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Infidelity: Understanding the Affair – And Rebuilding Your Relationship

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Infidelity: Understanding the Affair and Rebuilding Your Relationship

Love and intimacy are at the core of humanity. The need for each is hardwired in all of us – dreamers, doers, madmen and the perfectly sane. But love and intimacy can also bring us to our knees, leading us into breathtaking emptiness, sadness and despair. Who hasn’t been there?

Without a doubt, one of the worst parts of love, perhaps one of the worst parts of being human, is finding that the person we love might be falling in love (or in-like-a-lot) with somebody else.

Infidelity occurs worldwide and across many different cultures. It’s been happening throughout the ages, so in terms of human behaviour, it seems to be a classic, despite that we all condemn it.

Infidelity: How Does it Happen?

The are many reasons people stray from the arms of a long-term intimate partner and into the arms of another. Sometimes an affair is the externally visible break of something that has been fractured on the inside for a while. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the marriage at all. According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, 56% of men and 34% of women who strayed from their long-term relationship rated those relationships as ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’.

So why then?

There are a host of reasons that people turn their attention from a long-term relationship to one with somebody new – and they are reasons, not excuses. Regardless of whether an explanation can be offered by biology, personality, genetics or evolution, infidelity is always a choice.

The more we can understand about what drives a behaviour, the more we can draw a bold heavy underline between it and the rest of forever and move forwards. If you’re the one who was hurt, know that this may have had nothing to do with you, or your partner’s satisfaction with the relationship.

Having said that, it’s important to look at your relationship with an open heart and an open mind. Is there any way you may have contributed to the breaks? Not that you anyone deserves to be on the end of the pain that comes with infidelity, but if your partner has been lonely, felt pushed aside by you or had his or her needs in the relationship ignored or overlooked, then he or she didn’t deserve that either.

If you’ve been attentive, loving and open – and it’s important to be honest – then none of this will make sense. It probably never will, but at some point, if you want to stay in the relationship you will have to forgive. That doesn’t mean accepting what happened. What it means is understanding it enough to stop the anger and hurt from having power over you. People make mistakes. Sometimes they are bad ones. So bad that you might be in pieces for a while because of them. But know that your relationship can survive – if you both want it to.

If you are the one who has turned your affection to someone outside your relationship, it’s important to decide whether or not you want to fight for the relationship you began with. If you do, it’s important to own the mess. Take responsibility, be patient, be accountable, be honest and above all else, be loving – so loving. Be loving through the anger, the hurt, the fear and the raw jealousy that will come your way, until you both find your way through.

Now for the reasons. Here’s what we know:

  1. Brain Architecture

    We have three brain systems that are designed to drive us to seek out and maintain intimate connections.

    The first is the sex drive and it’s designed to get us out there looking for a potential other. From an evolutionary perspective, this is important for survival of the species.

    The second is attraction, or romantic love, and it’s the longing we feel to be with one particular person. Powerful neurochemicals – dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin – surge through the body, igniting the euphoric feelings that come with falling in love and focussing energy on that on that one special person. Serotonin is involved in mood regulation, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function, so there is likely to be sleeplessness, loss of appetite and increased passion. The area of the brain involved here is the same area that lights up when a cocaine addict is injected with cocaine. It’s by no beautiful accident then, that falling in love brings with it a giddying, addictive high. 

    The third brain system is attachment. At this point, the body starts to develop a tolerance to the euphoria of the attraction phase. Endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin wash through the body, bringing about the feelings of security, calmness and well-being that come with an enduring relationship.

    Okay. So how does this relate to an affair?

    Over time in a relationship, dopamine – the neurochemical that drives feelings of pleasure and motivation – will diminish significantly if things aren’t kept interesting and fresh. When dopamine stays too low for too long, the instinctive push to connect and feel pleasure will gain momentum and the pull of sexual desire, attraction and attachment will strengthen.

    Dopamine will surge in response to something novel, so when there is someone the person is drawn to outside the marriage, continued exposure to that new, novel person will cause dopamine, the pleasure hormone, to constantly rush the body. This will bring about the euphoria of falling in love. When that person isn’t close, serotonin will drop, bringing sadness, emptiness and the push to seek that person out and be with them. Serotonin is also involved in impulse control, so when it’s at a low, people are more likely to act on impulse and do things they might not otherwise do.

    Adrenaline and norepinephrine also rush the body, amping up the feelings of euphoria and excitement that come with the possibility of connecting intimately with another. These neurochemicals are behind the lines we’ve all heard, and possibly said – ‘He makes my heart race,’ or ‘She takes my breath away’. They are clichés for a reason. Quite literally, because of the neurochemicals that are surging through the body, this is exactly how it feels to fall for someone. 

