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How to Let go of the Painful Memories Related to Cheating  E-mail

 

Dear Maria,

I came across your website by simply googling "how to get over cheating" and I started reading... I think I'm in phase three, I feel lonely with my feelings of anxiety and doubts, pain and anguish.

I met my husband 6 years ago, he pursued me but I wasn't very interested at first, but he was so charming and attentive, I ended up falling for him. We moved in together pretty quickly, mostly because he needed a place to stay, but after a year (of a rocky relationship I must say, which at the time I put on the account of immaturity as he would leave me at home alone crying while he would go out with the boys...) I found out that he had brought some girl to our home while I was out of town visiting family. I was devastated and after confronting him, he started crying and saying "I hate my mom." I knew that their relationship wasn't the best but could not understand what that meant. Later I found out that it was because she used to tell him he was the biggest mistake of her life because she had him so young, what does it have to do with cheating...?

I kicked him out after a few days because although I considered giving him a second chance, he was still partying and not caring about my tears. That night he punched the window and broke it because I wouldn't let him in.

Fast forward a few months during which he'd call me occasionally, then more and more often. One day he called because he had no place to go due to a bad roommate situation, so I let him stay on my couch for a few days. He moved in with his dad in a different county and called me all the time just to talk. Until one day after a few more months he asked me to come see him for the weekend, which I did. We re-kindled our relationship, or so I thought and he rode back with me to our hometown after a wonderful weekend. He stayed at at a friend's home and I soon found out that he was seeing this girl he met through that friend, while still calling me and telling me he loved me. I exploded, went to the friend's home and threw cut-up pictures of us at him and told him to leave me alone. His last words to me were that he truly did love me.
A couple months later, I ended up moving away because I had just graduated college and wanted to start over fresh, I decided to meet up with him to say goodbye and wish him well. He broke down crying, which confused me immensely.

Although my new place was hours away, it was not even a full week before he showed up at the train station for the weekend. For six months he came to see me almost every weekend. I really felt like he had realized that he might lose me for good otherwise because of the distance. After getting laid off, he moved in permanently with me and life was perfect, no friends to influence him and take all his attention, we were best friends, never argued. Perfect.

We eloped. We were happy, everything was in the past... Until he was rehired by his old company and had to move back to our hometown for work. So I decided to quit my job and move back with him. The first few months were fine, although his friends being back in the picture added stress on our relationship, then it escalated from bad to worse. We started planning our wedding to share with family and friends, when suddenly he had to take custody of his son (whom we barely knew, result of a one night stand before we met). I decided we'd step up and make it work but I started resenting him as I was now a full-time step mom while he started avoiding coming home and hanging out more with his friends. If I ever put my foot down so he would take care of his responsibilities, he'd end up taking his son with him wherever he went, including to drink at friends' houses until morning hours, etc. Our relationship started going down hill and his behaviors which I had experienced before became worse, more holes in the walls when I confronted him, I was pushed around, shaken, insulted, etc. But because I'm a vocal person, I would tell him everything I had to say and felt which aggravated him even more. He'd enter rages and I felt hopeless. It kept going on for months. We only saw each other at home during which time he'd watch TV and we never communicated, every time I brought up moving away so we could get back what we had he refused to discuss it, talking about having children someday was taboo, too.

We went through with the wedding (we were already married, otherwise I would have reconsidered it), and all this time I was just hopeful that things would change and we'd be happy again. He wasn't always "mean," sometimes really sweet, but always very selfish ("I love you babe, but can I change our plans to go do something with the boys?" type of things - always standing me up). For my birthday I had planned a weekend myself for us to go on a romantic weekend. He "didn't feel like it" (although it was MY birthday) and had nothing planned to make up for it.
My tears never helped anything, he never "cared" or felt compassionate that I was sad day in, day out. Sometimes he'd call me a cry baby, mock me, or simply ignore me. When I would tell him straight up what was wrong he'd get mad and act "revengeful" by doing the total opposite of what I would want him to do. Every time I'd say something he'd get irritated at me.

I just thought for all these years he was selfish but the word narcissist just started to make sense after I started reading your articles.
Then a few months ago, I found out that he cheated on me, with his friend's girlfriend. I was appalled. I found out through his friend who also told me about other encounters he had had. My life was flipped upside down. I had remained hopeful that things were going to get better, not worse, then it all made sense to me, the late nights, the lies, and when he'd come back he'd say he's sorry right away, but then the next weekend, the same thing would happen. I asked him a few times if he was cheating, he replied with a straight face that he wasn't, and when I would call because he wasn't coming home late at night, he'd hang up on me or tell me he wasn't doing anything wrong so to leave him alone. I honestly didn't think he was cheating.

