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Saphire's Story Last summer, completely out of the blue, H told me he was having an A - and that it was not his first during our 24 year M.
I was devastated and desolate: the pain was physical and searing. Half a year on, my heart is still scarred, but also full of love: love given to, and received from, my husband. Beside me is a copy of Divorce Remedy – throughout this journey it has been my Guide; as have been many wise and wonderful guides and friends here on this BB. The other day H said he thought we were only still together because of the way I chose to respond back then. Validation for DBing as a marriage-saving technique, from a man who risked his M, because he 'didn't feel the same', and was 'in love' with another woman.
On that day he first told me, I was graced with a deep instinctive insight. It was this, and the power of DBing, that rescued us. Last summer I firmly believed it was the end of my M. At the same time I knew immediately that whatever happened, a day would come when we needed to heal our relationship: whether to enable us to continue a life together, or to divorce with dignity. Without healing, either path would be far harder. Intuitively I sensed it was important I did not make a bad situation worse, by building walls of animosity between us through my words or actions. I wanted to have nothing in my behaviour to look back on with regret. There and then, I decided that I would control the pain and rage I felt: I would not shriek at him, berate, castigate, rebuke, scold, blame, shout at, or throw abuse at him, or in any way dump all the raging torrent of fury that boiled within me. Not at him; nor at his chosen Other Woman. I now believe that at that point, the repair our marriage was begun.
He told me he wanted to have ‘two wives’: to keep me, while maintaining a relationship with her. She was apparently happy with this. Living on another continent, physical contact between them was thankfully rather limited! But he expected sex as often as they could meet; and in the meantime there was a full-blown emotional relationship, fuelled by frequent emails, and phone calls. Those of you visiting here, who have experienced such betrayal, will understand how enraged and agonised I was by his choice.
Truly, my guardian angel was with me. Within days, a copy off Divorce Remedy fell into my hands. I consumed it and came straight to this site, where I found support, strength, wisdom – and a lot of humour. I think humour is an under-acknowledged DB technique!
I set my goals. I recorded what worked, what did not. I avoided dwelling on pity for myself. I scrupulously analysed what drove H away. I ‘180ed’ all my pursuit habits. I never initiated conversations about our R, his A, or her, or tried to draw out of him how he was feeling. I stopped saying ILY. I stopped my custom of writing him long emotional, explanatory epistles. My appearance changed radically: unable to eat, I lost 30 lbs in 8 weeks, and used this opportunity to transform myself from frumpy fifty, to somewhat more feminine and classy. Corny – but it got his attention! It was also great for my PMA, as everyone else told me I looked fantastic. I ‘Did Something Different’ whenever I could: started going to gym (moi?), away by myself with friends, applying for jobs away from our home town; was out when he got back from work; slept in a different room – anything to keep him wondering what the hell I was up to.
While I was busy at all this, he discovered OW was somehow closely linked to his personal spiritual development (!) and that in order to discover what his future life path was, he needed to spend time with her immediately. She was flying 6000 miles to spend 5 days with him. Apart from doing enlightenment they would also have sex.
I knew I couldn’t stop this meeting, so turned it around to boost my position, by ‘giving my consent’: I graciously accepted what he wanted to do. I did not make conditions. I stuck rigidly to ‘I’ messages whenever we spoke. I never helpfully ‘explained’ anything, neither did I recommend he read this, study that, or go to a therapist. All things I would certainly have done before discovering Michelle’s book. In particular, I NEVER mentioned what was glaringly obvious (even to our children): he was in the midst of full-blown MLC.
When he went away to meet her, and to ‘decide’ his life with her, I thought I would die. But when their 5 days were up, I put a new dress, my bubbliest mood and brightest smile, and went to meet him at the station. I did not ask him how he was, whether he had a nice time, or whether he was now planning to D me. And I still didn’t berate him! After two days of silence, he told me what they had agreed. He was committed to me (not our M): but also to her. He definitely loved her. They expected to continue contact, though would try and reduce frequency to once a fortnight. He planned to next see her in 6 months. He expected at that time to have sex with her. Their R might perhaps fade by then, but actually he expected it to develop to where he would be with her whenever she was in UK, or he could visit her country; the rest of the time, he would be with me. I was not asked for my views, neither did he in any way try to discuss the proposal with me. Inside I raged: it felt as though I had no say in my married life. Externally, I affirmed my desire that we remain friends.
He withdrew further emotionally than before their time together. He no longer gave us time to talk every day; no longer made an attempt to remain open and loving towards me. He had a major set back at work: and was suddenly plunging headlong into depression (of which he has history): completely closing down, being impatient, angry, irritable, and gloomy. This was in part work-related. I knew it was important not to ‘fix’ his problems, by doing things for him. I clung to my copy of DR like a security blanket! Every time I felt an urge to say or do something, I passed it strictly through my ‘Michelle Filter’: "will this take me closer to, or further away from, my ultimate goal?" That saved me SO MANY times from saying or doing something damaging. DB takes self-control such as I never believed possible. But when the stakes are high somehow one DOES it. And each time there is an inner victory, one can celebrate oneself, and that helps lift PMA.
To deal with the inevitable images of him with her, I used the red traffic STOP sign technique: each time a thought or image started forming, I whacked in place a mental image of a huge road sign with giant red letters: STOP. Crude: but effective.
I also used a trick that I picked up here, for handling the frequent waves of all-engulfing rage. Whenever anger started bubbling up, I recognised and acknowledged it. But silently, within my heart. I ask myself what I need to learn from that particular bout of fury: the intellectual process of noting that, and thinking about what I could do with the information, diffuses the anger. I benefit from it, without becoming slave to its destructive forces. And without having to explode all over H!
