MC: “Reconciled versus reconciling”

I think it’s clear that TL and I believe reconciliation is a marriage long process.  It’s never done.  In fact it’s more like a lifestyle.  For more on this, read Rick Reynolds’ “How long will it take to get over the affair.  You know — to get back to normal.”  As Rick said, I don’t want to get back to normal. That old normal, for me, was alternately pathological and superficial.  Reconciling will be part of our marriage forever.  That’s OK.  We need to accept that, adjust to it, and do it well.

There are plenty of examples of things you can do to continuously work on reconciling.  These  include counseling, writing, new activities as a couple, and perhaps others we have not yet discovered.  The new normal also means that new practices such as transparency about phones, computers, after work activities, and more never end.  Those healthy practices are not temporary.  They are part of your new lifestyle in reconciling.

TL and I had a conversation about this last night that put it into perspective for me.  The bottom line is, after surviving the initial shock of discoveries together, the urgency of reconciling can subside but the importance of it does not.  We work on reconciling every day.  But, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  If we were expecting the job of reconciliation to be finished — to be finite — we might be tempted to crash on it, the way a student might crash studying for an exam or writing a term paper.  Running a 100-meter dash, I’d throw every ounce of strength and energy into it.  Running a marathon, I’d pace myself.

Reconciliation is not a final exam we can pass or fail.  It’s more like a new habit such as exercising, eating right, observing our religion, brushing our teeth, abstaining from addictive vices, or caring for someone or something.  You do it forever.  For the sake of truth in advertising, expect little moments of imperfection. For example, if you miss a day of exercising, you get right back to it the next day.  If you allow yourself one dessert, you don’t give up on your whole diet.  Either way, you strive to do the right thing, forever. Similarly, even though you may have little moments where you forget to be compassionate, empathetic, or thoughtful, you should not give up on these things. I am saying that if you have these small failures, it does not mean that you are a failure and therefore still a cheater and a liar. Instead, these little failures are reminders of the importance of the work you are doing on reconciliation. These are signs that a course correction is needed.

I told TL that when some people ask when reconciliation will be achieved and when others say they have reconciled, it makes me think of reconciliation as a door closing, ceiling to floor, like in Star Wars or Indiana Jones, with the hero running to slide under the door before they are trapped in The Temple of Doom.  If that is reconciliation, you can have the illusion that once you’re safely under that door all your troubles are behind you, forever.  They are not.  You must keep dealing with them, daily, gradually, and appropriately.  If you see reconciliation as that door coming down, you rush and hurry.  You panic and crash.  You act as though you can put everything into it, non-stop, for one last leap to freedom.  That’s an illusion that causes you to focus on speed over quality.  It causes you to act in desperation.  You cannot reconcile through desperation.

Instead of escaping The Temple of Doom, recognize it as something else.  Take your time.  Do it right.  If you’re a betrayer, you can’t escape what you’ve done.  If you’re a betrayed, you can’t escape what your spouse has done to you.  Instead of escaping it, walk through it together.  Examine it together.  Dismantle it and rebuild it, from the inside out, together.

TL and I will never be reconciled.  I believe we are reconciling.  Each day it is a conscious decision to choose reconciliation.

We welcome your comments on this and any other discussion topics. If you would like to send in something to discuss, please e-mail it to us at


7 thoughts on “MC: “Reconciled versus reconciling”

  1. Thank you!

    It is tough balancing the need for hope and peace of mind with the commitment to work on reconciliation. Hope is therapeutic. But, in solving or preventing problems, hope is not a strategy. We don’t always see that discussed and just wanted to put it out there and see what others do to find that balance.

    Thank you for sharing the post on your site. We really appreciate it!


  2. I think this is absolutely true. Of course. But the problem arises when you are out of breath, when the race has got too hard, too long and you are not going forward, just fighting to stay afloat with the burden of your pains not lessening any, even with both parties working their arses off. There has to be respite periods, in order to carry on the race.

