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.