Is the fog starting to lift?

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.

Expressions of gratitude

As part of my reconciliation program, I received the assignment to write a thank you letter to express my gratitude for things my wife had done for me during the course of our marriage. I had the sense that my delivery of this letter would be well timed: I had written it the night before she came home, made a list of at least a dozen things she had done for me, and explained the emotions that those acts had engendered in me, as well as in other people that had been impacted. Remember that, in our last conversation before she left, she tried to redefine our whole relationship by asserting she’d never had true love with me. This is par for the course for a wayward spouse: they have to do it to clear their conscience. My letter cut right through that nonsense by explaining the feelings of love that I’d felt through her actions.

I had originally intended to give her this letter before going to work, but forgot, and so I left it on her pillow last night. This morning she thanked me for the message – twice. Now, I honestly have no idea of what the impact of this letter is likely to be. It’s likely just another gentle flame that will continue to melt away the ice around her heart by rewriting the story she has been creating for herself over the past few months.

It’s clear to me that she is still enveloped by the so-called affair fog, which is just the infatuation process that eventually wears off, spelling the end of the illicit relationship. But, so long as that infatuation is there, it’s a force to be reckoned with. A recent study done at Johns Hopkins University showed that the biochemical response in the brain of an adulterer is nearly identical to that of the cocaine addict. It’s an addictive behavior, plain and simple. However, the brain just simply cannot keep producing dopamines in this amount forever, and as their levels declines, the fog recedes and the affair begins to fall apart. The defects of the affair partner become apparent, and, as they say, lust becomes disgust. This pretty much always happens. That’s what I’m waiting for. I don’t know ho long it will take, but I do know that their time is limited. Her family disapproves, her friends are uncomfortable with it, and society at large condemns her behavior. The chips are always stacked against the adulterer, no matter what they say.

Anyway, time will tell. She has a number of documents on her desk that suggest to me that she is looking for “auspicious” dates to move out. These do not exist: there Is no amount of appeal to augurs of auspiciousness that could turn immoral behavior into acts of morality. That just isn’t possible. Furthermore, there were also papers that waffled on about the virtues of selfishness: how appropriate it is to look out only for your narrow self interest, how there is no sense in trying to placate others if you are sure off your choices, and even how hardening oneself against outside criticism and even hurting others can help them to “move on”. This is craziness. There is a lot of bad information out there, and a much of this kind of stuff is written by people who themselves are plagued with self-deception.

One thing to me seems certain: in the not too distant future, she will look back upon her present actions with disbelief, wondering what kind of person she had become. That is also par for the course. The fairy tale shatters, and all they are left with is the shards of their life, which they have worked overtime to destroy. If they are lucky, there will be a committed spouse who remains to help clean up the debris, bandage the wounds, and help the wayward spouse to reconcile and move forward.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

A foggy day

My wife did indeed return home this morning, as previously mentioned. She seemed in good spirits, but after I got back from work her mood had turned more reserved. She had the door shut to her office as I came in the house, and I could hear her talking to a friend on the phone. Since our house is small, it’s easy to overhear things without really trying, and I know this was the friend she was planning to move in with for the coming month. She was telling this friend about how her parents are very negative and disapprove of what she’s doing, and how they’d like her to just cut ties with everyone and everything and return home. Of course they are worried, but that’s pretty terrible advice, at least in terms of reconciling a marriage.

One thing I should mention about this friend is that she lives about 2 blocks from here, and is married, about our age, and no kids. So their marital situation is similar to ours, except that they have been together for at least twice as long and don’t appear to be in any sort of crisis. The both know of my wife’s affair and somehow do not feel uncomfortable aiding and abetting an adulteress. That I just do not understand. It is possible that they have been lied to or given extensive rationalizations. This friend is going out of her way to help my wife destroy her marriage, and is offering to pick up boxes to help her pack. Incidentally, this friend is also a colleague of mine whom I work with on a weekly basis. I will see her in a few days, and I don’t know how she’s going to repress her guilty conscience.

