Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chapter 14 - False memories

I recall one reaction immediately after the affair was a profound sense of insecurity. The world shakes under your feet and you feel as if there is no safe place to stand. The person you trusted the most has betrayed you, so you doubt everyone.

One factor that increases the feelings of insecurity is that you don't even know whether you can trust your memories of your prior relationship. When you learn that things are not as they really seem, you wonder about all of the feelings you've had toward your spouse and all of the things you did together. When we went to that new restaurant, was her heart really in it, or was she thinking of him? When the family went to the zoo, did she call him on her cell phone when she went to the bathroom? You think nothing was as it seems.

There is a little bit of truth to it -- it wasn't as it seems -- but that does not mean that it was all bad. But you tend to throw out all the good memories, just in case. As a result, it is like you lose entire years of your life in one moment. It is so unsettling. If our experiences are part of our makeup, and if I no longer trust that those were what I thought they were, then who am I?

Chapter 13 - The residue

I've thought a lot about how I'm different now after what we've gone through. Some of the changes are good. I'm more sensitive now to my wife's moods and feelings. I have a better sense of what can happen. I have a more realistic view of what people are capable of doing.

Before, I was pretty naive. I trusted blindly. I haven't lost all trust like some say they do, but guess I've gained a healthy sense that any person, under the right circumstances, is capable of anything.

Some of the changes have not been good. I'm working on those now. After the affair, I walled myself off from everyone. I felt so isolated. In a way, I was, because of the need to keep our privacy. But I made it worse. I was never a very open person to begin with, but after the affair I quit reaching out entirely. I lost friends, and now I've lost a job. At work, I kept to myself so much that every single relationship I had suffered. I'm in a job that requires teamwork, but I stopped being a team player. I was so mad at the world, and so lonely, that my career suffered greatly.

These reactions on my part were a result of the affair, but they are not my wife's fault. I made choices to live only for myself, and I'm reaping the consequences. Although the affair was not my fault, my reactions to it are my fault and no one elses. It's taken me a very long time to recognize that.

I'm doing much better about reaching out to my wife now, but I have a long way to go with everyone else. There are a lot of fences to mend, and I worry about being up to the challenge. But, if we can make it through the aftermath of an affair, and come out better for it, I can do this.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

My email address

Wow. People are actually reading this thing.

Someone said they can't get to my first few posts. I don't know how that works. But if you want them, you can email me at and I'll be happy to send them to you.

Or, if you want to comment or ask questions, I would like that. I don't want to go through this hell if I can't help somebody.

I can't tell you if you should get divorced or not. I can't tell you if your spouse is cheating or if they're still cheating. All I can do is tell you what happened to us and what worked for us.

Good luck to all of you

Chapter 12 - The Revenge Affair

No, I didn't have one. But I thought about it. A lot.

This was very early on. The whole thing made me so sick, I started thinking that the only way to get past it was for her to feel what I felt, for her to see how terrible it is to go through. She deserves it, I told myself. I deserve it, I told myself.

I never took one single step in that direction. But if I had known a woman who would have been a likely affair partner, it would have been too, too easy to slip down that slide.

I think this is pretty common. Not just the abstract desire to get even, but the specific desire to get even by having your own affair after your spouse does. I don't think I was ever really serious about it, it was just a revenge fantasy. A very unhealthy one.

I have a pretty good idea what would have happened if I had cheated. I would have gotten caught, because I'm careless and a terrible liar. And we would have gotten divorced. Not that she's less forgiving than I am, but because we already had enough stress to be going on with.

Eventually I realized how rediculous the idea was. I didn't want to be a cheater. I didn't want to get divorced. And I know it isn't noble, but I didn't want to give up the advantage I had by being the "victim."

Whatever the reason I didn't act on it, thank God I didn't. Now, I could not bear the thought of hurting my wife in that way.

I've redoubled my efforts to be faithful. If a woman is walking in front of me, I look at the ground. When I travel, I do not travel with a woman. I don't talk to women about their relationships or mine.

Nine commandments are fair game for me. I don't make a habit of killing or stealing, but I do not deny that I have enough evil in me that under the right circumstances, I could do it. But cheating? That one's off the table.

So if anyone is out there, and if you're thinking about a revenge affair, for God's sake don't do it. You're better than that. Chances are, your spouse had no idea the hell it would put you through. Now, you know exactly the hell it would put your spouse through, and you could say that would make you more guilty than they were. Don't do it.

