How I did, and didn’t, deal with my ex’s affair

The discovery of my ex wife’s affair wouldn’t have made for juicy  Lifetime television. I never walked in to find the lovers in a pornographic embrace, this happened way before I could have hacked into her Facebook account, and sexting had not yet made it to prominence. It never manifest through a counseling epiphany nor was it part of some compulsory soul cleansing. In truth I was completely oblivious to it all. Even through the separation I viewed their entire relationship as nothing more than friends and close work acquaintances.

To this day my naivety, and denial, remain staggering.

When it finally sank in that their ‘friendship’ involved a bit more than simply work outs and lunches together our divorce was already finalized. This reality was eventually driven home one Friday afternoon as I picked the kids for weekend visitation. Noticing a strange car, convertible Corvette ironically, in the driveway I pulled up and was cordially introduced to the individual who had been a frequent topic of our conversations for year’s prior. Using only his first name “you know …”, he already seemed suspiciously comfortable in his new role. He and I maintained minimal eye contact, exchanged few words, and didn’t shake hands; the tension between us was unmistakable with far more of it being his making than my own. As I drove home I can still remember my amazement at her nonchalant attitude during the entire scene – as if I should have expected it.

The coming-to-terms with being deceived and traded in for someone new didn’t have the spirit crushing impact one might think. At this point the worse was already behind me and a therapist was managing my emotional chaos quite well, not to mention the 25 mg of Lexapro I was downing every morning followed by cocktails most nights. Interestingly the feelings I did harbor were less about betrayal or treachery and more anger and resentment. As the months and years carried on I just couldn’t move past the outrage at how she had traded-in everything and turned our children’s worlds upside down  – for that.  In my mind she carried the full weight of this new family dynamic. It was her fault we all had to downgrade our lives, that I was reduced to a father with visitation rights only, and my kids would, for their entire childhood, suffer a ping-pong existence – all so she could have a new plaything.

My indignation knew no bounds. Given the opportunity I would pour out my wrath on her with extreme prejudice. I was shockingly rude, flagrantly unsympathetic, and unabashedly condescending. I would randomly delay child support and alimony, routinely fail to answer calls or return messages entirely, and send scathing emails concerning any number of, what I considered, co-parenting fouls. And if we were in the same room together my patronization was borderline appalling. Given the slightest nudge I could easily become the Mr. Hyde that keeps divorce attorneys in business and single mom bloggers with material.

•♦•

Time and age are most effective healers. As the years carried on my bitterness subsided and the more introspection I performed the more I began seeing the forest instead of just the trees. The moment I started looking outside my personal univerise is when it dawned on me that in my search for scapegoats and suspects to satisfy my wounded ego the one place I failed to look was my own mirror.  Cheating, affairs, liaisons – even flirting –  outside of a marriage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Meaning there are behaviors and actions taking place inside the relationship which cause reactions outside the relationship. For example, the most common reason men give for cheating isn’t lack of sex or the wrinkles on her face, it’s that he feels unappreciated, unacknowledged, and disrespected. Routinely what ends in a sexual affair starts innocently with a friend, coworker, or customer showering him with the compliments and recognition he needs but isn’t getting at home.

Looking at my former marriage and its demise through this different point of view I finally came to understand, and even appreciate, that day in counseling when she emphatically stated she wouldn’t end their friendship because he “gives me what I need”.  Only by looking beyond my pride and pity was I suddenly able to see the vital part I played in the affair. I could now observe, with perfect clarity, how my actions and behaviors not only kept their relationship aflame but was the fuel that caused it to grow. Like a door suddenly swung open my animosity and outrage finally had a chance to breath, and in so doing change was able to occur.

•♦•

I’ve sat in numerous divorced men’s groups and listened as others ferociously condemned ex-wives for rejecting the sanctity of their marriage all the while implying their spousal perfection. When asked if there is anything they could have done which may have driven her into another man’s arms they respond with embarrassed indignation.

I don’t know when, or if, I’ll completely snuff out my resentment; that which was taken from my kids and I, never to be reclaimed, is a persistent and powerful thorn. And while I’m not the spiteful prick I used to be I continue to treat the relationship as a strictly sterile business and have no intention of doing otherwise. For me, this way just works better. Nor have I become any more sympathetic to the adulterer, and the outcome that ultimately befalls them. But through my discovery I’ve learned that in any affair – everyone involved is the victim and the culprit. And when fingers start looking for someone to point blame, it’s usually a good idea to begin with the one doing the pointing.

Blogger note: this post also appeared in the Huffington Post.

