Friday, December 28, 2012

Holiday blessings to you all

Every year it is the same. Occasionally I review reports of how many visitors I have to the blog. The number is generally steady. I do not update frequently -- hardly at all, in fact -- because the meat of this blog is about what happens in the 2-3 years after a person finds out that his or her spouse had an affair.  Although the story is never "over" for a betrayed spouse, if you have made it that far, you pretty much know whether the affair is going to end the marriage and whether it is going to make you a paranoid bitter person (that is not a judgment, by the way -- "there but for the grace of God," and all.)

So, because this blog is essentially static, the number of visitors and comments remain steady, generally consisting of the new people who, every day, learn that their world has been turned upside down, that reality itself has shifted, and that the things they firmly believed to be true simply aren't.

Except at Christmas. Every single year, there is a huge spike of visitors around the holidays. I don't think more people cheat around Christmas, but it does seem that more people find out around Christmas.

I don't know why. Maybe that's when we can tell that something is off, that someone isn't fully with us at a family gathering. Maybe that's when we notice excessive texting, or unexplained absences, or a look off into the distance during sex. I just don't know.

Whatever the reason, for all of you who are new to the blog, let me say that I am so sorry. I was in your shoes, and lots and lots of other people were too. We know how much it hurts, and we're sorry that it's your turn. Please know that it will get better. You may not be perfect, but it wasn't your fault.

You can know love again. Maybe it will be with the person who is hurting you now, or maybe not, but the day can come when you can love, and trust, and be loved again.

My personal belief is that this comes from God. Eventually you can forgive -- which is something you do for you, not for him or her -- and then there is a new day.

For now, though, I know that seems like a fairy tale. It did to me too. We understand. Please, please, just know that when it feels like life is over, it isn't, and thousands of us stand by you as witnesses of the fact that morning will come.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Still Here . . .

I'm continually amazed at the number of people who stumble across this blog, although I have not updated it in a long time.  You should see the stats.  Most hits come in the wee hours of the morning as some heart-broken person who just discovered his wife, or her husband, had an affair, and they are looking for something -- anything -- to help them understand what they are feeling.  They want to know they are not alone.

They are not alone.  You are not alone.  No, I don't update, because I really have no more to say.  But I do try to keep up with comments, and I sporadically check the email address associated with this blog.

So if you are staring at your laptop at 3:00 a.m., unable to sleep because you're hurting more than you have ever hurt in your life, wondering how you are ever going to make it through work tomorrow, much less the the next year . . . That was me once.  It was about 12 years ago I think.  I don't even remember anymore.

But it does get better.  And you are not alone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It has been nearly 10 years now since I discovered my wife's affair, which she ended immediately. I've tried to be an ambassador for hope and what God can do in the direst of circumstances. I remain glad that we decided not to divorce after the affair, and that God helped us follow through on that commitment.

Honestly, though, sometimes I think it would have been easier if we had not stayed together. Not better, mind you, but easier. The affair still rears its ugly head on occasion. I still, after this much time, bear the scars. I have friends who split up after an affair and moved on to new marriages. I'm not saying that the affairs were not tough on them, but I have a feeling that it may be easier for those guys to put it behind them, as much as is possible. When both parties choose to salvage the marriage, the affair just doesn't go away. Something triggers a memory. A minor slight has greater significance. No matter how much time has passed, you know she has done it once and could do it again. Of course, anyone is capable of cheating, but going through it once provides irrefutable proof.

I don't know -- recent spats that ought to be forgotten as quickly as they come up seem to have bothered me more than they should. I still struggle with insecurity, with trust, with daily forgiveness. At the moment, I am a little depressed that a ten-year-old affair is still such a part of our lives. It is only a small fraction of what it once was, but still there nonetheless.

I just have to remind myself that I made a commitment -- not only when we first married, but again when we decided to stick together after the affair. It was the right decision for us, and I'm glad we made it. Of course it's hard -- marriage is hard, period, even without contending with an affair. If I thought that surviving an affair would bring us so close that we would never have problems, that I could develop selective amnesia, that she would be so greatful for my forgiveness that she would never disrespect me, or that all our problems (including those unrelated to the affair) would suddenly be over . . . well, that was rather deluded of me.

You go to school when your partner has an affair. You learn a lot, but you never, ever graduate.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Update

Wow. It's been almost 3 years since I blogged, 8 years since the affair.

Every once in a while, a link gets passed along, and lots of new folks read the blog. It breaks my heart to think of all the people learning every day that their world has been turned upside down by infidelity.

I'm just checking back in to say, all is well. We have problems, but they are the same problems everyone has. I still have an occasional nightmare, and maybe I will until I die. I still cringe when I see a movie or hear a song that centers around a cheating spouse. I would not say it is over, because I don't think things like this are ever completely over, but now we are only dealing with scar tissue and not open wounds.

