Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Sharing Perspectives: How Can My Spouse Feel What I Feel?

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When Missy came to my office, she was undone. Her husband had been involved in a torrid email relationship with an old girlfriend. She had stumbled upon the emails and had read each of the hundreds of exchanges between her husband and the other woman. If that hadn't been bad enough, she also was horrified by the way her husband had addressed the other woman and the desires he had expressed. The language had been vulgar and unlike anything she had ever known from her husband. She couldn't believe this was the same man she had been married to for over ten years. She was shocked by what he had done. Who was he, and was this what he wanted?

When confronted, he immediately broke off the relationship and explained it had been nothing more than an exercise in fantasy and not anything he seriously wanted. He made it clear that he wanted the marriage. She, on the other hand, wasn't sure she wanted to be with him. The emails had disgusted her, and she couldn't see ever being with someone who would find what he had written about appealing.

Thus began the long journey of trying to come to a common understanding. A perpetual struggle began over what he said he wanted versus what she now believed he wanted after reading his emails. The sticking point came with their inability to feel the same way about what he found to be erotic. In order for her to feel safe, she wanted him to see his desires as disgusting as she did. He admitted that what he had done was horrible, and he was ashamed of himself for betraying her and compromising himself, but he couldn't see how he could change what he had always found tempting.

HOW CAN I GO FORWARD IF THEY DON'T SEE IT THE SAME WAY?

surviving infidelity sharing perspectives

Lately, that question seems to be coming up more and more. Missy and Jack aren't the only ones dealing with that question. What if your mate was involved in a same-sex relationship, and, while it's not what they truly desire, they still find it alluring? What if they find something like being spanked by you highly sexual, but you are disgusted by the fact that they would find that arousing. They may understand how you feel, and you may both agree to the boundaries of your sexual relationship, but you know they still find it appealing.

Why can't they see it the way you see it? What if they break off their affair but don't feel the same hatred for the other person that you do? Can you be with someone who doesn't share your perspective on that other person?

We long for our mate to share our perspective, but is that what we really want or need?

The author of Genesis tells how God placed the "Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil" smack dab in the middle of the garden, and then told them not to eat it. Why in the world did he do that? Seems to me that the world might not be in this mess if God hadn't placed temptation in their way.

On the other hand, I'm not sure there was another choice. If he hadn't created something for them to choose over the relationship with him, then he would have been nothing more than a control freak, and we would have been nothing but puppets. Without choice, there can be no loyalty. Without choice, there would be no love. The sacrifice associated with love requires a willingness to sacrifice our desire for the sake of our beloved. The problem is never the temptation; the problem is our response to the temptation.

Temptation Doesn't Define You or Your Mate

Temptation doesn't define us. If it did, then the person with the most temptation would be the vilest person. From my perspective that person would be Jesus, but we certainly don't consider him to be vile. In the first chapter of the book of James,1 for example, it says "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone." Furthermore, in the book of Hebrews 4:152, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." While we may agree with this concept intellectually, I'm not sure how we see life itself as it unfolds around us.

Let's say you were to go to one of your close friends and tell them you'd been tempted all week to have an affair with their mate. Do you think they'd appreciate your honesty and understand that we all face irrational desires, or would they think something must be seriously wrong with you? They might even terminate their relationship with you because you no longer feel safe.

This scenario happens constantly in marriage. The fact that Jack is tempted by something Missy sees as disgusting can present a real problem. (Depending on how you look at it.) It could leave her thinking that something must be desperately wrong with Jack if he could find such a thing appealing, and that she needs to get as far away as possible. Missy could also choose to see Jack's temptation as a part of our fallen nature and appreciate his taking the necessary actions and steps to keep both of them safe.

Acting In Their Best Interest or Our Own?

If we were able to be the same and feel the same about all of life's struggles, then life would be dull indeed. There could never be loyalty, sacrifice, or love. The challenge of marriage is choosing to love our mate and acting in their best interest in spite of our differences. It's from that perspective that we can witness the true depth of love displayed by our mate. The trouble is not actually in the struggle alone, but in the heart's attitude toward the struggle.

