Adultry, affair recovery, betrayal, cheating, Commentary, dating, Forgiveness, heartbreak, infidelity, love, marriage, men, philosophy, psychology of relationships, Rants, recovering from an affair, relationships, self reflection, sexuality, trust, women
Yesterday while documenting another chapter of my story I ended my entry with a statement that said something like, that was a choice that the betrayer alone held. I’ve thought a lot about my struggle to heal more quickly and my difficulty with coming to terms with my partner’s choice to have affairs. I also realize that the statement sounds like a blame statement. I guess it could be. But I’d like to explore the thought. Maybe I can reach a better understanding of what I’m feeling. If someone who has committed adultery stumbles upon my entry, maybe if nothing else it might help them to understand some of the feelings involved as their partner tries to heal and move on.
I was discussing that both partners have choices. We made them everyday. We could have done things differently. Both of us. We could have been better or stronger. Both of us. Choice has always been a factor. It’s always in our control. To that point I agree with the concept that both the betrayer and the betrayed have played a part in what led to the infidelity. I’ve heard some refer to affairs as a symptom of the bad relationship. I respect that view but I don’t agree with it. An affair is an action. A result. A choice. It doesn’t have to happen. There are choices available. A partner can reach out to the other and tell them they are unhappy. You can leave your partner if you are unhappy. You can seek outside help if you are unhappy. You can choose to be silent and not speak about your needs. You can choose to ignore your partners needs or your partner can choose not to tell you what they need. You can choose to engage in the fights or submit to the growing sense of indifference. We all made choices. That is a fact. We all acted on our choices. By withdrawing, by lashing out, by nagging or lecturing, by turning blind eyes and deaf ears, by mixing up priorities. What ever it was, how ever each of us have acted in our lives, we have made choices and acted on them. In the case of infidelity… one of us chose to pursue another body, another mind and soul in place of their partner. At that point. That exact point. It feels to me like it is no longer fair to blame the betrayed partner for your actions. At that exact point, it FEELS to me like the person who has betrayed their love and commitment must take full responsibility for the choice. There is no but. There is no “I accept responsibility BUT you were partly to blame in this.” “I was wrong BUT you were wrong too.” There is no but. Own it.
Why do I believe this? 1. Because I feel it. Because I’m in the middle of the pain it has caused. Because I’m the one being asked to forgive and understand. 2. Because in most of what I have read about recovery, real recovery is not completed, in some cases not even possible, until the person who has had the affair/s fully takes responsibility for their choice. Until they show honest remorse for their choices rather than justifying and rationalizing their choices. And until they understand the pain they have created. Any sane person can understand there is pain involved when affairs happen. Sympathy is one thing. Comprehension is one thing. EMPATHY is an entirely different thing. When you are trying to heal from this kind of betrayal you need to feel that your wayward partner FEELS EMPATHY. Demonstrates EMPATHY. That they have stopped rationalizing, stopped negotiating, stopped justifying their actions as results of or symptoms of your “bad relationship” and reminding you that you are partly to blame for what they have done. Empathy means getting into the shoes, the skin, of the person you love and understanding how it feels to be there in that place when you have been shattered.
There is a time to work on what your individual needs are and how they can be met. There is a time for the betrayed partner to also take responsibility for the ways they didn’t meet the needs of their partner or the ways they’ve hurt or distanced their partner with their words or actions. That will be critical. He or she must understand that the ways they have failed their partners emotional needs has to be fixed. Not because they have to do it to keep them from cheating again, but because they love their partner and they are want to own their part of the relationship. They want to meet the needs of the person they love. All of that is critical yes, but it comes later. If it’s to be REAL progress and healing, real relationship rebuilding, it comes later. It comes when the person who has been crushed has healed enough (not necessarily completely but enough) that they feel safe. They feel hope in a future. They feel desire to learn to trust again.