The affair seems to show no signs of crumbling, unfortunately. A few days together seems to have revived their confidence in the utter superficial banality of their relationship. She did not bring any gifts home, and the ones that are already here are extremely cheesy: an Eckhardt Tolle calendar, and a quasi-spiritual self-help book. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no truck with Eckhardt Tolle, but these kinds of gifts are things my wife would just never go for under normal circumstances. Not at all. I know the kinds of things she likes, and those aren’t it. I’ve become a sort of Santa Claus, a master of giving, and I give daily in all sorts of ways. The power of giving is that, while words or actions might be rejected, it’s hard to rationalize a reason to reject an inanimate object. (People do, though!)

I had left an anniversary card in my wife’s purse before I left for work the day she left a few days ago. She never mentioned it, but I had put a short piece of music I’d written (I do that as part of my living) inside the card for her, and she thanked me for it. I had also put a bound copy of that piece in her office, so it could have been that she was thanking me about as well. But, I did see the opened card in her purse, and I assume she found and opened it while she was with her lover. That’s a big plus for me, I’d think, and a big minus for him. I doubt she shared it with him — how could she? — and that would be a good thing, as it would mean she’d need to keep secrets from him. You see, the mentality of an adulterer survives only in a secretive and deceptive environment, so any situations that reinforce that usually end up being productive in bringing down the affair. Unless the adulterer is a sociopath, sooner or later their conscience is going to break under the weight of all the lies and deceptions that are told in the service of maintaining the affair.

Of course, there’s another very curious thing that happens along the way: the adulterer tries to come clean about the affair. Either they bring this to you, or they go to their friends, family, co-workers, or some combination or all of the above. My wife started to come clean with a select group of people she felt she could trust immediately after I discovered the affair, but otherwise she kept it under wraps. She would not discuss it with me, as I simply would shut down any such conversation. In the past week or so, however, she began to actively try to go public with it. Again, she won’t breathe a word of it to me, as I won’t hear it. But she has come out to friends, family, and pretty much anyone who might listen. She even brought this person to a church social event, which I would find mortifying in and of itself, except that she then went on to introduce him to the pastor. What’s even worse is that she knows this pastor suffered a similar fate as me: his first wife cheated on him, and then divorced him. The reason adulterers go public is simple: the weight of their conscience gets so heavy that the adulterer needs to try to get as many people as possible to buy into the relationship as they can, so that they can pretend that somehow it’s normal.

The problem is that it’s not normal, and everyone knows that. While it might be possible that extensive lies and rationalizations are told to encourage others to feel comfortable around the adulterer’s lover, people typically just aren’t comfortable with this situation. I’ve known people who had gotten themselves involved in adulterous situations in the past, and they all came out with this information eventually. There usually was some sort of explanation: things aren’t going well with my spouse, we’re separating, s/he agrees with this idea, and so on. Who knows if any of it is true. Even if this is a person you like a lot and generally respect, it still makes you feel uncomfortable. Sure, you might be a bit accepting if the person tells you that their marriage is basically over, their spouse has assented or at least accepted this fate, and that the affair is a necessity. (It’s never described as an affair, by the way, it would simply be called a “relationship” or some other fairly neutral term.) But still you feel uneasy inside because that person is still married.

There is empirical evidence for these reactions, by the way. A recent (2010) Gallup poll showed that 92% of Americans consider adultery to be morally wrong. What’s interesting here is that this is a pretty universal opinion: the moral acceptability of adultery is in the single digits regardless of gender or political affiliation. This is pretty astounding. It’s not surprising then, that virtually all affairs end: the ignominy is just too much to bear, and the pressure of disapproval from society is just too great.

So how do I cope with it all? Well, for one thing, I have a well defined regimen of reconciliation strategies that I’ve been employing for two months now. They’ve become positive behavioral habits, and I just keep doing them. For example, I’ve been making my wife’s bed every night for the past two months, as she has elected to sleep in the living room to save herself the burden of sharing our bed. I usually leave some sort of goodies — a chocolate, a cup of tea, etc. — alongside the bed for her, and usually turn on her aromatherapy diffuser and do a few other little things. Tonight, I left a thank-you letter that I had been encouraged to write. In it I expressed gratitude for the many things she has done, both large and small, for me and our marriage over the past 7 years we’ve been married. Not only that, but I explained the emotions that these actions provoked in me, and sometimes in others (e.g. where they positively affected relatives or friends). You can imagine the impact this might have: my wife is planning on moving out, probably sometime this week, and has rationalized things to the point that she has rewritten the history of our marriage such that she believes she never experienced “real love” with me. Her rationalization was that she was “dependent,” and that in order to experience “true love,” one must first become independent (read: selfish) and assure one’s own happiness first (read: selfishness). My recounting of these various experiences shows to her that her version of our marriage is just a fiction. How would you feel if you were trying to write a narrative of your marriage in which your spouse was the villain, yet at every turn he was actively rewriting that story for you, so that it actually comes in line with reality?

