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I've forgiven myself, but the grief is unbearable

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cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 12:15 PM

Apologies for length but I am really suffering. Here's the background story:

- I was with my BS for 14 years (2002-2016).
- I had low self-worth, depression/anxiety, unresolved issues from possibly being molested as child, porn addiction, rage issues, alcoholism, and poor coping with a recent rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Not excuses, just part of the picture.
- I was verbally & mentally abusive toward my wife without really being conscious of my bad behavior. I was a lot like her father before he reformed himself, and I think this is why she tolerated it for so long.
- In 2013, attention from a younger remote co-worker led to an emotional affair which was discovered by BS. I ceased contact and we did some counseling (but not enough), and seemed to put it behind us.
- In 2016, on paper our lives were better than ever. But I was suffering from physical & mental pain and considered suicide daily. Then, attention from another younger remote co-worker opened the door to another emotional affair.
- At this point (June 2016) I decided I was beyond saving and pursued it to the fullest. At age 35 I felt fragile and broken, and this attention made me feel alive and manic. I decided to preemptively start divorce to justify my behavior. My BS was blindsided, as everything had seemed to be going well.
- In August 2016 I flew to the AP's location to "seal the deal" and follow through on self-destruction. Turns out the AP was just using me for fun, and discarded me shortly after meeting. This surely stung as I thought what we "had" actually meant something.
- Little did I know my BS had a private investigator tailing me. I hate that she had to see pictures of me holding hands with and kissing a woman who was nowhere near as beautiful & smart as her, and who didn't actually care about me.
- In October 2016 our divorce was finalized. It was all such a manic & self-destructive blur, and I moved 1,500 miles away -- I chose to run in shame instead of staying behind to try to undo a divorce I never really wanted.

The four years since my divorce have been filled with a lot of self-work -- counseling, pursuit of physical wellness, and changing bad behavior. I am far from perfect but am proud of the progress.

Over the 4 years I've attempted contact with my BS 4 times.
- In 2017, a phone call which she answered; we talked for 2 hours and seemed to make some progress about the "why" for my actions.
- In 2018, a handwritten letter asking for forgiveness and a possible attempt at reconciliation. No response.
- In 2019, an email expressing my continued remorse and asking for forgiveness. No response.
- In 2020, a phone call where she hung up on me immediately.

I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I've done my best to forgive myself for them. I was a weak person who succumbed to their demons and made terrible mistakes. I am not the same person today.

From what I've gathered through mutual friends, my BS seems to be doing quite well and is more independent and bold than she ever was with me. I miss her and her family so much it feels like I carry an open shotgun wound in my chest. This is not what I wanted, but it is what I chose.

Right now I feel like I'm destined to wander the earth waiting for a reconciliation that I desperately want, but which will likely never come. I do not want to share myself with anyone else, and all the joys of life are muted. I'm too stubborn to kill myself at this point, but the thought of it seems so peaceful.

I do weekly counseling, am in the best shape of my life, and am free from all substances except my RA medication. At this point I'm considering experimental treatment with psychedelics under the guidance of a medical professional (I live in Colorado and have access).

Beyond what I'm doing, any advice on how to persevere through the regret, longing, and mental anguish would be appreciated. I'm tired of crying everyday, but again, this is the path I chose.

hikingout posted 6/29/2020 12:49 PM

I am sorry that you are in pain. I have to say that I believe had I chosen to pursue the AP further/left my husband I would also likely have great grief and regret that for the rest of my life. I know my life would not be nearly as good moving forward, and that finding someone like him would be next to impossible. So, I can relate in the way that you are like the ghost of Christmas Future in the Scrooge story.

I think one of the things that you can do to make amends is to leave her alone. She has made it clear that she wants that, and despite the experience has healed and moved on.

I wonder if your IC has mentioned anything about this triggering abandonment issues for you? This is an opportunity to dig into what's behind that.

Listen, despite everything I said in my first paragraph, we have many people in this world we can be compatible with and share a happy, healthy relationship with. You can heal regardless of her forgiveness, you can even heal if you haven't forgiven yourself. That last part, I know to be a fact. I have given up on the idea of my husband forgiving me, or me forgiving myself, those things may never be in the cards. But, we have both healed regardless of that.

You must accept this is what it is and figure out your steps to move on. Sometimes we do become better people but it's too late to get that third chance. That's healthy for her. Love isn't about warm feelings, it's truly about wanting the highest and best for that other person.

hikingout posted 6/29/2020 13:01 PM

I also don't know if this helps, but there is grief even when you stay together. The marriage is irrevocably changed, and you know you caused it. I probably spend more time in remorse because I can see how it has effected him, but remorse and grief is not alleviated just because you stay together. Just giving you some thoughts on the flip side of what you are experiencing.

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 13:06 PM

Thank you, hikingout. (Funny, hiking is one of the few things that keeps me sane. I started out yesterday with tears in my eyes feeling like I couldn't breathe. An hour and 1,500 feet of gain later, I was centered.)

I guess I never truly loved myself and could therefore not love her properly. I knew my APs were not the answer, that they were ego-boosting trolls. But I took that ride anyway (not once but twice!).

I had a rough childhood and definitely do have some abandonment issues. Working on that with my IC. In hindsight, I abandoned my ex-wife before she'd have the chance to abandon me...at least I was in control of the outcome, right? Ugh.

Thanks for sharing the flip side. Reconciliation would be a messy and difficult hill to climb. Right now it's easy for me to idealize what that would look like.


[This message edited by cc24ru at 1:08 PM, June 29th (Monday)]

gmc94 posted 6/29/2020 13:42 PM

I'm a BW. Reading your post I see a lot of language that sticks out to me. I want to, as gently as I can, provide some (hopefully) constructive points. I do NOT feel or intend this to come off as a 2x4. So, please take this with a grain of salt.

Yet, language MATTERS. Using passive language can be heard as a lack of ownership/personal responsibility WRT an A. So, my comments may feel hyper critical - and in some ways they are. The point is NOT to say you are a jerk bc you didn't use perfect language. I don't feel that way and I hope you don't either. The point is to shed some light on the ways in which your language may reflect your thoughts/feelings.... may reflect that at this juncture you may not have fully processed some things. Again, take it or leave it as you wish.

Not excuses, just part of the picture.
WS may have a very different perspective on this, but as a BS, I always cringe with these statements (even tho we often see them from WS who are solidly "R'd" or "in R" ), esp when whatever precedes does not include personal responsibility, as it sure can come across as "excuses".

without really being conscious of my bad behavior
Again - is it that you were not really conscious.... or chose to ignore it? My WH uses the phrase "didn't recognize", and I call bulls*t on that. And here's the conundrum - if one cannot even SEE the bad behavior (bc they aren't "really conscious" of or "don't recognize" it as such), how does one change that? But if one CHOOSES to ignore or compartmentalize or whatever the behavior they KNOW is hurtful and harmful, then one can find courage to face it (or face what they KNOW is wrong) and learn to stop putting it into a box. Look, I've been an assjack to my WH on many occasions - before and after DDay. And I'm confident I was aware that it was harmful, e.g., when I'd yell at him about something, I knew it was hurtful. But I still did it. That is not the same as saying I wasn't "really conscious" when I yelled at him.

attention from a younger remote co-worker led to an emotional affair
Again, where is YOUR choice to engage here? This is language that implies you would not have embarked upon an A "but for" that attention.....

attention from another younger remote co-worker opened the door to another emotional affair.
nope, nada, no bueno. I call bullshit on this. Again, it was not your AP's attention that opened the door. She may have knocked, but YOU opened that door.

