….these are the main ingredients for what I need to do in order to heal and move forward after my husband’s affair. In order for me to be able to let go of the anger and hurt and confusion of it all, I need to have a better approach to dealing with it.
I have done A LOT of research these past few weeks since my last meltdown. I had a brief regression after being triggered left and right and all at once. I decided that I have had enough, I no longer want to feel so overwhelmed with memories/details of his affair and D-day. I don’t want to regress anymore; I want to be able to keep myself under control at all times and be able to deal with issues reasonably. I don’t want to get angry and argue with him over problems in our relationship.
I know I have to forgive, but I just can’t seem to get over this hump. I have not figured out how to be vulnerable and trust that he won’t hurt me. This is the biggest thing that caused my behaviors in our marriage that eventually caused distance, and ultimately an affair. I have always been so afraid of being abandoned and hurt by someone that I love. I was afraid that I might be deceived and hurt along the way after giving my all to a relationship. This is why I waited until I was in my late 20s to marry. I had to make sure that this wasn’t likely to happen…or ever going to happen. Even though I felt fairly safe, my toxic thinking got the best of me. And I allowed it to consume me more and more over time. I let it convince me that maybe Mike really didn’t love me and he really wasn’t attracted to me and that he was probably hoping to find someone even better, all the while dragging me along until she came along. I feared being dropped like a bad habit.
My anxiety became progressively worse, but I never let anyone else see it. Of course I didn’t because then that would require vulnerability and I wasn’t opening the door to let someone hurt me with my “permission.” I wasn’t going to allow someone to see me exposed…to see my weaknesses. So I certainly wasn’t going to provide them with the opportunity to get the best of me.
And because of my toxic thinking, it drove a wedge between myself and my husband. I put up protective armor and was always on defense. If we argued, it was more about presenting facts of the matter instead of expressing what I was really feeling. Our arguments became less productive and more destructive. Eventually, we just wound up being very hurtful with our words towards each other and our agendas were to protect ourselves in order to maintain a sense of control.
This was my way of sabotaging the relationship. I make myself the most unpleasant person to be around so that there is at least good reason for him to leave me or hurt me. Sounds twisted, I know. But, if I am good and doing what I am supposed to be as a wife and mother and something like an affair happens, I think it would be much more damaging to my sense of self and I’d be left dealing with it without a back-up plan. I’d probably feel despondent.
The thing that I have come to realize is that even if I’m guarded or not, it all still hurts the same. Even if I expected it and waited for it, it didn’t hurt any less. I still crumbled into a million pieces.
As one site says:
“Relationships of depth require vulnerability. Vulnerability signifies the risk of getting hurt. The emotionally guarded raise their shields to protect against exposing their vulnerabilities. They are afraid that by releasing them they will be humiliated. They are guarding against emotional intimacy. A relationship cannot be sustained without emotional intimacy.”
So if I am bad, then I deserve to be hurt; I brought it on myself. If I am good, then I don’t deserve to be and anything against that would excuse me from any kind of responsibility for how someone treats me in a relationship. This thinking is wrong in so many ways. No one deserves to be hurt, but sometimes it happens including to the best of people. I have to have expectations for my partner and for myself. I have to give respect and love and expect those in return. I can’t live my life as I have been because it just. isn’t. working. I can’t demand intimacy and hold a shield up whenever he gets close. This is where having an understanding of what having compassion means.
“Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer combined with feelings of sympathetic concern. Compassion is not pity, agreement, or a waiving of your rights. You can have compassion for people who’ve wronged you while also insisting that they treat you better.”
That last statement is the one that sunk in with me. It also means forgiveness. Having compassion when someone has done you wrong means that you react with dignity and integrity and understanding. You don’t retaliate or scold them for what they’ve done to you. You tell them what you need from them in order to heal. Learning to forgive will help move you forward.
I understand all of this. I get it, really. The problem I have is how to be vulnerable.
“Intimacy requires feeling your insecurities and the painful emotions they elicit. All painful emotions are based in fear. The fear of getting hurt or humiliated can sometimes take control of one’s life.”
