Finding out about the affair was a tumultuous time. Ambivalence reigned in my soul. I loved Ann and wanted to work on our marriage. I hated Ann. She had hurt me deeply and, at times, I didn’t want to be around her.
Different aspects of life touch each of us in this situation as we make the decision to stay and work on the relationship or not. For me, I couldn’t stand the idea of another man tucking my kids into bed at night. In the chaos I had clarity about this issue. Also, Ann and I had already been through so much. My thought was that if we could make it through this then we’d be able to deal with anything life could bring. Did I really want to start over and relearn life with another woman? What would that bring? What would bubble to the surface for her ten years into the relationship?
Everyone’s thoughts and important touchstones will be different. For the one who had the affair and for the one betrayed, Shirley Glass has these thoughts and questions in Not “Just Friends” to help you think through your decisions.
1. Your early decision making revolves around whether to stick with efforts to work on the situation, whereas later decision making involves whether to leave the marriage once and for all or stay married.
2. This early decision needs to be an active rather than a passive decision. Don’t just ‘sort of’ get into the daily routine and not deal with everything at this time.
3. Use the head-heart-gut-groin test. The head is the rational part that tells whether you like your partner and does an intellectual balance sheet of pros and cons. The heart tells you how much fondness and emotional attachment you have. The gut is the instinctive sense of what feels right or wrong. The groin is an erogenous zone that is influenced by passion and irrational desire. For example, today, your heart, brain, and gut may be leaning toward staying, while your split heart and groin pull you in another direction. The strongest pull will end up being whichever force you hold most dear.
4. Whatever is going on inside don’t make any major decisions the first six months.
Other exercises to help you think through whether to pick up the pieces or throw in the towel.
1. Visualize the future. Go down the road as far as you can and speculate what it would be like without your spouse. Think about the immediate future, five years from now, twenty years from now. Picture yourself attending family events separately.
*How would your life be different?
*How would your children’s life be different?
*What difference would it make in your current friendships?
2. Recall the past. Be careful not to rewrite marital history with a jaded view because of the current crisis.
*What do you remember about the good times you’ve shared with your partner?
*What would you miss about your marriage?
*Have you and your partner struggled hard together to get to this place in your life cycles?
3. See if you can put your disillusionments aside for the moment and figure out your reasons for staying with your spouse.
*Do you love your partner, down deep? (Not liking him or her is different from not loving.)
*Do you like the fundamental type of person your partner is? (Not liking him or her is not the same as the disappointment you may be feeling.)
*Are you and your partner basically compatible?
4. Assess your own willingness and ability to meet the challenge of working on your relationship.
*Are you willing to understand what vulnerabilities set the stage for the affair?
*Are you willing to work toward forgiving and being forgiven for the ways you have hurt each other?