The annual review: 7 years of R
I think I am a few days early with my annual reflection of where my life is seven years after discovery. The exact dday is a bit of blur now anyway, because so much has happened since then.
I’m a vastly different person now, as with any trauma, our experiences inform us and change us. I’m much stronger than I was before all of this, with a dash of new wisdom.
In my late 50’s, I can safely say infidelity is the most painful experience I have dealt with so far, and my life includes losses of loved ones, and my childhood trauma of a step-father who beat me like a drum for 3-years.
But we all know about the pain, the crippling sadness and the battles with depression after being blindsided by the person we loved.
The hope is that we all find a way back to some level of peace, regardless of the path we take to that peace. As always, I will never care which path any of us takes, be it D, or R or even those souls who stayed for kids or financial security only — as long as we recover from the trauma and find some peace.
I find that my observations are evolving as well.
I used to frame my choice to R around a ‘new deal’ or a ‘new M’ — but another member’s post in the positive R story section has permanently altered my perspective. While both my wife and I have changed a bunch, the truth is, this isn’t a new marriage or a new relationship. It’s a continuation of what we started nearly 36-years ago.
The relationship is dented, scarred and scorched in spots, but it’s all of ours. All of our bad choices, all of our poor decisions and every lesson we learned in the hardest way possible.
Infidelity is definitely damage we did NOT sign up for, and I sure as Hell didn’t vote for it.
My wife didn’t go from princess to horrible monster and back to princess again. There is no magic here. There are no rainbows or broken spells. She’s a flawed person, like me, and everyone else on the planet.
Human beings fail every single day. Sometimes the fail is epic.
Humans who don’t cope well with adversity often retreat from reality with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, and yes, no one’s favorite, they escape into the arms of another person.
There is NO logic to it, and there is no legitimate reason to ever lie and cheat. Ever.
For me, it’s what humans do AFTER they fail that matters.
We can learn from it and change for the better or stay down in the muck.
I can focus on my wife’s worst days or her best days OR, I can see her as a complete soul, a good person, capable of bad things — who failed herself, her family and me — and then aimed for much better on the other side of it.
I will always, ALWAYS hate the A. I only have to accept the fact that it happened, that it’s part of my existence, but I don’t have to be OKAY with it. I’ll never wake up and be happy my wife chose poorly on her lowest days.
However, I can choose how I respond to this and every adversity in my life.
My wife’s lowest point doesn’t define me or reflect on me.
And to keep this old marriage rolling, I do not allow my wife’s lowest point to define her either. At some point, we do have to let the past BE the past.
Again, as anyone who has ever attempted R KNOWS, ain’t none of it easy.
We worked our asses off and we forged this M into something we both want. We love that we didn’t give up on each other. We love that we found a far better way to talk to each other, that we don’t hide our feelings, good or ill, and that we love each other, flaws and all.
The dents are still there. The damage doesn’t disappear.
We just aim for better every day. We give more to the other every day.
After seven years of finding a way back to vulnerable and taking one last leap of faith, I think we may yet get the hang of this marriage thing.
37 comments posted: Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023
The ICR forum needs a Part 2 thread to be opened as the original "For Those Who Found Out Years Later" topic has reached the 50-page limit.
A thread that helped me a bunch can now hopefully help some more.
Thanks in advance to the mighty all volunteer crew!
2 comments posted: Monday, March 13th, 2023
Six years into R
When can six years feel like a lifetime?
We all know that answer.
For me, my reality was obliterated when my wife finally told me about her infidelity years before. I’ve been asked a few times if my life would be better if she kept to her plan of taking her secret with her to the grave. My response is absolutely not.
I may hate that infidelity happened, but I much prefer knowing what my reality was and is, I always prefer as much truth as I can find.
The truth is, it still helps to stop by SI now and again to see if my experience and recovery helps anyone else on their path. It also helps once a year to take stock and figure out where I am now, compared to the mess I was when I first found this forum.
I tend to start off with the reminder that I’m not selling a result.
If you’re new here or a long time member, I don’t care whether you R, D, or move into a cave somewhere — I only care that we all recover from this trauma as well as possible.
My story is on my profile, and repeating details at this point, for me, is a waste of space. A long term A is as horrible as it gets, and getting a confession long after the fact doesn’t make it any easier.
All that said, some of the life changes and lessons are good.
