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Wayward Side :
Self-adulation/validation in affair

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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 7:02 PM on Thursday, June 9th, 2022

I am going to try and share this to be helpful to other waywards. It is not my intention to excuse anything, nor is this anywhere near the whole of the problems. More, I am trying to illuminate one single aspect of what I think is a driving force common in affairs. And I realize, this is not true in all affairs.

Self- adulation. The Ap is your audience. Most of the time that is their value. They are there to validate this experience that you are really just having with yourself.

I will share how this was relevant in my situation because it’s the only experience that I have and I think it’s the only way I can illuminate the thought further.

When I started my affair, I could not have told you why. If you asked me I would tell you I had a good husband, a good marriage. Affairs are not often about that, it’s about the relationship you have with yourself. I never thought about that to even understand mine was lousy. I mean externally, I presented as a woman with everything. Surely if I was doing something wrong it would show up in my ability to be what people thought of as a successful person with a successful marriage and great kids.

The problem is to get those things I basically self abandoned. People pleasing. Playing a role. Hiding behind perfectionism. These are false ways we prop ourselves up and they are so flimsy. We never feel worthy of our blessings this way.

The appeal of the affair is almost never the actual appeal of the AP. The appeal the AP has is they don’t know you (at least not as well as your spouse). So you can present yourself in a new way.

But there is no foundation for that "new way", what we often do is fall back to who we were at a younger age. Suddenly we can go back to that time and pretend we are a cooler, hotter, more interesting version of ourselves. But it’s just another role, another round of pretending because we really do not know at all what we want or who we want to be.

The appeal is in that AP doesn’t question it. They are often in that same space. And it’s a cop out. Hiding in this pretend version of yourself so you can prop yourself up to be what you "once were".

Often I think this is why it’s easy to rewrite the marriage. You are so busy pretending to be this new awesome person that the marriage doesn’t fit your narrative. Who you are with your spouse is really the true you. But you don’t like that life you are living. It’s easy to pin the blame of that on your spouse - covenient. It allows you to maintain your narrative about this new person you are pretending to be.

This takes numbing, and that removes empathy. For some of us we never had it, for others like myself we busted it by self abandoning for so long. How can we care about the feelings of others when we don’t even know how to do that for ourselves any more?

Look at your affair. What did you care about most, talk about most? Often it’s ourselves. The value of the affair partner is that all the sudden you are shucking all you responsibilities, and hiding from who you are and the affair partner is validating that. Mostly because they are doing the same thing and not paying all that much attention to you either. Both of you are just scrambling to get good feelings.

And honestly they become the person most central to you because without them you cannot hide. You need their validation taht you are all these things you think you should be in order to be happy.

I think as ws, the biggest part of our work is to realize that we were in control the whole time. This person we don’t like and this life we are leading is not satisfying because we haven’t made it that way. It is our core belief that isn’t something we do. We find someone who does this for us.

Until you take the time to see this self adulation is false, that really all you did was create another addiction to hide in, you can’t begin seeing that your life always was what you made it to be.

It was not your wife or husband that made you lose your sparkle. It wasn’t the Ap giving you a new sparkle. It was you and only you the whole time that was in control of that. And all this play acting is because you haven’t sat with yourself and decided you are worthy of your own pursuits that light up your life in a healthy way.

Chances are you don’t even have the first clue of what would light you up because you have looked for your light in others for so long.

I think this is the core of our work- getting honest with ourselves on what it is we want out of life and finding healthy ways to make that happen. But to do that you have to let go of the idea that something or someone else is going to do that for you.

Looking back, I can finally have compassion for myself. It’s no wonder I wanted to blow up a life that was no longer tenable to me. Realizing it wasn’t tenable to me because of my internal world and not my external world was years of slowly growing accountability. Years of showing up for the hard stuff so that I could finally learn to be confident in myself - to fully know I got myself in any situation.

There is no knight in shingling armor, only you can save you.

