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Wayward Side :
Reconciling the wrong way

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 NootkaRose (original poster new member #84798) posted at 8:11 PM on Saturday, May 25th, 2024

I am writing to address what remains unaddressed, to look deeper into my behaviors, and become better at talking with husband about the trauma that has profoundly affected him. I am looking for helpful perspectives and advice moving forward in this long (long) term "reconciliation" after my affairs. My story illustrates the textbook missteps a betrayer can make following an affair. After 2 affairs I perpetrated all the "Don’ts" in the book. It led to years of suffering for my husband and difficulties in our marriage. He suffered in silence and in the open, he begged me to help him, and he lives with fear of additional transgressions, and of me just up and leaving. The trauma has affected his self-esteem, physical health, and quality of life. I am profoundly sorry for all the suffering I have caused him and do need to engage in some serious introspection. But first I should relate what happened.
I betrayed my husband twice within the span of 2 years. Each betrayal evolved over 3 to 6 months respectively into full blown emotional affairs. Affair #1 was over not long after it was disclosed. The second continued almost 2 years past D-day before secret thoughts and feelings concluded. My H and I had been a couple for 10 years and married for 8 when I got into the first affair. I and both affair partners worked for the same employer, one in a different department and the other was my direct supervisor. I commuted to work first with AP #1 and then with AP #2.
My husband found out when I told him about the affairs. He had his suspicions before that, worried about a number of statements I made during those times, but could not really belief that I would do what I did. He was mostly stunned after disclosure of the first affair, but absolutely devastated after the second.
I disclosed each affair following what I (in affair mode) considered a considerable breach of the marital contract. The first one, after I went for a daylong outing with AP #1 while my H was out of town. The second one, the day the emotional affair with AP #2 turned physical. I was aware of and grew more conflicted about how I was behaving while the affairs were evolving, but obviously loved the attention too much to consider putting a stop to them. I hid and lied about my feelings for weeks while I carried on with married life, which was filled with wonderful things as well as frustrating things. However, the onset of physical relations was too much to hide.
It took only a few hours and days to describe what transpired during Affair #1. We discussed what no contact would look like. I wanted to stay with employer but agreed to stop going to lunch and commuting with the AP #1. I was able to hold the line with this one, but I remember that AP would still steal looks or a few words whenever he managed to.
Affair #2 was much more complicated. As I said, he was my supervisor and the person I worked with most of the time in the office. Over the months he chose to create every opportunity to visit other area offices with me to introduce me to folks he knew and to include me basically in everything he was doing and we commuted together on top of that. There were a few outside of work visits. He was pursuing me and I liked it and went along with it. Over several months an emotional affair developed and about 6 months in I told him I thought I loved him. That same day we got into it physically and that evening I told my H.
I told my H some details and not others, unintentionally confused him with some descriptions of physical intimacy. I even said that I needed a few days to sort things out and decide whether to leave or stay. Needless to say, it devastated him. Even so he stayed by my side and was supportive. A few days later I said I wanted to stay in the marriage, but also continue working in the same place. Again, I made that decision, promised not to commute alone with him and do only what was necessary in terms of interaction with AP. My H was highly skeptical that this was going to work, but at the same time was afraid to push me to quit my job for fear I was going to leave him.
Over the following 5 months I avoided as much in person contact with AP as was possible, but the emotional tension obviously did not just go away and AP could definitely tell that he still had a chance to reignite the A and even possibly develop a long-term relationship with me. Finally, H and I talked about it, and I put in my resignation. Before I was out, AP decided he was going to quit job and move out of state. So, I reversed my decision and continued working there. With or without AP, that was still difficult for my H.
We went to marriage counseling, but it was not very effective. The therapist did not understand or address true impact of affairs and lacked compassion for my H. I continued IC with this same guy for several months. The only thing I remember learning is that affair love is not true committed love and tends to distort any kind of sound judgment. Still, feelings for the AP lingered and I would note these in my journal, but not talk about them with my H. Then AP got married to former girlfriend, who had been his girlfriend when he initially started pursuing me. I attended the wedding with co-workers. At the time I noted this in my journal as "the door of opportunity closing". I did not tell my H about attending the wedding.
Once we lived 18 months after D-Day my H was offered a job out of state. Again, I felt an outsized obligation to my job and continued working for another 3 months before following him. It was a very, very difficult time for my H and I did not have a clue how much he was suffering during this separation, because of the fragile state our marriage was in and his constant fears that I would be re-uniting with the AP. I did not re-connect with AP.
together again, I was ready to sweep the whole affairs story under the rug. I had emotionally disconnected from AP2 though I held onto the notion that I had been "in love" and that he was a good guy (a good door of opportunity) and I felt it was time to start anew and I wanted us to have our first child, thinking this could re-unite us.
Two years later we moved back to the area where the affairs happened. I was offered a part-time job at my former place of work. By this time, former AP2 had come back to work there as well, but a mile away in a different building and department. We had hardly any contact, but H had to endure the memories and triggers this situation created. Then former AP left the place and area for good.
Fast forward 10 years during which the affairs were essentially ignored while we were busy raising our two boys and spending a lot of time together with regular adventures in the mountains and traveling as a family overseas for several months at a time.
My H’s emotional wellbeing and sense of self-worth was fragile. He couldn’t sleep well through the night anymore and his health suffered. At one point he had several conversations with a former student and friend, who had gone through a separation. He shared what had happened to him. While talking to her he realized how much was bottled up inside of him and how much he needed to talk about it with me. He decided to challenge me to engage with him over the affairs. This was 12 years ago.
It was messy and exhausting and essentially it was a new series of D-Days all over again. Initially I had trouble remembering the details of the physical encounter and related some of it differently than what I had related years earlier and even different than what I settled on later. It was a classic example of trickle truth, because there were things that I chose to keep a secret for another few years. Some things I had completely forgotten, like the "door of opportunity", which my H discovered in one of my journals when we sifted through any material that would help us reconstruct what happened. I didn’t have the gumption to tell him that I had attended the AP’s wedding until another 4 years later, because I felt so embarrassed about it. Finally, it was all told, but how could H be sure that it was?
During this time we worked with 3 different MCs, but none seemed to understand the extent of affair trauma well enough and were not really helpful in helping us engage productively over affair details, memories and nightmares. We read Linda MacDonald, Shirley Glass, Janice Spring, and I read Peter Levine wishing we had access to these types of therapists. I understood how trauma is deep seated and does not just go away. Most of our day-to-day life together is wonderful but for my H the affairs do not go away and he still needs to talk about them, examining them with me in sadness. I remain very resistant to bringing the topic up proactively and to him this appears that I don’t understand the trauma nor empathize with him. I understand his requests but honestly after a day or two from our talks I forget and the affairs simply do not enter my consciousness. He is looking for more introspection and proactive participation on my part. Why am I a different person now? What if anything makes me a safer partner now?
30 years later I still work at that place and he still needs to cope with the fact that I travel to the same general area on the same roads, past where the physical affair took place, that trigger his memories. I don’t think about it most of the time. He does not have that privilege. He retired from his job 3 years ago and we set a date for me to do the same next year.
I do need to care more and do more to let him know I am walking that road with him. His emotional self still fears I will just up and leave one of these days, but the biggest thing he seems to try to cope with is a profound sadness at what happened that rises up from time to time. He recognizes that he still has much work to do himself on recovery (but ongoing physical health challenges have made that difficult – repeated surgeries and difficult recoveries over the past years have limited his time and energy; he has tried IC many times without much success). I love him dearly and want to be there for him. That means I have to do the work and that is the mountain I am still climbing. I do not understand why I am so passive about addressing the affairs. Any thoughts are welcome!

