Honestly, I owe all of you an apology. My post last night was a hot mess. I was over tired, we'd had a chore oriented busy (and productive! that's good) day. I allowed that post to devolve into an emotional dump and not much else. Again, sorry.
Here's what I wanted to say, and should have said:
One of the issues I've discovered and we're exploring with disclosure/discovery years later is that the basic premise of the infidelity is not explored at the time nor in the interim.
Whatever dysfunction informed, instigated, permitted, facilitated a sexual and/or romantic infidelity still exists, more or less undisrupted and unexplored.
That dysfunction continues to inform and influence the marriage, even as it is largely unrecognized, unacknowledged, unseen without a huge glaring event like infidelity lighting it up.
My husband was upset with himself in the immediate aftermath and swore it wouldn't happen again. He says it didn't and I believe him.
Not saying *anything* about it to me at the time was not possible for us. I *knew* something sexual had happened with another woman as soon as he walked through the door. For the first time in our relationship he couldn't meet my eyes. He kept talking to a point in space somewhere beyond my left shoulder.
Anyway, he gave me a much sanitized and abbreviated disclosure a few days later. I accepted it (although I've always suspected that there was more to the story given Husband's degree of guilt) and we went on with life.
A more complete narrative just kind of tumbled out many years later.
We are almost three years out from the more complete DDay2/same incident.
I do clearly remember the period of time during this past three years when I wished that DDay 2 had never happened.
But I also remember the context in which that wish was couched: "Everything else, and now *this* too???"
My husband *is* a good man and overwhelmingly he has been a good and faithful husband. That being said, our marriage has had its challenges.
For *decades* I'd dealt, since nothing I did/said/tried seemed to affect any changes. My husband had issues with agency and boundaries, his own, mine, ours as a couple. Honestly, understanding what I know now, it is a miracle and a testament to his devotion that he had a single, nearly anonymous indiscretion. He did self correct in that area.
I spent years dealing with agency and boundary issues with him and with us and with his parents and family, sublimating by telling myself that he really did love me and value us, as evidenced by the fact that he'd never cheated on me.
Imagine how DDay 2 felt based on that premise.
"All that and this too."
So yeah, there was a huge chunk of me that wished I'd never found out.
But here's the thing: the sexual indiscretion was much more of a symptom than a problem.
I can honestly say that at three years out from DDay 2, the actual sexual aspect doesn't bother me so much anymore. What *really* hurts is the permissions he gave himself, the rationalizations he used, the absence of protection of my boundaries, his own boundaries, and the boundaries of the marriage. And also the context of when and how the incident happened.
I was quite literally in the middle of a huge personal sacrifice and a compromise (having nothing to do with sex) with which I was quite clearly NOT comfortable, and I said so quite clearly to Husband, when this thing occurred.
My level of investment and commitment and sacrifice and discomfort in service to his agenda did not even register. He had no awareness that he might have owed me even basic consideration, much less perhaps even a little more consideration in light of my sacrifice, compromise and obvious discomfort. I was so far off of his radar that when an illicit opportunity fell into his lap, the idea that it might actually hurt me even more because of the context didn't even cross his mind. I wasn't on his radar at all, much less the idea that I was sacrificing so he could even be there in the first place.
The basis of *all* of this, the one sexual indiscretion and a myriad of other issues and non-infidelity struggles in our marriage, something we've spent the past three years exploring in painful detail, is a fundamental absence of experience with healthy agency and healthy boundaries and a respect for same.
Every difference of opinion, every difference in priorities or agenda, every difference in preference was a zero sum game to be won or lost, and I am quite sure my husband didn't even realize what he was doing.
For about the past year in this three year discovery period, we have been dissecting out Husband's and our relationship with his FOO, particularly with his parents.
His parents have *always* been difficult: hierarchical, dogmatic, authoritarian, demanding, stubborn, etc.
Husband and thus we dealt with them by giving them *exactly* what they wanted, on their terms, and then running away and staying away for as long as possible.
Although I recognized that his parents were difficult, for the longest time I guess I kind of subconsciously blamed us for not knowing how to manage them more elegantly. I mean, according to them, everyone loved them and they just got along famously with everyone! Because everyone knew they were just and proper and right! About everything! They are The Way!
