Frequently Asked Questions for the Betrayed Spouse
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- What does "I love you but not in love with you mean?"
- Should I contact the OW/OM? Should I contact the OWH/ OMW?
- What do I do when WS works with OP?
- What is NC?
- Do you have to have NC to reconcile?
- Is it okay to ask WS questions?
- How do I stop asking the same questions over and over again?
- How long will it take me to heal from this?
- Will I ever feel normal again?
- Why do I want to have sex with FWS?
- What is 180 and how does it work?
- Why do I feel like this is my fault? Or is it my fault?
- Should I stay or should I leave?
- What is "Gaslighting"?
- How do you begin to recover?
- How do you get to the root of why the A happened to start with?
- How was the BS responsible for the trouble in the relationship prior to infidelity happening?
- He says there's no contact, but my gut tells me differently. What are some signs your WS has not maintained nc with the op and the affair is continuing?
- What should we tell our children about our reasons for separating?
- Why am I so much angrier at the O than at my spouse?
- 21. Did he/she have the affair because I was a bad spouse?
- My spouse, family, and friends think I should just "move on" and "get over it". Why can't I seem to do this?
- My WS is doing everything right and is remorseful and I still don't feel any better. Is that normal?
- How do I know if WS is committed to R?
- What did I do wrong?
- What are deal breakers?
- Is separation a good idea?
- What is Retrouvaille?
- And what is Imago Therapy?
- What if there is an OC?
- How do I deal with continued contact with OW because of OC?
- What do we tell our kids about OC?
- I'm tired of talking about the A, but if I don't keep bringing it up regularly won't my spouse forget what he/she has done to me or think everything is back to normal and fine now?
- How do I stop the "mind movies"...(the pictures in my head of WS with the OP)?
- Men don't cry, but I have been, is that okay?
- What role did an abusive upbringing play my WS's A?
- do I know when it's time to give up?...to call it quits?
- What's an emotional affair?
- Do you need IC also?
- How do you deal with, not just the betrayal of your spouse, but a betrayal of your friend, who is now the OW? - A double betrayal!!
- it true that once a cheater, always a cheater?
Q:What does "I love you but not in love with you mean?"
Then ask this question " Who are you in love with"? So often the spouses whose mates are in the midst of an affair hear that the WS is "in love" with the OP. Thus the BS experiences an anguished fear that because he or she claims to be, "in love" with the affair partner, it must mean that the marriage is over and the cheating lovers are meant to be together. " Soulmates" - because they now feel the intense passion of a fantasy relationship.
But of course they are, "in love." That's what an affair is. It's what the addiction is. It's an emotional response (without rationality, commitment or long term thinking) that causes us to do things that are not in our best interests and that hurt other people and destroy what we have worked hard to build in our lives - things like homes and families.
The idea that love should be the deciding factor is any of this is completely erroneous. As is the idea that love is some magical chemistry between two people. It's neither of those things. Romantic love really is nothing more than a mathematical equation. Spend enough time with someone meeting intimate needs of conversation, affection, admiration, and play time - and you will fall in love with that person. Assuming of course that they are not doing things you find offensive or objectionable at the same time.
Q:Should I contact the OW/OM? Should I contact the OWH/ OMW?
Contacting the OP is one of those questions that people on SI are really split on. I'll try to summarize both camps of thought for you here. Note that my remarks here do not refer to an OP who is not a close friend of the BS. This is a different situation and will be addressed elsewhere in the FAQ.
One reason the BS may want to contact the OP is to try to get the facts of the affair straight. For instance, a BS doesn't trust that his/her spouse is telling the truth, so they choose to contact the OP for more details. Another reason is so the BS can tell the OP off. In some cases, the BS contacts the OP to make sure that the OP knows that the WS is married or involved in a relationship.
Those who recommend the BS not contact the OP do so generally because the OP really is irrelevant to your marriage or relationship. While it may seem that the OP is your enemy and someone you have to conquer, it's really not true. The OP isn't even a real person in regard to the affair -- he or she is, in many ways, a figment of your spouse's imagination. And, of course, you have to remember that the OP is most likely a liar as well; he or she may be cheating on a spouse or significant other. Why would you believe anything that this person tells you? And to contact the OP to give him or her a piece of your mind is just a waste of your time and gives the OP way too much power over you. Finally, many BS's on SI have had very hurtful and disturbing discussions with the OP and for this reason they recommend that you not enter into a discourse with him or her.
Those who suggest that contacting the OP is a good idea do so for reasons of closure and to use the conversation as an opportunity to get some information that you may not be getting from your spouse. The OP may be able to give you better details about timelines than your WS. The OP may not know that the WS is married and will feel deceived by your WS when he or she finds out the truth from you. Some BS's felt that a final discussion with the OP gave them a sense of closure that they needed.
In my own case, I contacted the OW after I found out about my H's first EA with her. She was mortified at what they had done; she cried and promised me she would never speak to my H again. When I found out about their second EA/PA two and a half years later, I didn't bother calling her. What good would it do? She knew he was married and she had broken her original promise to me. I figured it would be a waste of my time to speak with her again.
What I did do brings me to the second part of this question: whether to contact the OP's spouse. On this issue people on SI are far less split. The general consensus is not only that the BS should contact the OP's H or W, but that the BS MUST do so. It's a matter of doing for someone else (the OP's BS) what you would have wanted others to do for you. This is not an issue of wanting revenge or to hurt another person, but rather an issue of fairness to the OP's BS. Additionally, contacting the OP's BS removes the secrecy from the affair, and since affairs thrive on secrecy and deception, it will damage the affair. I chose to contact the OW's H immediately out of a sense of self preservation because I figured that if he knew my own marriage would have a better chance of surviving the affair.
I also did it out of a sense of guilt because I never contacted him the first time (I let my WS talk me out of it) and I wasn't going to make that mistake again. Oftentimes your WS will try to convince you not to contact the OP's H or W. Your WS will tell you that it's wrong to involve others or may even try to tell you that the OP is a battered spouse and is afraid for their safety. Again, the general consensus on SI is that the abused spouse line is an excuse commonly used by WS's and should not be believed. And the part about not involving other people - of course you realize that the OP's H or W is already involved and that telling him or her is only fair.
Q:What do I do when WS works with OP?
A wall of secrecy in the marriage and a window of intimacy in the affair usually characterize extramarital triangles. Reconstructing marriages requires reversing the walls and windows by erecting a wall with the affair partner and a window of honesty with the marriage partner.
The spouse who has initiated the affair must make it clear to the affair partner that the relationship is over and that he or she is fully turning to the spouse to rebuild the relationship. Naturally, trust building becomes the initial focus. Yet, trust can only happen over time. Consistent clarity about where the offending spouse is and calls to check can be part of the regaining of a sense of security.
After the disclosure of infidelity, the only way that healing and recovery can occur is if the unfaithful partner stops all contact with the affair partner. You are not wrong in your request. Until safety is established, the trauma reactions will continue. Your husband's loyalty appears to be toward her rather than toward you. Your WS needs to write a "No Contact" letter to the affair partner and make it known in no uncertain terms that the only contact allowed will be work related and professional.
For us, Mr. Lucky had to go to extreme measures of "No Contact", in that he had to completely avoid the area that the OW was in. If there must be contact then it must be professional and business related only.
No phone calls, lunches or e-mails that have nothing to do with business are acceptable. Should contact be made the WS must tell the BS immediately and be prepared to explain every detail of the encounter or conversation.
The WS must understand that continuing contact (of any kind) continues to be a problem for the spouse. It creates an environment of anxiety and uncertainty that interferes with healing just as continuing to scratch off a scab interferes with the healing of a physical wound.
All e-mails will be shared & forwarded with the BS.
The BS should be able to have full access to the work facilities and company gatherings either at the work place or after work.
The BS should be made to feel comfortable and safe within the WS work environment.
For us leaving the workplace was NOT an option, however many BS insist that the WS quit and seek employment elsewhere.
Q:What is NC?
NC means NO Contact between the WS and his or her affair partner (commonly referred to as OW=Other Woman or OM=Other Man). NC doesn't mean just a little bit of contact or an email or text message once in a while. It means NO contact. If there is still contact, then the affair has not come to a complete halt and your WS is still in a fog.
Q:Do you have to have NC to reconcile?
Yes, you do. You can't have a marriage that contains three people. Sometimes a BS needs to have a lot of patience, because this "NC as a condition of R (reconciliation)" point seems to be quite difficult for some WS to grasp. Even a fully remorseful WS who has recommitted to his or her BS may accept "just one last phone call to explain to OW/OM that it's really over". This is not to say that the WS is doing the right thing - just a caution that it may happen. You can still reconcile even after a slip up or two; but sooner or later NC must be firmly in place.
