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Perspective four years out

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jlarson posted 8/2/2020 12:55 PM

When I first posted on this website it was the morning after I found out about my wife's affair (4 years ago). I was an emotional mess. I recently read my posts from that first week and it makes me cringe. (Haven't been on here for 2-3 years) I was so lost and panicked at first that I would buy into anything or hold on to anything that anyone told me that was some way a positive spin on this horrendous experience. Please know this post is only 1 person's opinion, and take it with a grain of salt. I just think it's unfair to make it sound like your marriage will be amazing in 2 years if you "do the work." I still struggle frequently, which I'll address later.

I find it hilarious or scary that I had decided to "reconcile" after 3-4 days. WTF? That's insane. But at the time I couldn't imagine losing my family and my stability, so I guess that was my way to cope with the turmoil. (4 kids and oldest is 15 now)

At that time I wanted to have someone that knew me well, that had similar personality characteristics and life circumstances as me, that was 2 or 3 or 10 years out that had "made it" so that I could talk to a real person that had gone through it successfully.

Unfortunately, that is not how this works.

For most of us, IMO, this is probably the most isolating, lonely thing you can go through. I would recommend anticipating that. You might think if you tell this person or that person that it'll help, and it may help a little, but if they haven't experienced it, I doubt it'll give you what you're looking for. This forum/website is good because it has lots (unfortunately) of people in the same boat as you, but it doesn't quite get rid of the loneliness and isolation you're going to feel.

I completed Affair Recovery's EMS online with my wife and also took part in the Harboring Hope course. I've read almost 20 different books on affairs, forgiveness, marriage, mindfulness, self betterment, shame etc, 6 of them in a group setting with other couples that were dealing with affairs. I've spent over $12,000 on counseling and did EMDR as well. Replaced 2 cars due to the "things" that happened in them and have had dozens of sleepless nights since. I actually lost 18 lbs in 4 weeks when this first happened (6'2 and 169 lbs).

I just want to list the things I've done to give you some level of understanding where I am and what I've done (or not done) to get here. I hope that this helps someone that is in the beginning of this so they can know what they could expect. Could because we are all so different and our outcomes will be unique to our own individual circumstances. I obviously welcome others' input and feelings regarding this, but this is something I would have wanted to hear at DDay. So this is basically a letter to myself in 2016, July 17th.

We are reconciling. I say are, because IMO it is a continuing process, at least for me. I know my wife would like me to say we are fully reconciled, and maybe that is possible for some at this juncture, but for me and my personality it doesn't feel that way. I would still say I don't fully trust my wife, and for that matter, anyone anymore. I even have a hard time trusting those closest to me from before the affair. Honesty and trust is huge to me, the most important part of a relationship, and her betrayal broke something deep inside me, that hasn't been fixed, and likely never will be fully. I like to compare it to an alligator biting your leg off. Even if you get a new fake leg, it'll never be the leg it was before. EVER. That was a very hard thing for me to actually give in to. Even though everyone told me "your old marriage is dead" I had the hardest time grieving the loss of so much. I kept this subconcious belief that things would go back to pre affair status. TRUST ME - they won't. Don't fight that. It'll just keep letting you down, like it did me. It took a good 2-3 years before I had truly accepted that certain things were lost forever. Hopefully you aren't one and onlies with your spouse, because I was, and it adds another layer of hurt to this already atrocious thing.

I regret not filing for divorce right away. I actually think I retarded my wife's progress by staying with her, not filing for divorce or separating. She trickle truthed me for months, and slowly came out of the fog and unwound from so much deceit. I do think had I filed for divorce, it would have slapped her in the face and brought reality back much more quickly than the way we did it. It would have reduced the continual bleeding from the wound that she caused by her TT and continual lies. She doesn't lie now, which is great. Or at least I don't think she does...

I was always her protector, and the fear of what would happen to her (what she may do to herself) kept me from doing what was best for me. It was part of my co-dependence (that I learned about later). I wish I had done what was best for me at first, instead of letting her talk me into things that were best for her. She quickly realized that the other guy was a lost cause, and that what she risked was so much more. She struggled a lot with shame at the time, still does, and it would have possibly led her to hurting hurself if everyone would have found out what she did initially (IMO). It took her ~ 2 years to get to a level where she felt less shame, where I wasn't worried she'd hurt herself if everyone found out. So some might say that it was good we didn't separate due to that possiblity. Maybe it's a situation where you have to accept even more pain to make up for your unfaithful spouse's actions. Whatever it is, I regret not filing for divorce right away because that continual bleeding was so painful.

