The Detox Phase

When launching out into recovery, one must have an anchor.  The chaos and the confusion of it all can be overwhelming and exasperating.  Not all days are tumultuous, but early on I’m willing to bet you’ll have more chaotic and depressing days, than comforting and reassuring days.  Even now, several years later, I have a few rock solid anchors in my life to help keep me attached, grounded and safe for all the important relationships in my life.

What anchors do you have in your life?  Are there any right now?

If you're early on in recovery, unfortunately your affair partner or addiction may have been your anchor. It's what kept you sane, and kept you from imploding on your spouse, family or difficulty in life.

My affair partner in many ways was an anchor.  The problem was, it was a false anchor that could never ultimately give what I needed, as our dysfunction played off of one another, and the affair proved to be a false sense of hope and security.  Like many of you, or your spouse, what was once an anchor is now a temptation to resist and remain free from.  This will probably require a detox phase.    

The detox phase is incredibly painful for both the unfaithful spouse and betrayed spouse, as the betrayed spouse knows the unfaithful spouse is going through such a bewildering period of time.  It hurts like all hell to be honest.  To know your spouse misses someone intensely, who really should never have been in their lives in the first place is about as gut wrenching as one can imagine.  To know you’re compared to another, and don’t measure up to their fantasy, ministers so much rejection, insecurity and hopelessness, it’s hard to put into words.  Looking back now, I see that the comparisons were unfair, unrealistic and based upon self-deception more than they were based upon real life truth.  As I’ve said time and time again, real life can just never compete with fantasy.  And affairs my friends, are based upon fantasy life and not real, true, everyday life with problems, bills, pressures, confusions and unmet needs. 

The detox phase is a must. Like breaking free from a drug, it is absolutely essential.  If done right, and if pushed through strategically, it can help pave the way to the next season of reconnection with your spouse.  As a drug addict needs to be free from a drug, many times a spouse needs to be free from the affair partner and it will take more than just “time” to see this happen.  It will take time, plus expertise to help translate what is real and what is fantasy and it will also take a consistent curriculum to help prevent relapse. 

If your spouse has been involved in an affair for any length of time with the same person, almost assuredly there will be a detox phase.  Though excruciating for both parties, it is a must if there is going to be healing and eventual reconciliation.

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Detox for the betrayed

I think what you said here is quite true, though heart-rending for meNNowow he to accept. My husband's affair went on from the end of March to just the middle of June this year, it took him just two weeks from the first text message she sent him trying to "get to know him better" for him to set up a tryst at an isolated park in the middle of the work day. We've had the torturous days of discovery and ultimatums, separation, reconciliation, humiliation when we ended up going to the doctor thanks to an STD she passed on, lingering doubts, tearful confessions, and painful discoveries I keep making about what they spoke of you each other and things he did for and said to her that he never did for me, and very likely will never happen between us. It hurts... I can't understand why, and when I look at her, I don't get what he could possibly see that made him think she was the "epitome of womanhood" or make him look up unfamiliar words just do be could describe his feelings for her when he would never do it for me. Two weeks after their supposed breakup, he was so angry with me. At this point he was still denying they'd been involved and had made up some sordid story to explain the STD. He screamed at me with such vitriol that I'd forced him to give up a good friend for no good reason, that we'd lost our church for no reason, that every time he looked at my crying face, it reminded him of his much he disliked me and it made him want to leave. Now, he claims that it was bluster in his part... that even while he was in the affair, he'd realized he didn't love her or even feel attracted to her, but that she was so demanding and he was afraid she'd retaliate by telling me everything that he couldn't break it off. He had lied to me so many times over this affair, insulted me by bringing this woman into my home and had my mother cook her and her husband dinner, he tried to make me doubt my sanity, looked me in the eye when I was having a liver biopsy done and told me I was everything to him while he texted her as I dozed off. He lied about what an unbearable bitch I was, told her intimate details about my sexual shortcomings, and declined to be with me at a very vulnerable time in my life to run to her beck and call. Now, he wants me to believe he loves me? He wants me to forget all these things and be happy and cheerful. I had to request a sabbatical from my program because I am too distracted and distressed to do anything. I feel I have lost everything that matters to me, while they both have minimal losses to tally. I wonder, how much longer will it take for *my* detox from these bitter memories to even begin? I am afraid that as long as I keep feeling slighted, and he doesn't really make an effort to show me this supposed love for me, the toxic memories are going to push me further towards ending our marriage. I fought so hard through his disdain and his betrayal, and it hurts so much to even contemplate the idea. He claims he loves me, and that he was deluded into believing she was beautiful and good for him, that I am the one he wants... I don't see it. I don't feel like he sees me as a woman at all... not the way he saw her. I don't want to be a saint on a pedestal to be paid homage for my fidelity and patience. I want my husband to show me he genuinely desires me, and as long as he treats me as some foreign thing he is afraid to break, I will just believe he is still intoxicated with whatever lust she plied him with. I will never be able to compete with his fantasy "epitome of womanhood", even if I am more attractive.

