I know that so many people will just slap your hand, when they learn you are having an affair, and say,
“It’s bad. Don’t do it.”
But there’s just not a whole lot of help in that, is there? Because the need and the desire for the affair will trump well-meaning advice and platitudes every time.
What no one does is look deeply into the reason people have affairs in the first place.
That’s too bad, because everything you can’t see in the beginning will hurt you the most in the end.
What Nobody Sees At The Beginning Of The Affair
1. What the situation appears to be on the surface is almost never the truth, once all the facts are known.
I’m not talking about the platitudes people will give you: “Of course he’s still having sex with his wife!” “If she’ll lie to her husband, she’ll lie to you!”
What I’m talking about goes far deeper than that, and it looks something like the following.
When I embarked upon my emotional affair with a married man, this is what it looked like:
An intelligent, sweet, handsome, rich guy with a beautiful mind, who provided handsomely for his family, suffered in a marriage to a woman who appeared to have guided him into a lucrative career so she could stay home, raise kids, and coast along without offering him any of the closeness he should have been able to expect in a marriage.
It certainly did look as if she didn’t love him and, quite possibly, was using him.
Oh, and don’t let me forget — ! I looked like the person who had worked hard in her life to be able to offer the relationship she didn’t or wouldn’t. So, I’d be the answer to his loneliness, and he could leave that mean old wife for someone who really appreciated him and knew how to treat him.
And in return for that, I, as a person from a legion of family problems who had always struggled in the working world and financially, could actually have a real helpmate in life … finally. And the sort of “normal” life I’d had my nose pressed against the glass watching other people get for forty-six years.
But, as the situation evolved and I learned more, here was what actually existed:
An adult child of an alcoholic grew up with hideously low self-worth. After a series of tragedies involving the deaths of people close to him at a sadly young age, he thought of himself as being unlovable and almost cursed.
Then along came someone who was emotionally hazed in a childhood home that had a lot of problems of its own. This person had been bullied and ignored in childhood so much that she really had lost touch with her own feelings. She also had a yen to control everything around her to try to achieve that comforting, stable home she needed as that sensitive little girl, but didn’t get.
Because he felt unlovable and unworthy, he bent over backwards to please her. Because he’d been treated so poorly in an alcoholic home and empathized so deeply with suffering, he put himself in the place of everyone around him, especially if they were upset, and forgot about himself. Other people always came first. This sat well with the wife, who needed to control, and in the first flush of romance, everything looked fine.
Fast-forward thirty-five years, and what you had was two emotionally constipated people living together, one of whom ruled with an iron fist and felt no need for closeness, and the other of whom thought all relationships were like this, and that, because the one person he’d ever had a relationship with didn’t appear to love him, that meant something was wrong with him, and that proved he really was unlovable.
Add in me, raised by a borderline mother to believe she was unlovable and not good enough to succeed in the world and support herself. I thought, way deep down, that since I couldn’t “save” my mentally ill mother, I’d save someone else instead and that would “prove” I was good enough. In addition, I’d have someone competent to help take care of me since I wasn’t good enough on my own.
Wow, there’s a big difference between those two pictures, isn’t there??
The trouble with affairs is that there is almost always something like these dual processes going on when they get started … and only time will make it clear what the misconceptions we had were, and what the truth really is.
By the time we begin to suspect that truth, we’re already embroiled in a situation where the parties have deep feelings for one another, and a separation will be wrenching. Our initial take on the situation led us to expect one thing … and now it’s much more complicated.
We got together on a wrong assumption, and now there will be hell to pay.