Tag Archives: affair

I Forgot What It Feels Like To Be Cared About

17 Nov

One of the people that I formed a bond with this weekend is a kid from a neighboring state.  I say “kid” because he is 19 years old and grew up (running & playing) around in this business.  His Dad owns a franchise, and he is starting to learn sales and spread his wings.  I have met his father a few times, but never really had a conversation with his son, who I’ll call Abercrombie for the purposes of this post.

Not too long into this training I realized that he is really sharp and together, especially for his age.  He got married in August and is doing everything he can to succeed.  He is also incredibly sarcastic and brutally honest, sometimes to the point of coming across entitled or bratty.  At his core, he is a really sweet kid, though.  He has the same bantering, insult-laced style of joking that I love.  I told him today that he is like the little brother I never wanted.  In all seriousness, although he can be annoying, he reminds me of family in the best possible way.

I will admit that on Monday and Tuesday night I got much more inebriated than I should have.  We weren’t driving anywhere, and the beer and wine were complimentary.  I let the drinks flow as freely as the conversation.  I was in a circle of about 10 people.  The group ran the gamut from a newlywed (Abercrombie), to two divorcees, to a few happily married folks, one of which has a new baby on the way, and a few of us disenchanted, unhappily married sad sacks (for lack of a more positive description).

Before I knew it we were sharing things I never thought we would share.  I can’t even tell you how the subject came up, but all of a sudden we were talking about our sex lives.  I didn’t even remember until I was reminded tonight, but I apparently mentioned some of my unhappiness with the state of things in the Mess household (if you can even call it that anymore).  Although Abercrombie is too young to drink, he stayed up with us talking and laughing and taking it all in (as only a sober person in a group of drunks truly can).

After Tuesday I swore off beer completely for at least a year.  Seriously, I felt sick most of the day.  I purposely put out of my mind whatever my honest nature, plied and intensified with alcohol, may have revealed.  As the week continued we all got closer.  Abercrombie and I started ragging on each other even harder.  We all studied as a group and stressed over the test.  He got my cell phone number from the employee I brought with me when he saw me doing payroll on a break so that he could text me his request that I cut him a check, too.

As the week wound to a close today, we all shared a limo bus to the airport.  Abercrombie, my employee, and myself are all going to areas that are only a few hours apart, but we were all flying into different airports.  Tonight when I arrived at my destination my step-mom picked me up and she, I and my Dad had dinner.  Not too long after I finally arrived home I got a text from Abercrombie asking if I made it back safely.  I told him I had and asked about him.  He still had a 3 hour drive from the airport to his house.  We joked around a bit, and I figured I would hear from him occasionally and see him on the work forums and Twitter every now and then.

Instead, about 3 hours later he sent me a text that he had gotten home okay.  He asked if my husband was glad to see me, then said “Don’t have too much sex tonight, we all know how much he likes to do it lol.”  I honestly had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.  Then in horror I remembered those first drunken evenings…  Oh gosh!  He followed up with, “That’s what happens when u drink too much. u talk alot. lol” 

I deflected him with a great tactic we learned over the week called “acknowledge and ignore.”  He started talking about other people who drank too much and all the crazy personalities in our class.  He mentioned another guy who is married, but incredibly unhappy.  Suddenly all of the “lol”s disappeared.  He sent me these simple words: “I hope you’re happy.”

That sudden sincerity (I could sense a dramatic change in tone, even over text), made me dissolve into tears.  Those tears turned into sobs with this next exchange:

Me: “You are sweet.  I’m not as happy as I want to be but I’m working on it.”  

Abercrombie: “What can we do to fix that.”

Me: “I don’t know.  I will tell you when I figure it out.  You’re making me cry.”

Him: “Well I really care about you…  so I wanna help u figure it out.”

Just like that, the words started flowing.  He asked some gentle questions, I gave him a quick summary of my sordid life as it stands now.  An hour later I apologized for dumping all of that on him.  He replied with another statement that made me break down:

“No I wanna talk about it.  i know ur not happy just by looking u in the eyes.” 

Wow…

Then he said, “Heres what most dont know abt me. i am very cocky, outgoing, and speak my mind but i have one of the biggest hearts you’ve ever seen. but i never show it.”

I told him that he shows it more than he thinks.

After a little pause he asked, “r u alright?”

Me: “Yeah, I am fine.  I appreciate your concern and that you took the time to ask & listen.”

Him: “u suck at lying i hope u know tht

Me: “What am I lying about?”

Him: “ur not really ok”

Me: “Im better than I have been but I’m a mess, its true.  I take that bad liar thing as a compliment because I don’t ever want to get as good at it as my husband.”

Him: “what can i do to help u??”

Me: “You’ve done it.  I’m blown away that you care at all… I have forgotten what it feels like to be cared about.”

And there’s the crux of this whole thing.  I’ve forgotten how it feels to have someone put your needs and feelings first.  I connected with this great young man just 4 days ago, and he has stayed up texting me until midnight after a long day of studying, testing, and travel that included a flight and a 3-hour drive.  He genuinely cares.

He doesn’t have an interest in me in any other way than friendship, and neither do I.  He and his wife make me feel hopeful that there is a chance for real love out there.  They are so sweet and caring and great with each other.  His eyes light up when he talks about her.  He loses that arrogant edge, and his dimples show.

He said to me tonight in another text, “If your married to someone it means your devoted to them and nobody else.”  He is 19, and he knows that.  He is giving that to his wife, and I don’t doubt that he always will because he is a great guy.  I was starting to believe those didn’t exist, especially in this generation.  I am happy to be proven wrong.

