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What else to do? 

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030303 posted 2/24/2020 05:26 AM

(EDIT: for clarity, my BS is non-binary and their pronoun is 'they')

Background:

In August 2018 I had an ONS equivalent with a colleague at a work conference. I have been with my partner for 7 years to date. We are engaged. We had a fantastic, intimate, fulfilling, good sex life relationship. They had a difficult family life, and I was their first really positive attachment. It is the first long term relationship/serious relationship of any type for us. There was one prior act of infidelity around the 3 year mark that was confessed immediately - it was more ambiguous and less damaging than the ONS, but still forms part of the pattern/history, and mistrust that my partner is currently experiencing. 

What makes the ONS worse is that we were partly non-monogamous at the time, but had a rule about only sleeping with strangers. At one of the post-conference parties, this colleague who I hadn't met before was coming on to me. I called my partner to check if they would be comfortable with me sleeping with the colleague. They said no, as in my organisation people move around a lot so the colleague may not be a stranger for long. I didnt do anything that night, despite being quite drunk. But the next day, while sober, in the middle of the afternoon, I went up to his room (having told him we couldn't do anything!) and we then fooled around. On reflection, I know this was the result of a stupid attraction to boundary pushing, to the point that I ultimately made a decision I now regret hugely. 

I felt terrible straight after, left the conference, told my partner. They were shocked and upset, but we quickly set about remedying it. They asked me to do three things. I did two of the three, but didnt do the third (going to therapy - so so stupid I know). We moved on mostly, and didnt really talk about the infidelity much after that - although it came up when the work colleague moved into our 10 person office. After some cajoling, I spoke to the colleague about how much I regretted the episode and that it was a huge source of shame for me and hurt for my partner. I didnt offer to quit my job which I find very fulfilling - although in retrospect I should have offered this. 

Now:

Just before the one year anniversary of the infidelity, my partner started having dreams about the infidelity, and gradually having increasing bodily reactions to it (like a PTSD response). These dreams became bascially nightly (or about abandonment in some other form). Eventually they stopped being able to have sex with me, without it being a traumatic experience. I confess I was sort of in disbelief at the delayed response. They had a lot going around in other realms (work issues, friendship issues) and I thought it would just pass, or that they were having a disproportionate response. I now realise this is quite a self-deluding hope/redirection of the impact of what I did.

We started couple's counselling and eventually (again after cajoling) I started IC. We recently changed couple's counsellor, but are still in couple's counselling. We have talked at length about the harm caused, the whys, the different ways it hurt and continues to hurt. They also started IC for this and other issues.

We had a big conversation recently where they said they felt like they were leading the whole thing and I was just walking behind them; doing what they asked, but not volunteering much at all. This is certainly true. 

They put me onto this forum. I've found it really helpful in reclarifying the huge wound an ONS can cause (I think I was in denial about its impact because the transgression felt so much less than a full-blown affair, so I found it hard to connect to much infidelity material). In quite recent times, I've become more proactive, and they've noted it, but I'm conscious that it's so late in the piece.

My partner is in such pain that they've set a six week deadline for us to decide what to do. That ends on the third week of March. We are basically at the point (we have lots of honest conversations) where we understand that they are pretty much seeing if they can feel any different at that point, because if not, the situation is intolerably painful and they need to break it off. They are still having abandonment dreams, still get extremely distressed at any sexual contact. While they are not as distraught as they once were, they have explained that part of this is borne of a feeling of numbness. We still sleep in the same bed, and they like to be spooned at night by me. We do not have big fights, but are open and talkative with each other.

I just want to make them feel safe and trust me again but I don't know what else to try. They are largely put off by physical affection, although it's there when they need it and is constantly offered. I have stepped up my domestic game (cooking, cleaning, mental load stuff). I've spoken to the colleague (especially as my partner now works for the same organisation) again reiterated that I don't want to even be more platonically friendly in the office with them than is strictly necessary. I have offered, genuinely, to change my job. 

I know that's it's ultimately their choice, and it may be that I've simply done too much harm (in the initial act, and the subsequent laxness) to enable them to want to continue with the reconciliation. I just dont want to leave any stone unturned. They are effectively run out of ideas as well, but I have energy and desire and still want to put forward whatever is possible.

Thank you for the long read, and any advice. 

(I am 28 - my partner is 31. No children).

[This message edited by 030303 at 4:05 AM, February 27th (Thursday)]

Carissima posted 2/24/2020 13:10 PM

It's hard to tell from reading your post what your intentions are going forward. Are you and your partner now in a committed monogamous relationship and intend to remain that way or do you still have an open relationship?
Not that it matters since you broke the rules and boundaries of your relationship after your partner clearly told you she would be unhappy if you had sex with this person. That's a whole other level of discard and betrayal.
I'm not in an open relationship but there are some people who post here who are, all I can say is listen to your partner, be there for her while working on yourself and your boundaries. IC can be a help to a great many people too.
Good luck.

WalkingHome posted 2/24/2020 14:07 PM

Open relationships tend to end...they just do.

There is no good answer for open or non monogamous situations. Each is unique and very few survive long term. The baggage just piles up.


030303 posted 2/24/2020 15:04 PM

Thanks for the replies.

We have been monogamous since the infidelity in August 2018. We intend to continue with a monogamous relationship.

Carissima posted 2/24/2020 16:52 PM

What happened to being part of a committed thruple that you split up with your third who then split up with your partner? I see it's been removed from your post. You won't get the help you need if you withhold information.

030303 posted 2/24/2020 20:15 PM

Fair enough. I spoke about the initial response to this thread with my partner, and we decided to take the thrupple information out as we thought it might be distracting. We found that with our first couple's counsellor who was overly focused on the break up of the thrupple, and sort of glided past the infidelity and the impact it was having.

But it does form part of the dynamic of the whole situation.

[This message edited by 030303 at 8:27 PM, February 24th (Monday)]

teasweaters posted 2/26/2020 01:13 AM

I'm not sure if it's helpful or appropriate if I chime in, but I'm the BS here and I just want to confirm that we are now monogamous. We don't view our previous consensual non-monogamous arrangement as being particularly related to the ONS, other than as perhaps an aggravating factor.

I've posted on other boards and didn't receive much support or advice because people got hung up on our previous arrangements. Whilst the fact that we were open and in a thruple is not irrelevant, it's frustrating to me that it becomes the focus. Neither fact detracts from the trauma of the ONS. For this reason, I asked my partner to edit his post because I felt like that was being replicated here.

MrCleanSlate posted 2/26/2020 11:36 AM

030303 and Teaswater,

I don't have any experience in thruples or open marriages, but I am a wayward. I think the whole issue with the non-monogamous stuff comes up is that it throws a wrench into the entire aspect of infidelity - similar to the swingers, cuckolds or even the mad hatters. There is a whole different element.

You can't really just ignore a potentially complicating issue.

One thing you may want to do is maybe actually do a separate thread about the Thruple complication. there are a few members here that are involved - PTSI comes to mind, maybe Waywardhotwife. you can try to see if they have relevant posts.

So ignoring all the above, what do you two really want help with? 030303 keeps talking about 'they' through his(?) post and now teasweaters says you are monogamous.

There is pain and damage to the relationship clearly. give us something more to work with as a community so maybe we can offer some advice.

030303 - go to the top of the Wayward forum and read the first post there - it will help you.

EDIT - Maybe the point in all this is that the BS here is hurt by the ONS by the WS. That is totally understandable. It was cheating. It was stepping outside the 'marriage'. So, 030303 were you being open and truthful? did you divulge everything? are you working on your 'Whys' - those Whys are the hard thing. Took me a few years to really figure it all out.

