Considering Reconciliation: The odds and the path I chose.
Before deciding whether or not to ‘reconcile’ or rebuild or restore your marriage, some thoughts should be understood and considered before moving forward.
If you’re new to the forum, I’m sorry you’re here, just be sure to understand that none of your spouses choices are your fault.
Nothing we can do can make someone cheat. In order to cheat a person has to make dozens of calculated decisions, including choosing to lie in order to hide those decisions from you. But that’s the damage too. We can’t imagine our status changing overnight from loyal spouse to being completely invisible to the person we trusted most.
It’s trauma we’re being asked to recover from. It’s the emotional equivalent of a high speed vehicle collision. It takes several YEARS to recover from this.
— So now what?
We don’t owe our spouses a second chance. Read the previous sentence again.
If we stay, it should only EVER be because we’re aiming for something worthy of us and our valuable time.
Reconciliation is NOT staying for the kids. It’s NOT staying for financial stability. It’s NOT due to fear of the unknown. Staying for those reasons are leaning into a life of resentment and additional misery on top of the betrayal horror show.
People do stay for all those reasons and more, and I understand why they do. I’m just saying if you’re staying for anything other than a chance for a decent or better life — it’s not reconciliation.
— Don’t Settle!
A good R isn’t settling for less. It’s demanding more. It’s requiring more honestly, more changes, more consideration than at any other point in the relationship.
To me, settling would be allowing the bad behavior to continue, to allow a WS’ un-safe habits to continue, to stay the course.
If you feel like no matter what else you do, you would have to settle for less — then divorce may be your best path forward.
Your standards are intact. You didn’t cheat, you held up your end of the deal.
— What are the odds?
Personally, I love the line, "Never tell me the odds."
That said, the odds are not on the side of reconciliation. I’ve read 31 books on infidelity and relationships, recovery, blah, blah, etc. All of that and 5 bucks gets me a cup of coffee. I’m no expert, but some people need numbers or an idea how rare my experience is to reconcile a marriage.
Our MC was a bit of an expert. He’s been a counselor for 35-years now and at one point he informed us he was a betrayed spouse. His marriage ended in D. He doesn’t set out to ‘save’ marriages, merely to give people enough information to decide for themselves. That said, he agreed with the odds. It’s uphill.
Of all the statistics, or those who need a number, let me put it this way. I think at some point nine out of ten betrayed spouses choose to leave. Sometimes it takes years to get to that choice, but I think that’s the number. Of the people who choose R, if both spouses choose that path together, I’ve read that around 70 percent of those couples succeed.
In other words, if 100 couples go through infidelity, 90 divorce, 10 try R together as a team. Of those 10 couples, 7 make it. So, that’s about 7 couples per 100 dealing with infidelity that find a path to recovery.
Like I said, it’s uphill.
— It takes both people.
You can put all you have into saving the marriage, but you cannot do it alone. I think the biggest reason R fails is one partner or the other is unable to be vulnerable again with the other. In order to feel vulnerable we have to feel safe. Some folks NEVER make it back to safe. That gets back to those odds above.
It’s more than normal to not feel safe for a very long time after infidelity.
Some WS never get back to vulnerable either. They feel like they will never get balance back in the relationship, so they don’t try or they stop trying.
So the WS has to ditch the shame and not hope for ‘normal’ since infidelity obliterates whatever normal used to be.
— What about trust?
Great question and one that gets asked early and often around here.
How did blind trust work for all of us?
Blind trust isn’t a good idea and best left to fairy tales and amateur gamblers.
The first person you have to learn to trust after infidelity is YOU.
You doubt everything because you can’t believe you missed the signs. Welcome to this club. All of us MISSED every single sign. Because we trusted that if our spouse was unhappy enough to cheat, they would TELL us.
The upside is, when we get hurt bad, we learn fast. We know what the signs look like and feel like, we know what the lies sound like and the methods used to deceive us.
A WS is out to change all of those patterns, all of those things that made them want or need validation from strangers, or it’s not R. If they are holding to the same old stories, same routines, they’re not worth another minute of your time.
Trust yourself first, then allow your WS to earn SOME trust back with consistent, caring actions.
— Will they ever do it again?
None of us know the answer to that. But a WS who does no work, makes no changes, makes little to no effort or only temporarily alters bad behaviors patterns is 100 percent likely to make similar choices in the future.