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24 responses to How I did, and didn’t, deal with my ex’s affair

  1. This is a great thought provoking post, Kyle. I’ve known I got my fair share of mistakes in the marriage that caused my ex to look for ‘fulfillment’ somewhere else outside the sanctity of marriage but yes, the first reactions were out of rage. I wasn’t giving him what he needed and I had come to terms with that but yes the infidelity, the lies…that’s what hurts the most.
    Can I ask if you believe in sexual addictions? That there are men out there – who can truly love their wives but can’t resist the wild urge inside them to have sex with random different women?
    I asked because I saw some tendencies towards that in my ex although I will never get the final truth but some of the signs were there.

  2. What you openly just wrote Kyle can and will do a LOT of good for a LOT of men (and women). I completely understand the resentment you felt and the behavior you displayed. But, I more respect you’re dealing with it and mostly moving on. You would NOT be human if some of those feelings didn’t linger!

    My ex confessed a business-trip affair to me in the early weeks/months of our separation. I was surprised but not the least bit upset. Frankly, I naively hoped she’d carry some guilt into the divorce process and maybe not make it the HELLISH affair it became.

    I had NO LOVE for my ex during the last years of our marriage. So, her going “outside” for some affirmation thankfully didn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I often thought how hard it would be – in ANY divorce – if one of you really felt betrayed or still in love. Neither my ex or I cared much for each other so that hurt just wasn’t part of the equation.

    Anyway, she’s now gone and hasn’t been a part of our boys’ lives for YEARS…another sad story, but that too has ultimately make life easier for me and the boys!

  3. Papa – Author

    Maureen, I absolutely believe in sexual addictions. Often it’s the married man who is most susceptible to such habits. I speak often of the power that pornography has towards influencing this type of behavior.

    Show me a man with a sexual dependency and I will show you one who is addicted to porn as well.

    But I would argue a man can’t truly love his wife and have this habit simultaneously. Because the one thing I know for certain is that even if they are addicted they know it’s wrong and their shame is overwhelming them. I say they can’t truly love because they refuse to get help, primarily because of embarrassment. To disagree with this point would label love as purely involuntarily, which we know isn’t the case, or we wouldn’t call relationships ‘hard work”.

  4. Papa – Author

    Thanks man. I want to let you know that I will be in NYC at the end of the month for a divorce expo I’m speaking at. While the chances are probably nill I would be remise not to let you know.

    Thanks as always

  5. Excellent post, Kyle! This is such an important relationship topic… you conquered it with just the right mix of raw emotional honesty and factual pragmatism.

    For the past few hours, my word wheels have been churning my own personal spinoff. You’re so inspiring 🙂

  6. Do you need an armed escort?…I am for hire and I work for beer.
    Is the Expo at the Javits center?

    Just let me, would love to come see ya speak and maybe have a few beers. I know a good gin joints in the big city.

    email me.

  7. Oh my ex had a pornography addiction too although he tried to hide it from me but I caught him several nights watching it on the computer when I was sleeping.

    One of my friend – who is still married, her husband is a repeated cheaters and I really think he have sex addiction because it would be really random women that he sleep around with. He showered her with so much love – maybe out of remorse? And begged her to stay but still he keeps on his screwing around. Really sad.

    Great discussion here Kyle! 🙂

  8. This piece really hit close to home for me. I spent a lot of time putting the blame completely on my ex husband for cheating. Inside I knew that, while the final decision to cheat was his, I played a role in my marriage and was not completely without blame in the grand scheme of things.

    I was wrapped up in my own depression for what I didn’t feel he was giving me, wrapped up in my kids, wrapped up in my family… and probably lost track of my marriage. There will always be things I wish he would do different as a parent to our children, and I’m sure he feels the same about me. Aside from that, after 12 years (6 peaceful ones), we’ve managed to form an odd friendship. Though neither of us wishes to be back together… we often exchange a look of apology. It’s silent, there are conditions, but it’s there.

  9. I’m afraid he has more serious issues that just the cheating and sleeping around. He has unspeakable character issues. I hope she takes care.

  10. Whoa. Wow. Wow. Wow. This is the first time I’ve read something so honest, expressing vulnerability and admission that there were failings on both sides — and the fact that this post is penned by you, Chopper Papa, a male and not the usual and customary female who’s been “wronged” speaks volumes in a positive way — helping men…and women. “Moving on” is not easy, and all the deeds done in spite are knee-jerk human nature “you hurt me, I hurt you” reactions. It happens. Time, age and maturity in some sense does heal wounds but the journey to get there is no picnic. Just hang in there and love those kids of yours to death! This isn’t easy for them too.

