingly “unrelated” factors such as stressors at work or health concerns can have a huge impact on how much time and energy you can even give to your own healing.  There is a famous quote that says “Comparison is the thief of happiness.”  Believe it and STOP.  Only compare your progress to YOU.  

2)  On that same note - celebrate every little bit of progress you make.  No matter how small.  Did you only cry once a day this week instead of non-stop?  Then congratulate yourself.  Get over a trigger in less time than you expected?  Fabulous!  On the bad days it will be easy to focus on what you perceive as your “failures” but DON”T.  You need to believe you are getting better – albeit maybe slower than you like - or it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

3)  Don’t feel pressured by ANYONE to make any major decisions in the first few months if possible.  This includes your spouse, your kids, your family and even YOU.  You need and deserve the time to cool down, ride the wave of powerful neurochemicals coursing through you right now and catch your breath.  I remember I immediately wanted a divorce even though my husband wanted to reconcile.  However, I was adamant and I made my WH tell his whole family and our daughter while I told all my friends and family.  Two weeks later, when I realized that I wasn’t sure I wanted to throw away 20+ years of an amazingly loving, supportive marriage because my husband had lost his way during an extremely difficult time in our life, I had to deal with the fact that everyone now knew.  In the heat of anger, I had made my life very public.  Which sucked because I am by nature very private. 

4) Give yourself permission to “not know”.  You may feel like you should know whether you want to stay in your marriage or leave.  Your spouse may try to pressure you to make a decision – a lot of WS’ are very insecure (I’d venture to say all, hence the need for so much validation) and don’t want to say good-bye to their AP without knowing you will not leave them. They are terrified of ending up alone.   For lack of a better way of putting it – too bad.  The only thing I could honestly tell my husband was that I would try.  As long as he did his part  (which included NO CONTACT)– I would do mine.  But I could make no promises on whether my efforts would be successful or not.  He had to accept that there was a 50/50 shot he might put a ton of effort into loving me and healing me - and still lose me in the end.  I had no way of knowing whether I could learn to trust and love as openheartedly as I had before – and we both knew I wouldn’t settle for less for the remainder of my life.  What really helped me in the first year when I had no clue what I really wanted was something I read on here (Thank you, Keepabuzz).  Give yourself a timeframe in which you don’t need to make a decision.  It can be 6 months or a year - it doesn’t matter - just set that date in your calendar and then let yourself off the hook until that date comes up.  When it does, reassess.  See what progress you and your partner have made.  If you still aren’t sure, set yourself another date.  And so on.  I had to use this method for almost 18 months before I didn’t need it anymore. But it REALLY helped.

4) You need to be selfish about your own healing.  In the early days, it will be amazingly difficult not to focus on your WS and/or the AP.  You will be trying so hard to figure out “WHY????” that it will consume you.  While this is inevitable, it’s also the single biggest hurdle to your healing.  There will definitely be a time for trying to understand the “how” and “why” later.  But it is not now.  Right now, you need to get out of their head and focus on the one person who really deserves your attention right now – YOU.  Self-care should be your number one focus.  Elicit help if you need to in order to eat healthy (even if you can’t eat much get some decent nutrition because your body needs all the help it can get), take supplements designed to help the body withstand stress hormones,  exercise or walk as often as you can stand, get out in nature, spend time in your spiritual practice/prayer, basically do any positive thing that supports your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.  It will pay HUGE dividends over the coming weeks and months.  I cannot stress this enough.  With over two years under my belt now, I think this was possibly the biggest contributor to my wellbeing. 

5) Expect set-backs.  The sad truth is that this is not a linear journey.  Every day will not be one step forward.  You will go in starts and stops.  Particularly in the first 18 months you will find that “good times” are OFTEN followed by bad ones.  It’s common and normal in trauma, a survival strategy that doesn’t work as well now as it did in our caveman days.  Read or listen to books that help you understand the process of what you are going through.  It will help you feel less crazy and you can learn strategies and techniques to begin to retrain your brain into a less reactive state.  This will bring an enormous amount of relief when you find yourself no longer staying in a state of hyper-vigilance.  You will find that the periods between the triggers and set-backs will get farther and farther apart and you will begin to bounce back quicker and quicker over time.

6.) Create an arsenal of methods to distract, calm and uplift yourself. When the bad times came I found that what worked for sadness or hurt, didn’t work for anger. When I couldn’t stop obsessive thoughts, a different strategy was needed. I found that sometimes reading books on infidelity would help me stop the rumination.  But other times I needed to get out with friends or watch something uplifting.  But sometimes when I was so angry sitting still would have been impossible.  I had to get out and ride my bike as hard as I could or practice kickboxing until I had exhausted my anger and myself.  I also used many other ways to soothe my body and mind – essential oils, salt baths, Bach flower remedies, Homeopathic remedies, mantras/prayers, and on and on… try everything that makes sense to you.  Over time you will figure out what works and if you practice them often enough, it will start to become a habit.  Later, when this is no longer the focus of your life, you will find that these new skills of self-regulation will benefit you in every facet of your life. 

