Yesterday I saw my wife for the first time in over 6 weeks — 43 days, to be precise. I had last seen her on August 1st, and we had a very pleasant, if brief encounter. The very next week she unloaded on me and proceeded to attempt to shut down any and all communication. She delivered our dog home the following week with only a cursory email to explain her action and made little effort to communicate with me thereafter. She suspended her customary “custody” swap of the dog in which she’d take possession on alternating weeks. The dog is her most prized possession, so it just made no sense to me how she could leave her alone for an entire month. Something must have been up.

Indeed, that seems to have been the case. I’m not really sure exactly what was going on, or to what extent this situation affected her, but there does seem to have been something quite anomalous going on. For one thing, she became increasingly public with her affair over the past month, posting all sorts of idyllic photos of her “new life,” as if it were an attempt to show how proper her actions were, and how her current situation was, in fact, perfect. She seemed to be doing everything she could to lock me out of that situation, avoiding my phone calls, emails, and of course personal contact, as if those things would interfere with this supposed perfect, new life.

I suppose it didn’t come as much of a surprise that she did email me earlier this week to express her desire to take the dog for a week, and I was happy to oblige. She called me on Wednesday night from a very noisy location, and we chatted very briefly, arranging for me to drop the dog off at 10 a.m. the following morning.

So, yesterday I arrived at her colleague’s house at promptly 10 a.m. She had spent the night there, as she had many times in the past. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and she did not object. She didn’t look entirely happy, not about this per se, but basically about anything. I suggested we go out for coffee, and she agreed. She said she wanted to get some sweets of some sort for her colleague, so I suggested a favorite bakery.

On our way to that bakery, she began to ask me all sorts of questions about my new job, about my income, and about my (i.e. our) financial situation. These were not questions geared at taking me to the cleaner in some sort of legal proceedings, but questions of genuine curiosity. It seemed to me that perhaps she was trying to figure out if maybe coming home might be an option in the near future. I answered her openly and honestly.

We made a bit of a detour on our way to the bakery, and visited one of her favorite neighborhoods. I stopped in a little shop to buy some incense, and found a nice little card I knew she’d like. I purchased them both, but kept the card out of view. She bought some essential oils, as she is a big fan of aromatherapy. We left the shop and got back into the car, and I gave her the card, which she liked very much. (Of course she did — it was exactly her style, and I know that.)

We headed over to the bakery, and spent a good 45 minutes there having coffee and a couple of pastries. We actually had a really nice time. It was a good “date,” very much like the dates we had over the previous few months. In fact, in a way, it was as if the past month hadn’t even happened, and we were just picking up right where we left off. She was, as usual, very secretive about her life except for one thing: she showed me the book she was currently reading, as she has begun working on her dissertation again. She began to divulge those plans to me a bit, and indirectly asked me when I might be available to help her with this project.

After leaving the bakery, we headed to a chocolate shop that was on the way to her colleague’s place. This shop also sells bath products, soap, and a number of other things, so we stopped by so that she could buy some little gifts. She browsed the soaps and other paraphernalia, and I chatted with the shop owner. For all intents and purposes, we seemed like a normal, married couple. The shop owner certainly would not have guessed that we were 11 months deep into a marital crisis that involved infidelity.

We then headed back to her colleague’s place, and stopped off at a pet shop to get some dog food and other goodies. I then dropped her off at her colleague’s place. I left her with the dog, and a couple of other things: in the dog’s travel bag, I had put a couple of small gifts; I also placed a bag with some lunch I had made for her on the table. I let her know that it contained her lunch, and she went to retrieve a bento box I’d left with her a month prior. I then proceeded to say goodbye, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. I asked her for a hug, and she decline. No problem for me, though. I looked at her, and she just was looking down at the floor, with her arms crossed, and I thought perhaps she’d begin crying. She did not, but she clearly was not happy. In fact, she seemed to me to be rather depressed.

So here’s my take on this situation: an obstinate spouse has a process that he or she needs to go through before they can get to the point at which reconciliation becomes a possibility. If there is adultery in the mix, then basically the affair is that process, i.e. reconciliation becomes possible once the affair ends. At some point, the affair starts to become unstable, and I imagine this begins to occur when the infatuation starts to wear off. All of the typical things one would expect in an ordinary relationship — arguments, disagreements, and fights — almost certainly will occur at this stage, but there is a problem when these happen: the affair is supposed to be a “perfect” relationship, the best one either partner has ever had. It’s supposed to be a “soul-mate” connection, one that will last the rest of their lives. Indeed, they probably had already begun to make all sorts of future plans about how they’d spend the rest of those days together. But those altercations and disagreements have taken the sheen off the affair, and revealed it for what it is: a sham, and a completely superficial one at that.

