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My Wife Had an Intense, Highly Deceptive Affair, Part II

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 4:37 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

When you wrote this, I couldn’t help but think that part of you was annoyed by the choice of friends she wanted to bond with (understandable and I think you had a right to voice your concerns) but that another part was uneasy because she was doing something to be more independent from you and the M? This is understandable too in these circumstances but if there’s any truth in it, self-awareness is key.

Ultimately, one of the things you both need is the space to sort out yourselves independently from one another.

I very much want her to develop a social life. I think a lot of her recent unhappiness revolves around being a natural social person without a social life. I also think she has always desperately missed her family, living so far away.

Those are two issues I’ve pushed on her constantly throughout our M. She has complicated, deep-seated issues with her family and former friendships that I’m hoping she can resolve in IC and then develop healthier versions of those relationships for the rest of her life.

I do not spend much time with my friends either—but the difference is I like being alone. I’m not a social person. I’m comfortable with it and go months without seeing most of my friends.

The conflict I had with this dinner is that the girl she was growing a friendship with was a seemingly great person—someone I had been pushing her to be more friendly with for years. She became closer to her this year through the PTA, and that was great. In Feb., we started planning a couples dinner with the friend and her husband—I was happy to do that for my wife.

Post DDay, the idea of her going to the dinner with the friend and her husband without me felt awful. If nothing else, it just confirmed that I was the asshole she told them I was—sending his wife off to a couples dinner alone; unwilling to even join his wife on a couples night. But I’d love to be at that dinner with my wife if I didn’t feel so awful about who it was with.

Even now, she cancelled and told them that she had childcare issues and couldn’t go. I was supposed to be the childcare—so they likely read that as me preventing her from going to the dinner anyway for X reason.

All of this is my WW’s fault and she doesn’t want to accept blame for it still. She could have given a hundred excuses, but she chose the one that put blame on me and not her. Why would she do that if she’s empathetic and remorseful?

Ultimately, it’s not a hill I’m going to die on, but these are all the things I keep seeing that make me sad about her progress in relating to how I feel.

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743162
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truthsetmefree ( member #7168) posted at 4:40 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

DrS - How much of an issue is this dinner of your WW’s really a trigger/setback for you as a BS vs a matter of you think there is a right/wrong choice - AND it’s one you really need her to make based on her own genuine desires? IOW, a measuring stick of her progress…and thus an indicator of the overall marriage?

It’s become a really big deal when it didn’t seem to initially bother you that much. (And I do think all the play-by-play updates with the subsequent posters’ responses is playing a role in muddying the waters for you…both in how you personally feel about/view each incident as well as triggering your wife’s fears and self-protective defenses when she reads them.)

When you think about my question in the first paragraph, can you see how this is an exact replay of your wife’s childhood experiences with her father? Even if that’s only in her interpretation? She doesn’t feel safe/secure in this relationship. One way around that is to not "put all your eggs in one basket"…and she has basically told you this is what she’s doing. She’s afraid you will leave and she will have no one - ie, be all alone. She also already feels this is happening on a larger scale with the loss of other friends/acquaintances. She’s experiencing that while she’s also experiencing the potential loss of you/her marriage. She is extremely destabilized right now (whether she "deserves" that is beside the point) so this is a HUGE challenge for her. Couple that with the sense that there’s a right vs wrong answer (not from her perspective because she’s likely not self aware to correlate this on a conscious level and hence her interaction with the MC)…she’s full on in a response to childhood trauma. I’m sure she’s also confused because she’s being told to focus/work on herself…but her attempts to do that end up with a "no, not like that" screw-up and potential withdrawal. She feels like she can’t get anything right. But worse, she doesn’t even understand what constitutes the "right" choice - so in her mind this is all about being controlled. That’s only compounded by the fact that she feels like making the right choice is impossible anyway (doomed to fail) - by design and based on her childhood. experiences.

You want her to make the right choices *based on her awareness*. But because it’s painful to bumble through that with her, you then give her the "prioritize the marriage" requirement (or the alternative "we need to separate" angle) - which likely squashes the opportunities for her self-exploration and growth and the long-goal of getting to where you really want her to be.

None of this is to criticize what you are doing; I’m simply offering perspective. I’m in no way telling you that you are the problem. I’m just trying to show you how this current situation is taking her into the lion’s den of her deepest injuries and triggering her long-established coping skills. I, in no way, see your wife as trying to hurt you. What I do see is she’s terrified right now and relying on the only skills she has ever known to try to stay safe. That’s a big challenge to lay down those skills and develop new ones when you feel like the bear is already breathing down your neck.

You asked me in a much earlier thread why I had such a long R before finally divorcing. I never had a R - the end of that book turned out differently for me. But those years were spent being open to it…it was a lot of X steps forward and Y steps back. Those years were spent going through the process - of not necessarily reconciling but determining if reconciliation was possible/desirable. By the time we had gathered "all the data", he realized he didn’t want to change and I realized I no longer needed him to change but I also had completely outgrown who he was and the relationship that ultimately had just served to deepen me. On a soul level, I don’t consider any of it (the relationship or the time spent) a loss.

I think when we come into this experience we have one of two things we can focus on: changing the experience itself (R or D and hopefully a new relationship) - or changing ourselves. As far as paying dividends, one of those is iffy and one is a sure bet. One pays out in the ups and downs of steps forward, steps back…and one pays out in steady linear gains. What do you MOST want from this experience? And then - what is the most direct path to obtaining that?

I stayed for all those years because it was an all around good situation to serve as a catalyst for my own growth. It wasn’t just a happy by-product…it was my entire goal.. I used the ups and downs of the "R" not to take the temperature of the M or my WS…but my own temperature. I used all the shit from the relationship and my WS as a homing device to uncover my own internal shit - what was maybe unconscious to me. I also had a period of time where I stagnated when I realized that my own growth was resulting in my outgrowing him (and would likely put a nail in the coffin of the marriage)…but I had enough self-awareness by that point to also understand that piece. By the end, I had NO emotional attachment to whether we divorced or reconciled (some financial/logistical attachment). I was fine either way. He left me because I no longer fit with HIS dysfunction…I was beyond the grasp of it. *I* never demanded he change…but my own growth did.

