If you think in any way I’m excusing affairs. I’m not. Let me be completely frank about affairs: They are 100% WRONG!
- If you’re in an affair, get out now before it’s too late.
It causes incredible devastation to the person you’re supposed to be committed to. Maybe to your kids too. And it’s not worth it. It’s not the answer. It’s a temporary way to feel good. It is 100% wrong and it’s YOUR fault! If it hasn’t been discovered, terminate it now before it does. And it hurts you personally. I feel DAMAGED because of what I did, not just because I got caught. It was stressful being in one from day one on. I was becoming depressed and an alcoholic trying to cope with it all. And now I feel shame and guilt for the devastation I caused my wife. I don’t feel like I had a good time and “got away with it.” I feel damaged and diminished. I have yet to really forgive myself. Don’t do what I did. Please remember this if nothing else: Affair love is an illusion, based on a lie, fueled by fantasy, protected by self-justification, insecurity and ego. It will only temporarily deliver on your expectations and fall short of most of them. Is it any wonder why real relationships, based on an affair, fail at a rate twice that of divorce? I doubt most of you have really consider the likelihood that you will be caught (you probably will be) and the true fall-out from having an affair.
- If you’re considering one, don’t do it. Go to counseling. Get out of your marriage. Do whatever you have to do, but affairs are temporary bandaids, not solutions. And most of the time, they end up blowing up in your face. They won’t ultimately make you happy.
- If you are recovering from one, be open, be vulnerable, love, forgive, learn and live a better life! Make it a priority to use this terrible chapter in your life to grow and mature and make things better. Don’t wallow in it. Don’t punish because of it. LEARN from it and have a better life. Turn the negative into a positive.
But I also believe and am living this truism: Infidelity does not have to mean an end to the relationship! I truly believe based on what I’ve been through that there is hope for all of us. Because affairs are devastating, they are often not handled very constructively in relationships. In some cases, the best option may be to end the relationship (e.g., where there are multiple affairs, no genuine remorse or plans for recovery). But for an overwhelming majority of cases of infidelity, not only can the relationship be saved but it can evolve into a stronger and more resilient and even more intimate relationship than before. But the right attitudes must be adopted. The right steps must be taken. A plan for real recovery must be made and agreed to. Substantial changes in behavior must be made, especially by the cheater. But there IS hope!
When You Are Ready, Look For Ways To Turn The Negatives Into Positives, To Restore The Trust, And To Regain Your Footing. Once you get past the initial shock and pain, there will come a time when you have the perfect opportunity to recreate your marriage if you want to. If both parties agree, then both can come to the table with the expectation that they are sort of starting all over again. Yes, the affair is what you brought you here and that’s a bad thing. There is no doubt about that.
But, what’s done is done. You can not change the past. But, you do have control over what happens in the present and in the future. You can use this as an opportunity to start honestly and openly communicating so that you’re both very clear on what went wrong and on what has to change to fix this.
In truth, your marriage right now is a blank canvas. You can paint a new picture that is going to be pleasing to both of you or you can dwell on the past, focus on the negative, and let those thoughts and perceptions cloud the picture that remains. As painful as it is, an affair will often show you exactly where your life was not working. Yes, often this is through no fault of your own. You can’t control the circumstances, but you can control the outcome. Define where you want to go from here and then open your heart and open up the conversation. Define exactly what you need to happen and then begin taking the steps that are going to get you there. Understand that you control what your life looks like by making it so. Yes, the affair happened and it feels awful, but take back control and don’t remain a victim. And no, you can’t control what your spouse thinks or does, but you can control your reaction to their actions. No one can control what you think, feel, or experience. Decide where you want to go from here and take one step at a time until you’ve back where you want to be and are stronger than ever.
That being said, I have a message for each of you:
You people in affairs or who had an affair that was discovered and are trying to recover your marriage, you have a lot of work to do. You have DEVASTATED someone, even if your needs weren’t being met. You and I have committed the single most hurtful and destructive thing that can occur in a marriage where monogamy is the stated goal. You must make real amends to them for what you’ve done. You have to remake your relationship and make sure your needs are both known and met. It’s your responsibility to communicate your needs to them when they aren’t. Similarly, you must meet THEIR needs too and make sure you’re finding out where you are falling short. You must make changes in your behavior to show them that you are now living an open, honest, and transparent life. No secrets. Appropriate boundaries with members of the opposite sex. You have to do what it takes to make them feel “safe” again. I have a blog entry on the major mistakes you need to avoid if you want to save your marriage after the betrayal you’ve perpetrated.
