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How do you live with what you have done

DoingThingsWrong posted 1/15/2020 19:11 PM

Hello all,

Forewarning to those that don't know me. I do not have linear thoughts and have a lot of trouble expressing what is going on in my head. I know its not always easy reading what I write. I appreciate the time you all take to read what I post.

Its been almost a year since my wife (Ihatepickingnames) found out I was cheating on her again and I have spent some of this time reflecting on what I've done and putting in some work to change who I am to be a safe partner for my wife. Many times, when we have conversations or she has a random question, I am fairly hard on myself about what I have done. In the early days she would say I was in a pity spiral and being able to get past that was one of the many things I had to overcome to move forward.

It is on this topic that I come here today. Originally these cycles were very self centered because it was focused on the pain I was feeling as a result of my actions. I believe I have moved past most of this and now see the pain and destruction I have caused my wife. In the moments where my actions, when similar to past behaviour, cause my wife to trigger. When I think about the pain I will cause my children as they grow older and start to really understand what I have done to their mother and the family. All of this is on me and I have moments where it is so overwhelming with how much my actions have impacted those around me.

I am not suicidal and, after being around my wife when she was suicidal, I know I have never been that close to the edge. I do have suicidal tendencies and thought patterns where I believe that the life of those around me would be that much better without me around to continue to remind them of what I have done.

My goal is to work on my faults and become a better person. In the moments where things feel overwhelming due to realizing what I have caused I think how there is no reason for me to stay and try. I want to run. I know that giving up and running is the wrong thing to do. I do care and don't want to give up.

I am very thankful that my wife has given me these chances to change who I am and be a better person.

But... I need to know how those that have been in the same situations (on either side of the aisle) how do you deal with these feelings. Knowing you have destroyed the person you are with. Knowing you risked everything that ever mattered to you for fleeting pleasures that were meaningless. How can I stand here and say to the same person I want to make myself a better person knowing that I brought them to that edge. I know that whatever pain I feel will never be close enough to what she has, and is, going through.

I feel like I am rambling here and haven't expressed what I wanted to ask well enough. It was on my mind tonight and wanted to share.

Zugzwang posted 1/16/2020 06:38 AM

You can't say anything. You must show. You must choose to live differently.

IHatePickingName posted 1/16/2020 08:15 AM

I am doingthingswrong's wife. I don't think there is a forum rule precluding me posting on his post, and we discussed it last night and he was ok with me reading it. I replied to him in person about his post last night, but I want to do so here as well, now that I have thought about it more.

To those reading: dday2 was March 22 when I caught him, and I got a full confession August 3. He started therapy in June. DTW has been remorseful and doing the work since August. In that time, I have seen changes I wouldn't have believed possible. He has done everything I need to heal myself, we talk all the time, he has learned to put me and the children first and recognize what we need, want, and are feeling. He is a better husband and person now than he ever was before the affairs.

One of his major areas he has been working on personally is letting himself feel his emotions. He was so closed off before, that he literally could not feel anything. He would completely shut down if anything bad happened. To the extent he goes mute. This has happened since childhood, and relates to childhood trauma. His therapy has focused a lot on this and he has made huge strides, but it is still not easy for him. This is why he struggles to express what he is asking here. He has literally never spoken about his feelings, ever in his life, before June.

To my love: I answered last night but I reread and thought about it again today. I think your question is "how do you live with the feelings of shame and guilt, once you know the full extent of the damage you caused?" Last night, I reminded you of your breathing exercises to cope with strong emotions. Today, I want to remind you about black and white thinking. You said you destroyed me. I know I have probably used that word myself. But I am not destroyed. I was hurt. I was heartbroken. I am still broken. But I am also stronger and more resilient than I ever knew I could be. And I am still here. I didn't die. I am not destroyed. I will be ok.