7.) No matter what they say – this was WAY more about your partner and what was going on with them. It actually has very, very little to do with YOU. It’s a hard pill to swallow that something that can have such a devastating affect to you, could have so little to do with you.    I am not saying that you may not have contributed in creating the vulnerabilities/environment that this happened within.  And if you choose to rebuild the marriage there will need to be honest exploration of that.  But remember - you were in that same marriage and you did not make the same decision.  That is 100% on them.  So in the beginning when you are wracking your brain to decide whether it was because you weren’t successful enough, skinny enough, sexy enough, good enough in bed… etc – let me assure you.  YOU WERE, and ARE, enough.  The person who was lacking – in communication skills, in self-regulation, in self-awareness and integrity was your partner.  Not you.

8. Take control of your self-worth. Do not allow someone else (even your spouse) to determine how good you feel about yourself.  If you’ve been putting everyone else first and letting yourself go – now is the time to stop.  Find the things that build your self-value and DO THEM.  Volunteer you time to help others, commit to spending more quality time with your kids, get back in shape, learn a new skill.  Fall back in love with yourself.  A big part of why people make the mistake of affairs is because they need to see their worth and desirability reflected back in someone else’s eyes because they can’t find it in themselves and their spouse is distracted – by work, kids, their own stuff… life. 

This trauma is debilitating and can make your self-confidence hit an all time low putting YOU in danger of making poor decisions in order to make YOU feel better, more powerful, more worthy.  Don’t fall into this trap.  Drinking, acting out, revenge affairs, etc. – none of it is going to make you feel better in the long run.  Acting on your values, and reminding yourself of WHO YOU ARE and WHY THAT IS GREAT, is what will make you feel better – and you will be less likely to struggle with healthy boundaries because you will feel WORTHY of them.

9.) Whether you stay in your marriage or not, finding a place in yourself where you can finally put down the anger and the pain WILL BENEFIT you. It will, and should, take a while because anger can serve many healthy purposes – like creating boundaries, not settling for less than you deserve, etc. But there will be a time it will become self-defeating.  Where it keeps you trapped.  When you find that it is no longer is serving any useful purpose in your life – work to let it go.  This is important for YOUR health and well-being and has nothing to do with what your WS or the AP deserve. 

10.) Do not let this experience make you into someone you are not. If you’ve never been a vengeful person, don’t become one now.  It will hurt YOUR soul far more than the people you are trying to hurt.  It is giving them the power to CHANGE you and no one has that right.  No one.  Write out a list of who you are or want to be – the attributes (kind, generous, a good friend, an amazing parent – whatever.) It may even include things that feel really far away right now (light-hearted, fun-loving) – put them on the list anyway.  This is your road map back to yourself.  When making decisions, ask yourself if it betrays any of these core values/attributes.  If it does DON’T DO IT.  If you fail at this at first, be kind to yourself – it is understandable – but keep trying to remind yourself of WHO YOU ARE.  This is for you.  Again, it may seem like it benefits your WS or the AP because you may choose not to seek revenge, or poison your kids against them, etc. But don’t let that stop you.  Don’t be so determined to hurt them that you drink the poison.  Make YOU your first and last allegiance right now.  In time you will be REALLY happy you did. 

There is a lot more to this journey, but I think these are some of the keys that kept me (somewhat) sane and on the road to where I am now a full three and half years later – happy, healthy – feeling like myself again.  

Is it forgotten?  Hell no.  But it does not hold me back from my life or my enjoyment of it.  And in some ways, I like and value the person I am even more now than before.  i know what I am made of - and it is strong stuff.  I weathered a storm and rather than let it harden me into someone angry and bitter - I let it soften me and make me more compassionate and more kind.  FYI - there were some angry, bitter moment in there in this journey - I just didn't STAY there 🙂 

That is a LOT to be thankful for and proud of.  

I wish you peace on this painful journey.

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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TimT
Amen.
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Resilience2017
Brilliant summary! Wish that I had read this 2 1/2 years ago. 
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Blessedby7
Thrive, I'm curious. I've seen you say over and over that you've weathered this and it' has made you a stronger and better person. I know there are many here that would have a hard and fast "if it happens again, I'm gone" rule, but I wonder your take on this?  Would you consider it another storm, and take the same stance again, or would that be the end for you?  I'm not thinking right now while things are still fairly fresh, I'm talking 10 or 15 years down the road.  I'm seeing some very positive things the last few days from my WS, but it also still scares me to think 10 years from now it could happen again.  Even if we were to come together and be better than ever, I just can't see weathering this storm again with the same person. I know we can't live in fear, I just don't see me being quite as affected, and way more willing to just get up and walk out. I'm not sure I'm making sense, tired mom brain has me... lol. I guess I'm just curious your take in it. 
Female BS
Dday 10/12/2018

Renewing myself one day at a time. 
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ThrivenotSurvive
I don't know that I believe in hard and fast rules anymore.  But I can't imagine ever rebuilding with my husband if he was unfaithful, or for that matter - just dishonest about anything of importance - again.  For a number of reasons:

1.  It would mean that he had not really grown in the ways that were important to me - specifically the ability to have hard, honest discussions BEFORE you do something that you know will hurt someone you profess to love.  I think it would cause me to believe that he just didn't have the capacity to be honest with himself (or me) in the ways that I would need to be happy with a long term partner. 

2.  If he could make the choice to lie and cheat AGAIN - even after watching, listening to and experiencing (up close and personal) the level of pain I experienced from his previous betrayal - it would say something about his character that I would not be able or willing to overlook.  Namely, a lack of true empathy.  And even, in my opinion, a cruel streak. 