Q:Is it okay to ask WS questions?
It is not only OK, but very probably necessary to the BS healing. The WS who is fully remorseful and will do anything to "make it up to the BS is going to be willing to answer any and all questions. BS will be much more successful at getting the answers they seek if they "make it safe" for the WS to answer. Your WS has hurt you badly; but bear in mind that if they are truly sorry for what they've done - they're hurting, too! Sometimes putting your questions in writing may be a good and safe way for both of you to deal with this painful information-gathering phase of healing.
Q:How do I stop asking the same questions over and over again?
You will stop asking the same questions over and over when you have completely absorbed the answers. Your remorseful WS should be prepared to answer more than once. This is completely normal. You are NOT obsessed, nor are you going crazy. People who have had terrible accidents or who have been through very traumatic events tend to tell the story over and over. This is how we process things and fit them into our lives, somehow.
Q:How Long Will It Take Me To Heal From This?
There is no set time line. On the average it's 1-2 years to heal from betrayal. 3-5 years is not out of the norm. Below is a general guide, not everyone heals in the same amount of time as others, there are variables to consider in each individual's situation. It's a rollercoaster ride, emotionally and physically, but I promise you - you can and will survive. But, you will never be the same and that's not always a bad thing. D-day to 6 months is devastation; you're done with life, in shock and sick at heart. You are raw emotionally and never knew such despair could be felt.
6-9 months are full of mood swings from "it's going to be okay" to "Why am I even trying." Your thoughts are emotion driven and not dependable.
9-12 months you can actually go about 15 minutes without thinking about "it." One morning I stepped out of the shower and realized that I hadn't thought of the affair yet. But sadly, those times were few and far between. You're still up and down emotionally.
Then at 12 months, sobbing again with the disappointment in your spouses selfishness
14 months you are able to have a heartfelt happy moment.
18 months the incredible crush of despair is gone. You wake up one morning and realize that the A was something that happened, not something that is happening.
20 months you no longer feel like your world is in danger. Trusting again, with your heart if not with your brain. Constantly questioning your own feelings but you realize it is fear stalking you now, not danger.
22 months you can see a future. You don't cry at the drop of a hat. You can watch television without falling apart at a love scene. Actually feeling almost back to your normal self. You finally loose that sense of being "outside" yourself. The phases can trick you, you think you're doing great at five weeks and then you hit the bottom of the well at 12 weeks. You can be raging at 10 months with a horrible anger that never appeared early on.
Q:Will I ever feel normal again?
When you first find out about the infidelity of your spouse, you wonder how the world could possibly still be moving on at a normal pace. You are flattened by the emotions that you are feeling. You wonder if you are going to make it through from one day to the next. You see people smiling and laughing. You hear people talking about mundane things. You know that people are actually watching TV and they care about the next episode of a program or about what is going on overseas. You are so overwhelmed with your own emotions that you wonder if you will ever feel like everyone else again. The answer is "yes".
It isn't a fast process. Time helps tremendously. As I was going through this experience, I heard the phrase "time helps" so often that I started calling time the other four letter word. But time does help. You will go through the grieving process. You will grieve for your spouse, you will grieve for the old marriage, and you will grieve for your children and your old life. But throughout the grieving process you will also find that one day somewhere in the midst of the chaos you will tell a joke and laugh again. You will find that you watch TV and the program interests you. You will pick up a book that isn't about infidelity and you will be able to get lost in the story.
Your normal won't be the same as it was before. Many who reconcile find that their normal is a stronger marriage. For many of us who divorced, we are able to look back and wonder why we even tolerated the old normal. Through all of this, I have become a stronger and more self-assured person. I am kinder in the end. I have much more empathy for others than I originally had. My new normal is a better and stronger me. In time you will find that too.
Q:Why do I want to have sex with FWS?
Upon being confronted with the undeniable reality that their most trusted spouse has betrayed them with another, some BS's experience an overwhelming sexual desire for their wayward spouse. Many couples claim to have had the best, most intense and loving sex of their relationship during the period following the discovery of an affair, (generally a few weeks to several months), often trying new things and experimenting in ways they had never considered before. This phenomenon is termed "Hysterical Bonding.
There is very little information on this phenomenon, but it appears to be a primal, instinctual way for the partners to reconnect and reclaim each other. While it may feel counter-intuitive to the BS; as if they are "rewarding" the WS for the affair, hysterical bonding can be a stepping stone to reconciliation. The intimacy encourages communication and a closeness that may otherwise take some time to re-build.
The occurrence or absence of hysterical bonding does not appear to be an indicator of successful reconciliation. Many other factors, such as the WS's remorse and openness are far more reliable indicators. Hysterical bonding is, however, normal, and nothing for the BS to be alarmed about or ashamed about experiencing. In fact, it has been said it is the one positive in an otherwise long and miserable experience, so enjoy it while it lasts!
Q:What is 180 and how does it work?
180 is a list of behaviors from Michelle Wiener Davis, the author of Divorce Busting, that will help your spouse to see you moving forward as a healthy person. I would highly suggest that any new BS begin these behaviors as soon as possible. I am convinced that if I had implemented them, I would still be married. In retrospect, I did everything besides 180. I looked pathetic. No one wants to be perceived as pathetic. 180 makes you look strong. Strong is attractive. (Making it)
So here's the list:
- Don't pursue reason, chase, beg, plead or implore.
- No frequent phone calls.
- Don't point out "good points" in marriage.
- Don't follow her/him around the house.
- Don't encourage or initiate discussion about the future.
- Don't ask for help from the family members of your WS.
- Don't ask for reassurances.
- Don't buy or give gifts.
- Don't schedule dates together.
- Don't keep saying, "I Love You!" Because if you have a brain in your head, he/she is at this particular moment, not very loveable.
- Do more then act as if you are moving on with your life; begin moving on with your life!
- Be cheerful, strong, outgoing and independent.
- Don't sit around waiting on your spouse - get busy, do things, go out with friends, enjoy old hobbies, find new ones! But stay busy!
- When home with your spouse, (if you usually start the conversation) be scarce or short on words. Don't push any issue? No matter how much you want to!
- If you're in the habit of asking your spouse his/her whereabouts, ASK NOTHING. Seem totally uninterested.
- Your partner needs to believe that you have awakened to the fact that "they (the WS)" are serious concerning their assertions as to the future (or lack thee of) of your marriage. Thus, you are you are moving on with your life? with out them!
- Don't be nasty, angry or even cold - Just pull yourself back. Don't always be so available? for anything! Your spouse will notice. More important, he/she will notice that you're missing.
- No matter what you are feeling TODAY, only show your spouse happiness and contentment? Make yourself be someone they would want to be around. Not a moody, needy, pathetic individual but a self assured individual secure in the knowledge that they have value.
- All questions about the marriage should be put on hold, until your spouse wants to talk about it (which may not be for quite a while). Initiate no such conversation!
- Do not allow yourself to lose your temper. No yelling, screaming or name calling EVER. No show of temper! Be cool, act cool; be in control of the only thing you can control? YOURSELF!
- Don't be overly enthusiastic.
- Do not argue when they tell you how they feel (it only makes their feelings stronger). In fact, refuse to argue at all!
- Be patient and learn to not only listen carefully to what your spouse is really saying to you? HEAR what it is that they are saying! Listen and then listen some more!
- Learn to back off, keep your mouth shut and walk away when you want to speak out, no matter what the provocation. No one ever got themselves into trouble by just not saying anything.
- Take care of you. Exercise, sleep, laugh & focus on all the other parts of your life that are not in turmoil.
- Be strong, confident and learn to speak softly.
- Know that if you can do this 180, your smallest CONSISTENT action will be noticed far more than any words you can say or write.
- Do not be openly desperate or needy even when you are hurting more than ever and are feeling totally desperate and needy.
- Do not focus on yourself when communicating with your spouse. It's not always about you! More to the point, at present they just don't care!
- Do not believe any of what you hear them say and less than 50% of what you see. Your spouse will speak in absolute negatives and do so in the most strident tones imaginable. Try to remember that they are also hurting and afraid. Try to remember that they know what they are doing is wrong and so they will say anything they can to justify their behavior.
- Do not give up no matter how dark it is or how bad you feel. It "ain't over till it's over!"
- Do not backslide from your hard earned changes. Remain consistent! It is the consistency of action and attitude that delivers the message.
- When expressing your dissatisfaction with the actions of the wayward party, never be judgmental, critical or express moral outrage. Always explain that your dissatisfaction is due to the pain that the acts being committed are causing you as a person. This is the kind of behavior that will cause you to be a much more attractive and mysterious individual. Further it SHOWS that you are NOT afraid to move on with your life. Still more important, it will burst their positive little bubble; the one in which they believe that they can always come back to you in case things don't work out with the OM/OW."
