It comes at a cost though and I think we all know what that is.
This thread prompted me to get specific with myself about what I feel I've lost the past five years, and what the cost has been.
I like Sisoon's framing of reconciliation to say that rather than claiming to be reconciled with a tidy bow, it's probably more accurate to say most people are in a lifelong process of working on reconciliation. I think that actually describes me. I have worked mightily through the process of forgiveness (different from reconciliation). I've been through marriage rescue programs like Retrouvaille. And I have looked objectively and practically at remaining with my wife for now.
That said, I think for so many of us, it is more accurate to say we are "reconcile-ish" because our WS's really haven't measured up to what it takes for a BS to jump in with both feet. I'm noting all of that to acknowledge that the past five years have been costly for me. I extended a great deal of grace to my WW. I have rarely said unkind things to her about the affair, have remained married to her, have offered her my faithfulness, made tremendous sacrifices to stay, and stuck with her through years of foot dragging. We went to MC, we both went to IC, she finally gave me her timeline, then she failed a polygraph. There's a lot more under the bridge. But here's what I think all of this has cost me:
1. The trust, yes. But let's dive deeper: The trust you repose in your spouse is, ideally, the highest trust you have for anyone. You trust this person the most out of 8 billion other human beings. Now when that trust is violated, it's not like being disillusioned by a friend or even a close relative. It has a more cosmic quality than that. It creates in my view a rift in time and space. It is a violation of the core marital covenant.
2. The innocence, yes. But I need to say more here. My wife was/is my one and only. I had a bunch of old fashioned ideas as a young man and wanted to honor myself and a woman by remaining in a lifelong monogamous commitment unspoiled by previous partners. I no longer think this. I'm much more cynical about sex. I see my WW as a FWB, and I really have no reservations about having plenty of sex with other women if I choose to divorce.
3. My health. My wife's gaslighting during the affair, her foot dragging afterwards, the gamesmanship around the polygraph, and then failing it, took a toll. Before my WW's affair, I was a handsome, fit, muscular man with low body fat and great skin to the point where people often compared me to a certain actor and never could believe I was 46. I'm not saying this to brag. I'm saying it for contrast. I'm not overly attached to my looks, but I always took pride in taking care of myself. I'm still good looking, still muscular and still get plenty of "pings" from women that I used to ignore before my WW's affair. But now I have elevated BP, I'm technically overweight (though I still have a lot of muscle mass and can hide it, and my BMI has always been inaccurate), and I had a heart attack scare right before the pandemic lockdowns began. I have a lot more gray now. I believe I am steadily getting my health back, but there's no doubt this took a toll. I learned recently that betrayal trauma typically has more negative health consequences than other forms of trauma, and I am beginning to understand this at a visceral level for myself.
4. Illusions -- romanticized illusions -- I held about the type of person my WW is/was. She's not that person. She's the person I now know instead.
I'm also dealing with processing several layers to my WW's infidelity. They are:
A. The affair itself -- which involved a double betrayal, a willful violation of the sanctity of our home, and involving our children in it.
B. The gaslighting during the affair -- separating from in the home after I gently asked her about phone records, convincing me I'd falsely accused her, trying to convince me to be prescribed SSRI anti-anxiety medication I DID NOT NEED.
C. The one recording I heard, in which my wife is a knowing and calculating individual enjoying talking to her AP about the sex they had, chuckling about it, running down their respective spouses as "assholes" etc. This contrasts with the person she presents who is "devastated" by what she did, didn't enjoy the sex, can't even be sure if he ejaculated, only had sex with him to keep his attention coming, claims to have been "manipulated" by the AP, and so on.
D. My WW's weird state after D-Day. Trickling out the truth (at least as much as I have it) over several weeks. Blameshifting. Saying things to me like I'm "immature" about sex because I've only been with one woman, her, and because I refuse to accept her description of the sex they had as "meaningless." Saying things like her AP "made me feel like no man, ever" -- as an aside, I'm sure you all can spot the laughable contradictions embedded in someone saying sex with someone you also claim made you feel like no man, ever (like no man, including me) was "meaningless sex" you didn't even enjoy. (And she sure went to great lengths and worked hard on planning to ensure they'd have an uninterrupted day of sex in our home.)
Once said, these things are hard to accept, and can't be written off as throwaway lines in the heat of the moment out of defensiveness. They can't be unheard, and for any thinking individual, you have to examine them in the full light of day and not shirk away from what they represent.
E. My WW's apathy about the basic bare minimums I'd asked for after D-Day. Dragging her feet for three years before writing a timeline. Refusing a polygraph for three years and then failing it. Wiping out the texts. Squirreling away evidence. Convincing me not to talk to the OBS until I finally did a year after D-Day. Not taking an STD test until I finally made it an ultimatum. And so on.
These all represent, for me, someone who is still carrying out unloving actions or has indifference about the impact of her toxic choices. Someone who was quite willing to invest months of time and energy away from the marriage in an affair with another man, but unwilling for more than 1,000 days to simply place her butt in a chair for a few hours to write a timeline. Since we know love is a verb, not a noun, I am left to conclude these unloving actions represent a way in which my WW sees "love" and this is a part of her worldview and life philosophy (you know what they say about a worldview, if you claim not to have one, that's your worldview). When worldviews are diametrically opposed, people can try to live with tolerance, but they can rarely find a way to do much more beyond that.
F. Finally, I am grappling with the basic lack of transparency and truth. While I have no firm proof my WW had more sex with the AP than she admitted (only once) I really don't need any proof. I already know she plowed right through my first soft confrontation, then convinced me I had falsely accused her, then planned a day of sex in our home with the AP while I was out of town. What I have in front of me are all of the actions of someone who was quite cunning and conscious of what she was doing, and is now trying to hide the truth. I don't see her as a supervillain, but rather as a run of the mill infidel. That is to say, a solipsistic, self involved person without a lot of empathy for her faithful husband. Someone who took him for granted, and perhaps still does. Refusing to let me see the texts, and then destroying them. Refusing to write a timeline, and then when it finally came, I learned significant new information about a particular night in question. Refusing a polygraph and then ultimately failing it. This is all important because of the first loss, trust. Trust cannot be restored in any meaningful way without truth. And without trust, any real intimacy becomes well nigh impossible in my view.
I know others have processed similarly complex and thorny issues, and feel they have reconciled. I continue to have a hard time seeing how to do it myself, to see my way clear. I've talked to therapists about this, and really there don't appear to be any good answers. It seems to me that, yes, of course a betrayed spouse must "work" with a WS to reconcile. But before that can even begin, the BS must heal. And then once healed to some degree, the WS has to be willing to step up FIRST to restore trust, offer authenticity and empathy, and own their choices without more lies. If a WS isn't offering this, reconciliation seems impossible. And I guess what I'm saying is, I don't feel I read a lot of stories here on SI in which a WS has been truly authentic and open and truly restored trust. If it's happening years later, well, I guess, fine, okay. But that seems cold comfort for a BS to think about waiting so long. And by then, I'd estimate a very high percentage of those BS's have fallen out of love completely.
[This message edited by Thumos at 11:11 PM, Friday, November 5th]