Social Experiments, Relationships and Questions

Recently I became fascinated with the website/social experiment 40 Days of Dating. I started reading it because it was fun but it was also interesting to be an outsider looking in on a relationship.

The blog documents two friends that decide, after failed relationships, to try to date each other for forty days and see if anything sparks. They set forth six rules to guide them through the forty day journey. The rules include seeing each other every day, go on three dates each week and they must be romantically exclusive. Both of them walk into the experiment with relationship baggage. Jessica loves love and wants to rush into every relationship so she can enjoy the good stuff. Tim is a commitment-phobe and bounces around from woman to woman without allowing any deep connection. At the end of each day they have to answer a series of questions:

  1. Did you see each other today?
  2. What did y’all do?
  3. Did anything interesting happen?
  4. Did you learn anything about Jessica?
  5. Did you learn anything about Tim?
  6. How do you feel about this relationship/project right now?
  7. Is there anything that you want to do differently?
  8. Additional comments?

These questions seem so simple yet this experiment became a journey of self-discovery for each of them. As I read through their journey I began to identify the underlying issues in their relationship as it moved out of the friend-zone. I started to see patterns in their relationship that were red flags and I wondered if they would see them or sweep them under the carpet. I started to see how red flags can become camouflaged by the best of intentions, especially between friends.

ImageI remember my husband told me after the discovery that his affair began as a friendship and he didn’t know how it became an affair. It was easy to bitch-slap him (joking!!) and tell him a friend doesn’t disrespect your marriage and ask you to have sex with her when you tell her you don’t want it. Rewind that story and start with something that appears like a friendship: no sexual attraction but some mutual interests in common. Then one person in the friendship wants more and the other person feels ashamed or like they will lose the friendship if they tell the other person the attraction is not mutual. Instead of speaking up the uninterested friend goes along with and allows the physical part of the relationship because they don’t want their friend to feel rejected. They don’t want to reinforce all the insecurities they know reside within their friend, so they put themself aside and hope the other person will realize the relationship is not meant to be (aka “run its course”). The problem is that it’s harder to break up with someone who started out as your friend than someone you were instantly attracted to when you first met. If there isn’t a love match with someone who began as a romantic partner you don’t feel inclined to sit back and continue the relationship. But when someone is a friend and you cross the line physically, you worry you may ruin the friendship if you tell your friend it’s over. Breaking up is an insult to someone and you are telling someone who has strong feelings for you there is not a connection.

Why does any of that matter and why is this new? I guess it’s nothing new but removing myself from the equation helped me to see this is common human behavior. Not necessarily healthy behavior but it can happen to anyone. The lessons we learn from our decisions define our character, not our mistakes.

Beyond the relationship the questions Jessica and Tim ask themselves at the end of each day tell a story about character. Character is the sum of our life experiences. I feel like this past year has been a series of questions I’ve had to ask myself daily. I’ve had to ask myself uncomfortable questions that made me vulnerable.

Sometimes I am vulnerable to myself. Maybe I always knew that but this past year I really looked at myself—the good and the bad. I evaluated my behavior—why am I upset? What are my expectations? Why didn’t I say anything? Should I say that right now? I almost wish my blog had a series of questions that I forced myself to answer throughout my healing. Sometimes the truth is in the answers and maybe the answers show us our true character.

In my next blog entry I will answer a series of questions about my journey post-affair. I will ask my husband to answer the same questions. Let’s see what happens…

end-story

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15 thoughts on “Social Experiments, Relationships and Questions

  1. When I ask my husband how he feels about his AP now he said that after my discovery he saw his feelings for her during the affair as what they really were-pure fantasy and not based in reality. He had never really loved her. When I asked if he missed their intimacy he said he just felt sad that they had ruined what started out as a good friendship…