That being said, this doesn’t mean you need to be a human punching bag indefinitely. Recovery is a two-way street. Take your lumps, but insist on positive steps to recovery. Don’t let them use your affair against you like a stick to get their way or to put you down. Forgiveness precedes healing. If they haven’t forgiven you, you’re getting nowhere. And some never do. Beware of resentment building up inside you because of punishment over your affair that never seems to end — it’s the cancer of recovery. If you feel resentment building, you need to speak up! Yes, YOU have to change your behavior and that’s a huge thing. But THEY have to get past all of this and come to the table with honesty and love. You need to establish whether recovery or punishment is their agenda, because both cannot be pursued simultaneously. But you are the people that cheated. You have a lot to make up for.
And if they HAVE forgiven you, openly acknowledge and praise the gift they have given you. And don’t fumble it. Forgiveness comes with a price for them – -they have to swallow their pride, compromise some of their values, and go on faith that you won’t do this to them again. You need to appreciate this fact.
YOU have to do five major things:
1. Take 100% responsibility for the poor choices you made.
2. Shown significant, honest remorse for what you did
3. Make amends to your spouse for what you’ve done
4. Live a more honest, authentic and transparent life
5. Commit yourself 100% to your spouse/family, and change your behavior so you don’t even give the APPEARANCE of improper behavior
If you don’t do these things, your marriage has almost no chance of recovery.
IF YOUR EX-LOVER IS NOW HARASSING AND STALKING YOU, TAKE HEED! This is what happened to me. If this is occurring, send to them in writing a CLEAR note telling them to not contact you, your spouse, your family and the people around you in any way. That their continued behavior may result in legal action. If they continue, you need to preserve ALL evidence of their contacts — if they call, send an email to yourself with what they said. If they left a voicemail, save it. If they send you an email, save it. If they show up near your home or where you work, log it in writing to an email to yourself. Get a lawyer and know the laws concerning “Stalking” in your State. You will need the evidence to tell the story of a pattern of stalking and harassment to pursue a restraining order. “Bunny Boilers” frequently do not stop until the law is put on them. Even after I took mine to Court, for almost 2 years now, she still attempts to contact me every 4-6 weeks. I’ve saved it all.
For you betrayed spouses, there is no one answer to recovering. Sometimes marriages recover, but often they don’t. Affairs are not the cause of your problems, but almost always a symptom of something that already went wrong. Sometimes the wayward spouse uses the affair as an exit strategy. They aren’t really that sorry as much as embarrassed and the reasons they had an affair still exist. Sometimes a marriage is fatally flawed and no books, no websites, no discussions are going to fix it. The affair was a sign it’s just plain over.
However, for most, there is hope and recovery can and does occur. If you want to recover, you have to come from a place of love and real forgiveness. Forgiveness precedes healing. And healing requires compassion. Bringing up the affair over and over again may make you feel better, but it won’t help in your recovery. You have a choice to make — save your marriage or seek justice (and lose the marriage). It’s up to you, largely. Realize that some waywards that terminate their affairs and agree to marital recovery are still somewhat on the fence. Most of them cheat for a reason — that you weren’t meeting their most critical needs. So as long as their needs continue to not be met, they remain vulnerable to leaving, if not another affair. I have a blog entry on the 20 common mistakes Betrayed Spouses make in recovery that you should avoid if you wish your marriage to truly recover and prosper.
Also, recognize that your Cheating Spouse is both an addict and a “war survivor” in many ways. They just came through the wringer. They are beating themselves up and you are beating them up too. Maybe their affair partner is beating them up too (like mine did). They are shell-shocked and vulnerable. And like a drug addict, they were addicted to their affair partner. No Contact is a MUST!! But realize that a period of withdrawal is occurring. They still feel the itch. The need. It takes time, but if recovery proceeds, they can get the person out of their system. Support that. Don’t drive them away and back to their affair partner.
For those of you whose spouses had affairs and left you for their affair partner, you have my utmost sympathy. Pining for them, keeping hope alive, will keep you from moving on with your lives. They did a horrible thing and it’s a monstrous way to exit a marriage. Consider that this person was not right for you, even if you love them. They trampled on you and aren’t even sorry! Find your pride. And remember life is short. Brush them off you and move on. Yes, it’s painful. But sometimes marriages cannot be fixed, no matter what you do. It takes two committed to doing it. The affair might have been what they were looking for to end things. Some people are like that. Sorry.