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

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 11:00 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.

You'll just have to trust me when I tell you I'm doing that. I met a friend for lunch today, had an IC appointment where I dug in on my feelings and I plan to relax and watch a movie tonight. And I'm going to Italy without my WW for a week. I spend a lot of time posting about the conversations I have with my WW, but the vast majority of my day is already separate from her.

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 8743736
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PrettyLies ( member #56834) posted at 11:07 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

I will take your word for it!

I know on message boards, we tend to share the things that are troubling us and not so much of the things that are going well.

Just know that most of us here do mean well, including myself, even if we get on your nerves sometimes lol.

posts: 112   ·   registered: Jan. 11th, 2017
id 8743737
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hikingout ( member #59504) posted at 11:46 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

One last thing, you asked me a question I didn't really answer. It was why I understood where she was coming from on reviewing sexual details, and you basically said you feel your kink is your concern.

I don't disagree entirely, we all get to react to whatever we want how we want. The sexual details are especially hard for the following reasons:

1. I worried about damaging our sexual relationship. Adding to an extra kink wasn't exactly on my short list, but given your history it would concern me a bit if I were her due to the fact you all tend to get stuck in patterns for years on end. I realize this should have been considered before having the affair sex at all, because that was the most fucking damaging- but it's a hard territory as a WS to navigate, how much is too much, how much is too damaging.

We don't get to decide that, we can only decide to keep being transparent and honest, but it does feel a little scary to her that you were heading down any lane that might mean we had to go over it again. It's all part of the image control, we think just one more thing is going to break it, not the big elephant in the room. I don't know why that is, but it takes some time to depart that illogical thinking.

2. There is no way to prove anything either way. So, I told my husband all of it, when he said he wanted to know (this was delayed for almost a year in my situation, at first he took the position he wanted some basic answers about the sex, but then later changed his mind as was his prerogative to do so.) But there is no way to prove what I am telling him as correct, and there is no leg to stand on in that arena because we are already proven to be a liar. So, it peaks the anxiety when it gets circled back around in any way because we could go back through it all and reopen everything.

3. For females especially there is already a lot of shame built in around sex. Society and our parents engrain so many different messages about sex that men do not see the programming of - we are a whore if we love sex, we are a prude if we do not, we are to be a lady in the streets and a whore in the sheets, but we aren't supposed to enjoy it, it's a wifely duty. And I could go on for a long time. Shame and sex are often hand and hand for someone with a lack of self awareness, relying on old programming. Men have unhelpful programming around sex as well, but it's typically a different variety of things you are told you should feel shame about.

4. There is a chance she will remember something she didn't before, she fears you will read into it and more damage will occur.

And there are other things, it's all self preservation stuff. Pretty typical, sometimes there are things being lied about but it doesn't seem like she held back based on all the things you seem to know about it.

The other thing is for some ws the affair was sexually motivated. I mean, yeah, there is some element of sexual motivation in all affairs. But, for me, it was more meeting some imagined emotional need. I say imagined because affairs are typically just two people using each other to get what they are specifically seeking. So, I know looking back the AP was really just damaging me further emotionally with my own permission to do so. But, in my mind, I was looking to feel seen, heard, and valued. I wanted to be a younger, funner, cooler sexier version of myself and he granted my wishes in exchange for sex. Now, that wasn't how it was all portrayed at the time but it is for certain what I was seeking. I don't pretend to guess what it was he was seeking, I couldn't care less at this point what it was, but for best I can tell it was about sex for him.

Anyway, because of that, I failed to see the relevance the sexual details had for him. They were unimportant to me, something I didn't value. However, it was just the opposite for my husband, it was something he valued a hell of a lot and for very good reasons. So, when we had to go through it, there was this interogation that made me feel like I could never tell him enough and it was all crushing his soul. I couldn't make him believe what I was saying, and I didn't know what it would mean moving forward.

Basically what I am describing to you is just plain fear, and so the introduction of a little bit in the lie detector of course made her anxious and fearful. I don't always think there is a sinister reasoning behind that, but for a ws it's best to just try to keep being transparent.

For you as the BS, you may want to really consider how much more is worth knowing, or if what you are really seeking is some reassurance you know everything and won't be finding out something else later. The latter is a yes or no question but it may still not be pointed enough to make a good poly question. H and I did polys together after his affair and we both answered the same set of questions. I thought it was helpful at the time, but to go back I think I would have skipped it. What am I going to do keep hooking him up to a machine every time I don't believe him? At some point, I had to trust what it was I was seeing and hearing or get out. Everyone is different in that way, but we did both pass the exams.

It was interesting talking to the OBS in my husbands affair. Being a man, he only wanted to confirm sexual details with me about what I knew, and he would tell me shit that I really could have done pretty well without knowing. The reality is they had sessions 3-4 days a week for 18 months, he will never know everything that happened and neither will I. Plus, as a WS it was a boundary that I didn't want to keep crossing sitting on the phone with some man who wanted to focus on sexual details. It felt like that was too intimate and that was ultimately why I had to stop talking to him because I needed to have boundaries around that.

Besides It became a tit for tat thing, I was looking for evidence they were in love, that he was planning to leave, emotional stuff. Not the OBS, he wanted to know about everything from my husbands history of erectile issues (which I am unaware of any, but that flies in the face of some of the things his AP claimed), to if I found him good in bed (which I did not answer, it was the straw that made me go NC with him) I generally, just wanted overview stuff, how much, how long, things he may have done with her that I do not do, etc. But, I don't need or want a play by play and others seem to. We are grown ups we have all had sex, we know what it entails. I was looking for things I wouldn't expect. I did find things I didn't expect, but they ended up just outlying to me how little this woman really mattered to him. He didn't see her at all, he was basically grudge fucking her and she was all in trying to win him over so she could have my life.

I don't think it's a clear gender divide thing, but fairly common for a BS to gravitate towards one area more than another.

