When July 8th 2015 rolled around and I was faced with the very real reality that my husband was indeed having an affair, I didn’t know the depths of it at the time. It went much longer and stronger than I knew and we were all entangled in this massive web of infidelity and deceit.
Immediately I felt like a victim and like it was an injustice. I didn’t just feel cheated on, I felt cheated and rightly so. I wasn’t ok! I remember the DAYS of crying and not being able to pull myself together. I remember drinking smoothies, because food wasn’t even an option, though alcohol was. It became a pretty close bedtime friend to be honest. I was a MESS!!! I was done wrong, I was angry, and I was justified in all of this, well I felt like I was at the time; but I soon realized this was not going to work!! This was the way to death, maybe not physically, but in other ways; I would not be able to maintain this victim status without something within me going to the grave. It was going to drag me into pits I couldn’t escape. My victim status nearly made me call her husband who wanted to bond over this and allow him to comfort me and me him, that would not have been safe!
My victim status wanted to make someone pay. I had vengeful fantasies that played out in my head and the toxic groups I was in just fed those thoughts with more and more people that had uncontrollable anger and emotions telling me what I SHOULD do. I got out of those pretty quickly!! Support groups aren’t all equal and some people shouldn’t be giving advice, but it is what it is. This wasn’t support, it was a bunch of people that were hurting doing their best to survive each day and spewing pain. I knew it was not something I could stay in and be better for it. The right community is crucial when it comes to recovery. I had to find a positive place to learn and be supported in the aftermath of my life blowing up. It wasn’t long after her husband busted down the walls of lies with the full truth that my husband said he wanted me and wanted to find a way to fix this. I was scared and had no idea how we would do that. Forgiveness was a foreign concept and nowhere on the table. I didn’t WANT to forgive and the idea was not even possible to me at the time. I was in the worst pain of my life and nothing seemed to help. It was excruciating! I know how you all are feeling, because I thought it would never end; but it did.
As I surrounded myself with the new support and community I created in Nov. 2015; I became educated and empowered about how I was going to get through this. I say THROUGH for a reason. You don’t get past infidelity recovery and heal…you go through it and it’s a doozie!! It’s the most lonely place with disenfranchised grief and that makes it so easy to fall into a victim mentality. It is understandable that one would easily yield to those feelings and resort to a life of bitterness, contempt, and anger; but it’s not the only way. Any of us that have been there will tell you that we felt exactly the same. The hopelessness alone is enough to drag you into a deep bottomless pit of despair. So how do you avoid going there? How to you circumvent the rabbit holes that are waiting for you to fall into? How do you not only survive, but thrive? It’s not easy, but being a victim will only keep you stuck. I’ll share some things that helped me and many I know to get through this and on the other side. I hope it helps you to rise above and become victorious.
A Victim is defined as one that is injured, destroyed, or sacrificed under any of various conditions. As a previous betrayed spouse, I believe all of these things happened to me and I’m sure you feel the same. I was injured, destroyed, and sacrificed as a result of my husband’s choices. Well, the previous me was. I am not that person anymore. This has fundamentally changed my life, my views, my awareness, and our Marriage. We did survive this, but our old Marriage had to die, that was the casualty of this war. That sounds very grim, but in our case this shattered our marriage into shards of brokenness and there was no way to put those pieces back together. We had to start brand new.
Speaking of starting brand new…it was early Sept. 2015 and we were in our therapist’s office. I had just learned that my husband was in a double life/split self love affair with his high school girlfriend for the previous 3 years and I was angry. We usually sat side by side in her office, or at least we had since the first d-day when I found out that they were having an emotional affair and he said they had sex once, but I didn’t know everything yet. Anyways, this particular day we were sitting on separate ends of the couch and my arms were folded in absolute disgust at what he was capable of doing. I had a right to be mad! Call it righteous indignation or whatever you want, but I was furious!! Our therapist isn’t one of those who say forget about the past. She always helped me work through my past issues and move forward. She entered the room and noticed right away that something was wrong (obviously) and once I told her, she ask my husband what he desired and if he was ready to prove to me that he was choosing me. He was remorseful and broken and said yes, I want to fix what I’ve done and give her the world. I couldn’t hear that though and how was I to believe it? The next words she said ring in my ears every single day since that cool September morning. “If you want to save this Marriage it will take starting each day brand new.” All of the sudden something changed in my heart and I thought about that in its reality. Brand new? Like a clean slate? That means all of my shortcomings go too, that means we get the new start I have wished for since I can’t remember how long. Did this reset the clock? Did this act of betrayal and deception have the power to make things new? Wow! What a concept!! This day will forever be a day I remember, because this was the day that started to transform me as a person and the way I saw the world.
