"When we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world."
I was reading the novel Circe, and this quote appears when she first experiences love. It motivates her to plead for help from someone else so she can see her love again. It is an insightful quote, I think. We can sort of replace "young" with just "inexperienced". Or we can think "when we feel a feeling for the first time, we think we are the first person to have that feeling in the world."
I think this is an interesting jumping off point into two different bits of infidelity. The first I think is the feelings of a BS following their first d-day. The second I think is the feelings of a WS slipping into their first A.
Starting with the BS, I'm going to pull another quote from another book. The experience is described in East of Eden for a different situation but I think the description is very applicable. Feel free to replace child with "faithful spouse" and adult with "WS".
"When a child first catches adults out -- when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just -- his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing."
There are plenty of BS's on this forum, and I think we all remember, but perhaps not with clarity, the pain and devastation of dday-1. It's a new feeling. One we had not really prepared for. One that perhaps we had read about but we are feeling for the first time. This makes dealing with this new feeling extremely hard. We are in panic, confused, and having a hard time getting or accepting guidance. This is mostly just a reflection of what feelings we went through. Our betrayal is the most painful betrayal because it's ours.
Maybe it doesn't help any of us to recognize this now, but we need to remember the newly betrayed spouses feel this is a pain no one has had before. So when we give advice in JFO, we should try to transport ourselves back to that time, to our panic, our being torn in half, and to think about what sorts of things we can say to help. I think validating this new feeling of pain and betrayal, and just helping them describe it makes it seem somewhat less apocalyptic. I dday, I remember telling a friend my life had just gone, "Somewhere between burned into ashes and nuked into glass".
For the WS entering into their first A, especially via the slow ramp of acquaintance -> EA -> PA. I think there is a blossoming of "new feelings" that override the normal decision making process. In "Not Just Friends" my wife most identified with Ralph. For those of you that haven't read the book, Ralph thinks he is special. Ralph thinks he can manage his newfound feelings for a attractive and interesting coworker without slipping into an affair. While we do see the boundaries slowly eroding, and we talk about "ego kibbles" I think for those that aren't serial cheaters, the new feeling of validation, of reciprocated attraction, of emotional vulnerability with "a friend" drive a lot of the decisions. It feels right and good, and so then they decide that it can't be wrong. We see the same justification of "soul mates" or "no one ever made me feel like this before". I think maybe the operative word in that sentence is "me". Many people have felt that feeling. It isn't particularly special, but it feels like it is. Not because it is special, but because they simply lack the experience of positive attention from someone they naturally bonded with outside their main relationship.
I don't have a hugely powerful insight or upshot here. More of just a reflection on feelings strong feelings for the first time, and how they are hard to manage well. Thought I would share.
4 comments posted: Wednesday, April 6th, 2022
Trust, Recurrence, Sunk Cost, Bayes' Theorem, and the Non-Informed Jeffreys Prior
So, my actual line of work is risk assessment. I was noodling a bit today about trust. How it is rebuilt and what sort of models might apply to trust in relationships.
If we treat cheating as discrete process with a uniform hazard rate (not quite accurate, but it makes the modeling simple!), then we can use that information at the time of betrayal to update our trust function using Bayes' Theorem. Now, most of us are pretty silly and don't actually use the "non-informed Jeffreys prior" but something else. We trust implicitly and decide that our spouse would never cheat on us.
But let's consider the simple situation and jump straight to the conclusion and why some of the advice we give (or at least I give?) on JFO. So we start dating someone and we don't know whether or not we can trust them. I'll spare the difficult math, but essentially if an event never occurs and you are uncertain about the rate then when you update your function you basically assume the recurrence interval is double the current amount of time. If you have been with someone for one year, you should assume the recurrence interval for cheating for this individual is two years. Now, maybe you can talk to them and see if they cheated on other partners so that you can add data to your trust function. Ultimately you end up with a nice easy formula for the mean anticipated recurrence interval for cheating:
(2*Total Active Long Term Relationship Time)/(2*Number of affairs +1)
What does this nice simple formula mean in practice?
