It can be daunting to attempt to save your marriage after an affair. You may want to do it more than anything, but even the most optimistic and loyal people will have doubts. Even when the affair is over, it’s very hard to restore the trust and to believe that your spouse is very willingly with you and will not cheat again. This situation is true even when your spouse appears to be completely over the affair and the other person. But what happens if he’s not? What happens if you can read his face and know that he’s somewhat unhappy because he misses her? What happens if he is committed to saving your marriage, despite his remaining deep feelings for the other person?
You might hear about a situation like this one: “when I found out about my husband’s affair, I immediately told him that if he were to have any chance with me, he would need to agree to counseling. He did. He had no hesitation at all. He said he would do whatever it takes. And I admit that he has been trying, but neither of us is very happy. I’m very hurt and distrusting and he just seems lost. I have asked him to stay off the computer, and I can tell that this is very hard for him. He often just has a sort of longing look on his face. When he displays this look, I know that he is still thinking of her. I read some of their correspondence and it was clear that he had intense feelings for her. I think this is what hurts me the most. The other day at counseling, I admitted to the counselor that I’m afraid that my husband still has strong feelings for the affair partner. The counselor directly asked my husband if this was true. My husband got flustered and swore that there had been no contact between them. The counselor told him that this is not what she asked him. She repeated her question as to whether he still had strong feelings for the other woman. Finally, he sighed and said that you can’t just turn your feelings off and that yes, he guessed he still had feelings, but that he had no intention of acting on them. I knew this deep in my heart, but it still devastated me. What am I supposed to do with this information? Just know that my husband is only with me to save his family, while he still harbors feelings for someone else?”
Why Perspective Doesn’t Always Come Immediately: I am so sorry that you are dealing with this and I know the pain that you are dealing with. But I want to tell you something that might make you feel better. I have interviewed a good number of men who have had affairs for my articles and just because of my own curiosity. If you ask these men after the fact (when enough time has passed) whether they felt actual love for the other person, almost none of them will answer yes. However, some of them will tell you that they thought that they loved the other person. `It can take them a while to have the distance in order to get to the place where they can have the hindsight to understand that what they felt wasn’t actually love. But once they do, many of them are very embarrassed at their “feelings.” In truth, an affair is all about fantasy. No one is worried about child care, household chores, or aging parents during the affair. No one is doing laundry or dealing with fussy children. But one thing is for certain – fantasy eventually turns into reality. Statistics show that even the best relationships move from fantasy mode to reality mode after two years. And that is when deep and meaningful love comes into play. I’m talking about the infallible love that comes between two people who have faced life’s up and downs together. An affair can’t and doesn’t have that. In fact, for the most part, once reality begins to set in (and this usually happens much sooner than 2 years) that is when an affair will lose its luster.
Pondering How To Play It: Since your husband ended the affair, this cycle or process is not going to happen naturally because he decided to end it before that happened. That might be one reason why he still thinks that he has strong feelings. I know that it is hurtful and frustrating, but I’m not sure that there is anything more effective than allowing time to work its magic. If you try to tell him that he doesn’t or shouldn’t feel anything, he may become ashamed, defensive, or guilty – which are all negative emotions that might make him retreat even more.
I certainly think that it can’t hurt to be honest about how much this hurts you, but if you keep a matter-of-fact tone and take the emotion out of it, it will help to dull the emotions of his “feelings.” Don’t feed the fire. Just tell yourself in your own mind that he doesn’t see reality yet and keep working with your counselor to make your own progress. Everyone has their own path and pace, but as healing starts, many men begin to realize just how silly and delusional they have been. It is at this point that many will admit to you that their feelings were all a mirage and they’ll try to apologize for putting you through this over a very embarrassing infatuation. Unfortunately, though, you haven’t gotten to this place yet because not enough time or healing has happened for your husband to get the needed perspective. I know that it’s very hard not to react to this, but there is probably enough negativity going on without adding more. Sometimes, you just have to wait to get the validation that you deserve. I know that it requires a leap of faith to know that one day he will see reality, but in my experience the overwhelming majority of men eventually do. The question is just when. Once they are away from their fantasy world and begin to gain some objectivity, the picture can become a little more clear to them.