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

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sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 4:08 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

What will empathy from your W do for you? How will it help you heal? Hint: it won't help much. I mean, it may be nice that someone is sorry that they hurt you, but the only one who can deal with your pain is you. Your posts say that you push your pain away.

You write:

My WW put no value on our M and had no respect for me.

Unless it's an exit A - and often even then - WSes do place value on the M, though they show it in ways that BSes don't understand.

I feel like what she did deserves a response of divorce and that my attempt to allow time to let the situation breathe is perhaps less evolved that I'm framing it and just weakness from me.

This is an important line of thought. You can't move unless you resolve this.

And even worse, how she is making me feel since DDay makes me decision to not D feel even more foolish.

She doesn't make you feel much of anything. You choose to feel your feelings.

But you're talking about thoughts, not feelings. You need to get your feelings into your consciousness/awareness. Otherwise, your hidden emotions will have more influence than they need to have.

I think you're looking for someone to tell you how to heal and what to do to get the outcome you want. That's a pipe dream. You have to blaze your own path.

The best way to do that is to surface your thoughts and feelings and discard the crap that doesn't really work. A lot of the crap we grow up with is about strength/weakness and manliness/femininity. After being betrayed, it's best, IMO, to come up with one's own definitions for those things.

I know this may be very strange thinking to you, but it works.

[This message edited by SI Staff at 5:03 PM, Thursday, July 7th]

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 27424   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 8743661
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 4:12 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

HikingOut, it's good to hear from you again.

I don't find her bringing up that she doesn't want to discuss sexual details to be out of the blue when it's the basis of the questions you want to ask on the lie detector test. I also do not find it strange when you post that this is something that also turns you on, there have been a few BH's and maybe even a BW or two to admit it here on this site, and it's something our MC brought up to us to explore because it's commonly seen by therapists. That's all I will say about that, maybe you can read into that a little deeper and figure out if it's contributing to any of the dynamic. The emphasis of pain is in the details and I understand why you need them, but she needs to figure out what is contributing to her shut down, I think she should explore if it's because of her shame, because she is still hiding something, or if it's your natural reaction mix of horror and finding it erotic that makes the conversation harder to navigate. It may be a combo of all I mentioned or something I have no idea to mention because this online stuff is tricky to see the whole picture.

My WW expressed that the trigger for pushing for that boundary was the lie detector test, so you're right. We have not had any sexually positive discussions of her affair sex, so my kink is for me to sort through. I don't find her reasoning (or yours) very understandable though--there's nothing especially explicit about the lie detector test. It's certainly an uncomfortable topic for her and her primary goal has always been self-preservation and self-interest, so I'm not surprised by her request. And again, we haven't discussed the sexual details of her affair in months; I'm just not comfortable with her taking it off the table should I want to discuss it again. She can sort through why it being on the table bothers her in IC.

I agree with Sundance on one thing in particular - You give many mixed signals to your wife, and you do that in your posts regularly. I can understand how and why that is, but I do think it's helpful for you to notice it for yourself. That doesn't mean she shouldn't choose the right thing, but at this point I think it's unrealistic to expect she will get all of these little tests right and you are going to continue to torture yourself in the process. Sometimes I think you aren't sure how important something is to you (and why would you? your world just exploded and it takes a while to know up from down) but other times it's passive-aggressive in nature. (If she does X then it means Y, but if she doesn't do X than it means Z, while at the same time she doesn't realize there is an equation being made) It's better to be clear for yourself so you can get out of the reaction mode.

The things you spend a lot of time talking about can go between seeming super-important to unimportant. For example, the last time it was about reading your posts and drinking, and that went round and round with the audience until we firmly established that you didn't even care about these things. It was creating another struggle between you that could be removed, and many of these things are hurting you more than it's hurting her at this juncture. Not because she doesn't care necessarily, though I don't rule that out completely. I think it's more she has no clarity of what the right thing is or why for herself yet and she spends more time trying to guess what something means to you. Instead, by detaching from what she is doing she can figure it out for herself what is right without your guidance, and you can come to realize that all she is doing is reacting rather than it having a deeper meaning.

With each of these trials, she ends up feeling frustrated because she isn't doing anything right, but that's not nearly as bad for her as what you are doing to yourself as you search for and create a catalog of missteps that pile on to your pain as if they are proof of something. The only prove what you already know - she is deeply unwell, unreliable at this point. Relying on her and her actions is part of the codependence that posters keep pointing out.

The test has been fairly straightforward, especially lately: show me empathy in everything you say and do. I agree that it's unreasonable of me to ask that for the simple reason that she clearly can't do it. I'm not ok with that though and I'm struggling to find a resolution for it.

And sure, many of the topics "don't matter" to me, but her failure at handling them matter to me greatly.

Like Walkingoneggshelz said very well, this is pretty normal on both sides. You want to find the lines in the sand and use them kind of as a guide measure her progress or intentions. Which is understandable, you feel like have to measure with something. And, your wife tends to draw just as many arbitrary lines in the sand. She wants to know she is going to have the room to be her own person, which is likely a big piece of what she is being pushed towards in IC.

I think you're right. She is focused on what the new M will look like and she wants to carve out her seat at the table. I'm still not sold that there is a new M and I want her focused on the moment we're in right now. She's so consumed with what the future may look like, she's missing the part where I may not be in it. And maybe she's ok with that--it's hard for me to tell.

I told you that I picked smoking as my rebellion, so stupid in hindsight. I subconsciously wanted to see that I could make a decision he didn't agree with and have him accept it because there wasn't a lot of evidence of it in our marriage to that point. I clearly see now and have for a long time that was especially cruel to do to a man who was trying to stay with me after I went out and cheated on him. I write that because if she is reading this may give her some perspective.

I had an interesting reaction reading that. If my wife picked up smoking today, I'm fairly certain I'd just file for D tomorrow. Is that harsh? Am I being hyperbolic? Do I really just hate cigarettes that much? I don't know.

I understand your point though. I'm just not sure I want to take the ride you're describing with my WW.

You want to know she is being empathetic and is fully going to be in this with you so of course you are looking at whatever evidence is before you at any given time. This is normal for two people trying to renegotiate a life that has exploded and are now wondering how or even if it can ever go back together. Striving for clarity, and being proactive rather than reactive are tall orders for where you are right now, but think in those terms and reach for them.

As Redrocks pointed out, you are for sure falling back and forth between old patterns and fighting them. That too is very normal and why everyone keeps advocating for you to stay in your own lane and work on yourself. I haven't been on in a while, but I can see by your comments about not making a boundary about what she can do, but what she can do in a relationship for you shows you are growing your understanding on this topic, so I think this may eventually work itself out with more knowledge, practice, and honesty - not just with each other - but also internal honesty about your own actions and expectations.

The push for you to work on yourselves is difficult to stay focused on with the codependency and poor boundaries that existed in this relationship. You will either get better at figuring out what the boundaries should be and place a shared vision around the importance of each one or you will continue to struggle and hurt each other until this thing is dead. And, make no mistake we are as destructive to ourselves on that front, expectations are nothing but premeditated disappointment in the early days.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm just not sure how to balance the focus on myself with the sharing of all my feelings with my WW. Sharing my feelings lead me to expectations in her response, which lead me to disappointment. I would need to significantly detach from my WW emotionally for me to be able to share my feelings and not care about how unempathetic she is in response.

I wanted to comment on the poster who suggested you should at least have a vision for a divorce. I am not recommending one, I am echoing them in saying go ahead and plan it. It takes the fear out of it. Envision each scenario before you and how it can work. She needs to do the same. It oddly helps you detach from an outcome. When we can become comfortable with all possibilities, then we can come from a different place than fear. By not fearing any of the outcomes or becoming attached to one over the other, then both of you can operate from a place of authenticity and put away some of the NATURAL manipulation that is causing these moving lines in the sand that you both are creating. I don't think all manipulation comes from ill intent, a lot of it in early days after DDAY is almost unavoidable when one or both are insistent on saving the marriage.

I found myself doing all sorts of things to keep the marriage, all of which were a manipulation. None of them would have stuck long-term, I had already proven to myself and to my husband that I had come to a place that I was okay putting myself above the marriage. That's something that's hard to put back in the box once you callously have stopped considering your spouse and children in your decisions. Had we just continued on in the status quo, I would not have learned how to take space for myself in the relationship, we would have continued the same patterns until it was untenable for one of us. Given my propensity for people pleasing, my prediction is that I would have people pleased him back into the marriage but found myself still miserable because I would continue to push down the idea that I was worthy of having my needs met too. In fact, I had pushed them down for so long I didn't even know what they were anymore, it took a long time for me to figure that out to even start putting something in place that wasn't arbitrary.

