Thanks again HO, your advice is especially helpful right now as you're on the receiving end of an affair as well. I'll address your breakdown here in a second. It's a long one, so thanks in advance for your patience and attention.
MrsWalloped, thanks for the encouragement. It's hard to be on here and express needs for our own care. Often a WS may express unmet needs of their own and look for empathy from other WS's in it but get piled on by BS's. I don't find that kind of posting to be particularly helpful as it often puts the WS on defensive mode. As we WS's know well, once defensive, we're just reacting and not responding. This in turn makes much of the input from BS's lost to us. Shaming and abusive input rightfully should be ignored, but often good perspectives framed from a place of hurt and anger are missed in our reaction to the emotional tone.
Username123, my story is already outlined in previous posts. It was a short (1-2mo) exit affair that took place June-July of 2019. BH found out in mid July 19.
HO, the 3/4 day thing isn't set in stone, it's just the typical pattern. I don't explicitly say, "now you've had your 3 days, suck it up while I take my 4." BH often comments that all we can maintain is 3 good days and then a period of bad days where we're disagreeing, his needs are unmet as I either get defensive or avoid him. I'm improving in this in working on curbing my defensiveness (last night I was NOT successful- stressful day already w/ news about my boss's cancer). Avoidance is something I need to tackle next.
What follows is a typical example of our interactions. BH comes home from a night out running errands, and quickly criticizes my performance as a mother unfairly. He was triggered more harshly than usual as other BH's notice as minor things become all about the affair. He started in with "kids spelling words aren't down pat, IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT, WHY CAN'T I JUST GO OUT FOR ONE NIGHT AND COME HOME TO EVERYTHING BEING DONE RIGHT!! THIS IS SO HARD- YOU'RE NEVER HELPFUL and I CAN'T TRUST YOU IN ANYTHING!" Everything tends to become about the affair and not the situation at hand. Part and parcel of the reactivity and hyper-vigilance I've foisted upon him w/ my affair. Instead of calmly stating, "I understand you're upset and disappointed. I did the best I could, I made sure DD did her spelling HW and quizzed her until she got them right with me. DS's HW was behind and we did it to the best knowledge I had. The HW rubric was not posted on any of the classroom sites." I got defensive and raised my voice (not yelled- I've squashed the yelling).
It felt unfair and unjust and like he was attacking me without listening to my side of the story. This was an established pattern early in our marriage with his disappointment over the disorganization of the house when he came home. He would get stressed out by the mess and the kids running around. They were babies and toddlers and being wild and noisy or fussy, and 6pm was the witching hour for DD's colic at the time. So his expectations were unrealistic. Instead of him working to adjust to that with a sense of grace and humility, he would get depressed that his desires were unmet.
After his stressful day at work, he wanted to relax and had difficulty with that when kids were being loud and hyper- they were 1-3yrs old). His reaction to all this stress was to immediately criticize and complain and be harsh with it. No kiss, no hello, how was your day, no room for recognition of the stresses of SAHM w/ 2 non-potty trained kids and a nursing and mildly colicky baby. His anxiety over being sole provider, stress from a hard day and a long commute would overwhelm any of his ability to have compassion and treat the situation with humor or gentleness. He wanted to come home to one place in the world that was under control, set up to his standards and accommodating completely to him. My established pattern of defensiveness (and hurt and disappointment and anger at the unjust unkind treatment) came out and I just threw fuel on the fire.
Oh well, back on the horse and doing my best to be better. He's wanting consistency. With my ADHD, that's really hard (and something I'm under treatment for). I've asked him to consider persistence instead. I think in general it's a healthier concept as no one is perfect and we all will fall down occasionally. Leaving room for that with the ideal of persistence (picking back up and working to do better next time) is more human. Only robots are perfectly consistent. And robots are incapable of real love.
Per the "4 days avoidance" thing, it does stem from control. I can't control his lashing out and he isn't a safe place for me to share my emotions freely. His anger is frightening to me and triggers enormous anxiety from my end (hence the defensiveness) from abuse suffered in childhood and established patterns of his harsh criticism and continued frustration with my inability to fulfill his needs. It's a viscous cycle. I reach out, and inconsistently get accepted or get rejected. If accepted, I continue to sustain until my anxiety over the next outburst of his anger or disappointment ("this is too good to last" buckle up- here it comes...) brings it crashing down. Either that, or I disappoint him and he either lashes out in anger or is crushing in his criticism.