In all that, I don't want what I am saying to get lost. You are a grown up, you need to be responsible with your own needs and if knowing more or needing to rehash is what you need to move forward, then she does really need to dig into where her resistance is and release it. If you don't need to rehash it then you will at some point have to be satisfied with what you currently know. You get to decide that. She does as well, but as you said that may not jive with being able to continue a relationship with you.

[This message edited by hikingout at 1:45 AM, Friday, July 8th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6136   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8743742
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hikingout ( member #59504) posted at 11:48 PM on Thursday, July 7th, 2022

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.

Sorry I wrote that last post without seeing your reply. I agree. 100 percent it's not up to her. It's her job to be transparent and your job to decide what you need.

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6136   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8743743
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hikingout ( member #59504) posted at 12:16 AM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

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.

The WS does need to prioritize the M so the BS can rejoin them. Yes, that part is true. But to me that's part of reconciliation. You are not to reconcilation, you are in limbo. She needs to regroup, comply with your requirements for reconciliation, meaning she is showing consistency and reliablity. She can't do that until she understands why she did what she did and put away her shame and own it.

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.

Agree, very hard balance to make here.

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.

That is as common as temporarily blocking it out, but in my opinion they are really just two branches of the same tree. Some WS are selfish because of the lack, so they want people to accomodate them. Others are too selfless because of the lack and think they have to work to be loved. Once the lack is addressed, there is room for empathy.

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?

And I am telling you that when someone is in pain they will act out - both the WS and the BS will. And she has and you have. She doesn't know how to assert herself but she is being told in IC that is part of her issue.

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.

You are misunderstanding, I am telling you not to accept or engage in the behavior. I am telling you to detach from it. You should leave the oppportunity open for reconciliation, but stop actively seeking it. You should be actively seeking higher ground, and so should she.

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.

I don't think you want power at all. I think you need to find your own power in the situation, and you are giving it to her. I think she is doing the same. I don't think that's the only control you have in the situation either, but you will have to decide that for yourself.

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.

This is why I think MC is completely a waste of time and money, there is no way to work on this relationship right now. It's in limbo. She is limited right now in what she can do because she has to come to some understanding of her own behaviors instead of reacting constantly. Proactive versus Reactive. AND YOU are in the same exact boat.

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 didn't say it was objectionable. I don't even think you are purposely doing anything, I don't think you are a bad person or husband. You are in a place of deep pain and you don't have as much control over your own agency as you believe you do. Multiple people here have talked to you directly about the ways you give mixed signals, including me who outlined just a few in my last post. What Sunny mentioned too, while I don't take her full perspective by any means, what she is saying is we can read you oscillating continually, that's a mixed message. I do not think anyone has control over that this early out. We are giving you things to think about but you meet it each time with defensiveness. You probably do not have the emotional space for it now, too many fires on the stove. It's the same for your WS, she is continually oscillating. People in pain tend to do that, because everyone is looking for the button to stop it. It's not postive or negative, it's just part of the process.

-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.

She can if SHE deeply wants to. Keeping the marriage is only part of a motivation that will work. Right now she doesn't understand herself, there is untangling to do. This is being met especially here with well then she is never going to get it. 4 months out, I was not doing half as well as she is, I can tell you that. But, I can't predict whether she will or won't, neither can you, but I can tell you how she is right now is an indicator of nothing. Self awareness is slow.

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.

Yes, and you might be right it could be to try and regain control as well. I doubt it. Many people have their libido tied to their emotions, I think that's a common and normal way of being. She is feeling pressure to prove her attraction to you, but in reality she likely has a very low libido right now and that would be for anyone. I went fully into having the female version of erectile dysfunction. Now, I have an organic attraction to my husband and we get busy all the time, again these are all "LIKELY" temporary due to the circumstances. I am not saying there isn't a lot to unwind and fix in the sex dept for you guys, but it sounds like neither of you want to go back to what it was and I take that as a positive.

-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?

Just about anything that is pointed out. I can't rehash your whole post here for you, but it's led to pretty big fights over what I would consider sound advice, including the big one with me. So much of that was defensiveness rather than really taking in what is actually being said, any time anyone mentions anything about changing your behavior you become a bit indignant or at least it comes across that way. I am by far not the first to point it out. Keep in mind, I don't blame you for that. As I already explained, people in pain act out. So, this is not a character flaw as I already said, it's likely more of a temporary situation based on really big overwhelming emotions. For both of you.

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 agree 100 percent. And, you will have to decide when that is too much. Up until now you have been bent on R, so I am advising you based on that goal. Right now the emotions are high for both of you, and the stakes are even higher. She should absolutely stop being an asshole, but you may have to also stop giving her the emotional pressence (by detaching) because noone thinks you should be a whipping boy.

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

That's where you are wrong. It's easy for me to see certain things from your post, there are common reactions to affairs that most BS share, and WS share too. (Edited for clarity - I don't mean WS and BS are alike, I mean BS have a grouping of common reactions that you see pretty consistently on this site, and WS share a lot of commonalities on how they got themselves into their situation and the stupid things we do after discovery)

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.

I think that's a positive way to look at it. I think she would have a hard time posting here right now however. I think she is still a bit fragile about what is happening. I too posted and left early for a while, I needed to get more of myself figured out. I came back when I was ready and it did help me to suss out my thoughts. Right now, I think it would be better to wait a bit because she is just going to say stuff in here that is going to fan the flames even more for both of you, and right now I think you guys need to move towards calming the situation down a bit and regrouping rather than anything that would make things worse. I joined this site when the affair first ended, posted a few times, felt worse, and I went to IC for two months on my own before confessing. I came back I think 4 ot 5 months later and began posting in earnest. So, I think leave it up to her what tools she finds helpful as long as she keeps working on it.

[This message edited by hikingout at 12:36 AM, Friday, July 8th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6136   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8743744
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Dkt3 ( member #75072) posted at 12:32 AM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Unless your WW is a sociopath, she is capable of empathy. The reality is more likely she can't face that she did this, and doesn't want to be held accountable.

I've made this next comment in the past and its caused somewhat of a distraction on thread, but I believe its pretty accurate most of the time.