Currently, 4 years post DDay, I think about it every day. Maybe there are days here or there, like if I am on a boys trip with my dad and brothers, where I don't think about it, but otherwise it's every day. And many days it's multiple times still. I stayed in my house where they hooked up, and there are triggers all over the city where they hooked up that I see regularly. So I assume those contribute a lot to my triggers. I would recommend moving if you can. Completely changing your surroundings if possible. I still see her affair partner, his wife and kids, around town. Fortunately, not very often. But initially I saw them always. They went to our same church and our kids played on the same teams. And my daugther dated their son 8 months after DDay (we didn't tell our kids).

When I do have triggers, sometimes it brings back a small flood of emotion. Other times it isn't that bad, just a passing thought. There are times when it still takes my breath away and I have to ask myself if it really happened. At times, when I flood, I regret staying with her. I think to myself that I should have divorced her and let her take her punishment. Then I could look for fresh, untainted love. Or, more realistically, I wouldn't get married again. I think I would just keep it less formal to avoid this hurt again. And that is just me. Others will feel differently. But I look back and it bothers me how so many counselors and authors want you to believe that it'll be amazing down the road. Maybe it is for some, but not for me. So if you're more like me, I want you to be informed that it might still be painful 4 years later. Hopefully you're more like those that say it's amazing 4 years later. I don't know many, or any really, that say that. I still follow a men's group of betrayed men, and they all still struggle at times. 3 are divorced now, and the other 5 are still pushing through, with regular struggles. 3-6 years out. Our EMS couples group started with 5 couples, two are divorced now.

I don't want to be discouraging in this post, but realistic. I look back at my experience and feel like I was fed too much unrealistic expectation of what this can be. I kept holding on to this hope that it was going to turn a corner and become a better marriage than before. But, trying to reconcile with the alligator that bit your leg off isn't as easy as some might lead you to think. I look at it as our marriage was a 70/100 before, and now its like a 60/80. We can't ever reach 100 anymore due to the infidelity, but maybe we can get to 80 one day.

I will say, that my current day wife is a great catch. She is an excellent mom, and really good wife. She deals with shame a lot better than she did before, and doesn't lie as far as I can tell. Not even white lies really. She has a lot more confidence than she did before this, which is great, and confusing too. She hates what she did and definitely has remorse. So from a current day perspective, she is great. It is just painful that literally every time we are physical I am triggered, and it taints my ability to enjoy her fully. Obviously some will say that it is because I need to do more work, personally, as a couple, etc. But they aren't in my shoes. Don't have my perfectionistic personality. And that brings me to this point. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE. You are likely going to make decisions and do things you'll later regret. Don't beat yourself up for it. Just survive and focus on healing yourself.

I think of my journey this way: My wife placed me in the middle of a maze, filled with thorns and thickets. I had two roads to take to get out. I chose a road that is more painful personally, but less painful for my kids and wife. I have come through most of the thorns and thickets, now, and experience much less pain today than I did early on. The road is more open. The other road had less thickets/thorns for me, but would have forced my kids and wife through a more painful road. Both roads are most painful at first, so at this point, I don't really want to go back to the other road and go through that most paiful early portion.

I hope this helps someone, that has just discovered their spouse's infidelity, to have a realistic expectation of what may come. I'm so sorry you're here, and so sorry that any of us are here. It's so sad what we humans do to each other. Just know that there will be happy days ahead if you choose to work your way down this road.

JL

whatIknowNow posted 8/2/2020 13:19 PM

I think when my marriage failed I was lucky. It was an exit affair for her, and not her first affair although I did not know that at the time.

I was not given a choice. I was told that she was in love with someone else (well, at first she just needed "space" but I knew that was bullshit) and that in two weeks time she was moving out and into an apt with her new guy.

I asked her what about the kids and she said they would be ok. She said "it just happened" (another classic) and said things that could more or less be interpreted as "you won't let me fuck around so how can I be happy?".

I say lucky because I am so glad that my perception was, and I think correctly, that nothing I could do was going to save our marriage. I did not do any "pick me dance" because I could see that she was in that fog mode just like she was when we got together.

I firmly do NOT believe in "reconciliation" for anything more than something like an ONS. I would never view my partner in the same light again. I would never trust her again. There is nothing that could ever happen in the future that could undo what was done.

I frankly don't understand folks who try to reconcile after a 2 year affair or somesuch. How is that ever going to work? I realize people are all different and I am NOT criticizing any specific person's choice.

But sometimes it really seems to me that attempts at reconciliation are made for two main reasons, fear of being alone and starting over and a crushing desire to return to where things were.

Few people will ever return to where things were and starting over is a huge blessing if approached correctly.

Since you have come this far the worst is well behind you and things should continue to improve into the future. I wish you the best.