  2. The Relationship

    Not all affairs are a reflection of relationship dissatisfaction, but some are. The relationship reasons that drive people to have affairs are:

    •  general unhappiness and dissatisfaction within the long-term relationship;

    • personal needs going unfulfilled;

    •  significantly diminished or absent feelings of love for partner;

    •  frequency and quality of sex;

    •  lack of emotional support;

    •  lack of appreciation;

    •  lack of connection between the couple;

    •  the couple share more negative interactions and fewer positive interactions;

    •  less personal need for the relationship, so more ready to let it go;

    •  fewer shared resources between the couple that will be lost and missed if the relationship ends (friendships, possessions, connections);

    •  husbands who strayed were less satisfied with the relationship before marriage. Wives not so much.

  3. Personality

    People who have affairs tend to be more open to new experiences and extroverted than their partners and more easily bored. Remember though – this is a tendency, not a given.

  4. Biological

    Depression

Depression is a risk factor for having an affair. Of course, that doesn’t mean that just because someone has depression, he or she will have an affair – not at all.

Interestingly, the decreased serotonin that is characteristic of the attraction phase also happens during depression. It’s perhaps not surprising then, that depression is one of the risk factors of an affair. In this context, infidelity can be understood as an unwitting attempt to self-medicate and overcome the effects of low serotonin. When the potential for an intimate connection becomes realised, the constant surges of neurochemicals counter the effects of low serotonin by nurturing feelings of euphoria, happiness and pleasure.

Helen Fisher has suggested that the long-term use of anti-depressants that raise serotonin can potentially affect other brain systems associated with love and intimacy. Antidepressants increase serotonin, which depresses the dopamine circuit. Dopamine is associated with the feelings that come with romantic love. Compounding this is the potential of antidepressants to smother the sex drive and deprive the body (and the relationship) of the neurochemicals associated with attachment that surge the body during orgasm.

The 334 Allele

The research on biology and infidelity is compelling. (But even in light of this, infidelity cannot be blamed on biology).  Research has found that men carrying the 334 allele in the region of the vasopressin systems scored significantly lower on a questionnaire that measured how attached they felt to their partner. Those who carried two of the alleles showed less feelings of attachment than those who carried only one. They were also about twice as likely to have had a crisis in their marriage during the past year. 

Before you kiss me, do we have genes in common?

In another classic (and pretty gross) experiment, women smelled the sweaty t-shirts of men and chose the ones they thought were the sexiest. Results showed that they selected the shirts of men with different genes in a specific part of the immune system. In a subsequent study, women who were married to men with similar genes in this part of the immune system were more likely to stray outside their relationship. The more genes a woman had in common with her spouse, the more affairs she’d had. From an evolutionary perspective, this can be understood as a way to minimise complications in pregnancy and fertility.

After the Affair: Dealing with Infidelity

Relationships can certainly heal from infidelity but this will depend on the love that remains, the honesty with which the breakages are explored, understood and owned, and the capacity of each to reconnect in light of the betrayal. 

  1. End the affair properly. 

    Given what we know about the role of neurochemicals in reinforcing attraction and desire, it’s critical that the person involved in the affair cuts communication with the outside person if the relationship is going to be given a fighting chance.

  2. Put the affair in context. 

    The most important step to coming back from the brink of betrayal is to understand the affair within the context of the relationship, rather than as one person’s personal failure. It would be easy, and understandably very tempting, to pile shame and blame on to the person who had the affair, but this will squander any opportunity to address any deeper problems that contributed to the fracturing of the relationship. A couple can let each other down in plenty of ways. An affair is just one of them. Other ways include neglect, indifference, withholding of sex, failure to emotionally connect, and constantly overlooking the needs and wants of the other. It’s important to look at intimacy, communication, expectations, need fulfilment and the way conflict or competing needs are handled in the relationship.

  3. Understand how each other is feeling.

    It’s important for both people to understand and accept what the other may be feeling in response to the revelation of the affair:

    •  At different times, the person who has been betrayed is likely to feel insecure, jealous, angry, deeply sad, unable to trust and anxious. It’s likely there will be a tendency to obsess over details of the affair and hypervigilance around anything that might signal continued contact with the person the affair was with or clues the affair isn’t over. And then there’s the mental images.

    •  The person who had the affair is likely to feel shame, regret, fear of continued ‘punishment’ over the affair, anger, grief for the person they’ve had to let go of, resentment, emptiness.

  4. Be accountable. Every second, every minute, every hour – and don’t argue about this one.

    If you’re the person who has had the affair it’s critical that you remain completely accountable, sometimes perhaps ridiculously so, until the trust is rebuilt. This might take a while but it’s important if you want to rebuild your relationship. Be where you say you’re going to be, when you say you’re going to be, and if your partner rings, answer. If he or she texts, text back – always, no matter what. Rebuilding trust is key and that’s not going to happen without a massive display of commitment to the task.

