tobefree
Hi everyone, I tried to search to see if there was something similar to what I'm wondering but I can't seem to find anything (maybe I didn't look hard enough). 

I was wondering if you can let me know how you would describe your marriage before infidelity happened? I would like to hear from all sides if possible. And how do you think that has affected your decision in wanting to, trying to or not wanting to do reconciliation? If you are doing reconciliation work, how has that been for you? Is the marriage much better than before despite the past? How and when do you deal with previous marriage issues during the reconciliation process?

I am 6 months out. I still have no idea if I want to stay or not but from all that I have read, it seems like the most successful couples that recover from this are those that had good relationship or marriage before all of this happened? My 9.5 years with my spouse has been really rough, not just because of how we interacted with one another but also because of external pressures and circumstances that made our relationship filled with turmoil. I understand that if we both decide to work on this, we would also have a ton of past relationship issues to go over. I just don't know if we can even make it or it's realistic to deal with everything or if it's just best to call it quits now? 

If you can share any advice, that would be really helpful for me. Thank you!
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ABCOneTwoThree
My marriage was like yours pre infidelity- filled with turmoil. There was also a domestic violence aspect present in my relationship with my ex husband, which also tainted the relationship. 
We had one child the first time I found out about the cheating, I stayed for her. We had countless DDays after that, and honestly if I could change one thing about my past, it would have been to leave him years earlier than I did. 
I know the theme here is often reconciliation, but I think most on here would agree that sometimes that’s not always the best choice. It wasn’t for me, and I wish I had realized that much sooner. 
I am also a firm believer that just because two people are married, or have been together for a long time, it doesn’t mean they should be together. Honestly, I don’t even think kids should be the only reason two people stay together. My parents split when I was in my late teens and I wish they had split earlier. They did not have a healthy relationship, and as such I never really had a good model of what one was supposed to look like. They made a pact to split once the last kid was out of high school, my mom had an affair and left my dad early for her AP. Her and her wife have been together for 12 years now. 
For some, an affair is mind blowing and life altering. For me, my ex husbands last affair was simply the straw that broke the camels back. I wasn’t hurt anymore by them, I wasn’t sad, I didn’t feel betrayed. I just felt... done. I told him I wanted to keep things civil until my younger daughters birthday, but he wasn’t able to. Getting to that point was equal parts scary, and relieving. I didn’t feel like I lost anything, because what was there to lose? Our marriage was already in shambles. 
When I thought about my marriage and subtracted the infidelity, it still wasn’t one worth saving. When I thought of my future, I didn’t relish one with him in it. That was enough for me to finally say, enough. 
Formerly EasyAsABC 
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HangingOn
I am on the flip side.  We had a really good marriage.  Many people complimented our relationship.  We Enjoyed many things together,  had fun.   No significant issues.  My WS had some insecurities that reared up occasionally but we always worked through them.  I felt 100% safe and secure.  Trusting them was the definition of loving for me.   I think this adds an additional challenge to the aftermath if someone being willing to throw that away.  Will anything be fulfilling enough?   Also knowing I must grieve what was lost and basically start over creates such disappointment.  

The real slammer...having had such a good life together never made us learn to deal with issues, especially one the size of betrayal.  
We suck at coming together as a team to tackle it.  That is what is killing us...not the affair.  I don't know this person at all and i don't respect them.  I think i could heal the betrayal, but the underlying person that was exposed is not someone I'm interested in.
I feel my spouse was literally destroyed in the affair and I don't want the pieces left.
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GuyInPain
I don't have time to go into much detail right now, but you ask an important question, and I like how you're asking for opinions from various experiences.  My view of our marriage prior to my wife's adultery is that we had a good marriage – lots of shared interests and commitments, four wonderful young children, and so on.  So my commitment to staying in the marriage and to reconciling has certainly been influenced by the fact that there was a lot to treasure and thus a lot to restore.  And that has worked out pretty well.  Just the other night my wife said to me, 'Thank you for not leaving me.'  That meant a lot to me. 

