A year later pain and triggers persist

BETRAYED HUSBAND: It has been a little bit over a year since I discovered my wife’s affair. Things are a lot different now than they were at the beginning, better in a lot of ways. But I also feel like progress has stalled. Some days, sometimes, I feel like they have possibly regressed.

Most of the time I’m content. Often my wife and I are having a good day enjoying traveling and seeing new things, or trying new foods (my favorite part of the trip). She smiles and my heart warms. She laughs and my spirit soars. We are making new memories and joyful experiences together that are wholly ours.

But then eventually out of nowhere my mind gets pulled back to dwelling on the affair. Sometimes there is a trigger in conversation, like recently. We were talking over some delicious Korean food with our friends in Seoul and after long twists and turns in the conversation they mentioned that cheating is more normal here than in the US. It seems that husbands and wives don’t see each other much because the husband works very long hours. Mention of infidelity is a pretty obvious trigger for me.

Sometimes the triggers are less obvious though. For instance, we were at the beer festival here in Seoul and I got some tacos. They were delicious, a wonderful taste of home. My wife mentions that some of the best tacos back home were at a particular place. In my head my thoughts turn sour in an instant. I have not been to the place she mentioned and don’t recognize the name. I can’t help but think this great taco place was some rendezvous she and her affair partner had. We spent nearly all of our free time together back home and so anytime she mentions something from there that I wasn’t a part of I instantly think it was some part of the affair.

My ability to handle these triggers is better than before. I can look back and see the slow (dreadfully slow) healing or at least coping. However, sometimes my mind just turns to the affair without a trigger that I can identify. This is a newer issue and one that makes me feel like I have regressed. When this happens I feel far worse than I have in many months. I often can’t find a reason to continue or care about my wife or my marriage. This has happened a few times now so I’m getting a little better but despair still takes hold of me in those moments.

Sadly, I have discovered, these dark moments have a terrible echo that affects my attitude for days. I can see several ways that my wife is changing to better fulfill my needs and comforts and it means a lot to me. When I look at myself however I don’t see that I’m doing much to address her needs. I know from our therapy and the materials we have gone through what her highest needs are but a vindictive part of me keeps me focused on the pain of the past instead of on the possible healing I could do in the present. In the end I see another opportunity pass and feel that my wife’s needs go unfulfilled.

This will persist for days after these phantom triggers. This is the biggest reason I feel that things have regressed.

I still cling to hope though I fear my grip is slipping. I don’t know the limits of my emotional endurance and I don’t know how long it takes get through this, to heal.  ‘Experts’ tend to agree that healing from an affair takes at least two years. But ultimately it seems their estimates are pinned to the ambiguous ‘it depends on the couple’ which I always hear as ‘we don’t know’. I wish this was like a physical cut. Then I would know. I would know how long takes and I would know if it was worth it.

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Dour again

BETRAYED HUSBAND:  My wife’s meditation retreat ended and after some bus travel hiccups we reunited at last.  For a few days after joining up again things were great. It was like we were freshly in love again. However, at least for me, this feeling didn’t last very long.

I don’t know really what I expected from the time apart. Maybe somehow some switch would flip and I could overlook the affair and not think of it ever again. But no. Nothing flipped. I don’t know if the time apart did much of anything except teach me one thing: I can be okay on my own but I prefer to be with someone. When we reunited we were puppy dogs again, for a bit. Looking back now I wonder if I just missed a relationship and not necessarily my wife for the individual she is.

It has been a full year since I discovered the affair. Maybe this dark anniversary has tainted my whole demeanor right now and I should take my feelings with a grain of salt. But maybe not. Maybe this is who I am now with my wife. One hour I’m seemingly content and then the next spiteful.

This dramatic mood swing happened just yesterday and I am still, 24 hours later, on the negative side of things. My bad mood was probably very obvious to my wife and I felt that I was likely bringing down her day with me. So I apologized for being in a bad mood. I know I don’t need to be sorry for my feelings, and I don’t think I was. I wasn’t really talking with her and apologizing, though disingenuous, was the easiest way to start talking again. She asked me if she had done something or if I was triggered by something. No, I wasn’t. That’s what really troubles me. There was no trigger. I was happy and then suddenly I wasn’t and all I could think about was the affair and that I’m spending all my time with someone who willful hurt me so grievously. The severity of my mood has faded since then, but for several hours I hated my wife.

I don’t know what is going to happen. I just wanted to get my thoughts and feelings out, even if they are a bit ramble-y. I do know that I don’t want a life in which half of the time I hate my wife.

