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Newest Member: Daughterofthemosthigh

Reconciliation :
Question: 4+ Years In

Topic is Sleeping.
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 fatheroftwo (original poster member #69460) posted at 1:33 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

It has been a while since I last posted here. I appreciate that this site still exists and that many of the same souls are still helping so many.

A few weeks ago, my wife (W) and me (B) were going out to eat at a local restaurant. It's a popular spot, and we arrived during a busy time, so my wife jumped out of the car to get on the seating list and check the wait time. A few seconds after she entered the restaurant, her AP scuttled out of the restaurant. I called my wife and told her that someone was at the restaurant and that we should go somewhere else. In between, AP's date came out of the restaurant and got into his vehicle. When my wife got back into the car, she was able to see them drive off.

It was the first time in four years that we had encountered the AP. My wife said, "I'm sorry" and tried to smother me, but in moments like this, I don't want to be touched or make a big deal, especially as we had our kids in the car. After that, she has said nothing about the encounter. Nothing.

Here's my question: Is it normal for the WW to say nothing about this? My IC says it's not normal. I waited two weeks for her to initiate conversation. To check in with me. Anything. After two weeks, I brought it up. And she still didn't talk about it. She actually got a bit defensive, as though I was making a big deal about communication problems because we hadn't talked about this "ONE day."

I brought it up a second time. This time she was more empathetic but still didn't say anything. She listened, but she didn't offer anything of her own, and didn't talk to the point of the encounter.

My fear is that after years of counseling, both IC and MC, the soil hasn't fundamentally changed. The avoidant character trait is still too ingrained for her to do what is needed.

posts: 54   ·   registered: Jan. 16th, 2019
id 8791378
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Luna10 ( member #60888) posted at 2:36 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

Is it normal for the WW to say nothing about this? My IC says it's not normal. I waited two weeks for her to initiate conversation. To check in with me. Anything. After two weeks, I brought it up. And she still didn't talk about it

No, I wouldn’t say it’s normal. One of main characteristics of cheaters is conflict avoidance as I’m sure you very well know. Her behaviour is pretty much that, a desire to avoid conflict/emotions.

One of the signs I constantly looked for in WH since dday is his capacity to bring up issues, to follow up on conversations, to not put things on the back burner.

I am not saying this means that your wife will cheat again or that you need to divorce tomorrow. I’m saying that this incident highlights an area she needs to go back to and work on.

Dday - 27th September 2017

posts: 1851   ·   registered: Oct. 2nd, 2017   ·   location: UK
id 8791384
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Butforthegrace ( member #63264) posted at 2:45 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

If memory serves, your WW was also a spouse who engaged in financial infidelity, and was in general sort of an awful person. You were setting yourself on fire to keep her warm, but she blamed you for being burned out, thus justifying her cheating.

If memory also serves, back in the day she was doing essentially nothing to contribute toward healing. Thumbed a couple of pages of "How To Help Your Spouse Heal" before "losing" the book, etc. You were investing 99% of the energy to drive R, while we were advising you that, no matter how much energy you invest, if your WW doesn't want R, if she fundamentally doesn't love you, then you were simply running on a treadmill without going anywhere.

Has that dynamic changed? The avoidance you describe here is not normal, but it is consistent with your description of her last time you were here.

"The wicked man flees when no one chases."

posts: 4179   ·   registered: Mar. 31st, 2018   ·   location: Midwest
id 8791386
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tushnurse ( member #21101) posted at 2:53 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

What's the expectation that you have set w/ her. That if you trigger, she needs to discuss it w/ you at the next available time? Or are you just expecting it? Setting clear firm expectations is HUGE in a successful recovery.
When your partner doesn't meet those expectations, then you have to point it out, you don't have to be mean about it, but hold them accountable.
It is hard to change a lifetime of avoidant behaviors, but when held accountable, and having a calm discussion about it, growth and change happen. She needs to know that these convo's are going to happen, and when they do, it's not punitive, but instead dealing with the issue, and reaching a mutual resolution.

This is where in my R we both really grew, and got better at communicating, and not bottling everything up.

Me: FBSHim: FWSKids: 23 & 27 Married for 32 years now, was 16 at the time.D-Day Sept 26 2008R'd in about 2 years. Old Vet now.

posts: 20207   ·   registered: Oct. 1st, 2008   ·   location: St. Louis
id 8791389
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Ivory ( new member #52026) posted at 2:59 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

She said she was sorry, and attempted to help you feel better with affection. What else do you require?
If you were her, what would you say? What are the words that would have helped you? What do you need her to say? My call is that there is nothing to say other than the apology she gave you, thus the loss of words.