Well, one thing that might happen is you’d try to escape. You might try to run away. This could happen mentally, emotionally, or physically, or all of the above. That’s what she seems to be doing; she’s been doing it for three months now, and it’s finally getting critical. The problem is that wherever you try to run away to, you’re still there. You bring yourself, all your problems, all your neuroses, and all your guilt for your past actions to wherever you run. You just cannot escape your conscience no matter how hard you try.

Many people, when they find their spouse abandoning them, just give up. This is the wrong thing to do. If you want to reconcile your marriage, you need to keep applying the gentle and steady pressure of unconditional love, regardless of the physical, mental, or emotional distance of the spouse. They will protest, because they want you to give up. But if you persist, sooner or later you’ll break through, and reconciliation will be possible.

That’s my vision, friends. My future holds the reconciliation of my marriage. She won’t give it to me without a fight. That fight is all about holding on to the fairy tale affair and its never-present happy ending. But eventually that affair will crumble and her situation will spiral out of control. When that happens, I’ll still be here, the door will be open, and I will have nurtured her soul with consistent acts of unconditional love that allow the roots of marriage renewal to grow.

Fog in the harbor

My wife has returned from her New Year’s weekend jaunt with her lover. Since I know quite a lot about this man, I know exactly where she was most of this time, as well as what she was likely to have been doing. She seemed happy to be home and to see me, but it seems the affair fog still has not lifted. She has yet to broach a word to me of her plans. As I may have stated in an earlier post, her original plan was to divorce me, move out, and start a “new life” with this lover from January 1st. Well, that date came and went. She has not filed, and might never do so. She also has not moved out yet, and has not even really packed anything. I have no sense for what her plans are, although I suspect I’ll hear about them soon. Stay posted, friends…

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

The New Year Has Arrived

This will be the first of my real-time updates on my reconciliation efforts.

My wife has been gone for three days now, and I don’t expect to see her until tomorrow. She left the night before our anniversary to be with her lover. I called her on our anniversary day to wish her well, but did not explicitly refer to that date by its name, but rather said it was an “important day.” I am pretty certain that she spent that evening and the following day — New Year’s Day — with her lover at the shrine. She feels a very strong connection to that place and its traditions; unfortunately that connection has been thoroughly tarnished with an adulterous affair. As mentioned in an earlier post, disapproval of this affair was expressed from someone higher up in the shrine hierarchy and this certainly caused some tension, although I don’t really have a sense for how this is going to play out.

I have been a member of the so-called Marriage Fitness community for two months now; this is a marriage reconciliation and renewal program with a very high success rate — greater than 90%. The more successful programs out there, such as the Marriage Sherpa program of Frank Gunzburg and the Save the Marriage program of Lee Baucom likewise have success rates of 85-90%. You cannot save every marriage, but it is safe to say that most marriages progress to divorce far too soon, and long before any true attempt at reconciliation has been made.

A few words about the reconciliation process itself: My impression is that most people struggle with this and do end up separating and/or getting divorced because they do not know what to do, or because they adopt the wrong approach. Traditional marriage counseling simply is not effective in most cases: at least 70% of couples report being worse off a year later, and 50% report being divorce. So, you’ve got a 20-30% success rate for something that is time consuming and expensive. Why is this so?

Well, a typical counseling session has the couple sit with the counselor and talk about their problems. While it might be useful to get these out on the table at some point, when a marriage is distressed, there is little help that talking things through will solve. I have seen this with my own eyes: on one of our early attempts to talk through our problems, my wife and I actually ended up having a fight in which things were thrown around and broken. If your marriage is in that state, then there is no reason for you to talk about your problems at all. It is far better to just set them aside for a while, and to change your behavior.

