After the Affair: Wearing “the Scarlet Letter”

I can’t believe how lucky I have been to have the wife I have. Who, in the face of the single most devastating thing I could’ve done inside the marriage, has shown me courage, love, forgiveness and understanding, even while dealing with her own rage, memories and doubts caused by all of this. She has been amazing, almost from day one. There was never a question in her mind that, despite what I did, that she still loved me and still wanted to be married to me. Under certain conditions, of course. Her strength and will helped me at a time when, although I terminated the affair and agreed to recovery, I was still somewhat skeptical and on the fence as to whether my marriage could be saved and improved. Whether I should even waste my time or hers. I even asked her on D-Day quietly, “Do you want me to leave? I will.” Through her tears, she said, “no, I want you to stay. I want to talk about this.”

Amazing.

And now we have a better marriage. We are open with each other. We are flirtatious. We are having meaningful, vigorous, regular and satisfying sex. We go out on “dates”. We have weekends together without the kids. She has become my “girlfriend” again and is meeting my needs, and I am meeting hers.  Or at least we are both trying to, even we sometimes fall short. But at least it’s there. We have repainted our marital canvas and have rebonded in a different, more satisfying and resilient way. Our intimacy is better than it ever was.

But there is still that 800-pound gorilla in the room. The ghost of someone she’s never met. The ex-OW. It’s unspoken, but she’s there. A silent witness to our lives. An unwelcome guest. I know my wife thinks about the affair and her. I know she still visits the ex-OW’s facebook page regularly and obsesses over her photos. It’s hard for her not to. I sometimes see a shadow of sadness cross her face and I know she’s thinking about it. I cringe when anything on TV relates to affairs and she’s in the room. I know she worries when or if the Bunny Boiler is going to pop up in our lives again. In fact, she recently wondered how long it will be until we are completely free of this woman and her implied and explicit threats.

And my wife knows that she will never fully be free of the memories. As much as she loves me, I wear a “scarlet letter” on my head permanently. A giant “A” for “Adulterer.” My personal, permanent badge of shame. No matter what I do. No matter how much I’ve redeemed myself and my life. No matter how many years go by, loving her as she deserves, I will never get rid of that letter. Never. She will never quite look at me the same way.

And that makes me sad. If I could turn back the clock, I would’ve spoken up in my marriage. Early. Clearly. I would never have gone down the road I went down. I crushed someone who didn’t deserve it. I left other collateral damage along the way, including within myself. I will never get rid of my shame. I will never fully forgive myself. It’s the burden I will always carry because I have a conscience.

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3 thoughts on “After the Affair: Wearing “the Scarlet Letter”

  1. I wish my husband would be able to tell me half of the things you are writing in here.. It would validate my feelings and thoughts about wanting to be good enough to save our marriage and hanging on. Though actions are louder than words, sometimes words are more encouraging than actions. I thank you for posting blogs such as this so I can at least relate to how my own WS feels.

  2. So how do you deal with yourself as a person? I am asking because this is the part I am really really struggling with.
    At the beginning my husband was angry and hurt and asking me questions and that was making me upset and cry but now he’s kind of laid off doing thatas he’s pretty much checking out of the marriage. But I am still left with the questions in my head – what did I think I was doing? Why did I do it? How can I look at my husband and kids every day and know what damage I have done to the them both emotionally and practically given the consequences of the affair?
    It’s tearing me up inside. I am a mess basically. But I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – even if he forgave me and we stayed together I think that everything bad that ever happens in the future will be my fault. I just don’t know how to break that cycle.

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