Women are basically the primary caregiver in romantic relationships. They tend to have a better feel of its direction and overall health. They usually put in more effort. Because of that investment, they often have a very difficult time admitting that THEY have damaged it.

I personally don't prescribe to the idea of exit affairs. I believe its extremely rare that someone enters an affair truly believing that the marriage or relationship is over. I believe its more likely they enter with the idea that the partners won't find out, or if they do they can manage them. Along the way, specifically for women, they convince themselves the damage is too much to face, that is when the idea of exit becomes a possibility.

I bring this up because I believe that's what your WW is dealing with. I think she is scrambling to find her footing and can't face losing the marriage, but not really interested in saving it because she can't face the damage that SHE caused.

posts: 82   ·   registered: Aug. 3rd, 2020
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hikingout ( member #59504) posted at 12:38 AM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

I agree with this totally, DKT. While I do not like generalizations and do not apply them across an entire gender, I do think there is a majority being represented in your post. At least what you described I can affirm that is a lot of what I experienced too.


Book suggestion for Mrs. SL, get Rising Strong as soon as possible. I mentioned it in my post to her, but this is what helped me out of this specific loop. I wish I read it earlier than I did. It was probably sometime in the early part of year two and so many lightbulbs went off for me. It's a must for all WS to read.

[This message edited by hikingout at 12:40 AM, Friday, July 8th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6136   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8743748
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truthsetmefree ( member #7168) posted at 2:16 AM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

All the time spent talking in circles with her about how I feel was entirely wasted.

This comment is a perfect example why so many of us are telling you to focus on yourself. The fact that you view it this way is also a good example of why you haven’t quite gotten there yet….that you have an ulterior motive in why you are doing what you are doing.

As you make more progress toward this end, you’ll do what you do because it’s the right thing *for you*. It will align with who you are and it won’t matter her response. You certainly won’t feel like it’s a waste.

I don’t point this out, DrS, so that you can argue what you are wanting to see or why you need it. I point this out as an example of why you may not be as clear-headed in this as you think you are. I totally get that you can detach and spend your energy elsewhere - whether that means physically (ie, going out/on trips, taking time away) or emotionally (withdrawing talks, sex, etc). I’ve got no issue if that’s what you feel you need to do to actually protect yourself. But I’m not entirely sure that your intrinsic motive is pure there either. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is often a power imbalance in a relationship after infidelity - especially if the WS is really not wanting to D. Speaking from personal experience, it can be challenging not to wield that - and we may even be unconscious that we are doing that. But in your case, I see this as particularly counter-productive to what you are hoping to achieve; it would certainly trigger old issues with your wife. (As an aside, I also see the "no affair sex talk" as also being a power struggle for you - less so for your wife. Especially given that you indicate that this is not really an issue for you. It seems more an issue that your wife is trying to establish a boundary - and this is one that you feel she is not entitled to based on principle not necessity.)

You’ve seemingly decided that you are going to give this situation X amount of time. So what are you going to do with this time so as not to feel like any of it has been a waste? Again, I think if you could resolve this one single internal issue then the rest of this process will get easier for you. So maybe the place to begin is in just simply recognizing/acknowledging that - despite knowing you need to do this and despite thinking you are doing this - maybe you aren’t doing this as well as you think you are.

We’ve talked about being on the rollercoaster with your wife. But that doesn’t mean you have to experience it that way. Paying attention to that piece is a great way to take your own temperature.

[This message edited by truthsetmefree at 2:19 AM, Friday, July 8th]

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

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RocketRaccoon ( member #54620) posted at 6:38 AM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Have been reading your responses over the last few days, and from your posts, it does look like a base issue of Control is at play.

Your WW not ceding 'control' over the outcome over to you (as it has been mentioned by other posters). She sets boundaries so that she still maintains control. Before she met you, she had total 'control' (even the sleeping with multiple partners over a quick succession during her college days). She was in control of how many, and with whom she slept with.

Her carefree lifestyle was still her own, as she dictated her life choices. She had control.

She pushes back in your 'conversations' with her, like a child pushes back on things, which is sometimes with absolutely no reason but to push back; 'you cannot eat candy before bed because it will rot your teeth', the child will eat candy before bed because the parent told them not to eat candy before bed, and not worry about their teeth rotting. Rebelling without a cause, because by rebelling, they feel that they are in control of the situation.

On your side, you have a curiosity that seems to need to be fed, trying to understand the deeper levels of 'why' from your WW, to keep drilling down deeper and deeper because you still cannot understand it. This could make your WW feel more confused, as she herself has not sorted out her own thoughts yet, and is not really ready to answer you to the deep level you crave for.

That behaviour of yours may exacerbate her rebel-without-a-cause behaviour.

If you really want to get out of Infidelity, start walking your path out of it. If your WW chooses to follow you, she will follow you, as it will be her choice. Right now, with all your conversations with her, it may seem to her that you are trying to influence her choice, which triggers the rebellious behaviour.

If a WS truly wants R, they will move mountains. The BS does not move the mountains for them.

You cannot cure stupid

posts: 995   ·   registered: Aug. 12th, 2016   ·   location: South East Asia
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HellFire ( member #59305) posted at 1:44 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

If a WS truly wants R, they will move mountains. The BS does not move the mountains for them.

THIS.

We told you in your last thread,and this one, that she must do her work. Stop holding her hand and taking the lead. She MUST do that. You once said,if you stopped guiding her through it,she wouldn't do it. Part of your work is to get ok with that. If she fails,she was going to eventually fail anyway,even with your guidance.

