Weekly Surviving Affairs Newsletter - Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Hi Anne, I read your book and really enjoyed it. I would like to know how your marriage today? Are there still times when you are angry or sad that your husband did this to you? I honestly can't see that you totally let go of all the negative feelings from the affair. He sounded very selfish and not caring about you and your children. What's different now in your life? Maybe now with the book out there, he is not like other men that have had affairs, he has too much to lose.
Every man or woman who is having an affair has too much to lose. You lose your money, your self-respect, the wonderful person you’re married to, often your career, the respect of your children, friends, your health, your emotional well-being, and guess what?! If you remarry you find yourself starting over at square 1, because surprise!! The problems you had in your first relationship show up again in the new one.
You ask some very valid questions; one’s that I would’ve been asking while my healing journey was in-progress, had I ever found a book like mine.
You ask: How is your marriage today? I can honestly say that my marriage today is awesome. We are so close and so in love, it’s amazing. We are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in 1 week, and I’m very excited about that. Our marriage was good before the affair, but it’s so much better today.
Not that we for a moment are saying the affair was good for our marriage. It wasn’t. It BECAME good for me … in the end. Any couple who chooses to learn how can have the closeness we share today, and it would certainly be better to get there without an affair to nearly kill you both in the middle of your story.
Brian likes to describe our marriage today with this analogy. The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and if you were watching the Grand Canyon on a top of the line, large, flat screen TV, that’s what our marriage was like before. It was a very good experience. But today it is like we are standing at the edge of the cliff at the Grand Canyon. Watching it on television is great, but there’s just no comparison to being there in person.
That said; please don’t get the impression that our marriage is perfect. There are no perfect people and no perfect marriages, so if anyone ever says they have a perfect marriage, you’ll know they are lying. We still deal with life, good days, disappointments, problems, trials, sick days, mistakes and misunderstandings.
One thing that is different is the depth of marriage skills we’ve gained. For example, when one of us accidentally hurts the other and negative feelings begin to escalate, we both know how to put the breaks on and turn it into a positive fast. These are skills that any couple can learn, and they are the things we teach couples in our relationship seminars. It’s like learning how to ride a bike. Learning can be a bit tricky. It might feel awkward at first. It will take some persistence, and you may fall and make mistakes while learning, but once you know how; you can jump on and ride quickly at anytime.
Are there still times when I feel angry or sad that my husband “did this to me?”
One important thing that helped me to heal is understanding he didn’t “DO THIS TO ME?” When we say it like that, it implies intention, as if he one day thought, “I know, I think I’ll go hurt Anne today.” While his actions did hurt me greatly, it helps me to know that his intention was not to hurt me.
I don’t get angry or sad about Brian’s affair anymore. There was a time for the anger, and I allowed myself to be fully angry then. It’s all out now. There was a time for the sadness and grieving my loss, but I have chosen not to live there for the rest of my life.
I view the affair in quite a different light. I consider it a tremendous “kick butt” victory I’ve had. I refuse to stay in the mode of a victim. When I think of the affair, I feel powerful that I could win and not let the actions of another steal my happiness endlessly.
I’m sure my spiritual beliefs help me, because I believe that in this world there is a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil, and the forces of evil are going back and forth looking for lives to destroy. They attempted to destroy mine, but what they meant for evil God has turned around for good. That, which sought to destroy me, has now become the hope and message of reconciliation for many other marriages.
When I think of the affair, I think of where I am today, in a place of victory not defeat. I’ve learned to live in the present, not in the past. There is minimal value in looking back at what can’t be changed. It is better to look ahead and claim the future that still belongs you.
Rarely do I slip into a negative head space, but being human I sometimes do. I don’t want to give anyone the impression they’re not healed because they occasionally have a bad day, or a moment where they remember the affair sadly. If I do have a moment like that, I don’t go very low and I snap out of it quickly. I recognize the negative thoughts, why I’m having them, and have learned how to replace them with the truth.