  5. At some point, you’ll have to forgive.

    If you’re the one who has been hurt, at first there’ll be two types of days – bad ones and really bad ones. You’ll feel hurt, angry, sad beyond words and some days you’ll feel like you just can’t breathe. No doubt your partner will wear this for a while, and everything else that’s in you that has to come out. Eventually though, if you’ve decided to stay in the relationship you will have to make the decision to stop punishing your partner. He or she will already be feeling enormous shame. Go your hardest for a while, but then stop. Your relationship will depend on it. One way to do this is to be willing to honestly explore and own any way you may have contributed to the fall of the relationship.

  6. You’ve made a mistake. Don’t fight the response.

    If you’re the one who has had the affair, understand that your partner will be hurt, angry, in love with you, in hate with you, miss you, never want to see you again, won’t want to be without you – and sometimes this will turn so quickly you won’t see it coming. Stand still and let his or her emotion wash over you. There will come a point where this will stop but in the meantime the high emotion has to come out, otherwise it will fester and rot your relationship from the inside you. You don’t want that. And be loving. Always.

  7. Do something novel together.

    When the time is right, do something novel and exciting together. Go away for a weekend somewhere you haven’t been before, do something together you haven’t tried before, if your relationship has been without sex for a while bring it back. This can increase dopamine in the brain and help to reinvigorate romantic love.

Relationships that have been broken by the intrusion of another can heal, provided that both people are able to feel safe from blame and shame enough to own their part in the breakage. The responsibility might not be shared evenly, and that’s okay. If you’re both still there after the affair, and both still fighting, the relationship is clearly still important. Be patient and be open to each other. A bad decision doesn’t have to mean a bad relationship. It might, of course, but it doesn’t have to. That’s what you need to both decide.

We all deserve to be adored by the one we love. When that adoration turns to another – however short-lived – the pain can quite literally be breathtaking. Some days you’ll wonder if you still have the capacity to exhale. You do. And you will. But it will take time, fight and some hard decisions. You loved each other once and if you’re both still fighting to stay together the chances are that the love is still there, but buried under too many years of neglect, obligation, and the day to day pressures that come with life. If you’ve both decided the fight will be worth it, be patient and keep fighting for it, because it will be. 

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27 Comments

Matthew

I made the mistake of cheating on my wife of 8 years. We had three kids together, and I didn’t know it at the time but she really struggled with post partum. She was not emotionally available, for years… wouldn’t hug, or kiss me. When I brought up the issues she just said she was exhausted and I could never understand. I suggested counseling but she could never find time. I started a sexual relationship that lasted for 2 years until her husband found out and shared it with the world. I was in some kind of mind fuzz the entire time. I thought my wife didn’t really care, and didn’t have any interest in a better marriage. I was so wrong… we are 4 months in and we have both read almost every book we can find. Podcasts every single day as well as the bible every morning. She can not escape the pain I have caused her. She is dedicated to staying married, but can’t find joy anywhere. The trauma caused PTSD, sometimes she can’t remember what happened the previous day. I destroyed her, and the truth is I always loved her, and always considered her my dream girl. I will never want to be married to anyone else. I can’t stand to see her in so much pain. We are doing everything everyone suggests and the days just seem to be getting worse. I would do anything to take her pain away. I am filled with guilt, and shame, and can’t believe I did what I did.

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Chris

Mathew. I’m sorry that your marriage relationship has experienced such betrayal. I understand from reading your post how you fell pray to an affair. 2 years is a very long time. I would say your affair turned into a full blown relationship. My husband and I were married for 32 years and he cheated on me with a co worker for 3 years. I figured it out and caught him. We were experiencing some difficulties in our marriage. Mostly me acting out because he was ignoring my needs . we own a few businesses and he wasn’t finding urgency in what I needed. We are five years since discovering the affair and still married. Having been through it and were I’m at now I would like to explain somethings to you. 4 months is till very raw. It took me 3 years + to start feeling somewhat normal. I had lost all feelings for him I felt nothing for him for about a year with hope that maybe it will return. And it has but not 100%. Betrayal is very difficult to overcome. I still have doubts about staying married to him. But I have to forgive but I will never forget. The marriage that you had with your wife was basically died through you having an affair. The only way to the future together is to start a new marriage better marriage and she has to look at her part in the death of your marriage and work on herself. We have been moving forward in our marriage and yes it feels new and fresh but I don’t trust him and that has to come back. I for the life of me cannot understand how a man can have an affair for 2 years then wants to save his marriage when caught. Why not stay with the affair partner. My husbands states he doesn’t want her she was married also. I can’t wrap my mind around that. Nor do I believe it. It’s been a difficult journey for us. I wish it never happened. But I’m glad it did because it forced me to grow as a person. I’m stronger more outgoing.iv taken up golf. I’m not the same person. I love me now. I hope you find this helpful. And much luck to you and your wife. It was a verybad choice to cheat on her. I hope she to will grow from the experience. Hugs.

