Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Chapter 17 - 4 years and counting

Last month was the 4-year anniversary of d-day, the day I discovered my wife was having an affair. The previous 3 anniversaries were alike. I would spend the day somber and moody and depressed, seeing if she would bring it up. I hoped she would, so I could know that my suffering was important to her. At the same time, I hoped she wouldn't, so I could have a great excuse to get pissed off. Really mature, I know.

This year was different. On February 1, I realized that the anniversary had passed several weeks ago and that it had never once crossed my mind. Now that's progress.

The affair is still a prominent presence in our lives, but not directly and we don't often think about it. But you don't go through something like this without being permanently changed.

I don't trust people like I used to. That isn't to say that I am distrustful of everyone or that I assume everyone is out to hurt me. With my wife, it is not that I think it likely she will hook up whenever she leaves the house. It's just a recognition that it could happen, just like it could happen with me or with anyone else. When you least suspect it, each and every person could make a couple of bad choices and bam -- he or she is betraying everyone they love and everything they once stood for.

It made me more assertive. I'm much more likely to speak up when something is bugging me than I used to. She's a little less likely to do so. For a while, those trends were probably the result of righteous superiority on my part and guilt on her part, but trends become patterns and patterns become habit, so we do not relate to each other in the same way.

A shrink could find other ways we changed. Some changes are improvements, some aren't.

On trust -- someone emailed me and said she was having difficulty learning to trust her husband after he had an affair, and that a counselor had said that she just needed to just move on and trust him.

That's bullshit. You have to earn my trust. It isn't something I just make up mind to do and give it away.

With my wife, trust grew over time. As the evidence stacked up that she wanted to be faithful and that she was structuring her life to make it less likely that she would repeat the same mistakes, I would trust her more.

At some point, the evidence in favor of trust is such that is no longer rational to doubt the other person. It no longer makes sense to assume that they would jump at any opportunity to cheat on you. At that point, yes, a person does need to move on. But that takes time, and lots of it. So while trust is in a part a decision and a matter of will, it is a decision based on evidence of good behavior, not unverifiable promises.


At 11:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great blog. It helped me out a lot. I am glad to see that both you and your wife are working things through. It would be interesting to hear your wife's side of the story.

I have been doing a lot of research on this topic since I had a similar experience as you (at almost the same time) and the outcome was about the same (I did experience many of the same emotions. I have been relapsing lately and I think that is why I stumbled on to your blog) but the steps taken where much different. I did not preserve enough evidence to force a confession and I could not get a commitment to counseling so I kind had to go it alone (I had a good friend to talk to but he probably does not know any more than I do but at least I could talk to someone). Actually I kind of let her off the hook since I did things that were definitely not in my favor but I think I thought that it might be time for a change. If she did not want to stay then I would begin a new life. In some ways I was looking forward to it. I even had a plan. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on the moment, my new life was put on hold and I am still sorting out the old life.

One of the themes I have noticed is that one of the causes of an affair is that someone feels that their needs are not being met and they look elsewhere. I am having trouble with this concept because both of our needs were not being met and only one went elsewhere. I might have thought about it but in the end I came home every night. I am far from perfect but "not taking out the trash" is not a justification or reason for the affair. While I could probably do more in the relationship it does go both ways. Now that I know about Love Busters and the Love Bank I am trying to put the concept to use. I still need to learn to walk away from certain comments that are definitely hot buttons. Attacks on my ego just send me over the edge.

I also think that men kind of get a bad rap. While it is possible for a good man to cheat not all men will cheat but women do not just cheat on bad men. Sometimes it is just in the nature.

I can admit that the excitement and fantasy of an affair has to be very attractive especially if there is no other outlet for this. I think that the truly hurtful part is that my wife was enjoying the excitement and fantasy that I would welcome as well but I was left doing all the heavy lifting. I would have liked to figure out a way that we could have created some excitement together. Of course we now have had 4 years of excitement straightening out all the crap that is still left over. Not exactly what I had in mind.

I have spent the last couple of days channeling your blog. I really felt it. I even listened to Nickel Creek on my iPod on the way home from work. Do not give up on Bluegrass so easily. While Nickel Creek is well performed and the three of them have long careers ahead of them, real Bluegrass is much darker and I find that is good music to listen to when I am in a blue mood. Bluegrass is Country Music what Punk is to Rock and Roll.

Like you I also struggled to find something to take back my identity. I have to admit that piecing my nipples was not even a thought but that would definitely be a creative way to go. I slipped into my old standby which is working out. One of the upsides is that I am definitely in much better shape. Although I think that it sometimes qualifies as a love buster.

Which brings me to the reason I starting writing this comment. The revenge affair. Like you this crossed my mind on several occasions but I definitely decided that it was not the way to go. My reasoning match yours but specifically here is what I think. 1) It would be unfair to bring in and cause pain to an innocent 3rd party. 2) Affairs are hard work and require time and money that probably could be used in other ways with a better payoff 3) Hurting someone just because they hurt you is not very noble 4) The best I could hope for is that the score would be even (there would be definitely not be a gain) but I doubt that would be case and I would have more of a mess than I already have.

I guess at the end of the day I have to say that stuff happens and that a man is truly measured when life takes a bad turn. I usually like to think that I am at my best when all hell is breaking loose. I am still learning to apply that trait to my marriage.

Thank you again for the blog. For some reason it has really brought me peace.

Take care.

At 10:38 AM , Blogger I survived an affair said...

Anon- Great comments on the revenge affair. I agree with the reasons you posted for why it would be a bad idea, and I'm glad this blog has helped in some way.

Find a way to share your own story. Every day people wake up and find themselves in the position we are / were in.


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