The Infidelity Dance: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I have come to hate the infidelity dance. Over the past fourteen days, I spent ten of them feeling great, happy, positive, no tears/sadness over the affair, just forward progression. ImageThen Tuesday night–SLAM! There’s that wall again. Right in my f-ing way. I didn’t even see the wall, in fact, I drove myself right into it all on my own. My husband and I settled into our bed on Tuesday night and I had some ideas and thoughts I wanted to share with him. After reading the posts about the Hoffman Institute program on the blog Fulfilled Entrepreneur, I felt like a light bulb went off in my head. The process of healing at the Hoffman Institute begins with determining where your negative behavior patterns originate (most likely from your parents–just like you positive attributes/behaviors are learned from your parents). Here was my A-HA! moment:

My in-laws are excellent parents and it’s difficult to be critical of them. They value family as the number one priority and are close with not just their children, but their children’s spouses too. I have a special bond with my mother-in-law and most people have heard me comment that I am very lucky to have them as a second set of parents. But, if I try to be critical of behavior patterns, I find that they have criticized my husband’s jobs and career for his entire adult life. They rarely brag about him or his business(es). His successes are met with criticism and almost a disdain for his career choice. What is even more disturbing is that my husband’s career is also his passion. He is one of the fortunate people in the world that gets paid for doing a craft he enjoys and loves. So how must it feel for your parents to criticize your passion? How must it feel for them to tell you on a regular basis that you should do something else with your life? I always thought my husband ignored these comments. I expressed to him on multiple occasions that it bothered me because I love the way my husband approaches his career and business(es). I love that his business doesn’t shut me out and I can be as involved as he needs or wants me to be.

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But maybe he doesn’t ignore these comments and disapproval as much as I thought? What if this disapproval was magnified when my husband was unemployed for the period before his affair? What if my husband couldn’t see reality because the perceived disappointment was overwhelming?

A few scenerios may be the result of this perceived and presumed disappointment. One, the advances and attention from his affair partner was appealing and felt good for his ego. Interestingly, he never revealed to his affair partner that he was unemployed for an extended period of time  before they met. Since she did not know the truth there was no question to his success and talent. Had she known his length of unemployment and the difficulty it imposed on his family, she may have found him less attractive. All she knew is that we live in a wealthy suburb and he drove a luxary car. He didn’t want her to know what could be considered “failures” in his career. In fact, he even hid them on his LinkedIn resume. Two, he wanted to revel in the feeling of disappointment. As his wife, I never faulted him for not finding a job. I actually expressed on multiple occasions that he should hold out for a position suiting his level of experience–don’t settle for a miserable job. We weren’t broke (although we went through quite a bit of our life savings). Disappointment has been a part of his life and nothing he was doing managed to deter my confidence in him. Nothing. He was still the best at everything in my mind. But it’s possible he wanted to disappoint himself and punish himself for not meeting his own expectations. Three, another part of this equation is that I began working again and I gained a sense of independence. There was a thought in his head that I no longer needed him to save me. I could save myself. I could even decide that I wanted someone else to save me. Fear sets in and he may have realized he was comfortable in the feeling of disappointment he evoked from his parents. Afterall, even in disappointment he gained their attention. Growing up in a big family with a bunch of siblings you have to steal your parents attention somehow and if disappointment is the solution–then you found what works. Maybe his wife [me ]might respond to real disappointment. Maybe I might give him the attention I was neglecting to give him if he actually disappointed me. I know he felt neglected. He felt like he had to fight for my affection and attention and he was at the bottom of my list.

And the truth is, he was last. 

The kids came first. My best friend was a huge focus in my life. The dog was competition. I was trying to impress people at work so I could earn more money, get a promotion, and feel needed. I loved my husband but I didn’t make our marriage my number one priority. Everyone and thing else seemed to come first because I was certain that our marriage was a rock and nothing could shake it. I was content and happy. I felt our lives needed to be centered upon the children because they are only living in our home for eighteen years and after that we had the rest of our lives together. I thought about how small of a fraction those eighteen years really are in the grand scheme of things… and I wanted to focus all my energy on loving and developing amazing kids. And they are amazing–so I must be doing it right. Right?

Wrong. 

I was so certain my marriage was indestructable, unbreakable, solid. Our love is admitedly like nonother and unique. The love we share with each other was perfect, fulfilling, inspiring and true. The love we share is like a fairytale romance and in many ways his affair hasn’t changed that feeling.

So the question begs: How did I hit a wall? Why did I feel like I was moving backwards in our progress on Tuesday night?

