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Precursors to the Affair

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MrCleanSlate posted 1/10/2020 12:48 PM

About a year after D-Day during an MC session my BW stated that I was having 'affairs' for years before my PA. Dumbfounded, as this was not true, I asked what she was talking about.

She said I was having 'affairs' all those years that I was being a scout leader, soccer coach and hockey coach, and yes all those nights that I was working late at home on my computer (I own a business and for years I never stopped working). She said I was giving "my time and emotional energy to others and leaving her alone at home and ignoring her".

At first I started to deny and follow into my old pattern of never being wrong. Then I stopped and the enormity of what she said started to sink in.

That was one of the wedge issues in our M that BW characterized as wayward behaviour.

It really caused me to rethink a lot of my actions. I stopped coaching, and don't volunteer to help others as much, and I cut back on my business (yes I lost/fired some clients and overall sales are down, but that was a conscious decision). I spend a lot more time with my BW and family we are living life much happier now.

Who else had those 'precursors to the affair' raised by their partner?

[This message edited by MrCleanSlate at 12:49 PM, January 10th (Friday)]

JBWD posted 1/10/2020 13:24 PM

I quite honestly think there’s a balance that needs to be assessed here. The potential exists that there might need to be some readjustment of priorities in the wake of an affair if your presence is somehow beneficial to healing.

But there is a VAST difference between the things you did with BW’s full knowledge that fulfilled you personally and your A. There’s also any number of ways people can pursue these kinds of pursuits to destructive ends as they look to escape or self-gratify. I imagine your BW articulated some dissatisfaction with your work/life balance and that is a long term repair that could take a lifetime for a HEALTHY marriage.

To view anything external to the marriage as a distraction is, IMO, potential to build an unreasonable demand of a partnership that will strain fatally if expected to fill every need for an adult. I wanted nothing more than to spend every waking moment with my BW. And she ostensibly wanted the same. When that proved unrealistic we coped differently, and my methods were how I betrayed her.

LLXC posted 1/10/2020 14:02 PM

I was very much cheated on.

I am guessing your wife did not feel like she was your priority.

Now at that time, was she your priority? More importantly back then, did she feel like she was your priority?

Further on, does she now view your coaching as a betrayal of her? At that time, before you cheated, did she view those activities as a betrayal?

whoami62 posted 1/10/2020 14:10 PM

Your situation sounds similar to what we have been through ( and continue to go through )

My H also spent plenty of time away from me , and I allowed it because I didn't feel important enough to use my voice to object.It was work related , community related and also he used his time he told me was spent working to frequent porn websites which led to his affair

MrCleanSlate posted 1/10/2020 14:22 PM

LLXC,

That's the point. Although she didn't articulate it before my A, she felt that all the time I spent with others (coaching, work) was a betrayal. Or more to the point of putting others before her - I was being selfish doing what I wanted at her expense.

My BW put it that I was already putting everyone and everything else ahead of her so the A was not a big leap for me (i.e. wayward behaviour).

These are marriage issues which we have been working through, but I totally see her point of my taking most all my energy and putting it outside our M was not healthy.


hikingout posted 1/10/2020 14:42 PM

It's interesting, I have always thought the fact my husband and I had varied interests and activities were healthy for our relationship. Gives us things to discuss.

H has always had hobbies, and had time to pursue them. I didn't have as many as I spent all my free time with him or our kids or doing domestic stuff. I never really minded his hobbies, but he might have been different than you, he also always made sure he spent time with me a as well. Not to meet my need for it, but because he wanted to, he enjoyed our time together. Perhaps your wife didn't sense that.

Anyway, our precursor was the exact opposite. It was the fact I never did anything for myself. When the kids left, we saw it as I had time to help him more with his business on top of my career. It was fun at first, but the more time went on the more resentful I felt of it. The fact I didn't have things that I enjoyed, activities and hobbies...I didn't have a true sense of self any more. My precursor was lack of self care, people pleasing, perfectionism, and over-giving. Over time it made me not want to be married any more or ever again. I wanted wide open spaces to do what I wanted with my own life. I believe having an affair was a passive aggressive way to blow up the marriage so I could go ahead with that plan.

