After the Affair: The Internal Struggles of the Former Cheater

ILY__I__m_Leaving_You__Version2_by_vhonneWhat do I do now? Am I on the right path??  Should I stay in marriage or leave it, even though the affair is over?  I’m still unhappy!!  Should I save my marriage? CAN I save my marriage? Or should I just have another affair so that I can stay in my marriage?  HELP!!

Many Waywards struggle with these questions– we are done with our affair…but we’re not sure we want our marriages either.   That the conditions that were present in these marriages before the affair persist.  And these Waywards aren’t sure what to do about it.  That although some Waywards have ended the affair — whether they are caught or otherwise — they are still on the fence. They may or may not want their ex-Affair Partner, but they’re not sure they really want their spouse either! I know that many betrayed spouses don’t want to hear this, but what I read from many Waywards is that the REASONS they had an affair was because of what was or was not happening at home.   Recognizing long term, growing and substantial unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their spouses and their marriages.   That their marriage was already dead — and they went out and got their needs met by someone else. And even if they are caught…even if they proclaim that they want to save their marriages, their unhappiness persists. They are in a quandary. Should I stay? Go? Am I vulnerable to another affair or affairs to bridge the gap between my reality and my unmet needs?

They are really depressed. They feel lost. Even when trying to reconcile, they’re not at all convinced that they can make their marriages into something satisfying enough. They still believe that there is someone/something better for them out there, if only they were free to find it. But for whatever reason (finances, responsibilities, children, fear of the unknown, fear of being alone, etc), they can’t leave their marriages.  They’ve been through an affair and now they don’t feel that they’ve learned anything except perhaps that their dissatisfaction with their marriages has been sharpened — it wasn’t just theory.   There WAS someone out there that made them happier than their spouse!

So they not only carry the guilt and shame for what they’ve done, but they wonder whether they’ve done the right thing for themselves and their spouse by staying.  They have to silently deal with their own internal grief for the loss of someone in their life (their affair partner), because to openly grieve would either get derision in response from others, or upset their spouse who already has been devastated by their actions.

It’s not a great spot to be in.  And all of us have felt these feelings in one degree or another.   Their Affair Partners were not the “answer,” but perhaps, they were at least a huge symptom that something has gone horribly wrong in your marriages and that perhaps you are mismatched fatally from your spouses.   Only time will tell.   If you are carrying this burden alone, secretly, it has to be 180x harder.

Im_Leaving_You____by_PiddlingThe danger of staying in marriage, but openly contemplating a series of affairs to “bridge the gap” between your needs and your reality is that almost everyone eventually gets caught.  You screw up and leave your email open.   Or one of your Affair Partners gets mad at you and outs you to your spouse.  Or brags.   Or your spouse finally figures out that something is different and finds ways to uncover the truth.   Surveilling your phone or computer. Hiring a Private Detective.  Whatever.

D-Day is not what you imagine it will be until you live through one.  Everyone who is cheating says they know what they’ll do or say when caught, but until you face that reality with a spouse, you don’t really know.  Honestly.  Last September 3rd was the worst day of my life.  I had already been wavering and wanted to get out of my affair, but that day, it was cemented in my mind.  I knew at that moment that I had to get out of my affair and try and save my marriage and family.  Without a doubt.  Up until that day, I imagined calmly telling my wife that I was sorry, but I had been miserable for years but I’m moving out.  But when it happened, I felt unbelievable guilt, shame, and panic – and made the opposite decision.  At some level, I felt relief that the truth was at least out in the open, even though I was in hell and under siege, inside me and outside by her.

Plus, I don’t think that affairs will ultimately help you bridge the gap. I think they are CORROSIVE to the soul.  Eventually you will find it hard to respect yourself.   You will wake up in the middle of the night and realize what kind of person you’ve become. And you won’t like it.  Affairs are never the answer.  Never.  If your marriage is that bad, get out.

serial-cheater1 Becoming a serial cheater will not make you happy!  Not only will you not like yourself, but you have damaged your attractiveness on the open market. Who would commit themselves to a serial cheater? Someone with a track record of betrayal and being a skilled liar?  Almost nobody of any quality would trust someone like that.  I wouldn’t! Before you embark on another affair, consider that.  It’s more than a red flag.  It’s Red Square on May Day.

So now is your time to really consider your present.   Who you want to be. And how you get there.

I know how hard it is.  I struggled with those questions for a long time.   Long before D-Day.  I think that if I had got out of my affair without my wife knowing, I know we wouldn’t be where we are today.  I think I too would’ve skulked home, grateful that I didn’t do more damage than I had done, and probably drifted into another affair of some sort because things at home would’ve been exactly as they had been prior to and during my affair — unacceptable.  And I had no motivation to come clean and really “get real” with my wife.  We would’ve continued on the same drifting apart path we’d be on and I would’ve found myself in some similar situation, I’m sure.

Even though my wife and I are recovering remarkably well, I still have my moments of doubt from time to time, especially whenever we have a fight that’s related to the affair.  Doubt begins to creep into my mind:  Can I keep up this momentum? Will I still be content a year from now? 2 years? Should I have taken D-Day as the opportunity to have moved on completely from both of them?  Sometimes I wonder about these questions.  I know my wife does too.  I know her self-esteem took a beating from this and she needs a lot of reassurance, and I know she worries about me and what is clear now of what I’m capable of doing — shutting down and giving it all to someone else, while skillfully covering it up.  Ouch.  But she’s right.  That’s what I did, so I guess that’s who I am, or at least was.  I hate that about me.

I guess the best I can do is continue to be honest.  If I get to the point where I feel myself disengaging again, vulnerable again, I guess it will be my responsibility to voice this to her. And let the chips fall where they may.  Right now, I feel really optimistic and content, so I am not in the same quandary as this lady.

I ended up hating who I had become.  I carry the burden and I wear the Scarlet Letter and will forever.  It does get easier, but I know that many Waywards exit affairs and do not fully pursue recovery – instead they question a third direction, and all that this implies.  It’s not easy for any of them.

 

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One thought on “After the Affair: The Internal Struggles of the Former Cheater

  1. So much of this is me… except my wife has no idea. My counselor did agree that I am 100% primed for another affair. I don’t want to have another affair for multiple reasons and won’t let it happen, but the fact that I am still having that empty, unfulfilled spot is what is worrisome.

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