If your main goal is a solid relationship, then the most direct path to that will likely be to cut bait and divorce. (I’m honestly not sure if you’re cut out for the long haul of this.) If not that, then you’re going to have to accept early that this is likely going to be a long path of riding the waves with your wife - steps forward, steps back. I would also suggest that it’s imperative that you garner a deep understanding of her subconscious deeper issues AND how you inadvertently trigger those. IOW, you’re likely going to have to carry the lion’s share of the emotional issues at least early on while she develops awareness AND entrains better coping skills. It’s unfair right now to not only expect her to make these somewhat convoluted right choices (it’s not as clear as "don’t fuck other men") but more so to expect her to make it from a place of awareness AND authenticity. That scared cornered animal IS who she is right now. And while a glass of wine and a slow dance may soothe it for a moment, it will always lurk in the shadows until she can actually stand face-to-face with it - and that takes a LOT of courage and a LOT of time. From BOTH of you. I don’t see how you’re going to get there if there are unclear, undefined right vs wrong "choices" she has to make while the threat of isolation/abandonment hangs over her head. This dinner itself is not the issue; it’s what this whole issue represents to her. You can apply all the common sense you want to it (you love her, you’ve always supported her, etc)…but at the end of the day and in these moments you are dealing with a scared, wounded child. So you have to figure out a way to fully recognize that without that also becoming something that’s used at other times to villianize her.

The other option is to see this whole experience as something that can teach you about you. Not as a by-product but as a purpose.

I think this is the only decision you really need to make. Again, what do you MOST want from this experience?

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are. ~ Augustine of Hippo

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clouds777 ( member #72442) posted at 5:38 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

She’s afraid you will leave and she will have no one - ie, be all alone. She also already feels this is happening on a larger scale with the loss of other friends/acquaintances. She’s experiencing that while she’s also experiencing the potential loss of you/her marriage

True. And not your problem to solve. She should be afraid. She should be preparing to be alone. Not a threat - judt part of the growing up she seems to have never done. It doesn't give her a reason to mistreat you or her kids, who are learning from this. (Read some books on emotional immature parents and learn what they're learning). She is choosing to do that, wounded animal or not.

[This message edited by clouds777 at 5:43 PM, Saturday, July 2nd]

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 6:21 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

DrS - How much of an issue is this dinner of your WW’s really a trigger/setback for you as a BS vs a matter of you think there is a right/wrong choice - AND it’s one you really need her to make based on her own genuine desires? IOW, a measuring stick of her progress…and thus an indicator of the overall marriage?

I was hurt by my WW's decision to want to go to a dinner with this friend and the friend's husband. It was a trigger and it elicited an emotional response inside me. Separately, I felt it was the wrong choice for her to go (for all the reasons I've enumerated).

It’s become a really big deal when it didn’t seem to initially bother you that much. (And I do think all the play-by-play updates with the subsequent posters’ responses is playing a role in muddying the waters for you…both in how you personally feel about/view each incident as well as triggering your wife’s fears and self-protective defenses when she reads them.)

The dinner itself has never been a big deal to me. My problem was always her desire to go to the dinner. I am constantly looking for my WW to show me empathy and this dinner was just the latest example of her making a selfish choice over an empathetic one.

When you think about my question in the first paragraph, can you see how this is an exact replay of your wife’s childhood experiences with her father? Even if that’s only in her interpretation? She doesn’t feel safe/secure in this relationship. One way around that is to not "put all your eggs in one basket"…and she has basically told you this is what she’s doing. She’s afraid you will leave and she will have no one - ie, be all alone. She also already feels this is happening on a larger scale with the loss of other friends/acquaintances. She’s experiencing that while she’s also experiencing the potential loss of you/her marriage. She is extremely destabilized right now (whether she "deserves" that is beside the point) so this is a HUGE challenge for her. Couple that with the sense that there’s a right vs wrong answer (not from her perspective because she’s likely not self aware to correlate this on a conscious level and hence her interaction with the MC)…she’s full on in a response to childhood trauma. I’m sure she’s also confused because she’s being told to focus/work on herself…but her attempts to do that end up with a "no, not like that" screw-up and potential withdrawal. She feels like she can’t get anything right. But worse, she doesn’t even understand what constitutes the "right" choice - so in her mind this is all about being controlled. That’s only compounded by the fact that she feels like making the right choice is impossible anyway (doomed to fail) - by design and based on her childhood. experiences.

That's precisely how she's feeling.

You want her to make the right choices *based on her awareness*. But because it’s painful to bumble through that with her, you then give her the "prioritize the marriage" requirement (or the alternative "we need to separate" angle) - which likely squashes the opportunities for her self-exploration and growth and the long-goal of getting to where you really want her to be.

The last 3.5 months have been painful for me to bumble through with her--undoubtedly. Her lack of remorse and empathy for me has made it difficult to live with her while she tries to fix herself. If we agree our priority needs to be on her fixing herself and me healing, then right now it would be best if we didn't live together.

Alternatively, we can take the "coaster" approach--which is my WW getting back on the "coaster" (which represents the M) and her displaying through her actions that it's safe for me to rejoin her on the coaster. She has decided she'd rather do that than physically separate and I've decided I don't want to force her to physically separate before giving her a chance to prove herself.

And that doesn't mean I don't want her to fix herself--it just means I want her to fix herself as long as it's not at the expense of our marriage or my pain. That puts a lot of weight on her--something I've pointed out to her repeatedly. She has to prioritize our M while doing a tremendous amount of work on herself. I'm very skeptical that she can pull that off and I think us temporarily separating at some point is more likely than not. I'm letting her lead in that decision right now because as long as she's not hurting me, I feel fine in my current situation.