It took a while for me to see this was all of my own creation, and that actually when you have healthy outside activities and time to explore things that feed your soul that you have much more energy and love to give. I went back to enjoying and appreciating being married and having the wonderful companionship that had always been there. The problem was never him, it was both the way I mismanaged my life and then my lack of ability to recognize that and cope with it.

gmc94 posted 1/10/2020 14:57 PM

BW here. This is a really interesting question.
My WH was involved in a TON of extracurricular activities, on top of a fairly demanding job. Early in the M, we talked about how to balance home/work and both agreed that making more $ was not a big priority for either of us, and that we both wanted to be involved in our community.

However, within a year or so of DD being born, my WH was basically working three jobs: one that paid him and two that did not (local elected office would be one and being on the board of several non profits was the other). I had two kids (one of whom was an infant/toddler), my own job, and was married to a man who was NEVER home. I put my foot down and said that he could choose any TWO of the following: elected gig, non profit boards, or be married to me. His choice for any two, but NOT all of them. He chose to step down from the boards and keep the elected gig and his wife.

About a year later I learned that he'd been lying to me the whole time, and that he'd not only never resigned from those boards, he actually agreed to be PRESIDENT of a non profits. I was not happy, and told him so. As I recall, I was very clear that I felt it was a betrayal. He did ultimately step down from them - tho at that time, the EA phase of his LTA had already begun (IOW, at the time he was lying about the volunteer work, he was also lying about his "secret friend" - funny how being busted on the volunteer front did not change his continued deception on the woman front).

From then on, I would regularly joke (cocktail parties, that kind of thing) that "my husband only cheats on me with non profits" . That he stood by, laughed, and soaked up the ego kibble while I said that over & over again during his decade long PA is a hurt and anger I doubt will ever heal (and less than a week after dday I ran into someone I told that story to and he introduced me to his friend saying I was married to a man who only cheats on me with non profits - it was devastating - a painful night I'll never forget, all from a completely innocent comment) . Later, he still had the job and elected thing, but he was always involved in other stuff too - coaching our DD, being on every damn committee that asked him, etc. Other than leaving the boards after I put my foot down, I don't think he has EVER said "no" when asked to volunteer (and this is a recurring problem in his job as well - he is often used to do work for which he is not paid or even appreciated, yet he remains consistently incapable of setting boundaries for his own time).

I was already putting everyone and everything else ahead of her so the A was not a big leap
This makes sense to me. And it's only been since dday that I've learned how all that KISA is usually a reflection of serious brokenness. His "good deeds" have very little to do with being a "good person", but everything to do with presenting that image to the world and soaking up the resulting ego kibble.

At the time, did your BW ever talk to you about the lack of time spent together? Beyond the above, there were times I'd raise it with my WH, and he'd usually say that whatever was taking up his time would be over soon... or that they "needed" him (and TBH, in some cases, they really did). But there would always be another volunteer opportunity, and he would always say yes.

I doubt my own WH would ever even think to explore the basis for his seemingly unquenchable thirst for volunteer work. I don't think he's capable of seeing any of it as anything beyond being a "good person". From my BW perspective, he CHOSE to burn the candles at both ends and then CHOSE to life a secret sexual life, presumably telling himself he "deserved" it bc of all the good deeds he was doing, and that it was all just a way to hide a lot of deep seated insecurities and other "emotional baggage" .

So - I'm curious if you, MrCleanSlate, would see all that outside volunteering as merely doing good deeds, or a means by which to obtain excessive external validation, OR a way to present a mask to the world that is excellent at hiding the pain and anger and all the other emotional stuff that lurks behind it. Or some combination?