Blind trust was never a good thing. Keeping secrets, also, not so good.
The silver linings are, that once I got my bearings, got on my feet, realized my full value — it allowed me to choose to reset my life how I wanted. I do that every single day I wake up, I choose my life, my path going forward.
I’m surprised as anyone at my choice to stay. The way I grew up, someone cheats, move the fuck on and be done with it.
If you’re cheated on, ever, however it happens, your spouse is NOT owed a last chance.
Read that line above again.
There is nothing romantic about deciding to stay. It’s brutally uphill hard work that takes the full 2-5 years SI members warned me about in advance.
Rebuilding a relationship is absolutely possible, but it takes two people with a relentless effort to get there.
It’s fairly obvious why R is so hard.
One person has been treated as if they didn’t exist and the other made dozens of purposeful, cruel and selfish decisions that destroyed the existing monogamous relationship.
In the first two years post discovery, I learned loving someone was never enough.
If I was going to stay, I needed a relationship worth staying for.
The old foundation of our marriage failed, so if I was going to rebuild from the ground up, I set the parameters of what any relationship I am in now should look like.
Those parameters started with no more filters - I say what’s on my mind. Good, bad or indifferent. I ask the questions I need to ask and no more of the games people play around the other — the saying what people want to hear, or bad trades, horrible compromises, the lies, big and small to go along and get along.
I get to be me.
It sounds obvious, but not always the case as I went through life.
That should have been the case all along. However, the way society talks about giving up parts of yourself in order to make things work in marriage — is wrong. Marriage shouldn’t be a series of sacrifices and asking permission to feel and say and do what we want.
Marriage is never the CAUSE of infidelity. Never.
Infidelity is a choice, a series of choices — that never help a relationship.
All relationships struggle, it’s how we decide to attack that struggle that makes the difference. Why doesn’t everyone cheat when unhappy? Because some of us don’t want to HURT our spouse, or we’re simply honoring the promises we made.
All that said, our marriage was a series of bad compromises, bad trades, sacrifices and walking on egg shells to get through a day. Loving each other wasn’t enough. None of that is an excuse for what my wife did. Our past simply illuminated some of the other changes we needed to make, once I chose to stay.
Once I offered the gift of R, the aim was to form a relationship worthy of both of us.
Some folks seem to define R as staying with their spouse, and that’s it. The work seems to be to tolerate the person who hurt us and hope they don’t make the same choices again.
That’s staying married, it ain’t reconciliation to me.
I understand that finding a way back to a level of trust and vulnerability is very difficult. Based on my reading hundreds of stories here, it seems very few R end up where I am.
I’m happy. My wife is happy.
It took 2.5 to 3 years just to be sure the relationship we wanted was even possible. So many conversations about the work. I had to get my swagger back and then take a second leap of faith I never thought I would make. My wife, is a little behind on getting her full swagger back (as in working on trying to forgive herself for her poor choices), but she definitely is all in on the leap of faith.
We have good days, bad days, great days and sad days, but we’re truly kind to the other. We are giving to the other, we here for the other and finding ways to build on the new connection every single day.
I would also add that I used to be of the mindset that the old M was dead, and this was a new deal, new M. Part of that is still true for me, we are working on the newer us, but I also find our days pre-A had some moments worth holding to as well that form a bit of a bridge from the old M to where we are now. Nothing is all bad or all good, and most humans are not all good or ALL bad, we’re a sum of both.
How do I know it will never happen again?
I absolutely don’t know.
What I do know is my wife, and the current connection we work on everyday, allows us to be more honest than ever before. My wife hates the pain she caused, the pain she can still see on my face from time to time. It helps that she cares about that pain and helps me heal the relationship.
I also 100 percent trust myself.
I know what the lies sound like, what the actions look like, and I learn pretty quick.
The biggest part is we spent nearly two years together everyday when the world was in varied degrees of shutdown. We learned a lot about who we were, who we are and how we want this relationship to be now.
Ultimately, I can’t change a damn thing about the past.
I only get to choose how I respond to adversity.
This particular adversity knocked me on my ass. It took a long time to gain the strength to properly respond to it, beyond the trauma and the pain and depression that comes with it.
All I can say about my experiences, is I feel great about the path I chose.
