But I’m a researcher by profession (and probably by nature too!), and I started becoming interested in the shared experiences/commonalities of the BS. I couldn’t help compiling what I’ve learned from all of you here. I hope this helps the new BS.
1. Anyone can become a betrayed spouse.
No one has immunity. This is the ugly reality. If you spend enough time on here, you will see that the BS can be anybody. It doesn’t matter how old you are; there are people here in their early 20s and people well into their retirement years. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together; there are BS who were cheated on after thirty years of marriage or in their first year of marriage—some were cheated on before the marriage and some aren’t married at all. It doesn’t matter if you have no kids or six kids; it doesn’t matter if the kids are grown or newborns—it doesn’t even matter if the BS is pregnant. It doesn’t matter if you were high school sweethearts. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have. It doesn’t matter how religious you and your spouse are; you’ll see posts from BS whose WS were ministers or church leaders.
You’ll see many BS saying there were issues in the marriage prior to the A, but you’ll also see many BS who were happy and thought the marriage was good. You’ll see BS saying there were sexual/intimacy issues, but you’ll also see BS saying sex was great/frequent. There are BS who feel they weren’t looking their best before the A, but there are also BS who are exceptionally attractive. (Even gorgeous and wealthy celebrities get cheated on.) ANYONE can become a BS.
Since this can happen to anyone…
Since anyone can become a BS, the affair is clearly not because of something the BS is/isn’t or did/didn’t do. It wasn’t because you’re not young enough, attractive enough, thin enough, rich enough, sexual enough, fun enough, etc. Countless people who have these qualities in abundance (including you) still get cheated on.
You are not to blame. You are not to blame. You’ll still want to blame yourself from time to time though but …
Many of you will go into problem-solving mode. One question many people here torture themselves with is “What could I have done to prevent this?” Did your spouse come to you way before the A and say, “I need to tell you that I’ve been deeply unhappy with myself/our relationship, so unhappy that I feel I may be tempted to have an inappropriate relationship with someone” and then say either “I don’t want to devastate you or the relationship, so I’m telling you this so I can work on myself/our relationship” OR “I need to walk away from this relationship because I don’t think this relationship is repairable”? Did your spouse do that? No? Then your WS never gave you any real choices—or any choices. So, again, there isn’t anything you could have done.
There’s another common question you’ll torture yourself with but the truth is …
Why? Why? You’ll keep asking yourself this. You will want to spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how your WS could do such a thing. You couldn’t imagine betraying your spouse in such a way, so you can’t wrap your head around how your WS could be so heartless and hurtful. You may buy countless books. You may try to diagnose your WS. It’s NPD! It’s bipolar disorder! It’s addiction! It’s FOO issues! He’s got KISA syndrome! It’s postpartum depression!
This need to get answers and make sense is understandable, but you’ll eventually realize you will never understand. It will never really make sense. You determine that your WS has a dysfunctional family. Will you hurt less? Will WS’s actions be less wrong?
Do some research and read the self-help books if it makes you feel better. But make sure you’re doing it to understand YOURSELF better.
It’s possible that your WS is dealing with serious disorders or issues and needs help. This still doesn’t justify his/her choices. Your WS’s disorder and your WS’s betrayal are two separate things. Yes, they are. Your WS may want to use the disorder or issue as an excuse—and you may want to as well. However, there are plenty of alcoholics who don’t cheat. There are plenty of people with bipolar disorder who remain faithful.
Part of the reason we BS want to find “the answer” is to help us figure out how to “fix” the problem, but …
This reality will drive many of you crazy. You’ll refuse to believe it. Unfortunately, it’s the truth. You can’t change your WS. You can’t fix your WS. No book will fix your spouse. MC/IC won’t fix your spouse. God won’t fix your spouse. Well, then, who can fix your spouse? You already know the answer—yes, you do. Only your WS can fix himself/herself. Your WS has to want to change and has to be willing to do the uncomfortable and difficult work of “fixing” himself/herself. If your WS doesn’t want to change, there is not one damn thing you can do about it. Not one damn thing. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can figure out what to do next. And what should you do next? Well, you have to accept that…
This is going to sound discouraging, but it’s the hard truth you have to accept. Since you can’t change, fix or control your spouse (if you could control your WS, he/she wouldn’t be a WS, right?), you can’t control the relationship since it involves two people with free will.
You couldn’t stop your WS from cheating. You can’t stop it from happening again. This is the scary truth you have to accept. You can’t make your WS want to stay in the marriage or want to work on the marriage. You can’t make your WS love you and be in love with you. You can’t make your WS fall out of love with or leave the OP. You can’t make your WS remorseful or truthful. You can’t make your WS kind, considerate, or compassionate. If you ever thought you had any control over your spouse or relationship, give up that illusion now. You will waste a lot of time and energy otherwise. How so? You’ll waste your emotional resources begging your WS. You’ll try to cling to the WS. You’ll think if you can just become a better spouse, whatever that means, WS will not cheat or leave. You’ll do the “humiliating dance of ‘Pick me!’” (as chump lady says). Read enough posts and threads and you will see that the BS is generally only further damaged by these actions.
