Quick Hitters from my Mail Bag of Questions

happy_man_at_computerA few excerpts from correspondence I’ve received, including from a “hater”, and my answers to them that may be of interest to some of you.  It has all been altered in such a way as to keep them anonymous.

“My husband’s affair started two years ago while he was on a project in another city. She also is married and has children.   I discovered the affair about 6 months ago, and filed for divorce, although I told him I was open to working things out.  He understood but wanted the divorce since he and the Other Woman were planning a life together. We decided to keep everything as is until after the holidays for the sake of our daughter.  Since January 1, he has been telling me he has doubts about the OW, loves me, wants us to work, etc. Early Feb. he asked for time to break it off with the OW who has put their home on the market and asked her husband for a divorce. I tried to quantify the time…year, months, weeks. All he could promise was less than a year.

What is a reasonable timeline in your opinion to break up with the OW? I suggested he take a month break from her to assess if it is truly what he wants to do. He would rather break it off completely once he decides to come back to the marriage and counseling. Also, for tax purposes, he has a residence in another state and he splits his weekends between there and where we live, so we see him only every other weekend.”

A:  Ah yes…a typical story. He’s beginning to see the OW more clearly. he’s beginning to see what he’s LOSING going down this path. And now he’s losing in a divorce.  And he’s having second thoughts.

Frankly, I wouldn’t really tolerate it. So he’s stuck. He wants to keep both of you as an option? I think it’s absurd. Tell him that you’re going through with the divorce and that if he’s serious about your marriage, he will terminate things with her immediately and in front of you so that you can verify it. And agree to counseling. And be with you all the time. And his job is a problem. You can’t fix a marriage where one partner is home every other weekend. It’s ridiculous.

If he’s serious, he will take these steps. but personally if it were me, I wouldn’t allow someone to ping-pong back and forth between me and their lover.  Not for one minute.  I’d be divorcing them.

“My only complaint is that you really focus on the betrayed spouse being the root cause of the problems of the marriage. You are clear, and I agree, that the affair is all on you. I just think that in any relationship both people contribute to the issues.   I’m having a hard time with you criticizing the letter writer for harshly blaming men with your equally harsh assertion that affairs are wrong, but really it’s the faithful spouse’s fault. The affair is just a symptom. Do you really believe you were the perfect husband, and your wife just refused to meet your needs?  I have a feeling you contributed to at least fifty percent of the problems in your marriage. I imagine your wife’s needs were also not being met.  You need to accept that you were very involved in state of your marriage. I think it is ridiculous to pass the buck onto your wife. Own your behavior, not just your affair.”

A:  If you actually read my blog, you would see I’ve never blamed the betrayed spouse for the decisions of the cheater. Or as the “root cause of problems in the marriage.”  Never.  Nor did I ever blame my wife for my affair. Nor did I do anything accept take responsibility for my poor decision.  I have never said I was a perfect spouse. In fact, what we found in our recovery — from really talking — is exactly how each of us was unhappy with the state of our marriage. And how we both took 100% responsibility for our contributions to that.  I certainly committed the bigger sin, but we moved past “blame” and got down to “where do we go from here and how do we fix it?” instead.

I talk about the shared responsibilities throughout my blog.  I think you’re one of those who is used to reading how the betrayed spouse has NO responsibility.   I get it.  That’s how a lot of betrayed bloggers portray themselves. And then seem to complain that their marriages aren’t recovering and/or the person left them anyway!

I have always tried to be fair.  I’m as hard on cheaters that email me (when appropriate) as betrayeds (again, when appropriate).  More often than not, I tell some of my correspondents to start divorce proceedings. That their cheating spouses aren’t showing enough remorse for what they’ve done. You just don’t see it here because people would rather ask me questions in private.

Also, I  think I write things that make some people  uncomfortable because I don’t spew the usual dogma. The things I read that other people are doing in response to their spouses’ affairs are, to me, are  not a recipe not for forgiveness, healing and moving forward, but of blame, nastiness and ultimately divorce. I always tell people — you can certainly use this as a reason to get divorced! I’m not saying you can’t. But if you wish to save your marriage, you need to consider all points of view too. Understanding and compassion — and taking down the rhetoric a notch — precede forgiveness. And reconciliation cannot occur without compassion, understanding and forgiveness. It just stands to reason. So I’ve tried to provide insight into former/current cheaters and on the subject.

I’m not one that subscribes to the myth that happy and content people usually have affairs.  Few do.  There is enough blame to go around. I present all sides. And if you read even my TOP post, you would see that I NEVER think affairs are justified, NEVER suggest that people have them. ALWAYS suggest that people avoid them, and NEVER blame betrayeds for the decisions of the cheater. But I offer the well-supported theorem that affairs don’t occur in a vacuum, as well.  Something is usually going on in the marriage. Something not good. Critical needs are being not met. Or worse, dismissed out of hand. It’s the number one reason both men and women cheat — because they no longer feel loved, wanted, understood, appreciated and desired.  If you use that as a starting point, it’s amazing how quickly important issues will be focused on and not the affair itself, which to me, is almost always a symptom of a larger issue, within the marriage, within the cheater, or both.  Deal with root causes, not symptoms. It works better.

