- The Affair: How Does One Eliminate the Temptation?
- What if the Affair Starts Again?
- Is Saving My Marriage Even Possible?
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It has been 20 months since Bomb Drop. We are in Reconnection and reconciling. My MLCer is a typical Clinging Boomerang—he’s moved home and left a few times. He tried to keep up contact with the alienator, but she refused. He now seems to be in withdrawal from her. How long does this last and will the addiction and fantasy fade with time? He refuses to talk about the affair. What if she had not refused his calls or what if she changes her mind and contacts him? How should I handle that? Will he ever talk about the affair or should I just let that go?
First, you should be in marriage counseling together. Your husband may feel ashamed and embarrassed or he may not want to talk about things because he is afraid of upsetting you more; this sort of fear leads to trickles of truth. I think you need to accept that this is difficult for him and so he is probably going to resist. But that does not mean you should forget about it and let him never mention the affair as though it is something that didn’t happen. A counselor can be a neutral and safe mediator for these discussions. Different methods work with different couples, consider starting by only having discussions about the affair with the counselor and later when you progress to talks without the counselor start with predetermined times for each talk with a limited time.
If your husband refuses to go to counseling with you it is sign that he may not be ready for reconciliation and this return may be premature. If he is still in withdrawal from the alienator he may not have the capacity to commit to recovery in counseling and so even if he goes he may be passive and noncompliant or he may be resistant. If he just arrived home, set-up counseling as though it is a requirement, but do not state it is a requirement and do not be overly insistent if he adamantly refuses. Eventually you need to make this a requirement, but it may not be one of those things he will give in to yet. Go without him and tell him that he is welcome to go with you. If he has already been home for several months, transition to being more insistent. You may want to set a timeline to when he is required to go with you, but if you do this there must be consequences you are willing to meet if he fails—such as he must leave until he chooses to attend counseling to work on your marriage. Or you could compromise regarding the sort of counseling. Maybe he would prefer a pastor, or a program such as Retrouvaille or some other marriage encounter series. A weekend marriage retreat may be beneficial, but it will need to involve follow-ups.
Withdrawal from an affair partner is the worst for the first 4 – 6 weeks. But if there is contact in that period or even a few months afterwards—suppose the alienator sends an email or letter—this could bring on a regression in his progress. That does not mean he will be through the addiction and withdrawal in that time, but that may be the worst. Counseling will help through the withdrawal. Consider using your initial sessions of counseling as for his withdrawal and not yet working on your marriage. He needs to do this is steps and he may not be able to do both at the same time. The fantasy will fade with time, but it may take longer to fade if it did not fade through experience. I could be wrong about that as each situation is different.
What if he Contacts Her?
There are two general outcomes to this.
- She refuses the contact by not answering or by telling him to get lost.
- She accepts contact and they resume their affair immediately or this leads to it resuming eventually.
I’ve been through both, though I did not know that I had been through the first. Chuck did call the alienator one more time and her refusal to engage positively gave him the closure he needed. Sometimes the betraying spouse will not work through and eliminate temptation on their own.
The second may be more challenging for you because it means you need to take some sort of action which means you will need to either follow-through on a pre-made decision or decide and act with little gap between the decision and action.
How should you handle it if he contacts her and she accepts his contact?
Yes, I know that is harsh. This needs to be a boundary you discuss and set up in counseling and maybe your counselor will have other ideas Your husband needs to know the consequences of contact and that you will act swiftly and that kicking him out does not mean you are ending your Stand—unless that is what it means for you.
This was what I did with Chuck. There is no room in our marriage for an affair and if he chose to continue that affair—and I found out—he knew he was not welcome in our home and in my life until he ended his relationship with her. That until is key. He knew he had a way out, but my kicking him out sent the message that my threat was real. In our situation I did not find out he had resumed the affair about a year and so it had been going on for the entire time (or almost the entire time) he had been home. But once I found out, I packed his bags.
Set boundaries are not negotiable—no discussion. Your husband needs to know the rules and what will happen if he breaks them. But do not expect him to apply the boundaries; he will resist and you need to be firm. That means no asking him to leave; asking implies he has a choice in the matter. Resuming the affair was his choice and that choice leads to application of the consequence.
Let him know that he may contact you when he chooses to be an appropriate husband and work with you toward marital recovery.