In my case, my WS not only hated what she did, she hated that the validation and the risk was all for nothing. Being used for a temporary escape from reality wasn’t worth it to her. She still had to work at it to overcome the shame of her choices, that’s something some WS aren’t able to do. IF a WS is unable to ditch the shame, they keep their distance and avoid vulnerability as much as we do after dday.
A WS who owns all their choices, and takes responsibility to help heal the relationship is someone you can at least work with going forward.
— What’s the work?
For me, it was finding my value. I’m awesome, I’ve always been awesome. I’m kind, I hold the door for people, I always stepped in when I saw a bully pushing anyone around. My sons turned out great because I was good father. I served my country for six years as a badass United State Marine. I coached football for 25-years helping guys learn about getting the best out of themselves to help them and their team. All that I don’t need any human to validate me, agree with me or praise anything I’ve accomplished.
But I forgot all of that on discovery day.
It took me time to get back to my badass self.
I didn’t take any shortcuts. Counseling helped some. Music helped some. I worked out, I read about recovery here and in books. I focused on what I liked about me. I let go of the outcome.
The day it doesn’t matter to you whether you’re married or not is the day you can do anything.
That’s when I truly chose to give my wife one last chance.
Her work was similar, she just had farther to go find her value. People know when they make bad choices, and I’m not sure my wife will ever forgive herself, but she did have to let go of the shame. She had to not put up walls and be be defensive. She had to understand why she wanted that validation from someone outside of our relationship.
And she had to help me put this thing back together.
— Yeah, but how the ____ is it better?
Infidelity is as bad or worse than any tragedy in my life so far. I’m in my mid-50’s now, so I don’t challenge the Universe to throw more at me, but I do realize more difficulties are ahead me. That’s life.
I can’t ever control any person in my life or the bad things that happen to me.
I get to control one thing in this world - my response to adversity.
It ain’t a bumper sticker, it’s a choice I get to make. I get to decide how I tackle this and whether I’ll stay in the past or live for today.
I chose to not let whatever my wife did DEFINE me.
I went a step further and decided I would not let her worst choices her worst days define her either.
By doing that, it gave us a shot.
Before infidelity we communicated poorly. We were married young, and we kept all of our horrible habits from our youth, and would talk down to each other and let problems build up on us. We played the stupid games, the power struggles, we competed for attention from the other — it wasn’t all sunshine.
The best part of R for me is building a bullshit free environment.
No games, no leaving issues for later, if I have a problem, I vent it all, on the spot.
It’s liberating compared to how I lived before. That’s better.
My wife and I give to each other instead of take from each other. That’s way better.
We don’t have to fake it or pretend any feelings. If it’s a bad day, if there is a trigger for me, well, WE deal with it together. That’s better too.
I used to say the better M was in spite of infidelity, but the reality is — it’s because of infidelity. Infidelity blew up the marriage, broke the deal, ended the world as we knew it. We made GOOD changes because of the HORROR show she created.
I wouldn’t recommend infidelity to anyone, ever.
I will always hate that it happened. I will never be okay with her choices.
I also am glad we fought our way back.
— A recap for considering R:
1. Don’t Settle. Don’t compromise your standards.
2. Don’t rugsweep - pretending it didn’t happen or stuffing your pain down is like building an emotional time bomb that only gets more powerful the longer ill feelings fester and linger.
3. Confront the initial pain and anger head on — with or without counseling. Just don’t bury it.
4. Decide what YOU want. Ask for what you want.
5. Set the boundaries required for you to move forward and feel safe.
6. Let go of the outcome. The only person you can control in this life is you.
7. Blind trust is never a good idea. In all seriousness, 100 percent trust in any human is not a good idea. How did that innocent take on trust work out for any of us?
8. If you’re going to rebuild the relationship, you have to find a way back to vulnerable.
9. Accept the facts of what happened, however you can always be NOT okay with those facts.
27 comments posted: Wednesday, September 15th, 2021
Five Years Later
Well, actually a week or two ahead of the official day my wife revealed the secret she was originally going to take to the grave.
I'm a few days early, because I'll be much farther off the grid than normal. We will be on vacation and then we will be moving to a different state and living out of suitcases for a month or two looking for a new place to live.
The update is, we're good.
We're really, really good.
The first two years here I couldn't imagine being where we are now. The first 24-months were shock and awe, sleep deprivation and a substantial depression. We had that moment when we were not sure that love and kindness was going to be enough to revive --- us.
