Intrusive Thoughts ? The Thoughts That Plague You
I?ve seen a lot of women in my office who have gone through your exact experience. The following are common thoughts and emotions wives have after discovering their husbands have betrayed them. My hope in sharing this is that you will realize that you are not alone; you are not unusual for feeling or thinking the things you do. Additionally, I will give you clinical insight into why you have these thoughts.
?I Hate Him and Love Him at the Same Time. How Is this Possible??
You will feel a zillion emotions as you process this. You will probably feel most of the following:
? You hate him and wish he?d die (rage, desire for revenge).
? You love him and desperately want to save your marriage (awareness that you love him and want this to work).
? You can?t believe the person you love most has betrayed you like this (intense hurt).
? You want to shut him off completely and delete him from your life (desire to numb out and ignore the pain).
? You wonder if you weren?t a good enough partner and if this is your fault (guilt).
? You want to point out how unfair it is that he cheated, especially since you also had issues you weren?t happy about but you didn?t go outside the marriage (defensive and self righteous).
? You worry that if you trust him, he will cheat again and hurt you even more (fear and despair).
? You feel like you are losing your life (deep loss).
? You are unsure if you even know who this man is or if you should have trusted him (distrust).
All of these feelings are normal, and they will come and go as you process the experience.
?I Need to Leave Him Right Now. Only Weak Women Stay.?
You may feel like a doormat for staying. After all, popular TV, movies and songs all tell you that only a foolish, weak woman with low self-esteem would stay with a man who has cheated on her. Your friends and family may also be telling you (if you have opened up to them ? more on why that is usually not a good idea in the next chapter) that you are a fool if you stay with him.
Infidelity is indeed devastating. It?s very hard on a marriage. It requires a lot of work and time to recover. However, it does not necessarily mean your marriage is over.
The decision to divorce should be based not just on the affair but on the overall quality of the marriage. (Atkins et al., 2005) The late Peggy Vaughan stated inThe Washington Post?Following an affair, more couples actually stay together than get a divorce.?
You probably are not in a position (yet) to determine whether the marriage is worth saving or not. You may be under the impression that strong women throw all his stuff out on the lawn, kick him out of the house or go to the affair partner?s house and confront the other woman. The truth is, those actions are not an indication of strength, and can even cause irreparable damage. Plus, acting out usually feels good in the moment but does not produce lasting results. Later, when you feel better emotionally, you may feel like you lost your dignity.
The truth is, a strong woman will do the following:
? Take the time to work through her reactions to the infidelity,
? Gather all the facts,
? Evaluate the relationship as a whole,
? Decide if she is willing to see whether the rift in the relationship can or cannot be repaired,
? And THEN make the decision whether to leave or stay.
You arenota weak woman if you don?t leave him right away. You are a strong woman who is fighting societal pressure and making the decision to use logic instead of being reactionary.
He may not have thought his cheating would affect the kids, but you should. This isn?t to say I think you should stay because of the kids. What I am strongly suggesting is that you need to think this through and have a plan. Look at the mess he created when he let his feelings and emotions take over. If you decide to leave him, you don?t have to do it right this second. Yes, you are hurt. Yes, leaving him this moment would feel good. However, there are smart ways to leave (consult with a therapist and a lawyer for starters) and not-so-smart ways to leave. Be smart.
Besides, if you decide this relationship isn?t worth it, or if you decide you really can?t forgive him, you can leave later. There is no reason to make this decision right now. You may make a decision you regret if you try to make one while you are in emotional turmoil.
Slow down. Think things through before acting. You?ll be most likely to make better decisions if you take your time.
?It?s My Fault Somehow.?
You are most likely confronting the infidelity ?whys,? mentally exploring the vulnerabilities of your relationship. You are constantly analyzing your memories, replaying instances that should have been clues and wondering why you did not see that the marriage was in danger.
While doing this, you have probably accounted for the external stresses on your marriage (work, kids, family, friends, travel, finances, etc.), but you may be more troubled by thoughts of ways you feel you might have failed as a wife. Deep down, you are likely terrified that you are not good enough for him and that his infidelity is proof that he will never be happy with you.
You?re probably thinking about every argument you?ve ever had. Weight gain, division of labor, child rearing issues, work conflicts, lifestyle differences, how much sex you were or were not having? and you are worried that maybe you will never be what he truly wants.
