I might have understood a “random” affair. We had problems in our relationship, and I asked him to go for couple’s counseling, but he said no. Instead, the same time our youngest child left home for college, my husband went back to the very same place where we began our relationship more than 20 years ago to have his affair. The same house for f*** sake!! I feel like he gave “her” all of our memories right from the start — he went to all the same places we did, with HER. He even got HER pregnant in the same place where our first child was conceived. She had a miscarriage, but he can’t understand why I’m still devastated that this even happened!! I’m hurt, our children are hurt, but he refuses to talk about her or his affair. He thinks because he already said “sorry” that it’s enough, and I should be able to “move on” from it. He gets angry with me if I try to talk about it anymore. Am I unreasonable to think that this was more than “just an affair”?? To be honest, I don’t hold much hope that you will answer my problem — others just said I need to go for counseling. I’ve done that, but it hasn’t helped me to deal with the aftermath of his affair. I want him to leave — but he won’t, unless I agree to sell our home! Can you help me with this?
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Let’s begin with one of your key questions. You’re asking why your husband felt the need to “recreate” the patterns of your early relationship by revisiting the same places that had meaning for both of you, but with another woman.
Here are two insights that might help:
Insight #1: Predictable success. People have a tendency to repeat patterns that bring them success. This explains things like the “lucky charms” baseball players carry or a “lucky number” someone plays in the lottery over and over. It’s based on the premise that if something worked once, it might work again. As crazy as that may seem to you and me, it’s really not that uncommon. Men do have a healthy fear of failure and rejection. It just might come down to the belief that if it worked once for him, it will work again. So, it’s not that he’s “giving away” your memories, as much as he’s trying to “relive them”.
Insight #2: Midlife acting out. This is the latest buzzword. It describes people who get married early (such as in their 20’s) and “do the right thing” — only to find themselves “free again” in their late 40’s and 50’s. The feeling is that they have sacrificed and “done the right thing” by their families, so now it’s their turn to “live a little”. It’s often a case of the “good” guy taking on the traits of the “bad” guy, as a way to rebel against the aging process. It’s usually triggered by some kind of life-changing event (i.e. your son leaving for college).
If this is the case… then it would explain the “stonewalling” and his refusal to get help (why would he need to, when he’s finally getting to live on the wild side?) His unwillingness to cooperate, his insensitivity to your feelings and to your children’s feelings all point to this — you’re essentially dealing with a grown man “re-experiencing” adolescence.
You wrote: “Am I unreasonable to think that this was more than ‘just an affair’?”
My answer: No. You’re not being unreasonable. But then, what does “reasonable” have to do with any of this? In fact, I think what would be unreasonable is for you to try and determine what “reasonable” is at this point.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Emotional wounds are like physical wounds. They take time to heal, and time is a slow healer. You have to take care of yourself — just as you would if you had broken an arm or a leg.
- Betrayal is about loss. The loss of innocence, loss of trust, loss of certainty, loss of dreams, loss of self-confidence, and perhaps most importantly, the loss of “specialness” and “exclusivity”. Therefore, the aftermath looks a lot like the five stages of grief.
- Healing awaits your permission — not his apologies.
Imagine this… You went skiing last Christmas in Switzerland. On a downhill run, another skier lost control, skidded and ran you over. As a result, you ended up breaking your leg. People on the slopes tried to rush you to the hospital, but you refused. Later on, your children tried to help you get help, but again you refused. Soon, your leg became swollen and bloody, and was not healing well, but you continue to refuse to take antibiotics, to see a doctor or to wear a cast. Instead, your focus is on getting the person who ran you over to apologize! All the while, your leg is getting worse and worse. Would this make sense to you? Of course not!
You don’t need the permission of those who’ve hurt you to help you heal.
If you want to heal from this, you’ve got to stop prioritizing HIS emotions (or non-emotions), HIS actions (and non-actions) and HIS feelings towards you/her/the children/the house/the car/the cat /the goldfish… over YOUR own healing.
Here’s the thing:
Recovery is your responsibility. If you’re waiting on HIM to “fix” you, or to say the right words to make things right, you’re in for a long hard wait — because even though he caused the wound, he cannot heal it. Only you can.
And one more thing…
While waiting on him to make things right, you could be making things worse. Be careful you aren’t hurting yourself and your children more now than the affair ever did. Watch your anger, watch your words, and watch how you see yourself in relation to all this.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!