Monthly Archives: April 2015

MC: “I do love my wife.”

It was probably sometime around Wednesday when I really made it clear to the AP that I would be traveling to be with my wife on Saturday, for several weeks.  She may have muttered something asking me not to go.  And, maybe she said something about taking her with me.  I didn’t sense that it was terribly important to her, but I do think she brought it up more than once.  Well, of course she did.  She brought up everything again and again. She had a few topics of conversation in her, and she would just re-cycle them continuously.

She must have said something to me Thursday indicating that she was thinking of getting a plane ticket to travel with me. Friday she messaged me about meeting her at a travel agency.  I worked quite late that Friday, thankfully past the travel agency’s closing time.  I met the AP near the travel agency.  We talked and had dinner.  She bugged me to lend her money for a plane ticket. That suggestion was very unrealistic, and I made that clear.  She begged me to help her write a message to a supposed acquaintance asking for money.  Between my exhaustion and my foolhardiness, I conceded.  Finally, we went our separate ways, me saying I was going home to pack.

Just as I was getting to sleep she called me and exclaimed she had somehow — she refused to elaborate — obtained money and bought a seat on the same flight.  I foolishly agreed to give her a ride to the airport.

The next morning I packed and took a cab to her place, thinking she would be ready to just jump in the cab and head to the airport.  She wasn’t ready.  I can’t even venture to guess how long the poor cab driver waited as I helped her with her ridiculously overpacked bags.  Then we waited as she went through her apartment, turning things off as though she were going away for a long, long time.

Before going into the airport, she handed me some assorted items — a camera, a blouse, and an empty perfume box — saying she had no room in her luggage and asking me to carry them.  I foolishly agreed, not knowing how to decline without a big fuss.  At the airport she was surprised the airline charged her for her excess baggage.  Impatient, worried about time, worried about her making a scene, and acting with my increasingly bad judgment, I lent her money for the excess baggage.

At the gate I ran into a co-worker, not someone I know well but a guy whose family is in the same social circles as my family.  The AP was there.  I felt it would raise more suspicions if I did not introduce her.  I introduced her, but completely avoided describing how I knew her.  I thought hopefully my co-worker would think I knew the woman professionally only.  All three of us tried to pretend there was nothing unusual about this.  I don’t know if my colleague figured out I was cheating.  I hope not, but I don’t know.

The AP sat next to me on the plane.  I matter-of-factly said something about the last leg of my flight, the leg that would take me alone to see my wife.  The AP suddenly acted surprised that I had a final destination different from hers.  Of course, she had known all along that we each had a different final destination.  I was going to see my wife and the AP was supposedly going to see her son, in two different cities, in two different directions.  Her surprise about it at that point, on the plane, was either disingenuous or insane.  She made some effort to persuade me to change my plans and to stay with her at her destination.  She then badgered me to help her reserve a hotel room at her destination.  Again, like a fool, I eventually gave in to her badgering.

Midway through the journey she again hounded me to change my travel plans,  I calmly refused, over and over.  She asked why.  I paused and said, “I do love my wife.”  For the first time ever, the AP went totally silent.  It wasn’t anger or sadness.  It seemed more like surprise.  The silence continued and the surprise seemed to settle into resignation.

When we finally got off the plane and went our separate ways, it was not a very remarkable event.  There was just a rather quiet farewell.  Maybe there were hugs or kisses.  I don’t think so.  I certainly don’t remember it that way.  As I walked out of sight of her I felt very, very relieved to be rid of her.

I sat and ate a bowl of noodles.  That’s when I remembered, with shock, fear, and disappointment, that I still had that woman’s camera, blouse and perfume box in my bag.  Shit.  I boarded the plane for my final destination.  During the flight I exerted minimal mental effort to develop a plan for hiding the AP’s belongings from my wife.

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TL: “THAT word.”

We’ve each talked with our counselor about what we are doing here with this site. MC and I have been through all of these details many times over since “ultimate” d-day. The pain, though still prevalent, is not as all-consuming as it once was. My counselor worried that telling our story here may bring me more pain than healing. My thinking was that seeing the entire story written out, with both perspectives, would help my healing. She said we must watch for triggers.

Well, the word “numerous” is most definitely a trigger for me. I find it rather odd, weird, strange. . .that one word could be such a trigger compared to discussing the actual events. WTF? Still, no word in the English language has ever caused as much anger, hurt, sadness and disgust within me as THAT word.  After reading MC’s post last night, seeing THAT word, did bring those feelings flooding back.

On the one hand, maybe doing this isn’t such a good idea, maybe it is more pain shopping. On the other hand, after reading and discussing this latest post, I feel like our talk about this particular issue was deeper and more productive than before.

Let’s see how this goes. . .Taking it a day-at-a-time.

MC: “Some sick part of me felt more manly”

At times during that awful weekend, and perhaps some evenings leading up to it, the AP would hint at or daydream aloud about some future activity together.  I took it as meaningless chatter and assumed she saw it the same way.  At the same time, I did little or nothing to discourage it.  I don’t know if her musings were fantasies, jokes, or sincere ideas.  I couldn’t tell the difference.  I strongly suspect they were in the gray zone between jokes and fantasies.  She talked about meeting me a year later, at my next job site.  I neither encouraged not discouraged such talk. She fantasized about somehow coming into power or money and having me stay in her life.  I did not contribute to this discussion.  But, I let it continue, perhaps mining it for any nugget of flattery or validation I could find or imagine.

The next day I went about my normal life, a bit relieved to be away from the AP.  I don’t recall if it was that day or the next day, but gradually I began to wonder whether the AP would get over her irrational panic attack that was supposedly related to driving speed and again make herself available for sex.  I don’t know why I cared.  Not only was my behavior sick, self-defeating, and amoral, the sex was infrequent and lousy and it was overshadowed by that woman’s increasingly annoying behavior.  But, I kept thinking about the affair.  It was like I had cut my hand reaching into a broken candy jar, but I kept compulsively reaching in again, despite continuing to suffer more cuts and despite not even enjoying the candy.

This really was addictive or compulsive behavior.  I don’t mean to excuse my behavior by calling it that.  But, if you ask me to explain my behavior in that case, I can’t think of a better explanation than some sort of pathology.  Another image that comes to mind is a robot in a cheesy 1950s sci-fi movie attempting the same futile thing, again and again, until its circuits overheat and it shuts down.

It must have been Tuesday or Wednesday when I decided to e-mail her and see if I could bring her back into the affair.  I think I wrote some stupid thing about missing her.  I did not miss her.  I missed the artificial ego stroking I was getting just from being in an affair.  Soon we were right back in the affair the way we had been the previous week.

I think it was sometime during that final week when she asked me, rather out-of-the-blue, if I had cheated on my wife before.  I said I had. I think I recall saying that I had cheated before “numerous” times or something like that.  Why would I tell her that?  Well, it was true.  But, why not lie about it, to make the AP feel special or something like that?  I didn’t care about making her feel anything.  I do wonder whether maybe some extremely sick part of me wanted to hear me say that out loud.  Maybe some sick part of me felt more manly when acknowledging my sexual experiences, however illicit, desperate, and sleazy.

TL continues to ask me why I used the word “numerous.”  Why did I not hide that fact?  I really don’t know.  I’m not even sure I totally understand the question or its significance.  I’m trying to figure out why I told that AP that I had cheated numerous times before.

Was it to suggest that I did not value my marriage and that the AP should feel no guilt in committing adultery with me?  Maybe.  I do really think this was a big part of why I said that.  So, did I not value my marriage and not respect my wife?  Well, yes, I did not.  I was really not treating anything as a thing of value — not my wife, marriage, or children.  Please don’t think I’m proud of that.  It’s one of the most shameful and regrettable things I’ve known, in my life or the lives of most people around me.  I wish to God I could go back and change my thinking to something more healthy, less self-centered, more thankful to God, and less self-destructive.

Is there some additional reason I told the AP I had cheated numerous times before?  I welcome opinions from readers.  I’ve offered my two best theories.  Maybe there are other reasons that I’m just missing.

MC: “Without free will we are not ‘good,’ we are just in check.”

I argued with the AP, trying to get her to pack up and check-out.  She resisted, begging, pleading, and foot-dragging to persuade me to stay there.  I don’t think she was really into me.  I think she was just into staying another night at the resort, at my expense.

I conceded to going on a hike with her before returning home.  That turned into another small nightmare.  She said she had not packed proper shoes.  We drove around looking for shoes as well as gas.  We were running out of gas too.  I got a bit lost.  She said my driving was too fast on the unpaved, bumpy roads.  She became agitated, and then panicked, about the bumpy roads, begging me to drive slower.  Since I was already driving ridiculously slow and I was also increasingly hurried to get away from that “evil life” to go take refuge in my “normal life,” I did not slow down.  She eventually had a tantrum and exclaimed that she would get out of the car and take a taxi back to the hotel.  She did so, not before stopping to borrow taxi money from me.

At this point I pulled over and called TL. I made up some stupid, impromptu lie to explain why I was calling so late and why I was using a cell phone instead of Skype.  Then I told myself I would go get my stuff at the hotel and go home.