Cooley2here posted 8/2/2020 14:31 PM

I was a young sahm with no parents. Siblings acroos the country with their own issues. So I didn’t confront. I was told by a friend. It wasn’t an affair. He traveled a lot. Things happened out of town. When i felt comfortable asking it was history. I don’t know any particulars and don’t want to.

I agree with WIKN.I can’t imagine living through the hell of a LTA and then forgiving enough to stay. We don’t get do-overs in this life. What was done was done. It can’t be shoved into a closet or rug swept. It’s in the room with you all the time.

There are people here who feel comfort in their faith. I do believe the 10 commandments are pretty good guides to a decent life. The person in a LTA has lied, cheated and stolen, usually money and time. They most certainly have killed a marriage and in some cases have given their spouses deadly diseases. How do you come back from that?

The thing i find the hardest to get past is the idea that kids get over it. They are helpless humans whose childhoods are stolen. For what? The great romance of the century? Nah.

faithfulman posted 8/2/2020 14:32 PM

Wow jlarson - it sounds to me like you have sacrificed your happiness for a life of constant pain.

And I do get your reasoning for your kids, though many do not agree with it.

But I definitely disagree with your 60 to 80 measurement for your marriage.

Nothing in the positive region is filled with constant triggers, anguish, ache, and lack of trust among other things.

It sure sounds like your wife came out on the better side of this situation.

Best of luck to you.

waitedwaytoolong posted 8/2/2020 14:57 PM

I remember you. Your story hit home with me as I too had a WW that brought her AP into our bed. These affairs really hit me hard. Yours was different as they were close friends and really couldn’t be totally cut out of your life.

How are you managing with that. It seems like it might have gotten somewhat better. I see that you have added an extra DDay after you last posted. What else came out? Do you think there has been any more contact in the last few years.

I felt the same as you. We actually had a really good marriage, and had some amazing trips and things set up As I was set to retire in a few years. That all went by the wayside. I spent 5 years hoping I could get to the 80% as I also knew that we would never be as good as we once were. Things were better, but I could just never look at her the same way. I too stayed in the house (of horrors) as I was to proud and stubborn to be kicked out by what they did. Big mistake. When we separated and I moved out it was like a big weight had been removed.

My EX too suffered from shame for what she did. Realistically, she should have. She destroyed our family for what she described as something that meant nothing It just wasn’t that productive to healing.

I finally pulled the plug. I just felt that I would never be as happy in this new marriage. The thing is I could. Our kids were older, money wasn’t a big issue, and I was still young enough to hopefully find someone who when I looked at them as you said didn’t bite my limb off.

Does she know how you feel? One regret is I sprung divorce on her. She knew things were not right, but had no clue I was unhappy enough to leave.

You just need to accept there will never be justice. They get their fun, and the BS has to eat the shit sandwich.

nekonamida posted 8/2/2020 15:29 PM

Does she know how you feel?

I'm wondering this too. Did your FWW keep up and participate in R aside from the online course? Is she still transparent with you? Would she consider taking a polygraph to prove her honesty to you and regain some of that trust you still don't have?

In many cases, I find that if someone is greatly struggling years into R, their WS isn't as remorseful or dedicated to R as they may think. Either there's a lie still being told, the WS has never fully given up AP on an emotional level even without breaking NC, or the BS is doing all of the heavy lifting of R while the WS coasts on the bare minimum and insists R is ended and they don't need to do anything more. There are BSes who decide years later it's a deal breaker even if the WS has done and is doing everything right. That's especially true with multiple DDays and TT which is too much for some to get over even if they could have gotten over the A itself. But regardless, it's a good time to ask yourself if there is something more that your FWW could be doing that would make you feel more safe and like the A issues have been put to rest and will not be repeated. It's good to examine why you're thinking so much about D and what is driving your feelings about your FWW. Maybe there is more work SHE could do or maybe this new marriage is just not worth the pain and what you've sacrificed. Whatever the reason is, the absolute LAST thing you want is to post here in 4 more years that nothing has changed and that's a road you will be taking if you don't want to talk things through with your FWW and make the changes necessary to get the life that you want.

Badshot posted 8/2/2020 17:36 PM

Most men deeply regret staying with a lying cheater. No man has ever regretted divorcing an unfaithful wife.

keptmyword posted 8/2/2020 17:49 PM

I look back at my experience and feel like I was fed too much unrealistic expectation of what this can be. I kept holding on to this hope that it was going to turn a corner and become a better marriage than before.

Upon first discovering what your WW was doing, what was your initial feeling as far as your future?

I’m not talking about the shock, the pain, the fear, the anger, and the disbelief of such a betrayal as we all experience these emotions to an incredible degree.

