Friday, May 30, 2014


If you read up on infidelity and frequent support forums, you're bound to run into the concept of the affair fog. There are plenty of misconceptions about the fog from both hurt spouses and unfaithful spouses. Some believe it doesn't exist, others think it is an excuse for cheating.

What's the truth? Allow me to take a more in-depth look at the subject.

What is the Fog?

The fog is used as an analogy or metaphor for a mental state a person sinks into when their desire for something blinds them against any reasons not to seek it. Like someone in a thick fog, all they can see is what they want, and the only reasons they see are those that justify obtaining it.

We all experience this dynamic in our lives. When I was 9 years old, I had received a record player for Christmas. One of my favorite bands was the Monkees, and my favorite song, "I'm a Believer."

I'm dating myself now, but back then cereal boxes had singles you could cut off the back of the box and play on a record player. Finally, after waiting for a long time, a new box of Honey Comb had my song on the back. Only problem is Mom had a rule. You couldn't get the prize until the whole box of cereal had been eaten.

I wanted that song so bad, I single-handedly ate the whole box of cereal in one sitting. It was hard stuffing the last couple of bowls into my stomach, but the goal was in sight. I finished the box, cut out the record, only to discover the record was scratched.

Then the consequences I had not seen due to my foggy mindset hit me. It became obvious when Mom took me and my brothers to get ice cream cones. I didn't want any because my stomach was churning. She wondered about me, but not for long. Because it all came up in Exorcist style on the restaurant floor.

 When our desire for something gets strong enough, our mind has a way of helping us to justify getting it, no matter how illogical, illegal, or who it will hurt. All arguments as to why we shouldn't get it become ineffective. The stronger the desire, the more true this is.

The Affair Fog

Due to the addictive qualities of many affairs, those in an affair tend to be deep in this fog. Even if they have no intention of leaving their spouse or hurting them, the reality that their actions will do just that is ignored. In the back of their minds, they know this is the case, but the desire for what they want is so strong such concerns are about as relevant to them as what a bird is eating on the other side of the world.

I've seen this happen multiple times on the forum unfaithful spouses visit to seek support. Someone comes there either about to have an affair or in the very beginning of one. The more experienced who have been where this person is, attempts to warn them of the pain down that road. How much it will hurt their spouse, their family, their affair partner, and themselves, describing their experience.

What happens?

Rare is the person in that situation who says, "Oh man, you are all right! What on earth did I think I was doing? This is stupid. I'm dumping him today." Instead, they will ignore all that and justify their need to do what they want. They may demonize their spouse. Or feel their spouse will never find out. Or no one will get hurt, that they are the exception to all the horror stories. Or, they feel the "love" (that is, strong desire for their affair partner) is so good any cost will be worth it.

I've seen this time and time again. Logic won't sway them. The warnings from those who've been through it before fall on deaf ears. Only in the aftermath do they discover all the warnings were right. Then it is too late.

The Invisible Fog

The interesting factoid is how when people are in foggy thinking mode, they don't realize that is what is going on. They are blind to the fact that they aren't perceiving the whole picture. It isn't until they are extracted from that mindset that they can see their reasoning ability was impaired by their desire.

My wife experienced this. Now, over three years after I discovered the affair, she looks back at what she did during those months and is not just disgusted and greatly sad at what she did, but can't hardly believed she did it. On this side of the fence, she sees it as one of, if not the most stupidest, series of decisions and actions she's ever committed. At the time, however, it all felt logical, justified, and any thoughts of consequences were ignored or dismissed.

It is this aspect which makes the fog so hard to break through. Reality has been altered into a fantasy holodeck-life. Immersed in it, the unfaithful spouse sees it as the reality. Attempts to convince them otherwise is like telling someone the life they are living is a fake and giving them the choice of pills to take to wake up or not, like in the Matrix.

The Thinning Fog

Another truth about the fog is that it isn't something that usually vanishes all in one brief moment. Rather it gradually thins out over several months or years. Sometimes, the fog stays in areas like settling into the low valleys among hills. For some areas, the fog may stay firmly ensconced for years, or a lifetime.