We drew up divorce papers, we just used the local courthouse provided ones as we didn't want to spend on a lawyer yet - we both had stated we would like to see if we could save the marriage so we didn't want to take it to that point where we were financially investing in something neither of us thought we even wanted. Oddly, I ripped them up when I found out about his affair, but only because I had agreed to things that I was no longer going to agree to. But at the time they were very effective. For us, it proved we would both be fine financially, and by imagining what that looked like we both also realized that if we did divorce it would hurt for a while but not forever. I know you have the added complication of having children at home, but I do think that if that had been the case for us it would have prepared us better to prepare them in the case it actually happened. Kids do best when both parents are on the same page, that their well being is above all else, and I am certain that exists for both of you as it's probably a big piece of the pie chart on why you are trying to make this work.

Even with all that said, I too think that marriages can be saved, and I probably am pro-R when there is movement on both sides showing it's important. The reasons it was important to me evolved as well, and I think they will for you guys too.

Anyway, once I had truly let go of a set outcome (definitely with a lean towards saving the marriage if we could, just not an attachment to it) I began trying to show up up to the relationship authentically, he didn't especially like it. Like you, he found some of those efforts to be selfish, or not empathetic. He wasn't wrong. I didn't know the difference between people pleasing, where I should put my foot down, or how to be there for me and for him at the same time. It required a lot of reframing and doing things that were so uncomfortable and unnatural to me, and him having to slowly learn to give me the space to do that and not judge everything individually. Once I had done some work on me, I was then capable to show up to the relationship differently. I had different skills, I was able to put away my feelings and truly listen to him, become curious about his experience, start drawing from it ways to create win-wins. I think this change was most evident towards the end of year one into the second year. Year one was a lot of discovering what skills I lacked and figuring out how to strengthen them, which is a long time but without that step nothing will be a lasting change in the relationship.

I don't know if my timeline was normal nor am I telling you what to expect for yours, but expect change takes longer than either of you will want it to, and to reiterate why detachment is your friend until that time. For one, you have already shown many times you will fight something to the death, this is not creating the space she will need in order to show up in your conflict. And, in all honesty it's not healthy for you either. By you staying with that argument or point you are distracting yourself from things that can actually bring you some peace and healing.

I agree with you, though S and D discussions have gone very poorly with my WW. I may bring it to MC and see how the conversation goes there.

And her slow progress is frustrating for me and I see it will take longer than I find reasonable. The issue has been what to do in the meantime while still living with her. I understand the advice is to focus on myself, but I haven't found that advice helpful in resolving the issues of living with her. It's leaving me to deduce that living with her is a mistake. And I'm sure she's going to read that and have a panic attack, which brings me to my other point from my above post. Me writing here honestly and her dishonestly reading my posts is beginning to become more and more annoying.

You will know it's time to work on the marriage in earnest. She will lose her defensiveness and rebellion and realize that you are both trying to navigate to the best possible relationship that you can have together (whether that ends as husband and wife, or only as coparenting) She does haveto be able to make decisions eventually that you are not happy with, but that's a work-towards goal. For now, her goal needs to be healing herself and providing an environment in which you can heal, which limits some of those decisions that are going to be sticking points. Asking her to find friendships that are not interlinked to her affair is absolutely reasonable. Her trying to have friendships is actually a positive thing for her growth, as I can see you already understand so I won't go into that. I had to do the same, the absences of outside friendships meant all my needs fell to my husband's doorstep, which was unrealistic.

As long as she is trying to control the outcome her focus is going to be on image with you, which is also why she reacts so much to what people say here. That's part of needing to control the image in hopes of controlling an outcome. Again, this is manipulation, but without ill intent. When she can accept how destructive her behavior was and where it came from, then you will know because she will no longer be focused on image control. It will be easier for her to put away her shame and condemn her own behaviors without condemning herself. She will have enough space and perspective that she will be better able to focus more on your needs, and she will be more naturally aligned with why you have them.

She is trying to control the outcome and she doesn't recognize the destruction she caused me, only the destruction she caused herself. Telling her either of those things just makes her angry and defensive--they're criticism she doesn't want.

I'm also opposed to the narrative that she can't make decisions I don't like. For our entire relationship she has constantly made decisions I don't like. We discussed money and sex all the time and she repeatedly decided on hurtful paths. So the idea that she doesn't feel free to act in her interest is illogical to me--it's all she's ever done as far as I can tell.

And for you, as long as you are attached to the specific outcome of the relationship, you will continue to be passive aggressive around some of your needs. I agree with hellfire that it's natural as a betrayed person to look for them to do the right things on their own. It would mean a lot more if you didn't have to spell it out and start to prove they understand what they did to you. It's the only way you can start to feel trust, that you can relax a little bit because she is doing more of what you perceive she should do. But, as long as you are sending mixed signals hoping she will make the right choice, that's not a set up for success for either of you.

I'm struggling to see how I'm passive aggressive while I'm also being 100% transparent. She knows *precisely* how I feel about everything and she knows *precisely* how I feel about her reactions to everything. I'm holding nothing back. I'm open to her moving out as well, she's not. I feel wrong to force her out of the house--perhaps I shouldn't. Maybe I'm being weak.

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
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 4:21 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

It means she isn't sorry. She is incapable of empathy.

This isn't something you can force her to feel. This isn't something she can work on. She either feels it,or she doesn't.

Your situation is a classic case of a cheater who is regretful, not remorseful. She is sorry she got caught. She hasn't treated you as a wife should treat her husband, for years. And now,you are expecting her to do something that doesn't come naturally for her. Your pain is annoying. She wants you to stop talking about it,so she can stop feeling bad about herself. Notice she has plenty of empathy for herself,but not you? You are the classic BS, desperately trying to force their WS to get it. To just love them in the way they deserve to be loved. And she can't. She has shown you she can't. She says it. Then she applogizes once she realizes it won't bring her desired outcome.

She said she isn't sexually attracted to you during those talks. That was a shitty way of trying to manipulate you into shutting up. She knows how important the sex is to you. She was hoping you would realize the sex will dry up,if you don't just get over it already,and let it go.

She said it would be easier to separate. Easier for her. She meant that.

You want her to be on the coaster. You tell her, over and over. She says she wants to be,and will be,and is. But,as you said, every single day, she shows you she isn't.

You're spot on. I caught the sex-angle too--her suggesting she could be much more sexual if only I'd stop making her feel bad about herself with our talks. It's pathetic. I let it slide last night because I'm losing a will to care.

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 8743665
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 4:26 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Is there really anything here that you don't already know? From my understanding you already know more details than most. What do these discussions entail at this point? Is her desire really never ever to mention the sex at all (hard no from most of SI) or is it a desire to avoid ways that it it is being brought up currently. There is a point where dwelling on it is counterproductive to R. You need to accept that it happened and decide to move on.

Was there any alternatives to yes or no on this discussed? Like keeping these discusions limited to MC, or only prescheduled, or only in writing? You need to find common ground on this or move to D.

I *think* I know everything and we haven't discussed her sex acts in months, nor do I have any interest in discussing it again in the near future. Her instituting the rule bothered me on principle.

I think her suggested 9pm boundary can be good for both of you. it's good that she realizes that she needs to work on managing her anxiety levels. I think that and her impulsiveness drives most of her poor behaviour.

I suggested the 9 p.m. limit in response to her raising her concerns. I have no issue with the limit, I have an issue with her attitude and approach to the entire conversation on boundaries. It's her trying to unilaterally impose things on me rather than accept it as a compromise. I also recognize this is a hard thing for me to explain--the conversation last night was bizarre--it wasn't the topic, it was all in her attitude and approach.

How well do you sleep?

It depends on the night. Not great though.

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 8743669
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 4:53 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

What will empathy from your W do for you? How will it help you heal? Hint: it won't help much. I mean, it may be nice that someone is sorry that they hurt you, but the only one who can deal with your pain is you. Your posts say that you push your pain away.

Then why am I telling her how I feel? What is it accomplishing? Perhaps that's a question for my MC, not you. Seemingly, all the talks we have are doing is making me feel worse about myself and her as a person. My ask for empathy has ramped up in direct correlation to the direction I received last month to constantly tell my WW how I feel. It's only exposed her lack of empathy further.

Unless it's an exit A - and often even then - WSes do place value on the M, though they show it in ways that BSes don't understand.

You may be correct--but to what end?

This is an important line of thought. You can't move unless you resolve this.

I'm going to explore that in IC today.

She doesn't make you feel much of anything. You choose to feel your feelings.

Is that fair of you? If you told your wife that you mom just passed away and she replied: "Sucks to be you!" How would you feel?

I care about my WW, so her lack of empathy hurts. I can move to make it not hurt, but I don't see how to do that without emotionally detaching from her. And if I'm trying to do that, living with her seems absurd.

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
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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 5:05 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

IMO, empathy and remorse from the ws,for the way they have hurt their spouse,their kids,and themselves, is key to a successful reconciliation. If they don't feel bad about it,what's the point in staying with someone who doesn't care they've hurt the person they claim to want to be married to?

I don't think they have to feel bad about themselves. But about their actions..absolutely. And they need to pro-actively work on themselves. I don't think staying in shame is healthy for anyone involved.