  11. Honestly … I wonder if having an affair seems, at the time, easier than confronting the issues in your marriage. Sadly, though it can compound those issues and then make the hurt of ending the marriage exponentially worse.

    I’d say good luck at the expo but I don’t think you need any luck …

  12. Papa – Author

    Mandy, thanks for the words. But I’ll always take the luck 🙂

  13. Charismaga

    Thank you so much for this raw and honest post. I can relate to it more than you know. A year after our separation, I put all of the blame on my cheating ex. Now two years after the fact, I see more of the truth. I never should have been with my ex to begin with. He never treated me well. I also became emotionally co-dependent on him due to a variety of things. Did I ever do anything “wrong” in our relationship? No. He was the one that committed adultery and became abusive and made it so our relationship was irreparable. But are there things that I did and will never do again? Definitely.

  14. Carol

    On so many different levels, I find the mindset that infidelity is caused by what is lacking in a relationship so terribly troubling.

    I am a survivor of my now ex-husband’s chronic infidelity. And I know, emphatically, that I did nothing to cause the poor choices he made. He alone is responsible for betraying our vows.

    Plenty of people have cheated on loving, devoted, decent partners. That is not to say that said partners are perfect. But, plenty of perfectly good partners have discovered that they have been betrayed. It is unbelievable that while dealing with the shock of that betrayal, they have to be further traumatized by bullsh*t like, “…behaviors and actions inside the relationship cause reactions that eventually manifest outside.”

    Some people are sex addicts. They cheat. How is that a situation that is created within the context of the marital relationship? Some people are love addicts and need a constant supply (like a drug) of adoration that goes beyond what any reasonable person would expect from another reasonable person. Some people were raised in such dysfunctional environments that they have poor boundaries, and so they are unable to respect the vows they made. How are the spouses of such people contributing to their own betrayal? Really, the insinuation that they are is as insulting as it is traumatizing for those of us who discovered we are being betrayed by partners we loved and cherished.

    The author says that the most common reason men give for cheating is that they felt unappreciated, unacknowledged, and disrespected. I’ve heard this before, and I don’t doubt that it is the most common reason GIVEN. That doesn’t mean it truly IS the most common reason. It’s just what men who cheated offer up as an explanation. And let’s not forget that the men giving this excuse are liars. They betrayed their vow and they lied like their lives depended on it while they were doing it. They often have wives who were devoted to them and who were utterly and completely blindsided by the betrayal (because you can bet these men NEVER ONCE shared any hint of the so-called discontent they now blame on their wives) and who go on to become downright traumatized by the whole sorted mess.

    Yes, the cheater says that it was his wife not showing appreciation that drove him into the arms of another woman. It sounds good and it makes him feel better. And legions of people WANT to believe it. Because we don’t like to believe that bad things happen to good people. Your neighbor, your friend, the blogger who writes about infidelity, they all need to believe that the cheater only cheated because they weren’t getting what they needed at home, because there’s safety in that explanation. It makes infidelity something that folks think they can control. This is how it works –> “She wasn’t giving him what he needed and that’s why he cheated. I always give my husband what he needs, so he won’t cheat on me.” The problem is, it isn’t true. Lots of cheaters have good marriages to loving spouses. They are just loathe to admit it.

    And really, why do we think that what a cheater “needed” is something they that truly did need, and/or that their spouse was responsible for providing? Sometimes people are immature, messed up, suffering from low self esteem and in need of psychiatric analysis, but they turn to drugs, gambling, and HANG ON, sex outside of their primary relationship as a way to appease the beasts within.
    How is the fault of their spouse that they used sex and the thrill of an illicit relationship to serve as a drug? When a person is susceptible to infidelity, there’s a really good chance that their spouse doesn’t stand a chance in preventing it. Cheaters will cheat, because NO ONE IS MAKING THEM DO IT.

    The bottom line is, cheaters cheat because they are not able to deal with life on life’s terms. If, per chance, they find something lacking in their primary relationship, they should deal with it. Cheating isn’t dealing with it. No marriage is perfect, and no partner is going to be perfect. No one ever promised to be perfect. That doesn’t give anyone the right or a free pass to betray their partner. They make that choice on their own, because they are broken in some way.

