I see you have been a member a very long time, and it is nice to meet you. Thank you for checking in with your update, it really meant a lot to me to hear your story, and to see my journey in some ways mirroring yours. I hope that checking in has been therapeutic for you and not triggering. I'm not sure somedays if my daily reading here is helping or hurting me, but I certainly find comfort in knowing others feel the pain I feel and understand it, as my WH cannot. My story is a mess, it is long, and I wouldn't judge a soul who decided not to read all this jumbled mess of me too's. I guess I keep trying to work through this in real time mostly here, online or in my head. Progress is very slow with many setbacks, so I am always oddly comforted to read of others taking years to heal to a noticeable level, and very interested in any couple who can come through a LTA intact. The odds are not with us.
I did not find SI until a year post Discovery, and I had already scared the MOW off without realizing it. It took a year and a half for me to learn that there had not been an isolated brief affair with LT email contact, but an ongoing, intense multi-year affair that went underground for almost a year after my initial discovery. The story of the length of the Affair went from a couple of months, to what I uncovered to be a couple of years, to which they admitted to 4 then 6 years, which became 8 years and ultimately 9 years start to finish. I blew things up two months before their 10 year Ashley Madison anniversary, 2 weeks before our 32nd wedding anniversary, but I didn't figure out that there was an ongoing affair to end for another year. See how confusing? I don't even know how to tell the story anymore it is such a mess of tips of the iceberg, gaslighting, rugsweeping, digital forensic gotcha's, horrifying exchanges with the MOW, all the icky stuff.
I endured the slow realization of a big fat false reconciliation, complete with recommitment and wedding rings I resized, all built on a foundation of secrets and need to know controlling trickle truth from an emotionally stunted, disconnected spouse. I learned everything years or months after it occurred, never in real time, which was and still is disorienting. My WH could never stop protecting himself and did untold damage to me with the lies and promises he told me while still cheating. He admitted to almost nothing I did not find and prove on my own, and he grew increasingly angry with me as I continued to uncover details and confront him with his lies, most of which he could not even remember telling. I took a lot of notes and journaled my way through this hell daily and he came to hate my recall for events and refused to work with me on a timeline or full disclosure. He told me over and over I had the whole truth, the full story, all the gory details, when of course I did not. In the end, it was multiple begging emails to the MOW that gave me the full timeline, and revealed further lies he continued to tell, both big and small that I could not have proved otherwise, so I owe the pathetic woman credit for that small act of kindness. The mind of a trapped cheater is impossible to understand. It is concerning to me that he threw his MOW under the bus, never protected her from me or apologized to her for what has transpired, including me devastating her with the horrible things he said about her, and the reveal that he tried to cheat on her multiple times for more than half of their relationship. He has zero care or regard for someone he trashed his marriage for, and swears she means no more to him than a stranger on the street. It would make so much more sense to me if he had cared for her, but it also pleases me that he showed her no more respect or kindness getting through this ugliness than he showed me. At least there is that. He did not love her, he just loved how she made him feel about himself.
The damage from the lack of honesty that I begged for, insisted on, demanded and threatened to leave over is permanent. Honesty is my number one core value and I never conceived that he could be dishonest with me, and each new discovery was a sham of a reboot to renewed commitment with total honesty. Over and over, I was assured there was no more to know, no more secrets, no more lies, nothing else to find, but every time there was, even after I begged him to clean up his hard drive and phone, because I couldn't stop the forensics, but he forgot how many breadcrumbs they left behind, and how many ways technology can catch up to the lies, eventually. I was a slow study, but I got there, and I'm now left with no trust moving forward. There is no trust but verify program for me, there is only hope my worst fears don't come true again. He says I can trust him now, he is done with that, he is happy with me (although he says he always was???) and I have nothing to be afraid of moving forward. He has conveniently shifted my recovery and our reconciliation to a me problem, not an us problem and he refuses to admit there is a him problem. He has a lot of issues he doesn't even care to recognize. We have a lot in common with our FOO, especially judgmental controlling mothers, and we just went in opposite directions in how we let it shape our futures. I thought we were an unbeatable team with an unbreakable bond and he thinks we still are, isn't that something?
