Letters and answering them have brought to my attention the need for a little guidance when slapped in the face by discovery of an affair. I was in shock, for weeks, let alone the next day or the first week. Paralyzed, actually, is how I felt, but looking back, I realize that this is how I respond to lots of things in life, it’s my demonstration of fear and uncertainty. Think “deer in the headlights.”
While this reaction has not always served me well, in the case of taking on the emotional overload of an affair, it was a perfect fit. As I ranted on the blog, “After His Affair,” I also thought carefully about what I should do to get the response from my husband that I wanted to get. I more than get the fact that not everyone’s story has a happy ending. I am nowhere near being an expert, but I do have experience on the subject of betrayal by affair and how to stay together.
In my final post at After His Affair, I tell how, while in this state of shock, a friend who works with married couples assured me that our marriage would come out stronger for this. I knew she was not a liar, but I could not for the life of me get from where I was, numb and anesthetized with disbelief, to…having an even better marriage than I imagined. How does that happen? She assured me that couples who stayed together after an affair came out better. Then, she asked me if I wanted to go find the other woman and beat her up. A true friend will say things like that when you need it.
I thought about what my friend said as I put one foot in front of the other, day after agonizing day. It felt like the kind of bad dream you have where you can’t move any faster because your legs are like lead or stuck in mud or cement. The seeming slowness of recovery, alone, enraged me. I didn’t need this, now. I had other, critical things going on. I hated it, just like I hated the months following breaking my ankle. Time dragged slowly by and I could do exactly nothing to change the way things were.
We learned a great deal about ourselves and our marriage’s priority in our lives. I may have thought that the affair, itself, shows where the priority is for the offender, but no. The importance of our marriage became very clear as the smoke cleared from the wreckage.
My husband, in time, committed himself to submitting to what I needed at any given time to help in the restoration of my trust in him. He proved his love for me by putting my needs at the top of the list, regardless of how angry I was. In short?
He took it like a man. What does that even mean, he took it like a man? Isn’t he the one who made the mess? Wouldn’t “I took it like a man,” seem more fitting? My husband made some decisions and humbled himself, daily. Did he want to? No, not at first.
During this process, my respect for him began to grow. I wasn’t over it, yet, not even close, but he was going to be patient and not whine about my bad mood for as long as it took for me to trust him, again.
The end result of this journey is that an affair can be a gift. A bizarre gift, but a gift, just the same. How? It shakes things up, it gets down and dirty, you feel broken beyond repair. Eventually, the haze begins to lift, bit by bit and the gift left behind is a new understanding of what the marriage means. Insight. A new and deeper intimacy. I still don’t get it, but, there it is.
After his Affair has been, as I reread it, raw emotion, a public catharsis. The letters and comments I’ve received tell me that it has been helpful to others. These letters often ask for advice, mainly, “What do I do, now?” and “How am I going to get through this?”
At the suggestion of Sarah, the original letter writer, I decided to write something to help people suffering with the new reality of their lives. Eventually, I decided on this new blog. As appropriate, I may ask my husband to step in and clarify some things for the benefit of readers whose husbands may be shutting them out.
The name of this blog has gone through a incarnations… “You Can Burn His Stuff, Later…” “…but for now, just don’t draw blood.” “You Can Burn His Stuff, Later… A guide to living when you feel like dying.” ”You Can Burn His Stuff, Later…A roadmap to getting your life back.” You get the idea. Maybe we will have a contest and let readers offer their own tag lines. In any case, here we are, and our stories matter.
I just wanted you to know that I found your blog during a search for how to rebuild trust in a cheating spouse. My ex and I are beginning to talk about reconciliation, two and a half years after I left him over his affair, his lies, and his emotional abuse during and after the affair.
I read the entire thing in one night. I found it at 10 and didn’t go to bed until 6. Your healing journey has reminded me of mine, only I’m still struggling with a lot of the pain and anger, even though I’ve forgiven him.
Your husband’s posts and input has actually been really helpful to me in trying to understand where my ex is coming from, where his head is, what he feels. At first, and until recently, I was only focusing on how I felt in the aftermath, not realizing or really caring how HE was feeling about his actions. If we want it to work, I need to understand his perspective too and this blog has helped with that.
Thank you for your message. It means so very much to us that my/our ordeal is helpful to you. Two and a half years is a long time to hang in there and postpone divorce, I admire your restraint. I remember waves of anger and pain after 2 1/2 years, but they lessened. There was a point, earlier, where I decided I’d had enough. I was exhausting myself, holding this against him and I felt like I was standing on his neck. It didn’t appear that way, but, let’s face it… That quote about unforgiveness being like swallowing poison and waiting for the other to die? Gotta say…pretty much true, however, that was not enough for me, that my lack of forgiveness was hurting me. It’s a process, and my experience is that when we are at the very least willing to forgive, we are cutting the bondage of unforgiveness and waiting for it to manifest itself in full.
My husband will be very pleased that you benefitted from what he wrote. I have forwarded your message to him.
Have a good New Year….as an aside, something I am going to do and which you might consider is writing down each of the positives you encounter in your journey. This kind of think helps us all to be present to what we have to be grateful for as we recover.
I must admit that I was inspired to begin my own blog to help me process this journey. I benefit from writing and keeping journals, but I don’t often have the time to sit down and put pen to physical paper with two young kids (just 8 and almost 3) and a new small business to run. Typing is faster. I’m keeping it private from the general public, but R is aware of the blog because we agreed that there would be no secrets on either side going forward, and he has the passwords to each entry should he want to read them. I plan to include everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I am trying to maintain a hope that we can come out on the other side of this stronger than before. The triggers are hard, even after this long.
We were engaged, but never married. At the time his affair started, we had been together for two years, he had plans to adopt my son and we were expecting a daughter. I realized something was wrong when our baby was only a few weeks old and confronted him. He admitted it, swore it was over, so I stuck with him for two months. Until I found out he was still sleeping with her. And she was just as guilty as he was – she KNEW he was involved with me, knew we had kids, had met me and was trying to befriend me before I learned about their affair. I couldn’t stay with him while he was still choosing to be with her, so I left. It took him another year to finally drop her after that, and then another year and a half for me to be able to back off from my pain and anger to realize that it happened, it SUCKED, but holding onto it meant I wasn’t healing and I wanted to heal.
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