On discovery day, the fog thinned out for Lenita a good bit. Enough that she desired to heal our relationship and was immediately willing to do the hard things to accomplish it.

However, it took about three months before she was defogged enough to start feeling the guilt. The fog hides the guilt, because guilt of what they are doing to their spouse and family would prevent them from getting what they're desiring. It took about that long before she decided to get rid of all memorabilia of her affair partners. It took almost two years before she began to feel anger at her first affair partner and call what he and her were doing as evil. Not just think it, but feel it.

Another key area this is seen is in the tell/don't tell debate among unfaithful spouses who haven't been caught, even among those who's affair is over. Some of them believe they are no longer in the fog because they can see the thick foggy thinking they've left behind, but not realizing they're not totally out of the woods.

Despite the very compelling and logical reasons to tell, the unfaithful spouse is so driven to avoid the pain of facing the full consequences of their actions that they ignore those realities and justify not telling usually by suggesting it will "unnecessarily" hurt the spouse to do so, or that their spouse will leave them.

The main logical reason? Simply put, hurt spouses say their are two reasons that learning of an affair hurts them and the relationship. One, obviously, is the betrayal of love and trust by becoming intimate with another. The second, and often listed as the worst of the two, is the deception.

I can vouch for that. As I stated in our book, I felt a real loss to know that she was having sex with another man, something she'd never done in her life. I was her only lover in life, and she is the only one I've had.

With that as a given, the one thing that really shook me was how she could do what she did, not feel guilty about it, act like everything was normal, and that she was devoted to me. I didn't think she was capable of that kind of deception. That shook my trust and ability to rebuild it more than any other aspect. I stood over our bed, watching her sleep, and wondered how she could sleep knowing what she was doing. She had become a stranger I didn't know.

While discovering the affair itself was bad enough, the deception compounded it greatly. Blessed is the hurt spouse whose unfaithful spouse has the courage to confess rather than let them discover it themselves and struggle to find out what happened.

But the fact that the affair has already hurt the spouse and marriage, and healing it can only happen when they are aware of it, or that keeping that information is a way to control the hurt spouse who deserves to know so they can make their own decisions is pushed aside due to foggy thinking, even when they believe they are out of the fog.

If the hurt spouse doesn't know, it is highly unlikely that the fog is gone. There will always be a reason one can find to not do the right thing. I know, confessing is a hard thing to do. No one likes to tell on themselves. No one likes to confront the consequences of their actions, and experience the pain in another you know you've caused. But that doesn't justify continued deception, continued hurting of your spouse.

Foggy Excuses?

Some suggest that there is no such thing as the fog. That it is an invention to make excuses for the unfaithful spouse's infidelity.

It is true some unfaithful or even hurt spouses may use it in that manner. But such thinking is a fallacy. So dismissing it on those grounds is a fallacy.

The reality that strong desires for something can cause one's mind to block all feelings, logic, and arguments against getting it, and accept all justifications to do so is well documented. Prolonged exposure to giving into one's desires in that fashion ingrains the false reality in the mind, forming an addiction. So a drug addict will rob and kill to get their next fix, or a gambling addict will risk their life savings, mortgage, and the kids college funds to gamble.

The fallacy is in believing the fog let's the unfaithful spouse off the hook. That they couldn't help it. That if they were magically transported back to before the affair started, knowing what they know now, they would still have the affair because they can't change due to the fog.

This isn't true. It is still the unfaithful spouse who fed that desire, who waded into the quicksand, who justified crossing boundaries they should have known better than to do so. No matter the pull of one's desires, one can always say "no." I'm not saying it is easy, but it is within each person, even in the middle of the fog, to recognize they are not thinking right, and turn against the demand of their desires.

Animals have no choice. Humans always do. They do not need to be enslaved to their desires and the fog like an animal. They can avoid it, or acknowledge their wrong thinking and purposefully exit the fog. We have the ability to ignore our desires when they are destructive, and do what we know is best for those we love, not just ourselves.

How to Get Out of the Fog?

Three main steps.

One, confess. To both God and the one you've hurt. Facing the full consequences of your actions will go far in heading one out of the fog. Nothing destroys fantasy land and fogville faster than bringing it all into the light.

