I’m going to write this article, one disloyal person to another. I know that in a way right now you may not consciously understand “why” you cheated on your spouse, but I can also say as someone who’s been through it that you do know…you just maybe don’t want to say it out loud. But let me give you an example:
My Dear Hubby and I have many children. We *LOVE* kids, having kids, and raising kids; they make a house feel like a full, loving home. Well as we got on the older end, sadly I miscarried…and we both mourned. Next after some medical appointments we found out that we could no longer conceive children, and again we both mourned. I tend to be a person who wants to share it with him…and he tends to be a person who wants to pull in and think about it and then feel better. This felt like rejection to me, but I didn’t communicate that. Shortly thereafter he hit some middle-age kind of changes, and I began hitting some peri-menopause kinds of changes…and our sex life changed. It didn’t END, but it did change and again I felt like it was a rejection. See how things kind of started piling up but rather than talking about it? I made assumptions and “I knew” he was rejecting me! Next, Dear Hubby and I have this certain recreational activity that we both love to do together, but he started doing a lot by himself. I’d try to get his attention and try to join in with him, but he was distracted (part of the way he “thinks through” things is by doing this activity) and again I took that as a rejection and it felt to me as if I would stand naked next to him, set myself on fire, and he still wouldn’t see me.
My “solution” to that was to say, “Well I guess I could do it by myself too” and I had a little part of that activity that I enjoyed that he really didn’t. See how my affair started with some bad assumptions, some hurt feelings that I didn’t share, and then one small bad decision? What I didn’t realize was that by doing something with my life that “excluded” my Dear Hubby, I was trying to fill the missing attention and not feel rejected–I was setting my own self up! I didn’t want to be too old to be unable to have children (but of course, see how that means I was trying to avoid facing reality?). I was also trying to be noticed by someone and be wanted. Now at the time I was thinking I would be noticed and appreciated for my skills or certain abilities I had, but nonetheless it was the slippery slope of being vulnerable AND looking to someone else (other than my spouse) to fill a need.
Would you identify the reasons for my affair or label those reasons as a “mid-life crisis“? Maybe. But the real life truth is that 1) I made some assumptions and didn’t ask. 2) I did not communicate what *I* was thinking and feeling. 3) I turned to something else other than the person to whom I’d made a promise in order to have the need met. That directly put me into the position to cross a little line here, cross another line there, and gradually move my moral code. After some folks noticed me and I had a few “friends,” it was only a matter of time until someone noticed my need to be appreciated and used it to their advantage. They dangled the bait. BAM, like a fish it was all over for me once that hook is sunk in.
Soooo, having read about my situation, can you see how it wasn’t necessarily conscious, but how it happened? Can you see how it might be labeled “mid-life crisis” but really that doesn’t explain it or cover it–that’s kind of like a cop out? In real life when your loyal spouse asks you “Why?” then don’t want a lame excuse such as “well it was kind of a mid-life crisis thing.” They want to know: “What did I do? What can I change so I can protect myself so this never happens again?” When someone is raped, they often will start wearing baggy clothes that are not form-fitting and cover their whole body even up to their eyeballs! Its one of the ways they cope with the pain–protecting themselves so it doesn’t happen again. It’s one of the ways they can take back control of their life and start to feel safe again. Well…same here!! When a loyal spouse asks “Why?” or wants to talk about consequences or stuff, what they are usually saying is “What can I do to be sure this will never, EVER happen again? How can I feel safe again? What are you going to do to show me it won’t happen again?” Saying you don’t know why it happened means “It may happen again because I don’t know why it did this time and since I don’t know, I didn’t change anything.” “You won’t feel safe because it happened for no reason. You’ll always be risking this much hurt again.” “I’m not doing anything to protect you from hurting like this again, because there’s no reason it happened.”
Can you IMAGINE hearing that?
Thus, it is VERY important to be honest and open, even to yourself, about WHY it happened. At first, you’re reasons may sound like blaming your spouse and may have some of that “rewriting of history to justify your affair,” but try to dig deeper than those initial reasons, and remember to take responsibility for what you did. Dig through to the truth and find out where you went wrong.
