I have recently discovered the Huffington Post and I love it. Today I read your article "Does saying I'm Sorry Matter?" The article spoke to me, because I'm not sure saying "I'm sorry" in my current situation will make a difference. So here I am writing you for advice because my whole world feels like it is crumbling into a million itsy-bitsy pieces.
My husband and I are in the process of splitting; well, it really kind of depends on the day of the week. We are in that stage where we both have moments and days where we think that we might be able to make it work and other days where we think, "It's over." Agi, how do we move through this stage and make the best decision for the two of us individually and for our family? We are still living together with young children.
There is a crucial piece of this puzzle I must reveal. My husband recently ended an affair, which I have known about for the past five months. He told me twice before that he ended it when in fact he did not. I feel so shattered and confused. How do I move forward after this affair has put a permanent blemish on all the years we have spent building our lives together? How can I ever trust him again? His covert behavior has made me become someone I don't even recognize. For example, every time he comes home late from work or goes out to the gym, I wonder if he is with her and is still lying to me. What are some good strategies for rebuilding the trust that is lost when there is infidelity?
Thank you for any help you can offer,
Shattered & Confused
Dear Confused You're Not Shattered,
It's obvious that this is a very challenging time in your life. I feel your pain and commend your ability to stay calm and sensible about approaching this life-altering decision. I'm impressed that you haven't gone the route of playing victim and questioning why he cheated on you, because the why doesn't matter. What matters is whether the two of you can find your way back to being friends, partners and parents. Most men and women go straight to the position of victim and try to personalize the other person's behavior. For anyone who is reading this I want to make it very clear; the actions of another person have nothing to do with you ever. I can't emphasize this enough. Your husband's infidelity is a result of an internal struggle he is having and unfortunately, you and your family have been caught in the crossfire.
However, if you and your husband have not been intimate for a long period of time this should have been a red flag to both of you that there is trouble brewing. Intimacy is one of the most important aspects of any solid marriage. Infidelity however, is not the answer. An open flow of communication is crucial to any successful relationship. This doesn't mean he should be banished from the castle and thrown into the dungeon for eternity. However, if he really wants to keep his family together -- and I hope he does -- then the two of you will have to do a lot of work and be fully committed to helping each other rebuild trust again. I am by no means defending your husband, I believe when people lie or cheat there are two things to consider: is this behavior inherent in his personality, or, did he stray only this one time? If he has a history of being deceitful even about mundane issues, then yes, it is probably inherent in his personality and you have to either accept him for this trait or move on. On the other hand, if he has been a great husband, friend and father for all the years you have been together and he chose to make this catastrophic mistake, then maybe the two of you should find a way to reconnect and continue to build your lives together.
Recovering from any form of infidelity -- emotional or physical -- is not going to be easy, but it is plausible. I'm going to suggest a few options to help you with the questions you posed. First, I think it is important to release some of the dark tension this situation has brought onto both of you. Pick a day to spend together sans your children. Plan a fun outing like going to an amusement park or hiking in the mountains with a picnic in tow. During this day neither of you are allowed to discuss anything divorce related including the infidelity or any topic that is heavy. You are simply to have fun and keep your hearts light and free so you can see if you are still a mutual match at the core level of friendship.
If you find a spark of compassion and love for each other then your work as a couple is to stay fully open and honest with one another. This includes your husband's willingness to stay completely transparent with his comings and goings. All phone calls made by your husband should be disclosed to you anytime you need to ask him who is calling. Rebuilding trust is a tedious process and the only way to tackle it is to continue to have open communication -- but this does not include verbally bashing the other. Both of you should write a list of what you want to share with your life partner when it comes to your values and morals and see if you match each others' lists. If there are items on the list that don't match then discuss ways you can both compromise. It is utterly important you accept him for who he is and not try to change him in ways that will not serve either of you. Be aware that your mind will try to control him and the situation and when this occurs you need to stop yourself, take a deep breath and ask yourself, "Where is this coming from?" We are not meant to control anyone, we are only meant to be in acceptance. Do not acquiesce to the temptation of pointing your finger at him by telling him how awful he is. He is, after all, the man you chose to spend your life with, so look for the goodness that lies deep inside of him, the man you once fell in love with. Forgiveness can only begin internally. Once you get to a place of accepting yourself, him and your current situation, you will find a lightness unfold in your soul and it is then that you will realize you cannot get hurt.
This time in your life is an opportunity to recreate newness by allowing yourself to connect with your inner spirit, which has always been there for you. Remember, you are a sapient being whose promised birthright is to be happy. You are safe and loved first and foremost by yourself. Divorce doesn't have to be the only option, but if you both decide to go this route then be in acceptance of it and move forward with grace and dignity. Honor him for the father he is and the man that you once loved. Whatever you do, don't ever stop believing in the love that the two of your share for your children. You are bound eternally by those little spirits, so honor them because they deserve it.
Take great care my friend,
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