I felt all this when I discovered my WW’s infidelity, but I also had a very strong initial inner response among all those emotions that said “I’m divorcing this person.”

Mind you, before D-day, I thought our marriage was wonderful and much better than most.

I would have given my life to protect my then-wife and my family.

But, upon that instant of discovery, I literally felt and envisioned my divorce from this woman.

It was like the proverbial “life flashing before my eyes” when in a situation where death was imminent.

We talk much here about “following your gut instinct” when it comes to determining if ones spouse is being unfaithful - and nearly 100% of the time gut instinct proves to be true.

That initial gut instinct I had of “I’m divorcing this person” upon my discovery of her lies and deceit was as strong as the gut instinct one has (that I had as well) when suspecting of being betrayed.

I also received advice here about how I could reconcile and have a better than ever marriage with the right efforts, 2 to 5 years recovery, etc.

I just knew.

As much as I desired to put my family back together and save my children from the immense pain and trauma of a divorce, I simply could not go against what my initial instincts told me.

My divorce was finalized over seven years ago and my XWW is the same exact person now as she was then.

Attempting to reconcile with her would have been a waste of probably several years of my life and would have been living hell.

My point is that we must be completely honest with ourselves and follow our instincts even in a situation as heart-wrenching as what has been heaped on us all here.

keptmyword posted 8/2/2020 18:06 PM

The thing i find the hardest to get past is the idea that kids get over it. They are helpless humans whose childhoods are stolen. For what? The great romance of the century? Nah.

Spot-on.

This was what drove my instinct to divorce my XWW.

My XWW’s life is essentially one big fat lie.

I was not going to attempt to live with her lies while my children watched and learned to become doormats.

My XWW, to this day, has never apologized to our children for her grotesque and extreme selfish behavior that destroyed their family.

She has actually never even acknowledged, in any way, that her behavior hurt them.

The children took it very hard and this trauma will reverberate into their family lives.

They never get over it - they just try to live with it the best they can.

clouds777 posted 8/2/2020 19:01 PM

I hope you let your wife read this. Copy and paste it for her.

Also, it's not too late to make a different decision. It sounds like your wife has no consequences if she never even had to tell anyone what she did and you are sacrificing your sanity and happiness. I'm sorry you're hurting.

jlarson posted 8/2/2020 19:48 PM

I have looked back at the counseling, the AR courses and what my wife begged from me, which was all backed up by most affair literature - that you should give it x amount of months before you decide to stay or go. The problem with that is once you get through that first trough of the roller coaster, the other ones hurt less and less, so eventually you get used to a new normal, one that always has a low level of pain and distrust constantly going on in the background. And once you get used to it, you don't recognize how much pain there is there.

I did all the work book stuff, group work, reading books the whole time, going to counseling, and none of it suggested divorce unless your spouse was dangerous. TT and mulitple Ddays could be considered dangerous, but that was within the 9 months or whatever it was that I was involved in the AR EMS online course. They actually have you sign a statement saying you'll stay the course and not get divorced until the course is over. I am a man of my word so I obviously didn't pull the plug during that time.

By that time, though, you're feeling much less pain, or you've become numb to a lot of it (the new normal). Then you start asking yourself if you want to go back to the center of the maze, and take that other road with its thorns and thickets, when there is no guarantee that you'll be happier in the long run down that road. Especially knowing that the other road drags the kids through the thorns as well. I have asked myself many times if this is damaging my kids. I'm not sure. I don't think it is worse than if we were to get divorced. Unfortunately, and in an unhealthy way, I began to comparmentalize the affair and all the terrible behavior associated with it. It was the only way to keep going. I know, and I've read about and heard from counselors how compartmentalizing is bad. I get it. But I also know why people do it. As much as I hate pretending normal, I can do it very well. And it isn't all the time either. There are plenty of times when I can enjoy myself with my wife doing all sorts of things. I just can't let thoughts of them in at those times or I have to compartmentalize. I honestly think my background, my personality etc are the type that can't handle this sort of thing unless I compartmentalize or divorce. I really am a perfectionist, and sort of OCD. And I have always had a really big imagination. Those things, IMO, constitute the perfect ingredents for the type of person that infidelity is a deal breaker for. But, I am also terrified of what it would do to my kids to get divorced. IF we did that, and years go on and my kids suffer from it, I will always feel selfish for doing what seemed less painful for me and more painful for them. I try and compare my marriage to those around me and it still seems better than most, even within our family. It's not like we are having these huge arguments in front of the kids or whatever. I think my kids would say our marriage is great too. My dad, who is one of the few people I confided in, still thinks my marriage is better than most. Hence the conclusion I've come to about my ability to compartmentalize. It's exhausting though.