Also, I believe your wife is capable of empathy. But is she capable of being empathetic towards you? History says no. Can that change? That's up to her.

posts: 4495   ·   registered: Jun. 20th, 2017   ·   location: The Midwest
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lparistotle ( new member #78629) posted at 5:44 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Dr. Does your WW still read this thread? If so, this is as much for her as for you. Is one of you trying to sweep this udner the rug and to do so must start setting boudaries as to what and when things are discussed. Certain topics are now off limits with time parameters?. Is that why the seperation outburst came up? Seems one is willing to work but understands this betrayal and the other is tired of trying to figure out why this happen and what about them thought it was OK to start. No justification can explain this type of betrayal to the BS and to the children you share.
Is also seems your WW wife wanting to meet the friend wants to see how much damage she has done to her image outside of the immediate family. That is my opinion and something I would do just to see what others think of me after my world blows up.
Seperation may be the best but this type of betrayal will be part of both of your pasts for the rest of your lives as well as your childrens lives. Strangers are talking about it as another family was impacted by a serial cheater who conficed a WW that what they was doing was OK or the other way around.
If the WW and AP cared so much for their kids then they would not have snuck off and let other trusting souls cover for them and maintain a loving family for the kids while they were not there for their kids.
Your wife should really think on that and the type of person the AP is and was. She became the same typ of person. She may still be in the fog and that is why she wants to limit the discussions. She needs to deal with this on her own and not bury it in the sand. This will not go away. Part is now part of her DNA and is out in the open.

posts: 12   ·   registered: Apr. 8th, 2021   ·   location: US
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 7:03 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Thank you all for the posts. I'll do my best to work through and respond. First I'll give an update.

Yesterday I had shared the first couple of posts from HikingOut with my WW as historically she's appreciated her perspective. In the evening, my WW asked if she could talk with me, noting that she read through the posts I shared and written some notes. We spoke with her largely commenting on how well she related to what HikingOut wrote.

I reaffirmed my position with her: that sharing my feelings with her was not working for me as it was clear she was incapable of being empathetic toward me. I have seen all I need to see regarding her inability to empathize with me and the person she is now is not a person I can build a new relationship with.

The conversation went well though--I could tell she was in control and I recognized it was unlikely for the conversation to go off the rails. She was attentive, focused and seemingly determined to have a successful interaction.

She asked if we could pause for the night after about 40 minutes and she went off to bed, so she still had more notes we can go through another time.

At MC today, I came out fairly strong, acknowledging where we are currently and suggesting I stop volunteering how I feel as it has been unproductive; also suggesting we stop having sex. The MC thought I should keep giving my WW opportunities to succeed and fail rather than detaching, but I disagreed. I think this is a good time to take a break and reset.

We can focus on ourselves and we do our separate vacations. Then we come back in two weeks and see how we feel and take stock of where we are. We have our next MC session set for Friday, July 22, so that will be a good opportunity to check back in. I made it clear to both my WW and the MC that I wasn't angry or hateful toward my WW, just disappointed and sad and that I needed a break from her treating me so poorly. She has lots of work to do on her own and I want to let her focus on that.

My WW appeared largely overwhelmed in the session. She feels like she's failing and she's clawing at the walls trying to prove that she is making some progress and can continue to get better. I can tell she's terrified of me just standing up and telling her she's out of time. To avoid that happening faster than I want, I need these two weeks for my own mental health.

The MC kept the session largely focused on my WW and how critical it is for her to learn to express empathy for me; the MC's point was that *everything* else falls under that umbrella--all the issues my wife kept trying to pivot to (sex, money, etc.) would become much easier for her once she empathized with me. My WW shared some of the recommendations she received in IC and the MC agreed she focus on them.

I feel ok now. A bit calmer and clearer. I'm happy to listen to my WW should she have more thoughts or comments to share; I also have no issue sharing space with her. I have been carrying a lot of anger for her over these last few weeks due to my disappointment in how she's been handling all our talks. I feel that has washed away a bit. I'm looking forward to a fun weekend with the kids (likely going to the beach tomorrow and taking my son to see Thor on Sunday) and then finishing up several work projects early in the week before I head off to Italy.

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 7:31 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

And I am telling you that when someone is in pain they will act out - both the WS and the BS will. And she has and you have. She doesn't know how to assert herself but she is being told in IC that is part of her issue.

Agreed, but her acting out in this case may directly lead to the end of the relationship she claims to be trying to save. I can't determine how she acts or how long it takes her to figure out her behavior is unacceptable, but I have no fear that I haven't done everything I can to convey how I feel and what I expect from her. Her ability to change in time is on her.

I don't think you want power at all. I think you need to find your own power in the situation, and you are giving it to her. I think she is doing the same. I don't think that's the only control you have in the situation either, but you will have to decide that for yourself.

That struck me a bit. My power and control is divorcing her. I feel that. I can walk anytime I want and do so largely guilt-free (not something I could have done at the start of this). I made a commitment to myself at the start to give her time to correct her behavior to see if I can build something new with her that I could be proud of. In large part, that's to maintain my family unit and give my kids the best chance in life I can. Without kids, I don't think I'd be in the M still.

So while I stay, I don't feel in control and I don't feel powerful. So perhaps you're right, I'm giving my power to her right now. In many ways, I feel like she's in control because her behavior *may* ultimately determine my next step. But I have accepted that--it's my promise to myself and my children. I also don't feel entirely powerless and out of control because at any point I can snatch it all back, stand up, and walk into the next chapter of my life without my WW.

This is why I think MC is completely a waste of time and money, there is no way to work on this relationship right now. It's in limbo. She is limited right now in what she can do because she has to come to some understanding of her own behaviors instead of reacting constantly. Proactive versus Reactive. AND YOU are in the same exact boat.

I don't have an answer right now, but I haven't looked at MC as us working on the M thus far. I've looked at it as us dissecting the issues keeping us in limbo. MC gives us a chance to set the table with facts we both agree on and then letting the MC dive in. It hasn't felt unproductive and my guess is that without it we'd be in worse shape. I suppose the counter argument, is that if we fail, it may have only prolonged that outcome. But if we're going to credit it for prolonging a bad outcome, we could also agree it had the possibility of saving our relationship.

I didn't say it was objectionable. I don't even think you are purposely doing anything, I don't think you are a bad person or husband. You are in a place of deep pain and you don't have as much control over your own agency as you believe you do. Multiple people here have talked to you directly about the ways you give mixed signals, including me who outlined just a few in my last post. What Sunny mentioned too, while I don't take her full perspective by any means, what she is saying is we can read you oscillating continually, that's a mixed message. I do not think anyone has control over that this early out. We are giving you things to think about but you meet it each time with defensiveness. You probably do not have the emotional space for it now, too many fires on the stove. It's the same for your WS, she is continually oscillating. People in pain tend to do that, because everyone is looking for the button to stop it. It's not postive or negative, it's just part of the process.

