For those that reconciled: strategies for rebuilding sexual intimacy
For those on this forum that did reconcile, I am curious if there were approaches or strategies that worked for you in order to restore trust and intimacy in the bedroom.
At this point, I have not yet decided on reconciliation. We've been together for 30 years and married for 27. MY WH and I are committed to a stage of recovery where we are unpacking what happened, why, and what it means so we can decide whether to reconcile or divorce. During that stage, however long it lasts, we have agreed that we will not be sexually intimate.
Of all the things I see that reconciliation would require, this is the one thing required of me that I am most worried about. His affair was intensely sexual, and for better or worse, I found out a lot of intimate details (more than he knows I know). It is hard for me to imagine how I could get that movie in my brain to turn off, and right now I cannot even stand the thought of him seeing my body unclothed. I can hug and hold hands in the context of painful discussions as we work through things. Anything more makes me physically ill because I feel so vulnerable and exposed.
I realize that this is normal; Dday was 1 month ago. Obviously, I have to work through some of this in IC.
However, for me to make the choice to try reconciliation, I would have to believe it IS AT LEAST POSSIBLE for this to get better. If you have any strategies or advice that could help me even imagine how this could heal, I would appreciate hearing what you have to say.
9 comments posted: Sunday, March 5th, 2023
Curious: Affairs and Attitudes about Pets
One of the things I have been thinking about lately is how my WS's attitude towards our dog was one of the most powerful indicators, in retrospect, that he was untrustworthy.
I have a coaster that has become my gospel. It reads: 'Never trust a person who does not love dogs.' A more accurate statement, for me, would be 'never trust your husband if he stops loving the dog.'
We have both always been dog-lovers. Our first 'baby' was our first dog.
Yet starting 3 years ago (when the A began), he became constantly angry and frustrated at our pets. When our two dogs died, he did not want a new dog. I had to call in the 'mid-life crisis' card to get him to agree. For the first year and half, he was resentful of the dog, even though he is the sweetest, funniest dog we have ever owned.
Now that we are in recovery (not yet decided if we will reconcile) and the affair is over, he is again loving and playful with our current dog. He is constantly amazed by what a good dog he is. He takes pictures of him constantly to send to our college-age child. As I type this, he is wrestling with him on the floor, just like the person he was 10 years ago.
So my truest lie detector seems to be his behavior toward the dog!
Did others have similar experiences? I am curious if others found that their pets were important affair-detector forces.
14 comments posted: Friday, March 3rd, 2023
Navigating too much empathy
First post. So grateful to have found this site. So many posts have already helped me more than I can say.
First, I am a BW, married to my WH for 27 years and together for 30.
As a couple we have faced a lot of things together, including a devastating genetic disease neither knew we carried that has meant a life-shortening condition for our oldest child. Like a lot of couples with medicalized lives, we gave up a lot of things to ensure our children became healthy adults. Like a lot of mothers in this situation, I freely accept that I did not prioritize his needs—and he did not prioritize mine. But it is also true that there is a powerful trauma in our lives that no one else will ever truly understand.
About 6 years ago, when I hit menopause early, I also lost my sex drive. It came back, but not before my WH decided he was being rejected and I was just not attracted to him. Although I tried to explain what was happening to me, he did not believe me. He withdrew from me, started sleeping in his home office and became depressed. Starting 3 years ago, he became angry. Since I also have had experience with depression, I tried so hard to reach him. I felt like I was watching him drown and he would not take my hand.
He was so unhappy. So angry, and usually it was aimed at me. I asked him repeatedly if there was someone else. I told him I would give him a divorce if he truly believed it would make him happy—but that he should be sure he wanted to end things. I tried to share with him my experiences with how depression distorted thoughts and why therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, gave me the power to be happy (even as my marriage was falling apart. Every time I raised the idea of another woman, every time I created a space for him to come clean, he would stare me in the eye and tell me there was no one else. My heart believed he was a man of integrity who could never lie to me; my brain was less convinced.
Then, this December, his self destructive behavior manifested in a serious issue. I was there for him. I supported him because I realized this was a ‘hitting bottom’ moment—a chance to see past the fog and find his way back. That started to happen—emotionally and sexually. It was like I was seeing the man I fell in love with again.
Then I got an email at work email. It only said ‘your husband is a cheater’ the subject. the message was ‘you deserve happiness.’ Honestly, I convinced myself it was a phishing scam. The next week, there was another email, this one with a picture.
Turns out he was having an affair for 3 years—all those years he was so angry at me. He broke it off after he hit bottom, and she retailed by emailing me. He says. Though, he still loves her and is ‘uncertain.’
Now here is the heartbreaking part. I know this man better than anyone else knows him. As hurt as I am about the affair, and I am pretty devastated, I realize it was a result of 1) his poorly developed ability to process his own emotions, and 2) his emphasis on sex as the measure of love. However, for 2 years, I have been asking if there was someone else, telling him I cared more about truth and his happiness than the pain it would cause, and telling him I would listen if he wanted to talk about divorce of separation. Twice I confronted him saying I wasn’t stupid and new there was something going on, but that I wanted him to be honest. Always he denied.
That said, I do see a tremendous change in him since hitting bottom. It’s real, and it gives me hope we can reconcile with work and care.
Yet he is still in contact with her, although not sexually. He feels ‘romantic’ at times and he wants to be there to support her because ‘she’s having a tough time.’ At the same time, he is beginning to recognize that he has not only hurt me but violated his own values and integrity (something that has always been core to who he is). It’s like he is in limbo, and I just don’t know how to respond. If he can let her go, I believe we can not only reconcile, but work through things that will make us even stronger. He can do the work only he can do to let go of the thoughts in his own head that make him so unhappy. We can work on rebuilding the loving and supportive relationship we once had,
But we can do this only if he can let go of the fantasy of her and the ‘happiness’ he felt in escaping his own baggage for a while (and he does admit that it is partially that).
I also feel betrayed in ways that go beyond the sexual aspect. He exploited the best parts of me—that I see the best in people, that I believe people can get better and grow from their pain, and that I start always from radical empathy. He exploited my trust and my faith in his integrity. He violated something so much deeper than sex, and all because he can’t get over the sense that I rejected him. Three times he has agreed to counseling, only to backpedal. I have to know he is serious about rebuilding the trust he shattered.
I am not stupid. I see the red flags here. But after three weeks of a ‘brutal honesty’ policy I insisted on, I also see some reason to hope. My head screams caution and my heart is a reckless forgiver. I am trying to use the excellent advice on this site to find a balance—a way to built toward the best and prepare for the worst. Just hope I don’t lose my mind trying to walk that tightrope.
19 comments posted: Saturday, February 18th, 2023