You triggered, she tried to help you, it didn't work. That's common in reconciliation. What are you going to do? For me, it helps to leave the story-lines behind and live in the here and now... which is not easy.

4+ years? It's been decades for me and I never got over it. How often do you trigger? Try not to spend too much of your life ruminating on darkness.

posts: 16   ·   registered: Feb. 27th, 2016   ·   location: Florida
id 8791392
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SacredSoul33 ( member #83038) posted at 8:53 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

Gently, I think you both have communication problems. You should be asking for what you need, and if you want to have a conversation, you should initiate it instead of waiting weeks for her to talk and then citing communication problems on her part for why she didn't. That'd probably cause anyone to be defensive.

How did you react when she tried to apologize and "smother" you? (That word choice is interesting.)

Remove the "I want you to like me" sticker from your forehead and place it on the mirror, where it belongs. ~ Susan Jeffers

Your nervous system will always choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven.

posts: 1334   ·   registered: Mar. 10th, 2023
id 8791456
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Devon99uk ( member #82658) posted at 10:02 PM on Thursday, May 18th, 2023

I think trying to change the 'conflict avoidance' personality trait is extremely difficult for someone. My husband has spent 40yrs being this way and I don't believe he'll be able to change that about himself even though he wants to & I tell him he needs to. I don't think most waywards possess that strength of character tbh.

posts: 72   ·   registered: Jan. 2nd, 2023   ·   location: South of England, UK
id 8791468
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Ladybugmaam ( member #69881) posted at 12:49 AM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

I’m a little more than 4 years out here too. My H is most definitely avoidant and I’m totally anxious attachment. I’m utterly still shocked that I never imagined this happened to 50% of marriages. I still look at large groups of people and try to determine who is BS and who is WS.

We ran into the OW/OBS (now divorced) about once a week. We developed a plan. I needed FWH to physically show affection and loyalty. We would decide if we needed to stay or go depending on how we felt. We would politely ignore the O-thers. If we ran into the O-thers without each other, we would immediately report to each other and check in. Early on, I ran into her at least once a week. It was brutal….but our plan worked. When it would happen, I would totally become overwhelmed…..and struggled to speak, breathe, etc. And, he…afraid of what might happen….would become a deer in the headlights. The plan gave him a script and when he could show up there….I could lean into that. Were there times that seemed rote….yep. As it became more successful he could remind me where he was and invite me in….and make a joke or two. I’d never comment on a person’s body….but we do joke about her gaining weight. He is quick to relate that now he has no idea what he was thinking there and seems repulsed. Am I completely convinced? Will I ever be? We’re still here.

I don’t know, because I’ve not been the WS….but I do believe carrying the weight of making those choices is heavier than a BS can imagine in our own pain….particularly if the WS chooses to work on R. Our pain is immeasurable. I don’t know how people don’t drop dead in the street over this. I imagine it is yep…this other person is meeting needs and this is way fun….and likely way wrong….but I’ll never get caught……and then all those illusions come crashing down. And, you’ve either crushed someone or you’ve exited a relationship. I don’t condone it, but I do imagine any emotionally healthy adult who went that path would have a difficult path forward.

I don’t think I can ever change his avoidance or my anxiousness at our cores. I think those tropes came from both of our childhoods.…..but I can look to ask for what I need and listen for what he expresses. And that is HARD.

I choose to focus on this…..1. R takes two individuals will to lean into each other. 2. And, maybe more importantly, it takes two individuals willing to grow/change in some big ways as individuals.

Are we there everyday…..ugh, no. Sometimes, I find it difficult to listen to him without the filter of the affair. I’m sure he finds it difficult to consider that his choices at that time did this to us and to me as an individual.

Dude, it sucks. I’m sorry. You’re not alone.

EA DD 11/2018
PA DD 2/25/19
One teen son
I am a phoenix.

posts: 473   ·   registered: Feb. 26th, 2019
id 8791518
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BreakingBad ( member #75779) posted at 11:10 AM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

FoT,

I hear you.

