Surviving the Affair…So Far

I haven’t posted on this blog much in the last couple of months because I haven’t had much to say about my marriage. It seems my stock answer to just about every marriage related question is, “I love my husband.” When I am asked why I want to work on my marriage, that is the answer I come up with. When I am asked if we can work past the hurt, that is the answer I come up with. Its not an answer I give without any thought either. Its my honest answer to just about every marriage related question I am faced with.

I began skimming through the Surviving the Affair program close to two months ago, but honestly I haven’t done much with it. The information I have gone over so far is really good, and it makes a lot of sense. I can understand why my cousin, Monica, talks so highly of it. Right now, I don’t have a clue as to how to apply the information to my life. My marriage isn’t the only relationship in my life in shambles. My cousins and I aren’t as close as we used to be because of how I damaged my relationship with Monica. I have a couple of other friends that I associate with, but the people closest to me are family members.

When we decided to try and work on our marriage, my husband and I agreed we would spend more time together, and more time talking. We have stuck to that comittment, but the results have been a mixed bag at best. There are times where we are together, and talking like we did we we first got together. There are other times where the time we spend together is really quiet and awkward. It makes those times together feel like we are just going through the motions.

One of my other friends and I were talking about relationships the other day. I confieded in her how I felt about my marriage, I shared how I damaged my relationship with my cousin, who happens to be my best friend, to the point where I don’t know if it can be fixed, and that most of my other family members were upset with me as a result. When she cut me off and said, “well this is obviously bothering you, so what are you doing about it?”

It seems silly now, but her question caught me off guard. I asked her how I could do anything about someone being upset with me, other than appologize? “Are you serious? How old are you?” When I told her she got a disgusted look on her face. “Sitting back and wishing for people to be a certain type of way might have worked when you were a little girl, but that’s not how adults work. If you want to improve your relationship with your cousin you need to talk to your cousin, and own up to your part of the problems, and then don’t do them anymore. The problems with your husband go far deeper, but its the same concept.”

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Unfortunately, I know a number of married women who have experienced infidelity in their marriages. Some of the women I know cheated on their husbands, some of their husbands cheated on them, and in a couple of instances the cheating was a two way street.  When we speak about fixing the problems in our respective marriages the first suggestion that comes up is always, marriage counseling.

I was the one who cheated in my marriage, and before my husband would think about working on our marriage I knew he had to see me taking steps on my own.  I started going to individual counseling a couple of days after I came clean with my husband. Cheating on my husband was something I said I would never do, and I truly believed that. The night it happened was like any other night. I wasn’t angry with my husband. I wasn’t looking to hurt my husband in any way. It sounds stupid I know, but it really did just happen. And I wanted to try and understand my behavior.

I didn’t know how my husband felt about counseling because it had never come up in a topic of conversation. He was justifiably furious with me when I started counseling so I didn’t even tell him I started, I just went. Individual counseling didn’t last long for me because I couldn’t get comfortable with a therapist. I tried three, and was most comfortable with the 3rd one. She still made me uncomfortable though, because it seemed like she was looking to get me to blame my husband for all my problems, and that’s something I will never be willing to do.

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Communicating with my husband after my affair was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I never had any intention of cheating on my husband. I truly love my husband, and still get emotional when I think about how close I came to him not being a part of my life. I never wanted to do anything to hurt him, but I didn’t realize how bad of place I was in. To make it clear, I didn’t get caught cheating on my husband. I felt so horrible about it, I told him the day after if happened.

I didn’t know what type of reaction I would get, and to be honest I would have rather him yell, scream, and maybe even punch me instead of how he looked at me. The look in his eyes was one of hurt, and disgust. He quickly told me just how disgusted he was, got our son ready, and the two of them left without him saying another word. I didn’t know if they were coming back, or how I could even ask him if he was coming back. It felt like my whole world just walked out the door, and my stupid actions was what drove them away.

There are a couple of things I know about my husband no matter is going on his life. First, the only thing that can keep my husband from working is our son’s health problems. Secondly, the only thing more important than work to my husband is his family. I really believe that no matter what my husband goes through it will never cloud the sense of responsibility he feels to do what’s right by our son. He could have ended up despising me personally, but he would have been able to put that aside to co-parent our son.

