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Musings 3 years on from DH's intense emotional affair...(32 Posts)
What I've learned is that the betrayer has to be the "healer" in order for the betrayed spouse to feel loved, secure and trustful again. He has to do the majority of the hard work post affair to regain his partner's trust.
Am sick of people (mainly family members) just telling me to move on and forgive him. This is v. difficult if the betrayer doesn't fully take on the "healer" role - ie. if he half heartedly takes on the role and thinks just being there, apologising and trying not to rock the boat is enough. It's not enough - he has to work harder than that - affection, grand gestures (and little gestures) to make me feel special and trustful again. This is the only way to help the lingering hurt I feel diminish. He has to do this regardless of the state of the marriage before the affair if the marriage is to survive.
He cut off any contact with OW 3 years ago.
We both read "How to help your spouse heal from your affair" recently by Linda J MacDonald - which for me has been a Godsend. But he doesn't agree with the principle of the book about him needing to be the healer - he keeps on saying its down to both of us to work together. Which of course in a sense is true but he needs to make me feel secure and special first before this can happen.
Where do I go from here?
I think it's good that you've reached the point of seeing this as an issue. I mean, that feels like a bit of an emotional milestone.
I am not sure whether the betrayer always has to be the healer. But the point is, whether it holds true for anyone else doesn't matter. It's true for you. In your case, it's the absolute demand, and guess what? You're the one who gets to call the shots because of what he did!! It wouldn't matter if the condition was for him to cycle from John O'Groats to Lands End - it's you who sets the parameters here and it's very much about what you need to feel trustful and comfortable in future.
I think guilt for infidelity is a sort of infinite thing, and it's not an issue where you can talk meaningfully about 'balance' or 'both working at it'. If he can't shape up to that role, if he's not willing to go there for the sake of your marriage, then I think you need to consider whether this is really worth pursuing any further. It's not about the grand gestures. It's about whether he is really willing to knuckle down and do whatever it takes to win your trust and affection back. In a way, it's about effort, and he needs to recognise that, as part of the guilt-process, he has to deliver on this.
I do think that, as a separate process, it's important to confront the underlying issues that led to the breakdown of trust in the first place (and this can mean admitting some culpability, not for the affair for which you will NEVER be culpable, but for any love lost previously). But that should run alongside his willingness to do anything and everything, rather than being some kind of equalizing factor.
Thank you - yes I agree! I think I do get to call the shots. Apparently it was an EA plus kissing so there was physical contact.
Wise words thanks.
I am feeling the same way, but in reverse as I am the husband in this affair. I have found that the book. 'Not "just friends". - rebuilding trust and recovering your sanity after infidelity' by Shirley P Glass shows me how I feel and what I can do about it. Page 347 talks about 'accusatory suffering' and how we keep blowing on the coals of our misery to keep it alive... Probing an open wound. If we make a full recovery the person who hurt us will be exonerated from blame and get off too easily. I still hurt and have really bad days as there was a time when I could not believe I knew the truth. I still relapse into what I describe as a sense of impending doom. If you want it to work you have to regain your confidence. Have a look at the book. It was the most helpful to me. I hope this helps in some small way.
For me this is the reason why I think it is better to leave than stay. It's a lot to ask of someone else (no matter how badly they behaved) and I can't see that keeping any relationship is worth it tbh.
I know you must think differently if you've stayed together. However, if you've given it 3 years and it still isn't fixed I think you should give serious thought to separating tbh
I am not sure it was clear in my post that my DW had the EA. The book I recommended had a chapter on making the decision whether to stay or go. The blurb at the beginning says'sometimes I feel we've never been closer and other times I feel like I'm sleeping with the enemy.' You have made the decision to stay. Three years is a long time to hurt. One of my biggest fears is never getting past the betrayal and still being hurt many years from now. It is so difficult to forgive and impossible to forget. If you get real apologies and penitence it helps. I have asked for everything in writing. What happened, her promises never to be in contact again and her commitment to our marriage vows. I have had to give ground and have been completely honest with her. She is on a final chance. I have to believe I have a lot going for me and this gives my confidence a boost. When I feel confident I can see a way forward and that she needs me. It can be very difficult and I have very dark thoughts sometimes. I lived through months of only sleeping three hours a night or less but I am stronger. I do not want to use clichés and words can be hollow, but try think of yourself being in a position of power. You hold the key. That is why you are still together, not because he decided it. You did.
When a relationship becomes a power struggle of this kind it just doesn't seem worth it IMO. Would separating really be worse than this? What do you gain from going through all this? A half life with someone who has hurt you terribly? I've been cheated on recently (EA with someone current BF was unrequitedly in love with before he got with me and involving him filing to set appropriate new boundaries) and stayed, I certainly recognise the feelings of insecurity and betrayal but if I felt the way you do and it affected me as badly as it is you and for months/years after and it required my BF serving months/years of penance and punishment I just would have broken up with him because it is a relationship and there's no point having it if it makes you miserable and you aren't relating to each other IMO.
And I'm sure you do have a lot going for you but it's all wrong when a relationship is negatively affecting your self worth.
I agree totally Offred. If you can't put it to bed after 3 years then it's probably better to move on.
I think this is the problem with affairs. The "victim" wants the whole dynamic of the relationship to change, whilst the "guilty" party just wants to move on and put it to bed.
If any of us affected by infidelity or EA knew how long and how deeply we would be affected, I am sure there would be different outcomes. There is no set time for any person and we all live in hope that one day it will fade. When do you draw a line? One month, six months or ten years? If I knew now it would take three years more I would perhaps pack up and go. I live in hope it will take far less to be 'normal'. Once you decide to stay you have to believe it will get better or all your efforts so far are wasted.. IMHO.
