Scuffy

After lurking here for months, I want to acknowledge a debt to Tim for sharing his experience and philosophy about how people should try to rebuild their lives after the wounds of infidelity. Mainly I've profited from the articles, but several of the podcasts – on what to tell the kids, why contact between the affair partners has to end – have also been extraordinarily useful. And I've learned from all of you on this forum as I try to navigate one of the worst moments of my life.

My wife of two decades, 48, the mother of my two young children, had an affair with a man she met through work, and who had, in fact, substantially boosted her career through his influence in the organization in which he works.

(Note: She claims the relationship was "only" emotional, never sexual, but because she lied so much, I don't really trust anything she says about it, so I may never know).

Unlike many others here, I saw it happening in realtime, there was no D-Day gotcha moment. When it got unbearable, when she was lying and denying things for which I had solid evidence, I told her I wanted a divorce. That might have been the end of it; surely it would have been painful, though I'd have eventually moved on. But she had a damascene conversion, and announced that she would end all contact and work on rebuilding our marriage. I wanted to save the family for my little kids, and I'd loved this woman for a long time and couldn't imagine life without her. So I agreed to keep trying.

In fact they were in contact again almost immediately, a pattern was created where she said she wouldn't talk with him again, then I caught her, she repented and said it was over. Many months and thousands of dollars worth of couples counseling later, I realized she had been secretly in contact with him all along, lying to both me and the counselor, essentially manipulating me with deceit while I laid my soul open like a book. (Tim noted in one of the articles that in more than 90 percent of cases he's seen that he can tell the betrayer is still in communication with their affair partner if they say they're having a hard time getting over him or her. Bingo! I'd have skipped a lot of suffering if I'd discovered this website at the very beginning.)

She repeatedly deceived me about what was going on. A few examples: Months after they'd supposedly broken off contact I realized they had an elaborate semaphore system on Cheatbook, sorry Facebook, changing profile photos to signal when to contact one another. I discovered that she had a a disposable calling card, the kind used by terrorists, drug dealers and cheaters, with a secret number to hide her digital tracks. And she broke down and told me that she'd sent him what I would describe as a love letter just a few months ago. 

For me, it's not the infidelity, I understand that "stuff happens"; in fact, I had proposed something like an open marriage when we were first engaged, because the most important thing for me was that whatever happened we must be deliberate and transparent and honest. Rather, it's the deception that has been an acid eating away at our marriage.

She says it REALLY IS ALL OVER NOW, and I don't need to be hypervigilant any longer, that in fact my suspicions are bad for our prospects. She seems contrite and says she's committed to making it work. But I feel like any day I'm going to see the same thing again. The difference is that I have thought through how divorce will work in practical terms and am finally ready to pull the trigger to protect myself if it happens again.

Finally, I have attained "clarity." It's not a happy state, exactly, but one in which I feel confident and resolved. I told her I'd throw her out if she couldn't stop, and I strongly urged her to go voluntarily if she wanted to be with him. This is what clarity means: I'm exasperated and, frankly, bored by this drama, which has paralyzed me at a time when I desperately need to be thinking about my career future.

Here's what I want to know: This is not standard behavior for my wife. I reached for many explanations, including that she was - in her heart - a pathological liar, a manipulative narcissist deliberately out to hurt me, or that she didn't want to be a mother and was unconsciously trying to destroy our family to escape. I told her that she needed serious psychiatric help. I've backed away from those exteme interpretations, but I'm not sure what to think. I've seen some people rationalize affair behavior as being caused by an emotional "fog" - but there's nothing "foggy" about conspiring with your lover to set up a signaling system on Facebook or deliberately going out and obtaining a secret calling card; that's coldly deliberate.

Is this "crazy" behavior? Or is it typical of affairs?



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Heidi
Hi Scuffy. I was so sad to read your story. It sounds as though you've been through hell for months, and you probably know that in these situation the real truth will take even longer to come out.

Your question about why people behave so out of character - and as if they have a personality disorder - in the fog of an affair is one I've asked myself. My H had a 3 week affair with a colleague, which culminated in her coming to our house, spending the night, sleeping in our bed and having sex with my husband all while our poor twelve year old son was asleep in the next room. Then she refused to leave the next day, and my son neatly discovered her a number of times. This blatant disregard of my son was completely out of character for him. And I don't think the horror of what he did really hit my WH until months later. For a while he even put the blame on the OW, as if it wasn't him that opened the door, let her in, and had sex with her.