I am healing from the trauma of the A every day. Those dreams about Feb. 24 I used to have are gone. I'm getting better. I'll be getting better with time regardless of where she lives, as long as she's not twisting a knife in me further.

None of this is to criticize what you are doing; I’m simply offering perspective. I’m in no way telling you that you are the problem. I’m just trying to show you how this current situation is taking her into the lion’s den of her deepest injuries and triggering her long-established coping skills. I, in no way, see your wife as trying to hurt you. What I do see is she’s terrified right now and relying on the only skills she has ever known to try to stay safe. That’s a big challenge to lay down those skills and develop new ones when you feel like the bear is already breathing down your neck.

I think that's exactly what is happening.

You asked me in a much earlier thread why I had such a long R before finally divorcing. I never had a R - the end of that book turned out differently for me. But those years were spent being open to it…it was a lot of X steps forward and Y steps back. Those years were spent going through the process - of not necessarily reconciling but determining if reconciliation was possible/desirable. By the time we had gathered "all the data", he realized he didn’t want to change and I realized I no longer needed him to change but I also had completely outgrown who he was and the relationship that ultimately had just served to deepen me. On a soul level, I don’t consider any of it (the relationship or the time spent) a loss.

I think that's what I'm doing--do you disagree? I'm observing her actions for signs that she'll be a safe partner for me in the future. Presumably, I'll either see those signs and commit to R with her or not see those signs and S. As of now, I've not see the signs, but I don't think 3.5 months is a long enough time to give her to figure this all out. So in limbo I sit. It makes sense to me, but I'm open to criticism on my understanding of where I am now.

I think when we come into this experience we have one of two things we can focus on: changing the experience itself (R or D and hopefully a new relationship) - or changing ourselves. As far as paying dividends, one of those is iffy and one is a sure bet. One pays out in the ups and downs of steps forward, steps back…and one pays out in steady linear gains. What do you MOST want from this experience? And then - what is the most direct path to obtaining that?

I don't think there's much I can do regarding R or D now, but there's plenty I can do about changing myself. That's the work I'm doing in IC. I'm learning a lot about both myself and my WW through this experience and I think it's making me a better person in a variety of ways. My focus right now is healing from the trauma (time) and being as introspective as I can on myself--and this thread helps me with that too. I'm challenged a lot here and I rarely dismiss those criticisms out of hand. I think hard about most of what I read here. I enjoy that.

If your main goal is a solid relationship, then the most direct path to that will likely be to cut bait and divorce. (I’m honestly not sure if you’re cut out for the long haul of this.) If not that, then you’re going to have to accept early that this is likely going to be a long path of riding the waves with your wife - steps forward, steps back.

Statistically, you're correct. The path that is likely to lead me to happiness quickest and most effectively is D--reading "Cheating in a Nutshell" makes that case very clearly. But I don't want to be a prisoner of this moment either: feeling like my world is crumbling and I just need to run--I want to feel the ground beneath my feet and be clear on the direction I'm going before I start sprinting. As I wrote, I feel myself healing every day; so even if that's all I was doing these last 3.5 months, that would be enough to stay in this limbo for me.

I don't know if I'm cut out for R or not--truthfully, I see it both ways. I do feel that if she showed remorse and empathy and resisted her seeming need to be defensive, I could embrace R with her. There's a lot of positives in R and it's still my hope for the future. I also recognize that I have difficulty with compromise and R will never be a zero sum game. I know if the day comes that I do commit to R, I'll need to let go of my anger from the A and be genuine in my ability to craft a new relationship. Can I do that? I still don't know.

I would also suggest that it’s imperative that you garner a deep understanding of her subconscious deeper issues AND how you inadvertently trigger those. IOW, you’re likely going to have to carry the lion’s share of the emotional issues at least early on while she develops awareness AND entrains better coping skills. It’s unfair right now to not only expect her to make these somewhat convoluted right choices (it’s not as clear as "don’t fuck other men") but more so to expect her to make it from a place of awareness AND authenticity. That scared cornered animal IS who she is right now. And while a glass of wine and a slow dance may soothe it for a moment, it will always lurk in the shadows until she can actually stand face-to-face with it - and that takes a LOT of courage and a LOT of time. From BOTH of you. I don’t see how you’re going to get there if there are unclear, undefined right vs wrong "choices" she has to make while the threat of isolation/abandonment hangs over her head. This dinner itself is not the issue; it’s what this whole issue represents to her. You can apply all the common sense you want to it (you love her, you’ve always supported her, etc)…but at the end of the day and in these moments you are dealing with a scared, wounded child. So you have to figure out a way to fully recognize that without that also becoming something that’s used at other times to villianize her.

I'm trying desperately to understand her on a deeper level and nothing has helped more in doing that than our MC sessions.

I don't agree with you that the "right" choices are convoluted. Her not going to this dinner is a very obvious correct choice and it should have been her choice before it ever came to my attention. She should have had the awareness to not pursue this dinner before any of our fights. I understand it's not obvious to her, but that's the problem. She needs to figure that out fast. And failing to figure it out, she needs to stop staking ground on positions and be accepting of the obvious fact that she can't trust her gut right now. All she has to do is look back at every conflict we've had post-DDay; recognize that she was on the "wrong" side on virtually all of them; and then further recognize that she could have spared me a tremendous amount of pain by letting those conflicts go earlier.

If she's sincere that she doesn't want to separate, that's what she needs to do to avoid it. The level of difficulty in doing it doesn't much matter--it's an absolute must.

[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 6:29 PM, Saturday, July 2nd]

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743168
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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 6:32 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

If a WS wants to attempt reconciliation, they must drop their defensiveness, have empathy, be remorseful,and stop twisting the knife into their BS.

No matter what her childhood trauma.

