I'd like an opportunity to share my own experiences.
I had a rough background. Like worse than most. Molested, abandoned as a teenager, homeless, stolen from, hurt, cheated on, etc... All before I turned 20ish. I started a life change around 21. I started to believe there was a God (became a Christian), became more moral and grounded. I stopped jumping from relationship to relationship and became more self-secure.
I met my wife in my early 20s. After a whirlwind relationship that lasted 3 months and resulted in a pregnancy. We moved in together and got married. I thought it was all just going to be magical. We had some communication issues, sex wasn't an issue, and felt we were ok. Well, my wife started acting strange around the 7/8 year mark. turns out she was becoming emotionally attached to a classmate in her master's class. I was struggling massively with My health at the time. I broke. It hurt. I was frightened, struggling with abandonment, wondering what I should do. I reacted horribly. I rug swept in our marriage but I started talking to another woman online to fill the gap. When the other woman begged to come and pick me up, I told my wife. It was like a child trying to do a tit for tat type thing. I cut off the other woman. After confessing to my wife, which hurt her, we reaffirmed our relationship and moved on. Again we rug swept. We didn't want to really deal with the issues but wanted just to be...
7 years later all hell broke loose. My wife started acting strange again. I knew these signs. When she came to talk to me, my defense mechanism kicked in. I went crazy. I affaired down with a slutty woman. It went on for 3 years. It was a revenge/exit type. Well during the time I felt horrible. I don't why anyone can live this. That feeling like you had to hide in front of the world, the lust without love, the cheapness of it all. The longer I was there the more disgusting I felt. I couldn't resolve my feelings and I definitely didn't deal with myself or my own issues. I felt like a crazy person. Numb on the inside and smiley on The out. I was a liar, a cheater, and someone who didn't care. I was disgusted with myself, and I felt trapped. My affair partner was a loose cannon. Ready to blow my world apart.
My wife finally approached me and I ended it. I was tired, lost, and done. I was like an alcoholic or drug addict that had hit rock bottom. I was pretty disappointed and disgusted with myself. I got IC and we both worked hard on our issues. I learned I had developed survival techniques that didn't work if I wanted a good life. If I wanted to grow. Read books. Read forums... Did everything I could that sounded sane. Lots of prayer and meditation etc....it was hard work, terrifying work. Being vulnerable and real with yourself is counterintuitive for people like me. It was easier to hide the real me, to not make waves. I had to learn to say what I really felt or meant. Admitting that I needed outside affirmation. Wanting to be spoiled. Oh, the list goes on. I found out like many of you, I would look at other people I found attractive as an escape to dealing with my own sh1t. As a child, I learned that being honest can warrant a belting, as an adult I had to learn that if I didn't be honest I couldn't grow and would die inside. It took years of self-motivation, self-drive, and hard work with accountability on both of our sides to fix this.
It's been 7 years. I went on a trip to see my son. I didn't look at women. Didn't delve into porn or Harbour strange thoughts. When I got home my wife was discussing openly how far we've come and where we are going. I didn't have the drive to get my ego stroked on the outside. I work on my self-security and not put up a front. Every day I wake up and reaffirm my attraction to and how beautiful my wife is. Really when you put it all together, she is the most beautiful woman. She can be honest with me now. She can be open. The sex is great. We can hope for a future together. How can I not want that!? She does the same. We hear how covid has been horrible to some couples, ironically we have gotten closer. It is not all roses and unicorn poop. It's hard work. I work hard on being honest at all times. I work hard at reminding myself what I can and can't control. I work hard on just being ok. sometimes this causes conflicts. Conflicts weren't the problem, it was resolving them that mattered. I work hard on loving my wife, enjoying her company in its entirety. And I found love, real love, not feelings are hard work. Feelings can come and go, they are not always real or based on reality, but love continues to grow if you labor with it. Love, to me, is also the most rewarding work.
Btw. We have up everything that could lead us back down this road. We left our careers, cut out friends, even minimized family who was not friends of the marriage. The result was an environment that encourages us to rely on each other, talk to each other, and love each other. We both make more money now than ever before. Work fewer hours in our new careers. Even better yet we both own our own businesses.
Be brutally honest with yourself. Take criticism. Grow from your bad choice. If you hide from it, your growth will become stunted. It will happen again.
Hope this helps a bit with people who are on this journey.