Can We Believe Again? Part 2: Reinforced Walls

Taking down those walls is hard and this is where I am now.

My emotional walls went up when his affair began, and had been reinforced from all the deception and mistrust. There was no easy way to sandblast them down; instead, they were chipped away as trust was built - trust in him and trust in myself. I didn’t trust myself anymore after having “allowed” everything that happened. I felt stupid and weak for not having done more to catch him in his lies, stop the affair, and protect myself. His repeated false reassurances (more on those later) only reinforced the walls.

I felt very guilty about this for a long time.
He demonstrated in many ways that he is now a very trustworthy man. So I shamed myself for not just dropping my defenses, but it didn't matter - I just couldn’t let him get too close. I was continually guarded, waiting for the next shoe to drop. If it took so long for him to admit the affair even happened, if I waited it out I might get more truth, right?

My counselor helped me understand that my defenses were put in place at a time I needed them. They served a purpose and protected me, and I should not be mad at myself for doing what I needed to do. I should appreciate my gut response (that even now continues to remind me of potential danger), for protecting me when I needed it, but I also need to stop bashing myself for developing necessary and healthy defenses at a time when it was critically needed. Taking down those walls is hard and that is where I am now, but not blaming myself and feeling like a failure/loser/whatever for not easily dropping those defenses is crucial for my well-being. I don't do this well at all. The more I talk to my counselor, the more she normalizes me having a hard time letting the defenses go. Maybe that will help you; I don't know. We are all dealing with competing realities of betrayal recovery and trying to sort it all out on some level.

“Honesty is the highest form of intimacy."

~Nicole LePera

Why do they lie?
So why do people lie? It isn’t always what it seems. Lying creates power and control over a situation. If I lie to you about something, you are unable to make an accurate assessment, so I am essentially controlling your reality. Yes, it is manipulative and hurtful, but it may not have the intentionality we might assign to it.

It feels like my husband intentionally manipulated and controlled me to ensure the affair could continue uninterrupted. The lies and cover ups were deliberate ways to ensure I had no autonomy to make good decisions about our marriage or my own well being. He and his AP both had to know that, but it seemed that my life was not as important as their ability to maintain the freedom to continue the affair.

After D-day when I presented my perceptions to my husband, he saw it very differently and said he was not intentionally manipulative like that. Yes, of course he was intentionally lying to protect his secret, but not with the conscious purpose of robbing me of freedom. He never thought it through that far. The lies were basically a response to each immediate threat of being found out. Just kicking that can down the road until another lie was needed to keep the cover up intact.

People generally lie to avoid consequences. When they lie, it turns away the focus so they don't have to really face - and feel - what they're doing, and who they really are. It protects their image, not only to others, but to themselves. It is more than just wanting to deceive others, it's also about deceiving themselves. By keeping things hidden they don’t see the pain they are causing, so it’s easy to convince themselves they aren’t actually hurting anyone. Most unfaithful partners justify their behaviors to feel better about what they are doing. Often, they tell themselves they are lying to spare their partner from pain, so it is ok or even noble. Over time the behaviors become normalized and seem less harmful - it is no longer shocking to lie, so it gets easier and more routine. The reality, of course, is that deception is not about sparing the feelings of the betrayed partner, it is about avoiding consequences and controlling the situation.

People cheating in their marriage also lie to avoid risking something they don’t want to lose. I found numerous examples to support the irony that they often lie because the marriage is important. It sounds crazy, but if they didn’t want to preserve the marriage, they would probably just openly admit the betrayal, leave, and move on. Right? There are exceptions, of course. There are people who have different motives and then there are actual sociopaths, but most who lie are doing so to avoid losing something they value - even though the actions they are taking certainly don’t convey value at all. From my perspective as a betrayed spouse, it certainly felt like my husband was willing to risk our marriage and family because it had no value, but he wasn’t. Ironically, he lied because he didn’t want to lose it. He didn’t want to change his “real” life for the AP; otherwise, he would have just gone ahead and done so.

Thank you for reading Part 2. I hope this series has provided validation for the experience of the betrayed spouse and perspectives to consider about deceit. Last up is Part 3 where I will close out the series and discuss more of the distorted thinking that can perpetuate deception, as well as the echoes that can linger in the betrayed spouse as a result.

Can We Believe Again? Part 1: Crying Wolf

Can We Believe Again? Part 3: Maintaining Status Quo

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Thank you. This is exactly

Thank you. This is exactly what I have been dealing with over the last few days. Last weekend my UH found an instagram post that he truly had never seen, from about 16 months ago. It was from his AP. On the post, she indicated that she "finally found the friend she had been looking for all her life." She posted that on his insta account about a week before he broke off all contact, blocked her, etc. That's how fast the wheels were turning. Even though we are doing better in our marriage than we have in a long while, even though we completed EMSO and are now participating weekly in an MFL group, I was still shaken to the core by seeing that old post that had been laying hidden beneath the wreckage. He was right to show it to me immediately. I certainly didn't want to blow up and "punish him" for being transparent. But immediately after seeing the post I went into ptsd mode. I got nauseous, shaky, started having trouble breathing. It just brought it ALL back. Suddenly he became unsafe again. Suddenly I became the woman who got tossed to the curb. It took about two days for me to come back to myself. I felt terrible for putting him through more ptsd from me. But I recently realized that there is a hurt and sad person inside me that is just going to come out once in a while. She's just in there. She's real. I am in therapy too, and I am working on accepting all parts of myself, even the parts I don't like. It makes me feel better realizing I don't have to "manage" this hurt person who comes out when she gets triggered. She is just part of me and needs love and understanding. And she is a crucial part of the defense system I created to stay as safe as possible when danger strikes. Your post is helping me see this even more clearly! My husband is different now, my marriage is different now, and guess what, I'm different now too. Take care... all who are out there walking through this... be as kind to yourself as you would be to a loved friend!

Hi WalkingThruIt

Thank you for sharing your experience. I think your perspective on your reaction sounds very healthy. When I stopped trying so hard not to feel a certain way and accepted that I wasn't doing anything wrong by feeling mistrust where my trust had been intentionally manipulated, I began to relax a bit and just accept that was part of my ongoing experience. The good part is that acceptance then allowed me to eventually get to a much better place than I could when I kept the focus on fighting the feelings of mistrust. And then those feelings of mistrust began to naturally fade. I hope your spouse is understanding of your current reality and helping to validate that it's natural and ok that you struggle with this. (because it is)

It sounds like you are getting there too, and while it's a tough road, it can lead to things I never thought possible.

What type of affair was it?

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