When the betrayed feels that their partner continues to justify their behavior by telling themselves that their partners were not being enough for them, not meeting their needs, then the pain is not going to go away. The trust can’t be rebuilt. We will forever question what our next mistakes might be and whether/when it will lead our partners back into someone else’s bed. Until our partners recognize their affairs as a choice they made and we can feel that they regret that choice, that they choose to fight for us now and renounce every other choice they have made, then healing is never going to be complete. There’ll always remain a pocket of doubt in the center of our guts and the depths of our hearts and the back of our minds. Healing requires repentance we can feel and believe.
Now please take note of this this part…. because it’s important. It’s something many of our betrayed partners just DONT UNDERSTAND! For most of us, it’s not about revenge, it’s not about blame, it’s not about making our partners out to be horrible human beings. It’s not about an inability to let it go. It’s not about wanting to make them pay for it. It’s not about dwelling in the past. It’s not about refusing to accept our part in a relationship that was not whole and complete. The betrayer can turn it into all of those things and lable it in their frustration with our healing process and our timeline but it’s about none of those! I’m sorry, but those are things they perceive, things they create and hang on us, as they try to deal with their own guilt and their own desires to just move on. In a sense, when they take this position of move on and don’t dwell and you’re partly to blame anyway, and I said I was sorry already how many times do we have to go through this?… when they take this position they continue to make it about them. It’s a very selfish position to take. It’s a very hard line to take considering the circumstances.
Here’s what it’s really about. It’s about certainty. It’s about complete belief that our betrayers regret their actions. Not that they are sorry now, after the fact. After being caught. Not that they are sorry.. but. No, it’s about full and total belief that our wayward ones REGRET their choices. They feel deep remorse for them. They understand our pain. They can imagine their own pain if the tables were turned. And they are committed to helping us heal so that together we can learn to heal the ailments in our relationship and create something better.
We have to feel CHOSEN. Not just because of family. Not for reputation. Not for a sense of security. Not out of obligation or guilt. Not because the affair partner left or failed your expectations. Not because you got caught. CHOSEN. Because you want us and you regret your actions. If you can’t feel remorse, can’t live that, can’t face our pain, then we can’t heal. You can tell us we need to move on. Get focused. And we will try. We can try awfully damned hard. We can try because we don’t want to leave. We can try because we’re afraid to let go or ashamed to be divorced or because there are children involved. Yes, the hurt partner will try for a million different reasons. We may even move forward, try to improve things and be better wives and husbands for you, but we won’t completely heal. That pocket of conflicted emotions and hurt will remain inside of us, buried and hidden while we try to meet your needs and hold on to our relationship. BUT you can be certain it will surface again one day no matter how hard we try to suppress it.
If a betrayer truly wants their marriage or relationship to be saved they have to be able to gain this understanding and honestly feel and express the remorse. Faking it’s always an option but I’m guessing not many of us who have been hurt will really feel it if you try faking it. If you can’t reach this place, if you insist that the betrayed partner take part of the blame at this moment, then maybe you should question why you are still in the marriage or relationship. Is it really for love or is it for some other logical reason you’ve established? If you don’t love your partner enough to accept that you made a choice to share yourself with another on an intimate level and that your partner had no choice, no part of making or stopping that decision in the moment you chose to act on it, then you are nowhere near being able to meet his or her healing needs or rebuilding your relationship. This doesn’t mean that rehashing and being stuck in it 24/7 is healthy. I’m not talking about those extremes here. I’m talking about the normal triggers that occur daily and can still appear up to 18-24 months later, I’m talking about the persistent questions that haunt the betrayed partner, and the time it takes to mourn the loss of what we believed or trusted and the time it takes to trust that the reformation our wayward partners claim is real and safe enough to build trust in again. EVERY ONE of those things is documented as normal in the healing process. Millions of people through out time, all experience the same stages, the same emotions, the same doubts, and the same needs, when trying to heal from an affair. The wayward partner has needs too and I acknowledge that, but they will never be met, never truly met, until they recognize the needs of the hurt spouse and their role in healing so that they CAN move on and CAN meet the needs of each other.