I hate that she had to see pictures of me holding hands with and kissing a woman.... who didn't actually care about me.
This one is a two-fer. First, you "hate" that your BW "had" to see those pictures. Nope. You CHOSE to do something that you knew (from your past EA) would be harmful, hurtful, etc. But you CHOSE to do it anyhow. And, would it make a difference (to your or to your BW) if your AP DID "actually care about" you? This and other stuff in your post implies that had your AP not dumped you, all would be OK. To me, this is an example of wayward thinking.

I fully accept the consequences of my actions
This is a little tricky to me, because if you "fully" accepted those consequences, think your language would better reflect that. And, you would not have continued to reach out to your XBW after you did not receive a response to your 2018 letter. And, you sure as heck would not have tried to call her. I assume you said what you needed to say in that 2018 letter, yet you continued to intrude on your BW. Why? What made that OK? Where was your empathy for HER pain (in those continued attempts to reach out AND in your post here)?

I... succumbed to [my] demons and made terrible mistakes
This is still passive language. Where - again - is your ownership of your choices? And what you did was not a "mistake". Even if one could view your FIRST A as a "mistake" (and I suspect the conventional wisdom on SI - both WS and BS - would balk at that, myself included), there is NO WAY one can characterize your SECOND A as a "mistake". It was a series of conscious and deliberate choices.

This is not what I wanted, but it is what I chose
I'm not sure I even understand what this is supposed to mean. You CHOSE the D and the As, but you didn't "want" the consequence? Can you see the cognitive dissonance here?

I'm destined to wander the earth waiting for a reconciliation that I desperately want, but which will likely never come
If you have "fully accepted the consequences" then you would not still be "waiting for a reconciliation".

I'm too stubborn to kill myself at this point
This is REALLY GOOD news! I mean it. My WH attempted suicide (tho I hate to use the word "attempt". He actually DIED. In my arms. Literally. But EMS revived him). My DD attempted suicide last month. I've contemplated suicide a TON since dday. I'm really really really glad that you are too stubborn to follow through on this.
My IC and just about everyone I've shared this with think I'm crazy (and maybe I am), but the trick I used to keep myself alive over the past year or so is to set a date, at least 6 months away. So, in spring of 2019 I told my IC that I was going to kill myself on 12/31/19. I said that I would continue to work to heal, but that if I didn't see any progress my plan was to do it (and I did have a specific plan). I believed that I had an emotional cancer of the brain. That I was not going to discontinue treatment, but that I could not continue to live with what was happening. She contemplated putting me in the psych ward, and I told her that bc there was no "immediate" danger to myself, legally I could not be held. So, EVERY time my mind started wandering down the rabbit hole of suicidality, I told myself that I fully committed to not think about that until 12/31. Funny, by the time 12/31 rolled around, I had done a lot of great work, and the thought of killing myself was nowhere to be found. I still use this trick when I'm in the rabbit hole of hopelessness.

I'm considering experimental treatment with psychedelics under the guidance of a medical professional (I live in Colorado and have access)
I'm currently "reading" (on audiobook) Michael Pollan's "How to Change your Mind" and gotta admit I'm a bit jealous you have this access.

Look, my intent is not to kick you while you are down and hurting. I just wonder if part of the dilemma is that you have not yet fully taken ownership and accepted that these are the consequences, about which you have no control.

Godspeed.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 1:47 PM, June 29th, 2020 (Monday)]

nekonamida posted 6/29/2020 13:59 PM

Part of not being the person you were is realizing that getting back together with you is NOT what's best for your XBW. She had made it clear that her best path forward is to have NC with you. Please respect that.

Instead, get an IC. Get some help in accepting how to move forward on your own. That hole in your heart will not be fixed by your XBW or anyone else. It is fixed by working on your self. Healthy people do not feel holes in themselves even if they are alone and even if they have made bad choices in the past. They feel contentment with themselves. Your hole will only be fixed when you take the steps to fix it and feel content with yourself in spite of the bad choices you've made.

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 14:01 PM

gmc94 -- thank you. This is what I came here for.

I can see that the language is problematic and I appreciate you taking the time to dissect it. I suppose I am glossing over things because it hurts so much to own it properly?

