The Desire for Revenge
At this weeks meeting it was great to share some of our crazy thoughts and find out that we are not so crazy after all. Neither are we alone. One woman whose husband just married the person whom he had the affair with shared how inwardly she couldn't wait until he had an affair on his new wife, or she had an affair on him. After hearing her story, we all confessed that we too inwardly had this desire. It is human nature to desire to see justice done. When someone commits an offense, we feel they must pay a price for their wrong. However, it is important to realize that it is not up to us to make that happen. It is best to give up thoughts of revenge and move on with our own lives. Just wait 'til you read my book and discover what devious plot my teenage daughter and I devised to bring justice to the woman that was stealing our husband and father. I'm happy to say we never carried out our plan, but for a brief moment it provided a sense of relief to plan it. My point is it is very normal and human to want revenge or justice. Just don't park there. Recognize it and then let it go. When recovering from extramarital affairs it is best to focus your attention on being a better person, not on being a bitter person. Here are some insights for personal recovery.
How long does it take to Heal?
It was also great to share some of the crazy things professionals, not to mention friends and family are capable of saying to us as we endeavor to survive the excruciating pain. We all had a good laugh when one woman shared how a professional counselor had told her that it would take her exactly half as long as she had been married to heal from her spouse's affair. We all wondered, so at 1 year 49 days and 7 seconds suddenly I will be better?
The reality is you cannot put a time line on how long it takes to heal, and it doesn't matter if it takes a long time. It doesn't matter if it takes ten years. Putting an exact time on recovering from extramarital affairs only serves to make us feel worse, when we reach the time and still feel hurt. We also agreed that although we can heal, we will actually never be the same as we were before the betrayal. The important thing is that we are being proactive in moving ourselves forward in our healing journey. We all agreed that time is not necessarily a healer, if one chooses to use that time to nurse and rehearse the pain over and over, instead of gaining perspective and understanding. Whether we stay married, separate or are divorced, it is fair to say that if we don't want to feel this way for the rest of our lives, we must be willing to do the 'work' of healing. Those who have been able to heal, report that a lot of that healing has come through reading books and other sources where they have been able to gain greater understanding and perspective.
We also discussed the pain, the sadness and moving past these feelings. We agreed that a lot of the sadness is connected to a feeling of being 'unlovable'. When your spouse tosses you aside for another, like a used piece of clothing being carted off to the Salvation Army thrift store, you feel worthless and unlovable. But the reality is the fact that a spouse has chosen to be with someone new does not make you a lesser human being. If anything it is they who have lowered themselves by not keeping their promise, the wedding vows. It is very difficult however to get this truth from our heads down into our hearts.
In addition we discussed forgiveness? Should we forgive? How can you forgive? Several women shared how they had begun to suffer with physical sickness after discovering their spouse's unfaithfulness. Then they shared how after they had made the decision to forgive, they began to experience improved health as well as a greater sense of inner peace. Once again it seems there may be a tremendous personal benefit in forgiving. It also needs to be noted that as we work through these feelings our thinking and our feelings do not always line up. We choose to forgive in our minds, but our hearts still feel as though we haven't forgiven. That's okay and normal, but as we continue to control our thinking, eventually our feelings will follow.
Taking Time for Yourself
There is tremendous value in making sure we take time out for ourselves, especially for those of us who have become single parents as a result of a spouse's betrayal. If the children are small it can be overwhelming to cope with the responsibilities of parenting alone in addition to the grief we are feeling, and in a practical sense it can be very difficult to find time for ourselves, but we must find some time, and in so doing we are sending a message to ourselves that we are valuable enough to deserve some fun in our lives too. Even simple things such as taking time to exercise. One woman shared how she had discovered that President Bush takes an hour for exercise daily. We agreed that he didn't have a challenge with finding childcare, however he is a man with a tremendous amount of responsibility. If the man who is responsible for running one of the most powerful nations in the world can find time for daily exercise, then certainly so can we find a few minutes for ourselves.
We also discussed the value of creating new routines and traditions. One woman shared how she and her children were going to have a new tradition of opening their new pajamas on Christmas morning and wearing them all day on Christmas while they busily assemble the new toys. Another woman had stayed up until two in the morning watching good movies, something she had never done before. New traditions can help us to stop thinking about the old ones that are not the same without the spouse who has left us.
Every Relationship has a Dance
A last valuable insight we shared with one another was how every relationship has a dance, so to speak. He does this, and then she does this etc. etc., routines which tend to be repeated over and over. The problem is some of these routines are unhealthy behaviors. For example, he blames her for something that is really his responsibility, she cries and apologizes or acts nicer to try and fix it. If we recognize unhealthy responses in our dealings with our mate, we can begin to change them to healthy ones. He goes on a pity party and feels sorry for himself. She just takes the kids skating and has a great time. He can have his party alone, or he can change and become a better person. Inappropriate behavior is no longer indirectly rewarded. One woman shared her feeling of victory as she began to recognize her unhealthy patterns as they occurred in her relationship with her mate, and began to change them, interacting in an emotionally healthy pattern instead. It is a difficult change to make, but it can make or break a relationship.
I also noticed some unhealthy patterns in my relationship with Brian during the healing process, and I also changed the dance in our marriage. I remember Brian saying to me, "You are changing. You're growing tremendously as a person and it scares me to death." In our case Brian also chose to grow, change and become a better person. This is why we are still married; otherwise we would be divorced today. One of the reason's why I can now 4 years later actually write a book with the outrageous title ''My Husband's Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me!' is because of the better, stronger, happier and more fulfilled, purpose-driven person I have become as a result, and all area's of my life have actually improved. I am experiencing far greater success in my field of work, in my relationships and in my health. My Husband's Affair was my personal 9/11 wake up call.
Email your questions or comments to Brian and/or Anne firstname.lastname@example.org