    • My husband had a similar reaction although his AP was never actually a good friend. The friendship thing he didn’t realize immediately in the wake of me finding out but as we uncovered lie after lie he realized she was never his friend. Every bit of their relationship was built on her lies trying to fabricate a connection between them. My husband says looking back he always was aware he didn’t love her and it was more pity he felt for her (he beleive she was alone, getting a divorce from her “abusive” husband, etc). When I found out he knew that he became aware that he stayed with his AP so long because she made him feel like a hero–like he was a savior in her life. Although this was a double edge sword because it also made him feel like he couldn’t end things because she was in a fragile state.
      I hope you are doing okay. I read your other comment moments ago and I know it is hard to think that life was “real” during the affair. What was a facade–your life together or his affair? I believe 100% that the affair was the facade and that we truly were happy. Yes, he was involved with her and making horrible, devastating decisions but he never stopped loving me. He never looks back and is upset about our life together… It’s really hard to get to that place where you can push the affair aside but it just takes time. It won’t be your primary focus forever… it will linger and thoughts will pop in your mind but you won’t feel so devastated forever. Keep doing the work together, make time for each other (which is hard with two little ones) and try to make time for yourself too.

      • Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me 🙂
        Sometimes I think I’m doing ok, unfortunately my husband still works with his ap-he directly manages her. Although he is being completely transparent about his conversations with her and I have access to his work emails. What’s worse, she works in the office he runs in a different city so every time he goes he has to stay over night, which obviously used to be when they would be together. I can’t find my other post so not sure how much detail I went into? Basically his affair started with her being clear that she was sexually attracted to him from June 2012, from reading their work emails I estimate he started to respond to her advances early November, emailed her over Xmas saying he missed their chats and then made the decision to make it physical when he went back to work in jan 2013. I fell pregnant in sept 2012 😦 so the affair went on throughout my pregnancy until I found the texts on July 18th of this year. I read them all, every last one. As soon as I confronted him he said the fog lifted and he saw the reality of what he could lose. He immediately ended it with her and begged me to stay and work on our marriage. He is doing everything he can to help me but every time he goes to the other office I breakdown. He’s there now which is what has led me back here I guess! We have done a lot of soul searching together and I accept that my desire for him was dwindling, our intimacy was practically non existent even down to hugs and kisses, I rejected him so many times and this obviously caused him a lot of pain. I’m not excusing his actions just saying I can see why in a situation like this where another woman made it so obvious she desired him he was tempted. Strangely since d-day my desire for him is through the roof, but I think I need to work out where we went wrong in terms of not discussing how we felt about it pre affair and why I was in such a destructive place. Everything else about our marriage was good, we loved (love!) each other, are best friends, enjoyed being together. He says he thinks having sex with her lifted some of the pain of rejection from me and ironically made him enjoy our time together more! He also says he never stopped loving me and leaving me was never an option. His ap’s motives are very similar to his-a husband who didn’t want to have sex with her which is why she pursued my husband who she found very attractive.
        Perversely she would also blow hot and cold with him leaving hom feeling rejected again. this is when he says he would tell her he loved her and wanted to be with her in order to try and get her to have sex with him again. I’m obsessed with thoughts about how things could have been different if she’d never started working with him, if he’d told me how much she was flirting etc… But ultimately I think maybe this was the wake up call we both needed. It makes me so sad to think it took this for us to realise how much we mean to each other. Anyway I’m rambling now and there is so much more to this than I could ever put into words. I am slowly reading and processing all of your posts and its comforting that my feelings and thoughts are so similar to yours despite our stories being different. Thank you for putting into words what I struggle to even get straight in my head!

      • I can relate to everything you just wrote. I feel like our situations are quite similar. The intimacy level with my husband and I was very low when his affair began and his AP was very flirtatious. He liked the flirting and conversations but then he felt it was inappropriate. Instead of telling her to stop he opened a private email account and told her to email him there. The email account was his idea and I feel like that propelled everything forward at lighting speed. Once she had a private account she started asking him to have an affair with him and feeding his ego–saying he was her hero and they were meant to be together. She really figured him out and used any information she could to get him into bed. The only difference in our stories (at least for now) is that my husband’s AP lied to make herself look like a victim. What more does a man who feels dejected by his wife need–but to feel like he can help and save a poor, helpless woman? Right?
        Anyways… Like you, I could go on and on. I recently read an article about questions for married couples. One of the questions was: “How do we manage intimacy when our desires differ?” The author wrote that this is the most common issue that is never discussed between married people. Like we both said–the intimacy frequency was not good prior to the affair (and during). It bothered me and my husband but we never discussed it or told each other. I was tired… we have three kids and we both work. Our therapist said this is common when you are pulled in a million different directions to lose intimacy/desire but it doesn’t mean you seek adoration in another person. There are waves in a marriage of high and low–I asked my husband: how will we deal with the next low? Because we are still on a high but it can’t last forever. Keeping the communication open is the best thing. Discuss things that make you uncomfortable or expose your vulnerabilities. I wish I had found my voice years ago… It’s there when you first begin your relationship and then something happens and we started being polite. Never again.

