His illusions reveal his character

Sign that says "Home of the World's Biggest Liar."
Source: Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

This article was piercing for me. It talks about understanding what a cheating spouse was thinking during the affair. It was written by Rick Reynolds, founder and president of Affair Recovery, a marital counseling company.

I have never been able to grasp my husband’s mindset about his affair, and probing doesn’t help. He clams up. Any info I get by forcing the conversation is scant, begrudgingly given and long-lasting in the guilt/depression he displays afterward.

How can I get past his affair and grow a deeper, more intimate and more fulfilling marriage with him when he is walled off like this because of his shame, embarrassment, and (frankly) ass covering? He seems to think that just acting nice will fix everything.

Rick is a former cheater himself, and to be honest his YouTube videos are by far my least favorites of the ones his company creates. He seems too flippant and unrepentant to me, so I just find him distasteful. But he still has some wise words.

Here’s what he said about cheaters.

“Fantasy is the window to our soul. The illusions we create through fantasy and acting out reveal what’s broken about us, not what’s wrong with our mate. Much of recovery is based on learning to see our own defects rather than those of our mate. It’s based on learning to see how our actions impact others rather than focusing on how our mate affects us. It’s learning to make the best with what we have rather than fantasizing about different circumstances to make things better. It’s about learning how to give rather than take.”

Oh, my aching heart. This is so true.

I wish I could turn on this lightbulb for my husband. He’s either silent or conciliatory. But it doesn’t feel like he changed; he just stopped his bad behavior. It’s cold comfort, because he could fall back on it at any time.

What do you think? I believe his recovery path needs to be include dismantling his illusions and helping him to be stronger. He is so cowardly.  All my husband’s therapist is doing is applying an emotional Bandaid to the problem, encouraging him to stay the course.

Mine wants me to accept the truth of how my husband is, rather than being frustrated at who he is not.

Sounds good. Not sure I can do it.

He keeps his thoughts and actions too close to his chest, locked up for safekeeping. I need some bolt-cutters. Photo source: Flickr.com; some rights reserved.
He keeps his memories and feelings about the affair too close to his chest, locked up for safekeeping, even four years afterward. I need some bolt-cutters. Or for him to hand me the key. (Photo source: Flickr.com; some rights reserved.)



  4 comments for “His illusions reveal his character

  1. Jeanne Gyra
    September 9, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    His silent treatment is an enormous red flag. The question here is why are you waiting …for him…to change. Apparently he isn’t willing to discuss his changing, hence the silent treatment. Run for the fucking hills…as fast as you possibly can.

    • Effie
      September 15, 2016 at 10:50 AM

      You’d think I would leave, right? I get it.

      At first, I decided to wait at least a year before rushing out of the marriage; I wanted to see what difference marriage counseling would make (awful experience with one bad counselor and “meh” experience with another); then we found individual therapists for him and for me (helpful). I learned about his 3.5-year affair in July 2012. Since then I’ve dealt with brief unemployment, a new job, my mother’s death and then our bankruptcy thanks to his inept handling of finances when I emotionally flatlined into a deep clinical depression. Then my daughter was in high school and I didn’t want to leave her dad while she was still in school.

      But she started college this August.

      So I’m back to reflecting on my uncertainty about what to do. He is very NICE to me these days, speaking my “love language” of small actions that make me happy. (Words alone and flowers never moved me.) He feels like a familiar, kind friend and partner after nearly 22 years together. (Yes, I feel cognitive dissonance about saying & thinking that, knowing the contempt he showed me with his affair.) But his kisses feel cold to me. Sex is non-existent, which frustrates me. My health is bad and so is his. Emotionally, I feel disgruntled and distant but also immobilized in our relationship. I’m still realizing how much I have felt “less than” all my life, as if I don’t have a right to run my own life my way. It’s a hard realization.

      My therapist got exasperated with me a few months ago and said, “Oh, stop it. You’re never going to leave him, I think that’s evident by now. So what are you going to do to make living with him less stressful for you?” I was shocked but that jolted me out of my rut. I’m starting to realize that I have forgiven him, but it’s hard to accept that I’m not happy with him.

      Re his silence: He’s only silent about the affair, and when pressed he will talk but minimizes it. My feelings and thoughts about it and him remain in flux.

      For now, the things I’m doing are to look after my health, start using recommendations from a health psychologist to deal with physical symptoms of my stress, and applying for jobs in distant states. He thinks he will follow along with me. I’m unsure whether I want him to, and I’m incredibly sad about that.

      Anyway — just answering with a little more info — not disputing your advice. So far, very little has jolted me into action. I’d kick my ass if I could reach it.

  2. c
    September 11, 2016 at 6:33 PM

    All so familiar to me. Living a similar dynamic. You are not alone.

    • Effie
      September 15, 2016 at 10:59 AM

      Thank you. I often feel like my wheels are screaming in neutral but not grabbing the road. Lots of smoke but no movement, you know?

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