I'm With You

Wow... your comments are so powerful and so similar to my own story. I could have written your words myself. I do believe that the betrayed, too, need a detox from the torment of the awful truths they must deal with. I'm a year out and the memories are so painful, especially knowing that I was abandoned (both physically and emotionally) by my spouse in some of my greatest times of need. It makes it hard to look at that person and feel positive about the life that you share. Just stay prayerful. Take some time for yourself... step back and detox from the relationship yourself. Spend some quiet time with God. Pour out your heart and feelings to him and, most of all, pray for your husband to draw closer to God. Ultimately, He is the one that will convict them and move them on the right path to recovery. I am saying a prayer for you. God Bless.

Thank you

It's incredible to realize sometimes that I am not the only one in the world having to go through this. It's terribly sad that I am not even the only one in this particular set of circumstances... I wish no one had to know this kind of pain. But at the same time, there is comfort in knowing I am not alone or that my doubts and fears aren't a product of my imagination or an overreaction.

It's comforting to know I am just a normal person stuck in an abnormal and unreasonable situation. I have tried taking time to myself, and maybe I did it at the wrong time, because I ended up vulnerable to all sorts of horrible feelings. The only thing that seems to break through the fog of anger, resentment, and pain is prayer. I pray constantly for peace of mind, for resignation to the fact my life blew up while I thought it was solid and stable, resignation for the losses I'm tallying... patience for God to do what He will, and for wisdom to help me accept that many things are out of my control, and I can only trust in Him to get me through this storm. I thank you for your prayers, and I offer my own in return for you and your family.

