I need to speak up and be a part of this thread, because I need the support, I need the sense of community, I need the shared wisdom.
Trouble is, when I read many of your stories and your struggles and your bravery in the face of same, my instantaneous, consistent gut reaction is, "I'm not worthy."
My situation is real and it's complicated enough but it's not even the same degree or depth of bullshit that you all have weathered and negotiated and triumphed over, each in your own way.
Many times I feel like I'm simply taking up space and not offering much of value here.
And I know I'm *stuck,* but I'm afraid my *stuck* is as intractable as our very personalities, Husband and me.
We all know that there are many forms of infidelity, and that often the actual physical/sexual/romantic infidelity is just another facet of a relationship that is, shall we say, less that equitable? Less than mutually committed? Less than mutually committed to the common good?
I have always realized that I negotiated my right to have a voice in *our* world, in *Husband's* world, against a deep well of Husband's neediness (for validation, to avoid conflict at all costs, for independence, for autonomy, for respect) that was a by product of Husband's FOO.
I negotiated that landscape by giving, giving, giving some more, sometimes with nary a peep nor a whimper, as silent and as deep as the grave, and sometimes with great and loud protest, but I gave. And gave. And gave some more.
This resulted in a more or less cohesive front, and because Husband ultimately desired a life of order and realized ambition and return on investment, a life that more or less resembled "success." Only Husband morphed into a workaholic and I morphed into a well-organized Ex-O (cocoplus5nuts knows what I mean, I suspect others do as well) who was largely ignored, put upon mightily, sexually frustrated and seething.
In the end, ultimately, I gave up for a few years. I went through menopause, I gained weight, and I thankfully kissed my pesky libido goodbye. One less demand on both of us.
This was no where near the time when Husband had his little peccadillo. When that occurred years earlier, I was a taunt, tight mother with a strong sex drive, in my native habitat in a string bikini, who was mistaken for a swimsuit model, who was asked more than once (more than twice!) if those were my biological children.
In fact, the woman with whom Husband's infidelity occurred weathered child bearing, evidently, less well than I did, judging by Husband's description.
I bear her no ill will and I give his description without ire. It just goes to show that it wasn't about me, and it wasn't about her, even: it was about the availability of easy, anonymous sexual contact for which he was (in the moment, apparently) not accountable.
And that leads to the questions: why her? Why right then? He had easy, available, enthusiastic, attractive and as varied as one human being can conjure, sex at home. And yet...
...that it was anonymous or nearly so appears to be a big part of the mind fuck for me.
Husband sees it as proof positive that he wasn't rejecting me. I get it. I see it as proof positive that he was rejecting the intimacy that we'd built, and into which we'd brought babies. That screws with my head, with my sense of belonging, of structure, of place, of commitment, big time. He says that's not true, he was not rejecting our intimacy- but I cannot process his denial. At that moment in our lives, especially- so (apparently) bonded, with babies at home, moving into the next concrete steps of building a life together, I would have chopped my own hands off before I touched another man intimately.
I can't help but see it as an act of overt destruction, like he threw a grenade into the house on purpose just to see if he could, just to see if he could get away with it. Not exactly to set himself free- he could have done that easily enough- but to establish some distance in as toxic a manner as possible. I wonder even now if the distance was what he needed- or if he actually desired the *toxic* distance?
I so understand (as much as I can, I get it that I've not walked in your shoes) the pain of being replaced not only with another body, but with another *relationship.*
There is a similar but oppositional pain: the pain of being supplanted, of realizing that the vow was broken, over nothing but an anonymous body and cheap sex.
It is, as many have said, a mind fuck.
In the meantime...
DDay 2, a more accurate one that began with a surprise disclosure that happened at (upper-ish) middle age and then reverted to trickle truth and defensiveness FOR MONTHS, occurred after I'd gotten my act back together, lost weight, demanded a resolution to the dead bedroom or I WAS WALKING.
I may be obtuse here but I honestly don't think the two were related, the revelations of DDay2 and the demand to resolve the dead bedroom. Or, maybe they were, in some sort of inverse fashion. I don't think it was a 'push back' in terms of "See? You aren't all that!" but the cumulative effect on me was 'Earlier troubles, current troubles,' and "OH GREAT NOW THIS THANKS A LOT HUSBAND."
If anything, it was more absolute, genuine surprise that I had rug swept so incredibly efficiently years earlier.
