Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Chapter 19 - You can't fix each other

Someone asked this question in a comment:
How did your wife go about addressing the pain of the affair so that you would feel better in the end?

That's a great question, and difficult to answer.

You see, if I had just said, "You cheated, I'm hurting, and it's your job to make it better," I'd still be waiting. She couldn't make it stop hurting (no one could), no matter what she did or how hard she tried.

Now there were things she could -- and did -- do to help, but I "feel better" because of what I did, not because of what she did.

Let me explain. Before I was willing to re-engage and remain committed to the marriage, I had to believe that the affair was over and that she wanted it to stay over. By far, the most important factor in that was that I needed to be convinced that she understood how badly her decisions hurt me. For that, I needed her to apologize (she did) and I needed to see her remorse (I did). I saw her almost throw up from sobbing in agony over what she had done. It was real.

She tried to make it better by being loving to me, by changing behavior patterns (less flirty, conservative dress). While I appreciated these gestures, they didn't stop the pain.

Stopping the pain took time. A lot of time. And, I had to grow for the pain to stop. I had to stop playing the victim. I had to stop letting what other people think of me determine what I thought of me. These were things that my wife could not do. It was solely between me and God.

That isn't to say that if someone cheats, they are not responsible for the pain that they cause. They surely are and should do all they can to redress it. The pain is so awful, though, that you can't make up for it completely, you just can't. But if they want to try, they should apologize and express sincere remorse. They should change their behavior, stop the affair, cut off all contact with the affair partner, and be accountable for their time to earn trust.

But again, it won't be enough. At some point, the other party to the marriage has to let it go and just forgive. The pain gets better when you stop looking back and start looking forward, when you can again see the things in your spouse that attracted you to her in the first place and stop seeing her just as a cheater.

When I forgave my wife, it did much more for me than for her. I thought I was doing her a big favor, but the real benefactor was me. I didn't realize how heavy that grudge was until I stopped carrying it.

Don't look to your spouse to fix the pain. Give yourself time to hurt and to grieve, then let it go. It won't be immediate, or at least it wasn't for me. I let go little bits at a time, and as the pain decreased I was able to let go of more and more.

The affair does not control me and does not define me any more (nor does it her). I'll never forget it, but now when I'm reminded of the affair it doesn't bum me out for days on end. I think, "Wow, that was painful." And that's it.


At 12:56 PM , Anonymous RebornSoul said...

You are a big hearted and strong person :) For me, many times, one thing that's difficult to face is ourselves. Cause we can escape from other people, but we cant escape from ourselves. I pray that things are going strong on ur side :)


At 6:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In one of your earlier posts you said that you have now found out that your wife has had other men in her life pretty much throughout the marriage. Has your wife now come to terms with the fact that this is probably one of the reasons that your marriage was in trouble?

I am sure that you were able to sense that there was not a full commitment and you probably reacted accordingly. Do you think this caused you to pull back from the marriage? Have you ever discussed this?

At 1:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog!

I recently discovered my husband of 10 years was having an online affair with a woman for the past three years.

Though they've never met in person the intimacy of the exchanges both sexual and emotional is I think on par with a physical affair.

We are working on rebuilding, are both committed but that doesn't make it easy.

I'm so glad to see that someone else has felt what I'm feeling, has gotten past it and moved on.

By God's grace!

At 10:52 AM , Blogger Author said...

Ah, the "on-line" affair. Some people say that isn't a real affair, but you know better. An emotional affair can be just as devastating. Even if the relationship hasn't reached the boink stage, your spouse is still giving someone else what is exclusively yours.

At 10:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happens when your wifes traits that attracted you to her now becomes your tiggers?
:-( Do you need to let time do its thing first?

At 12:34 PM , Blogger Author said...

If the traits that attracted you to your wife are now the triggers, I can see how that would be hard. Yes, I think time is the answer, with a lot of hard work on both sides for her to regain trust.

At 12:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has been three months since I discovered my husband had been having an affair for over a year. ( I discovered today that it really was at least three months longer than I previously thought.
As I read you blog, I find so much comfort knowing I am not crazy. I almost feel as if you are writing down my personal experiences (emotionally and phycologically speaking). I am overwhelmed just by reading your experience and get great comfort in knowing that I am normal and there is hope. When I discovered the affair my first instinct was to stay and fight, not knowing the intense pain and fight I had ahead of me. I want to quit, everyday, but your words give me strength.

Again. Thank you.


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