...He even said the slightest bit of contact with her - just an email every now and again - made the pain bearable. He says he had no intention of ever starting the affair again, that it just helped him deal with the loss. I have no evidence to suggest there was any other contact, but it doesn't really make a difference. NO CONTACT was what he promised me and he has broken that promise.
My question is what do I do now?!!...
I'm going to be blunt. As long as an affair spouse is pursuing contact of any kind with the affair partner, you remain at risk. It is a clear indication that they are not in a place that makes you or your marriage secure. This kind of ongoing contact is never a good indication (or even a neutral indication) of recovery progress in a marriage. It is an indication that your husband not only remains emotionally connected with the affair partner but that he chooses to continue investing in that relationship in a way that brings him comfort. He puts your comfort above yours, and that simply cannot be the case if there is expectation of healing after an affair.
Your husband claims he has no intention of starting the affair again. Let me say a few things in response to that:
- Even if he honestly has no intention of getting back into the affair, he is being naive if he does not recognize the extreme risk. He probably didn't have intention before the affair started in the first place, but it did. And now there is history there and, obviously, an emotional need. It is SO risky. That is why the No-Contact rule is so important.
- His focus on his own comfort at the sacrifice of yours is exactly OPPOSITE of what is required from the unfaithful partner if real recovery is going to happen. He asks you to trust him now with the women who was his lover before. How is that suppose to happen? If roles were reversed, I guarantee he would not be willing to allow your ongoing investment in a relationship with a former lover. Not only is it disrespectful to your marriage, you both probably know that this kind of arrangement often includes ongoing secret connections beyond what is being admitted to.
- Forget trying to wonder whether the affair is going to start again. Whether or not they are having sex, THE INFIDELITY CONTINUES as long as he makes the choice to make investments in any relationship with a former lover.
Let me just point out that my comments here are directed against the spouse who is "pursuing contact of any kind", not to those who are trapped in a temporary circumstance in which contact is required or to those who are being pursued by the affair partner but do not respond to those efforts. In those cases, the unfaithful spouse should be taking responsibility in establishing clear boundaries in the best way possible until circumstances allow for a complete break-off.
What should betrayed spouse do if their unfaithful spouse maintains connection with the affair partner? Well, if the affair was recently discovered then you should expect there to be a period of time in which your spouse is going to be conflicted. You might as well be prepared for that and don't try to establish firm boundaries that set everyone up for failure, especially if there was a strong emotional connection. If you cannot deal with that, then you should probably leave because you will likely be quite frustrated during the turmoil of confusion as your spouse comes to a place of personal clarity regarding his/her choice.
But this "period of grace" in which things are being worked out should only be for a while and there should be eventual evidence of the unfaithful spouse's clear move away from the affair and into the marriage until they become single-minded in their intent and choices. If ongoing connection remains after 1-3 months, you should stop all investment in trying to heal your marriage. Focus on YOU getting healthy. You may still choose to leave the door open for your spouse to come back into the marriage, but stop trying to make that happen. Stop arguing about their relationship with the affair partner. If they don't get it by now, your ongoing insistence won't likely change their mind. Leave them to their infidelity and do not enter back into the relationship again until you hear a clear message of single-minded commitment to your marriage that is backed up by enough time given to consistent behavior that demonstrates their sincerity.
(Be careful not to jump right back into the relationship at the first claim of "Okay, I've cut off all contact" because you've probably heard that multiple times before.)
I'm becoming rather hard-nosed about this. I've been around too many good men and women who had an affair and don't want to lose their marriage, but can't seem to break off all contact with the affair partner, either. For most of them, they do not intend to hurt their spouses again. Most justify their choice as something good or necessary, but they are wrong and they put everyone in extreme vulnerability. You cannot fix a marriage while this continues.