When I pulled up to the hotel, there was the AP, suddenly calm and happy, suddenly having found adequate shoes, and suddenly saying she had convinced the hotel staff to give us late check-out.  I conceded to take a brief hike with her before going home.  To this day, I don’t really know why I didn’t just insist on going home.  We hiked.  We argued, when I got sick of her inane blabbering and responded to her simplistic political opinions with calm but shocking disagreement. We ate lunch.  She insisted we stay longer. I think I was just completely emotionally, intellectually, and morally exhausted from my double-life.  I just sort of became passive, letting the AP and fate make decisions for me.

When I think about this, I suspect letting fate make decisions for me was sort of a default mode for me.  My mother always insisted on making all decisions.  Well into junior high school or beyond, she decided what I would wear, eat, and do each day.  I did not get much experience making decisions.  A wise man once told me that if you don’t have a lot of experience making decisions, every decision seems onerous, demanding, and monumental.

It’s easy to behave morally if there are no temptations and no free will.  You don’t have to choose abstinence or self-control in regard to sex, alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, or pranks, if you have no access to those things or the means to act on them.  Without free will, we are not “good,” we are just in check.  When my parents were not in arm’s reach, I didn’t think to choose good behavior.  I reveled in the chance to do the forbidden. Later in life, I gradually developed my own reasons I did not want to be known for pranks or drunkenness or did not want to be slowed down by tobacco or other substances.  But, I learned that too late in life, and too gradually.

With this habit of not making decisions, I basically let teachers, bosses, girlfriends, and eventually my wife make a lot of decisions for me.  When I did make a few decisions, about work or fitness, for example, I went to another extreme, becoming inflexible and unable to make a new decision and adjust or change course.

So I sat there, having lunch with that AP, not putting forth the mental effort to take the decision into my own hands sooner rather than later.  We ran into someone I knew casually.  We pretended not to be together.  We went to the hot tub.  Finally, we check-out and left.

It was very late.  I worried about running out of gas.  I worried about getting lost.  She complained about my driving speed.  My driving speed was reasonable.  At one point in the journey, somewhat out of the blue, she said something like, “Don’t tell anyone about us.  You won’t tell anyone, right?”  My reaction was something to the effect of, “Are you kidding me? Of  course it’s nothing I would want to tell anyone.”  It was odd.  I don’t know why she said that, in that way, at that time, and so suddenly insistently.

It got later and darker.  She complained louder and more desperately.  I don’t recall what I said, but it was several variations on the theme of, “I’m done listening to you.”  Finally, I dropped her at her place and went home, trying to go back to my “normal life.”

Stuck in mediocrity

While I certainly do not believe in fairy tales and “happily ever after.” I do not want a life of more bad than good, nor even one of mediocrity.

Discovering that the first 18.5 years of my marriage was filled with lies and betrayal was very difficult for me to fathom; it was soul crushing. I spent many hours, many days curled up in a fetal position, rocking and crying. That has largely stopped. But, now I find myself not feeling much of anything. I think I am all cried out (for the most part) on the one hand, and afraid to feel much of anything else on the other hand.

I know I need to return to the gym. I have never taken ADs. My mother died of addiction to painkillers and ADs and I just cannot go down that road. Talk about fear, I saw her fall into a pit of despair and try to manipulate and pull others down with her, including me. I kept my distance. I don’t want to end-up like that. On the other hand, my kids deserve a present, motivated, healthy Mother.

The gym helps my mind immensely. Unfortunately, I need to motivate myself to go. Motivation is probably my biggest lacking attribute right now.

I don’t enjoy being stuck in mediocrity. I know there are steps I could take to change it, to allow myself to feel. But, those steps require me to be vulnerable again, to feel again, to live again. While I do want all of those things so very much, I just have not been able to do it. It is time, it is time, it is time. . .It is time to give myself permission to do more than just survive. It is time to give myself permission to enjoy my life.

Just because I can say the words, unfortunately doesn’t make it so. I have the GPS programmed with how to get unstuck, I just have to turn the key on and start driving. Hmmm. . . .

MC:  “I measured my self-worth by something I perceived was predetermined.”

Sometime during this whole sickening affair I slipped into signing my e-mails to the AP with “love.”  I didn’t love her.  I think, however, that I was trying to elicit a similar remark from the AP.  I was desperate to hear someone say they loved me. This was not because I was unloved or wanted love.  My wife, kids, and parents loved me very much.  I saw the word “love” from a woman as a proxy for more specific phrases such as “want,” “desire,” or “find attractive.”  I desperately wanted evidence that women found me attractive, and I thought they could prove that either by giving me sex or saying they loved me.

I was really obsessed with the question of whether women found me attractive.  I used that as a measure of my success and my self-worth.  I think I had been too lazy or cowardly to focus on some other thing that might make me special.  Why not, for example, measure my self-worth in terms of my academic, career, intellectual, athletic, creative, or other endeavors?  The reason was that those things required hard work, risk, and more than occasional failure.  I couldn’t stand failure.  I was too sensitive, like a temper tantrum-prone child.  So, I measured my self-worth by something I perceived as predetermined:  attractiveness.  In fact, even attractiveness is subject to effort and smart choices.  But, I told myself it was predetermined. I also told myself it was my Holy Grail.

No, I didn’t love that AP.  Yes, in some way I was attracted to her.  More than that, however, I was seduced by the hope that she was attracted to me.  The sense that she might see only the so-called masculine and successful elements of me — unlike my wife, who knew all of my weaknesses and failures too — made me cling to the AP like a moth to a flame.  By the way, whatever you might think of the way that phrase — like a moth to a flame — is used in popular culture, it is not romantic, desirable, or healthy.  It is a sick, self-defeating behavior.  As sentient beings, we should be expected to rise above that pathological behavior.

I woke up next to the AP Sunday morning.  Here’s another selfish act that just kills TL.  I should have made myself go lift weights, run, or otherwise work-out, as I insisted on doing every other day of my life, at the expense of sleeping in with TL.  Instead, I told myself I would skip fitness and lie there hoping for sex or flattery.  The insult to TL is deep.  I said to myself, “Oh, you will have plenty of time with TL during the years to come, but you may not have many more opportunities to get sex or flattery from this AP.”

It’s never done

Though we believe this is a life long journey, please don’t think we are saying the pain and trauma will continue to overtake the whole of your existence for the rest of your life. In time, you will once again be able to see and feel all the colors of life (admittedly, TL still struggles with this, but is working toward it).

What we are saying is that we are driving together on a road we have never before been upon. It is important to appreciate and experience the highs, lows and in-between of our life journey.  Still, we must also not forget to pay attention to the road we are upon, both as individuals and as a couple, to ensure we don’t veer off course.

TL: Though I’ve found this betrayal in many ways far more traumatic, I liken it to the death of my father many years ago. When he died I was overwhelmed with sadness and pain. That pain overtook the whole of my being for a good couple years. But, with each passing year the intensity lessened, the time spent in pain lessened and I was once again able to experience all of the other emotions and feelings available in life – good, bad and in-between. The memory of my Dad and the pain of his loss will always be a part of me, always be a part of the fabric of my life, just not the entirety of it. I believe it will be the same with this pain. Our experiences, including this pain, are fundamental to the design of our road map going forward, but we are still the ones driving the car. The moment we think the roadmap is perfect, the GPS knows all, that we are so confident in its accuracy that we go on “auto-pilot,” this is when the journey can easily and unexpectedly turn unsafe. It is not enough to have a roadmap, we must stay aware of our surroundings and adjust our course along the way.

MC: I learned that loving properly is a lot like physical fitness, sobriety, smoking cessation, mental agility, or even dental hygiene. It’s never “done.”

I used to regularly think about self-pity, jealousy, insecurity, and my anger at God, myself, and others for what I considered unfair about life. Now I remind myself daily not to think like that. I now regularly remind myself to count my blessings, take responsibility for my happiness, empathize with my wife, and remember that I chose to love her.  As much as I am attracted to her and I admire her, I didn’t “fall in love with her.” I chose her, and I chose to love her.

The practical lesson in this, for me, is that when asked, “What have you done to ensure you will not reoffend,” the answer is: “I’ve chosen a healthier path, and everyday I make little adjustments to be sure I never veer off course.” I am driving the right car, on the right road, in the right direction. But, I can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel.

TL: “Learning to feed the good wolf.”

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Clearly, Mindless has more details in this portion of our story than I do. Admittedly, this is all rather painful to go through the details again. But, seeing Mindless face his anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego (the bad wolf) and instead embrace joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness and truth (the good wolf) is helpful to me on my own journey. And, perhaps, our story will resonate with others, whether betrayed spouses or unfaithful ones, on this journey forward.

MC: “I again chose my sick obsessions.”

We drove to the resort.  It took a couple hours to get there.  I let her badger me into letting her drive part of the way.  I had to argue with her to get her not to smoke in the car.  At the resort we spent some time at the swimming pool.  I don’t recall whether it was that day or the following day that I bought her a massage treatment while I lifted weights.  Later, we went out to some restaurant for dinner.  Here’s another particularly painful admission.  As sometimes happens at some restaurants, a guy came around selling roses.  I bought one for her.