Q:Why do I feel like this is my fault? Or is it my fault?
You have been terribly wounded, and you’re searching for some kind of meaning to it all. Everyone does it. "If I had only taken my normal route home instead of trying out this new shortcut…..I wouldn’t have even BEEN here to have this awful auto accident!" is one example of this type of thinking. We cannot wrap our mind around the idea that bad things happen to good people. So we try to figure out where we went wrong and caused this crushing betrayal of our trust. And the comforting part of the idea that "this is my own fault" is that if we caused it, then all we have to do to protect ourselves in the future is to figure out what we did wrong and avoid doing it anymore!
The idea that this is your own fault is false. On SI, we call this kind of idea: "trying to own someone else’s shit". You did not cause the affair – the affair is your wandering spouse’s shit. You may be responsible for 50% of the problems in your marriage, but you are responsible for 0% of the affair! Your wandering spouse owns 50% of the marriage problems and 100% of the fault for the affair. Your spouse had many other choices about how to deal with marital problems; up to and including the "I want a divorce" speech. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
Q:Should I stay or should I leave?
Should I Stay or Should I Go...This is not just a song by The Clash. It is one of the first things you think about after d-day. This person who you loved and trusted has betrayed you in one of the worst ways possible. Perhaps you had said or thought "If my spouse EVER cheats, I am GONE!" And here you are confronted with something you never thought would happen to you. What do you do?
You deeply love your wife or husband. You married them for a reason. You may have some beautiful kids together. You have a life together and a home together. But your spouse CHEATED on you. How could they do this to you and your life!! Your head says to drop them like a rock, kick them to the curb, pack their crap and burn it. But you LOVE your spouse! You made a life with them and you want to stay married. You never thought that you would get divorced.
The beginning is a very confusing and emotional time. My best advise is to not make any definitive decisions yet. Does your spouse seem remorseful? Does your spouse say he/she wants the M? Is your spouse willing to go to MC and work on the M? Are YOU willing to go to MC and work on the M? If the answer to these questions is generally yes, then do not make any decisions yet. Ask your spouse to sleep in the guest room or the couch if you must. But if you BOTH want the M then at least give it a try.
However, if you feel strongly that you will never be able to forgive this breach of trust, don't pretend that you will forgive and forget. Because you will never forget. And you may or may not be able to forgive. Perhaps this was a deal breaker for you. Perhaps your spouse has already decided to leave to be with OW/OM.
Only you can be the judge of what may work for you. Trust your gut. Allow yourself to go with the flow for a while. And remember that sometimes you need to separate from WS in order for both of you to find clarity. (Please see the questions about Separation for more info on this). Separation is not easy and should not be taken lightly.
Q:What is "Gaslighting"?
This term is taken from the movie "Gaslight" where the husband (Charles Boyer) tries to make his wife (Ingrid Bergman) think she is going mad by convincing her what she thinks she is seeing isn't real. When the WS is either caught or suspected, he/she may try to convince the BS that they are not seeing what they think they see or that something didn't happen, even though everything points to the fact that it DID happen. We have heard stories where the BS has even walked in on the WS and OP "in the act", yet the WS still denies that anything was going on. It is an effort on the WS part to completely deny even the most obvious evidence, and to make the BS feel that they must be seeing things. Sometimes, probably because the BS is so desperate to NOT believe what they are seeing, the strategy works. This may be part of "the fog", when the WS is not ready to accept responsibility for what happened. Or in some cases, the unrepentant WS may do this so that they can continue having the A.
Q:How do you begin to recover?
Whether you are going to reconcile or divorce, you still will need strength to survive infidelity. The most important thing that you can do to begin to recover is to take care of yourself and, in time, you will find that you have survived and even thrived. It may not seem like it at first, but you will laugh again.
Try to take some time and think. Know that this had nothing to do with you, it was not your fault in any way. If there were problems in the marriage, they could have been handled differently. Don't make any major decisions right away, first try to get to a better place emotionally so that you can do what is right for yourself. You will learn a lot here and I cannot stress to you how much the people here will help you, we've all been in the same situation - please post whenever you need to and keep reading, you will learn and make friends who share your pain and you'll see that you can make it through too. That will give you the strength to recover. There are also helpful articles in the Healing Library that will give you more insight.
Take care of yourself and work on you:
First, do things that will give you some strength. Eat healthy food and try to exercise. Try to get a good night's sleep. This will help you in the healing process.
- At first you will just need to do whatever you can to get through the days. As soon as you can, try to do things that make you feel good even if you have to fake it till you make it. Pamper yourself - take a bubble bath, drink a glass of wine, spend time with your friends, blast your favorite music, make a cd, read and post your vents here, go shopping, get a massage and a manicure, change your hair style, read a good book, enjoy your children, take a few days away - do things that you enjoy that you usually didn't do because you were taking care of everyone else, take the time to take care of you. Do some volunteer work to feel good about yourself.
- Go to the doctor for meds if you need them to control your emotions and think more clearly or to get some sleep. They have helped many people here.
- Get tested for STDs, it is reality and part of taking care of yourself.
- Start therapy for yourself to help YOU - this is separate from marriage counseling.
- Find an inspiration that will carry you through a tough day. Tape it someplace that you will see often and garner strength from it. It can be a poem, a prayer or a picture, whatever works for you. Put it on your computer monitor, your mirror, your steering wheel. Make it your mantra - memorize it and repeat it to yourself whenever necessary. Pick out new ones as you recover and you will notice the change in yourself.
- Try to detach yourself emotionally from the situation to see it more clearly & from your WS if you need to so that you don't hurt so much - look for articles to help detach - there are some in the Inspirations Forum. If necessary for your own sanity, go no contact with your WS about everything except children and finances and handle those things by e-mail or other non-emotional methods. Do not let your WS push your buttons, leave the room and do something else for you.
- Go to a bookstore or do a web search for helpful books and read them to understand what happened and what can happen from here. A suggestion is Love Must be Tough by Dr. Dobson. Read the book and then highlight areas that help you. When you have a day that you can't do anything else, rewrite those passages over and over. It will kill the time and the message will start to sink in.
- Keep a journal to spill out your emotions into instead of crying to a still foggy WS and to keep track of your recovery progress.
- Join a support group or just attend a session or two. You can pick a group that concentrates on the area you need the most help in to learn coping skills and to not feel so alone.
- Talk if you need to. Decide if you want people in real life to know - you can just talk to a really close friend or tell everyone, others don't tell anyone or limit who will know - you do what is good for you to heal. Make a friend on SI and spend hours on the phone - I promise that you will end up laughing.
- Help someone else. Answer a thread on SI - once you do, you will see how far you have come in your own recovery.
- Know that even if your WS is showing remorse, you will go through the 5 stages of grieving (can be in any order): Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Letting Go, Acceptance. This is the healing process. Whether you reconcile or not, you will grow as a person. It wasn't your choice, but given time and an effort, you will survive and you will be stronger.
Q:How do you get to the root of why the A happened to start with?
Regardless of whether or not a couple decides to reconcile, getting to the root of "why" the A happened is most helpful in truly healing from the trauma. Before even beginning to seriously figure out why this happened in the marriage, both partners must understand that reasons are not excuses. The simple "why" is that the WS made a choice to betray their loved one. No circumstances validate that choice. In searching for why, both spouses must understand that they are looking for the thought processes and environment that allowed the WS to convince themselves that choice was valid.
They are NOT looking to excuse the WS's behavior based on external circumstances. Start by looking at how the WS felt about themselves during the time period leading up to the A. Not how they felt about the BS, or their marriage, but how they felt about themselves. Were they happy? Confident? Satisfied with their progress in life? Proud? Content? Successful? Did they feel sexy and attractive? Or were they depressed, angry, ashamed, feeling like a failure? Feeling like something was lacking? Was the BS aware of these feelings? Next, examine the WS's feelings about themselves in the context of their marriage and family. Did they feel needed? Important? Integral to the health and well being of the family? Did they feel appreciated? Like they were loved and cared for? Did they feel overwhelmed? Trapped? Again, was the BS aware of these feelings?
Now look at how the WS typically handled conflict. Did they communicate? Escape? Avoid? Divert attention? Change the topic? Become angry? Defensive? The answers to the above will likely give clues to the WS's state of mind prior to the A. It is important that the BS NOT take responsibility for these feelings. That can lead to defensiveness, self-blame and judgment. By examining these feelings and comparing them to how the WS felt about themselves during the A, you should be able to determine what needs the WS was trying to fill with the A. Most often, (excepting extreme cases such as personality disorders), it is low self-esteem and negative feelings toward oneself, combined with immature or ineffective conflict management, that lead to seeking fulfillment and/or escape outside the marriage.
