For you married men in the immediate aftermath of your affair — it’s over and it’s been discovered (or reported to) your wife. Or perhaps you even confessed. But here you are and now you must face your choices.
What are you feeling right now? What burdens are you carrying? This is for you. Some of us out there DO understand what you’re thinking and going through. Although you will find condemnation of you everywhere around you, including the Internet, you need some plain speaking and understanding so you can move forward.
And for my many Betrayed Spouse readers, perhaps this will give you insight into your Wayard’s mind, although this certainly is not meant to be the only possibility. I know I could relate to it, but I know there are other thoughts out there. There are Waywards who are clear in their minds that they don’t want their marriage and aren’t sorry for their affair. Or intend to have more. THIS is not for them. This is for the majority of shell-shocked, confused, scared and ashamed survivors not knowing what to do next:
You probably have several challenges right now. Most men in your situation feel caught between what they want to do and what they ought to do. You were unhappy in your marriage long before this ever happened. You may be wondering why would you even consider going back to a marriage where you were miserable? How much information should you give, who do you tell? How do you support your wife, how do you respond to her moods? How do you deal with your affair partner? All of us facing this issue have to answer these questions and more.
For many people in situations similar to yours, married life has simply not turned out as they expected. You may even have thought you were making a mistake before the wedding, but for whatever reason, you married anyway. Your current unhappiness in the marriage, whether it existed from the beginning or developed later, has left you feeling miserable. Perhaps you have tried to do the right thing, honoring your commitment to the marriage, but your heart has probably been in it less and less. These factors helped make you susceptible for the infidelity.
Now things are even more complicated. Not only are you ambivalent about the marriage, but also you may feel like you found someone else who makes you happy, even if it’s now over. It’s no longer a theory about whether you could be happier with someone else — you’ve actually uncovered evidence that this may in fact be the case, even if it’s not exactly ‘her.” This makes the thought of continuing in the marriage even less appealing.
You may not be actively considering divorce, but you may feel that the price for maintaining your marriage will be your happiness. If you compare your marriage against others, then in your mind, you find it wanting. These factors leave you feeling discouraged, frustrated, and helpless. You do love your spouse, but you are wondering whether you now love them enough – whether you love them the way a spouse SHOULD love another spouse. The way they deserve to be loved. In fact, you never stopped loving your spouse, but you drifted so far away from them and the distance between you two was so great that it became a secondary priority in your life. You wonder if you can get it back. Whether you can fall in love with your wife again. Whether you can make her happy and find yours again. But you’re not sure.
Your ambivalence regarding the marriage can leave you feeling disconnected, confused, sad and scared. How do you handle the grief from the loss of your lover? You’re not even allowed to openly show it — given how difficult things already are at home. You have to suffer this loss in silence. And how do you deal with the mood swings your wife is going through? The hurt. The pain. The attacks and recriminations. The meltdowns. Your own internal guilt and shame. Not knowing what to do, along with the pain you’re experiencing, can leave you feeling very alone, under siege, and hopeless.
And you’ve never felt more alone. You may not be able to tell anyone about your affair. Your wife is certainly not going to be very supportive of your decision to have one and probably has you under siege right now, berating and assaulting you with anger and sharp words and accusations. Certainly, if your affair is common knowledge, few will line up to support you. They will all be supporting your Betrayed Spouse. You are facing the worst crisis of your life, and it’s complicated, yet you are seen very one dimensionally — the self-indulgent, lying, cheater. A “jerk”. Reviled by all, understood by almost no one. Not only do you have to carry your own confusion, grief, guilt and shame, but the whole world is pointing a judgmental finger at you. You’ve never felt so alone in your life.
At the same time there are legitimate reasons to explore the possibility of salvaging your marriage. However, you don’t want to go back into a miserable relationship. You are probably wondering if your wife could ever forgive you, and your loss of desire for your mate leaves you wondering if those feeling will ever return.