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Rose P

I had a six month relationship with a man I met online. I confessed to my husband 2-1/2 months after it ended. My husband has Stage 4 Prostate Cancer in remission. Due to the treatment, he is not able to function normally nor does he have any emotional attachment to any form of sex. I had the affair to prove to myself “I still had it”. The other man ended it but we had discussed that it would happen at some time as he was seeking a full time relationship. I hurt my husband more than I ever anticipated. He is filled with anger, hurt and rage. We are starting counseling but I don’t know how to help him. I love my husband and he loves me. Also, his rage and jealousy actually made him make love to me orally for the first time in 3 years and he also achieved a dry orgasm. But that satisfaction is short lived. I don’t know what man will wake up in the morning.

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Ozbloke38

This is honestly the best article I’ve read from an information prospective and non one sided.

I cheated on my partner, I was out of control for over 3 years. The sad thing is I went into the relationship on medication (anti-depressents) and i didn’t realise how I was treating her until I was off everything.

The worst part is when I was prescribed dexamphetamine and was on a high dosage and the depression, stress and emotional roller coster was insane, every afternoon I was in tears.

I soon realised I had extreme highs and extreme lows caused by this (which I never had before) and headaches the most painful in my life and that my sex drive was insatiable, my partner would do her best I could not get enough, it’s all that was on my mind all the time.

I then discovered massage as a form of stress relief and relaxation, however unfortunately I was touched inappropriately (I reported this to the police) however something drove me back even though I was in pieces over the event.

Fast forward 3.5 years and it got out of control, massages happy endings to sex to perving on friends which I look back after therapy for the past 12 months and feel disgusting (I did every time afterwards too but could not stop)

The problem is I broke down (I think I had an anxiety attack along with a nervous breakdown) and told her everything, every single detail even though she was begging me not to, I couldn’t stop myself and now we are trying to make it work yet she gets images on a daily basis and triggers (sex scenes on tv etc, someone says something etc)

We’ve been together 12 years and get along so so well I believe she is truly my sole mate yet she said she doesn’t love me anymore, but is hoping it will come back, she just doesn’t know how since she isn’t interested in sex at all with me and isn’t attracted to me in that way anymore as it’s all she can think about.

No one seems to be able to help, we have visited a few therapists but they often don’t give any solid advice and we both feel lost and don’t know how to heal from this even though we want to more than anything.

If you have any advice please please help.

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Meg

I cheated on my long term partner with a guy I fell in love with. My partner and I were an amazing couple, he was the love of my life and I was sure we will grow old together. After 13 years of relationship, we went into a marital drift. I was alarming him and asking for a date, new activity, maybe fitness together, dancing, I complained that I felt I was taken for granted. He ignored my birthday, where I was always making a big celebration of his. Suddenly a feeling for another person sneaked up on me. I was lying to myself that he is just a friend. One day we kissed and I felt reborn. I felt something I didn’t feel for so long that I don’t remember. That day I was dancing, singing, laughing… now the affair ended and I am living in hell. Confused, still in love and grieving, not able to rebuild the current relationship. I feel incredibly guilty and not worthy of any kindness from my partner. I feel extremely bad for hurting him, can’t forgive myself. I love my partner and he loves me more than anything. We support each other and cry together. But I can’t get sexy with him any more. I am panicking that this is really the end of us. I can’t force myself to have sex, I feel I don’t deserve to feel good at the same time I look at my partner and I see his sad eyes. He is hurt and this is also turning me off. Is there any hope we can make it work? how? We went to couples therapy, we stopped that, didn’t work. I felt prosecuted during meetings and I became even sadder. Not only sadness for the damage I caused, but also loss of the amazing relationship I had. And I also was madly in love with the lover, I still struggle to get over that, sometimes I fantasize if maybe I should chase him. ( I cut the contact with the lover, blocked him and not meeting which was incredibly difficult )

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Jax

A very interesting article – unfortunately it was too generalized and had a ‘ factory ‘ feel to it and therefore I can’t really associate it to my situation – my wife’s affair to a so called ‘friend’ ‘ of mine and co-worker while in the military. I sensed it was going on but was constantly thrown off by endless lies and mis- directions. It was so bad we would be at cookouts and they would both sit there and not show even a hint of the deception going on – his wife would be there too! He would sit there and drink with me and eat food I had cooked just like we were real friends! After a week or so ago having a hot sexscpades in a hotel. And this went on for over a year! I look back and think how completely diabolical and sinister this all was.
We have not yet reconciled – you cannot forgive someone who does not feel they did anything wrong – what would be the point? When questioned my wife actually feels lying is ok if you have a good enough reason! I now feel there is something wrong with my wife – there’s two different people here – she’s delusional lives in an alternate reality – we’ve been to 3 therapist – we have not gotten anywhere. I’ve tried getting a lawyer and moving out but she starts this ‘ suicide ‘ or I can’t live without you BS ( he dumped her – and she can’t accept that). Now so much time has passed we’re just roommates – she’s so delusional she thinks our marriage is ‘pretty normal’! I’m also suffering from combat PTSD and feel I’m ‘taking fire from two sides’. Thank God for medical marijuana or I’d be cracking up. It’s the lies and deception not the sex that has ruined our marriage ( although I finally realized that after the affair she was just providing ‘ courtesy ‘ sex – and damn little of that)! I’ve pretty much given up on this.