There obviously can't be a set time period everyone deals differently but it's also a process and not something which suddenly disappears. If you are not making adequate progress or have made none surely that's telling you it isn't likely to get better?
In my case the EA was intensely going on for nearly 2 years and he did some truly awful things to me, we did break up, I was in a total mess. In the last 3 months we have had almost 2 months of not speaking at all because we were broken up and then I was in America.
I think there is an awful lot to be said for breaking up and each moving on as individuals as if you do end up back together it gives you a more equal start. If you don't well, it's just one person - there are plenty of others in the world and no-one is worth losing your self respect/living in misery for IMO - whether you are the betrayer or the betrayed.
I don't agree that it's up to both parties to work on it if one person cheated but I do believe that there comes a point where you just can't be your partner's emotional punching bag anymore.
I cheated on an ex (very bad behaviour, I very much regretted it) and he stayed with me for a further three years but I was emotionally wrung out by the end of it. He would bring it up in arguments, he'd use it to justify shitty behaviour years after the fact... I just couldn't apologise anymore. I told him that he had to forgive me and stay or leave. He left.
Thanks for sharing your experiences guys. I think the process of forgiving is so much harder than I imagined. Someone told me there are layers of forgiveness - like an onion - and that it takes a while to fully and truly forgive - and many don't manage it. I knew that my DH still thought intensely about OW for about 18 months after DDay, even though he had cut off all contact. That was hard to watch and live with!! But he said he was committed to me. Mentally his head was elsewhere for a lot of those months. It must be so much easier if there is true repentance and "healing" efforts by the betrayer early on!!
Thinking about it for the first 18 months after DDay I have, in a sense, been competing with "her in his head", even though he cut off all contact with her 3 years ago. I guess that's why its been hard for him to be "healer" - his head has been elsewhere. I have a faith which helps - I can draw on that in the bad times. We have 2 DC - not sure if I mentioned that.
Your opening post grated on me a bit, sorry print; namely the bit where you say 'regardless of the state of the marriage before the affair'. You're on a hiding to nothing if you have this arbitrary barometer in your head of 'forgiveness point' and possibly you'd be better off cutting your losses and getting out of your relationship altogether if that's how you truly feel.
The affair is down to HIM, no ifs or buts about that. The state of your marriage is down to both of you - then and now. If you've decided to make a go of it then at some point, you're going to have to determine the point at which you will start behaving like a spouse, part of a couple. If you don't feel bonded then cut him loose because there is nothing that he can do that will make it up to you. Grand gestures will be just that, ditto the small ones. He has ended the relationship with the OW and not recently either, 3 years ago. If you are still at the point now that you feel he has gestures to make and proof of love - without any reciprocation from you - then it's a matter of time before an affair happens again (either of you) or one or both of you get fed up of a one-sided marriage.
Your husband is totally responsible for the affair but not for healing you. That's your joint role, as is making your marriage one that you want to be in.
I wish you the best and perhaps the best advice is to suggest that you see a therapist on your own to work out your anger/disappointment/need for approbation on a continued basis. From what you say there is nothing but seething and bubbling resentment - and expectation. That's a recipe for divorce, which may be better for both of you. This is not going to work, sorry.
Just read the rest of your thread now, I didn't want to influence my post before, agree with Offred very much on this.
[others are] telling me to move on and forgive him
That sort of comment reminds me of (usually) politicians who have been caught out doing something and then keeping trotting out the request that 'we should all draw a line under it'.
No. No-one but you gets to say when that should happen. It will take you as long as it takes to stop hurting, OP. Until that happens you can't really go forward. That's why it's called healing and not a transplant.
Hmmm Lying - I get your point and appreciate you responding. I'm not sure many people would be happy knowing their DH still has intense feelings for OW for 18 months after EA finished though!!!
... and HelenaHandcart; I think you have a decision to make and some independent advice would be a good starting point for you perhaps.
You say that your husband still had OW in his head and was thinking of her 18 months later. How do you know that? If this were my husband, and he had been unable to get another woman out of his head for such a lengthy period, I would probably concede that a) the relationship was more than just an affair and b) it was more physical than I believed it to be and c) that I need not compete for headspace at all. Sad as it would be, I would consider my options for leaving if I couldn't shake myself out of this reverie of misery and doubt because what would be the point of that? My children would see it, I wouldn't be able to hide it - and nor, I believe, can you.
It's true there is no set point at which you must feel healed but my nerves are jangling at your statement that it is entirely up to your husband to demonstrate/prove to you, by gestures. You have children together, you can be good parents together - or separately - and you have a choice.
cross-posted with you there and addressed that very point, print, although I don't think it's something you'll want to hear, sorry. Believe me, I know it's painful.
I guess I need to feel he truly cares Lying - and is not with me out of duty because we have DC I guess. I do believe he has to help me trust him again - because without trust we are nothing. He broke that trust. So that requires effort on his part to help rebuild that.
The affair is a romantic, idealistic bubble which compared with the normal imperfections of a long, real marriage, can dupe the cheater into thinking that the affair partner is "better" than the betrayed partner. Your H was grieving for the loss of his fantasy partner not a realistic relationship. However, that doesn't make it any easier for you to deal with. Has he acknowledged that he was indulging in a fantasy?
Do you actually KNOW that it was just emotions and kissing, print? 18 months thinking about her is an awfully long time and I believe it goes beyond 'just an affair'. Do you know how long this relationship went on for?
I agree that he needs to help you trust him again and that it requires effort on his part but to be successful, I think it needs some soul-searching from you and some honesty with him about the way you feel, about the things you need him to do - and what they will mean to you. For him, he possibly feels that by NOT interacting with the OW he is demonstrating his trustworthiness to you. You're both out of synch with each other, I think, your expectations and his do not match - and they need to.
Can you be arsed with it any longer?
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