Chapter 11 - Sex - The Ups and Downs

I guess I had to get to this part sooner or later. How does an affair change your sex life?

Even before the affair started, this wasn't exactly the highlight of our marriage. I'm a guy. I wanted/needed sex more than she did. It caused tension at times. That's the story of most couples I know, at least as far as I know.

But there were some pretty long dry spells. As a conflict avoider, I wasn't good at being up front about my feelings and needs and would withdraw. When I withdrew, she was even less interested in sex, and I withdrew more, and so on.

Around the time the affair started, we slacked off. A lot. But we had done that before, so it didn't necessarily raise any red flags.

Immediately after the affair, I couldn't even undress in front of my wife. Honestly, I was repulsed at the thought of sleeping with her. All I could think of was what she had done with him. She seemed dirty to me.

We tried for the first time a couple of months after disclosure. It was a heat of the moment kind of thing, and as long as I was just acting on hormones I was fine. But then my mind set in, and the images started flowing. Uh-oh -- I'm not as good as he was. She's comparing us. I bet they did this and it will remind her . . . .

And so much for that erection.

So it was a race. Whenever we tried to have sex, I knew I had to orgasm quickly, or I would start thinking about the affair and the evening would end in disappointment. Of course, on the rare occasions that I succeeded in the sprint, her evening would end in disappointment.

Another problem was the antidepressants. I started on Celexa soon after disclosure, and eventually switched to Effexor. One side-effect of these drugs is "delayed ejaculation," at least for some men. So even if I succeeded in focusing on the moment, eventually one of us would start looking at the clock. For one reason or another, every episode seemed to end with a whimper, not a bang, because of my performance anxiety.
Truth is, she wasn't thinking about the affair or the other person nearly as much as I was, or even as much as I thought she was. A lot of it was just in my head.

Like everything else, it took time for our sex life to improve. It did not get better until both of us got better. For me, that meant forgiveness, in stages, and becoming comfortable that I didn't have competition any more. She chose me, I would remind myself.

I think this is a way men and women react differently. I remember my wife asking me, Why have you never asked if we loved each other? There were two reasons. One was that I knew it wasn't really love, regardless of whether they thought it was. Second, I was too freaked out about their sleeping together to care about the feelings that may have been present.

I think it must be easy to have great sex in an affair. There's the newness and excitement of a relationship. And you're only giving your best to each other. Anybody can get along if you never see each other with bed-head and morning breath, and you don't have to deal with kids and mortgages and fixing dinner and mowing grass. What kind of relationship is that? I just don't think it can be love if your only giving someone a little part of your life. So I guess I came to realize, it doesn't matter whether or not the sex seemed better to her. To this day, I don't know if it did or not, and now I don't care. It is better with me -- even if it's sometimes clumsy or too short or too long - because I love her.

So after the affair, my ego was blown, and as a result our sex life was too for a while. I guess good sex can improve a bad relationship sometimes, but for us the relationship had to come first.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Chapter 10 - How things change

To present day. I haven't added to the blog in over a month, and it is just because my marriage is going well. My wife and I are very, very happy, and I haven't been in the mood to talk about what we went through.

I'm having a bad time at work -- just normal career problems that have escalated to the point that I may make a change. I want to write more about those problems and how I have handled them (and mishandled them), because they relate to the affair experience. (The short version: I got used to playing the victim, and it affected my work relationships. Even though they had no idea about the affair, I let my marital problems -- and the pity party I let go on too long -- get in the way at work, and I'm paying the price).

Here is what I have to say about it today. Even though some of my problems at work are a direct result of the affair, I do not blame my wife. And, in dealing with the uncertainty of a career change, my wife and I are a team.

Think about what this means. For my perspective to be this way, I had to forgive, and it demonstrates to me that I have forgiven her completely. It also means that, while it is not my fault that she decided to have an affair, the affair was really only one component of our problems, and I have shared responsibility for the overall problems. You can only see that after a lot of growth and the perspective of several years of hindsight.

Plus, we see our lives and our futures as being linked together. We're a team. We are truly husband and wife, not just two individuals who share a kid and an address. I'm not sure that was true before she had an affair.

In other words, we are better now than ever before.