ETA:

It was the fact I never did anything for myself
and in my WH's eyes, I'd bet good money he'd say the exact same thing about himself. He's NEVER seen those good deeds as "for himself" or self care, it was always about being "needed" rather than owning that all that time away was something he WANTED (even when I wanted him to spend more time at home). On the flip side, I've been involved in my own volunteer/good deed activities (and even grad school - which was a couple of years of me being mostly absent), and he's been supportive. The difference is that I did those things ONLY after clearly communicating with him and getting his blessing (something he rarely did), because I WANTED to (and always owned it), and used them as opportunities to learn and grown and thrive (and they were never to the same extent/degree as my WH - I am OK with saying "no" to those requests). IOW, The ego kibble was the gravy, not the meat.

So, it seems to me that, like most things, it's not necessarily WHAT one is doing, but WHY.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 3:37 PM, January 10th, 2020 (Friday)]

hikingout posted 1/10/2020 15:18 PM

So, it seems to me that, like most things, it's not necessary WHAT one is doing, but WHY.

I agree.

I don't think I ever intentionally had a conscious thought about why I was doing what I was doing or why. I had a vision of what being a wife and mother was, and it was based on my own imagination with some modeling from my own mother mixed in.

At some point it went from wanting to do those things, to feeling expected to do those things, to if I didn't do those things then I didn't earn or deserve love. The WHY of that was why things went very, very wrong. I definitely agree with you GMC.

landclark posted 1/10/2020 15:18 PM

I can see this. I remember early on with my WH, his focus was spending quality time with me. He wanted to leave work on time to get home. Instead of hiking on the weekends, he would do it during the week while I was working so weekends were ours.

After we got married, there was definitely a shift. He’d work late and not even bother to call. He’d go hiking on the weekend on a regular basis, or find other things to do away from me. Would spend a ton of time on his phone when he was home and ignore me.

Now I know some things change after the newness of a relationship wears off, but this was a very noticeable shift in behavior and he was not just physically distant, but also emotionally distant. So it did cause issues and yeah, felt like a betrayal. Of course now I know why that shift happened.

So I can definitely see how constant time spent on things away from your spouse would cause issues. That said, it just needs to be balanced. Of course after betrayal, it’s a lot harder to find a balance.

Morph posted 1/10/2020 15:47 PM

I think this highlights yet another aspect of the damage infidelity does. It changes the balance of the M not only after DDay but how it is seen before. Before DDay I wanted to see the best in my spouse, now the rose colored glasses are gone and I see him for what he really is and always has been. I truly thought he was better, and I wasn’t asking for perfection, just loyalty and honesty which he had willingly promised.

After DDay, I see his pre-DDay activities differently. I don’t agree that the activities were a “betrayal” but they were misrepresented, which is part of betrayal.

We’re fine these days, but infidelity changes everything and not in a good way.

gmc94 posted 1/10/2020 15:47 PM

HO:

At some point it went from wanting to do those things, to feeling expected to do those things, to if I didn't do those things then I didn't earn or deserve love.
I suspect that if my WH were to ever find some emotional curiosity, I could absolutely see his experience being similar/the same. It makes logical and emotional sense to me - if one's source of validation and love is wholly external.

Morph:

I truly thought he was better, and I wasn’t asking for perfection, just loyalty and honesty which he had willingly promised.
Me too, and I suspect just about any BS would say the same.

After DDay, I see his pre-DDay activities differently. I don’t agree that the activities were a “betrayal” but they were misrepresented, which is part of betrayal.
Me too on this front as well. I was very clear with him about the lies - his deception and outright lying about resigning from those boards was absolutely a betrayal (silly side note: I found out about the lack of resignation bc one of the exec directors thanked me for letting him serve as president... you'd think he'd have figured out that relying on someone else to keep your spousal deception secret isn't such a good idea, yet many years later his LTA OW took the same route by telling me about their A).

[This message edited by gmc94 at 3:54 PM, January 10th, 2020 (Friday)]

MrCleanSlate posted 1/11/2020 11:16 AM

gmc94,

So - I'm curious if you, MrCleanSlate, would see all that outside volunteering as merely doing good deeds, or a means by which to obtain excessive external validation, OR a way to present a mask to the world that is excellent at hiding the pain and anger and all the other emotional stuff that lurks behind it. Or some combination?

