Affair healing Blog
We usually expect our marriage to last a lifetime. What starts with promises of faithfulness and endurance, we believe, will survive any challenge "for better or for worse." Most marriages do; some even thrive. But many die in ways never anticipated.
When the death of a marriage is a mutual choice between two partners, grieving its loss may be a short-term process. The decision to end their relationship often follows a period of prolonged suffering, making divorce feel like relief. Similar to a funeral, partners make the appropriate arrangements, pay their final respects, bury the marriage, and move on with their lives.
But a marriage killed by betrayal is not so easily mourned.
When a partner has been betrayed and carries the wound of an affair, they long for the spouse to feel their pain and accept responsibility for it. To do this, the unfaithful partner must be willing to move toward that hurt rather than away from it. But let's be honest: most of us aren't wired that way.
In the presence of such overwhelming suffering, often expressed in anger, the guilty husband or wife usually reacts in self-protective ways by either avoiding or attacking their spouse. When that fight-or-flight response is mixed with a strong desire to sidestep the shame of an affair, it's easy to understand why so many cheating spouses simply want to voice a confession and then move on to other matters.
In preparation for attending a Marriage ICU Retreat (private couple's retreat) with me, I ask participants to explain some of the ways they have been changed by the affair. Here are responses to those questions from an unfaithful husband. They are published with his permission.
What have been the most significant things you have learned in regard to your personal and relationship recovery?
Here are some of the things I've learned:
1. I’ve learned what real pain looks like. My past work involved me with family/marital crises, funerals, and personal tragedies, but I’ve never witnessed the kind of pain and distress that I’ve seen in my wife since the day of discovery. It’s going on 4 months since discovery and the sobbing and tears still have not fully subsided. Just yesterday a deep sadness came over both of us and the sobbing (tears doesn’t describe it) began. my wife keeps saying she won’t cry anymore…but she does and the tears come from deep in her spirit. It’s heartbreaking to watch and know that I caused that. My heart is to help heal the pain I’ve caused in her and restore my marriage.
During July 2015, one of our Community forum members posted a message in response to an unfaithful spouse who was frustrated because his wife remained angry about his affair. It's worth reprinting again. This is an edited version of her response, but you can read the the full post here.
You can feel put out that your wife is so insanely angry abut your affair, but it's not going to get you anywhere. Stop thinking of it as judgement from your spouse and, instead, judge yourself. Can you sit and own the choices you made and all the consequences that followed as yours and yours alone? When you can do that, I think empathy will come easier, your wife will feel safer, and some of her anger will dissipate. There were very few times—I'm talking nanoseconds—when my spouse showed real remorse without any defensiveness. And you know what? In those nanoseconds (until his defenses went up again, of course) my anger melted away.
I think every wayward spouse seriously underestimates the fear and intense pain, both emotional and physical, caused by what they have done. It's in their interest to do so, since as seeing it too clearly would feel awful.
Jacob sits at one end of the counseling couch, downcast, head in his hands, elbows on his knees. His gaze finally lifts from the space between his feet to settle on his wife, Cara, curled up in a tight ball at the other end of the couch. "How am I supposed to believe you?" he asks.
She hesitates, obviously frustrated with her inability to convince her husband. "Whether you believe me or not, I'm telling you the truth."
"You told me that before and I found out you were still lying. This whole affair was about making me believe one thing while you were doing something else. So how how can I believe you're being honest now?"
Cara remains silent. Jacob shakes his head, then turns to me as I sit in witness of their struggle. "Do you think I should trust her?" he asks, somehow hoping my counselor's insight will provide him with assurance one way or the other.