TimT
...don't pitch your tent in the cemetery!

We want our marriage to last a lifetime. We start with promises of faithfulness and endurance, believing our union will survive any challenge we might face "in sickness or in health." Most do; some even thrive. But many marriages die in ways never anticipated.
 
When the death of a marriage is a mutual choice between two partners, grieving its loss may be a short-term process. Their decision to pull the plug likely follows a period of prolonged suffering that may even make divorce feel like relief. Similar to a funeral, partners make the appropriate arrangements, pay their final respects, bury the marriage, and move on with their lives.
 
But a marriage killed by betrayal is not so easily mourned. 
 
The focus of my work is on helping couples survive an affair, but anyone working in this field can speak to the devastation caused by infidelity. Many marriages end because too much damage has been done or because the unfaithful partner chooses the lover over the spouse. These marital deaths are usually unexpected and sudden, leaving the betrayed spouse in a state confused grief. Here's how one client described her condition:
 
"I never, ever expected to be here. I thought our 23 years of marriage was just the first half of what we would share together. We talked about our future; we made plans. Then one day I find out he's in love with [another woman]. Without warning, he's gone. He's not coming back... 
 
"No matter how many times people tell me 'things will get better,' that's hard to believe when all I feel is sadness. I wonder if I'll ever get over this."
 
Grief is a normal, necessary part of healing. The level of pain and sadness experienced after betrayal will usually require a period of grieving. But you need to eventually let go of the dead thing. You need to leave the cemetery.
 
Here are the steps I recommend for you:
 
1. Decide that you have more living to do.
 
Instead of thinking your life has died with your marriage, choose to believe that there are parts of your story waiting to be written. Even if you're not ready to take full control of your future right now, at least acknowledge that it is in your power to do so. Regardless of circumstances (yes, they will be difficult), you get to choose what story you will tell. You can decide who you will become.
 
2. Begin to grieve intentionally.
 
When  first confronted with unexpected loss, you needed to let grief have its way. The depth of loss and sorrow you felt needed to be expressed, not controlled. As time goes on, however, you should require less time for mourning.
 
I encourage clients to begin the process of moving away from grief by being more intentional. You still need to process the pain, but you can begin taking more control of the time and places you allow yourself to grieve. Your attention to loss was once a vigil; now it should become a visit you make when necessary.
 
3. Choose to get involved with life again.
 
If you wait until you feel like doing this, you'll probably wait too long. Some people, in fact, never re-engage with life. But that doesn't have to be you. 
 
Every day, make the choice to walk out of the cemetery and interact with the world around you. To encourage a quicker return to emotional recovery, make special effort to include one or more of the following in whatever you do:
  • FRIENDS: Don't isolate. Engage with people who care about you. While you're with them, be sure to focus on what is going on in their lives, too.
  • PASSIONS: Do things you love doing. Maybe this is a time to return to interests you had as a child. Or explore new and interesting opportunities. If you think you might like doing something, TRY it!
  • SERVICE: Find ways to help others. Putting yourself in situations that require attention to the needs of others is one of the most effective ways of taking the focus off of yourself. You may feel like you've got nothing to give, but that's not true. I guarantee that you've got something (time, attention, talent, ability, effort, gifts, etc.) that someone else needs. If you're not sure, put the word out that you've got some time to volunteer and doors will open.
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Intuition77
I could use some advice for dealing with this. I'm in therapy & it's helping yet my mind still spins with all of it-what he did,how he could do it, how could he just not care, what all he lied about (he never came clean with hardly any info & continued to lie much more & even went back on things he previously admitted to). My therapist really wants me to focus on me, which I agree with but there's this pain & anger and all these questions about MY life. What was a lie? What wasn't? What was really happening this day or month? Why did he do or say this did he mean that, was that about the affair etc?

And I really don't know what to do with the pain & anger. I workout, I keep myself
busy, I talk to friends, I try writing & being creative & it still crops up. I find myself envious when I read how some have unfaithful spouses who owned it all & wanted to be honest & help them heal. I feel like even if he didn't want the marriage he owed me the truth & to help me heal and he didn't. What do I do with all that anger pain and questions I'll never get honest answers to? How do I let that go? And how do I let it go without it making me bitter & distrustful in the future of others?