To get there, I had to feel great about myself, whether I stayed married or not. That was the work I had to do. To know that my wife’s lowest point and her shitty choices don’t reflect on me in any way. Easier said than understood, infidelity is as personal as it gets, and yet, it is NOT because of who we are or what we did.
Choose YOU first. Figure out what you want, and aim for it.
If you do choose R, it only works if your spouse wants it as much as you do.
30 comments posted: Sunday, June 5th, 2022
Considering Reconciliation: The odds and the path I chose.
Before deciding whether or not to ‘reconcile’ or rebuild or restore your marriage, some thoughts should be understood and considered before moving forward.
If you’re new to the forum, I’m sorry you’re here, just be sure to understand that none of your spouses choices are your fault.
Nothing we can do can make someone cheat. In order to cheat a person has to make dozens of calculated decisions, including choosing to lie in order to hide those decisions from you. But that’s the damage too. We can’t imagine our status changing overnight from loyal spouse to being completely invisible to the person we trusted most.
It’s trauma we’re being asked to recover from. It’s the emotional equivalent of a high speed vehicle collision. It takes several YEARS to recover from this.
— So now what?
We don’t owe our spouses a second chance. Read the previous sentence again.
If we stay, it should only EVER be because we’re aiming for something worthy of us and our valuable time.
Reconciliation is NOT staying for the kids. It’s NOT staying for financial stability. It’s NOT due to fear of the unknown. Staying for those reasons are leaning into a life of resentment and additional misery on top of the betrayal horror show.
People do stay for all those reasons and more, and I understand why they do. I’m just saying if you’re staying for anything other than a chance for a decent or better life — it’s not reconciliation.
— Don’t Settle!
A good R isn’t settling for less. It’s demanding more. It’s requiring more honestly, more changes, more consideration than at any other point in the relationship.
To me, settling would be allowing the bad behavior to continue, to allow a WS’ un-safe habits to continue, to stay the course.
If you feel like no matter what else you do, you would have to settle for less — then divorce may be your best path forward.
Your standards are intact. You didn’t cheat, you held up your end of the deal.
— What are the odds?
Personally, I love the line, "Never tell me the odds."
That said, the odds are not on the side of reconciliation. I’ve read 31 books on infidelity and relationships, recovery, blah, blah, etc. All of that and 5 bucks gets me a cup of coffee. I’m no expert, but some people need numbers or an idea how rare my experience is to reconcile a marriage.
Our MC was a bit of an expert. He’s been a counselor for 35-years now and at one point he informed us he was a betrayed spouse. His marriage ended in D. He doesn’t set out to ‘save’ marriages, merely to give people enough information to decide for themselves. That said, he agreed with the odds. It’s uphill.
Of all the statistics, or those who need a number, let me put it this way. I think at some point nine out of ten betrayed spouses choose to leave. Sometimes it takes years to get to that choice, but I think that’s the number. Of the people who choose R, if both spouses choose that path together, I’ve read that around 70 percent of those couples succeed.
In other words, if 100 couples go through infidelity, 90 divorce, 10 try R together as a team. Of those 10 couples, 7 make it. So, that’s about 7 couples per 100 dealing with infidelity that find a path to recovery.
Like I said, it’s uphill.
— It takes both people.
You can put all you have into saving the marriage, but you cannot do it alone. I think the biggest reason R fails is one partner or the other is unable to be vulnerable again with the other. In order to feel vulnerable we have to feel safe. Some folks NEVER make it back to safe. That gets back to those odds above.
It’s more than normal to not feel safe for a very long time after infidelity.
Some WS never get back to vulnerable either. They feel like they will never get balance back in the relationship, so they don’t try or they stop trying.
So the WS has to ditch the shame and not hope for ‘normal’ since infidelity obliterates whatever normal used to be.
— What about trust?
Great question and one that gets asked early and often around here.
How did blind trust work for all of us?
Blind trust isn’t a good idea and best left to fairy tales and amateur gamblers.
The first person you have to learn to trust after infidelity is YOU.
You doubt everything because you can’t believe you missed the signs. Welcome to this club. All of us MISSED every single sign. Because we trusted that if our spouse was unhappy enough to cheat, they would TELL us.
The upside is, when we get hurt bad, we learn fast. We know what the signs look like and feel like, we know what the lies sound like and the methods used to deceive us.