It appears to me that my wife has gone through that process. It’s kind of like a meat grinder: things so in at one end, get chewed up in a very painful way, and then come out the other end, inevitably, but also in an altered form. Actually, both spouses go through this process. For me, that process ran its course much more quickly, and has led me to a much better place than where I began. I have a new job, more money, future prospects, and better relationship skills. For my wife, it has led her to a worse place: she has almost no work, very little money, no future prospects, and relationship skills that are no better than they were on day one. On top of all that, there is the dawning realization that she has made what likely is the mistake of a lifetime, and the tremendous uncertainty about how she is going to deal with that  is probably very unsettling.

I think that, at this point, her trajectory is nearly finished. I believe the affair to be substantially over, however I believe that neither partner can really see this right now. But, as the fights and disagreements become more frequent and more problematic, it will be pretty much impossible to avoid this reality. I do very strongly suspect that she sees the affair ending soon and, though she does not want to realize it, she almost certainly intuits this. As a result, she is looking to me as she begins to consider her options. Staying with the adulterer up there at Camp C-S is really not an option anymore. I think she knows that she’ll need to get out of there pretty soon. At the same time, I think she has no idea how to do that, and she feels helpless in trying to extricate herself from a thoroughly hopeless situation.

Is the fog lifting? I don’t know, but something tells me that it is. It’s not really clear exactly what tells me this; instead, it’s more like a general sense that comes through her body language, mannerisms, and any of a host of other non-verbal, subtle cues that I’ve been getting over time. These really carry an energy with them that makes me truly feel that her affair’s end could be close at hand. I don’t know how long this might take, but I suspect it’s a matter of weeks, if not days. I do not think it’s going to be months at this point.

I have decided to spend the weekend getting the house ready for her return. I do think her return is inevitable: when the affair ends, she really won’t have anyplace else to go, and even if she found some other place, it would just be temporary. She does see me as a safe harbor, I think; I will not be critical or judgmental, and I can help her heal. So, I’ll be cleaning and decorating, and will likely rent a rototiller to take care of the sorry state of the garden in the back yard.

I guess the message I would like to deliver to any and all of you who might read this, and who might be suffering from your own marital crises is this: your crisis is temporary, and it has a trajectory. You need to be respectful of the process of this trajectory, and while it is taking place, work on yourself and your relationship skills. Get involved in a good marriage coaching program (see here, for example) and avoid traditional marriage counseling like the plague. Ignore all the well-intentioned but misinformed advice from friends, family, and co-workers. Follow your heart, because if you truly love your spouse, it will show you the way forward. Sooner or later that trajectory will hit its end, and the crisis will end with it. You want to come out in a strong, stable place so that your spouse can join you. Then you can begin the process of rebuilding your marriage.

It is possible, I really do believe that.

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First Contact

Ah, yes, how the mighty have fallen.

I used to be the king of positive contact. I would have week after week of positive interaction with my wife on the limited occasions I’d get to see here. I could boast of several months in a row of positive trending. Week after week I continued to build goodwill.

All of that changed on August 8, 2012. I had two phone conversations with her; the first one was a bit short, and the second one was long and quite negative. It began a phase of silent treatment in which my wife shut off her cell phone and tried to close all avenues of contact. Of course, I did my due diligence and found other ways to reach her. But the fact remained that she tried to shut me out for over a month.

So this mighty marriage warrior, who once boasted of all these positive contacts, is now regaling you with a much smaller-scale victory. She called me today. Okay, she had to. She wants to have the dog for the next week. I’m totally okay with that. The dog has been with me for an entire month. This was not my choice, but rather her negligence. It has truly been an anomaly. She made no effort whatsoever to try to pick up her dog, and so she just stayed here week after week. She finally emailed me earlier this week to see if she could have the dog for a week, and my response was simple: “Call me, and let’s chat.” That’s right, we can conduct this business over the phone.

I dropped her an email with a video in it (this is the only way I can get positive contact these days) and she emailed me back about 3 minutes later to say she would try to call tonight. I did try to call her a couple of times today, but her cell phone was off. This evening, after I got home from work, I discovered that she had it turned back on. I left a message — her voice mail box was no longer full. And lo and behold, she did actually call me back. We have arranged for me to stop by her colleague’s house tomorrow morning, where I’ll be dropping the dog off. We also have tentatively agreed to have coffee.