Because that's a huge source of my anger. That if he wanted out he could have done so without wounding me so greatly that it changed who I was, what I believed in, how I felt about marriage & love and my ability to trust-myself & others. I'm constantly trying to get back my trust in myself, my intuition (hence the screen name) and it's so difficult when you don't know what's real & what wasn't.
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TimT
Intuition77 wrote:
I really don't know what to do with the pain & anger. I workout, I keep myself busy, I talk to friends, I try writing & being creative & it still crops up. I find myself envious when I read how some have unfaithful spouses who owned it all & wanted to be honest & help them heal. I feel like even if he didn't want the marriage he owed me the truth & to help me heal and he didn't. What do I do with all that anger pain and questions I'll never get honest answers to? How do I let that go? And how do I let it go without it making me bitter & distrustful in the future of others?


You're doing the right things, including going to counseling. But you've been through a trauma, and it takes time to heal from that. Even if you were doing everything 100% right as far as healing goes, there is no substitute for time. Be patient; it will get better.

And if you haven't read these, you might want to take a look:
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Dinomus
I feel like I'm moving in a more positive direction but still feel very lost.
My husband asked for a separation last August and I found out (not from him but from pictures on Instagram) that he was having an affair. I tried to give him chances. He kept going back to her. We went through the motions for the separation - selling our condo - writing an agreement. He is now living with her. I have been going to counseling. Trying to pamper myself as much as possible. Address the negative things I know I brought to the relationship. He only has been talking to me when it works for him. If he needed something. It was very one sided. I have tried to be supportive of positive things he is doing. But he is still with her and doesn't seem to want to get back together.
A couple weeks ago I asked for some time with no communication. To focus on myself. Because talking to him pulls me back in and hurts me again and again knowing he is with her.
He told me shortly after he loves me, he got lost, not to forget him. He misses me. I haven't heard from him since over a week ago now. I don't know how to take his words. Because of the lying I feel like he is just saying it but might not mean it. Actions speak louder than words. I miss talking to him but want to follow through with this time for myself. I have wanted this to work. But I can't read him and am not sure what the best course of action is anymore. Any thoughts/advice would be great!
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Fionarob
Hi Dinomus

I am a betrayed spouse but my husband never left me to be with his AP, so I am maybe not completely 'qualified' to give you advice!  I sympathise with your situation though, as we did come very close to separating - I also gave him many chances and he kept going back to her.  But when it came to the crunch and I asked him to leave he begged for one last chance.  So that's where we are right now.
All I can say is I had imagined in my mind what I would do once he had left.  I was so angry at his choices that I knew I would cut him out of my life.  I would not have let him meet up with me or 'phone me if he was missing me.  I would not have wanted to listen to his 'good news' or share anything about what I had been up to.  I would have been quite determined to start afresh without him and start doing something for me finally.  It sounds like your husband has the best of both worlds - he is living with his AP and also getting to keep you in his life too.
Why does he not want you to forget him? Is he asking you to wait for him in case he decides he has made a mistake and wants you back?  This is not a fair situation to put you in.  My instinct is telling me you are doing the right thing in working on yourself and starting a life on your own.  If your husband is scared of loosing you forever and is starting to think he has made a mistake then, sooner or later he might make the decision that he wants you back.  But I don't think he should be keeping you waiting like this.....it's just not fair. 
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TimT
Dinomus wrote:
...He only has been talking to me when it works for him. If he needed something. It was very one sided... he is still with her and doesn't seem to want to get back together. A couple weeks ago I asked for some time with no communication. To focus on myself. Because talking to him pulls me back in and hurts me again and again knowing he is with her. He told me... shortly after he loves me, he got lost, not to forget him. He misses me. I haven't heard from him since over a week ago now..

That is not an uncommon response from someone who is still in a double-minded state. The benefit to him is that he can remain undecided for a long time without fear of loosing the safety net he's created in both relationships. (You and the affair partner both willing to let him reconnect when he wants.)

