That’s the question everyone wants to know. I recall asking my counselor how long it takes for the fog to lift. He said that it’s different for everybody. (I do get occasional counseling: it’s difficult to reconcile a marriage without support.) According to him, for men, it often lifts fairly quickly, and for women, it tends to be more of a gradual process. The general timeline would be anywhere from a few months to a year. You can’t so much speed up the lifting of the fog as you can spoil the affair by being the best version of yourself, and by manifesting unconditional love at every turn.
I have some sneaking suspicions that my wife’s affair fog might slowly be starting to lift. First of all, I hear things. Since she has gone public to so many people about her affair in a futile attempt to make it seem like a normal relationship, word does get back to me. Also, we live in a fairly small house, so if there is a phone call in another room, I’ll tend to overhear without trying, even if the door is closed. So what have I heard?
First, that there is frustration that her original timeline was never met. She planned on divorcing me, moving out and starting a new life with her lover by the beginning of this year. We’re 4 days deep into 2012, and she’s still at home. Not only that, but her secondary plan to move in with friends to provide a transitional period hasn’t taken yet, and might not do so until next week. Second, her family disapproves of what she’s doing and continues to express this. They’re generally getting relatively unsound marriage advice, except for the fact that everyone they speak to disapproves of the affair. Third, the grapevine tells me that the lover is starting to show his true colors: there are communication problems, and he is defensive. He puts his career before his personal relationships. He can’t deal with having her move in anytime soon. There’s just pressure everywhere.
This is predictable, folks. Of course there is pressure. Society does not support adultery. What also is predictable is my wife’s reaction, which is to become despondent, to look fatigued and stressed out, and to cling hopelessly to the shards of a fairy-tale dream gone wrong. Adulterers live in a state of continual self-deception, and that self-deception tends to get more acute as the rationalizations and narratives become less capable of holding water.
The saddest part of it all, though, is how needless it all is. When my wife and I last had a long chat a few days ago, just before she ditched me on our anniversary, I told her that I could see right through her situation. I could tell she was in immense pain, and was suffering greatly. I also told her that, by this point, her pain had virtually nothing to do with me or my actions, but rather was almost completely self-produced. Her pain is nothing other than guilt, and that’s just the reaction of the conscience to the knowledge that one’s actions are, in fact, wrong. She even told me that she felt guilty.
I did not comment upon this, but my general idea about guilt in this kind of situation is pretty simple: Guilt is good. Guilt is healthy. Guilt provides the path to healing. Guilt shows you what actions to stop. My advice to the adulterer would be, “Please feel guilty. It’s good for you. It’s a sign of moral health.” To the betrayed spouse, I would say, “Don’t stop any actions that you suspect make your spouse feel guilty. You cannot control their feelings of guilt. Your spouse’s conscience is your greatest ally.” This does not mean that you should deliberately lay guilt trips on your spouse or anything like that; that would be counterproductive. But it does mean that one needs to recognize that proper, moral actions are likely to induce feelings of guilt in the wayward spouse.
In any case, the one thing we can be assured of is that the fog eventually will lift.