 

The Parable of the Fabric Cutter

UNFAITHFUL WIFE: I was at the fabric store once when the employee who was cutting my chosen fabric and I got on the topic of television shows. I think it was The Big Bang Theory, to be exact, but I’m not sure.

It was her husband’s favorite show, she told me as she measured two yards of light blue cotton, but she never like it.

I told her I didn’t much care for the show myself.

She never watched it with him.

I couldn’t blame her. There are entire genres of television my husband watches that I don’t enjoy. I wander in and out of the room, doing laundry, washing dishes, working on some project I’ve assigned myself. Occasionally I catch a scene or two, but I never actually watch the show with him.

Her husband died three years ago. She breaks this news to me as she prints the barcodes for my purchases. She hands me the neatly folded pile of fabrics.

It’s now her favorite show. It reminds her of him.

This happened a few months before we started this journey, but it’s stuck with me.

Maybe, I think, she was a prophet. Maybe this is a parable.

Together

UNFAITHFUL WIFE: We, my husband and I, have spent the last five days trapped in a fairy-tale land with no internet. I read three books. We walked through magical forests to overlook meadow and pastures and villages all set against a backdrop of castle-dotted mountains.

As we walk my husband invents stories of elves and orcs and dwarves. I enjoy his tales, but I also think they highlight some of our differences.

My husband and I have few common interests. At first I thought this was a good thing. My initial reaction to couples who are undyingly interested in the same things is revulsion. Blech. I love interacting with people who are wholly different from me. I believe it makes me a more compassionate person, but in marriage, I have found, it poses some challenges.

I think the distance started to grow while we were working a seasonal job in Maine. I love hiking, and my favorite time for it is just as the sun comes up. During the summer in Maine, the sun rises far earlier than it does where we were from, and I wanted to be there to greet it. My husband, however, likes to rise at a reasonable hour no matter what the sun is doing. So I got in the habit of leaving him, snugly asleep in our bed, so I could wander the Maine wilderness.

Later, when we settled for a spell, I continued the same habit. There were other things, though. My husband, for example, likes games. He grew up playing Dungeons ad Dragons or Magic: The Gathering. He also enjoys a range of board games. I do not. For me, they may as well be called bored games, but I don’t want to discourage my husband from playing. So, when the opportunity arose, I would encourage him to go play…without me. Likewise, events would come around that interested me, not him. At first, I would take him with me, but I couldn’t enjoy myself with him there not enjoying himself. So I stopped taking him. It was so much easier.

At first things seemed great. We were an independent and modern couple, but eventually we became less of a couple and more like roommates. We shared a bed but, at times, not much else. I really think this helped lead to my affair.

On this world trip we are with each other constantly, but, I’ll admit, I am afraid of what will happen when we get back to the real world. I am still grossed out by those we-share-everything couples, and sometimes I would like to just walk out the door without telling anyone where I’m going. I do have some plans in place, though. For one, next time a game night presents itself I am going to play some board games. I am also going try to choose a few things that I really really (pretty please with sugar on top) want to do and invite him to do them with me. I don’t know how far that will get us, but it’s a start.

Forge Thyself

BETRAYED HUSBAND: I have recently been through a horrific roller-coaster of emotions. In Paris things got bad, real bad. It was probably the darkest time for me so far in all of this. I’m not entirely sure why things there were so bad. Every little thing that went wrong just sent me over the edge. I was expecting April in Paris to be sunny and full of bright flowers but instead the weather was horrible almost every single day. I was expecting the Metro system to be easy but at times I felt I got around China’s metro with less complications. Did you know that in Paris there are numerous Metro entrances in which you can not purchase tickets? Neither did I. Why would you even make an entrance without a ticket purchase machine? I was expecting us to have some romantic moments in the fabled city of love but instead all I could think about was the affair.

In Brussels things got a little better. The sun was shining and warm. We drank good beer and ate delicious chocolate and waffles. I didn’t think about the affair every hour of the day. I’m not sure why things had gotten better. I’d like to think it was because something in me changed.

Now we are in England just outside of London in Windsor. It has been raining for three days, typical English weather, but it hasn’t killed my mood. There have been unforeseen complications in our tourist plans, but that hasn’t killed my mood either. Did you know that even though Windsor is significantly closer to Stonehenge than London you still need to go into London for a Stonehenge tour bus? Doesn’t make sense to me but that’s the way it is. Many of the things that sent me spiraling over the edge in Paris aren’t doing so anymore.