I'm still not sure what you're specifically referring to in terms of mixed signals. I'm not asking to pick a fight, I'm asking because I want to address any non-ideal behavior I may be exhibiting in interactions with my WW.

Just about anything that is pointed out. I can't rehash your whole post here for you, but it's led to pretty big fights over what I would consider sound advice, including the big one with me. So much of that was defensiveness rather than really taking in what is actually being said, any time anyone mentions anything about changing your behavior you become a bit indignant or at least it comes across that way. I am by far not the first to point it out. Keep in mind, I don't blame you for that. As I already explained, people in pain act out. So, this is not a character flaw as I already said, it's likely more of a temporary situation based on really big overwhelming emotions. For both of you.

I'm sorry you feel I've been indignant. I don't think our conflict was the result of me poorly reacting to sound advice (*I should have divorced my wife years ago*), but I also have no desire to rehash that again. I am open to hearing specific criticism on other issues where I've been defensive or indignant.

I agree 100 percent. And, you will have to decide when that is too much. Up until now you have been bent on R, so I am advising you based on that goal. Right now the emotions are high for both of you, and the stakes are even higher. She should absolutely stop being an asshole, but you may have to also stop giving her the emotional pressence (by detaching) because noone thinks you should be a whipping boy.

From a macro view, I don't feel "bent on R," but I do recognize that the possibility or R is the reason I'm still living with my WW. I'm exploring that as a possibility right now largely because I feel like once I'm pursuing D, I'll have no interest in any of this anymore.

I think that's a positive way to look at it. I think she would have a hard time posting here right now however. I think she is still a bit fragile about what is happening. I too posted and left early for a while, I needed to get more of myself figured out. I came back when I was ready and it did help me to suss out my thoughts. Right now, I think it would be better to wait a bit because she is just going to say stuff in here that is going to fan the flames even more for both of you, and right now I think you guys need to move towards calming the situation down a bit and regrouping rather than anything that would make things worse. I joined this site when the affair first ended, posted a few times, felt worse, and I went to IC for two months on my own before confessing. I came back I think 4 ot 5 months later and began posting in earnest. So, I think leave it up to her what tools she finds helpful as long as she keeps working on it.

Agreed, if she comes back to SI, it will and should be on her terms.

[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 7:43 PM, Friday, July 8th]

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 7:50 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Unless your WW is a sociopath, she is capable of empathy. The reality is more likely she can't face that she did this, and doesn't want to be held accountable.

I've made this next comment in the past and its caused somewhat of a distraction on thread, but I believe its pretty accurate most of the time.

Women are basically the primary caregiver in romantic relationships. They tend to have a better feel of its direction and overall health. They usually put in more effort. Because of that investment, they often have a very difficult time admitting that THEY have damaged it.

I personally don't prescribe to the idea of exit affairs. I believe its extremely rare that someone enters an affair truly believing that the marriage or relationship is over. I believe its more likely they enter with the idea that the partners won't find out, or if they do they can manage them. Along the way, specifically for women, they convince themselves the damage is too much to face, that is when the idea of exit becomes a possibility.

I bring this up because I believe that's what your WW is dealing with. I think she is scrambling to find her footing and can't face losing the marriage, but not really interested in saving it because she can't face the damage that SHE caused.

I think that's very fair. My WW had no expectations of managing me finding out, but she firmly believed I never would. I think that perspective makes me more angry. They're both arrogant, but to set forth with such a horrific plan with the best-case scenario of carrying it to your grave is so morally abhorrent.

I agree with this totally, DKT. While I do not like generalizations and do not apply them across an entire gender, I do think there is a majority being represented in your post. At least what you described I can affirm that is a lot of what I experienced too.

Book suggestion for Mrs. SL, get Rising Strong as soon as possible. I mentioned it in my post to her, but this is what helped me out of this specific loop. I wish I read it earlier than I did. It was probably sometime in the early part of year two and so many lightbulbs went off for me. It's a must for all WS to read.

She's starting Rising Strong. It seems like a good choice for our two week break, so hopefully she finds the time to finish it on her vacation.

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 8743924
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sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 8:07 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Then why am I telling her how I feel? What is it accomplishing?

Well, what is it accomplishing? You know better than anyone here knows. You know better than your MC knows. Are feeling worse about yourself and your W truly the only results? Are the results you've gotten the end results, or do they fit into ulterior motives?

It's only exposed her lack of empathy further.

What's your definition of empathy? (This question comes better late than never, IMO.)

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?

Exactly. IMO, the value placed on the M during an A is of little to no moment. It's up to the BS to decide how to respond to the WS's actions, no matter what the BS thinks the WS thinks.

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

I'm going to explore that in IC today.

Hint: strength and weakness lie in the resources you bring to bear on the problem, how you bring them to bear, and how you make your decisions, not in what you do. You can R or D or wait and gather more info from weakness, from strength, from a combination....

If you analyze your sense of weakness or humiliation, you'll understand that you're responding to your own internally generated self-talk. Change your self-talk, and you'll change you perceptions of yourself and of the world.

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?

IDK. When my 97 year-old, living-on-her-own Mom fell and lay on the floor for 18 hours, my W stepped up without delay. I didn't feel much about her response, though I did think that I made the right choice to go into R. I felt very sad for my Mom, angry at her because she could have prevented the fall and the delay in help arriving, and scared about her future.

People respond to infidelity in many ways. Although there are patterns, each of us is unique. The same stimulus evokes different responses in different people. That's so even though most of us probably think at least some of our responses are universal. At most, responses are 'almost universal'.

Affects seem to be universal, but we each process our affects in our own ways. Given the variation in responses, one has to conclude that we have some control over our feelings.

I care about my WW, so her lack of empathy hurts.

