How do I help my spouse heal from what I have done to her? This is a thought that goes through my head multiple times a day and the funny thing is only one person knows that answer. That person is my spouse and only she knows her needs and they are unique to her and her situation. While there may be a lot of similarities in similar situations, everyone heals differently and needs different things.
It is funny because I have been reading a few other things lately and there seems to be a reoccurring theme. I keep reading about what the AS needs to do to help the BS heal. How the BS cannot get what they need from the AS in order to heal. In all the articles I read they were missing a few very important things (at least from my view point). Before I begin I would like to say that I am not speaking for anyone but myself. I can only share the things I have experienced and other BS and AS have shared with me. This may not be applicable in your specific situation, however, read to the end and maybe you can discover how to know what is needed in your situation. I may be completely out in left field in which case just pretend this is a work of bad fiction.
As I have been reading there were a number of articles discussing the lack of empathy and remorse shown by the AS and that the BS needs. Now, I am pretty sure that I am not lacking in this area as my wife has told me to stop being sorry a number of times, but this is a very difficult situation for the AS. I firmly believe they do need to show remorse for their actions and help the BS through the range of emotions the BS will feel. However, in order to be strong enough for the BS we often have to shut ourselves down. We have to numb ourselves of everything around us to focus on one thing and it may not even be the right thing. We as the AS’s have a healing process of our own but it is extremely difficult to find time to do it. We know what we have done is wrong. We know how much we have hurt the people we vowed never to hurt. We shattered the trust we had between each other and it will never be at the level it once was. In reality we lost many of the same things that the BS lost, however, we also have to live knowing that we are the ones responsible for all of this destruction.
I don’t write this to excuse the behavior of the AS and their lack of remorse. I write this to let the BS’s that are looking for answers know that we have a juggling act between our healing and theirs and the relationships and if we struggled expressing ourselves before this all happened it can really only compound the problem going forward. In order to show remorse we have to find a way to express our emotions, to be able to show the BS that we are truly sorry, but this may be extremely difficult for some AS’s. To open up one set of emotions could cause a windfall of others. We usually know that the BS is not ready for the full gamete of our emotions and issues that we have to work through. We are not even ready for them, so we shut them away. The BS’s have their own emotions and issues to deal with so they don’t need ours, they need our heal dealing with theirs. Our response to this need by the BS and the inability to deal adequately with our own issues is often just to bottle everything up, keep it locked away, be robotic.
If you are familiar with my story you may be surprised to know that I went through this period. In my situation, we had what you could call 2 D-Days. The first was marginalized and to some extent I lied to both her and myself. We began counseling and I road waves of mixed emotions. I did not know what she needed, what I needed or wanted to be honest. In the beginning she seemed to be the one making the sacrifices and trying to satisfy my every whim. This path did not last long. For me it just piled on the guilt and the shame. It sent my self-esteem as low as it could go, if there is even any left. When I finally figured it all out and had D-Day 2 and some major events, all I knew in the end was that I could not do much other than show her how much I regretted what I did. Remorse seemed to be one of the few emotions I was able to let loose without opening the flood gates. I have shown her in every way possible how sorry I am and I know she understands it. It doesn’t make the hurt go away, nothing can, but it makes it easier for both of us to cope with it because we know we are in it together.
Even after I figured out that I needed to show how remorseful I was, I still had to juggle her needs and her healing with me being able to deal with what is going on inside myself. I am not a good model as I just shut myself away and I am still in that place. I am closed off from most everything. It is so difficult to step up and accept responsibility for my actions and then have the constant reminders of my failures masked in the face of the person I care about the most. I know she has her own triggers and things she now gets to be reminded of what was done, which is another reason I have to push my feelings aside to help.
We, as AS’s, have to be able to look at the BS in the face and show them that we still love them, we are happy to be with them, we are grateful to be able to stay with them and grateful that they chose us a second time. All the while tearing yourself apart on the inside for the guilt of the decisions we made. I have not asked for forgiveness, nor will I. It is hers to give and I cannot see a way to ever forgive myself, although people keep telling me it is possible. Then there is the shame that is associated with all of this. It is not a one sided coin. The BS often has shame because they feel like they failed as a spouse. They don’t want others to look at them like a failure, either because the affair happened or because the BS decided to keep the AS. We, as the AS’s, have the shame of betraying our wives. We will forever be known as a cheating spouse. We will have that scarlet letter attached to us letting everyone know we took someone’s heart, promised them the world, told them it was going to be forever and then threw it away like it did not matter. It is not the red badge of courage, which is given to the BS for surviving, no we get a giant letter A tattooed across our foreheads announcing our role as an adulterer.
This is often what we think, well at least I do. We know we need to put the BS first. We know we need to help the BS heal. We know that we need to show remorse. We know we are broken as the BS, more so in some ways. This is not said with the intent of marginalizing the extent the BS is broken, we both are shattered in so many different pieces. We know that our relationship will be forever changed. These are all things that are easily known. What we do not know is what our specific BS needs to heal. We do not know how she wants us to show remorse. We do not know how we will ever put the pieces back together. We don’t know what our relationship is going to become. All this is overwhelming and during some points makes us feel hopeless, I am sure the BS feels this way as well.
So how can we ever mend as AS? Great question….Let me know when you figure it out. What I do know is that communication is your best friend in the process of helping the BS heal and your relationship. The BS has to be able to share their feelings. They have to be able to yell at you, vent, scream, cry, and you have to listen and in the end hold them. Help them calm down and reassure them, not with false hope that everything is going to be alright because it is not going to be. No reassure them that you know it is hard, let them know how sorry you are, let them know how much you truly love them, let them know that you will be there to help them through it all. But I cannot stress enough not to give them false hope. If you are not sorry, do not tell the BS that you are, they have already had enough of our lies. At the heart of communication is being able to listen to the BS and be honest. This gives you the best chance to help them and your relationship.
Remember that no one is perfect (I know there are a few of you that are probably laughing that I even wrote that) and neither is the BS. Your relationship had issues before or the affair would not have happened. Communicate and be honest about those problems. This is very difficult and better done with the help of a counselor. They are supposed to help you express your feelings in a productive nonthreatening way.
We are all people. We all have made mistakes. We all have thoughts, wishes and desires. We want to be happy. Talk and listen to each other about all of these things. I know in my situation I have put her healing above everything else, then our relationship, and hopefully I will find time for me later – but I do know that things are getting better mostly because we talk almost every day. Not about the day-to-day stuff, no we talk about the things that really matter. We talk about us. I do not presume to have the answer, in fact I doubt I have one good answer but I know what we are doing is helping. How do I know? She is laughing again and that is music to my ears.