Why I Retreated In Shame

It was commonplace that Samantha would ask me a ton of questions about the affair. Did I love her? Was I really trapped? What did we do, how often, when, where, what did you feel? I hated all of it and I’m quite sure she hated it more.

It was very common that during these types of conversations I’d pull back. She called it retreating. I hated to talk about it and hated to recant the details and feelings of my affair(s). I felt horrible. I hated myself, hated what I had done and didn’t want to keep reliving it. Early on, I would hesitantly give details and offered them up somewhat freely as I had to. As we got further along, a few months in, I’d get edgy and irritable when pressed with questions and concerns. Further down the road, after we found Rick, I would gladly offer up details and feelings about the affair and the affair partner, as I knew she needed the information and perspective to heal.

What many betrayed don’t get it is that we the unfaithful, struggle with an immense amount of shame. We just don’t want to talk about things that we’re ashamed of.  We’d almost rather you hit us and took your anger out on us and in turn, we never had to talk about the details ever again. You see, the details make us have to relive what we did and felt, afterwards. It makes us confront the coldness and rebellion of our hearts which allowed us to do what we did. We’re ashamed of the details. We’re ashamed to have to talk about that which we’re ashamed of doing. Talking about it again makes us relive it, and usually we’re not courageous enough to do that. We can’t just ‘put it behind us.’ We can’t just ‘move on’. We then have to relive it and remember the feelings we had immediately after the acts of the affair or addiction which we regret. We hate ourselves all over again.

It’s a fact of life we hate to talk through what makes us feel regret or shame. What we don’t get early on, unless we receive the right help, is that unless we’re able to talk through the details, you the betrayed can’t heal. We don’t know that though. We think we can heal faster if we don’t have to talk about it. It’s not true for you and it’s not true for us. What we need is healing. We need healing and we need forgiveness vertically first, then we can experience horizontal forgiveness after we’ve shared details, come clean and asked for you to forgive us.

We will also share details when we feel safe enough to share them. It’s counterintuitive and if you’re a betrayed, you’re probably already gritting your teeth and clinching your jaw at the fact that YOU would have to create a ‘safe place’ for us to share details. However, offensive as it may appear, the reality is, if we feel like you’re going to rage and blast us verbally or physically once we share the details, we’ll probably lie or not share them. If we feel like once you hear the details you’re going to run from us, we’ll probably hesitate to share any real details. I know, poor us. I agree. If we can’t handle the pain and hurt and consequences, we shouldn’t have committed the offenses. I agree again.

However, we were not thinking clearly when we committed the affair (most times anyway) so now this is a huge deal we didn’t see coming. We hate the consequences to our actions. We didn’t plan for this.

If you want us to share the details, we’ll probably need something from you that goes like this: “I need the details to heal. If you can’t share them with me, we probably can’t heal and you’re throwing away the chance at restoration with your family. I commit to not making any decisions after I hear the details of the affair(s) for 48 hours so I can process them. I’ll even get expert help to be with us ‘during disclosure’ if you like to help you feel safe. Remember, I can’t heal from what I don’t know I need to be healed from. I also can’t forgive what I don’t know I need to forgive.”   

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So, it's been almost 18 months since discovery for me. It was with a married coworker, 23 years younger. He was her supervisor. At first, I thought the affair was 3 years, then it was 4 then i found out finally, it was 5 years. He just says he was so selfish and was trying to compensate for feelings of getting old, of dealing with ED, of being bored. He is so sorry and I can tell that every time I try to talk about what happened. He says he doesn't remember details. He chalks it up to compartmentalizing and at the shock of the realization of what he was doing. He says he never loved her, it seemed to be a very strange detached sexual relationship with lots of flirting but no intimacy. He claims they never talked about their spouses or their home life. He had no plans on leaving me (but if he was so unhappy, he never told me). I tell him I need details because I want to move on and put the questions to rest...but since he can't remember, the questions just remain. In the answers he does give, they're very, very vague. He can't remember dates, where he went, what they did. We went to EMS weekend a year ago in September. He stopped going to counseling in April. He says EMS and counseling helped him really understand the scope of which this affected me and how what he did was selfish. But I think he thinks we just need to put it behind us, no need to stir up old hurts and mistakes. Is he being honest about not remembering? Will these compartments ever open up and he'll remember? Or am i being lied to?


Diana0905 thank you for your comment. it's very normal the unfaithful doesn't remember stuff. it may be too long ago, they blocked it out, they don't want to remember, or they simply can't remember. it's not always the case, but often times the case. i think i would help remind him of the info at the ems weekend about needing details and needing information to heal and to move forward. you could be being lied to, sure. it's too early to tell for me anyway and at this point, i'd probably think the truth is somewhere in the middle. to say he can't remember much at all would be a stretch. its normal to remember stuff 6 months later, or even a year or two later, but it all depends on several variables like: was there alcohol involved, how long ago was it, what kind of state was he in when the affair was going on etc. for a 5 year affair, there should be some details for sure on what happened and this and that. have you considered a lie detector? maybe that's a next step to have a hard stop to it all. but, at the end of the day, you may have to face the fact that you know what you know and you need to work on YOU and your own recovery. as long as there is not any acting out currently going on and there isn't any unsafe behavior going on as well. was he unable to remember stuff even at the ems??? hope that helps a bit.

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