It turns out I was right last week when I told my therapist it would be far easier to trust a stranger than my husband.  Right now we aren’t even at ground level in the trust factor.  A nuclear bomb has been dropped on my little town, and it’s now a huge crater miles below sea level.  I don’t think I can rebuild there anymore.

What that means for me is that I have to hold my head up and make the difficult, painful choices.  If such a simple gesture from a near stranger can have me crying for 2 hours, then it’s obvious to me that big changes are necessary.  I’ve taken one step toward that this week.

Tomorrow I will be going to marriage counseling alone again (at this point marriage counseling has probably breathed its last breath) to figure out what the next steps really are.  My husband is too busy to come, but I’ve already grown used to him not putting any real, honest effort into this relationship.  That means I have to do what I have to do in order to take care of me.  This week I found the motivation, internal strength, and support to do so.

Results from the Affair Analyzer

24 Oct

Today I decided to take the Affair Analyzer on the website where Rick Reynolds has his blog.  I have read quite a few of his articles, and I really thing he is insightful and spot-on.  The website has a little tool where they can give their take on the infidelity you have experienced if you answer a few questions.  I spent less than 5 minutes on it today and got the below result, which I think is scary-accurate.  I have highlighted the portions that really spoke to me the most.

Affair Analyzer

We’re truly sorry you’re going through this, but as difficult as this is, you’re the type of woman who will find a way to survive. As you’ve discovered, infidelity is totally disorienting, and one of the most difficult aspects of recovery is finding where to start in order to avoid prolonging the recovery process.

Although you are extremely hurt and shocked by your husband’s betrayal, you’re probably already exploring what needs to be done to address the situation. Your drive and resolve will likely carry you through the first portion of your recovery, but coping may become more difficult later on.

Your husband’s infidelity may have caught you off guard, especially if you assumed he was as committed as you. Conversely, you may have realized some time ago that you do the majority of the giving in your relationship. But you were hoping that he would, at some point, also realize what a catch you are and begin to put more into your relationship. You probably believed that love conquers all and because of that, your love should prevail.

Many people in your position are willing to give their mates another chance, particularly if the mate is truly remorseful and willing to address the problem. You may be questioning how you could have married someone like this since you are a woman of integrity and thought you had married someone who was also. In the long run, your ability to live well despite your mate’s behavior may be one of the characteristics that will prove crucial to your family’s recovery.

About what happened

Continuing a marriage while one mate has a sexual addiction requires commitment from both parties. Regardless of good intentions and strong desire, addicts do not overcome their behavior on their own. However, this presents a problem because these individuals usually experience such deep shame as a result of their behavior that it may terrify them to admit the problem and seek help. Instead, they will resolve to never do it again, believing they can overcome the problem on their own. In fact, depending on how the addiction came to light, this may be the first time your mate has ever really addressed their addiction. If that’s the case, then your mate may still need to discover their powerlessness over the addiction.

The Path Ahead

MarriageAs the hurt spouse, you will  likely find yourself in need of guidance on how to respond and cope with this  disruption of your life. Since you still may want the marriage you  should try to respond in a way that will cause your mate to pause and  consider well their own options. At the same time you don’t need to  compromise your own integrity. You are probably not only hurting from  the betrayal but also shocked by what happened.  You may also be  wondering how you can ever trust this individual or any person ever  again. This betrayal may have left you feeling inadequate and foolish  for even considering staying with your unfaithful spouse.

In fact, you may well receive contradictory counsel from different people.  Some will tell you to leave the marriage and others will advise you to  stay and work on the marriage. However, few of these people, if any,  have actually been in your situation and they have no idea how they  would really react if in similar circumstances.

Immediately  following the revelation of a betrayal, too many emotions, impressions, fears, and too much pain exist to make reliably good decisions.  It would likely be best to not leave your marriage until you can observe  changes in your mate that will indicate whether it is a safe and viable  option to stay in the marriage.

Exploring the motivations for both leaving and staying in the relationship may prove very helpful to you  both now and in the future so as not to repeat history somewhere down  the road. Your decision to stay or go may actually alter with time.  Frequently, the pain created by the betrayal will be the primary  motivation for leaving in the initial period after you find out.  Eventually this pain may subside and you may feel differently. Of  course, you may also notice a shift in your desire to stay if your mate  fails to make a serious effort at reconnecting in the relationship. If  you base your decision to stay on your mate’s promises to change, you  may be disappointed if their efforts to change do not meet your  expectations.

Since a part of you wants to save the relationship, you may find yourself trying to control your mate’s decisions and  manipulate them into staying regardless of whether this will result in a healthy marriage. You may start denying your own needs for healing and  safety in an attempt to save the marriage.  Saving the marriage at all costs would be unwise if the marriage in the end were not a healthy one.  Be careful not to compromise your physical or emotional health.  The  emotional pain of infidelity does not just go away; denying it will only compound the problems it has created.

Part of your uncertainty may be due to the fact that part of you genuinely cares about your mate, but another part of you wants to get as far from them as possible.  You will likely find yourself wanting the opposite of what you feel pressured to do.  If your mate and those around you encourage you too much to stay, then you will want to leave and vice versa.