Brand New is defined as conspicuously new and unused or recently introduced. This definition certainly intrigued me! If we start brand new, it would be like dating again and like my husband wasn’t used goods from his past or recent present. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but he’s the only man I’ve ever been with in that way and it was a harsh reality that my health and my sexual history had now increased and it wasn’t even my doing. That’s not to upset anyone, but it’s true that these things are so risky like that. Anyways, unused and recently introduced was an interesting thought. I had been studying Limerence and around this time we were HEAVILY HYSTERICALLY BONDING, so the chemicals were there that made this feel new, fresh, fun, and exciting. I know that’s crazy given what I had just learned, but I never want him more in an animalistic kind of way. If you have experienced this, you understand what I’m saying, but it doesn’t last forever. However, I can tell you that right now at 4.5 years after d-day; I believe we have tapped into an intimacy that has made this feeling re-emerge with a deep love that is not fleeting. Our marriage is absolutely amazing and nothing I could have ever dreamt of. Starting brand new was hard at first. Intrusive thoughts and triggers made it nearly impossible, but I kept fighting everyday to move forward and decided not make him pay. I did get trauma therapy when it all became too much. I didn’t really understand forgiveness then, but I knew I didn’t want to use this as a weapon. I can’t say I never did that, but it was not in my heart to do so. Sometimes you open your mouth and things just fly! We have all been there I’m sure.
Starting Brand New: This takes a mind shift and a heart shift. This was not saying that I never talked about the affair or asked questions, but it was a commitment to let everyday be new. So, I didn’t take everything from the previous day into the next day. I processed, screamed, cried and dealt with it day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment in each brand new day. This wasn’t me leaving the entire past behind, but it was understanding that to move forward; I slowly had to let the past go through baby steps. It is not healthy to suppress or not talk about what happened and if the unfaithful spouse requires that; they should ask themselves what they would do if they were you? It’s something no one can fathom until they have experienced it. It’s not that easy!! Empathy is literally putting yourself in your hurt spouse’s shoes and doing what is in their best interest, not yours. If it bothers you to talk about it, it’s likely a shame problem and I would recommend an expert to help you with that; but don’t try to control your spouses informational intake and keep things hidden. Secrets are how you got into this mess and secrets, deception, lies, and omissions will keep you in it! Total transparency, accountability, and a commitment to being honest and safe is the way forward. This will set you free!! What is in the darkness, MUST be exposed completely if you want a real shot at surviving infidelity without separation or divorce. Starting brand new doesn’t mean things don’t have to be dealt with, it’s a chance at a possible clean slate and I believe a lot of people on both sides want that, but the clean slate isn’t going to be right away…it’s a gradual clean slate. It takes the unfaithful spouse providing consistent safety over time and proving themselves to the betrayed spouse. It takes the betrayed spouse understanding that as long as the unfaithful has severed ties and I mean ALL ties to the affair partner and paid what Marriage Builders call Just Compensation, to make them continue to pay is futile and won’t get you very far. They must be in recovery of course and working toward becoming a new man or woman and being safe. Otherwise, starting brand new will just end up setting you back each time there is a betrayal. Unfortunately, it is common for there to be more betrayal if there are still secrets. Samuel at Affair Recovery speaks of Healthy Distrust and I totally agree it’s crucial in the first year especially until the healthy spouse emerges, it’s completely normal to have very tight boundaries and live a little more restricted than normal. This isn’t forever, but it is important if you want to get to BRAND NEW!