We all struggle. We don't all have affairs, but we all find ourselves in situations which are bigger than our own ability to deal with. Finding the right steps and a safe place to heal is paramount. Learn more about our courses for unfaithful spouses and betrayed spouses. If you're looking for a safe place to heal as a couple, you can look at our EMS Weekend or our EMS Online course. All of these programs are filled with expert insight and practical steps any couple can take to find healing and restoration for their individual selves, their marriage, and their family. I hope you'll consider taking action today to find new life and new hope.

If you're the betrayed spouse, I want to invite you to our previous Hope Rising conferences now available On Demand. We have an annual one-day conference in Austin, TX where speakers will speak into your specific situation of infidelity and help guide you through the recovery process. It's not as hopeless as you think.

Hope Rising 2020 On Demand
Hope Rising 2019 On Demand
Hope Rising 2018 On Demand

  1. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
  2. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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Dont see it the same way

My problem is that my husband who cheated after a 60 day phone text/ and call emotional affair called the relationship "just friends"  after being together in our marriage 8 years and very much in love. Met this woman on a train trip with his dad over this past summer.  She began texting him which I found on his phone some 1 week or so after the trip. From mid June thru August 15th, on August 6th, we had been  fighting over her and how inappropriate the friendship was, got in a huge fight one evening and he left on August 5th or 6th on two week vacation because he wanted me out, I said no because I have a son, so he left on a train from Washington to Idaho, to help this woman move, and spent the entire two weeks with her. Although once he was away for awhile from me all he could think about was memories with me. I did not chase him, let him have his space thought he was just staying with a local friend  until he returned two weeks later.

He Slept with her 3 times and so Im told when he returned home and I found out about the physical affair because she phoned me looking for him. He never after 3 times got off with her. He was disgusted with himself which he will no longer admit because of pride, was turned off by hygene issues with her, she was  a severe alcoholic and had been promising her for couple months he was ready to close the door on me and be with her, give up all we had, a wonderful 1949 cabin we had just purchased some months back with a beautiful unobstructed view of the Puget Sound, and the comfort both us had with two good long time careers, many things in common brought us together many years ago and had become best friends.

 Anyway, he too is an alcoholic, and once sobering up, realized he did not want to be with her. I forgave him and took him back August 15th.  As I move ahead trying to heal, staying in the word of God, believing God will allow me to  move past this, it still haunts me today that my husband still believes that he did not cheat because we were "seperated".  We were not seperated, there was no closure on our marriage, I just could not get him to let her go. I kept praying God would poison his relationship with her and GOD ANSWERED my prayer. MY husband and I are  closer, and stronger, more in love than we were, but I want him to OWN up to his cheat. There is no resolve in my heart until he does.  We had maybe an hour when he returned home to talk about it all he did say he was sorry he hurt me. He did admit only once that all the wrong these happened out of "Pride". His Pride.  he realized he didn't like her at all.   I knew all along he loved me, and he is a diabetic and the floating in alcohol clouded his heart, his thinking, he was not rational, he couldn't remember anything. 

 I have listened to Rick and always remember that if you have to go back to Questions, you go back to square one.  I dont do this, but circumstances happen and Satan likes to throw it back at me. So then, there ya go, I start wondering again, in my heart  and soul, why does he think he did nothing wrong. 

My husband's excuse if you will, says  it all started back before his trip when he caught a guy text flirting with me. He thought I was cheating, and i answered him honestly, NO.  In fact  I felt  it totally inappropriate and because my husband mis-read into it all, I deleted the guy from my contact phone list. I dont even know him. He was the step father of my son's girlfriend who happened to be contacting me initially about my son and his stepdaughter. Anyway, i beat myself up for a couple months over this and could not get my husband to believe me, and then he met this girl on the train in June a couple months later.  This has been so very painful for me but I held on to God and his word and his promises and prayed my husband back home.

I cannot get him to see through my eyes. I didn't sleep with another man but he is comparing this in the same way that he had cheated on me. 

Praise God this woman was cut out of our life as I witnessed him doing just that.   I have been a widow before at age 32 and I can tell you,  almost losing a man to adultery is worse than losing a man to death and eternity.

