How Do You Know If the Unfaithful Is Really Changing?

be humble about past and present - survivors blog - elizabeth

We are more than a year out from discovery. Some of the days have been very slow making me wonder if progress has been made. And although we now have more good days than bad, a small internal voice still occasionally asks, am I really changing?

While you, the betrayed, are trying to heal from what we, the unfaithful, have done to you, I also know you are ultimately waiting for redemption.

There are days my husband's anxiety seems to come out of nowhere. Of course I understand the root of the anxiety; it is a fear that I will betray again. But from my perspective, the unpredictability of this anxiety is hard to wrap my head around. I know I don't handle his anxiety well when I spiral out of control and go on the defensive. It is an ugly place where I doubt my own decisions and capacity to change and wind up questioning everything. This causes my anxiety to triple in an instant.

There are other times when I think we do get it right; when I simply hear him out rather than defaulting to shame which makes it all about me. I've found that most of the time he just needs comfort and reassurance of my commitment to change. I can give him handles on my thoughts, actions and behaviors - anchors, so to speak. These anchors are practical things he can grab and hold onto to remind him of what was then and what is now.

Then: I was deceptive, delusional and in my affair.

Now: I am trying my hardest to be honest and humble about my past and present.

Sometimes simply pointing out the differences between then and now help get us back on track. If you are struggling or questioning your unfaithful spouse's intent and motivation for change, here are some tangible anchors we've used in our recovery:

  1. Then: I was crazy secretive about my phone. I would rarely leave it sitting out in the open. I knew if I changed my password it might raise a flag, so I never did that. But my anxiety was always sky high concerning my phone. If my kids wanted to play with it, I would get protective and defensive of it. I was careful to have my phone with me at all times because I never knew if or when a text might come in from my AP. And even more dishonest was how accustomed I became at deleting texts which was something I never did before the infidelity.

    Now: I couldn't care less about my phone. I leave it where ever and whenever. It can run out of battery and not faze me in the slightest. It is open to anyone in my family and my husband can have access to it at any time. We used the Life 360 app as well as Safe Kids app for him in case he gets triggered. He admitted the other day he rarely uses that anymore.

  2. Then: I isolated myself from most of my really amazing, long-time, faithful girlfriends. I did not engage in phone calls, lunch dates or intimate gatherings with them. Not only did I not make time for them (the immaturity affairs bring out in us is quite shameful, selfish and reckless) but I didn't want anyone who really "knew" me to be around me. I avoided them because it was difficult to be intimate and honest when I was lying and being deceitful. Life was indeed lonely and shallow.

    Now: My girlfriends have all graciously re-entered my life and I spend ample amounts of time with them. The restoration and joy of reengaging in life with them has been rich and full. It has taken some time but I find some of my deepest connections with GIRL friends. I still talk to the ladies in my Hope for Healing small group daily! If you haven't taken it, I'm gonna put in a shameless plug that it could be the single best thing you do as an unfaithful spouse! Nothing that comes with or from an affair compares to the empathy, kindness and connections of girlfriends.

  3. Then: I tried to hide from God. If the radio station played a Christian song, I would change it immediately. Christian books (if you don't know where to start I recommend Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning) were something I did not want to read. I did not want any reminders as to what God would want to say about my behavior. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew He would want me to stop. I was too cowardly and selfish to get out of the immoral entanglement on my own, yet I refused to be open and honest with God to help me out of it because I was terrified that people would find out. It was easier to pretend that God was someone "I could deal with later".

    Now: Christ's love anchors my days. Messages, teachings, books, music and hymns are often all that get me through. I'm not naive about my ability to hide and deny, but I want His truth and His ways -- not my own way. If I pull away from God I am doomed. If my husband sees me pulling away from God he has right to be concerned. My iPod, radio station, bedside table reading, and audible are full of continual messages and reminders of who God is and His unfathomable love for us.

  4. Then: Ugh. Typing this one feels excruciatingly shallow and painful but here goes. In my affair, I was obsessed with my appearance. I wanted to look presentable at all times. I was restless, anxious and rarely present. I watched my weight meticulously. I worked out more than any sane person should. I was consumed with me, me, me. I was ridiculous with my need to look better, fitter, younger and prettier. I am so sad to reflect on how little I thought of my true self then. I was always on the go, always chasing something. I drank to calm my anxiety. I rarely made eye contact.