One fairly consistent thread among the one-time WS's is that they somehow convinced themselves that a) their spouse would never find out, therefore they'd never be "hurt" 2) If somehow they did, they'd ONLY be angry and disappointed - not devastated, demoralized, possibly suicidal.  Then when DD comes they seem universally amazed by the level of torment they have unleashed - in their spouse, their kids and even themselves.  

So anyone that could go through that and really "be" with their spouse through the slow, painful process of healing and rebuilding - and then blow it up again?  No.  That is pathological in my opinion.  They didn't learn from their mistake the first time when I was open, honest and courageous enough to show them the extent of my pain and extend grace - why should I believe THIS time they'd get it?

Would it be devastating?  Yes.  And I would grieve.  But then I'd pick myself up and get busy creating a life for myself.  By going through this experience I am far more equipped to do so.  And the truth is... I don't think I'd feel that this time has been wasted.  Of course I could be wrong (since we never know how we will REALLY feel until we are there)  but I am one of those people who can't quit on a commitment of any kind unless I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that I have given it everything I could to make it work. 

And I am very confident that I have done that.  When I decided to make an effort at reconciliation - I made myself a promise that I would be as honest with myself and him as I wanted him to be with me. I have held nothing back.  I have shared my pain, my fears, the things I am proud of - and the things that have made me feel shame.  The mistakes I know I have made and how I felt I'd let him down during our marriage.  But I was equally as honest about the ways he had hurt and disappointed me.  I have loved him even when he was unlovable (even to himself.)  I have believed in him when he couldn't believe in himself.  I have offered him the opportunity to regain my trust through effort and consistency when everything in me wanted to run and protect myself.  I was more emotionally courageous than I have ever been in my life.  Frankly, if he is unable to value that as the precious gift it is, I would need to find someone else who can.  

Oddly, I don't know if I would stop loving my husband should that happen.  Maybe, maybe not.  He has had my back a LOT of my life.  We have shared a LOT of good.  That would be hard to forget.  I think it is more likely that I'd feel sorry for him - that he was so weak that he couldn't develop the character necessary to handle things in an honest way.  So, it seems more likely that it would transform the love I have for him from something powerful and deep that binds you as partners, to the kind you feel for a long time friend or ex that you can't respect at the same level anymore, but you also feel compassion for.  

Hope that makes sense.  It makes sense in my head - but it's a pretty dense maze in there, lol.  
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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anthro
One fairly consistent thread among the one-time WS's is that they somehow convinced themselves that a) their spouse would never find out, therefore they'd never be "hurt" 2) If somehow they did, they'd ONLY be angry and disappointed - not devastated, demoralized, possibly suicidal.  Then when DD comes they seem universally amazed by the level of torment they have unleashed - in their spouse, their kids and even themselves.


There is that distinction between the cheating and the lying. As far as the cheating goes, I think anyone can accept at least on some level that it's possible to be attracted to someone you're not married to. To some degree the motive, at least, for having sex with someone other than your spouse is understandable. And not realising how devastating the damage will be is also sort of understandable - I wouldn't really have expected it to be as bad as it is.

That still, for me, leaves a gap - a thing I really can't understand and the thing I have the most trouble working with: the lying, the extended, wholesale, brazen lying. We are talking about adults here, and I just don't get how adults can justify lying to their partner. How does a person in their 30s, 40s, 50s actually need to "grow" to learn not to lie to their spouse? How is it something they need to learn rather than just a fundamental difference in the kind of person they are? It seems to me like it's always going to be driven by (a) cowardice and (b) a lack of integrity. Do those things actually change in 40 year olds? 

I think of that episode of Seinfeld when George Costanza fled a burning building without trying to rescue the kids. Nothing makes me think that kind of guy isn't going to be just as chicken and just as selfish the next time a building's on fire. It's ONLY when tested that you learn this about a person. No matter how good they look when things are okay, how can they show you they'll be brave and honest and selfless next time the sh!t hits the fan?
Formerly known as Anthropoidape... male bs, long affair, d-day Feb 2017.
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ThrivenotSurvive
A couple thoughts (not conclusions):

I see what you are saying but they don't seem as different to me.  

Attraction and desire for someone else are something we've all experienced and on some level understandable - but if acted on leads to infidelity.  

Wanting to hide things that we don't like about ourselves, that we think are failings, or weaknesses - whether it is a wish to be desired, or a level of neediness that we don't think is "acceptable" etc., is something that most of us HAVE experienced (at least I have) - but if acted on leads you to lie.  

To me both are understandable - but also both show weakness.  A lack of courage to face yourself, your needs and get them met honestly.
 
Another thing is that many so-called adults AREN'T.  They are trapped in behaviors and habitual ways of thinking/relating that were formed in their toddler years.  Our pre-frontal cortex doesn't come online fully until in our twenties - and yet we are creatures of HABIT - particularly under stress.  Those habits were formed LONG before we were using critical thinking.  

So let's say, that like my husband, you were raised in a dysfunctional home of an alcoholic Father and a Mother that didn't discuss "unpleasant things".  You were told from an early age both in words and actions, that emotions weren't to be discussed and an emotional "needs" for comfort, etc. were for "weak" people.  You were rewarded for NOT needing anything and getting your needs met outside of the home.   What my husband learned was to take care of himself, ask for nothing and that his mother preferred if he lied to her rather than burdening her with things she didn't want to think about.  He brought ALL that baggage with him to our relationship.  For a long time it worked - because I had been raised by someone that valued emotional intelligence and I could usually sense, understand and meet my husband' needs/emotions without him having to ASK for anything.  It wasn't until we went through a long period where we had to live apart and I was distracted by other family member's needs that I couldn't run interference for him WITH HIMSELF that he spiraled.  