    Bottom line, I call BS on the whole “I wasn’t getting what I needed at home” stuff. I can hear my own ex-husband spewing that BS around, pointing the finger at me for his relationships with the wives of other men. The truth of the matter is, I adored him and it showed. He acted as though he adored me, even as he was getting it on with the wives of other men. He proclaimed to be above such stuff, he found it disgusting. He was constantly telling me how proud he was of me, writing me love notes, etc. etc. ad nauseam. But, in a split second, when he was busted, SUDDENLY, he wasn’t getting what he had needed at home. To some degree that is true. He had some sort of need that I can’t even comprehend, a bottomless pit inside of him that needed to be filled, a black hole that no loving wife alone could fill. Yes, he might not have been getting what he needed at home. But, I was no more responsible for providing it than the man in the moon was. I was only responsible for loving him unconditionally, and I sure did that.

    People such as myself, who experience the kind of betrayal situation I did, end up with raging cases of PTSD. Then, we have to read BS like this and we are further traumatized.

    The blogger really should be ashamed of himself. You might have run your wife into the arms of another woman, and I respect your right to admit to that, but you DO NOT know what happened in other marriages, and you cannot know that the explanations that cheaters and liars give for their cheating and lying are actually true. Common sense would make them suspect.

    I’ve always wondered this…If a person willingly accepts a job at a certain pay and then they go on to embezzle huge sums of money from their employer, would we ask the employer to accept the blame for that embezzlement because the employee states that they didn’t feel they were being paid enough?

    Why is it ok to blame the victims when the subject is infidelity?

  15. Papa – Author

    Carol, allow me to introduce myself, I’m the blogger, you can call me Kyle.

    Now that we have the incidentals out of the way, while I doubt this post was traumatizing, if it did get you thinking then I’m happy about that.

    You see I’m not someone who puts blame for everything on everyone else’s shoulders. I always find it interesting when people say that relationships are two way streets….but then when one hits a roadblock suddenly it becomes one way.

    We will have to agree to disagree on my position. And since you did a stellar job of raking me over the coals, which by the way I thoroughly enjoyed and I’m being sincere I so love healthy debate, I’m going to turn the tables back on you.

    You made the statement you are the survivor of “chronic infidelity”, I take that to mean that you either forgave him more than once or you found out about all of these events after the fact. If either is true then part of that is on you.

    First, if you took him back after multiple affairs then you have to consider the part you played in ‘allowing’ that behavior to continue. If you discovered these affairs after the divorce then you, very much like me, were so out of touch within your relationship that he could get away with it without you noticing.

    Now, lets make sure that we don’t mistaken ‘justification’ for her behavior with ‘contribution’ to it. There is a very distinct difference.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope that I haven’t upset you too much and you’ll stop back by again. 🙂

  16. Carol

    No, I did not forgive him more than once and I did not find out about the cheating after the marriage ended.

    I forgave him an affair that happened roughly two years into our marriage. In the years that followed, he presented himself as truly remorseful for what he did. It took me close to a decade to fully forgive him. He gave me no reason to believe that he was anything but determined to honor his vows.

    Shortly after our 20th anniversary, I developed a gut feeling that something was not quite right. And I continued to therapeutically bring my discomfort to his attention until he finally admitted to another affair.

    I take issue with the opinion that I surely must have been so out of touch with our relationship that I “allowed” infidelity by creating or allowing an environment where he could get away with it without my noticing. I think the fact that I knew he was having another affair, even though I had absolutely no tangible proof, demonstrates that I was very in touch with him and our relationship.

    I also don’t think that I should feel that I contributed to the situation by choosing to forgive him the earlier instance of infidelity. I feel that my willingness to forgive him and to do the incredibly hard work I had to do, was a good and loving thing to do. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance if they are truly sorry for blowing a first one, and he certainly made it seem as though he was. He could have done what he said he was doing, which was recommitting to our marriage.

    I forgave him once, but not the second time. I was not williing to “allow” him to cheat. I was in touch with our relationship, and with him, as evidenced by my gut feeling that something was wrong, even as he swore everything was peachy and he loved me oh so much.

    The fact is, people cheat on loving and devoted spouses. Some of those loving and devoted spouses are not “allowing” a culture where the cheating is tolerated. We don’t ignore the signs, forgive when it isn’t warranted, or otherwise contribute to the inability of our partner to keep up their end of the bargains we’ve made.

    I made no contribution towards his behavior. I deserved so much better and he knew it. It was never about me, not one single bit. I’ve made it my mission in life to stand up for the people, like myself, who are secondarily traumatized by the common misconception that the marital relationship is at the root of infidelity. People who cheat are broken and that’s why they cheat. They blame the marriage because they are broken and they can’t take responsibility for THEIR issues, the ones that make them susceptible to cheating. And our society encourages and supports them in blaming the marriage, as opposed to calling BS and telling them that they need to fix themselves and repair the damage they have caused to their marriage, their partners and to their children.