I don’t require that people agree with me. Or even read my blog. I just ask that they portray me and it accurately and fairly.  Thanks for writing.

“My wife of recently had an affair for about 2 months.  I found out about it around the same time it became public and she admitted it.  I was very calm throughout the whole process, never lashing out or attempting to destroy her, because she was and still is my best friend, I still love her unconditionally, we have young children that I care deeply for, and I don’t want to hurt her.  We are at a point where I have forgiven her emotionally and have been able to begin reconstructing the trust we once had. The problem I am now facing is I cant forgive her sexually. .. I just cant seem to get past her having sex with someone else.  The conclusion that I am drawing from this is that in order to heal and forgive her sexually and move on with our lives I feel I should experience sex with someone else.  I just don’t see how else to move on and to look at her the same way unless I try to look at it from her perspective as sex is just sex and to say we’ve both been there and done that, its not a big deal and its time to move on. Thoughts?

It’s a bad, bad idea. It won’t work and will likely end in the dissolution of your marriage. I wrote a whole blog entry on it. Here’s my thoughts:  https://affairadvice.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/engaging-in-a-revenge-affair/

I assure you that a revenge affair is not the same, nor will it give you the relief you think it will or get you anywhere closer to forgiveness. I would think long and hard about taking a step like that.

“I had an affair with a man I have known for years, but never saw as anything more than a friend. It only lasted  8 weeks, we didn’t have sex.  We both have been married for more than 15 years and both have kids.  We both knew we had a HUGE amount to lose if we were discovered. All hell let loose. My affair partner went home and told his wife.  His wife has demanded all contact be severed permanently.

I spoke to him yesterday for the first time since we were caught. He will not meet me as he has promised his wife no contact ever, he shouldn’t even be speaking to me on the phone. He insists he really loves his wife, he wants his marriage to work, he regrets terribly what we did and that we wishes it had never happened and he could turn the clock back. His wife is not coping, he is also in a mess and the only reason he is still at home is because of his kids.

I told him I can’t stop thinking about him. That I meant everything I said to him. I wish I could stop, but I can’t. It’s absolute torture and it hurts so bad. He says he is sorry but he can’t think about anything except his wife and family, and fixing the damage he has done. We cannot have anymore contact, ever. I am heartbroken and confused. How can he turn his feelings off so quickly? Was he just using me? Please can u give me some advice?  He told me he had fallen for me, as deep as anyone can fall for someone, so how can he just stop his feelings? I can’t.  Also, we downplayed it all and have not told our spouses the full scope of the affair.  What do I do?

A: I think you’re jumping to conclusions. Who says he “just turned it off”? Or that the didn’t care? Or was playing you? The simple reality is this: He probably does care for you and want you, but when the affair was discovered, he made a choice — to fix his marriage. He got clarity that day. He realized what a mistake it all was and what he was on the verge of losing — his family, his dignity, finances, etc etc. So I wouldn’t take it so personally. Besides, haven’t you gone through enough? Why do you want to keep this connection with him open and risk even more? You need to get real. You got caught. Be grateful your husband is willing to work things out with you. You need to forget about this episode in your life. He’s showing real maturity, even if you find it painful.  And yes, he DOES have to cut you off.

Also, the danger in not telling the full truth is that IF the truth DOES come out (and you have no idea if it will or not), then it will result in a set-back in your marital recovery. A major one.  It’s better to just tell the whole truth and let the chips fall where they may. Did you see my blog entry on the 20 mistakes former cheaters make? One is giving out trickle-truth. It’s very dangerous.

You can’t carry lies and reconcile your marriage. You can’t have ANY more contact with this man and fix your marriage. Read that blog entry again on the 20 mistakes former cheaters make. Its the best advice I have.

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8 thoughts on “Quick Hitters from my Mail Bag of Questions

  1. in reading this, I feel for you. This takes a lot of patience and an open heart to keep a good perspective. Seriously, Hats off to you. xo, Jayne

    • Thanks. I feel like I’m fulfilling a purpose and helping a lot of people (or so they tell me by email). It allows me to ignore the few haters that pop up. I don’t hate them back. I pity them.