The only thing you have control over is yourself. You can only control what YOU will do from this point forward. The first and most important thing you must do is get strong. You are dealing with one of the worst human experiences. It has affected you emotionally, spiritually, and physically. You may not be able to eat or sleep. You may not want to get out of bed. You may sometimes wish you could fade into oblivion. These are all normal responses to grief. Look around on this site—the BS goes through agony. But you must be strong if you’re going to move forward. This site has good advice for a new BS. Many of you will do the 180 (which is about getting strong, not getting back at your WS—sometimes you must detach from the source of your pain, at least temporarily, to get strong). You will find it difficult to make decisions without strength, so build your strength first. When you are ready, you can think about what to do next because…
The choice is simple: stay or leave. Even if your WS is leaving or has left you, you still have this choice to make. How so? If you read through the threads, you will see many BS whose WS have left, but the BS is still clinging to the hope the WS will come back. These BS have made the choice to stay even if they don’t realize it.
The choice may be simple but it isn’t easy. You may not know what you want to do for a while. That’s okay. You don’t have to decide immediately. Do what you have to do to figure it out. Realize you are likely to change your mind many times. Talk to people you trust. Pray or meditate. Talk to an attorney to know what your options are (even if the idea scares you, information is power). Just know that, ultimately, only you can make this decision. Your therapist/pastor/mother/best friend will not be the ones to live with the consequences of the choices you make.
Even though you have two choices, there are several possible outcomes. To grossly oversimplify
* You can stay and it turns out well (e.g. your WS and you are able to build a new, strong M).
* You can stay and it doesn’t turn out well (e.g. your WS makes R impossible, your WS is still cheating, your WS cheats again later).
* You can leave and it turns out well (e.g. you remove a toxic WS from your life and begin a new life, you find love again with a worthy person).
* You can leave and it doesn’t turn out well (e.g. child custody issues, financial problems, loneliness).
There are no guaranteed outcomes, whatever you choose. However, there is a significant amount of collective wisdom on this site generated by the experiences of other people who’ve been and are where you are. You can use this wisdom to help you make more informed decisions such as…
Realize there is significant risk involved in staying with your WS. Take time to really look at posts/threads/profiles, and you’ll see this. You will see over and over how many people had a D-day, stayed, and were confronted with another D-day…and another. You will see over and over how many people thought the A was over, only to discover WS was still seeing the OP. You will see over and over BS who want so much to reconcile but have a WS who won’t tell the truth, isn’t remorseful, won’t cut ties with the OP, or make any other needed repairs to the relationship. You will see over and over BS who are waiting on the sidelines as their WS are with their OP, hoping fervently that their WS will come back, only to be served divorce papers.
That’s not to say that staying is a doomed proposition. You will see many BS here who have reconciled with their WS and have rebuilt their marriages. They say they’re happy and healthy together. While it will be hard at times to believe that this is anything but a fairy tale, it is possible. In fact, this is the dream that keeps many BS with their WS. However, even in matters of the heart, you’ve got to use your head. When do the risks outweigh the potential benefits when it comes to staying with the WS?
* Will your WS do whatever you need to rebuild trust? This may include accounting for his/her whereabouts at all times and giving you computer and phone access. If your WS balks and says he/she is entitled to privacy, the risks are high.
* Will your WS permanently cut all contact with the OP? This may include writing a NC letter or calling the OP in front of you to make it clear there will be NC. If your WS refuses to do this or says the OP is now just a “friend,” the risks are high.
* Will the WS answer all your questions completely and honestly (and repeatedly if necessary)? Some WS may feel talking about the A may hurt more than help you. If you explain that this is something you need and the WS still won’t give you the truth, the risks are high. If you think your WS has given you the whole truth only to learn that what you were told is a lie, the risks are high.
* Does the WS show deep and genuine remorse? Only you know what this looks and feels like for your spouse. But if you don’t see or sense this from the WS, the risks are high.
* Does the WS take full responsibility for the A? If your WS blames you, whether fully or even partially, the risks are high.
* Does your WS show you compassion for what you’re going through? This includes being patient with your process—and it will be a long process. If your WS wonders when you’re going to “get over it,” the risks are high.
* Is the WS willing to examine himself/herself to see how he/she made the choices that were made so the same choices aren’t repeated? This may include IC or MC. If the WS isn’t willing to do this, the risks are high.
