Telling and hearing the truth

I was talking to my friend Lisa – the one with the husband who keeps getting caught with emails and texts from some woman he has been in some way involved with for maybe a few years.  All we know is what she has found – graphic photos and highly sexual texts and emails between her husband and another woman who he knows from work.  Her husband has never come clean with any information about the relationship.  Every time Lisa finds an email or text chain he says things like this:

“That was the last time I texted her.  I called and ended if right after sending that one”

“I never have touched her – it’s only emails”

“I swear it’s over and will never talk to her again”

You get the drift.  You probably won’t be surprised to know that he has never kept his word to end it.

When Lisa found the latest slew of intense emails, I suggested that the first thing she should do is have him get a full STD check.  It’s easy to do in big cities, it can be done anonymously, but she will be putting her needs first by protecting her own health and also making him have a consequence to his actions.  It’s not therapy, it’s not divorce, it’s not a decision about anything other than making herself a priority.  Her response is that she really believes he hasn’t ever been with this woman!!

Listen…I get wanting to trust the man she is married to.  But if he has never – not once – come clean about ANYTHING – or provided a detail that she didn’t know about BY CHOICE then I really think that she needs to do a reality check.  She can’t believe a single word from him as it relates to this other woman.

It’s hard to tell the truth.  It’s also hard to hear it.  All of it raises fears.  But if a relationship is going to work, then both parties need to start coming clean about their actions and feelings – and both parties need to know it’s safe to do so.  Being honest and telling the truth are skills that need to be learned – especially after a relationship has been upended by betrayal and infidelity.  It’s not easy – but it’s doable.  And until your partner can  be honest – you best do all you can to protect yourself.

A blog for both the cheater and the cheated upon.

I certainly don’t claim to be an authority on the subject of marital infidelity, but I do think I offer a unique perspective on the subject.   My understanding arrived first as the unknowing wife who was cheated on – repeatedly – by her sex addict husband.  Second, as the lonely, confused woman who sought comfort in an affair in order to escape the pain of my husbands actions.

Many of those who follow my blog are women who themselves have experienced the unimaginable pain of discovering their husband has been unfaithful.  Another significant group of followers are men who are married but cheating on their spouse.  Interestingly, I also have women following my blog who are the the mistresses of married men.  I appreciate that there are people from all sides of this complicated subject reading my posts.   I have no ill will toward any of these people and I sincerely hope that once in a while something I say resonates with each one of you.

This diverse audience is the reason that I write in equal parts from the viewpoint of both the hurt wife and the cheating spouse.  It’s natural to just want to read the parts that you personally relate to – this selective reading provides support through familiarity but not necessarily any growth.  I encourage everyone to read both sides of my story, perhaps by doing so one can begin to find some empathy or understanding toward the other parties involved.  Trying to understand isn’t the same as condoning lying and betrayal  – but by examining the flip side of the situation I believe we can start to move closer to the goal of healing.

Here are some of the feelings that I have experienced over the past 10 years through my discovery of my husbands addiction, his acting out, his relapse, my affair and our recovery.   If you have felt any of these feelings then I suspect many of my blog posts could be of interest to you – no matter which side of the affair you fell on:

Humiliation, disgrace, embarrassment, denial, apathy, pity, anger, hatred, loathing, rage, contrition, revulsion, guilt, superiority, shame, wrath, resentment, pity, indifference, compulsion, disgust, preoccupation, fixation, anxiety, obsession, passion, longing, craving, desire, loneliness, controlling, fearful, comprehending, powerlessness, forgiving, compassion, understanding, gratitude, empathy, tolerance, trust, love.

Meetings of Two – rebuilding after an affair.

My husband and I have a weekend ritual when we sit down for a ‘check up’ with one another.  During this time we talk about how we are feeling about our relationship and ourselves.  We tell one another if we have struggled with trust, anger or resentment.  We announce the thing we did during that week that most improved our relationship and on the flip side the one thing we each did that hurt our relationship.  Sometimes the conversations are stimulating and go on forever – other times they are a little lackluster and neither of us have much to talk about.   I never know where these meetings will take us.

