The double life – Externally smiling, Internally broken

What is the double life for the betrayed partner? It is that duality that we live. The one side has to look happy for the kids, strong for the betrayer (Allie) and confident for our co-workers.

On the inside, we’re freaking dying though.  The bottom line is that being betrayed by our “best friend”, our spouse, our lover is effing hurtful. It breaks us completely. There is a depression inside that just doesn’t seem to go away. I am 6 weeks post-discovery of my wife’s second third affair. This time, it hurts worse than the first because all indications were that she’d healed and wouldn’t ever do that again. The sad reality is that often, cheaters are repeaters.  They may have genuine remorse, they may be saying and doing the right things, but cheating — according to experts — is cyclical and WILL come back around.

The question is, how long do we wait as betrayed spouses? If you’re like me, you LOVE your spouse. I do.  I love my wife. Always have. So, she has a power over me that is very difficult to shake. Because I know her and I love her, she can say sweet words to me and I melt. So, when she’s in recovery, everything is great. We have make-up sex….often. She is sweet to the family, she is great with our kids. But, once she goes into the triggered or cycled space, she becomes pretty hard to deal with. She’s aggravated easily, she’s much more short with us all, and you literally can’t apologize enough to make her feel like you’re truly sorry for something. When she is like this, it is only a matter of time before she reaches out to another man.

The thing is, how do you tell her that this time is different? This time, I am dying inside and I don’t see her the same.  I can’t stand what she did this time. After the first one, I chalked it up as a mistake.  A painful indiscretion and I got over it.  Forgave her, etc. Now we’re into multiple affairs. Cyclical affairs. They could become more and more frequent as her brain desires that chemical rush that she got before by sneaking.

Hanging on by a thread

The last day or two I have been hanging on by a thread. Since discovering Allie’s affair in March 2018, I have been on an emotional roller coaster. Anger, depression, heartbreak, isolation, embarrassment, rejection and insecurity are just a few of the emotions I have experienced in the past 6-7 weeks.

Now that my emotions are beginning to normalize a bit, I have a lot of questions in my head about Allie. Questions about whether I want to stay with her or not. I am reading a book right now called “After the Affair“.  Here is just one of the profound quotes from the book when a person discovers their partner is having an affair.

“Your view of your life and the world you liven in may be ripped apart” & “the greatest threat to recovery is the loss of hope itself.”

The book is heavy, but eye-opening. It identifies feelings that people experience and describes how to recover. I am only in the first section which is written for those who have just discovered their partner’s affair. I very much identify with the people and examples the author cites.

Part of the trauma that you get to enjoy when your spouse has an affair is that several illusions are shattered. The illusion that you are special above all others is a big one.  You know, the idea that because she married you, she would be faithful to you and not go out sleeping around.

Another illusion you might have had is that your marriage was extraordinary. No matter what you’ve made it through your wife sleeping with another man will end that idea pretty quickly.

Now, you’re dealing with the loss of those two ideas that you had. You’re not special and your marriage wasn’t valuable. Those two corpses will leave you reeling for a while.

Another illusion that is there is that the kids will somehow play a role in giving your wife a conscious when she strays. Nope. Even our youngest child who has Allie completely wrapped couldn’t stop her from the affair. She even had sex with Mark on our youngest’s third birthday just before having him dedicated at church. I venture to say, she’d have moved his car seat out of the way to lay down in the back seat with Mark.

As your illusions get shattered, your confidence in those illusions and beliefs get destroyed. All that you fought for in the past changed in an instant. None of it really matters any longer.

Here are some things that I believed:

  • 18 years of history meant something.
  • Our three kids and their future emotions are vitally important
  • I am special among all men
  • We have an extraordinary marriage
  • She loves me and would fight tooth and nail for us
  • She loves herself and wouldn’t not cheapen herself
  • She wouldn’t risk getting an STD (we get to enjoy one of those now too. More on that later)
  • She is an upstanding Christian woman. She doesn’t have the capacity to go from texting to sex in just a few weeks.
  • She respects me
  • She honors me
  • She honors our marriage
  • She has the maturity to come to me FIRST before having an affair.
  • She is an honest person
  • She knows how bad it hurt me the first time she cheated. She wouldn’t go that far again.