For NMG

I know you posted a few weeks ago, I also have never sent a reply so am not sure how you will be notified. However, I felt very drawn to do so. Your story was so like mine although I'm farther along in recovery. It was 8 months ago almost to the day that my husbands affair partner told me what was going on although I had known parts of it for a few months but pieced together the information little by little. What got me in your post was your feelings of "how can I compete with his fantasy "epitome of womanhood"". I can't tell you how much I completely understand these feelings and have struggled with the same ones. I'm praying that God will give me the right words to say to you right now. I can not say that I am completely over feeling somehow "less" than the affair partner or do not still fall into the trap of believing that maybe she was better for him than me. However, what I have realized over the past few months is how little my husbands actions actually has to do with me. I was told and in my head I thought about how it was not my fault but it wasn't until I began to actually believe that, things started to change within myself. I was placing meaning on my husband's affair to be I wasn't lovable, or even more hurtful to me, desirable. I didn't believe (this is all subconscious!) that I deserved to be desired, loved appreciated. The advice I kept getting was to take care of myself, eat healthy, work out, find a new hobby, blah, blah, blah. I only could think, how? They someone asked me "how was I not appreciating myself?" "How was I not loving myself?" and "why should it be true that this other woman was more desirable than me?" That was very eye opening for me as I discovered that no, in fact there were many ways I was not appreciating myself and why was I looking to my husband to provide that appreciation etc. for me? In turn, why was he looking to find validation (and not getting it) with me? That is a huge responsibility to place on our partners and a complete set up for failure. We all have our own expectations and perceptions and to put the responsibility of meeting those on another person who also has their own expectations and perceptions is not fair. His affair had nothing to do with me, how I was as a wife or how I was in the bedroom (yes, he said many of those things) and most importantly how the fantasy of her was compared to me. It had everything to do with how he felt about himself. Nothing I could have said or done would change that. I used to hate the word fantasy when talking about the affair because it implied to me that she was somehow better. Every time I read that on a post or in a book I got so angry. As I began to think about why it made me so mad I realized that it was because I was still placing meaning on the affair to be that I wasn't good enough etc... The perception my husband had about me was real life, kids, bills, house cleaning etc.. The perception he had about her was someone he had no responsibilities with. It wasn't that she was more desirable, or the "epitome of womanhood". It was that he imagined something in his own mind that wasn't even real. He wasn't validating, appreciating etc. himself and the only way he thought he could get that type of attention was from what she was giving him. Again, nothing to do with me and everything to do with him. Here is a big one. The lies. Why was he lying, deceiving and manipulating me. The woman he claimed to love? How could I believe it when he said he loved me and did desire me when I knew he had the ability to look me in the eyes and lie? How could I believe that someone who would say they loved me while texting her (yes, this happened in my situation too) or sneak out after what I thought was a fun date night see her? It was impossible for him to say or do anything that actually seemed genuine to me. I placed meaning on what he was doing and saying to work on our marriage to be out of guilt or somehow yet another manipulation. I also placed meaning on his irritation with talking about it with me, minimizing the situation and sometimes blaming me for the situation (that was way early on and stopped fairly quickly) to mean that he really wouldn't do whatever it took to save our marriage. In reality, I really have no idea what he was thinking when he said and did those things or what his intention was. It certainly didn't mean that I was somehow flawed or at fault, it didn't mean that I am not a beautiful, lovable, desirable woman. The things he did and said, were about him and really should have no meaning to me at all. If anything it is an opening for me to see him and know him better. Not in a judgmental way but in a compassionate way. Nothing was about me (I say this again!) but about his own perceptions of himself, his fear of not being adequate, lovable, admired and desirable. Wow, that was eye opening for me. There is so much more I could say but I'm hoping that God gave me the right things to say. You are a loveable, desirable, strong woman who has it inside yourself to see that. Nothing he can say or do can change anything about that. Show yourself compassion and love, don't look to him for that he can't give that to you. No one can. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me is proof of that!

for NMG

WOW - I'm so glad I saw this! It is wonderfully said and means so much to me. I, too, struggle with the feelings of rejection and feeling unloved but will try to look at him with new eyes. It IS a reflection on how he sees himself and not about me. It hurts so much to think that he shares everything with her and looks forward to praying with her, communion with her (his emotional affair partner is his senior pastor while he is the associate) and running around with her all day long doing "service for the Lord." I've always known he has felt insecure but never thought about having this affair was a way to self-medicate. I, too, looked to him to validate my worth instead of looking to God and when he went to another woman for comfort, I feel worthless. Thank you, thank you for giving me so much to pray about. I know in my head I am loved by God as much as he loves Jesus, but this helps me feel it!

There is nothing hidden

A good friend would encourage his love for you. A good friend would not pull him away from his covenant with you and God. She is corrupting his sense of right and wrong by the mere fact she encourages him toward herself. Her position is the most dangerous factor here. It obscures how wrong and corrupted their logic has become. As my husbands AP used to tell him: Their affair isn't a sin, it's love, and love comes from God, therefore God doesn't think their sneaking, and lying and cheating was wrong. Please.... sophistry at its finest. None is as blind as the one who doesn't want to see.

Please don't forget who you are through whatever may come. I've learned the hard way that people "doing God's work" aren't necessarily completely embracing God's will. It has left me somewhat disillusioned with the naivete I held in my heart that church was a safe place from sin.

The only thing that broke through my husband's fog, as he says, was when he had an opportunity to see me in a different light. Even while trying to hold on to his false justifications for the affair, he perceived my love for him. He saw I stopped fighting against him, and was instead calling him back to our marriage with prayer and patience. He saw the pain I was in, and the truth of my words rang in his head until the spell broke. He remembered what we'd built, and the sacrifices I'd made for him. His guilt still prevented him from admitting his fallacies, but at least he was starting to clear his mind from the toxic lies and lust that'd held him by her side. Little by little he began to see what was true and what was false. He remembered that the things he denied me saying or doing for him had been there all along. He was able to see past his resentment and recall how I showed him my love every day. How I had not really been tearing him down, or diminishing him as she'd led him to believe. He remembered all the times I had reached out to him and been left hanging by him, and oh, how that turned him right around. Don't stop praying. I will pray for you and for all of us to make it through this devastation.

