“I knew he was having an affair..”
The media present the discovery of an affair in a very dramatic and explosive way. It is, however, very rare that someone is caught in bed with someone else or immediately has a violent showdown with the “other” woman or man. In fact, the initial stage of affair discovery, “shock”, can be a very solitary, quiet and lonely experience.
Whether it be through the media, the experience of someone we know or what we’ve read about, most of us at some point have wondered what we would do if we discovered our spouse or partner was having an affair.
In our experience this can be very different to how we actually handle the situation. Many of us have quoted the “you won’t get another chance” line but how many of us would actually walk away if we were dealt these particularly harrowing cards? With children, houses, friends and a whole way of life thrown up in the air it’s not easy to just walk away. In fact only a small percentage of divorcees cite an affair as their reason. It may well be that people that have had affairs, subsequently leave before the affair is discovered or are unhappy for a number of reasons but if the statistics can be a guide, many couples do stay together and try and make it work.
In most cases these couples are climbing the very steep mountain to try and get an acceptable relationship back. Many are in counselling, others trying to make sense of the bomb that hit them and their family. Either way, working through the shock, anger and depression can be as hard as a bereavement.
It is hard to imagine a more difficult time, but with time, energy a lot of communication things can begin to feel easier. This very slow ease of pain however is an impossible dream for those who deny themselves the chance to face the reality.
We meet people on a regular basis who are internally imploding knowing that their partners are having an affair. They are breaking so much inside that the thought of trying to face it is too much to contemplate. So they don’t. They try to act as normal whilst carrying the heaviest of burdens around like a rucksack of bricks. Whilst in the luxury of a happy relationship we would be forgiven for wondering why someone would do this.
I’ve asked Rosie*, an ex-client, to explain.
Mark and I were married young. We were only 23 but we knew we were meant to be together. We shared everything including dreams of children, holidays and even our retirement. We had a very happy few years together before our daughter was born when we were both 26. Our friends were still out every weekend and we weren’t prepared for the responsibility of having children. We loved our daughter but we both secretly mourned the loss of our young carefree life.
We worked through the tough time and when we were 34 felt real to have another child and our 2nd daughter was born. This time we were much better equipped to deal with a newborn and I personally felt like our family unit was complete. But after a few months Mark became distant. He was working later and going out more. I resented his party lifestyle and as much as he encouraged me, I didn’t want to be out. I just wanted us to be together. This became a real source of arguments that became more frequent as the months went on. Most of the time Mark would storm off, not wanting us to talk.
One Saturday afternoon he was in the garden with the girls and I grabbed his phone to call a taxi company as I didn’t have their number on mine. Seeing weeks of flirty, suggestive texts from another girl and evidence than it had gone further than just messages literally took my breath away. I didn’t know what to do. Without thinking any further I put the phone down and took some deep breaths. Mark walked in and asked if I was ok. “Fine”. It was all I wanted to say. I wanted him to keep playing with the girls, for me to potter around the kitchen. I wanted to rewind to not seeing the texts. I wanted to pretend that it hadn’t happened. Yes I was angry but more about what it meant for our family. So in my crushed and crazy head I decided it didn’t have to mean anything for our family. And so it went on. Me pretending. Him carrying on.
It was great in the short term, weirdly, even better than before. I was so determined to be the wife he wanted, that I went out of my way to make him happy. He seemed to respond. We were getting closer. I almost forgot about the texts. But the painful niggle reared its head at the most inopportune moments. After sex, when he told me he loved me, just watching him with the kids. The longer it went on the harder it became and eventually I just couldn’t pretend any longer.
I didn’t want to confront him straight away and had a couple of sessions at The Affair Clinic to work out what was right for me. I had no idea where to start and the sessions helped me work out what I wanted and how to approach Mark, something I had been dreading for 8 months. Although I was shaking and nervous I felt I had sorted things in my head first and I was able to bring the subject at the right time in the right place.
He didn’t deny it and it was like reality kicked him in the face really hard. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it but seeing him crumble in front of me helped me realise that he did actually care – something I felt we lost years ago.
It’s still very much work in progress but we move forward a little everyday.
Whilst we may criticise those who sit with such knowledge it’s hard to blame Rosie for sitting on this information. We have to remember we just don’t know what we would do if we were faced with the same scenario. Rosie chose to sit in the denial phase and deal with things in her own way. Some clients sit with it for years and even after therapy choose to carry on sitting with the knowledge. But we would always encourage to think about what life is like carrying these thoughts and what lifting them could look like. For some, moving out of a feeling of constant bereavement is the best thing they ever did.
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This post was written by Yvonne