Before you make a final decision to leave the marriage, consider your  motivation for leaving honestly and carefully.  If you actually want to  leave because of marital dissatisfaction, it would be best for you to admit that is the reason taking responsibility for your departure rather than putting the blame wholly on your mate.  If you are having trouble  with this decision because of your fears, it will help you to recognize  those fears and deal with them directly so that you can make your  decision based on reality.

It is important to understand each other’s recovery in order to learn to support each other.  Men typically want to compartmentalize and avoid thinking about things that are painful.  They need space to think about it on their own and in their own time.  Women, on the other hand, tend to process trauma verbally often wanting to talk about what has hurt them until they can touch the wound and not get an emotional charge.  She may actually ask the same questions over and over again in an attempt to desensitize herself from the pain.  Both spouses need to recognize that avoidance (from the men) and repetition (from the women) are just the ways that we typically deal with pain and give each other the patience and grace to handle this life-altering trauma in their own way.

Regardless of the outcome of your marriage, in order to heal, you will need to confront, grieve and release what has happened and then learn from the experience.  If  you are unable to sufficiently heal, then you may end up repeating the same pattern of hurt again. Infidelity is an emotional blow that cannot be ignored; however it is not an insurmountable hindrance to your future happiness.  You should give yourself ample time and grace to complete your essential healing journey.

About your mate

Since your husband’s position is unclear, your best course of action is to focus on your own healing. Make sure to allow him to take responsibility for his own recovery. You must be willing to let him succeed or fail in his recovery so that it will truly be his own. If your husband stays because of manipulation, you may feel successful initially, but it could lead to bitterness because he feels controlled instead of confident in his decision. Also keep in mind that if your husband is ambivalent about staying in your marriage, then he will not be wholly committed to the relationship.  Note that pressure will frequently influence people who are ambiguous to take the opposite position.

Unless your mate is willing to take responsibility for his actions and what his behavior has cost you, he most likely will not be able to participate in a healthy marriage.  You may need to be stronger than is comfortable or usual for you and create a list for yourself of your, at the very least, minimum requirements to stay in the marriage.  It may prove virtually impossible to know whether the relationship can be healthy and viable until you can witness your husband’s response to your needs.  You will need to be careful in determining if he is truly willing to do what is necessary to restore your relationship.  If your husband is not willing to help at all then you must understand that you cannot trust him with your heart.

Next Steps for Recovery

Recovery requires a safe and supportive community. AffairRecovery.com provides this community and is comprised of others who understand. Processing what happened is one of the most effective ways of dealing with healing and understanding what’s happened. Having others who can empathize and validate your experience helps the disorientation created by the attachment wound.  If at all possible try to find a therapist or program specializing in the treatment of infidelity.  Not all helping professionals are trained to address the issues of infidelity.

If discovery of the affair was in your recent past, you may have difficulty identifying any positive reason for working on the marriage. Frequently the pain of the betrayal clouds our ability to find the benefits.  Our culture is far more tolerant of divorce, where children are wounded and families separated, than we are of exploring the potential advantages and possibilities associated with recovering from an infidelity.  This leaves many believing that exploring the possibility of salvaging their marriage is a sign of weakness.  Those of us at the Affair Recovery believe it’s a sign of phenomenal strength.  If he is willing, then we’d encourage you to consider this possibility.  There is hope, and you can heal.  Your probabilities for having the relationship you’ve always wanted is far greater with this relationship than with the one that’s unknown.

Being Aware of Our Vulnerabilities

2 Oct

man on a wire – by simple pleasure

Last week a blogger I follow posted about a Vulnerability Assessment from her marriage counselor.  I was instantly intrigued.  She pointed out that Vulnerability + Opportunity = Affair.  That makes sense, although the reality is probably a tiny bit more complicated.

Those do seem like the basic questions to ask yourself, though – how vulnerable are you to being led astray and what kind of opportunity do you have to act on that vulnerability.  Those two things together are important to the equation.  Having lots of opportunity to cheat doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.  Similarly, being vulnerable to an affair doesn’t guarantee you will have one.  Someone can also be vulnerable and make their own opportunity or have so much opportunity that it creates a vulnerability.  However, if you mix equal parts vulnerability to an affair and opportunity to have one, it is obviously a recipe for disaster.

That made me wonder…  Just how vulnerable am I?

If I had to guess, I would say that I probably have a fairly high score on that assessment.  My husband is a sex addict, so his cycles and behaviors have definitely put him at a high risk overall.  But what about me?

Certainly, according to the small snapshot she shared, I would answer “True” more often than I would like.  Just look at some of this stuff…  Did you know you are at increased risk of having an affair simply if:

  • you have a Facebook account?
  • you have been dealing with stress (family, illness, work, marriage, new job)?
  • you have moved?
  • you have had to deal with the loss of a parent, child, sibling, pet, close friend, family member?
  • you have dealt with or are dealing with a physical/emotional illness (stress, depression, low self-esteem)?
  • you feel taken for granted or taken advantage of at work, at home, in life?
  • you have had to deal with children that are teenagers, rebellious, or unruly?
  • you have felt self-conscious of aging, a bulging mid-section, receding hairline, sagging breasts, erectile dysfunction, major weight loss/gain?
  • you have felt sexually inadequate or second-rate in bed?
  • you confide easily in others?
  • you lack clear goals or dreams or sense of purpose for your life?
  • you have thought or spoke negatively about yourself?
  • you have a lack of self-awareness concerning infidelity, such as:
    • “This couldn’t happen to me.”
    • “I’m committed to working on my marriage.”
    • “No one would be interested in me.”
    • “I would recognize the signs.”
    • “I can be his/her friend only.”
    • “He/She is only a friend.”
    • “He/She is not attractive to me, so this is OK.”
    • “We are both married.”  [As if that totally rules it out…]
    • “This will not get out of hand.”
  • you have a high need for affirmation from others in your life?
  • you feel sorry for yourself?
  • you often see things as ALL or NOTHING?
  • you are unable to communicate your thoughts and emotions to your spouse? perhaps you have been dishonest with them about difficult issues because you fear them rejecting you or punishing you, or because you think it will protect them…”What they don’t know won’t hurt.”)
  • compared to others, you view yourself as:  morally superior, smarter than, or more self-aware?
  • your spouse embarrasses you in public?
  • your marriage is “keeping up the image” to others?
  • you have felt your sex life lacked quality, passion or adventure, and/or it has not been frequent enough?
  • you are disconnected sexually because of emotional starvation?
  • you have married friends who complain about their marriages?
  • you spend time alone?