Then looking at our story as an example, see where ONE of the places I went wrong was assuming? So I’ve told my Dear Hubby about WHY…and realized that one thing I can do to make our marriage stronger and to protect him from being hurt like this again is to learn how to be brave and talk to him about what I assume. Now sometimes you don’t know you’re assuming and you have to sort of periodically check yourself…and once you’re aware you’ve assumed something, you might feel scared to say it. BUT part of what can heal you and your marriage is if your spouse knows that you bravely do the hard thing even if you’re afraid. A marriage can be saved when they know that you see where you went wrong AND you can tell your spouse the steps you’re going to take to do something different. Nowadays I will check with my Dear Hubby: “You know, it kind of seems like *this* to me. Is that what you mean? Is that what you wanted me to think or feel?” and I check my assumption. Or I’ll tell my Dear Hubby, “Okay I have something to tell you that is hard for me to say so I’m going to blub it out there and then we can get the talk started, okay? Here we go: <just say it quick before I stop myself>”
So in conclusion, when loyal spouses suggest that you make a list of the consequences you’re willing to offer, they are asking about the topic of this article. They want to know 1) I see where I went wrong. I did x and y and z. 2) Since I see where I went wrong, I see that I should have done a and b and c. 3) Since I can see I should have done a and b and c, here’s my plan how I’m going to start actually DOING a and DOING b and DOING c!!
Some very typical options that tend to help Loyal Spouses are:
1. I volunteer to open up and show you every way that the OP used to contact me (email, IM chats, cell phone, etc.).
2. I volunteer to give you all the OP’s contact details (like address etc.) so I’m protecting YOU and not the OP.
3. I volunteer to put something in writing, that you see first, and that we send TOGETHER, that takes responsibility for what I did and completely and utterly ends all contact with the OP forever with no regret and no blaming you.
4. I volunteer to tell the truth to the OP’s spouse or significant other so their spouse or significant other can protect THEMSELVES and as an additional way to ensure we will never EVER recontact.
5. I volunteer to no longer hide this affair and to help you get the support you need and deserve. When people at work or family members ask “What’s wrong with him/her?” I will tell them it is ME and not you…and encourage them to support you as you struggle to deal with it. (Bear in mind, some folks are introverts and may find that having everyone-and-their-mother know more hurtful rather than helpful. Sooo…the concept here is that you give your spouse what they need to help them deal with the mess YOU made. If that’s telling some close family, then be honest with the close family about what you did and encourage that close family to help him. Take personal responsibility and protect them.)
6. I volunteer to open up my mouth and talk even when it is scary to tell you the truth, and even when I’m afraid you won’t like “the real me” if you see it.
7. I volunteer to let you look at any of my email, chat, cell phone, forums or anything so you can see what I’m saying to others and there is nothing hidden from you.
[Just a note here–there is a difference between privacy and secrecy. Privacy=closing the door when you go to the bathroom…it’s like modesty but there’s no deception involved and no misleading. Secrecy=purposely hiding things from other so there is definitely misleading and deceptive. In a marriage, there can be no secrecy by either spouse!!]
8. I volunteer to live with the fact that it may feel like I’m being watched/controlled for a little while, because I acted in a way that warrants being watched! So I volunteer to let you know where I’ll be and when and with who, and I volunteer to let you verify that I am where I said I’d be, verify that I arrived when I said I would and left when I said I would, and I was there with the people I said would be there…that I didn’t hide someone’s attendance or leave early and have “unaccounted for” time.
9. I volunteer to put protecting you ahead of my “rights” as an individual. Yes people do need some “me time” now and then, but because of the way I acted, I’ve forfeited my “me time” for a while because my duty to protect you is greater! So for a while, I volunteer to forego “Girls’ Nite Out” or going out on my own to anything. I agree to put a wall around my own self, voluntarily, and have no male friends or acquaintances or ANYTHING without you being expressly involved. I agree to include you in everything and do everything together as a couple. I volunteer to wait until you agree with me enthusiastically before I do anything. I agree to always consider YOU and how it will affect YOU before I do anything.
- Discussing details of the affair (recoveringwayward.wordpress.com)
- The After-effects of an Affair (beyondjane.com)
- There is a big difference between being sorry and being changed. (notoverit.wordpress.com)