      • Hmmm, all very similar hey! You hit the nail on the head with your comment on talking about things which make us feel uncomfortable. Although I perhaps haven’t worked out why I felt that way, my husband would bring it up all the time and I would repeatedly brush it under the carpet. I just wish he had found a way to force the issue. This is one of the hardest things I am learning-acceptance that I can’t change the past. It’s killing me because all I want is to go back to December and start talking before it was too late!
        I guess in some ways his ap was playing the victim. From what he said she told him her husband is a recovering alcoholic who repeatedly falls off the wagon which in turn would make her turn to drink (weird I know) and shed go crazy at works dos embarrassing herself and anyone around her. This would initiate an email to my husband apologising and saying how she hated disappointing him, which in turn would get a response from him telling her how wonderful she was at her job and that she just needs to reign it in a bit. I am still very obsessed with the details, my husband says across the 7months it was very on and off. Most months they would only have sex once, although the sexting would be almost continuous. Even from the texts and emails I can see this to be true. My husband says he can’t remember exact dates of their meetings only that they were infrequent but I’m obsessed with knowing, not sure why! It will only give me the opportunity to see what I was doing at the time and I can’t see that being helpful!!
        Anyway, he called me several times last night to let me know what he was doing and about any times he had spoken to her. It’s horrible to think of them having any kind of relationship now but what can I do??? I want to go to their office and see her, make sure she won’t slip back into flirting again!!! Like you say, we’re on a high now but what about the next low…

  2. “The lessons we learn from our decisions define our character, not our mistakes”..this is great…yes, and my husband would benefit from this insight…..BTW how would you say you and your husband are now building intimacy…what is it exactly in your relationship..how do you define it? Does talking, rehashing (sometimes) the affair build intimacy? Other “big questions” (do you believe in GOD”) build intimacy…maybe I should ask hubby myself what HE thinks intimacy is and how to build it….

    • Hi Kay, I know your question was aimed at TWNDU but I have some thoughts on one of your questions. My husband hates when we rehash his affair but for me it is key in my healing. I read somewhere that during an affair the betrayer builds a wall between him/herself and their spouse and opens a door to their AP. by talking about the details and being truthful and honest the wall between the spouses is broken down and a door is opened. By letting you in to all the secrecy and talking about what happened they are building a wall between themselves and their AP. it was put much better than that but I can’t find the original source! It rang true with me because I felt that the affair was ‘their’ secret that was kept from me and now we have talked about it I feel that it is part of my life that I can start to learn to accept. So yes rehashing the affair does build intimacy in my opinion because you can own it as a couple. I hope that makes even a little bit of sense? I find it so difficult to put my thoughts into coherent sentences!!
      On this subject my husband and I had a set back yesterday. I had found some emails a week ago that suggested things turned physical before Christmas (he told me they didn’t kiss until January) which I confronted him about. I asked directly if anything had happened and he said no. I could tell he was lying, so I kept digging (I hate that I’m getting good at that) until I found another work related email that she had written with notes from dec. one bullet point read “AP finally got that kiss” dated 11th dec. when confronted with this he said it had been a drunken snog that he hardly remembered and didn’t feel that it was significant in terms of when the real physical stuff started. It was like d-day all over again, the pain, the anger etc… I couldn’t believe he had lied to me again. After many hours of talking (rehashing!) we managed to regain some ground. Although he hates talking about it because he can see the pain it causes me, I feel I need to sometimes. I hope this will pass, I don’t want to spend our time talking about it but right now it does help.