Related to this but also to the basic issue of trauma here's a quote from a theological news column the other day: 'There are some things in life you never get over.  But you learn to carry them differently.'  That's definitely been true for me. 
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Resilience2017

This is a really interesting question and one that my husband and I have discussed a lot  over the past 2 1/2 years. It has definitely impacted my decision to give reconciliation a shot but has not lessened the trauma of the infidelity.

The majority of our 38 year marriage was good with positive memories and experiences. It became extremely toxic and dysfunctional when my husband lost his way after retirement. Instead of expressing frustrations and feelings, he became passive/agressive, nasty and distant and profoundly depressed.
I, in turn, reciprocated with equally toxic behaviors and coped by working constantly and withdrawing emotionally.
     

His decision to have an affair is his alone and the toxic marriage is, of course, not an excuse or justification. 

The decision to give reconciliation a shot has been complicated for me and the process has included MANY boundaries. The usual ones but also respectful communication, daily connection and discussions (we call it Coffee Talk), individual therapy for him to deal with his demons and childhood issues, transparency, answering any and all of my questions, and a requirement that he figure out what it was within him that allowed him to betray his own core values.

Despite the many happy years and the tremendous progress we have made, the old marriage is dead to me. I actually like the new honest and authentic relationship that is evolving. My husband is really a different man now and wants to forget the two years of dishonesty, deception and cheating.
It simply is not going to happen for me.
The infidelity experience has been extremely damaging and I don’t know if I will ever truly recover, trust or love fully again.

A long winded way of saying that a positive marriage history prior to the toxicity and infidelity has not really helped me in the healing process but influenced my decision to try. If there was another affair or a return to his previous toxic behaviors, I am out. I am so clear about that now and the thought of being on my own at 68 years old does not frighten me now.

I am interested in hearing how the marriage history has impacted other’s decisions.

 

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Littlebylittle
This is an interesting topic,  thanks for sharing. 
I find myself wondering if I remember my marriage differently now that I know my husband had a long term,  emotional and physical affair. I certainly think he does, as he says it was so bad for him that he felt like I was dead, that I gave up on the marriage and so he didn't think there was anything to wreck. He said he thought I knew and didn't care, even stopped hiding it after 3 years. 

But I don't remember it being that bad,  it never entered my mind to be intimate with another person. The marriage was hard no doubt,  we had drifted apart for sure and hardly communicated or spent anytime together. But he never said anything, I never noticed the signs of his affair. Our marriage was absolutely wonderful in the beginning,  but after about 6 years we drifted apart,  right around the time he would have met the AP (not a coincidence in my mind).
So he rewrote the marriage history to be as bad as needed to justify his actions. I have subsequently rewritten it to be worth saving I think,  partly because I am terrified of losing my family, my home and impacting my kids. 
I'm stuck in a terrible situation where he refuses to end his emotional relationship with her as they are best friends and always will be (I've seen their messages). But, I can't bring myself to leave,  I'm scared and not strong enough to let go. In some weird pathetic way,  I still want my marriage to work out,  not because it was always good or bad, but because I love him as a key part of my family and desperately want him to love me back. It's really sad and futile I know. 

Thanks for the post,  the question and discussion. In some ways it always helps to know I'm not alone. 

BS Female. 2 kids, married 14 years. 
DD April 26, 2019
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ThrivenotSurvive
I touched on some of these elements in other posts, but I think that repeating some of it in this thread might be helpful to someone searching for a specific set of answers as you were when you wrote it... so here goes...

tobefree wrote:

I was wondering if you can let me know how you would describe your marriage before infidelity happened?

We had been married 23 years when the 10 month on/off affair took place.  We dated exclusively for two years prior to getting married and had known each other (and dated on/off) since we were 14 /15 years old.  We both dated a lot of other people and had one other "first love" type of relationship in high school before running into each other again at 19/20.  We've been together since then.    

