Yesterday was my 10 year D-Day date. Yikes!
Incredibly uneventful, but even so, it was on my mind. I think I'll always remember the details of my D-Day, and its anniversary. My wife didn’t mention anything about it. She may have remembered, but chose not to say anything. She’s put all of this behind her long ago, and we haven’t spoken of the affairs for many years now. At ten years out, I'm OK with that.
I don’t follow SI any more these days. I haven’t posted in years. But this site helped me tremendously in the first few years, and I’m forever grateful to the participants that stick around to provide their help and wisdom. So, I’m just trying to give back a little here.
A few years ago, on my year seven D-Day date, I posted some comments about my years of SI wisdom. I got lots of positive responses, and I think it’s helpful for SI folks to know that it’s possible to emerge from this. So I updated them and reposted below. Apologies for the length.
Ten Year Thoughts…
If you’re reading this, then I’m sorry that you’re here on SI. I never wanted to, or thought I’d ever, be here either.
Conventional wisdom often says that it takes 2-5 years to recover from an affair. You can put me on the 5 year end of that spectrum - actually even longer. Affairs were a marriage deal-breaker for me, and it's taken me a very long time to try and get my head around the fact that our marriage could continue in the face of this. Not a single day has gone by when I haven't thought about my wife's affairs. I really hate that, but I’ve gotten used to it. Affair reminders are everywhere and mostly unavoidable – tv shows, music, politics. But the “sting” isn’t strong at all, now that our joint effort (and lots of time) has helped to heal things.
Anyhow, I thought I'd share a few thoughts, based on my ten years of accumulated "wisdom". Nothing too detailed or thought-provoking, but perhaps something here may help someone who is early on in this journey. This is my experience - Your mileage will vary.
After learning of my wife's affairs, here are some things that I/we did wrong:
- I didn't find the SI website until 9 months after D-Day. If you got here right away, you're better off already. Use it.
- I should have written more – journaling or whatever. Writing is cathartic, even if you don't do anything with the end product. I was too dumbstruck to even know where to start. If nothing else, consider doing more writing on SI.
- I waited nearly a year before asking her to write No-Contact letters. I thought NC would be more or less implied after she admitted to the affairs. Our recovery was much messier and harder than necessary because I waited. Don’t wait.
- My wife thought she could remain friends with her last AP - they worked together, even after the affairs became known. I should have made this a deal-breaker, but I was too confused to take a strong stand. Take a stand and make it clear.
- I should have contacted her first AP's wife. He kept chatting up my wife afterwards for over a year, and I could have used some outside assistance. I know that this is an often debated point, but it would have helped me.
To balance things out, here are some of the things that I/we did right:
- I had my wife's cell phone # changed right away. I checked her call log and text messages, and even email. There’s no shame in this, given what’s happened. Transparency is key. Eventually, you’ll stop checking up.
- We both read the "After the Affair" and "Not Just Friends" books and discussed them together. Awkward, but necessary.
- I got individual counseling for about 6 months. I needed a safe place to vent.
- I insisted that my wife get individual counseling. I felt it was important that she understand why this had happened. Once she did this, I asked her to write down what she had learned about herself. I still have her note.
- We spent a ton of time talking about what happened, for a long time. It was done mostly calmly and rationally (neither of us are high-drama people). Make sure that you listen.
- I promised myself that I wouldn't make any stay/go decision for at least a year. I realized that I needed time to get past the confusion, doubts, etc.
- We entrusted my MIL for help. I knew she would be firm, but not harshly judgmental toward my wife. I really needed her help to get my wife out of the initial "fog".
- We kept the damage contained. Our two kids (who were teenagers at the time) still do not know. Only my MIL and our Pastor know. This was very challenging though.
- Keep busy, focus on doing whatever it is that takes your mind off the affair. You’ll be thinking about it way too much, and your mind will need a break.
- I took care of myself physically. Continued to exercise daily and eat well. I wasn't sleeping too well for a couple of years, but I kept to a steady routine, and that helped me keep focused. I even learned yoga – try it!
Finally, here are some parting thoughts, for how to make it to ten years of R without losing your sanity:
- Make your marriage a priority in your lives. Keep a united front against anyone/anything that would have you do otherwise. Look together in the same direction.
- What happened wasn’t your fault. As a BS, you have a role in fixing the problem, but you didn’t cause the infidelity. Remember this.
- You’re now in a club that you didn’t want to join. It wasn’t your choice. But you’ll have to somehow learn to accept that. Bad things will happen in our lives. This one really sucks.
- You might end up doing more “heavy lifting” during the R period than you expected. It’s unfair, but be prepared.
- Happiness is within your grasp. You will have to define it.
- Control is an illusion. You can't control what someone else thinks, feels, or does. But you can control your own thoughts and actions, and how you react to that person.
- Remorse is essential. I don't know how you can reconcile without a remorseful partner. Personally, I wouldn’t even try.
- Take the high road. It's easy to "beat up" your partner about what happened for a long, long time. Try not to. It will become destructive.
- Forgiveness is very hard. I've tried to do it in stages. I don't think I'll ever get to full forgiveness, but I'm at peace with that. Don’t think of forgiveness as an all-or-nothing. Also, think of forgiveness as a gift that you give yourself.
- You'll never look at your WS the same way as before the affairs. Unfortunate, but true. Try instead to focus on the positives, like what made you come together in the first place. Choose to forgive your WS all over again, every day, if that’s what it takes. I see her differently now, but my wife is still my one and only love and my best friend.
- Life is short – love fearlessly and forgive gracefully.
- It takes time. Lots of time. Be patient. Take it one day at a time. You can’t rush things. All those cliches – they’re all true here.
- You'll begin to heal when you make the transition from victim to survivor. Be a survivor!
- Good luck!