During the EA, the PA, and the divorce process, I truly felt like a passenger in my body. After it was all over, I felt like I woke up from a fog standing over a dead body with a knife in my hand. I don't say that to shirk responsibility, it's just that the dissociation from reality was so strong. Again, I guess I'm admitting here that I struggle with proper ownership as much as I try.

I am trying this as a step in the right direction:

- I knew I had issues. I chose not to embark on the work required to deal with them.

- I knew I treated my wife poorly but did not take the steps to break the patterns of rage and verbal abuse.

- I enjoyed the attention and ego-stroking from younger co-workers and chose to engage in extramarital affairs with them.

- I may now regret everything, but need to recognize that in choosing EA, PA, and D, I've given up all privileges -- contacting her, knowing her, loving her. There are people in prison who truly regret killing someone...that doesn't bring the person back.

I hope that is better and I appreciate the "tough love".

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 14:09 PM

That hole in your heart will not be fixed by your XBW or anyone else. It is fixed by working on your self. Healthy people do not feel holes in themselves even if they are alone and even if they have made bad choices in the past. They feel contentment with themselves. Your hole will only be fixed when you take the steps to fix it and feel content with yourself in spite of the bad choices you've made.

Thank you, nekonamida. Though I've made progress I do still run from myself. I know I need to fully "get right" with the man in the mirror. It's been a slow grind and I still have far to go.

hikingout posted 6/29/2020 14:25 PM

After it was all over, I felt like I woke up from a fog standing over a dead body with a knife in my hand. I don't say that to shirk responsibility, it's just that the dissociation from reality was so strong. Again, I guess I'm admitting here that I struggle with proper ownership as much as I try.

I understand this sensation. There is part of me that says "what the hell was I thinking" and the feeling that I had betrayed myself when I regained some healthy equilibrium. I think some of that is because like you, I was depressed and had been numbing all my feelings so long it lead to a callousness that is not a trait that is a natural part of my personality. I had no empathy for anyone else, I just wanted to escape and feel good.

BUT, while I do know how that feels, and can fall susceptible to those thoughts as well, it's important to go in there and debunk that feeling it was someone else doing those things. For me, I know that the way I was mismanaging my life, and blaming my husband for my unhappiness. Not consciously though, more through lack of evaluating myself. Because it wasn't a different person who did the cheating, it's all the same person. And, the fact you did it twice, means that you did nothing to change how you were managing things between 2013 and 2016.


The other thing to evaluate is your definition of love. I think it sounds more like you are attached to your ex, rather than loving her. Read up on that, it will enlighten you a lot about the way you love. WS typically look to others to give them completeness, feelings, happiness, etc. You have this capability within you. By activating it, you can truly love, and as I mentioned that's about wanting the best possible things for that other person, even if that is separate from you. In this situation, you will want for her to have peace, you will realize she can't have that now with you.

In some ways I think that your bids for her forgiveness strikes her as self-serving. Again, the opposite of love. You are seeking to get something from her for your own peace of mind.

forgettableDad posted 6/29/2020 14:59 PM

From reading the title of your post and the contents of your post.

What do you think "forgiveness" is?

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 15:00 PM

The other thing to evaluate is your definition of love. I think it sounds more like you are attached to your ex, rather than loving her. Read up on that, it will enlighten you a lot about the way you love. WS typically look to others to give them completeness, feelings, happiness, etc. You have this capability within you.

I guess I really don't know what love is. I used to tear up at the thought of losing her. I always told myself I would die for her. I tried to put her needs before mine (perhaps feeding into some co-dependency, which created resentment).

But if I really loved her so deeply, I would have never done what I did. Bleh. Still need to figure out how to love myself - the whole "put the oxygen mask on first" concept.

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 15:05 PM

From reading the title of your post and the contents of your post. What do you think "forgiveness" is?

forgettableDad - based on the thoughtful responses I've received, I'm not even sure it's forgiveness I'm looking for. I think it's finding a way to reach acceptance and to keep moving forward.

