What happens if the cheating spouse still loves the other woman? He’s willing to stay in the marriage for the children and cares about his wife. His affair was long-distance with someone for 4 years – someone he’s known for ½ of his life, and their hearts were brought back together when they saw each other one fateful day. Is it hopeless to move forward in the relationship together?
When I read questions like this, I realize so many of us are looking for that one simple magic answer. Unfortunately healing from an affair is not quite that simple. There are no one size fits all solutions.
Every person is unique. Every relationship is unique. Every affair is unique. That said, the emotions people go through are sadly similar, and there are PRINCIPLES we can apply to every situation.
When surviving an affair, most people feel confused and lost, and rightly so! After all, how does one deal with something so difficult and complex as the situation described above?
Most affair survivors wish they had an ultimate wise being sitting on their shoulder that could just tell them the right thing to do with each little scenario that comes up, as you muddle your way through this journey. Well it doesn’t quite work that way.
What is needed is not a one size fits all solution, but rather WISDOM.
I HAVE SOME ANSWERS, some principles you can apply.
1. First of all, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A HOPELESS SITUATION. There is always hope. The trick is having the wisdom to see where the hope lies for you. Don’t tell yourself your life is hopeless, because when you’ve lost hope, you’ve lost your will to do what it takes to find an answer for your situation.
2. CHEATING SPOUSES DON’T LOVE THE OTHER WOMAN/OTHER MAN. They just think they do. After all, if the man above knew his affair partner for half his life, and if she is indeed the one for him, why didn’t he marry her in the first place? Instead HE CHOSE YOU as his wife.
Affairs are a fantasy. They aren’t real. When people are having affairs, they aren’t doing real life with their affair partners. They aren’t dealing with kids, dirty laundry, hectic parent driving schedules, finances, in-laws, etc.
When we meet someone new, it’s easy to get those tingling sensations that we mistake for real love. We had these feelings for our spouse when we met them. The world stands still and all you can do is think about this person 24/7. You are IN LOVE, or so you think.
Relationship science has proven that the tingles wear off in any relationship within 2 years. At that point we have an opportunity to develop a true love with that person.
(Don’t think this means you have to settle for a lack of passion or tingles in your marriage. Smart couples learn the skills to keep their tingles for each other going.)
In any relationship, that lasts beyond this 2 year mark, you are going to be experiencing life together, and at times you’ll feel discouraged by the pressures of life, and become vulnerable to the fantasy of the affair, if you lack the self-awareness and knowledge to understand what’s really going on.
People who have affairs often mistakenly believe they are in love. If however they leave their marriage and marry their affair partner, it’s not long before the same problems or feelings they had in their first marriage pop up in the second one. Marriages that begin as affairs have a very low success rate.
3. NO ONE CAN TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. No one else is living your life. No one else is going to live with the outcome of the decisions you make right now (although they may be more than eager to tell you what to do). The key is to get as much perspective as you can by reading books, joining teleseminars, and talking to others who understand (by perhaps joining a BAN support group.) Then in the end, you decide what’s right for you. Even if this husband maintains feelings for this other woman, no one can tell you that you have to leave. YOU DECIDE WHAT YOUR BOUNDARIES ARE. What is and isn’t okay with you.
4. IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO LIVE WITH A MAN (OR WOMAN) WHO HAS FEELINGS FOR SOMEONE ELSE, YOU NEED TO HAVE FIRM BOUNDARIES (TOUGH LOVE).
Usually a person wrapped up in an affair, who wants to maintain the affair (or even hold on to feelings for this other person), is getting some needs met in the affair, and other needs met in the marriage. If no one forces their hand, they will maintain relationships with you and the affair partner for the rest of their lives. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WEANING YOURSELF OFF AN AFFAIR. You have to go cold turkey or it won’t work.
My own husband told me that when he broke off his affair he felt like he was cutting his right hand off. It was that difficult. And for about 3 months he went through a difficult period of grieving the loss of the affair. (During which time he was pretty mean to me. This is a normal pattern.)
If you are not prepared to live with a man (or woman), who is claiming to be in love with someone else, you’re going to have to give him or her an ultimatum.
The vast majority of people fail with their ultimatums because they don’t deliver them correctly. Timing, and how you do it is essential.
Never deliver your ultimatum by just your words. It needs to be in writing.
Don’t deliver your ultimatum unless you are prepared to follow through with your plans of what to do if they don’t meet your requirement. (And you certainly need a plan of what that will be.) An un-carried out ultimatum is not an ultimatum. It is a threat. Threats weaken a relationship.
Because giving an ultimatum correctly may be one of the most important things you ever do in your life, I strongly recommend getting the help of a trained therapist, counselor or coach. It’s just much too important and difficult of a situation to try to do it all alone. If ever there was a time for a little outside support, now is the time. It’s hard to be objective when you are going through such an emotionally draining (and unfair) situation.
©Copyright 2009 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.
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