Something is up, folks; something is really up. I don’t have much of a sense for the state that she’s in, but I think it is not good. There has got to be problems by this point. The affair is quite likely starting to break down, although she would be the last one to admit it. Not that an affair looks like anything drastic as it begins to break down; instead, I suspect it just looks like a “normal” relationship becoming normal. That is, the problems that arise in any relationship once the infatuation wears off have likely started to come to the fore. You know, the annoying habits, the crass choices of words, the impatience with little foibles, and so on. While these are tolerable in a healthy marriage, they can begin to spell doom for an unmarried partnership, and they absolutely foretell the death of an affair.

You see, in a boyfriend-girfriend situation, there is really nothing to keep you vested in that relationship once these problems arise, so after a time those relationships tend to end, with both partners feeling “out of love.” Affairs are different, though. Affairs begin with lies and deceit, and poison the very ground upon which they are built. They utterly lack in trust and mutual respect, and are founded upon the most flimsy and superficial of pretenses, e.g. “my mister/mistress completes me; he/she is perfect.” That’s right, they say this stuff. The affair partner fulfills those two or three things that seemed to have been missing in the marriage, and that’s what makes that person “perfect.” But what about all those other dozens if not hundreds of things the spouse actually was providing? The affair partner has absolutely no chance at providing those, and it’s a good bet that there are a lot of essentials on that list. You know, things like trust, feelings of emotional safety, true understanding, and so forth. When the infatuation wanes, so does the attachment to those two or three things that makes the affair partner “perfect;” in their place arise the dozens if not hundreds of foibles and personality faults that will destroy the affair. These had always been there, but just hadn’t been noticed, or were conveniently ignored.

My wife has been at this affair for just over eleven months. She has been living with this person for just over five months. There has been plenty of time and certainly ample opportunities for the foibles and flaws to rise to the surface, and for the infatuation to have died away, which it almost certainly has at this point. What likely remains in its place is a hollow shell, coupled with the realization that that super-rosy future both partners had envisioned was merely an illusion. From there, it’s a short road to the end of the affair. All it takes is a trigger, and an argument or altercation works just fine for that purpose.

Something tells me the end is near, folks, and that the affair could come screeching to a halt in a mere matter of weeks, if not sooner. And while I might sense that — and especially if my hunch is right — my wife and her adulterer will almost certainly be the last to know. They probably have no idea it’s coming right now.

Problems with Information on Adultery

If you’re the victim of an unfaithful spouse and have rooted around the internet in search of information, chances are you are reading a lot of conflicting and unhelpful information. For example, can anyone definitively say how long the typical extramarital affair lasts? Can they tell you what you should do if you suspect adultery to be at play, or what you should do if you discover it? Can they lay out for you the best way to move beyond this heinous act and to begin to heal?

While there are a few helpful websites with good information out there (Marriage Sherpa comes to mind), much of what you’re likely to read is hearsay at best and harmful at worst. Don’t take my word for it, just go and visit some of the many infidelity “support” forums out there, and you will find a bunch of really hurt and angry people, many of whom are on an accelerated track to end their marriages. I’ll get to why this is a problem later in this post.

For me, the single biggest problem with the overwhelming majority of “authority” sites on adultery is that most of them deal with the affair as if it were a thing of the past. That is, you would only find any of their information relevant if your spouse’s affair had already ended. But what if it hasn’t? I mean, is it really possible that the majority of people have no idea their spouses are committing adultery? Are they really that disconnected from their spouses that they don’t suspect something’s up? Are those wayward spouses so wily and cunning that they can totally hide their affairs for months if not years on end? Somehow I doubt it.

The truth be told, there are many people out there right now who are struggling with their spouses’ infidelity. Some live with their spouses and know that there is an active affair. Others, myself included, have spouses that decided to separate, because they mistakenly believe that the affair is the Best Thing Ever. Some of these people have confronted their spouses with their knowledge of the affair, but still the affair did not end. Others have made the (in my view, wiser) choice not to confront their spouse with that knowledge. Some of these wish to remain willfully ignorant (not a good idea), others refuse to allow their spouses even to bring it up (very good idea); of these, the latter are in a much stronger place, since the endless lies that need to be told will help to end the affair once and for all.

If you are struggling with an affair, you may likely have seen web pages that tell you that an average affair lasts for two years. Others will say that they last five years or more. I’ve just chosen a couple of websites at random here for the aforementioned time frames, but, as you can see, a lot of the information out there appears to be hearsay. However, some experts who deal with adultery on a regular basis claim that the trajectory is much different, giving time lines of just a few months to a year or so, with the obstinate remainder virtually all ending before two years has elapsed. I do think that the betrayed spouse has a lot of power in ending affairs, but that power does not come in the humiliation and pain that one might inflict by outing the affair to the entire world. Instead, if one were to engage the wayward spouse consistently over time with compassion and unconditional love, this will in virtually every case overpower the utter vapidity of the affair. But it takes time, dedication, and emotional stability; this latter is in pretty short supply for people riding the emotional roller coaster that the wayward spouse provides. Nevertheless, I do think this is the smartest choice.

