Craig & Lauren's Story
It was about one year after I started meeting with Craig and Lauren when I asked if they would mind telling their story. Here's what they had to say...
Lauren: I found out about the affair from the other woman's husband. He told me what he had discovered and thought I should know. Up until that moment, I'd had no idea that anything was going on and wasn't sure what I should to do next. Craig was out of town on business, so I chose not to say anything until he came home three days later.
Craig: But I could tell something was wrong, and figured she'd found out about the affair. I had three days to prepare myself for what I was going to tell her. Even if I had to admit to some things, I was still determined to hide some of the facts. She didn't need to know everything.
Lauren: When he got home, I confronted him with what I knew. His confessions came in pieces over the next few days. I didn't realize at the time that I still didn't have all the truth; I was focused on wanting to figure out how to move past all of it.
The first counselor I went to really confused me. She wanted us to process the whole affair in one or two sessions and seemed to place all the responsibility on me. She said I needed to forgive him right away in order for our marriage to heal. It felt like I was being asked to ignore all the pain and confusion I was feeling.
Craig: We stopped going to counseling after a couple visits and decided to work things out on our own, which was fine with me. I just wanted to move on and forget about what had happened.
Lauren: But things just never seemed right to me. Old suspicions about an earlier relationship Craig had with another woman were stirred up again. I eventually called someone who I thought might know and that's when I found out about the other affair.
When I confronted him, I said, "This is it. I have no idea how this is going to turn out; I have no idea where we're going to end up or what I'm going to do, but I need to know everything. If I stay with you and we try to work through this and then I find out later that there's even more that should have been said, it's pretty much a guarantee that I'll be done." At that point, he told me about a third affair that I probably would have never known anything about if he hadn't admitted it.
Craig: She insisted we go to a different counselor, and that's when we started seeing Tim. I still had my guard up. I figured I was walking into a firing squad because everything was my fault. Actually, I knew I was pretty much to blame for what was happening, but I still didn't want to admit it. Those first few sessions, I was very guarded. I was very good at hiding and lying, but I wasn't very good at saying I'm sorry. The shame I felt was a bitch.
Lauren: I needed to know he was telling me the truth and when it came to the facts of the affairs, I believed he had told me everything, but I wasn't sure what he was feeling. I needed him to be honest about everything, so during one of our counseling sessions I asked him if he still missed the woman from the latest affair. That was a huge part of it for me because the affair had gone on for so long and had ended only because he'd been caught. Since he wasn't talking about how he felt, I was afraid he secretly wanted to go back to her. His willingness to talk about that was an important step for us being able to move forward. As hard as it was to hear all of it, the fact that he was honest helped assure me that he wasn't holding on to secrets anymore.
Craig: I thought I'd been doing damage control by not admitting to certain things about my affairs. I knew the truth would hurt her more, and so I didn't want to admit to some things. I was so use to lying, it felt like I didn't even know how to tell the truth. For a while, I was constantly correcting myself... saying something one day and then calling her up the next to say I'm sorry for lying and then telling the truth.
Being committed to honesty became empowering. It was easier to just admit the truth than to keep trying to control all the information. I eventually told her, "Okay, I'll make you this promise: I won't lie to you, but you won't always like what you get."
That was freedom. It felt like I could cut loose from all the bullshit and start focusing on making our marriage better.
Lauren: If we had gone through the truth-telling and then he'd had the attitude of "now that's over, so let's just move forward," I don't think we would have gotten through this the way we have. The affair didn't just go away; it was still a big part of my every day. The way he responded to me being angry and hurt was important. The fact that he tried to be understanding and continued to take ownership of the affairs instead of being defensive was all reassuring.
From that point on, he tried to show me that he was an open book. He gave me access to his cell phone and computer and kept in touch regarding where he was and who he was with. All those things showed a commitment on his part. For me, that was critical in order for us to move forward together.
We went to counseling a lot and things seemed to be getting much better over the next few months. The commitment to talking regularly and consistently about our recovery helped bring us together. There were ups and downs, but we put a lot of work into it and were actually surprised at how well we were doing.
Craig: I think we even said to ourselves, "Shouldn't it be harder than this?" That's about the time that [the other woman] sent me an email.
Lauren: Maybe that was part of reason things began to change for me, I'm not really sure. I think it was more than that, but for some reason I started sinking into sadness and anger. After all the progress we'd made, it was discouraging to feel all that again.
Craig: It got dark for awhile. There was a lot of tension and our communication wasn't very good. It felt like doom and I even think I said at one point, "Why are we bothering to do this?"
Lauren: I felt stuck in that for nearly a month before I decided to start taking medication. But I continued to sink until I hit an all-time low. One night, after drinking a little too much, I went crazy in my anger. I attacked him. It was pretty severe. It was so bad, in fact, that someone called the police.
I woke up in jail the next morning, not even sure what had happened until I read the police report. I was sure that this was the end, that Craig had probably already changed the locks on the house and called an attorney. I was afraid I was going to lose everything.
But when he showed up, all I got from him was forgiveness. He meant it, too. He's never brought it up again since then. I think that being on the other side of things -- being humbled and needing to be forgiven -- changed things. It was a huge step in helping me get to the point of being able to forgive him.
Lauren: It's been a year and our recover has been hard. Sometimes it still hurts, but it's gotten so much better.
Craig: We feel like now our marriage is where it's suppose to be. We talk about our problems and work through them together. We don't always agree, but we feel like a team. I don't take her for granted anymore.
Lauren: Our marriage is more of a committed partnership now. We are open with each other and Craig is much more involved in our marriage. I think his perspective on our relationship has changed.
Nearer the beginning of the process, I think I had to make a conscious choice to act out of forgiveness. I didn't always feel forgiving, but I do feel more like it now.
To be honest, I still feel the hurt of the affair sometimes, but it's not all-consuming. It no longer knocks the wind out of me when it comes up. There's been a gradual healing. There are days when I don't even think about it.
Craig: I still think about it every day. There's a lot of regret.
Lauren: I absolutely trust him more now that I did a year ago, but I still struggle with it. I don't feel like I have to be constantly checking up on him anymore. but I'm still very alert to signs of anything being out whack. It's going to take more time for things to settle down even more.
Craig: It's been an awesome journey for us. I'm still very ashamed of what I did, but I love her more than I ever have. This has changed my whole outlook on how I deal with relationships and how I am in our marriage. It's a million times better than it ever was.
WHAT OTHERS SHOULD KNOW
Lauren: Don't make extreme decisions right away. You don't have to make life-changing choices immediately. Give it some time.
Craig: Because it does take time. Tim told us it would take more time than we expected and he was right. Don't expect a quick fix.
I regret every part of what I did, but in a weird way I'm thankful for how it has changed me. I'm a different person now. A better person. It's worth going through the work.