Just before I did, I had this thought:  “I want to seduce this woman, so the right strategy is to buy her the rose.”  I also thought, “Wow, if TL learned of this she would be crushed.  She’ll recall another time, 15 years before, when we were out at a restaurant with couples friends and a flower seller came around.  Without asking, every guy but me bought their wife a flower.  I, completely failing to empathize with TL and completely failing to stoke our romance and friendship with a small thoughtful gesture, asked TL whether she too wanted a rose.”  She replied, “not if you have to ask.”  I failed to buy her the rose.  I told myself all sorts of stupid things like, “She knows I love her, she does not need a trite gesture,” and “If I buy her the rose after stupidly asking about it, it will appear I’m just doing it because I was asked to do it.”  In any case, even if I had otherwise been a good husband, this would have been a painful experience for TL.  It showed that not only was I not a good husband — I had so many selfish thoughts and selfish ways — but I was also miles off course in terms of understanding love and truly loving my wife.  And, to rub salt in the wound, there I was choosing to give a rose to an affair partner, as a way to seduce her, after failing to do that for TL.

The AP and I went back to the hotel, had quick and unsatisfying sex, and slept.  That is when I should have been calling my child with birthday wishes.  Since I was so obsessed with seducing the AP and not reminding her of my marriage, I was too cowardly to stand up, pick up the phone, and call my family.  I could have walked out the door, even briefly, to call my family.  I chose not to do so.  I said to myself, “Maybe I’ll have a moment alone to do that in a few hours.”  A few hours went by.  I told myself to wait a few more hours.  And so it went, until the time had rolled away and I had hidden in my double-life until I missed my child’s birthday.

I wasn’t enamored with the other woman.  I wasn’t unhappy with my child or my wife — not specifically, acutely unhappy, but only my chronic, pathological habit of looking at each glass as half-empty.  I was behaving like an addict, hiding in my illicit life, hoping for more sex and flattery there even when it was clearly insufficient, and too damned cowardly to step away from my illicit life even for a moment.  This is no excuse, but I do strongly suspect that my many problems include obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I was pathologically compelled to keep pursuing sex and flattery whenever it seemed at all obtainable, even when it was clearly hurting me and hurting people I loved.  In my weakness, selfishness, and cowardice, I again chose my sick obsessions instead of my family.

MC: “Why did I keep pursuing it?”

That night of July 7, I took my AP to my home again, and had sex with her again, again with no physical climax for me.  We wondered together what to do with Sunday, July 8.  She suggested showing me some nearby site that was supposedly important to her personally.  We went to that site and spent the day, stopping at a swimming pool on the way back. It was all quite tedious and uninteresting to me.  Again, I was overconfident that we would not run into someone I know.  By the time we got back, it was late and I needed to re-focus on work again.

All this foolish, illicit cavorting around was not getting me sex, was not for any sort of emotional connection, and was entirely a waste of time.  Why did I continue to pursue it?  I was not an addict, but I was increasingly behaving like one.  I kept telling myself, “Next time will be better.  Next time there will be more and better sex.  Next time there will be less time spent listening to this mentally-ill woman’s meaningless, inane, and tedious conversation.”

It must have been earlier in the day on July 8 when we started talking about what to do with the following weekend.  I thought, and perhaps said, something about getting out of town, telling myself we would be more covert that way, less likely to run into people I know.  I saw getting out of town as a way to hide, to go deep into my double-life and hide from reality, the reality of my self-doubt and insatiable desire for external validation.  I suggested we go out of town.  She ate up that idea.  I was trying desperately to think of a place that was really not far away, but far enough where we could hide.  In my haste and desperation, all I could come up with is a resort town that was too far away and that should have been emotionally reserved only for TL in my heart. It was also too far away because my boss was on travel and I had told my boss I would stay nearby.   In further haste and desperation, I booked a hotel, suggested by the AP, that was too nice — it should have been a place for a man to take his loving friend and wife, not a place to take someone I viewed as essentially an unpaid whore.

In the week leading up to July 14, I mostly focused on my work and fitness.  But, some nights — something more than one, but less than five, I can’t recall what — I stopped by the AP’s apartment on the way home.  I took her to dinner in her neighborhood.  I was too physically exhausted to even examine the fact that I wasn’t getting sex out of the deal and I was getting sick of that woman’s stupid, childish, repetitive conversation.

The day of my oldest child’s birthday rolled around. I should have spent that day either alone or gone to a work-related event alone.  Instead, I picked up the AP and drove her to the resort.

MC: “The baby is not the center of the universe.”

That wretched day at the health club with my AP must have been Sunday July 1.  For the life of me I can’t remember whether it was that night or later, on July 4, that I first had sex with that woman. The next time I saw her was July 3.  She was a guest — as were literally hundreds of other people — at a work-related event in which my company was involved.  She came up to me two or three times during the event and hung around awkwardly until I rushed away to tend to the needs of the event.  At last she came up to me and asked for a ride home. I insisted I could not leave.  She finally left.  The next morning was a day off.  I called her and invited her to dinner at my house — at TL’s home.

Wednesday, July 4, I picked up the AP at her apartment and brought her home.  It was probably late afternoon.  I grilled dinner.  She sat out back smoking.  I told myself, “No, the neighbors can’t see.  Our privacy fence is that concealing.”  I heard the neighbors hosting a private party across the fence.  I made my best attempt at ignoring that fact.

Was it that night or was it July 1, when I sat on the couch with that woman and started edging closer to her and coming on to her?  Whenever it was, I was soon starting to take off her clothes.  One of us, I don’t recall which, suggested we go to the bedroom. We rushed upstairs, fell onto the bed I shared with my wife, and continued into the physical consummation of adultery.  It was quick.  I don’t know whether she was physically satisfied.  Unlike with my wife, I didn’t even care if this woman was physically satisfied.  I definitely was not physically satisfied.  My body did not reach climax.  Maybe that was due to the fear of getting caught.  Maybe I was preoccupied with the realization that I was cheating — again.  Either way, neither of us let on that it was not satisfying.  I just wanted to tell myself that I had another victory, that I bedded another woman.  I was so insecure about my worth as a man, that I used sex as a measuring stick for my masculinity.

I do think that was July 4.  I drove her home that night, rushed back home to call my wife, and then shifted back into focusing on going to work the next day.

Saturday, July 7, I picked up the AP in the afternoon and took her to an event hosted by a local organization.  They billed the event as a casual Independence Day event in the park.  The only reason I attended was that the organization was associated with my company.  I told myself, “No one will realize I brought that woman to the event. Or, if they do, they’ll think I’m just giving her a ride as a friend or business contact.” Of course, that was a complete lie.  But, I tried very hard to believe my own lies.  I wanted to continue trying to seduce that woman by spending time with her.  Despite the fact that I had already had sex with her and it wasn’t all that good, I kept thinking it would get better, that there would be more, or at least that I would be able to stroke my own ego by thinking that woman was attracted to me.

I tried to act like she and I were not there together, but I didn’t try very hard.  I was overconfident, convinced no one would suspect I was carrying on an affair.  The AP probably stood next to me and sat next to me too often.  When she was nearby as I was talking to people, I introduced her, using the term, “my friend,” or avoiding all reference of how I knew her.

I want so badly to believe that the people who know TL did  not figure out I was cheating on her.  There’s no way to know what they suspected.  I hope they didn’t suspect.  The odds are probably not good.  Of the many ways I hurt TL, this is one that will never be easy for either of us to accept — this brazen humiliation of my wife in front of people who knew her.  In a way, it was at least as deep a betrayal as the fornication itself.  In both cases, it was all about me, behaving amorally and believing no one’s feelings and desires mattered but mine.  I was so self-centered I really acted like if I buried my head in the sand no one could see me.

You know how a baby seems to think you can’t see them if they cover their eyes? That’s a sign they have not yet learned that other people think, act, and feel independently of the baby; that the baby is not the center of the universe and not the creator of reality and its relevance.  Eventually we learn that other people are separate centers of the universe in their own right, and that they are equally important, at least in the case of people you supposedly love.  In many ways, at age 42, I had not yet learned that basic thing about myself, others, and relationships.  That concept seems to be an important element of self-awareness.  And, I think one important step in achieving self-awareness is wanting to achieve it, wanting life to be about more than just oneself.

MC:  “Woe is me.”

Due to moving, we’ve had three marriage counselors since D-day.  At least two of them suggested that on some level, even subconsciously, I wanted to get caught.  My first reaction to that was something like, “No, why would I want to get caught?”  As I think deeply about it, maybe there was at least a part of me that had the following internal dialogue.  This is a very mentally-ill internal dialogue, so please don’t think I defend it, excuse it, or have anything but regret for it.

It went something like this.  “Oh, woe is me.  I’m suffering so much, with my uncaring wife not indulging my sexual whims, stroking my ego, flattering me, or spinning the tales of her sexual past, my sexual past, and my place in the world in some way that would make me feel better about myself.  Maybe if she sees how desperate I am for sex and flattery, she’ll take pity on me and try to comfort me.  Maybe she’ll see that she was wrong not to flatter me, give in to my whims, and re-write the story of the past to be less threatening to my ego.”

Consciously, I did not want to get caught.  That would put an end to my self-serving double-life.  But, subconsciously, maybe there was a part of me that wanted to get caught, to be diagnosed as victim of some mental trauma or mental illness, to selfishly draw attention to my perceived pain — my wife’s consequent pain be damned. It was all about me.