Be prepared, Elizabeth. Hold on to God because your life will depend on that faith and love. If he doesn't turn away from this dangerous path, you will be hearing many painful things. All of them untrue, unfair, and undeserved. Don't forget what you are, that you are better in a million ways than anyone who would knowingly insert herself or himself between a married couple.

But don't forget, God sees it all, and He will discern their true hearts. He will deliver you from this chaos if you never let go of Him. Remember Hebrews 4: 12-13 reads-

"12- Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart

13- No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account."

What God sees being done wrong and in His name will be set right in due time.

Heart Over Mind, Feeling Over Logic

Jennie,

Your words couldn't have come at a better time. I've had the worst week since D-Day. It seems that just when things progress quite nicely, the devil decides it's just the right time to throw a wrench into the works and derail everything. Long story short, my husband's work decided they wanted him working overtime for a few days, and the explanation, when I heard it, sounded so very familiar... so much like the convoluted, detailed excuses he used to invent to cover for his time spent with the OW... I just lost it.

It's just a matter of not letting my heart rule my mind, I guess. I know the logic, I know the truth. Beginning with the fact that she lacks the basic integrity to stop her from actively and relentlessly pursuing and even accosting a man married to someone else with constant vulgarity and innuendo. The fact that she is also married and has a child of her own didn't even faze her... what does that say about her character? And then there is my husband... I am well aware, after so many years of knowing him, that he never had been taught to communicate difficult feelings, he has never respected boundaries, that everything is a big game to him. I can see very plainly from the exchanges I managed to recover from his computer how he just played right into her game. He kept following along as she upped the ante, and not to be outdone, he pushed the doors that much more and more open for her until he got caught up in the stupidest trap I've ever seen. How he made the jump in just a matter of a few days from loving me, sending me a very heartfelt and tender letter detailing how I made his life better, to thinking I was a burden and a controlling bitch who kept him on a leash... I just cannot begin to imagine. His mind was so easily manipulated. His convictions, his morals, principles, hopes, dreams, career, family, self-respect, dignity... ALL went flying out the window with one horrible choice.

The funny thing is I didn't even have time to even consider who he was talking to. I'm in a very demanding medical program, and some days I didn't even get a chance to eat a meal, let alone go snooping through his phone like he so violently accused me of. I realize now that maybe that was part of the problem. As supportive as he was outwardly of my pursuing my dreams, I think he always resented the fact I had a dream to pursue and he never did. I realize he was probably feeling neglected, but then again, when I asked him to join me on the few precious moments I had free, he decided he had something better to do. That is NOT my fault. And yet... I blame myself for not trying to appeal to him more. I blame myself for wanting my career in the first place. I know it's the stupidest thing ever... But what can one do? I don't know how long it will be for my heart to catch up with my brain.

I still can't let go of the bitterness over what was taken away from me to be given to such a vile, vulgar, and unworthy individual. I am the only one getting hurt by the memories, and yet I can't seem to fight them off when they come. I probably haven't given myself enough time to bleed them out, but I have been blindsided so thoroughly by this that I am not myself in the least. I have always been the problem solver, the take-charge fixer of my family. Family, professional, social, educational problems, I've charged at them all and for the most part have been successful. And yet, here is this rather vulgar, classless, vapid, unattractive, drunken, stupid woman pulling the rug from under me by seducing my husband and suddenly I am a mess. I'm having panic attacks, fits of rage and impotence alternating with periods of complete numbness. I fell into clinical depression and even almost ended up being committed against my will as an inpatient at a psychiatric facility for fear of suicide. This isn't me, and the ugly, shrieking wraith I've become seems to linger when I want her gone. When I lash out, I know just where to strike to hurt him most, and I hate myself the moment the words leave my mouth. I panic, and it just avalanches from that point.