Two, take responsibility. Be honest about what happened. Agree to discuss it as needed, and face the sin head on. This, in addition to the first, will shatter the fog's illusion.

Three, repent. That means more than feeling sorry for what happened, or saying you're sorry. It includes actions that take effective measures to address why you gave into the temptations, and ensure that it won't happen again. Focusing on addressing the sin will continue to counter the fog until your desires give up.

In short, you're taking responsibility for which mindset you feed. The more you feed your desires without restriction, the stronger they are and the thicker the fog it creates will be. Starve them and feed desires for the good things in your life, the stronger you'll be against the affair fog.

When have you experienced a desire so bad you ignored warning against fulfilling them?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Changing Normals: Three Years

This post I decided to write more of a personal note, much as we've done in our book, Healing Infidelity.

This Sunday, May 11th, marks our third discovery day anniversary. Three years ago, May 11, 2011, I discovered, to my horror and total shock, that my wife of 29 years had been having a series of affairs over the previous seven months, both emotional and physical, both online and real life.

Life has never been the same.

I know a lot of hurt spouses will read that as mostly negative. And there are some negative changes. Can't escape all those no matter how well rebuilding goes, no matter how well one heals. There will always be a scar. There will always be that memory of utter disbelief at what I was reading, and feeling my stability crumble under my feet as my worst marital fears materialized:

The intimacy I'd lost with another man in the relationship. The deception she'd hid from me for seven months that I never thought she'd be capable of. The innocent trust that could never be regained. The realization that this could be the end of our marriage.

Some changes were positive.

But we both became less selfish. Our lives and marriage became focused on each other instead of our separate interests. We spent more time together. Sacrificed ourselves for each other. Romance reignited and we learned how to keep it going instead of letting it die.

By year three, the "new normal" isn't so new anymore. I look back at the man I was and I've changed so much, mostly for the better. Like the song says, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm much more focused today on what really matters than I was then. That old me seems so foreign now. The old me is dead, and in many ways, that is a good thing.

Lenita has totally changed. Her interests pre-affair and post-affair are like night and day. I know what she spent her time doing pre-affair, as well as during the affairs, is much different than what it is post-affairs. Her attitude toward me, our marriage, and her own life is why we are still together.

You see, when I discovered the affairs, their existence said to me that she didn't love me anymore. How could she do that to me and still say she loves me? While she said it, I couldn't believe it. She'd been lying to me and cheating behind my back for seven months, dead set on keeping that truth from me. How could I trust a word that came out of her mouth? I couldn't at that point.

So what changed my mind that she did love me?

Watching her unflinchingly face what she'd done, own up to it, and refuse to shift the blame onto me or anyone else. Struggle for months with her guilt and wrestling with what was wrong in her heart and soul that allowed this to happen. Seeing her go to confession for almost a year every week. Watch her strengthen her spiritual life, so much so, that she put me to shame. Experiencing her consistent attention, affection, truthfulness, honesty, and commitment to me. Making me the most important person in her life after God.

I saw what lengths she was willing to go to in order to save our marriage and keep me.

That convinced me that her love wasn't merely words, but real. Discovering the affairs said she didn't love me. Experiencing the extent that she went to keep me revealed how much she loved me.

If it wasn't for that drive of hers to do all she could to repair the damage she'd caused, I wouldn't be here writing this blog post right now. We'd not have written a book together on how we not only rebuilt after infidelity, but created a vibrant and stronger marriage in its wake. We'd likely have divorced by this point.

We're headed off on a weekend anniversary trip. Both to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary (May 15th) and having made it three years since discovery day in not only good shape, but with a renewed and vibrant marriage.

I wish everyone approaching their third discovery day anniversary were in the same boat. Part of my mission with the book and blog is to help as many as possible make that boat before it sails.

On our trip, we'll spend time discussing what has changed in this past year and look forward to planning for the coming years. We've changed. Even during this past year. "Normal" is never a static state of existence. The question is never what should our normal have been, but what will it be in a few months, years, and when we're in a nursing home some day?

I don't know what the future holds, but I know right now, despite what happened, there's no one I'd rather grow old with than Lenita.

Happy anniversaries, Sweetie!