It is not your job to hold her hand,and help her get it. You tried that. It didn't work.

You are the betrayed. Your are the victim of her abuse. It is not your job to help your abuser to stop being abusive.

We all have past trauma, in some form. That is not an excuse to be dismissive of your spouse.

You said if what you should do is allow her to fix herself,and you work on your healing,then you might as well divorce. Unfortunately, that's precisely what needs to happen. She must fix herself. At keast,she needs to stop inflicting pain as she works on herself. You must work on healing yourself. That's just how it is. I'm not sure why that means you need to divorce, however.

[This message edited by HellFire at 6:34 PM, Saturday, July 2nd]

posts: 4495   ·   registered: Jun. 20th, 2017   ·   location: The Midwest
id 8743169
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 6:46 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

You said if what you should do is allow her to fix herself,and you work on your healing,then you might as well divorce. Unfortunately, that's precisely what needs to happen. She must fix herself. At keast,she needs to stop inflicting pain as she works on herself. You must work on healing yourself. That's just how it is. I'm not sure why that means you need to divorce, however.

Hellfire, is this what you're referring to?

If we agree our priority needs to be on her fixing herself and me healing, then right now it would be best if we didn't live together.

If so, I was suggesting a temporary separation for her to work on herself without hurting me; not a divorce. That may be where we're heading, but we're trying the whole coaster thing first.

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743170
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truthsetmefree ( member #7168) posted at 9:02 PM on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

She has to prioritize our M while doing a tremendous amount of work on herself.

Before I respond to the rest, this stood out to me so I’d like to unpack it a little further first.

Why is it important that this occurs concurrently? (That may seem like an obvious answer on the surface but I think your deeper need for this may be part of the sticking point in your CURRENT situation. And it’s important for the next point I’m about to make.)

Can you see how this is actually triggering her deeper fears and subsequently her ineffective - even destructive - coping skills? THIS is the bear that’s breathing down her neck. This is the "if I don’t get it right then I am going to be shut-out…and it doesn’t matter because I never get it right anyway." That’s the irony here. My guess is that she doesn’t give two shits about this dinner or even this friendship. But she needs a "safety net" to offset the fear and vulnerability she feels in the marriage - a Plan B, if you will. In a weird way, having a "back-up" plan reduces her fear/need to behave more defensively in her primary relationship. So can you see how she’s caught in a catch-22? And she doesn’t yet have the insight or skills yet to navigate this is a healthier, more productive way. The skills she did have and that have kept her safe all her life are basically being stripped away (or else lose her marriage)…and she has nothing yet in its place.

Again, I’m not pointing these things out as a suggestion that what you need or want from her is wrong. I’m also not saying that understanding her coping skills makes them acceptable. I’m simply trying to point out both why this is so hard for her AND why she is fucking up (and likely will continue to do so for a while).

I also wonder too how your conversation with her regarding the dinner actually went down. Was it a matter of "I’m going to let you decide" later followed by, essentially, "wrong answer!"? (Which would explain why she’s struggling now and acting so defensively - that approach would trigger childhood experiences). Or did you have the conversation in a manner where you addressed/recognized why she would feel she needed to do this but also shared with her how it was creating an internal conflict with you? Did you work toward a mutual resolution that recognized what you each were struggling with? Or did you initially think it would be ok (thus giving her that impression), later realize it was a trigger for you because she didn’t choose as you deep down wanted her to, and now you are both relating to each other out of fear and wounding? Yours being that you think she doesn’t have empathy for you (and trying to elevate the discomfort you feel in this limbo) and hers being that the "flip" equals being controlled? IOW, is this even about the dinner…or are you both assigning larger motives/intent/meaning - and without really addressing THAT part? I’m asking because I don’t know. Have you had a heart-to-heart with her that you are conflicted because you genuinely want her to be happy and feel independent enough to make authentic choices…but that you don’t know how to resolve your own internal conflict with this particular situation? Have you asked her to actually help you with that? Asked her for a suggestion? Have you actually been vulnerable with her about at least this piece? Or did she just fuck up again?

Look, this is the shit sandwich of attempting R. We can talk about what is right or deserved…but at the end of the day, this is often what not immediately divorcing looks like. Some of us stick around, are able to work through these growth exercises WITH our partner, and the relationship gets to a better place. Others divorce because the damage created after the affair is worse than the damage done during the affair. Some of us just have to figure out that we have an incapable or unwilling partner - and I think this is where you are/what you are trying to evaluate. But given that you seem to desire to R if possible, then I think the best you can do toward that means is to try to work within her current limitations. That’s what I mean by caring the lion’s share emotionally. It sucks. It’s not necessarily fair and it sure ain’t easy. She’s not going to be able to meet you anywhere close to the middle anytime soon. You’re gonna have good days where she seems genuinely remorseful, demonstrates empathy, and wants to prioritize you. And then she’s going to fuck it all up the next day. In some regards, the fuck-ups are where all the meat is on the bone…it’s one more opportunity to address the ineffectiveness of her coping skills. But she’s not going to get there when she’s operating out of fear or old wounds…and certainly not when she’s feeling like more is hanging in the balance. (The pressure of that alone seems to be getting to her - which only triggers MORE of the poor coping skills). If you stay, you’re going to be going into the darkest valleys with her. She won’t be able to carry you during that time - despite that she may owe it to you. And she may never actually confront her monsters. That’s the risk you take; invest accordingly. But in these valleys you’re given the chance to find, face, and confront your own monsters. And so long as that is where you are mostly vested, then this opportunity IS the gift.

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are. ~ Augustine of Hippo

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grubs ( member #77165) posted at 1:27 AM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

Using this dinner as an example, she absolutely recognizes (now) that it was not in the best interest of the M and it was not a hill she should have died on—but it took me about two days of discussions for her to concede that point. I’m glad she got there, but I need to find better ways for her to get there without me taking two days of abuse first.

You sure about that or is she just conceding because she know she can't win on it.