There's two truths here. The most important one is how my BW saw it. She saw it as my getting external validation and that these were "affairs". Similar to my BW saying she had an "affair" with her mother during the period just prior to and during my affair. By this she meant she put her emotional energies and time into her mother (my BW's dad passed away and there was a lot of baggage there). Not sure that using the word "affair" is the correct term but that is what my wife used (picture her doing the quotation marks with her hands as she says it).

Now for me, looking back I put my wife on the backburner and got a lot of satisfaction and ego kibbles from doing all the coaching, etc. I too volunteered to sit on a community association board. I also got the attention, I always needed to be the guy in charge (The head coach, being an assistant would not cut if for me).

The problem was the I kept emotionally detaching from my M, and in turn my BW started to detach as well. We became business partners in the M. So when I went out and start my A it was just an extension of what I had been doing for many years - getting external validation. I was depressed and feeling unwanted,/unneeded, and too afraid and dumb to open a dialogue with my wife. So I went out and had an affair to basically get counselling for my ego.

It is a recurring discussion my BW and I have in that we both recognized that our M was not healthy at the time and we should have been doing the hard work then, instead of waiting till after my A (now 4 years later my BW recently said in a half joking manner that the A forced us to at least fix our marriage). That's the part that really hurts me today. Is realizing my BW sees my "affair" as having been many more years than just the one year PA.

Zugzwang posted 1/11/2020 14:32 PM

Myself. Though mine was probably more of the responsibility kind. Work could do no wrong too. Family was second. Then I had the nerve to angry when my wife was bothered by work though in my line of work she was above normal in being understanding and supportive. That anger over her being 'naggy' just built up my entitlement in my eyes. Come to think of it, my wife was in a zugzwang move. She couldn't do anything to win what I put her in. If she gave no indication she was bothered. I would have been angry she paid no attention. I really expected her to be my conscience for me. If she gave indication she was bothered, it just fed my entitlement. There was no winning or move I left for my wife and family that meant no lose for them. In my case, my wife always articulated stuff. She was an excellent communicator. I hated/loved and envied that about her back then.

ISurvivedSoFar posted 1/12/2020 09:23 AM

I love this thread - thank you MCS for putting this out there.

And it's only been since dday that I've learned how all that KISA is usually a reflection of serious brokenness. His "good deeds" have very little to do with being a "good person", but everything to do with presenting that image to the world and soaking up the resulting ego kibble.
Yes, me too GMC, me too. That realization is huge for me but if I am to be honest, I was on my own road to gaining validation in unhealthy ways namely depending on my ability to take on my WS's problems and fix them and/or climbing the corporate ladder to prove my value.
I really expected her to be my conscience for me.
And I suspect strongly that my first issue lead to exactly what Zug states - I took that role naturally to be his conscious and it wore me out completely. It also allowed him to be the child and not take responsibility for his behaviors. The cycle just continued. I can see now how the road led to infidelity because when he wasn't getting what he needed as I was starting to have to deal with my own life issues, he needed that fix and boom it came from someone else because he never got it from himself.

At some point in year 1 when my WS was lamenting that this "isn't him" and the A was an anomaly, I pointed out to him that it was another iteration of seeking external sources to numb himself and pointed out behaviors he exhibited previously including drug addiction (prior to our M). It was a revelation for both of us and he was able to see it and admit it. Little did we both know then that it still didn't come close to the digging required to be on the road to emotional health.

I think these patterns - looking externally for validation and accepting responsibility for someone else's behavior - are likely normal for us humans and part of our emotional evolution. I suspect that paradigm is present for many of us although I recognize it is not necessarily true for everyone.

I can see how my behavior played into his behavior and vice versa. While it is true that the aftermath of infidelity seems to re-write the marital history, for me it doesn't change the past. I was content then and thought I had a great M. I'm okay leaving that as is and working towards something much better and much different. I cannot go back to change that now and have accepted that I did the best I could at that time as did he. I expect more now and hold much different boundaries and am okay with that as well.