That is what my reconciliation process has been all about. I have changed my behavior such that I am continuously manifesting acts of unconditional love and kindness. The interesting thing about doing this over time is that, while it can initially be very difficult, eventually it takes on an energy of its own and becomes sort of a habit. But, since it’s a positive behavioral change, it actually feels good and makes you feel better about yourself and your marriage, even regardless of what state it might be in. For me, this has engendered a true sense of confidence and strength that lets me see above the storm. My wife is caught in the tumult of that storm, but being obstinate, she swears up and down that there is no storm. I on the other hand can see the storm for what it is — temporary — and have the patience to weather the storm and the skills to successfully negotiate it.

What lies just ahead is completely uncertain. I am at home alone, and don’t expect my wife to return before tomorrow morning. When she does return, she’ll probably let me know that she’s planning on moving out for the month. I have no sense of the details, but have seen little evidence of her having packed anything at all. Somehow I have the sense that her affair is seriously stressed, and that it could be over in the next few weeks. At least that is my hope. Time will tell. Stay posted, folks.

December 2011: A Summary (Part 2)

The process of reconciliation continued over the second half of the month. I ramped up my regimen of giving to my wife by surprising her with all sorts of things at various times of the day. I would also do some things regularly, like make her bed every night, draw her bath, leave sweets, magazines, or other small gifts by the bed in the living room. I was truly beginning to see some positive changes, but still she was so hooked on the affair that I knew I’d get no meaningful shift until the affair ended.

As mentioned in the previous post, the affair had already hit a major hurdle, and another one was brewing. Her original plan, to divorce me and be out of the house by the end of the year, seemed to be disintegrating. I had expressed on several occasions that I would not willingly cooperate with any divorce proceedings. Her original tack was to try to get some paperwork done via a paralegal organization, but that would have required my compete cooperation through divulging various forms of information. I refused to even look at the questionnaires she had printed out. She then resolved to do it herself. (As of this date, however, she still has done nothing.) I was hearing through the grapevine that her lover was feeling uncomfortable about her still living with me and there being no movement toward separation or divorce. He also apparently was telling her that she could not move in with him so soon.

So, she hatched a new plan, which was to go live with some friends a couple of blocks away. These aren’t so much friends as they are mutual acquaintances/colleagues, but somehow she felt she could confide in them. Apparently, she came clean about the adultery — as all adulterers eventually do — and they assented to let her stay with them for the month of January. This would give her additional time to separate from me. Suddenly, she had renewed vigor with her chosen “path”.

Around the middle of the month, she told me that she would be gone on her birthday, and that she planned on being away for Christmas as well. I asked her why she needed to leave for her birthday, and she said, “I don’t know,” so I suggested she think about it, even though I knew that would have no effect on her decision. I bought her the birthday present of her dreams, something she really wanted, and she was absolutely thrilled. We had a lovely birthday morning. Then, as I was about to leave for work, I told her I’d be cooking her a special dinner (I said this with full knowledge that she’d be leaving that day), and she reminded me that she would not be home that night. I let my shoulders fall, looked depressed, and told her that again I felt extremely betrayed and abandoned. This made her mad, of course, and defensive. I left the house.

When I returned, she had taken my gift and placed it back in its box, and left a note that apologized for hurting my feelings. I simply took the gift out of its box and quietly returned it to her closet. She returned the next morning, and I actually was driving down the street to go get coffee. I saw her get out of her lover’s car: they were about 10 feet away from me, right at the corner, and there is simply no way that either my wife or he did not see me. I even had to follow him down the street for 2 blocks, before I could leave our neighborhood.

She had brought home some gifts from him: an ostentatious bouquet of flowers, as well as some things he’d baked, and a small self-help book. She told me her friends had given her a party, there was cake, and so on. I knew it was all a lie. Eventually, one of the roses from the bouquet ended up in the kitchen window, and I removed it back to her office, telling her I felt disrespected. This behavior did not repeat again, despite her protests.

Then, a couple of days later, her affair hit another major obstacle. A highly disparaging message came in from her father, criticizing her conduct in the harshest of terms. This I’m sure got her really worried.

More momentum toward reconciliation occurred toward Christmas, and then she let me know that she in fact would be leaving. So, I decided it best to take care of my family, and to go out of town to be with them for a few days. The morning I left we had a gift exchange — she gave me a very nice gift, and I gave her a number of things that went straight to her heart. Still, she had to go be with her lover, though.