I know that I am out of infidelity, thanks to relocating, covid, semi-retirement, total electronic and financial transparency, and most importantly threats to the MOW to out her personally and professionally. I know I have made the best choice on paper for myself, for now by staying together, even though my post reads like a cautionary tale of where not to end up. I know that we have always been and continue to be a great team at home and our business, and I want to believe that sparing my children the gritty truth of their parent's perfect marriage is a gift to us all and not a burden or source of guilt for me. I want to believe that old pictures, or memories or words, names, places, dates or songs that trigger a flight response or a flood of tears or a pang of heartache will fade with time, and I am still waiting. I still cannot look at pictures of my WH and me together from the cheating years and have them all tucked away, but the electronic stuff gets me from time to time. Recently, cleaning out my mother's house after her passing hit me with so many painful mementos that I became numb to the point of emotional shutdown. I'm still crawling out of that fog.
I can't believe I have been living this surreal version of my life, in this twilight zone episode of a marriage for almost six years now. I am truly worn down by all of it. That said, so long as I carry on in my marriage as if nothing awful has happened and I'm not heartbroken and afraid of what else I don't know or can't control, that we can have a great time, a lot of laughs and a bucket of adventures and tons of fun. I keep waiting for that bass note of sorrow to grow quieter, or my need to talk about it to my satisfaction to fade, but so far, not yet. Thoughts of the A, the MOW, the details the logistics, the disparate stories I've been fed, the unanswered questions, the hundreds of disastrous conversations or stonewalling sessions, the indignity of failing to advocate for myself in a way that helps me heal, failing to get through to him, to get him to follow through on the work he promised me when I agreed to stay - these thoughts fill my head every night and every morning and randomly throughout the day, every day, still. I keep waiting for a sea change, but I have been in the doldrums for a while. I am trying every trick in the book to retrain my brain to stop stimming on the pain and picking at the unknowns, but it is hard, hard work for me.
My early in the process therapist assured me that the continuing, long term shifting of my reality with the trickle truth, my OCD need for details and dates to piece together the timeline and the root causes for the A, plus my husbands inability to recognize his need to work on himself as opposed to "fixing me" would cost me some time to sort out the real reality as he called it. He gave me the gift of acceptance of my own timeline to process, to recover, to decide what I want and what to do next, even who to tell, and he gave me breathing room for my bruised ego, and my frustrated problem solving personality. He made me believe that it's OK to take as long as it takes, to take my time and not judge myself for what I choose, so long as I stay grounded in my values and continue to work to heal myself from horrifying betrayal. It feels like being stuck in amber some days though.
I think having a therapist go through my trickle truth with me, counseling us both, was a shock for him, and helped me to understand just how damaging continued deception can be. I booted WH from MC and continued on my own to help process the bulk of the truth I uncovered. I also think having my therapist urge me to let go of my OCD questions about a long ago affair, only to discover with me that my gut instincts were right, that there was a valid reason I couldn't let go and start to heal because my WH was lying to us both, the MOW was lying to me, and my WH had the therapist fooled with his lies - we were all wasting our time. I have adjusted to five or six different versions of what was really happening, both before I knew there was an affair and we were the golden couple, and the shocking discovery after discovery when I continued to offer trust and work to build an honest meaningful relationship moving forward while he was working to keep his secret life still secret. I was the most gullible BS because of my inability to comprehend that he was capable of lying to my face. I am so sad that he was incapable of ending a relationship he still swears meant nothing to him with a boring stupid high maintenance woman, not for me, not for himself and not for a single reason he can articulate. "It was easier to get into it than it was to get out of it. She cried. It was supposed to end anyway and you were never supposed to know. Nobody was supposed to get hurt. It's water under the bridge now. I don't know, I can't explain it and I don't want to talk about it. You just can't accept that affairs are a thing that happens."