That wasn’t what was going through my mind though. I was nearly hysterical when I called my mother, and told her everything. My mom was at my house in the next half-hour, and she was the rock I needed. She asked me if my indiscretion was something I had been thinking about for a long time, or if it was a spur of the moment thing, and what made me come home, and come clean. I told her it was a stupid drunken mistake, and I came clean immediately because I felt that bad, and there was no way I could keep it from my husband. I can still hear her words, “Monica, he may leave you. I don’t know if this is something your husband will be able to get past long term.”

Those words cut me deeper than any had in my life because I knew she was right. In addition to his strong views on work, my husband is a very loyal guy, and doesn’t respond well to disloyalty. I have seen him cut more than one person out of his life cold turkey after they messed him over. I kept remembering the words he said when I asked why he, and who I thought was a long time friend no longer talked. He explained to me the situation that led them to fallout, and said he didn’t have the energy to maintain fake relationships. “Monica, most of the words I hear through the course of any given day are just filler, they mean nothing to me, and more importantly they mean nothing to most of the people that say them. It’s a persons actions I am more interested in. Those actions tell you so much more about a person than those hollow words. If someone is trying to tell you something with their actions, maybe you should listen no matter who the person is telling them.”

I kept hearing that over and over in my head, and I just knew my marriage was over. What words could I possibly say that would begin to justify my actions? What were my actions actually saying about the state I was in currently? What state was I in currently? I was so confused, but I was absolutely sure I wanted to stay married to my husband. I asked my mom what I could do as it pertains to my husband. Her answer was, “Nothing. All you can do is work on you, respect the hell out of the pain you caused your husband, and give him the space and time he needs to process that hurt. If you truly want to stay married you have to work on his time table, and address his needs as a person, and in your relationship, before you address your own needs in your relationship. He needs to know that you know just how wrong you were, and how horrible you feel about it. That still may not be enough, but from where I am sitting its the only shot you have.”

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By: Monica’s Husband

I wasn’t able to start communicating with my wife for a long time after I found out about her affair. I don’t know if you have ever been cheated on, and then found out about it while you were still in a relationship with that person, but let me tell you firsthand it sucks. If you happen to have a child with that person then, and you are a responsible parent it sucks even more. When my wife told me about her affair I experienced such a tidal wave of emotions that I still can’t describe them all. The last thing I wanted to do was be anywhere near the person who caused such a mess in my life.

I left the house with my son immediately after I found out, but I only stayed gone for the better part of two days. The reason is our son has autism, and his routine is really important for him. I didn’t want my wife’s irresponsible behavior to affect my son anymore than absolutely necessary. When I went home my wife and I didn’t communicate about anything that didn’t pertain to our son for quite a while. I was so disgusted I wouldn’t have been anywhere near her if we didn’t have child together, so I absolutely didn’t have anything to say to her.

I get asked a lot how Monica and I made it through our problems. My answer is always the same, Monica’s lead is what got us through. If she had done things any differently I don’t know if we would still be married today. Monica was really humble, and did a ton of work on herself before we ever did any work on our marriage. Monica never pushed a time table on me for us to fix our problems. She gave me enough space to work through things on my terms instead of hers.

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By:  Monica’s Husband

Monica’s cousin Amie and I were talking the other day when she asked me how we began to rebuild our marriage after my wife’s affair from my point of view. Amie is always looking to examine everything to its most basic level, and she really caught me off guard with that question.

After Monica confessed to her affair she was always looking to work on something. She was working on herself, her relationship with her mother, her relationship with our son, and just about anything else a person could think of. At that time I didn’t want to have anything to do with Monica, so I wasn’t trying to hear any of it.

I don’t necessarily know if I can pinpoint exactly how, or when we began to rebuild our marriage from my point of view. I was really hurt, and disgusted with Monica. I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to rebuild our marriage. I think Monica handled the situation in about the best way possible.

I questioned whether or not Monica was sincere when she first started doing all of the self-improvement work. I even told her once I thought what she was doing was bullshit, and equated it to a celebrity going to rehab after getting a DUI. That didn’t deter her effort though, and I now believe it was her continued effort that was the starting point to our being able to eventually rebuild our marriage.