Thank God for Ricks website as I sought help and comfort every day until I won my husband back.  My husband and I have a greater respect for one another, dont' take each other for granted, get rid of the alcohol, get your health back on track and just Know I LOVE you. Keep the fire lit. Dont stop doing and saying the things that you won your mate with to begin with.  One of the biggest stress factors that threw us into this mess was the 1949 cabin and a major self contracted remodel. The drinking to relieve the stress just pushed us further and further apart, but thank God, our love did not die, God hates divorce and so do I.

 

desires

My husband exchanged sexual emails w/my "best friend" while they were having an affair.  He never even acted as though this (emails) was something he desired.  We are together and stronger than ever but he wants nothing to do w/those types of emails w/me.  It sometimes worries me that he won't "communicate" with me in that same way although I've asked him to.  He says he didn't like the way he was during the affair...it wasn't the real him...who knows?

selfishness and dysfunction

I can really relate to the comments about Jacks sexual desires being much like an addiction.  I know in trying to heal from my husband's affair, it is important to me that my husband is aware of how much of his fantasy was very selfish and dysfunctional.  Isn't the nature of alot of fantasy very one-sided?  It was not healthy intimacy and to define it as fantasy and move on feels to me like the problem is not being dealt with.  What if there are some valid differences/dysfuntions that need to be addressed?  I want my husband to look deep within himself to figure out why he acted out that way instead of becoming more healthy in our marriage.  I can relate to Missy, as i still struggle with wanting to be close again as well.  I know the personal growth in this journey is huge for both of us, but it has to be BOTH of us allowing ourselves to be honest & open to what the Lord is wanting to change and heal.......

Erotic Differences

Hi Rick:  This is a subject right on target, as usual.  I have real problems reconnecting with my H on a sexual level, or romantic level.  This of course, at the emotional level, also stays at a distance too.  I found that my H had continued to access porn and practised masturbation.  He knew that I find voyeurism very disturbing and frankly, disgusting.   So, now he says that he has quit entirely.  For the sake of conjecture, let's assume that he has.   I saw some of the stuff he found arousing...and to me it's degrading and distasteful.  I have always felt that way about porn.  I'm not he peeping type at all.  So, now that I've seen those things, I feel very uncomfortable with him sexually.  I don't like to be around him naked at all, and I can't really relax sexually either.  I used to enjoy sex and felt that it was on a very loving, emotional and spiritual level.  So, seeing how he felt about sex made me sick.  Can't seem to get past that.  Don't know if I ever can.  So, it seems to me that it ruined sex for me, and drove us miles apart in every way. 

Same Feelings

I don't have the exact same desires as my wife and I would prefer to be somewhat more adventurous in the bedroom. However, that has not been the issue. What I would like to have is my wife to feel the same way about her adultery as I do or really understand what it did to me. Unfortunately that will not happen. She just is not capable of putting herself in my place.

I agree with you 100%.I am

I agree with you 100%.I am the same way as you.
David

Lack of empathy

I'm in the same boat. My wife has been unfaithful, and almost a year later I find myself unable to let go because I fear she has refused to actually contemplate what she has done. As such I find no avenue for closure, no opportunity to let go of the pain the anger and the insecurity - because she never attempted to look hard at what she has done. Maybe because she is a woman, she feels she gets away with hurting a man (we aren't supposed to have feelings). How I've tried to have her see where she has put me, and the last few months I've been waiting for her heart to open and deal with her actions. But alas she is steadfast in her denial, and although it's selfish I realize she will not weep for me. Either I move on, or accept that she doesn't grasp the severity of her transgression... Leaving me to wonder if maybe she will do it again.

Same

That makes three of us. Just tonight I heard - "I know how it feels. It happened to me in a dating situation" (as a teenager). Can you believe that? I said that's insulting! Not even close to a 25 year marriage with two children. She doesn't get it, period. How do you get through to someone so delusional. Maybe you don't. I wish she would spend a day with Rick, but wouldn't even spend an hour reading his blog.

"The challenge of marriage is

"The challenge of marriage is choosing to love our mate and acting in THEIR best interest." That's the real issue for me. How does one continue in a relationship knowing that their spouse CHOSE to act in their own best interest, CHOSE to betray the spouse, and CHOSE to be deceitful?