To vent my feelings ‘safely’ (important to let off the head of steam building up!) I furiously wrote poetry in the middle of the night; poured out my heart on BB, and to select friends, but stuck fiercely to a maxim of my mother’s whenever I spoke with H: "if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!"
After two months of this, I reached a crisis. I recognised that there was no way their relationship was ‘diminishing’, as he sometimes claimed. They were emailing daily, not once a fortnight. She was taking my place, as the woman in his heart, if not yet in his daily life. And I realised that I was not willing to live in an M like that. Now was the time for action: I was prepared for any outcome. I phoned OW and told her of the damage resulting from her interference in my marriage. I did this because I felt H was giving her the impression I accepted their behaviour. I was actually very angry, although very controlled, when I spoke to her. This worked for me, but I know it was a very hazardous step, because it might have provoked H’s protective feelings for her.
Then I spoke to H, making a ‘Dobson’ statement: ‘drawing the line’. I told him I loved him; that he must do what ever he chose with his life. I could not, would not, try and hold him. He was entirely free; that I was not willing to live in a three-way marriage. I would be leaving the next day. I meant every word.
He completely crumbled in front of me: begged me not to go, and immediately told me he would end his A.
He asked for time for closure. I understood this, and agreed. I assumed we were talking 2 or 3 weeks. It turned out to be 3 months – and only ended because I waged a war of attrition against their on-going secret and private communication.
H felt he needed to continue ‘talking’ to down-scale their R from lovers to friends. (They need to work together again in the future). I camped on this BB, also visited other sites, and read everything else relevant I could lay my hands on. I KNEW repair of our M was compromised so long as contact continued. It was dangerous, and disrespectful to me. Impasse: he would not relinquish his position: I continued gently repeating that continued secret, private communication hurt me. I validated his work, and even affirmed they might contact each other via our house email address, where I could see it. He ignored my requests, and sank heavily into OW withdrawal: he was continuously sulky, irritable, and gloomy. I was frustrated and angry he wasn’t full of joy and relief that I was still beside him, and forgiving. I wanted remorse for the hurt done: but instead concentrated on forgiving him. This I found I was able to do, and that act was like an island of bliss in my heart, in the middle of a particularly dark period. He made no response to being forgiven. My spirits sank lower, and I found this part harder even than the first phase. I now see that in fact, their A was not over; although he genuinely believed he had ended it. This is why end of contact is so crucial. He was still investing emotional energy in her; it was still an A.
DBing got harder, not easier. I was now on medication, and finding it difficult to focus on building a strong extra-marital, ‘me’ life. It was almost impossible to remain upbeat around him: the best I could manage was caring but distant. H had at first offered to organise C (a great step) but not actually done anything about it. I managed to resist fixing the problem, and finally after 4 months we were able to start fortnightly MC – just at this point of impasse. At last I had a forum for safe communication! Here I have courage to say what I need to; confidant that C will ensure that H hears what I am actually saying, not what he likes to imagine I am saying. And, just as importantly, that I hear what he actually says, not what I think his actions mean, or what I think he says.
Patience rewarded. At last, H agreed to cease secret, private contact, at Christmas time. His A is over. Immediately after this second ‘ending’ H fell very deeply into Withdrawal and more acute depression, and I began to despair that after all, our M might never recover. I kept reflecting, DBing, and sticking to my desire to refrain from destructive energy around either of them. At this point, I think other things I chose to do made an important contribution to the speed of healing between us.
First, I acknowledged to both of them that I understood the love they had shared was significant in their lives. This gave H the space not to have to be furtive about his experience, or transfixed by shame. In fact, we both sometimes laugh and make jokes (tactfully) about it! As a result of my statement, OW wrote to me to apologise for the pain she caused: and I subsequently have forgiven her. I even made a public act of reconciliation towards her, before many friends (coded, as they had no idea who this person was, or what I was talking about!). This reconciliation was further empowering for me, and enormously healing.
Another difficult month dragged past. Suddenly, for no obvious reason, everything is transformed: I am filled with hope, and quiet happiness. H is still depressed but for the first time in twelve years, he is open to me despite his mood. He is loving and very affectionate, and frequently acknowledges the efforts I have made for our M.
He has told me he loves me, and is committed to our marriage. He demonstrates this by having chosen to be with me. He has made a significant (and very personally demanding) gesture to me to prove this change of heart. He says he understands how badly I have been hurt by his actions. He knows there will be no ‘second chance’. He has not yet said sorry for causing me pain ("that is just a word: I have tried to show you by my actions") but I believe he will find his own way of doing that, as he promised C.
I am not giving away my copy of DR. I keep reading it, because I know there is no ‘safe’ plateau you reach in marriage, when you can take your S for granted. The person who means most to us in all the world, is the one most deserving of our strenuous efforts to be a truly empathetic and caring person. All too often, they are the last! We make less effort because we think our S should know - and we think we know them. In future I shall listen more carefully; think more deeply; and I ask myself, in a variation of Michelle’s ‘filter’: "will what I am about to say or do, build up, or undermine, our loving marriage?"
To Michelle, and especially Shocked and Amazed, Glo, Hearts Blessing and naej, and to everyone else here who helped me along my road, I can only say, thank you, for inspiring me, and giving me the strength to keep going, despite the difficulties and set-backs. To those still travelling: have courage and faith in yourself.
Other resources I personally found helpful were: David Deida: books and website; James Dobson: Love Must be Tough; Lusterman: Infidelity; Patterson: Survivors