You feel him disconnect with you, but when you try to disconnect from him THEN he says/does the things that keep you from leaving. His words/actions give you hope so you move toward him again, but since you want more than he is willing to give, he backs away from you again. Back-and-forth-and-back...

I've seen this ping-pong game go on for years! (See the attached article for one explanation about what's going on.)

He will probably keep doing this as long as both partners keep reconnecting with him. The pattern probably won't change until one of three things happen: 1. You stop playing the game. 2. The affair partner stops playing the game. 3. He experiences a kind of personal crisis that moves him to a single-minded choice.

YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING. Stay focus on what YOU need to do in order to be healthy. When you stop allowing him to be in control (he has been), things will change. I don't know whether you'll end up with your marriage or not, but you will be in a much healthier situation.

By the way, he won't like you taking this kind of control. At first, he may try to coax you back in the normal ways, but if they don't work anymore he may become angry and even blame you for working against your marriage. ("How am I suppose to figure this out when you shut yourself off from me?!" or something like that.) It's just an effort to regain control. Stick to your path; it's a better one.
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Dinomus
Thank you both so much for confirming in my mind that what I am doing is positive. Thanks for the article Tim. I will try to stay strong in this. Because we haven't lived together for months now it seems a bit hopeless. The only thing left was us talking. It's our last connection holding us together and I have been afraid to let go of that.
Thanks again!
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Dinomus
I just read the article Tim and it really resonated with me. I am going to try the exercises at the end. Thank you!
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Dinomus
I think my husband knows that I want to work things out because I've had that stance the whole time despite his affair. Is it worth saying it again? Saying I would like our marriage to work but I know that he needs to make up his own mind on what he wants in life. He knows that I love him. He seemed shocked when I asked for no communication for awhile.
I had also wanted to send him a letter addressing certain things I knew I could have done better in our marriage. I definitely tried to control and offer my advice and help when things started unraveling and I fear it only pushed him away. I wanted to apologize to him for those things because I have had a lot of time to reflect. 
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Freewill76
In reading your post TimT, I'm doing all those things you have written but the problem is my WS has taken control and I just feel like I have no control over anything. I'm suffering and my kids too because he has put the no contact rule into play. (We have contacted him like he asked ) my WS just left because he couldn't forgive me for all the hurtful things said during the time I found out about his affair and that was all a lie as he said I didn't even know the woman and it was only one time(later found out it was one of his secretaries and not thru himself telling me )
So I guess one of my questions (and there are many questions) is how do I gain control of things?? Even tho I'm doing what you suggest
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TimT
Freewill76 wrote:
In reading your post TimT, I'm doing all those things you have written but the problem is my WS has taken control and I just feel like I have no control over anything. I'm suffering and my kids too because he has put the no contact rule into play. (We have contacted him like he asked ) my WS just left because he couldn't forgive me for all the hurtful things said during the time I found out about his affair and that was all a lie as he said I didn't even know the woman and it was only one time(later found out it was one of his secretaries and not thru himself telling me ) So I guess one of my questions (and there are many questions) is how do I gain control of things?? Even tho I'm doing what you suggest

The short answer to your question (How do I gain control of things?) is: you don't. You can't control the "things" (the circumstances, your husband's choices, etc.). The only thing you have a fair measure of control over is YOU. I understand you have a preferred/hopeful outcome to all this (we all do), but you simply cannot put yourself into the position of feeling that you need to control it because you cannot. The challenge is to move your primary focus on the outcome of your marriage and turn it toward who you are becoming despite the circumstances.

Believe me, I know this is easier said than done, but it is so important to do the work necessary to change your focus. This doesn't mean that you give up on your marriage or that you stop wanting a better outcome. You can be very honest about that and it WILL hurt when you experience him acting in a way that is contrary to that hope. But if that becomes the necessary outcome for you, then you will always be bound by disappointment and fear if he is not cooperating with you.

I know I've posted this before, but let me put it here again, since I think it speaks to this issue. I hope it helps.
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