He had the emotional coping skills of a toddler in a successful, intelligent man's body.  He had no idea how to deal with the overwhelming depression following his father's death, the loneliness he felt in a strange city with no family or friends (only work acquaintances) and ashamed that he felt any of these things.  He'd been trained to believe it was weak - and that rather than burden those he loved with his weakness, it was his responsibility to put his big boy pants on and "deal" with it.  

Granted, had he used his pre-frontal cortex to process any of this, he'd have made better decisions.  But like most people, under great stress he used the same faulty coping mechanisms he'd used as a child - hide your pain, pretend everything is okay and find something to distract yourself (alcohol, acting out, attention, etc.)  And lie about all of it, because no one wants to be bothered with your mess.  They just want it to look good on the surface.  

It wasn't until he realized that he was still acting like that child - at the ripe age of 47 that he became determined to learn new, better coping mechanisms.  And more importantly, to practice them over and over until they became habit - so that the next time he was under stress THAT is the coping mechanism he would instinctively use.  

Lastly - I already think those that stay and commit to REALLY looking at themselves and learning new emotional skills,  who challenge themselves to look at unhealthy patterns, who commit and act on transparency - and really work with their spouse to help heal the marriage have already showed you that they aren't going to run out of the burning building the next time.  Because currently YOU and your marriage ARE A BURNING BUILDING.  If they were committed to staying that person, they'd be hauling **s from YOU right now.  

I don't know if this is right - it is just how I look at it.
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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Blessedby7
I think you hit the nail on the head, Thrive. If they are willing to stay through the mess and try, really try, even though they often fail miserably at it, that means a lot. To do it AGAIN, especially if done after years of good, that would just be a level of low I don't even want to comprehend. But I like how you talk about them learning a whole new set of habits to fall on, and that actually gives me another direction to go in explaining to my husband the need for therapy, to help us build those new sets if habits, for both of us. 
Female BS
Dday 10/12/2018

Renewing myself one day at a time. 
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anthro
I suppose the real proof will lie in what he does next time he's seriously tested.
Formerly known as Anthropoidape... male bs, long affair, d-day Feb 2017.
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ThrivenotSurvive

That is certainly true.  I've thought a lot about that.  I know I am taking a big gamble.  But a new relationship would be a gamble too.  Truthfully, anytime we make ourselves vulnerable to another human being it is a gamble.  With someone new, I wouldn't have this history of them failing (if I knew their history really well, otherwise I'd have to take their word for it.)  But I also wouldn't know if they'd ever been tested.  Had they been tested and not failed - or just never tested?

And in addition, where do I file all the times my husband was tested throughout our marriage and didn't fail?  All the times he begged me to spend time with him and our daughter, but I went back to work instead because I was "needed there", all the times when I slept through the carefully planned holiday (by him) because I was exhausted by work?  Or the times he held me up when I was grieving the death of my grandparents (who were like second parents to me?) Or cheered me on for a work promotion even though he'd prefer I take a step back - but knew it was important to me? Or stood by my side telling me it would be okay, while we watched everything we'd spent our 20s and 30s building disappear nearly overnight, leaving us nearly 500k in debt when the 2007 real estate collapse happened (we'd invested in a real estate business)? I could go on, but you get the idea.  He had a LOT of times he was tested that he not only didn't fail me, he put his back into supporting me. 

Over and over again he didn't fail  - for 25 years.  It wasn't until we had to live apart for almost two years, not long after his father's death and still under tremendous financial strain.  Well, technically that isn't true.  We didn't HAVE TO live apart - I choose to, so I could help our daughter transition from high school to college and help my parents (who were losing their home because of the same business) pack and move across country.  He wanted me with him. 

And therein lies the rub - because that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  He knew it was a choice.  And it hurt him at a really, really deep level.  He felt abandoned.  He wanted me to be there for him - like he'd always been there for me.  I was finally not working and COULD be with him.  But now instead of putting work ahead of him, I'd now found a new reason (in his mind).  Unlike me - he couldn't SAY it.  It sounded weak and needy. So he didn't and instead used a selfish and weak way of making himself feel like he mattered.  Does that make it okay?  NO.  It was still weak and selfish.  The adult thing would have been to tell me how he was feeling, but he didn't have the skills or the courage to make himself that vulnerable - I think because on some level he was afraid I still wouldn't chose him. It wasn't true - but his fear and hurt and resentment built up over years made him believe it.  

So I wonder - does one MASSIVE failure negate everything a person has done right?  For me it doesn't.  Maybe if he'd failed me over and over in a variety of ways, or not treated me with love, kindness and support for a LOT of our life together - maybe I'd feel differently.  But for me I can't look at this in a vacuum, I have to look at it in the context of our lives.  And in that context,  he'd run into 10-15 burning buildings over years.  And then one day, when he was at his lowest point, he didn't run into one.   And he's regretted it ever since.  I think the odds are good that he won't ever skip one again, but it's a chance I have to take if I want to stay with him.  Or a chance I have to take with someone else if I want to experience love and intimacy again.  And I do.  So it is a chance I am willing to take.  

