Hi Grace, Apologies, upfront. I wish I was a healed BS with answers but I am not. Your questions broke me a little today. I have many of the same ones and I am struggling to find a path forward.
1. I had a terrible trickle truth, gaslit filled false recovery and I think it has affected me very deeply. I share your remorse at not having the right information all at once to make an intelligent decision. I operated in shock and heartache and never left my WH, clinging to him and playing the pick me dance. Worse, was unable to see the now obvious tells and my disappointment at my failure to protect myself is something I am still struggling with. I think it affects how I operate now, hypervigilant, trying to not let myself down again. I wish I had concrete steps to take to help you, but all I can offer is to be kind to yourself, and to remember your core values and operate on them, no matter what others do. I am 3-4 years downstream but still struggle with the mental spaghetti of all the different stories and lies I was told. I still want to rehash things to stop my brain from spiraling, and think if I could get all the facts straight, it might help. Truth is, the truth won't change anything that has happened or anything I have learned. My therapist told me that very early on and he is not wrong. Small comfort.
2. I have both stories here, OW meant nothing to me, OW and H had a deep meaningful friendship, they filled the voids in each other's lives. Like you, I can handle an A and the sex, it's the intimacy created between them, and stolen from me that is the hardest. In my WH's rear view mirror, the MOW never meant anything to him, but that is not the story I get from the evidence I have found. I'm more concerned that the story of what it was keeps changing, and I can't wrap my head around what kind of relationship they really had. I struggle to figure out what kind of relationship we have now too, in the wreckage of what remains.
3. Mine is clueless too. I know what I need, and it is meaningful, authentic conversations about our inner lives, wants and needs moving forward. I want honesty about his past needs and motivations and choices, and I really need some assurance that he recognized how far he fell and is committed to being a better person and a better spouse. I need him to make time to make my healing a priority, and I need him to do his own research and share with me what he has learned. I asked my WH to schedule healing conversations or self therapy sessions with me, to take a day off to spend on helping me through some of my mental hurdles, since neither of us is currently in therapy. I am still waiting.
4. This is a hard one. It is a hit to my psyche, that I have broken my moral code and lowered my standards to stay with someone who could betray me, lie to me and then lie to me about lying to me until I tenaciously uncovered the truth. It is very humbling and humiliating being betrayed, especially when you are the wonder couple everyone is jealous of, and I get exactly what you are feeling, heavy inside. No-one who knows me who knows about the A can fathom how I have stayed. No-one is more surprised than me. Sometimes it feels like I'm watching myself from afar, marveling at how out of character I am now, after all this. I think you need more time on this one, because life is more complicated than we knew. I am not sure I get to feel like my old confident self again, because this took so much of the wind out of my sails. You will need a lot of patience with yourself as you try to get your mojo back. Make note of everything that is awesome about you, and try to separate who YOU are from who you are in the marriage, if that makes sense. There is no getting around being changed by this, you just have to try to steer yourself toward the good changes and away from the bad ones. Also, time. Always time. I'm much better about myself now than I was in the earlier years, but it is a slow rebuild.
5. Ugh. We tried MC during false recovery, what a fiasco. I wouldn't go near MC until individual therapies have done all they can do to patch you back up and get you centered. I'm interested in other opinions here. I follow Captain Rogers' therapy posts and they have found the right match to help them make progress. The wrong therapist could set you back, so tread carefully.
6. I want my marriage and want to fight for it, so my stay decision was easy. Several years downstream, with me still struggling, I wonder what leaving would look like. I believe all the options are sad too, but I am weary of the struggle. I cling to my therapist's answer to the stay or leave question: You can always leave. You have time to decide what future you want and what it looks like. You seem to love your life, family and husband very much and they are a huge part of your identity, so what do you have to lose if you stay and figure out if this works for you? I think about that conversation a lot. I did lots of math, lists, calculating pros and cons, and the answer on paper has been to stay. But we are also reaching that critical point where Reconciliation seems to either take or break, there must be something about the 3rd or 4th years based on my reading here? If you are like me, the head and the heart are constantly negotiating with each other. I like the advice given here, to figure out what you want, and choose that path. Commit to it and give it your best shot. It will either work or it won't, but at least you have tried to make your M work if you choose to. It is really hard not to second guess everything now, and I sure empathize with your situation and wish I had answers too. I don't know if I have made the right decision, but for now, staying is what I want to try to do. I guess if it works it will be because he stepped up and did his part to help me heal. Only time will tell.
I am sending you so many hugs, because I understand how these questions must be churning in your head, and how desperately you want there to be definitive answers. It is very early in your recovery process, so you need a ton of patience with yourself. You need to get your bearings and heal from your trauma. Take note of how you are feeling, and what you need and make sure you address those needs. You may find many of these answers on your own journey, and I hope your WS can step up to help you on the way. Best of luck to you in your healing.