Personally I had spent a lot of time numbing myself even before the affair. The thing about numbing is that you can’t isolate it to where you only numb good or bad feelings, it’s across the board.
Then during the affair, cognitive dissonance had me justifying my actions because I knew they were wrong. So that is typically where you see most of us rewriting the marriage and being critical of our spouse. We use them as an excuse.
Top that with the fact that many of us ( women especially) then fall limerant in the affair, which is basically an addiction to another person. I had to be treated for OCD as an effort to get away from the intrusive, obsessive thinking. I was about bat shit crazy.
So when I confessed my affair I didn’t have the capacity to have full empathy. I was cold, distant, and very wrapped up in myself. This was not characteristic of me in any way before my affair or by the time I was almost a year into recovery. It was a perfect storm of not having any coping skills, having a major crisis, and then making damaging and horrific decisions that piled a heaping pile of shame that it took years for me to get out from under.
Shame is a feeling that is very unproductive but any pain my husband showed was too much for me to take in because the shame was so big. I didn’t want to deal with the fallout at all, I had walls up for sure.
At the same time, I had gone to IC for two months before deciding to confess against the advice of two separate therapists. So it wasn’t that I didn’t know I was so screwed up but I just was in so much pain I couldn’t see a way out. I would sit by a pond for hours a day a pray and write down things to be thankful for. I was a mess.
Most ws do have a lack of empathy in the beginning. For some, they never had it, never wil have it. However for many it’s a temporary condition from the mental gymnastics they took themselves through in having the affair.
You are not wrong to know your wife didn’t love you during this time, didn’t have concern for you, and those actions are hard to understand. You can read a lot from dr frank Pittman and he describes it so uncannily you know that it’s a very common psychological response.
With that said, I have such remorse that the mismanagement of my life and my decisions caused so much pain to my husband who didn’t deserve it. I learned through the process that I had built up resentments over a lot of unstated and at times unrealistic expectations. I built a wall,and I blamed my husband for the lack of emotional intimacy. In reality I was probably 90 percent responsible for that distance.
After the distance was created, I told myself narratives of my entitlement to do some things for me. Ridiculous. I could have chosen a hobby instead of having an affair.
As I took more and more accountability, I soon realized that I was a big source of our marital issues, 100 Percent the sources of my bad decisions, and as I found the sources and eradicated the shame I had accumulated through my lifetime, self compassion returned, leaving me with a greater space for him and all the damage I caused.
All this to say sometimes we have to have a reckoning with ourselves before we have the capacity to look at all the pain we caused others. No one deserves another chance, but for those who do offer that gift it should be with someone who can probably tell you a little more why they couldn’t take you in. It sounds like she has read a lot, which is important, but by now she should be able to talk about the overwhelming feelings and how she has begun dissecting them and putting them away. Shame and guilt are overwhelming, but unhelpful. It’s remorse ( having the capacity to take in The trauma we dealt another) that can be transformative for the relationship itself. She is right that most ws are not empathetic in the beginning but related it to her journey in a more personal way. (What was she numbing, why, how does she cope with it now, what does she see that she did to you, to herself, etc) I would not be satisfied with her answer either.
[This message edited by hikingout at 8:50 PM, Tuesday, August 9th]