I cried myself to sleep for weeks while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I loved him so much. He wrote me a letter saying that he'd spend the rest of his life making it up to me. He never went out anymore. Would come hug me as I cried. He even agreed (reluctantly) to go to a therapist with me, the Dr. said that my husband had some unresolved issues (mother) and that I lived in a fantasy world (I want my life to be perfect and traditional).

Then it came to me, as I've done in the past (escape), I had to get out of there. I decided to move across country to start over and I told him I was leaving with or without him. I made my plans but never thought he'd follow me there. He relinquished custody of his son (which was in best interest in my opinion), sold everything we had and said he was coming with me... across country. I told him to think about his decision because I was never going back there, that if he even did something minor, he could get a one-way ticket back, I was going to live my life, but because we were married and I had taken my vows seriously, I would give him one last chance, but on my terms. He agreed. Within a month we moved. He left behind all his friends and family. I almost felt guilty because I know how hard that was for him, but I couldn't live "his" life anymore, not after what he did to me. I did not ask him to come with me, I just did this for myself, I would have even if he had not followed me.

In our new town, we settled in quick, found a place, and we were so happy. No arguments, no rage or anger. It was like a new honeymoon phase I felt that by leaving that town I had left behind his old behaviors. He made some big changes which I knew he could do but was held back by his friends' bad influence (decided he wants to go back to school, cut down the drinking significantly, helping around the house, etc. ).

It lasted for about a month and then all the memories started coming back. They've been haunting me. I don't trust him even going to the store or checking his cellphone. I get angry at him and the next minute I'm happy because our life is so much better now. Then I get depressed and wonder how could he do that to me if he really loved me. I cry, I get anxious, and every time he gets irritated over something (whether or not related to me) I start bawling and I'm almost wondering if this new sensitivity is related to a form of PTSD. Sometimes I feel like I'm never going to forgive him. Sometime I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to start over with someone new. But then I feel bad for him (believe it of not!) after the sacrifice he made to be with me.

I do love him with all my heart, and I know he loves me too, but how can I guarantee that he won't hurt me again? I don't want to wake up 10 years from now, when we have kids, and it happens again, then I'll be mad at myself for not leaving sooner. Things have been good, except in my head. I don't want to stay stuck in this phase. I wish I could just erase the memories and make him pass a lie detector test telling me he'll never cheat again!

I'm so sorry for writing so much, I couldn't sleep and I found your website. None of my friends know about what happened. I haven't had anyone to talk to about this and my husband is not the best communicator. I saw that you take the time to respond to everyone who shares their stories and I think that's amazing. I hope you have some feedback to give me. About any part of my story. I'd love to get someone else's perspective. I want a happy ending. I hope to feel like he's my prince charming someday.

I have a couple of questions too: Can narcissists really change and how? What makes someone become a narcissist (childhood events...)? Is it treatable (like bipolar disorders, etc.)?

Thanks for reading Maria.

___________

The goal of this website is to give support to people who are feeling depressed and unhappy with their lives. I am living in Europe and English is not my native language, I wish you will excuse me if I make some grammatical errors. I decided to write in English because I wish to reach as many people as I can around the world.

____________

Maria's Reply:

How to Let go of the Painful Memories Related to Cheating


Dear Friend,

Thank you for your letter. I understand the pain you are feeling. You said you wish your husband could take a lie detection test to assure you he is never going to cheat again. Even if he would pass the test, there is no way of knowing whether he will cheat in the future. It is no longer a question of whether your husband is "cheating type" or not, we already know the answer to that question: His past behavior has proved that he is the kind of a person who is capable of cheating. Therefore the only question remaining is "will he cheat again"? He may have firmly decided never to do it again, but one day in the future he might find himself in a situation in which he simply cannot resist the temptation. It is similar situation for a person who has been smoking or using drugs: One can be without smoking or doing drugs for years, even decades, and then relapse may occur unexpectedly.

You said your husband swears he will never cheat again and that he says he is going to do his best to make you happy. I am sure your husband means what he says. Most people would not move to the other side of the country and make such big changes in their lives and their behavior unless they are serious about what they want to achieve with such measures. it is quite unlikely that your husband would do everything he has now done while simultaneously thinking "oh well, I behave well now, but if opportunity arises I will surely cheat again". On the contrary, it seems clear that your husband cares for you and wishes to remain together with you.

You said that things are going well at the moment for the two of you, but that you cannot bring yourself to trust your husband fully. You also said that the negative memories are coming back to you and are making you feel depressed. As you said yourself, you are now going through the third phase of the recovery process (to read more about the different phases of the recovery process after cheating, please see page How to Get Over Cheating on my other support website). Right now you need to be patient. I understand that the negative emotions you are currently experiencing are greatly bothering you. It will hep you to deal with those emotions when you remind yourself that they are natural part of the healing process, in same fashion as itching of the scar is natural part of the healing process of the wound. These emotions you are going through right now are a sign that your recovery process is advancing.