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 12:40 PM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

I know there have been a few more posts and some PMs, and I’ll respond to them later, but I first want to recap my strange day. And this time I’d like to examine it a bit differently, exploring exact moments where I made a choice that may not have been ideal.

Ultimately, the day went as many of our days go—good when it’s good, until a lack of empathy from my wife takes us for a negative turn.

On Friday night we went to bed in good spirits—we had resolved the friend dinner issue and there were no other conflicts to deal with. We took the kids for pizza, a movie and ice cream. We talked a bit after they went to bed (largely about my WW’s struggles with handling conflict)—it was largely positive—then we had sex and went to sleep.

We woke up Saturday in good spirits. The kids went downstairs on their own and we fooled around again. My WW worked out and spent most of the day outside finishing "Just Friend" while my daughter played; I spent my morning working out and responding to this thread; and the afternoon watching a movie with my son.

So we were largely separate, but we connected a few times to chat—my WW told me that she needs to do better with criticism from me; IOW, when we have a conflict, she will take it as me being critical of her actions/words and feel compelled to fight back. The conversation felt productive.

My sister had good restaurant reservations she couldn’t use because her husband had to go to a work event, so she offered them to me. I arranged for my mom to take the kids so my WW and I could try for a date night together—something we haven’t done since early June (I think).

**Pause: I could have instead gone to eat with my sister and left my WW alone. I considered that. I also could have declined the reservations and had a relaxed night at home. In retrospect, I don’t *think* I chose wrong—I felt we were ready to have a drama-free date.**

Before dinner, we spoke more about my WW’s issues with conflict again as it was something she was interested in exploring more. Again, no flags from the discussion and I didn’t dig much, just pointed out some things for her to discuss in IC. Then we headed off to eat and agreed no more discussions that were affair-related or about our kids.

We had an incredible dinner—we talked about a wide array of things, from our upcoming trips to my wife’s job. Food and conversation were great and we both had a wonderful evening.

We got home and went upstairs to change and we lied in bed for a bit. I asked her what she wanted to do tonight and she said she wanted to have sex in my new car under the stars (she’s been asking to do that for a couple of months now).

It was only about 8:30 p.m., so it was still bright out, so we killed time fooling around for a bit in our bed. After her orgasm, we headed downstairs—I put the seats down and threw some towels down and pulled the car out of the garage. I put on some music and we lied down in the back of the car looking at the sky. We chatted for about 45 minutes or so—no flags: we discussed dinner, some general aspects of her childhood (not negative). All good.

And then she brought up something from her book (Just Friends)—how she recognized on Feb. 26 she had reached and passed the peak of the A. She recalls seeing AP for the PTA event that evening and thinking the affair was on its way down, but not knowing how to get off the "ride"—the book apparently discusses that moment for people during an A. It took the tone of the night in a more serious direction, but I was curious so I asked how she felt then making plans for March 2 and escalating things by having sex in his car for the first time.

**Pause: I could have not asked the question—immediately steered the conversation back to any other topic to protect myself. I’ve been largely organic on the topic of the A though, asking whatever is on my mind. I think I made a poor choice here.**

She answered and told me the sex wasn’t a big deal to her since she has already had sex with him previously. To her, the spark was leaving the relationship, but she didn’t want to stop because she loved the validation. (Note: I don’t know if that’s true or she’s rewriting history because that was the last time they saw each other.)

I became sad. In the moment, I couldn’t identify why, but sadness washed over me and I felt repulsion for my WW. I stayed put though, processing my emotions. My WW, recognizing what was happening to me, began to desperately try to change the topic. She asked about my favorite childhood memory—I became a bit emotional talking about my late-grandfather, who was my all-time favorite person probably.

We kept talking another 30-45 minutes, me sad, but able to engage fine in the conversation. My WW eventually asked me if I wanted oral or sex and I declined.

**Pause: I felt very non-sexual at this point. I think it was simply the repulsion for my WW, who I was angry with and didn’t fully know why in the moment. In retrospect, I could have said yes; recognizing I was taking a negative spiral, shifting to fun sex may have taken me out of my negative headspace. I don’t know if I chose right.**

I told my WW I wanted some water and I pulled the car back to the garage. She went inside and sat on the couch; I told her I was heading up to bed. She asked if she should come and I told her it was up to her.

**Pause: In the moment, I didn’t know what I wanted. I could have played it safe and asked for some alone time. In retrospect, what I think I wanted was for her to come up and cuddle into me, telling me she was there for me.**

She came upstairs right after me. She looked *very* anxious and uneasy—it seemed like she was on the verge of a panic attack. She asked if I was going to separate from her (she had gone from 0-100 in moments); I told her of course not and that I was just a little sad. She pried and asked why I was so upset. I had been thinking about it for nearly an hour and had identified the reason, so I told her.

I was upset because she had spent our entire relationship withholding a fun sex life from me—a reality I accepted as something I’d have to live with—and then she freely and easily gave a fun, boundary-pushing sex life to another man. It wasn’t a new feeling—I’ve felt it before post-DDay—but I told her it made me feel foolish and pathetic and it wasn’t something I had been able to resolve or forgive her for yet.

She responded, telling me my feelings were misguided and it was right from her book—that men focus on the sex in affairs and for women it’s emotional. She told me that to her, she had developed this friendship with AP and it wasn’t about the sex for her at all.

Her response upset me because it felt like she wasn’t listening. I don’t doubt any of what she said, but I wanted her to know how I felt: hurt that she gave fun sex freely to another man and withheld it from me—her reasons for doing it didn’t matter to me in that moment.

**Pause: I recognized at this point she was not doing well. I was in a sad spiral and she was experiencing severe anxiety because of it. I needed to disengage here probably.**

Thinking this was an opportunity to show her why her answer wasn’t empathetic, I suggested she repeat back to me in her words what I had just told her about how I felt.