I forced myself to take a pretty hard, unvarnished look at my marriage in the first 6-8 months after DD while I tried to decide whether I wanted to stay or not.  I was worried that I might stay for the wrong reasons.  I am, by nature, an optimist and look to find the good in people (at times to the abject annoyance of those who love me.)  I also take my responsibilities and vows very seriously.  So I knew that if I wasn't careful, I could try to make the "best" of something that might not should be saved.  I owed it to myself NOT to make a quick decision, or to do what I thought I "should" do.  My husband had broken our vows - he no longer got the benefit of "for better or for worse" in my opinion.  While I still loved him and did not want to hurt him, I was unwilling to take his needs into consideration when making my decision.  During that period of time, I did not see us as a team, he had broken that and it would take a long time to rebuild.  Instead I vowed to decide what was best for ME and for our daughter.  If that happened to benefit him or be what he wanted, lovely.  If not, too bad.  

As I tried to look at our marriage clearly, I found that I swung between the two extremes - one minute it all looked bad - the next it all looked good.  However, after allowing my emotions to settle down and spending a lot of time in meditation and prayer, I came to view it in a way that has stayed pretty consistent in the years since then.  The first twelve to thirteen years of our marriage were phenomenal.  We loved and supported each other, we co-parented and shared responsibility for caring for our financial and family life in ways that felt fair to us both, we were passionate and tender with one another.  It was, to us and to all our friends who knew us, pretty ideal. Then we entered a ten year period that was extremely difficult.  We weathered about every major stressor a marriage could have - layoffs, career changes, starting and building a successful business, then losing the business to bankruptcy after the real estate collapse (which caused us and my parents who were in business with us to lose our homes), we found out my husband had a serious form of cancer, I lost both of my grandparents who were like parents to me, my husband lost his father - and this is only PART of it.  For the first five years we met every issue head-on together, as a team.  But somewhere in the last five years of it, we started to drift apart.  I was having to spend increasing time working (as was he) to get us out of debt, and both my parents and our daughter were having issues that were taking a LOT of my emotional time/ attention.  Towards the end of this period, my husband received a VERY lucrative contract that would require him to live away from home for the better part of two years.  He wanted me to come live with him.  Our daughter was in college and my parents could watch our animals.  I felt guilty- I could sense something was going on with our daughter (we later discovered she had an eating disorder she was hiding) and didn't want to leave her.  In addition, my parents were having to leave their home that was being foreclosed and move across the country.  They could not afford to hire professional movers and were not physically up to the task of sorting/packing and moving all their stuff.  I decided to stay in our home state and help our daughter/my parents.  I tried to visit and he tried to come home as often as he could but our lifestyles changed dramatically.  We've always been very close - and suddenly we were barely a part of each other's daily life.  My husband grew very resentful and hurt.  After almost a year of living apart, he began hanging out with a female co-worker as friends... and within a couple months it had become sexual.  I had started to sense that something felt "off" a couple months before he came home (when the contract ended) - but with so little time in each other's company I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  Once he came home, it became clear quickly that there was a gulf between us.  Just under three weeks after he came home I asked him if something was wrong and if he was unhappy with us.  I told him I felt a distance I'd never felt before and didn't understand it.  He had been struggling with the dishonesty (it'd been easier when he didn't have to look me in the face) and just blurted it out that he'd met someone and been unfaithful.  He hadn't planned it and it was as messy as a confession could be.  He looked as shell shocked and surprised as I did.  I immediately went to divorce and didn't waver from that until about 10 days later.  