I want to assure you of something: no matter what ways you may think you have let him down, there is no valid excuse for his infidelity.If he was unhappy, he should have told you. If you didn?t respond to his complaints, he should have broken it off with you, or, at bare minimum, asked permission to open up the marriage to multiple partners. In other words, there should have been open and honest communication, and you should have had a choice in what happened.
But he took those options away from you when he decided to cheat instead of talk to you about whatever he felt. This is not your fault, even if you have identified ways that you feel you are at fault for the vulnerabilities in the marriage.
You need reassurance from him right now. You need to hear him say that you are everything he wants and more. You need him to tell you, in plain words, that he made a foolish choice which he wholeheartedly regrets.
However, you might not get that yet, especially not if he is torn between his affair partner and the marriage. Right now, while you work through the immediate aftermath of the revelation of the affair, you need to assure yourself that there is no valid reason for him to cheat on you.
Why do you keep blaming yourself? First of all, as you keep asking your husband why, he keeps giving you his reasons, and the reasons he gives likely feed your insecurities. Unless he says, ?It was totally my fault. In my self-absorption, I convinced myself that violating my vow to you was okay,? he is feeding you the same lines he told himself. He is telling you how he justified what he did. You may start to believe his reasons for cheating are actual reasons rather than excuses (and that?s what they are ? excuses) for breaking his vows to you.
It is normal to think that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. You have probably always assumed that your husband is a good man who would never cheat. You may now think that you must have done something to push him over the edge. Most people also believe that bad people have bad things happen to them. Therefore, you may think that if your husband cheated on you, you must be in some way responsible.
It is humiliating to be cheated on. This humiliation naturally leads to shame, and shame leads to guilt. Because of that thought process, you now think you have some reason to feel guilty.
Also, if you allow yourself to feel guilty, bad and responsible for his cheating, it gives you hope for the future. Huh? What am I talking about? It?s an issue of control. If you ?caused? his affair, then it was in your control. If it is in your control and you can ?fix? what you were doing wrong, then he won?t cheat on you again.
Why is the idea that this might have been your fault or might have been something you could control so appealing? Because you want to be sure that if you take him back he won?t cheat on you again. You want to be able to control what happens because you don?t want to go through this pain ever again. And you worry that taking him back after knowing he is a cheater will lead you to hate yourself if he cheats again. You will think, ?Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.?
Unfortunately, it wasn?t in your control. Blaming yourself gives you that much-needed illusion of control over the situation, but this is not a helpful way to view things.
?I Didn?t Have Sex Enough,? or ?I?m Too Boring in Bed.?
Did he ask for sex, but you frequently turned him down? If so, you may be struggling with thoughts like the following:
? ?It?s my fault.?
? ?We hardly ever had sex.?
? ?I was boring in bed.?
? ?He told me he wanted more, but I didn?t listen.?
Women who have low libido often wonder if it?s their fault that their husband cheated.
It?s not your fault he cheated, even if he wished your sex life had been better. He made a poor choice and went outside of the marriage instead of making it clear to you that this part of your relationship needed to change.
Having said that, understand that sex in a marriage isn?t just about an orgasm. It is the way a husband feels connected to his wife and appreciated for the things he does on behalf of the family.
Men are often honestly SURPRISED that their wife is upset that he had sex outside of marriage. They will report that they thought their wife knew and just looked the other way because she acted like sex was a chore or duty. Some report that they didn?t even feel like their wife liked them (because of the constant sexual rejection).
My male clients will say that this was their way of being a ?good man? and a good father. He tried to get his needs met in the relationship and did tell you. You didn?t make physical intimacy with him a priority, so he found a way to keep his family but still express his sexual self.
If this sounds like something that happened in your marriage, the good news is that your husband does love you but misread your rejection as evidence that you didn?t love him anymore. The fact that you are so upset honestly startles him. He isn?t lying when he says things like he thought you knew or he didn?t think you would care.
If you decide the marriage is worth keeping, you can work together to make the sexual and romantic part of your marriage more satisfying for both of you. Please see the Resources section for books on this topic.
This is the most common reason that women agree to stay in the marriage after an affair. She recognizes how unhappy her husband was and that she could have behaved differently.
If you knew your husband wanted more intimacy and you did not provide it for him, you may find that this is the starting place of forgiveness. You can rebuild your intimacy together and come out even stronger as you meet each other?s needs through honest communication about what you each need from the other.
This is Part 3 in a series designed to help you recover your sanity after your husband?s infidelity. My Book ?Blindsided By His Betrayal?: https://amzn.to/2UUQH5o