I need to take back control of my life. The other day, I practiced being vulnerable. I recognized in the moment that I wanted to buck up and be on the defense, so I relaxed and talked through the conversation without wanting to argue and without fear of being hurt. But I didn’t feel ANYTHING. I wasn’t numb, just empty of emotion. Is that normal? Is that how being vulnerable feels? If so, why have I been so afraid all these years?? It just didn’t feel right. I felt like I should have felt insecure. When the conversation was over, I didn’t feel a huge amount of relief after exposing myself.
Maybe I am more secure than I give myself credit for. Maybe being vulnerable isn’t as scary as I always believed.
The only thing now is that all these years I have been so guarded and worried about being hurt by my husband and now I know he would hurt me. He would do something to cause heavy pain. But he didn’t wake up and decide that that was his goal for the day. Over time, I helped to set up our relationship so that it could be vulnerable to an affair. It’s almost as if I wanted it to happen so I could get it over with and be done with it. The only time I should have fear that he will make the decision to have an affair again is if I am helping to create an unhealthy relationship; if I regress back to these behaviors of wanting to sabotage. If I am not allowing myself to be vulnerable so that I can learn to trust him and feel secure and safe in our relationship. If I am not fulfilling his needs.
Living transparently is vital in a marriage and any relationship. Secrets keep you sick. They erode away the foundation that your relationship is built on and over time, they will destroy the trust you have gained with your significant other. This is very damaging so you must commit to being open and honest in every way in your relationship. You must allow your spouse the ability to see right through you.
We’ve already established how important emotional intimacy is in a relationship. Having that means that you are comfortable sharing your innermost desires and dreams with your spouse. You share your fears and trust that they will be a safety net for you to help you overcome any obstacles. This applies to both spouses. At the same time, you must respect that your spouse still needs privacy in order to feel balanced. This doesn’t mean living in fear that they may be hiding something from you. It means trusting yourself enough that you can give them the space they need without falling apart from not knowing everything they’re doing behind closed doors. (Hello, co-dependency!)
I strongly believe that communication is key in any relationship. If you stop talking, then you should worry because your emotional intimacy will suffer and you will begin to grow distant from one another. You will begin to avoid asking for what you need and you will eventually become susceptible to an affair or divorce when most of the time it could simply have been avoided just by talking to each other.
Most importantly, you have to remember why you are with each other in the first place. This isn’t a partnership. You formed this relationship out of something much stronger than the fact that you were simply compatible with each other.
Oh boy! Have I addressed this topic a lot?!
It has been extremely difficult for me to wrap my mind around being able to forgive my husband for his affair. But it really isn’t about just what he did. It is about evaluating the deterioration of our marriage as a whole and seeing the bigger picture in things.
Those of us BSes who are dealing with life after an affair HAVE to look at our role as well in order to be able to fully repair the problem areas in our marriage. If not, then we should expect more affairs or divorce. That’s just inevitable. We can’t move forward without recognizing that we, too, were a part of the problem.
So, until I was able to acknowledge this for myself, there was no way we were going anywhere in our recovery. I had to begin to forgive myself for my behavior prior to the affair as well. I had to learn how to let go of the pain that I felt for the hurtful things I had said to him. I had to let go of the anger my fear caused and learn to change my pattern in relationships and within myself. I’ve had to change my thinking and address a lot of character defects. I am not done by any means. I still have a lot of improving to do, but I am well on my way to getting better. I have accepted that these changes will not happen in myself overnight. Even though the lightbulb goes off, that doesn’t mean that I will do a 180 and adapt to my new way of coping with my fears or my new behaviors. So I take everything one step at a time and acknowledge that I am making progress. This allows me to be able to forgive myself and my husband more and more every day. Some spouses are able to forgive much quicker. I am a perfectionist so I have to get this “right.” I want to have a full understanding of what I am getting myself into so that I can discuss this with my husband. I want to live an authentic life with him. I want to be happy with myself and with my relationship. I want to feel fulfilled in life in every way. So I am not rushing things, but I am moving along nicely. One of these days I will be able to wrap my arms around forgiveness completely and embrace it with all my might.
And I know that that will be the day that I feel completely liberated from all of this affair crap!