Talking openly and honestly

After d-day, I told Mindless I could promise him 100% complete honesty, but that given all he did I could not promise him fidelity just yet. He told me it made him sad, but that he understood my need to work through that decision and it was mine to make. He would be faithful, loving and do whatever he could to show me that we are worth saving.

You see before d-day, I did not allow myself to flirt or notice flirting, in fact I was pretty withdrawn from that aspect of the world. I was afraid to look pretty. I was afraid of a man noticing me. I was afraid of doing anything that threatened Mindless’ ego, because early on in our marriage it had resulted in him pouting for days. I did not want to do anything to hurt Mindless or threaten his ego, anything. After d-day, that just wasn’t something that I was going to let rule my world any more. I was so hurt, so vulnerable and so crushed after all my years of devotion and protecting his ego and essentially giving up myself to do it.

He wanted to show me that his ego does not rule his world anymore that he cared more about helping me heal than anything else in the world. Knowing that has helped me so much. And, no, I have not acted out, though I have flirted. The thing is I have told Mindless every single detail of everything immediately, about anything that could possibly even be considered a flirt. He always replies with, “of course you’re being noticed, you’re beautiful,” etc. . .

At first, oh boy how tempted I was to take it as far as I could. Mindless and I talked for hours/day. Through our intense discussions of all he did and all I was experiencing with this new flirting, we really started looking at the differences between ego and self-esteem. Over the course of time, I have realized that though it would build my ego, it would do nothing for my self-esteem to act upon it. With each passing day, as I become stronger within myself, I realize that acting out of ego with someone else, who would only be doing the same, actually makes me feel a little sick inside. I don’t want that. I want to be whole and happy within myself, and not build a foundation of who I am and how I feel about myself from external sources. Now I just take the compliment for what it is, enjoy it, share it with Mindless and that is that.

After several years of seeing how much Mindless is working on building his self-esteem and letting go of ego, after several years of seeing him put his love for me and our marriage above his ego, I am on my way to heading back there myself, but in a way that will never again compromise my true self. I like math, I like being mechanical, I like looking pretty. I am glad he is giving me the space, time and openness with him to be able to work through this aspect of recovering my true self.

Now, we talk openly together in a way we never did before. He also shares with me when he thinks a woman is sending signals and what he is doing to protect me and us. And I share ALL with him without fear. I will tell you this, the sharing of all of this kind of thing has really brought us closer together and, I believe, is helping make us stronger partners, safer partners for each other and have a stronger, safer marriage. By the way, I went back to school to get my MBA. Over half way done and it is wonderful to see Mindless supporting me in this endeavor in a way I never thought possible before. He is now my biggest cheerleader!

TL: “Hand me the phone or I will be filing for divorce.”

Mindless arrived in America late at night. He took a taxi from the airport to our lodging. He was aloof upon entering, but I figured it was just the long journey and tiredness. We went to bed.

The next day, he awakened before the rest of us to exercise. The kids and I awoke about an hour later and our busy day began. We were celebrating our youngest child’s birthday with family that evening and had errands to run. We were together as a family, with rarely any alone time. Finally, a few hours before the party, I called Mindless up to the bedroom to talk alone. I started questioning him about that woman and the hike and the not calling us. I asked him, “How did you arrange these hikes?” He explained, “By e-mail.” I asked to see his phone to look at the e-mails and he refused. At that point, my heart sank. I demanded his phone. He refused and ran into the bathroom, thinking he had locked the door. The lock was broken! I told him, “Hand me the phone or I will be filing for divorce immediately!” He gave me the phone. He then stated, “she may have misunderstood my intentions.” I asked for her name and he provided it. I found out that he had an illicit affair with her. I found out that she traveled with him to America as far as the port-of-entry to the US, her final destination and his transfer point to come to us. My world came crashing down. Mindless immediately sent a no contact e-mail to his affair partner (AP). It was short, and too nice in my book, something that gnawed at me for months more.  Here was his message:

Title: “I’m sorry, it’s over.”

As I told you, I came to see my family.  I now know for sure that I made the right choice by returning to my family.  I hope that is what you will do too.

I do love my wife and I’m in pain because I have betrayed her.

This will be the last contact I will have with you.

MindlessCraft

We then went to the restaurant where our little one’s party was being held. My family could see something was very wrong. I had to keep excusing myself to get myself together and not break down in tears. I made it through. As we were leaving, a family member pulled me aside and told me to call him if I needed to talk. We all went home.

Mindless and I began to talk. I looked through his phone more and found the following:

Title: I have your camera, blouse and perfume box

Tell me an address and I can mail them to you.

I’ll pay a professional to pack them carefully.

 Love.

MindlessCraft

He had sent that message just that morning, before discovery, while he was supposedly exercising. I lost it. I found the AP’s stuff. I asked why he even had her crap in his carry-on bag. He explained that she had overpacked and badgered him into carrying things for her. I was so mad about the e-mail above, I asked him “how will you feel if I destroy this camera and the rest of her things?” He said, “do whatever you need to do!” So, I did. I destroyed everything.

I then left the house in tears, got in the car and started driving. I called my family member and he told me to come see him. We talked. He told me whatever I decided the family would support me, they just wanted what was best for me and our children. He asked how I found out. We talked about how smart I was to figure it out so quickly. How MindlessCraft just is incapable of lying to me, which is why I figured it all out so quickly. I then went home.

Upon arrival back “home,” I was so angry, so sad, I packed MC’s suitcase and told him “get the fuck out, we are over!” I threw his suitcase out of the room and shut the door. He was crying and pleading for me to talk to him. Our poor children, they were downstairs and I don’t know exactly what they heard, but too much! I let him back in to talk, more quietly and privately. I don’t know why, but I decided to let him stay. He immediately started searching for marriage counselors to help us figure out what to do and how to do it. I let him hold me that night, as I cried for the whole night through.

Count your blessings

One of MindlessCraft’s largest issues, and one we see time and again in other unfaithful spouses, is the inability to appreciate what they have in their lives and always wanting something more, something different. Failing to realize that a) the grass is greener on the other side of the fence because it is fertilized with bull shit and b) the true problem lies within and you cannot run away from yourself.

Before d-day, MC would often joke “not only is the glass half-empty, it is broken and leaking.” He always said it with a laugh and a smile, in a light-hearted, joking manner. But, jokes often have a way of actually being true, don’t they? This is exactly how MC saw his life. As it turns out, the crack in the glass was of his own making. He kept trying to get everyone else to fill his glass (feed his ego), but even that didn’t last because of that leak. And, even if the leak did not exist, depending on others to always be filling your glass is far less sustainable than learning to fill it yourself.

A good part of the focus now has been on fixing that leak, filling his own glass, and just appreciating the glass he has in front of him. MC is rewiring his thought processes to look at the positive and stop always focusing on the negative. MC decided one measure to address this, and to teach our children by example, was to eat dinner together as a family every night. Something we had not done in years, if ever. At the dinner table, MC initiated what we call “count your blessings.” It starts with “today, I appreciated. . .” and ends with “tomorrow I look forward to. . .”. Everyone does it, even TL.

At first, it was very difficult for TL to participate. As a betrayed experiencing great trauma, she was now mired in pain, despair and self-pity. But, with two beautiful children, there was always something she could contribute to this exercise. It has been 2.5 years and we continue to do this. One small thing on the journey forward to remind us to look at the positives in our life.

MC: “I would if I could get away with it.”

Please understand as I tell this story, that I make no attempt to excuse or defend my actions or even my thinking. On the contrary, I am painfully ashamed of the way I behaved and the way I thought. I tell this story only for the sake of what we call opening windows instead of building walls between my betrayed and me.  Given the choice, I would excise these memories from my mind, not return to them, and gradually let them fade away.  I do not have that choice.  I have to brave my own shame and remorse to give TL the transparency she needs.

I had been communicating with that AP for a while, telling myself I was just carrying on a normal work-related discussion with her.  I knew better.  I knew I was being much more responsive to that woman than I should have been, and her reasons for contacting me so frequently were quite flimsy.  At one point, she invited me to go out of town with her, to some event, under the guise that she would just be showing me the event in a sort of academic and professional way.  I declined, but not in the right way and not for the right reasons. I should have thought and said, “No, I’m happily married and that wouldn’t be appropriate.”  Instead, I said, “I wish I could, but I’m just too busy.”  And, I thought, “I would if I could get away with it, but I just can’t.”  I also thought, “Aha, this may be a sign that this woman is open to an affair.”

Shortly thereafter, the AP said she would be selling a piece of art and invited me to look at it.  When I knew TL would soon be leaving town on a particular Friday, I told the AP that maybe I would be interested in looking at that painting.  I knew I didn’t have any interest in the painting.  In fact, I doubted it existed, and suspected that if it did exist it would be quite uninteresting.  But, I used the line about the painting to get an invitation to that woman’s apartment that Saturday. I went over there and acted as though I was just being friendly, with no ulterior motive.  In fact, my only motive was to have an affair.  I did not want an emotional relationship in any way.  I wanted free sex, and maybe some flattery.  I feigned interest as this AP began telling me endless, inane, redundant, boring stories of her life, her hopes and fears, and her problems, the latter mostly imagined or self-created.  As I feigned interest in that drivel, I gradually started to sit closer to her and “unintentionally” brush too close to her now and then.  Yes, it was that trite, just like the games we play as teenagers.  I left with nothing but a suggestion to get together again.