Until the affair my WH was the best father I knew. And I bet there are similarities with your wife. That's why affair discovery is such a trauma - we no longer recognise the people we married. They essentially revert to a child like stage, only interested in pleading themselves, and doing anything to avoid discovery.

Do I think your wife's actions were deliberate? Yes. Do I think they're the sign of a psychopath? Probably not. They're the sign of someone who is being led by their ego, caught up in the illicit excitement of an affair, and desperate for her next fix. It becomes a game, a very exciting game that makes the two of them even closer. And this is why it's so hard for a WS to move away from an affair without having no contact.

At the moment, you need to look at your wife's actions, not her words. What is she doing to make herself a safe spouse? How will she ensure no contact is kept? You haven't said if her AP is also married, but if he is, does his wife know?

This may be the end of the affair. It may not. All I know is your wife is very lucky that you are still around. Now she needs to show she will work extremely hard to deserve it.

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Scuffy
Thank you, Heidi. I remember a small thing, a few years ago, where I promised my kids that after we got back from a walk we'd eat the cookies we had left over from the previous night. When we got back, the cookies were gone - my wife had eaten them, but she denied it! Why on earth would an adult lie about something that? I let it go at the time as just being quirky, but now I wonder...

Yes, the other man is married. I confronted him and he swore on his "honor" that he'd not be in touch with her again unless we decided to get divorced. Guess what, his honor lasted a few hours. He's been every bit as much a liar as she has. I also eventually contacted his wife, but she already knew, and in fact he'd already moved out, supposedly on his own volition, but there are a lot of aspects of his story that don't add up. Now he's claiming he has cancer, and my wife has told me that she really just wants to know what's going on with him, as a "friend," that the curiosity is really painful for her but that she's trying not to...

She's blocked him on Facebook, on her phone, etc., but honestly there are a hundred ways she can contact him if she wants. You can probably see why I'm tired of it.
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Heidi
It's exhausting isn't it. And having it so totally out of your control is awful. I know that in trying to dissect my husband's actions I scrutinised everything in our history together, but honestly none of us is perfect.

What happens next with the AP is totally dependent on your wife. If she gets help, resists contacting him, and starts to look into the reasons why she did this, the these are all good signs. If she doesn't, you'll need to decide what / how long you're willing to put up with her prevarication. Either way, you need to concentrate on yourself and the children, and work on recovering from this betrayal.

I'm hoping Urban will comment on this post later. She's a WS who had trouble detaching from her AP, and may be able to give you an insight into why it was so hard for her.
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Scuffy
Heidi, I'm thinking about what your experience must have been like, with the 12-year-old finding out first. Awful.
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Heidi
The worst thing is we don't know if he saw her or not. He closed down completely and wouldn't talk about it. He wouldn't go to counselling, and literally buried his head in the bed if we tried to discuss it with him.

In the end we decided that talking honestly and openly to him and his older sister was the best way. So we exposed the affair and the fact the AP was here in the hope he wouldn't feel guilt for anything he'd seen.

Building him back up has been a huge task over the last 18 months. He is now 14 and extremely protective of me, even though my WH and I have reconciled. He is also very closed in. My WH has done an amazing job of working through his own shame and rebuilding his relationship with the children. Whatever happens between the two of us, I'm extremely thankful for that.
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flipperfive
As a BS I sympathize with where you are right now. It is one of the hardest places to be.

I am reminded so clearly of the two guards which Tim talks about and how they are so important when it comes to making decisions about our futures. I have known my WS for 16 years and been married for 14 years and up until DD couldn't imagine life with out him there beside me but here I am carrying on without him, looking after our five young children and studying to take on a new career. I am excited about my future and know that whether WS decides he wants to return to our marriage or not I will be in a place I am happy with. Even if WS chooses to make our marriage work I would not immediately agree to reconciling as trust is a huge thing that needs to be earned and I do not believe it can be earned overnight, it is more likely to take months if not years.