In my wayward’s recovery program they focused very heavily on this exact topic. The affair fog, the ways that people justify affairs, the ways they create things in their mind about the other person and pick out their flaws, and blame them for what’s lacking in their life and they say one thing…. Your partner has never been the problem, your partner reveals the problem inside of you that caused the affair. Whether you needed validation or ego boosting or thrill or something else entirely. Those things were inside of you. Part of you. They were not created by your partner and if your partner didn’t fill those needs 1) you should first evaluate what the need was and whether it is healthy or realistic 2) if it is a valid healthy need then recognize there were other choices that could have been made to have them filled. I think he gets this. He has talked to me about it in depth. He had told me the things he was thinking about me, and the ways he was blaming me. He even told me all the weird little stories he had made up in his mind about how I was plotting to leave him, or how I was using him, or his anger when I didn’t answer the phone quickly enough or respond to a text quickly enough. He can talk about that now and he can say I don’t know where all that crazy shit came from. I was being stupid. I was doing everything I had to, to assure that cheating was justified. Yes, I think he gets it. I also think he feels remorse. I don’t yet think he understands the depth of my pain but I think he’s trying and I think it will come.
We’re good on those counts. Where we’ve faltered is in patience and empathy. He’s trying so very hard but he has deep needs for validation. Wants my respect back. To be forgiven and start over. He knows it takes time. He knows from his classes and counseling that 24 months isn’t unusual and is the average amount of time it takes the hurt partner to believe that their partner had done the required work, shown a commitment to healing that it takes to start building trust and a new relationship. He knows this and accepts it logically, but emotionally he wants it to be done! He wants to get to the rebuilding part, get married, be on with our life. He doesn’t fully understand the death taking place inside of me. I say death because the realization that your life was a lie, broken and poisoned and changed forever is a process of letting go. It’s like mourning the death of a close relative or friend. It’s parts of you, who you were or thought you were, having to be let go. I watched a documentary a few weeks back. The psychologist doing it said that infidelity is for most people the worst, most painful experience they will ever encounter. When surveyed most betrayed spouses said they would rather face the death of a relative, their house burning down or financial ruin. All of those things are terrible things to go through. Yet they believed that none of them would be as hard, or hurt as long as dealing with infidelity. Our wayward partners don’t always get that. They want so much to move on and be forgiven. If they have chosen to remain in the relationship then it seems to them that it should be just as easy for us to choose that and just move on. If we express that we want to make this relationship work then in their mind we should just be able to do so. What’s the problem?
The irony here is that those of us crushed by the choices our partners have made, actually want the same thing. We want to move on and be happy. WANT the pain to end. WANT the images to stop. WANT to stop hearing the conversations and hurtful things in our heads. We want to believe in our partners and experience intimacy. Yep, it’s true! It’s a fact Jack! We want all of those things intensely, but there is no logic that can control the process of healing. Do you think we enjoy this? And you telling us we need to just move on, get over it, accept part of the blame…well sorry, it just doesn’t work that way. We have to mourn that death, have answers to the questions in our heads. We have to go through it stage by stage, and we need a partner who gets it. Who shows remorse, then shows understanding and patience, someone strong enough to hold on, someone who loves us enough to fight for us. And with time, with each day, we will find ourselves nearer and nearer to that place where we can own our part of the relationship, open our hearts to trust again, and give our hearts back to our waywards. So now it’s my turn to speak for betrayed partners everywhere. YOU Get over it, get over yourselves long enough to put down your justifications and do what you need to do to help heal the pain and pave the way. And then a time will come when we meet you in the center and give you everything we have. Healed and strong and ready to passionately meet all your needs and more in a new and better journey!!
These of course are my own opinions and feelings and I understand that not everyone will agree with them, and that everyone and every relationship is different.
Though my wayward knows I’m blogging he has no idea who I’m blogging as and hasn’t read what I have written. I need it to be that way so that I can sort this freekin mess out in my brain. So I can rant and cry and yes even rejoice in our small victories as we stumble through this alien land. The intensity of what I write would probably shake him badly. I wish it were another way and I didn’t have to blog my way through it. To my wayward…… I’m sorry if my healing is not fast enough for you……. But I’m trying. And I love you..