I am staying with my unfaithful husband…what does that say about me?

A few days ago, a friend of mine discovered that her husband has been cheating on her.  Actually, she discovered this a few months ago and confronted him and told him to stop.  What she discovered the other day is that he did not keep his promise to end it.  She shared her situation with a few friends, all of whom are telling her to leave him.  They say he had his chance and didn’t change overnight so she should take their son and go.  She still loves him and wants to stay in the marriage but her ‘friends’ tell her that she is being a pushover and she is starting to believe it.

In my opinion, NO ONE else can say what they would do in her situation until they have been there.  It’s easy as a bystander to judge and condemn her decision to stay and try to work it out.  Her friends who say ‘leave’ have a different relationship experience, have fear surrounding the subject of infidelity, and have no place offering their unsolicited advice.

My friend should not feel badly that she wants to stay with the man she loves.  This does not make her weak.  On the contrary.  This proves that she is strong and resilient and forgiving and willing to work hard.  Those who run away from this situation without trying are the ones who don’t understand the meaning of commitment.  

Yes, he had a chance to fix it.  But at the time of her initial discovery, neither of them understood what that entails.  He didn’t know how hard it would be to get his feelings under control and she was staying in a place of denial.  Now she understands better that he is fucked up and lost and filled with fear.  That is the only thing that could have led him down this path.  He is going to need her comfort and understanding.  That doesn’t mean that she should condone what he has done – he still needs to be responsible to that.  But it’s going to get them to the good part faster if they can embrace each other during this time rather than turn on one another.

For better or for worse.  These words are really being put to the test.  But if they make it through this then their love will be stronger and her trust will have been earned.

Obviously every situation is different.  If her husband was abusive or unwilling to ‘try’ then I would have a different opinion.  But he is a good man and they love each other…and love can endure even the unimaginable.

 

 

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The feelings that arise the day you discover your husbands affair

My friend texted me last night saying “Old habits die hard…even on my birthday”.  Along with this she forwarded the texts she found on her husbands phone between him and his sexting partner.  I have been thinking about her all morning – knowing the feelings she is experiencing: numbness, anger, fear, confusion, embarrassment, and maybe most of all just a profound sense of disappointment.

She discovered similar texts/emails a few months ago.  He cried and begged and apologized and she forgave him.  They tried a therapist who wasn’t a good fit and didn’t look further to find one better suited to them.  At the time of the last discovery, she contacted this other woman and said if she doesn’t leave her husband alone that she would “out” her affair to the woman’s husband and to her co-workers.  She told her husband if he did it again she would leave.

So I think about my friend this morning as she tries to decide what to do.  Will she carry out the threats she made?  She may have to if she wants her words to carry any weight.  The situation is the very reason why making a concrete list of boundaries and consequences is so very important.

We all want to believe that we will never be back in this horrible situation.  But shit happens.  Men fuck up.  Addicts relapse.  Wives/women/partners need to be prepared to take care of themselves if and when this happens.

I want to be helpful to her during this time. I will probably try to get her to take the focus off of this other woman.  I’m sure her husband has no actual feelings for her – he just recognizes her as a chick with loose boundaries with whom he can share some texts to distract himself from the stress and boredom of marriage and fatherhood.  Obviously this other woman has problems of her own or she wouldn’t be seeking inappropriate attention from a married man.  We should worry about this other woman, pray for her if she feels inclined, but in the end the woman isn’t the problem.

I understand that the first thing everyone wants is a reason why the cheating happened – especially after he had been caught once.  I don’t think her husband has any idea why.  He can’t explain himself because he doesn’t know.  The true reason is probably very deeply rooted and likely has absolutely nothing to do with this other woman.

For me, it’s been a rewarding and amazing journey to heal with my husband after our affairs.  But it is loads of work, oftentimes filled with setbacks and fear.  I don’t think most people are comfortable digging as deep as we have to fully understand ourselves and our behaviors.  It’s much easier to leave, or to make excuses, or to scratch the surface and then stop when we hit the painful layer.

Once you truly venture on the journey of self-discovery you will not return as the same person.  You will lose the person you have grown comfortable with.  That’s not a bad thing, the unknown is scary, but you are not alone.

Growing Pains

Over the past year, and faced with my husbands sex addiction/relapse/infidelities, my husband and I have each made tremendous growth.  I put my nose to the grindstone and did everything I could to ensure the least chance of having to live through the nightmare of discovery again.  He finally got serious about his recovery and stopped trying to fix it with his head and has instead focused extensively on his emotional and spiritual growth.  

It seemed that at the end of every day we were sharing with each other something we did or read or saw that inspired us to keep up the work.  We started to empathize deeply both with one another and with others who were struggling in some aspect of their lives.  We read books about sobriety and forgiveness and shared paragraphs aloud with each other.  My therapy sessions almost always ended with me in tears from delving into a childhood pain that I never acknowledged before.  He started to journal and meditate each and every day.  Every day we were growing and becoming better people  than we were the day before.