  2. I’ve yet to see a single comment from you that came across as you “passing the buck” onto the betrayed spouse, and if it had been there, I’d have noticed it and stopped reading this blog months ago. I wish my husband would read it, to be honest. Not that I think he needs to understand himself & his behavior better – I think he has a pretty good handle on that – but because I think he’d understand me & my occasional meltdowns better. And me being able to say that, as the BS, means that I feel pretty comfortable with anything you say regarding betrayed spouses and their behavior in general. Most of the things you say ring true, and if something does not, I’m capable of understanding that it’s not about me. I think that not everyone is able to see an affair as a symptom of something being seriously wrong in a marriage. Maybe it’s just the personal nature of sex & intimacy, and the betrayal involved in sharing yourself with someone outside your marriage – allowing them inside. Even if it IS an illusion, a parody of marital intimacy, even if you manipulate and lie to them. You’ve let them in, and that’s hard to forgive.

    My husband made me sound like the worst wife in the world. If a male friend had spoken of his wife to me the way he spoke of me to her, he’d have had my utmost sympathy. I don’t need him to tell me that he was grossly exaggerating my shortcomings as a wife; I know that it was in his interests to do that. He needed to let himself off the hook for being a rotten bastard who was cheating on a good (if imperfect) woman. That’s what he was – we had this discussion last night & he said it outright. But I do know that I wasn’t a great wife. And I knew it before he cheated. I knew the risks I was taking in not making the effort to meet his needs, and had a pretty good idea of what most of them were. There were all sorts of reasons why I took those risks, the main one being that he wasn’t meeting my needs, and I would be damned if I’d knock myself out to make him happy when he seemed to have no interest in doing the same for me. I did the things I thought were most important, just not the things that were most important to him. And I feel genuine guilt for that. Maybe not enough to put what he did completely aside, but enough to admit that what happened to us was not a case of the prince of darkness betraying a perfect saint.

    • I agree. Yet, I have these “haters” out there. One fool, whom I won’t name, devoted an entire page on her website deriding and slandering my blog and me. Another forum out there did the same in a thread. That I’m a cheater-apologist. Blah blah blah. Some people can’t see past their own self-righteous anger and egos to see the truth. They just want to blame, blame, blame everyone but themselves for their own predicaments and I’m an easy target because I don’t write the usual dogma that they are used to hearing. It goes with the territory. So when I get “hate mail” like the one I quoted above (and frankly, there are far worse ones than that), it always makes me scratch my head. These are people who have cherry-picked one sentence they don’t like out of my entire blog and try and slander me with it. These are people who haven’t really read my blog at all. They’re just angry, they are often invested in being the eternal victim, and someone has to pay — and I’m there. Well, I don’t let it bother me. As I tell them, I don’t require you to read my blog. I don’t require you to take my advice. However, if you DO wish to comment here, be accurate, and be fair. If you can’t judge me fairly, then please judge me silently.

  3. Those letters and comments come from a place of pain. The anger and rage is just what they coat it in to feel less vulnerable. It’s entirely possible that they direct it at you because you are the only other man they know of who has cheated, and what they say to you is what they’d like to say to their husbands, but for whatever reason, they are not being heard. To be betrayed by someone you love is to be devastated and humiliated beyond your ability to express in words. It is a wounding of your soul, and you never fully recover. Some people are just unable to heal. And someone who is capable of wounding you that deeply can very likely be incapable of helping to heal you. Maybe they lack the courage to be honest with their spouses, maybe the BS never knows exactly what happened because the WS is unwilling or unable to be honest. They either divorce or stay together, but even those who stay together don’t always delve deeply enough into what went wrong in their marriage, and that will invariably result in some sort of repressed hostility toward cheaters in general. My personal opinion, and take it for whatever it’s worth, is that you show some empathy for that pain, and unfortunately, it makes you a bit of a magnet for some of the rage associated with it. Where pain is focused, rage tends to be blind.

    • I’ve never believed that hurt was a “license” to lash out at others. My ex-OW believed the same thing. Her hurt was a justification for doing whatever the hell she wanted, no matter the cost to others. While I understand pain, I think some of these haters would be better served looking in the mirror then lashing out at a complete stranger. As I said, I don’t force anyone to read my blog. If I printed some of these nasty comments here, you’d be stunned. And some come complete with their full names. I could “out” these people, but I don’t. I just direct their mean-spirited comments to the “trash” bin.

  4. I don’t think it’s right to lash out at you. You were the cause of your own wife’s pain, not the cause of mine or anyone else’s. Your OW’s pain is a result of her own actions as well as yours. Not just that she entered willingly into an affair, and shouldn’t have expected to be blissfully happy by now, but also the destructive behavior since. She should have expected it to make her even more miserable. A rational person would understand that to be their own doing. You make your bed and all that… That concept is harder to for a BS to own, but I feel it fits in regard to a troubled marriage. But that is a hard thing to accept. You can’t just follow that up with “but that doesn’t justify cheating”, because people don’t hear that. They just see the part about making your bed and see red.

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