Dear Anne – It’s been 6 months since I discovered my husband’s affair and my life fell apart. My husband thinks I should be over it by now and doesn’t understand why I feel sad, why I don’t trust him, or why I want to talk about his affair. My unfaithful spouse refuses and doesn’t want to do any of the work to help me heal. He’s says he’s sorry and he promises he won’t do it again. He tells me rehashing it will only make it worse. He won’t come with me to your seminar. What should I do? – Brokenhearted
Dear Broken Hearted,
It makes perfect sense that you are not healed yet. Your husband’s expectations are unrealistic.
In general, affair recovery experts agree that it takes a minimum of two years to heal from an affair. We are seeing some couples heal in as little as one year. Those are couples that attend our Healing From Affairs weekend intensives.
Healing can in some cases take much longer. Generally that happens when the person who had the affair won’t do their part in the work of healing, as in your case.
Your husband is speaking from a place of not being educated about affairs, what it takes to heal, and his responsibility to help you. When it comes to affairs the perpetrator needs to turn around and become the healer.
It’s important to understand that both the betrayer and the betrayed have pain. One of the major differences between the two is the timing. The one who had the affair has time to process thoughts about the affair and their marriage from the beginning. The betrayed spouse begins dealing with it, and healing, from the day they find out, and it doesn’t matter if the affair was years ago, in fact, if the affair took place years ago, it actually makes it harder for the betrayed spouse to heal.
Your husband doesn’t understand your sadness, the fact that you can’t trust him, your need to talk about the affair, and the fact that to expect anyone to be healed from an affair six months post disclosure is ridiculous – it’s so far from being realistic. So the question is what can you do?
Ideally, if your unfaithful spouse refuses at this point, he would come to understand your needs in healing, how he needs to help you, and what he can do. Generally if you try to explain it to your unfaithful spouse yourself, it doesn’t go so well.
It’s best if he has the opportunity to talk to another guy who has had an affair, and has healed their marriage. We now have a few Passionate Life Coaches he can talk to who have done just that. To book an appointment with one, he would need to contact Brian at email@example.com or call our office at 1-360-306-3367.
In sharing the possibility of speaking with a Passionate Life Coach, who has been in his shoes, you might say something like:
“I understand that you think I should be over it, but I’m not. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on this to help me heal, and what I’m finding is that generally this isn’t how it works. What if we truly could get beyond this with just a little help? Wouldn’t it be worth it? Did you know that there are coaches you can talk with confidentially, who have been in your shoes? It would mean a lot to me, if you would contact Passionate Life Seminars and talk to one, just one time. And you know what, if you don’t find it helpful, that’s fine. I’ll never ask again. But what if it is helpful? What can it hurt? Wouldn’t it be worth it to you, if we could not only put this completely behind us, but have an even better marriage on the other side?”
A big mistake many of us make is trying to force the issue, not speaking in a way that respects the fact that your husband has a choice in all this. You can’t make him do anything. He’s the one that has to choose to have a better life. You can’t do that for him.
If you’ve tried to communicate your desire to get outside help to him, and he hasn’t/isn’t willing to help you, you’re left with option #2, #3 or #4.
You take control of the part you do have control over. You recognize with confidence that his expectation of you is unrealistic. You start deciding what is and isn’t okay with you as far as the standards of how you will be treated after an affair.
I recommend writing in a private journal (one he will not read), a journal that is your place to find sanity in the midst of the chaos. In your journal make a list of qualities that are your minimal standards of how you will be treated by your spouse. Not a “pie in the sky” “prince charming” dream list, but a minimal standards list. If I’m to be married to anyone, this is how I will be treated.
If your spouse refuses to do what you think needs to be done in order to heal from the affair, go to counseling, attend our seminar, read books, or talk with you, fine. It’s not your role to tell them how to become the person he/she needs to be. If they want to stay with you, as long as they reach your standard, how they get there is not the issue. Set a reasonable time frame for them to achieve this.
This is one of the strategy’s I used to mentally survive this mess. One of the hardest places to be is exactly where you are, in the place of unknowing, not knowing what your future will be. These time lines gave me a sense of control over my future.