    Now: I feel comfortable in my own skin. I like to exercise still, but naps on the couch are sometimes just as rewarding. I can go out in public without doing my makeup or brushing my hair. Now when I get dressed up it is for my husband. I have started to find my voice and ask my husband for affirmation when I need it. Guys, women like compliments and long to know you find us beautiful. We could hear that you find us beautiful as many times a week as you need sex. I'm thankful I can now have fat days, ugly days, lazy days, and sweatshirt days. Rest assured, there is a lot more quiet and a lot more peace.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But I hope it's a tangible reminder of how to realistically look at your unfaithful spouse to see how hard they are trying to change to be a person worthy of your trust and a second chance.

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Comments

Thankful

I really enjoyed your article. As a betrayed the past is like a gray cloud that is never far behind and when it overcomes me it’s hard to see the sun. I know my husband has made so much progress. So similar to your words and you give such good perspective in looking at the present.
How far out are you and your husband from d-day?

Your username made me smile!

Your username made me smile! Thank you for your comment. It is hard to sometimes know what is best to encourage betrayed spouses so I appreciate your honesty and feedback. We are 16 months out. So still face ups and downs but our first six months were definitely the hardest. What about you all?

We are 22 months out from

We are 22 months out from first d-day. 18 from second (which revealed three more women).
It’s definitely been a rough road, we did EMS weekend at one year mark. I was dealing with so much trauma and was in over my head and needed a lifeline. It was so helpful, especially the after care and group work. I think you just putting insights out there for us betrayedcis so helpful. I think that it is nice to see that my unfaithful says similar things as well as when it comes from Samuel or you it gives him a voice that he may be to scared to use with me, because he doesn’t want to hurt me more.
Thanks again! And many blessing to you and your husband

Thank you for writing these

Thank you for writing these articles. As the betrayed, it's so helpful to hear from an unfaithful to voice what my husband may feel, but can't or won't articulate due to shame. I appreciate hearing insights into what my husband might have been thinking during his affairs and its aftermath. It can't be easy for you to write these, but know that your articles are much appreciated. Thank you.

I appreciate your

I appreciate your encouragement. It must be terribly difficult for you to read and process these stories at times. Thank you for your kindness and grace and willingness to understand the “other side” to this pain. I wish you and your husband the very best in your healing.

Helpful

Thank you for this. I’m an unfaithful AND betrayed wife, and while I am thankful for Samuel’s videos, it’s nice to have an article from your perspective; there aren’t too many of them. It was helpful to see that I have made progress, because some days it feels like I’m not moving forward. I look forward to more of your postings.

Thanks for the courage to

Thanks for the courage to share. I know some days it seems like we are even going backwards and can't seem to make any progress. Keep at it. Keep walking, even if it feels like it is going nowhere. I promise it will be worth it.

Tomorrow is 24 months from

Tomorrow is 24 months from the DDay that revealed the undeniable evidence of his sexual betrayal. He let me go sixteen more months (with a trickle of this and that and lots of deception) before I FORCED him to come clean that the one I knew about wasn't the first. And between the first (which was a long drawn out emotional/sexual/entangled affair) and the second (which was a nasty sex in the bathroom for 16 months affair), there were several other women that he had some level of inappropriate contact with. So I had him take a lie detector test and he passed with flying colors. And then yesterday I forced another confession. And this one he was asked on the polygraph and he PASSED. So now I am a wreck. Could it be that the way his mind thought of the answer and the question were not congruent? Could it be that the mind of a newly (re)discovered cheater can't think clearly? Or could it be that there are many questions on that text that he lied about but somehow passed anyway??? Help! Has anyone else had this happen?

I don't have any experience

I don't have any experience in this so I hope you find some healing and answers. This sounds really hard and I hear you use the word "force" a lot. It sounds like you've been working harder than your spouse and that's frustrating. I can't speak for anyone but me but I know a lot of my change has been from God inviting me to really have a desire to be different. No one is forcing me to do any of this. I just genuinely hated the person I had become and I hate that I was so selfish and blinded by my own stuff so I don't want to be that girl anymore. If I had to choose my marriage or healthy change, I would choose the latter. Years ago I might not have said that. Prayers for you....

Betrayed & Lost

I don't know if this is the right spot to ask, but I'm struggling. My husband & I have started counseling & had our second appointment. (He had sex with a "massage therapist" 3 weeks ago) At the appointment, I felt as if all of the focus was on ME & my downfalls. I explained that I had zero trust for my husband now & that I believe he is STILL seeing a "massage therapist", but the focus remained on me. I now have an individual appointment scheduled. Is this really helping? How do I get my husband to admit to the numerous acts of betrayal he has practiced over the last year? Why does he act like he's open to saving the marriage if he's continuing to see a "massage therapist"?

