I don’t know if you caught what I wrote the other day.…You can read more about that here. One of the things that I mentioned in that post was that when a marriage experiences an affair it is because both parties have culpability in their marriage being in a place where one of them could have an affair.
One of the spouses.
Either of us.
Either one of us could have had an affair.
If needs aren’t being met in a marriage either one of us is capable of either intentionally or unintentionally attempting to get those needs met somewhere else.
Any one of us, given the right timing and circumstances is capable of having an affair. Anyone who says that isn’t possible is at the highest risk of having one.
Believe me, I wanted to sit with my husband through all of the conversations we had after his confession and scream, “I WOULD NEVER…” but that simply isn’t true.
And I never did that either.
In fact, one of the first things I did was confess my distress in our marriage, my failings, my thought life that had contributed to me looking at my husband as if he was less than, as if he didn’t measure up. I can’t imagine how that might impact how I actually treat him in real life. (ah..hem…).
I spent far too much time envisioning a perfect marriage based on my ill-conceived ideas of what that should look and feel like. Thank you RomCom’s and Reality TV for making me and my husband and my marriage feel underwhelming and boring on a regular basis. And thank you self for buying into the Hollywood lie.
At the end of the day…I played just as big a part in my marriage experiencing an affair as my husband did. I was resentful. I was a nag. I was distant. I was expecting things that I wasn’t communicating. I was feeling let down by unmet needs. I was focusing on myself and not doing a very good job of meeting any of my husband’s needs. I was not available to him in any way. I did not speak his love language at all. He’s a total Words of Affirmation person and you can imagine how well that works for a resentful, disappointed nag. Yeah, not well.
I had work to do to.
And part of healing from an affair is figuring that out.
It wasn’t just my husband’s responsibility to change everything he did in order for our marriage to be repaired. I had a lot of work ahead of me as well.
Believe it or not, as difficult as this concept is for those who experience an affair, it’s actually the easiest part. However, it’s also the most essential. You really can’t productively move on to the next stages of healing and change in your marriage until you grasp that you BOTH are responsible.
So, are you ready?
If your spouse had an affair, are you ready to take the spotlight off of them and their transgression for a bit and shine it on yourself?
YOU are the only person you can control anyway. Might as well shine that big ‘ol light on you.
So, how are you responsible? What are some things you can work on to improve your marriage going forward?
1) Not meeting your spouse’s needs. You have needs. Your spouse has needs. We’re all human and we’re all unique. We need to do the hard work of figuring out what speaks love, respect, security and admiration to our spouse and then be proactive and intentional about meeting those needs regularly. We don’t we drive our spouse towards someone or something that they feel can and does meet those needs.
2) Not communicating when you felt hurt or disappointed or felt your own needs going unmet. The only thing that happens when you don’t share your hurts and disappointments and your spouse doesn’t share their hurts or disappointments is a wall gets put up. The more things you refuse to communicate, the more things pile up until the wall is so big it becomes quite the impasse. Quite often those things are “little” and could easily be addressed. Why don’t we? Why do we let our disappointment come out in our tone and in our body language. It can be awkward if its not something you’re used to doing but learning how to say “When you said/did…. I felt….” Two things you can do to make this go better is 1) learn how to make “I” statements. Stop putting your spouse on the defense every time you talk to them and 2) Be conscious of when and how you approach your spouse. Timing is everything.
3) Harboring hurts and resentments for the things your spouse did to let you down. One of two things will happen if you allow bitterness to seep in and take root. You will either 1) Shut down. Stop communicating. Stop being open to giving and receiving love and affection or 2) Implode. Or explode. Either way, it will get to be so much that the simplest things will become big deals. You will be seeing red all the time and it will color every single thing your spouse does. Believe me, they aren’t forgetting to take leftovers in for lunch and then going out to eat instead to “get you.” They just forgot. But when we let those little things pile up we can’t see clearly and all of a sudden little things that we should be able to let go or just talk through become these big battles.
4) Not making yourself available. You know the old saying…Fake it till you make it? Yeah, sometimes we don’t want to be available. We’re not “feelin’ the love.” But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women (and men) say that when they allowed themselves to be available to their spouse even when they were tired, had a headache, were stressed or had too much else on their minds that they were able to get into it and enjoy themselves and in the process give their spouse something that they wanted from them. This goes for everything – not just sex. Sometimes we don’t feel like smiling. Smile anyway. It might make your innerds happy. Sometimes we don’t feel like having date night. Plan it anyway. You and your spouse need time away just the two of you.
5) Your attitude. I know I’ve said this before but during the roughest years of our marriage I was, at best, a nag. I was negative, I was controlling, I was nagging. I was like the worst version of Clint’s “mom” that I could be. I was incredibly hurt and disappointed at the way our lives were, at the way I felt treated, at the let down of my lofty expectations. But I most assuredly did not go about addressing those hurts and disappointments in the right way. All my “you want more sex? Empty the dishwasher! Foreplay starts in the kitchen!” didn’t get me anywhere. He just constantly felt like he wasn’t good enough. Along comes someone who makes him feel like he’s good enough and doesn’t nag him about all those pesky little daily things.
Did I miss anything? Each situation is unique. If you feel led, please share what you feel you contributed to your spouse’s affair. We can all learn from each other.
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