A Reader Writes…
My husband of 25 years had had an affair with a work colleague.
I decided to forgive him after he convinced me the affair meant nothing; it was pure physical sexual release for him from stresses of life, loneliness etc.
We have come a long way since December , when I found out, and our marriage is stronger than ever. We have read your books How Can I Ever Trust You Again? and Make Love Like a Prairie Vole and found them hugely helpful.
We have had couples therapy, have spent hours and hours talking about how we found ourselves in such a terrible situation when we love each other so very much, we have had a lot of weekend breaks; lots of fun and intimacy and I can honestly say our marriage has never been better. Our sex live is incredible – we never realised just how good it could be which is amazing considering how long we have been married.
But I’m not completely happy, Andrew. I have periods of such intense sadness and grief over what has happened. I get many, many intrusive thoughts about the intimacy my husband shared with this woman; I’m obsessed with wanting details of her body, how she ‘was’ at sex.
My husband does not want to talk about it – he is desperate for us to move on; tells me that episode of his life was the worst thing that has ever happened to him and he wants to forget it. He is deeply ashamed and full of guilt and tells me is completely devoted to making it up to me – will do whatever it takes.
I have no doubt about his deep love for me and know he made a terrible, terrible mistake that meant nothing to him at all. But I need help with dealing with this angst at the thought of him with her. I should add that he is still working with her which is acutely painful for me. He is, however, actively job hunting. Please can you help Andrew?
First of all, I want to congratulate both on the progress that you’ve made. I’m really pleased that your sex life has been turned round and that you’re both putting so much energy into making things better.
Next, I want to offer reassurance. December is only six months ago, so I’m not surprised that you have days of intense grief. It is perfectly normal and probably part of your healing process.
However, I am concerned for the level of detail that you want about the other woman’s body and what sex was like with her. Some details – like where you with her on that date – can be helpful in laying ghosts.
Some details—intimate sexual material—are more like torturing yourself. So please stop asking your husband. You’ve got enough information to improve your sex life and that’s all you need. Honest. Anything else will just play through your head like a bad porn movie.
So why are you obsessed with her? It feels like you’re in competition:
- Who has the best body?
- Who is best in bed?
- I know teenage girls line up behind the prettiest classmate with the best boyfriend. But do you only feel ‘good enough’ about yourself if you are the best?
- Did you have intense sibling rivalry with a sister?
- Did you parents give you the message: “We love you but only if you’re good, get the best grades or are dressed nicely?”
I suppose, what I’m saying is that this is probably about you—not her. In fact, like most people whose partner’s have had an affair, your imagined version of the third party is twice as attractive and twice as good in bed than reality.
Most people trade down for an affair—because the truly gorgeous have their pick and don’t have to put up with part-time attention. Most affair sex is exciting but ultimately quite empty in comparison with the tender loving with all your body, not just rubbing genitals together, sex that you’ve found with your husband.
So what should you do? Next time, you get these images about her try one of the these three techniques:
- Distract: Imagine pushing the image out of your head and trying to remember the lyrics to a favourite song from your teenage years.
- Replace: Think of something nice instead – like your last love making with your husband.
- Thank her! You will never let your marriage drift again.
If this doesn’t work, it’s probably because you’ve got unfinished business. So write a letter to this woman (not to be posted!) and say everything that you need to get off your chest. You could also write one to your husband (not to be given to him) because you have not allowed yourself to be angry enough because you were trying to build bridges.
Finally, write one to yourself because you’ve probably been accusing yourself of not having 20/20 vision and heading this affair off before it started. Look back at these letters and ask yourself again: Why am obsessed with this woman? What can I learn about myself?
You might find some help in this task from Learn to Love Yourself Enough.