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20 Most Common Mistakes of the Betrayed Spouse

In my years of being a part of Affair Recovery I have had the privilege of mentoring numerous groups of Men through the Harboring Hope program. One of the best parts of this program discusses the 20 Most Common Mistakes of the Betrayed Spouse. Within the groups I lead, and going through this section I have learned that I currently still hold the record for committing the highest amount of the 20 mistakes in my own recovery process. In my case I committed 18 of the 20 mistakes noted.

In this 2-Part Blog I thought I would go into some details of the errors I made and some of the ramifications that occurred. First of all please remember that these are the most COMMON errors. Don’t beat yourself up over these. Recognize that a lot of spouses struggle with these, committed some (or most), and your “score” does not necessarily mean you have failed in your recovery. These are mistakes. We learn from them. We grow. And we use them to enhance our own recovery journey.

This list is based on the original article “The 20 Most Common Mistakes of the Betrayed Spouse” authored by Leslie Hardie and John Haney. I would encourage you to read this article for their professional advice and insight as licensed therapists.

1. Believing that once your spouse agrees to end the affair or the behavior, it is truly ended.
One of the biggest mistakes I made while my wife was deep in the affair was believing I was dealing with a rational person. My wife made all kinds of promises. One of the biggest was that “It is over”. Another was “I know I have to end it. I just need closure”. Remember that the chemical rush of the affair is similar to an opiate high. The Unfaithful spouse will say or do just about anything to keep the affair going (the chemical rush continuing).

2. Demanding that your spouse pledge 100% commitment to the marriage right at the moment of disclosure.
After my first attempts at pleading with my wife to end the affair failed I tried forcing my wife to end it. I tried shame, fear, yelling and threats. None worked and in fact made things worse. My wife was looking for justifications to continue the affair. My threats reinforced her belief that I was controlling and had anger issues.

3. Bludgeoning your spouse with guilt, thinking that this will be helpful.
Similar to #1. At first I believed that my wife’s conscience would win over her bad actions. We had been married for 19 years and she had never fallen off the deep end like she did during the affair. I thought the more “truth” or “shame” I heaped on her, it would break her out of the fog. It only made things worse. It just reinforced her belief that I was a horrible spouse and God “wanted her to be happy”.

4. Drawing too much security from changed phone numbers and email addresses.
I had a little bit of tech savvy so I was able to track a lot of her movements and monitor her online activity. I thought that if I could stop her from communicating that she would have time to recover and break the addictions. In fact she just got smarter and got a burner phone and used work computers to communicate.

5. Believing that you can keep your mate safe and away from temptation.
I was her husband. It was my job to keep her safe. She definitely was NOT being safe. She was communicating with the seedy creeps that stalk social media looking for lonely women. She really had no idea the filth and danger that was out there. She sent intimate photos to guys she didn’t even know. I tried everything to stop her from getting hurt. I tried to block email addresses and put website blocks on our internet. I tried keeping her too busy to communicate. Again she just found ways around the blocks to get her next high.

6. Trying to compete with the affair partner, pornography, or other behavior.
Wow! Big one for me. I was convinced that if I hit the gym and started to act like the scum she was interacting with she may come back to me. My personality changed. I told her I was going to buy a Harley. I hate motorcycles (sorry Harley fans). Not sure why I thought I could live that lie for the rest of my life just to try and live up to her insane expectations.

7. Trashing the affair partner.
All of the AP’s my wife was interacting with were scum. Most were stalkers on Facebook and MySpace. All knew she was married. A lot were drug users. About half were married. In early phases of the affairs I tried my best to convince my wife that these people were dangerous and not interested in any “relationship”. What I learned was that was what my wife was looking for at the time. No more routine or boring life for her. She actively searched for the “bad guys”.

8. Trying to convince your spouse that nobody will ever love him/her as much as you do.
In the beginning of the affairs I did my best to talk sense into my spouse. Unfortunately what looked back at me was crazy. There was a shell of my wife but the actions and demeanor were of an alien. Rational discussions were not possible at the time and even our counselors suggested we stop couples counseling and work on ourselves.

9. Using your children or grandchildren as pawns.
Big Mistake! In my desperation to get through to my wife I tried using the kids to break through to my wife. Even though we didn’t initially discuss the situation with the kids, they knew. They knew that their mother was checked out and doing crazy things. She actually tried to use their social media accounts so that I couldn’t find out. What a tough place to be in for kids. They loved us both and refused to pick sides. My wife at one time threatened to get a restraining order because I was “abusing” the kids. Horrible situation for them. Although I believe that any children need to have age appropriate information on what's happening, never force them into the middle.

10. Beating up the unfaithful mate with guilt, shame, or the opinions of others to keep them from leaving.
While the affairs were in progress I was really struggling to live day to day. I lost 20 lbs and struggled to sleep. My work suffered. In desperation I reached out to mutual friends for support and advice. Again horrible to place our friends in the middle of our hurricane. Most were supportive and agreed that my spouse was in the wrong but they had their own lives to live and my desperation was causing them to suffer in their own families. What I really needed to figure out was that I was not allowing God into my mess. I learned later in Harboring Hope that the best thing I could do was let God work on my wife. Me trying to control and force the issue was only making things worse.

Thank you for joining me here in Part 1 and reviewing the first 10 of the 20 mistakes.

In part 2 I will go into the other 10 mistakes and reveal the only 2 that I didn’t commit.

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