An Affair

Saturday Oct. 2nd, 2010

Kate Beck, LCPC

So your husband has cheated on you (or your wife, boyfriend, girlfriend). And it’s been going on for several months (or longer). You had no idea. It’s a shock. You feel betrayed. You hate him. You feel like a fool. You hesitate telling anyone because you feel like an idiot and he’s asked you not to tell. (Not that it matters all that much to you). Still, it’s hard to hold it all inside. You desperately feel the need to tell someone because it’s too much to bear alone.How are you going to deal with this affair? How are you going to deal with this crisis to your relationship? And how are you going to deal with the reality that your marriage wasn’t really all that fantastic? And the awful reality that you may have some responsibility in all of this?

Ok. But, still you never imagined he’d have an affair! And who the blank blank is this other woman? What does she have that you don’t have? What is so special about her? You need to know every detail. Or do you? And then he tells you. He tells you what was missing. And there’s some truth to what he says.

He tells you that this woman told him that he was fantastic. He tells you it wasn’t about the sex. It was more than that. It was that he liked how she paid so much attention to him. She told him he was wonderful. She told him he was handsome. She was interested in everything about him. Unlike you.
Ok. You admit you haven’t been paying much attention to him. The passion was on simmer. It felt like you guys had grown apart. The friendship seemed like it was over. You admit it. And ok, you did forget to notice how sweet, handsome and clever he was. You forgot to tell him how much you appreciated his financial support. (What about the emotional support?) But, you know what! He forgot to notice those things about you too.

Ok, you concede. Your marriage has been going down the slopes faster than the kids on a Bridger run. But was it your entire fault? Who is to blame here? Can blame be placed on your work or on his work? What about the kids? And what about his parents? And what about the stress of not having enough money for FUN? The kind of fun you guys used to have. And what about the fact that you’re just plain tired. And, who wouldn’t be? You take care of everyone, the house, the groceries, the present buying, everything. Didn’t he appreciate that?

Yeah, he does have a point about the lack of passion. You didn’t want to have sex with him. You really haven’t felt like having sex with him for weeks (or months). Maybe he hasn’t wanted to have sex with you either. The friendship seemed like it was gone. And it’s darn hard to have to sex with someone you’re not friendly with even if he’s your husband. But still. It’s shocking! It’s humiliating. You never thought he would do this to you! How could he? What was he thinking?

Yeah. But, look at you. You’re in tremendous pain. You’re shell-shocked. You’re exhibiting all the DSM syndromes of a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome patient. You have a.) recurrent and intrusive distressive recollections of the event (or may I say the imagined events). You have all the credit card bills to scream out which hotel they slept in together. You have a complete list of the cell phone calls he’s made over the past year. You’ve read all the text messages. And to make matters worse, you put the dates together and realize that while they were together, you were shampooing the carpet. You also have b.) recurrent distressing dreams of the event (you know, the dreams where you can’t get him and her together out of your mind. And then c.) you’re acting and feeling like the event is recurring all over again (watching the comedy sitcom in the evening where the cute guy is seeing someone else and it’s soooo funny retraumatizes you or seeing Sandra Bullock on TV and feeling her pain and your pain all over again) And d.) you are certainly experiencing intense psychological distress. Need I go on? You have been traumatized.

So ok. Now what are you going to do? The screaming, the tears, the accusations continue. Or maybe, you’re in the taking a break stage where you both need a rest so that you can go at it again. And you wonder, do you have the energy to continue fighting? Can you imagine moving on and forgiving him? Will you ever be able to trust him again? After all, he’s said he’s sorry a million times. Shouldn’t that be enough? Apparently not. You find yourself searching for any shreds and any signs left of the friendship. You try to recall why you married this guy in the first place.

And then, as the weeks go by, and you find that you just can’t call it quits then maybe, just maybe, you’re going to be able to make it through this. It’s going to be hard. You’ll wonder at times if you’re crazy. You’ll wonder if it’s worth it. You’ll wonder if you have the energy or the ability to face those red flags you know you shouldn’t have ignored in the first place.

It’s going to be a tough year. There’s no getting around it. You have to do the work if you’re going to change it up. If you want your marriage back you have to rough ride it through. And you’re going to physically and emotionally feel like you’re recovering from another C-Section minus the beautiful baby. You’re going to be leaving behind Marriage #1 and ripping yourself inside out to get to Marriage #2.

It’s one of those Chinese saying things: Crisis equals Opportunity. And only you can decide if it’s worth it. And it is, if you decide to do the work. It is, if you can look at yourself honestly and acknowledge your role in the marriage. And decide finally that you’re willing to rebuild the friendship. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and you’ll learn a lot about him. It will feel like starting all over again because that’s what you’re doing. You’re starting all over again.

Good luck. It takes a warrior. Don’t do it alone. Get support. Get your best friend back. Your marriage can be stronger and better than ever. It can happen. Maybe.

Catherine (Kate) Beck is a licensed professional counselor in private practice specializing in marriage and family counseling. She uses John and Julie Gottman’s marriage assessments and interventions. These are scientific researched based techniques developed at the University of Washington. You can reach her at Sano Connection at 1946 Stadium Dr. in Bozeman, Montana or by calling 406-581-9477.