A WS is out to change all of those patterns, all of those things that made them want or need validation from strangers, or it’s not R. If they are holding to the same old stories, same routines, they’re not worth another minute of your time.
Trust yourself first, then allow your WS to earn SOME trust back with consistent, caring actions.
— Will they ever do it again?
None of us know the answer to that. But a WS who does no work, makes no changes, makes little to no effort or only temporarily alters bad behaviors patterns is 100 percent likely to make similar choices in the future.
In my case, my WS not only hated what she did, she hated that the validation and the risk was all for nothing. Being used for a temporary escape from reality wasn’t worth it to her. She still had to work at it to overcome the shame of her choices, that’s something some WS aren’t able to do. IF a WS is unable to ditch the shame, they keep their distance and avoid vulnerability as much as we do after dday.
A WS who owns all their choices, and takes responsibility to help heal the relationship is someone you can at least work with going forward.
— What’s the work?
For me, it was finding my value. I’m awesome, I’ve always been awesome. I’m kind, I hold the door for people, I always stepped in when I saw a bully pushing anyone around. My sons turned out great because I was good father. I served my country for six years as a badass United State Marine. I coached football for 25-years helping guys learn about getting the best out of themselves to help them and their team. All that I don’t need any human to validate me, agree with me or praise anything I’ve accomplished.
But I forgot all of that on discovery day.
It took me time to get back to my badass self.
I didn’t take any shortcuts. Counseling helped some. Music helped some. I worked out, I read about recovery here and in books. I focused on what I liked about me. I let go of the outcome.
The day it doesn’t matter to you whether you’re married or not is the day you can do anything.
That’s when I truly chose to give my wife one last chance.
Her work was similar, she just had farther to go find her value. People know when they make bad choices, and I’m not sure my wife will ever forgive herself, but she did have to let go of the shame. She had to not put up walls and be be defensive. She had to understand why she wanted that validation from someone outside of our relationship.
And she had to help me put this thing back together.
— Yeah, but how the ____ is it better?
Infidelity is as bad or worse than any tragedy in my life so far. I’m in my mid-50’s now, so I don’t challenge the Universe to throw more at me, but I do realize more difficulties are ahead me. That’s life.
I can’t ever control any person in my life or the bad things that happen to me.
I get to control one thing in this world - my response to adversity.
It ain’t a bumper sticker, it’s a choice I get to make. I get to decide how I tackle this and whether I’ll stay in the past or live for today.
I chose to not let whatever my wife did DEFINE me.
I went a step further and decided I would not let her worst choices her worst days define her either.
By doing that, it gave us a shot.
Before infidelity we communicated poorly. We were married young, and we kept all of our horrible habits from our youth, and would talk down to each other and let problems build up on us. We played the stupid games, the power struggles, we competed for attention from the other — it wasn’t all sunshine.
The best part of R for me is building a bullshit free environment.
No games, no leaving issues for later, if I have a problem, I vent it all, on the spot.
It’s liberating compared to how I lived before. That’s better.
My wife and I give to each other instead of take from each other. That’s way better.
We don’t have to fake it or pretend any feelings. If it’s a bad day, if there is a trigger for me, well, WE deal with it together. That’s better too.
I used to say the better M was in spite of infidelity, but the reality is — it’s because of infidelity. Infidelity blew up the marriage, broke the deal, ended the world as we knew it. We made GOOD changes because of the HORROR show she created.
I wouldn’t recommend infidelity to anyone, ever.
I will always hate that it happened. I will never be okay with her choices.
I also am glad we fought our way back.
— A recap for considering R:
1. Don’t Settle. Don’t compromise your standards.
2. Don’t rugsweep - pretending it didn’t happen or stuffing your pain down is like building an emotional time bomb that only gets more powerful the longer ill feelings fester and linger.
3. Confront the initial pain and anger head on — with or without counseling. Just don’t bury it.
4. Decide what YOU want. Ask for what you want.
5. Set the boundaries required for you to move forward and feel safe.
6. Let go of the outcome. The only person you can control in this life is you.
7. Blind trust is never a good idea. In all seriousness, 100 percent trust in any human is not a good idea. How did that innocent take on trust work out for any of us?
8. If you’re going to rebuild the relationship, you have to find a way back to vulnerable.
9. Accept the facts of what happened, however you can always be NOT okay with those facts.
27 comments posted: Wednesday, September 15th, 2021