Thanks for responding to my post. I had almost forgotten about it. Seems this forum isn’t visited very often. In fact, I finally gave up hearing from anyone and started posting in Long Term Affairs. That’s another unique experience, too – there are people on there with waywards who had 10, 15, even 20-year long affairs. Can you imagine? My H’s 2 year and 8 month affair is devastating to me – I cannot fathom something lasting years longer.
A lot has transpired between my H and me since my post in this forum. I think I finally turned a corner. As I said in my post, I’ve been wrestling with this elusive need to respond. Maybe it’s because the affair ended 10 years ago this summer or maybe it’s because I have finally figured out how to articulate what I need or maybe my husband has finally figured out how to respond – or maybe it’s a combination of all these things – either way, my perspective has shifted considerably.
After one of the most compassionate conversations with my H that I’ve had – a conversation that was calm, safe and mutually empathic, I realized that I was ready to set down the struggle, the fight, the resentment. I was ready to let go.
For over four years, I’ve been dragging the affair around like it’s some sort of dead body. This heavy burden that’s ugly and senseless, and stinks, that stresses me and puts a strain on my existence has been lugged around by me for years. It’s exhausting. It’s painful. And it serves no purpose.
Something clicked in that conversation as I listened to my H talk about how obsessed, selfish, disconnected he was during his affair. I’ve heard it all before, but this time, my perception shifted. Like you, I thought like this:
All the time KNOWING what fun they had, the excitement they felt etc. etc. at my expense.
I have such a good imagination and I could just see my H enjoying himself, thoughtless of me, making a choice every day to deceive and betray. And to hurt this badly? All I could think was, you did this at my expense. I’m paying the price now for this superficial, meaningless romp you had to have. And for what? An STD? Pain, loss of trust, loss of integrity? Really? So much was trashed in order for you to feel invigorated? What a waste.
But for some reason, I didn’t hear it like that. I didn’t perceive it that way. Instead of seeing him as the perpetrator of my devastation, I saw him as an individual who was lost in a hell of his own making. His behavior was not at my expense. His behavior was completely separate from me. I think he had internalized me and our children to the point that he didn’t even see us as separate people. He was so detached and disconnected from me, so thoughtless, so needy that he never thought that what he was doing was destroying our marriage. What an incredibly f*cked up person he was then.
And there is something about the fact that he can’t speak fondly about the OW. He said when he thinks back to that time, he’s disgusted, he doesn’t recognize himself, and he has no feelings for or about her. He says that he was so disconnected from himself that what they had together was meaningless and stupid. He says that he is truly ashamed and embarrassed and sickened by his behavior and thought process at the time.
Now, I’ve heard all this before. This was not new information. But something in me sensed the threat of it all was starting to slip away. And what was left was compassion. And gratitude. Here, sitting in front of me, is the love of my life. He’s with me now. He is choosing to be with me now – and has for nearly 30 years. And he recognizes that he nearly destroyed one of the best things that’s ever happened to him all because he became his very worse self. He was chasing after something he thought was exciting, fun, whatever, not at my expense, but at his own. He never ever thought he was doing something to me or against me – because he never thought about me. How could he? He was so self absorbed, chasing after a warped ideal of success, recklessly attempting to fill holes he didn't even know he had.
The story of his affair is one of selfishness, neediness, isolation, disconnection, manipulation, deception, emptiness, and a blind pursuit of something senseless. Yes, I thought, I assumed, I believed that during the affair and all the years since, I was getting all of my H. Truth is, not only was I not getting all of him, neither was he. Now that is sad.
And I can be sad about that. I can and will continue to grieve for what my husband did, for the path he took. I will grieve for him. I am justified in feeling hurt that he ever got so self involved that he took me for granted and disconnected himself from me. But the truth is: all of that is on him. None of it was directed at me. I am not a victim. Yes, his behavior victimized me at the time, but I am no longer a Victim.
And once I realized this, once I understood, all while keeping my emotions in check – staying focused on him, not me or my pain – I knew that I could forgive him.
And this, I think, is that elusive response I’ve been looking for.
All this time, I’ve been thinking I needed a response that was just as potent, harsh, and hurtful as the crime. Punishment, I guess. And believe me, my temper tantrums over the last four years, have been forms of punishment.
Truth is I’ve been dragging this dead body of the affair around in a misguided attempt to keep my H from believing that what he did was acceptable, that I was somehow OK with it, that it wasn’t all that bad. I’ve carried it around in an effort to sustain a false belief that its very presence would be a necessary, constant reminder that what he did was wrong and that he could never take me for granted again. Holding on to the affair, however, was keeping it alive, almost valid, and was distracting me from what ultimately matters most to me: my husband.
So there I am, looking at this man, listening to him tell me what a complete and utter f*ck-up he’s been. He’s fully aware that his actions have and will always have a direct impact on me. He’s saying he can’t imagine his life without me, that he wants no one else and wants nothing more than to share his life with me. He gets that his actions have caused damage and that for the rest of his life, he'll carry the knowledge of the pain he's inflicted on me.
And I think, what a terrible burden to bear.
It’s not OK, never has been, never will be that he betrayed me. He knows the hurt he’s caused. He knows what a fool he was. He knows more about himself now than ever before. He knows what led him to disconnect, to be needy, to be vulnerable. And I know these things, too.
And I can forgive that. And I did.
And the relief, the release of doing so, of responding with such power, bravery, gravity was redemptive. It was the powerful response I’ve been looking for. I can’t begin to tell you what it’s done for me, for my husband, for our relationship. Redemption is happening for both of us.
Sorry this is so long. It’s been helpful, as usual, to type it out.
Hopefully, this means I’ve taken the gloves off and my fights with ghosts are slowly becoming a thing of the past. I'm not naive enough to think the struggle is over. Grief will always be a part of me in some way, some shape or form.
By the way, iamanidiot, I hope you’ll reconsider your user name. You are not an idiot. Your wife was. You are a bystander of your wife’s tragic wreck and you got hurt. You loved and trusted as you should have. There is nothing idiotic about that. As long as you hold onto that perspective, I think you’re going to continue feeling pissed off and resentful. There’s no future in that.