My wife defintely has remorse. Tons of self loathing at months 4-36. I know she absolutely hates what she did now. For many reasons. One of the big ones is how bad it hurt me. Our kids have not really been hurt by it, so since she hasn't been able to see damage on their part, that hasn't been as tangible for her. Even though she is a product of cheating divorced parents. Her mom still resents her dad and it's been 20+ years since their divorce. I know she could have done a better job the first 36 months. She was terrible at empathy. Struggled a lot with feeling shame when we'd talk about my struggles. It was too much for her to handle. And I get it. Like I said, I was her protector. I couldn't expect 34 years of personality to change that much. Same on my part. My OCD tendencies are also likely not going to change a lot. I don't think it's realistic to think I could drastically change a lot about my personality. (Hence the grace for myself part!)

I truly don't think she had any contact with her AP after Jan 2017, which was supposedly a wave in their cars. His wife told on her two weeks later. We are no longer in contact with that family at all. Except for the seldom drive by on the roads in our city and when we go pick up our kids from their neighborhood. Except his face is all over certain stores for ads for his company (awesome ).

I don't really know what else she could do to make it better for me. Honestly. She tries so hard to be an exceptional wife, which she says isn't pay back but because it's how she wants to be. I want to believe that. She definitely wasn't held to the fire. No one really found out that she cared about. Some rumors went around bc of the other BS. She told several "friends" and they told several etc. Love the rumor mill. But nothing was ever confirmed in a way that my wife knew people knew. I think had everyone found out right away, we'd have definitely been divorced. Perhaps just because of my pride. I would have felt that much more stupid having it out in the open. I obviously still struggle with that aspect.

Either way, my whole point in this post was to acknowledge that it isn't some peachy road after 4 years for some, including me. I'd actually love to hear from anyone else that is 4 years out that "reconciled" and see if they truly think their marriage is amazing now. And if so, are they being honest with themselves? Perhaps if the marriage was shitty before, then I can see it improving above the pre affair level. My 75/100 vs 60/80 is just metaphorical, obviously. I can't really quantify it that well. It's hard to put into words the persistent chaos I feel and hide deep inside my locked box.

I will say, that it has negatively affected my relationship with god, if he's there, and that's a bummer. I don't mean to get into that, but wanted to bring up the fact that the only reason God says you can get divorced, if you believe in the bible, is for adultery. Why is that? Perhaps because the damage to one's soul is so deep? Who knows. Maybe Christ could forgive to a level where reconcilation was a no brainer. Unfortunately for me, I am way off from his level. hah.

[This message edited by jlarson at 7:52 PM, August 2nd (Sunday)]

faithfulman posted 8/2/2020 20:13 PM

Not to be trite, but you tried staying married to her for a while and that seems to be going rough. It's gonna kill you man.

Maybe try being divorced from her for a while and see how that goes?

If she is all that remorseful and loves you so much, she'll go along with it and give you no problems so you can see if that gives you some relief.

nekonamida posted 8/2/2020 20:26 PM

I know she could have done a better job the first 36 months. She was terrible at empathy. Struggled a lot with feeling shame when we'd talk about my struggles. It was too much for her to handle.

Is this the reason why you won't talk to her about how you really feel? Do you truly feel like any of the suggestions mentioned for rebuilding trust and restoring the marriage won't help or are you afraid of your FWW's reaction if you bring them up? Just so you know, if you can't talk to your FWW about the A because she shuts down or makes it about herself, that is the opposite of remorse because her focus is on her and the consequences of the A instead of being on you and your healing.

There's a thread in R by the user Thumos called "Feeling Stuck in Anger/Plain of Lethal Flatness Phase". It's not quite what you're asking for but it is an example of someone in a similar situation as you and how he handled it. He demanded more, didn't get it, and is now okay with his decision to D. He has had all of the same worries you did but was able to think for himself and overcome them.

Buffer posted 8/2/2020 20:54 PM

Brother, strength to you. You are doing what you feel is right for your children.
Just take it one day at a time
Buffer

ThisIsSoLonely posted 8/2/2020 23:02 PM

This is interesting to me, and it highlights how different we all are.

I can’t imagine living through the hell of a LTA and then forgiving enough to stay. We don’t get do-overs in this life. What was done was done. It can’t be shoved into a closet or rug swept. It’s in the room with you all the time.

I "lived through" a LTA, and a 1+ year of false R where the A was just underground...and the thing is, the forgiveness I was completely capable of. That was not the reason why our R failed. It was because my WH had no interest in becoming the safe person I needed him to be. He was still first. I think he convinced himself that it was an exit A after it started, and then later realized, after it was all out in the open after false-R was uncovered, that it wasn't really an exit A at all. It was a problem he had with him. It was, at that point, too late for me.