My fear is that after years of counseling, both IC and MC, the soil hasn't fundamentally changed. The avoidant character trait is still too ingrained for her to do what is needed.


Your musing here at the end of your post really cuts to the core of what stalls reconciliation.

Can the WS change their avoidant tendencies? Have they?

I read this thread and the responses with great interest because it applies to some of the struggle in my own relationship and R.

And responses seem to be all over the place a bit.

So here's my 2 cents:
Some have said you have to remind and initiate the conversation yourself, if your spouse avoids, and hold them accountable for not meeting your expectation. I get that. Your needs won't be met if you don't speak up when they aren't being met.

However. I'm assuming that your frustration is the same as mine about this: If I'm having to point out avoidant behavior (especially consistently), then my spouse hasn't really made progress here...and that's a problem. I'm still doing the heavy lifting here. I can't count on them to empathize and overcome avoidance to meet my needs. So...is this relationship serving enough of my needs and making me feel safe enough to stay?

Some responses point out that your wife did initially show empathy and concern but you seemed to say you rebuffed that because you weren't in a good mental place to receive it and because it wasn't being done in a way that was helpful. (You perceived it as smothering).

IMO, it's worth noting that she did show immediate empathy and try to offer support. Have you two had conversations around what support is helpful (and NOT helpful) when you're triggered?

Ladybugmaam's suggestion to set clear expectations around situations that might occur (running into the OP) is quite sound. Even if a planned response protocol to these triggering situations feels "scripted" in the role-out, it would be comforting to know that your spouse cared enough to remember and to activate the protocol. So, maybe clarity around this expectation is what's needed.

Maybe the evening of the incident (once your kids weren't in earshot), you just needed to briefly acknowledge your wife's attempt to support you, but clarify that you preferred to revisit the incident later that evening or the next day. Maybe clarify that she needed to initiate this follow-up, maybe not clarify that but just state your need for follow-up?? I don't know. I'm on the fence about how much to "lead" that and how much to expect my spouse to lead that in my own situation. On one hand, I like clarity in communication; on the other hand, I want my spouse to demonstrate empathy and follow through without being specifically instructed to do so.

So, ya, it's complicated.

"...lately it's not hurtin' like it did before. Maybe I am learning how to love me more."[Credit to Sam Smith]

posts: 508   ·   registered: Oct. 31st, 2020
id 8791548
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Edie ( member #26133) posted at 2:38 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

Some really helpful replies above.

Sounds like you both let the event become an elephant in the room. Waiting for her to bring it up, her feeling rebuffed, seem possibly avoidant and passive behaviour by both of you especially as there was some rebuff mending to do as well as AP sighting trigger mending. It seems a useful moment for both of you to discuss and own subsequent communication or lack of.

posts: 6646   ·   registered: Nov. 9th, 2009   ·   location: Europe
id 8791619
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Luna10 ( member #60888) posted at 2:55 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

I’ll follow up on my reply: it transpired during my WH’s IC sessions and later on in MC that WH’s approach to conflict prior to dday was passive agressive behaviour followed by avoiding any further conversations and building resentment towards me.

When the affair started he built this narrative where I was no 1 bitch of a wife and he was entitled to cheat (As most cheaters do). On dday not only did I hear "I love you both" but subsequently I got to hear how unhappy he was about a series of shitty things that, if discussed, we could have resolved them in about… 10 minutes. Instead of discussing these issues with me, he gave himself permission to cheat whilst leading me to believe I was happily married. (And stating so).

With that in mind, whilst I agree that expectations have to be expressed in any relationship, I consider I have done so in the years of IC/MC we did post dday: I expect my WH to approach conflict full on, to not "forget" to follow up on a difficult conversation and show that he is capable to deal with conflict, not run from it.

Additionally, are we really saying that the WW in OP’s story did not feel a change in her BH’s behaviour for two weeks? If that’s so then the OP is an amazing actor. However, if I’m right, OP’s behaviour must have been withdrawn at points, perhaps slightly distant, thoughtful because it obviously bothered him. And yet the WS either did not notice this or chose to ignore it hoping "it goes away".

Situations like this are quite straight forward to me: if someone that attacked my integrity and emotional health appears in front of me out of a sudden I KNOW that WH would be great in making sure I’m ok and follow up on it. Why would I not expect the same when it comes to his AP?

