Welcome to SI from a WS who is still working on himself after years of lies and TT. There is a huge amount to unpack from this thread. You’ve received a load of replies from people further down the road than I am and this needs to be taken on board by you…Hey, even me. I would like to comment on things though and offer my opinions as I’m not in a position to offer advice without coming over as a hypocrite.
It seems you are doing the right things and seeking advice from here and from professionals (that said some of the posters on here are better than professionals I have dealt with). Some of what I write might come over as an attack, I hope it doesn’t, it is genuinely not meant that way.
One of the early posters mentioned affair recovery. This is an amazing resource and they are constantly adding new items. If you have not already done so subscribe. You mention you have done lots of reading, books, forums, watching YouTube clips etc…PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not just offer these lip service. Read and digest what you are being told. I’ve read so many books, listened to people, had counselling, had mentoring and still I lied and omitted the truth from my BS. This cannot be the way for you to move forwards. The books you’ve read (Linda MacDonald being the best) are great if you follow the advice. I read them and remember thinking how good the book was and how much of it I was doing. To the extent that I even mentioned this to counsellor and a former mentor. They thought I was doing the right thing as did I. However, I was far from it. There were still lies, I was not doing EVERYTHING from the books I was only doing the easy stuff or the not so painful stuff. The work I did was rendered worthless as it was not always true and not done with the right intentions. Yeah, there was some truth there, but given there were some downright lies and omissions the work was a complete waste of time. I’m not saying what you are doing in any way mirrors me, but please learn from my lack of effort and truth while I was working through a false recovery.
I know it’s hard, shutting down is dangerous and in no way helps. This is a big problem for me, when conversations get tough I shut down. I’ve sometimes countered this by saying the first thing I can think of (using think loosely) and say something crass or down right damaging to my BS. Seek help from IC on this. I’ve watched YouTube clips on this and anger in the last couple of days and will revisit as I need this to change if there is any chance if me healing, let alone the marriage healing. Which brings me to another point. Right now, you need to understand you and heal you. Daddy Dom says you need to love yourself before you can love others. I did not and maybe do not still get this. I confused loving yourself with selfishness, but they are utterly different. Work on yourself with your counsellor and try and become the man you wanted to be. Don’t give up hope. In saying that, do not neglect you BS entirely. You can’t fix her, you can’t make decisions for her, you can’t get upset when she shouts and screams at you. Man, this is hard. I struggle with this. I put my Mr Fix-it hat on when we are talking and try and fix any small issue that comes up. I’ve also increased the level of work I do round the house, do the odd repair job and have tried to solve the issues created by my infidelity by doing other shit. While it’s appreciated by my BS IT DOES NOT FIX ANYTHING.
Any justifications you have for the affair…Let them go. Previous posts have commented on issues with your parents. Re read what Daddy Dom says and what others have said about it being your choice to cheat. I don’t think you’re blaming your mother, but if there is any thought it your head that this is the case then please stop. Everything you did was your choice. Why you chose to do it is a long hard road that we both need to walk. Good luck with this. Hopefully you have been 100% truthful with BS. I see you initially though along the lines of "What she don’t know, can’t hurt her". Trust me it can and WILL hurt her. If you BS is anything like mine and so many others on here they know more than you will ever believe. They can sense when you’re hiding something and given your previous lies she will imagine the worst. Even if you are telling the truth she still may not believe it and she is utterly entitled to feel that way. Like me and all other WS, you have broken your BS in ways you can’t begin to imagine at the moment. You feel shame, of course you do. You do seem to be showing empathy though which is encouraging. There is a great series of Ted talks by Brene Brown (The power of vulnerability) where she discusses the difference between Guilt and Shame as well as Empathy and Sympathy. I found this enlightening, even if I still struggle with putting her words into action. The shame spiral is an awful and damaging place to be. I’m trying to get out of this with the help of a poster on this site. Living in shame means you cannot and will not do anything constructive in your recovery.
Focus on the now and stop TRYING to do things and actually do them, again I think you’re doing well in your work give the short time since D-day. It is easy to get complacent and think I’ll read that book or take that advice and then either forget or only do it for a short time. Learning new behaviours is really difficult. From introducing new boundaries to checking a simple reply to a text message to BS, you need to make sure you give 100% (hey even 110%) as one slip can really push recovery backwards.
Its good that you have done a timeline, can you do me a favour and re-read it? When you’ve done this, ask yourself how honest have you really been? What have you omitted? Have you added feelings that you were going through at the time? Have you been honest to the point of being brutal to BS if she were to read it? Is it compassionate or just a list of facts? I would then recommend writing it again and if necessary, again. It is highly likely that your first draft…." could be better". I can’t remember the authors name, but initial recover has been described in the past as the "shitty first draft" You need to be honest with yourself. I’m not accusing you of anything, I’m speaking from experience and from reading this forum. Many timelines are initially awful and untruthful.