I've been trying to get him around to signing up for EMS online, but he is highly suspicious of anything he doesn't come up with. He read a couple of articles from the free resources I linked him to, and he just reacted defensively to them. He has literally jumped out of my car twice and taken off running when I ask him to explain his reasoning for some particularly egregious things that took place during his affair. This all just leads me to believe he is still closed off to fully accepting what he has done. He doesn't want to be faced with it, and doesn't want to probe what has led him to where we are now. He claims his brain and his heart work like a switch, and once he made his mind up to finish things with her, she is nothing but a bad taste in his mouth. This frightens me, because just as easily as he claims he is over his "love of loves, epitome of womanhood", that is how easily his brain switched from "My wife makes my life better, brings me closer to God, and gives me a reason to live and be glad" to "My wife is a controlling bitch who tries to choke me with a leash, and wants to decide who I can and can't talk to." Why should I have faith now that it won't happen again? He didn't learn to keep his pants on after having a one-night stand during a business trip and the supposed guilt he felt then... He didn't learn to keep boundaries up with his female coworkers time after time, if not having an outright affair, then coming dangerously close to one several times. He didn't respect the fact that he was a married man with children when he felt left out of what his single buddies were doing... giving his number out to women he met out at bars and strip clubs. He doesn't seem to grasp that it was his arrogance, thinking himself infallible that led him through all these things. Now he says he will never fall again, and that the sporadic marriage counseling is what we need to solve all our issues?

I know what I am, and what I am worth... my brain does, at least. My heart, not so much. It feels like all my accomplishments are worthless when I see what he was willing to trade me out for. It doesn't matter that I've been turning away advances from colleagues and strangers alike for as long as we've been married, I don't feel attractive or desirable. I know it's wrong to pin all my validations on his opinion. But boy, does it really hurt when I look in the mirror after someone mentions I am beautiful or elegant, and I see behind my reflection that black-toothed, saggy, lumpy drunk he rolled around with, and I think "Yeah, right... so why did he think *that* thing was the ultimate sample of what a woman should be?" It's ridiculous.

On good days, I laugh and I thank God for staying my hand at the lowest moment of my life. I think of my sons and the kind of example I want to set for them. I realize that my heart is broken to a million pieces, and yet the world is still turning... Life isn't over simply because I've fallen. I seek out the comfort of knowing others have been where I am and have crawled their way back to standing and have moved forward. Others have had it even worse and have lived and learned to love themselves. I can do that too. I have to remember that he's still here... he tells me he wants US, not her or anyone else. He runs away, but he comes back and he tries to bring me out of the gloom. I can see sorrow in his eyes, and I feel terrible for the things I've said. I see his heart is lighter if I smile, and I've seen him cry for the first time in almost twenty years when he admits to his fear of losing me. That has to count for something. I want so much to believe and to trust.

I guess I just need to push harder for the right help. If not for us both, then at least for myself. I pray that his heart will open to the right help and guidance. He needs to search within himself for that thing which makes him vulnerable. He needs to let me in.

I thank you for your beautiful words and the aching sincerity with which you've tried to help me. Believe me, your words came right at the perfect time, and the fact you took it upon yourself to reach out to me and offer what comfort you could gives me so much hope and faith that the world isn't as lost as it has appeared to me the past six months. I sincerely hope that your path is soon to come to peace and restoration. None of us deserve what we've been dealt. From the simple act of compassion and empathy you've shown me, I know that you are indeed a wonderful, beautiful, and priceless woman. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Godspeed to us all in this terrible trial.

detox

I found out about my husband's affair 2 months ago. At that time he promised to end all contact with her and said he wanted to work on our 15 year marriage. 2 weeks ago i found out they were still talking on the phone. He apologized, said he was trying to maintain only the friendship and that nothing inappropriate was said. He agreed at that point to completely cut contact with her. Are you saying this is normal behavior? Im struggling with the lying. I do understand intellectually that it would be hard to go from constant contact for months to nothing. But he lied again. How do i know he is not still lying? He is remorseful at this point. Even more so than when he was first caught. My second question is will he ever really move on from her if we still have to see her? He plays in a band and she still comes to his shows. She has other friends there and he says it is not for him. These are public places and i know i have no control over who cones or not but it is very hard seeing her. Short of him quitting a band he has played in for 15 years there is no help for seeing her.

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