…do those of you who found out years later feel as if you were on the exact same playing field as other betrayeds after discovery?
No. Not at all, especially in my particular case.
"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
So, here’s how my family was "unhappy" in its own way:
First, my discovery was a confession from my WW in response to a direct question. I asked, five years after it ended, whether it had happened and she said yes. It seems many of the betrayeds here discovered the affair "the hard way" and, of course, contemporaneously to the affair. I think we frequently see the standard lie/deny/gaslight/blameshift play out in real time before our eyes, and that has got to be horrifically damaging to the betrayed. Bad enough that they’ve been betrayed, now they are being blamed and gaslighted, too, in real time. It’s a double whammy. The lizard brain is getting lit up every which way. Too few waywards get caught in real time and then commence to do the right thing right away. At least the separation in time between the last act of the affair and the beginning of my wife’s struggle to tell the whole truth allowed me to process an affair by then long over while I got to the bottom of the truth.
Second, in between the end of her affair and the confession, my wife reinvented herself as a spouse. The four years before the confession were probably the best of our marriage. We problem solved together, communicated, had increasingly great sex and more frequently, no resentment, no fights that I remember. So, when the confession came out, I was not looking at a person who had recently treated me like shit, I was looking at a person I was deeply in love with and enjoying my life with. That is a huge distinction for me from many of the stories we see here. I wasn’t looking at "try to fix this shitty life with this shitty person who treats me like shit today" vs. "separate or divorce." I was looking at "can I work through something that happened years ago in light of the life I am currently living?" I didn’t have to hope I could one day have a marriage I enjoyed, I had it, but for learning about that one time years ago that my wife slipped and fell on another man’s dick for a few years.
Third, I think it was possibly more damaging to me to learn, years later, that I was not crazy when I felt crazy when I suspected the affair, when I could not understand my wife’s venom and contempt, when things did not make sense but now, suddenly, the pieces all started falling into place, but in memory, not in real time. I think the "aha" moment happening during the affair is no doubt traumatic, but it helps one make sense of their present. When you have your suspicions confirmed while it is happening, the recent past and present make more sense. However, I was suddenly compelled to sift through my past and try to reconstruct it with the benefit of this new information that permeated everything. It was completely disorienting. I had moments where a memory ran into another memory and - at long last - clicked into place. It was so weird, because I am a very, very grounded, rational thinker who was forced to see that I had missed the obvious. It was, and remains, very hard to do. Likewise, the "evidence" lost to time leaves some questions unanswerable, and that sucks.
Fourth, the affair being long over, and in my case the AP being long gone, is very different than the common story of a meddlesome AP still pursuing the wayward spouse and/or the wayward spouse vacillating between affair partner and marriage. There was no "fog" in my case. There was no doubt about whether the affair was over, or might resume. I now know that one doesn’t really ever know for sure what one would do when a given set of circumstances presents, but I do think if I’d discovered the affair while it was ongoing, or shortly thereafter, I’d have divorced her. I think that would be certain if there had been "affair fog" or false reconciliation perpetrated.
Being betrayed sucks no matter how you slice it, or when. It’s hard to be grateful for anything about my wife’s affair, but for me, the delay between the end of it and the discovery of it has had some advantages.
[This message edited by Wiseoldfool at 9:47 PM, Tuesday, November 30th]