It's ok to want empathy from your WS. Expecting it is another thing entirely. If they didn't have it before the affair,and they didn't have it during the affair, expecting them to suddenly have empathy for you after dday is a waste of time.

Part of your work is to stop pushing her to get it. Stop expecting things from her that she has shown you..for years..she is incapable of giving to you. Acceptance. That's part of your work.

[This message edited by HellFire at 5:08 PM, Thursday, July 7th]

posts: 4495   ·   registered: Jun. 20th, 2017   ·   location: The Midwest
id 8743677
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 5:13 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Part of your work is to stop pushing her to get it. Stop expecting things from her that she has shown you..for years..she is incapable of giving to you. Acceptance. That's part of your work.

I can’t build a new M with someone who can’t show me empathy; if nothing else, I’d never be able to trust her.

So if she can’t change, the M is over. I have accepted that. It’s then just a matter of how long I’m willing to wait to see proof of life—and that takes me back to early in my first thread: some form of time limit before I pull the plug.

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 8743678
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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 5:41 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

That's right. You can't. But you need to stop trying to make her feel something she doesn't feel.

She doesn't feel empathy.

You need to accept that,and take steps to heal yourself. You can't teach her to have empathy for you,when she's never had that to begin with.

She may not be reconciliation material. So far,she's proven she's not. You need to work on accepting that.

posts: 4495   ·   registered: Jun. 20th, 2017   ·   location: The Midwest
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 6:40 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

She may not be reconciliation material. So far,she's proven she's not. You need to work on accepting that.

You’re right in that I haven’t been able to accept that quite yet. It defies reason to me. I don’t understand what it means for someone to not be capable of empathy—I’d think at worst, she could fake it. But she can’t. She keeps finding herself in the same pitfalls; saying all the same insensitive things.

She knows how poorly it’s going in these conversations, but she can’t stop herself from digging in her heels and fighting with me about her lack of empathy. Even in an extreme—let’s say she was right and she was supremely empathetic and I’m a mad man telling her I don’t see it—wouldn’t she still be able to stop attacking me? Couldn’t she just say: "I’m so sorry for hurting you this badly," and give me a hug?

I’ve told her that exact thing numerous times and the next time she digs in and fights again. It’s beyond my understanding.

So then it’s what you said: this is who she is and that’s all there is to it. And *that* breaks my heart—because I know it’s not who she wants to be and she can’t get out of her own way.

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
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Jameson1977 ( member #54177) posted at 6:45 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Dr., it does appear that she is trying to establish these boundaries as yet another attempt to control the outcome. As I mentioned previously, both IC’s we saw individually and together both said that discussions about graphic details are usually not helpful, but discussions in non-graphic terms are, and as per our IC’s, quite important in their experience, especially with BH’s.

I too see what you are in terms of her having empathy for herself (no A sex talk, no A discussions after 9:00, etc.) but isn’t showing much empathy for you. Once again, she gets defensive, you withdraw, she apologizes, once again, rinse and repeat, no real progress. It appears to me that she is playing the long game, trying to wear you down. I suspect, based on reading all your posts, this tactic will not work and your WW knows this, but continues anyway.

R and changes in oneself are very difficult. My WW was the same way, although, my WW would just lie and try to avoid any hard discussions and was deathly afraid at really looking at herself. My WW said many times, "If I don’t say things out loud, they aren’t as bad". I still shake my head at those statements and can’t wrap my head around it.

I see the main issue being lack of real effort from her part. Her defensiveness is engrained in her and isn’t going away without acknowledgment and hard work on her part. She needs to dig into all the ugliness, shine a light on it, accept it and decide she wants to change, or not.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my WW needed a kick in the ass and real consequences before she woke up and really put the effort in. Prior to this ultimatum, she was (admittedly) trying to "fix" things without doing any real work. It drive me crazy, she knew it did, but that alone wasn’t enough to push her to invest in working on herself. I believe your WW needs to hit rock bottom before she can assess if she wants to put in the hard work.

I also wanted to mention something about the sex details and your kink. As this is an anonymous forum, I feel a bit more comfortable in sharing some details from my experience.

While not the same, my WW and I did also fantasize about threesomes, her with another man, me with another woman, etc. through the years. It was a way to spice up our sex life and it was something that did turn me on. I’m not a cuck per se, but in the privacy our our bedroom, we certainly did partake in fantasy or roleplay from time to time. It wasn’t something we did regularly, but every once in a while we did and I (and suspect her) enjoyed it.

I remember one instance of this that was a bit different than prior times (this was prior to dday and after her last PA). She wanted to give me an HJ, and I asked her to talk to me while doing it, about her and another man. This was something we had done in the past, but as she described this scenario, it was oddly specific (and admittedly turned me on), but something about it was off.

Well, turned out that she had basically described her one sexual encounter with her AP. After leaning this, I was a mess. I mean, how cruel can you be?!

We discussed this a few times after she informed me that she had basically recounted her sexual encounter while pleasing me. She told me it was a way for her to verbalized her affair to me without actually having to be honest with me.

Now, that fantasy/roleplay is dead with us. My WW is so afraid of triggering me that it’s something we don’t do anymore. I do miss the excitement that would come with this type of thing, but knowing what happened, just kills it for me. Another thing that has been lost as a result of my WW making decisions and choices unilaterally.

Your trip away will be good. Enjoy the time away and clear your head Dr.!

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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 8:27 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

You don't want fake empathy. Otherwise, it might make you feel good in the moment, but eventually you will find out she's been lying,and she's still the same person she's always been. The one who withheld sex as punishment, who badmouthed you to anyone who would listen,and the one who had no problem cheating on you,and lying to you for months.

You want it to be authentic.

You may want more than she is capable of. So far, that seem to be true.

What you want is healthy. It's not "too much." Not even close.

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MickDiddy ( new member #80155) posted at 8:29 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

I commend you for sharing your experience with this forum. I've followed both threads passively and have honestly been amazed at the amount of knowledge that exists here, and has been shared with you.

Is it possible that she just wants you to be the one to end things? Like, then it absolves her of being the one to have pulled the chord, despite the fact that the chord was pulled because of her?

It seems like the woman you love, married and started a family with only exists in your imagination. I suppose if there's any consolation, its that you now actually know who she is, and you have your agency.

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hikingout ( member #59504) posted at 8:29 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

My WW expressed that the trigger for pushing for that boundary was the lie detector test, so you're right. We have not had any sexually positive discussions of her affair sex, so my kink is for me to sort through. I don't find her reasoning (or yours) very understandable though--there's nothing especially explicit about the lie detector test. It's certainly an uncomfortable topic for her and her primary goal has always been self-preservation and self-interest, so I'm not surprised by her request. And again, we haven't discussed the sexual details of her affair in months; I'm just not comfortable with her taking it off the table should I want to discuss it again. She can sort through why it being on the table bothers her in IC.

I think you missed what I said here. I think she needs to be open to discuss anything you want, when I made some suggestions it was really for her to go dig and figure out what the problem was.

To me, it's her job to be open and transparent over anything you want to know.

It's your job to decide that at some point you probably know about everything you are going to know. The trauma causes you to do what you are saying - review and process over and over. The pain is in the details. At some point though, you have analyzed it from so many directions that you are both exhausted. It becomes unhelpful. Noone here can tell you when you are done with that, but the discovery stage is like what I am talking about from the other end as the WS taking time to understand what they did, how they were able to do it, and space to decide how they will behave differently through trial and error. The BS is doing the same thing - they need to beat the shit out of the details so that they can feel like they have had a chance to process everything.

You spend a lot of time looking at and considering her, but you really don't seem to consider yourself from different angles. I am not chastising you or saying it isn't normal, but you talk about her boundaries always being bad, one of the ways you focus on yourself is realizing yours haven't worked well either. I know you are the victim of this, the traumatized one.

It's your job to come out of that mentality. Not today, you aren't ready, just like she isn't ready for certain things. It will happen slowly over time for you, just like it will for her. She is to work towards shedding her own shame to give way to remorse and empathy, you are to work towards acceptance and taking your power back. And both of you need to do that regardless of any outcome. Healing isn't a choice, it's a must. You focus on her side of the road in your posts almost entirely.

The test has been fairly straightforward, especially lately: show me empathy in everything you say and do. I agree that it's unreasonable of me to ask that for the simple reason that she clearly can't do it. I'm not ok with that though and I'm struggling to find a resolution for it.

And sure, many of the topics "don't matter" to me, but her failure at handling them matter to me greatly.

You are missing it here. First of all, you don't work on the relationship until she does start to get it on her own. You want to monitor, instruct, suggest, fix. None of that is your job, it's hers. She has to pick up the ball and run with it, and from my perspective she is trying to do that, it's just not instantaneously going to change the picture. In the meantime, you have to figure out a way of being open to working on the marriage in the future, but protecting yourself from more hurts until that time she can meet you from a healthier place. You think that might mean not living together, that's one way of doing it. I personally think neither of you are ready for that either.

