I learned a lot from Affair Recovery. I learned that love is an active choice, not something you passively fall into or fall out of.
I learned that my spouse does not exist to meet my needs. That’s not her purpose, nor is it the basis of a healthy relationship. It’s not the reason anyone should choose anyone else as a mate. I should choose to love her — or not — regardless of my needs.
I started to work on learning empathy. In one exercise I made a list of 20 things that would now be triggers for TL — things I had destroyed for TL — places I had been with APs, songs from the time I was cheating, particular sex acts, and many other things that were now frightening or repulsive to TL due to my betrayal.
I can’t begin to describe the sadness I felt reading that list out loud to TL and our AR group. I often say it must be what it feels like if you had a priceless, breakable family heirloom and you had pissed on it, broken it, and hidden it in the trash. Or, maybe it’s like if you had been trusted to protect the last of a dying species and instead you had killed it, through some combination of self-centered neglect and pathological rage.
In addition to Rick’s exercises, chapters, and lectures, I appreciated that the program gave TL and I a structure for spending lots of time together, focused on rebuilding our relationship. In that regard, this blog of ours is the successor to Affair Recovery for TL and me.
During this time, TL and I began a habit of making one night each week a “family night” and another night each week a “date night.” I started planning family trips and activities as well as trips and activities just for TL and I as a couple. After each one, I planned another. One way or another we needed to do these things to rebuild our relationship. I knew TL was too traumatized to do it. And, I also knew that this was a way I could show her my level of investment in our relationship and our family.
We began our dinner time ritual when each family member names one thing for which they were thankful that particular day and one positive thing they are anticipating the next day. This practice has been super important for me and one I wanted to share with our children. One of my many problems prior to D-day had been that I did not count my blessings. I did not appreciate what I had. I was always focused on the negative. I even remember my father telling me to count my blessings when I was a very young child. Instead of counting my blessings, I had spent 42 years angry at God for things I did not have rather than thankful to God for things I did have. This anger helped me justify taking matters into my own hands and illicitly taking things that were not mine to take.