I clearly remember *the exact moment,* about 20 years ago, at an extended family gathering, when I realized that the extended family very, very much disliked my husband's parents.
They were imposing their own particular set of preferences and operating procedures on the group as a whole, which simultaneously made them the center of attention, of course. This gathering was intended to honor a family elder and it very quickly became All About Husband's Parents in cringingly awkward ways.
I think I realized that first: Husband's parents were sticking out like sore thumbs through a series of "LOOK AT ME!" and "WE'LL DO THIS MY WAY!" maneuvers. I was embarrassed for them and I found myself trying to think of discreet ways to redirect them, much like one might redirect an over stimulated toddler. And then I looked around the gathering and realized, suddenly, that *every single person there* was 'smiling' through clenched teeth and tight lips, and doing their level best to ignore Husband's parents and their acting out.
Husband's parents, for their part, appeared absolutely oblivious to this negative feedback. They were too busy enjoying their centrality.
That moment was a real epiphany for me, although I/we did nothing with that information for years. We continued in Husband's manner of dealing with them: give them what they want, on their terms, and then run away and stay away as long as possible.
Over the past three years, and particularly over the past year, reading and exploration we've done to address our issues collided with some particularly animating family events. These high octane family changes lit my in laws up like JATO rockets. They have shown their asses and acted out in response to degrees that honestly surprised me, even after all these years.
It *finally* dawned on me that we were looking at two flaming narcissists who were married to each other.
All of the sudden, *so many things* snapped into focus, snapped into place, made sense:
Their own miserable marriage. These two people *hate* each other, and if you sit still long enough, each of them will tell you all about it.
Their marriage is one huge control struggle, one big grudge match, one enormous and over arching zero sum game. Gee, so where did Husband get this tendency? There is no compromise or mutual sacrifice, just win or lose, winner takes all. Wonder where that came from?
They did not model mutual respect or healthy boundaries for their children. Their children were not taught nor allowed to have healthy boundaries for themselves.
The parents are central to all things, and everything is about them, unless they are uninterested, in which case, do not bother them.
No one else has agency, even in their own lives.
Only they are allowed to use the word "No." "No" is never, ever uttered in their direction.
So, do you see how far away I am/we are, from that one single incident of sexual infidelity years ago?
Honestly, at this moment approximately 3 years out from DDay2/same incident, the incident itself is quite literally a footnote in the bibliography.
The *real* story is the dysfunction that informed it, and has informed large chunks of our marriage.
The good news is that we, both of us, have Husband's parents in proper context. We are both wary of armchair diagnoses but it's just so glaringly, painfully obvious now that it's like trying to stare at the sun.
What's particularly informative is that the two of them are opposite/complimentary types of narcissists: FIL is a particularly loud and proud grandiose narcissist (I swear it's getting more pronounced as he ages, I think I read somewhere that this is A Thing) and MIL is a particularly insidious covert, passive aggressive narcissist. Oh, she's good. We can now recognize that *this,* this covert passive-aggressive narcissism is *exactly* what FIL was attempting to describe when he's complained about her over the years. Grandiose narcissism and all, he wasn't wrong nor was he exaggerating about MIL.
Anyway, long story short, our problem isn't a long ago single incidence of infidelity, and never has been.
Our problem is one of boundaries and agency and respect that wasn't modeled or taught or practiced or even allowed to exist in the FOO.
If I'd never found out what actually happened that night long ago, I would have continued to hang onto that one token of 'value' in our marriage, that Husband obviously loved and valued me as evidenced by his untarnished fidelity, but the fundamental problems would have continued to be there, and would have continued to be expressed in other ways.
WOF, I'm betting that if you look back over your years of 'happiness,' you will see patterns as well. Doesn't mean that you were miserable and/or that your wife didn't/doesn't love you. It probably does look like The Golden Age of Innocence from your current perspective, I get that.
I *do* think that we are going to end up as one of those couples where 'infidelity made us stronger.' To say that I wish it hadn't happened is to say that I wish this fundamental damage that informed and facilitated it wasn't there in the first place.
Without the catalyst of dealing with "WTF WAS THAT???" and the why's, I strongly doubt that we would have *ever* gotten a handle on the dysfunction that informed much of our relationship.
[This message edited by marriageredux959 at 12:49 PM, March 15th (Monday)]