"You've barely started and they already cheated!"
You are two years into a relationship and the other person cheats, we take (2*2)/(2*1+1) = 1 1/3 years. You are looking at a 1 1/3 year recurrence interval, which is clearly unacceptable.
"They are a serial cheater, there is no hope!"
Say you find out in your twenty year marriage your partner has cheated half a dozen times (2*20)/(2*6+1)= 3. This gives a 3 year interval which is also unacceptable.
But then we get those cases where it feels like there might be hope, a one off in 20 years.
"If you want to R it's hard but...."
You find out your wife cheats on you after 10 years of marriage and 3 of dating (2*13)/(2*1+1)= 8.66 year estimated recurrence interval. Now, before that, it would have been zero. So that would have given (2*13)/(2*0+1) = 26 year estimated recurrence interval. Well, that's not terrible. But look at what just one affair does to the expected recurrence time. Here we can see, even the damaged trust in this long term relationship could in some sense be considered "better" than a relationship up to about 4 years long that hasn't had cheating. So in a sense, there is some amount of reason behind this long interval being a chance to rebuild rather than just a sunk cost fallacy.
We can also see that after one betrayal, trust builds up at 1/3rd of the rate it did before (trust is never the same)! After two, it builds up at a rate of 1/5th and so on. So we can see how it is harder to believe that it won't happen again as the affair number increases.
Anyway, all I'm really saying here is that if we use a simple risk model to consider cheating, there is a rational basis behind a lot of "gut level" advice.
14 comments posted: Saturday, February 12th, 2022
Today my wife is finishing up the annual review process at her new job (maybe not super new at this point). She was asked to join a colleague (male) for drinks some time this weekend. Both the colleague's spouse and myself were invited initially (potentially kids too depending on location TBD at the time). We looked a little more at plans and it made more sense for them to just meet without everyone getting together. This doesn't bother me at all. There is no pattern that would match what I saw previously, and no risk in my mind of this being another EA.
That said, our conversation was WAY different from the last time she went to go get beers with a friend (who was a mutual friend with the AP). At that time it had been something like, "Do whatever you want." She said, "But there will be consequences?" I said, "Yes." and she went anyway.
This time, I said, "You should just go alone and talk shop. I don't want to deal with a baby sitter, I'm not going to drink any beer anyway (New Year's Resolution in play). I'd rather just stay home with the boys."
She said, "No really, we can just cancel, I don't have to go. I promise you this isn't anything but I don't want you to be even a little uncomfortable."
"It's really totally fine. This is way different than the last time you went out for drinks alone, and I think you can feel that difference."
"I really don't want you to be anxious. It's really no problem if it doesn't fit in our schedule."
"It doesn't bother me at all. Go have a year end beer, and I'll see you when you get back."
"I understand if you are anxious at all though. I could see how it could look."
"That's a solid transference of vigilance, you know from that book on forgiveness, and I think you've handled this really well. Seriously, just go have a beer."
Then we hugged. That's it.
18 comments posted: Wednesday, January 12th, 2022
What is the extend relationally of infidelity?
This is a new topic for me, driven by an interesting discussion I had with my wife last night. This was sparked through a discussion of some of Esther Perel's views on the trauma of betrayal and the second trauma of the family break up in the wake of the betrayal. Basically, revealing an affair doesn't cause the betrayal trauma, but could be considered sparking the "second trauma".
As some of you may know, I have disclosed multiple affairs to BS's, and factually they all happen to be BH's but I would reveal as quickly to a BW. None of these marriages have actually broken up (yet). I also talked to her about why letting other people know, exposing the affair, in my mind is NOT getting additional people involved or hurting other people needlessly. She seems to still hold on to the idea that an affair reveal may be unfair because it also hurts kids or other family. (This is a bit of a backslide from the last time we discussed the topic where we were in agreement that a reveal is essentially necessary from an ethical standpoint, but I'd rather not digress the topic onto the dubiousness of the solidity of my wife's ethical system).