'I care about my W' implies empathy, so I expected something like, 'so I have some empathy/sympathy for her.' Instead, you say that you care, so the she should be empathic in return.

I care about my W without regard to what she has done or is doing or will do. Of course, if she attacks me long enough, I might stop caring, but the caring is much, much more about who she is than about what she does. My caring is a gift; I expect no return. You do.

If I want something from my W, I usually ask for it. Sometimes I ask non-verbally. Sometimes I ask passively or passive-aggressively (though I stop if I realize that's what I'm doing). Sometimes I ask by competing for the Victim position in a Drama Triangle (though I stop when I realize that's what I'm doing). But I don't associate my caring for/about her with wanting something from her.

Come to think of it, focusing on you includes separating the 2 drives (caring and wanting).

*****

Some reactions ...

...but I don't think they're all that awful, outside our sex life issues.

What popped into my mind was, 'Aside from that, Dr. Strangelove, what do you think about the doomsday machine?'

Her world view is very self-centered, entitled and victimized.

And where are your other fingers pointing?

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.

 You complained about her drinking. Then you told us how you suggested wine when she was under stress. That's a mixed signal, one that fits right into Drama Triangles and co-dependence.

Note that people adjust to each other. Your W's behavior fits in with yours; yours fits in with hers ... your sexual fantasies, your support of her dysfunction, your claim that you want her to change without actually requiring her to change, your ways of controlling her, your ways of controlling yourself, your choices of what to notice and what not to notice....

IDK ... start with a complaint. Identify your own contributions to bringing the complaint to live in your life. Figure out what you can change to fix the complaint. Figure out if you're willing to do what needs to be done....

Or start with a want - what can you do to get what you want? What are you willing to do?

You have a lot to examine. What keeps you from seeing that? That, too, is a great question for IC.

she doesn't have to line the floor with hot coals on my path to heal.

They're metaphorical hot coals. You avoid them by taking your own path - focusing on your self.

It is ultimately on my WW to change or not change.

Your healing ultimately depends on your changing yourself.

BTW, if she gets herself healthy and you don't do the same for yourself, you won't be able to R.

[This message edited by SI Staff at 8:16 PM, Friday, July 8th]

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.

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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 8:28 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

This comment is a perfect example why so many of us are telling you to focus on yourself. The fact that you view it this way is also a good example of why you haven’t quite gotten there yet….that you have an ulterior motive in why you are doing what you are doing.

That's interesting. So I'm talking with her largely because I want to know if I can identify signs of empathy for me; to see if there's a chance to move forward with her in a new relationship. Thus far, I haven't seen signs from her that she's any more empathetic now than she was when she was sending me nude photos of herself from AP's hotel room in February. So in that sense, all the conversations this passed month about my feelings and my search for empathy in her have not been of value--had I not had them, it would be the same.

I don't think I have an ulterior motive; I feel clear on the motive. Early on, my conversations were largely about my healing--I wanted answers to questions to better understand the A and her badmouthing. Truthfully, she handled those conversations much better, but her lack of empathy was less of an issue because I wasn't being as vulnerable as her. With that dynamic swapped, her lack of empathy has been glaring.

As you make more progress toward this end, you’ll do what you do because it’s the right thing *for you*. It will align with who you are and it won’t matter her response. You certainly won’t feel like it’s a waste.

Telling her how I feel has not been of much benefit to me, so it's not an action I'm taking for myself, it was an action I was taking at the direction of my MC and one I was utilizing to look for empathy. The other things I'm doing are more for me, and I don't regret those.

I don’t point this out, DrS, so that you can argue what you are wanting to see or why you need it. I point this out as an example of why you may not be as clear-headed in this as you think you are.

I often don't feel clear-headed, but through various therapy sessions and writing here, it helps provide me clarity.

I totally get that you can detach and spend your energy elsewhere - whether that means physically (ie, going out/on trips, taking time away) or emotionally (withdrawing talks, sex, etc). I’ve got no issue if that’s what you feel you need to do to actually protect yourself. But I’m not entirely sure that your intrinsic motive is pure there either. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is often a power imbalance in a relationship after infidelity - especially if the WS is really not wanting to D. Speaking from personal experience, it can be challenging not to wield that - and we may even be unconscious that we are doing that. But in your case, I see this as particularly counter-productive to what you are hoping to achieve; it would certainly trigger old issues with your wife. (As an aside, I also see the "no affair sex talk" as also being a power struggle for you - less so for your wife. Especially given that you indicate that this is not really an issue for you. It seems more an issue that your wife is trying to establish a boundary - and this is one that you feel she is not entitled to based on principle not necessity.)

That made me think a bit, so I'll do my best to unpack it all.

I've made two decisions to withdraw: emotionally and sexually.

Emotionally, I'm withdrawing because opening up emotionally has been unproductive. I think it's that simple. I don't feel opening up to her tonight would be productive, so why not wait a couple of weeks before I consider attempting it again?

Sexually, I'm less clear. Am I punishing her by physically detaching? Am I protecting her by not putting her in a position to feel compelled to be sexually available for me (after all, it's one of my requirements for R)? Or am I hurt by knowing she has forced herself to have sex with me on occasion when she hasn't wanted to do it and I don't like how that makes me feel? Am I preventing her from gaining control by pleasing/soothing me through sex?

I haven't resolved an answer, but it does feel in my gut like the right thing to do--perhaps for all of those reasons. Maybe that's a topic I should have explored more in MC; or maybe even a discussion with my WW--the issue is I don't trust her on the topic. Ultimately, I just really don't want to be having sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex with me, so lumping it in with my two week reset for now seems reasonable.

As for my approach being counterproductive to what I'm trying to achieve, can you expand on that? I'm trying to achieve a mental break right now and giving her the space to focus on herself. Why is my emotional and physical detachment counterproductive to that?

Lastly, her "no sex talk" boundary felt unemphatic to me. It was her focused on what she needs regardless of what I may or may not need. Was I wielding power by rejecting her boundary? Only if we assume it wasn't a real boundary to begin with--meaning, my WW didn't impose that rule with the expectation that she'd die on the hill for it. That's not much of a boundary; seems to me more like a selfish request that I denied. She accepted that denial and we moved on from it. If anything, it was her testing *her* power and control and me not giving up the ground.