Last night, I told you that we have a chance here to end the legacy of infidelity that is generational in both our families. We do that by changing ourselves going forward, and teaching our children better. We both dealt with families who hide, rugsweep, and pretend everything is ok. Our children aren't being taught that lesson that you and I were. They are learning that sometimes people screw up, they hurt people, and it is their JOB to do everything they can to fix it. They are learning about honesty, and the value you and I place on it, as well as the damage of lies. They are learning about seeking and giving forgiveness. About choices. About valuing yourself enough to set boundaries, and about respecting others about their boundaries. These are the legacies our infidelities are teaching our children. These are good lessons, even if the reason isnt.

Yes, they will understand more later, and we will help them through their feelings then. Hopefully our openness about everything now will help them to come to us with their feelings. Remember, your sister was the same age as our daughter when your mother had her dday. She heard and knew and felt things, and your mother didn't know until she was a teenager because she never discussed it with her. Your sister didn't have someone to talk to for all those years of confusion, fear, and pain. We are choosing differently.

You have done a lot of work to be able to feel your feelings, and have learned really good techniques to help you stay in the feeling without being overwhelmed. Your feelings of guilt and shame are something you might need to let yourself feel more, and explore. I don't know. This is past where I am myself and I don't know the answer. I hope people further along than us can help you there. It is why I am glad you posted. You no longer get stuck in the feelings or use them as a justification to give up or shut down, which is incredible progress for you. I know you still feel hopeless at times and I understand the desire to run away.

Like me, you need to find a way to take breaks from the work, to give yourself permission to slow down and catch your breath. You are working so hard to do everything at once, and you get overwhelmed. We have the rest of our lives. I know we both feel rushed because we hate sitting here in the uncertainty and pain, but we need to accept that we are here now and we can't get to the future any faster than one day at a time. I think you need the same resources I was recommended the other day, on self compassion. I will show them to you tonight. We both need to give ourselves a break and recognize how much we have already accomplished.

I love you, we are in this together, and we are doing it. We will get there. I am proud of you for the work you are doing and the man you are becoming.

Candyman66 posted 1/16/2020 08:53 AM

WOW! What a wonderful post! I wish the both of you a much better and warmer marriage! Thanks for showing us that there is hope.

hikingout posted 1/16/2020 09:52 AM

Good morning!

I am going to answer your question from quite a literal standpoint.

At first the shame and realization of what I did was crushing. Like it is described above, I had really gotten very numb and going through the motions. Mine was from a mismanagement of my life standpoint to the place I had gotten emotional exhaustion. That is a very hard way to live, so I do understand what it feels like when some of the emotional faucet comes back on and the shame and self loathing sets in. I struggled a long time with all that.

In some ways, that pain was what made me want to really go back and fix what I needed to fix about myself. In IC I worked on processing a lot of past trauma and by connecting with that began having some self compassion. That was a turning point from feeling "bad or evil" to really understanding how I became who I was and the errors I was making in my thinking/behaving/overall operating my life.

So, the first step is to get to that point.

The other thing that you work on throughout is making reparations and amends. When you start putting your effort and priority into your relationship there are a lot of rewards along the way. And when you live right for a longer period of time it starts changing your track record. When you start changing your track record that immediate history starts looking better to us. We can start seeing the good in ourselves again.

Right now your immediate history is something you are deeply ashamed of, and that's the state of mind you are living in. Start working on your current day to day and doing the best you can. Go to IC and start healing. When you are happier, healthier and on your way to healing you will find the self compassion that you need, and you will find that your state of being will help your wife who is obviously dedicated to fixing her relationship with you as well.

You live with it one step at a time, but I know some of the realization that comes as we face the destruction we had been ignoring is a difficult part of this journey. It can get better and you do have the power to make it so.

DoingThingsWrong posted 1/16/2020 10:30 AM

Zugzwang - can you be more specific on what you mean? It almost seems like you are answering a different question.

Hikingout - thank you so much for your response. I am in IC and its made a lot of difference for me personally and in the overall picture. Its something I will continue for a long time.

MrCleanSlate posted 1/16/2020 12:04 PM


Wow, truly uplifting to read something so heartfelt and positive for a change.