    The other thing that kind of annoys me about Rick’s statement that the old normal wasn’t good, is that there is a general assumption that cheating only happens in bad relationships, that you had something wrong with your marriage before. This is not always the case – in fact, quite often cheating occurs in good marriages, ones that worked brilliantly, very mindfully, passionately and cooperatively for decades. This is my story. Any speed bumps were negotiated with love and communication, and then he opted out for a while (mental illness) and when he opted back in, I was still unaware of any of it, as he shut down communication about himself – but very cunningly – as I still FELT he was communicating with me. However, he was filtering, and I just didn’t really understand that, as I have never felt the need, urge or desire to filter anything with him, so was unable to recognise that he could. He was very clever at communicating ENOUGH and still connecting with me. Our old normal was great, for me, and mostly great for him – until briefly (15 months) it obviously wasn’t. So, the simplification that the old normal was bad and dysfunctional is not the case for us. Three counsellors have agreed that we obviously had a great connection for those decades, but that when he “broke” for a while – not outwardly showing any signs of his brokenness – I was unable to fully see it due to his ability to disguise his brokenness. I did question him, I knew “something” had changed a bit, but he reassured me that all was well. Every time. And I believed him, as he was still there for me as I was for him, emotionally.


  3. Horsesrcumin, thanks for your thoughts. I think I read Rick differently. I don’t think affairs happen only in bad marriages. For example, I thought my marriage with TL was ninety-percent good. What was bad, in fact, was me — part of me. In fact, I even think that at least fifty-percent of me was good — good-intentioned and well-behaved. But, clearly, I had serious self-esteem and psychological issues. I tried to hide them from TL. I even tried to deny they existed, trying to convince myself.

    I’d love to hear your husband’s perspective on this too. His shutting down and filtering are very familiar. I did that too. I also reassured TL that everything was OK before D-day, even though it wasn’t.

    I have a hard time explaining this to TL. But, like you and your husband, I still think that in an overwhelming number of ways, TL and I have always had a strong and unique connection, the kind I couldn’t have and wouldn’t want with anyone else, even when I was broken. MC

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    1. So may I ask what you may suggest when the CS may behave as if working together past infidelity yet does not wish to confront the situation, dismantle it to work together on making changes. I feel that he is not honest with me as (I think) his unfaithful ways continue, yet I cannot gather any solid proof. I had hoped that we might survive this but it’s really feeling like we will never get there. Knowing about narcissistic behavior (covert narcissist nice guy), his behavior fits many of those described but not all of them. I feel like we live in limbo because he is not interested in doing the hard work. Your opinion?


      1. Chely, I’m so sorry you are in this situation. Has he taken a polygraph or done something to confirm to your satisfaction “how often, how long, how many?” I know that I could feel the walls between MC and me between first d-day and when I found out EVERYTHING. Until the walls are gone, healing is going to be really really hard because you will keep banging your head up against them. And, frankly, so will he. I don’t know how to convince someone of that though.

        I am at home, MC is not right now, but I suspect he might have some to add on this all when he is home.


      2. Step one is the polygraph, to be sure the cheating and lying have stopped. If he passes that, then you can work with your counselor to address any lingering resistance from your spouse; that part will take time.

        TL asked me what made me want to tell her everything and bring down the walls between us. When first D-day came, I quickly wanted to stop lying and cheating. In some ways, I was relieved to no longer have to exert energy leading a double-life. I was immediately motivated to never cheat again. Why? It was clear I would lose TL if I did not stop cheating and start trying to improve our relationship. At that point, however, I was too afraid to tell TL about all my past betrayals. She knew of the most recent one. I was afraid that if she learned about the rest she would leave me. I continued to keep those secrets, motivated by self-protection and fear of losing TL.

        When final D-day came, I was instantly very convinced I would lose TL and that complete revelation and honesty were the only things that might possibly save us. What made me think that? Simple. TL was so frighteningly (and understandably) angry that I desperately sought any tool to save us. Honesty was the only tool I had available.

        In the three years that followed, I was truly motivated to be honest, to take the initiative on our healing, and to be supportive. Increasingly, I succeeded at that. But, often, especially at first, I failed. For example, I hid my smoking from TL. I didn’t get a vasectomy until she reminded me. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples, described elsewhere in this blog. The point here is that those failures did not happen because I was disengaged or unmotivated. They happened because I was still learning, still learning to be consistent, to turn good behaviors into good habits.

        In sum, has your husband taken his polygraph? Have you made it clear that he will lose you if he does not do more work, faster? Are you both working with a counselor to learn new behaviors in your relationship?

        Conversely, what specifically is he doing or not doing that makes you think he does not want to do the work o that he does not want to confront the situation?


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