I think it was the very next day that I called her early, saying I was just going for a swim and I wondered if she wanted to join me.  I picked her up and took her to the very health club to which TL belonged.  I believed my own foolish lies, telling myself no one among the club’s staff or patrons would pick up on the fact that I was there without my wife and that my interest in that AP was not platonic.  I did swim laps for exercise, a lot, while that AP just lounged in a chair.  Then I invited her to join me in the hot tubs and the steam room, playing footsie with her and sneaking kisses when I believed no one was looking.  Yes, it was awful foolish of me to believe no one saw or suspected.  I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.  I was desperate for illicit sex, overconfident in my ability to pass undetected, and desperate to believe that I could continue leading two contradictory lives.

TL wonders if my brazen approach was a sign that I wanted to get caught.  More on that soon.

Selfish-Oppressive-Bastard (SOB) syndrome

Not all serial cheaters are sex addicts, some are simply SOBs! What is an SOB? We use the term “Selfish Oppressive (Obsessive would also work) Bastard” (SOB) Syndrome to describe MindlessCraft’s addiction to self-pity, entitlement and using those as a weapon not only to justify and rationalize his inappropriate thoughts and behaviors, but as a weapon against me, against us (and what he realizes with sickening clarity now) against himself. It is not only because the actual acronym we all know and love is actually accurate. But, because SOB syndrome indicates a pathology of selfishness, self-pity, entitlement and oppressive behaviors in an attempt to build ego. And, bastard, well that is just fitting for someone who made choices based on the previous motivations.

I shared everything about myself with my husband before we married thinking he was my best friend, only to be blindsided with his obsessive insecurities after marriage. I thought sharing things that happened before our relationship was about the desire to share all of ourselves openly, safely and freely. MC turned that against me, thinking he had a right, an entitlement, to have obsessive destructive thoughts about my life before him. He did not just compare himself to me, but to others as well. He looked outside of himself for validation. He used a metric that was misogynistic, constantly comparing himself to others, never counting his blessings and letting his life choices be fueled by these sick obsessive comparisons and the resulting self-pity. To MC, the glass of his life was not just half-empty, but it was cracked and leaking too.

He used to badger me about my past. When we would be intimate, he would badger me about how I knew to do this or that, I wasn’t doing ANYTHING. If we didn’t have sex, he would badger me about not enough sex. It was a lose-lose, no matter what I did. Our sex life suffered. I ignored so much. The fact that he would get pouty if I would do anything mechanical. I had grown-up helping my dad fix the car. I was a wiz at wiring any electronics, stereos, etc. . .I liked to use my hands. I loved to solve puzzles, I was great in math. I liked to be a free-spirit, but was also exceptionally focused and logical. He felt threatened. He started exercising excessively as a tool to aide his mental health, that is what he told me. It seemed to help. His emotional outbursts died down, though I now know he was just seething internally, with anger building day-by-day, year-by-year inside of him. And, regardless, the damage had been done. I was scared of doing anything that might bruise his ego.

SOB syndrome is about self-pity, selfishness and entitlement thinking. SOB syndrome is about never counting your blessings, always comparing yourself to others who you think have more and/or better. SOB syndrome is telling yourself “I deserve at any cost, any expense,” “if it is not automatic and easy, there must be something wrong,” “G-d, the world, etc., owe me” and ultimately, blaming everything and everyone else for your life not being enough. It is an addiction to self-pity, selfishness and entitlement. An SOB is constantly looking for outside forces to fill his/her glass and refuses to ever recognize anything positive, nothing is ever enough. An SOB is constantly looking for ways to fill his/her leaking glass and never recognizing that the crack in that glass is of their own making.

MC has and is doing a lot of work on himself to overcome his selfish ways, to combat and let go of his self-pity and to appreciate all the blessings he has in his life. Part of that process is to make me and our kids feel safe, to be vulnerable with and to us, to freely show love and approval, to give-up his false humility and be lovingly authentic, and to encourage and be proud of our strengths, even when such things might be his weakness. The other part is for him to act with courage, face difficulties and not run away from conflict.  It is not an easy road. It is a lot of work.

I think one of the hardest things in all of this is seeing just how much of myself I let die to protect MC’s ego. This too is one of the things for which I am learning to forgive myself and to heal. I am now working on my Master’s degree. I am now working on regaining myself. He is supportive, loving and kind. He now counts his blessings. I no longer worry about his ego. And, if I ever start to worry about his ego again, I will end the marriage, because I will never again sacrifice who I am for anybody.

TL: “A missed birthday.”

We finally got ahold of Mindless on that weekend. He explained that with us gone he had ramped up his exercise routine, which was already a huge focus of his life. He was now running eight miles/day. He then told me that he went on a hike with a work associate. I asked “who?” and he told me the name of a woman, a woman he had previously referred to as a crazy nuisance bothering his boss. I asked, “Why not hike with other male friends whose wives also already left town? Why is it necessary to hike with this woman?” The questioning began. The phone calls remained sporadic; he got home too late, he was too tired, he was out for a run and lost cell phone coverage out in the hills, he was running errands and on and on. The next weekend, he swore he would call on-time, as it was our oldest child’s birthday. No call! I called his cell, I called his office, I e-mailed him, nothing. He finally called several hours after our child was in bed for the night. He told me I could wake-up our kid to Skype, if I wanted. I wish I had called his bluff, but I told him to just call tomorrow. He explained he had gone for a hike, again and lost track of distance and time. I asked if he went with anyone, he replied he and his work associate went again together. I WAS PISSED! The next day he called our son, but over two hours later than he said he would. EXTRA PISSED! He would be arriving the next weekend to join us in America for the rest of our vacation. And, I made it my goal to find out what the hell was going on.

MC: “Change my reality.”

Summer of 2012 our marriage almost ended.  And, the double-life I had been leading ended.  Through all our years together I had been struggling with jealousy, possessiveness, anger, and a sense that I wanted TL to be a different person and to meet my needs more.  I wanted her to be significantly less sexually experienced than I when we first married.  I wanted her to give me sex at the drop of a hat, in all the ways I liked.  I wanted her to look up to me sexually.  Instead, I looked up to her sexually. I felt inferior. I felt inadequate and intimidated.  Those feelings lead me to wish for things beyond my control.

I wished TL’s sexual history would magically change.  I wished mine would magically change.  I  became pathologically obsessed with those trivial, illogical thoughts.  At first I burdened TL with badgering and pleading, begging for her to change my reality, to make me feel like a man, and to re-tell our stories in a way that would make me feel confident, bold, and good about myself.  She could not.  No one could.  I was asking something impossible:  changing reality or having someone else change the way I think.  I gradually stopped burdening TL with those sick obsessions, at least on the surface.  I put up a front of being just fine emotionally.

I began a long, gradual process of sharing fewer and fewer of my feelings, wants, needs, and insecurities with TL.  I also was very prideful and petty about my desire for sex.  I told myself TL did not want sex with me.  I told myself I would see how long I could go without initiating sex with her, to see if she would initiate it.  And, I told myself that if I found an opportunity for extramarital sex, I deserved to take it.  I entered my double-life, ultimately pursuing three affairs, dozens of prostitutes, a porn addiction, and online chat rooms leading to sexual encounters.

My final affair was like all of them.  I found a needy woman, selfish in her own way, who used me for money, attention, or a hope for social advancement, just as I used her for sex and self-validation.  When my wife and kids went to see family in the summer of 2012, I jumped at the opportunity to indulge my selfish whims.  I implemented a strategy to get sex from the affair partner (AP).  I took every opportunity to sneak in indulgence for myself.  My attention to my family was the first thing to suffer.  TL was out of sight and out of mind.  I had my mind on work, fitness, and the affair, and nothing else.  I rushed through everything else to focus only on those things.  Phone calls and notes to my family took the back seat.  I would have my whole life to be with my family, I told myself, but I would only have three short weeks to sneak in all the self-indulgent sex I could get, hopefully enough to last me until my next opportunity for illicit sex.

I was not a sex addict, but I behaved like one.  I binged on illicit sex.  Now that I think about it, I binged on lots of things.  I remember as a child thinking of certain foods as rare opportunities, things parents seldom made available.  And, I was not in control of what I ate, when I ate, or how much I ate.  So, whenever I saw certain foods on my plate, I binged on them, not knowing if and when I might encounter them again.  In my late teens and early twenties I treated alcohol that way.  It was so taboo, so rarely available, and treated by peers and media as so seductive that I binged on it whenever it was available to me.  I did this with pornography, and with sex.  To some degree, I did it with tobacco too.

I gradually corrected my views of food and alcohol, finally seeing that I could largely control my access to those things.  Seeing them as within my control reduced their appeal.  I put them into perspective, allowing me to make rational, cost-benefit based choices regarding them.  And, importantly, I learned to evaluate the costs of overindulgence based on my own goals, plans, and preferences rather than those of my mother, wife, boss, or peers.