You’ve seemingly decided that you are going to give this situation X amount of time. So what are you going to do with this time so as not to feel like any of it has been a waste? Again, I think if you could resolve this one single internal issue then the rest of this process will get easier for you. So maybe the place to begin is in just simply recognizing/acknowledging that - despite knowing you need to do this and despite thinking you are doing this - maybe you aren’t doing this as well as you think you are.

We’ve talked about being on the rollercoaster with your wife. But that doesn’t mean you have to experience it that way. Paying attention to that piece is a great way to take your own temperature.

Again, I don't think I'm doing well. This sucks and I'm miserable. I'm working on healing myself while I look for proof of life from my WW. I'm just taking a break from the search for life for now.

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 8:40 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

If a WS truly wants R, they will move mountains. The BS does not move the mountains for them.

I agree. I need to see more from her to commit to R. Not just a little more--a lot more.

I do recognize small improvements and it's possible she's building the foundation of greater change to come. We'll see.

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 8743927
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 8:43 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Dr. Does your WW still read this thread?

She claims she no longer reads the thread. Historically, she has come to the threads when she's in a negative spiral--a manic search for information. I don't believe she has any mechanisms in place to prevent her from doing that again.

If the WW and AP cared so much for their kids then they would not have snuck off and let other trusting souls cover for them and maintain a loving family for the kids while they were not there for their kids.
Your wife should really think on that and the type of person the AP is and was. She became the same typ of person.

She recognizes that and has disgust for both herself and AP--though interestingly the disgust for AP came first, many months ago; the disgust for herself is stronger, but more recent.

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 8743929
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 Drstrangelove (original poster member #80134) posted at 9:09 PM on Friday, July 8th, 2022

Well, what is it accomplishing? You know better than anyone here knows. You know better than your MC knows. Are feeling worse about yourself and your W truly the only results? Are the results you've gotten the end results, or do they fit into ulterior motives?

As I mentioned in a previous post above, I have been trying to tell her how I feel this passed month. It has been met with no empathy. The result is that I don't feel it's accomplishing anything and I've decided to pause it.

I think the "ulterior motive" in this case was the search for empathy--I started telling her how I felt without a motive; only a direction from MC. I quickly discovered her shocking lack of empathy.

What's your definition of empathy? (This question comes better late than never, IMO.)

Her ability to understand my feelings.

Exactly. IMO, the value placed on the M during an A is of little to no moment. It's up to the BS to decide how to respond to the WS's actions, no matter what the BS thinks the WS thinks.

Her lack of value in our M is significant though. I cannot build a new relationship and continue this M if I'm confident that the M doesn't hold value for her. If she feels an A is ok for X reason, it's not a relationship I can continue. She's making the argument that she can change and I'm looking to see that change in her. My response will be determined by who I think she is.

IDK. When my 97 year-old, living-on-her-own Mom fell and lay on the floor for 18 hours, my W stepped up without delay. I didn't feel much about her response, though I did think that I made the right choice to go into R. I felt very sad for my Mom, angry at her because she could have prevented the fall and the delay in help arriving, and scared about her future.

People respond to infidelity in many ways. Although there are patterns, each of us is unique. The same stimulus evokes different responses in different people. That's so even though most of us probably think at least some of our responses are universal. At most, responses are 'almost universal'.

Affects seem to be universal, but we each process our affects in our own ways. Given the variation in responses, one has to conclude that we have some control over our feelings.

I'm very sorry about that incident with your mother. I'm not sure you answered my question though. If your wife showed no concern for your mother, I'd think that would affect you. If not, we can agree to disagree. It would affect me. I want to be in a relationship with someone that cares about me and my family. That is part of love, in my view.

'I care about my W' implies empathy, so I expected something like, 'so I have some empathy/sympathy for her.' Instead, you say that you care, so the she should be empathic in return.

I care about my W without regard to what she has done or is doing or will do. Of course, if she attacks me long enough, I might stop caring, but the caring is much, much more about who she is than about what she does. My caring is a gift; I expect no return. You do.

That struck me. I care bout her, so I'm disappointed in her seeming lack of care for me. Do I expect her to care for me? Yea, I sure do--that's the whole love and marriage thing. I find it more interesting that you don't expect your wife to care about you--I don't think that's a scenario I envy.

If I want something from my W, I usually ask for it.

I want empathy from her. I have asked for it.

The better question may be why I want it from her as it's never something she's given me before really. I *think* I need to see it from her to feel safe again. My thoughts on this are that during her A she didn't care or empathize with me, so if she can demonstrate a consistent ability to empathize with me now, maybe I'll feel comfortable moving back toward the M with her. Without empathy, I suppose I'd need another way for me to feel safe in a relationship with her--I don't know what that might be right now.

What popped into my mind was, 'Aside from that, Dr. Strangelove, what do you think about the doomsday machine?'

Touche, and that's fair. My point is that my WW has *major* boundary issues in virtually every area of her life. Me being better off than her doesn't say all that much and it still leave me with plenty to work on for myself.

And where are your other fingers pointing?

I'm not claiming to be a perfect person, but I do feel I'm a *better* person than my wife. I can define "better" to suite my argument perhaps though.

You complained about her drinking. Then you told us how you suggested wine when she was under stress. That's a mixed signal, one that fits right into Drama Triangles and co-dependence.

I don't recall precisely what you're referring to, so I hesitate to disagree. I'm confident in my disagreement only because I never cared about her not drinking; I only cared about her agreement to stop drinking that she broke. It wasn't an alcohol issue, it was an integrity issue. And we resolved that with her agreeing to not having more than two drinks a night--so perhaps I offered her wine after that resolution and that's what you're referring to, but I'm not sure.

Your healing ultimately depends on your changing yourself.

Can you expand on that?

BTW, if she gets herself healthy and you don't do the same for yourself, you won't be able to R.