Dday - 27th September 2017

posts: 1851   ·   registered: Oct. 2nd, 2017   ·   location: UK
id 8791631
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 fatheroftwo (original poster member #69460) posted at 6:34 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

Thank you all for your thoughtful and insightful responses.

BreakingBad expressed my core dillemma in this issue. There is a long history of identifying avoidant behaviors, of course. It's been named, articulated, exampled, and there have been words from my wife about how she knows and understands that in recovery, she has to "show up." And the primary way of showing up is to initiate. This has been well-established.

So we get to the FIRST encounter. Yes, she did immediately show empathy. But we have spoken about how physical touch, hugging, in these moments is not good for me. For example, early on in recovery when we travelled past some of the affair sites, her same instinct kicks in to hug, and perhaps it is a fault of mine, but in those intense moments I don't want physical touch. I'm an introvert by nature; perhaps that's a part of it.

She dropped the ball on this one. She knows she should have said something. All it would have taken is quite simple: "Hey, do you need to talk about today?" We have talked about this in therapy before. How to talk. For me, it doesn't have to be much, but it does have to be specific enough to where she is clearly taking the lead. "Are you OK?" is too general, for example. It has to be clear -- to me -- that she's willing to hit the nail on the head.

As for the "smothering" comment, I think perhaps I was using some loaded language there. It does feel like smothering, though. Kind of like, hey, if we hug we can't talk or it goes away. Holding hands has been what we've suggested in therapy. It gives me space while being connected.

So, in a nut shell, it's a named need of mine, to see her "show up." For such a significant event in our recovery, I feel she dropped the ball. Does it point to communication issues? Absolutely. Are we both at fault? Of course. But I can't help but walk away from this one with a deep feeling of dissappointment. She took the path of least resistance for her on this.

To be clear. We still haven't really talked about it. I've brought up twice about my dissappointment, but I still haven't heard from her about how she feels. It's as though it just didn't happen. It's bizarre to me, and I'm having trouble moving on. Since then, we've gone out, and of course we are cordial and live our lives, but it doesn't sit right that there are things we can't -- or don't -- talk about.

I think she needs to go to IC. Also bizarre was how her IC ended. Her counselor suggested that they end. There were also promises supposedly made by her counselor that never materialized, such as a a meeting that would include me where the therapist would express the "why's" and explain with me present. My gut says that the therapist had second thoughts about that (or my wife did) and so it came to an end.

posts: 54   ·   registered: Jan. 16th, 2019
id 8791704
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SacredSoul33 ( member #83038) posted at 7:58 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

I think she needs to go to IC. Also bizarre was how her IC ended. Her counselor suggested that they end. There were also promises supposedly made by her counselor that never materialized, such as a a meeting that would include me where the therapist would express the "why's" and explain with me present. My gut says that the therapist had second thoughts about that (or my wife did) and so it came to an end.

My guess would be that her IC didn't suggest that they end because your W was good to go. If the IC did end it, it could be because they either weren't getting anywhere or the IC had a boundary that the W wasn't willing to abide by. Or your W ended it and isn't telling you the truth.

Also, I can't imagine an IC worth their salt speaking for a patient. I can see an IC supporting their patient while THEY explain their whys, but not speaking for them. That's weird, and lends credence to my supposition that she's lying to you about why IC stopped.

[This message edited by SacredSoul33 at 7:58 PM, Friday, May 19th]

Remove the "I want you to like me" sticker from your forehead and place it on the mirror, where it belongs. ~ Susan Jeffers

Your nervous system will always choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven.

posts: 1334   ·   registered: Mar. 10th, 2023
id 8791719
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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 8:01 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

What work has she actually done to become a safe partner?

Our field of dreams,engulfed in fire..and I'll still see it,till the day I die..

posts: 6774   ·   registered: Jun. 20th, 2017   ·   location: The Midwest
id 8791720
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Luna10 ( member #60888) posted at 8:18 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

Have you done any MC to bridge the gap? The way I saw it was that once the rawness of the affair became more palatable and I wasn’t tempted to kill him in his sleep anymore, once his IC cleared him so to speak (and yes, I was invited to their final session where the IC, with WH’s permission discussed her work with him and supported his whys), we needed to start working on what our future marriage and our expectations were going forward.

That’s not to say that we didn’t discuss the affair in MC but it was more joined processing and working on communication channels rather than individual work.