Good luck to you all, and God bless.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Chapter 23 - Pop-up Ads

Here we are, nearly 6 years into recovery. It is rare that I think about the affair. Somethimes, though, something happens or comes up and it is a real struggle to take control of my thoughts, even this far into the battle.

Sometimes it is good to think about the affair. Say you find yourself in a situation where a person of the opposite sex is flirting with you, and you are married and have survived an affair. That would be a very good time to remember the affair as a reminder that no good, and a lot of pain, can result from a bad decision.

Or, like something we are going through right now, when you have friends who are going through marriage problems and you can see the train wreck coming. Someone says they just aren't happy with their spouse, he/she loves her/him but is not "in love" anymore (what the heck does that mean, anyway?), and so forth. That's a good time to think about the affair, because our experience can help someone. We can tell them that we've been there; they aren't alone; they are in a very dangerous spot and need to pay attention to the warning signs; but that with hard work, counseling, and faith, they can get back on track.

But most of the time, it just isn't helpful to think about the affair. It robs you of your joy and keeps you from seeing the good things about your wife, your marriage, your life.

When those thoughts come up, I call them "pop-up ads." Those blasted ads come up all the time on my computer. Buy this; get a loan; find your classmates. Is anything more annoying? When those pop-up adds come up, I immediately close them. Click - no thank you. Click - no thank you. Click - no thank you.

I do the same thing when thoughts of the affair come up. "She's going back to work -- she'll cheat again." Click - no thank you. I don't need that. "Your bad day at work happened because you aren't good enough - you're worthless and that's why she cheated." Click - no thank you.

You get the picture. With unwanted thoughts, like unwanted ads, it takes an act of the will to say, "That's not true - I don't need that thought and I'm not going to feed it or let it in." It is so much easier now than it was at first, and to this day some unwanted thoughts are stubborn and persistent.

I had what you might call a setback this week. My wife is late, as in she might be pregnant. We've sort of let nature take its course, not really trying to get pregnant and not really trying not to get pregnant. We have one child, and my wife's post-partem depression after his birth was a key event that led up to our marriage problems and the affair (that wasn't the only reason, mind you, and I contributed mightily to the marriage problems that made it too easy for one of us to decide to have an affair).

When she told me that she was late, I felt panicky inside. It was a "here we go again" feeling, and I'm having trouble shaking it. It may be more accurate to say that I became aware of my feelings, but they've actually been lingering for a while. They were lingering to the point, I realize now, that I was probably avoiding sex -- not completely, obviously, but I think part of me has been pulling away because (1) no sex means no pregnancy, and in my unacknowledged, flawed logic, no pregnancy meant no affair; and (2) if you put walls around your heart, you don't get hurt.

Once I became aware of these feelings, I could begin knocking them down. I knock them down by reminding myself of the truth: We want another baby. If she gets pregnant again, that does not mean she will have an affair. We're stronger now, and history is not going to repeat itself. And avoiding intimacy, and putting up the walls, is not the way to avoid pain. It causes its own kind of pain and cheats you of the joy of a good relationship. I repeat these truths to myself, sometimes even writing them down, and fight my bad logic with good logic. Fight lies with truth. Click, no thank you.

I'll keep at it for a while, making these unwanted thoughts a matter of prayer. If the pop-up ads just won't go away, I'll make an appointment with our counselor (the equivalent of running a virus scan?).

The point is this: Even after a long time, and even when things are going really well, I still have to be vigilant against hurt, anger, and resentment. I have to remind myself occasionally that I have forgiven my wife, and certain thoughts are no longer welcome. Over time, I have learned to deal with these in what I think is a healthy way, but it is a skill that I had to develop. You can control your thoughts and you can choose not to be weighed down by the past.

Soon it will be time to take a pregnancy test. Those pop-ups may come up again, but I choose not to let the distant past rob me of happiness today. Maybe, just maybe, we are about to enter another great chapter of our lives, and I absolutely refuse to miss it.

EDIT: Nope, not pregnant. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ch. 22 -- Who cares what people think?

I’m still surprised every time someone asks me for advice. I’m the last person who should give advice. All I’m really qualified to do is to tell my story, and people should go to counselors for advice. Still, some of the exchanges I have had may interest others.