She did, paraphrasing exactly what I just told her, but then adding on that she felt attracted to AP because he was so invested in the PTA events and I wasn’t.

I asked her if she thought it was strange that a another father helping her to plan PTA events had more interest in the events than her husband, who was not on the PTA or directly involved with the events.

She replied saying that to her, AP was showing an interest in his children’s lives and I wasn’t. So she felt an attraction toward him.

We discussed how OBS told me that AP would leave his son crying when he’d go to meet my WW—and how his serial cheating left his children in a broken home. My WW recognized she saw the truth about AP now, but in the moments before the A he was a guy who seemingly loved his kids more than anything.

I took this opportunity to explain how hurtful her responses to me were. First telling me my feelings about her giving sex out freely were wrong, followed by her telling me that she only did it because she thought I was a bad father and she found a better one.

She was now in a full blown panic attack if I had to guess. I tried to calm her down, asking her to just stop speaking—she kept interrupting with emotionally charged, illogical things.

She said she needed to disengage to stop herself from continuing to say horrible things. She left to go to my daughter’s room (kids were at my mom’s).

**Pause: I recognized what was happening. I was sad and she spiraled trying to pull me out of it—she saw my sadness as a possible gateway to separation. As other’s have said, she’s on such shaky ground that she is terrified our M could end at any moment—and in pressurized moments like this one, she loses all self-awareness. I could have gone to bed.**

I was very calm. I went to my daughter’s room and my WW jumped up eager that I came in. I said she needed to take some deep breaths—I told her everything was ok. She was the scared child she often reverts to, but she began to lighten and even smiled. She apologized for saying all the things she said and was angry with herself for bringing up the A in the car and then not disengaging at any point afterward instead of her hurtful rambling.

We went back to our bedroom and debriefed on the night. I told her not to be hard on herself for bringing up the A—things like that would happen and we have to deal with them better when they do. Now, with clarity from the night, I suggested what she could have done differently for me if I’m in that state again.

She could cuddle into me and tell me how sorry she was she hurt me. And on the specific topic of sexual jealousy that came up tonight, she could tell me again how sorry she was for mistreating me and that she’s all mine and she wants nothing more than to make up for all the lost time with a fun sex life now, etc. I told her in those moments, I need her to be light and supportive instead of escalating a bad situation. She said she understood.

The mood lightened drastically and I asked if I could kiss her. We kissed and it led to us fooling around again. Everything seemed fine—it was late and we were going to go to sleep.

Then she engaged again—telling me she was ok talking about the A, but no longer wanted to talk about the very specific sex details from the A. I asked where this was coming from as it had been weeks (months?) since we talked about any of her specific affair sex. She acknowledged that, but just wanted to let me know that she needed to heal and move on and she no longer could support me with those conversations.

I told her this was a strange time to dig her heels in on a hypothetical future conversation. I told her that I had no interest in going through any of her sex details, but her taking that off the table felt insensitive and entirely out of the blue. I suggested instead of trying to establish a new rule for us at midnight after an emotional night on a topic that may never even be relevant, we should just go to bed. And we did.

Now, looking back on the night, I recognize that a temporary separation prevents us from hurting each other like this. However, I also recognize how much better I’ve become at dealing with these negative spirals when they hit me. They don’t come often, but if we go back a couple of months, they’d last for days; this one lasted an hour or so and then I was able to get myself out of it in spite of my WW saying and doing all the wrong things. I feel healthier; and stronger.

If my WW wasn’t living here, I wouldn’t have had the experience; and even though it sucked and seemingly ruined our great night, it feels like it was beneficial for me to learn how to navigate my post-DDay landscape. I’m getting better at this—and know I can still get way better than I am now.

My feelings now are that I want to keep focusing on what I can do to better handle these situations—rather than attempting to remove them from my life, I want to respond to them more efficiently. The hope is that in being honest and forthcoming with my WW through these, she begins to be more vulnerable with me and less defensive. If we separate, I fear it’ll just push her in the opposite direction.

[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 1:07 PM, Sunday, July 3rd]

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743214
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 12:49 PM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

Before I respond to the rest, this stood out to me so I’d like to unpack it a little further first.

Why is it important that this occurs concurrently?

I don’t know that it’s "important"—we could temporarily separate and her focus on herself entirely and that help us in the long run. I don’t know that I believe that to be true, but more to the point, it is very much not what my WW wants to do. So if she is going to stay in the house, we agreed on trying the "coaster" approach with her priority being on the M.

That’s going to be a real challenge for her, but it’s her choice.

Can you see how this is actually triggering her deeper fears and subsequently her ineffective - even destructive - coping skills? THIS is the bear that’s breathing down her neck. This is the "if I don’t get it right then I am going to be shut-out…and it doesn’t matter because I never get it right anyway." That’s the irony here. My guess is that she doesn’t give two shits about this dinner or even this friendship. But she needs a "safety net" to offset the fear and vulnerability she feels in the marriage - a Plan B, if you will. In a weird way, having a "back-up" plan reduces her fear/need to behave more defensively in her primary relationship. So can you see how she’s caught in a catch-22? And she doesn’t yet have the insight or skills yet to navigate this is a healthier, more productive way. The skills she did have and that have kept her safe all her life are basically being stripped away (or else lose her marriage)…and she has nothing yet in its place.

Yes. I agree with all of that and so does she. Her hope is that through her awareness of what is happening, she can learn to better handle it. It’s not necessarily a catch-22 though because she *could* be in control of her actions and words—she just needs to work at it.

I also wonder too how your conversation with her regarding the dinner actually went down.

I’ve written a lot about the dinner and I’d like to move off of it, but the initial conflict began on Wednesday when I told her how her going to the dinner made me feel. She responded by telling me I was being unfair, and off we went.

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743216
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 12:52 PM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

You sure about that or is she just conceding because she know she can't win on it.