You’ve mentioned only telling a few people about the affair, if this is what BS needs then great, but I think she probably wants and needs to tell others. Previous posts have pointed out this is her choice, not yours. They are correct. BS and I held back on telling people, even now her parents are unaware. We told my parents and my sister in January of this year. It was a pivotal moment for both of us for both a positive and a negative reason. For many years now my BS was convinced my father (and my grandmother when she was alive) did not like her. BS commented on time my father made hurtful comments and would make her visits to them uncomfortable at the very least. I did not see this or refused to see this until I told him about my infidelity. He basically brushed it aside as some of my infidelity happened before we were married, he ignored the fact I was upset and needed help from him and then proceeded to tell me that he has not really liked BS. He effectively suggested the affairs were OK as he did not like her. My sister on the other hand was extremely supportive to both me and BS. She gave me a kick up the arse, while at the same time saying I can and need to save the relationship. I have not told any friends about the affairs (those who knew and were affiliated with the affairs are not longer friends). I do, as mentioned before, have a male friend on SI who I can sound off to and get advice from. (You know who you are and thank you). Enough about me, sorry for the t/j.
Let’s move onto trust, your BS does not trust you. She may never trust you again. Being open and honest at all times can help this. However, the smallest f*ck up can bring the world crashing down on you. (Another thread mentioned buying milk on your way home from work, if you say you’re going to do it, then do it). You mention the blow up you had recently. This has possibly unwound the good work you have done up to that point. Accept this is the case, try not to get too upset by it and pick yourself up. I liked Rockets boat analogy. You’re struggling getting the boat to the jetty and every screw up you make adds another hole to the boat. Hey, it might even be the hole hat sinks the boat. Be prepared for this. Other posters have mentioned that you may well get all the answers, become a better person and be the man you need to become, and this might still not be enough. You have broken your marriage and you’ve broken your BS.
I’ve been there and still am there with the need for validation and attention. All my affairs were based around this and my recovery to this time has also been about me and how good I look should others find out. I’ve lied to counsellors and I’ve told them only the good work I have been doing. I avoid discussing my screwups and have convinced myself I’m further down the road than I am. Avoid this, really did into where you are. Also, you mentioned going away for a birthday. Have you spoken to BS about her feeling on this? My point is twofold. Your opinion does not really matter, hers does. You’re going away, I’m not sure if she is going with you or not, but if not then you really need to think. You had your affair while away. This could be a HUGE trigger for her. Try and dig deep into her true feelings. Secondly, you are working on recovery, your BS is devastated, and you want to go away and have fun. While this is a fantastic idea if she agrees, it could be detrimental if she views it as you are hiding away from your responsibility to recovery. Avoidance is very damaging, even if it is inadvertent. Try to avoid "How good am I?" this applies to counselling, discussions with BS, any mentoring, posting here on SI and to yourself. The WSs on here have been there, seen it and done it. The BSs on here have heard it all from their BS and others posing on here. The same should apply to counsellors too. Most important in your BS. She will likely see through you bs (bullshit) and will not react well to it. Yes, you need to see the good work you’re doing as does BS, but be careful when pointing this out.
The work you are doing needs to be done because you WANT to rather than you NEED to. Certainly, from my experience anyway. I knew I need to do the work and I have tried to do it for my BS. I did not want to do it, I hate doing it, I hate thinking of myself as a broken person who has who made the choice to do bad things to make myself feel better, ignoring any consequences to my BS or my marriage and indeed me. I hate looking back at all the awful thing I have out BS through, the list goes on. It has put me in the shame spiral several times. When there the work being done is pretty much worthless. If it’s not done with a clear head and the right intentions (improving yourself) then you’re going to struggle with honesty and openness in the work you do. It will build resentment towards BS because you’re feeling like crap and you’ll blame her for you felling crappy. Please try and avoid this. I wrote notes of points I wanted to cover and have just seen one on sharing details of the sexual acts and does this hurt recovery. My answer to this is both yes and no. Because of my previous lies my BS needs complete openness on what happened with the affairs and what we did together. This has had an impact on our sex life as she has triggers and mind movies all the time. We try to work through this and I’m on the constant lookout for her triggering. It does sometimes impact performance and it has even made us stop what we’re doing and talk about the triggers either one of us has had.
M/C is important, but really this needs to be on BSs terms. Waiting is probably a good idea. May on here (me included) have not had good experiences of MC when undertaken too early. I lied to our counsellor and was really not in the right place to take any advice that was given. Additionally our first one was awful and played down the affairs. I of course chose not to see it as she was validating me. BS saw it for what it was and we stopped using her. If you can find a good one then this can be useful. One who will see past any bs you’re spouting. When you do got there, be honest and listen. The downside with MC is that they’re there to try and save the marriage…Not a bad thing in itself of course, but they may not focus on the things you need. They may brush aside the affair and focus solely on the future. It’s their job, right? It does not however help in your journey of discovery the true whys. That needs a different kind of help and maybe needs an additional source of help.
I really don’t want this to come over as too negative. I’m writing this from my experiences and the advice I’ve ignored until now. All the WSs on here have made mistakes the "older and wiser" ones have see WS come and go especially those who do not want to listen to the advice offered or wanted a pat on the back or even worse validation for their affairs. It’s important to take on board what you read on here, but even more important to follow though and act on it. I’ve not done this and am in a much worse place as a result. You seem to be doing the right things, but make sure you actually are and continue with the work.