In January I went back to New York (our home) on a business trip. I took time to visit old landmarks from our relationship. What was really striking is that nothing was as I remembered it. Neighborhoods had changed, businesses had closed, etc.

I know that I have to keep moving forward; the world will keep moving forward without me. I just periodically find myself consumed by regret and longing for "what could have been".

secondtime posted 6/29/2020 17:49 PM

Have you given any thought to the 12 step tradition?

I find it curious that you self-identify as having two addictions but aren't really in maintenance mode for them.

Anyway, you might find meetings to be useful.

Maybe also consider doing some work with mindfulness. If you are fully present in your life and the task at hand, your mind will wander less.

My husband is a recovering SA, porn is how he gets high. Like PP noted, my husband has not really ownership of his choices. He's also filled with shame and regret. It's going to cause him to relapse again. It already did once. It's just a matter of time.


gmc94 posted 6/29/2020 18:47 PM

I always told myself I would die for her.
This always resonates for me as a BS. To this day, I believe my WH would step in front of a bullet for me.... bc it's someone else shooting and that would make him a hero. He would give his life to "protect" me from someone else, but ask him to have an uncomfortable conversation to rebuild trust, to face the fallout of the A, or to really "protect" me from himself? No bueno. Just. Cant. Do. That.

I tried to put her needs before mine (perhaps feeding into some co-dependency, which created resentment).
This is something worth exploring IMO. Check out Brene Brown & "hustling for your worth". My WH did / does a TON of this. The problem is, he's doing stuff (cooking, laundry, etc) that I can do for myself. His "acts of service" aren't even his love language (a distant #2 to "quality time" when we did the quiz). He is the classic KISA in all things: home, work, community. Since dday, I've grown to believe that it's more than CoD. It's how he learned to get "atta boys" and how he measures his worth. And then he can put on his martyr hat and build anger & resentment. It appears to be an extremely common thing for WS

And I think the two (I'd die for her / I put her needs before mine) are very closely linked. Both APPEAR to be about helping others - esp giving your very LIFE for someone else. But deep down, I think for most WS, it's really about THEM and the feelings of worth/value/HERO! they get from those acts.

ETA, I also wonder about how FOO & attachment may play into this. IOW, all that KISA (knight in shining armor if you didn't know the acronym) stuff is really playing a role. It's putting on a mask to cover for the "real" or "authentic" or deep down person. And I suspect / assume that has something to do with one's self worth and the underlying feeling that they are not worthy, don't deserve love, etc. So, they put on their KISA mask, do all kinds of acts of service, and then realize that they still feel shitty. But now, they can direct those shitty feelings at the unsuspecting recipient of all those acts of service/KISA stuff. So, they can avoid facing all the uncomfortable stuff that often stems from FOO.... the hurt child that was never heard or healed.... and blame their partner/recipient for being unthankful, and in turn justify all kinds of bad behavior, like an A.

So, now they are hurting themselves (like throwing their integrity into the trash), hurting their BS (betrayal) and telling themselves it's all good bc of the lovely ego kibble from their AP(s), so nothing wrong with them. Nothing to explore. Nothing to work on.

I -and I suspect any BS - would trade every load of laundry, every delicious meal, every clean pot, pan, fork & spoon, every errand, and all the rest of it to have a husband that didn't betray me.

[This message edited by gmc94 at 6:58 PM, June 29th, 2020 (Monday)]

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 19:10 PM

To this day, I believe my WH would step in front of a bullet for me.... bc it's someone else shooting and that would make him a hero. He would give his life to "protect" me from someone else, but ask him to have an uncomfortable conversation to rebuild trust, to face the fallout of the A, or to really "protect" me from himself? No bueno. Just. Cant. Do. That.

WOW. That was me. Always wanting to play protector and savor, but I couldn't even tell her what was on my mind when she asked. I've done a lot of work in IC on opening up to others in general. Progressing toward some degree of authenticity/transparency has helped me feel a lot better about myself.