At this point, you have a good base for starting individual and marriage counseling. A good counselor can help to discover the root causes of the feelings and needs that led to the WS making this choice. This can be an arduous process and hard work. It often involves resolving old "family of origin" issues and behavioral strategies to combat recurring negative emotions. Recognizing feelings and formulating positive strategies to express them is key to avoiding devastating choices in the future. The counselor can help both partners understand and communicate their feelings about the affair with each other; guiding them in their healing.
Once this work is underway, it may then be appropriate to look at the marriage as a whole, and both partners' contributions to its state of health leading up to, and during, the affair.
Q:How was the BS responsible for the trouble in the relationship prior to infidelity happening?
While a betrayed spouse is NEVER responsible for the choice their partner made to have an affair, they must hold themselves accountable for their share of responsibility for the state of the marriage leading up to the affair. It often appears that one partner is the "problem" in a relationship, while the other is blameless. This is simply not true.
Assuming the betrayed spouse is a consenting adult with full mental and emotional capacities, he/she must be accountable for their role in an unhealthy relationship. Even if there is an imbalance of power in the relationship in favor of the wayward spouse, the betrayed spouse has allowed this dynamic to exist and possibly even perpetuated it.
If both partners are committed to reconciling after an affair, the BS, once they have begun the healing process with the sincere effort and help of their WS, must begin to explore how they contributed to the marriage environment in which the affair took place. Some are obvious, such as raging, verbal or emotional abuse, or blatant disregard for their partners needs. Some contributions are more difficult to spot. Low self-esteem can lead one to become passive, perpetuating the belief that ill treatment is deserved. Co-dependency and enabling behaviors create an unhealthy environment and unequal balance of power.
One spouse puts all the work into the marriage allowing the other to disengage without consequence. Even in marriages that appear to be happy, where fights are infrequent or absent, where the BS is a grounded, communicative and self-aware person, there can also be denial, avoidance, subtle neglect. All marriages, good or bad, are created by the interactions of two people, and BOTH of those people are equally responsible for its health and well-being. Marriage counseling, reading books on marriage and relationships and relationship building workshops can all be helpful in defining partners' roles and contributions, and improving the dynamic of a marriage or relationship.
(Note: no matter how miserable the marriage, or what contribution the BS may have had in creating that dynamic, infidelity is never justifiable. The honest and honorable choice would be to attempt to improve the marriage through honest communication, or divorce. In exploring joint responsibility for the marriage dynamic, it is imperative that both WS and BS keep the choice to have an affair a separate issue.)
Q:He says there's no contact, but my gut tells me differently. What are some signs your WS has not maintained nc with the op and the affair is continuing?
The truth is sometimes you can't tell if there is continued contact. Some people feel their WS is having NC only to find out they are. Others feel their WS is having contact, only to be proven completely wrong. Marriage at it's base is all about trust. Infidelity blows that trust right out of the water and it takes time, alot of work on both partner's parts and the WS over time being able to prove themselves trustworthy again. It is also not unusual for it to take the WS 2-3 attempts at NC for it to stick. Its like an alcoholic, the first step admitting there is a problem and then working to stop drinking.
True reconciliation cannot take place until there is complete NC with the affair partner. When the affair is completely over and there is absolutely NC your WS should hide nothing from you. Their computer passwords, cell phones, briefcases, etc. should all be open to you--without qualms. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. It is normal for you to check and recheck on your WS after d-day. This will continue until you feel comfortable that you don't have to do this anymore.
Sometimes the affair partner is strongly opposed to the affair ending and they attempt to continue contact. Your WS needs to understand he owes nothing to the affair partner. The only person [italic]owed [/italic] anything is the marriage partner if you are both working towards reconciliation.
If you feel strongly that the contact/affair is continuing then you will have to investigate the possibility. If it is proven there is contact you have to confront this head on. Demand immediate NC again, strongly reiterating to the WS this will not be tolerated and is a deal breaker for reconciliation if continued.
If you just feel there is contact but have no proof it is perfectly alright to talk to your WS about your feelings. This lack of trust is part and parcel of what they have brought to the marriage after d-day and its perfectly normal for you to feel suspicious for a time. Open communication about this is necessary and something the WS needs to be understanding about with you.
Q:What should we tell our children about our reasons for separating?
This is probably THE single most important question in all of these FAQ! Your children are the future for all of us..to borrow and to paraphrase from the words of Khalil Gibran: You're only the bow. Your children are the arrows shot forward into the future.
If there is any way possible to cease hostilities for the purpose of telling the children, then DO SO! Husband and wife should present a united front for this conversation. The most important point to make is this one: IT ISN'T THE CHILD'S FAULT! They did NOT do anything wrong that is making Mommy or Daddy go away. A child always thinks that they caused the separation/divorce; so both parents need to keep sending this message for quite some time to come. The other point that is so very, very important to make is this one: sometimes a Mom and a Dad stop loving each other. But a Mom and a Dad NEVER EVER stop loving their child!
Telling the child that you're separating because of an affair is an iffy proposition. If you are absolutely positive that the child already knows about the affair, it may be OK to tell them. But if not, then don't overload a grieving child with too much information. They are going to have enough changes and shocks to deal with already.
Q:Why am I so much angrier at the O than at my spouse?
When we find out about the affair, some of our first thoughts are about the OP. The OP more distant from us than our spouse. They don't sleep with us at night and awake with us in the morning. They aren't the person that we love and care about.
We believe we know the inner workings of our spouse, so we know who they are. We don't want to make them the bad guy. We want to blame the OP. We want someone to have manipulated our spouse into this behavior. The OP is the obvious target for our anger. If we give all of our anger to the WS, it is very difficult to see our spouse in a good light. So. we focus our anger on the person involved that is the farthest removed from us.
This is normal. At some point, we have to give our spouse full credit for their behavior. We have to realize that in most cases, our spouse was the person who was supposed to protect us, not the OP. However, if the OP knew you and knew you were married, they certainly share in the responsibility
Q:Did he/she have the affair because I was a bad spouse?
Please understand one thing. it doesn't matter HOW bad the marriage was or how "terrible" the BS was as a spouse, it is STILL not the reason for an affair. While the WS may use this as an excuse for the affair.. it is only that.. an excuse. Affairs happen when the WS goes outside the marriage to find something lacking in THEMSELVES. Even though the marriage may be in trouble, it doesn't excuse an affair because there are other ways to choose to deal with marital problems. It is not unusual, after the affair is discovered, for the WS to BLAME the BS for what happened. Don't believe it.
You could be the most perfect spouse in the whole world .. and still be cheated on. The problem ISN'T you. The saying around here is: you both take 50% of the responsibility for the state of your marriage, but the WS takes 100% of the responsibility for the affair.
Q:My spouse, family, and friends think I should just "move on" and "get over it". Why can't I seem to do this?
"You need to move on"
"Can't you just get over it?"
"What is wrong with you? It is time to get out there!"
"You need to stop dwelling on this."
You have heard these lines and many others. So, why CAN'T you just get over it? I will tell you why. You never ever expected this. Nothing can prepare you for this. The friends and family members who say this to you probably have never experienced the devastation of adultery. Perhaps they think this is the same as a couple break up. It is not.
This is not "Irreconcilable differences". This is bigger and badder than you ever thought. This is ultimate betrayal. This has hurt you deep to the core. This has shaken everything that you thought you were, made you question everything that you have ever done. No one will really understand unless they have been thru it. And even then, every situation is different.
You do not need to "move on" or "get over it". You need to heal. Healing takes time. Healing takes work. Healing takes patience. You have just been run over by an emotional Mac Truck. You are broken mentally and emotionally. Your family and friends do not see the injuries, but they are there. And it takes the same amount of time and work to heal from this as it does from a bad auto accident.
Do not wallow in your hurt and pain. But do recognize it. Read books. Go to IC and MC. Talk about it. Write about it. You will not "get over" this in a week or a month or even a year. You WILL begin to heal, but you it takes a long time to heal completely. There are some timelines that people may mention. I will mention them here, but remember that everyone is different -- do not judge yourself by these "guidelines".
Many people who have been D will say that it takes 2 years to really get over the pain. Many people who have done a good job of recovering from an A (both those who stay together and those who do not) will say that is takes at least 2x the total amount of time of the A and the cover up. (so if the A and cover up lasted 2 years, recovery will take 4 years to recover). And a friend of mine (who has been thru this many, many years ago) told me that it takes at least 6 years...AFTER you have at least 2 good months in a row. (note that at the time of this writing I have not had 2 good months in a row and I am healing but I truly do believe that the healing process will be closer to 6 years than 2...)