Unfortunately nothing in this life is certain. It will help you to deal with your negative emotions if you remind yourself on regular basis that even if your husband ends up cheating on you again, that does not mean that there is something wrong with you. Cheaters often seek fault in their partner to avoid the responsibility, but the plain fact is that cheating is solely the decision of the cheater. If one is not happy in one's marriage, the right thing to do is to is to get a divorce, not start an affair and then tell one's spouse "I did this because I was unhappy in our marriage". This kind of reasoning is escaping responsibility.

Will a cheater always cheat again?

When routines step into one's life the relationship is put to a test. Some people find it hard to deal with the fact that the excitement of the first months and years of the relationship is not going to last forever and they might become restless. Often the (seemingly) easiest way to find relief is to seek excitement elsewhere. Additionally, many people do not wish to end their long marriage before they can see whether or not the things work out with the new (secret) lover. It takes great strength of character to do the right thing and get a divorce first and only after that start to experiment on other relationships.

On the other hand, the mind of a human being works in such a way that we learn from our mistakes. This is the basis of our evolutionary success as species. Often one needs to learn things the hard way. In your situation, the key thing is whether or not your husband understands that this truly is the last chance he got and that if he cheats again, he will lose you forever. Obviously he does not wish to lose you, so if he realizes how close he was chasing you away from him for good due to his bad behavior, it is quite possible that he will be more careful in the future and will take better care of your relationship.

In the end it all comes down to this basic fact: Most people's actions are goal-oriented, even the behaviors that appear irrational at first glance. If your husband loves you and wishes to remain with you, he knows what he needs to do. It is important to understand why exactly your husband cheated on you, what was the true underlying reason for it. Only if you know the real reason, you can do something to fix the matter that drove him to betray you.

If your husband simply did not feel strong enough love for you and developed strong emotions towards another person, there is a chance that at some point in the future he will again start to lose his interest in you and ends up having an affair. Love is not something we can force, it has to come naturally. However, if your husband cheated for the sake of excitement and disruption of routines (but did not develop strong emotions towards the women with whom he cheated), then it might be possible for him to learn to deal with his "boredom" in other ways. In the end it all comes down to love. If your husband truly loves you and cares for your well-being, he will most likely not cheat on you again.

Some of the things you mentioned about your husband in your email gave an impression of a person who is unable to feel empathy. Let us next discuss this important point.

Threshold to cheating is lower for a selfish person

Let us next consider how your husband is behaving towards you in general. You said your husband does not react to your tears and can be very cold and unempathetic towards you. Inability to experience empathy is a personality trait and cannot be changed very easily. Most likely the inability to put himself into your position led your husband to cheat: He was simply thinking of himself and wanted to fullfill his own desires regardless of how that affected you.

You said you feel sorry for your husband because of the sacrifices he has made for you. There is, however, another way of looking at this matter. Again your husband is in a situation in which he wants something: In this case he wants to stay with you. In order to get what he wants, your husband needs to do some sacrifices. He is willing to do those sacrifices to achieve his goal (to remain together with you). It is quite difficult to know whether he has done his sacrifices for you or for himself (to get what he wants).

Dear Friend, you know your husband the best. The ability for empathy is the key thing in a long term relationship. You said your husband did not react to your tears and reverted to violent behavior. This is quite alarming sign. If I were you, I would observe the situation a bit longer. If you feel your husband's ability to take your feelings into account has not evolved, you need to consider if you are willing to be with a person like him on a long term basis. If your husband is unable to put himself into your position, it is easier for him to betray you again should an opportunity arise.

Is narcissism treatable?

You asked whether narcissism is treatable. Unfortunately narcissism cannot be treated in similar fashion as for example bipolar disorder and similar conditions. Narcissism is a personality trait and therefore it is quite difficult for a narcissistic person to change. It is possible that therapy will help a narcissistic person to realize the damage his or her behavior is causing to people close to him. Via this understanding, at list some level of improvement might be possible. The key thing is whether a narcissistic person is able to admit that he or she has a problem.

If your husband is willing, I believe it would benefit your relationship greatly if you would go to see a marriage counselor together. Please remember that it is not possible to know for sure if your husband is a narcissist or not. Only a professional who talks with him in person can make such diagnosis.

You need to consider all these different points of view carefully. It would be very helpful if you could go to talk to a professional counselor about your situation, I am sure it would help to clear your emotions. In the end you need to trust your gut feeling. If you do what you feel is right, you will have no regrets later in life, regardless of what you decide to do (stay with this man or separate). Stay strong!

Warm hug,

Maria

 

It helps to know we are not alone. To read more stories of people who are experiencing problems in a relationship, visit section Personal Stories.

____

 

If you wish to submit your own story to get feedback and support or if you wish to contact me for any other reason, please send me email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

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