Therefore, it is good to go back and see it so we don't repeat it. The signs were there...all along and the patterns ingrained until the bomb went off and forced us individually to change.

MrCleanSlate posted 1/12/2020 12:04 PM

The signs were there...all along and the patterns ingrained until the bomb went off and forced us individually to change.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing; however, yes the indicators were there all along.

JBWD posted 1/12/2020 20:56 PM

The most important one is how my BW saw it.

Caution.
I think we need to acknowledge that there’s a lot of unique dynamics in all of the individual Ms we destroyed. At the outset, we have to work hard to understand ourselves and certainly there’s a massive degree of understanding owed our BPs as we work to develop empathy- Often for the first time.

But if we continue the narrative that we are henceforth to subjugate everything to assuage BP’s pain and inability to comprehend, there’s no healing and certainly no partnership. We owe A TON at the outset, but over time if the desire is for a new partnership, then we can’t by default defer. I know there’s a VERY busy thread over in general where I tried to highlight this and it got lost in the shuffle.

As we learn to understand ourselves we can certainly learn so much from what may actually be more accurate perceptions by those we betray. But just as often the immense hurt can lead to heavy biases that are impossible to overturn.

GMC’s is a great example of people really abusing and escaping through other connections.
And there’s a lot of that that happens in a culture where many derive value from how tired they are. But at the same time, we’re at a point where we continue to demand that intimate partners fill roles that they didn’t previously, and that can cause some real burnout. I don’t know the details of the situation you describe, but I don’t imagine a healthy person would begrudge their partner consoling and supporting a recently widowed parent.

I’m not saying you’re wrong in characterizing how these other connections and commitments affected your M. But I think we need to carefully assess the fact that there’s a difference between “putting others before” and living a balanced life.

gmc94 posted 1/12/2020 22:25 PM

I dunno, and maybe this is just the BS/WS differential, but there is a pretty good sized part of me that wants (needs?) to be a priority to my WH - or for any new partner/relationship. The question - obviously - becomes what does that look like for both parties in any new relationship? I think everyone would hope that if a couple were to R, that those priorities would eventually equalize.. but how long is "eventually"?

Maybe it's bc my WH has yet to make me a priority post dday. To him, "thinking about me all the time" somehow equates to me being a priority. But being a priority in someone's headspace is, IMO, not the same as making them a priority by action (I would like to be prioritized over his fear and cowardice, for instance, by say, getting a real timeline, by getting the story of his A - which is also the story of my M - even if it's now been two years since I learned of his secret sexual life).

The problem was [that] I kept emotionally detaching from my M, and in turn my BW started to detach as well.
This is action that demonstrates that the BW (and in turn, the WS) was not a priority.

I'm not trying to pick on you JBWD, but (yeah, I know, 'but' should be a 4-letter word) a part of me has to wonder where all this concern about being "subjugated" to a BS's pain comes from?

Obviously there must be balance. I don't think anyone - BS or WS - would enjoy being "subjugated", which is very different (in my brain) from "priority". I would not want to R with my WH if that meant he spent the rest of his life feeling oppressed by my desire to be a priority. And at the same time, I have no desire to R with someone who does not prioritize me over activities or actions or whatever that are the emotional equivalent of candy bars and not steak - or, as I discussed in my earlier post, are outright wayward not by the action, but by what drives the need for the action (and maybe that is why we are not on a road to R).

Being a "ball and chain" has NEVER been my MO (and I think my WH would even agree with me on this front - my absolute trust and his absolute freedom were certainly factors that helped him to cheat for so effing long). If he wants to say, run for mayor or join a bridge club bc that is emotionally fulfilling in a healthy way, then go for it! The problem is if he wants to engage in those extramarital (?) activities bc he wants/needs to fill some other emotional void, it turns an otherwise healthy activity into wayward thinking/activity (even if it does not fall into the EA/PA pidgeonholes). This is what has become apparent to me (and I think MrCleanSlate & his BS) post dday.