My suggestion of embracing the uncertainty is for both of you. This panic you both have over the marriage ending is normal. H and I had the same issues with this dance, but the core of what you are trying to do is realize that neither one of you can heal the other. You can still love each other, you can still be married, but both of you need to realize your full job right now is not making the relationship do anything. You can't heal a relationship that exists between two people who are so off balance. You have to change your focus from you think you are waiting on her for something, you are an individual with your own capacity to heal, and need to continue to work on coping with and healing this trauma with almost zero focus on what she should or shouldn't be doing. It's a tough dance. But just like you can't heal yourself faster, neither can she. You both are looking to each other for some reassurance, you have to get to the point that your reassurance is that you will be fine no matter what happens. Easier said than done.

That's why the first year is so hard. The WS has to work to put away their shame and navel gazing and become proactive in recognizing the whys, fixing the whys and feeling accomplishment on finding their own path. She does it for herself.

The BS is going through stages of grief, they have been traumatized, and all their security has been yanked from underneath them. You will not be able to accept anything the WS does right now. It's not that I am saying it's unimportant, you are misreading that. I am saying that you are distracting yourself and her with things of various levels of importance. Everyone does that, she is doing it too. The more you can focus on what YOU can control, which is YOU, the more you will find your power return. You are giving her a lot of power, she is giving you a lot of power, the reality is you need to both find that in yourselves.

I think you're right. She is focused on what the new M will look like and she wants to carve out her seat at the table. I'm still not sold that there is a new M and I want her focused on the moment we're in right now. She's so consumed with what the future may look like, she's missing the part where I may not be in it. And maybe she's ok with that--it's hard for me to tell.

It sounds to me like she cares a fucking lot. She is trying, failing, trying. She is going to therapy, she is reading, she is doing a lot. It's not that she doesn't have the capability of empathy. Take her out of it for a minute - I think you probably agree, I am an empathetic person. I have always actually been except for the months during and after my affair. My issue wasn't that I didn't want my marriage, or even didn't love my husband, or that I was permanently incapable of empathy. The issue was I was numb, paralyzed. I was so filled with shame over what I did that it was hard to make space for any other feelings. This is an issue of gaining back equilibrium, her being able to process her feelings so that she can understand herself, so that she has room to understand you. Until she can simmer down that shame, and you can ramp up some of your acceptance you are both going to continue to beat yourself against the rocks.

I had an interesting reaction reading that. If my wife picked up smoking today, I'm fairly certain I'd just file for D tomorrow. Is that harsh? Am I being hyperbolic? Do I really just hate cigarettes that much? I don't know.

I understand your point though. I'm just not sure I want to take the ride you're describing with my WW.

You do not understand my point. I am not suggesting that what I did was a good thing, I am giving you an example of a piece of rebellion that makes utterly no sense. It's temporary. It's part of the trial and error thing. My point is there is going to be some acting out. I don't love that I did it, but I am giving you examples of how confusing this all is for both parties and that it's a stage to be worked through. I wouldn't pick up a cigarette now for anything, not because of my husband, but because I don't want to do that to my health, I don't like smelling like it, and because I am stronger than these some of these stupid experiments that are just different expressions of pain. True change is selfish - it comes from our own desire to make things better for ourselves.

You are both deeply in pain and both of you are going to act out. By not tying success to the other person, focusing and being curious about self, is honestly the only way through. Until you get to that point it's a huge power struggle.

I agree with you, though S and D discussions have gone very poorly with my WW. I may bring it to MC and see how the conversation goes there.

Maybe frame it with you know you both need to get more comfortable with letting go of the outcome so that you both have the room to do your own work. That will make more sense than the example of the mental exercise of planning the divorce like we did and many others on this site did. They may have a better way through it and they know both of you better and in person than we do.

And her slow progress is frustrating for me and I see it will take longer than I find reasonable. The issue has been what to do in the meantime while still living with her. I understand the advice is to focus on myself, but I haven't found that advice helpful in resolving the issues of living with her. It's leaving me to deduce that living with her is a mistake. And I'm sure she's going to read that and have a panic attack, which brings me to my other point from my above post. Me writing here honestly and her dishonestly reading my posts is beginning to become more and more annoying.

Yes, that's natural that you are feeling that way because as someone pointed out you are getting into the anger stage. You have been in shock, and a bit of denial/bargaining. The stages of grief will oscillate for a long time to come with or with out her.

The reality is you can heal no matter what she is doing, but it's going to have to take some acceptance you aren't really working on the relationship right now. You are working on the two people that make up the marriage, which is a different kind of progress. When you both can get to a healthier stage the marriage will be much easier to deal with in one form or another. I would honestly say we didn't have to reimagine our marriage, we reimagined ourselves and it made our marriage better. For others, they reimagine themselves and the marriage is no longer tenable. I think you fear that, so you spend all your time looking and searching for some reason this is worth it.

But, right now, there is little in this marriage that will feel worth it to you because it's foundation has been demolished, you can look as hard as you want at all these things but worth will not be found right now outside of maybe still feeling like you love her, or that this marriage succeeding is important to you. It's not just that she can't do what you are looking for, it's also you are not at a place to receive it even if she was.

Even if she was performing in some way you thought was beneficial, it's not going to change your picture of her or your marriage yet. It's going to take time and consistency from her to start to change your view of her. It's going to take that same thing for her to change her view of herself. But, I wouldn't classify her as not trying, nor would I say that of you.

So I am not telling you what should or shouldn't be important, nor am I dismissing your concerns. I am telling you to change your focus of what you are trying to do. Be intentional with requests rather than spending time spinning your wheels on the ones that are actually quite arbritrary. That means more space between you and I would place money that is exactly what you are both afraid of doing the most because you aren't sure what that space will mean. So, you are both unconciously inventing ways to avoid that space by doing to much for the relationship. But the more you focus on the relationship the less room you have to work on yourself. Right now you both want to avoid that because it feels better if you can come together, but it's impossible for you to truly come together in these conditions. You are chasing your tails basically, and we all did that too which is how we know.

What does that look like? Well, she works full time I am assuming, and is doing therapy. You work also and are doing therapy. This means there are only a few precious hours in the evening and weekends to parent, take care of your home and basic needs. so, you have this small window of time that you both are focusing solely on the relationship, use it to focus on your own selves as much as possible. Be liberal with that space.

H and I, and many of the people here tried many things to find a balance before we found something that worked. Instead of time limits, we set aside specific times of the week that we would talk. It was easier for us, noone else lived with us. We didn't do it on IC days. My H didn't go to IC by the way, not until after his own affair, but on days that I did, I spent that evening reflecting on what was covered, doing my assignments, journaling, reading materials that could help me with the things I was discovering about myself. In time, I would feel comfortable asking to take a little more time to process what I was discovering, other times I needed no time at all. We removed the rule about talking about it the night of my IC. Instead we would do a check in, I would often initiate that and say "I had a good session today, we are working on some things I need some time to process" and sometimes I would take a week or two and come back with it distilled. It made our conversations more productive, and I think we both felt good about it. Right now, she hasn't a lot of time to process before distilling it because you are looking for signs that it's worth continuing. It will be some time before you will know if the marriage is worth continuing. Put faith in the idea what is worth while is both of you healing, and you will be able to delay rash decisions you are not ready to make about the marriage.

And, we also eventually, as I mentioned before took time away from all of it and just dated each other. Again, no kids, so we spent part of every sunday doing something we enjoyed doing together. We had the agreement that we would focus on getting to know each other again, and this proved to be very helpful especially to him because he could let go of his vulnerability hangover. We would agree that us enjoying our date didn't mean our work was over, he could let go of making sure I was being accountable and we eventually learned to be genuinely open to those dates. That happened a little later in our timeline, I was probably showing signs of getting it at month six, to beginning to get to the place of remorse around month 8. From there my remorse grew because I had more and more space for him because of the work I was doing for myself.

Almost every couple I could name who were at this stage struggled with detachment, unhealthy attachment styles, and trying to negotiate when and how much to talk about the affair. It's natural to be annoyed, angry, hopeless, during all that. The process of trying and failing hard for both people and it can be exhausting. You are both exhausted right now. I would look at that two weeks as a rest period, but I wouldn't expect it will bring any answers or lots of change, it's a very short period of time.

She is trying to control the outcome and she doesn't recognize the destruction she caused me, only the destruction she caused herself. Telling her either of those things just makes her angry and defensive--they're criticism she doesn't want.

That's her wrestling with shame. Look at when one of your kids gets caught doing something they know they shouldn't, they feel shame that often all they know how to do is cry. They want to ingratiate themselves back in your favor, they fear you won't love them because the shame tells them they are not worthy of it. Of course, these instances are micro compared to what you are dealing with, but right now that wall of shame is what she has to put down. But, like everything else, it's not as easy as just being told to put it away. This is something she has had all her life and has allowed it to grow bigger and bigger as it rolled faster and faster down hill. It's deep rooted, and will take everything from going back to her FOO to figure out the origins, to beginning to like and love herself again so that she is strong enough to look at what she has done to you. Right now you are a big walking talking piece of evidence of her unworthiness.