[This message edited by MrCleanSlate at 11:47 AM, February 26th (Wednesday)]

teasweaters posted 2/26/2020 14:18 PM

Hi, thanks so much for the reply. I'll let my partner respond to the core of the post because I'll step back from this thread so I'm not encroaching further. Just wanted to clarify the 'they' in his post is just me - I'm non-binary and use 'they' pronouns haha

Edited for clarity.

[This message edited by teasweaters at 2:19 PM, February 26th (Wednesday)]

MrCleanSlate posted 2/26/2020 15:17 PM

I get it. Confusing to read without the context.

Perhaps changing 'they' to 'my BS, or my partner' would help others with grasping the story better.

030303 posted 2/27/2020 04:15 AM

Thanks for the reply again. I've added an edit for clarity to the original post.

As to what help I am really looking for - the thrust of our current situation is that we still have all the goodwill, but my BS is running out of energy/reserves to continue to press on with reconciliation.

The pinned post is really useful and I feel like it's already helping. The only thing is that so much of the advice is predicated on time. I can understand why.

But I wonder if people have any ideas of how to replenish those reserves when the BS is on the edge of running out of energy, but still has the good will and desire to heal.

Regarding honesty, luckily honesty has always been a huge part of our relationship, and I am confident there is nothing else hidden.

The whys are harder. I know it was part of boundary-pushing, and sometimes have those open boundaries gives you a sense of invincibility, even though they are built on, or enabled, by a huge degree of trust. I thought I couldn't really hurt our relationship and so it meant I was careless. And then ultimately I did take things way too far, and put myself in a position where the decision to betray my partner could be easily made. I think there is still more excavation to do though. I can see how that behaviour (and other lesser behaviours) come from a place of thrill-seeking and attendant selfishness. I'm working on those with my psych too, although I feel like this experience has been a huge lesson in understanding how hard consequences can land. I think it has made me more conscious and cautious. I am just running out of time to convince my partner of that, and enable them to feel safe again.

maise posted 2/27/2020 05:26 AM

Hi 030303,

So I notice you mention ‘invincibility’ as a motivator for boundary pushing, which to me rings as ego. I remember asking my WS more on this to try to penetrate it. Things like specific thoughts & feelings in those moments. There’s something that’s being received there in that moment that you want so badly that you’re willing to betray another (and yourself) to get it. The ‘thing being received’ I found to be a need from childhood that we (as humans) can tend to sort of push onto others and believe they are fulfilling for us...in reality they aren’t, they never can, but we imagine that they are. We put these false ideas onto them, because that’s how bad we ‘need it’. It’s so ‘needed’ bc of where it stems from, childhood.

After doing some work on ourselves we eventually find that the only person that could ever truly give us those needs is ourself. Only we can show up in our lives and be the ‘parent’ that our hurt inner child always needed growing up. Adult us shows up for child us, and teaches child us a different way.

I can only speak from my own experience of course, childhood was a huge one to look into for my WS and I. Our mental schemas have to be revealed in order to find the patterns and work through them.

As for your BS feeling drained, are they in individual therapy also? As a BS myself I had to take this process and learn to focus on my own why’s, and break down my own patterned behaviors. Like, why I had a tendency to abandon myself and give so much to others (at the expense of myself). I was extremely emotionally catering to everyone else, especially my partner. My why’s to all of my own behaviors were vital to my healing.

This entire process has been one of lots self-introspection.

[This message edited by maise at 6:47 AM, March 3rd (Tuesday)]

MrCleanSlate posted 2/27/2020 09:24 AM

...felt like they were leading the whole thing and I was just walking behind them; doing what they asked, but not volunteering much at all. This is certainly true.

So your partner is feeling that they are doing all the work. In other words you seem not committed to the process.

Step One for you is to let go of the outcome. All you can do is work on yourself. That also means you need to learn how to show your partner you are doing the hard work and let them know you care about their feelings. Letting go of the outcome doesn't mean giving up. Never give up.

Step Two - write out a No Contact letter to your ONS (which you still work with). Maybe do the edits with your partner, or do the whole letter together. Now if it were me, I would also look for a new job ASAP. Don't ask, or offer it to your partner, just do it. Part of the pain is the continued contact...

