Betrayed wife here.
I am the more emotionally available partner.
My husband can be quite sensitive, but it is often on his own terms.
He is highly compartmentalized, has perfectionist tendencies, tends to 'shut down' in response to stress, and he and his family of origin (FOO) have about a molecule of empathy to share between the lot of them.
His entire family is high octane judgmental.
His parents are *both* narcissistic: one is an overt, obvious, grandiose narcissist. The other is a manipulative, passive aggressive covert narcissist.
My husband had a single physical, sexual indiscretion IRL that was a one off. He kinda fell backwards into the circumstances of it but once in the situation, he rationalized it and enjoyed it. He didn't shut it down or walk off.
So there are some significant differences in our scenarios.
You will, no doubt, eventually run across works by the therapist and writer Esther Perel, if you've not run across her already.
Most of this forum disagrees with Perel's premises. That's putting it mildly.
I am a bit more Perel-y than most here, but I am not a die hard advocate of her perspective.
Nevertheless, I believe that much of what she writes will resonate with you.
Here's the thing:
I *do* believe that the prevalent weather in the relationship, or in life in general, can make either spouse more vulnerable to bids of all types.
In your case, it was positive attention and validation. It was an emotional connection. It sounds like you had an emotional affair.
And to my ear, it sounds like you were starved for some emotional connection.
And to my ear, it sounds like your wife is either incapable or unwilling to extend to meet your legitimate emotional needs.
Was cheating the solution? Obviously not.
In my husband's case, I think it's fair to say, he didn't *need* the outside sex. We did NOT have a dead bedroom. I had NOT 'let myself go.' Etc.
But, we married young, we had babies like, 22 seconds after we married, and we took on a LOT of responsibility at an early age.
Long story, won't get into it here, but my husband has long struggled with needing and getting more validation than I as one human being, as a female and as a wife, can realistically give him. This damage is straight from the FOO.
When he found himself faced with an 'exotic opportunity' while 'out with the guys' in a new and exciting city, far away from (sick with a virus) babies and a pending close date on the first house and a young wife with a full time job and career of her own, well, he punched the fool button.
It was *absolutely* a reflection of his immaturity, of his ability to compartmentalize and dissemble (what I didn't know wouldn't hurt me, right?) and the ambient weather, not in our marriage in particular, but in our current state of life.
What Husband *needed* was a 'recess' of sorts. He needed a break. He needed 5 minutes to be a young man with much less responsibility and commitment.
Unfortunately, me and the kids? We continued to exist. As did that pending real estate contract. And our careers. And that damned virus, LOL.
Cheating was *obviously* not 'the answer,' it was like throwing a toxic hand grenade into the middle of an already challenging situation.
Husband regretted it *immediately.* (In fact, his own intrinsic guilt outed him.)
Was he vulnerable due to life circumstances?
Was he vulnerable due to the immediate circumstances?
Was cheating the solution?
Obvs not. It just added a layer of unmitigated fucked up to an already challenging situation.
If I hear you correctly, part of your rationalization for partaking was that this situation wasn't 'real.'
I get that.
That was part of Husband's rationalization as well:
It wasn't 'real.' It wasn't 'an affair.' He didn't stick his dick in anything. (Sorry about the graphic language. Welcome to SI, LOL.) Therefore, it wasn't really 'sex,' so it wasn't really 'cheating.' Etc.
Of course, to me, it was devastating.
It was a litmus test of our whole relationship, of Husband's commitment to me, of his commitment to the marriage, of his commitment to the pretty damned big deal of a legal contract we were about to sign with a chunk of debt attached to it, of his commitment to our life together.
And it was a stark repudiation of all of the above.
At the time (this was years ago) I responded (after a handful of days of awkward whir grind and an eventual much sanitized disclosure) by declaring that I would not sign the closing papers on the house.
In that *both* of our incomes were required for the mortgage, this was a big deal. It was a Come to Jesus Moment.
I basically called his bluff.
Hubs had to decide if he was in or if he was out. And if he was in, he had to convince *me* to come back and be in as well.
Obvs my husband found himself pulled off in a different direction by competing interests and unrequited need.
Cheating was not the answer.
Walking off was not the answer either. Husband didn't want to lose me, nor the babies, nor even that house.
But that didn't mean that he was magically, automatically happy with where he found himself in life at that moment, nor that he was ready to be where he found himself at that moment of indiscretion- either in terms of the marriage/parenthood/home ownership, nor in terms of being faced with an 'occasion of sin.'
So basically, we compromised.
He grew the fuck up in a hurry. It wasn't perfect but he never cheated again.
I stayed with a guy who cheated on me at a critical juncture and at a sensitive moment. It wasn't perfect but he never cheated again, lol.
None of this means that the ambient weather at that moment in our relationship wasn't real.
None of this means that his angst at finding himself in over his head in life wasn't real.
None of this means that my anguish wasn't real.
Your needs are real.
They are valid.
They are realistic.
Honestly, you do not need to argue them nor defend them.
But obvs, cheating, while it *seemed* at the time to 'solve the problem' without upsetting the apple cart,
ultimately blew up the apple cart.
Either you are going to have to learn to live on a sparse starvation diet in terms of affection,
learn to sublimate into something else that doesn't threaten your wife (and this may be a challenge, you may find that you receiving validation and affection from *any* source challenges her)
or your wife is going to have to learn to extend some of what you need to you, and that's not IMHO an unfair ask, if she wants to continue to be married,
or the two of you can settle on a hopefully amicable divorce, and go your separate ways to live your separate lives and have your needs met elsewhere/otherwise.
It doesn't sound like an 'open' or 'don't ask/don't tell' marriage will work for the two of you.
Cheating just throws a layer of bullshit on top of the problem that created the vulnerability to the cheating.
Your needs are valid.
Cheating is not.
[This message edited by marriageredux959 at 7:44 PM, December 31st (Thursday)]