I always had problems dealing with emotions and stress. My wife always said me and my family were all emotionally constipated. Add to that a depression that came over me in the years before and during my A that I was bottling up all my emotions, so to a degree I can understand.

I actually started IC during my A. I broke thing off before D-Day, and when my AP went nuclear on my BW she told me to tell all, and at that moment the flood gates started to open and I started spewing out the truth. It was hard at first, then I started to feel better to actually share everything with my BW. She was a saint to me by being open to listen and giving me the chance to R.

So through 4 years of IC/MC and a lot of late nights with a bottle of wine in the bathtub we are firmly reconciled.

Here's the thing, I feel more guilt today than I did 4 years ago. I can see all the wrong things I did, all the hurt I caused, the betrayal, etc. But you know in some ways I learned to live with it by being a much better, man, husband, father. I can't change yesterday but I sure can make sure today and tomorrow are better. My wife really saved me by showing me the path to truth and living better. She didn't criticize, she stood by me and pointed out my errors and weaknesses and helped me along. Just amazing.I think you have that and more in your wife.

Saying sorry is not enough. It's the actions everyday. It is simply calling my wife and talking for a few minutes about the a**hole who cut me off, or about the big booger I sneezed out, or whatever. We talk and laugh and share. But importantly for my BW she sees that i am present and wanting to change and improve.

Seize the opportunity your wife is offering you. I did and I will never look back.

hikingout posted 1/16/2020 13:24 PM

Here's the thing, I feel more guilt today than I did 4 years ago.

I have heard you say this before. Today, for some reason this struck me as what I have been trying to put into words for my H.

I think as you change, your sense of right and wrong is much stronger. After you get to a point of R, your value of your spouse is much higher. It makes sense that the remorse/guilt is stronger than before you became that person.

For me, I have a hard time not seeing the way I tainted what was an extraordinary marriage and partnership. Add to that I have new boundaries and awareness of my wants and needs that I never had before and negotiation is a lot of work for someone as lazy in that regard as I have been. Ignorance was truly bliss in many ways, so it makes me wish more than ever that I could have come to the self-knowledge and healing some other way. I know that it will have always been at the expense of the relationship that was almost effortless in most ways prior to this time. In other ways, I am not sure that I ever would have been able to be fully awake and not have the perspective change. To be fully engaged in negotiating for things you want I think is always going to take the effortless out of it.

The affair was a huge lose-lose and what I won in the aftermath is pretty small in comparison. I am not sure that you can ever unsee that, so that part of it makes a lot of sense.

[This message edited by hikingout at 2:52 PM, January 16th (Thursday)]

Buzzy posted 1/16/2020 14:35 PM

Of course you feel more guilt today, that is because you are becoming a better person and now have more empathy and love for your wife.

I am a madhatter and after my RA i felt so justified in my actions that anything i did or had done was ok. When the love for my wife began to surface again in a torrent my guilt went through the roof. On several occassions i have started crying just thinking of the pain i put my wife through.

I also get a cold void in my stomach thinking about what i could have lost.

Your feelings are very normal and shows empathy.

DaddyDom posted 1/16/2020 16:05 PM


This is a great question. And I am floored by your wife's loving and wonderful response. She is the victim of the damage here, and she can live with it and still love you. Now you must find that same strength and that same love for yourself.

I think one of the most crucial things to understand is that the things we did during our affair(s) are never going to be "okay". Never. We will never look back and think, "I'm pretty proud of my infidelity". That is something we WS's get all tripped up over. We somehow think that we have to be okay with what we did in order to be okay with ourselves. The infidelity will forever be a shitty thing we did and will never be okay. So... then how do we live with it, and learn to forgive ourselves for the unforgivable? How do we turn straw into gold? The answer is to stop trying to make the affair something we are okay with, and instead, make it the catalyst for us to model our future selves on. We turn a negative into a positive by making sure that we learn, change and grow as a result. Do that, and you bring meaning to the pain. Fail to change, and the damage remains meaningless. Nothing sucks worse than not learning and growing from our mistakes and failures.