Know the feeling

Yes, I feel the same way about the "Choice" to do what she did. I continue to confront her on her "choosing" to fall out of love with me. I told her -- just like my counselor told me -- that love is a CHOICE and that what you choose to do, your feelings will follow. But she does not see it that way. It is very frustrating and she really has no real empathy or can even understand the hell she has put me through with her two-year emotional affair. It is hard to regain any kind of trust or hope for the future in our 21-plus years of marriage when she continues to be distant from me and said she is working on trying to love me again. I have always loved her and have chosen to even in the worst times of our marriage. Even when she spent years being cold and distant, when she had major health problems/surgeries, when she had a handful of ugly girlfriend relationships end. I stood by her side through the worse in the "for better or worse", through the sickness in the "sickness and health" but when things started getting tough for me (losing two jobs over a 3-year span), she decided it was easier to just drift away from our marriage and chose another man to cherish and find pleasure and enjoyment with.

So how do you move on? I have been processing the forgiveness aspect and letting things go as we continue weekly counseling now for the past few months. But I can tell she still justifies herself by pointing out the marital problems we had (not that I am perfect by any means and I know this -- but neither is and/or was she, but I just decided to stick through things even when they got ugly) and she rarely, rarely ever says she is sorry to me for the pain and rejection she has caused me.

Try to have a daily positive attitude of gratitude and thankfulness that she still wears my ring, is still trying to work on her part of the marriage and said she wants to move on and rebuild, but I still have so much trouble wrapping my head around her CHOICE of straying and -- I am sure a lot of you feel the same -- I don't know if I can give her my heart fully ever again for fear of her CHOOSING down the road, when times get tough (and yes they will -- the ALWAYS do) that she will once again drift away and make the CHOICE to stray from our marriage covenant. So very hard to stay positive!

Redo!

I’ve read this article before and it always leaves me feeling unsettled. And I think it is because it is making excuses for some of the unfaithful’s or person’s unhealthy desires.

For instance, if a person expresses he wants to have an affair with his neighbor then he clearly isn’t healed. Especially, if you are going by the Christian standards. When you are a believer and allow God to change your heart then your desires should also follow. Meaning a man, should, number one, not be noticing another women like that and if a believer and healthy, wouldn’t even WANT to have an affair.

It’s a little tricky with the bedroom stuff and, I agree, what’s done during making love has to be mutual. However, the nasty stuff that the women, in the story above, seems to be upset by is porn stuff. If a man is getting healthy then his desire for that kind of stuff should change. He should want true intimacy and connection, not this stuff portrayed though porn to generate his arousal. He is desiring sexual acts that he saw in porn to get him aroused. This would signal to me a red flag of him desiring things that aren’t not healthy. Asking a women ( or man) to be okay with that perspective or mindset is not okay. So just because he doesn’t do it out of respect, but still desires It his mind would tell me his is still unhealthy. And from a biblical perspective Desiring to be with another man is not having God’s desire in your heart.
IF this was desired before and Then you accepted God into your heart and did the work to get healthy. Then eventually this desire should go away. Otherwise, why do we say that God can heal and change the brain? That new neural pathways can be built?? This article is asking us to just accept the unhealthy desires.

And I do believe an unfaithful spouse should come to a point where the adulterous partner in crime should make him sick. I would even be okay with hate but then eventually indifference. If he is repentant and disgusted by his actions then the sight of her should make him sick. Remind him of all the filth Of what he did with her and what she represented.

This one is a miss for me. If you are talking about white chocolate vs dark chocolate. Or see the perspective as I like to run you like to bike. Sure, but excusing these unhealthy desires in the name of people Just liking different things doesn’t seem right. Not even by AR standards. This one needs a redo!

This gives a message of hope

This comes at a good time during my recovery. The message, "Be kind to yourself, and be kind to your spouse," resonated with me as the wandering spouse in our marriage. It's like kindness will be the glue that will help keep the couple stick together in the long run.

Kindness

I find myself thinking about how awful he is and questioning why I’m still here. But when I see him beating himself up and showing genuine feelings of remorse, I’m the one trying to help him feel better. My discovery was 1.5 years ago, with him still intermittently contacting her every few months. Am I being too kind? Because I don’t see how it’s changed his behavior much. He doesn’t regret his affair, he regrets not being more diligent in covering his tracks. My kindness towards him feels like he’s being given permission to continue.
How does this cycle change without me consistently beating him up and pushing him away? When do I receive some kindness in return?