We like to go to our favorite coffee shop for these weekly discussions – it makes it feel more like an event or a date.  Since we had brunch plans with friends later this morning we decided to hold this weeks meeting at home, giving us the perfect opportunity to watch Esther Perel’s TED talk entitled “Rethinking Infidelity” about why people cheat.  This talk was such a great catalyst to conversation.  Both my husband and I found so much of what she said to be of interest.  It raised incredibly interesting points and questions and led to another very honest discussion about my husbands addiction-related infidelities as well as my own affair and what the two had in common.   We talked about how we felt during and after our trysts, we talked about the fantasy aspect of our actions, we talked about the power of our disclosures, we talked about anxiety and longing and desire and regret and sex.

Seeking out sources of smart, insightful information is so important when confronted with an issue such as marital infidelity.  I have gotten a lot of help from books and therapists in the past – but somehow, Eshter Perel can cut to the quick in a riveting 20 minute video.  If you haven’t already seen it, and are in a relationship, it’s worth watching.  I highly recommend watching with your spouse and see where the conversation takes you.

Liar: No longer an adjective that describes me

There were a lot of positive side affects that came with the disclosures that my husband and I both did last fall.  As hard as it was to tell the truth, and to hurt my husband deeply in the process, it is such a relief to know that he has all the information about my actions.  Finally he knows “all of me” and still loves me, still accepts me and has actively chosen to stay with me.  The same goes for the reverse.  I hated hearing about his activities and the memory is still difficult to think about.  But I am happy that I know the truth and that he can feel truly loved as the man he is – not the one he pretended to be for so many years.

 
The best result of coming clean is that I absolutely don’t want to dirty the water again.  If I were to cheat on my husband, I know I would tell him.  In the end, I believe he would forgive me and stay with me…regardless of that belief, I don’t want to create that kind of turbulence in our relationship. I don’t want to take us back to square one.  I don’t necessarily have all of my cravings under control, but for the first time in a long time I know that I wouldn’t hide it if I made a mistake….in that regard I am holding myself to a higher standard.  Lying isn’t an option for me right now.  That means that cheating isn’t an option.  How nice to have the freedom to do the right thing.

A Love Letter

My amazing husband rises early many mornings and leaves the house before I get up.  He reads his 12 step literature, prays and meditates before leaving for his SAA meeting.  He is working so hard to be the man that he wants to be – one who is present, anxiety free, loyal and brave.  

About a month ago, he started a new habit of leaving me a love letter to read when I wake up.  The notes are sometimes short, sometimes long, they are usually romantic, sometimes erotic but always beautiful.  I am so lucky.

This is the letter he left for me the Monday following my disclosure:

 

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We are only as sick as our secrets

Yesterday, I shared a full disclosure with my husband about the ways that I had acted out in response to his cheating.  I wrote about the fear I had going into the disclosure in my post “the more you look the more you see”

https://recoveredwife.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/the-more-you-look-the-more-you-see/

It was exactly as hard as I knew it would be.  I was crying before we even entered my therapists office…and sobbing uncontrollably by the time we settled in and were ready for my confession.  Somehow I managed to read aloud the list of the sins I had committed.  I didn’t expect my husband to be so surprised by what I had done.  It makes me wonder if a man’s sixth sense differs from the female’s sense.  I always knew in the back of my mind that he had acted out with this one or that one – but he seemed utterly shocked by the things I told him.  I had told him bits and pieces over the years about how I had reached out to my ex-boyfriend for comfort when I felt scared, hurt and alone.  He knew that I emailed and texted with my ex, he even knew we talked about reuniting if we had ever decided to divorce.  He knew all of that for all these years but apparently he never considered that maybe I had seen him.  Perhaps he was just in denial all that time, or maybe he was so caught up in his own acting out and addiction that what I did just wasn’t on his radar.  Or maybe (and this hurts) he thought I was better than that.

It’s amazing to me that I was lost for so long – and was willing to do things that so severely went against my nature.  I said to my husband yesterday that in those fearful and lonely moments I wanted to return to someone who knew me before I was changed by my husbands betrayal.  I think that hit the nail on the head.  The discovery of my husbands betrayal changed me into someone I didn’t even recognize.  I started to dress differently, act differently, walked on eggshells, stopped being sexual.  I buried myself under a pile of shame.    When I saw my ex it was like a turning back of time to a person I used to be before I married an addict, before my world crumbled down in front of me.  But all of that was a fantasy.  We are who we are because of our life experiences.  I could spend the rest of my life with the ex and not really ever be that carefree girl that I was before I was betrayed.   My husbands behavior changed me in dozens of ways – as I’m sure my disclosure with change him.  But here we are – for better or for worse – supporting one another in our own personal recovery.  We are moving beyond…