Can We Have What They Had?

(Nagging questions continued)

It’s a valid question: can you and your marriage have what your spouse and the affair partner had? To attempt to cover all bases I’ll approach from both sides of the marriage.

For the Unfaithful: I’ll never be able to have with my wife what I had with my affair partner. What I had in the affair was more fantasy than reality. Very little responsibilities, the ability to come and go as I pleased with little to no expectations, the newness of the physical intimacy, no kids to get in the middle of our time together, no bills to pay, and no ‘real life’ pressures. I was only around for the great parts of the affair partner and was celebrating the top 20-30% of her personality, not the entirety of her as a person. In an affair, I’m simply using the AP to make myself feel good, so I am free to leave or ignore the undesirable parts of who she is. It was off the chart passionate as it was forbidden sex, ‘what we’re not supposed to be doing’ sex. It wasn’t marriage sex, which after we’ve been married more than 10 years and had a few children, can start to wane and seem methodical and boring. What I had wasn’t real, it was a fantasy, and to expect my relationship with my wife to be anything like my relationship with my AP is simply not real. Samantha and I had been together for 11 years, and both of us stopped putting the same time into our marriage that I was putting into the affair. I was not only jaded, but I was giving my best everywhere else, besides to Samantha.

For the Betrayed: Your spouse has had an affair and lived in a dream world that has been all about them and their needs and their selfishness. To think you can compete with a fantasy of this proportion is simply just not realistic or healthy. It’s not even possible. There is too much water underneath the bridge and too many real-life responsibilities going on in the marriage to try and be what he/she was to them. They are the cheaters. They are the ones who’ve been unfaithful and if you have to chase your spouse to return, you’ll be chasing them throughout the rest of the marriage. (This is only applicable long-term. At the beginning of recovery when your spouse is still lost and disillusioned, it unfortunately will often fall to the betrayed spouse to drive recovery. If it’s been over 18-24 months and you’re still chasing after your unfaithful spouse, however, it may be time to turn and run the other way.) You simply cannot compare a fantasy with real life and real life expectations. It simply won’t work and it’s not the heart of the problem. The problem lies in the mind of the unfaithful and helping them return to real life and true perspective and you’ll need expert, infidelity specific help to see that happen. Without it, I’m sorry, there’s not much hope.

What can we learn then: The cold hard truth is, I had to return to giving my best to Samantha, not everyone else in my life. Not work, not the kids, not traveling, not anything else or anyone else, including the affair partner. It had to be given to Samantha.  It would be a process to win back her trust and intimacy over time, through the skills we learned from Rick.

For Samantha, while she could not compete with my affair partner, she did realize a few things. Was there more room for passion in our marriage and our sex life? Yes. This was painful for her to hear, but it was a vital truth. She too was giving her best to the kids and giving me her left overs and it wasn’t working. Did she need to tackle a few issues in her personal life that were blocking our intimacy in marriage? Absolutely. It was as true for her as it was for me. Until I had the courage to face my own issues, Samantha would not feel safe enough confronting her own.

At the end of the day I wanted Samantha. I’ll never forget a night where we had sex and we both were trying to gain ground in the way we cared for each other. To say it was off the chart glorious sex would be a huge understatement. I remember thinking later on that night to myself how glad I was to be at home. I wept that night in gratitude for the fact that I was at home, with my wife, enjoying the intimacy I had longed for all along, without shame or embarrassment. I thanked God that night for the fact that I was with my wife, not my affair partner. I pray the same for each and every one of you today.

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