However, as I mentioned earlier, many people become very angry at the revelation of their spouse’s affair, and rightfuly so. I did, too. Their first reaction is often to kick the offending spouse out and file for divorce. Believe me, I was there as well. Here’s why I think this is a bad idea. Let’s say your spouse is having an affair, and you discover it. You go through the horrible feelings of betrayal, and all of the pain, heartbreak, anguish, and anger that ensue. Then, you decide to end your marriage, for you feel that you can no longer trust your spouse. It could even be that your spouse has become hurtful to you in return, and so you feel the best thing you could possibly do is to get this person out of your life. So you go ahead and take that course of action, and perhaps you feel vindicated.

It seems fairly common that, while the betrayed spouse is attempting to end the marriage, that the wayward spouse’s affair ends. The timing of this can be uncanny; while this is hearsay, I personally have heard of cases in which the affair ended within days of the divorce going final. In many other cases, and this does come from an authority source which I wouldn’t consider hearsay, the majority of wayward spouses end their affairs within 12-18 months, and attempt to return to the betrayed spouse. And, for those very few wayward spouses who are so obstinate as to actually marry their affair partners, the success rate seems to be very poor. In fact, from the most reputable sources I’ve found, it appears that an affair has at best about a 0.75% likelihood of becoming a successful marriage. That’s right, three-quarters of one percent. So, if you’re thinking that ending your marriage is a good way to deal with an affair, think again. In due course, both your marriage and the affair will have ended, and where will you both be then?

Well, here’s where you’ll be. You’ll be unmarried, and you will almost certainly not have any better relationship skills than you did while you were married. Your spouse will be unmarried, will have the shame and remorse of the affair on his or her conscience, and will certainly not have any better relationship skills than before the affair happened. This means that, for both of you, you would be highly unlikely to enter into another successful, long-term relationship. Such a relationship would almost certainly end up in a similar place of disconnect that caused your wayward spouse to become wayward in the first place. But, this is what you see if you visit these so-called infidelity support forums: dozens of betrayed spouses, venting their anger, feeling vindictive. It’s not a good place to be.

So what should you do? Consult a reputable expert. Do not go to a typical marriage counselor, as most of these have, at best, a neutral standpoint when it comes to marriage. Find a marriage-friendly therapist if you can, although, truth be told, these appear to be few and far between. At an absolute bare minimum, get yourself on a healthy marriage coaching program that has a proven track record of success; reconciliation rates of 85% or higher are what you’re looking for. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I recommend Marriage Fitness with Mort Fertel. I do think it is the best and most ethical program out there. Mort has extensive experience dealing with adultery, and support for this situation — especially cases that are ongoing, which, if you were to poke around the internet as I have, would appear not to happen — is a major part of the program.

Don’t believe the hearsay. Find a trusted expert and follow his or her advice.

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I Miss Her Every Day, Part II

This past month has been one of the most difficult periods I’ve had to endure thus far. While it’s true that the period immediately following the revelation of my wife’s affair was utterly shattering, and while I was so unseated by that whole situation and the uncertainty of our future that I could barely eat — I lost nearly 20 pounds as a result — at least during that time I had pretty much constant contact with my wife. Since the beginning of the year, that contact has been dwindling, down to the point where, from about April or so, I was seeing her only once a week.

Since the beginning of last month, however, I have seen my wife zero times per week. I have not seen her for over a month now. Her phone has gone silent — she doesn’t even turn it on — and I’ve had maybe three pieces of communication from her, all in text form, in the past month. It really sucks.

At the same time, she has gone very public with the affair. She has a new blog, and has posted copious photos to the adulterer’s professional Facebook page. The adulterer began to acknowledge that it was my wife — he mentioned her by name — taking those photos. He referred to her as though their relationship were an utterly normal thing, for in his mind he probably thinks it is, or at least he wants to think it is. He has also almost certainly misrepresented the true nature of that relationship, i.e. an immoral, adulterous relationship with a married woman, to just about everyone. Most recently, my wife has posted pictures to that Facebook page in which she appears. At first, these were relatively innocuous-looking photos of her in his garden, taken from above to show that panorama. In the past couple of days, however, close-up pictures of her have surfaced, including pictures of her embracing the adulterer. This latter picture was really quite revolting, for he had a smug look on his face, as if trying to boast of his accomplishment.

