Again, poignant parts and my commentary on a blog that really spoke to me. Not just for how it all evolved, but his recovery as well. My story is a tad different — he divorced and actually attempted to make a go of it with his Affair Partner. I did not. I immediately knew that I wanted to save my marriage and put all my effort into it. But other than that, there are parallels.
Telling His Wife
I can’t remember a word I said, but somehow I managed to tell the main details of my affair: who was involved, what we had done, and how long it had been going on. What I do remember was my complete lack of feeling. I sat there, watching my wife’s worry turn to confusion, then sorrow, then rage. Through her turn of emotions, I felt nothing. Nothing.
I probably felt nothing because I was not truly sorry. My confession came out of necessity: I had been caught in an affair and had to break the news to her before she heard it from anyone else. She deserved at least that much.
But what I was sorry for was that I had been caught and that there would be consequences. I had not reached a place of genuine sorrow over the affair. That kind of sorrow would have led me to end the affair even without being caught. That kind of sorrow would have looked different, and it would have been more deserving of trust.
The truth is, even as I sat there making my confession to Anne, I thought about Linda.
MY COMMENTS: I definitely told her some of the details without emotion. I felt awful. But unlike Mark, I was not very torn. I was already wavering at that point and wanted to find a way to terminate the affair. But had been too scared to do so. D-Day gave me the push I needed. At some level, I was relieved. But I remember the 30-60 minutes before I got home, knowing I would have to admit it to her. There was no denying it. I felt physically ill.
I remember sitting there on the edge of our bed, as she was cursing and crying. I told her the details somewhat dispassionately. Inside, I was falling apart. I wasn’t 100% sure that I could fix my marriage and I felt vulnerable. I felt overwhelming guilt and shame. I worried what would happen to me. To my wife. To my kids. Was I supposed to pack and go to a hotel? To to the OW’s house because I had nowhere else to go? Sleep at my office? I was not just ashamed, I was panicked. Having to admit it out loud was just horrible. I started to realize what I had really done and I had hurt someone who, although not being the best spouse, loved me and wanted to hold our marriage and family together.
I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.
As family and friends heard the news, I was asked to explain what had happened and what I was going to do next. I had no idea, but ended up telling people what they wanted to hear: I loved my wife; I loved my children; I wanted to put our family back together again. All that was true, but it was only part of the truth. Another part of the truth—the part I kept hidden—was that I was grieving the loss of Linda and wasn’t sure I could keep from seeing her again…It was good that Ann, my wife, didn’t see all of this inner turmoil (although she did see some); it would have hurt her even more. When I said I wanted to put my family back together, I was telling the truth. And yet, I had let another woman hold my heart, hold my body, and I didn’t know how to reclaim them again.
MY COMMENTS: I definitely wanted to put my marriage back together. Did I still love my AP? I did. But I knew what I had to do. As much as I was catching hell at home, I knew I would catch MORE hell the next day when I broke it off with her. And my band had an out of State gig that weekend. I would be dealing with this all weekend. In stereo. I was in hell. Yet, I wondered if I could really get away from my AP. My addiction. I wondered whether the wife would merely throw me out in anger. And then where would I go? Probably straight to her. I really had no place else to go. no friends in the area I could turn to. It would’ve been either a hotel, my AP or sleeping in my office (I have a couch).
I understand Mark being torn, however. I was torn in some ways, even if I made up my mind. Decisions are rarely 100%.
That next day, as ugly as Saturday had been, was worse.
My AP’s reaction – – and viciousness in the weeks to follow — made it much easier for me to detach and move on. Although my wife was enraged. It wasn’t easy for a while there. I was getting abused in stereo. I was near suicidal. And I was still trying to fulfill obligations at work and to the band. Somehow.
This is where my story diverges from Mark’s. “Linda” was also married and her husband found out and confronted Mark. She therefore didn’t protest when the affair had to end. She had as much panic and as much to lose as Mark. “No Contact” became mutual. My AP was a single woman. She manipulated me into this corner, and didn’t get what she wanted– Me, out of my home and into hers. And she went into a rage. For weeks and months. So bad that I took her to Court for a restraining order. She slowly drove out every good emotion I ever had for her. She drove me faster and further, in fact, into the protective arms of my wife and family.
For Mark, his OW was there but out of reach. He still loved her and still had the fantasy in his head. And the harder it got at home, the more he yearned for his lover. It made it harder for him to recover at home. Although he doesn’t say it, i’m quite sure it’s why his marriage ultimately failed. He wasn’t there 100% to give recovery a real chance. That’s just a guess, but I get it. I too felt torn sometimes. I missed her sometimes. I was desperate to message her sometimes, despite what she did. But her immature nastiness — the attempts to really hurt me and my wife — was like a bucket of cold water. I found out that my wife had 10x the maturity, character and strength that she did.
My AP was great — as long as I was doing what she wanted me to do. But nasty, vicious and manipulative when I was not. That ain’t love.
Anne was never sure she would have my devotion again. I was never sure I would have her forgiveness.
MY COMMENT: That’s for sure. I had the same thoughts. And I know my wife did too. We pushed forward with reconciliation. We really opened up. But I know both of us had inner doubts. Most couples do not survive an affair.
I’ve learned that I need to ask myself an important question: Am I living authentically? When my life lacks authenticity (genuineness, honesty, transparency, truthfulness, trust), I lose respect for myself and start becoming “undone” (a state of decline from whole, healthy living).
When I violated my moral values, I started living a life of contradiction that almost guaranteed an unsatisfying ending. Even when I tried to convince myself that my values had changed—that I no longer believed the affair was necessarily wrong—my lies and shame demonstrated a lack of true conviction.
I can’t change the choices I’ve already made, but I learn from them. This idea of living authentically has become foundational to my life. Nearly every choice can be measured by whether or not it is consistent with being a real, genuine person. I’m convinced that the failure to live authentically leads to all kinds of consequences: emotional, relational, spiritual, and even physical.
Living authentically isn’t enough, of course. A person can be “real” and still be a fool.
But to experience a full measure of healing, I needed more than a new perspective or new direction. I needed something that I couldn’t provide myself. I needed grace. Fortunately, I finally found it… in my children, in their mother, in my wife, in God. Grace covers a multitude of sins.
MY COMMENT: Amen. Words to live by. I’ve learned so much from this. I’ve become a better person. I’m living a more authentic life. My internal dissonance—a huge source of stress— has abated.
Does my wife still have her moments of insecurity? Of anger? Of doubt? Yes, but they are fewer and further between, and of lesser duration. We are getting there. Day at a time. But from what I’ve read, we are doing spectacularly. Whatever it was that I was “seeking” through other women — whether friends or not — was to be found in the person right in front of me. I have been shocked to find out that all I had to do was to give of me — fully, openly and lovingly– and I would get what I needed. Tenfold.
I love you, darling.