But again - I am only explaining how I feel.  This is specific to my life, my marriage and I am willing to live with the consequences of my choices.  I am NOT suggesting that it applies to someone else's life or that they should see it the same.  Every situation, every marriage. every set of people are different.  it's why I have never felt that a one size fits all approach can work in such complex situations.

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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Cheryl

Thrive I so admire your words of wisdom! I have been following this thread and a lot of what you said is so similar to my own situation… It has been 2 1/2 years since DD.  We were just approaching our 25th anniversary when I found out. It totally blindsided & devastated me. It was something I would’ve never expected from him! It has broken my heart I am afraid beyond repair!  We have decided to stay in the marriage and went to counseling for a short time at the beginning. He has been extremely attentive and I know that he is very sorry for what he has put me through. My problem is I am not totally convinced that he’s sorry for the affair itself. The AP is someone he has known all his life… on the day that I found out he described her as his best friend and first love! They had not seen each other for many many many years… I have never even met her. I couldn’t understand why he would consider her his best friend when he hadn’t had contact with her in over 25 years or more!! Through the course of discovery I found out that they had been in contact with each other for at least a year... According to my husband when her husband passed away is when their connection began. At the time she was living in Florida. She subsequently moved back to our area and that was when they had their first physical relationship in the affair. In the first few months I got very good at uncovering information... emails , phone calls. I discovered they have been talking to each other almost every day and multiple times in a day. I even saw evidence of him talking to her on Christmas Eve, the day before our anniversary etc. It was heartbreaking! I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been not realizing what was going on.
there are so many feelings and emotions that have been a roller coaster for the last 2 1/2 years as you only know too well! My biggest issue right now is trust… He has stayed in the marriage & he is trying very hard to be attentive and kind. My concern is is he doing it for me or is he doing it for himself?  He is a man that never shows his feelings or talks about them so it has been extremely difficult. He also is very concerned about how others see him. There are only two other people who know about the affair...my very good friend and mentor and her husband. My friend has been my rock through this whole ordeal. She has since moved away but we still stay in contact and when she comes into town we visit. A part of me feels like I have nowhere to go with what’s going on inside of me. We chose not to tell anyone else and partially I think that was my decision because I knew how much it would devastate him. 

I need to apologize… I feel like I’m trying to summarize 2 1/2 years into this post and it is very difficult to do!! Mainly what I am concerned about is the fact that because of my husband’s inability to discuss his emotions I feel like we never talk about the affair anymore... since the beginning if we did talk about it it was me initiating the conversation and if I had questions the answers had to be pulled out of him! Even our therapist recognized that!  I have actually just gotten tired of asking and working so hard at getting answers that I just don’t say anything anymore. I really believe that if he would’ve been open and honest with me at the beginning we would be a lot further than we are now. I am not sure that he even thinks there is an issue anymore we’ve just kind of settled into this day-to-day life that is mediocre. My concern is that a few months ago I found evidence that her name had been in his contact list since 2010… Supposedly the airfare was only 2016 to 2017. This is where I am having difficulty trusting I feel like he is not being open and honest with me about the entire relationship and what it meant to him. Part of me believes that we’re just kind of stuck in this relationship now because we’re just tired and old!  In the 2 1/2 years since DD I have not only been going through this emotional roller coaster but I have had a hip replacement,  surgery on my foot and now my other hip may be in need of a replacement. I feel as though I am done...both emotionally & physically.  

I have to clarify that he has been extremely kind, caring and nurturing. It’s just that I don’t feel he has been totally honest with me emotionally! I feel we have lost what we once had and that it may never come back.  When I originally met my husband I was a young widow with three children. He became the love of my life & Brought joy back into my life again! I can’t imagine my life without him but I am having a difficult time reclaiming those feelings we once had for each other.  I have come to believe that I just need to accept  where we are now and finish out our lives...I am afraid of the alternative route with me no life without him. I guess my question is where are you ever at a point where you felt similar to this in your healing. Is there still hope you had for us to read green at least some of what we had at the beginning of our relationship  I am afraid of the alternative route with me no life without him. I guess my question is where  you ever at a point where you felt similar to this in your healing?  Is there still hope for us to regain at least some of what we had at the beginning of our relationship?
So sorry for this extremely long post!

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Cheryl

Thrive I so admire your words of wisdom! I have been following this thread and a lot of what you said is so similar to my own situation… It has been 2 1/2 years since DD.  We were just approaching our 25th anniversary when I found out. It totally blindsided & devastated me. It was something I would’ve never expected from him! It has broken my heart I am afraid beyond repair!  We have decided to stay in the marriage and went to counseling for a short time at the beginning. He has been extremely attentive and I know that he is very sorry for what he has put me through. My problem is I am not totally convinced that he’s sorry for the affair itself. The AP is someone he has known all his life… on the day that I found out he described her as his best friend and first love! They had not seen each other for many many many years… I have never even met her. I couldn’t understand why he would consider her his best friend when he hadn’t had contact with her in over 25 years or more!! Through the course of discovery I found out that they had been in contact with each other for at least a year... According to my husband when her husband passed away is when their connection began. At the time she was living in Florida. She subsequently moved back to our area and that was when they had their first physical relationship in the affair. In the first few months I got very good at uncovering information... emails , phone calls. I discovered they have been talking to each other almost every day and multiple times in a day. I even saw evidence of him talking to her on Christmas Eve, the day before our anniversary etc. It was heartbreaking! I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been not realizing what was going on.
there are so many feelings and emotions that have been a roller coaster for the last 2 1/2 years as you only know too well! My biggest issue right now is trust… He has stayed in the marriage & he is trying very hard to be attentive and kind. My concern is is he doing it for me or is he doing it for himself?  He is a man that never shows his feelings or talks about them so it has been extremely difficult. He also is very concerned about how others see him. There are only two other people who know about the affair...my very good friend and mentor and her husband. My friend has been my rock through this whole ordeal. She has since moved away but we still stay in contact and when she comes into town we visit. A part of me feels like I have nowhere to go with what’s going on inside of me. We chose not to tell anyone else and partially I think that was my decision because I knew how much it would devastate him. 