Whenever I am feeling down; it is because I am entertaining some “untrue” thought as truth. An example might be thinking, “others are better than me because their husbands never had affairs.” The book “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns gives fantastic processes for dealing with depression, which is most often caused by the way we are thinking about life and what has or hasn’t happened to us.
You wrote: He sounded very selfish and not caring about you and your children.
And that he was!
One way you know you’ve healed from this whole mess is when you can actually begin to laugh about it and make tasteful jokes, and Brian and I do that often. (Warning! Don’t try this too soon!) Although our work now involves helping others heal from affairs, we don’t relive our pain while doing so. When I turn off my computer or we conclude a seminar, I’m not thinking about the affair anymore. (I’m probably not thinking about it while you’re reading this.) We’ve moved on with our lives.
When people buy our book, Brian kids around, “be sure and read to the end, or you won’t like me very much.” We often refer to his affair time, as his time of temporary insanity. When we share our story in a seminar Brian doesn’t hesitate to say things like “back when I was a total jerk ... ”
He was downright mean at times. There’s no doubt about that. All the reading I did about affairs helped me to heal, as did being part of the Beyond Affairs Network where I heard the stories of others. I began to see affairs in their larger context. Not me as a lonesome victim, but me as someone who experienced the pain of a larger societal problem that the majority of people unfortunately face.
One of the reasons I’m healed today is because I get it. I get it how my husband could love me, and still have an affair. I get it how even good men (and women) can act like idiots sometimes.
I do respect Brian more today because of his willingness and desire to help others through sharing our story. It’s much easier for me. After all, I’m the one who was betrayed, and people can feel sorry for me, but Brian is the bad guy, the one who did wrong. I believe it takes tremendous character strength to share failure publicly. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without Brian’s willingness and desire to help others also. We're a team. I admire Brian because I see how much he cares for the well-being of others through his actions. As I watch Brian help other men get their lives right with their wives, I respect him more and more.
Another thing that has helped me to heal is learning how to listen to Brian, really getting into his skin, coming into his world and experiencing (as I listen to him) the frustrations he has had in his life. When I really listen to him, I feel empathy for him. That doesn’t make his actions during the affair right, it doesn’t excuse him, and it doesn’t mean I would’ve done the same in his shoes, but I understand him, and that helps, tremendously.
Brian also helped me to heal by truthfully answering all my questions about the affair (over and over sometimes 100 times). He was willing to give me what I needed to heal, even though it was often painful for him, and he had no guarantee that our marriage would improve. To him it felt at times like a marathon. He wondered if I would ever get over it, and he wondered if I would ever listen to him and understand his needs.
There were some good things he experienced in the affair. He wanted to experience those things with me, but he didn’t know how to communicate that to me. He didn’t know if he dared to take that risk and be that honest.
I choose today to focus on all of the good things in my husband, all that he has done to change, to help me heal and to make things right.
I suppose helping others has also helped me, because as bad as he was during the crazy affair time, when I compare my story to others,. I see that I wasn't as bad off as I thought I was then.
When a person is caught up in the craziness of having an affair, there is actually a chemical released in their brains that impairs their judgment in a similar way to how a person on drugs or alcohol’s judgment is impaired. It’s part of the crazy pattern of those who have affairs. While wrapped up in the affair, the unfaithful usually are mean to their spouses. It’s not right, but it is the way it is.
What’s different in our marriage now?
The most significant thing is the incredible degree of openness and honesty we’ve developed in our relationship. Brian has developed the ability to be honest with himself and aware of his feelings. Before the affair he was like most men – not good at talking about feelings. Now he shares his feelings with me regularly. I know when he’s happy, sad, frustrated, scared, insecure, worried, whatever.
I, too, have developed the ability to be much more honest with myself and Brian. I don’t need to protect my fairytale view of life anymore. We both have developed stronger self-esteem than before the affair.
