So this is interesting. Where did her reaction come from? Was it hypersensitivity on her part, based on experiences in past relationships? Or had she already seen you flirting and felt upset and became extra sensitive after? Or insecurities of her own? Something to explore. Also, was the contention a two-parter? Part one is what constituted flirting to each of you was different, and part two is that you found flirting harmless and she didn't?
So, the long answer is that my wife has a limitless need for appearance-based validation. Her ‘bucket’ is never full. She was always of the opinion that I didn’t compliment her enough, specifically on how beautiful she looked. It’s a half-truth, in my opinion. I complimented her a TON, but usually on things that were not related to her looks. I was more likely to compliment her on being a hard worker, or a good mother, or a good wife, or being super smart. That’s not to say that I NEVER complimented her on her looks, but there’s a wide gulf between how often that she says I did (or didn’t) do it, and how often I believe that I did. It’s interesting, because after reading 5LL one of the realizations I had was that we were both ‘speaking’ the language that we wanted to receive. My wife used to tell me I was handsome all the time. I always appreciated it, but it didn’t really “move the needle” as far as temporarily boosting my self-esteem. (Which is NOT her responsibility; I’m just relaying how different love languages affected us differently). I would’ve felt a lot more validated if she had told people how proud of me she was, or told me I was a good father and husband. I gave her my ‘language’: being proud and vocal about her accomplishments, and she gave me hers: compliments on physical appearance.
As far as why she was ‘hyper-sensitive’ pre-FaceBook flirting? I honestly think it was a little bit of projection…my wife has always had a tendency in her past relationships to do some things that are related to one-another: She had a tendency to develop romantic feelings for people that were close to her and were nice to her; i.e. friends. She’s a gorgeous woman, and many guys are not respectful of relationships if they think they have a shot with a pretty girl…so many times she had one plane on the tarmac before the other one had landed, to turn a phrase. She always had options, and she always left herself JUST available enough for her male friends to think they might have a chance. Talking it over with her, it seems like many of her relationships started as EAs with (supposedly) platonic male friends, and so for her she sees the progression as Friendship (and normal, surface level chatting)->blurring of the lines (letting boundaries and walls slip with more emotionally intimate talk)->full-blown EA->leaving her relationship for the next one. For her, that’s how it has ALWAYS progressed; ipso facto, that’s how it must always progress for everybody. To be fair, that IS how a great many affairs progress as evidenced by this site, so I can’t say she’s really wrong, just that it hasn’t been MY personal history. Also, I found out later that she was fishing for attention from one of her ex boyfriends even prior to my FB stuff, so I think like many waywards, there is a tendency to get all suspicious when your own shady activity is occurring.
She has a really hard time expressing emotions; like, impossible. It’s one of the main reasons our MC told us we had to wait until she did some serious IC to continue in MC…she was unable to put words to even the most basic feelings. I think that she’s one of those people that relies on other sources to feel her feelings for her….other people, TV shows, music. When someone likes her, she likes them.
Since I don’t want this post to be about my wife, and since her dealing with her issues is her own problem, let me speak on my own.
There is a very good chance that I have ADD. There’s a genetic component there, my son has it (diagnosed), and my grandfather, my father, and myself all exhibit the traits associated with it, both now and in childhood. Well, one of the effects of growing up with that is that you constantly are told (over and over), “You’re super smart, you just don’t apply yourself.” Or “You’re better than this grade, if you’d try harder.” You get told, ad nauseam, that you’d be the best.person.evah. if you could just get out of your own way, and you start to internalize a lot of self-hate, self-criticism, and low self-esteem. I know for me, I would mentally murder myself for failure. You know how some people blame others for their problems? I was the exact opposite. I almost NEVER blamed others. I blamed myself for every problem. Every shitty situation I was in was my fault because I didn’t work hard enough to NOT be in that situation in the first place. That coin has two sides, thought.
That trait has worked negatively against me in that I always want people to tell me how good of a job I’m doing, or how good of a person I am, or how nice I am. In that area, my bucket is never full. That trait has worked positively for me in my professional life, because people learn that you hold yourself accountable first and foremost. I’ve always had a good relationship with all of my superiors at work, because I’m always willing to step up and say, “You know what? My fault.” I mean, even when the shit with the FB flirting went down, I never once blame-shifted my wife. She gave me the opportunity to, she even asked me, “Is this my fault, is there something I could be doing better to make you happy?” and I told her flat-out, “No. This is on me, there is something wrong with me.” I think that’s where another of the core affair-related resentments resides, because on DDAY1, when I found out she was having an EA with my friend, she totally blame-shifted me, and due to my nature I totally bought into it. I believed her that I pushed her away, wasn’t affection enough, etc., because it fed into my internal narrative of “It’s ALWAYS your fault, FP”. So after DDAY1, I got all super-husband and tried to love her back into the marriage because she gave me the ol’ ILYBINILWY. I made concrete changes to how I interacted with women, I tried to be more attentive and helpful. I bought her gifts, and flowers. She told me herself that things were better….and then DDAY2 in January of 2013 blew everything out of the water, because it showed me that even if I HAD been doing all that stuff, it wouldn’t have probably mattered.
I had similar issues with my H early in our relationship. Once I detached from him, it was easier to see the areas where it wasn't flirting and I'd been overreacting, and the areas where I was accurate and it was. It wasn't a matter of being right or not, it was a matter of understanding where our boundaries and therefore comfort levels differed. It made understanding the reality of our situation different. In our case, I realized he did not wish to change, he simply wished to avoid consequences (now he's claiming to be different, but his actions are inconsistent). So if I stick with him, I'd better get used to his boundaries being in a different place than mine.
For myself, it came down to a situation of “Ok, would I rather be happy or right?” I have made a concerted effort to curtail my interactions with the women I know to a level that my wife is comfortable with.
I meant to say, it is good to see you here questioning these things and exploring them. Welcome to the MH thread!
Thanks for having me! It’s taken me a while of really wearing my BS hat and getting some of the angries out to get to a point where I feel comfortable being in this thread…before that I worked it out in IC, reading, pondering, etc.