posts: 2   ·   registered: Apr. 29th, 2024
id 8837862
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ChampionRugsweeper ( new member #84237) posted at 3:44 PM on Monday, June 3rd, 2024

I’m hearing a lot of marriage counselling and IC for him but what about you?
You say you’ve read the books but I’m not seeing a lot about your whys. Your BH wants to believe you are a safe partner but what work have you done to be that safe partner? How do you know you won’t do it again?

I’m trying to be gentle here as a lot of your story is similar to mine. My BH and I rugswept for a long time and did an immense amount of white knuckling through it. It does not work.
While I only had one affair I had plenty of acting out behaviour that was not healthy for me or my marriage

Me WS. Him BS. 5 month PA DD 1 : Aug 2006. Minimized, Deflected, Blame shifted, Gaslit. DD 2: Aug 2023 not new affair just actual disclosure

posts: 45   ·   registered: Dec. 6th, 2023   ·   location: Canada
id 8838525
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 NootkaRose (original poster new member #84798) posted at 7:35 AM on Tuesday, June 4th, 2024

You are right to point out the counseling issue. My H and I started with MC a few months after the 2nd affair. Sadly, this therapist (and others we went to years later) was not one to assign responsibility and accountability where it was due to the wayward spouse. Instead, I got away with blaming the affair on communication problems. Fed up with this attitude, my H stopped going. I wasted months going to sessions that only validated my attitude of refusing to accept the blame and consequences of the affairs with the result of feeling sorry for myself more than for my H.
Then I entered the rug sweeping phase, which lasted 16 years, basically refusing to deal with any of it. When my H realized he couldn’t go on like that, I finally submitted to an intense period of examining the affairs. It was messy and difficult, because so much time had passed. Finally timelines were established, I learned to apologize, and see the full extent of suffering that is brought about by an affair.
During this time we again searched for a therapist, who could walk us through the raw emotions of the affair and how to engage with it, but weren’t successful. Two more therapists were basically telling us that it was time to move on, and that my H needed to nurture his inner child.
Why did I have the affairs? My primary problems were that I was overly responsive to people who took an interest in me, and seriously gullible in not realizing when that attention crossed a line. This was coupled with an attitude that defending a marriage was only worthwhile while we were getting along, but not when there were problems. I am generally a very loyal person, so I never really saw how dangerous and destructive my behavior and this attitude were to my marriage.
I am also a big conflict avoider. I remain calm when other people lose it, but I also do not call out bad behavior when it is due. This applies as much to the people I manage at work as it does to what I do when I talk about the affairs. I was and probably still am a master at minimizing and explaining away affair details and incidents.
My husband still needs to talk about the affairs, but he doesn’t bring it up anymore. He wants ME to do it.

posts: 2   ·   registered: Apr. 29th, 2024
id 8838561
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