I never really learned to see sex in that healthier, less-desperate, less needy way until it was too late.  I binged on illicit sex right up to the moment TL caught me and my house of lies began to collapse.  So, when TL called me during the affair, I saw her as a low priority.  She was not a taboo, controlled substance like food, alcohol, tobacco, porn, or sex.  I didn’t have to binge on her.

TL: “I don’t know why we need to talk everyday.”

This part of our story begins when we were living overseas. It was summer 2012. We had been married for 18.5 years at this point with two beautiful children.

The children and I went home to the US for a visit. Mindless had been working more and more, and the distance between us had been growing over years really, but to a point where I was turning into this angry person with him. I did not like feeling that way. He was really not present in our day-to-day lives. I should say, only in the capacity to push the children to be what he regretted not being as a child himself. Work ALWAYS came first, EXERCISE always came second. I don’t even know where we rated, if we rated at all. He could not get away from work to come with us for the full 6 weeks that I wanted to go home. So, the children and I decided to go on our vacation 3 weeks before him. This wasn’t uncommon in the expat community. I had never done so, by choice, in the past. But, I was feeling like we were nothing but a nuisance to him, most of our friends were traveling away for the summer too, so why not go home a few weeks ahead of him.

Just before our visit home we were also working on details of his next job, which he needed to line-up a year ahead. For years, he had been telling me he wanted to do a job that would be a fantastic career opportunity, but where no family members were allowed. I had always resisted, but with feeling so alone anyway, I finally agreed. And, it would mean the children and I would be back home, actually living near family for an entire year, for the first time in their lives.

The children and I arrived back home, staying in a place I found on VRBO, for our summer vacation. They signed up for summer camp at a school that we had high hopes for attending should Mindless take that “career opportunity.” Whenever he had been away, on short travel trips for work, he would call everyday to check-in. He wasn’t calling. At one point, I asked, “what is going on, why aren’t we hearing from you?” and his reply was “it is not like we have anything to talk about, I don’t know why we need to talk every day, once a week would be plenty.” I was heart-broken. I asked him, “don’t you want to talk to the kids at least?” He said fine, and we set a time he would call each day. I was so angry, I just put the kids straight on Skype and let them talk. We only talked about his upcoming job and nothing else. That very next weekend, he did not call at his set time.

Why do I stay?

I recently was asked this question, “Given all the pain that you still experience, why do you stay?”

There are several things that go through my head when I answer this question to myself, and I do sometimes ask it of myself.

1. I stay because my husband is NOW a person with the qualities that I would want in a partner, lover and friend.

2. I stay because he is there to help me through this pain, and is more patient, kind, loving and supportive than I can imagine anyone else being as I deal with this trauma and depression.

3. I stay because I know I cannot love deeply again, until I learn to love myself. He is giving me the space, time and support in my efforts to learn how to do this. I am glad that he is by my side and will be there by my side when I learn to love again.

4. I stay because I have seen from friends, in person and on sites for the betrayed, that divorce does not actually take away the pain because the pain is with you. And, you cannot run away from yourself. But, let’s be clear divorce is the best option if the unfaithful spouse is not doing everything possible to make you safe. And, it is healthy option if you determine that you just cannot heal with the unfaithful spouse still in your day-to-day life (see below).

That is what comes to mind for me, when I ask myself that question. There may be other answers, more to it than that, but in this moment, this is what comes to mind for me.

And, here is what I know in terms of leaving the marriage:

1. I will not leave the marriage solely for the sake of punishing or instilling more consequences when he is doing ALL he can to make me safe and be a loving partner. If I leave, it will be to help me and our children, not to hurt  him.

2. I will not leave the marriage in hopes of greener pastures with someone new. I have no desire to replace one partner with another. If I leave, I will leave as an independent woman who is focusing on healing and providing a safe and loving home for our children.

3. I will leave the marriage if he is unable to maintain providing safety to me and our children and healing in/of himself. Mindless controls this point.

4. I will leave the marriage if I am unable to heal with staying in the marriage. I control this point.

What I do know is that I want to heal within the marriage if it is possible to do so. I do know that I love the person my husband has become. And, I will think about point 4 in a mindful manner. I will consider all I can do to achieve healing within the marriage. And, that is as far as I can answer right now. This, to me, is what it means to let go of the outcome.

Nobody said it would be easy

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.”–Carl Schurz

We will not always get it right, but we try, we do our best, we work toward our goals. We stay focused, and make course corrections as we go along. We hope to do that with our readers, and hopefully commentators!

Here is an example that reminded us that the path is not linear, not finite and that we must pay attention to not get off course.

Mindless took a week off to spend Spring Break with the family. Then our children decided they wanted to participate in a day camp. Mindless decided to take the week off anyway and hang out with me.

He brought up something in the present and it brought me back to a memory in the past. I started to talk to him about that memory. I started down the “should have” path. He talks to me so much, so often about all of this, but I am usually the one who brings up the painful stuff. He listens, he apologizes, etc. . .But, when he brought up a topic he wasn’t expecting to instigate a painful discussion, his first response was to say, “sorry I brought it up.” That did not go well. In fact, fearing he was avoiding something, I started bringing up every hurtful thing that happened, from his skipping workouts to be with APs, to pretty much all of the other stuff he missed out on to be with APs. It wasn’t pretty.

We have come so far, I do see this. But, statements like “sorry I brought it up” made me fear that he filters his topics with me. He had to face that possibility and we are working on finding ways to ensure he does not filter out of fear, or for any other reason. We both are committed to being fully open and honest with each other. But, the hard things are hard things and that means they take work and constant attention. We would love to hear ideas from others on how they have confronted this issue.

As for me, I hate the “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve and if onlys” path. I’ve worked so hard on myself to not allow those types of thoughts to eat away at me because there is no going back, no changing the past. And, yet, sometimes they still get the better of me, but I can often pull myself out of it much quicker than I used to do.

For all my asking him to work on emotional honesty and maturity, I do see that I need to take responsibility for choosing to live in self-pity or choosing to find happiness within myself. It just doesn’t take much to set me off down that pity path. And, I do see, this is not just on him to fix, it is on me too. We are making progress, but it is certainly not easy. Then again, nobody said it would be.

Reminders of my evil self

TigerLily asked me, as she has before, how and why I intentionally chose not to call her and our child on our child’s birthday during the height of my last affair. This was among the most shameful moments of my life. I was working and carrying on an affair in the country where we lived. My wife and children were away in our home country for a few weeks. The weekend of my child’s birthday, I took my AP out-of-town, to a resort, a couple of hours drive from home, not even considering responsibilities at my workplace, and the ability to Skype our child.

The Sunday of our child’s birthday I lay in bed with my AP, skipping my workout, something I would never skip if I were with my wife. I ignored my wife’s phone calls, dozens of times throughout the day. I didn’t want my AP to see me give any attention to my wife or child, for fear the AP would not give me sex. The AP, in fact, did not give me sex, being too focused on her own selfish manipulation of me and her own mental health problems.

Like a drug addict snorting cocaine off the dirty bathroom floor, I kept telling myself the AP would soon give me sex, then I’d quickly drive her home and then go call my kid. Just five more minutes, I told myself. Then it was, just another half hour. Then it was, just another hour. Soon I had pissed away the whole day, not having the brains, the balls, the willpower, or the love and compassion in me to walk out and go call my kid.

That’s how I did it. That’s why I did it. I wish to God I could undo it. I don’t expect forgiveness for this.

I think I’ve become a pretty good husband and father now, recovering from my addictive need for validation by APs and my addiction to self pity. But, I was once the worst husband and father I can imagine. I’ll never be able to undo that. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.

I’ve done so many terrible things I don’t know where to begin. I’m wondering if I might be able to learn something new and insightful about myself by writing about it here and getting your input.

Here’s another. One AP was our maid. TigerLily asks me if I would have firmly and quickly fired the maid and exposed my affair for the sake of investigation if the maid had done anything to physically harm my wife. My wife asks what if the maid had poisoned her or something. Would I have desired to protect my wife? Would I have had the courage, presence of mind, and selflessness to protect my wife?

I say, yes, I would have protected my wife. I was a cheater and a liar, selfish and self-centered to the core. But, I was not a murderer. And, though I was a coward, I was not so cowardly as to stand by while someone murders another person, particularly my wife. As cruel, thoughtless, heartless, entitled, and angry as I was, I was not pure evil. I had two parts of me, co-existing simultaneously. I was bad and good, at the same time. Sadly, I focused on self-pity and let the bad part of me respond to that. But, I was not 100 percent bad.

My wife says, prove it. Prove that I would have protected her from murder at the hands of my AP. I can’t. I believe I would have done the right thing in that hypothetical scenario. But, I can’t prove it, not even to myself.

In fact, logic suggests I would have done the wrong thing. I had been doing so much of the wrong thing back then. I was obsessed with meeting my needs and protecting myself, other people be damned. So, no, I can’t prove that I would have done the right thing.

I pray to God that I would have done the right thing. I thank God that I never had to confront such a scenario, that I never had to confront that side of myself to such an extreme, in real life.

