I have a story to tell.
Someone close to me, has survived an affair and is working to restore a marriage. He isn’t ready to share all the details or even his name, mostly to cover his wife, but he wanted me to tell his story. Hoping it will encourage more guys to be proactive in their marriages. I will try to do his story justice.
With this couple, it wasn’t the husband who had the affair. It was the wife. More than ten years into the marriage, it came apart.
He was a lot like me. He took the marriage for granted. He neglected his wife. He became abusive on several levels. Yelling. Breaking things. Taking porn into his mind and corrupting his thoughts. Manipulation. Not so much physical abuse, but still qualifying on several level.
His wife got tired of it all. She began opening herself up to other options. Eventually getting into a relationship with a guy who was sympathetic to her. Someone who listened and consoled her. Later, she found out, he was just a predator who got what he wanted and moved on. One more hurt she had to deal with.
He even accepted full responsiblty for the affair. He pushed her away. He wasn’t meeting her needs. He wasn’t listening to her.
They worked through it. They decided they wanted to be together. He made incredible effort to change his ways and become a better man. To anyone around them, they seem to have it worked out beautifully. But to him, the struggle is still painful.
Here’s what he is up against.
Intimacy has been damaged severely.
His formerly affectionate and compassionate wife has changed. She doesn’t voluntarily offer him much affection. She is still pretty cold. She is still protecting herself in some ways. The way she used to tell him he was loved, doesn’t happen anymore. She tells him that she loves him, but only in response to him saying it first.
The passionate lovemaking, that was so prevalent in their early years, isn’t there. Sex only happens when he initiates it. And not every time. Where they once made love three and four times a week, now happen three or four times a month. Maybe. Not regularly.
He lives with ghosts of the past all around him.
Too many times, even when he initiates intimacy, he feels terrified. He is afraid that he is pushing her. He lives with memories of the worst days of their marriage and how she responded to him. He has memories of the affair. He is concerned that he is now being compared to another man. He is to tortured by feelings of inadequacy.
He has serious trust issues.
He knew the guy, from the affair. They were even getting to be friends. They hung out together a few times. They talked a few times a week. He had no idea, until it was already happening. That situation caused him to withdraw from most people. He has some degree of fear that the next predator is waiting.
His wife was pushed to the point of making bad decisions, too. This woman, who had always been so honest and open, began lying to cover her tracks. She became hurtful and angry. She made constant efforts to say and do things, just to hurt him more. All of that, now causes him to be concerned whenever she is upset or frustrated. He lives with the fear that the whole thing could happen again. He is worried that she could give up and walk away over anything.
Every failure and mistake is now magnified in his emotions.
If the bills are late. If there’s a problem with the car. If she gets upset about something at work. Even if he desperately needs to discuss certain issues, his fear of losing her and his family makes him hesitate. Before, when a problem arose, they normally worked through it together. Now, he is afraid that anything might be enough to push her over the edge and make her run.
Part of the recovery process, required them to start over. They had to give up good jobs, to separate themselves from certain people who were causing problems. Their work environments had the potential to undo everything they were working towards, as a couple. Since then, they have not been able to get their income back to where it was. Money has been tight the whole time. They are in a continuous struggle financially.
He is tired.
They have made incredible strides together. He has plenty of hope and resolve. He has no regrets about the decision to work it out. None of this makes him want to give up on her. He believes it is all worth it. But it has been a struggle for a few years.
He had to take on much more physical work, just to keep the bills paid. Even though he works long hours, normally six days a week, it doesn’t always cover everything. He reads and gets support where he can, but not many people have survived what they have. Not many mentors available for couples in that position. The other male friends he has, don’t understand him. He feels isolated.
I believe that there is hope. Because of my own experience, and because of Joel and Kathy, I know that they can make it. It takes a lot of time to restore something that has been neglected and damaged so badly.
What I want to say is this; take your marriage seriously. Shift your focus from doing things for them, and focus on doing things with them. Be there when they need you. Make the effort to prove and show your love for your family. Don’t let it deteriorate. Don’t take it for granted. Make sure that your wife knows that she is your top priority. Treat her like the most important person in your world. Don’t let anything come between you.
They are the purpose and meaning we are searching for. Quit looking for it somewhere else.
It’s a whole lot easier to maintain something than it is to restore it. Restoration can happen, if you are willing to work for it. Maintaining it might be as simple as taking more walks together. Talking and listening more. Flowers and foot rubs go a long way. Giving without expectation of receiving makes things easier. Just love her the way you promised to, when you married her.
My friend is going to do well. He just needs time and encouragement. He needs to know that his mistakes helped someone else make better decisions.
If your marriage isn’t perfect, keep working on it. Get involved in the marriage forum and tell your story. Let their marriage counselors coach you towards becoming a better husband.
Don’t wait for it to become an act of restoration.