You see, all those things that I believed are shit.

Another day another argument

Couldn’t sleep this morning. Woke up at 4:00 or so and just stared at the window in our bedroom. It was dark last night but there are some streetlights that illuminate our window blinds a bit. I just lie there thinking about how many slats were in the blinds. Could I count them? Would that help me sleep?

Allie moved closer to me and wrapped her arm around me. That may have helped in the past. But now, all I can think about is the nightmare of Allie sleeping with another man named Mark. On March 20th, 2018, I discovered Allie was having an affair with Mark. Since then, I have woken up almost every night at either 3:00 or 4:00 am. Sometimes I can go back to sleep. Sometimes I can’t.

Allie doesn’t like that I wake up and get up. She says it bothers her. Ok. But I am bothered that she’s had her second affair in six years. My problem is that I don’t come to decisions very quickly, especially when the decision is the hardest one I have ever made. Do I stay or do I go?

So last night I woke up. And pondered. What does staying look like? What does divorce look like? Do I want to get divorced? Can I ever trust Allie again? Will I be able to get past the visions in my head of the two of them having sex?

Allie woke up too. Then she starts talking. (always a bad choice at 4:00 am) It isn’t long until we’re arguing about some semantics.  Yesterday she described the affair as a “relationship.” While I agree that it was a relationship, my mind says that you don’t get to have sexual relationships and love relationships with other men unless you’re divorced or single. Once that is the case, then you have relationships. Until then, they’re affairs. And affairs aren’t relationships. They’re fantasy escapes for cowards.

An affair is a sexual relationship, romantic friendship, or passionate attachment between two people without the attached person’s significant other knowing.

Since Allie had all of those things — sexual relationship, romantic friendship and passionate attachment — without me knowing, that is an affair.

Okay. Point made. But she was arguing that the word relationship didn’t matter. It really doesn’t but she gets pretty defensive and will rail on me until I get her point and her side.

I didn’t argue back at all.  Just said that the use of the word had bugged me. Then Allie proceeds to tell me about context and how I assume things, etc. Remember, I only said that the use bothered me.  I didn’t verbalize any further assumptions.

As she argued, I was reminded that this is precisely why I want to divorce. I can apologize, I can be kind, I can give grace, I can try to calmly express my feeling(s) and she goes to effing town on me.

When she took a break, I finally said that this is one of the big things I have to see change in her before I make a decision to commit fully to this marriage.  I have to be able to express my feelings and be safe in that. If I can’t, then I will leave.

She said “if you want to leave, then go for it. I don’t want you to and it will suck, but just do it and get it over with.”

Before March 20th 2018, I didn’t want to leave.

What to do with her remorse

My wife Allie had a 2nd affair that I discovered in March 2018. Since then, I have been on an emotional roller coaster.  Maybe better described as being in the middle of an emotional ocean with wave after wave of pain, confusion, discouragement, skepticism, isolation, doubt and heartbreak hitting me.

It is overwhelming and sometimes I feel like I am drowning in that pain. Most experts agree that it will take two years (or more) for the hurt spouse (me) to recover from my wife’s infidelity. That’s a lot of long-term pain. Then what? Will she do it again?  She already has had multiple affairs so the chances are pretty high that she will, in fact, cheat again.

When I first discovered the affair in March, I thought Allie was pretty hard to the idea that she just devastated me beyond any pain I had ever felt. I guessed that she was still in love with her affair partner Mark. I even speculated that she had a bit of a mental disorder. At first, I blamed myself for not being a good enough husband, etc. Normal self-doubting stuff for when your spouse of 18 years has another affair. During this time, I have questioned whether to stay to try to work it out or to leave her and get a divorce.

Fast forward to today. Allie says she is very remorseful. She often admits that she was wrong and that this was her issue and she is 100% to blame for it.

I feel that it is great that she’s coming to this place of repentance but I always feel that it is better to keep yourself out of a situation than have to repent later for it.

