It seems to me that you have two intertwined issues going on internally. It might help your healing process to separate them:
1. The feeling of trauma and such from the fact and the nature of her betrayal.
2. The feeling of injustice, of wanting what she got (the thrill of illicit sex with somebody new), or maybe wanting what the AP got from her (a woman throwing the pussy at him for some NSA fuckin’), or probably some admixture of the two.
As to issue 1, the facts and circumstances of her betrayal are harsh. I disagree with posters on here who say “a betrayal is a betrayal”. I think most BS’s think in terms of degrees of harm. Analogize to physical harm: would you be more hurt from a single open-hand slap to the face, or from having your kneecaps and shinbones shattered from multiple beatings with a crowbar? The way she carried on with the AP, clearly an active EA at least (and possibly some physical stuff, or at least kissing and hugging) after Dday 1, etc. It is normal for a BH to feel a rollercoaster of emotions in the weeks/months following Dday, but gradually that begins to flatten out to clarity over one point: for the rest of your life, these facts will be part of you. “She really did this to me.” The question is whether you will be able to handle them better in a marriage with her, or out of the marriage. You’ll probably think about these facts often, for life. I can tell you that today, something like 25+ years later, I can still see my wayward’s face in my mind’s eye, looking at me that morning in the kitchen and telling me that she had been sleeping with another man and she was going to leave me. But since we separated and I’m married to somebody new, I don’t have to look at my actual wayward and think: “You did that to me.” If you stay married, that is part of your future reality.
From your comments, it sounds like you are coming to some clarity on this:
I have some degree of peace and acceptance with the reality that life must go on, with or without her. I find myself pondering and planning on how to move on eventually if/when she falls short between now and R process (if we even get that far).
I still have plenty of hurt and anger and shame and humiliation plaguing me... but somehow I do feel like I've made some kind of breakthrough recently? Maybe a milestone in the proverbial "grieving" process? Not done, by a mile, but I FEEL different.
I hate the irony of it all. The true remorse, the coming back to the table, the willingness to look in the mirror... everything I wanted her to do, she is only starting to do now. 7 freaking months on. So too damn late.
As to issue 2, I am an outlier here on SI in that I believe that sex with a person other than your WW is a legitimate choice a BH ought to consider. I get a lot of opposition to that position and, in fairness to my critics, my own personal experience in terms of sex with others helping me heal occurred in the context of finding myself suddenly single after being dumped by my wayward for her AP.
To be honest, though, I think that much of what you interpret now as feeling "inferior" to the AP, is, in reality, feeling "jealous" of the AP (and, to some extent, your WW). You want what they got. It's natural to want what they got. It's fun. It feels good. It's a thrilling good memory you'll carry for life. I think if you see the coin from that side, you'll realize your question isn't whether you are inferior to the AP, it is whether you want to devote yourself to continuing in marriage with your WW, knowing that this means you will never have a chance for this yourself.
I do agree that an RA is a bad idea if you are doing for a sense of revenge. You will never achieve revenge via an RA. Also, your WW offering you a hall pass, that is the oldest wayward trick in the book. They do it to make themselves feel less wayward about the choices they made. Anyway, sex outside the marriage under a hall pass lacks the thrill of illicitness that your WW enjoyed.
Here is what I can tell you. Sex with somebody new feels good. Really good. And if you can add some illicit circumstances, it’s even better. It’s like you become co-conspirators with the sex partner involving something naughty. It becomes a shared inside joke on the rest of the world.
Your WW had that. She decided, at least for a time, that this thrill was worth more to her than her marriage. She may profess to not feel that way now, and to regret having made those choices, but I promise you that, at least in the moment, she had that adrenaline rush and she loved it.
Sex with somebody new while you are married will, at the very least, really complicate things, and may fuck things up entirely. If you decide to stay married but to pursue sex with somebody new, you have no way of knowing what will happen, but I almost guarantee drama of some sort. If that is the path you choose, go into it with your eyes open. It will make you feel temporarily better about yourself, but it will really mess things up in terms of your relationship with your WW. I’m not saying it “brings you down to her level”. I think that’s bullshit. And your marriage may survive and become stronger. Or it may disintegrate. You never know. The outcome is out of your control, but then the outcome of any marriage is always out of your control. My advice is to be authentic to yourself.
To that end, I will also tell you that if you decide now to separate from your WW, or divorce, no decision you make now is final. Because you have a child, your WW will be a big part of your life for many years, no matter what. You may separate, divorce, date others, sleep with others, and then date each other again, find a new connection. Nothing is cast in stone. Spouses in the midst of divorce proceedings stop them and re-engage, all the time. Spouses who are separated and date others re-engage. Divorced spouses re-marry.
Your thread, quite frankly, is the reason I have counselled both of my kids to not marry their first-and-only. Play the field. Have some experience. Then you won’t find yourself in the middle of a marriage wondering what it is like to experience the numinent thrill of first sex with somebody new.
I honestly thing you should play the field a bit. That is my sense about you. You may meet somebody way more compatible to you than your WW is. Or, you may find that other women don’t compare to your WW, in which case you would then be ready to try things out with your WW again, this time without feeling as if you are a prisoner of her betrayal.
[This message edited by Butforthegrace at 8:54 AM, April 19th (Sunday)]