A person in your position will sometimes have difficulty finding motivation to remain in the marriage. Some of you likely believe that you have already made the decision to leave the marriage but my not have informed your spouse of the decision yet, despite the end of the affair. You might even still be on the fence about your affair partner, despite affair termination. They may still be an option. You’re not sure whether you actually can save your marriage. You’re not sure if you should go back to your partner…or even seek your total freedom away from both your wife and your lover! You just don’t know whether you are making the “right” decision. Nothing is clear. Everything is grey. Your head is spinning, you are stressed out, and paralyzed by indecision and wonder where you are actually headed.
But stop for a moment — you are seeing your lover and your wife through “affair eyes”. You’re not seeing either of them clearly. You are probably overestimating your lover’s good qualities, and underestimating your wife’s. It’s normal. In reality, love affairs are based on the concept of romanticism and have nothing to do with the dynamics of marriage. A person who is having an affair will tend to rewrite history in an attempt to rationalize their behavior. You may be incapable of seeing positives in your marital relationship because finding strong positive feelings in both the affair and the marriage would create too much internal conflict. If anyone has attempted to reason with you over this situation, you are likely to become defensive, evasive, or brush off their comments.
Yes, you had an affair, and you pursued “true love” at great expense to yourself and others. Despite this single-minded pursuit, you probably do not like to view yourself as a bad or selfish person; rather you have searched for reasons and excuses to make your actions “necessary”. Yet, you’ve corroded your own soul, devastated your wife, and maybe even your lover, who hoped that you would leave your wife for her. You carry all this burden and yes it is your fault. You got yourself into this mess.
And now it’s all over and you are pursuing “marital reconciliation” despite your battered self-esteem, guilt, shame, confusion and not precisely knowing if you’re headed in the right direction… What now?
But at least know this.
Know what your wife is likely going through. A person in your mate’s position will often be extremely hurt and shocked by a betrayal. In fact, completed devastated. She couldn’t imagine that she’d ever cheat and assumed that you were incapable of such an act. Nevertheless, she’ll begin to explore what needs to be done in order to address the problem. Her drive and resoluteness will carry her through the first portion of the recovery process, but she may find the going gets more difficult about six months into the process. She may be crushed by the fact that you’ve been with someone else, but her inner strength will sustain her, and she will become a person of action as she faces reality. Inside, she may be wondering how she could be in this situation, since she probably views herself as competent and responsible and probably thought you were the same.
It may be difficult for your spouse to address her personal feelings. Initially she may suppress her own feelings for the sake of the children and the marriage, but later when the emotions come, she might feel out of control, which is not something she normally experiences. At times, her anger may be overwhelming and she may feel a significant amount of righteous indignation. Accepting the reality of your betrayal is difficult for her. Not only has she been lied to and betrayed, but she may also feel foolish for having been deceived by you in the first place. Being made to look like a fool is not a position she normally finds herself in. She’ll do a significant amount of searching in order to understand what has happened and what needs to be done to deal with the problem.
Take some time. Do not make a rash decision while emotions are high. Don’t immediately leave your wife and rush to the security of your lover. Don’t immediately agree to reconciliation. This is the time to be honest with your wife and decide whether you truly wish to fix your marriage. If not, then use this affair as a sign that it’s time to end things. Maturely. Responsibly. But if you do agree that your marriage is worth recovering and can actually prosper in the wake of your affair…I have blogged on the mistakes you need to avoid.
Not to say that this information doesn’t apply to married women having affairs — it might. The more I read of others’ blogs and message boards, the more I realize how similar the genders are in their reasons for affairs, their approach to carrying them out, and how they feel after. We are more alike than we realize. But I found this easier to write from the male perspective (since I went through it). Peace.
*Thanks again to Affairrecovery.com for a lot of this information and for again sparking an idea in my head of something to write about. I think it’s very important information! This is an excellent site for all parties involved in infidelity. I would highly recommend it!
FOR PART 1: How Many Men Feel After the Affair, Part 1
© COPYRIGHT 2006, 2007, 2013 Recovering Wayward Enterprises, LLC