Because my husband sees his childhood as it was–good, happy and fun-filled. He sees his parents as the amazingly wonderful people they are and he does not want to blame his mistakes and failures on them. They did not fail–he did. I am not sure if he was offended at my suggestion that his choice to enter into an affair may be rooted in the lessons he learned from his parents, but he was going to defend them and continue to blame himself for being a “bad” person.

I couldn’t communicate with him that he’s not a bad person, he did a hurtful and wrong thing. But while we were talking Tuesday night he shut down. He wallowed in his shame and guilt. He got stuck in the hatred he has for his actions but he directs it at himself. He defines himself by this one mistake–cheating on me–instead of all the amazing things he’s done for me.

He had an affair and he didn’t want or go looking for one. He slept with another woman for a year and he didn’t even want to be with her. How do you continue to have sex with a woman that you don’t want to sleep with? Most men that have affairs admit to being caught up in a false reality where there were no consequences or responsibiliites. But I am struggling to find a man that relinquished his own desires and needs for the lustings of the affair partner. If you are out there–explain to me how you can’t end the affair when you don’t want to be there in the first place? Why even pretend to be interested in the other woman when you really feel nothing more than a mild friendship, if that. Why allow her to even continue to contact you? My husband’s most famous comment post D-Day is:

My relationship with her [the AP] was built to end.

That statement drives me f-ing crazy. Why would you build and invest time in something that you wanted or expected to end? Why would you spend one speck of time with something that was dead from the start?

So my wall was hit. I spent almost all of Wednesday pissed off and angry. I recovered by Thursday and now I am feeling good again.

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The only thing that makes sense to me is that he is comfortable feeling like a disappointment and as long as he was with her that is exactly what he was–a disappointment.

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13 thoughts on “The Infidelity Dance: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

  1. Please try and get him to sign up for the Hoffman Process. Even the pre-course work will help him realise where his negative patterns come from. It may well be his lightbulb moment.

    Love and light.

  2. You have a lot going on in this post. Your theory about his parents could very well be a contributing factor.

    My husband had a 6 year affair in addition to other infidelities. I know that he had no emotional investment in the affair, he did it for sex. He told me that the “OW” complemented him constantly feeding his ego. She pursued him until he gave in. He tried to break it off on several occasions and she’d tell him “I know you’ll get drunk enough and do it again” and she was right. He was so weak.

    We also had a great love, everyone around us saw it and would comment about it. People would say things like, I’ve never seen two people so in love. It wasn’t enough. I like you put most of my efforts into the kids, the house, the pets, our parents and he got what was left. That’s not an excuse to cheat though, there is no excuse.

    So why did your husband spend time with someone he did not care about and did not want a future with? It’s simple, because he could, the sex and he thought he could get away with it.

    It does not mean anything was missing at home, it does not mean he did not love you, it doesn’t mean sex with you isn’t the best. I think most men cheat because the opportunity presents its self. The ones who can resist are armed with something the ones who do cheat aren’t armed with. The goal after infidelity if your rebuilding the marriage is to know why it happened and to arm yourself so that if the possibility presents itself again the betrayer can resist.

    You’re grappling with thoughts all betrayed spouses have. The why’s just beat the hell out of us.

    Chin up. This to shall pass.

  3. You have hit upon important points here. I too felt like the 3rd or lower priority in my wife’s life. A dangerous emotional chasm opened up between us over the years. I got the A’s more from the OW than my wife: Affection, Adoration, Affirmation, Acknowledgment. It was the lure that drew me in and kept me in.

    I have to disagree with the post above. Affairs are rarely about sex (unless that’s what’s missing in your marriage) and few happy and content people have affairs. Research shows men and women have affairs largely for the same reasons — critical emotional needs not being met in the primary relationship. The first step to healing a marriage is for both parties to take responsibility for the state of the marraige, recognize each other’s critical needs and make sure efforts are made to meet them.

    Anyway excellent post. your level of self-awareness is outstanding.

    • Thank you. She definitely was giving him the four A’s you mention. He says it still didn’t fulfill him and I guess that’s because she meant nothing to him in the grand scheme of things. My biggest regret is not seeing my lack of attention and affection for my husband. I think my failure was in giving away everything to my kids, work, community, etc before I took what I needed for myself, and then my marriage next. Lesson learned.

