I am so depressed that even writing this is difficult. I want to just go hide somewhere. At least I am no longer saying go hide somewhere and die. But I want to go hide somewhere for a while. I am crying so hard I can barely see what I’m writing.
I had an individual session with our therapist yesterday. He listened to my story. I told him the history of my marriage and the story of the affair and I told him about some of the issues between my husband and me. He mostly listened and did not say much, just tidbits to show he was paying attention. He was warm enough but very obviously studying me. He told me that there is a model to illustrate what had happened to us.
He said that in every marriage, there are really two relationships going on. The first is the romantic relationship. He called that the husband-wife relationship. This is where we find romance and excitement and the here and now. The second is the family relationship, which he called the mom-dad relationship. This is where we have security and finances and children and history.
He used chart paper and he drew a circle representing the man in the center top. Then he drew a circle on either side of the man, creating a triangle. He drew two arrows, from the man to each of the other circles. He put my name in one of the circles. He asked me the name of the affair partner and he put her name in the other circle.
He said that when a man has an affair, he separates the two relationships of the marriage. The affair partner becomes the husband-wife relationship and the spouse becomes the mom-dad relationship. For a while, it may be fun to try to do so and he may try to keep up both relationships. He said there are a few men who are able to compartmentalize their lives to such a degree that they can do this indefinitely. But he said most men cannot keep it up. They lean one way and then the other and find it difficult to be happy doing that. Most of the time, they make a choice between the two women. Sometimes the choice is forced on them by one of the betrayed spouses finding out, but eventually most men will make the choice themselves.
He said my husband chose me. He said that in his experience, men do not stay merely for finances or security if there is no love. He said my husband probably has strong feelings for his OW, being that the affair lasted so long, but he said my husband also has strong feelings for me since he made the decision to be with me. He said his feelings for her would dissipate as time went on with no contact. And if we worked at it, we could rebuild the husband-wife relationship between us.
He said many couples, affair or no, lose their husband-wife relationship over time and settle down in the mom-dad relationship. He asked me if I knew any couples who actually called each other mom and dad. I nodded. He said some people are satisfied with that and never do the work to maintain the husband-wife relationship.
I said, “So you’re telling me he loves two women. One as his romantic love and the other as the matriarch of his family.” He nodded. Then he said that my husband also loves me as a woman or he would not be here. “So you’re telling me he is in love with two women.”
He said yes.
He said that my husband was accustomed to being romantic and sharing his love life with his OW. He has voluntarily given that up, so now he needs to rebuild that love life with me. He said it will be uncomfortable at first because he is no longer used to being romantic with me. He may even feel he is betraying his OW. But he said it’s like learning a new language. At first it is uncomfortable because you’re not used to it. But as you practice you become proficient. He said my husband would eventually become proficient at being romantic with me.
He went to say that many people come in to his office saying that if the romantic love is not already there, then it’s no use. He said that was hogwash. He said romantic love is different from the infatuation of our youth and that it develops like the feelings in any relationship.
Through all this I was quiet. I made eye contact but I did not respond emotionally. I have gotten quite good at remaining calm and not giving away my feelings.
I left feeling very confused. Everyone was waiting for me when I got home. It was a nice family evening. When we were getting ready for bed, my husband asked me what was discussed in the session. I told him. He agreed with the model. He said that it was pretty much how it was for him.
I went to my sewing table to think. I became increasingly depressed as I thought about it. Different words but same meaning…. two relationships? He loved us both, her as the wife and me as the matriarch? That’s the same as that famous phrase: he loved me but he was in love with her. He cared for me as family, but she was the apple of his eye. He is no longer in love with me, but he’s going to try to find the love again.
But I remembered an article that I had read on Oprah.com. It explains things for me very well. Because I am not one of these people who no longer felt excitement about CK after a number of years. I was still wild about him, even when he was awful during his affair. This explains me:
How to Make Romance Last
By Helen Fisher
Oprah.com | From the December 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
The truth about what keeps marriages together
I have a friend who met her husband at a red light. She was 15, in a car with a pile of girls. He was in another car with a crowd of boys. As the light turned green, they all decided to pull into a nearby park and party. My friend spent the evening sitting on a picnic table talking to one of the guys. Thirty-seven years later, they are still together.
We are born to love. That feeling of elation that we call romantic love is deeply embedded in our brains. But can it last? This was what my colleagues and I set out to discover in 2007. Led by Bianca Acevedo, PhD, our team asked this question of nearly everyone we met, searching for people who said they were still wild about their longtime spouse. Eventually we scanned the brains of 17 such people as they looked at a photograph of their sweetheart. Most were in their 50s and married an average of 21 years.
The results were astonishing. Psychologists maintain that the dizzying feeling of intense romantic love lasts only about 18 months to—at best—three years. Yet the brains of these middle-aged men and women showed much the same activity as those of young lovers, individuals who had been intensely in love an average of only seven months. Indeed, there was just one important difference between the two groups: Among the older lovers, brain regions associated with anxiety were no longer active; instead, there was activity in the areas associated with calmness.
We are told that happy marriages are based on good communication, shared values, a sturdy support system of friends and relatives, happy, stable childhoods, fair quarrelling, and dogged determination. But in a survey of 470 studies on compatibility, psychologist Marcel Zentner, PhD, of the University of Geneva, found no particular combination of personality traits that leads to sustained romance—with one exception: the ability to sustain your “positive illusions.” Men and women who continue to maintain that their partner is attractive, funny, kind, and ideal for them in just about every way remain content with each other. I’ve seen this phenomenon, known as “love blindness,” in a friend of mine. I knew him and his wife-to-be while we were all i n college, when they both were slim, fit, energetic, and curious: a vibrant couple. Today both are overweight couch potatoes. Yet he still tells me she hasn’t changed a bit. Perhaps this form of self-deception is a gift from nature, enabling us to triumph over the rough spots and the changes in our relationships. I’m not suggesting you should overlook an abusive husband or put up with a deadbeat bore. But it’s worth celebrating one of nature’s best-kept secrets: our human capacity to love…and love…and love.
Apparently my husband does not have this “love blindness.” Only I do, or did. He took his love and gave it to someone else. Maybe it was never mine to begin with. It was always hers. Whatever, he is not in love with me.
Later, he came and asked me why I was sitting there in the dark and what was wrong. I told him. He said I was being ridiculous. He said maybe counseling was not a good thing for me. He said he needed to call the doctor and thank him for creating an even bigger mess.
We have not talked much since. Not much of this is new information, but it pulls it all into focus in a way that struck me like a bolt of lightning. It’s really true. He is not in love with me. He is grieving the loss of his OW. He has to learn to be in love with me again.
Am I willing to accept that? I dont’ know.