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...
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