Teetering on the brink – © Copyright John Naisbitt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

I definitely don’t have all of them, not even half, but several of them stood out.  This is also not the entire list.  She got a HUGE list of almost 250 characteristics that can make you vulnerable to an affair, and chose just to share some of the ones that she found the most surprising or that made the most sense.

If I spent time alone I’m more vulnerable to an affair?  Huh?  If it’s on there, though, there must be a reason.  I think it is important to remember all of the little ways we can become vulnerable – to an affair, but also to drifting apart from our partner.  Each of these things is part of a bigger picture.  Too many of them together can mean that you are opening yourself up to stray, or even just to become estranged from your spouse.  The moral of the story is:

Expose your weaknesses before the lies become believable.

I am about to head into the therapist’s office to have my husband give me a full disclosure of his acting out behavior.  I am nervous.  There are all sorts of thoughts and emotions swirling around inside me.  One thing I have been keeping in the forefront of my brain is that the roles could easily be reversed.  If I had a different childhood, if I were treated or raised differently, if I had chosen to cope with sex or porn instead of shopping or eating, if any number of things had happened… this could be me today.  I am going to try my hardest to leave all judgement at the door.  We have walked down different paths.  We have experienced life differently.  The things we have been through brought us together, and we are moving forward hand in hand.

What’s that saying… “But for the grace of God go I.”  I may not believe in God, but I do believe that none of us can be positive that we aren’t vulnerable to being that person we despise, pity, hate, laugh at, etc…  I am going to try to hold onto that renewed sense of humility and self-awareness as I listen with an open heart to the things my husband has struggled with in his past.  Wish me luck.

A homeless man in Paris – work by Eric Pouhier

The High Price of Forgiveness

27 Sep

By hang_in_there, Some Rights Reserved

This article has been making the rounds through several blogs that I follow.  I decided to share it here not because I have an aversion to Reblogging or because I somehow think my perspective on this is better than anyone else’s, but because I wanted to have these powerful words close by and easily accessible.  I wanted to have a reminder of this on my page because these words are incredibly powerful.

There is a price to forgive, and it is a high one for the spouse who has been cheated on.  It is just as high for the spouse of a sex addict.  We give up so many parts of ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our ideals, our strong belief in fidelity above all else, our naive certainty that our life partner wouldn’t intentionally harm us, our sense of safety, our unconditional trust, our pride, our self-respect, our ability to live a normal, trigger-free life, our sanity (sometimes), and so, so much more.

Betrayed spouses and spouses of sex addicts are often advised to name their losses and grieve over them.  I have done that in small baby steps, here and there.  This article listed a lot of those sacrifices and losses in one place.  Reading the story, seeing my own losses mirrored so eloquently and poignantly, and taking a moment to grieve again was very therapeutic yesterday.

I also realized that I am at a point where I forgive my husband.  I’m not sure when it happened – I couldn’t tell you the exact moment – but it did.  I have a deep peace about what happened and what we are doing to continue making our marriage stronger.  I feel safer in my marriage right now than I have in a long time.  I am gaining back some of the pieces of myself that I had to sacrifice to stay.

I think there is another phase of forgiveness: when those things you lost begin to be restored, little by little.  I will never have the naive, unconditional trust, but I do have trust in him.  I don’t check the computer or his phone.  I don’t worry about whether he will cross our boundaries – if he does I have a plan and there are consequences – but the anxiety is far, far lower than it has ever been.  I use the “trust but verify” method, although the “verify” part is getting less and less necessary.  Now “verify” might just mean paying attention to the tone of his voice and the real sincerity behind his words.  It means listening to my gut about whether something makes sense or not, and accepting how I feel.

I have reached the point where my pride and self-respect isn’t influenced by what he does or doesn’t do.  I am realizing that my forgiveness and desire to repair our marriage is a testament to my character and makes me stronger, not weaker.  I no longer care what anyone else might think of me because of it, what society may judge me as, or even what the OW might ever have thought of me.  None of that matters because I am secure in knowing that my decision is turning out for the better.

Letting go of my ideals and expectations was so, so scary at first.  It was painful and humiliating to think that my picture of my relationship was false.  Accepting that our story wasn’t going to be neat, pretty, and the way I had envisioned in my head was a loss I had to grieve.  I can now see the value in losing my picture-perfect ideal, though.  Keeping an idealized view of a relationship is damaging.  It perpetuates delusions, it causes distance, it makes us dismiss things that don’t fit into our neat boxes, including aspects of our partner that could make us closer if we explored them.  My life isn’t perfect, my marriage isn’t perfect, and as much as we work on it I will always be married to a sex addict.  There will always be struggles.  But life always has struggles anyway.  Now we know that we are equipped to handle them.  Now we share our intimate thoughts and feelings more readily.  Now each new challenge should hopefully result in my husband and I rallying together, not drifting apart as we each try to hold onto our separate views of “how things should be.”