Now, let me just state this for the record: I don’t see these photos because I snoop. I have a minimal presence on Facebook that I maintain largely for professional reasons. However, my wife and I have a lot of mutual “friends,” and it seems that whenever one of them “likes” one of these photos it shows up on my newsfeed. At this point, I’m considering deactivating my Facebook account, since none of this information helps me at all.

Honestly, the photos don’t really bother me that much. She is trying very hard right now to normalize and legitimize her affair. This is impossible: by its very nature, that relationship is both abnormal and illegitimate. The only hope adulterers have at this stage of the game, that is, at the stage in which reality starts to descend and the instability of the relationship almost certainly begins to be know, is to out themselves to the world as much as is possible. For every person that they can convince that their affair is normal, the more normal it seems to them. And for every person that says nothing, the more such implicit recognition makes them feel comfortable. But, the relationship is so tenuous and so unstable that it likely would take little more than a few well-placed comments from influential people to truly begin to unseat it.

At this point, I’m just wondering where the heck those people are. My father-in-law should be one such person, but to my knowledge he has just sidestepped the whole issue, seeming to prefer any kind of confrontation with my wife. My mother-in-law also could be one such person, and she in the past has been vocal in her opposition to my wife’s actions; this, however, just led to fights and arguments between them. As a result, I believe she has backed off as well. I shudder to think that my wife has tried to introduce the adulterer to them, but at this point it is not entirely unlikely.

So what’s with all the silence, especially when it’s coupled with this renewed vigor to publicize the affair? Wouldn’t it make sense for her to go all out and tell me all about it, too? You know, something like, “look buddy, this is my new life, like it or lump it.”

Well, she hasn’t done that, and she possibly will not, because she knows how I’ll react. The last time she tried to bring it up, back at the end of November, I slammed that conversation shut. If she tries again, I will slam it shut once more. She desperately needs me more than anyone else to help her clear her conscience, and I simply will not do it. I’ve had some conflicting ideas from my counselor about this, by the way. Some months ago he told me that, if she were to admit that she lives with the adulterer, that I should acknowledge it, lest I look like I have my head buried in the sand. Yet on our most recent session, I asked if it were something he’d try to bring up in session with her, and he suggested that, if she were keeping it secret, that it would be best to leave it that way. This is because it would require her to keep lying about the affair again and again.

There is a very curious dynamic that seems to occur when one spouse checks out and wants to destroy the marriage, yet the other spouse stays committed. The obstinate spouse gets frustrated, desperate, and angry. I even know of such obstinate spouses who did rather rashly file for divorce against their spouses, only for the spouses to reiterate by refusing to participate, instead dragging the situation out as long as possible. It is very hard to be the bad guy, and the obstinate spouse hates having to be the bad guy. The obstinate spouse wants nothing more than for the faithful spouse to pony up and help destroy the marriage.

In my case, this desperation was actually expressed to me. She sent me an email a month ago in which she apologized for losing her temper with me over the phone, but said she was frustrated because I was refusing to recognize that she had “moved on.” Of course I’m refusing to recognize that, because I was never consulted in the process, and I do feel that it is the responsibility of any married person to involve his or her spouse in a decision of such gravity. Since I was not involved, I consider that decision to be wholly illegitimate, and one that I cannot and will not condone.

That’s precisely where her problem lies. I refuse to participate in the destruction of our marriage. Her “new path” is one that progresses from the idea of destroying our marriage, although she claims not to see it that way. Her prevarications include the idea that she still values our past — it is her “treasure” — and that she is not denying that. Hogwash. You don’t get to destroy a marriage and say that you are truly appreciative of it. She is frustrated with me to the point that her only means of dealing with it right now is to pretend like I don’t exist.

Talk about putting your head in the sand.

Actually, the adulterer seems to be doing the same thing. The 800-pound gorilla in the room (or, judging from the pictures I’ve recently seen, in his kitchen) is the fact that he is cohabitating with a married woman. She appears to have no real workable plan for getting herself unmarried, and even if she were to do that, she would remain married for at least a year while any such case would wend its way through the courts. I’m certain that the adulterer would not be prepared to wait that long.

Just as it takes two people to create a marriage, it takes two people to tear it down. When one refuses to do so, and instead begins actively to repair it, it backs the destructive partner into a corner. She needs a team of complicit bystanders to make her feel that she is not backed into that corner, and that her affair is actually normal and just. That’s where she’s at right now. Eventually, she will come to realize that the only way out of that corner is to come right back out into that big, spacious room I’ve created, where she can join me to rebuild our marriage into something better than it has ever been.