That consistency over time is important for her to heal just as it is to you. It takes having a new recent history of being a better person and exhibiting that growth for her to shed who she is now and walk into who you both need her to be. That's why you hear so many of us waywards saying this takes a lot of time. And, I will tell you it was time that was 100 percent worth my effort even if I found myself unmarried today. Because I know I can rely on me. He knows he can rely on him, and together we can have the relationship we both deserve as a result. Detachment is powerful.

I'm also opposed to the narrative that she can't make decisions I don't like. For our entire relationship she has constantly made decisions I don't like. We discussed money and sex all the time and she repeatedly decided on hurtful paths. So the idea that she doesn't feel free to act in her interest is illogical to me--it's all she's ever done as far as I can tell.

Why do you assume this has anything to do with you? It doesn't.

My husband is super laid back, not controlling in the least, never has been. The areas I thought I couldn't do were extensions of my own imagination. It didn't come from no where, it came from my Foo issues. I had a very controlling and emotionally abusive mother (this doesn't have to be the scenario you grasp onto). I learned to be pleasing, to take the temperature of any room I entered. I learned how to get praise and how to avoid wrath. The answer was if I just did everything perfect my world was great and people loved me.

When I say your wife is testing that, it's not anything to do with who you are as a person, it's breaking unhelpful narratives she has over herself.

Though, I will say that with one reservation - you exhibit patterns of focusing solely on her behavior rather than your own, some of it's normal because of your current circumstance, but some of it existed long before this affair. The need to be right or argue your point to death. She has and will continue to modify her behavior because that is very unpleasant to her. She may not have realistic views on it, she is reacting with her core coping system that likely hasn't evolved much past her development years. And, I am not saying it's time for you to examine or change that because it falls under "pre-exisiting marital condition" all of which were papercuts compared to the affair.

I know about her narratives because it's a common thread with about any wayward I have interacted with here. They get the "poor me" thing and take it to the extreme. You haven't witnessed some of that in the forum as much because for some reason there are fewer waywards here than when I was previously active on this site. I have spent a lot spend less time with that forum while I was trying to cope with my husbands affair too so it's been a bit of time since I helped a lot there. Now, I can go in there and almost never feel provoked and can now be helpful again, but there isn't a lot going on for me to help with. Literally there were dozens of other ww's I spent a great deal of time with on PM. I see it being an almost across the board thing, except with waywards who show up here seemingly getting it out of the gate. I can't account for them, other than being suspicious of what they are saying. We catastophize and then adjust ourselves to survive, it's usually nothing to do with the spouse. Though, some of us do pick abusive people, the rest of us self create resentment over rules that we imagine.

I accidentally deleted what you asked about being passive agressive, but here is my answer:

I don't know if passive aggressive is the right word, but you are for certain sending a lot of mixed signals and that is often a hallmark of passive aggressive behavior.

I think it will help if you recognize a few things:

-Your wifes behavior and lack of empathy is probably not permanent. She is struggling with a lot of big feelings and as they clear there will be more space. Often the lack of this is caused by the loss of equilibrium and amplification of her own pain, which will clear itself in time in most cases. Especially ones where the WS is trying as much as they can.

-Your wife and her commentary about not being sexually attracted to you during your fights. The reason has nothing to do with you, it's the affirmation of all her worst fears and the big heavy shame she is in right now. It IS difficult to feel sexy when you are not emotionally connected with someone because you are too busy feeling badly about yourself. It IS difficult to feel sexy when you are depressed in general. She seems to make a lot of effort in this category, but just like I said earlier in this post - nothing is going to be good enough for you right now. Not because you are a picky bastard, but because nothing is going to put the world back on it's axis right now. Plus this is an existing marital wound that predates her affair. You have the least confidence in this area because it has never been healthy so there is no history there to fall back on. But, you both contributed and accepted that dynamic, yet neither of you were satisified with it. Continue to look at that for yourself and not trying to put it through her lens because you can't possibly understand her perspective right now. She is still trying to figure it out.

-You deflect most anything anyone points out about your contributions to the dynamics. It's normal, but you too have to find a way to be less defensive. You don't have the space for that yet, the same as she hasn't enough space yet either. The WS and BS are often mirror images of each other and that's why these patterns are hard to break. You look at her instead of you. She does the same.

-Your security is gone, the only one who can give it to you right now is YOU. She could have sex with you morning, noon, and night, and pass every single test you throw at her, but your focus is going to be on the proof you can't rely on her. She caused that part by showing you she can't be relied on in one of the most basic premises of marriage, so it isn't that you are being unreasonable. It's just it doesn't matter if she does 100 things right, the next time it's wrong will be the only thing that resonates as strongly because you are in the throws of deep anguishing pain. What you need to focus is finding your own way out of that pain, while she finds her way out of hers. This doesn't mean you can't engage, it just means changing your focus and narrative on what you are trying to achieve. When you have both gotten to a steadier place with that, you will slowly, start to resonate her behaviors from a healthier more detached place and not place as much emphasis on one over the other, and this will provide her more space to fail so she can find what does actually work. This is not a character flaw you have, this is a reaction to pain that needs to be resolved before it can be different.

I hope this helps. I feel like I write a book each time, but I find it hard to get under some of your defensiveness to get to the nuances and it probably belabors my posts more than I intend. If I am doing that, I think your wife is doing that on over time but with a subject matter she has never had to process before. The only difference here is I have had time to process my own that's why it's so clear for me to see what is going on with her. It's also probably not helpful that I have that perspective because I likely cause you to continue analyzing her and that's what I am at the same time trying to ask you to put down so that you can get yourself well again.

[This message edited by hikingout at 9:26 PM, Thursday, July 7th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 9:04 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Dr., it does appear that she is trying to establish these boundaries as yet another attempt to control the outcome. As I mentioned previously, both IC’s we saw individually and together both said that discussions about graphic details are usually not helpful, but discussions in non-graphic terms are, and as per our IC’s, quite important in their experience, especially with BH’s.

I too see what you are in terms of her having empathy for herself (no A sex talk, no A discussions after 9:00, etc.) but isn’t showing much empathy for you. Once again, she gets defensive, you withdraw, she apologizes, once again, rinse and repeat, no real progress. It appears to me that she is playing the long game, trying to wear you down. I suspect, based on reading all your posts, this tactic will not work and your WW knows this, but continues anyway.

R and changes in oneself are very difficult. My WW was the same way, although, my WW would just lie and try to avoid any hard discussions and was deathly afraid at really looking at herself. My WW said many times, "If I don’t say things out loud, they aren’t as bad". I still shake my head at those statements and can’t wrap my head around it.

I see the main issue being lack of real effort from her part. Her defensiveness is engrained in her and isn’t going away without acknowledgment and hard work on her part. She needs to dig into all the ugliness, shine a light on it, accept it and decide she wants to change, or not.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my WW needed a kick in the ass and real consequences before she woke up and really put the effort in. Prior to this ultimatum, she was (admittedly) trying to "fix" things without doing any real work. It drive me crazy, she knew it did, but that alone wasn’t enough to push her to invest in working on herself. I believe your WW needs to hit rock bottom before she can assess if she wants to put in the hard work.

She may be trying to win a war of attrition with me, but that's like trying to win a land war in Asia. laugh

Sadly, the result will be me separating from her. I have been very honest with her and will have no regrets about my efforts should it happen. I would be sad though because it means she would have failed so spectacularly for such a long period of time.

As for rock bottom, I'm not sure what else needs to happen other than separation. My position is to stop telling her how I feel and stop having sex for now. but we have MC tomorrow and I'll be open to getting feedback there.

I also wanted to mention something about the sex details and your kink. As this is an anonymous forum, I feel a bit more comfortable in sharing some details from my experience.

While not the same, my WW and I did also fantasize about threesomes, her with another man, me with another woman, etc. through the years. It was a way to spice up our sex life and it was something that did turn me on. I’m not a cuck per se, but in the privacy our our bedroom, we certainly did partake in fantasy or roleplay from time to time. It wasn’t something we did regularly, but every once in a while we did and I (and suspect her) enjoyed it.

I remember one instance of this that was a bit different than prior times (this was prior to dday and after her last PA). She wanted to give me an HJ, and I asked her to talk to me while doing it, about her and another man. This was something we had done in the past, but as she described this scenario, it was oddly specific (and admittedly turned me on), but something about it was off.

Well, turned out that she had basically described her one sexual encounter with her AP. After leaning this, I was a mess. I mean, how cruel can you be?!

We discussed this a few times after she informed me that she had basically recounted her sexual encounter while pleasing me. She told me it was a way for her to verbalized her affair to me without actually having to be honest with me.