      • I’m glad I’m not the only one rehashing things over and over. My husband hates it because the relationship with the OW was quite ridiculous, very little intimacy and what he describes as ‘teenager’ sex with no kissing or foreplay; he says it makes him sick that he risked everything he valued for something so completely pointless. Given that the affair happened because of his low self esteem and thinking he wasn’t good enough for me, this constant battering of his ego by reminding him how stupid it was isn’t helping. The things is I just don’t seem to be able to keep my mouth shut and stop asking the same questions. I hope I find a way soon.

    • Good questions. The level of intimacy between my husband and I right now is the highest it’s ever been. I feel like the emotional, physical and mental connection we share right now is beyond anything I ever imagined. We were close before but this is something different. At one point my husband said he felt like our desires and needs were in line with one another and that was incredible. We can communicate these needs and desires on a better level. The true test is when our desires differ–how do we deal with that and communicate that without the other person feeling hurt or disappointed. We just have to stay committed to our relationship and that is a daily committment.
      My husband and I do believe in God and share similar beliefs. Although we were raised in different churches we have chosen to raise our children in my faith. I think faith is important in all aspects of your life and relationships but I am private about my faith.
      Yes–open up the door and ask your husband. 🙂 I always love deep discussions with my own hubby about these things.

  3. I hope to be able to stop soon too, we are in counselling and my husband brought up how destructive he thought it was that I keep asking the same questions over and over again like I’m testing him to see if his replies are consistent. The counsellor assured us that it is perfectly normal and although she couldn’t give us a time frame it would subside eventually. She suggested putting a time limit on it of say 30 mins a night then slowly cutting it down to every other night and so on. The key is discovering why you need to ask the questions. For me we discovered it is because of how I found out about the affair and how it ended with me forcing my husband to call her and tell her it was over. This left me feeling that if I hadn’t forced the issue it may have continued. My questions are my way of trying to work out if he really wants to be with me or just felt that he has no other option. He assures me I’m the one he wants and she was always second best but its hard to believe a liar… I hope we all find the answers and peace we need to move forward.

    • My husband has much the same response as yours, he thinks I don’t believe anything he says and that is why I ask the same things. The truth is I believe everything he says and that scares me, that after less than 2 months I have started trusting him. But I need continued reassurance that it was pointless and meant nothing to him. we are also having counselling. Our situation ended in a similar way, he had tried to end it without me knowing after 8 weeks and she blackmailed him in to staying under threat of telling me for another 2-3 months. Eventually he told me himself, I told him to call her and end it by phone. She immediately started messaging me through my fb account claiming he loved her then turned up at our house. My sister stopped me getting out the door and I feel I did not get any closure. I don’t know her and some of the things she did while blackmailing him have left me scared. It seems I want to know as much about her as I can in order to be prepared in the event I came face to face with her. I hope this time of needing continued reassurance and confirmation of details will pass soon, it is exhausting for us both.

      • Needing to be reassured it was pointless and meant nothing is important to me, except in our case she did mean something. It wasn’t love (or so he says) but they were/are work colleagues and so he did like her and get a long with her. This fact leads to me asking so many questions around what he liked about her, whether he still does etc… He constantly reassures me but you’re right it’s exhausting and I sometimes wonder if he will get fed up of it. On the subject of trust, I too tend to believe what he tells me and at first I was scared of that too. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing and I don’t think we are weak or stupid. In both of our cases our husbands are remorseful and doing everything to put things right, answering questions, supporting us on bad days, even counselling. All of these things help us to feel they are sincere.im not sure full trust will ever be restored though or even if it should be??? Good luck 🙂

      • He also thought he felt something for her at the time, they spent 6 months meeting up as friends while she said she needed a friend while separating from her husband, so of course feelings developed during that time. He claims to start with it was just feeling sorry for her after the break up (ironic huh?) then when it became evident she wanted more he convinced himself he felt something in order to justify it, looking back he says it was more like gratitude that someone was paying interest in him as in hindsight she is not the sort of person he would associate with. Perhaps the feelings your H had were also a mechanism to allow him to accept the attention he wanted. I’m learning that these things are not black and white, all situations are unique. Keep working, good luck.

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