As adults, we do have absolute control over our decisions, our actions, our behaviors, and our choices. She consciously chose to have sex with this guy several times over the course of two months.

Many of you might say that now that she’s repentant for her actions that I should start the healing and forgiveness process.  Stay in it for the kids. Stay in it because you have a huge history with this person. Stay in it because she knows you better than anyone. Stay because being single is no fun at all. You don’t want to be divorced. You don’t want to have to miss holidays with your kids. You don’t want to be alone when you’re old.

All of those things are true. I also don’t want to be in a marriage where my wife cheats on me. Even though the alternative sucks. Even though I don’t want any of the things that go with divorce, I don’t want to be married to someone I simply cannot trust.

“But she’s apologizing. She can change.”

Is that true? Can she change? Is she able to be a different person? Or is our character so ingrained in us that we simply cannot change. We cannot be different….even if we want to?

Right now, if you took away the fact that she had another affair, our marriage would be great. She’s being honest, caring, loving, and responsive. Before, she wasn’t.  And while she was pulled away from me, she would blame me for pulling away from her. That blame added up. She then used the blame to justify being at the end of herself and saying “screw it” I am gonna go for it with Mark. Bad choice.

There are severe lifelong consequences for having an affair, especially one like hers. She fell in love with Mark. They started planning activities together. Probably did some future planning as well. And I can just hear her, throwing around the “love” word to see if she could get him to respond in kind.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly, but I know her. She looks for constant validation and affirmation.

So I don’t know what to do with her current remorse. It almost burns when she says sweet words. I hear the words, but they almost come into my heart as exactly opposite of what she’s saying.


Stay for the kids

There is a good argument out there about parents who have experienced infidelity. The argument centers around staying married for the kids’ sake. If that is the ONLY reason you’re staying, then you will be better off divorced. But, your kids may not fare so well.

Studies indicate that there are lifelong consequences for kids who experience their parents getting a divorce.

  • Children from divorced homes suffer academically. They experience high levels of behavioral problems. Their grades suffer, and they are less likely to graduate from high school.
  • Kids whose parents divorce are substantially more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile.
  • Because the custodial parent’s income drops substantially after a divorce, children in divorced homes are almost five times more likely to live in poverty than are children with married parents.
  • Teens from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual intercourse than are those from intact families.
  • Children from divorced homes experience illness more frequently and recover from sickness more slowly.6 They are also more likely to suffer child abuse.
  • Children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress.
  • And the emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood.

So parents who are considering divorce are statistically likely to put their kiddos through these things. Some kids don’t experience these but the probability increases.

The Wallerstein study shows that the effects of divorce can last 25 years!  Yep. You read that correctly. (the linked article above has all of the references linked)

“Contrary to what we have long thought, the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Rather, it rises in adulthood as serious romantic relationships move center stage . . . Anxiety leads many [adult children of divorce] into making bad choices in relationships, giving up hastily when problems arise, or avoiding relationships altogether.”

Wallerstein adds that the problems are compounded by parents who go on to marry another spouse. Feelings of abandonment and confusion are added because of the parent’s desperate attempt to get their own needs met. The driving force for divorced parents is the loneliness that makes people kind of crazy.

The desperation for a single parent to find someone who will love and accept them causes them to almost forget about their first family.

“Children never get over divorce. It is a great loss that is in their lives forever. It is like a grief that is never over. All special events, such as holidays, plays, sports, graduations, marriages, births of children, etc., bring up the loss created by divorce as well as the family relationship conflicts that result from the ‘extended family’ celebrating any event.”

The article goes on to say that parents should take a LONG PAUSE before pursuing divorce. That’s what I am doing now. I am pausing. Though Allie is remorseful and apologetic, I am still triggered every day, every hour by thoughts. I am wrestling with the decision of staying or leaving after discovering her second affair.


I don’t want to be a cheater

Yesterday I was having huge mental struggles with the idea of staying married to Allie. But I didn’t take it out on her and I am long past the argument stage. It simply isn’t worth my energy to fight with her. Instead, I will struggle and I might say something like, “today’s a hard day.”