And years later I can tell you though at the time it seemed to be miserable, hard work. Years of self loathing, shame, and then turning to very intentional experiments that often failed. Understanding myself was the keys to unlocking where I really wanted to go, who I wanted to be, and building a life that I love.

We learn to love and respect others by doing that for ourselves. What we have we give easily, willingly, and with joy. If we have compassion for ourselves, we have it for others. If we take care of ourselves we don’t feel lack when we take care of others. We easily give it because we have it in spades and a never ending fountain of it that comes from the way we conduct our lives.

The affair isn’t that. The affair is self adulation of this idealism we have of who we can be and it’s about as shallow as a mud puddle. It mostly takes us back to our teen years again, and that’s how we act. We don’t have a true sense of self, we only know we were having more fun at that time. In our life so it’s our default.

Who we grow to be can be so much richer, more peaceful, more abundant. Why would anyone want to go back to the way they were as a teenager? No rational person would choose that.

To pretend means to turn off the parts of ourselves that doesn’t fit whatever narrative we are trying to achieve. So pretending to be a dutiful wife with no important needs of her own was the first act of driving myself into the ground. The second act was burying myself to do things I knew was wrong but felt temporarily much, much better. I simply ignored ll bad feelings and chased good. The Ap was my enabler, my audience, the one who wanted me to stay in that state so they could as well. But it brought me even further from myself, deepened my pain and my shame, the climb was astronomically harder if I would have done it without having had the affair.

Lies. All of it is lies. The only way to find the truth is to create a momentum of truth. Moment by moment, day by day, your task is to find your truth until that is the fountain that flows naturally and abundantly. We can’t get real with anyone until we get real with ourselves. Most of us are terrified of what that looks like so we continue down the path of hiding and staying in the lies.

The AP is not the love of your life. They are your dopamine hits and if you are honest they are interchangeable.

Your spouse doesn’t exist to make you happy to to make you the highest version of yourself. That is your job.

If you are not granted the miracle of reconciliation it is not a statement of your worth, it’s a statement of your past/current actions. If you are granted that chance or find yourself in a subsequent relationship you would like to not mess up, then take the time to really get to know yourself. Take stock. Then decide where you want to be and act accordingly. Self adulation is not self worth.

Playing a role to find self acceptance can feel neat and tidy but the beauty of being messy and allowing yourself to explore your truth will bring you to a place of solidness, rather than lack and always reaching.

The key to all of it is inside of you. Be brave enough to fail 1000 times, because each time you will get closer to what you are trying to achieve. But you have to do it for yourself and not to get someone else to do something.

When we live authentically it’s much easier to correlate our external world with something we deserve. It’s our own accomplishment and that feels far less empty than the void we were trying to get others to fill in those blanks for us.

[This message edited by hikingout at 2:29 AM, Friday, June 10th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6083   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8739379
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emergent8 ( member #58189) posted at 11:44 PM on Thursday, June 9th, 2022

Really (really) great post HikingOut - and I appreciate the irony of my adulation smile

Me: BS, Him: WS. Mid-late 30s.
Together 15 years, married 6 (11 m at D-Day).
D-Day: Feb 2017 (8 m PA with married COW).
5 years (and two toddlers) into R. Happy.

posts: 947   ·   registered: Apr. 7th, 2017
id 8739441
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Drstrangelove ( member #80134) posted at 12:53 AM on Friday, June 10th, 2022

That’s an excellent post—thank you for taking the time to share that.

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: 652   ·   registered: Mar. 23rd, 2022
id 8739454
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Tanner ( member #72235) posted at 3:12 AM on Friday, June 10th, 2022

This is an excellent post and explanation. As a BS I gave the AP way more thought than I should have. I imagined Fabio on the cover of a romance novel, having great gymnastic sex with my WW. Imagined her running into his arms an she just falling into them.

Ummm no, it was awkward and full of anxiety. He was overweight, full gray and had ED. He was right place at the right time. She has told me many times he played a role in her fantasy and she could really never get fantasy and reality match up. She was chasing something within her she was never going to get externally.