I need to apologize… I feel like I’m trying to summarize 2 1/2 years into this post and it is very difficult to do!! Mainly what I am concerned about is the fact that because of my husband’s inability to discuss his emotions I feel like we never talk about the affair anymore... since the beginning if we did talk about it it was me initiating the conversation and if I had questions the answers had to be pulled out of him! Even our therapist recognized that!  I have actually just gotten tired of asking and working so hard at getting answers that I just don’t say anything anymore. I really believe that if he would’ve been open and honest with me at the beginning we would be a lot further than we are now. I am not sure that he even thinks there is an issue anymore we’ve just kind of settled into this day-to-day life that is mediocre. My concern is that a few months ago I found evidence that her name had been in his contact list since 2010… Supposedly the airfare was only 2016 to 2017. This is where I am having difficulty trusting I feel like he is not being open and honest with me about the entire relationship and what it meant to him. Part of me believes that we’re just kind of stuck in this relationship now because we’re just tired and old!  In the 2 1/2 years since DD I have not only been going through this emotional roller coaster but I have had a hip replacement,  surgery on my foot and now my other hip may be in need of a replacement. I feel as though I am done...both emotionally & physically.  

I have to clarify that he has been extremely kind, caring and nurturing. It’s just that I don’t feel he has been totally honest with me emotionally! I feel we have lost what we once had and that it may never come back.  When I originally met my husband I was a young widow with three children. He became the love of my life & Brought joy back into my life again! I can’t imagine my life without him but I am having a difficult time reclaiming those feelings we once had for each other.  I have come to believe that I just need to accept  where we are now and finish out our lives...I am afraid of the alternative route with me no life without him. I guess my question is where are you ever at a point where you felt similar to this in your healing. Is there still hope you had for us to read green at least some of what we had at the beginning of our relationship  I am afraid of the alternative route with me no life without him. I guess my question is where  you ever at a point where you felt similar to this in your healing?  Is there still hope for us to regain at least some of what we had at the beginning of our relationship?
So sorry for this extremely long post!

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ThrivenotSurvive
Thank you.  I hope by hearing other's stories it can help people see their own situations more clearly - or at least through a different lens.  I've put some thoughts on what you've shared below.  PLEASE understand that I am not a professional and I have only what you've told me to go off of - so my opinions could be totally off.  ALWAYS filter anything I, or anyone else on here, says through what YOU know about yourself and your husband.  At the end of the day, you are the expert on your life.  

Cheryl wrote:

My concern is is he doing it for me or is he doing it for himself?  Unless your husband recently became a saint, it is likely both for you AND for himself.  Very few people in this world, especially people who have previously been selfish enough to have affairs can keep up a facade of love and care for months, much less years without wanting to do so.  

He is a man that never shows his feelings or talks about them so it has been extremely difficult.   This is a problem.  When you can't label and talk about your emotions it is hard to  1) know what the heck you want and why 2) get your needs met 3) let anyone really KNOW you, because you may not even know yourself that well.


He also is very concerned about how others see him.  Depending to what level this goes, this can also be a problem.  We ALL care to some extent what people think of us.  BUT if it sways your decision making process substantially it can trap you into doing what you think you are "supposed" to do - and then resenting it.  Interestingly, sometimes when people stop caring so much about what others think - they realize that they still want the "correct" thing - but stop resenting it because now they KNOW they are doing it by choice, not pressure.  It is human nature to not want to be "forced" to do anything.  

There are only two other people who know about the affair...my very good friend and mentor and her husband. My friend has been my rock through this whole ordeal. She has since moved away but we still stay in contact and when she comes into town we visit. A part of me feels like I have nowhere to go with what’s going on inside of me. We chose not to tell anyone else and partially I think that was my decision because I knew how much it would devastate him.  Do not let yourself become isolated in order to protect him.  I am not saying to send out a Facebook announcement (lol) but if you need to have more support - even from people who know him, do it.  On one hand, I think it is REALLY good to have people that don't know that you can spend time with.  Sometimes it gets OLD having such a private part of your life on display.  BUT I also think that the secrecy about it can be harmful to both parties.  For the BS it can add to the feelings of shame.  Like somehow YOU should be ashamed of THEIR wrongdoing.  And for the WS it allows them to keep lying about who they are (like it or not, this has become a part of them now.  It may not be all of them - but it is a part of them.)  And that need for a facade was often a large part of how they got in trouble in the first place.  INTEGRITY is being INTEGRATED.  It means being able to own all of yourself - the good and the bad.  The parts you are proud of, and the parts you aren't.  