Try not to get stuck in your pain but DO try to give yourself the time to heal. Cry and scream and beat up the garbage can. Get your anger and disappointment and hurt out. Do not stuff it down just because someone else expects you to. This healing time is your time. It is your time to take control of your life and your own emotions and healing. You own it and you get to decide how it will work and how long it will take to heal.
Q:My WS is doing everything right and is remorseful and I still don't feel any better. Is that normal?
Oh heavens, yes. It's unfortunate; but feeling sad, anxious, scared, angry, depressed or various other emotions are par for the course for a BS, even after their WS has started "doing everything right." If you had been physically assaulted and left with a broken leg, no matter what your attacker said or did, that leg would take time to heal. The only difference is this assault requires emotional recovery, instead of physical. While you can walk without pain, you cannot feel without pain.
Idon't know about you, but I'll take the walking with pain any day of the week! But seriously, you have been emotionally traumatized by the person who was supposed to love and honor you above all others. That he or she has seen the light should not be ignored - on the contrary take as much from it as your wounded soul will allow - but it cannot make you better instantly.
Only time can heal the wounds the affair left behind, though a former WS can keep the process moving by being everything they were not while in the affair - having no contact with the AP, being an open book, being remorseful and reassuring you of their love and rediscovered loyalty, validating your pain, etc. If you are not seeing an IC and/or MC, I highly recommend it, as would the overwhelming majority of members on this site.
I had three, a great husband/wife team for MCs and a fantastic (if unpaid) IC who happens to my godmother, and I don't know how I could have made the progress I've made without them. So be patient, seek help here and elsewhere (professional and not) and, above all else, take care of yourself, emotionally and physically. It will get better.
I pondered including the following ideas,
- My MC/IC stressed that as long as feelings were not getting stronger (my pain or my wife's affair emotions) we were doing ok. I thought of advising that if a BS feels worse (more depressed, more anxious, etc.) this is a red flag and they should seek professional help or, if they already are, contact that help soon.
- It might help to probe whether or not a person is "not feeling any better." In my personal experience, I often feel like I'm not getting better, until I take the time to think of how I felt closer to D-day and realize that, thank God, I don't feel like that anymore. I think simple is best, especially for a BS immediately after or even on D-Day, as these would not apply to a BS until some time has passed from D-Day. If you think either deserves mentioning though, I can edit the post.
Q:How do I know if WS is committed to R?
The most important, most obvious, and most necessary component to a successful reconciliation is a strict "no contact" agreement, wherein the wayward spouse agrees to have absolutely no communication with their affair partner. This means no email, text messages, phone calls, IM’s, PM’ s, and of course, no physical contact. The affair partner is completely and permanently cut out of your lives. In some circumstances, such as when the affair partner is a co-worker, the terms of the NC agreement must be agreed upon between the marriage partners, but in general, no contact means NO contact.
If the WS balks at NC, they are not serious about reconciliation. If the WS has ended the affair and has no problems with NC, that is a great first step, but does not guarantee that they are committed to reconciliation. The work has just begun!
The next indicator of serious commitment to R is expressions of remorse. Expressions of remorse generally begin with an apology in words, followed by continued expressions in actions. This can be cards, gifts, being more helpful around the house, showing more affection, loving words, and more apologies. Saying things like "I don’t know what I was thinking", or "how could I have been so stupid?" or "I can’t believe I almost threw away what we had" are expressions of remorse for the affair. Look for consistency in words and actions. A general change in overall behavior. A WS serious about reconciliation will consistently be contrite and sorry. Not just on D-day and the following days, but for as long as the BS is receptive to it.
Along with expressions of remorse, there should be a willingness to give the BS what they need to feel safe and begin the healing process. This is often extremely difficult, especially if the BS needs to know details of the affair. If a person pulled off an affair, it is likely they are quite used to evading and lying to get out of uncomfortable situations. Answering detailed questions about the affair will bring up intense feelings of guilt, shame and self-loathing. It will be natural for the WS to become defensive or even lie in the beginning. If the BS is gently persistent, explaining that they need the information to rebuild trust, feel safe and begin to heal, a serious reconciler will accept the pain and shame in order to help their BS. It may take some time, but if there is progress and an increased openness in answering tough questions about the affair, it is likely the WS is serious about reconciliation.
Another example of the WS giving the BS what they need to feel safe is being open about ALL of their activities. This means handing over cell phone records, computer and email account information and passwords and accounting for their whereabouts at all times. A remorseful and committed WS will understand why this is needed and will provide this information for as long as needed. It is a violation of privacy. It emphasizes that they are not trusted. It is uncomfortable. It is necessary. The truly remorseful WS will realize that they will earn trust and privacy with the passage of time and their own consistent and trustworthy behavior.
Perhaps the most difficult step for a reconciling WS is the exploration of why they made the choice to have an affair, and taking steps to change their own behaviors to prevent recurrence. They must be willing to explore this with their BS, which means hours of difficult conversation and more hours of honest introspective thinking. Betrayed spouses nearly universally feel a need to understand "Why?". This means taking a long hard look at the WS’s feelings, thought processes and belief systems leading up to the A. It means examining how they handled conflict, how they felt about themselves and where their thinking was flawed. Often, figuring out the why’s of the affair will mean individual counseling and marriage counseling. The truly remorseful WS will be willing to take these steps to learn from the mistake and make the BS feel more secure that a recurrence is unlikely.
If a wayward spouse agrees to NC, and is making progress toward consistency in expressing remorse, providing information, communicating about the affair and shows willingness to explore why and how the affair happened, it is very likely that they are committed to reconciliation. The betrayed spouse must keep in mind that the above steps are difficult and are not likely to happen all at once. They can help the process by being patient and supportive, and by expressing understanding and appreciation for the WS’s efforts.
Q:What did I do wrong?
As I'm writing this, I'm 3 ? years past d-day and my life has changed dramatically for the good. I'm no longer married to my XH? through no fault of my own. I have been divorced a year and I am getting ready to remarry. I was married for 20 years and fully believe the answer to this question has been what made me understand my old relationship and allowed me to move forward. Had it not been for the soul searching I did with this one question, I would be a different person. Here is my very layered answer.
I truly believe that, regardless of whether you are divorcing or reconciling, the answer is the same. It applies to all BS's.
If you are asking what you did to cause your spouse to have an affair, the answer is, nothing. It's a very short, simple, sweet answer. No amount of complaining, griping, lack of sex or anything else justifies an affair. An affair is rooted in a weakness in the WS. It is not about the weakness of the BS. The WS can lay the blame on you from here until the end of time, but it's undeserved. If they had asked your opinion on the affair, you would have said that it wasn't the thing to do. You weren't there to make the judgment call for them. This is about their needs, their ego, and their issues, not yours. To put it bluntly, you didn't do this, don't try to own their behavior. The choice completely belongs to the WS. It's not about you. It was the WS's job to protect you and your family and they didn't. It's as simple as that.
Now, if you are asking "What is wrong with me? What is so wrong about me that my WS had an affair, treated me poorly, and hurt his family?" The simple answer is still, nothing! However? I'm going to ask you to stop and do some real soul searching. You will find out many things about yourself and your partner. It's not an easy process.
It took me over 2 years to begin to understand me. I can now tell you that I'm a healthy person. I know myself. I honestly like myself better now than I did 4 years ago. I control my behaviors and I am able to have a healthy relationship. I could do none of that if I had not taken the time to process the question that stayed in my mind. "What kind of monster must I be if my XH had an affair, left my children and myself for the OW?" I knew I was a monster. No one could do that to someone who was their wife, the mother of their children and who was a good person, right? Wrong! He did. But here are some of the questions I asked myself in the process of getting rid of my monsters. Some of them may not apply to you, but many will.
- What is/was wrong with the way you look? I'm going to answer this for you, nothing, not weight gain, not surgery, not too thin, nothing! Your spouse should love you regardless of how you look. Being married is about loving the person. The way you look didn't cause the affair. They may be blaming it on that? but that isn't the real answer. It's not about the way you look!
- Why didn't you have an affair yourself? You were in the same marriage, yet you didn't stray. (The answer to this will tell you a lot about yourself. Be honest. This is only a conversation with yourself.)
- What things are/were wrong with your marriage? No marriage is perfect. It is two imperfect people, living in an imperfect world. Think about what is/was wrong with it. And think about your part in it. What is/was your part?
- Are/were you allowed to be yourself in your marriage? Have you stopped doing the things you liked to do before you were married? (Do you still listen to the same music, dance, laugh, act silly, play?)
- What do you dislike about yourself? You are allowed to be who you want to be! What things will make you a better and stronger person?
- What do you want from a relationship? Are/were you getting that from your marriage? If you were not getting what you needed, it is likely your WS probably wasn't either.
