Some great posts here.
In my case I focused on the loss a lot for the first 3 years. I still do sometime. Of course there is a loss, for me it is mainly a skewed belief system, an illusionary concept loss: the belief that I married the only man that walked the earth who wouldn’t hurt me, his spouse, who would have me at the forefront of his mind in any actions he took (what would my spouse think?). These beliefs that I manufactured and projected were deeply rooted in my childhood, in effect my standards with regards to the man I married were pretty low: he had to be a non drinker and a non cheater. That’s all.
The man I married had his own ghosts as well. He did not drink and he did not cheat for a long time. Ideal man for me. But he also had a wall around him preventing him to be truly authentic and vulnerable and a skewed view of relationships due to what he saw at home growing up. Attraction and love had to "just happen" in his view, no work had to be put in. The woman had to constantly be admiring and treat the man like a God. (His mum was the ow to her current husband and my WH witnessed all his mum’s manipulative behaviour during the years of the affair). Bottom line, we were perfect for each other.
So until dday we both had what we both believed a very happy marriage. My WH only admitted to being routined on dday but otherwise happy. He basically cheated out of boredom, or at least that’s what it looked like on the surface of it. Oh and because "it just happened". Because of our low expectations standards, it truly was a happy marriage in our view. I was getting the non drinker and non cheater with the added bonus of a husband who helped with chores around the house (lucky me!) and spent time with us, and he got the wife who tolerated his lack of vulnerability and his desire of control treating me as a guest in his life when it came to big decisions. This of course built resentment on both sides more so as the marriage aged and things such as attraction and love didn’t just happen anymore, you had to work for it. Some interesting facts are that our sex life was pretty good and I was the one accepting less as I thought he was tired (contrary to the belief that women don’t want sex and men go and cheat), also on dday my WH tried to convince me he loves us both, after all he didn’t want to lose the docile wife, although the woman he chose to cheat on me with had even lower expectations.
With all this in mind I still felt I lost everything on dday, we were happily married, everyone said this, people around us, extended family and friends were shocked hearing about his betrayal. Until we started unpacking the load, on both sides, we kept believing our marriage was happy pre dday.
I then realised the only way R could work for me (and this has been mentioned by someone earlier in the thread), the only way to remain married to a cheater was for more, not for less.
So WE started working on this. In the early days I remember my WH’s entitled reactions to my demands. His docile wife found her standards and high expectations. He fought letting go of it for a while. In IC and later MC he realised he treated me as a nice addition to his life but never as a true partner. He realised marriage is hard work you put in, the grass is always greener where you water it. He realised that giving is more fulfilling than receiving or keeping count of who gives more.
I won’t detail everything we changed or all the hard work. But I can truly say we do have a much better marriage now, we communicate so much more, we live more authentically.
What was lost for me ultimately was something, an idea, that kept me stuck in an unequal marriage due to my own FO issues. I wouldn’t go back there even if you would offer to give me a time machine and take away the cheating. I like the new me. I can’t guarantee WH will never cheat again but I can guarantee I’ve built a new me that will be able to move on with relatively low impact. I like being loved and treated the way I deserve, I like having high expectations from the person next to me.
Don’t get me wrong, it would have been great to get here without the cheating. I don’t know how that would have been possible though. We, both of us, had to experience trauma in order to look deep down and enable growth. I’m not grateful for the cheating, I am proud though of what we are both achieving one day at a time.