I’m not sure; I’m only going off what she is telling me. I feel fairly confident though that she recognizes it wasn’t a hill worth dying on—regardless of whether she truly gets it, I think her lesson was that if she finds herself feeling that dug in on something, she needs to immediately be less defensive and try harder to consider if it’s worth the fight.

Edit: I spoke to her on this. She said she very clearly understands it wasn’t for the good of the M and it was the right decision not to go. She said talking with me and getting that advice in IC didn’t help her though and she was fighting against it. Then when the MC said it out loud it finally clicked for her.

[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 2:55 PM, Sunday, July 3rd]

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743217
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clouds777 ( member #72442) posted at 9:19 PM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

If we separate, I fear it’ll just push her in the opposite direction.

I am sure others can help sort through everything you posted. But this stands out for me. You are still trying to control things you cannot control. Your irrational fear of divorce will keep you in limbo FOREVER putting up with things you should not put up with.

She is not currently going in the right direction anyway. Why not try an opposite direction? She still felt entitled to inform you that SHE (the cheater) will dictate what you can and cannot discuss. Despite what she says, I think she is fully aware that you are hesitant to divorce and separate. The things she says demonstrate this.

Date night with her, given the state of your relationship and her inability to empathize with you, is the opposite of taking some space and moving away from your co-dependent relationship habits. Its like she waits for you to be relaxed and then pounces to see if she has her control back yet or not. And then when she doesn't, she is sorry.

posts: 283   ·   registered: Jan. 1st, 2020
id 8743268
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 10:26 PM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

Your irrational fear of divorce will keep you in limbo FOREVER putting up with things you should not put up with.

I don’t feel like that’s true. I am in this moment now—can my wife address her issues and can I see a world where I both forgive her and want to R? I need to find that out before I do anything else.

Its like she waits for you to be relaxed and then pounces to see if she has her control back yet or not. And then when she doesn't, she is sorry.

I understand why you’d suggest that, but it’s just not what I saw last night. I didn’t see someone fighting for control, I saw a frightened child desperately trying to change how I felt because she felt it could end our marriage. Her rejection of my feelings wasn’t a fight for control—though it certainly has been in the past—it was her trying to convince me that things weren’t as bad as I thought.

She knows she can’t take back what she did, but she feels like because of it, she’s sitting on a time bomb that could always go off. She is measuring my mood constantly to see if she’s safe. I need her to let that go and be vulnerable.

[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 10:52 PM, Sunday, July 3rd]

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743274
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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 11:38 PM on Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

You became sad. You have reason to be sad. You're going to be sad. That upset her. You were honest about why you were sad,and she told you your feelings were wrong, then delivered the low blow that she felt OM was a better dad than you,and that was why she was so attracted to him.

You understandably became even more sad,she offered sex,you said no,and wanted to go to bed. She then has a full on tantrum,or rather,you believe she is reverting back to being a wounded child,and starts to attack you even more. It all then turns into
everything shifting to her,you trying to calm her down, you reassuring her,you taking care of her.

So not only does she tell you your feelings are wrong,but when you are sad, she gets you to feel bad for her,and take care of her.

This is a reason why separation will help you. You will be able to actually feel your emotions,and deal with them(necessary for your healing), rather than have to set them aside to deal with her issues.

[This message edited by HellFire at 11:40 PM, Sunday, July 3rd]

posts: 4495   ·   registered: Jun. 20th, 2017   ·   location: The Midwest
id 8743276
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 12:22 AM on Monday, July 4th, 2022

So not only does she tell you your feelings are wrong,but when you are sad, she gets you to feel bad for her,and take care of her.

You’re spot on and that is a significant problem right now. I’m overcoming it as I heal because I am able to get myself out of the sad mindset—I often can’t rely on her to help me.

It’s not fair by any means, but I just want clarity on my next steps. Regardless of my sadness, I need her to get her shit together. I am confident I’ll be passed my sadness at some point—but what then? Will she still be a selfish child? If so, there’s no future for us.

She needs to step up and she needs to show me she’s on me team and not fighting against me.

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743279
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Cooley2here ( member #62939) posted at 12:32 AM on Monday, July 4th, 2022

Unless you’re in the military it bothers you to be told what to do. No one likes criticism. No one. I have a suggestion for the two of you. Tell her that every time she feels like you’re criticizing her, or telling her what to do, or think you are to put her hand up like a stop sign. At that point ask her what you said that made her feel this way and have her repeat it to you. It might surprise you that some of this is coming across as criticism or being bossy. I don’t like it and I’ll bet you don’t either when someone tells you what to do or what you did wrong. That’s human nature. Especially in the US or most Western countries where we worship our individual liberties. On the other hand you can hold your hand up as a stop sign when you think that she’s being defensive about a sentence you just said. I’m thinking a lot of what’s going on between the two of you all is total miscommunication. Instead of getting angry each one of you needs to put up that stop sign hand and stop the conversation right then and go back and find out what was said that got you upset. Both of you. If you do it often enough you both might see what the roadblocks are.

When things go wrong, don’t go with them. Elvis

posts: 3388   ·   registered: Mar. 5th, 2018   ·   location: US
id 8743280
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faithfulman ( member #66002) posted at 2:13 AM on Monday, July 4th, 2022

I am confident I’ll be passed my sadness at some point—but what then? Will she still be a selfish child?

YES.

posts: 931   ·   registered: Aug. 28th, 2018
id 8743285
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PrettyLies ( member #56834) posted at 9:23 PM on Monday, July 4th, 2022

DrS I’ve read your first thread and about half of this one.

What I keep hoping to read is how you are focusing on you, and not so much on your wife. When I learned that I had been betrayed, my initial reaction was to tell him to go to hell.

Then he promised that we would work on himself and become worthy of being in my life. I left it to him to do just that, while I worked on me. He had poor boundaries and he was a people pleaser, both of which I knew were unhealthy for him, but it was up to him to sort all that out and address, I had my own shit to deal with. He struggled for a while, because it takes time to learn how to be a better person.