Dday Sept 7 2019 doing well in R
BH 55 WW 48 M 31 years, 4 kids 2 grown 2 grandkids

posts: 1516   ·   registered: Dec. 5th, 2019   ·   location: Texas DFW
id 8739466
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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 5:50 AM on Friday, June 10th, 2022

Tanner-

It’s natural to focus on the Ap as a bs. I did that with my husbands even though I logically knew it really had nothing to do with her. She was accessible, convenient and willing. No different than me, the ap in my situation, etc. like I said in the original post - interchangeable.

Ummm no, it was awkward and full of anxiety. He was overweight, full gray and had ED. He was right place at the right time. She has told me many times he played a role in her fantasy and she could really never get fantasy and reality match up. She was chasing something within her she was never going to get externally.

Yes, describes my situation to a T. It doesn’t negate what I did, but it does explain a lot surrounding the inexplicable behaviors and the choice of AP’s. Down deep I knew, I just could not admit it to myself or the "specialness" would evaporate. Plus I had dug a hole so deep that I didn’t want to face anything.

If someone told me this prior to my experiencing it I would not believe them. When you dig deep on the subject, it’s easy to see that there is a common psychological response in having an affair - ws share a lot of the same behaviors. This is what it took for that "specialness" to begin to evaporate for me.

I know what I was feeling and thinking at the time but I can’t relate to it. It was so delusional, careless, disgusting, sad, etc. I have boiled some of it down to it didn’t matter who it was - that person was an audience, and enabler, a perpetrator, and was using me for the same self adulation. And you can paste that description to most any affair situation that you see on this site.

Thank you emergent, and Strangelove. I am hoping secondary to helping waywards figure this out more quickly than I did that it helps bs understand why it’s not about them.

Being unhappy as the ws is a ME problem first and foremost. Sure, every marriage can probably use improvement. You won’t find it by cheating. You get improvement by admitting there are things to work on, communication, sometimes even leaving and taking some space. I was unable to do that because I didn’t want to "mess up a good day". So stupid when the truth was by not doing that I messed up a lot of years instead.

[This message edited by hikingout at 5:52 AM, Friday, June 10th]

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6083   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8739485
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ZenMumWalking ( member #25341) posted at 8:10 PM on Friday, June 10th, 2022

What did you care about most, talk about most? Often it’s ourselves. The value of the affair partner is that all the sudden you are shucking all you responsibilities, and hiding from who you are and the affair partner is validating that.

Exactly. With AP there is no mortgage, child duties, etc. It's all 'my spouse doesn't understand me' and 'you really GET me'...... validation, just like you said.

Thank you so much for sharing this detailed and insightful post, I think it speaks to both WS and BS. I know in my case it took me a very long time to truly understand, internalize that none of it was about AP (or me for that matter). It was about how WH felt about HIMSELF, and for him to get the dopamine hits externally that he was not able to provide for himself.

((((hikingout))))

Me (BS), Him (WH): late-50's
3 DS: 26, 25, 22
M: 30+ (19 1/2 at Dday)
Dday: Dec 2008
Wanted R, not gonna happen
Used to be DeadMumWalking, doing better now

posts: 8443   ·   registered: Aug. 28th, 2009   ·   location: EU
id 8739676
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ISurvivedSoFar ( Guide #56915) posted at 1:17 PM on Saturday, June 11th, 2022

Excellent post as always HO!

I can actually identify with everything you say - losing myself in my children and propping up my husband rather than filling my own cup so that I can be a much better and more giving parent and spouse. Looking for validation extrinsically and not being evolved enough to realize I needed to find it intrinsically. Needing to feel attractive and wanted like when I was younger. I get it all and have lived it too.

I also understand that space my WS occupied. And I KNOW the A wasn't about me per se. However, when in that situation I found I stopped myself because I thought of him, what it would do to him and my family if I was unfaithful. I played it out and realized it was unfair to foist that kind of disruption to the folks I loved the most. That is to say, the boundaries existed from the thought processes that life is not just about me.

