My name is Stephen, from San Diego.
My wife was in an affair with a man she worked with for almost five months before I found out.
She then continued to be involved in the relationship for another three months before we both decided to get back together to try to make our marriage work.
We’ve done a lot of work and talked through everything.
So I feel like I understand the reasons for the affair. But she told me she’s been struggling to move forward because she still has feelings for her affair partner, and has been struggling with guilt.
How can I help her? Thank you for taking my question, and have a great day.
Thank you so much, Stephen, for taking the time to share your question.
Your situation, while not pleasant, is not really uncommon given the circumstances. As you said, the affair went on for five months. You guys went through a separation for three months and then you decided to get back together, which I commend you both for doing. Reconciling after an affair, as you guys both know, is is not an easy thing.
And so it always brings to mind that you must have had a relationship prior to the affair that was strong enough and worthy of this second chance.
So I really want to commend you both.
As with any reconciliation, the process is, of course, not easy. The road is bumpy. There’s a lot of detours and lot of setbacks. And yet I truly believe that the effort, the attempt is absolutely worth it.
Let’s talk about some of the things that you’re encountering in your recovery process, things that aren’t necessarily, as I said, pleasant. For example, the struggling with the feelings.
Here’s the thing.
This is going to be anecdotal. I don’t want to stereotype the situation. However, I do want to say that there are certain patterns that tend to show up over and over again.
It seems to me that when it comes to women and affairs, there appears to be a higher amount of emotions involved. I think that for a lot of women affairs turn into something deeper than physical. And it’s probably one of the few things that will get them to even cross the line…Is the fact that their emotions will get triggered at some point.
So it’s not really surprising that she still has some residual feelings. Now, I know I’ve singled it out as a female, but of course it can happen to men.
The bottom line here is that the most underestimated part of an affair is the emotions.
I’ve said it time and time again. Everyone underestimates the emotions. And once your emotions get triggered, it’s like ink in the water. They discolor everything else.
So when we see people who are still struggling or whose emotions have been triggered in the affair, the term that we kind of put around that is the “affair fog.”.
So, what is the affair fog?
It’s basically what we’re talking about here:
The affair fog is when your feelings have been triggered in an affair, causing you to distort your reality a little bit.
People can be in a mild affair fog, while some people are completely in the affair fog. Now, a lot of people think the affair fog happens during the affair. But the truth is it can go on for a while before it completely dissipates. And that’s kind of what I’m suspecting you’re going through. You’re having, or at least witnessing, your wife going through maybe the last part of the affair fog, because I’m not sure where you are in your actual recovery.
I don’t know where you are in your reconciliation process.
I don’t know how long it’s been since you guys decided to try again. But I will tell you that it’s been my experience that the affair fog can linger up to 13 months post the affair. So if you’re anywhere within that timeline, then maybe take a look and check in with her. I have several articles on my Web site regarding emotional affairs.
Speaking of emotional affairs…
I want to make a distinction here. So when I say emotional affair, I’m talking about two different things. On one level, the emotional affair can mean an affair that’s just not gone physical. That’s one definition. But the emotions that are triggered in the affair can also create that same sensation of an emotional affair after the affair.
And so, you are dealing with the emotions triggered in an affair. If you go on my website (GoAskSuzie.com), you can look for articles that apply to your situation. I think I have an article on neutralizing those emotions. That might be something you might want to pass on to her.
But understand that the thing about emotions is they do go back to neutral with “T&D”: time and distance.
All emotions go back to neutral.
So even though it might feel like it’s going to drag on forever, the reality of it is that eventually…with time and distance…those emotions will go back to neutral.
The other thing is the guilt that you mentioned that she’s struggling with. Again, this is another common occurrence post affair. Post affair guilt is actually, as far as I’m concerned, far more insidious and can be far more dangerous than the affair itself.
Here’s what I mean by that.
When people are struggling with guilt, they have a hard time forgiving themselves. Now, think about that. Some people feel like that’s just the punishment…and they deserve not to be able to forgive themselves. And on the top level, that might sound like a victory of some kind. But the truth of it is… if you’re living with someone who is having a hard time living with themselves, as you rightly pointed out, that’s going to create a bumpy ride for both people.
So, as long as she’s unforgiving towards herself, she’s going to be unloving and she’s not going to be able to cooperate and collaborate and partner with you in the recovery efforts the way that she really needs to be. And a big reason for that is that guilt takes up so much energy and so much room.
So, where I’d want you to maybe start with her is to work with her and support her as much as you can in allowing her giving her permission to forgive herself. Because here’s the bottom line.
Forgiveness ends guilt immediately.
Hopefully, Stephen, you found something helpful here for you today. Regardless of what direction you guys take, I want to commend you for the courage to give your marriage a second chance.
Until we speak again…