Affair healing Blog
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.
2. There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to healing from an affair. There’s no magical wand that can be waved over my situation to cure what I’ve done. It takes lots of resources and a personal investment to do the hard work of recovery.
3. You can’t speed up the process of healing. Like most people in an affair, you just want to wake up and have this all be a dream. But it’s not, so the next best thing is to quickly make it go away. This could takes months or years to heal. Most of us aren’t ready to hear that.
4. One of the biggest setbacks in affair recovery is not telling ALL truth in the very beginning of discovery. Telling the story, giving the details and telling the truth is the last thing you want to do when you get caught. Call it self-preservation, trying to protect your hurt spouse, or whatever--telling your story in bits and pieces over time is a big mistake. All it does is open fresh wounds and re-open old hurt. It continues to diminish trust and slows healing because you mostly end up right at the hurt that was experienced on discovery day. That’s not what you think will happen when you “dribble” your information, but it is what happens.
5. Real forgiveness doesn’t come quickly. It doesn't come in the first week (when my wife said, “I forgive you.)…it comes much later when they’ve processed some of the pain and had a chance to really evaluate whether they can truly forgive. When “I forgive you" comes too early, it really sets the offender up for disappointment because you think recovery must be well on its way. It’s not.
6. I must answer the same questions from my wife dozens of times without becoming angry or impatient. Most of us want to answer the question and then “forget about what happened,” but that’s not the way it works. Asking the same questions and getting the same honest answers is reassuring to my wife and helps the slow process of rebuilding her trust in what I say.
7. Family and friends don’t know what to say or how to act. Many of them think both of us should “be getting over it by now.”
8. Talking about the affair really does help. It goes against human nature to talk about something in order to lessen it, but that’s been our process in affair healing… The offender wants to forget it; the offended can’t forget it! Talking about the affair has begun to take it’s power away. I hate re-living it, but if it helps my wife heal I’ll talk about it again.
9. “Hurt people hurt people.” During the last four months my wife has said some of the most vile things I’ve ever heard; things I never thought she could even think about, much less say to me. She’s held nothing back from her feelings. My dad used to say “Whatever’s in the well always comes up in the bucket!” Well, there’s a lot in my wife’s well these days...
In what ways have you changed for better or worse?
I’ve changed for better because I’m learning to see myself, my feelings, my emotions and my motives more clearly. I’ve never been able do that before. I’m learning to talk with my wife more openly without trying to protect “feelings,” something I’ve never done well.
Previously, I seldom told the whole truth about how I felt in situations because I was afraid that being honest about how I felt would upset her or hurt her feelings. Come to find out, she would rather put up with a little “emotional hurt” if it meant knowing how I really felt. That goes against everything in me, but I’m trying to learn it.
I’ve changed for worse because I worry about possible “revenge” from my wife... I never had much suspicion about her faithfulness, but I wonder if part of the “baggage” of being an offender is the constant worry if my own “d-day” is coming.
What do you believe are your most significant needs now?
Hope. I want to see that my wife has a sense of “hope” with regard to our recovery. She says she has nothing left to hope for; that I took everything from her that was important in her life. Does she have anything left in her that she can see as a reason to hope for a new future together? I want our marriage to be restored and even better, but I’m not sure my wife is on the same page with me in this. She’s become “numb” to hope.
Trust. I want to know the things I can do or say that will begin to build trust again. I know that everything I say right now is suspect, but I want to regain her trust and am willing to do the hard things to bring that about. I’m just always sure I know what those things are.
Intimacy. Not sex. my wife and I have had lots of sex during the last 3 months (even though she’s cried almost every time). Our sex life has always been pretty adventurous and incredible, but these days when we’re making love, she looks at me like I’m a stranger. That breaks my heart. I want intimacy again… the words, the touches, the looks that say, “I love you”. I’ve always needed that, but I’ve never been too good at creating an environment for those things to happen.
Genuine Friendship. I want my wife to be the best friend I have in this world. How can I work toward that end?
Forgiveness. I’m pretty good at forgiving others. I’ve never been one to carry a grudge. But I’ve not been able to forgive myself for the hurt I’ve caused my wife over this. I can’t seem to come to grips with my own forgiveness. Maybe like my wife’s forgiveness toward me, my own forgiveness may come in waves or stages, but right now I can seem to let it go.
Our affair recovery retreats for couples are not group events; they are private 3-day intensives focused on the particular needs of each couple. For more information about how you might benefit from this help, visit our Couples Retreat page.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written by Tim Tedder, a licensed counselor and creator of this site and its resources. Twitter: @TimTedder