I use to pray often, but I haven’t prayed much since Discovery. I did pray a little in Paris at the end. I think this small act helped me turn around. God didn’t speak to me and answer all my questions. But in my questioning I believe that He led me to an answer. I came to a conclusion that I should be the man and husband that I want to be, not because my wife deserves it but because I do. I want to look in the mirror and see the person I have always known I could be.

To this end I have been trying to progress in little ways. It isn’t easy or quick but it is right and it feels good, even noble. I have been purposeful in sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife, even when they cause immediate (but temporary) distress. I have been trying to be more active in our daily duties and travel planning. I have been trying to turn up the romance. I have been more conscious about eating healthily and exercising.

None of these things come easy and it is very difficult to continue forward when I hit an obstacle. I run into obstacles every day. I have a high need for touch in a relationship but my wife has zero need, so often my need goes unmet. The weather doesn’t always cooperate so going on a walk is often uninviting. Fast food is quick, easy, and cheap so being healthy is often tricky. Sharing emotions and being vulnerable with someone who has hurt me so massively is incredibly scary so I often stay silent.

But each day, in tiny ways, I forge myself into the man I want to be.

Unwanted

UNFAITHFUL WIFE: As I sat there on that grassy hill in Jerusalem watching the sun go down I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing there. Why was I sitting here on a date with someone who doesn’t want me?

While we were in India, my husband had told me that he sometimes hates me. He finds me undesirable and disgusting. That is completely understandable considering what I have done to him, but on this date I began to wonder why I was here. We don’t have children. I am perfectly capable of finding a job and taking care of myself. I have to find a job after this trip anyways; I would just be doing it sooner if I left. And I’m not worried about not finding another man. I’m only 29 years old, reasonably good-looking, fairly smart, kind of funny. There are plenty of men who would whole-heartedly love to be on a date with me. Just not my husband.

Don’t worry. I’m not giving up on us based on one bad date.

I do have to absorb this blow to my confidence, though. I feel unwanted and undesirable. In a normal situation it wouldn’t have hit me so hard, but on a date those feelings are magnified.

My husband says that is silly. A date is just a label, nothing more, but to me it feels like something more. It is a time that I had specifically planned for us to enjoy each others company, for us to make each other feel wanted. So to feel unwanted during that time, for me, is worse than feeling unwanted when we’re just, say, lounging around the house.

Maybe it is silly. Either way, today I feel disgusting. Unwanted. Unworthy. Undesirable. Unforgiven. That is the mantra that is playing on repeat in my head to day. It echoes with every step I take. Unwanted. Unworthy. Undesirable. Unforgiven.

 

Good Days and Bad Days

Good Days

BETRAYED HUSBAND: It may surprise you to learn that even though we are going through the pain of an affair we still love each other and have good days. Since we are traveling the world right now it might be a little easier to have good days than for most people. For instance just the other day we were in Bali and had the near perfect vacation day. We walked along the beach, talked, laughed, ate delicious cheap food, sat and watched the surf, had tasty drinks, and even had sex (yes sex will happen again after an affair).

Please don’t think that you can only have good days if you go on vacation. There are plenty of good days for you wherever you are. Before we left on our trip we had some good days too. Nice dinner, conversation, working together around the house. In fact, taking a little time to remember some good moments each week is a key of recovery. We are in a recovery support group and each meeting starts with ‘Highs and Lows’.

The farther along I get in recovery the more good days I seem to have. But I’m pretty sure I can only have these good days because I was able to forgive my wife. Forgiveness is a whole other issue but is probably the most fundamental step for recovery.

Bad Days

Even though I have forgiven my wife and we are working towards healing, even though we are traveling around the world and seeing amazing sights, even though we are living out a life goal there are still bad days. Some days I just wake up with the dark cloud of the betrayal. Maybe I had a particular bad dream, maybe not. Or sometimes in the silent moments of the day my thoughts wander. Or sometimes I see something and it sets off triggers. During these days I try to act normal but I know that my wife can sense my attitude. Eventually in my self-pity I remember that I have to choose recovery and healing, that I have the power to control my response. I try to remind myself of good things instead of the bad. It can be hard. Try not to think of something once you have started. On the real bad days I can’t get dark thoughts out of my head. It is important not to make rash decisions on these bad days.

It is also important to remember that one bad day every now and then is normal. The road to recovery has ups and downs but ultimately the path goes on getting ever closer to the goal.