It looks like the dark side of me could have done even more awful things if it had not been checked by reality. What can I do about that now? I know I’m committed to putting my wife before myself and to protecting her now. I will do anything possible to protect her now. But, God, I was not always on such a virtuous path. God, I was evil. I’m so sorry I was evil. I don’t want to be evil.

Don’t be a victim

One attitude I had prior to D-day that led me to a lot of trouble was the tendency to always paint myself as a victim.  This was a self-centered and childish tendency to see the world as all about me.  It also hurt me, by giving me an excuse not to try to improve myself and my lot, physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, as a husband, and as a father.  It led me to blame others, including God or fate, for my happiness or lack thereof, rather than work toward happiness. Ultimately, it led me to cheat, lie, lead a double-life, and lose all touch with my wife, kids, and what really matters to me in life.

For example, my mentally-ill mother taught me that some people are just born more athletic or stronger and others are born smarter and more academic. She taught me to believe that if you were not born with those natural abilities, there was nothing you could ever do about it.  Untrue.  In both sports and academics, despite some genetic inheritance, most of what leads to success is dedication, motivation, practice, an open-minded quest for knowledge, discipline, and persistence.  No Olympian just lazed his way to victory on the back of genetic gifts without hard work.  No inventor ever just visualized a new technique or device without building on years of study and thought.  But, I subconsciously bought into my mother’s excuses and blaming fate.  I essentially told myself I was not a natural athlete.  So, I set myself years behind physically by failing to try.  I essentially told myself I was naturally smart.  So, I set myself behind academically by failing to work, assuming academic success would just appear due to my natural intelligence.  Crap.

Here’s another example. As an adolescent I told myself some guys just naturally get girls and others don’t.  Never mind about hygiene, confidence, humor and approachability, taking care of yourself, being patient, and enjoying socializing without insisting it end in sexual conquest.  I thought some guys just go to a club with a bad attitude and only thinking of sexual conquest and invariably go home with a girl. I never considered that maybe they put a whole lot more effort into it than that.  I never considered that maybe they weren’t at the club only for an obsessive quest to get laid.  So, I got very angry at myself and at God or fate when I sought to get laid and failed, without having the right preparation and the right attitude.  And, I gave up quickly and easily.

The common theme here is that I didn’t see myself as an actor choosing my destiny and being responsible for my success or failure.  I saw my successes and failures as gifts or curses from God or fate.  I got angry instead of getting a plan.  I was the victim, not the person responsible for my happiness or lack thereof.

As the victim, I didn’t think about the pain I would cause others by cheating and lying.  I thought, woe is me, I deserve more sex and self-validation, even if I have to be evil to get it.  As the victim, I wallowed in self-pity, believing my pain, real or imagined, was more important than the consequences I was inflicting on my wife and others.

The only good news out of this is that I have learned one measure of my progress in R and self-healing.  Do I want to be the victim?  Am I tempted by self-pity?  If so, I’m not working on R, I’m working against it.  Do I want to take responsibility to help myself and my wife?  If so, I’m at least headed in the right direction.

If I wallow around in victimhood, blaming old partners, parents, ailments, or whatever for my condition, there is no way I can help my BW.  If I do that, my wife could do a whole lot better without me.

When I talk to God now, I’m also talking to myself.  God, give me the strength to take responsibility for my life and to make the best of it, for me and for my loved ones.

I am different now

I am different now and there is no going back. My husband is fixing his shit. I am still left with discovering that all of that shit was actually spread over my past thoughts, feelings and memories, which don’t look so pretty now. I will never have blind trust in anyone again.

When I look back at my husband it is easy for me to see the difference between who he was and who he is trying to be. Frankly, he was clearly a selfish bastard. I just had convinced myself that his selfishness was a mixture of male cluelessness and ambition and his desire to make something wonderful for OUR future.

He now will say he understands what love is in a way he never understood before. He now is happy, truly happy for the first time in his life. I feel it, I see it, it is so good for him, our children, our family and our marriage. And, though, that is so wonderful on so many levels, it is hard to not realize the costs it took to me and our family for him to get there. Not only that, but I have had to deal with the deepest trauma and depression I have ever experienced in my entire life because of it. It changes us. It is not fair. It is not just. IT SUCKS!

We talk about it a lot. He spent so many years feeling sorry for himself, obsessing on stupid shit, comparing himself to others, focused on his ego. In a way, part of dealing with the depression and trauma that this has brought into my heart has been obsessing on real shit, comparing myself to others, focusing on my ego, which took a huge hit. And, I think we need time to go ahead and do that.

Now, I am just focused on learning to let go of ego and focus on building self-esteem, on accepting that the past can never be different, on finding happiness regardless of my marriage, on building ways to trust myself and my instincts. I am learning to trust my instincts because I am different now. I can see selfishness for what it is, now that my rose colored, blind-faith glasses are in the garbage. And, yes, I do have a polygraph to make sure. I need that right now as I learn to trust myself better. Of course, I cannot polygraph the world. But, as I have changed, I do feel that I am seeing reality better than ever before. It is still a work in progress.

I don’t trust in a set future, in some narrative of what can or should be. I am learning to trust in me, that no matter happens, I will be ok. I am actually starting to like this new me. She’s a realist, who says what she thinks, hopefully, in a loving and authentic way.

Measures of safety

We talk a lot about the unfaithful building safety for their betrayed spouse. Here is what that looked like to us.

However you get there, full disclosure is so important.

1. Polygraph, with follow-ups on the table if ever desired. Our counselor was able to recommend an examiner based on his experience and knowledge of the examiner, who he met while working as a volunteer helping youth within the criminal justice system. The polygraph examiner had years of experience working with the police on cases involving sexual offenders.

Questions were few and tailored to be objective. No subjective emotional type questions allowed. MindlessCraft (MC) wrote a timeline before the polygraph of every physical and/or intimate relationship he has had since the start of our marriage. He then shared it with TigerLily (TL). He had already told TL all on the timeline before it was ever written, but the examiner needed it all written out.

Then, the questions for the polygraph were simply based on the timeline. The questions were worded appropriately by the examiner to accurately, specifically and objectively get at the idea. . .”is he still hiding, omitting or lying to TL about any information regarding his relationships with others since the beginning of the marriage.” Only the examiner and MC were allowed to be in the test. However, before the test, the examiner went over the questions with both MC and TL.  The test took about three hours. MC sometimes has extended travel for work, because of this, and the level of his betrayals, he has taken three polygraphs and passed each time. We do not want a marriage based on polygraph, but for now TL needs this as a back-up measure of safety. With time, consistency, and evidence that MC is a healthy person and safe partner, we will need it less and less.

2. Post-nuptial agreement with infidelity clause drawn-up. MC hired an attorney to draw-up the document. The idea was to give TL as much as possible, without it going to the level of likely being deemed unconscionable by some future judge. MC initiated it and by so doing helps to show this was done on his initiative, of his own free will, free from coercion. Also, we were told that in contract law, any questions of interpretation will be decided in favor of the person who did NOT initiate and present the contract (check with an attorney on all of this though). TL then hired an attorney to review the contract, suggest a few amendments and then we all signed it.

3. Vasectomy. TL already could not have more children, but this measure was MC’s way of trying to show TL that our children are and will always be MC’s top priority. His time, energy and resources will never be diverted from them, no matter what happens with us.

4. Access to all. Open and free access to all devices, accounts, passwords, etc. . .TL prefers the polygraph because it puts the onus of proving MC is being honest on him, instead of the onus of proving he is lying on TL. Still, free access is there at all times.

Attempting to reconcile is a risky proposition. So, it is incumbent upon the unfaithful spouse, if s/he truly wants reconciliation for the sake of a healthy marriage, to take on as much of that risk as possible and get it off the shoulders of their betrayed in any way they can.

What measures of safety have you found useful? Please share what you have found to be helpful and healing.

The past can never be better

One statement that means very different things to each of us.

TL: So, here’s the thing, it got to a point with me and Mindless where I kept wanting, hoping, praying there was something, anything he could do to take the pain away, to make it all better. He was doing everything and anything he could think of doing, and no matter what he did, it never did work. And, then I figured out why, because the one thing I wanted above all else was for him to take all of the pain away by changing the past. And, that just cannot happen. As much as I knew that in my head, I could not accept it in my heart.

In another way, I also kept wanting to change the past. I kept wanting to go back and do something different so I would have figured out what was going on so much sooner. I spent a lot of time with “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve and/or if only I had” done, said, questioned, seen anything, something different and discovered what was really going on so much sooner. But, the past can never be different. As much as I knew that in my head, again I could not accept it in my heart.

I now have this mantra that I tell myself “the past can never be different, the past can never be better.” And, I just repeat it to myself when I start wishing that the past could be different or that there was just some magic silver bullet that could make everything better.

While Mindless continues do everything he can to help me through, I know it has come to the point where I need to find happiness within myself, letting go of self-pity and instead finding self-fulfillment. It is a work in progress, but it is my work in progress.