Not that my WH is perfect (who is) but following MC and exploring the way we communicate, he is now capable to follow up on conflicts, for example we had quite a strong disagreement a couple of days ago during working hours and he reopened the conversation later in the evening, asked how I was the next day and didn’t drop it till we agreed it was resolved. He would have NEVER done this in the past.

Perhaps it is time for some MC and fine tuning.

[This message edited by Luna10 at 9:58 PM, Friday, May 19th]

Dday - 27th September 2017

posts: 1851   ·   registered: Oct. 2nd, 2017   ·   location: UK
id 8791726
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SacredSoul33 ( member #83038) posted at 8:27 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

yes, I was invited to their final session where the IC, with WH’s permission discussed her work with him and supported his whys

That's really interesting. I can see an IC validating to an invited third party why therapy has concluded, but I've never experienced a C speaking for me. My C makes me say everything and helps me along if I get stuck. Different strokes, I suppose.

Remove the "I want you to like me" sticker from your forehead and place it on the mirror, where it belongs. ~ Susan Jeffers

Your nervous system will always choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven.

posts: 1334   ·   registered: Mar. 10th, 2023
id 8791732
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This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 9:51 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

Transference of vigilance seems to be missing here a little bit.

My wife has done really well on this front. She ensures doubly and triply that I'm ok with anything that could be a reminder of the A or a behavior that could be questioned. I am very sure she is a safe partber at this point.

What reassurances is she giving you? Are they enough? Have you told her they aren't when they aren't? Conflict avoidance can apply to both people sometimes.

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

posts: 2672   ·   registered: Dec. 11th, 2019
id 8791754
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Luna10 ( member #60888) posted at 10:06 PM on Friday, May 19th, 2023

That's really interesting. I can see an IC validating to an invited third party why therapy has concluded, but I've never experienced a C speaking for me. My C makes me say everything and helps me along if I get stuck. Different strokes, I suppose.

T/j I should explain perhaps. The therapist did not speak for WH as such, WH has asked her to agree to me attending the session and summarise their work. This is on the back of WH lying to his initial IC (immediately after dday) and me needing reassurance that this time he has taken it seriously and truly worked on specific areas.

WH came up with this solution as they concluded their sessions and suggested it to the C. She agreed and summarised (together, he didn’t just sit silently) the work that took place in a factual way.

Dday - 27th September 2017

posts: 1851   ·   registered: Oct. 2nd, 2017   ·   location: UK
id 8791760
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3yrwait ( member #29907) posted at 11:25 AM on Saturday, May 20th, 2023

I’m sorry that happened.

I’m 16 years out, and over that time, WW has made a lot of effort to avoid hard topics, and minimal effort to address them. I have put in much more effort.

I suspect in this incident, she tried once, you rebuffed it, so she feels like she failed, doesn’t know what to do next that will make you feel happy with her, and so the next tactic is to avoid.

This has been my experience, so to me this is "normal." I don’t have much advice, other than pointing out your feelings are legitimate.

Me: BH (early 50s)Her: WW (early 50s)Married 25 years1 daughter, under 10DDay July 2007

posts: 538   ·   registered: Oct. 21st, 2010   ·   location: 3yrwait
id 8791829
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CaptainRogers ( member #57127) posted at 3:53 AM on Sunday, May 21st, 2023

It's been 6+ years since D-day v1.0 for me. I now run into the AP at times (maybe every other month) because he's an instructor at the gym where my youngest does his tae kwon do sparring. I tell her every time it happens. And she responds 100% the same way your W responded. She will say "I'm sorry." and won't bring anything up afterwards. She is still very conflict avoidance to the detriment of the relationship at times.

She has had good sequences in the past where she has brought up things or asked to hear how I'm doing, but the well-ingrained patterns of avoidance are well ingrained for a reason. It took a lifetime to create the habit and it will take the rest of the lifetime to truly break it.

The key is that you need to be the one to push the breaking of it. Force the issue. If it's something that you want to discuss further, take the reins and drive the conversation. She will avoid it at all costs if you let her.

If it's important to you to talk about, you need to be the one pursuing the discussion.

BS: 42 on D-day
WW: 43 on D-day
Together since '89; still working on what tomorrow will bring.
D-Day v1.0: Jan '17; EA
D-day v2.0: Mar '18; no, it was physical

posts: 3355   ·   registered: Jan. 27th, 2017   ·   location: The Rockies
id 8791880
Topic is Sleeping.
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