For example if Brian told me a certain dress didn’t look good on me pre-affair, I may have written all sorts of negative things into those words, like that he didn’t love me, he was too worldly, and I wasn’t attractive anymore. Now if he were to say that to me, I would be able to hear what he actually said. The dress doesn’t look that good on me. Period. My relationship isn’t in jeopardy because a certain dress doesn’t flatter my figure. I would take his honesty as an act of love, not the opposite. When he is honest with me, I feel secure in our relationship. That’s what’s different. You can’t have an affair, when you’re committed to total honesty with each other, and you are mature and secure enough to accept that honesty.
When you are able to be truly honest with your mate, even about difficult things, you feel incredibly close.
We no longer need each other. We simply choose each other. I no longer try to be a good wife. I am a good wife. All I have to do is be myself. How freeing is that!
We laugh together. We try new things together. We live our lives for a purpose bigger than ourselves. We allow each other to be who we are in the relationship. We don’t try to change each other. When we have differences, we really listen to each other. We don’t assume we are right and the other is wrong. We listen for the understandable parts in what the other is saying.
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what we have today, any couple can have. All they have to do is learn the skills that make marriage work.
Does having a published book make a difference as far as Brian’s behavior is concerned?
Well he does often joke around that he is not going to provide the plot for a sequel. Since we are dedicated to helping others, we do feel a sense of social responsibility to practice what we preach. No marriage is immune to affairs, even ours, so we don’t take ours for granted. We also attend marriage retreats and training regularly to continually improve our own relationship and skills.
There is no instant pill to make the pain of an affair go away. But the rewards of proactively engaging in the healing journey are so worth it. Yes, you really can get beyond the pain, but it sure doesn’t feel like it for a while, and there’s no denying that some don’t.
To get past an affair 3 things are needed:
1. You have to learn how.
2. You have to make the choice to do it.
3. You’ll need some time.
In conclusion I'd like to share the words of one of our Beyond Affairs Network coordinators, as she shares her own experience of getting beyond the pain. Her words are beautiful. Her story was particularly painful. She gave me permission to share it with all of you.
Words from a BAN (Beyond Affairs Network) Coordinator this week:
a funny thing happened to me on the way to here....
I was just reading Anne's comments, about finding love in other places, be it love of children, the love you get from your family, friends, co workers and yourself and I thought I would comment on this, because I have learned something valuable by being in BAN.
I guess I always thought about my life in terms of being in a partnership, and when it was going well I was happy, and when it wasn't going well I was miserable and when I was alone, I was frantically trying to fix that emptiness by getting back into a relationship again.
What I missed along the way, was that I spent all my time, in or out, of something, I was focused, driven, pushing, pullin, working hard at this. But I was missing vast quantities of other stuff, I wasn't learning to skydive, or scuba dive, or learning to paint, and I wasn't traveling as much as I wanted to and I wasn't getting the quality time with my kids and my parents and my sisters that I could be getting. I wasn't noticing sunsets, how long had it been since I sat on my porch and watched the sun go down. When was the last time I sat by the creek, and just listened to the babbling, and gurgling of a really good creek?
So after I got my Ban group going, and I started to hear stories from the others in my group, I started to feel so much further down that path, saying the same things over and over again, and I got tired of talking about affairs, and relationships and all that stuff in the middle.
I wondered..........can you outgrow this chapter in your life? Can you move beyond what happened to you and reach a point where you are finally okay to just live your life without thinking about it? Can you live your life as well if not better without a partner?
and the answer is yes, of course you can.
If your happiness is about you, and what you get back for all that you give.
I throw my own birthday parties now, and I give the gifts to myself and to my guests, that I want to receive and to send. I am turning 57 next Saturday, my sweetheart love of my life can’t go with me because he has to work, so I am going to Oregon, to stay in a log cabin lodge on a river, in the honeymoon suite, by myself, to have a marguerita on the deck overlooking a gorgeous tree lined river, my family and friends will show up and we will celebrate on the deck and then I will go home as content as if I had stayed home. Or better.
But I have taken charge of what I get and I get a lot of love and respect in my life now because I kicked out all the toxic people. I now work where I am loved, respected, trusted, treated well.
Yes we are all different.
But in any setting, be good to yourself, always, every day.
©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.
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