Step Three - get rid of social media. All of it. And give your partner all your passwords to everything.

Those are things that will 'step up your game' not the cooking or cleaning.

In my case the A was one thing. BUT, it was my actions afterward that made the chance of R possible. It is a continual process. A change in thinking and doing things.

After D-Day I had no timeline. I literally had the possibility that if I came clean and told the truth, and promised to work on fixing myself that there is a chance to R. I took the offer and ran with it. Telling the truth was at that point easy, looking in the mirror and understanding myself and working to fix that was hard.

The fact your partner joined here as well speaks volumes about where they stand. They want to give you the chance. Don't take that for granted.

Aside from the first three steps I suggested here is one thing that worked in my case - talk to your partner openly and honestly. They will hoefully talk to you too. We did a lot of Q&A sessions, sometimes on the couch, or in the bathtub, sometimes with a bottle of wine. We would start off with my BW asking some questions about the A and then the topics would veer off to our relationship pre-A and post-A. And we always did it without accusation, or being defensive (that takes some work to do) We learned how to communicate again.

So why the boundary pushing?


[This message edited by MrCleanSlate at 9:26 AM, February 27th (Thursday)]

030303 posted 2/28/2020 02:18 AM

Thanks for the comments.

I do think there was some arrogance in how I acted before. I thought we had the perfect balance in allowing each other to explore experiences outside the relationship in a safe and mutually agreed way. Like, we would talk before and after about whatever experiences we had outside the relationship.

It does makes things worse that I actually spoke to my BS the night I was intoxicated and could have gotten with the AP and then respected our agreement not do anything, then did it the next day when sober. I also remember feeling at the time like other boundaries couldn't be crossed (eg kissing the AP) but obviously crossed other boundaries. I do think that I have a reckless streak that comes from (ironically in a way) a lack of trauma. Like nothing bad has really happened to me, I have always been able to resolve or reconcile things, and make up for my mistakes. That lack of consequence I think leads to being incautious.

Now I feel very cautious and conscious of the huge and possibly irreparable harm I can cause. That dangerous carefree state is gone. But it's hard to demonstrate that. I think this where I'm getting hung up though. The idea of letting go of the outcome while not giving up seems meaningful to me though. I feel like my not giving up pressures my BS in a sense, so I am working on focusing on just doing the work (which feels like it's making me a better person anyway), letting my BS know I am there and will stay there, but can understand why they cant take it anymore.

Re Maise's comment, my BS did start IC and discussed those issues. They've uncovered a fair bit although have currently stopped since they got a new job that doesnt enable them to do therapy during business hours. But we can see what can be done about that, as I agree it's important to their healing (as a couple and individually).

edit - I want to add more to this but am on the move and typing on my phone. Will add more later re the specific suggestions.

[This message edited by 030303 at 2:19 AM, February 28th (Friday)]

030303 posted 2/28/2020 21:11 PM

Update:

Re the specific suggestions, I have already gone functionally no contact with the AP, as far as work allows, based on an agreement with my BS. We have spoken about me changing jobs and it still a genuine offer on the table from me. But my BS does not want it and has said it would make them feel trapped (like the sacrifice is too much). I have also offered to give them all passwords and social media shut down but they aren't interested in that. They said they dont want to surveil me or be an investigator. Partly because honesty has always been part of our relationship I dont think that concern about deception exists, as opposed to a spontaneous betrayal in the moment.

I think the key work lies in (1) interrogating and excavating what attraction exists for me in those encounters with people outside the relationship, even if I have no intention to pursue them (which I suppose is the thrill of being desired, or cake eating as someone described it here). (2) recognising and not putting myself in situations where that is a risk. I feel I'm developing a keener radar for this. I'll be seeing my psych again next week and will discuss with him further.