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Adultery Is a Very Public Disease

You would think that a person who commits adultery would feel ashamed, remorseful, and guilty. You would think that a person who betrays his or her spouse would want to deny that it ever happened and hide all the evidence. You would think that a person who has an extramarital affair would avoid telling others about his or her infidelity.  You would think all of these things, and you would be right, to a certain point.

Initially, that’s pretty much how adultery plays out. The wayward spouse crosses that moral line in the sand and betrays his or her spouse. It’s often an impulsive act; the initial contact with the adulterous partner very often is exactly that. The sexual transgression could be either impulsive or premeditated. Regardless, when that line in the sand is crossed, there is no turning back. The wayward spouse has started the clock on a time bomb, and that clock is ticking away to the ultimate destruction of the affair. The wayward spouse is unaware that there even is a time bomb, and he or she certainly is not aware of that countdown to some specific moment in the future when the walls will come tumbling down.

After that line has been crossed, the coverup begins. The wayward spouse feels guilty, and tries to hide his or her actions. At the same time, however, the wayward spouse feels as though he or she has discovered the most fantastic drug on the planet. The feelings of euphoria are unprecedented, as is the thrill of being involved in a secret dalliance. A truly narcissistic bond develops between the adulterous partners, with each masking the insecurities of the other, helping the two to feel as though they have met someone utterly perfect, someone better than their soul mate. The process of self-deception thus begins.

Once the adulterer is on that drug, there seems to be no getting off it. The adulterer knows deep down inside that this new “relationship” is unhealthy, wrong, and immoral. But there are still those feelings of euphoria, a very strong infatuation that all too easily is mistaken as “love.” The adulterers profess love for one another, make plans for the future, promise to spend all eternity with one another, swear to leave their spouses, and so on. It is all utterly delusional thinking. They believe that they can find a quick and easy way out, and that is through the destruction of their marriages.

There is, however, a problem: this wondrous new “relationship” is still a secret that is being hidden from everyone. This fact is wholly incongruous with the feelings that the wayward spouse is having toward the adulterous partner, feelings that tell him or her that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this new “relationship,” a relationship that clearly will last indefinitely. So, the wayward spouse begins to make up all sorts of reasons why the affair is not wrong, and why he or she is justified in committing adultery. Take your pick: my spouse ignores me, my spouse does not sleep with me, my spouse is lazy, my spouse never does housework, my spouse is a jerk, etc.; there are literally thousands of reasons that a wayward spouse can come up with to justify the affair. These justifications are  knitted together to form a story that makes him or her out to be the hero or heroine, the adulterous partner to be Prince or Princess Charming, and the betrayed spouse to be the villain.

Now that this story is in place, it is just a matter of time before the wayward spouse has an epiphany, and it goes something like this: “If I don’t think I’m wrong, then I’m not wrong. If this relationship feels so right, then it must be right.”

This leads to the next stage of the affair: the adulterers go public. They tell everyone who will listen. They broadcast that information to the world in every way possible. They seek venues for introducing the adulterous partner to others. The seek the approval of the world, which they sometimes find explicitly (which is disturbing), and more often find implicitly, in the reticence of others to speak out against their behavior. The adulterers are appropriating the consciences of others to help clear their own.

This all leaves the betrayed spouse in a rather difficult place. At some point, the wayward spouse will want to talk about the affair to the betrayed spouse as well. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. The betrayed spouse has an obligation to shut down any and all talk of the affair. This does mean that the wayward spouse will need to lie about it from then on, but what are the alternatives? For the betrayed spouse, listening to the wayward spouse speak of something so grossly immoral and horribly hurtful is unbearable, and the thought of giving any sort of approval to this situation is simply unacceptable. A moral person would certainly never condone other forms of immoral behavior, like, say, theft or physical violence, so why should any talk of adultery be allowed? Adultery is theft, and it is an emotionally violent act, and it absolutely should be shunned. It should be shunned by every single person to whom the affair is exposed. 

Sadly, adulterers can be very wily individuals who create very clever and convincing arguments. They will say things like, “I’m getting a divorce,” or “we’re already separated,” as though either of those situations would in any way justify their vastly inappropriate behaviors. All too often, the people who hear these explanations end up buying into them, or at least end up not as repulsed by the idea of adultery as they should be.

And sadly, for the adulterer, the day of reckoning will occur. The clock is ticking down to zero on that time-bomb that is the affair, and when it hits that point, the whole thing will implode. This countdown cannot be stopped; the most that can happen is that all of these other people who fail to register their objections just lengthen that countdown somewhat. But when one acts in contravention to the laws of the moral universe, there really isn’t any way to stop the implosion from occurring.