So, yes, there is a high price of forgiveness.  I also think that there is an equally high payout.  It just takes longer to get there, and there is a lot of pain along the way.  Some things may never come back.  Forgiveness doesn’t heal all wounds, it just makes it so the healing process can start.  I may have triggers for the rest of my life.  Forgiveness won’t take them away, but it will allow me to move farther and farther from that point of raw emotion.  Letting go of my need for “justice” is hard, but carrying it around with me keeps me on edge.  It keeps me focused on life’s unfairness.  That unfairness will always be there, though.  Just like my post yesterday, it’s about seeing the other things – the beauty and gifts that are also part of life.


Ever associated forgiveness with a big price tag?

by Rick Reynolds

What is the cost of forgiveness? What does this have to do with forgiving infidelity? We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first let me tell a story. Seventeen years ago, within the first two years of marriage, Sandra had multiple affairs. Doubts of whether she’d married the right man plagued her even before the wedding. A better man than Campbell she’d never find, but the spark was missing. She feared he’d be a Steady Freddie who was dull and commonplace. His impeccable character and undying love had captured her attention, but where was that romance of man and maid she’d so longed for? Those feelings never came.

About a year into the marriage Sandra’s boss invited her to lunch. From an innocent beginning blossomed a growing conflagration of passion. He understood her womanly need of small attentions and seemed to get her in ways Campbell never imagined. Justifying her affair was all too easy. She’d never felt like this before, confirming in her mind that she’d married the wrong person, and now she’d found the love of her life. Besides this wasn’t some spur of the moment impulsive whim, they’d spent their days at work talking about music, philosophy, religion and life. Milton knew her better in a month than Campbell had in 2 years.

For the first time in her life she felt compelled to recklessly abandon herself to another. It was like nothing she’d ever experienced, until Milton’s wife discovered their affair and filed for divorce. Milton immediately resigned his job and moved his family to another state. She was shocked; they had planned their future together and now, just like that, he was gone? He even told her he wanted nothing to do with her and to quit bugging him. The pain was unbearable, and even she was surprised at her response. Rather than grieving the loss and moving on, she numbed the pain with three more short-term affairs. What was the difference; she didn’t envision Campbell as any part of her future.

However, about a month after affair number three ended, she and Campbell conceived and life suddenly changed. She loved life as a mom and admired the way Campbell stepped up and supported the family. Over time she even grew to love her life and recognized she had indeed married well.

Skip forward 17 years when Campbell received a call from Milton’s wife. “I told him if it happened again I would no longer keep his secrets, and I just discovered he’s doing it again,” she said. “I thought that you might want to know your wife isn’t who you think she is. Why don’t you ask her about Milton?” Milton’s wife was coping with infidelity in a flurry of anger.

Initially, Sandra lied. She had decided to take the secret of her infidelity to her grave, but eventually she came clean about all four affairs before their first child’s birth. She pleaded for forgiveness; after all, it was 17 years past. But for Campbell it wasn’t seventeen years ago, ground zero was just last month. Forgiving infidelity for him didn’t seem possible. Seventeen years of faithfulness did nothing to ease the pain of her betrayal. In fact, it made it worse. She had caused him to live a lie for 17 years. He no longer trusted his current reality, his past, his future, his wife or himself. How could he have been so blind? How could he just forgive and move on?

For the sake of our discussion let me point out that there are two elements to what we refer to as forgiveness. The first is an internal matter where we choose to forgive the wrong committed against us and no longer expect justice as a result of their offense. Even more, we wish them well. The second element of forgiveness is about reconciliation. It’s where we choose to continue in relationship with that person in spite of their offense. For the sake of this discussion I’m focused on the second element, reconciliation.

All too often we talk about the high price of NOT forgiving. That forgiveness is a gift you give yourself and how failing to forgive leaves you forever a victim. We extol forgiveness as a virtue and share examples of those saints who forgave much to show forgiveness as a possibility. (Even though the fact we even share such stories indicate those people may be the exception, not the rule.) But forgiveness isn’t natural, especially when it comes to forgiving infidelity. It flows against our basic human nature. For most, our initial response to coping with infidelity is justice, not forgiveness. We want restitution, not mercy. We want the scales of justice to be balanced.

An understanding of the high cost of forgiveness seems to go missing when an offense is committed. Far too often I see an entitlement mentality when it comes to receiving forgiveness from our mate or forgiveness from God. As humans we’re supposed to forgive, right? In Christendom we teach “as God forgave us so we’re to forgive.” Isn’t that the lesson we teach our children? But we forget that forgiveness comes at a price. Even the Christian tradition teaches that the price God has paid to forgive mankind’s offenses was the life of His own Son. In the same way, the price paid by the betrayed spouse, if there is to be reconciliation, is high indeed.

What was the price of forgiveness in Campbell and Sandra’s case? Campbell had been an exceptional husband and father, not perfect by any means, but he’d lived and loved well. For him, forgiveness meant violating his personal beliefs and values. He would never have chosen to be with someone who betrayed, lied, and deceived him. He believed in the sanctity of marriage, and to choose to stay with Sandra came at the price of settling for something he never wanted.