I'm not concerned about getting myself healthy. I think I'll get there with or without my wife. Perhaps you feel that's hubris; I feel I've seen enough in these four months to know I'll be alright with time and continuing my work in IC.

[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 9:11 PM, Friday, July 8th]

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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truthsetmefree ( member #7168) posted at 4:17 PM on Saturday, July 9th, 2022

You have so much input here to respond to, Dr S, that I literally do not know how you are managing to keep up; it’s impressive.

I don’t want to add more to that and my posts usually end up being longer than I intended. I know you are appreciative and I think both of those things (responding and being appreciative) is why you have generated such a "following". But it also presents a bit of a challenge because it seems to create/fuel a "can’t see the forest for the trees" situation. I can pull out from any of the responses (yours or others) to serve as examples (ie, trees) but the bigger point seems to be consistent through all of the responses in what we are all largely trying to tell you - and it seems to be missed in the details/examples.

Let me try with a different approach.

I think the core issues we are working with here are authenticity (your own growth) - and vulnerability (how you feel about your wife’s responses). So let’s just talk about these two things: authenticity and vulnerability. They are not mutually exclusive…but they don’t have to be interdependent. Until we can manage our own internal relationship between authenticity and vulnerability, we often find ourselves in situations having to prioritize one over the other. This is where I see you as now being. Divorce = authenticity. Vulnerability = potential reconciliation. And not knowing which one to prioritize based on your wife. That’s why it fluctuates from day-to-day, experience to experience. You can’t control your wife - her thoughts, feelings, needs, or responses - so you feel stuck, grappling for answers, insights, advice…and just waiting, potentially "wasting time"…because nothing in your current situation is consistent.

But there is a way out of that aspect that you can be working on now…and that will serve you no matter the outcome of your M. There is a way that you are neither passively waiting OR (potentially) wasting time. The umbrella term for that is "focus on yourself" - and it’s why you are hearing that so much.

Authenticity is knowing who you are at your very essence - independent of external circumstances. Most of us have no clue who we really are until we have been thrown into the fire. Much of our choices and behaviors are not born out of sheer authenticity; they are usually a result of trying to balance authenticity and vulnerability. We have what we think, feel, want, and need - but we have learned how to temper that with what we think we will get in return (based on our life experiences). We have also learned coping skills to get those things recognized while limiting our sense of vulnerability (by using less direct - less authentic - methods that we have found successful in the past). (And as an aside and further example, this is one reason why the problems in your M pre-affair were more “acceptable” - you thought you had achieved that authenticity/vulnerability balance…until the affair blew up the vulnerability component.). Most of these "skills" begin in childhood and will quietly follow us throughout most of our lives. We aren’t even necessarily aware of them…and especially if these "skills" protect us from feeling vulnerable. (They help us to create that balance between authenticity and vulnerability.)

But let’s talk about vulnerability. What is at the heart of feeling vulnerable? What causes us to feel it? Is it really vulnerability…or is it some response we are hoping to get/avoid? And if it’s the latter, who determines the meaning, the value, of that response? More importantly (and most likely more internally) what is the meaning behind the meaning of that determination? As an example, what is the meaning behind your wife’s lack of empathy toward your feelings? You seem to have that answer…but have you dug deeper within you to determine the meaning behind the meaning that you are assigning? What is it that makes you feel your authenticity was wasted time?

The way to balance the authenticity vs vulnerability is not through less authenticity. It’s to go into the deep valley of your own sense of vulnerability. To not base it on someone else’s response (or lack of) and instead to develop your own understanding of exactly what and why you are feeling vulnerable. It’s to be authentic, whole and true independent of anyone else or their responses.

If who you are is based on anyone else’s response or opinion you are neither authentic or vulnerable. You are functioning in degrees of each and negotiating (and in many cases even manipulating).

Focusing/working on yourself involves two awarenesses:

Authenticity - To get in touch with who you truly are through self-honesty, reflection. Seems simple on the surface and most of us think we have a good grasp on that. We usually don’t…and admitting that is usually the first step toward that awareness. Our own internal landscape has to become the primary focus…and that’s really hard to do when we are constantly looking at what someone else is doing.

Vulnerability - We have to become willing to be uncomfortable. We have to become willing to not know outcomes. We have to give up the many ways we have tried to control others so as not to feel vulnerable ourselves. Ultimately, this is not resignation - though that’s how many of us first come into this. It’s going deep into our many wounds and actually cleaning them out. It’s a process of coming to genuinely love and value ourselves - beyond how others think, feel, act. Our sense of vulnerability is tempered by our own relationship with ourselves - not by limiting our authenticity with others.

What does this mean in layman’s terms? Stop basing your behavior (and feelings and needs) on your wife’s. When you feel vulnerable don’t go into the relationship deeper with her - and don’t necessarily pull back. Instead use that sense of vulnerability to go deeper into the relationship with you. Don’t just look at the meaning you assign to your wife…look at/for the meaning behind the meaning you are assigning from within.

We have spent pages looking at your wife’s behavior and your responses. We have tackled issues from the perspective of what you should or shouldn’t do - and subsequently how your wife has responded. We’ve made a shit ton of assumptions. To some degree, this is insanity because it’s not ever getting deeper than the surface. It’s why control and manipulation has been such an ongoing theme. Control and manipulation are are at the root of trying to balance authenticity and vulnerability. I clearly see that as being true for both you and your wife. You guys think you are working on authenticity and vulnerability…but you can’t genuinely get there because you are still primarily focused on how the other behaves/responds.

There’s another way, DrS - and this is what’s trying to be said by "focus on you". It’s not behavior based…not trips to Italy, not dinners out, not sex/no sex. Every bit of behavior - hers or yours - is a road sign on your own internal landscape. Change your focus.

Look at your motives, look at her behavior…but then take all those thoughts and feelings about it inward. What are you doing? What are you hoping to achieve by doing that? Why do you need that? And then…why do you need that? Follow that “why do I need that?” question deeper and deeper.

[This message edited by truthsetmefree at 4:39 PM, Saturday, July 9th]

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

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