I hadn't lost interest in forgiveness. I had just lost interest in the work. Ultimately for us, it's especially sad as I think he is making some real changes now, but his difficulty in getting to where he is outlasted my resolve.

Then again, I am far from a perfectionist and I do believe in real change and I have not been a perfect person myself. Maybe that's why the forgiveness part was relatively easy for me. That and the fact that I know now that changing partners will not necessarily keep this from happening again. So it was not really about the struggles you talk in your post for me - instead it was about my WH's struggles with accepting what he had done and deciding that he wanted to make changes. I couldn't force him to do that - he had to come to it on his own...and he is getting there...I can see it, it just took too long (we are in IHC which may be prolonged due to COVID and my changing jobs - we will see).

Either way I'm glad you posted what you did as honestly I think it is a much more accurate representation of what R really is like for most people.

RocketRaccoon posted 8/2/2020 23:43 PM

JL,

From what you have posted, it looks like you are white knuckling it. You are not really in R, but some twisted form of it.

It seems very similar to waitedwaytoolong's journey, and unless you address your own healing, rather than prioritse everyone else's healing over yours, your journey will not end well.

When will you start thinking about what YOU need?
Why are you placing everyone else's happiness above your own?
Why are you anchoring your happiness on the happiness of others?

Four years is a long time to 'act' reconciled, and the internal strife you are hiding will eat you alive, and break you down. You will have to learn to 'let go'/accept what had happened, for your own sake.

This does not mean that you forget, not does it mean you have to condone the betrayal, but you will have to learn to live your life, for YOURSELF, or you will not live at all.

gmc94 posted 8/3/2020 00:12 AM

I'm not in R, but soooooo much of your post resonated with me.

I believe the positive R stories can be kind of landmines. Like its something that shouldn't even be mentioned until the BS has an understanding of what a remorseful WS looks like. I think we are fed this idea of puppy dogs and unicorns, that I truly believe DOES happen for some, but sure as heck does not seem to be the result for many. My sense is that the vast majority (albeit not all) Ms that morph into something "better" seem to have a WS who gets it pretty quickly. As we hear over & over & over again, it's not necessarily the A that kills the M.... but all the additional bullshit that the WS does after dday that puts the nails in the coffin.

Thank you for sharing.

jlarson posted 8/3/2020 00:38 AM

I wish I could confidently go with my gut. But my gut has let me down in the past.

I may not be in a good reconciliation spot, but is there one? I mean really? Without some form of rug sweeping or compartmentalizing, how can anyone be in an amazing relationship when they picture their one and only wife with another dude every time they are physically intimate?

I remember Chifrudo telling me something almost 4 years ago about the brain re-wiring itself after trauma. Unfortunately for me and my brain, the re-wiring has me thinking of them regularly with multiple things that happen normally between husband and wife. When I look at her in an admiring way, the thought gets hijacked with, "she shared that with him too" or something along those lines. And this is 4 years out. Maybe at 10 years it goes away? EMDR didn't really help. Not sure what would and I draw that line before electric shock therapy. So...

Honestly, I look at this like a scale. Obviously the affair is like a one ton piece of metal on the one side when we were dealing with ounces. Now the scale is way out of whack. With 4 years past, lots of improvement on her end, she is slowly throwing more and more weight on the other side. And then I have to consider my kids. They are big weights on the good side. Not being able to have my 5 yo boy come in my room every morning, hearing his little feet running across the hard floor, and then him coming in my bed and climbing between us?? Not having that would kill me. That would be an additional large weight on the bad side.

Maybe white knuckling it is the correct analogy. And maybe this will kill me slowly, but aren't we all dying anyhow? I might be seeing the scale in a biased way, but I'm not ready to give up a lot of those weights on the good side to get rid of that huge one on the bad side.

I remember the first time I read that for some people infidelity is a deal breaker. I think I may be that type of person, but I'm not willing to give up my kids for what might be on the other side.

I'd be interested in hearing from someone that has divorced and subsequently sees their kids a lot less. Overall for theirs and their kid's happiness, was it worth it? If my wife was dangerous and still lying or cheating it would be a different story. But any of you parents out there would jump in front of a bullet for your kid, so I kind of look at this the same way. And, honestly, it makes me feel super sad to think of divorcing my wife. Very confusing at times, but it's the truth.

RocketRaccoon posted 8/3/2020 05:12 AM

I remember the first time I read that for some people infidelity is a deal breaker. I think I may be that type of person, but I'm not willing to give up my kids for what might be on the other side.