  4. I too, have asked JR this same question a thousand times. He never saw a future with Nikki…he didn’t want one. He would tell her about our future together. He also has said he didn’t want to be there but he couldn’t bring himself to end it.
    I don’t believe JR was there for the sex at all. Like you I had focused on so many other things in my life that JR was feeling neglected, alone. In a way he was. I believe that he needed attention, admiration, and this is what Nikki provided him with. I know that he developed some type of feelings for her, as did she. Jr is not by any means a hateful or mean person. Sometimes I believe he was unable to break things off because he didn’t want to cause her any grief. He didn’t want to be the “bad guy”. This is very typical behavior for him. Instead he says he would start fights with her and disagree about things hoping she would end it and give him the out he wanted. He says that he felt a huge relief when he finally told me because he knew that meant it was over. I can honestly say that for the last 2 months of his affair I noticed a change in his behavior, he was very depressed, sullen, distracted. He was not a man having fun. He wasn’t enjoying his affair. The compliments she dished out to him no longer compensated for how shitty he felt about what he was doing. He was overly affectionate to me during this time as well. It was all very strange. It really isn’t about the affair partner at all…he has said that it could have been anyone, it just happened to be her. It’s like she prayed on him, she saw his weaknesses. She said exactly what he needed to hear, and he ate it up. He needed and wanted what she was serving up, so he fell into the trap. I don’t believe he ever sought out an affair…he wasn’t on the prowl. It was just a messed up situation, during a messed up time and all of the pieces fell into place and before he knew it he was right in the middle of an affair.

    • Your story with JR sounds like our story. It makes sense… I wish all the pieces hadn’t fallen the way they did for both of us. My husband says the same thing about his AP–she was just there and needed him. She wanted him and made herself available. She also, preyed upon my husband’s vulernabilities for her own needs. I believe she wanted nothing more than to pluck me out of my family photos and insert herself and her children. A nice little Brady Bunch family she had in mind. But she failed to notice that my husband never bought what she was selling.
      I guess, I recognize that while I get fulfillment from being a mother–it’s not the same for a man/father/husband. They need attention and recognition from their wives.

  5. I’m lucky for the husband I have today…But my father cheated on my mother..He had a high profile career so women would just flock to him. My mom spent years ignoring affairs because she had us kids with him. My mom’s breaking point was when he met a woman and kept seeing her, then my father’s secretary came to my mom crying and said that she was upset that my father was seeing this other woman. Can you imagine that? Anyways, my mom filed for a divorce, but my father even after they were divorced would always tell me that no one compared to my mom. Go figure.

  6. I don’t think theres a reason for infidelity. I don’t think it’s something a wife/husband isn’t doing. It’s the person having the affair that needs an ego boost. Some people just crave that ego stroking. I really don’t think it has anything to do with a marriage. JMO

    • I agree Robyn. I believe my husband’s affair has allowed us to grow stronger in our marriage than we were before and open up and become completely vulnerable to each other [again]. My husband didn’t have the affair because I wasn’t paying attention to him–although I realize my attentions were divided too thin for my own well-being. His affair was about a discontent and sense of failure in his life and wanting someone to stroke his ego, ignore reality and be his AP’s hero because in the real world–he didn’t feel like he was living the life he wanted. He knew I would never validate what he viewed as failed dreams. I would view them as goals still needing to be achieved. To his AP–she knew nothing about the insecurities.

    • I agree. Using the excuse of not having needs met is bullshit. Otherwise we would all be having affairs. It’s what is broken in a person who feels entitled to go somewhere else-outside the relationship-instead of honestly and openly addressing the issues there may be within the marriage. Blaming “my needs not being met” is frankly code for its not my fault, its your fault. I don’t buy it. It really is all about them. And the right therapist can help the betrayer see what is broken within themselves that they feel the need to lie and deceive, to be so despicably furtive. It takes courage to really delve into yourself and your actions and truly see who you are and the devastation you wreaked on someone you supposedly loved. And further to change the behaviors so it doesn’t happen again…ever…

      • My husband agrees with you Moddie. He has learned that he involved himself with his AP because he felt insecure, inadequate, like he had failed in meeting his own goals in life. His AP did not know his goals, dreams, aspirations so there was no need to feel those failures when hews with her. It was a false happiness that he said he never truly believed. He always felt uneasy with her adoration, attention, etc.
        I do believe that some affair relationships may be more loving than the marriages of the partners…. But I think that is rarer than I used to think.

  7. Right On, Robyn! ALL marriages have vulnerabilities, but affairs are due to brokenness WITHIN the WH/WW. It’s a CHOICE.

  8. This website is full of information and all the feelings I’ve had since finding out about my husband’s affair. He has never confessed completely nor given me the information I need to move past it. Day by day. But trust will always be a problem.

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