After continued ups and downs, my husband and I are in a decent place. Today. Last week was a shit show. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Par for the course in post affair life.
We’ve both been drifting away from each other for some time. This is a trigger for me. My reaction is both “dig in and hold on tighter” and “run for the hills” at the same time. I react with both fight and flight. I’m not sure how that’s even possible. He gets triggered and reacts with flight. Its a cycle that we created before his affair.
Long story short, we were texting while at work. He stated things like “I’m sorry and we should work on this together” and “I want to help you heal.” Which was great. Its what we want from our straying spouses. I felt hope and like we could finally get through this. The conversation went a little further in which he told me his AP contacted “one time and I didn’t respond”. Now, I know any betrayed spouse reading this GETS IT. I’ve struggled since D-Day with believing I have the truth. Its not even about the details anymore. I just want to be in a relationship with someone I can count on to be honest with me. I’ve often thought that the last contact wasn’t the last contact. I didn’t believe that he would tell me if they had contact. And I was right. I thought the worst of him and he delivered. My reaction to this news was unemotional because I really wasn’t surprised and its what I believed all along. I did question the information he was providing me and pointing out how it didn’t match what I saw in an email when I first found out, timelines, etc. His reaction was of course defensive (flight mode). So it went south from there.
We had a very calm and rational conversation about divorce. That no matter what we try, we just don’t work. We love each other and are so close to getting “there” so often, but just don’t seem to get there. I didn’t like it. Divorce isn’t what I want. But I was at peace knowing I did absolutely everything I could to rebuild this marriage and it just isn’t happening. I spent the weekend at a friend’s. She was just what I needed. She told me she’d support me if I divorce, stay – whatever. She loves me and will do whatever she can to be there for me. It was great.
My second night away, he texted me some articles he thought would be helpful. I told him I wasn’t confused about why our relationship got here. I was confused how we went from Tuesday being “I want to help you heal” to Friday being “let’s split”. I told him he only wants to help me heal so long as it looks the way he wants it to look and doesn’t get uncomfortable for him. That’s not genuine. I told him of the hope I felt and that is what hurt the most. We ended up texting a little more. It was all calm and rational. No blame. Actually a lot of ownership. I came home on Sunday and we talked more. It was probably the most open, honest and vulnerable we’ve ever been. I was stilling feeling at peace with divorce.
After more talking, we both agreed it was the best conversation we’ve had. We both wondered if we turned a corner and could build on it or are we just repeating old habits? Did the nostalgia of good times kick in?
We went to our therapist for the first time in a long time. We filled her in on where we were, but not about the details that got us there. We mostly talked about boundaries and the fact that neither one of us have them. Its been the underlying current of dysfunction in our relationship from the start.
We both agreed we will see where this goes, so our homework is to establish and communicate our boundaries. I am starting with 3 and here they are.
I need the ability and safety to lovingly express my pain – every time. I need to be received with acknowledgement, support and love. If I am met with that, I do not feel the desire to continue to push for it. I feel loved and that you care about me and my pain. If I am met with anger, a dismissive attitude, contempt, etc. I feel hurt and unloved. If the negative reception continues, I will need to withdraw for my own wellbeing and may no longer be able to stay in this relationship.
I need active and rigorous honesty. Active and rigorous honesty means willingly telling the truth when its easier to lie and there may be consequences. It is pro-active and does not require me to question or snoop to learn details that affect my life and health. Simply put, if I learn something that would hurt or upset me, I’d rather learn it from you and not someone else or stumble across it on my own. This type of honesty is important to me because it shows integrity in the relationship. Dishonesty is a boundary for me. When there is dishonesty (overt and omission), it breaches this boundary and I’m no longer able to trust that there is a level of integrity in the relationship. I feel disrespected and unloved. If dishonesty continues, I will need to distance myself and may no longer be able to stay in this relationship.
I need to be spoken to with respect (lovingly), even during times of stress and arguments. When I am spoken to in a loud, aggressive tone and sworn at, I can’t see past any of that to what is being said. I can no longer hear the message nor have a desire to problem solve. When I’m spoken to in a conversational tone, free of insults and attitude, I hear what is being said and care to problem solve. If aggressive behavior continues, I will need to stop the argument and walk away until we can both have a calm conversation.
No matter the outcome to my marriage, defining and enforcing my boundaries is a win for me.