I did get into the phone but recovered old texts but not from the AP. I am going to give it another go tonight if I can't get it myself I will take it into a tech.
It is quite possible that your wife has tried to hide or delete texts, but it is significant that other messages from the same period exist, because it means the phone has not been factory re-set.
If you are thinking of taking it to a tech specialist, you could try contacting a private investigator and ask if they can do it, or if they know someone they can recommend. PIs tend to know where stuff can be hidden.
However, the fact that your wife told you about the worst messages, and worries about them, suggests that she is not confident they are gone, or she could have said it was all quite lightweight and innocuous stuff.
The latest VAR conversation was between my WW & her best friend (the one going through her own D, and already has a rebound boyfriend) They talked about me going to her parents & siblings to tell them what was going on. The friend said that's bullshit he is just trying to turn your parents against you. My wife played that off & said I just whish we could have told them together.
As a few others have commented, I think it is positive that your wife did not respond to her friend's "bullshit" statement. As you said in your post, the friend's disastrous relationship history proves she is not cut out to advise anyone, but your wife's lack of enthusiasm for bashing you suggests that she knows who was in the wrong. Heck, you only did what you did because of what she did, so who got her to this point?
The one thing lately is since bringing up D and telling our families what is going on there is no mention of the AP at all.
This may be some reality sinking in. Perhaps your wife is starting to see that her affair has the potential to destroy everything, and that may have taken the edge off the narcissist idiot AP.
Consequences have a way of bursting bubbles, which is why the actions you took were so effective. Affairs flourish in the dark; exposure to sunlight and the wider world shows them up for what they are, and suddenly they are no longer an exciting secret but an openly known embarrassment.
She keep trying to pull me into couples therapy & I have told her down the road (if I am still around) we could do that.
If there is one thing I think you should avoid, it is giving any reassurances about the future.
Busted waywards often go fishing for guarantees and promises, but uncertainty is a great motivator for people to give up their delusions about not only their affair and to stop taking everything they have (including their betrayed spouse) for granted.
I am not saying you should deliberately torment your wife, but stay very very much on the fence, and continue to explore the details of divorce. You need to do that anyway, and your wife needs to learn to appreciate you again. Do not recommit after what she did unless she truly gets her head out of her behind, and making her sweat will encourage her to do that.
She had been using our marriage as a reason she strayed, & I told her I don't want to hear that anymore. I had no idea there were any issues and I believe we had a stronger marriage than most of our friends. She never came to me until the end of November & said we were drifting apart and she was worried. Of course at the time I had no idea she had been having a few months EA that had turned into a PA.
I am glad that you can see how utterly bogus it is for someone who was actively wrecking the relationship with an affair to express concern about 'drifting apart'. She chose to actively 'drift'. Nobody has an affair as a way to strengthen a relationship they are genuinely worried about.
I am not perfect by any means but I have been a true & faithful husband and have always treated her well. But you can see how that turned out for me...
If you do stay together, ensure you make her do her part to make you feel loved and desired, and that the traffic is 50-50 in both directions, not you going out of your way to do it for her with less coming back to you.
A lot of waywards fail to understand that their perception of problems in a relationship is down to their lack of effort, not neglect by the partners they betray. So a relevant question to ask would be, "How much effort do you think you put into this relationship over the last few years before you started actively cheating?" That puts the ball back into her court.
The AP gave my wife a surprise kiss. In front of a few people. My wife thought it was innocent and blew it off, but I guess it sparked her interest and it got the ball rolling.
It is a terrible thing, but you would be amazed how effective unexpected physical contact like that can be.
The wife of a well-known poster on this site complained about a pig of a man that she worked with who was always making salacious comments to women in the office, and who one day grabbed her hand and put it on his crotch, asking her what she thought. Guess what? She had an affair with the guy, and even told her betrayed husband that her AP was a better man than him!
Another guy I knew who used to do outrageous things got his junk out in front of the girlfriend of a pal of his, and she complained and acted offended. Guess what? She married her boyfriend, but had sex with the flasher on her wedding day after her husband passed out drunk (he was basically an alcoholic).
Actions like that are beyond the pale, and yet they pay off for some of the unprincipled turds who perpetrate them. They ought to make the women hate the guys, but in some cases it seems to have the opposite effect. So you may be right about the kiss from the AP starting something.
Hopefully IC will help your wife dig into her real reasons for cheating, and why she thought so much of a guy who sounds like - and is - a total douche.
My WW Mom sent me a text today saying that my WW cried for 2 hours confessing of what she had done & that she is terrified she is going to lose me & how ashamed she is.
And that endorses the actions that you took by exposing the affair and investigating divorce. I am sure your MIL has the best intentions - your WW is her daughter - but do not let this kind of thing push you into making any statements about divorce being off the table. This is a time for you to play hardball, and for your wife to do the work necessary to make her a suitable candidate for reconciliation.
I asked her point blank if there were any conversations about me in their texts & she said no. If I do find she was bashing me we would be at the end of the road.
Your wife may well be telling the truth about that. A narcissistic guy like the AP would want the talk to either be his bullshit to her, or getting her attention 100% focused on him, not you.
Edited to add: Please be careful to keep this place secret from your wife. There have been cases in the past where waywards have spied on their betrayed spouse's posts, and basically 'played' them by using the information to tailor their responses to look sincere. With the VARs and other sources, you are getting authentic indications of where your wife's thinking is, and the last thing you want is for her to tailor what she does because she knows what you are thinking.
[This message edited by M1965 at 6:27 PM, January 6th (Wednesday)]