An Affair of the Heart: Placing the Blame.

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An Affair of the Heart, Placing the Blame.

It was the Fourth of July and I was eight months pregnant with our youngest daughter. My husband and I went to a friend’s house for fireworks and had a great time. When we arrived back at home past midnight, we had a fight.  I don’t remember what we started yelling about; I was very pregnant and angry enough to tell my husband to just leave if he didn’t want to be here anymore and he did. It wasn’t the first time we fought, in fact, we were that couple that bickered a lot. When he left, I assumed like any other time, he was just going for a drive, except this time he didn’t come home that night, or any other night for the next few years. The next morning I found out he went to his coworker’s house, her name was Sara. As our marriage and home was turned upside down, I found myself lost. I never saw it coming. We had been married for 7 years, 2 children and another on the way. I experienced every emotion possible trying to figure out why. My husband never had the answer as to what prompted him to leave his family and cling to a younger, single girl with no children and a full free life to live. After 2 years of filing for divorce, endless counseling sessions, tears, anger, and destructive thoughts; we decided to work on our marriage for the children. We were able to stay married another six years before I called it quits. The pain and distrust never got better. It seemed as though neither of us were happy and the kids were definitely not happy. I blamed him for it all, ruining our marriage, our kids’ lives, our families, our house, us having to move, and just life in general.  Now, seventeen years after that Fourth of July night, I can say, the blame was equal.

The biggest culprit in the destruction of our marriage was communication. Both of us came from dysfunctional families. We were brought up where no one talked to each other unless they were yelling. No one gave hugs or said I love you unless it was a special time or event. We never saw our parents show affection to each other and yet we just expected to jump into a marriage because we were young and in love. The expectations were set so high and yet we never discussed them with each other. My husband thought he was playing the role by working all the time, providing for his family and when he came home, he was tired, crabby and expected to be left alone.  The kids and I had to walk on egg shells around him. That left me an angry and bitter wife. I chose the children over him. I was so self-loathing, I actually at one point thought, well, if Jesus was crucified, I can endure this marriage. If I wasn’t crying, I was demanding. I didn’t listen to my husband; therefore he shut down and never talked to me.

Enter the other woman. Sara was young, full of energy, worked side by side with my husband, but most importantly, she had something I didn’t have, a heart for listening. Don’t get me wrong; what my ex-husband did was never an okay way to handle a broken marriage. I now understand that my ex-husband worked so much because he felt more appreciated at work than at home. You see, life gets in the way. Let’s say you have a swimming pool filled to the top with love. You then add a few children (one being special needs) into the pool, along with pregnant hormones, a stressful job, bills, In-Laws, kid’s school activities, PTSD, lack of sleep and just as the love (water) is over flowing onto the grass, you throw in all your suitcases of your dysfunctional upbringing baggage.  Now the pool is packed with everything except the love. Instead of trying to find the love, you fight about who isn’t showing the love, when in reality it is both spouses that has allowed all of the “stuff” to outnumber the love.

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Emotional affairs start out as heart driven. We feel validated, worthy and attended to. Finally someone is listening and giving me the time I so much crave.  To me, affairs of the heart, is so much more damaging than physical affairs. Wendy Lustbader, an affiliate associate professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work stated “It turns out that feeling understood on the level of the soul is far more sexy than sex itself.”  What is more fulfilling than to be connected and understood?  As the significant other who is void of this affair, we doubt ourselves and question our ability to be loved. Why didn’t they confide in me about that concern? Why do they enjoy working more than being at home with the family? Why are they telling the other person about our intimate bedroom life? Why do they seem much happier after talking to that friend than they are with me? Am I not worthy of their love?

What can you do? I encourage you to communicate, but do it in a way that is respectful and loving. This means no yelling, no accusing, and no placing the blame. Write a list of your hurts and concerns. Write a list of your expectations of your significant other. Write down your feelings, using I statements and then come together and talk about it. Cry about it. Learn from each other. Be open to changing the way you view your significant other and be willing to change the way your react to stressful situations. Really listen and repeat back so clarification is accurate. Plan a monthly date night. Invest in a couple’s conference like “Weekend to Remember”. Read some helpful marriage books together. Most of all, Do Not Judge feelings. Feelings just are. Take all that extra energy you are spending on bitterness, hatefulness, selfishness, and self-doubt and transfer it positively into your marriage. If my husband would have told me, he felt unloved, unappreciated and unworthy; I would have placed more effort in correcting my actions.  Remember why you choose each other. Just as it took both of you to come together, the blame of an emotional affair is shared.

-Alice