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The ugly duckling

GuiltAndShame posted 11/10/2019 08:28 AM

I had low self-esteem with respect to my looks, which caused problems.

A combination of a lack of dating while young AND receiving harsh criticism from peers about my physical attractiveness caused me to believe that I was very unattractive physically, convincing me that I may never be with a woman.

If a woman showed (or faked) that she was attracted to me, if she flirted with me or tried to seduce me, and especially if I also thought that particular woman was also attractive, then that was a big ego trip thrill, an exciting rebuttal of my doubts about my own physical attractiveness, a powerful morale boost. Excitement was increased by the forbidden “bad” aspect, and by indulging in “naughty” fantasies.

This thrill and boost caused me to do the following in order to maintain the thrill :
- See them through “beer goggles” (even though I don’t drink). I lowered my standards and expectations. Their physical attractiveness was overestimated, and their flaws and bad behaviors were overlooked.
- Block out “mood killers”. Guilt alarms and morals and reality (stresses, tensions, problems) were ignored and abandoned.

Once the cheating affair event was over, the thrill and boost quickly evaporated, with no enduring gratification or belief that I was truly physically attractive. And I felt guilty and “bad” about it, which brought me down, starting the cycle over again.

My BS has helped me learn and believe that I truly am attractive physically, but my affairs and cheating have destroyed my inner attractiveness. I am deeply grateful for her help. Now that I know that I am physically attractive, I no longer need or seek attention or affirmation. But I must remind myself to always stay conscious of my guilt alarms and morals and reality, regardless of the situation. I must be diligent. I must rebuild and maintain my inner attractiveness, even if my BS decides that I have caused far too much hurt and damage for her to recover from.

Are there other “ugly ducklings” out there? Is this common?

[This message edited by GuiltAndShame at 8:59 AM, November 10th (Sunday)]

Pizzatheaction posted 11/10/2019 10:26 AM

I suggest you get the stop sign put on this thread. I certainly feel ugly and undesirable since my partner cheated on me. I didn't feel this way before. Despite feeling the most unattractive I have ever felt in my life, I am not looking for an affair, I am not going to betray my partner to make myself feel better. I am going to work on myself, he kind to myself, be my own biggest fan and supporter, because no one else can don't it for me. The way you speak about women in terms of putting on beer goggles and lowering your standards suggests a lack of respect for women in general.
You haven't really asked yourself why you had affairs yet.

jb3199 posted 11/10/2019 10:34 AM

This thrill and boost caused me to do the following in order to maintain the thrill :
- See them through “beer goggles” (even though I don’t drink). I lowered my standards and expectations. Their physical attractiveness was overestimated, and their flaws and bad behaviors were overlooked.
- Block out “mood killers”. Guilt alarms and morals and reality (stresses, tensions, problems) were ignored and abandoned.

Is this the way that you viewed your BW when you met her? If not, why is that so? And if you did see her that way, what made her any different than all of the others? Why did you marry her?

GuiltAndShame posted 11/10/2019 16:05 PM

Thanks for your reply, Pizzatheaction.

I am sorry that your partner’s cheating has caused you to feel ugly and undesirable, and I certainly feel terrible that my own cheating has created issues for my BS. I regret it, am deeply ashamed of it, and hurt because of the hurt I have caused her.

I have great respect for women in general. I honestly feel that women are superior to men in many respects. My comment about “beer goggles” and “lowering my standards” was only in regards to my own internal ways of justifying and maintaining my stupid idiotic pathetic behavior.

I have asked myself why I had affairs, which I have written about and shared with my BS. And I continue to explore the depths of my flawed reasoning.

GuiltAndShame posted 11/10/2019 16:13 PM

Thank you for your post, jb3199!

“Is this the way that you viewed your BW when you met her? If not, why is that so?”
No, I did not view my BW through “beer goggles” or “lowered standards” the first time I saw her. I had actually conversed with her via email for some time before the first time we met in person, and I admired her strength, intelligence, independence, work success, sarcastic humor, and family ties. I loved who she was (her “inner beauty”) before we even met in person. Then, when we met in person, her beauty and sexy ways were icing on the proverbial cake.

“Why did you marry her?”
Because I loved her and wanted to live life with her.

jb3199 posted 11/10/2019 21:38 PM

I'm hoping some waywards chime in here, but in my opinion, you can start asking yourself hard questions, and giving yourself hard answers here.

You put aside your ego-driving beliefs when you met your wife. You didn't treat her like your other women, because, well, you didn't want to treat her like that. You knew better. So, if you had the 'proverbial icing on the cake', why did you need to look elsewhere?

It's as good as any place to start.