If Monica would have approached me with a high and mighty attitude we would have probably been divorced long ago. If she would have tried to force me to marriage counseling, or even tried to force conversations I wasn’t ready to have, we probably wouldn’t still be married.

Seeing Monica put fourth all of the extra effort really showed me through her actions, not words, just how remorseful she was. A bunch of hallow words would have pushed my thoughts in the other direction. If she would have tried to make amends with words before I saw her putting fourth any effort it would have just pushed me further away.

Monica was the one who cheated, so for our marriage to make it she had to be the one to take the lead on rebuilding it.Now that we are long past it I can look back on the situation without the elevated emotions, and say she handled it perfectly. She worked on herself until I was ready to even address our marriage. She left that time frame up to what I was feeling and my comfort level.

Eventually we started talking, and worked through our problems. Even then Monica still was very cognizant of letting things go how I needed them to go. She knew she had ruined my trust in her, so she went way above and beyond in letting me know everything she was doing. (It got really annoying more than once.) She answered the questions I had, and when it came time I felt like she was honest about what led her to the point of cheating.

My wife took the lead in rebuilding our marriage after her affair by taking responsibility for actions through actions. She didn’t make a bad situation worse by trying to turn herself into the victim. Instead she threw herself into examining why she did what she did. From there it was slow, and sometimes painful process, but we are the strongest we have ever been. As much as it sucks as a reason, going through what we went through taught us total communication.

I know the title of this post will come across harsh, but when I sit and reflect on why I got married that is the honest answer I come up with.  My name is Alicia and Monica is my cousin and best friend.  (Even though we aren’t as tight as we used to be, which is mostly my fault, more on that later.)

Monica and I grew up together. We were more like sisters than cousins, but I have come to realize we have very different views on relationships. Monica has documented her side of our problems pretty extensively, and I honestly can’t say she is lying about anything. What I will say is I hate like hell I ever came in between Monica and her husband. Monica’s husband is one of the few good ones I have met in this life. I really hate that I had any part in bringing drama to their home.

I do feel the need to point out however, I didn’t make Monica cheat. I said some really terrible things at what I later found out was at the worst time possible. Had I known how insecure Monica was feeling at the time I would have handled things differently. I understand I wasn’t a good friend to Monica, but I resent like hell the notion that I was responsible for her cheating.

Which brings me to my own situation. Monica, and I are similar in we have other known our husbands since we were teenagers. My husband and I have been on and off for nearly 20 years now . We have separated on 3 different occasions, and neither one of us has been faithful for most of our marriage.

I realize how dysfunctional our relationship has become, and I know this is going to sound crazy, but I really do love my husband.  I am not sure we should have ever gotten married, and I am not sure we can save our relationship long-term, but I can’t imagine my life without him being a part of it. (He is the father of my children so I realize we will always be a part of each other’s life, but that isn’t what I am referring to right now.)

As I look back, I am more and more convinced the conception of our first child was the underlying reason we got married at such a young age. Things happened so fast we were in over our heads before we knew it, and instead of coming together in a mature way we broke apart in probably the most immature way possible. I am not sure who cheated first, or who has been worse to whom. At this point it really doesn’t matter.

We are still married, we have three children who are at very impressionable ages, and our non-sense has carried over into other areas of both of our lives. I really think its time he and I make a decision for our family’s sake.

I am not sure our marriage will survive, but I think we owe it to ourselves, our children, and our history to give it one last, whole hearted try. My husband said he feels the same way, so we are going to try. We start marriage counseling next week which presents its own set of challenges, but as long as we agree on how to handle those challenges I think we will be okay. In a perfect world we will come through this and have a strong and healthy relationship,but if we don’t at least we will be able to tell our children we truly tried to get our acts together.

Monica asked me a long time ago if I wanted to write about what was going on in our marriage, but I wouldn’t have any known how to refer to it at that point. Losing the relationship I had with Monica was really the bottom for me. I didn’t understand how my actions were affecting other people, or really how they were affecting me. I didn’t understand the feeling aspect of most situations, which is something that I still struggle with, but I am finally ready to at least try.

I don’t know how often I will write, or exactly what I will write about, but when I feel like venting, or talking about something my husband and I are dealing with as we try to work through our issues then I will be putting it here. I am hoping this will help me as I deal with a lot of long simmering issues, and hopefully it will help heal some of the pain I brought into my cousin’s life.