My partner is also looking at moving out soon for a short period or permanently ahead of our decision date at the end of march. They want this as it will decrease the likelihood of inertia influencing their decision, and so that if we do break up there wont be as many painful logistic issues. It is also another shift that may rejig things. I'm supportive of it, even if it does make me afraid/sad that things may be ending. But I really couldn't ask for more from them - as is evident by my response to your suggestions, they have been exceptionally trusting of me.

MrCleanSlate posted 2/29/2020 12:35 PM

030303,

I really wish you luck on finding your path.

I'll be honest - the suggestions you've received are solid advice that you will see repeated over and over here and elsewhere.

The point is to do things voluntarily. By asking your BS you have lost already. Do the no contact letter, change jobs, etc. Just do it. That is the right thing.

You are trying to cherry pick and the end result is your BS is detaching....Think about that.

sisoon posted 2/29/2020 16:43 PM

This may be a T/J; if so I apologize.

If your partner fears abandonment, that's their problem, and only they can fix it. A good IC can help. The thing is, they CAN fix it, as painful as it is.

I had a big abandonment issue for decades, a FOO issue. Eventually I solved it.

Then my W actually abandoned me in her A, at least while she was with or thinking about or communicating with her ap. Taking responsibility for the abandonment was definitely a requirement for R, but the terrible angst that went with my fearing abandonment was not something either of us had to deal with. We could focus on dealing with the A instead.

030303, you can't fill the hole that is the fear. What will make you a good candidate for R is working effectively to change from betrayer to good partner.

R requires you to heal you and your partner to heal them. Then, together you can heal your relationship (M?).

JMO. If your partner's issue is the actual abandonment of your A, ignore the above.

Zugzwang posted 2/29/2020 18:00 PM

I thought I couldn't really hurt our relationship and so it meant I was careless.

Are you being honest with yourself about this? That it was just careless?

thrill-seeking and attendant selfishness
Why? Why do you need it so much to the point of choosing to hurt others? Which is beyond just being careless. It was an intentional choice. You did in fact seek it out.

That dangerous carefree state is gone.
You might see it as carefree. IMO it is not. It sounds more like entitlement. Desperation. Carefree is innocent. The behavior you chose was not. To move forward, you will need to look at your behaviors in a different way. Without rose-colored glasses.

Since you mention the other partner. Did the other partner leave due to your infidelity?

030303 posted 3/3/2020 02:38 AM

Thanks for the comments again.

Sisoon's comment resonated with me 'What will make you a good candidate for R is working effectively to change from betrayer to good partner.' - and I think that's what I'm trying to do, because really, I wasn't a good partner in what I did to my BS. It was completely undeserved and I hate that I did something that has hurt them so deeply.

You're right Zugzwang that careless/carefree makes it too light. Selfishness is in a way the other side of being carefree. Insofar as carefree encompassing acting without care for the other, it's accurate though. I accept that I acted without considering the person most important to me and for so little. That's where it was hugely selfish.

I think that idea of carelessness goes to the whys though. I defnitely took the relationship for granted - I thought we could survive anything - and then I made the decision to test that, by hurting my partner is such a way. I genuinely didnt think it would hurt them as much as it did, and I think that speaks to a failure of empathy and care. It's tough to admit having acted so despicably to someone I love so deeply. It's inexplicable and cruel and I regret it hugely.

Re the other partner - that ended for completely different reasons. I say I broke up with them, but it was ultimately mutual. I raised it, and they said effectively that they'd mentally broken up with me a few weeks ago. That relationship had a host of compatibility issues from the start and is very different to my relationship with my BS. I do think it has been incredibly hard on my BS though, that I damaged our relationship so badly, while they also got broken up with by the other partner (when they really didnt want to break up - it definitely wasn't mutual), and some other core relationships that have really let them down, all in one year. It's a brutal situation for them that I have played a huge hand in. It genuinely does make me shocked at myself.

Zugzwang posted 3/5/2020 16:34 PM

Still when did the other partner leave? Before or after your affair?

IMO, it can make a difference with your BS.

Testing your BS love isn't just a lack of empathy. It is a huge ball of entitlement.

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