I would like to hear from all sides if possible. And how do you think that has affected your decision in wanting to, trying to or not wanting to do reconciliation?  I think the fact that the vast majority of my marriage had been really good and that we HAD previously weathered many storms together in a way that felt loving and supportive is the ONLY reason I gave my marriage a chance.  Our daughter was grown so I did not feel compelled to stay for her.  While I wasn't working at the moment, I had great connections and had several job offers with 48 hours of putting feelers out.  I was not worried about myself financially - we'd paid off a lot of the business debt by this point and the remaining portion was in both our names so it would have been a 50/50 split.  My parents were now settled into a home they could afford on their retirement and I wasn't worried about them any longer.  I also knew that I wouldn't be single for any longer than I wanted to be.  I know it sounds conceited and I don't mean it to, I am just trying to be honest that I knew I would have no issues finding another mate.  So finances and fear of being alone weren't major factors for me.  In fact, I knew that once I grieved the loss of my marriage I could create a pretty exciting, compelling life for myself.   Which begs the question, why the hell did I stay with someone who had betrayed me and hurt me so deeply?   

Because I loved him and as crazy as it sounds, I believed he loved me.  And because I believe in forgiveness and redemption.  I don't believe any of us are the sum of the worse thing we've ever done.  We are the sum of EVERYTHING we have done.  And for the vast majority of our lives together, he'd loved me well.  But during a very dark time for him personally when he felt abandoned by me (not that it was true - it was just how he perceived it) he succumbed to his own fears, feelings of inferiority and need for validation.  He was ashamed, repentant and was willing to do what he needed to prove to me that it was a failure he would never make again - and would spend the rest of our lives making up to me.   

He was willing to take the gamble even knowing I might not get past it and still leave him. I was honest that I wasn't sure I could, only that I would try. I was willing to take the gamble that he wouldn't make me regret giving him that chance.  To date, he hasn't - though that first 6 - 12 months was a BUMPY ride as he had to grow a LOT emotionally practically overnight since I was pretty much 3 seconds from running away all the time back then.  

If you are doing reconciliation work, how has that been for you? Hard as hell - and rewarding.  This process is not for the feint of heart.  It has taken more courage than I even knew I had to be honest and vulnerable with him.  And I know he has had to face tremendous fear.  The risk of further pain on both our parts was huge.  To be willing to move forward in the face of that is HARD.  Everything in you wants to run or wall off your heart.   We have both matured a lot throughout this process.  We stopped taking that amazing connection we had for granted and started protecting and nurturing it.  We have learned how to be VERY honest - but tempered with compassion.  I think my husband has learned an enormous amount about himself and the unhealthy ways he coped with stress, hurt and disappointment.  The emotional intelligence he has gained throughout this process has helped him improve the quality of his relationships- with me, his mother and siblings, our daughter, etc.

Is the marriage much better than before despite the past? Yes, in almost every way it is.  And yet, if I am honest, there is a part of me that longs for the naivete that I had previously.  There is an innocence that is lost in this process that I don't think can be regained.  It is replaced with a huge wealth of wisdom.  But it is like realizing that Santa isn't real... there is a magic lost that is hard not to miss. 

How and when do you deal with previous marriage issues during the reconciliation process?  Unfortunately I don't think I have a hard and fast rule on this.  But I can tell you that the problems in the marriage and the infidelity/lying are NOT the same issue.  One did not inevitably lead to the other.  It is a mistake not to address why someone would choose a dishonest, unethical way of handling their hurt/anger/resentment versus a more straightforward way that allowed them to retain their integrity FIRST. If that isn't examined and a NEW way of behaving when they are under stress isn't developed, you are setting yourself up for more pain.  Because life and relationships will inevitably go through hard times - and you have to have healthy ways of dealing with it TOGETHER.  

If he is willing to tackle that, then I think it makes sense to examine the issues that BOTH of you were unhappy with prior to the affair.  Obviously there is no reason to be together unless you can see a potential future of being loving, supportive partners at some point in the future.

I am 6 months out. I still have no idea if I want to stay or not but from all that I have read, it seems like the most successful couples that recover from this are those that had good relationship or marriage before all of this happened? My 9.5 years with my spouse has been really rough, not just because of how we interacted with one another but also because of external pressures and circumstances that made our relationship filled with turmoil. I understand that if we both decide to work on this, we would also have a ton of past relationship issues to go over. I just don't know if we can even make it or it's realistic to deal with everything or if it's just best to call it quits now? I wish I could answer this for you, but no one can.  Only the TWO of you can.  It depends on how much you BOTH want it and how hard you are willing to work for it.  You will both have to be unbelievably brave to look at yourself and your relationship honestly - and change it into something that is satisfying and rewarding for you both.  One person cannot carry the weight.  Maybe for a short time - but it will invariably fail if both parties are not invested. 