When I was a little girl my mother and I used to have conversations about marriage, and how to make a relationship work. The underlying theme of every one of those conversations came back to communication. “Amie, I truly believe love can survive anything expect not communicating. You have to be able to tell each other what you are feeling, and help each other through what your father and I like to call the crazy times.” My mom calls a time when a person is feeling down to a point it skews his or her vision of the world a “crazy time.”

Maybe it is because it was drilled into my head during my formidable years, but I agree with her. I love my husband more than anything in this world. I thought our marriage was perfect up until his infidelity came to light. When I found out my husband had an affair I was floored. There were a million things running through my head, but the thing that came to mind immediately is something that still crosses my mind from time-to-time when I am feeling down.

“How Didn’t I See It?”

How did I not see the man I married was capable of cheating? How did I not see he was that unhappy? How did I not see the level of attention he needed? Did I take my marriage for granted, or did I marry an asshole? I am a problem solver by nature. When things blow up, I don’t spend a lot of time over analyzing I would rather jump into the fire and get to work, but I couldn’t do that this time. I was too affected by what had happened.

As silly as it may sound, I actually correspond with Monica’s husband quite a bit more than I do with Monica, because our personality’s mesh more than Monica and I. When my husband’s affair came to light Monica’s husband was the first person I reached out to. I felt a little funny because he was still dealing with the fallout of Monica’s affair, but I also knew he would shoot me straight. When I asked Monica’s husband many of the same questions that are laid out above he cut me off and said, “Amie I can save you a lot of time, but you are going to get mad at me.” When I asked him why I would be mad he said, “Look your husband’s an asshole for cheating on you, but you hold some responsibility in what led up to his cheating.” Monica’s husband was right, I was pissed.

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By: Monica’s Husband

Monica is even more open about the problems we went through in our marriage with the people in her inner circle than she is on this website (which can be kind of scary). One of the things that goes along with having a wife who is so open about infidelity is a lot of questions. Generally, I am a pretty quite guy. I will laugh and crack jokes with my friends, but I have had the same circle of friends for most of my life. When it comes to people outside of that circle I tend to be a bit introverted which makes me even more uncomfortable when I get a lot of questions about how I dealt with my wife’s affair.

One of the questions I get the most, “Is what exactly did you need from your wife in able to get past it?” This always feels like a loaded question to me because it almost always a guy who is extremely hurt, and looking for answers as to how his spouse could stray, when I am asked it. I know from experience there is no one, two, or twenty things I can tell that guy that is necessarily going to work for him, so I always start off by saying that, and then telling him what worked for me.

Space

The very first thing I needed from my wife to hopefully get past her affair was space. If we didn’t have a child together I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the same state with my wife let alone the same house. I didn’t want to look at her, or speak with her, so at least initially I took our son, and I left. I knew I needed to clear my head, and there was no way I could have possibly done that with Monica around. I didn’t stay gone long though (a couple of days) because our son has special needs, and there was no way I was going to let Monica’s non-sense effect him anymore than absolutely necessary.

I still didn’t want to be around Monica, or speak with her so I slept on the couch, and didn’t. If she had something to say about our son I partook in the conversation. If she had something to say about anything other than our son I didn’t partake in the conversation, and this went on for a while. During this time I threw myself even further into my work than usual, but I did so without spending more hours in the office. After a while my disgust slowly began to subside, and we eventually started talking about more than our son.

Information

I didn’t need specific details about the act then, and I don’t need them today. What I did need to understand was how in the hell the person who I thought I knew best in the world would flush our family dynamic down the toilet without my having a clue as to what was going on. Monica gave me what I considered to be very weak answers. They were answers that I would have never expected out of the person I fell in love with, but I eventually realized the person I had fallen in loved with had changed, and I didn’t necessarily notice it.

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Monica, Alicia, and I are all cousins.  We all grew up together, but Monica and Alicia were always more like sisters than cousins.  I kind of grew apart from my cousins after high school.  I went away to school, Monica stayed local, and Alicia started working full-time straight out of high school.

My husband and I moved home a couple of years ago which helped me reconnect with my cousins, who are also married. Monica has been pretty open on this site about the problems she and her husband went through. They dealt with their problems, and are stronger couple now than they were when my husband and I moved home. (I am really proud of those two.)