Forgiving infidelity would mean sacrificing his dreams of the type of marriage he’d wanted. He’d never have the opportunity to brag to his children about the fidelity of their marriage. To stay meant sacrificing a marriage that was free from doubts. How could he ever again believe a word that she said if she’d been able to deceive him for 17 years? Staying meant the sacrificing of his dignity. He personally knew two of these men, and he now imagined how they’d seen him as the fool. To stay he’d have to sacrifice his rights. Didn’t he have the right to leave and find another who would be faithful to him? Staying and coping with infidelity meant sacrificing the ability to be honest with family. He couldn’t share his struggles, for fear of more complications. To stay would cost him pride. He’d always believed people who stayed were too weak to leave. To stay would cost his self-respect. He couldn’t believe things he’d said and done in his fits of rage. It would be so much easier to be away from her and not be triggered by her presence. To forgive seemed to make a mockery of all he’d sacrificed for the sake of their marriage. Instead of being proud of what he and Sandra had built, he now felt he’d been played the fool and taken advantage of.

All Campbell ever wanted was to love unconditionally and to be loved by someone special, but now his heart was so full of pain and distrust he wasn’t sure whether he could give himself to Sandra or anyone else again. Could he walk through the pain of her betrayal and face the demons he’d encounter if he ever gave himself to her again? For him, choosing to stay would cost him dearly.

Grace isn’t cheap; it comes at a high price. Failure to appreciate the high price paid by those choosing to forgive minimizes the magnitude of their sacrifice. The currencies used by the betrayed spouse to pay off the debt incurred by their mate’s betrayal are pride, ego, and suffering. Forgiving infidelity costs their dignity when they choose to stay rather than leave. It costs them their just due when they choose to forgo justice for the sake of the relationship. It costs them their sanity because they don’t control the painful thoughts invading their mind. Their present-day reality is constantly interrupted with painful memories of the past. It costs them their dreams because this road isn’t one they’d ever planned on traveling. It costs them health because the pain of the offense consumes their life. And I’m only beginning to scratch the surface.

As one who believes in the value of forgiving, I never want to be guilty of cheap grace, where I think it’s something to which I’m entitled. If justice is the standard, then the consequence of betrayal is the loss of relationship. Anything short of that is mercy, indeed. Failing to consider the price paid by others for my sake causes me to be careless with my behavior. Forgiveness and reconciliation are expensive gifts purchased through great suffering and sacrifice on the part of the offended. Failure to understand that reality makes me blind to the love displayed by those who choose to continue on in relationship…

How would you describe the cost of forgiveness from your own experience?

But I Still Love You

2 Aug

“I never meant to hurt you” is such bullshit. If you are a conscious, thinking human being, then you know actions like cheating and lying WILL hurt the other person. Stop living in a fantasyland!

The Girl Next Door

cheating

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“… But I Still Loved You”

21 Jun

Today I came across the most wonderfully well-written post from a wayward about what love is – and isn’t.  He addressed a line that I heard from my husband after his acting out and affair.  It’s the infamous “… but I still loved you.”  You can put anything you want in front of that “but” like: “I did the wrong thing,” “I screwed up,” “I know that I betrayed you, ” or even “I never thought about how this could hurt you.”  It’s something that I could never understand then – how can love go hand in hand with lies and broken trust?

The short answer is that it doesn’t!  Love is selfless.  It is giving.  It is putting another person before yourself.  That’s not what an affair is.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  Even though sex addiction played a part with my husband’s behavior, it doesn’t take away the selfishness of what he did.  It doesn’t take away the fact that he wasn’t considering my feelings or the ramifications that his actions would have on me.  That is why it is hard to reconcile the idea of him still “loving” me in the midst of his hurtful acts.  While I know that his addiction wasn’t about me, wasn’t aimed at me, and most of the time no thought of me entered his mind – I can’t help but think that if he really loved me during that time he would have considered me!

That’s why today when I read floridaredman’s post on Surviving Infidelity something just clicked.   I got his permission to post his comments here on my blog, so here is what he had to say:

How many of us WS’s have said this. “Even though I had the affair I still loved you, even in the midst of it”

To a BS they are wondering how could this be possible.  How could you say you loved me and still betray me?

The answer is the WS’s misconception of what love truly means.  Love does not seek to be selfish… on the contrary… it is quite selfless.  Loving who you are and being content with being you is a key factor to loving someone else.
If you do not love who you are and have no respect for yourself… then how can you truly give love to someone else?

An affair is a totally selfish act.  It’s Based on getting needs met that you feel your partner cannot or you will not let them meet.

True love for your partner will let you communicate this, EFFECTIVELY.  If you were to say to your spouse…” I feel my needs are not being met and I am on the cusp of having an affair to get them met” How do you think your spouse would respond?

A BS will look at all the avenues you could have taken before having an affair.  They would most likely believe that if you loved them you would have been more forceful in proving your point.

To go out and have an affair is no proof of any kind of love toward anyone.
Not even yourself.  It is a great show of disrespect toward everyone involved, including the AP.

It is a proverbial slap in the face to a BS for a WS to say, “But ..I still loved/love you”

The response could be…”Where was that love when you met your AP?” “Where was that love when you texted them all day and would only text me sporadically?”  “Where was that love when you were being intimate with them and giving me the cold shoulder?”

Even if you say… “I never wanted to leave you.” This becomes a selfish statement because what you are really saying is… I wanted to have both.
I wanted to have my AP for my fantasy and you for my domestic support.