I believe the words she used were something like, "Of course infidelity involves the spouse, but you aren't cheating on your family, you are cheating on your spouse."
I said, "No, you are also robbing time and emotional energy from your children. They are already involved and already hurt."
She said something like, "Now I understand why you don't feel bad at all for outing an affair."
"Of course I don't, I maybe struggled with it a bit before, but now I'm pretty well decided on it. I'm not going to participate in deception, which is what keeping that type of a secret does. You are now involved in the affair, and you are part of the damage being caused to the spouse and the family."
"Well then isn't everyone hurt by any affair?"
"No, I don't think so, I think it's just people with a direct relation to the involved partner where that information would impact their relationship. If that's already the case, the cheating has already hurt them, they just don't know it yet. The longer they don't know, the more they are hurt."
That's basically my opinion on the topic. What do you guys think?
20 comments posted: Thursday, January 6th, 2022
Two Year Antiversary
Putting in general not because R isn't going well but because I have nothing profound to say on R.
Instead I just want to take a short moment to thank you all for your guidance and support. Without this site and all the wonderful members, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I'm sure I've missed some very big hitters, but really thanks to all of you.
6 comments posted: Saturday, December 11th, 2021
"Empathy Gives us Humanity"
My fWW said quite seriously as she looked into my eyes while laying in bed last night. "Don't you think."
"I think that reason is what sets us apart from other creatures."
"Sure that's important but it's really about the empathy"
Me, stunned silence.
"But what really makes us human?"
Me, deciding to derail instead of confront:
🎵What makes a man?
Is it the woman in his arms?
Just 'cause she has big titties?
Or is it the way, he fights every day?
...No, it's probably the titties🎵
"Ugh we will never see eye to eye on some things"
"No, I don't think we will."
10 comments posted: Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021
IC Got Let Go
Not sure what I'm looking for in this thread. Support and advice I guess.
My IC has been pretty good and a major part of my healing. With R well underway he has also helped me become a better person, father, and husband as well. I had been attending monthly, and just before my next appointment was told he wouldn't be available because he was going on personal leave. Then a few days later got another email saying he had been let go from the practice.
With the shortage of mental health professionals in general, I would think he must've done something to get let go. This kinda sucks. I suppose I'll wait and see where he gets employed next, but it's a pain in the ass to have to try to look for a new therapist. Especially considering the various complexities of my life over the last couple years where he has been able to see the patterns and have insights that a new therapist isn't really going to be able to have.
4 comments posted: Friday, October 22nd, 2021
When things get easy again
I feel like sometimes we only post when bad stuff happens, or at a specific interval (X years since D-day) to give some high level update on healing. I wanted to do something a bit different and just describe what I've notice in my M with my fWW recently. Try to get some information out there that isn't just complaining, venting, or trying to problem solve.
After a long struggle in limbo and a difficult start to real R, things have been pretty smooth. We have discussed the A here and there, and had a very good conversation about it over drinks. About the damage it caused, the feelings, what we still feel. My wife apologized again, and thanked me for my persistence in sticking around. She thanked me for "letting her" go on a girl's trip (upcoming). I still wouldn't call it giving or not permission, but simply put I said something along the lines of, "I don't think you are going to do anything, it doesn't even give me anxiety like some other things you have done before." She said she understands I'm not concerned, but that I would right to be concerned if I was, and just thanked me again for sticking with her. She also thanks me when I tell her the truth about what I feel even when it is negative. This has been a big breakthrough compared to the defensiveness I encountered frequently after the A.
For example, she has been working long hours, it doesn't really cause me anxiety related to the A, but we have been able to discuss that without getting it entangled, which was an issue before. We would bring any little thing up and it would get connected back to the A. We can basically treat these types of discussions as something other than make or break issues. It seemed like for a long time any complaint in either direction would end up almost discussing D (very early on I had posted a question asking when minor issues could go back to being minor, and I think I'm there now).