I do believe that this would be driving you crazy. You have compromised your own beliefs system, and that is probably causing you immense confusion and pain.

Out of curiosity, what consequences did your WW have? From what you have posted, it seems very little of her life was impacted. It was essentially hushed up, and major damage control on your part. You helped minimise the impact on her. Are you upset at that? That she got through it relatively unscathed?

Are you angry at yourself for protecting her, and hence compromising your values even further?

Have you seen an IC on how you can resolve this internal conflict? I would think that this needs to be addressed, or this confusion/angst will break you if you are not careful.

Whatever path you choose, make sure that you start prioritising your own health over any others first. If your WS truly wants to R, she will support you, as it is about time you made yourself healthy for everyone's sake.

Once you sort yourself out, you may find that you might not have to white knuckle anymore.... or you might only have to do less of it.

Waggingthedog posted 8/3/2020 08:08 AM

Hi friend,

I am one of those ones that tried to reconcile and it failed. I didn't share my story on here but the basics are that my exWW had two LTAs for a substantial chunk of the marriage. I tried to make it work but I ultimately couldn't based on two things: more contact with the OM (that I came to believe was more than she let on) and her going back on taking a lie detector test. Those two things happened when I was at my lowest and I believed that maybe saying I was filing for divorce would make her stop... And she ran back to him (gut instinct that proved correct later) so I filed. Call it a test that showed the truth.

The reality I came to was that she did not love me anymore and she would have just left me down the line anyway. The only reason she wanted to reconcile was to save what was on the outside of our relationship, not anything having to do with me or wanting to be with me. All things considered, she didn't really want to be with me.

It's probably a bit more extreme than your case.

I wrote this on another thread:

The analogy I want to use is a medical one.

One day you wake up and your right arm is swollen and extremely painful. It’s not moving, or barely moving. You go and see the doctor and to your shock, it’s an infection. A terrible infection. It’s not your fault that you have this infection, but you have to deal with it. Maybe you lament that you should have eaten healthier, or not engaged in some activity that exposed you to that risk. But, those considerations are past; they have no bearing on your current situation going forward.

The doctor gives you the prognosis. If you do nothing then the infection will spread and possibly kill you. Your choices are these:

The doctor can give you a round of very serious and expensive medication that has some really nasty side effects, but you might be able to keep the arm if the medication works. If you do keep the arm, then it will never really function the same way. You might regain some function, with a lot of physical therapy, but it is not likely that it will ever be the same. If you take the medication, you will have the side effects, but the infection might still spread even with the medication. There is a slim outside chance that the arm will return, and you can make it stronger, but it won’t ever be the same. (This is reconciliation)

Another choice is to cut the arm off. The plus side of this is that the dangerous infection won’t kill you or impact other organs immediately. The downside of this is that you lose your arm. And, you will always have a feeling of a phantom limb. Your life will be changed in a day. You might be depressed about it for a time, but you will live for sure. It’s just the arm. (This is ending the relationship.)

The last choice is to do nothing, watch the infection spread, and see if your own immune system is enough to fight off the infection from the rest of your body. Doing nothing will almost certainly result in death. (This is rug sweeping.)

How do you choose?

The first two options both suck, objectively. The final option is objectively stupid.

How do you decide what to do? You have limited time, and the effects of both of those first two choices are life altering regardless of how you decide.

In the first, you take the medications, the terrible side effects, and you may still lose the arm to the infection or possibly more of your body. In the second, you lose the arm, but save the body. You may be plagued with the ‘what ifs’ if you’d taken the medication and saved the arm. You’ll have the phantom limb to deal with for a very long time.

There are no good choices, only less bad choices depending on your situation.

I’ve been through the LTA gambit, and it’s really mind boggling. There is no way to know what parts of your history are real, and what are fake. Every ‘I love you’ over the years – family vacations, anniversaries, life events… all of them are tainted. You can cut off the future, but you can’t change the past.

To me, I have done a huge amount of pondering after the end of my marriage… what is love? In my opinion, it’s something that encompasses four subparts: trust, respect, attraction and friendship. Maybe there’s something deeper to it too, but I can’t put that part into words.

An affair, for the duration of it, shows a complete lack of respect and destroys trust for the other party. The person going into the affair does not respect you prior to (for a time) or during the affair. Here’s another analogy… say you go into work and you’re exposed to COVID. You know you’re exposed to it. Your employee tested positive and is in the hospital. If you respect your spouse, do you then go home and give them a kiss every morning, sleep in the same bed, use their toothbrush and so on… without telling them? If you respect them and care for them you don’t. You let them decide if they want to be exposed and handle the situation together. This is the affair aspect with STDs. If you WW knew the other man, and knew he had other affairs, and in fact didn’t know where he had been before or during the affair… then she was exposing you to STDs without telling you. It’s an objective lack of respect. This also flows into other areas… public standing if she got outted, financial issues, issues with the kids. It’s a complete lack of respect for the family and you.