Misconception comes in when you think love is only suppose to make you feel good all the time. Love can hurt. Love can hurt when you want your spouse to be one way and they are not. However the true love for them will help you overlook those faults while still communicating about them. Love does not give up, but it is willing to give in to a certain degree. I say to a certain degree because if you truly love who you are… you will know when to throw in the towel if the love you are giving is not respected.

If I took a gun and said… “I don’t want to hurt you.” Yet I unloaded the clip on you after I said it… the outcome shows my full intention.

Yes I said love can hurt, but not an intentional hurt. Having an an affair is not a mistake. It is a choice. A series of them. When you choose to have one… you are not choosing to love them… you are choosing to intentionally hurt them.

I thought about this for myself.  Did I love my wife when I chose to stray?

I can say that I had feelings for her, but the true love I should have had was overtaken by my own selfishness. Had I truly loved her at that time… I would have never ventured out.  I would have fought to communicate better.
I didn’t truly love myself. I really had no confidence in me. I really was insecure about me. So how could I give love that I didn’t have for myself to give?

When I found out my “why’s” and when I began doing the work… I found reasons to love myself.  In loving myself… I was able to truly love my wife.  Before I do anything to hurt her… I check myself because I don’t want to put her through any kind of pain intentionally.

I know a lot of people may not agree to this, but it was this type of thinking that led to my own self-awareness.

The thought came when I asked myself…

If you love someone… how can you give yourself to another? It is not to say that the love cannot be there somewhere… just needs to be resurrected and matured.

It is one of the reasons I came up with when your BS looks at you with unbelief when you say

“But…I still loved you”

When I read that I felt validated.  My husband has acknowledged some of those things before.  He has said that he was being completely selfish.  He has said that he sees now he should have reached out for help with his sex addiction.  He just never said it quite like that.

Some of that is so powerful to me that I just have to post it again.

“An affair is a totally selfish act.  It’s Based on getting needs met that you feel your partner cannot or you will not let them meet.”  Again, this was incredibly true for us.  He would not let me meet his needs.  He wouldn’t even express them to me.  How can I give him something he refused to let me even know about?  I guess I never could have – since I’m a real woman who actually cared about him, not some flat picture or video on a screen or a random, nothing whore in a chat room.

True love for your partner will let you communicate this, EFFECTIVELY.  If you were to say to your spouse… ‘I feel my needs are not being met and I am on the cusp of having an affair to get them met’ How do you think your spouse would respond?  A BS will look at all the avenues you could have taken before having an affair.”  Exactly!  True love involves being vulnerable and open, expressing yourself, and sharing with your partner.  It doesn’t involve hiding your feelings and going outside of your relationship for self-gratification.

“To go out and have an affair is no proof of any kind of love toward anyone. Not even yourself.  It is a great show of disrespect toward everyone involved, including the AP.”  Disrespect.  That is a great word.  That’s exactly what it was.  It certainly wasn’t love.  In our case my husband even openly admits that he had no respect for the OW in the least.

“Where was that love when you texted them all day and would only text me sporadically?”  Ouch!  That hit close to home!  That is almost exactly what was happening.  He would text the OW 60+ times a day and barely have 2 minutes to chat with me or send me a text during the day.  Sure sounds like love, right?

“I wanted to have both.  I wanted to have my AP for my fantasy and you for my domestic support.”  Very true…  He wanted to have his fantasy world and his real life girlfriend/wife to comfort him, support him, and take care of him.  Lucky me! 

“Misconception comes in when you think love is only suppose to make you feel good all the time.”  I want to comment on two things here.  First, this is a really deep concept that is hard for many to comprehend.  Secondly, to those who blame the BS for your affair because they weren’t doing everything possible to meet all of your needs, refer back to this statement.  Love isn’t about making you feel good all of the time.  It’s not even possible because real, true love entails real, messy emotions.  You have to love yourself.  You have to meet some of your own needs.  And if you need your spouse to do more, you should refer to the statement a few lines above because love entailing honest communication of those needs.  Remember, this is from the mouth of another WS – these are not my words even though I completely agree with them.

“Yes I said love can hurt, but not an intentional hurt. Having an an affair is not a mistake. It is a choice. A series of them. When you choose to have one… you are not choosing to love them… you are choosing to intentionally hurt them.” Amen.

“I thought about this for myself.  Did I love my wife when I chose to stray?  I can say that I had feelings for her, but the true love I should have had was overtaken by my own selfishness.  Had I truly loved her at that time… I would have never ventured out.  I would have fought to communicate better.”  This is something that my husband has realized in the last few months.  It’s one of the most profound thing in this entire post.  Read it a few more times.

I think the end part about having to truly love yourself before you can love someone else is borderline life-changing.  It is something that I need to work on as well.  I like myself.  I even like myself a whole lot most of the time.  Some days I love who I am.  I love how I feel.  There are days when I am harder on myself than I would be on anyone else that I love, though.  On those days it is hard to accept my husband’s love and love him fully in return.  On those days I am holding myself back.

The Worst Pain

3 May

Today as I was making my usual rounds – checking out posts on the SI forum and reading some of my favorite blogs – I came across something that really resonated with me.  One blogger, Repairing Shattered Pieces, responded to a question she found in a forum – Is infidelity the worst thing (pain) you’ve ever experienced in your life thus far?  Her response expresses exactly how I feel.  I couldn’t figure out how to re-blog her post since she uses a different blogging platform from me.  But I really wanted to post a link to it because it is very powerful.  Here it is: Is This the Worst Pain You Have Ever Felt?  I agree with her that infidelity is the worst hurt I have ever experienced.