If you can share any advice, that would be really helpful for me. Thank you!


I hope some of this helped.  You can always feel free to PM me if you have more questions.
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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Sadie
The majority of our marriage was fantastic.   We were the best of friends and always had a blast hanging out together.   
    We entered what we now call the dark days, when he didn’t have a job for close to 3 years and I did not make enough money to pay the bills.   His depression went deep and he is just now coming out on the other side of it.    He later said that when (thanks to my fabulous mother) I went back to school-which I did to help solve our income deficits, that he felt it was the beginning of the end for us.   He now sees that as crazy talk, as I have never thought of him as dumb and appreciate how we challenge each other intellectually.    The difficult part, was that when he went back to work, we were on opposite shifts.   I missed him terribly.
     Add to that, he allowed his alcoholic sister and husband to move in when I adamantly said no.   I was mad at him for the entire 5 years they lived with us...they said it would be 6 months max, but didn’t move out until after I did.    I still refuse to talk to them when they are drinking-too emotionally abusive.   
       2.5 years post dday.   Tons of improvement, I moved back, he is so much more respectful and considerate, then BAM!  Wayward behavior rears it’s ugly head.  I trigger, we argue, he agrees, we move forward.    6 months ago, I was still on the fence about staying.   It still isn’t off the table, but not nearly as prominent as it was.
      I broke the upper part of my arm over a week ago.   He is now my caregiver for the next 4 weeks.  I can’t work, I can’t clean, I can’t even shower without his help.   He is exhausted doing everything, but In a weird way, I feel this is good for us.  Lol.   The tables are turned.   He also sees how much I do every day, as now he has to do it all, plus work every day.  It is also teaching me that he is quite capable and a very doting caregiver.   
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tobefree
Thank you so much everyone, as I understand these questions are tough ones to think about and answer. I'm sorry for those of you that are still struggling with your WS' affair fog still, it is a long haul. It does indeed seems like the 'timing' of things are just up to the couple and how each of us are handling/facing this traumatic experience and what our WS is doing to help/support us, while doing their recovery work. 

I am still undecided and still often feel that I just want to leave because I can't wrap my brain around of how I can stay after someone that is meant to protect and love me (as I have with him and still is) can hurt me the worst than any other perpetrators in my life? Is 'love' or loving him really sufficient to give him a 2nd chance? He is working on his healing very diligently right now and I do appreciate seeing that, as it helps removes some stress or at least not make the situation worse. But most of me feels like his healing is for himself, whether we are together or not, it is good for him to heal so he can be healthier and live a more genuine and authentic life. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not but I don't feel that his healing is for us. I understand it will benefit us if I decide to stay and we both want to work on our relationship but as it stands, I feel very removed from this process. I still very lost and confused. We do have a lot of history that needs to be sorted out and I am just not sure if I want to put in the efforts, time, energy and resources into it any longer. I feel I have done my best for the last decade and this is how he have treated it then so be it. The thought of needing to put effort into our relationship healing seems overwhelming and exhausting and a work that I am not interested in. Maybe because I am still trying to do the right things as a partner? I find it hard to navigate the balance between behaving like a sound and responsible partner (as in a normal relationship), as opposed to me being the BS. How much of being a typical spouse are we required to do right now? Just whenever we feel like it? There's still this sense of guilt when I do yell and such, even though I understand it's for me to process my pain and it's very understandable. But all of this intense feelings and needing to express myself is very new to me and odd. I was never like this before the betrayal so that balance part is taking a toll on me as well. How did you all manage how you expressed and behaved around your WS during the 1st year?
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