I am still so incredibly hurt by his inability to make a choice for our marriage or me even when given an ultimatum for no contact and again for total honesty or I walk. To say he has disappointed me is an understatement. To say that I love him and that loving him has been the best and the worst thing in my life is one as well.
I am wired to walk away from pain, conflict and especially anyone I can't trust. This is really new territory for me, requiring expert level emotional maturity and acceptance that I don't have, not yet. I know I am struggling with an inadequate partner and inadequate tools in both our tool belts. I understand why I choose to stay and fight for a future worth having versus leaving, but I don't really see a clear path to anything that looks like success, just settling for what is left and worth salvaging. There isn't really a great option for me, because I know how much emptier and lonely my life would be without my WH and the family we have built, even if it is part fiction. But I am also learning the cost of compromising on my values and settling for less than I believe I am worth by staying without solid work from my WH. I'm choosing the devil I know, and maybe giving up on the idea of redemptive love, of coming through this happier or a better person. I don't think I've felt this bleakly accepting, this cynical or this negative since I was a teenager. I guess I just don't know how to get past the hurt of deep intimate betrayal when I curl up every night with my betrayer and listen to him tell me he loves me. Yes, but so what? Recently, on a lovely evening stroll, holding hands, he squeezed mine and said I love you and tears welled in my eyes and I said for what it's worth. I know I crushed him, but it just blurted out. I said you showed me what you are capable of doing to people you love, so I guess you taught me I don't know what it means to love a person. I know what it means to me and it is a very different thing than it means to you. He said nothing else that walk, which is its own hell, the silence. He told me later, after I brought it back up, that he loves me as much as he is capable of loving a person, that he has given me more painful honesty and apologies than anyone ever in his life. He wants me to be grateful or proud of him for that? I have come to understand that if he were to see things as I do, that his internal house of cards of compartmentalization and rationalization would tumble to the ground. I think his entire self image is in complete contrast to the person he truly is on the inside and I don't think he is interested in exploring anything about himself or his motivations. I'm going to be analyzing mine forever now I suppose, as well as pondering if I can ever know a person with any certainty again.
I love him, or who I thought him to be, with all that I am, he loves me as best as he is able. We are coming up on forty years together, and before this I would have told you he is my best friend, soul mate and the only living person on earth I trust completely. We love our grown children so much, and travel to see them several times a year. We have a great time together as a family, and they are really settling into happy, positive futures. They are the best thing in my life and the best thing tying me to this tragedy of a relationship. They have no idea of the decade of betrayal or the last five years of my breakdown and panic attacks, and my slow crawl back to a life I can live with. I hid it very well. I know I have chosen the harder path, staying with a man who will not freely admit to his failures or work to atone for the relationship damage or repair himself on a personal level. He has compartmentalized everything like an engineer would. I could never have imagined this becoming our lives, or me staying with anyone who hurt me a fraction of the amount my WH has hurt me, so my journey of self discovery is ongoing.
I'm sorry for turning this into a therapy session. I had a rough stretch of deep sad thoughts last night, and your post struck a chord for me, maybe hope that this is just another dip in the rollercoaster before I get to an easier stretch like you are in now. I am trying to be patient with myself, to understand that long drawn out trickle truth underground A during recovery puts me on the slowest and least likely path to healing, let alone salvaging a relationship, or even figuring out what I even want anymore. My WH is adamant that we will beat the odds, that we already have and he continues to believe we are currently living our best lives and I should really have chosen happiness by now. He is happy as can be, unless I bring up his "mistake that he has apologized a hundred times for". He never will get it and I have to learn to live with that or live without this marriage. I'm still learning how, I guess.
I really just wanted to say hello, to commiserate, to thank you for taking the time to come back and share and to show a fellow struggling member one possible, positive future. I like to envision a hopeful, happy future for us all here, regardless of whether we reconcile or give up. I hope you continue to have all the fun that grandparenting brings and wish the best for you and your family. I also hope you check in again someday, with more positive news and hope for those a little further behind you on the healing path. Best to you.