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Finley W

Cheating blinds the participants to the harm that can come to themselves and those they love. Their judgement is clouded by a veil of hormones.

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April

My husband was in a long term affair with someone 14 yrs younger than he. She was a waitress at a diner that he frequented for breakfast and lunch during the week. She keep telling him her husband was abusive and she needed help. I guess he felt like the white knight and played her rescuer. There was never any signs of abuse! He says they were friends and he lived in a fantasy world when with her free from a wife, mortgage, children, and responsibilities. They spent many afternoons engaging in sex and nights which he was able to pull off due to picking up a second job at night that never seemed to bring in the extra money. “Hello!” He claims he never meant to sleep with her just to talk, escape from reality, and be friends. He claims that because she initiated the sex, it wasn’t his fault. But, he didn’t say no! During all of this time we had a 6 yr old daughter, and a 1 yr old son. I had become pregnant by accident, due to the over active sex drive he had with me during that time, and we’re bldg. and moving into our first home. Before finding out about the affair, myself along with everyone else thought it was the happiest times ever! On our wedding anniversary he stood up and announced he had to leave due to him not being sure that he live me or the kids anymore. He left! I was devastated. Two weeks later, I had a miscarriage at 18 weeks pregnant, due to a severe pelvic inflammatory disease and an STD that had been given to me by him. He denied ever having sexual contact with her, and the kids and I were lost without him. Thirty yrs. later, he has confessed his infidelity. I knew but pretended it didn’t happen to survive. We are both in counseling. He can’t understand why I’m so upset, about his lying to me and why I want to know the whole story of what happened. Thirty years ago everything he told me that had happened was a lie. I feel like such a fool. Yes, he’s been here since then, but there have been many downs and not so many ups. Btw the reason it all came up again is because the woman he had the affair with is now in jail for murdering her elderly mother and trying to kill her sister. We saw the article in the news.

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Jenny

I’m currently experiencing in difficult time in my life. My hAn old friend and I reconnected and after a long night of TALKING, mostly me, he shared he loved me. We had always felt an intense connection so it was great to know he did. I had no intention of leaving my spouse to run away with him, I considered discussing full polyamory (I’m currently open to date other women but not men) but even then I wasn’t sure it would’ve happened.

I had every intention to have the conversation with my husband after we returned from our trip and I had a chance to explain myself properly since I hate keeping secrets and suck at it.

My friend and I continued to text over the next few days but we’ve never really had “full convos” rather random comments that rarely require a response. My husband read through the messages and misunderstood so much of it. He saw some PG images I sent which seemed “lovey” and that infuriated him. He’s upset that I didn’t shut it down and instead fueled it. I understand. I know I did wrong but it was nice to actually hear someone tell me they loved me (my husband isn’t verbally or physically expressive of emotions). I should also mention that my friend has no interest in a relationship and was merely sharing his feelings as I think they may have been there for some time. My spouse is ill and often times can’t even stand being touched.

Everything I read in this article makes logical sense, I hope that my spouse can see that as well and I hope that we can use this as an opportunity to make things better. I love my spouse more than anyone in the world and losing him will destroy me, but I would also understand him if he chose to walk away from me. Relationships need to be nurtured by both parties, not just one.

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Diana

If someone has an affair, they do not “love” the person who they chose to betray.

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Meg

I cheated on a person I loved and still love a lot. He is the love of my life I always thought

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Me

Not all affairs are superficial. My husband and I got married very young, 20, had kids right away , didn’t date anyone before that. We are great friends but I realized in my marriage over the years that he had a temper. I dealt with it, but told him at least three times over the years that I wasn’t happy. I met someone at 45 years old who I felt finally understood me. I told my husband about him. I told my husband I was going to cheat on him. I told him the truth before anything happened. I never imagined I would do it. But I needed to feel loved. I had been so lonely for so long. I don’t mean sex, I mean support. It took me and this man a year to have physical sex , but before that, it was love without judgment which my husband wasn’t giving me. Just saying that something drives the cheater to do this, and so often it’s neglect. And that’s not to say I didn’t beg for it for years. I was honest in my feeling for neglect for a long time.