- What about you is/was bothersome to your WS? This may be the same answer as question 4?but maybe not. Why? Are/were these fair assessments of you?
- What were your responsibilities in the marriage prior to d-day? How does this make your WS feel? This was one of the most telling answers for me. I analyzed how my responsibilities made my WS feel. He didn't want the responsibility for anything, yet he resented me for assuming those responsibilities.
- Are/were you and your WS well matched? Do/did you expect the same things out of life? I'm not talking about right now! Are/were you both getting what you expected when you married?
- Do/did you communicate well with your WS? Do/did you understand their communication style? Do/did they understand yours? Are you satisfied with that?
- Are/were you so busy with life's responsibilities that you are forgetting to "Stop and Smell the Roses?" (job, children, car pool, house work and so on)
- Are/were your values the same? Do/did you come from the same type of background?
I know that spending time answering these questions told me things about both my XH and myself. In the end, the answers were hard. They were difficult to face in some instances. But they allowed me to find myself again. My brother has said "My sister is back!" on several occasions. He is right. I'm the person that I was long ago.
I expected more from my XH than he was capable of. He expected me to do less and just let life happen. We really weren't the right people for each other. After 20 years of marriage and over 2 years of question and answer sessions with myself I know all about what I did wrong in his eyes and I am free from wondering what happened. I didn't have to ask my XH. I know the answers.
Q:What are deal breakers?
Deal breakers are whatever will end the marriage. They will vary by person and by situation, of course. Deal breakers are the line in the sand, the boundaries, you draw -- your outer limit. What you will no longer accept. They may include:
- Failing to maintain no contact (NC) with OP
- Continued lying
- Refusing to stop certain behaviors, like drinking, doing drugs or physical/mental abuse
- Discovery of a second or multiple affairs
- Refusal to attend marriage or individual counseling
Some BSs may feel incapable of drawing those lines shortly after Dday or may be confused about whether they can even require such standards of behavior. This is possible, acceptable and necessary for regaining some semblance of control over your life. For regaining your self-respect. But this is your decision. It's what you can and can no longer tolerate.
Q:Is separation a good idea?
There is no simple answer to this, because it depends upon the circumstances. If the BS and WS are both willing to do the work of R, then separation is most likely not a good idea. To truly work things out, you need to be able to talk and be together. The WS and BS need to agree on the boundaries and exactly what the WS needs to do to re-establish trust. It would be difficult to do this if living apart.
However, if the WS is not willing to R (and even continuing the A),or says he/she is willing but is not doing what needs to be done (respecting the boundaries that the BS has set, going to counseling, etc), then separation may be needed. It may also be needed if the WS and BS are in a volatile situation where they are constantly fighting.. just to give each other some needed space, (but this should be done with an understanding as to the conditions for cohabiting again). The general consensus is.. if anyone leaves, it should be the WS.
So.. ideally, separation is not a good idea if you want to R. However, sometimes it is warranted. Ultimately, each couple has to decide what is best for them and for their circumstances.
Q:What is Retrouvaille?
Retrouvaille is a live-in weekend and post weekend program for married couples in crisis.The emphasis is on a technique of communication between a husband and wife. During the weekend, a series of in-depth presentations are given to you and other couples like yourselves.
Each presentation, given by one of three married couples and a priest, focuses on a specific area of a marriage relationship. After each presentation, you will have a chance to reflect on it by yourself, then discuss it with your spouse in complete privacy.
The weekend is not a spiritual retreat, not a sensitivity group, not a seminar, nor is it a social gathering. You will, however be encouraged, to put the past behind you and start 'rediscovering' one another again. The weekend is not a 'miracle cure', therefore, post-weekend sessions have been designed to continue the marriage renewal begun on the weekend. These follow-ups review earlier concepts in greater depth, present new ones and help you apply these concepts to your own marriage.
On the weekend, you will be asked to make an anonymous donation to help cover the expenses. This one donation covers both the expenses of the weekend and all the follow- up sessions, but it is purely voluntary. A fee is requested when you register for the program to confirm your meals and accommodation.
Q:And what is Imago Therapy?
Imago Relationships International is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the world one relationship at a time and create a new model for marriage. More than 1900 therapists practice Imago Therapy in more than 20 countries.
Q:What if there is an OC?
This complicates so many things in a marriage I cannot answer it all but will hit on the highlights. There are many questions that need to be answered when it comes to dealing with an other child. First you must find out if the child is the H with a DNA test? Seek out a family attorney to consult with. This is a must because a family must know their rights. Too many get empty threats from the OP involved and they do not know any better so tend to believe many things untrue. Try to protect yourself and your children of the marriage legally.
Does the married couple want contact or no contact? NC or C are not easy, keep in mind wait to make an informed decision. I want to make it clear it is usually easier to heal a marriage without contact with the OP/OC initially. Contact can always be established later on after the marriage is repaired or far along as it can be in the healing process to consider contact with the OC.
It is a personal decision to include OC in your household or not. Neither choice is good or bad. Consider that it may be great to have the OC involved in 2 seperate families that are amicable or it may be detrimental to the OC to have to deal with 2 hostile environments. Many times the OC was not planned and the adults involved cannot get along, take a step back and think long and hard about the child's best interest.
The OC is no more important than the COM or the BS. You do not have to change your lives around to accept anyone. I know you may want to fix everything for your Spouse but you must let him take responsibility for his own actions. DS this is some of what I have to say about this if someone has already answered it you can add it. This is a complicated situation with too many variables.
Q:How do I deal with continued contact with OW because of OC?
The decision on how to handle an OW/OC situation is a deeply personal one. Some BS find that they have it in their hearts to make the OC a part of their lives; others do not. There is no right or wrong answer to this situation. However, when it is the WS's choice to have contact with the OC then certain "battle" lines must be drawn with the OW, to facilitate the re-establishment of trust in the marriage.
This is best accomplished by establishing a clear understanding between the BS and WS of what will and will not be acceptable or allowable boundaries. Here are some hypothetical:
- NC whatsoever with OW/OC
- Contact with OC possible but with BS present
- Neutral zone for visitation; no visits at OW's home, etc.
- Legally drawn up contract stating acceptable parameters for OW to contact WS.
These are just a few sample suggestions. Remember, once there is an OC involved, and paternity has been established, BOTH parents have rights. Make them work for you. It is unbalancing and counter-productive to find yourself on the defensive with the OW.
Establish, with the assistance of your spouse, what your "comfort zone" and rights are with the OW, then send a clear and UNIFIED message to the OW of what you will and will not tolerate. This helps the BS to re-establish some control over a situation that is tragic for all concerned, but in which they, along with the OC, are also a victim.
Q:What do we tell our kids about OC?
Many BSs express concern over telling their children about the existence of the OW/OC. Fear of emotional trauma to the COM, damage to the parental relationship between the WS and COM, or other negative consequences relating to the A abound. How, or if, a BS decides to divulge this information is also highly individual and neither right nor wrong. Family dynamics, the ages of the COM, and other factors unique to the BS's family environment influence the decision.
Relying on one's instinct is probably a good place to start. If there is any uncertainty as to the affect disclosure may cause, then it is probably better to wait until a more opportune time arises. Children are resilient, but that does not mean they should be unnecessarily wounded or burdened with this knowledge.
Examining one's motives for exposing the OW/OC's existence may be one aspect to consider. Preparing them for a possibly unpleasant encounter with OW/OC at a future date might be another. Knowledge is power, but not if it creates a destabilizing environment for the COM. Consider all options and then take your time making the decision. Choosing the right time or place, and striving to neutralize the emotionally charged nature of the subject, can make the difference between a "successful" disclosure and a devastating one.
Q:I'm tired of talking about the A, but if I don't keep bringing it up regularly won't my spouse forget what he/she has done to me or think everything is back to normal and fine now?
This is actually an easy question to answer, because there are only two types of wayward spouses to deal with.
- Type one is not really remorseful. They want to stay married to you for their own reasons: maybe financial, maybe help with child care, maybe you fit like a comfortable old shoe. But they really don't want anything to change. This type one spouse probably will forget what they've done - in fact, they'd prefer to forget - if you don't keep bringing it up. So they make it pretty uncomfortable for you to talk about the A. They'll start a fight if you bring it up. Or they'll storm out of the house "for some peace and quiet". The Type one spouse is not in reconciliation with you.
- Type two spouses are very sorry for their actions. They will do anything, ANYTHING, to help you heal. The hurt in your eyes on D-Day cut into their heart like a knife. They will NEVER forget what they did, and talk or no talk they will wear the scarlet A on their soul forever.
The Bottom Line: You don't need to keep bringing up the A to the Type two spouse. And bringing up the A to the Type one spouse won't ever change them into a Type two spouse.