For newer members here, I'm not advocating for any particular choice or direction. Only you can figure out what you want and need.
That's kind of how our recovery, reconstruction, renewal and/or restoration finally started. As year three kicked off, I decided what I really wanted from life, what I would need for our marriage to continue and if we would both be able to get back to being all in (the state of vulnerability and enough trust and let love back in).
It wasn't a one day thing, it was a relentless build back with two or three thousand setbacks.
Eventually, I trusted the work she was doing. Eventually she trusted I could still see the good in her, despite those previous poor choices.
I know why SI has new members focus on themselves. Because you can't know what you want or need until you believe in YOU first. The first thing after infidelity that happens is we lose our faith in our judgment. We lose our swagger. We lose life as we understood it.
We got lucky with a great IC/MC, that helped. I got lucky with AMAZING people here at this site who reached out to me with their concerns and care.
I'd really like to offer up the idea that the flashbacks and thoughts vanish completely. They don't. I wish I could say a lot of things to make newer members feel better.
To borrow from Churchill, "The only way through Hell is to keep going."
So I did.
I made it the other side.
Our marriage is finally what we always wanted it to be. The word authentic gets tossed around too much, but when we live without games, manipulations, masks, it is quite liberating.
I stayed because I wanted to give her a chance.
I would like to think I wouldn't have stayed for kids or money, but in our case, the kids were grown and we've earned a solid living where money doesn't keep us up at night like it did in our younger years.
Anyway, short story long -- I'm extremely happy with my choice.
As I've said a few times, I will always hate what happened, I will never be happy to have suffered through infidelity. However, I am glad we hung in there despite what happened.
I spent way too much time going over what I could have done different. It wasn't me. It's not on me. I am not the sum of my wife's bad choices.
I spent way too much time wondering how my life could have been different. That turned out to be a huge waste of energy.
No one gets out of this thing without suffering or damage. It's part of the deal. Some people deal with other loses, or gambling or drugs, or alcohol issues. One of my tragedies is infidelity. I would NOT have voted for that one. I'm not sure I would pick any other tragedies out either.
We don't get to pick which traumas we get.
We do to choose how to respond.
Even the most mindful people are initially crushed by infidelity.
But somewhere along the way, I got to choose my response. I got to choose what I wanted.
My wife relentlessly loved me back to level. That was not easy. I was not easy.
Now, we are glad we didn't give up.
New life, new adventure awaits. There will always be embers in the air from the fire that burned the marriage to the ground, but they tend to drift away now, much faster than they used to.
30 comments posted: Monday, May 17th, 2021
Updates and the work of R
I tend to take a few months off at a time now, but I still get messages from folks here. I got two recent contacts from members with one wondering if things had gone off the rails for me and contributed to my time off-line.
I'd say even in pandemic world, life is going as well as possible. Although, I'm as burned out on zoom calls as everyone else is.
I also got asked about how I got back to happy in my marriage.
That is the billion dollar question for all of us after infidelity and somehow finding a way forward with the person who obliterated the relationship.
To review, it ain't easy.
We're at about five years out from discovery. It took me two full years to get out from under the pain, anger and trying to figure out if love and kindness would be enough for us to survive my wife's horrible choices.
I decided not to settle. I decided to ask for the relationship we should have built the first time through. I decided if she was willing to change and be vulnerable, I could change and be vulnerable.
I simply wanted to be able to tell myself and my sons that I did all I could to make the marriage work.
The thing about R is, there is no one recipe to rebuild the marriage. Take the path you need, you've earned all the choices you make in R.
I understand so many members focus on what happened in the past versus what can happen today. It makes sense. No relationship in the history of humanity is infidelity proof. The moment we think it can't happen seems to be when the trouble starts.
The truth is every relationship we have or used to have or will have is based on the strength of connection.
How many people are in our rear view mirror because the connection broke or did a slow fade? Out of the dozens of great Marine Corps pals I had, I'm only in contact with two of them these days. It's because we moved on from those crazy military days.
My wife made her horrible choices -- in part -- because she rationalized a loss of connection with me. The bigger problem for her was the external validation she got. All of that is on her, not us.
The re-connect after infidelity is brutal.
First you have to learn to trust yourself again. Then you have to recognize your value, to know you will be fine however the marriage turns out. Your WS has to ditch the shame and be all in -- which isn't always easy. Whenever people hurt people, on purpose, they feel bad and can't imagine themselves ever being close to us again. Some WS never get beyond the shame.