That's when it becomes so personal to a BS. Why didn't my WS have those thoughts too? Why wasn't I (and the children) important enough in his mind to stop before inflicting the ramifications of infidelity on everyone? Where did we play in the thought process that allowed him to take that leap?

That's the rub I think for many of us. Early on I knew the problem was with him - and it gave me a lot of relief. But that leap was taken and still sticks. We just weren't important enough to overcome that need for extrinsic validation.

I think this post will be so helpful to so many and thank you!

DDay Nov '16
Me: BS, a.k.a. MommaDom, Him: WS
2 DD's: one adult, one teen,1 DS: adult
Surviving means we promise ourselves we will get to the point where we can receive love and give love again.

posts: 2815   ·   registered: Jan. 15th, 2017
id 8739724
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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 4:31 AM on Sunday, June 12th, 2022

That's when it becomes so personal to a BS. Why didn't my WS have those thoughts too? Why wasn't I (and the children) important enough in his mind to stop before inflicting the ramifications of infidelity on everyone? Where did we play in the thought process that allowed him to take that leap?

Yep. I know this post doesn’t answer to the other character flaws that we have that creates a different decision than a bs with other similarities would. The whys can be quite voluminous.

My intention with the post is to mostly dispel notions a ws has about their AP. It takes a long time
For some to see how the Ap is a figment of their imagination.

But I think the answer is clear that when one cheats on their spouse they don’t consider them at all. For many, like myself, I resented my husband. Those resentments were mine, created by a lack of communication and lack of any real relationship with myself. I wanted him to be able to know what to do to make me happy even though I had limited understanding of what that meant. I wanted out of the marriage and just didn’t have the balls to say it.

It was only after long introspection did I understand getting out of the marriage wasn’t going to do me a bit of good. I would have only gone on to look for the same things in another person with no introspection over the responsibilities I have to myself. I would have a very hard time ever finding anyone with the qualities and compatibility I have in my husband, and my life would have always been far less without him.

You can have the worlds greatest spouse and family and be terribly unhappy, and do it for years. But it’s you that didn’t take time to be grateful, to work on yourself or your relationship, to gain a bigger perspective. Ws lack integrity, boundaries, emotional intelligence and a whole host of things that need to be worked on. They won’t do it as long as they think there is a magical answer in someone else. We have to try and dispel that first, especially in the addiction mode many come to us in (and some won’t admit it publicly in the forum)

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6083   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
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sundance ( member #72129) posted at 3:09 PM on Sunday, June 12th, 2022

hikingout: But I think the answer is clear that when one cheats on their spouse they don’t consider them at all. For many, like myself, I resented my husband. Those resentments were mine, created by a lack of communication and lack of any real relationship with myself. I wanted him to be able to know what to do to make me happy even though I had limited understanding of what that meant. I wanted out of the marriage and just didn’t have the balls to say it.

hikingout: When I started my affair, I could not have told you why. If you asked me I would tell you I had a good husband, a good marriage. Affairs are not often about that, it’s about the relationship you have with yourself. I never thought about that to even understand mine was lousy. I mean externally, I presented as a woman with everything. Surely if I was doing something wrong it would show up in my ability to be what people thought of as a successful person with a successful marriage and great kids.

These two things seem to contradict each other. Do you believe your resentment of your H came before or after you started your affair?

As to your relationship with yourself, are you saying you were presenting a fake "you" to the world, and because of the world's acceptance of the fake you, that it gave you a false belief that you could do no wrong?

Moreover, did you have a friendship with your AP prior to the affair? Or, did you "hunt" your AP with the sole purpose of getting your need for validation met?

Trying to gain an understanding of how this all fits with your belief that

The Ap is your audience. Most of the time that is their value. They are there to validate this experience that you are really just having with yourself.

-- Are you saying your AP was of value to you because he helped you believe the false version of yourself (??).