Q:How do I stop the "mind movies"...(the pictures in my head of WS with the OP)?
Snowflower wrote this, I added the parts in parenthesis. In over 2 years on SI, this is the best post about mind movies that I have seen. Find something to do and find something beautiful to focus on is the main message. As Snowflower will tell you in the post, there is no magic, only your Mind and you have to focus on mind over image.
Here is her post:
I knew where it had happened really, really well. I made the most realistic movies imaginable. I used to watch them in my mind for hours until I felt physically sick and couldn't breathe. ( I didn't know where it happened in my situation but I knew the OP. She had been to my house, she had talked to me. I had hugged her. I had known her for years So mind movies were a daily occurrence with me!)
Ultimately, one day, I just got totally pissed off with it. I got angry. I thought about who was hurting because of these damn movies- and realized there was only one person. ME. My partner wasn't. The OW wasn't. I was t here, on my own and putting myself through agonizing torture. That day, I decided NOT to do it anymore. As soon as the next showing began, I essentially got up out of my seat, binned my popcorn and left the theatre . I did this by quickly DOING something. Anything. but usually one on this list:
- Calling a friend.
- Eating chocolate.
- Having a bubble bath.
- Watching a movie.
- Going to the gym.
- Going to see a friend.
- Drinking hot chocolate.
- Writing a letter.
- Posting on here.
- (Add your own items, I gardened, went walking, posted on SI a lot, went to work, worked on crafts, called my friends, called my friends, called my friends!)
BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT SPECIAL AND AMAZING ADDED INGREDIENT IS THIS: I thought about the most recent time I had felt happy with my partner. I thought about the latest laugh we had had. The most recent thing he had said to me that had made me feel warm and fuzzy. And I reminded myself that THAT was my reality. The here and now. The past is dead. It cannot hurt me unless I let it. The present is good - tough at times- but good....and I HUNG ON to my special happy thought like crazy !!!!!! I know it sounds lame- and I'm sorry it's not a magic spell or mantra or something a little more impressive - but if you do these things...you will be amazed at the effect they can have. You will be amazed at the power of the human mind.
(Other things to think about might be your children laughing, a place that you love, something you loved as a child, something you loved doing with your parents or grandparents. .Find something that makes you smile and keep it on hand when you need to replace one image with another.) We are beautiful creatures. We are in control of out thoughts. We can get through this. We WILL. (Snowflower is right...Your mind is a wonderful thing...It can conquer your worst moments if you are prepared for the movies...)
Q:Men don't cry, but I have been, is that okay?
There is no crying in baseball .but infidelity? that is a whole 'nother matter.
I am a guy. .I don't cry. Damn it I just don't. It isn't manly. Ok I did cry once, but that is when my Grandma died, and well everyone is allowed to cry a little when their Grandma dies. Not a sissy cry with lots of slobbering or anything just a tear or two. More of a something in your eye cry not like the women do. She was such a nice lady and we all miss her very much, but even then I only cried a little. Not as much as others did. Not even close to what Dad cried. I am stronger than that. I was able to hold most of it in until I got home, and was alone. That is the way it is supposed to be. I am a man after all.
So what the hell is wrong with me? Why am I crying so much? Why can't I fight it like I did when Sandy (the kid's dog) got hit by that car, and I had to take him and go bury him out in the woods. Remember how I stood so strong for my kids? Remember how they looked up to me with such respect that even though they knew I loved that dog I was able to do what Dad's do. I was Dad after all, and Dad's don't cry. Dads know how to take care of things like that and not shed a tear. Dads are strong. I remember how the tears fell once the kids were safely out of sight. How they only showed up when it was just me, Sandy and the shovel. They never saw a tear. So what is going on here? I can't stop crying. This is not me. I don't act like this. Who is this person that has taken over my body? All I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. I don't want to be Dad anymore. I don't want to have people count on me. I don't want to be this person that I have become. I want to be the strong man that didn't cry, the guy that I was before this whole thing happened.
As a man who has experienced the devastation of these emotions, please know, my friends....it is ok to cry. It is ok to feel weak. You have suffered the most humiliating thing a man can experience. You have suffered a blow to your ego, a direct hit to your manhood. You have been dealt the worst attack to your soul that a man can suffer. You have been cut, and cut deeply. But this doesn't have to be fatal. You can survive this attack, and actually come out the other side stronger and more in touch with yourself than ever before.
Men do cry. We cry for one reason, and one reason alone; pain. We cry because we hurt. We cry because we can't take the pain anymore. We cry because it is quite frankly the only thing left for us to do. You will be ok. As you go through this you will find the tears falling less and less. The pain will ease a bit, and you will be able to focus again on other things. You will find you have changed in many ways, but you will not change who you are.
You may never feel whole again, but the pain will ease. Your tears will fade to the point that you will only cry when you are alone and you have lost someone like Grandma.
Please know you are not alone. There are millions of men in all walks of life that have cried the same tears as you. We have felt the pain you feel. We have tasted the same salty liquid flowing down our faces. You are not alone. We are all there with you every time you "get something in your eye".
Q:What role did an abusive upbringing play my WS's A?
Unresolved "Family of Origin" issues often play a major role in the series of choices that lead to an affair. Our upbringing and the example set by our family forms the foundation of our belief systems, thought processes and self-esteem. It teaches us how to handle conflict and strife, and how to interact with loved ones. By carefully exploring the family dynamic of the WS, important clues about the "Why" can be revealed.
Sometimes the connection is obvious. For instance, if the wayward spouse observed overt abuse and infidelity as a child, they may have internalized the belief that such behavior was "normal", even if they consciously believe it to be wrong. Most times, the connection is less evident. Many, if not most, affairs stem from self-esteem issues combined with ineffective coping and communications skills on the part of the wayward spouse. Feelings of worthlessness, feelings of entitlement, feeling impotent and unappreciated, feeling powerless…all stem from the feedback received as a child.
Also, escapist behavior, deceptive behavior, hiding activities and interests, suppressing emotions, lying by omission, avoiding conflict…all are strategies developed by a child to give them a feeling of safety and control in their environment. Most people learn better and more effective coping skills, and gain better perspective and insight to their own self-worth as they become adults. In times of stress, fear or unhappiness, however, it is not uncommon to revert to these childlike beliefs and responses to varying extents. Counseling with a qualified therapist is often helpful in resolving these issues, though not always necessary.
An abusive background or unresolved family of origin issues does not exonerate a WS from their choice to have an affair. As a functioning adult, they certainly knew the choice was wrong. Many counselors and therapists will not even discuss family of origin, as identifying and changing the harmful behavior is the most direct way to understanding the issue at hand, and to prevent recurrence. This is valid, especially if the WS, (or the BS for that matter), appears to be seeking an excuse for the behavior or seeking to place blame outside the relationship.
Exploring family of origin issues can, however, be extremely helpful for some individuals in thoroughly recognizing and fully understanding the unproductive childlike feelings and behaviors that signify stress or unhappiness, thereby helping them to self-intervene and formulate appropriate adult responses. It can also help couples in mutual understanding and hopefully, healing and forgiveness.
Q:How do I know when it's time to give up?...to call it quits?
So it has been a few months...or a few years... Both you and WS are struggling... How do you know when it's time to give up?...to call it quits? Again, only YOU can know what will be right for you. But there are many things that you should consider.
- Are both of you committed to the recovery of the M? Or do you feel that one or both of you are going thru the motions?
- Do you think you are feeling a temporary setback or are things on a downward trend?
- If you have threatened to D, do you really mean it or do you say it in the heat of the moment because you are frustrated? How about WS?
- Do you feel that you have had "enough"? That you have given all that you can give but it is just not happening for you?
- And to borrow from Dr. Phil, Do you feel you have "earned you way out of the M"? Have you really tried but just feel that you will never forgive the breach in trust? Or do you feel that WS will never do the things that you NEED him/her to do, and you have communicated what these needs are?
- Are YOU emotionally ready to file for D and go thru the legal process? It is not easy or cheap and you must be strong thru the process. If you decide to move forward, you must remember that your lawyer is NOT your therapist.
Do not let your friends and family pressure you into a decision to D. Take your kids out of the decision, at least a little bit. Of course your children want you to stay together. But you do not want to put them in the middle of a war zone and you do not want them to grow up thinking that M is a battle ground. So do not stay "for the kids". Make your decision independent of their wants. Determine what would be best and most healthy for the entire family, and that includes YOU.
The decision to D is huge. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. Do not take it lightly. Once the D is final, it is FINAL. However, if you think you might want a D, I highly recommend that you consult a lawyer and/or research the laws in you state/country/province. Consider what your life might be like living on your own, raising the kids and co-parenting. And how you will survive financially.
Q:What's an emotional affair?