My last post was about the pain I still feel over the death of my grandfather (See Remembering Pa).  It is obvious that I still have a lot of sadness and a mix of other emotions regarding his death.  I feel a great sense of loss.  And even though I knew he was very sick and would probably pass away soon, the sudden fall was unexpected and traumatic.  Still, death is a part of life that we know is coming and that we prepare for, in some ways, our entire lives.  We can understand death as part of the natural cycle of life.  Death happens to everyone – no one can escape it.

On the other hand, my husband’s infidelity is something I never saw coming. I wasn’t anticipating that the person who I loved and who professed to love me more than anything or anyone else in the world would betray me.  I was under the impression that he was just as faithful and committed to the relationship as me.  It was shocking when I realized that wasn’t true.  And it is something that many people never have to experience.  I envy them.

Death hurts, we grieve, and we do carry the loss of important people with us forever.  At the same time, though, we have all of the positive memories about that person to help us through.  I have the legacy of strength, perseverance, and deep love that my grandfather exuded every day and passed on to me.  He left a void in my life when he died, but he also gave me so many more things that I will carry with me forever.  His death is painful, but it is a pain that is tinged with happiness.  When I think of my grandpa the hurt of his death tugs at me, but it is tempered with good feelings, gratefulness over the time we had, and the knowledge that he isn’t hurting anymore.

By comparison the pain of infidelity is fierce and brutal.  There are no good feelings or happiness associated with it.  In fact, it tears at the positive memories.  It distorts the good times.  It taints my whole world.  Now when I look at pictures of us taken during the time he was cheating, sneaking, lying and breaking promises I don’t see a happy, smiling couple.  I see a naïve woman who was being duped by the man next to her.  When memories come up of things we did during that time I feel sick that he could act so loving while simultaneously hurting me behind my back.  It is devastating, and the hurt doesn’t go away.

Death is world-altering.  It removes someone from your life who was very important.  But it is also final.  The loss puts a period on your relationship with that person.  It closes the chapter of your life that they were a part of.  That can be very hard, but it also offers closure.  In stark contrast, infidelity brings along its friends gaslighting, trickle truth, doubt, and uncertainty.  It is also world altering, but in a completely different way.  It adds a huge question mark to your relationship.  It brings into question all of the chapters of your life that you thought you had right.

Here’s a small example.  A few years ago I went on a cruise with my family.  While I was gone Mr. Mess told me he was going to a friend’s birthday party.  When I asked him how it went he lied to me effortlessly about what happened – saying they just hung out at the friend’s house, got drunk, and all crashed there so no one would have to drive.  I discovered the truth 2 weeks later when I got our bank statement that showed he spent over $200 at a strip club that night.  After I had already told him how strip clubs made me feel.  After he had already agreed not to go to one again.  After his 2 month affair that had ended only 7 months earlier.  I explained to him then that his lies changed my whole perception of those 2 weeks.  The ground shifted under my feet.  Every touch, kiss, and “I love you” that I remembered made me feel ill.  Because it was all based on his lies.  He stole those kisses by being deceitful.  He also destroyed the trust in him that I was just starting to build back.

Another big difference is that death is something the other person has no control over.  When someone dies it is something that happens to them.  In most cases it is not something that they choose.  I know that my grandpa’s last few months were really, really hard.  It would have been a lot easier for him to give up and accept his fate – to not choose chemo and all of the pain associated with it.  But he fought.  As much for my grandma and those who loved him as for himself.

A cheater chooses to cheat.  They make the decision to betray the one they love.  They make a conscious effort to lie, hide, and sneak.  They make promises that they have no intention of keeping.  They break vows.  And the whole time they know that it will hurt the other person.  Still, they choose to do it.  They pick their own fleeting pleasure over the feelings of the one they purport to love.  This is probably the hardest part for me to understand.  I was raised to put others first.  To love other people with my whole heart.  To make sacrifices if needed.  The “Golden Rule” is something cheaters disregard completely.  The pain they cause hurts all the more because it was intentional.

I can also share the pain of death with others and they can really understand.  Everyone has had someone they love die.  There is a grieving pattern that is well-documented and socially accepted.  There are others that you love who are in the process with you – sisters, brothers, cousins, your mother and father, and all of the family members and friends whose life the deceased has also touched.  There is support.

Dealing with infidelity, however, is a very solitary process.  You are the only one dealing with the specific pain that your partner has inflicted.  Infidelity carries with it a stigma that is completely backwards and lop-sided.  Often the person who was cheated on feels embarrassed, shameful, worthless, and discarded.  They have to agonize over who to tell and how to tell them.  Whether the decision is to stay and work on things or cut that person out of your life there are always people on the other side of the fence who will criticize your decision.  People get fed up with hearing about it – they have no sympathy past a certain point.  They wonder why you don’t “just get over it,” a sentiment that is not preached at someone who just lost a loved-one.

Thankfully I have found an outlet and a good support system.  I have forums, my blog, and an online community of people who know just how difficult this is.  I also have outside support from my Mom who is the most level-headed, compassionate person I know.  I am getting through this pain.  But it is the worst thing I have ever experienced.  And it will have a lasting impression on my life.  It has shaken my whole world and shattered my perception of myself, my husband, and relationships in general.  I am slowing picking up the pieces and finding a way to get through this mess.

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