  17. Sunrize

    Thank you for this post. It was absolutely the most difficult obstacle for me to over come… my part in the affair. At first I did not want to think anything *I* did was a contribution to his actions. His excuses seemed so generic. Now just a few short years past the initial realization of what was happening I can see how I actually contributed to it all. Years of his betrayal and years of my forgiveness. I did not demand better treatment. Each time he would “cheat” I would forgive and believed that he would never leave. When he did (with my best friend) I was shocked. I almost have to laugh at myself. Thank you for your honest posts and for being willing to share your experience.

  18. Papa – Author

    Sunrize, I appreciate your comments and your kind words. Our actions, what we did and as in your case didn’t do, always plays a part. Believing anything less is pure denial. What the majority of people seem to focus on is the action alone. Admitting we had a part to play doesn’t condone the action any more than admitting anger justifies murder. Hopefully your realization will allow you to move on.

    PS. I did receive your email and am putting together my reply.

  19. bob

    I’m calling bull on this one.

    If a person isn’t getting what they want in their relationship then they have an obligation to the person they committed their life to, particularly if there are children, to communicate their needs and what they’re missing.

    Yes, two people are in the marriage but usually only one chooses to cheat. If the cheater had started putting the effort s/he put into the affair back into the marriage then things would more than likely turn out differently.

    It’s pure selfishness to cheat and it says that only the cheater’s needs are important. In my marriage we had moved four times in five years, to different countries, my husband worked all the time and my kids really suffered from the upheaval. I was focused on keeping them together and fell into a depression myself. Did my husband, as my life partner, notice? No, he was too busy chasing young women at the office. This, after I spent my life helping him build his career and took care of everything.

    The end result? I found out about an affair with a young woman at his office and that led to me finding out about loads more cheating.

    I divorced him and he still blames me for not being ‘enough’.

    You are WAY off base with taking the blame. Your wife cheated instead of prioritizing her family. She’s selfish and most likely she or her new partner will cheat at some point.

  20. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Bob,

    Thanks for the reply. Your response has been typical. This also posted on Huffington Post and the feedback was along the lines as you are giving.

    I think there’s confusion here probably based upon my writing. This isn’t an overlooking of her affair, that decision is here fully with no responsibility on my part.

    However, I would be kidding myself if I didn’t think that something I did, or didn’t do, in the marriage led, in part, to her having an affair with the Trainer. Thinking anything other than that is simply denial.

    Was she selfish? Yes. Was she right? No.

    But that isn’t the point. For me to move on from the affair and move beyond my emotional state I had to realize that this situation wasn’t simply one sided. And it worked for me.

  21. Jordan

    Just found this blog Kyle. By way of the batshit One Moms battle blog.
    Since my ex is posting lies on Tina’s blog and Tina won’t post the VERY concise truth I’ve written. Because I’m certain she has a “all men are narc’s or sociopath’s” mentality.
    I too am thinking that maybe a blog is the way to get MY message out. And believe me, it will be almost unbelievable. The total damage I endured in a 20yr marriage, will shake your sanity. As it did mine.

  22. sharan

    Kyle what a compelling read, I just found out my wifes infedility in the same scenario on sat night..the dreaded BB chat.. THe funny thing is all the blame was put onto me and to be honest I have looked back over the past few months on texts I sent to her while she worked at the olympics were pretty nasty and rude.. I stopped noticing my wifes basic need which was emotional and loads of cuddles and reasurrance. I failed in this repect…I have paid the consequence with my actions but does the punishmentfit the pain? THe life has been ripped out of me

  23. Wow… Yeah. “For That?!”

    I studied the word “forgiveness” for a long time. One of the interesting things I learned was that it isn’t about them, it’s about you, BUT it isn’t about you, it’s about them. Say someone wrongs you and then dies. You carry that wrong and in order to drop it, you have to forgive. It’s about you.

    But, among the living, you can’t offer forgiveness to prove you’re a better person. You can’t be high and mighty AND forgiving. (Unless you’re God)

    Why all this forgiveness talk? I think the tragedy is that in many cases, the wronged person knows and realizes their contribution even before the fact. The affair is just a culmination. Both have wronged, more often than not the person in the affair isn’t willing to walk back.

    There’s a whole man affair, woman affair that Angie Uncovered let me in on as to when they happen and the state of “over” they are in….those are words for another day.

    Great stuff. I’m reading faster than you probably write, so I will have to limit myself.

    WG

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