After Christmas, things continued to be more or less okay. We did have one argument, not because I even wanted to talk, but because she did, and she escalated. Even with the escalation, I got an apology from her not more than an hour later. I attribute this 100% to the marriage reconciliation program I had been working on for about 7 weeks at that point. (I should say that I have been implementing this program without her knowledge or cooperation; it’s just that effective that it yields results even if your spouse is not on board.) Then, once again, I was told that she’d be leaving me, this time for our anniversary, as well as for New Year’s Day.

Her father called the night before she left, and she had a teary, two-hour chat with him. She confessed pretty much everything to him (I could hear just about everything through the door, as our house is so small). It was clear to me that she was in a very fragile state, and had no confidence whatsoever. In fact, she told him this several times. We talked the next morning, and I laid out my vision for the future: that I could see a day when she would feel like the most treasured jewel in a man’s heart, and that that man would be me. She did not see things this way, asserted that she had “really tried” to make our marriage happen, and further had begun rewriting its narrative by telling me that she felt she had never actually been in love with me. Nevertheless, I planted the seed of that vision, and further told her that, at that point, I was very strong and confident, and knew that my moral compass would get me (or rather us) to that final destination — reconciliation. She told me that she “wasn’t sure” if she could fix things, and that she’d need to digest everything I had said.

Since I knew she’d be gone when I came back from work, and since she had previously stated that she had planned to move out at the end of the year, I told her that this was her house, and that she would always be welcome, and the door would always be open to her. This is an important message to deliver if your spouse is planning on separating and you simply cannot stop them from doing so.

I did buy her a card for our anniversary, and left a special, personal gift inside it. I put it in her purse before I went to work, figuring she’d discover it while she was gone, and hopefully in the presence of her lover.

 

December 2011: A Summary (Part 1)

This post looks back on the month that has just passed. I have experienced much momentum toward reconciling my marriage, and have also had a few setbacks.

The start of the month was relatively uneventful. I continued to implement the strategies and techniques of my marriage reconciliation program (Marriage Fitness), and was beginning to see signs of change. The affair continued, but she went about 10 days without seeing her lover. Then, in the second week of December, she told me she was going to be with her “friends” overnight — this term changed to “friend” by the next morning. I knew what was going on, however. She had been lying to me about the continued existence of the affair for about 6 weeks by this point, and I was determined not to let her come clean to me about it.

On the morning that she left to be with him, I had a very brief exchange with her, in which I told her I felt betrayed and abandoned. This unleashed a torrent of vitriol from her, in which she accused me of betraying her, of having been a bad husband, and on and on. I bit my tongue and said nothing. I just stood there and let her let me have it. Then I left. I came home that evening, and found a two-page letter in which she justified her behavior with various rationalizations. She didn’t tell me where she was going, but she claimed to need “space” to figure out how to live her life separately from me. As a result of this letter, as well as some of the things she had said to me that morning, I decided the time was ripe for me to apologize to her — not for what I’d said, but for things that had happened earlier in the marriage that had paved the way for the affair to take place.

That night, I crafted an apology letter that addressed the emotions I thought I must have provoked in her heart through various actions (or inactions) I had taken over the previous several years. I gave voice to all of these by trying to put myself in her shoes, imagining how it must have felt to be her, watching me go through what essentially was a mid-life crisis. The next morning, after she had returned, I sat down to talk with her, and began delivering the apology verbally. After about a minute, she began crying. I must have spoken for about 15 minutes, and it was a tremendously emotional situation for both of us — a breakthrough in a way, even. I then gave her the letter and asked her to read it later, and left for work. This letter went a long way toward building further goodwill and momentum toward reconciliation, although even afterwards there was still a long way to go.

It was also during the second week of this month that her affair hit a major roadblock: her lover, as previously mentioned, is a long-standing, high-level member of this shrine that is connected to her home country, and a very senior person within the shrine expressed public condemnation of their affair. This likely came as a major shock and wake-up call to them both. The message had been publicly posted over a social networking site. I could tell that this gotten to my wife, as she became very despondent, and even asked me if my emotional/mental situation was okay. This, of course, meant that hers was incredibly fragile and unstable, which was easy to see on her face.

I knew that the upcoming weeks would be difficult, as I faced three momentous days: her birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary, which happens to be New Year’s Eve. That will be the topic for the next post.

Moving Forward with Marriage, One Step at a Time.

© 2012-2018 Reconciliation Diaries All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright