Question: Last weekend was 33 years that we have been married. WE are, I am, four years past discovery day. I want to ask of you, did you ever feel just apathetic? Anne, what was the silver bullet, that slay your affair demons – those mental struggles you have? Do you at this stage get those sudden moments as if a snake was in your gut as you look at your husband and visualize him with the other woman? Frequently when I suspect my husband may be reflecting on the affair, not the ugliness we want to see, but rather thinking of the details of the good time, I feel robbed. I think of these thoughts as affair demons. You know when people describe something as priceless? Well Anne, even many of those priceless moments are now, not remembered as having value. How could someone so devoted to his wife and family have an affair?*(he says it was his ability to compartmentalize!) I’m feeling so disillusioned, fearing I may never feel the passion and security of being married to someone I am proud of. I hate feeling so disturbed.
Answer: I can’t say I ever felt apathetic. I felt like a warrior. I saw myself as in the middle of a war fighting for my life and my happiness. I felt as if a great evil were trying to take over my life forever, plaguing it forever with unhappiness and apathy towards life in general as you mention.
I didn’t want to become one of those negative, bitter old ladies that no one wants to be around. I had to find a way to get my joy back, and if I didn’t I was going to die fighting, but I refused to settle for just getting by, unhappiness or a mediocre marriage (I would leave the marriage rather than be unhappy or just so-so.)
Part of this attitude comes from my familiarity with a certain Bible verse. Jesus said (concerning mankind’s relationship with Him) “I know you well – you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth!” Revelation 3:15-16
What Jesus is saying is “take a stand, love me or hate me, but don’t sit on the fence. The worst thing you can feel towards me is indifference: I don’t really like you, I don’t really dislike you, there’s nothing special about you, but there’s nothing bad about you either, you’re just kind of so-so.”
You see in relationships, that’s a nightmare. If you’re not going to feel really great about someone, really passionate, really committed, you’re better off to be fighting. At least fighting indicates some emotion and feeling (and caring). But to be indifferent about someone is real hatred. I was not going to settle for this indifference in my marriage. I was going to fight ‘til I had one or the other. You can’t be apathetic when you’re fighting. In my book, I depict the fight quite clearly. The affair demons can feel very real.
No, I don’t have moments anymore where I visualize Brian having sex with the other woman. Although this thought did hurt me, the thing that really hurt me was the fact that he lied to and deceived me. It was the betrayal of trust that hurt me. It helped me to remind myself, that few people today are virgins when they get married, and we weren’t virgins when we got married. Maybe if we had been virgins when we got married, the sex with another woman vision would bother me more.
It also helps me to think, I know actually the sex Brian and the other woman had together resembled more a couple of teenagers awkwardly struggling. The sex Brian and I share is fantastic and magical. It is like an ongoing symphony of lovemaking. The other woman can’t hold a candle to Brian’s experience with me in the bedroom. She was a cheap and unfulfilling substitute for what he genuinely desired with me. I know having been able to talk all these things through with Brian has really helped. Ultimately, there is just no way to turn back time and undo what has happened. It happened. I can’t change that.
Another thing that helped me was learning to live in the present moment instead of living in the past, which is really living in truth. What is past is past. It cannot be changed. But our past does not need to define our future. I live with and focus on what we have today. I accept that what has happened has happened.
I work hard to control my thoughts. A book “Feeling Good” helped me with this. I strongly recommend it. It is a book on overcoming depression by learning how to see things in their true light.
Because Brian and I have spent hours discussing the affair, and Brian has answered ALL of my questions, and many of them he has willingly answered over and over again until I finally got it. So I feel my puzzle is now also complete. There are no pieces missing for me. I get it. I understand it. I understand the affair to the same degree that Brian does. I would never have been able to heal the marriage if this had not been the case. Getting answers to all of my questions was essential for me. I describe this and how we did it also in my book.
I know that Brian does not reflect on his affair as a good time today. He tells me (and I believe him) that whenever he thinks about it he just wants to throw up, because of how he failed himself as a man, and how he failed me and our children. I guess the HARD WORK we have done in our marriage has really paid off. We had a good marriage before, but we had no idea it could be as good as it is today.
We both have grown in our own individuality and self-esteem. That has enabled us to disclose ourselves to one another on a much deeper and riskier level, but with that self-disclosure comes a far greater degree of genuine intimacy. It’s a wonderful place to be. Maybe share these thoughts with your husband, to motivate him. According to “Passionate Marriage” by David Schnarch the best sex and relationships are enjoyed by people in their 50’s and 60’s – obviously only the ones who do the work.
You ask: How could someone so devoted to his wife and family have an affair?
I’m telling you it’s possible and it happens often. It is actually perfectly possible for someone to be devoted to his wife and family and still have an affair. It is due to their short comings as an individual and their inability to even understand themselves, and their inability to communicate, to express their inner self and true needs to others. Because of this inability they have a vulnerability. The affair is like a drug that temporarily sooths these deeper pains which they themselves have been unwilling to face and deal with.
This is why it is essential for couples to do the work of healing in their relationships. They’ve got to use the crisis as a catalyst to figure out their own inner complexities and those within their relationship. Then they can change in the right places, at the root of the problem instead of dealing with outward issues. If the roots aren’t dealt with the outward issues just resurface in a different way. It is on what we do differently now that I base my trust in my present day relationship.
Brian now shares with me the inner stuff in his life that bothers him. He has learned to really understand himself (self-awareness) and how to communicate this with me. This is different (from our pre-affair marriage) and it feels good. I on the other hand have learned to HEAR these things, even if I disagree or feel a bit hurt, and to thank him for being honest and to feel comforted recognizing this difference in the way that we relate to one another.
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