Part One: About Our Marriage Before The Affair: This is a long story but I will try to make it as short as I possibly can. Prior to an event which happened a couple of years ago, I was a happily married woman with two happy kids that both my husband and I adore and place as our highest propriety.
My husband and I met in college and were inseparable from that moment on. We had an intense chemistry, open communication, respected one another immensely and were deeply committed to creating a strong, stable marriage conducive to raising a happy family. I was never unhappy and I never thought that he was either.
We married a few months after college graduation. I worked while he went to law school and in turn, once he was practicing, he worked and supported me while I was raising our children. I honestly believe that were incredibly happy for over 15 years.
We both worked hard, but we were very conscious about making time for one another. We traveled a lot, made weekly date nights, had a very nice sex life, and laughed a lot. I constantly thanked my lucky stars for this man and our family.
Setting The Stage For What Was To Tear Us Down: After about 15 years into our marriage, my husband was a very successful attorney and I was very proud of him. The partners at his firm noticed his hard work and offered to let him head a new office in a neighboring county. Of course, I encouraged and supported him full force. I was very proud of him and knew that this was a great opportunity. Now, it meant that he would be away from home more and would sometimes have to stay overnight in a hotel that the company provided. I didn’t like this, but I understood it. We were eventually have to move to the new county anyway and it was just way to far to commute to daily.
Initially, he was very happy with this new opportunity, but as the days turned to weeks and then months, things were not going as smoothly as he had hoped. He became distant, sullen, stressed, and tired. I chalked this up to the fact that he was in a high pressure situation that would soon end. Our sex life remained fine and he was still his usual, loving self. I just wanted to get this move over with and move on.
How I Found Out About The Affair: One day, I decided to surprise my husband at his hotel. I talked friends of my children to allow them to sleep over and I picked up a bottle of wine and some take out and was on my way. I hoped that my visit would cheer him up, allow him to relax and take his focus off of work.
When I arrived, no one answered the door when I knocked. I didn’t see his car in the parking lot. I figured that he had gone out to get something to eat, so I used to key card he had given me (he had gotten two at check in) and opened the door. What I saw inside took my breath away. There, right on his couch, sort of crouching so I couldn’t see her from through the window, was a young, fake, bleached blonde woman sitting on the couch in a negligee.
I felt like someone had punched me right in the gut and had pulled the legs out from under me. I waited and starred, figuring she would blurt out all kinds of excuses or apologies, but she didn’t. Instead, she just shrugged and said, “You should talk to your husband,” got up, closed the bathroom door and never came out.
I didn’t go after her. I didn’t care who she was and I didn’t want to talk to her. I kept trying to come up with a reason that this woman was sitting in my husband’s hotel room with candles burning and music playing. There had to be some logical explanation? But, I couldn’t come up with any. I knew exactly what I had walked in on. I just cried, raged, and waited.
Confronting My Cheating Husband: My husband cautiously opened the door when he returned, gave me a pained look and said, “Oh sweetheart, I want to die right now. What have I done? What have I done?” I wanted to scream, ask why, or strike out at him, but all I could do (much to my embarrassment now) was bury my hands in my lap and cry.
He asked that he follow me home, promised he would take off several days off of work, and we would work this out. He kept repeating that he was sorry, he would explain, and he kept trying to pull me to him.
I would not speak with him when we returned home. This went on for days where we were just avoiding each other totally. The kids had to know something was up. I slept in the guest room and would not speak to him at all. He immediately called a marriage counselor and got us several sessions.
Our Work With The Counselor: The marriage counselor’s office was the only place I allowed myself to dwell on the affair. She (the counselor) made my husband come completely clean and she made me respond and express my feelings and it was hurtful. I still cringe when I think about it.
Hearing how this woman was “just an exciting diversion” did very little to reassure me and I could not keep myself from spewing nasty comments to my husband and assaulting his character and deception. I wanted him to feel every bit of the pain that I was. I wanted to hurt him immensely both emotionally and physically. I could not believe that he had done this. I knew this was not the constructive communication the counselor was looking for, but I could not help it. This was tearing me apart. I kept thinking I was obviously not young enough, not pretty enough, or not smart enough for my husband and this was killing me.
The counselor kept reassuring me that our marriage had all of the things needed to save it. We had genuine love and empathy between us, my husband did not typically engage in this type of behavior, he was sorry, and he was willing to do whatever it took to repair the damage.
Trying To Get Over It, But Not Being Able To (Unable To Forgive And Forget): In the coming weeks, my husband did everything in his power to make it up to me. He told his firm he no longer wanted the promotion, so we were again staying put. He was at my beck and call and made his whereabouts available to me at all times. I had no doubt in my heart that he was truly sorry.
Despite my rage, I also knew I did not want to end this marriage. We had so many wonderful years and memories behind us. I did not want some stupid, blonde low life to cause me to lose what I had worked so hard to build or deprive my children of their father.
