I think that even during the affair, there is some part of you that *knows* that you don't want to leave, you don't want to be faithful (even though you think it is wrong), because you want the good feels. The cognitive dissonance is that the feel goods of the A are bad. You know this too be true. You want it to not be. So you make stuff up. Spouse bad, rationalizations etc.
Ultimately though, you had no intention of leaving your husband, and you just wanted the good feels to not stop. There was not a planned exit. There was not some master objective other than "keep feel goods going".
"What do you want?" often implies a "them or me" or something grander. Like there is some goal to be reached in having the A. The A is it's own hedonistic reward though and addictive, as you have pointed out. Allowing you to override your better judgment.
And so that means, for most people, they don't want to leave their partner, and they don't want the A to end. If you could cut through the cognitive dissonance and self rationalizations at the time, I think you would find this to be true.
I do appreciate what you are saying here, and the respectful way that you laid out your case. There have been many, many moments on SI when someone has pointed at something they didn't feel I was seeing, and they were right. I do not think I would have found every nook and cranny that I have been able to uncover without that mirror being held up to me. At times, I bristled only to figure out what they were saying was true.
However, I do stand by my feeling that I was having an exit affair. If you read about exit affairs, you will find that pretty much what I am saying is textbook.
First, cake eaters are compartmentalizers. They can separate their two lives during their affairs. The biggest clues are they are better at regulating their behavior. They can truly feel feelings for both people. They tend not to act quite as erradically.
If you look at some of the waywards here - you could almost evenly divide them into two categories in this way. (no theory is a catch all or perfect so I say ALMOST). The ones who had no problems at all (or very little) dropping the AP - they are the compartmentalizers. Generally speaking, men are better compartmentalizers than women. That doesn't mean we can sort it by gender by any means. But, more men have cake-eating affairs than women do. Both sexes have both kinds, but there is a divide.
The second category are people like me - you can tell they are not great compartmentalizers because of the highly limerant/addictive nature of the affair. A good compartmentalizer could fall prey to that, but they are usually in better control of their faculties.
I am answering from the second category, and I would categorize this man's wife in mine.
I had mismanaged my life in such a way I saw no way out of the corner I had backed myself into in this marriage. I did not believe I could effect change in the relationship at all. I believe I subconciously wanted to blow up my marriage. And, there was a period of time after the affair ended and before I confessed that I was talking to my husband about separating.
I was utterly convinced that marriage was making me miserable.
The reality of what was happening is that I was having a really big major crisis, I wasn't acknowledging it, and it was getting bigger and bigger. I was avoiding that. Avoiding looking internally on how I was creating this dynamic. I was telling myself stories about why I should leave, how incompatible I was with my husband, and I actually was blaming him in my head for not going out and having new experiences. Not cheating experiences, but time to do things. I was an overgiver, and I felt it was blocking me from really finding things that made my heart happy. That part was pretty true, but it wasn't his fault or the fact I was married. It was my own fault for the role I thought I needed to play in the marriage and the way I hide in being overly busy.
In the end, I think there is a part of this that coincides with what you are saying. The problem was me - not my husband. And, you are right it was not in my best interest to leave the marriage. In the end, I had to bust my ass to the point I could manage myself better and see the falseness of the blame I had put on being married or on my husband. And, to be clear, it was more the first than the latter.
As a compartmentalizer, you can have feelings for two people at once. As a non-compartmentalizer you can not do that as well. So, in my affair, I put all those fond feelings on the other man. But love isn't just fond feelings, that is actually the most superficial aspect.
I was wrong. And, with work, I realized I did not want to leave the marriage. But, we were several months past DDAY before I could see that. So, in some ways you are right, but not in the way you are describing.
And as for Thumos's gigantic eyeroll at the mere mention of a midlife is dismissive and insulting. I think I do understand the catastrophic way I effected my husband, and I know it even more now that I have been cheated on with someone I was trying so hard to rebuild with. I don't need to be reminded of how damaging it was, I am quite aware. I am not some new lost WS.
The reason I even brought up the crisis is because people who are limerant and can't give up their AP have additional mental health issues that need to be addressed above a normal adulterer. And there are levels of that too. You know the bunny boilers out there? Just one level difference between my level and them.
I had avoided my crisis until I had a nervous breakdown of sorts, so dismissive eyerolls about something maybe that person doesn't know anything about is really infuriating.
Anyway - to the OP - it's going to take more than counseling. You are going to need to be very firm with your boundaries, and give her no room in which she feels she can have both.
[This message edited by hikingout at 8:33 AM, April 30th (Friday)]