I haven’t been around here in a year. Today we are stronger than we have ever been, more in-tune, more available, more compassionate, more respectful and just more loving and committed.
I truly don’t think we could have this intense intimacy if we hadn’t gone through infidelity, or something equally as traumatic. I believe that, as the strongest steel is forged in fire, the strongest marriages are those that have been tested in fire and re-created through hard work and pain.
Was it worth it? Oh geez, don’t ask me that. It’s a moot point. While I wouldn’t wish it one anyone, it happened and couldn’t un-happen. So, we took it and made something beautiful out of it.
Sure, there are times we talk about it, but now it’s without pain on my part, if you can believe it. A twinge of sadness perhaps, but it’s fleeting. Mostly I look back and marvel at how well we came through this and how proud I am for the hard work we did.
Him? If it ever comes up, he instantly proves his remorse to me, sad that he put me through that. He is devastated still to think he ever caused me so much pain. There is never any defensiveness, or impatience that it can still be a conversation. He is 100% present if I am ever triggered, although this morning we agreed that’s happened probably once in the last year. He’s more likely than me to be triggered if he sees something that reminds him of what he did. And he shares that with me, apologizing again and asking if I’m ok. After all the work he’s done, he can honestly look at me and say he’s the best husband there is for me – and he undoubtedly is. He’s now the safest person imaginable.
What worked for us? To be cliché, the first thing I did, after I picked myself up off the floor, was strap my bitch boots on. I told him I was the best thing that ever happened to him and I was not putting up with this. I kicked him out of the house for almost a week. When I told him he could come back, it was to the spare room because I just couldn’t imagine myself being vulnerable enough to be getting dressed in front of him every day after what he’d done. It would have been just too…. normal. Nothing about surviving infidelity is normal, nor should it be.
I had demands. There were a bunch of accountability things I needed him to do for me regarding time, whereabouts, money etc to help me feel safe. Not that those things actually made me safe, but his willingness to do whatever I needed, for as long as I needed helped me believe his remorse. I asked him to apologize to me once every day, because I needed him to connect to my pain at least once a day, since I lived it daily. I asked him for financial restitution, plus some other you-did-this-for-her-so-now-you’ll-do-them-better-for-me type things. We did a financial post-nup. With his full support, I put $5000 in a separate account in case I ever felt the need to hire a private investigator. For a previously-booked vacation 2 months after D-day, he agreed to rent a separate condo down the beach, so I wouldn’t have to see him when I didn’t want to.
Most important, I told him he needed counseling to figure his sh*t out. He had to figure out his why’s, learn what was broken inside him and heal it. It may not be recommended by anyone else, but I actually asked for a summary of every counseling session so I knew what he was working on. Sometimes, if we were at an impasse with something, I’d write out my feelings and have him discuss it with his counselor. I didn’t go to counseling because I felt pretty damn strong and I wasn’t the one who f*cked things up. I wasn’t broken. That’s how I felt at the time, anyway.
Sometimes during this journey, I felt closer to him than others. Sometimes we would make love and sometimes we’d just f*ck, whatever I needed. Sometimes I couldn’t finish because I was sobbing and sometimes it was beautiful. Sometimes he would be in such pain over what he did and it would draw me to him but other times I couldn’t hear it over my own pain and I’d tell him to share that sh*t elsewhere. It was a rollercoaster, but as long as I could see at least slow improvement, we continued.
At 9 months in, I started saying I love you. We began sharing our bedroom again. We bought a new house and moved. I felt somewhat secure, but I certainly wasn’t all-in. He knew that and was ok with it.
He started to anticipate my triggers, which was a really beautiful thing. Maybe we’d be watching TV and something would come up that wasn’t even about infidelity, but related to our particular situation, or I’d see a photo that was from that time period for example, and he would stop and ask if I was ok. That meant more than I can relate. He wasn’t afraid of my triggers. He was more than willing to hold my pain with me and share it. Damn, he loved/loves me.
We did counseling together periodically, mainly to deal with the inevitable crises that would be a part of the changing of our dynamics.
I finally did counseling on my own about 2 years in, when I knew it was time to let down my walls, decide to trust, and move on. I had a tough time with that, but she reassured me that there was good reason to move ahead with that step. THAT was pivotal. At some point, he needed to know that we were on solid ground, so he could stop walking on eggshells and just be himself. Seeing the real him starting to emerge for the first time in 2 years was amazing. We were able to be emotionally intimate in a truly vulnerable way again.
That doesn’t mean the triggers were gone, but they lessened in intensity and frequency. I decided to stop looking around the house and thinking, “If we divorce, which things do I want to keep and which can he have?” I decided to look towards our future.
I can confidently say, that if there is a model wayward, it’s him. Yes, we had frustrations and serious bumps but he didn’t waver. We hit one big bump about a year in, when his alcohol use became a concern and it was decided he couldn’t/wouldn’t drink like that again (he still doesn’t and appreciates the change). We hit a big bump about a year and a half in, when he apparently started to take it all for granted and his old behaviors of treating me like an adversary crept in. At that point he had to redouble his efforts in counseling with this new issue – which he did. We hit a snag a year ago when some behaviors of his triggered a suspicion that he was lying to me again – he willingly did a polygraph and passed. Today I trust him fully.
Like I said, he never wavered. If there were wayward sponsors, he’d make an amazing one (not that he would want to – ever) because he knew from day one what he wanted and was willing to do anything, for as long as was needed, to prove he deserved it. Even now, he keeps me updated about his whereabouts and spent money even though I’ve told him I really don’t want or need it. He shares any texts with females in our circle, as I do with any males. We like open phones and mutual accountability. It’s healthy.
I asked him this morning what advice he would give, and he said that people need to know it takes 2. The wayward needs to know 100% that they are all-in on reconciliation and prove it. The betrayed needs to be willing to give it a chance. They don’t have to know they are 100% in right off the bat, but they have to be willing to get there.
My best advice for a betrayed:
Accept if this is a deal-breaker. If there wasn’t that much to salvage of the relationship, it’s okay to be done. If you believe they are narcissistic and would do it again, be done. If you don’t see remorse, be done. Save yourself the heartache of going through this again.
Be 100% willing to walk away at any time if your wayward isn’t 100% willing to do the work, or continue the work, to become safe.
If you do decide to attempt reconciliation, don’t feel the need to decide anything for at least 6 months to a year or two. Waywards need time to prove their remorse isn’t just words.
Be ok with making demands if they help you feel safe. Your wayward’s willingness or unwillingness to do these things signals their true intentions.
Try to avoid being punitive just to hurt back. Try to avoid shaming or name-calling, although in the early days, that may be impossible.
Don’t be afraid to show them how much you hurt. My husband says that was the hardest thing for him to deal with, knowing how deeply he wounded me. It was serious motivation for him to never be that person again.
If you feel the need to forgive right away, do so, but acknowledge that doesn’t mean you have to reconcile.
Insist that their work includes regular counseling.
Be willing to eventually forgive, decide to trust, and be vulnerable again. Intimacy cannot grow under a cloud of suspicion and fear. You cannot hold it over them forever or you rob your marriage of the chance for a healthy future.
MY ADVICE FOR BOTH:
You both read “How to Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair” by Linda J. MacDonald. Stat. It’s a quick, but absolutely essential read. Available as a Kindle download you can read on your kindle or even on a Kindle app. This is the best investment of a few hours in the early days after Dday.
He just sent me an email from work. Subject: Who loves you? Body: This guy!