Now, that fantasy/roleplay is dead with us. My WW is so afraid of triggering me that it’s something we don’t do anymore. I do miss the excitement that would come with this type of thing, but knowing what happened, just kills it for me. Another thing that has been lost as a result of my WW making decisions and choices unilaterally.

Your trip away will be good. Enjoy the time away and clear your head Dr.!

Thank you very much for sharing that--I relate to it well. My wife and I never really got into any cuck verbal fantasy stuff, but it was something that turned me on. Early in our relationship I'd request she tell me about past sex stories with a HJ, but she was never comfortable.

Interestingly, during her one real work trip of the affair, I initiated some sexting. It went poorly overall, but I requested she tell me a old sex story and she declined. I then requested she just create a fantasy to share, and she texted back: "But all my fantasies would involve you."

I asked her about that exchange after DDay and she said there was no way she was going to relate a real sex story from the A and the whole exercise hit too close to home for her to participate. I guess that's a good thing.

But I think I still win biggest loser because a month later (Feb. 24), during her fake work trip, I tried to sext again. She was in the local hotel room and it was about 30-45 minutes before AP showed up. She refused to sext, saying she was tired, but just not wanting to get involved in anything with him about to show up. So instead she stripped naked and sent me a photo--she looked smoking hot--and I masterbated to it. So yea, I masterbated to a photo of her moments before AP had boundary-pushing, unprotected sex with her for four hours. That's a hard thing to get over.

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

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 9:16 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022


Is it possible that she just wants you to be the one to end things? Like, then it absolves her of being the one to have pulled the chord, despite the fact that the chord was pulled because of her?

It seems like the woman you love, married and started a family with only exists in your imagination. I suppose if there's any consolation, its that you now actually know who she is, and you have your agency.

I don't think that's the case. I do think she's terrified of returning to who she was--she recalls her depression and how she felt pre-A and doesn't want that life back. It's why she's so focused on taking steps to rebuild the relationship; she's just skipping the step where we heal from the damage she caused.

And I still think the woman I love is there, I truthfully just never cared about her lack of empathy. I never felt like I needed a partner to provide me with emotional support--my life is fairly good and I don't feel like I deserve more than I have. I'm content and often fairly happy. In this situation, I require her empathy and I don't have it--it's a roadblock we may not get passed.

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
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MickDiddy ( new member #80155) posted at 9:26 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

But I think I still win biggest loser because a month later (Feb. 24), during her fake work trip, I tried to sext again. She was in the local hotel room and it was about 30-45 minutes before AP showed up. She refused to sext, saying she was tired, but just not wanting to get involved in anything with him about to show up. So instead she stripped naked and sent me a photo--she looked smoking hot--and I masterbated to it. So yea, I masterbated to a photo of her moments before AP had boundary-pushing, unprotected sex with her for four hours. That's a hard thing to get over.

I know this isn't constructive, but, man, that is really brutal.

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Stevesn ( member #58312) posted at 9:31 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Hi Doc. I’m sorry you are still frustrated as to how your wife is approaching rebuilding.

While she may be doing IC and possibly reading, I don’t believe she has found the right approach to this process at the 4 month mark.

Like many here I’ve read many a betrayed thread and the WS who can lead with empathy and unselfishness is the one who has the best chance at finding reconciliation.

While you’re wife may have somewhat of an Intellectual understanding of what it would take to rebuild, it’s clear she has a streak in her that can’t stop her from thinking of herself and her own needs over any of yours in each discussion and situation.

She can’t stand the thought of not being in control and when an idea hits her that is distasteful to her or opposed to her own happiness, she can’t focus on anything else but changing it to her liking, no matter how far into emotional life support her husbands heart remains.

I’m pretty sure somewhere on your original thread I and others stated "you can’t do the work for her". And I am sure I extended it, as I have done often here on SI, to say "by leading her through this process, but doing the work for her, but telling her exactly what she needs to do to keep you, you run the great risk of, not reconciling with her, …. But instead…. reconciling with yourself."

Because you decided, for whatever reasons, to stick around and comprehensively lead her in what she needs to do, you have not given her the chance to do it on her own, without guidance.

You should have been able to state clearly what you need to see, just once, and then let her know you are not Interested in leading this rebuilding.

From her perspective she has not done what it takes in these early months to make you feel safe and loved. Sex is one thing. But in my opinion a truly remorseful WS bent on rebuilding should not be making any demands on the relationship for at least a year. A contrite cheater would know this. She would feel it. She would learn it quick and show empathy at every turn.

My guidance to a WS who truly wanted to fix what they broke would be to show your BS that their pain is what’s important. They would get angry for you. They would look at your pain as if it were Inflicted by someone else and be indignant that the spouse they live has to go through something like this. And the fact that it was them that caused this would only compound that anger against themselves.

Time and time again you show examples how she just cannot do that. Instead of leading with seeing it from your point of view, she can’t wait to impose her side and what she wants.

I’ve seen several wayward partners, mostly wives, who have saved their marriages by taking this approach, for years, but especially in the first 6-12 months.

I’m afraid your wife just can’t do that. To me, yes wait out the 6 months you promised yourself. But this latest discussion proves to me, and I hope to you, that she just doesn’t have it in her to do what it takes.

It breaks my heart for you. At this point I think you’d be better served not just by going away for 10 days to Italy (weren’t you just there w your mom?) but by doing real in house separation. Stop working on the marriage. That was something you should have done before the affair. Before she gave away so much.

Until she proves she is someone new who realizes and understands that the world doesn’t revolve around her, and that as a cheater she no longer can approach her partner the same way she did before she chose infidelity, you should stop talking. It’s just getting more and more frustrating.

I hope you will consider not just utilizing a trip as time apart, but codifying it as standard operation for now.

I am all for reconciliation when you have a rational contrite empathetic partner. In your case at this point unfortunately I have seen few that are less of those things than yours.

fBBF. Just before proposing, broke it off after her 2nd confirmed PA in 2 yrs. 9 mo later I met the wonderful woman I have spent the next 30 years with.

posts: 3438   ·   registered: Apr. 17th, 2017
id 8743723
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PrettyLies ( member #56834) posted at 10:31 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

When we suggest that you focus on you, it means to work on YOU. For you specifically, that might look like trying to understand why you accepted a sex life for so long that wasn’t really what you wanted. We should be able to be honest with our spouses about what we like, without being made to feel like a weirdo, as long as what we desire is between consenting adults….. meaning no children or animals. Sometimes we desire things that we wouldn’t actually do in real life, but it can still be a stimulating fantasy that you can talk about with your partner, without being shamed.

Focusing on you is about searching your own mind and heart and rooting out what behaviors YOU have that don’t really serve you well, and working on those. It’s tending to your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health, in ways that YOU have control over. Damn what she does or doesn’t do.

Would it help for you to frame it as respecting the fact that your wife is a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions about whether and how she wants to "fix" herself? Or not? That is true, is it not? If, in fact, she IS a grown woman capable of making her own decisions, like I assume, why can’t you step back and let her do it? You can tell her what your boundaries are and what you need and want from her. Then give her the room to do it, without you trying to force it. And keep tending to your own physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health, while hopefully she works on hers. And if she doesn’t work on hers, you will still be healthier physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally when you try to decide what’s next in life for you, whether that life includes her or not.

I really feel for you, because I know how confusing this shit can be.

posts: 112   ·   registered: Jan. 11th, 2017
id 8743729
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 10:44 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

I think you missed what I said here. I think she needs to be open to discuss anything you want, when I made some suggestions it was really for her to go dig and figure out what the problem was.

To me, it's her job to be open and transparent over anything you want to know.

It's your job to decide that at some point you probably know about everything you are going to know. The trauma causes you to do what you are saying - review and process over and over. The pain is in the details. At some point though, you have analyzed it from so many directions that you are both exhausted. It becomes unhelpful. Noone here can tell you when you are done with that, but the discovery stage is like what I am talking about from the other end as the WS taking time to understand what they did, how they were able to do it, and space to decide how they will behave differently through trial and error. The BS is doing the same thing - they need to beat the shit out of the details so that they can feel like they have had a chance to process everything.

I understand what you wrote, and I agree that I don't need to rehash the details of her sex during the affair further right now; my point is only that I don't think it should be taken off the table. Perhaps not a hill I want to die on, but the principle of this matters to me. She's proactively taking a topic off the table that I haven't asked her about in months--why? She's doing it because *she* has no interest in discussing it further. It's her deciding unilaterally that the time is up on that topic, so any future questions on the topic should promptly be swept under the rug because that topic is closed. I reject that boundary precisely because she's still unable to empathize with my position.

You spend a lot of time looking at and considering her, but you really don't seem to consider yourself from different angles. I am not chastising you or saying it isn't normal, but you talk about her boundaries always being bad, one of the ways you focus on yourself is realizing yours haven't worked well either. I know you are the victim of this, the traumatized one.