There's a dynamic there between us that I want (and have been begging for years) to do MC for. However, he's not ready right now and didn't see it as his problem in the past. It's a standstill right now- I'm doing a lot of work on my end, only he's not on his end (still in survival mode but not in IC for it- when he was, IC said he's doing the best he can and seems to be handling it well ). I would like to disagree with IC's assessment. I have definitely delayed his healing with my mental health problems and continued defensiveness and avoidance. However, there is a contribution to it from his end. If we are both working together on this, I see it resolving MUCH faster and alleviating his pain and anxiety much more quickly. I want to reduce his suffering in this, but can only do so much by myself on my end. I can become a safe spouse and restore transparency and trust to the best of my ability. However, I can't heal the marital relationship on my own.
I'm getting better at talking through his constructive criticism (brought to me in a civil tone in a calm manner) and taking it as helpful. It's when it's expressed harshly or in an outburst of his anger that I either get defensive, or calmly hold my ground/ disengage from the conversation ("I'm feeling hurt and becoming overwhelmed and likely to be defensive. I need to take a break from this until I can respond in a positive way.") Doing this takes enormous amounts of emotional energy for me. Anxiety over his response to my need for space and a breather (BH: "You're giving up, I'm not feeling you really want this, IT'S JUST NOT THERE!"). His responses feel manipulative and hurt me deeply as I am trying my damn hardest to not get defensive and lash out myself. I'm doing this for both our benefit- his so he doesn't get more abused by me lashing out in return. On my end, I'm doing it for my own self-respect as well as to save the marriage.
There's no way I can have any hope for any healthy relationship with ANYONE if I can't take the breaks I need to calm down and come back to the issue with a rational brain. It's like with learning to read- in the beginning as a kid, they need to slow down and sound out the words. Once they become more proficient in reading, the words flow off the page more easily. I'm still having to spell out mindfulness and self-centering activities when under stress. It's been my natural reaction to become defensive and go on the attack myself (justifying, blaming or in general losing my cool).
With BH's reactions, he drains my well (see other post to another WS needing validation from BS). Since he was the one drawing from my well so deeply, I have trouble trusting him enough to give him access to my emotional life for a while. Then I avoid. Either by not being emotionally/physically intimate or by outright doing my own thing. This is the pattern I need to work on.
BOUNDARIES ARE HARD! I'm not explicitly trying to make my needs more important than his- that's not my conscious intention. That's not what I'm working to be. It's after these outbursts (on his part and then my reactivity to them) that I don't trust myself enough or him enough to interact positively. I'm working at it (with the mindfulness and the spelling out of emotions and the taking a break when needed). It's painful really, I'm hurt from rejection, afraid from his anger (triggers FOO abuse when I would literally NOT be home all day- I'd stay out in the woods in the dark freezing rain not to be around my sisters if my parents were gone for an evening). I understand he loves me and is very hurt. However, the way he's treating me in his pain feels like the manipulation from my mother and the abuse from my sister and schoolmates that I experienced as a child. I am working hard to overcome the trauma triggers. It's extremely tough to be capable of giving kind, open and warm companionship from someone who is triggering my abuse with their own (unconscious) manipulations and abuse.
He's been showing me little kindnesses and much empathy, which is good and helpful. It's what I hold on to when I'm feeling the insecurities and lack of hope.
The insecurities I feel are around his weighing D or R, not his validation of my worth. When I do feel those insecurities again (again, feelings do come up, but as you said, they're not necessarily reality!), I go to God with it and do self-care (exercise, eating right, going to bed early, walking the dog, talking to sisters and friends). This helps bring me out of that place and back into reality where I feel more able to participate in the marriage as a person worthy of respect and care. I'm feeling insecure primarily in our relationship, not necessarily in my self worth. I still feel the shame and insecurity of my own worth, but I'm no longer making it BH's job to pull me out of it and validate me. I think this is confusing to him and he's reading it as me moving away from him. I don't think he understands this as a healthier way of managing my emotions and healing from my FOO. Codependency is a bitch. This is a new regime for him and he's not sure how to adjust to it. He's used to being the source of my worth and has grown comfortable with the control it affords him. I'm taking that away as it's not healthy for him to be burdened with that and he's losing that lever to pull when things are not going as he pleases.
Thanks for hanging in here on this post- I do write novels.
Wish us luck. It's a mess of my own making.