Somber, I am so sorry you're going through such a difficult time of discovery, the ongoing revelations that people you know are capable of such ugly behavior, it must be a very lonely feeling. You were brave to ask those women anything, but it is your SAWH who should be telling you the whole story, too, and I hope he gets healthy enough to do that, for your sake.
Cally, I appreciate what you gave as signs of progress. The number 1 on your list, more openness to vulnerable conversations, was especially important to me but sadly, to this day, 17 years after my first D-Day, my SAWH almost always immediately shifts his attention off any emotionally-laden topic that comes up in conversation!
I have learned to notice what else is happening with his body, besides talking or making eye contact: he has this way of shutting down his "thinking" brain by focusing on anything near him that he can study, touch, or fiddle with, to avoid having to process any painful thing! But such behavior is so dismissive and rude, considering what he's done to "us" that it was a long time before I really accepted he doesn't care how it feels on my end! When he does that, he's strictly in self-preservation mode.
This is actually a psychological defense mechanism called "Dissociation." A couple of MCs we tried to get help from also picked up on that behavior of his in sessions. He starts looking at something, anything, rather than the other person. His non-verbal message is "stop!" He either does that, or he slumps down in his chair, his eyelids slide half shut, or he yawns and may even fall asleep! You may as well be speaking a foreign language, at that point.
While he professes willingness to work on his issues, he's apparently unable or unwilling to control these non-verbal behaviors, even after I ask him to look at me, or wake up, or just sit up straighter, to act awake! "Hello! Anybody in there?" So frustrating and irritating, and likely why no counselor he has ever seen, including 2 CSATs, were able to make a dent, either. He always claims they couldn't help him! But nobody should have to use dynamite....
I had to get it that once he goes into that mode, he's not processing anything deeply, and any insights will last only long enough to say out loud. They never seem to "stick." I believe this is the biggest roadblock to any true healing happening. I had to give up coaching him to break through his determined Dissociation; HE has to be willing to do the work, and my SAWH just doesn't want to look at these kinds of issues, period.
Guess that's why, with 12 years of "sobriety" after D-Day 1 and over 100 hours of MC or assorted clinical psychologists, he decided to solicite a prostitute (on my birthday 5 years ago) and got himself arrested. Since then, there have been no changes in him that I've noticed, either. He just went back into "survival mode." (And I got a serious Marital Agreement in lieu of immediate D.)
It is somewhat helpful to our healing, to maybe be able to put together some causes of their twisted sickness, which the great majority of people could never have suspected, don't you think? I would bet there is much more yet to be recognized if your husband's FOO is anything like mine's, which - just from your description - really seems likely. It is a painfully difficult process for both of you, I know. But at least, you are seeing some progress, if you wish to hang in and see what he does with it. Thanks for posting!