It's your job to come out of that mentality. Not today, you aren't ready, just like she isn't ready for certain things. It will happen slowly over time for you, just like it will for her. She is to work towards shedding her own shame to give way to remorse and empathy, you are to work towards acceptance and taking your power back. And both of you need to do that regardless of any outcome. Healing isn't a choice, it's a must. You focus on her side of the road in your posts almost entirely.

I'm open to questioning my boundaries, but I don't think they're all that awful, outside our sex life issues. I'm open to feedback though.

And I understand the point you're making about healing--seems similar to Sisoon's ongoing conversation with me--but perhaps we just disagree with what it means for me to "heal." Time is going to heal me with or without my wife in my future--her betrayal will always be a part of me, but I'll get better at managing it. While living with her, my healing is made more difficult because of her lack of empathy. I can confirm that from firsthand experience.

You are missing it here. First of all, you don't work on the relationship until she does start to get it on her own. You want to monitor, instruct, suggest, fix. None of that is your job, it's hers. She has to pick up the ball and run with it, and from my perspective she is trying to do that, it's just not instantaneously going to change the picture. In the meantime, you have to figure out a way of being open to working on the marriage in the future, but protecting yourself from more hurts until that time she can meet you from a healthier place. You think that might mean not living together, that's one way of doing it. I personally think neither of you are ready for that either.

My suggestion of embracing the uncertainty is for both of you. This panic you both have over the marriage ending is normal. H and I had the same issues with this dance, but the core of what you are trying to do is realize that neither one of you can heal the other. You can still love each other, you can still be married, but both of you need to realize your full job right now is not making the relationship do anything. You can't heal a relationship that exists between two people who are so off balance. You have to change your focus from you think you are waiting on her for something, you are an individual with your own capacity to heal, and need to continue to work on coping with and healing this trauma with almost zero focus on what she should or shouldn't be doing. It's a tough dance. But just like you can't heal yourself faster, neither can she. You both are looking to each other for some reassurance, you have to get to the point that your reassurance is that you will be fine no matter what happens. Easier said than done.

That's why the first year is so hard. The WS has to work to put away their shame and navel gazing and become proactive in recognizing the whys, fixing the whys and feeling accomplishment on finding their own path. She does it for herself.

The BS is going through stages of grief, they have been traumatized, and all their security has been yanked from underneath them. You will not be able to accept anything the WS does right now. It's not that I am saying it's unimportant, you are misreading that. I am saying that you are distracting yourself and her with things of various levels of importance. Everyone does that, she is doing it too. The more you can focus on what YOU can control, which is YOU, the more you will find your power return. You are giving her a lot of power, she is giving you a lot of power, the reality is you need to both find that in yourselves.

I think we're also juggling different advice. One school of thought is to do what you're suggesting: pause the relationship and heal individually. The other line is for the WS to prioritize the M so that the BS can rejoin them in the M and heal together. We have tried both with varying degrees of failure.

You--and virtually everyone else--keep asking me to focus on myself. I'm doing that while also sharing with my WW how I feel. Those discussions have been horrific. I think I'd like to stop them. I think I'd like to stop having sex with her. We'll see what the MC says, but that's where my head is at now.

It sounds to me like she cares a fucking lot. She is trying, failing, trying. She is going to therapy, she is reading, she is doing a lot. It's not that she doesn't have the capability of empathy. Take her out of it for a minute - I think you probably agree, I am an empathetic person. I have always actually been except for the months during and after my affair. My issue wasn't that I didn't want my marriage, or even didn't love my husband, or that I was permanently incapable of empathy. The issue was I was numb, paralyzed. I was so filled with shame over what I did that it was hard to make space for any other feelings. This is an issue of gaining back equilibrium, her being able to process her feelings so that she can understand herself, so that she has room to understand you. Until she can simmer down that shame, and you can ramp up some of your acceptance you are both going to continue to beat yourself against the rocks.

I don't think my wife has ever been remotely empathetic. She's been compassionate, but never empathetic. Her world view is very self-centered, entitled and victimized. It was a frustration before; now it's a potential deal-breaker.

You do not understand my point. I am not suggesting that what I did was a good thing, I am giving you an example of a piece of rebellion that makes utterly no sense. It's temporary. It's part of the trial and error thing. My point is there is going to be some acting out. I don't love that I did it, but I am giving you examples of how confusing this all is for both parties and that it's a stage to be worked through. I wouldn't pick up a cigarette now for anything, not because of my husband, but because I don't want to do that to my health, I don't like smelling like it, and because I am stronger than these some of these stupid experiments that are just different expressions of pain. True change is selfish - it comes from our own desire to make things better for ourselves.

You are both deeply in pain and both of you are going to act out. By not tying success to the other person, focusing and being curious about self, is honestly the only way through. Until you get to that point it's a huge power struggle.

I understand what you wrote, I'm telling you that I don't accept that there must be "some acting out"--why must there be? If I haven't made this clear already in these 90+ pages, I'm philosophically and morally opposed to the idea that people don't have their own agency; that she can't help but act like a child. Why?

I recognize that you and my WW made similar mistakes, and I hope she finds her way to your way of thinking at some point for her sake, but I reject the idea that her process is some kind of normal I should understand and accept. Her behavior is absurd and my willingness to endure it is waning.

And I know it seems like I want power, but at my core, I really just want her to stop being an insensitive asshole to me after shitting down my throat with her pathetic affair. But I also accept that the only pure control I have for that is ending the M--and that makes me sad.

Yes, that's natural that you are feeling that way because as someone pointed out you are getting into the anger stage. You have been in shock, and a bit of denial/bargaining. The stages of grief will oscillate for a long time to come with or with out her.

The reality is you can heal no matter what she is doing, but it's going to have to take some acceptance you aren't really working on the relationship right now. You are working on the two people that make up the marriage, which is a different kind of progress. When you both can get to a healthier stage the marriage will be much easier to deal with in one form or another. I would honestly say we didn't have to reimagine our marriage, we reimagined ourselves and it made our marriage better. For others, they reimagine themselves and the marriage is no longer tenable. I think you fear that, so you spend all your time looking and searching for some reason this is worth it.

But, right now, there is little in this marriage that will feel worth it to you because it's foundation has been demolished, you can look as hard as you want at all these things but worth will not be found right now outside of maybe still feeling like you love her, or that this marriage succeeding is important to you. It's not just that she can't do what you are looking for, it's also you are not at a place to receive it even if she was.

Even if she was performing in some way you thought was beneficial, it's not going to change your picture of her or your marriage yet. It's going to take time and consistency from her to start to change your view of her. It's going to take that same thing for her to change her view of herself. But, I wouldn't classify her as not trying, nor would I say that of you.

So I am not telling you what should or shouldn't be important, nor am I dismissing your concerns. I am telling you to change your focus of what you are trying to do. Be intentional with requests rather than spending time spinning your wheels on the ones that are actually quite arbritrary. That means more space between you and I would place money that is exactly what you are both afraid of doing the most because you aren't sure what that space will mean. So, you are both unconciously inventing ways to avoid that space by doing to much for the relationship. But the more you focus on the relationship the less room you have to work on yourself. Right now you both want to avoid that because it feels better if you can come together, but it's impossible for you to truly come together in these conditions. You are chasing your tails basically, and we all did that too which is how we know.

What does that look like? Well, she works full time I am assuming, and is doing therapy. You work also and are doing therapy. This means there are only a few precious hours in the evening and weekends to parent, take care of your home and basic needs. so, you have this small window of time that you both are focusing solely on the relationship, use it to focus on your own selves as much as possible. Be liberal with that space.

H and I, and many of the people here tried many things to find a balance before we found something that worked. Instead of time limits, we set aside specific times of the week that we would talk. It was easier for us, noone else lived with us. We didn't do it on IC days. My H didn't go to IC by the way, not until after his own affair, but on days that I did, I spent that evening reflecting on what was covered, doing my assignments, journaling, reading materials that could help me with the things I was discovering about myself. In time, I would feel comfortable asking to take a little more time to process what I was discovering, other times I needed no time at all. We removed the rule about talking about it the night of my IC. Instead we would do a check in, I would often initiate that and say "I had a good session today, we are working on some things I need some time to process" and sometimes I would take a week or two and come back with it distilled. It made our conversations more productive, and I think we both felt good about it. Right now, she hasn't a lot of time to process before distilling it because you are looking for signs that it's worth continuing. It will be some time before you will know if the marriage is worth continuing. Put faith in the idea what is worth while is both of you healing, and you will be able to delay rash decisions you are not ready to make about the marriage.

And, we also eventually, as I mentioned before took time away from all of it and just dated each other. Again, no kids, so we spent part of every sunday doing something we enjoyed doing together. We had the agreement that we would focus on getting to know each other again, and this proved to be very helpful especially to him because he could let go of his vulnerability hangover. We would agree that us enjoying our date didn't mean our work was over, he could let go of making sure I was being accountable and we eventually learned to be genuinely open to those dates. That happened a little later in our timeline, I was probably showing signs of getting it at month six, to beginning to get to the place of remorse around month 8. From there my remorse grew because I had more and more space for him because of the work I was doing for myself.