At any rate, Allie wrote a note to our counselors, in part she said the following about me:

“Bob is still having a hard time today trusting that I won’t cheat on him in the future. I can tell you that I don’t want to cheat and I won’t cheat because I don’t want to be a cheater.”

Can anyone tell why the above statement bothers me so badly? Can you spot the fatal flaw in her thinking? Who can tell me exactly why I keep saying that I won’t know if I will stay with her?

Allie says, “I won’t cheat because I don’t want to be a cheater.” Do you see the difference in that statement and a statement like, “I won’t cheat because I love my husband”? Or, “I won’t cheat because my family means more to me than life itself”? Do you see the difference?

What she wrote to them PERFECTLY sums up why I feel that Allie is staying with me because of Allie, not because of me and not because of the kids. If given time to think, she will write that she loves family, wants to leave a legacy, and loves me, BUT when she’s in a hurry, the truth comes out. She wrote to them in a hurry.

Basically, she wants the counselors to give her a clean bill of heath. “Congratulations! You’re not a cheater any more!” She would love to hear them say that. That would be an accomplishment. Allie loves accomplishments. Do you notice that it is about her though?

She could then wear it like a badge of honor. The “I am not a cheater” badge is given to those who complete the special 6-week training course. In the course, you’ll learn:

  • How to not be a cheater
  • Ways to convince your family and friends that you’re not a cheater
  • Five easy one-liners to shut down those who would mention the infidelity (including your husband)
  • The “get over it” pin that you can proudly wear
  • Added bonus: You get the quick “I am not a cheater” reference guide with helpful chants you can repeat in your head.

You see Allie believes that her being a cheater can be erased rather than faced. Can you imagine if AA told their participants “Congratulations! You’re not an alcoholic now”?

Actually the opposite is true. When people go to AA meetings, they will start by saying “Hi, my name is _____________, and I am an alcoholic.”

I know a man who has been going to AA for nearly 40 years! To this day, he will say “I am an alcoholic” though he hasn’t touched a drink in four decades. Why does he keep admitting that? Because he knows that the problem he has will always be there, ready to come back at any time.

Saying you’re not a cheater doesn’t mean that you’re not. It is a phrase that is meaningless UNLESS you’ve never cheated before. Chanting it over and over will only harm yourself in the future.  You’ll chant it right into the arms of another man.

What will keep you faithful? What will keep you from being a cheater Allie?

  • Loving someone so deeply that you simply could never do it
  • Open and honest communication about the real struggle you have
  • Telling your spouse EVERYTHING, not just the stuff you believe won’t hurt him
  • Being open with your temptations and having true accountability

You see, it is not that you have to publicly wear the “I am a cheater” label. But you have to know that it is always there. You have to be aware of it at all times so that you can guard your heart and mind from further temptations and indiscretions. If you finally come to a place where you can say “I am not a cheater” then that is the perfect time for your pride to launch another attack.  Your pride will make you fall…again.

Saying that “I don’t want to be a cheater” is NOT powerful. Wants are weak. As soon as something comes along that you want more then you will give up that want. It is natural. If you want a taco for dinner and someone offers you a burrito, you may find yourself wanting the burrito more. Thus, the want for a taco becomes unimportant and irrelevant in light of the burrito.

To put it another way, think of all the people who “don’t want to be in debt.” Those very same people will still have a credit card in their wallet, and they’ll buy a car and get a car payment. What about not wanting to be in debt? They will justify the card being in their wallet because of emergencies. They will tell you how their old car had so many issues that they had to get this new one. They will be stuck in debt forever because the “want” simply isn’t powerful enough to overcome the other “wants”.

Along Came Molly

I met a woman. No, not like that. I am committed to being divorced PRIOR to being with another woman. Even though my wife had an affair with Mark. I have actually known this woman since about January and I always sensed something very special about her and her husband.

Her name is Molly and her husband’s name is Bryan. I have spoken with her over the last several months when we are both at martial arts classes with our kiddos. She seems to have an awareness that you don’t find in many women (or men for that matter)

Molly is 42 and only two months older than Allie. She’s attractive, but dresses like a bum. She has two children and her hubby is an FBI agent. Molly was texting me a question about real estate and we started chatting via text. The subject of how difficult marriage and kids can be came up and I told her that Allie and I were seeing counselors.