It was probably a year or so before I would even commit to trying to keep our relationship. He had to show me some things first. And in the meantime, I was working on me. I needed to know I would be okay with or without him.

All of that to say, I understand the urge to want to focus on the Wayward spouse and try to fix the marriage right off the bat, but I don’t necessarily think that is the best course. I think it helps a wayward see that you are serious about change when you are obviously working on YOU. If you work on you and start changing, it automatically changes your interactions with the people closest to you, specifically those relationships that are problematic because you didn’t have good boundaries or your boundaries were constantly disrespected or violated.

People usually only change when the pain of continuing as they are, is worse than the pain of changing. Some people only change when they hit rock bottom, but even that is not always enough to inspire change.

What I am trying to say to you is that you might do better to stop focusing on your wife and your marriage, and focus more on you as an individual. Commit to taking care of yourself regardless of what your wife does or doesn’t do. Focus on things you need to do for yourself, things that make your soul sing, and focus on learning to be a better you. Those of us that are basically good and honest people, are still works in progress and have room to grow. Give yourself those gifts.

posts: 112   ·   registered: Jan. 11th, 2017
id 8743360
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farsidejunky ( member #49392) posted at 2:42 PM on Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

You’re spot on and that is a significant problem right now. I’m overcoming it as I heal because I am able to get myself out of the sad mindset—I often can’t rely on her to help me.

It’s not fair by any means, but I just want clarity on my next steps. Regardless of my sadness, I need her to get her shit together. I am confident I’ll be passed my sadness at some point—but what then? Will she still be a selfish child? If so, there’s no future for us.

She needs to step up and she needs to show me she’s on me team and not fighting against me.

That is because you are codependent, Dr. S. You have had myself and other posters point this out to you on multiple occasions. You are so hyper focused on fixing your WW that you are not focusing on yourself. Sure...it is an exercise in self discipline to work through her problems sans emotions, but in order to do so, you have to stuff those emotions and procrastinate your need to deal with your own demons.

That said, did you just say this isn't fair? Go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. You are largely responsible for the dynamic that has emerged within your marriage over the last 60 days. I understand you did not cheat, so she made you a victim. 100%. But...that you are remaining a victim is by your own choices. Learn to recognize the difference.

Or put another way, you are complaining about sitting in a cage, even though you hold the key to let yourself out. You have had the key the entire time. The problem is that you have become so comfortable in that cage that even considering opening the door is a scary proposition. Instead, you want to pad the bars and decorate the walls, hoping the cage will simply be enough for you.

I will even take it a step further. You chose to accept a marriage (pre affair) with a terrible sexual dynamic. Sure, you have kids...a home...a life built with her...many other things, so you made a hard choice to do without. But, had she not cheated, you would have likely continued to accept such poor treatment. Only now that she gave herself to another man are you demanding better. Why did it take her fucking someone else to get you to move on that? Foundationally, that is the issue you must deal with on your own. She cannot heal that, and I suspect some part of you expects her to...when it is not her responsibility to do so.

She will likely never be 100% on team Dr. S. I feel like a broken record when I say this, but she does not pack the gear. You need to accept that she may only hit 60%...or 80% team Dr. S. You need to think about what you can accept right now, because her ceiling for what you want her to be is lower than your expectations. Can you accept a 60% solution? Or 80%? If not, hang it up. She will NEVER be 100% what you want from her to be safe.

ETA: Bolded

[This message edited by farsidejunky at 2:46 PM, Tuesday, July 5th]

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

-Maya Angelou

posts: 615   ·   registered: Aug. 30th, 2015   ·   location: Tennessee
id 8743406
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 3:27 PM on Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

I thought I'd give a bit of an update on where my headspace is rather than digging through the day-to-day events. It'll also give me a chance to address this:

What I keep hoping to read is how you are focusing on you, and not so much on your wife.

I'm doing a lot to focus on me: meeting friends and family without my WW--restaurants, concerts, baseball games, etc. Admittedly, because I'm still living with WW, we're also still together often: dinner with the children in the evenings and talking or watching TV/movies at night on occasion.

Truthfully, I find the time together more helpful to me than the time apart. And I've spent a lot of time thinking through why that is. When I'm separate, I learn nothing. Sure, I'm healing, but it feels to me that I'm healing no matter what I do--and that's just a result of time passing. I feel healthier and stronger every day.

When I'm with her, I'm learning. The good times remind me of the woman I loved; the bad times show me that I may never love her as much again. Sure, the bad times can be painful, but (I think) I'm ok with that--as I've said from the beginning, I'm willing to stand in the fire now if it leads me to clarity.

And I think that's the point of all this right now. My goal isn't R, though that's certainly a hope. My goal is clarity. Every negative episode with my wife is one more time she pushes me away, exposing an ugly inner-self. I feel foolish to cut that off entirely just because it's unpleasant.

I'm also very much taking our MC's advice to heart--she's gained my trust somewhat and I've felt she has my best interest in mind. Her core advice is to keep telling my WW how I feel, so I'm doing that, largely transparently. And I'm letting nothing slide--calling out my WW's bull shit when it shows and disengaging if the discussion has no resolution.

I'm not sure what else I should be doing differently.

I've discussed the possibility of a temporary separation--and I'm still amenable to that if her behavior becomes more toxic--but now my inclination is to engage more with her, not less. The idea of avoiding her more makes it easier for her to hide. I'm unwilling to rug sweep the A and a part of me feels like distance from her *could* allow that to happen because at a distance her mask is more convincing.

I want to give her every opportunity to screw up that I can stand. And in doing so, I'm also giving her very opportunity to succeed.

Me: BH, 38 (37 at time of A)
Her: WW, 38 (37 at time of A)
A: 9/21 - 3/22 (3 month EA; 3 month PA)
DDay: March 15, 2022
Status: Limbo

posts: 776   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8743411
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