Just Compensation- Dr. Harley at Marriage Builders says Infidelity is something that requires just compensation. There has to be a “payment” to the betrayed spouse and that is fully ending the affair with no contact and a commitment to rigorous honesty. Rigorous Honesty is defined as telling the truth when it’s easier to lie and sharing thoughts and feelings even when there may be consequences. This is often fear based and it can even be because of long term patterns of deceptive behavior, but to be a safe spouse to reconcile with; you must be more honest than you’ve ever been. Just Compensation was something that made so much sense to me. I wrote this the day I discovered that term in those early days:
I truly believe that the truth makes you free, but first it may piss you off.
For me when all the walls were down and I felt like I had the full ground zero disclosure;I made a choice that I would accept that was all and not dig further. Here is how I came to that decision:
Is my husband a bad man or a good man who did bad things? Joe Beam at Marriage Helper asks this. Good men sometimes do bad things, women too, speaking of mankind. My husband is a good man, who did really terrible things.
Is he saying sorry just to make himself feel better? What is his motive? My husband was broken and remorseful and wanted me.
How can I withhold love and forgiveness from a man who has said he wants to give me the world? This is what he was saying as this new man started to emerge and be honest and transparent.
My conclusion after I took an honest look at everything:
There is a point where you have seen everything you need to see and have heard everything you need to hear. Nothing you discover or obsess about will do anything else for you. At that time, you have to decide to forgive and stop the pain shopping, damming emotions, investigating, and numbing. When you do this, it will hurt, because you are taking the high road. The high road is steep, it’s not an easy road and it’s less traveled. I decided that my husband was worthy of forgiveness and happiness. He deserved a second chance, because he decided to stay and pay just compensation by ending everything and choosing me and our family. If I continued to make him pay everyday, he would not have anything left to give me. He would be in debt to me forever and he would never be able to repay it, therefore we would NEVER heal.
Once I grasped that and gave him unconditional agape love and he provided safety for me…over time with consistent and competent safety, accountability, and transparency; and rigorous honesty, some trust and security has been restored. Blind trust is not as easy, but verifiable trust is a compromise I can make right now. He has been safe, competent, and faithful for nearly 5 years, so it’s a little easier now than when I first found out.
It was not a quick process and took years to get where we are, but I truly believe the deception is gone and we were able to start brand new and now have a marriage that is better than ever. Just Compensation was the price paid for this new possibility in our lives; without it there would still be a debt owed. This also helped me feel victorious, because I no longer carry around a bag of things to throw at him anytime there is an opportunity. I got to forgiveness for him in the first year and her in year 3 through a lot of work and supernatural help!
The most essential thing I believe that helped me to avoid staying a victim was surrounding myself with people that had a like mind. My community of other betrayed spouses were as determined as I was to not let this define them, bring them down, or keep them stuck forever. We were a small group of betrayed spouses that wanted the same outcome and wanted it in a positive non-toxic way. We wanted our marriages to be restored and desired reconciliation (most of our spouses did too). That made all of the difference!! We needed each other, we supported each other, and at times we told the honest truth to each other. It was the best group ever! Most of the people in that group are healed and in restored marriages 4 years later. It’s amazing to me how positivity can do that. I’ve been around the negative groups of hurting people and I get it, but it wasn’t for me. To avoid becoming a victim I needed a new set of birds, since birds of a feather flock together. This group facilitated a healthy healing environment that was free of anyone or anything that came against our goal. We were exclusive, because we were the remnant of those willing to do the things that needed to be done to be victorious. This group still exists, but nearly everyone has moved forward in their Brand New marriages and lives and are thriving, so we don’t need each other as much; but they are like family and will always be!! They were the game changers in my recovery and the reason that I was victorious and didn’t yield to being a victim which would gave been so much easier at times. They held me and each other accountable in the weak moments and in those pity party times, we pulled each other out of the pit of despair and hopelessness. This is what everyone needs and I hope you find it!
Moving from Victim to Victorious is a process and takes a strong determination to just not let yourself have that mentality. You can rise above this, I have seen so many people do it!! Betrayed spouses can heal and unfaithful souses can get healthy; but you have to want that BRAND NEW SLATE more than anything in the world and work hard for it. Trust me, it doesn’t come easy, but it is attainable and all it takes is saying I will not be a victim and I am an overcomer then live like one everyday!!
Infidelity Recovery Coaching with Coach Kimberly