After a few minutes, I decided to take a risk and share the affair with her. Immediately, she started giving me insight that was completely amazing. As a mom and a woman who is exactly the same age and stage as Allie, she is “reading Allie’s mail.”  Without knowing much of our story, Molly started sharing about how Allie could have gotten to a place of having an affair.

She told me about how women who are in their 40’s are very insecure. They are aging and they don’t want to be left alone when their old. They are getting ready for menopause and that is weighing heavy on them. The see young girls with perfect bodies and legs and they compare themselves. Allie does all of those things. Though Allie is perfectly gorgeous, she compares herself. She participates in lots of negative self-talk. She expresses fears about being older and alone.

Molly has seriously talked me off the ledge a few times. She has given me a compassionate insight into Allie that I can’t easily explain. She tells me how the affair happened, she tells me how tempting is would be to have a guy go after you like that.

It has helped me be empathetic. Has it solved everything? Far from it. There is still huge pain. And the looming question of how a person makes a jump from temptation to an affair. That jump, I am told, is the core issue. It may be arrested development or it could be purposeful rebellion. I don’t think it is rebellion, although Allie mentioned that word today. She said that she felt like a teen who didn’t want to be controlled.


Best Article I have come across so far

This is by far the best article on affairs, I have ever read. It is in three parts.  It addresses everything that I have been going through but from the side of a therapist speaking to people who are or were cheating.

Start the 3rd marriage

We were in counseling yesterday. Though it was a good session, I wanted to blog about something that they said. We have two counselors who are in session with us each time we meet. They are husband and wife and they do the sessions together.

At the end of yesterday’s session, the wife said to us, “you’re starting your 3rd marriage. You had your first marriage and Allie had an affair six years ago. Then you started your second marriage and Allie had an affair this year. Now you’re starting your third marriage.”  She said it as a positive message and I really hear where she’s coming from.

That statement affects me and Allie differently. For Allie, it is empowering for us to stay together. Allie even quoted it this morning after giving me another heartfelt, remorseful apology.

Allie sees it as a new beginning. A reason to stay together. I see it as another time that she was unhappy enough to cheat and that literally nothing can stop her from doing it again.

I have come to understand something really well. I didn’t choose for her to cheat. As a matter of fact, I am a pretty darn good husband. Faithful, forgiving, caring, loving, non-abusive, not addicted to anything. But, I have become a doormat. She doesn’t respect me and had unrealistic expectations of marriage. Basically, if she wants me to make her happy and I can’t. She owns her own happiness. She owns her own choices and she owns her own dishonesty, deceit and infidelity. I don’t own any part of those.

In all cases of potential infidelity, the cheater has three choices BEFORE cheating.

  1. Clearly and honestly explain to their spouse that they have an attraction for someone else and have unmet needs and expectations from the marriage. Seek counseling on these and they possibly can be solved.

    p.s. A person should NEVER come to their spouse with “feelings” for another person. This indicates that they’ve already gone too far and are in an affair. (may only be emotional)  But you cannot have feelings for someone unless you spend some time talking to them on some level. You can have a crush, an infatuation or an attraction. But true feelings of love would be through getting to know them and if that’s the case, you’re in an affair.

  2. You can stop any affair BEFORE it gets physical or before you develop feelings. This is ALWAYS an option. If the conversations have gone too far, you can stop the calls, the texts and the conversations. You have the power to stop those. None of us who have been betrayed believe you when you tell us that you couldn’t stop and “it just happened.” The easy way to stop it is to hand over your phone to your spouse and when the affair partner calls or texts, have your spouse respond.  Turn on any tracking activity and be an open book.  This step requires honesty which seems to be lacking when someone is a cheater.
  3. You can get divorced. If you are that unhappy in your marriage where you just HAVE to cheat, then go ask for a divorce FIRST. There simply is NO excuse that is acceptable for cheating. None.