He is the classic KISA in all things: home, work, community. Since dday, I've grown to believe that it's more than CoD. It's how he learned to get "atta boys" and how he measures his worth. And then he can put on his martyr hat and build anger & resentment.

Wow again. I've come to realize that this was the unhealed child in me doing this. Always trying to build up my shitty self-worth and get that approval my parents never gave me. Then playing the martyr because I did these menial tasks for her and drove her everywhere. My mother-in-law used to even make fun of me for my confirmation name (St. Stephen, the first Catholic martyr).

[This message edited by cc24ru at 7:11 PM, June 29th (Monday)]

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 19:19 PM

Have you given any thought to the 12 step tradition? I find it curious that you self-identify as having two addictions but aren't really in maintenance mode for them.

This frightens me but I know it is worth the effort. I find that I enjoy all forms of escapism. As I was unraveling in 2016, I was also playing video games an unhealthy amount - at the expense of work, sleep, and quality time with my wife. Drinking to excess (and shamefully, driving) was prevalent. I also would watch porn with headphones in the guest bathroom before bed as I found it "convenient" and it enabled me to avoid real intimacy.

Today I have no more than 2 drinks at a time and only in social settings, I haven't played video games since D, and watch porn sparingly (and feel immediate shame after). So it's better, but you are absolutely right about "maintenance".

Maybe also consider doing some work with mindfulness. If you are fully present in your life and the task at hand, your mind will wander less.

I just listened to a podcast episode yesterday on mindfulness and transcendental meditation, and will be pursuing this further. I was intrigued previously but was discouraged because it strayed from strict Catholicism. I see no harm in it now.

MrsWalloped posted 6/29/2020 20:08 PM

I just wanted to pop in to say thank you gmc94 for your awesome and insightful posts. I feel like I should pay you for the free therapy.

Hi cc24ru. I donít know if you appreciate yet the responses youíve been getting, but trust me itís more valuable than any jewelry.

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 20:42 PM

Hi cc24ru. I donít know if you appreciate yet the responses youíve been getting, but trust me itís more valuable than any jewelry.

Oh I sure do. I've been in IC for a few years, and have leaned heavily on the shoulders of family, friends, and even priests. Nothing compares to the perspective from people who have lived through this nightmare on both sides of the fence. And even though some words are tough to read, everyone has been compassionate and fair in their responses.

Thank you all, I'm going to go hike while I cry again. This time there will be some gratitude with the tears thanks to you.

[This message edited by cc24ru at 8:43 PM, June 29th (Monday)]

cc24ru posted 6/29/2020 20:50 PM

gmc94 I just wanted to touch on this because I was too preoccupied with my own shit to address it earlier.

This is REALLY GOOD news! I mean it. My WH attempted suicide (tho I hate to use the word "attempt". He actually DIED. In my arms. Literally. But EMS revived him). My DD attempted suicide last month. I've contemplated suicide a TON since dday. I'm really really really glad that you are too stubborn to follow through on this.

I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I can unfortunately relate to the trauma.

My uncle hanged himself when I was 14 and I will never forget the rope marks on his neck as I knelt at his open casket. My brother-in-law attempted suicide in 2013, (as my ex-wife and I were attempting to heal from my initial EA). I also held him in my arms with his blood all over me as EMS came and got him. I will never forget that scene for the rest of my life.

Awful, just awful. And yes I'm too stubborn to go through with it, but it's mainly experiences like these that keep me...it is truly a selfish and easy way out. All one does is take their unbearable pain and give it to others.


HouseOfPlane posted 6/29/2020 23:39 PM

At this point I'm considering experimental treatment with psychedelics under the guidance of a medical professional (I live in Colorado and have access).
Not a psyche doctor, but from everything I've read...run, not walk to this. It's been 4 years of stuff not working. Time to try Plan B.

Again, heard great things about it.

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