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Melissa

You sound just like my husband. My low libido is what ultimately pushed him away and into another woman’s arms. I have several health issues that kill my sex drive, and he has a higher than normal sex drive. He came to me and admitted to me that he had feelings for someone else. They just started out as friends, but the more and more they saw each other and talked with each other they found a connection. He says he has never slept with her, but I do believe that he has fallen in love with her. He cut contact with her, and everything was getting better for a while, and then they started talking again. He finally admitted it to me in December. It really has taken a toll on me and my health. He says he hasn’t talked to her, but I feel he needs to tell her that we are trying to work it out and not to contact him. She contacted him about 3 weeks ago because she ran out of gas. He told me last night that he wants me to hurry up and be over it. I told him that I cannot change how I feel and it takes time to regain the trust.

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Laura

Been married 15 years we have 3 kids and a happy marriage , my husband had an affair it lasted one month with someone from work , she doesn’t work there anymore . It’s been one month since I found out and I cry daily I can’t function , I have visions of them together in bed and it makes me ill . I’m so shocked my husband did this . My husband feels guilty and he has apologized for the hell he has put out family thru and is ashamed . We are currently sleeping separate and going to therapy once a week . Last night he told me I’m pushing him away and he can’t breath I’ve been talking about the affair from the minute I wake up until we go to bed and when he’s at work I text him all day long about this . Some advice pls .

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Pieces on the floor

Found out 7 months ago my husband of 13 yrs has been unfaithful 4 times with 3 short term flings lasting no longer then 2 weeks at a time with 4 different women we are associated with in outer circles, 1 woman he met at bar and had a one night stand with and does not know her name. Last time he had any interaction with another woman was 3 yrs ago, this came out over a dispute in someone elses marriage, one of Ows struck another marriage, go figure! So it was let me know she did it to me too. Also he frequented strip clubs that consisted of lap dances and offered paid sex, which he never did but considered and only didnt do due to being with someone else that intervened. What I did know about was he watched porn regularly, not to the extent though, found out after d-day, up to 3 times a day while pleasing himself and has promised many times to stop over the yrs and failed to do so, just got better at hiding it. I have been entirely devastated! We have been to a couples retreat for this and attending church regularly. I am sad, angry, confused, and a million things almost daily still. He has been supportive of me as much as he knows how, accountable, searching, full of shame and pain too. I am struggling with my unrelenting love for him and my values battling nonstop. I feel like I lost all these yrs with him. I thought I had a happy husband, children, home. I am a sahm. We spent alot of time together, close to eachother, we worked through his prior drug and alcohol addiction, built a wonderful life on the other side. I had no idea he had this secret side, I didn’t know he even had time since he was home when he should etc. He is a sweet, gentle, hard working, shy, caring, loving father, talented at what he does, not always sure of himself, lil hard on himself at times, once he loves you he stop at nothing for you hes treated me very well ( he can’t say that about many). He says I was always loving, supportive, available, our marriage had nothing to do with it, nor me. He says it was entirely with in himself. He says a few things and I’m not sure what to think or do anymore, need guidance, I am stuck. 1. that he felt unworthy of me and the life we had, that one day I’d wake up and see I was better then him and leave him, that he couldn’t handle that and needed to self soothe the fear. That his self esteem was low. Said coming from an alcoholic family he didn’t know what to do with a truly loving life and thought it was impossible for him. 2. That his porn addiction started yrs before I met him, that he developed a fantasy of what sex should be like, it mostly consisted of being persued by a woman. That he was persued by these women he was unfaithful with, when he recounts the events he can pinpoint when he rebutted them and they persued aggressively with nonstop contact, then when he ignore them they’d seek him out one on one and physically advance, and he would submit and the Ow would plan a hotel etc. He said it provoked that fantasy aspect for him that he developed. He says once he was to that point he was in a haze of sorts yet excited they wanted him until the day it was to take place. Then when there he’d become terrified and not want to. He even stated that once he told the one he was scared and was trembling in fear and she aggressively took over and he couldn’t perform at all (same happened with the one night stand). When I think about what I do know of him he is not scared of women in anyway, we at one time had a first, a lil nervous yes but scared no. And I am aware of his previous experience as well, it is something we discussed openly many yrs ago, none of this fits what I know of him.
It’s puzzling feels like he was bullied, and I do know these women as well. They are not very good people in general. I recall these women advancing even on me at the time aggressively, speaking about lingerie they bought for this guy they were planning on seeing etc, now I know they were talking about my husband! And how o how lucky I am my husband gave me such a beautiful home, how nice it would be to have that! Ugh! Were they poaching a weak person, that is insecure to feel more then better then, what’s it about exactly? Should I work harder to forgive and him harder to become stronger?
Despite all of this he holds himself responsible, says that he should’ve never done any of this, fact. I wonder what or how I should process this information in a healthy fashion. Is he an addict, low self esteem, a person who has problems that I should run from I have no clue? I’m so confused and hurt I don’t know what way to turn at all. I need help to sort it out. When I bring it up he cries because he’s sick from hurting me so badly, he did so much all these yrs to make a happy life to destroy it like this makes no sense and he doesn’t understand why he’d allow it.