It is hard to know what to do in each individual situation but please look after you first. If, at the moment, you do not feel you can trust WS then put boundaries in place to protect yourself and if she really wants to work on your marriage she will prove this to you even if your boundaries are tough.
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Scuffy
Thanks, Flipper - yes, the guards discussion - http://www.affairhealing.com/guard-your-heart-after-an-affair.html - was instrumental in me starting to get a handle on the whole mess. I forgave prematurely and then watched her continue to trash my trust for months. Establishing the boundaries is the first step toward taking back your life. 
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UrbanExplorer
It took a long time for me to sort out why I could not detach from my AP even after a truly horrific and public D-day and ongoing harassment by various people about the affair. At first, I felt I loved him and that if I gave up the affair, I was resigning myself to a lifetime of quiet misery (that is how my marriage felt during the affair, which is a common psychological phenomenon).

Next, after his wife filed for divorce, he started up with a narrative about how he left her (and his kids, "left it all") for me as a grand romantic gesture. That really messed with my head and turned up the level of emotional manipulation. I felt he needed me and that I was crushing him by being unwilling to actually leave my marriage and run off with him to validate his "grand gesture." My psychologist pointed out that I kept going back to AP, even though extremely painful exposure happened repeatedly and with escalation as a result of my inability to remove myself from the situation. She said I was passionate about doing it and challenged me to look closer at what was underlying that.

It took me almost 6 months after discovery to decisively cut all ties and feel certain about it!

Right now, my answer as to why I couldn't let him go is that we were in a very particular dynamic that fit well with our baggage. It was magnetic in a negative way. He is histrionic and exciting and needy and blame-shifting. I am a perfectionistic people pleaser and fixer. He "needed" me, and I needed to be needed. He is a boundary violator, and I have (or had) few boundaries in place to protect myself. I felt I could be the light in his life. I could fix him. It felt good until it didn't. Excitement turned into drama and eventual exhaustion on my part.

I think there is often something dysfunctionally addictive going on between affair partners. It tends to wear off eventually, but for a time, a need is being met (that is usually not primarily sexual). Ideally, your WS will figure out what it was that the AP truly represented for her. That's good early step in her recovery, not only to avoid getting herself into a hurtful mess like this again, but also to feel like a whole person who knows what she wants and needs.

Best of luck!
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UrbanExplorer
The deception involved in communicating during the affair is typical. It is often well organized to be kept secret, but it is still part of the fog. To me, the fog is simply a headspace in which the affair partners feel justified in having the affair. They feel drawn together. It's them against the world. They feel their spouses are not giving them XYZ, so they are entitled to this outlet.
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Scuffy
I can't accept the idea that a "fog" is relevant here. Buying that secret phone card was a CHOICE, it required some forethought and planning. The clandestine messaging system on Facebook had to be created, deliberately, after both of them had promised me that they would end contact. These things didn't just happen by themselves...
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Anna26
I think the fog is simply a name for the hormone enhanced euphoria in which the AP's are living.  Outside of that nothing is 'normal' anymore, only their reality is the true reality, according to the people involved in the affair.  The ordinary world cannot touch this feeling, because none of what used to be, could ever possibly be any more perfect than the affair is now. 

They are soulmates, feeding from each others intense desires and nothing else would ever measure up.  So the actual reality is twisted into something that isn't worth having any more, with plenty of self justifications and re writing of the marital history, as to why it was never good enough in the first place.
That doesn't mean the AP's are not thinking clearly, they are, but only about their own little world and will stoop to any devious means to protect it.

This is how I see things anyway.
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Dirazz
Isn't it all deliberate? My husband went and bought condoms that was sure deliberate.
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UrbanExplorer
Anna26 wrote:
I think the fog is simply a name for the hormone enhanced euphoria in which the AP's are living.  Outside of that nothing is 'normal' anymore, only their reality is the true reality, according to the people involved in the affair.  The ordinary world cannot touch this feeling, because none of what used to be, could ever possibly be any more perfect than the affair is now. 

They are soulmates, feeding from each others intense desires and nothing else would ever measure up.  So the actual reality is twisted into something that isn't worth having any more, with plenty of self justifications and re writing of the marital history, as to why it was never good enough in the first place.
That doesn't mean the AP's are not thinking clearly, they are, but only about their own little world and will stoop to any devious means to protect it.

This is how I see things anyway.


Yes, basically this. Fog doesn't mean not deliberate or calculated. It just means the sense of reality is skewed so that the choices made are often out of character for who that person was before the affair.
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