I honestly don’t understand Alicia’s relationship with her husband, so I am not going to speculate on it.  Alicia and her husband seem to have a lot of problems.  I really hope they can work through them, but if they can’t I hope they figure out how to make as clean of break as possible.

The similarities between my marriage and Monica’s marriage can be spooky from time to time.  Monica and her husband both had careers, even after the birth of their son.  Monica, gave up her career a couple of years ago to stay home with their autistic son, and her husband is a workaholic.

My husband and I both have careers, but mine is much more demanding which is a double edge sword for me.  I love the challenge of having a demanding job, but its also very easy for me to get caught up in it and neglect the people I love.

I found out last summer my husband had an affair.  I was floored because I truly thought we were happy, and there weren’t any problems in our marriage. When I thought about infidelity in relationships growing up I always saw it as a black and white situation. If person A decides to cheat on person B then person A must no longer want to be with person A so its time to move on.

Truthfully, I maintained that thought process up until it happened to me. Call it ignorance, but at when Monica and her husband were going through their problems I didn’t understand why or how Monica’s husband could have taken her back. I have some other girlfriends whose husbands have strayed, some of them took them back too. I just didn’t understand how a couple ever gets that trust back after one of them commits such an act of betrayal.

As I look back on it, I think Monica and her husband dealing with their problems planted the seed that began to change my outlook.  I love my husband dearly, but that doesn’t excuse his actions, and it won’t cause me to forgive another indiscretion.  What it did do was make me take a step back, and try to look at it from his perspective.

I was working an enormous amount of hours. I was averaging close to 16 hrs a day 6 days a week. My husband was working 40 hours a week. By the time I got home I didn’t have much left, so not only was I gone all the time but I was also neglecting my husband when I was home. I didn’t pick up on the depth of his unhappiness until it was way too late. In my defense, at no time did my husband stop me and point these things out to me either. I was in my working haze, and he was unhappy which seems to be the perfect storm for an affair.

My husband and I are still working through our problems, but I believe we will get through this.  We have seen a bunch of different marriage counselors, but still haven’t found one that we are both comfortable with.  I am not discouraged in the least because both of us are willing to keep trying until we find one, and I know Monica and her husband worked through their problems without counseling.

Monica recommended a program called Surviving the Affair which I have been reading through.  I like what I have read so far, so I think I am going to give it a try. I thought it might be helpful if I post updates as I work through the program. The main selling point of the program for me is being able to start working on it by myself. I wanted to work the program before I take it to my husband, but I also wanted to make sure I would get something out of it personally, so we will see how it goes.

After an Affair- My Cousin Amie

I have a pretty tight circle of friends, two of which are my cousins Alicia and Amie.  I wrote about my relationship with Alicia in a previous post.  Amie and I get along really well, but we aren’t as tight as Alicia and I used to be.

Amie’s and my husband share a lot of the same personality traits.  They both also have very strong opinions about work, and having a job.  My husband loves to work.  He takes the same pride in maintaining our lawn as he puts into his job every day.  Amie is more about building her career, but it is really easy for both of them to get caught up in their work.

Amie’s husband works, but he says, “I work to live, not live to work.”  My husband says he works with guys with the same attitude, and refers to them as “40 and done guys”.  Meaning they show up to work, do what they are supposed to, and then go home.  Amie’s husband is definitely one of those guys.

One would have to know Amie, and my husband for that matter, to understand just how strongly she feels about her work ethic.  I used to give her a hard time about her work being more like her religion until she stopped me one time, and told me I was basically right.  My husband understands that line of thinking which is probably what drove him to ask Amie and her husband how they were going to get past their differing views on work.

Looking back on it now, I find their responses very fitting.  Amie knew exactly what my husband was asking and went into this long diatribe about respecting their differences and her work ethic being a personal thing.  Her future husband, on the other hand just looked at my husband with a hurt expression on his face.   I quickly tried to point out this wasn’t an engaging topic of conversation to have at an engagement party when Amie’s fiance chimed in about not everyone working like Amie and my husband, and had he ever thought that maybe the two of them were the “un-normal” ones.  Amie said she had total faith in her new husband maintaining employment, and that was enough for her as long as he didn’t ‘overly stress her out about building her career.

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