But here's where I think I have distilled my damage:
There were, and have been, other 'infidelities' other than the overt, sexual one.
There were years of capitulation by Husband, who in turn demanded capitulation from me at the expense of domestic harmony, to avoid conflict, to achieve validation, to be beyond reproach.
Husband spent decades kissing the world's ass with my lips, to make life easier for himself.
And it worked.
I am ashamed to say it, but damn, it worked. It worked for Husband, it worked for the world, it worked for everybody else but me.
Except it did sort of work for me too- I was left alone to translate the fruits of our labor (and the fruits of avoiding conflict) into whatever I chose. Since what I chose was also largely (as much as I could make it) conflict free, positive, forward moving and forward thinking, frugal, etc., we got a good ROI by conventional standards.
Only, again, it left me as a confused, frustrated, lonely, neglected, at times ill-used and at times an overtly disrespected seething mess. A seething mess with a meat and potatoes life and a solidly secure footing and positive balance sheet, and even a few baubles to show for it- but at the expense of anything even resembling marital intimacy.
I was working my way out of that- I honestly was!- I was demanding change and getting it- when DDay 2 happened and it swept me at the fucking knees.
What's happened since?
Well, there ain't no turning back now. I'm not retracing my steps. Where ever we, or each of us ends up, there we are.
I've had plastic surgery since DDay 2. I haven't discussed it on SI because doing so might be too personally identifiable. It's pained me to not respond to the threads on body image. I will say this much: I'm glad I did it, and I'd do it again.
I will also say this: it is physically demanding. DO NOT TAKE THIS STEP LIGHTLY.
And that in and of itself is its own mind fuck: You're gonna end up with a different body (if not, what is the point?) One or both of you may enjoy it more, or less, or you may be divided on the outcome. Either way, you both, but you, personally and especially, will be left parsing the value of your personal being vs. your physical being.
If you are already dealing with the aftermath of infidelity, take this seriously. It's no small thing.
Here's where I am currently:
It's changed the way I feel about myself. I feel as though the clock has been moved backwards, that I have physically regained beauty and confidence and physical attractiveness that was lost (and unrequited) whilst dithering about in Husband's emotional, psychological and sexual desert. I have regained a sexual and physical beauty that was frittered away on a man who had his head stuck up his ass. I feel, not necessarily physically but more psychologically, somewhat made whole again? Like something that was stolen from me has been returned.
Husband is making his own efforts in terms of reversing the dead bedroom. We are finding new mutual ground. This is a good thing. Perhaps it's simply extended hysterical bonding- hysterical bonding prolonged by medical intervention. Hell if I know. I'm going to enjoy it while we have it.
In this way, the plastic surgery has positively influenced the way I feel about us. It's given me enough of a crutch (and, in all fairness, I will describe it exactly that way) to allow me to move about in my own skin, knowing that I am the best I can possibly be at this age. Is it perfect? No, but it's damned close enough. Do I look like I did at 18? 22? In my late 20s when Husband took his little excursion? No, I do not! In some ways I actually look better, I think... but it's with depth, not with untouched physical beauty.
One thing has not changed: the plastic surgery has not changed how I feel about Husband, or what he's done, or what he's not done.
In this manner the plastic surgery has helped with 'differentiation.' There's his journey, and then there's my journey... and perhaps we will share, but there is a gap in which there is oxygen (giving Esther Perel credit here) and room for each of us (me) room to grow.
Also, the very radical act of choosing my own path, of diverting resources and time and funds and blood and sweat and tears to my own needs, desires, ego, validation, etc. has once again established me as an individual, not an owned commodity to be exploited. And as such, I am making decisions and creating boundaries not only with Husband, but in other areas, with other entities and with other people, and those boundaries are long, long overdue.
OK THAT'S ENOUGH FOR NOW. I've typed your eyes out. This has been a free-form overshare. I am exhausted. I hope at least some of you get it, and that some of you find it helpful- and if not, at least thought provoking.
Make no mistake, I realize that there are opposing points of view and that those points of view are worthy of equal respect and attention. Body modification surgery is not for everyone, it's not for every situation, it's not a one stop shopping solution, it doesn't cure every problem, and in fact- perhaps it cures none of them. Perhaps the same affect can be obtained with other acts of subversive independence, of overt autonomy, of self-improvement of less corporal influence: a new degree, a new job, a new abode, a move across town, across country or across the street-
...or maybe a simple "No" shall suffice. :)
(i hope this confessional helps someone, somehow)