Hi, Fellow WS here.
This stuff is so hard to navigate, especially when emotions run high. There is nothing that you have said that hasn't been said or felt by most WS who have found themselves here so believe us when we say we understand where you are.
As BSR said, these are early days. I see you are reading "Not just friends", I hope you will consider following up with "How to help your spouse heal". I am going to give you an outline of a plan as a life preserver, but you will falter and struggle for some time to come. Try and come back to a plan like this, even if it's not my exact one.
1. IC will be needed, I have seen bits and pieces of your husband's thread. I really think in many ways Marriage counseling this early out might not be as productive as individual IC for you, and possibly for your husband to help him with his coping.
2. Find your whys. I am going to give a lot of food for thought here, but know I am not asking you to answer these questions for the forum. This is for you to journal, talk, work through. If you wish to share to get feedback, great, but I am not expecting answers right now. This is a long process that takes some centering. It's early so it's hard right now not to feel like everything is on fire and this causes such big fears that it can eclipse the sound mind needed to really do great introspection on yourself. Still, if you focus on it enough the answers will slowly come. Some things to know about whys:
Whys are internal to you, they are not about your relationship, they are not an excuse, they are things that are conditions within you that made you turn to cheating, allowed you to continue the cheating. You may find it easier think in broader terms, why was I so unhappy? Did I understand and/or communicate my needs throughout my marriage? Did I do it in a constructive way in which I could be heard? Whatever goes on your why list become insight on what you need to work on to change in order to become a safe partner in the future, and also to become a happier, healthier, adult. I am not saying it's about the marriage, but the reason I gave the examples I did is often we conducted our marriage/life in ways that did not support our own happiness. Our happiness was our responsibility and we kept handing it over to others to give us those feelings. I personally realized that I actually blamed my husband over the years and had some pretty big unconscious resentments towards him. But I was resenting him for things that were my responsibility. Accountability starts with understanding what our actions are and have been and how they contribute to the result.
3. The dynamic for the next short while may be one both of you find hard to heal in. Emotions are high, and you are triggering each other like crazy. For most WS, cheating and being caught is probably the biggest validation of our secret beliefs that we are really a shitty person. Know that at this stage shame is a double edged sword - The BS almost needs to see it, but for both of you it's a useless thing that just sucks the energy out of everything. Shame is something that has been with you far before you had this affair and got caught, now it's a steady snowball running down a hill gaining speed and significance.
Sure, we need to feel shitty and shame sometimes to precipitate a change, but it's not going to help you with your change. A book that helped me see that my shame kept me from being vulnerable and authentic in my marriage is called "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown. Try to get that title in soon as well. It's relateable, and will help you frame this shame and guilt in a different way that you can actually use it better.
4. Make sure to tell the truth, the whole truth, always. You are on a ticking time bomb to start building enough trust that he can even consider Reconciliation. Any slippage of that will backfire terribly. It's amazing what us WS will hold back because we think it's the straw that broke the camel's back. It can't get worse for your husband, with the only exception that he finds himself betrayed again even in the most minor ways.
5. Self care is important here. It seems very contradictory when you are feeling like you are the most selfish person on earth. However, usually selfishness comes from feelings of "lack". People who are overly selfish, or overly selfless are both trying to accomplish the same thing - finding a way to fill a void they do not understand why they have. You have to put the oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else. Set aside a little time each day for things like:
-a few minutes for gratitude. I actually made myself write down 3-5 things each day of things I was thankful for each day. Then, review and really reflect on the joy those small things bring. This sounds idiotic given how on fire your life is, but this will start to ground you, and eventually help you re-wire your brain. The less "lack" we feel, the more abundant we become. The more abundant we are internally, the more we have to give others. It's essentially a great way to begin balancing your selfishness.
- Exercise, Sunlight, hydration - You are used to getting your dopamine from the affair. You need to deal with the chemical aspects of your moods as much as possible. Certain foods are great for building seratonin. Setting small goals and crushing them. You need to focus on how you can work on your own happiness. This is the same principle as already stated - you create more abundance that gives you energy for everyone else -it's your oxygen mask.
6. Become more aware of your self-talk, thoughts, etc. Meditation and other mindfulness exercises can help you with this. But *THIS* is one of the most powerful sources of your recovery. When I started I noticed how much I catastrophize, my self defeating internal dialogue was always with me and ready to berate, punish, or enable me towards things that were not helping me. Our thoughts are our most powerful tool or downfall because everything comes from them - they guide what we say to other people, our behaviors, everything. This can be assisted with some of the other activities already mentioned. Journaling is helpful, asking your IC for guidance on this work is also very helpful because they can start working with where those came from. Lots of it was learned in childhood because that's where we adopt most of our coping mechanisms. You will need to know what all those are and where they come from in order to start changing those patterns.
A couple last thoughts about working on your relationship and helping your husband. Generally, WS at first feel mostly guilt and shame. Those are about OUR Feelings. This is why guilt and shame being held tightly will actually be detrimental at some point moving forward. You won't be able to help it for a while. But, become very curious about your husband - his thoughts, his emotions, what this has done to him. The more you can sit and listen and ask questions, the more empathy and remorse you will be able to build. Remorse IS useful. Unlike Guilt and Shame, they are about identifying with how we made someone else feel. I think in the beginning both parties are so fragile that it's very difficult for us to sit with some of that. Our shame totally gets in the way. A lot of your defensiveness is coming from that place.
One thing that helps a lot, but it's early for both of you and not everyone can adopt this out of the gate. Let go of the outcome. What does that mean? It means, the outcome both of you need the most is your own personal healing. That sounds backwards, but if you do not work on you, you are not going to be able to save the relationship. If the focus is all on saving the relationship, then you are going to continue to agree to things you don't want to and undoing those things after the fact is going to be hard. The biggest problem with trying to control the outcome is that it leads directly to manipulation. I don't even mean that in a sinister way, it's a pitfall most of us experience as we try and convince our spouse to give us a second chance. We often feel like we'd trade anything for that, but that's the type of thinking we are trying to move away from. I recommended to your husband, and I will do it for you here - think out a divorce. Not to get one, but to take the fear out of it. Fear is not your friend. You need to get to a place (as does he) that you know you will be okay no matter what. It's only from this place can we rationally, methodically, and authentically work on the things that truly need worked on. I suspect if you manage to follow this (it's super hard, I was probably somewhere in year two when I finally was able to embrace this) that your relationship actually has the best chance. I am sure it sounds counterintuitive to you at this moment, but I wrote it for you to mull over and revisit, it will eventually sink in.
Lastly - know there are many people who have been in your shoes. We can offer compassion, but no sympathy. You are aware these are actions you have brought on yourself so I expect you understand this statement. When we give you hard things to think about it's because it's what is best for you. I would keep posting for now, but know that sometimes both people being on this site has backfired for some couples in the past. Mostly because it's very difficult for some folks here to not feel triggered by your husbands story or things you may say as a new wayward and I have seen it get toxic. It doesn't always but if either of you suspect that it happening, consider the fact this a website with all gradients of levels of healing. It's natural for people to project their situation sometimes if what is being said is triggering to them. That's why we say take what you need and leave the rest. If at some point you post without a stop sign, do not feel like you have to answer those types of posts. Your shame will be triggered and it will not be productive towards your end goals.
It will get better, it takes time and patience. I wish you both well.
[This message edited by hikingout at 6:06 PM, Monday, June 13th]