Let me ask you something. When you had your affair, what do you think your motivation was for doing it? Did you hate your wife, and with that hate, set out to willfully destroy her and cause her as much pain as humanly possible in hopes that she would suffer? Was that your main goal? Or, was the focus more on yourself? Were you selfish, hurting, needy, wanting something in your life that you thought would end the emptiness inside?

My guess is that the latter is what motivated you. The affair was not about your wife, it was about you. Okay? So, what does that mean, and how does that help?

Here's the thing. Each person in this world, no matter how wonderful or how shitty they may be, is doing the best they can with the tools they have at the time. I know that it can be hard to wrap our heads around, especially when someone does things that are hurtful to others. What we need to understand is that, in the same way, that your infidelity was really all about you (hurting your wife was not the goal, it was a consequence), the pain most people cause to others is a reflection of their own pain in life.

For example, if a person was raised by wolves in the forest, it would ridiculous to expect that person to understand social graces, how to eat with a knife and fork, how to say please and thank you, or how to even use a toilet. They would seem crass, rude, gross, and incredibly selfish when compared to others who were raised in human homes and taught how to act within our social society. And to be fair, people raised in human homes would have no idea how to function in a wolf pack either. My point being, a person raised by wolves isn't crass, rude and gross because that's who they are at their core, they are that way because those are the tools they had available to them, and those are the tools that allowed them to survive and thrive in the woods. When taken out of that environment, how can we possibly expect them to know any better, or act any differently? They do the best they can with the tools and experience they have. Now, if given new tools, can they do better? Can they be different people? Of course. That is then a choice they have.

I don't know you or your personal story, but I can tell you this. People who love themselves, and respect themselves, and have healthy boundaries and healthy coping skills, are capable of showing love and respect to others and have the tools needed in order to maintain respect for themselves and others. But what about those of us who don't love ourselves? What if we were never taught to love ourselves? What if we learned unhealthy coping skills in order to survive? Are we bad people, and did we do bad things because we are bad people? I don't think so. We are who we choose to be. If we choose to be better people, then that is who we become, and the old things we did, the things we are not proud of, the things that hurt others, cease to be our "identity". Rather, our past mistakes and decisions become part of our story, stepping stones and lessons learned on our way through life, ones which we use to learn and grow and build new identities. We use our mistakes in order to learn who NOT to be and what to not accept in our lives. We grow. We change. We become. Or we wither and hide and die. It is always our choice to act upon.

In short (as if I ever say anything in short), the way you "live with what you did" is to bring meaning to it. And the way you bring meaning to it is by learning and growing from it. To be honest, in some ways, such a path can make you an even better person than someone who didn't have these hurdles to overcome. Do you know why? Because it means the things you do going forward, you do with purpose, and with conviction. Going back to the wolf example, a person who was taught to use a fork and knife all their lives does so without forethought, without reason. They do it by rote, mechanically. The wolf-boy turned human, however, he does it because they CHOOSE TO, because they desire to, because they believe it is the right thing to do. I would rather a person do the right thing because they thought it through than someone who does things mechanically because the person doing it for their own reasons will always choose the right path. Get that? You can actually gain MORE respect for yourself by choosing to forgive yourself. Wallowing in the pain of what you did accomplishes NOTHING. That is the only way to end up not being able to live with yourself.

My best to you. Give yourself the same grace that you would give anyone else who made bad choices. You really do deserve it.

[This message edited by DaddyDom at 4:42 PM, January 16th (Thursday)]

Zugzwang posted 1/16/2020 16:23 PM


How can I stand here and say to the same person I want to make myself a better person knowing that I brought them to that edge.

You said say...so I answered that response for this quote. It seemed like your biggest issue to me is not about your own shame which IMO I have no issues with. We should feel shame for things that we are guilty of that caused harm. Shame IMO is a good thing. Staying stuck in shame is not shame. It is an entirely different thing. IMO too many people get those two things mixed up. One owns and accepts the shame because they know they are guilty. Then, you learn from it and choose to change.