The post dday future (assuming we were to have one) depends on the WS changing their wayward thinking and behaviors, becoming mindful of why one chooses activity X or Y, and making their spouse a priority, which may mean NOT doing X or Y if it's triggering or smells fishy to a BS (which to me, is not subjugating, but being respectful of the fact that between his cheating and suicide attempt, he is now married to a woman with some serious PTSD that can usually be managed, yet never really goes away). In those cases, it becomes about compromise- eg maybe WS can't go to the gym bc that's where he met the AP, but the pickup basketball game at the church could fit the WS need for outside/physical activity that does not trigger the BS. And if the WS somehow resents this, I would question if that WS has really "done the work" to become a safe partner.

There are so many parallels with waywardness and addiction, so I see it as an easy analogy. A recovered alcoholic going to the bar bc you love the band playing that night can be healthy.... going to the bar to drink (or to watch women, even w/o touching or talking to them), but using the band as an excuse or internal rationalization is not healthy, it's wayward - regardless of whether the WS remains with the BS or is in a new relationship. It's about the why - not the what. To me, by seeing the 'what' as potentially subjugating, it's missing the point.

ETA: Sorry if this is a t/j- I think some of us kind of got off on a tangent about the outside activities, and not the OP's broader question about precursors.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 11:07 PM, January 12th, 2020 (Sunday)]

JBWD posted 1/12/2020 23:36 PM

It's about the why - not the what. To me, by seeing the 'what' as potentially subjugating, it's missing the point.

Agreed. The “why” I’m talking about is the sense I got from the original post that blanket stated normal interests (even note how we struggle to find terms to describe them and arrive at the scary sounding “extramarital”) are some manner of wayward thinking. Further reinforced when MCS states that what’s most important is what his BW perceives his motivations to be. Often those perceptions are more accurate than what a WS understands their own motivations to be. But if we’re going to assume that a WS heals by recognizing that only he/she can ultimately find validation in understanding who they are and what they do, then I believe it’s hazardous to continue to stress the pair above all else- Precisely because it stresses the relationship and places a level of demand that over time is unhealthy.

a part of me has to wonder where all this concern about being "subjugated" to a BS's pain comes from?

My concern is in allowing the perceptions (perceptions driven and potentially distorted by pain, but not pain itself) of others to continue to govern how anyone heals- Victim or cheater. We can control only ourselves, and by building more resilience through healthy, varied connections, we better learn how to evaluate and reset priorities as needed.

Zugzwang posted 1/13/2020 06:06 AM

Isurvivedsofar

I can see now how the road led to infidelity because when he wasn't getting what he needed as I was starting to have to deal with my own life issues, he needed that fix and boom it came from someone else because he never got it from himself.
This was me to tee. I got that way when our second was born. The more my wife did the healthy thing and turned inward to handle things (I moved her away from our support system for my job), the more I got entitled to find my ego kibbles elsewhere and since being a KISA (which is really a true partner to my wife) required actual hard work like being responsible the less invested I was in my family.

ISurvivedSoFar posted 1/13/2020 08:26 AM

Sorry for the t/j...

Zug,

The more my wife did the healthy thing and turned inward to handle things (I moved her away from our support system for my job), the more I got entitled to find my ego kibbles elsewhere
My WS did the same. He kept pushing me away - in every way - from him. When I for the first time had job issues he ran away. It was so painful to me when it was happening and it was one of the precursors to the A. Then when he had mental health issues, he kept it to himself and didn't tell me the whole truth. All of this made the betrayal even more hurtful. He couldn't be there for me as I had been there for him AND he went elsewhere for pleasure. Gah...

To my WS, family (and I am considered family) is never there in troubled times. That's when they become the most untrustworthy. In my family it is the opposite. So I understand it but of course find it unacceptable.

The entitlement though - it continued for so long and he couldn't see it. He saw it as an indictment of his rights and couldn't see that he stomped all over mine. That took some time for him to "get".

end t/j

I think the important part related to this post is that the entitlement sneaks up on us. We don't see it as it is happening. In truth I think I felt it but dismissed it. Something didn't feel right or feel good but hey he was so nice and giving it wasn't something worth addressing. Oh how wrong I was!

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