Initially my time frame was three months, not expecting my husband to have achieved everything on my list in that time, but to at least have moved forward. After all, how long are you willing to wait, without any progress at all, while your spouse is making it all about you?
I promised myself if I didn’t feel any better about my husband’s efforts towards me and healing our relationship in three months, I was free to leave. If it seemed to be moving forward, and if I wanted to, I could reset a new time frame.
In the meantime, I focused on me, my healing, and becoming the woman I could be. I focused on reaching my full potential instead of worrying about what my husband was or wasn’t doing. This change actually scared my husband. He noticed I wasn’t acting so needy, and he told me later (after we healed), that although it was frightening for him at the time (because I was changing what was normal our relationship). He started to realize, I was growing as an individual and if he didn’t “man up,” and grow and change too, he was going to lose me.
I did not share my standards with my husband, nor did I tell him about my timelines, nor was I mean to him in anyway. I just changed because I was focusing on becoming a better person, and I had taken back control of my life.
I promised myself that if he didn’t reach my standards within a given time frame, I would leave. You don’t have to make that promise to yourself. Remember what you do is up to you. But it is a great idea to focus on what you can change instead of what you can’t change, and to realize you do have a CHOICE.
Often you have to be willing to let go of your relationship, before you get it back. As long as you feel you can’t live without your spouse, they pretty much know this, even if only subconsciously. Why should they change? Why should they come for counseling or to the Healing weekend, which they perceive as being unpleasant for them?
(Neither counseling, nor our seminar would be unpleasant for them, quite the contrary, but they perceive it this way. If they realized what they were really coming for, they would be there in a heartbeat.)
So often, it’s not until the betrayed spouse finally reaches a place when the pain of staying in a miserable situation, becomes greater than the fear of being on your own, (and whatever difficulties come with that), before things get better.
Often it’s not before the betrayed spouse has finally had it and decides to leave (and feels strong enough to leave) that they get their marriage back.
Unfortunately, many times, when the betrayed reach this point, they really have reached this point and it really is over. I, therefore, recommend drawing the line of what you will tolerate, before you have actually reached that line.
OPTION #3 is doing nothing and accepting that your spouse won’t change.
OPTION #4 is working on you and improving your marriage, and waiting and hoping that as you do so, in time, your husband will be willing to do his part.
Dear Anne and Brian,
I’ve wanted to write for over a year now. It helps to gain perspective because like you’ve said, “you’re not thinking clearly after disclosure”. I want to Thank You so much for your book!! We read it the week between our first and second therapy session. Our wonderful therapist said “we had done all the work” ourselves. It has made a huge difference in our recovery.
I’m writing to tell you about my “train theory”.
My husband kept saying it wasn’t fair, that he had thrown me under a train and I didn’t deserve that. But, as time went on I came to realize it was more like a train crash for both of us. I have a much longer version of this but here’s the theory:
We’re on a long train ride (26 years). My husband is driving the train and many friends and family are along for the ride. It’s been a great journey. Then it starts getting a little rough. The scenery looks the same but it’s different somehow. I trust my husband is making the right choices.
One day my husband realizes that he’s made a huge mistake and gone down the wrong track. He can’t turn the train around and there is a terrible accident. Everyone is injured. Some friends and family have minor injuries and they recover. Others have permanent scars and will never take that train again. My husband and I are injured the worst of all, but he has to deal with the fact that he caused this horrible accident. In time we will recover and our scars will too heal.
Last year was the worst and best year of our lives. We are closer than we have ever been and have changed almost everything about our lives together. From the outside we may look the same to friends and family (except 50lbs for my husband and 20lbs for me) but we are not the same We are so much better in everyway. We grew and learned so much about ourselves and life. We certainly don’t recommend growing this way, but, would it have happened any other way?
So again, I want to Thank You for your book and more recently your website. Thank You for all the work you are doing helping those of us in need.
I’m happy to report that we are both now driving “our train” and boy are we enjoying the ride!!!!
©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.