Journey Through Adultery - 7-26-11

Time for an update. We've experienced a minor setback, and some positive movement forward. And they are both tied together, so let me start back a ways.
My wife, during her affairs, naturally took pictures of the OMen. One of the emotional online affairs sent her pictures of himself...nothing X-rated. I've seen them, just him standing in what I assume is his "estate."
Early on, I asked her to delete all his pictures and take out his phone number, etc. She didn't want to do it. I said at least keep them out of sight, so she doesn't see them all the time, because the whole point of cutting off is to gain some distance and not remember them. But emotionally she wasn't at the stage of wanting to not have something to remember them by. I get it. She fell in love with them, and wanted pictures to remember them by. She didn't think she'd want to totally forget them.
At first this reluctance bugged me. And I could have sneaked onto her phone and deleted them myself, and cleaned him out of the computer, and everywhere else I knew they existed. But I knew that would cause her a lot of anger toward me for forcing the issue.
Since she had cut off contact with the OM, I decided to make this a test issue. So I told her just don't have them where she can easily see them, and at some point she would be ready to delete them. I figured if she arrived at that point, I would know she'd taken a major step forward.
Related to this was she still had the first man friended on MySpace, and the second one friend on Facebook. Neither was ever on or had posted anything in a long time. I checked on occasion to make sure that was the case, that there was no more conversations going on, etc. But I would remind her every once in a while that so-and-so is still your friend on Facebook.
One of the men still friends on FB was a minor emotional affair/sex chat partner online. When she pointed him to her Facebook page, and he saw she was happily married and had kids, he was like, "What are you doing on EP? You're a mom!" I don't know how old he is, but his attitude changed a good bit.
And though she friended him on FB, she would tell him how the marriage rebuilding was going, and he would post back something like, "Hang in there." And that was it. I didn't concern myself too much with him, as he appeared to be distancing himself from her, knowing she was trying to rebuild her marriage.
They hadn't talked for a long time. Then suddenly one evening last week, while she was on FB, he pops up for a chat. And he is wanting to sex chat. Now the thing is, on this site, she had one guy want to sex chat with her, and she said, "No" and ended up turning off the chat function so she didn't have to worry about it. But this guy was different, because they had a "relationship." And she found herself going along with it. She knew she should tell him she can't do this anymore and cut it off, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She attempted to divert the conversation but that didn't work. Instead, at least at one point she encouraged him by telling him how many times we had had sex that day.
But afterwords, she felt sick about it and was disappointed in herself. That was last Thursday. Friday she told me she had something to confess and then told me what had happened. I thanked her for telling me, and we got into a conversation about why she had such a hard time telling him "no." She didn't justify it, admitting she should have said no, but she felt like she didn't want to disappoint him.
I think this is part of the issue. Once she gets to know someone, she doesn't want to disappoint them. Like early on when she couldn't seem to not respond to any attempt by the OM to contact her. I kept telling her simply don't respond, but she felt that was too rude. When we talked about what she would do if she ran into him at the grocery store or elsewhere, she had difficulty just saying "Sorry, I can't talk to you," and walk away.
One positive to that chat was she said she wasn't at all attracted to sex chatting with him. She didn't get any of the "rush" she did like in the midst of her affair fog. She was glad to know that (and so am I), but she was scared because she couldn't get up the nerve to say, "Sorry, I can't do that." Then log out of FB. She wasn't so concerned about this guy as such, but more what it meant for when and if the OM did run into her, or seek her out again. Would she have the nerve to walk away? To tell him to leave her alone?
One of the things she felt was the issue is she still had an emotional connection with these guys. Even the minor one. She felt strongly not only that she needed to break that, but she wanted to break it. And she started praying that God would show her how to do that.
One of the things I said she needed to do was defriend this guy. The only time he'll contact you is when he wants to sex chat, that much is obvious. She agreed. And when she went to confession this weekend, the priest told her the same thing. He said, unless you're desperate to go to the bathroom, the first thing you do when you get home is logon to FB and defriend him. Which she did.
But I also brought up the fact that one thing she can do to break those emotional bonds is not only distance and time, but getting rid of everything that might remind you of them, including pictures, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. Just like a woman who divorces her husband might throw out all pictures of him, cut him out of pictures with the kids, move, get rid of his stuff, leave as little to remind her of him because she desperately wants to break that emotional bond, and that is one way you do that.
She prayed over it, and though it was hard, she, on her own, without prompting from me, deleted pictures of the guys she had. She has a few more on computers and email to get rid of, but she deleted all the ones off her phone, and on the computer. She also went on to MySpace and FB and defriended anyone associated with the A's.
To me, that's a major step forward. She wants to break these emotional bonds, to forget them. It will still take time, but psychologically, she's done something proactive to speed that process up. And they won't be hanging around, causing triggers when she runs across them.
But we still have to deal with her seeming inability to say "no." I know she can do it. I told her I knew, because she's told me "no" so many times over the years. So I know she can do it. But she wants to get a handle on it, not only in case the OM starts trying to contact her again, but also because some other man may start trying to flirt with her, and she wants to be able to say "no." And mean it.
We'll keep working on it. But I think this last week's events have helped us realize how far she's come, but also how far we still have to go to avoid another incident. But I applaud her for recognizing those emotional bonds are the problem, wanting them to end, and is doing something to bring that about. And that she was being open with me. She could have kept that "minor" incident hidden, but instead confessed it to me and our priest.
I can see her love for me in action. That gives me a lot of comfort, even though we aren't out of the woods. As long as we are working together, there is hope.