A new crisis of infidelity is emerging in which people who never intended to be unfaithful are unwittingly crossing the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships, particularly in the workplace and on the Internet. Emotional affairs differ from platonic friendships in that there is 1) greater emotional intimacy than in the marital relationship, 2) secrecy and deception from the spouse, and 3) sexual chemistry. Internet affairs, which cause marital distress despite lack of actual physical contact, exemplify emotional affairs.
However, combined-type affairs in which extramarital intercourse occurs within a deep emotional attachment usually have the most disruptive impact "We need to have some walls in our friendships so that they don't become overly intimate or personal, and with our romantic relationships, it should be reversed," she says. "If a friend knows more about what is going on in our marriage than our spouse, it's a friendship that has gone astray." The boat-rocking affair - when one partner has an underlying dissatisfaction with the relationship. The affair is an unconscious way of drawing attention to the problem and bringing things into the open.
Quiz: Just Friends or Emotional Affair?
The Slippery Slope In the new crisis of infidelity, platonic friendships and workplace relationships are turning into emotional affairs, usually gradually, often without premeditation. Parties cross boundaries of emotional intimacy, sharing intimate information with a friend that is usually appropriately the exclusive territory of a husband or wife. When emotional boundaries are overstepped, the partner has taken the first step onto the slippery slope leading to emotional and eventually sexual infidelity. Even if the infidelity is "only" emotional, it often leads to a double life of deception and sexuality, threatening once secure marriages. If you recognize that your friendship or your partner's friendship may be in the danger zone of too much emotional intimacy, use this awareness to address concerns about your marriage. This quiz will help you see where you stand. Quiz: Has Your Friendship Become an Emotional Affair? *Directions: Check Yes or No to the left of each statement. Yes No
- Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went? Yes
- Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner? Yes
- Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend? Yes
- Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your friend? Yes
- Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meetings? Yes
- Are you aware of sexual tensions in this friendship? Yes
- Do you and your friend touch differently when you're alone than in front of others? Yes
- Are you in love with your friend? Yes
Scoring Key: You get one point each for yes to questions 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and one point each for no to 3, 4, 5. If you scored near 0, this is just a friendship. If you scored 3 or more, you may not be "just friends." If you scored 7-8, you are definitely involved in an emotional affair.
Your husband's statement that he and this woman are "just friends" probably means that they are not sexually involved. However, your concerns about this relationship are valid. He is clearly emotionally involved with her to a degree that is inappropriate and is already threatening the closeness in your marriage. He prefers to spend time with her, and he apparently is sharing more of his thoughts and feelings with her than with you.
Get out of the house and take some initiative to meet him for lunch and/or dinner. If he refuses, then you have an indication that this is really a serious problem. When he says they are just friends, tell him that you believe that he is having an emotional affair, and that you want to be the one who is his best friend. See if you can get him to go to counseling before it goes too far. Trust your instincts on this one, and don't sit back passively and endure this friendship that could destroy your family.
Q:Do you need IC also?
While there is no clear-cut yes or no answer to this question (because, of course, everyone's situation is different and everyone has different needs), I will suggest that you consider trying IC. You don't have to go for a lot of sessions, either; it may be enough if you go for just a few. In my own experience, going for individual counseling was a really valuable experience.
IC gave me an opportunity to talk through my own feelings of betrayal and humiliation because of my husband's affair. My IC (who in our case was also our MC) made me face what my life would be like if we weren't able to reconcile our 30-year relationship; he made me really think about why I was staying, what it would take for me to feel secure and safe, and what deal breakers were important issues for me. It's possible that we could have addressed these issues in couples counseling or even on our own, but doing it in IC kept the focus on me and allowed me to voice concerns without worrying about hurting my husband's feelings.
I came to think of these IC sessions as the one really positive thing I was doing that was for ME. You may think that reading the fine "post-affair" books that are out there, talking to sympathetic friends and posting here on SI are enough for you, and that may be true. But I would strongly suggest that you try - just once - working with a therapist. As good as books or good friends can be, there is something that can be very effective, efficient and therapeutic about talking with a professional who won't let you get away with avoiding the issues.
As our therapy progressed (at one point between my husband and me we were seeing the MC/IC three times a week; his, mine and ours) we moved from the "what was I going to do in the short run?" issues to the bigger issues for me of vulnerability and wall-building. These were things that I needed to address, not just to make my marriage better, but to make my LIFE better. What a gift that was!
Q:How do you deal with, not just the betrayal of your spouse, but a betrayal of your friend, who is now the OW? - A double betrayal!!
This is an extremely difficult situation to deal with. When your friend betrays your friendship and you, as well as your H betraying your marriage and you, it is a double betrayal. Not only do you have so many questions of your H, but also you have just as many questions of your friend. Your emotions are exceptionally hard to recapitulate (sum up). You just cannot understand why, the two most trusted people in your life would do this to you and I guess you may never know.
One of the first stages I went through was total denial, that what was happening right in front of me, was actually not happening. Neither my friend, nor my H would have the nerve or audacity to flaunt their behaviors in front of me. I thought it was my imagination in overdrive. That I was being paranoid and that my eyes were not seeing straight. I thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill. I came up with many excuses for their behavior. Absolute denial.
The next stage is to understand that all the intense feelings, including jealousy, (your gut instincts) are telling you that something is very wrong within the friendship and your marriage. These gut instincts are a warning that your personal boundaries have been crossed and you need to heed the warnings (red flags) and be vigilant. In hindsight, I feel that if I had the knowledge, I could have figured out what was happening and put a stop to it then and there. But because of our friendship, I refused to believe that, what I was thinking could possibly be happening or true. If I had the time over, I would put my fear to one side and just say what I needed to say. Fear held me back. I feared that I would destroy the friendship. I did not understand at that time, that this woman was not really my friend. I did not see that we were a game to her and we were pawns on the board. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Once you come out of the denial stage (and I guess you could call this a fog for the BS as well) and actually understand the existent of this double betrayal is where it gets tough. You have many decisions to make. You have to decide how to deal with your so-called friend. Should I confront her? Do I tell her H? Will I get the truth? Why did she do this to me? She was my friend!! How could she do this to me? You will remember all the good times you have had together. The trips away, the social events you went to.
The BBQ's and the dinners you had in each other's home? etc etc. But now these memories are the past. It was and will never be again. And then you will have to deal with the 'where' these events took place. Did it happen In your home? Your lounge? Your bed? Your backyard? It will drive you crazy because, being your friend she knows your home and you inside out. You have shared "women's talk" and confided in each other, and you will not be able to comprehend how she could do this to you. Unfathomable. Confusing. Affronting. Distressing. Furious. Loathsome. Rejection. Betrayal. Disrespected. It will eat you up.
This is where your WS has to tell you the truth and all of it, so you can at least have the opportunity to rid yourself of things and memories that may trigger you in your own home. I had to give away all the gifts she had given me. I could not deal with having any reminders of her or what she had done. All forms of contract with your friend have to be severed so as to allow yourself time to evaluated what she has done to you and your friendship and also what this has done to your marriage. NC has to be established immediately.
My belief is that you have to sort things out with your H first and foremost, before you allow yourself the time to evaluate your ex-friend (now the OW). It will be easier for you to understand the 'how' and 'why' from your H, than from her. Your H is your partner in life and in time you will be able to forgive him and regain your trust and love with him. He may also help you understand as to how the friendship went further than it should have. You will probably ask him the same question 100 times, and you will never really understand how it happened.
As your friend, the possibility of her trying to contact you is real, and if she is truly remorseful, maybe communication is possible. Remember thought that she may lie to you, as she has in the past, and may start blaming your spouse and spreading malicious rumors about you and your H. The only way is to forgive your ex-friend in your heart. You don't necessarily need to tell her this. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, to allow yourself the freedom of anger you have towards her. You must rid her out of your life and mind though.
Reconciliation can only work when your ex-friend, now the OW, is completely out of you life. It takes a lot of effort and time for you to be able to rid yourself of her completely.
Q:Is it true that once a cheater, always a cheater?
Probably the REAL question here is... how do I know that the WS won't do it again, if they already cheated once? The answer is... there are no guarantees BUT, many people who cheat do not do it again. The WS who is very remorseful for what they did and is willing to look at their own issues and find out what happened... and deal with that.. is much less likely to cheat again. This is why it is so important to NOT try and "sweep it under the rug" and go on as if nothing happened. IC for the WS can be a tremendous help, as can reading more about infidelity and how/why it occurs.
The WS' who cheat once, are horrified at what they did and how it affected their families, and immediately do whatever they can to restore their relationship with the BS are less likely to repeat the behavior. Even "serial cheaters" who are truly remorseful and sincerely want to change their behavior may not cheat again.. as long as they are willing to do the work involved.