GuiltAndShame posted 11/10/2019 22:09 PM

Believe me, I have been asking myself lots of hard questions, and digging into why I behaved as I did, so that I can be a better person and never behave that way again.
This post only asked if there were other “ugly ducklings” out there...

marriageredux959 posted 11/11/2019 01:35 AM


I think this is a genuine, striving post and a good effort at self-examination.

I come from a physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive background. (I have come to believe that genetics and circumstances and luck got me this far, not virtue or even, in some if not many instances, character.)

I fully understand how validation of any type can feel like opium to a wound.

I find myself often, when I encounter posts like yours, and life circumstances that I almost seamlessly recognize and comprehend, thinking, "Well of course."

He/she/I/you/Husband/That Person found a good soul, a stable entity, a strong spirit, and at some level wished to emulate that strong spirit, and at some level wished to be that strong spirit, and at some level needed that strong spirit and their structure and support.

And, having that, having attached to that, then proceeded to strike out and explore and perhaps even experience, the value added, the extra, the risk, the dubious reward...

In many ways I see this as worlds and chronological development misaligned.

(And, I'm betting that at some level in every relationship, even in/especially in relationships struggling with infidelity, this misalignment occurs at some level, perhaps going back and forth simultaneously or even separated over time and experience.)

I do not claim to be right here, I am uneducated in this area, but I am often drawn to the perceived psychological similarities to the parent-adolescent child relationship.

There is a certain volatile mixture of need, vulnerability, insecurity/unsuredness, exploration and rebellion in the wayward.

At the same time (existing, or potential) there is a competence, or a doggedness, or a survival against all odds/survival of the fittest, or a hard earned experience in the betrayed that carries (or is perceived to be able to carry) both the betrayed and the wayward.

I also wonder, speculate, if successful reconciliation involves an alternating recovery, strength, assumption of the burden between these two partners.

I came from a supremely dysfunctional (obviously) (think flaming wreckage/"reality" t.v. shows before they existed) family that beyond the most superficial trappings (the easiest behaviors and structures to emulate) didn't even bother to try to cover much less solve the dysfunction. A good mental, emotional, psychological, or (often) physical ass kicking solved most issues, or at least ended them.

I look back at the scant handful and then gradually increasing collection of photographs and other memorabilia of my life, and I see a sweet baby, a truly charming toddler, an unsure and confused preschooler, a fucking traumatized and terrified and scattered elementary school aged child who didn't know up from down, a middle schooler who was finding her own path, a high schooler who had a serious clue, a young woman on the cusp of emancipation who grabbed that bull by the horns, a brief but stunningly poignant arc of rebellion and bravery and freedom and success, and then a butt ton of hard work to bring it all to fruition.

I look back at photographs of myself in my twenties, thirties, forties, and Friend, I was fucking stunning. I'm serious. I was *stunning.* I could have appeared in any "men's magazine," had I been so inclined, all the way through my forties. There was plenty of feedback telling me that, had I been able to hear it. I heard it enough to realize that it was there... but that feedback really didn't address or solve the (present or past) issues, because it wasn't punching the right buttons, in the right ways? I say this because I suspect that as you look back across your trajectory, you may find this as well.

Anyway, here's what:

I thought I was ugly. I really did. I accepted it. I longed to be seen as beautiful, desirable- we all do- but I accepted my ugly duckling status and got on with it. I invested in other areas of myself and my life. I had no idea that I was physically beautiful, but I was. I truly was.

I invested in areas of my life that required strength, independence, physical work, guts and fortitude. It was hard, but I did it, because once I struck out on my own, I did not have a choice. It wasn't even "guts or go." It was "guts AND go."

Husband's FOO was dysfunctional, but invested by default and necessity in the pragmatic and practical- and through sheer hard work, survival and stubbornness, his FOO invested well and thoroughly. What resources were left over, the FOO had the awareness and self-value and prescience to invest in appearances.

Husband experienced much of the same dysfunction and subsequent fallout that I did- there are remarkable similarities- but he also simultaneously experienced greater stability, consistency, infrastructure and investment in appearances, both in theirs and in his. That little bit of difference in investment sent us each off on different trajectories.

To top it off, the FOO was seeking validation for creating a life out of vapors. All goodness and manifestation came from them; their children were nothing without the FOO. And Husband internalized that message too.

And there I was, being my own self, seemingly by magic. But it wasn't magic. It was desperation.

My husband rebelled. He rebelled against it all. He rebelled against it all at a particularly vulnerable time, for him and for us. Predictable.

This is a butt ton of rambling on top of your post. It may or may not apply, I don't know. But I am sensing the same misplaced rebellion against your wife. You are trying to solve ancient hurts on the back of someone who is currently your most stable infrastructure- and for whatever reason, it didn't feel safe enough for you to address those hurts when they occurred. The infrastructure as you needed it wasn't there.

Fair enough and I get it.