That sounds really difficult.

That sounds really difficult. I don't know how much you can gather from one session but it will be interesting to see if you feel the same way after another session and the therapist "sees" you and hears you. It sounds like you are very early on and might not even have gotten through discovery? Have you both done the boot camp on AR? And then consider EMS online or an EMS weekend? I know healing cannot begin unless the truth is out. Thanks for reaching out and I am sorry you are in such a painful place.

Forgiveness

I am 22 months out and I doubt I will ever get all the details. I know the who, how long and when. But I do not know other stuff like how many times, only that it went on for 6 weeks. He said he was in an Insanity fog and if given the same opportunity again, would not do.
He also told me that he did it for attention since our marriage had grown somewhat boring and --- it had. He started the affair with flirty social media ----but when he told her it was wrong and tried to back out--- she came on strong with promises of money, expensive toys and nightly sex. ( On a humorous side, my husband is not a nightly sex kind of guy). My husband says he will do anything to save our marriage but he does not really commit to reading ,counseling etc .. He is an open book with phones, computers, schedule etc...and he never goes out of town without me. (It was an out of town affair).

So stay or go? I feel I am finally strong enough to leave and make it in my own but I also admit to a deep love for him. I just don't know if love is enough. Sometimes love feels empty!

Thanks for the comments.

Thanks for the comments. Just maybe a few encouraging questions... Would knowing more details help your healing? Did you have expectations that this should "feel" differently 22 months out? Where do you put your hope and security? My husband (betrayed) doesn't really like reading or counseling like I do either. And yes, I think it is hard for us all to admit that love and life sometimes feel empty. Sounds like maybe you're in a weird but good place. Like knowing you are strong enough to leave but now questioning what you really want.

Thanks

Elizabeth, your blog is so very helpful for my wounded heart. I continue to be angry with my spouse but anger does not even touch the emotion I have felt toward the woman who was involved. I even understand that it was 100 percent my husband's fault . However after reading your blog I am realizing that I should let all thoughts of her go. I no longer have thoughts of calling her or confronting her. I no longer long for her apology.

My work is with my husband who has promised to do anything to make our marriage work. Thank you for helping me see through the fog of anger to get to the other side. I don't know if I want my marriage to work . I don't know if I have the will power to do this. However, the decision process will be so much easier if I can just drop the anger .

Your words are very honest

Your words are very honest and very kind. Thank you for that. I truly hate that I have been "the other woman". The "other woman" that has caused so much pain for people like you. I most certainly deserve your anger. And your husband's AP most certainly deserves it. Our actions were unspeakable for sure. Know I will be praying for this "other woman". Know there are those of us out there, that can intercede on your behalf. God will deal with us all when the time comes. For you...just rest and try to heal. If you feel like picking the anger back up, just know you aren't alone and we will be here to help you deal with it.

D-day -36

Thank you and the rest of the team for these blogs. A friend told me about them and they have been very helpful.\
I discovered my husband's affair 36 days ago. He had an affair 12 years ago, we went through counseling but I truly believe that I forgave too soon and he really had little consequences because I was so afraid of losing him. He has had several inappropriate interactions/friendships with women since then but this, I believe, is the first sexual affair in 12 years. He has broken my heart again and again when I find texts or emails to other women. I just seem to know when something isn't right. Not only have I told him that this hurts but others have told him that he is playing with fire. But he always does what he wants to do. While the first affair was purely sexual this recent affair was also emotional. They developed a friendship and it led to the sexual part. He admits that he was the one who pushed it. When I found out about this affair I decided, for the sake of our 14 year old daughter, to try to make it work. He was sleeping in the guest room, going to a counselor that was recommended to us by the pastor who married us, and also began Celebrate Recovery. A week ago I happened to pick up his phone and found an email to his AP telling her how nice it was to see her and that she looked beautiful as always. I kicked him out of the house and was truly ready to file for divorce. A trusted friend came over at my request because I was afraid he would hurt himself. This friend had been an unfaithful at one time. He asked me to tap on the breaks in filing for divorce so I did. My husband is staying with his brother and sister-in-law for the foreseeable future. I needed to get away so I am visiting a friend in CA while our daughter is on vacation with close family friends. He is staying at our home while I am away because we have dogs and other things that need to be cared for. I asked him not to contact me in any way until I returned from CA. I want to try to save my marriage. We have been married for 18 years and I do love him but I cannot live this way one more day. Enough, is truly enough. He says he wants to work on things but he has been a liar and master manipulator and I do not trust him at all. I have told him that he cannot live at the house until he can help me feel safe and that he cannot just be checking off boxes to satisfy me. (Within all of this he revealed he had been sexually attacked when he was in 5th grade and had never revealed it to anyone, although he did tell his AP, because I saw the texts) I am not sure I even believe that it really happened because he doesn't like being caught. His counselor referred him to a trauma specialist this week because he felt he was paralyzed and imprisoned by his own trauma and could not get past it, he was even so concerned about my husband that he considered referring him for inpatient therapy. (I have permission to communicate with him but of course he never reveals their discussions nor do I ask him but he had permission from my husband to share this with me) we will both be meeting with him next week to work on our marriage and hopefully my husband will see the trauma specialist. I am not totally sure that he's not being a drama queen because he's mad that I threw him out and he want his way. His brothers have told me to stand my ground. I am truly not sure he will do the work although my throwing him out has scared him.