So my OPINION is that there should be at least a few key people in their life that they reveal themselves to fully - warts and all.  Hopefully, you - their spouse, is one of those people.  But in addition there should be a few more - a best friend, a parent, a sibling - someone who loves them - but will also hold them accountable.  The best people are those who are going to show compassion - but also be willing to call them on their bullsh*t.  We all have those friends that can talk truth to us - even when we don't want to hear it.  If we don't, we are the lesser for it.  These are the people to lean on now.  

I thought I wanted a divorce at first so I made my husband tell his family and friends - and I told mine.  While there were times that I wished it could be a little more private, I think it was good for my husband to see that his family and friends still loved him (he felt unlovable and nonredeemable.) But it was equally important for him to see how hurt and disappointed they were.  It was one of the first times he ever had to deal with failing quite so publicly.  It was very, very hard on him to not be the "perfect" child of his family anymore.  But he GREW from the experience and became comfortable with being himself - and that it was "enough."

I need to apologize… I feel like I’m trying to summarize 2 1/2 years into this post and it is very difficult to do!! Don't be sorry - we've all been there.  

Mainly what I am concerned about is the fact that because of my husband’s inability to discuss his emotions I feel like we never talk about the affair anymore... since the beginning if we did talk about it it was me initiating the conversation and if I had questions the answers had to be pulled out of him! Even our therapist recognized that!  I have actually just gotten tired of asking and working so hard at getting answers that I just don’t say anything anymore. I really believe that if he would’ve been open and honest with me at the beginning we would be a lot further than we are now. I am not sure that he even thinks there is an issue anymore we’ve just kind of settled into this day-to-day life that is mediocre.   Here's where it gets hard - because I have to tell you the truth (as I see it.) Most (if not all) of the really successful reconciliations I have seen ALL included the WS learning how to understand and communicate their emotions better.  I know that for me, this was the very foundation of rebuilding.  For many reasons, but with the two most important being - 1) A large part of how he got himself into the mess was NOT knowing himself.  Not understanding his emotions or how to apply critical thinking to them.  This led to him not being honest with himself or me about what he was feeling and how disconnected to me he felt.  That left a gap and then once he became attracted to someone paying him a lot of attention, that same inability to be honest about what he was feeling and thinking let him think it was "only friends"  - until it wasn't.  2) If he cant talk about his emotions with you - how can you ever REALLY know him?  How can you feel close to him?  How can you feel like you understand both how he made the choices he did before - and why you should have any reason to believe that it won't happen again?  If someone has done the work to really understand that in themselves - and can explain it to you - they've created neural pathways in their brain that will be triggered in similar circumstances.  Will it keep them from doing it again 100%?  No.  But it will be triggered - and it will cause them to remember both what they learned previously along with all the related experiences - and what they decided to do to if this happened again.  They will be much more conscious about their choices and it is a lot more likely they will not choose to go down that road again.  

But those that chose to never reflect on it - to NOT do the self-exploration necessary to uncover the REAL reasons why, in turn, do NOT make those neural pathways.  All they have is a series of memories fraught with emotion - some good, some bad - but with no context, no critical reasoning applied, no WISDOM.  That, in my opinion, is a minefield waiting to blow.  

My concern is that a few months ago I found evidence that her name had been in his contact list since 2010… Supposedly the airfare was only 2016 to 2017. This is where I am having difficulty trusting I feel like he is not being open and honest with me about the entire relationship and what it meant to him.  You need to feel comfortable to bring this up and have an honest exploration of this with him.  They could easily have reconnected as just friends back then (I have people on my list I've talked to maybe once in 5 years).  At that point her husband was alive and she may have just made a limited contact with an old friend.  The nature of the relationship may have only changed after her husband's death (as he said).  Grief makes people do stupid things.  BUT, they may have had an emotional affair going on long before.  I suggest you talk to him about it.  Try to calm yourself emotionally ( I know how hard this is.) The calmer you are, the better your 'gut" will read how honest he is being.  You could also do some hard core digital digging (there are tutorials galore on the web if you look.)  At some point though, to get to a really rewarding marriage - you need to reach a place TOGETHER where you can trust that he will tell you the truth when asked - even if you aren't going to like the answer.  And you can only get to that place together.  With him being willing to be that vulnerable - and you doing your best not to attack him if he does share something you didn't really want to hear.  

Part of me believes that we’re just kind of stuck in this relationship now because we’re just tired and old!  In the 2 1/2 years since DD I have not only been going through this emotional roller coaster but I have had a hip replacement,  surgery on my foot and now my other hip may be in need of a replacement. I feel as though I am done...both emotionally & physically.  I can understand that and I am sorry you have had to endure so much over the past few years physically and emotionally.  But remember it is a feeling.   And feelings aren't truth. 

Have you taken time to sit back and REALLY think about what YOU want?  Sometimes we can get so trapped in trying to keep the life we had (which I am afraid is gone - it can be great - but it will never be the same), that we forget to make 100% sure we want the life we are fighting for.  For a week or two I want you not to think at ALL about how he feels about YOU - and instead - pay attention to how YOU feel about him.  Do you enjoy spending time with him?  Does he still make you laugh?  Do you have hobbies or things you enjoy doing together?  Do you look forward to seeing him?  Really notice how you feel when he touches you, when he talks to you.  Before you pull out all the stops to deepen this
relationship, make sure you know that you really want it - and why.  