Almost every couple I could name who were at this stage struggled with detachment, unhealthy attachment styles, and trying to negotiate when and how much to talk about the affair. It's natural to be annoyed, angry, hopeless, during all that. The process of trying and failing hard for both people and it can be exhausting. You are both exhausted right now. I would look at that two weeks as a rest period, but I wouldn't expect it will bring any answers or lots of change, it's a very short period of time.

That was very helpful to read.

I think the primary issue has been me constantly telling her how I feel--at the advice of MC. I'd like to stop doing that. And then there's nothing for us to even talk about and I'm fine with that. I have plenty to keep myself busy. I'll listen to her feedback that she wants to share, but unless the MC has some compelling advice, I plan to detach a bit. Ideally, no more talking about how I feel before the Italy trip, so it'll give us a two week break from her treating me poorly. I'd like that.

Though, I will say that with one reservation - you exhibit patterns of focusing solely on her behavior rather than your own, some of it's normal because of your current circumstance, but some of it existed long before this affair. The need to be right or argue your point to death. She has and will continue to modify her behavior because that is very unpleasant to her. She may not have realistic views on it, she is reacting with her core coping system that likely hasn't evolved much past her development years. I know that because it's a common thread with about any wayward I have interacted with here.

On the whole, I don't find my behavior objectionable post-affair. I don't think I'm sending her mixed-signals and I don't think I'm being passive aggressive. Now, that doesn't mean I'm right, it just means I have very little to examine. When I've made mistakes, I've been quick to apologize to her for them. I am *very* critical of myself in most areas of my life, so it would surprise me if a major issue now is my lack of introspection and being self-critical--maybe it's a blind spot I don't see though.

I don't know if passive aggressive is the right word, but you are for certain sending a lot of mixed signals and that is often a hallmark of passive aggressive behavior.

Like what?

-Your wifes behavior and lack of empathy is probably not permanent. She is struggling with a lot of big feelings and as they clear there will be more space. Often the lack of this is caused by the loss of equilibrium and amplification of her own pain, which will clear itself in time in most cases. Especially ones where the WS is trying as much as they can.

As noted above, she has always been unempathetic. The question is if she can change.

-Your wife and her commentary about not being sexually attracted to you during your fights. The reason has nothing to do with you, it's the affirmation of all her worst fears and the big heavy shame she is in right now. It IS difficult to feel sexy when you are not emotionally connected with someone because you are too busy feeling badly about yourself. It IS difficult to feel sexy when you are depressed in general. She seems to make a lot of effort in this category, but just like I said earlier in this post - nothing is going to be good enough for you right now. Not because you are a picky bastard, but because nothing is going to put the world back on it's axis right now. Plus this is an existing marital wound that predates her affair. You have the least confidence in this area because it has never been healthy so there is no history there to fall back on. But, you both contributed and accepted that dynamic, yet neither of you were satisified with it. Continue to look at that for yourself and not trying to put it through her lens because you can't possibly understand her perspective right now. She is still trying to figure it out.

That's fair and I have no doubt that was largely what she was trying to convey. In the moment it felt like control: "If you stop dragging me through all these heavy emotional conversations, I'll give you more fun sex." Instinctively, my response to that is to stop having conversations and stop having sex with her. I don't know exactly why that is, but that's my gut feel.

-You deflect most anything anyone points out about your contributions to the dynamics. It's normal, but you too have to find a way to be less defensive.

Like what?

-Your security is gone, the only one who can give it to you right now is YOU. She could have sex with you morning, noon, and night, and pass every single test you throw at her, but your focus is going to be on the proof you can't rely on her. She caused that part by showing you she can't be relied on in one of the most basic premises of marriage, so it isn't that you are being unreasonable. It's just it doesn't matter if she does 100 things right, the next time it's wrong will be the only thing that resonates as strongly because you are in the throws of deep anguishing pain. What you need to focus is finding your own way out of that pain, while she finds her way out of hers. This doesn't mean you can't engage, it just means changing your focus and narrative on what you are trying to achieve. When you have both gotten to a steadier place with that, you will slowly, start to resonate her behaviors from a healthier more detached place and not place as much emphasis on one over the other, and this will provide her more space to fail so she can find what does actually work. This is not a character flaw you have, this is a reaction to pain that needs to be resolved before it can be different.

I agree with you, but it would still be nice for her not to be an asshole. I don't see why both can't be true. I can bear the weight of my healing, but she doesn't have to line the floor with hot coals on my path to heal.

I hope this helps. I feel like I write a book each time, but I find it hard to get under some of your defensiveness to get to the nuances and it probably belabors my posts more than I intend. If I am doing that, I think your wife is doing that on over time but with a subject matter she has never had to process before. The only difference here is I have had time to process my own that's why it's so clear for me to see what is going on with her. It's also probably not helpful that I have that perspective because I likely cause you to continue analyzing her and that's what I am at the same time trying to ask you to put down so that you can get yourself well again.

I don't mind the long posts; I try to provide specific and thoughtful answers, though I suspect many of my answers leave you frustrated. laugh

I do think you're right that she is engaging in conversations with me unprepared. I like the idea of her having more alone time at night to reflect on her IC work and the books she's reading. I also would love to see her posting here again to get some of the feedback here directly.

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 8743733
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 10:57 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Hi Doc. I’m sorry you are still frustrated as to how your wife is approaching rebuilding.

While she may be doing IC and possibly reading, I don’t believe she has found the right approach to this process at the 4 month mark.

Like many here I’ve read many a betrayed thread and the WS who can lead with empathy and unselfishness is the one who has the best chance at finding reconciliation.

While you’re wife may have somewhat of an Intellectual understanding of what it would take to rebuild, it’s clear she has a streak in her that can’t stop her from thinking of herself and her own needs over any of yours in each discussion and situation.

She can’t stand the thought of not being in control and when an idea hits her that is distasteful to her or opposed to her own happiness, she can’t focus on anything else but changing it to her liking, no matter how far into emotional life support her husbands heart remains.

I’m pretty sure somewhere on your original thread I and others stated "you can’t do the work for her". And I am sure I extended it, as I have done often here on SI, to say "by leading her through this process, but doing the work for her, but telling her exactly what she needs to do to keep you, you run the great risk of, not reconciling with her, …. But instead…. reconciling with yourself."

Because you decided, for whatever reasons, to stick around and comprehensively lead her in what she needs to do, you have not given her the chance to do it on her own, without guidance.

You should have been able to state clearly what you need to see, just once, and then let her know you are not Interested in leading this rebuilding.

From her perspective she has not done what it takes in these early months to make you feel safe and loved. Sex is one thing. But in my opinion a truly remorseful WS bent on rebuilding should not be making any demands on the relationship for at least a year. A contrite cheater would know this. She would feel it. She would learn it quick and show empathy at every turn.

My guidance to a WS who truly wanted to fix what they broke would be to show your BS that their pain is what’s important. They would get angry for you. They would look at your pain as if it were Inflicted by someone else and be indignant that the spouse they live has to go through something like this. And the fact that it was them that caused this would only compound that anger against themselves.

Time and time again you show examples how she just cannot do that. Instead of leading with seeing it from your point of view, she can’t wait to impose her side and what she wants.

I’ve seen several wayward partners, mostly wives, who have saved their marriages by taking this approach, for years, but especially in the first 6-12 months.

I’m afraid your wife just can’t do that. To me, yes wait out the 6 months you promised yourself. But this latest discussion proves to me, and I hope to you, that she just doesn’t have it in her to do what it takes.

It breaks my heart for you. At this point I think you’d be better served not just by going away for 10 days to Italy (weren’t you just there w your mom?) but by doing real in house separation. Stop working on the marriage. That was something you should have done before the affair. Before she gave away so much.

Until she proves she is someone new who realizes and understands that the world doesn’t revolve around her, and that as a cheater she no longer can approach her partner the same way she did before she chose infidelity, you should stop talking. It’s just getting more and more frustrating.

I hope you will consider not just utilizing a trip as time apart, but codifying it as standard operation for now.

I am all for reconciliation when you have a rational contrite empathetic partner. In your case at this point unfortunately I have seen few that are less of those things than yours.

In the end, Steven, all the advice on this forum and all of my actions in my life these passed four months, may not matter all that much. It is ultimately on my WW to change or not change. All the time spent talking in circles with her about how I feel was entirely wasted. I recognize that now. I see who she is today and I have no reason to think she will be different tonight.

I plan on detaching again. Opening up to her has provided me with no value. We'll see how I feel in two weeks--MC tomorrow will be the only exception--I'll participate as normal.

As for an in-house separation, we'll still eat together with the kids mostly and the bed is up to her--she can take the couch or not. But how I feel right now, I don't particularly want to be around her.

And yes, I was just in Italy with my mom in April and I'm going back. She goes all the time, so it's just me jumping on to her trip while my wife takes the kids to visit her family.

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 8743735
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