Possibly the most positive aspects of the conversations here is from those whose WS is truly remorseful. There is hope where there is penitence. Positive changes can be made only by those who acknowledge the error of their ways and make every effort to make right what once went wrong.
Where there is no remorse, no empathy, no penitence, no acknowledgement, false rebuilding, no consience, lies and deceit that include a continuous trail of betrayals, there is no hope, IMHO.
My situation falls into the latter category. I married a serial cheater nearly 30 years ago. Sly fox that he is, he convinced me he'd left the old GFs behind to be with me - and only me. I was young and naive then.
There were a steady stream of D-Days, but now that we're on the road to divorce, the true extent of his past betrayals are coming to light, and they ain't pretty.
Fortunately, with the help of many years of IC, I have managed to detach to the point where it doesn't hurt like it did before. Unfortunately, he can still push my "anger button".
When we got married, both of us had a number of opposite sex friends and mutually agreed that as long as these friends were also friends of our marriage, that maintaining them fell within the appropriate boundaries. I abided by that pact, but he never did and still does not. It didn't take me 30 years to discover this, it took me that amount of time to prepare an exit strategy.
Every time I believed we were making progress towards a more honest and open relationship, I would notice changes in his behavior that sent red flags everywhere.
Shortly after we were married, he invoked the edict: "Don't keep tabs on me". Well, that was a sure sign he had something to hide. Turns out, he was married when he was in "family mode" and single when he was living that "other life.
When he came home smelling of cheap perfume and some other woman's muff, he denied it and told me I was nuts.
When I found stray condoms in his travel cases, he accused me of planting them.
When he went behind my back to get Cialis and Levitra a few years ago, he said it was "for us".
It wasn't that I was unaware of his betrayals, it was that I needed time to prepare for my departure from this miserable situation.
The newest revelations came when I began to trace back his time away from the family when he was "suddenly single", to put the chronology of his deceitful behavior. That was when I saw that my marriage has been based on lie after lie and there is no hope of reconciliation, even though he pretended to.
Our whole life is a sham based on a series of lies. He's older now and slowing down a bit and only wants to talk about how he wants to spend our "golden years" together.
It may be unnecessarily cruel, but I simply told him that if he couldn't give me the best of himelf when it mattered, that I wasn't going to give him the best of mine for the rest of his, and that I would not be his nurse in his old age. I believe the best is yet to come, and he perpetually wallows in his "glory days", and satisfies himself with fantasies about wooing young girls and frequenting strip clubs. The man is hopeless and will lie 'til he dies.
My major regret is setting a bad example for our children (who are now adults) when it mattered, because I don't want any of them to find themselves in this position -ever! And if they do, to get out sooner rather than later. They agree with me that it is never too late. That's the reason I stayed in the marriage. They are not following in his amoral footsteps, they are assessing their own circumstances based on the values I instilled in them. They are good, honest, wise people who respect and admire me and forgive me. We agree that it is never too late to change for the better. I am proud of them and have no regrets about staying in the marriage during those difficult years.
Finding out many years after the deed(s) have been done, is its own dilemma. I started putting two and to together, and just added those betrayals to the list of things I already knew, because I had made a decision to act (finally) to preserve whatever time I had left to live a life of happiness rather than stay in a miserable, unsatisfactory marriage. I suspect I still have some surprises ahead of me, but the forewarning I had helped me become forearmed.
Every situation is as unique as is the course of action each BS decides to make.
My heart goes out to all who experience the pain of discovering the person we devoted our lives to isn't the person we thought he/she was. Love hurts, sometimes. Rebuilding works, sometimes, but it all boils down do the simply fact that you can't fix somebody else, you can only fix yourself.