Here is an interesting exchange from a person whose feelings really resonated with me. She decided to try to reconcile after her husband had an affair, and now she is concerned about what other people will think about her decision:

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“I am a betrayed wife. My husband had an affair with a woman and decided to leave me for her. I fought. After a lot of back and forth, leaving, coming back, leaving, coming back, etc. I'll spare you all the details, but it has been horrible. Also, there were others before this one, although not “meaningful” to the extent this one was. We too had our problems before the affairs began, but I thought they were worked out and we were happy. He seemed absolutely thrilled and in love with me right up until he told me he wanted a divorce. Anyway, through it all, I confided in a couple of friends at work for support. They knew the gory details (I wouldn't do it again if I could go back) and they shared some of this with others at work. Now, I have lost one friend and seemingly everyone's respect by my choice to work on my marriage and save it. I loved my job before this and have the opportunity to move into a leadership position there in the next month. I fear I won't get the job or if I do, no one will respond to me as a leader. Do you have any advice
for me?”

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I responded as follows:


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“Hi ___________,

Don't you sometimes feel wishy-washy about the decision to work on the marriage? Coming at it as a man, there were times earlier in recovery when I felt like an absolute weakling to have even entertained the idea of forgiving my wife. A real man, I thought, would have thrown her clothes out on the driveway.

But I know that isn't true. The easiest path by far would have been to walk away. What I did -- and what you did -- took tremendous courage. We gave our marriages a chance and proved that we were willing to work for what we wanted. I had a willing partner, and that made all the difference, but you are no less courageous because of a different outcome (I have no criticism for a betrayed spouse who decides to part ways with a cheating spouse – that is their right – my whole point in this blog though is to tell people that it is possible for a marriage to recover and that it is an option they should weigh carefully, as you did).

I don't know what to tell you about work, I really don't. In fact, I am not qualified to offer advice, and you should speak to a counselor about your questions. But I think that if a person thinks less of you because of how you responded when your spouse had an affair, tell them to jump in a lake. Nobody knows how they would react to infedility until they are faced with it.


If I was in charge of making the appointment and if I knew about your situation, I would count your experiences as a positive. You have demonstrated that you don't crumble in the face of a challenge, but instead are decisive, willing to do what is right whether or not it is popular, and can follow through.

No one much knew about our affair, but the lesson I learned is that even those people spent a lot less time thinking about me than I thought. Maybe that is true with your co-workers too. After an affair, you feel like the whole world is out to get you and that the rejection spreads far beyond your marriage. Some of the perceptions that you fear may not be as widespread as it seems. You may get into the new leadership position and learn that it is not an issue at all.

Whatever you decide, good luck!”

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Bottom line? Who gives a shit what people think. What is the right thing to do? I know every situation is different, but with all the affairs that are happening at this very moment, many are in marriages where there is a good foundation on which to build a recovery, and where the cheating spouse will repent and want to work with the betrayed spouse. If you are fortunate enough to have those circumstances and you decide to try to reconcile, I think that is just about the bravest thing you could do. I know deep down that it is the “manliest” decision I ever made. That said, I get it – I understand why someone might be afraid that people will think they are a wuss for taking the so-and-so back. I’ve felt that way too, but every single time those thoughts have crept in, I have remembered that (1) it doesn’t matter what they think, and (2) I am not, in any way, a “wuss” for loving a lovable woman who was willing to do what it took to recover. She was pretty darn brave herself.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why Bother?

Earlier I wrote that in my opinion, a person never completely recovers from an affair. In the same way, I think that a person never completely recovers from a death in the family or a divorce. You can heal and grow, and maybe even become stronger; the pain will subside and the event no longer defines you as a person and is not something that you continuously dwell upon; however, you never completely recover: A part of you is always different and the scars remain.

Someone commented, “If you never get to the same point that you would be had the event never happened....why would you bother?”

That’s a great question that I had to think about it for a while. Here is what I think:

1. Just because you may never get back to square one does not mean that your efforts to recover from an affair are fruitless. Whether or not your marriage survives, you as a person can grow well beyond the brokenness you feel when you first learn of the affair. The despair, the depression, the paranoia, all get better.

2. Maybe you can be, in some ways, even better than you were before. It is amazing how a trauma can make you a stronger person than you were before. You have scars, yes, but you can learn valuable life lessons if you choose to do so. I’m a better, stronger person because of what I have been through. That does not mean that I would choose to do it all again, but I can look back and see good that has come out of our situation.

3. What is the alternative? Spending the rest of your life in a fetal position? Always being a victim? I am not a leaf blown in the wind with no control over my life. Events will happen that I cannot change, but I can choose how to respond. The next time something bad happens to me (and there will be a "next time") I will give myself time to hurt and grieve. But then I will come to accept those circumstances and with God, I will get back up and move forward. If it is something someone has done to me, I will forgive. If it is something that is no person’s fault, just one of those times that life craps on you, I will not become bitter.

I don’t know if this will make any sense, but I will give it a shot. I would give anything for the affair to have never happened, but I would not trade the lessons I have learned from the experience for anything in the world.