Another new year has dawned and with it, another year of possibilities. A year ago tomorrow I started this blog, partly, as I wrote then, “as a service to the multitude of people in the world whose marriages have been defiled by infidelity.” My hopes then, as now, is that my documentation of my own process might be of help to others who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in similar situations to mine.
Honestly, when I started this blog, I was kind of naïve. I thought the affair would be long gone by the end of 2012. In fact, I named my first post “2012: The Year of Reconciliation.” And in fact, it was: I know of at least half a dozen reconciliations that have occurred in the past year among the rather small community of individuals with whom I have communicated. My marriage hasn’t yet been one of those reconciliations, and this is doubtless due to a variety of causes and conditions.
One issue, of course, is the affair itself. When I started working the Marriage Fitness program I learned that, according to the experience of its founder, Mort Fertel, most affairs last “anywhere from a few months to a year.” He did not say whether this was the entire length of the affair, or its duration post-discovery. So, I began to get a bit antsy when that year came and went and the affair still persisted. (There have been signs of problems, but still the fog seems to be lingering at this point.) I remember reading on Jeff Murrah’s blog that some statistics suggest that the wayward spouse returns to the marriage 70-75% of the time within 15-18 months, even if you do nothing. And then there’s the rather extensive work of the late Peggy Vaughn, who, though admitting such statistics are often unreliable, stated that her empirical experience indicated most affairs running their course within 6 months to 2 years.
Another issue is the degree of seclusion my wife has managed to finagle with her affair. The adulterer lives 40 miles away in a tiny little town, and I have no legitimate reason to go to that town. Her movements have been predictable since she actually did separate some months ago: she comes into town on Wednesday mornings, does a bit of work, spends the night at a colleague’s house, works a bit more the following day, and then packs back off to the adulterer’s place on Thursday afternoon. For much of that time, I have had regular contact, but then she began stonewalling me around the beginning of August. The professional counsel I have sought suggests that this is likely due to instability in the affair and pressure from the adulterous partner to keep me away. The stonewalling has become more severe in the past two months, and if anything this suggests an even deeper disconnect from reality on my wife’s part. All of this notwithstanding, I do think that, were it possible for me to insert myself into that dynamic more regularly, the affair would be ending much sooner.
One factor that I continue to deal with — and the holidays have made this very clear to me — is the apparent belief that others know your situation better than you do yourself. Not only that, others often seem to profess expertise in marital crises, even though their experience typically only extends to one marriage — their own. I’ve had family pipe in over the holidays about what they think, offering unsolicited opinions about what I should do, and I am typically very reticent to engage any such conversation. I’ve also had other interactions both virtual and in person in which unsolicited advice was given. I sometimes feel like just putting it out there — I don’t need your advice! — because I am working with seasoned professionals who have guided hundreds upon hundreds of marriages to reconciliation. Or, maybe another way to express this thought is that there are many ways to deal with marital problems, and a number of good programs out there, and one needs just to find the method that best fits one’s character, morality, and beliefs. I do believe I’ve found a good match.
There is one thing I certainly have learned over the past year, and that is that a reconciliation attempt is anything but a linear process. There are periods of positive building, and periods of decline. There are periods in which nothing seems to happen, and there are periods of rapid change. In fact, it is these rapid changes that keep me going — even the bad ones. I have seen my situation turn on a dime both for the worse and for the better (although the turns for the worse are much easier to sense) and this just reminds me of the one thing that all of my well-intentioned advice-givers seem to have neglected: the human mind is changeable. A person might change his or her mind and decide to leave a marriage, have an affair, or do some other awful, relationship-poisoning activity, but that person can just as easily change his or her mind back again. Now I know the nay-sayers will say there are no guarantees, but then again, there are no guarantees in life anyway.
So here we are, heading into a new year. As I look back on where I was a year ago today, I find myself in a much better place, and feel myself to be a much transformed person. It is this personal transformation that is worth more to me than anything else. That transformation for the better is what is going to heal my marriage more than anything else. When my wife’s affair finally goes kablooey in the coming days (however many there might be), she will look back to our marriage and see a whole new me.
Best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013, and may this year be full of joys and achievements that surpass your wildest expectations.