So here is my dilemma: I want to sit down with him when I return and really be clear as to what expectations I have for him. I am beginning my own recovery work and as soon as I can, June 29th registration, I will be doing Harboring Hope. But if we are not living together right now how will I know if he is truly changing? Assuming he is not checking boxes and agrees to comply with my requests so I can feel safe, I want to re-open the door for communication and to see him some but I also want it to be he who initiates contact once I tell him I am willing to resume contact. I'm not chasing, nagging, sending him videos or babysitting him as Samuel says. I have drawn a line and I will stand by it, I have already accepted that this could end in divorce and I am very scared and of course grieving. I truly know that I cannot control what he does or does not do but it is very hard. How much should I open the door to him so we can begin re-building? If we aren't seeing each other everyday now and he's not living with me how will I know he's doing the work and be able to begin to trust him?

Sorry this is so long but I hope to get some clarity.

First of all, I am very sorry

First of all, I am very sorry for your pain. As I read your post, I felt that you have a new sense of strength and empowerment and I love that. I believe you are really doing well by setting so many boundaries. As a former unfaithful spouse who has also had a past history of abuse, I will say that it might be a year or so before you will actually know if he is changing. Because he has been unfaithful so many times, it might be some time before he has clarity of mind. I think starting Harboring Hope will be a great step for you. When your husband gets home I suggest you do whatever you need to get safety and to move forward with your decision. This will take some time though so be clear about what you expect, what you need, and how long you are willing to give him this time for healing. Perhaps you guys need to start with doing the bootcamp together if you haven't already. And then try to do the EMSO course or go to an EMS weekend. It would be well worth the time and money if you can swing it. If he is truly remorseful, he will not be perfect in recovery but there should be a willingness to do whatever it takes if he does not want to lose you and your family.

Thank You

Thank you for taking the time to answer me. I would like to do the EMSO or weekend but I first want to make sure he is sincerely moving forward in his own recovery before we spend that money. The boot camp is on the list of things I want him to do also. I prefer that we do it separately and take the time to talk about it when we see each other or speak on the phone, but again I want him to initiate those conversations because it will help me feel that he is chasing me and working on the marriage instead of depending on me to drive this train.
It does not feel good to hear you say that it could take a year or so before I really see him changing, I know you're right I just hate it. But if he doesn't get well and work on his own issues we cannot be together.
Thank you again for responding to me and confirming that I am doing the right thing.

Book recommendations?

I really appreciate your blog and perspective. We are 6 months out from Dday. Completed EMSO, participating in M4L, going to EMS weekend this week. Went to a therapist, but trying to find one who specializes more in infidelity. Can you recommend any good books for an unfaithful wife to read?
Thanks

Thank you. I can't wait to

Thank you. I can't wait to hear how EMS weekend goes for you all. I am hoping it is life changing for you. Finding a therapist that specializes in infidelity is difficult. Many therapists claim to be "experts" in a lot of areas, but the reality is they are not. I wish there was an easier process to find the right fit but just keep trying.
The books I found most helpful were: Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, by Beth Moore, Restoring the Christian Soul, by Leeann Payne, Shame Interrupted by Edward Welch. And Not Just Friends, by Shirley Glass.
(The first four are Christian influenced, the last one is not...in case that matters to you).

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