A few months ago, we seemed to hit a plateau…or at least I did.  My weekly therapy sessions weren’t as raw and I felt some disconnection from my writing.  I didn’t have ‘eureka’ moments to excitedly share with my husband at the end of the day. I was still in love and was grateful for all we accomplished, but I missed the daily revelations I had been experiencing in those first 6 months.

For the past year, we really focused our energies on ourselves but it’s now time to really work on the relational piece of our marriage.  It’s time for us to work deeply on rebuilding our intimacy and trust with one another.  He is going to learn all about what his betrayal did to me – I mean what it REALLY did to me, my brain, my coping, my triggers.  I am going to learn to feel better about expressing my emotions knowing that he has acknowledged my trauma.  We are going to start by doing a weekend workshop specifically designed for couples who are healing from betrayal.  I know this will get me off of my plateau and will likely catapult me into a heap of pain.  But it’s only through pain that we can find growth so I will open my heart and take that leap.

 

 

A good marriage will change you (for the better, of course)

I am not the same person I was when I got married.  How could I be?  For the first 35 years of my life I was carefree.  I was selfish and self serving.  It was OK I was that way.  I was alone and was looking out for myself.  If I had a problem in a relationship I walked out – or at least I had that option.  I had never had a true partner before.  I never (really) had to compromise, never had to put someone else’s concerns and wellbeing on the same level as mine and never knew what it would feel like to choose to stay true to the man who completely betrayed my trust.

Marriage can be tricky.  It’s about learning and listening and growing and accepting.  It’s a constant examination of intentions and actions.  It’s being realistic about what I did today to help the relationship…and what I may have done to harm it.  It’s about being honest to a fault no matter how much shame the truth brings.  It’s wanting my husband to know me as I know myself – faults and warts and wrinkles and all.  

I am grateful every day that a patient man entered my life who would show me the true meaning of commitment.  The rewards are immeasurable.

The biggest gift of all

I’ve been thinking a lot about how it’s come to be that I have fallen back in love with my husband after his betrayals.  There are so many pieces that had to fit together in order for our love to flourish once again it’s hard to pinpoint those that contributed most.

It must have started with both of us being WILLING to work for our relationship.  We knew there was something worth fighting for.  Giving up on one another without trying to sort it out would have left us both with regrets and “what if’s”.   He is the one who made the mistakes and lied – but we took equal responsibility in fixing the problem which went deeper than the symptom.  We both agreed to put the relationship – the coupleship – the union – whatever you call it – we were putting US first.  Being “in it” together was comforting for us both.  It allowed him to feel like a man rather than a little boy who was in trouble and on probation.  It allowed me to feel like I had some sense of control over the end result instead of someone waiting for a magical cure to take hold.  

The work we did was individual, but was done simultaneously.  I started therapy, attended S-anon meetings, met and shared with other women in similar situations and read books on the subject of sex addiction to better understand his disease.  He was already in therapy and attending SAA but he started to take it seriously but first coming clean to everyone about the lie he had been living.  He attending a week long intensive to deal with his childhood trauma which was the root of all his behavior and he started to really focus on completing the 12 steps.  We both brought what we learned to the relationship and practiced honesty, empathy and understanding.  It was an amazing time of growth for us as individuals and as a couple.  

Many women run for the hills when they discover an infidelity or a lie within their marriage.  For me, the biggest gift I have ever given myself was to stay and discover and grow with the man I love.

 

 

bringing the good back into focus

I’m visiting my home town for a few weeks this summer – the town where I spent the better half of a decade with my ex. This is the same ex that I returned to and had an affair with after discovering my own husbands indiscretions. I drive through some neighborhoods and there are memories of my old relationship on every street corner. My mind replays the fun, carefree moments of our youth and puts my ex on a pedestal of my own making. It’s funny that I only seem to remember the good when there was so much bad wrapped up in our relationship.

I recognize that I am idealizing the old relationship and force my mind to think of something else rather than waste my time longing for an undeserving man or dwelling on a romance that was best left behind.

It’s common for people to romanticize their pasts in this way – its the very reason why so many times we return to old relationships that are no longer good for us. We forget the reasons we split and exaggerate the parts we miss.

I have been trying to practice this mindset in my current relationship with my husband. And it’s working.

It’s been a couple solid months now that I have felt in love with my partner on a daily basis. That may be nothing to normal couples but is a huge accomplishment after the devastation of his infidelities and his sex addiction. It was only a year ago that I found out that he had been living a lie for over 6 years, so to be in this place now is beyond anything I imagined.

The bottom line is that many years ago I fell in love with my husband for good reason. He is kind, thoughtful, generous, attentive, sexy, understanding, strong, communicative, sensitive, funny, etc. The more I can focus on those amazing traits and the other initial reasons why I fell in love with him the easier it is to be truly and madly in love.

Wasting my time reminiscing about an ex boyfriend won’t serve anyone. I’ll leave that pedestal for my husband alone to stand on.