A cheating spouse commented the other day on Emotional Affair Journey, saying that his wife had not yet recommited to him after his affair. He said she couldn’t look at him without thinking about what he had one. He says he wants to honor his wife first and foremost, even though it hurts his heart to live without his affair partner, but his wife says it’s too late for that. Pretty standard stuff in our blogging community of betrayal and infidelity, but the part that caught my attention was where he said his “heart still hurt” for the OW. I seem to be coming across this in the blogs more and more – this confession by cheating spouses that they long for their affair partners and love them passionately long after they cut off contact. They grieve for the loss and have difficulty moving beyond it. This has all probably been there for a long time and I just never saw so much of it until now. Perhaps God sheltered me from that revelation early on because I would have had great difficulty and pain dealing with that knowledge. It still hurts a lot. In fact, that is THE major thing that keeps me from moving past his affair.
My marriage counselor tried to talk me out of it. I have posted about this before, but with a slightly different perspective. For today’s thoughts, I would like to add that my counselor’s view was that it is possible to love more than one person at a time but in different ways. I was the family partner and she was the romantic partner, and he enjoyed sex with both of us. The counselor said it was possible and that’s what happened to my husband. But he said it is impossible for a cheating spouse to keep up two relationships like this and keep everyone happy, including the cheater him or herself. So my husband had to make a choice between us. He chose me, even though my counselor felt that he was also in love with his OW. The counselor said he had to go through a period of grieving and he will probably always have some small residue of feelings for her, but he has made his choice and he will just have to tell himself “NO” when he thinks about contacting her. That was not a help to me at all. In fact, that just made it worse. Thinking that he is still in love with her and pining away for her kills me. It just kills me. The comments on Emotional Affair Journey tell me I’m not alone.
My coach James tries continually to get me to see it in a different light. He says that what my husband had with his OW was not real love. He believes love is defined as it is written in the Bible:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7
By this definition, he says my husband didn’t love her. It was infatuation and addiction. It felt like love because it was a longing, but it was actually a longing like an addict feels for cocaine. They know it’s not good and it’s not right, but they long for it. They feel they need it. Like addictions, there is a withdrawal period, but it is not a geniune grieving over love. It is the brain’s response to losing the object of the addiction.
But if I really look at this definition of love, my husband didn’t love me, either. He was rude, crushingly rude when in his affair. He was trying to push me away. He was self-seeking. He sought only to meet his own needs through me and through her. He thought nothing of my needs. He was always angry at me for something or other during his affair. He could remember every time I had ever disappointed him. He twisted the truth of our relationship to justify his affair. He threw me under the bus. He did not protect me or trust me. He had no hope for our relationship once he found her again. He showed no perseverence in trying to work out whatever he thought he needed in our marriage.
What do I do with that? I don’t know. I could say that it was the addiction making him say and do things that were not truly him. But before the addiction had taken hold, when he first went after her – what was that? Did he love me then? Did he just forget or was it buried under resentments? Well, he has actually admitted that there were no big problems in our marriage. He says he just never got over the fact that she dumped him all those years ago and he wanted vindication in seeing that he could take her away from the man who took her from him. I don’t know if I believe that. It all happened so fast when they got together. Did he really stop to think about all that? Or did he just feel those rekindled first love feelings? Does he love me now? And if he perceived his feelings for her as love, should we not accept that as love?
It’s so confusing. James says human beings are flawed and messy and often impossible to understand. He says we need to just accept that some behaviors are beyond comprehension. They make no sense and we just have to decide if we can live with it or not. That has been my journey – to look into myself and my marriage to see if I can live it.
LFBA and other bloggers have tried to help me see things differently, too. My husband himself has tried. But I remain unsure and untrusting of my husband’s feelings. That could just be the hurt talking, I guess. In daily life, we are getting along very well these days. James says we are like teenaged lovers – so sweet and loving and thoughtful. He chases me around the bed and we hold hands and walk arm in arm. Sex is better than it has ever been. We are totally wrapped up in each other. Outside of work, we are always together. I have passed through the worst of the pain and I enjoy him. My heart is warmed just to see him smile. But in quiet times and alone times, I still hurt and I still obsess and I still cry. I still have meltdowns when something triggers me. Why? I think it’s mostly because I remain unsure of his feelings for her and for me and I am still on alert for signs that he will hurt me again.
That guy on Emotional Affair Journey expected his wife to give herself fully to him and recommit to the marriage while he was pining away for his OW. It doesn’t work that way, Pal. If you are missing your OW, then you are not yet fully recommited to the marriage. Her radar probably senses this. You are the one who threw commitment to the wind. You need to recommit before she can. When you are over the OW and you are fully in your relationship with her, then and only then will she be able to completely open her heart again and fully recommit to you. That’s tough, but that’s the breaks, Pal – the way the cookie crumbles.
My parents used to listen to this song and I remembered it as I was writing this post. It’s a good way to end for today. It describes exactly what I want to say.
Love Me with All of Your Heart
by Engelbert Humperdinck