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Anonymous

Pieces on the floor are you taking about my husband? Your story seems similar to mine, except that he was only having sex once but watching porn and having repeatedly cybersex. His bad behaviour (wouldn’t call it addiction) was there before we met 17 years ago and I didn’t know about it before 5-6 years into our marriage. Found out about his sexual affair 2 years ago, and same time he came clean with all the cybersexing and the porn (which I thought he left behind after our first-second-fifth argue years ago). I am devastated, but I don’t pit myself. I have chosen to give him and our marriage one more chance; if he fails this time, I am out. No more mercy, No more chances, No More hurt! Time will heal and time will show if he’s worthy of my love and trust. Enough is enough. I am too good for this shifty behaviour. Hope you’ll get through it👊🏻💪👍🏻

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peace

Husband cheated on and off for 2 years (she moved away after about 16 months). He said it was just sex but I caught him because they were texting months after she moved. It’s been 4 months and he’s really sorry and trying very hard. But, he was hiding text messages coming up on his phone until a few weeks ago. He said he didn’t want me to be upset if I saw a text from her. Her never told her to go away, said he deleted her contact info. A few weeks ago I saw some text to an escort (also from a year ago that he didn’t delete) while he was on business. He said he stopped and nothing happened. He loved me too much and didn’t want anything else bad to happen. This has sent me back in my healing and I don’t think he gets that. Married 28 years. Also cheated about 13 years ago. I’m really having a hard time with this. Any advice?

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Speak with your husband about the article and set some ground rules. What do you need him to do? I would suggest things like being fully accountable with where he is, his texts, his messages, emails etc. There has to be no more secrets and in order to help you feel safe, he will need to surrender his privacy for a while. This is all explained in the article.

I think a lot of people who betray the people they love don’t understand the depth of pain that comes with that betrayal. Healing does take time, especially when it isn’t the first time because the trust will take longer to rebuild. This doesn’t mean that you can’t heal, just that it will take longer. It’s important that you are both realistic about the process. It won’t be easy. You will probably be feeling disconnected, angry, and hurt for a long time and it is important that your husband understands that this is part of the fallout. Over time, there will be more good days than bad days and the distance between the two will get longer. At some point, it will be important to let go of the anger or suspicions and start trusting him again – but it’s okay if this takes a while. I understand how much you are hurting and I know this isn’t easy. I wish you love and strength.

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Pia

I wanted to forgive and reconcile just as you wrote.
As the betrayer, he didn’t do any of the things you wrote of; instead, screamed at me and made me always feel like there was something wrong with me for reacting the way I did, and not “…moving forward” more quickly. His time frame for me to get over it was “a day or two.”

I expected him to be kind. I expected him to want to help my hurting heart. He added insult to injury, and then I wasn’t allowed to bring it up ever. He said I disgusted him and I am weak.

I walked away. So confused. I didn’t want to “punish” him. I wanted to communicate and understand why. I wanted an apology that I didn’t have to coach. Not a screaming, resentful “I am sorry!!!”

I took responsibility for my part, working a full time corporate job, splitting my time between two coasts for a year. It was unfair to him.

It has been over a year. I was bombarded with love for 18mos., then it was all gone. As if he wasn’t the same man.

I still have not so good days.

Thank you for validating that I did indeed respond normally to being betrayed.

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Shelkey

He sounds like a narcissist. Look up psychological abuse. I think you’ll find some answers there.

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Sharon

Pia,
This is exactly what I went through after discovering my husbands affair with his boss. Everything I read told
me that my reactions were in fact normal, but I felt judged and criticized for not handling his betrayal better.
We went through 3 different therapists, and all of them seemed to be more focused on my anxieties over the triggers, and the fact that we needed to set up healthy boundaries because I wanted to check his where-abouts and text messages when he would travel (sometimes with his affair partner).

My husband would get so amazingly defensive and angry when I would need to cry and scream over the pain I felt. He would resort to raging at me, demean me, or criticize me. He made me out to be an enemy, as opposed to someone he cared enough for to love and support.

After two years, I have stopped bringing up the affair. I feel I have been manipulated into silence because he is too full of shame and guilt to help me heal. I don’t trust him to never betray me again, because even through what should have been our healing, he has shown that he doesn’t hold my needs over his own…

Why do I stay? I am asking myself this all the time….