But you've taken a thing from your past and your individual experience out of your wife's account and that doesn't belong to her. As I read it, you recognize that.

I had no FOO; I booted them in an act of self-preservation. I was standing alone, doing OK enough but struggling and often exhausted. Husband was venturing out, with a dysfunctional FOO that was sufficient but at the same time needy and demanding and seeking validation.

And of course, Husband and I found each other.

He admired me and often, I think, wanted the courage to be me. Being me involved far less courage than he knew, and far more necessity. I wanted the refuge of the FOO, and by virtue that his FOO provided far more support than mine ever did, his FOO looked benign enough to my challenged eyes.

And so we glommed onto each other.

He glommed onto my strength and courage and independence, and I glommed onto his stability and infrastructure, from which he was at the same time trying to walk away. Do you see what's happening here?

I think I became, through his neediness, and my own, a stand in for the perceived strength of his FOO- and I became the next institution against which he rebelled.

You've swept your wife at the knees and you've visited your hurt on her. And no doubt, she has her own injuries, or she wouldn't have taken you and your injuries on.


... how do you help each other heal?

Could it, in part, be in recognizing that you share some similar trauma?

leavingorbit posted 11/11/2019 07:55 AM

I used to struggle with this a lot more than I do now. It was an ever present awareness instead of a fleeting thought in the mirror, ex.: oh, I can see some fine lines. Now I’m trying to practice daily self love and compassion, so here’s some of my observations and healing in this area. I feel like it’s a symptom, a surface why, and I’ll explain my perspective.

I can understand the impulse in placing a lot of importance on physical attractiveness. Our culture is steeped in objectification: youth, perceived beauty, etc. I did a lot of this, too. For me, it was currency, ykwim? If I’m pretty, if I’m thin, if I pass this standard, I get the keys to the castle and I’ll have it made. What was having it made? Well, everyone would like me. Everyone would want me. My ego would be satisfied, finally. My perceived attraction was a tool to hustle for external validation, another way to avoid sitting with myself. It kept me knuckled under, which is ironic to me because I believe our culture of physical beauty is another type of manipulation. Image control, inauthenticity. Exterior, not interior. It’s a never ending comparison game by design and will always hurt someone in its pursuit. My “need” to feel attractive hurt my husband, hurt others, and hurt myself. I believe it’ll do the same to you, and you may want to examine that.

Why do you need to feel attractive? Why do you need to rely on externalities to feel worthy? Do you realize that’s not worth - that worth is something you find in yourself? That putting that on your wife to provide is doomed to fail? It also may seem particularly insensitive to her. My husband had a whole host of exacerbated insecurities after my cheating, and some he had never thought about before. He was glad that I was digging into my issues and yet he was rightfully impatient with my focus on extrinsic meaning. Just something to be aware of, ymmv.

There’s always going to be someone younger and thinner than me. I will always be getting older. I could be perfection one day and the next, everyone wants blue skin or cyborgs. It’s too transient. It’s shallow and unreliable. I get the pull, I really do. It’s a jolt to the ego, like mainlining confirmation of... I don’t know, belonging? Being seen? It’s a powerful motivator. It’s extrinsic, though, and harmful. Reading about healthy vs. unhealthy body image, entitlement, and detachment was helpful for me with this topic. There’s also some specific meditations that helped me highlight the need for balance - looking “sexy” is a state of mind, and not to be taken so seriously. In other words, it ain’t that real, in my experience.

Pizzatheaction posted 11/11/2019 13:09 PM

Hi, thanks for reply. I am glad you continue to work on yourself despite not knowing if you will have a successful reconciliation of not. Best of good luck and best wishes to you both.

GuiltAndShame posted 11/11/2019 20:46 PM

Thank you for your reply, marriageredux959!
You invested a lot of time and effort into your post, and I appreciate the detailed explanation and challenging questions. I will spend more time digesting your words.

GuiltAndShame posted 11/11/2019 20:59 PM

Thanks very much for your reply, leavingorbit!!!
I agree with you, that outer beauty and “being attractive” are fleeting and shallow. Mentally, I know this, and I truly admire inner beauty. However, the “you’re ugly” trauma of my youth seems to have wounded me deeply, festering and sore, craving attention.

Chaos posted 11/12/2019 07:28 AM

No stop sign.

While I am a BASGU now [bad ass sparkly goddess unicorn], I was a very late bloomer. Teased horribly in my youth for being “ugly”.

I grew up, and learned my self-worth by sheer fucking grit. I own myself and my space. I am now considered beautiful. I can’t go anywhere without getting “hit on” or complimented. I politely say “thank you” and move on.

I don’t cheat.

I’m sorry. While your “Ugly Duckling” mentality may be a surface why of sorts, you will have to dig deeper as to why you chose cheap ego kibbles as opposed to doing the hard work to earn your own self esteem.

hikingout posted 11/12/2019 08:27 AM

Hi GuiltandShame,

Are you in IC?