Still even though I was determined to put this behind me, I just could not. I kept thinking about her, what he did with her, and if he would rather be with her. This whole thing absolutely killed my self esteem and I began to obsess over whether I was smart enough, pretty enough, or alluring enough to keep my husband. I shared this with the counselor, but she really didn’t help too much. She kept telling me that these things took time and why didn’t we take the opportunity to work on my own issues?
I agreed that I needed to work on myself, but I swear she sided with my husband every chance she got. I thought having a female counselor would benefit me, but this one really didn’t.
And, because I was having these negative feelings, I lashed out at my husband every chance I got. It was tragic because here we were both trying to work it out and he was doing everything he could, but it was me, not him, that couldn’t get past it.
Later, I swung from one extreme to another. One morning I would wake up and think that I was going to try to be receptive to him and work on our relationship, and then by afternoon I would have visions of that woman sitting on the couch with a bottle of wine and it would ruin my mood. It was either one extreme or another. Either I would be the accommodating wife who wouldn’t to work it out (this would never last long though) or I would be the furious, impulsive person who would lash out and say and do things that would harm our attempts to save the marriage. And, in the back of my mind, I was thinking “no wonder he cheated on you, you’re being awful,” but I just could not stop myself.
Finding Something That FINALLY Worked And Moved Me Past It: I thought about it for a long time and I kept coming to the conclusion that I very much wanted to not only repair my marriage, but I just could not push these thoughts and doubts out of my head. I wanted to be happy again in the worst way, but I was absolutely stuck. Some days I would start to be receptive to my husband, but the nasty, negative thoughts would return to my head again and I’d take two steps back.
One day, while surfing the net, I came across a book or ecourse called “Break Free From The Affair” by Dr. Bob Huizenga. His website blew my mind because he was talking and describing in vivid detail the exact swings I was having. The book explains why neither tactic (being overly accommodating or being overly angry) will help you and helps to guide you to a happy medium between the two. This book is very big on reassuring you that the affair is not your fault and shows you exactly how to restore your power in the relationship. I really needed this.
Although this book explores the seven types of affairs, helps you identify what type you are dealing with and takes you by the hand to fix it, what really made it invaluable to me is that Dr. Huizenga is amazing at helping you restore your self esteem and realize that this is in no way your fault. The truth is, if you crumble and are beaten by this, you are in a compromised, damaged state that will effect not only your self worth, but your ability to be an equal partner and have an equal voice in this marriage (and in fixing it).
This inequality contributes to behavior that is not going to help things.
Another book that really helped me was “Surviving An Affair,” by Dr. Frank Gunzburg. Again, I was seeking out a men’s perspective on why a man would do this. Dr. Frank has been counseling couples struck by affairs for almost 30 years. He’s seen it all. The thing I loved about this book was that it gives you a step by step plan (three steps) to save the marriage.
Step One is helping the innocent party (in my case the wife) get over the rage filled feelings about the affair.
Step Two is helping the person who was cheating understand why they did and explain this to the other partner in a loving way.
The Third Step is working through it as a couple to address these issues, fix them, and ensure that it never happens again. I have read both books many times and I needed them both, but when asked to describe how they are different, I would say that “Break Free From The Affair” really concentrates on building you up, reassuring you that it is not your fault, helping you to understand why it happened, and guiding you in taking your power back. “Surviving An Affair” gives you a concrete plan, exercises and check lists to help you identify what you are dealing with and how to best handle it so that you are both fulfilled in the end. It focuses on using the affair as a wake up call to make your marriage stronger in the end.
How We Are Today: I never thought I was say this, but my husband and I are stronger than ever. The affair was two years ago, but it seems like decades ago. Unbelievably to me, I can now look back on it as a difficult situation we got through together like when my son was first diagnosed with epilepsy or when my mother died.
Yes, it was difficult and awful and I would never want to repeat it, but we are stronger as the result and the equality in our marriage is much more present.
I was really able to incorporate what I learned and went back to college and earned my degree. I am now a successful business owner, earn my own money, and feel that I am a complete equal in this marriage. My husband respects me and is proud of me. I no longer fear I am not good enough. I know I am. I now understand why it happened and work every day to ensure that it doesn’t again.
The best advice that I can give is don’t allow this to eat you alive. Don’t sit there and doubt or stew or question yourself. Don’t allow it to make you doubt yourself or take what is very dear to you. I know that some days you will feel like crawling in a hole. But, you have to turn on the lights and face it. Doing so is the only way to make it go away and ensure that your marriage is stronger as a result.
If a counselor doesn’t work well for you, take a look at the books I’ve mentioned. I am still amazed and disgusted that both books cost me less than one counseling session and are what saved me. I spent thousands on counseling that just made me feel worse. Be proactive, don’t be afraid to take an honest look at what is going on and be willing to do the work needed to fix it.
Dr. Bob (Break Free From The Affair) offers a free newsletter which is a great place to get started.
Dr. Frank (three step program – “How To Survive An Affair”) offers a free 7 day ecourse on how to save your marriage. Again, free and life changing.