Then there are the other two parts… attraction and friendship. Friends don’t stab friends in the back and humiliate them (at least good friends). And, let’s face it. Was she really attracted to you during the affair? Think back. There’s no competing with the thrill of the new sexual partner. Think she just ‘took care’ of you while waiting on her lover? You may not have had a dead bedroom but my guess is that she didn’t exactly bring her A-game home. By way of analogy, I got a statement after D-day that, and I quote, “I’m not sure that I was ever attracted to you.” That one hurt. But it’s what she believed. My guess is your WW probably felt the same, even if she wouldn’t say it.

This is now what you’re dealing with. It’s the infection. You’ve found you’re living in the Truman Show – a simulation – where the laughtrack is on but you can’t hear it. And if that lack of respect and trust continues it will slowly cause you more and more harm. Some people go off the deep end. Don’t be one of them. You can take control of the show, get out of the show, or just accept it and live in it.

The kids thing factored heavily into my decision. My WW, if my gut was correct, was staying in our marriage because it was secure and for the kids. But she didn't want to give up the lifestyle more than she wanted to be with me. I think the nearest approximation to her thought pattern was "maybe I can make this work, maybe I can learn to love him.". That attitude would have resulted in her leaving anyway a few years down the line. Again, gut call. Then, where would my kids and I be?

I won't say divorce isn't hard on kids. It is. It rips my heart out to this day. In some ways I feel I prioritized my own happiness above theirs. Their lives get changed through no fault of their own and because I was the one to end it, I feel the guilt of their hurt every day.

I won't say it gets better or worse. That's a bit of the experience of life. You make a choice and you live with that choice.

Affairs take away that specialness of love. And you don't really, I think, get it back fully ever. Maybe you look at life as a cynic more now.

Truisms are that the person in the affair did not love you during it and humiliated you for their own enjoyment. The longer it went on the worse it gets for recovery I think. It takes a certain bit of your manhood. That sting gets dull, but never really comes back to the point where you forget it entirely even if you leave the marriage.

There are days I wish I didn't put my kid through it. And some that I wonder what the triggering point was where I was done. If I think about it, it was likely rescinding the offer to take a polygraph. I think she said it was humiliating and didn't want to do it. At that point I knew for a fact that she'd had oral sex with another man and come home and kissed me. Didn't really seem like she should throw out that card. But there were so many other things that happened it's hard to point to the true "thing."

You're making a calculation based on a terrible fact... The life you wanted isn't possible so what do you salvage? You can't go back and change it so what is important going forward?

Your wife was your one and only and now she's gotten that but you don't have it. Are you looking to settle that disparity? I'll tell you, sex isn't the most important thing. It's a momentary thing that you do. And, frankly, it's probably not worth ending the marriage over to get your jollies or settle the score.
Let me clear up the mystery. You're 6'4, gainfully employed and a good dad. If you made a tinder profile you could be getting girls by the end of the day. But, it won't make you happy in the way that you want. You can have it, sure. Now you know without doing it.

Is it trust? That never really comes back fully. I'm pretty familiar with estate planning. Want to see who people really are? Put a bunch of money on a table and say that someone is getting more. People are self interested above all else for the most part. It's the rare occurrence where we just accept life. We all want more.

So what's important to you. A really bad thing happened. You can't change it. You can only take steps to preserve what's important. To me, that seems to be your kids. It was for me. And it's like that for most dads.

There is something in your post that I think you need to look at more. You don't think about it when you're on boys weekends.

I think for now what you might want to do is this. Sit your WW down and open up to her how much you're still hurting. Say that you need time away from the house yearly to have just time to focus on you. Tell her about the billboards and how they effect you. Say you need to get out of town and get space away from all of this a few times a year for an extended time each time. Then go do it. Reconnect with you.

The calculation you've made is that your kids are more important but the imbalance in the scales is hurting you. If you look at the scales though, mentally, you have to think that there's more good in staying because you are staying. Look at it again in your head and see that image. Your kids lives are more important than the segment of happiness in your life. You go through this life and we all lose something, but we make due with what we have and make the best of it. The best is your kids, but her affair should also entitle you to be selfish. Not cheating selfish, but selfish in that you should be able to go on your guys weekends more often. Maybe take up something that you like.

Life is too short to be miserable.

And, even if you got divorced there would still be sadness. The maze analogy is a good one. You trade one form of sadness for another. It's up to you which is the lesser of two evils.

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