MC: For me, I think this is about two things:  unhealthy self-soothing versus taking responsibility.  I spent most of my life wishing I could change the past.  It was beyond wishing. It was daydreaming, even fantasizing.  Similarly, I wished I could change reality and the present, but not through action, only through magic, only through God, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy magically altering reality. I wished I could change my mother so she would not be so controlling, judgmental, demanding, patronizing, jealous, envious, and self-centered, so I wouldn’t be immobilized with fear of how she would judge me as I grew, explored, relaxed, and became more independent.  As an older child I wished I could change my past temperament and choices.  I wished I hadn’t been so timid and insular as a younger child.  I wished I had been bigger, more physical, and more active and aggressive as a younger child.  I wished I had learned each lesson in life earlier and with less trial and error.  As I moved on through high school, college, and beyond, I looked back on my recent past and wished I had been more attractive to girls; less awkward and afraid; more athletic; more focused and serious academically; more experienced with sex, drugs, and worldly things; more travelled; better read; and any number of other, often conflicting, things that I suspected would have made me more happy and successful.

With a pre-marriage long-term girlfriend and again with my wife, I began wishing to change their past.  I wished they were less sexually experienced than me.  In many ways they were, but that’s not how I saw it. In all this obsessive wishing I felt sorry for myself.  I felt the world owed me better.  I soothed myself with self-pity.  Instead of focusing on the present, the future, and realistic courses of action, I looked backwards, telling myself the present was bad because the past was bad. I failed to take responsibility for my own happiness, my own view of reality, and my own path to the future.  I obsessed on wanting a better past.  It immobilized me.

Refusing to summon up the courage to accept the past, plan for the future, and embrace the present, I took refuge in a double life, a hidden life of affairs, porn, prostitutes, and lies.  I used my self-pity as a permission slip for this double-life.  I told myself it was fair to do illicit selfish things today to compensate for my perceived inequities of yesterday. When my wife learned of all my sins, I almost lost everything that really mattered to me.  Only then did I realize what mattered most and what folly it was to think  I could pursue the life of satisfying marriage and family alongside the hidden life of affairs, porn, prostitutes, and wishing for a better past.

As I struggle to help us recover from my sins, struggling to become a safe husband and a better man, I know that I can only succeed by being courageous and not retreating into the refuge of self-pity and fantasizing of a better past.  I can only succeed by taking responsibility for my own behavior, happiness, and expectations of life. The past can never be better.  As an unfaithful spouse who emotionally destroyed my wife, I do wish I could go back and undo my selfish behavior and my wrong-headed thinking.  But, I have finally learned the importance of not obsessing on that wish and of focusing on real options, real choices, and real actions.

Letting go of fear

A few months ago, I brought up the topic of divorce to Mindless. Not as a way to instill fear, but as a way to address fear in me. You see, I wanted to make sure that the reason I am trying to R with him is not out of fear.

There were a few occasions of happiness during our marriage, but the truth is that these were isolated occasions, nowhere near the majority in our marriage. Just enough to give me hope of what “could be” as opposed to the reality of what it was. For me, this lack of happiness, stemmed from feeling like nothing I could ever do was enough. I kept trying to make him happy and couldn’t. I put too much into him and not enough into me. For him, during his entire life (not just our marriage) it stemmed from him feeling like nothing would ever be enough, he always wanted more, not only was the glass half-empty, but it was leaking. That is a hugely simplistic explanation of our conversation, but the basic theme.

I realized at one point in our marriage, our child (2nd child had not yet been born) and I were evacuated back to the US while Mindless stayed overseas for several months. We were in a little apartment, with hardly any belongings, near what family I have left in this world, but otherwise alone. And, you know what, I was happy then. Our child was happy then. And, it made me realize that fear of losing our lifestyle, our things, our way-of-life, fear of being lonely and alone are for nothing. When all of that was the case, I was actually happy. So, it is not really a reason to stay and try for R.

Then, I realized a big part of my feeling of living in limbo is waiting for the day he can retire so we can return “home” to that little bit of family; not so much the actual state of our marriage at this point. Though, perhaps, the pain from our situation is making me homesick in a way that is stronger than I would otherwise be. And, I need to separate out the feeling of homesickness from everything else. As much as fear is not a reason to R, homesickness is not a reason to D.

He is doing so much to help us heal, to heal himself and to provide me the safety I need to heal, to encourage and support me, us and our kids. And, I wondered if I was staying, if I was trying, because of fear of giving up all we have together. I am not so afraid anymore, which is giving me a different freedom to try – not sure if that makes sense? If he fucks it up, it’s ok, we’ll be ok (the kids and I). If he keeps on this path and I decide, you know what, I just cannot let go of this pain with him in my day-to-day life that is ok too, we will all be ok. If he is truly on the path of healing, he will continue on that path with or without me.

I need to learn how to be happy. I hope that will include Mindless and, as long as he is on this healing path, I really want to try. But, if it cannot work for whatever reason, it will be ok. It will be ok.

He’s provided concrete foundations for the children and my safety, but I’ve been so afraid, paralyzed by fear, holding up a shield to protect myself for the last 2.5 years. Letting go of the fear of divorce, realizing that even in the worst case scenario that the kids and I will be ok, allows me to not have that shield up 24/7, which has been too damn exhausting. I am more free to truly work on me, and then on us, and not let fear of divorce rule the way forward.

Ego vs. self-esteem

If you ask me, and I know you didn’t, here is what I think is at the core of cheaters and cheating: a completely fucked-up misunderstanding on the difference between ego and self-esteem. Building ego is validating oneself through the eyes of others. This is an exceptionally stupid, volatile and noxious way to feel good about yourself causing one to need a constant supply of “kibbles” in order to maintain a false sense of feeling good. Self-esteem is validating yourself from within and does not seek or need others to stroke your. . .whatever. . .to feel good about yourself.

I wrote that a while ago, on another blog, before we created our own. That thought has evolved with time. It evolved to include that it does not just apply to the unfaithful spouse, but can apply to all of us. Though the unfaithful clearly, for reasons they must identify, took that to levels that the betrayed did not.

So, let’s put this into more neutral terms, though admittedly, the original is far more catchy.

We both now understand that ego compares itself to others. Self-esteem compares itself to itself. This is true for both of us. I now understand that my “need to be needed” was also ego-based, dependent upon external sources for validation.

One seeks to build their ego through external sources of validation. If external sources are the majority of sources, then you are setting yourself up for an unending desperate search just to sustain your ego. Dependency on external sources of validation is exceptionally volatile. It is like a bottomless pit. It is constantly searching for and needing more sources of validation just to sustain itself.

One seeks to build self-esteem through internal sources of validation. It is solely and wholly dependent upon internal sources. Self-esteem asks, “Am I improving from where I was before? Am I contributing to the world around me, not to get something in return, but simply to leave the world a bit better than I found it? Am I maintaining and/or improving my health?” Whether it is a “need to be needed” or a “need to be stroked,” both are forms of external validation that never end well.

Guilt, shame, and triggers

We just think it is a good idea to clarify how we use terms here, since so many people use similar words to mean such different things. When we refer to a “trigger” here at Reconcile4Life, we mean one of two things:

  1. In the betrayed spouse, it is an event that evokes a strong emotional and/or physical reaction, sending the BS into an unhealthy tailspin.
  2. In the unfaithful spouse, it is an event that evokes a desire to escape and/or avoid life in its reality, increasing the desire to turn to unhealthy choices.

We understand that unfaithful spouses will have reminders that elicit guilt, sadness, and remorse. At Reconcile4Life, we do NOT refer to these events as “triggers” because we feel these are simply a healthy response to understanding the consequences of one’s actions. Now, if these feelings are so focused upon by the unfaithful as to send them into a tailspin, then we are discussing something else entirely, being entrapped in one’s own shame. And, so we have yet another difference, the difference between healthy guilt that instigates change and unhealthy shame that leads to further destruction. Rick Reynolds, from Affair Recovery, has a nice piece describing the difference between guilt and shame.

 What Is Shame?

It’s easy to confuse guilt with shame. Guilt is that rock in your stomach when you know you’ve done something wrong. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; typically guilt means we are aware of our responsibility for an action we regret.  Hopefully when we feel guilty, we  take responsibility for our actions and then work to make amends (when possible) with the offended party. Shame, however, is a far more entrenched mindset about ourselves. Shame says “I am bad” rather than “I’ve done something bad”; it changes your identity instead of simply accepting responsibility. We feel guilt for what we have done, but when we’ve done something we feel is shameful we take that on as our identity. Shame continues to instill the idea within which says, “I am not worthy.” Shame loves to instill feelings of inadequacy, self-contempt and a deep sense of inferiority.

The problem with shame is that it is completely self-centered. Shame continues to make everything about me and prevents recovery. When I’m dealing with shame and playing the “I’m such a horrible person” card, I can’t focus on the damage I’ve done to others and experience empathy for them because my focus remains on me. It selfishly puts my betrayed spouse in the position of trying to build me back up and give me a new identity, or at the very least to curb some of their recovery to acquiesce to my needs. As long as the unfaithful spouse continues to remain paralyzed by his or her own self-absorption, their mate can’t truly heal. Shame doesn’t accept responsibility for the choices made, it is just another form of justification: “I can’t help my bad choices if I’m a bad person.”

Reference:

Reynolds, R. (n.d.), Understanding the paralysis of shame. Affair Recovery Healing Library. Retrieved from: https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/infidelity-recovery-understanding-the-paralysis-of-shame