I have to clarify that he has been extremely kind, caring and nurturing. Good!  That's a lot and it means that at a minimum there is still great love and caring between you.  Your feelings matter to him - he isn't just nice to you in front of other people and then forgets you when they aren't looking.  He isn't doing this just to "look good".

It’s just that I don’t feel he has been totally honest with me emotionally! I would venture to say that he probably hasn't been entirely honest with himself - or even understands REALLY why he did it.  He has likely just tried to put it in a box labeled DO NOT OPEN and stuck it in the corner of his mind.  A lot of what he told you sounds like the stuff people say in the beginning - and then later with time, reflection and some distance from all those neurochemicals they start to realize that there was a lot more going on.  That it almost always had to do more with them trying to reconnect with some part of themselves they felt they'd lost (youth, success, sexiness, etc.) - through another person.  Which never works in the long run (whether it is in a legit relationship or an affair) - but it's never stopped humans from trying to do it.  

I feel we have lost what we once had and that it may never come back.  When I originally met my husband I was a young widow with three children. He became the love of my life & Brought joy back into my life again! I can’t imagine my life without him but I am having a difficult time reclaiming those feelings we once had for each other.  I think this is largely because you feel like you are on the outside looking in.  He became someone you didn't recognize or understand and instead of being able to show you that part of himself, he's keeping it locked away.  So you no longer have that feeling of knowing this person -  and them knowing you - better than anyone else in the world.  That is key to real intimacy - and it is missing because he doesn't seem to have the courage to make himself that vulnerable, that transparent.  For him, it is likely due to shame and feelings of conflict in him that haven't been resolved because he still doesn't really understand how he got to where he did.

I have come to believe that I just need to accept  where we are now and finish out our lives...I am afraid of the alternative route with me no life without him. Really?  I think if you were truly resigned to that you wouldn't be here.  I think once you have had that kind of connection, it is really, really hard to settle for anything less.  Depending on how open your husband is to working on transparency and vulnerability I'd say there is good reason to believe you could get back there.  The way you write about your husband shows there is a lot of love left - and how he is treating you says the same.  At 2.5 years later it has been long enough to have become lazy if he wasn't invested. 

I guess my question is where are you ever at a point where you felt similar to this in your healing.  Yes, as I've mentioned my husband had to grow a LOT in those first couple years after DD.  Going through that learning curve with him tested my patience and commitment MANY times.  There were times I worried that by the time he'd learned enough to be the kind of husband I wanted, I'd have grown weary of dealing with it all and left him.  This is where putting in time frames to reassess helped me a lot.  These kinds of changes don't happen overnight.  They have to be practiced and assimilated over time.  So I would set 6 months time alerts in my phone.  When they went off, I'd look at where we had been 6 months ago and where we were now - and if we were still improving, growing closer, if he was still making gains in empathy, understanding, etc. than I would commit to another 6 months.  Until I didn't need to, because he'd grown enough that I thought - even if he never gets past here - I feel safe with this person.  Of course, by the time they get there they've learned the power of emotional intelligence to improve their lives and make them happier, more fulfilled.  So, they don't typically stop growing at that point. 

Is there still hope for us to regain at least some of what we had at the beginning of our relationship?  Yes.  But you can't regain it alone.  You both have to not just want to feel that way - you have to be willing and able to work for it.  To being willing to put yourself out there and ask for what you want even when it is scary.  To be honest when it would be easier to let things go and just be "pleasant".  To be firm about what you need - even when they are reluctant - and to know that you are worth it.  I will say that by not being able to see a life without him, you put yourself at a disadvantage.  I think part of my husband's motivation in the beginning to do things that I asked (that he really, really did not want to do) was that he 100% believed me when I said that even though I loved him, I'd leave him if he couldn't make me feel safe again.  I was unwilling to live in fear for the rest of my life - and him learning how to be vulnerable and transparent - while gaining some new emotional skills were the only way I could see being with him safely. 



You are always welcome to reach out.  Sometimes I am really busy and can't write back as quickly as I'd like, but I will always respond as soon as I can.  

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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Cheryl

First of all I need to apologize… Not sure how my post got posted twice! 

Thank you so much for your response. You have given me quite a bit to think about!  You and your husband seem to have come a very long way since DD.  You are an example of how hard work,  patience, and understanding can not only help but strengthen the healing process!  Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Cheryl

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ThrivenotSurvive
Thank you - we have come a long way.  I actually really, really like where we are now.  

When I look back, it is easy to see that over the long years of overworking, raising our daughter, building and losing a business, etc we had lost a certain level of emotional intimacy without even realizing it.  It was so gradual and we still loved each other so much it was easy to miss.  

It is hard to accept that the impetus for regaining that connection and the changes in my husband that allow him to be a much more tender and compassionate man, were the worst experience of my life.  That it took almost losing our marriage to see the depth of its value.  

I wish I had been less complacent - and braver in asking for emotional growth long before.  I knew it was needed, but it was easier to just smooth everything over for him.  I wish he’d been stronger and wiser - and honest with himself about what he really needed and wanted. 

But we can’t rewrite history.  We can only determine what it will mean to our future - how it will impact us going forward.  So we’ve chosen (and worked hard) to take the unlikely hidden gifts in a situation like this and make the most of them. But trust me - it was hard won and there were many, many dark nights to get here. 

Best wishes to you and a Merry Christmas to you and your family!
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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