We have also been good about going on dates. We tried a new restaurant a few weeks ago and had a lovely time, discussing future plans, vacations, and life. We went to an Oktoberfest (outdoor, proof of vaccination required) which was really nice. It rained on us and we stopped for some soup before going home. We really do enjoy each other's company. Intimacy frequency is back to normal and quality is up after a lull I had described a few months ago.
Overall, it feels a lot like the ease I felt in our M before the A. The slightly weird thing about it though, is that after all the work, and effort, and teeth pulling, and foot dragging is that the relief is almost like an eerie silence after being at a concert or something. I'm not sure how to describe it. I wouldn't call it the POLF. I'm content and comfortable. I'm getting along well with my wife, kids are doing well, and work is going well.
This lack of fatigue in real life caused me to want to try to take a break from the forums, since it was starting to be the only time I would think about infidelity. I would get angry, especially in JFO, and I didn't know if it was something I could or should keep returning to. This ultimately felt a little too much like rugsweeping the last of my feelings on the topic about it. Plus, you have all helped me so much and I want to continue to pay it forward.
So that's my little update for today. Thank you all for the help along the way. I wouldn't be where I am emotionally without you.
27 comments posted: Tuesday, September 21st, 2021
Return to Social Situations
Recently, my fWW and I were out with friends we hadn't seen for six months (which covers the period where I asked for a D, we briefly took time apart, then made a written plan for R).
The topics that came up were mostly typical and probably will continue to be typical of the post-lockdown catchup. Kids/education/podding up. Vaccination/which one/side effect. Then the big one, relationship/marital strain. We talked about folks that did D.
My fWW thought she would add, "Yeah, it (the time period) was really hard, we were at each other's throats." Ok. We are out with friends. This isn't factually "inaccurate", but I would think that this is that a door she would rather leave closed. It's not like our stresses were lockdown induced. Our friends were kind enough to not pry. If they had, I would have given them the truth.
I wonder though, if as there is a return, and people talk about these topics, if my fWW won't figure out that this is not a great sentence to add to the discussion. If a friend said, "Oh yeah! What did you fight about?" I can't help but think I would say something close to, "We had a big disagreement over how much damage my wife had done by dating another man behind my back."
I don't know if she did this to test boundaries, see what I would say (unprompted further by our friends), or genuinely thought it somehow added to the conversation.
14 comments posted: Thursday, May 20th, 2021
Here's one out there for those of you further into R than me. Right now I am happy, and I am married. I wouldn't say I'm "happily married".
I bring this up because we were out with some old friends that don't know my wife had an EA and that we almost got D. They said, "We don't know anyone else that met at a bar and stayed happily married like you guys".
I didn't say anything at all at the time. I doubt my face even betrayed me. At the time I was happy, drinking beer, eating pizza, enjoying company of my family and friends. But I did have a tinge of a thought, "Am I 'happily' married?"
I am safe. I am content. I love my fWW. I am happy. But "happily married". I just don't know. My marriage used to be one that I would hold up to others with pride an say, "Do it like me". Now? Hard to say that, yeah?
This is something I want but don't need. Being happy and contentedly married is enough. But I do wonder, does anyone get back to a place where they are well and truly open with the entirety of their M, A included, and say, "I am happy with how my marriage has gone"? Is that just off the table? It's ok if it is.
Just some thoughts.
20 comments posted: Tuesday, April 13th, 2021
My wife just really isn't interested in working hard on our M.
I've decided on divorce and an trying to minimize the impact on the kids (5 and 8) and get an amicable and hopefully favorable agreement out of my WW. Do any of you have strategies or suggestions to achieve these goals?
Is there a good way to prevent the divorce becoming contested?
Does it make sense to try to send the kids to Grandma's house or something for a week and get things figured out and settled that way?
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70 comments posted: Wednesday, July 1st, 2020