These above factors are related to reconciling after the A. However, you need to also realize that whatever issues your M had prior to the A are still there. Both of you have to be willing to take responsibility for the state of the M before the A and be willing to work on that. Does your WS accept this, and is your WS willing to do the work? Are YOU willing to do the work? If not, the risks are high. I’ve seen BS who say that the M was in bad shape before the A because the other spouse was emotionally stunted/a selfish a$$hole, so how is the BS responsible for the pre-A M? If this is your situation, realize you stayed in the M and put up with that treatment. You have to change the status quo and make it clear that you are a person of worth who does not accept disrespect.
If you examine the people with SUCCESSFUL R stories (there are PLENTY of false R examples), you will find that all of the above need to be in place. What if they aren’t in place? It’s still your choice, but understand that if you stay, the potential for further heartbreak is high. If your WS gives you clear signs that he/she cannot be trusted or cannot be the spouse you need and you still stay, you must accept some responsibility for putting yourself in that position if things turn out badly.
However, you have to also realize that your WS could meet all the above criteria and your M may still not work out. Your WS could be the poster child of remorse and for R and still cheat again. To stay, you must accept that this is a possibility. To reconcile, you have to be willing to take that risk.
The collective wisdom of the people on this site can also help you with the other option. The most important piece of advice seems to be that…
You will read posts and threads of other BS who separate/divorce and learned some difficult lessons. The most important seems to be that you must plan your moves in advance. Many BS thought their WS would play fair, think of the children, do the right thing…only to be blindsided by their WS’s ruthlessness in the divorce process. Protect yourself and, if you have any, protect your children. Consult an attorney if you haven’t already and arm yourself with information. Know your financial situation. Gather documents. Start your own accounts and begin separating your and your WH’s finances. Plan ahead. Your quality of life—and possibly your children’s quality of life—depends on you having a careful exit strategy.
Also, arm yourself with a support system you can lean on as you go through this difficult process. If you haven’t already done so, you must make the conscious decision to disengage yourself from your STBXWS. I can’t speak from personal experience, but from what I’ve read here, it may be a bumpy ride. Apparently anything can happen. Your WS may turn into Satan and seem hellbent on destroying your life via the D. Your WS may threaten you with D every day and do nothing for months. Your WS may say he/she can’t wait to divorce you but then be angry with you when you finally file. And, sometimes, the WS “comes to his/her senses” when the D process becomes a reality and wants to R with you. Be wary of this last scenario. While I’m sure there are some cases where this situation may work out positively for the couple, I’ve yet to read here of that happening. Most of the people here say that what happens in actuality is the WS finds it hard to believe that you can live without him/her. Or the WS liked being a cake eater. Or the WS begins to tire of being with the OW or being alone. What seems to happen more often is that the WS “comes home” and, eventually, falls back into the same hurtful behaviors.
The good news about this pathway is that there is an end. The D will eventually be finalized. You will move on. Your hurt will become less. And after all this mess, you can begin a new life that may be better than anything you’ve ever known.
Oh, and one more thing…
There are many ways to not actively make a choice. Some BS go into denial. Some BS stay permanently stuck in the “I don’t know what to do” stage. Some BS decide the marriage is over, as far as they are concerned, but they choose to remain with their WS. They often have reasons they feel are legitimate: they want to keep their family intact, they don’t want some “stranger” (OP, possible stepparents) raising their children, they can’t afford to divorce, etc. These BS think that they’ve chosen to “leave” even while they stay in their relationships.
No one can judge you and the choices you make. You have to do what you can live with. You are a person of worth, and your life is precious. If you can live this way and be at peace, then do what you feel you must.
You might also ask yourself this. If you had an adult son or daughter in your same situation, what would you want your child to do? What advice would you give?
[This message edited by nomadlady at 6:01 PM, November 22nd (Friday)]
THIS is amazing. Herculean amazing. Pin it to the top of the JFO forum amazing. This is truly the one thread that EVERY person on SI, new or old, MUST read. If a newly betrayed spouse comes to SI and only reads one thing, this is it.
Thank you, thank you, thank you nomadlady! Thank you.
Edited for typos. I'm a spelling and grammar nazi
[This message edited by Nest2007 at 5:40 PM, November 22nd (Friday)]
Reconciling. A stronger marriage now.
Psalm 37. It rocks my world. So does 140. Big guy upstairs has got it all figured out.
Can we pin this? Or, add it to the healing library?
"You are what you do. A man is defined by his actions, not his memory." - Kuato in Total Recall
**edited to avoid t/j (sorry)
[This message edited by cherokeespirit at 11:54 AM, November 23rd (Saturday)]
Pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect
You said it sister. Thank you for this.
..well organized and to the point, ..make that 10 points!!
..t/j.. by any chance, do you own a Chevy Nomad???
..i'm a car guy.. just thought i'd ask!