I understand what you say about lowering your standards and putting on "beer goggles". It's a phenomenon that I see as a common thread to most cheating - we affair down. Not just often in looks but definitely in character with the AP. We see what we want to see, and I understand that is what you are trying to express here.

Secondly, yes. I think most people who cheat do not love themselves. You are concentrating on the superficial a bit, but I get it. When I had an affair, I was at my lowest. I felt old, undesirable, invisible. Whilst conducting the affair, I certainly held on to my own self-adulation as the most important. I played a role - one where I was younger, more vibrant, more sexy. At a time when I was kind of experiencing a female version of sexual impotence due to depression and exhaustion. Everything in an affair is a juxposition - propping yourself up on stories you tell about yourself about you and the AP - and really getting high from it. When in all reality you are at your lowest ever.

So, sure, I get what you are saying about ugly duckling. The reason I asked if you were in IC is you have to dig deeper. This really isn't just about feeling attractive, this is about overall lack of self-worth. You may be concentrating on outward appearance, but there is a lot more to it than that. It likely comes from deep-rooted things you experienced in your youth. Hurts and traumas that you buried or never processed appropriately. It's time to look at all those things otherwise, thinking you are attractive or not is a very superficial fix.

I have lost well over 20 pounds since my affair and I was really never a big person. I became an avid runner and am the fittest I have ever been in my life. I feel healthy and strong, and I look younger and better than I did 5 years ago. I have lots of energy to do all the things I want to do in my life and more. But, I don't care at all about any of the appearance stuff, I have nothing to prove to anyone now because I fixed the deeper stuff. I celebrate only the feeling of being healthy and strong. The more I changed inside and out, and I much more concentrate on the inside. The things I derive my self worth on today are based on how I treat my husband, my children, coworkers, family, etc...and how I treat myself. Making goals and smashing them. Having quality time with people I care about and really showing them who I am. How I talk to myself. Negative self talk was something that was so hard to get rid of, it came from being emotionally, sexually, and physically abused as a child. Those traumas that I had pushed down and forged full speed ahead into my adult life. I have had to go back and heal so many of those traumas. I am going to guess there is something deeper than looks that made you feel ugly and it has a name: SHAME. I carried shame that came from my abuse and saw myself as tainted and ugly. Shame will take you down.

I think some of my affair had to do with how I felt about myself, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. You have more digging to do. About entitlement, selfishness, shame, who you are as husband, father and friend. Part of healing my marriage went far beyond taking accountability for the affair, but taking accountability for holding resentments that I didn't resolve. The ways I was not developed as a person that held my marriage back from it's full potential. My self protectiveness keeping me from being vulnerable and authentic. It's mind boggling the depths of the digging, but please do it. It's far more than you feeling like an ugly duckling, that's a symptom of what the real issues are.

[This message edited by hikingout at 8:29 AM, November 12th (Tuesday)]

hikingout posted 11/12/2019 08:51 AM

I also meant to write that you need to identify your character flaws that allowed you to have affairs in the first place. You need to work on those things. I believe we feel best about ourselves when we are living right and within our virtues. It's hard to feel good about yourself when you are being a shitty person.

It sounds like you had a number of affairs, so there are ways that some of your justifications are engrained. You need to pull them all out and examine them.

GuiltAndShame posted 11/13/2019 06:18 AM

Thank you for posting, Chaos!!!
I like your advice.....don’t cheat, earn your own self-esteem.
My IC has stressed how important it is to NOT depend on others for ego boosts or self-esteem. It must be built from within.

GuiltAndShame posted 11/13/2019 06:25 AM

Thank you for the follow-up, hikingout!!!
I was in IC, and will return to IC ASAP.
I understand what you are saying and agree with it completely. I intend to keep pulling up the roots until I feel I have uncovered and resolved all the root causes. And my previous IC sessions helped me understand that my self-esteem should not be based on words or actions of others. Instead, I am in charge of my own self-esteem, my destiny, my integrity.
I am committed to being a better person, regardless of the path the future brings.

LLXC posted 11/13/2019 11:54 AM

It is very clear you love your wife. But to say you have great respect for women in general is, well, asinine. Perhaps NOW you do, but if you respect women you don't use them to validate your looks. Now, this could stem from low self esteem. However, plenty of people with low self esteem don't seek out validation from randos.

Also. This seems dangerous. What if you werent physically attractive? There are plenty of people who aren't. What about when you are no longer physically attractive?

I guess I find this triggering and I HATE that word. My ex thought he was ugly. He always wanted me to tell him how attractive he was. The thing was I just started to like him and the attraction came from there. But he was not my type At all.

And here is the irony. We were both bullied for our looks. But he slept around, and I didn't.

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