That work of R boils down to both people working back toward each other.
The only way I can ever suggest someone stays to R is if the relationship can be better and stronger than it was.
I couldn't do the "old life" versus the "new life" take.
My life is the whole big picture. It includes my work, my sons, my brothers, my friends and my wife. Like everyone else, it includes trauma.
I survived loss before. I survived infidelity too.
Infidelity is a part of my existence, a part that neither my wife or I ever imagined would be something we would have to deal with.
Overcoming great adversity and loving each other despite that trauma is a rare and beautiful thing.
When two people accept each other faults and all, when they finally understand that it's not a sacrifice to give to the other and be honest about everything, that's when a real connection forms.
We've never been closer.
Oh yeah, the innocence is lost. We mourned that. We moved forward.
It's not that we pretend the horror show didn't happen. We just understand the damage it caused and work hard to show each other kindness and care. There isn't any way to make up that lost time, but it can be fun trying to make up for it anyway.
In early recovery I often lamented about, is this how life is meant to be? And why me?
Every life takes bad turns. I don't know a single soul in my life who hasn't been inflicted with some kind of pain, be it a partner who had substance abuse issues, or financial infidelity or alcoholism or domestic abuse, or medical issues (cancer, etc) or the dreaded infidelity.
My choice for moving beyond this pain was giving my wife one more shot.
I honestly thought I was one person who couldn't ever get to a place of peace again with the person who hurt me. But I'm really, really glad I did.
13 comments posted: Monday, March 8th, 2021
A day in the life, R down the road a ways
A day in my life.
Around four and half years later, mornings are still the toughest part of the day. It’s that quick mental inventory that yes, indeed, the nightmares weren’t imaginary, they were real.
My wife understands this, every single morning since she confessed her A, she wakes up 90-minutes before me, works out, showers and crawls into bed with me. She cuddles beside me, rubs my back and shoulders, runs her fingers through my hair. If I have questions, I ask them. I don't ask many questions anymore. Sometimes her kindness leads to fooling around, other times just a hug.
But she works on our connection every - single - day.
Based on current world events, we have breakfast and go to our respective home offices. Our youngest son had moved back in for a while, found a new job and moved back out a couple months ago. We miss him, but it’s back to empty nest.
Based on meetings and schedules we try to time it out to have lunch together everyday, and then back to work.
In the evening, we wrestle eternally with the ‘what’s for dinner?’ dilemma, and found a couple in-home cooked meal programs we like a lot.
I should be walking more, old Marine Corps knee injury has slowed me to the point I should probably get it looked at. But sometimes we get a walk in, sometimes we read together, and a lot of nights we watch some of our favorite movies and shows.
It’s as normal as life can be in area covered in smoke the last three months because of wildfires, and a pandemic that limits a lot of our normal choices.
We’ve overcome adversity we didn’t think we could. We learned love wasn’t enough — or at least the word love as we previously understood it. We’ve learned that a healthy relationship is about giving, not taking, about kindness and not competition for the attention of the other.
We definitely used to live in a ‘what have you done for me lately?’ environment.
She’s grateful for this opportunity to show me that the worst version of herself — is not who she wants to be. In that sense, I still believe the first person a WS betrays is themselves and their own standards. I’ll grant a number of WS never own or understand their actions, or the pain they caused, but some do.
I’ve seen recent, thoughtful threads regarding the abusive nature of infidelity. I agree. The key for reconciliation is that the person who made those choices has to learn a lot, including how to help the relationship heal from that lack of empathy that happens during every A.
We can’t control our spouses, we can’t control much of anything in life but we can choose how to respond to trauma and adversity.
I’ll never care how people get clear of infidelity, be it a quick divorce and a new start, or those of us who find a way to restore their marriage. I just want people to make it to the other side of the pain.
There is a lot of projection about those of us who stay. It ain’t easy getting back to happy, but it happens. This entire place is founded by a couple who reconciled. Their love and care for each other inspired me and others to find a way back as well.
R is hard because marriage is uphill a lot of times without infidelity. It’s extra tough to get back on the same page once one person has hurt the other.
No magic, no rainbows, just a lot of hard work for two souls who aren’t ready to give up on the other. And no one ever deserves a second chance, but in my case, I’m glad I offered grace.
26 comments posted: Thursday, October 15th, 2020