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Jane

This was a good read! Having been cheated on in a long term marriage, and still loving my partner, and being afraid to leave the comfort of a home with 3 small children, the only option was to try and forgive and move on in the relationship. Good times, ups and downs, and no mention of the affair surfaced again. I understand it was not all one sided, but there was no excuse for the infidelity. Fast forward 25 years, the children all educated and making their own way in life, I was once again betrayed. This was the end. A 40 year old was much more appealing then I, The wife and mother who was now 60. Should I have invested those years, only to end up alone?? The one thing I do have is the Love and Respect of my children, which unfortunately the cheater does not.

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Hey Sigmund

I’m pleased the article found its way to you and I’m sorry your marriage ended the way it did. If this man wasn’t able to be fully with you, for whatever reason, then it is best that he move along and make way for the things or people that will be good for you. I know it probably doesn’t feel like that now, but it will eventually. I can hear that you feel alone now, but there is now room for new people can find their way to you when you are ready for that.

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Mike Mckay

As is usually the case on here a thoroughly interesting, eye opening and thought provoking read

Very well balanced and not (as is normally the case) taking one genders side over the others but simply outlining the facts, the driving factors and also not forgetting the potential mitigating factors

I can imagine a lot of people huffing and puffing at their monitor because someone dared to not take their or their genders side on the topic and had the audacity to suggest that biology, psychology and yes, even their partner could have been some if not all of the reason

My personal experience has been that very few clients actually wanted to try and carry on with a relationship after infidelity, and many of the ones seeking counselling merely wanted somebody else to tell their partner that they were in the wrong, that it was all their fault and that they were scum rather than trying to fix anything

What I have also noticed is that the ones that could mtually approach a relationship with an open mind and genuinely put an infidelity behind them rather than constanly using it to get their own way, excuse their own poor behaviour or just repeatedly torture their partner over it tended to come out of the process with a much more open, communicative and strong relationship than they had ever had before

But its sad that

a) people couldnt build relationships like that in the first place and

b) that so few people are capable of doing that after the event

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Hey Sigmund

Thank you. It’s such a polarising issue isn’t it. Although there will always be people who mistreat the people who love them, this is certainly not always the case with infidelity. Affairs are more often than not the symptom of bad relationships, not bad people – but that doesn’t have to mean the relationship is broken beyond repair. It also doesn’t mean there isn’t love still from both sides.

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Mike Mckay

Its difficult for people to have a big picture view when the core of their trust has been shattered

And where people feel completely the victim with no idea they could be anything less than the perfect partner theyre not usually open to hearing anything less than endless streams of apologies

I have found even with the people who claim to want to try again, theyre often just wanting either some time to get revenge by using the other persons guilt or are just wanting to buy time and prepare for when they ditch the person and move on

Another frequent cause that often goes unnoticed is fear

Many people can feel their partner is completely out of their league in one or more areas, or can just grow to see the person as so perfect that someone as flawed as them doesnt deserve them etc etc yadda yadda blad blah or similar

So I believe they then self sabotage the relationship subconctiously and that sometimes cheating is just the vehicle and not the aim or destination some of the time

Because for someone like that the more they care for, depend and love a person the more they know it will hurt when it ends. And it ending is to them a known certainty with only the date it will happen being unclear

Theres even instances where one person just has what they feel are odd sexual needs they couldnt share with a partner, or where they feel their partner would see them in a bad light if they knew about them too at the other less complicated but more deliberate end of the spectrum

Theres just endless scenarios aside from the obvious ones that can lead to an infidelity, but after the fact the person who feels they were the victim wont usually be interesting in any mitigating circumstances which they cant really be blamed for really on some levels I guess

But yes, theres such a vast array of mindsets, reasons both conscious and subconcious and expected aims or reactions

Theres also the wrong assumption too which can be almost as bad, where one partner is complete sure that they are being cheated on but either cant or wont try to prove it or end the relationship

Often this is actually the self sabotaging mechanism instead of cheating, but by accusing the other partner of doing it and expecting them to “prove” they didnt, which of course is impossible

Getting a person to step back from that brink is extremely difficult and their mindset and actions can tend to kill a relationship as effectively as an actual infidelity willl

I have known people who have gone out and cheated because of that constant stream of accusations, and once it had “happened” they did even try to rebuild the relationship which was impossible before they did go and cheat

I have also known someone say they did cheat just to try and move past the accusations too, but that just ended on the spot and they said even that felt like a relief

So yeah, complex topic, and one so many people remain too raw to ever be able to discuss it in a calm and adult manner

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Theresa H

I am the one betrayed. Strange that I never got mad at him. I don’t hate him. I’m in a deep depression but nobody knows it. I keep it hidden. I don’t ask him questions because he tells me lies so I keep my thoughts in a journal. I’m one of those that thought we had something special. If I were younger I would leave, We’ve been together 42 years. It’s been like a death. My life is in limbo. I hope this sadness will go away at some point and my creative side will emerge again.

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