This hopefully raises the question, “What should I do if someone I know is committing adultery?” The answer is very simple. If it is your spouse, you shut down the conversation immediately and make it clear that you will not talk about it. If it is a friend or acquaintance, the obligation is the same: you must not let this person talk about it. Your relationship with that person is being violated at that moment, and you should be clear that any talk of the matter is incredibly distasteful to you and you will not allow it.

Adultery is a disease of the conscience that is all too rampant in society. Your refusal to participate in any way is very much a part of the cure.

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Month 11

It’s Labor Day weekend, and that means that September has arrived, and with it, so has the beginning of month 11. If you’re reading this post and finding yourself at the beginning of a marital crisis, please do not get discouraged. Marital crises are very difficult situations, and few of them change very quickly. It typically takes a period of many months to turn things around, as the obstinate spouse has to go through a process of withdrawal, deliberate rejection, and eventual discovery before returning to work on the marriage. While this is happening, the faithful spouse has to do two things: to learn and implement excellent relationship skills, and to begin working on him- or herself, fixing the behaviors and habits that contributed to the marital crisis.

That’s right: I’ve been trying to reconcile my marriage for ten months now. On November 2, I committed myself to trying to reconcile our marriage. I had found a book by a guy named Mort Fertel called Marriage Fitness, after browsing many titles online, reading Amazon interviews, and so on. This book seemed to be the most highly rated. In late October, I found a copy at a nearby bookstore and devoured it. I presented it to my wife a few days before the end of that month, and she told me she wasn’t interested. I had no idea that she was having an affair.

After reading through the book, I realized that maybe I needed something a bit more potent. Honestly, the book itself isn’t really geared for healing distressed marriages; instead, it’s designed to improve the quality of marriages that have gone a bit stale. So, if you’re reading this and you don’t have a marital crisis, but you think your marriage could definitely stand some improvement, then that book is definitely a good one to have. It’s kind of a user’s guide for marriage — the kind that you never got when you took your wedding vows. In fact, I’ve got a colleague who is getting married in a few days, and I’m thinking about giving her a copy. I know she is at least as naive, if not more so, than I was when I got married 7-1/2 years ago.

If your marriage is in serious trouble, though — if there is threat of divorce, or if there’s separation, affairs, or other serious problems — that book alone won’t do it. I went onto Mort’s website, signed up for his free emails, took some of the online marriage assessments he offers, and did a lot of thinking. I saw that he offered a Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot Camp, which seemed like it would be the right solution to our situation. So, after much hesitation and a lot of dilly-dallying, I went ahead and signed up on November 2. Honestly, I was a bit put off by the price tag — it wasn’t cheap — but there was a payment program through which I could split it into three payments, and that made it a whole lot more affordable. In retrospect, it was the best money I had ever spent.

Not more than a few hours after I signed up for the boot camp, I discovered my wife’s affair. I was going to cancel my order for the boot camp, and planned to kick my wife out of the house and file for divorce. I won’t rehash the details; you can read about them here. Fortunately for me, Mort’s office was closed, so I couldn’t cancel the order. Two days later, I had my first “teleseminar” with him — you dial in for an audio lecture —  and so I figured I’d give it a shot. I kept the materials in pristine condition when they arrived, because he offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and I thought I’d need it. I was wrong about that. The message of that first teleseminar instilled so much hope in me that I decided to give it a go. And here I am, 10 months later.

I thought it might be helpful to others to track the trajectory of my reconciliation efforts, so that you could see first-hand what it’s like to attempt a reconciliation with an obstinate spouse who is having an affair. So here goes:

  • October 2011: My wife unleashed our crisis on October 14, telling me that she wanted out of our marriage. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had begun and emotional affair on October 10 which would go physical on Halloween. I was hopeless and ungrounded for the final three weeks of this month. I did find Mort’s book, and began to think hard about how to get my marriage back together.
  • November 2011: I discovered my wife’s affair and went into a serious tailspin. I also started working Marriage Fitness and began to see things change. The first couple of weeks involved pushback from my wife, but things did begin to improve between the two of us.
  • December 2011: Things largely continued to improve, although there was tension and occasional strife. Thanks to Mort’s program, which I was working as a so-called “lone ranger,” I built a tremendous amount of goodwill between my wife and myself, so much so that, had there been no affair, I’m pretty confident we would have begun to reconcile our marriage. But, the affair was a pretty potent drug, and so that continued to lead things on her end.
  • January 2012: After spending several days with the adulterer, my wife came home in a bluster and told me she’d start packing and would be moving out. I freaked. She did begin the process of separation, and started to sleep at a friend’s house a couple of blocks from here. She spent most of her days at home, however, and so I was able to build further goodwill. I later learned that she nearly ended the affair mid-month, as we were having heavy snow, and she was not seeing the adulterer at all. She actually nearly made a sane choice to end the affair and begin working on her dissertation.
  • February 2012: We had a joint session with my Marriage Fitness coach. I wrote about this before; these coaches are really awesome, and are so much more skillful than the typical marriage counselor. There were many insights, and my coach was able to not only cast doubt on my wife’s choices, but also to plant a number of seeds of hope about the future of our marriage. I think this affected her, as she then began to withdraw from me and avoid coming home. Things seemed to deteriorate for some time thereafter.
  • March 2012: This was an odd month, marked mainly by my wife finally moving out at its end. I do believe that the adulterer pushed her to do this. She had claimed a week or two before moving out that she would be moving into an apartment; this never occurred. Instead, she moved in with the adulterer. She also told me that she wouldn’t tell me where she was moving to initially, but would eventually let me know. So far this has never happened: I still don’t “officially” know that she lives with the adulterer, but there is ample public evidence to verify that fact at this point.
  • April 2012: This month marked the beginning of my wife cohabitating with the adulterer. Things were rather tense between us for most of the month, although I did see her on a weekly basis. Clearly, something was up, as she requested a “custody” situation for our dog that would allow her to have the dog on alternate weeks.
  • May 2012: This month began with an altercation, after which she got out of our car in a huff and went to the courthouse. She had filled out contested dissolution paperwork, and had one of their paralegals check it out. I know this happened, because I saw the paperwork the following week. She didn’t file anything, though, as she clearly wasn’t ready. Despite this early setback, things steadily improved over the month, to the extent that we had a wonderful date a few days after my birthday, on which she took me out for lunch and spent quite a lot of time with me. The adulterer went overseas without her, and her thoughts were clearly turning toward me in his absence.
  • June 2012: Yet another month of improvement. Even though I was only seeing her once a week, our communication was quite positive and things were trending in the right direction.
  • July 2012: Pretty much more of the same. During this month, we had our longest “date” thus far — she spent 7-1/2 hours with me. The connection I was building with her was unmistakable. Nevertheless, she was beginning to go very public with the affair, starting a new blog in which she extolled the wonders of her “new life.”
  • August 2012: The first week of the month was fine. We had a very brief date, but I was able to refer to her as my wife in front of complete strangers, and she did not object. Then, the next week everything changed. She suddenly gave me all sorts of pushback and began to withdraw from me. The last time I saw her was on August 1, and the last time I spoke with her was when this pushback happened on August 8. Since then, all I’ve had was the occasional email or text message. This is really an extraordinary phase. I learned that she began to make movement toward filing again, but since then appears to have taken no action. I also learned that she has two trips planned with the adulterer. She also continued to ramp up her taking the affair public by posting very openly on the adulterer’s professional Facebook page.
  • September 2012: This is month 11. I never  believed that it would have taken me this long to turn my marriage around. I’m still working on it, but things have become more challenging. My wife is trying very hard to cut me off. She does not answer the phone when I call anymore. She used to at least answer on Wednesdays when she was in town, but she doesn’t even do this now. She keeps her cell phone turned off most of the time, and the result is that her voice mail box fills up. I have had to resort to sending her voice messages by email. It is very, very frustrating.

If you’re suffering a marital crisis and still reading, please do not get discouraged! One of Mort’s first dictums is that, in the world of relationships, “slow is fast, and fast is slow.” You simply cannot rush the process of reconciliation. It can be very tiring, frustrating, and discouraging. You need to be committed to the process, and you must have hope and determination. If you lack any of these, the chances of your getting derailed along the way are much higher.

But what are your options? You could take the easy way out, as most people do, and just simply allow the marriage to fail. You could allow your marriage to be destroyed by that most horrible of institutions, the divorce. You could try again with someone new, only to find that the process repeats itself: a few years later, you’ll be back in another marital crisis, none the wiser, and will be facing divorce number two. And if you are foolish enough to get married again after that, the chances of divorce number three are even higher — typically about 85%. So, you can walk away, and allow that relationship to dissolve, or…

You can stick it out, and eventually you and your marriage will evolve.  But (as it is said in the tele-boot camp) even if you somehow don’t manage to reconcile (there’s maybe a 10% chance that this might happen), you will end up a truly transformed individual who will be in a much better place in life overall. The choice is yours.

I know that I’ve made the right choice. I know that I’ve done everything I can, and am continuing to do everything possible. I am simply waiting for the affair to end, and its demise has got to be near at this point. When it does end, then the process of reconciliation truly can begin.

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