Part of your OP, seemed more about how you could face your BS. How you could even dare to say anything to her after what you did. I said not to focus on saying stuff, instead showing. Which according to your wife you are. So, move forward. Accept the gifts of grace, mercy, and forgiveness from her. Trust in her. Do you trust your wife? Then trust what she sees and how she feels. Let go and move on and move forward.

kairos posted 1/16/2020 19:59 PM

From your own words, it sounds like there has been a transition from self-centered pain (I fucked up) to the pain you caused her (I hurt her) to even another experience (how could I do this?). In reading the other responses, there definitely seems to be a transition for most of us from internally focused pain to something more external, a sense of regret, remorse, shame, etc. I know I felt it recently in my “Self-Hate Returns” post recently. Things were going so well and suddenly it hit me: the guy who committed that horrible thing was someone I was disgusted with. That comparison of the man I am now with the man I was; it was nearly unpalatable.
I think there a few things happening here.

1) Let’s talk about your children, because I think I can relate. As they get older, what kind of man do you think they would look up to? Everyone makes make regrettable decisions in life, and our society is full of big mess-ups. The single biggest lesson our children need to learn is how NOT to NEED to perform at 110% but rather how to GET BACK UP AND LEARN from mistakes/errors. My biggest fear is that my children won’t learn this simple yet paralyzing lesson. It’s so, so, so hard to pick ourselves up after we’ve had small and especially big mess-ups in life. Be the come-back story your kids will be proud of. Write that new story with that wonderful woman who gracefully has given you another chance. I think it’s the worthiest cause.

2) What others might not see in this post is maybe something I can relate to. You feel sadness, pain, maybe shame, regret, and it can feel crippling. You’ve mentioned not having linear thoughts. Your wonderful wife mentions that you struggle with allowing yourself to have emotions, that you shut down when anything bad happens, you go mute. Yea, man, I hear you. That was/is me to the tee. Before Dday, I was completely incapable of emotional expression, and I shuttered at the thought when my ex-wife would confront me on anything even remotely emotional. I believe there is something very important in this experience my friend. I had and continue to have a very similar experience. I could argue my way out of a Palestinian conflict (ok, maybe not that), but for the life of me, feeling emotions or expressing them in writing or even in-person felt almost impossible. I hear some of this in you. I really don’t like to advise. But what I see and hear when I ready your words is a struggle to feel and express emotions. Taking that a level farther, why would someone not be good at this? Most likely childhood trauma. At a certain point in your life, you probably decided to stuff emotions away to survive whatever situation you were facing. And then in your marriage, you used this ability ‘to not feel’ to allow others to feel their emotions and probably to support your family and turn off the pain deep down. It was a survival mechanism. And that would most likely mean that you didn’t feel like your emotions/feelings are valid. But… they are valid. Your feelings/emotions are valid. The pain, the anger, the hate, the sadness, confusion, regret, shame, joy, etc.; it’s all valid. And even though they don’t come out in a linear way like everyone else, I suspect that if you continue down this path of opening up about your feelings, you’ll start to see an emotional structure and language from which you can expand your new healthy life. I could be wrong, but I suspect this is part of your experience.

3) And the last point I have to make aims at the question you asked: “How do you live with what you have done?” I think the others have provided sound advice here. I think the words I mentioned above indicate that by writing this stuff, you actually are ‘living with what you have done.” So the only thing I will add is this: BE THE HERO OF YOUR OWN STORY.

Need2Do posted 1/17/2020 15:23 PM

Doingthingswrong & IHatePickingName
I only want to say 'THANK YOU'.

IHatePickingName posted 1/17/2020 18:27 PM

Just want to make sure I thank everyone for sharing their stories and thoughts on the matter. Its really beneficial to hear that I am going through a normal process and have a couple new thoughts on how to keep things rolling. Never want to get stuck in a rut.

To those that are able to see and appreciate the positives that my wife has shared while helping me express my thoughts, I am glad we could be there for you in this way as many of you have been there for us.

IHatePickingName posted 1/18/2020 05:43 AM

^that was posted by him. He didnt check which acct was logged in 🤣

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