Rusty: You scared?
Linus: You suicidal?
Rusty: Only in the morning.

posts: 135   ·   registered: Nov. 21st, 2019   ·   location: USA
id 8739847
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Notaboringwife ( member #74302) posted at 4:20 PM on Sunday, June 12th, 2022

Oh wow! thank you for posting about self adulation...many helpful insights!

I would like to add that sometimes the conversations between the WS and AP are about shared interests…yes they do talk about one another but in the context of shared interests, as during my husband’s affair, it was their travels and yoga and heavy drinking. Shared interests, both parties engaging in self-adulation and in my case both functional alcoholics.

My husband after three years in R, is just starting to understand what was going on in his mind and how warped/destructive his thinking and behaviours were to me, our families and to his AP who became his partner once he abandoned me for her.….and he is so ashamed. So very ashamed.

We are both working stuff out, each differently and at a different pace. We do it for ourselves.

We validate our marriage. We recognize our differences. We celebrate our simple things in life...like hot dogs on the BBQ last night just the two of us.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Separation after D-Day March 2019. Re-united June 2019. Me: Late 60's. Him: Late 60's.

posts: 297   ·   registered: Apr. 24th, 2020
id 8739853
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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 4:44 PM on Sunday, June 12th, 2022

Sundance- valid questions as I did use myself as an example for the discussion, but I was trying to illuminate some common concepts I feel exist in a lot of affairs. It took me so long to figure it out I was hoping that this would serve as breadcrumbs for someone else.

My resentment was unrealized. I buried my feelings a lot due to poor self worth. I was a martyr in our marriage while he did mostly what ever he wanted with his time and energy.

Yes, I presented myself as perfectly as I could but I don’t think I was intentionally not being authentic. More I think I didn’t have my own fully formed identity. A large part of My identify was based on who I thought I was supposed to be in the roles I played. I did whatever I thought I needed to be liked or loved because I couldn’t possibly be just loved for me. I worked too hard to make everything perfect so I could deserve love. The more I did this the less "me" was there. Self abandonment to the point of feeling like I didn’t matter.

If I had too many needs or complaints I felt like I would lose my husband. So it started by pushing them down, and by the end it was more like lack of awareness they were even there. But I also had no understanding of how to have hard conversations, I only knew how to be passive aggressive. Since that was not well received I often felt shut down. I have learned to be more tuned in to what I need and have learned to ask for what I want and have seen it’s as easy as that now. Seems simple but it wasn’t for me.

H really had no idea. I now know that there is plenty of room for me in this relationship too.

But what I was trying to assert in my post was more that a big portion of affairs is about self adulation. The ap is just an audience that validates that experience for you. Much easier to believe you are "special", cooler, sexier, more charming or whatever if there is someone validating it.

The appeal wasn’t in him, it was in trying to revert to a prior version of myself when things was easier, more fun, and etc. To escape this hell I hate created for myself. Basically acting like a teenager with no responsibilities.

Often people report that the ap is someone who is not an appropriate match even if you were single. So true here. Where is the appeal? We just project a bunch of false narratives on them so that we can believe they are special enough to make us special for them looking our way.

My AP was way too old for me, a serial cheater, and sometimes not even very nice to me. I am not alone in that sort of thing, I see it all over this site. Why would I have been so willing to throw away everything for someone like that? Because he was my willing audience ready to give me applause and a place to hide.

The ap was someone I knew, so no I don’t think I was consciously out seeking an affair. I think it was more I was ripe for anything that would change the status of my current life because I had created a world I was very unhappy in. And just like when I married my husband, I was looking to be saved by someone else. I have had to learn that I am the person who saves me, who makes sure I am happy, etc. My husband is my love and companion, not someone to do that for me.

Anyway, I know this isn’t true in all affairs, but there is enough I read about here that it’s common enough.

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6083   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8739856
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 hikingout (original poster member #59504) posted at 4:49 PM on Sunday, June 12th, 2022

Notaboringwife-

Shared interests, yes for sure. But it’s another way of showcasing how awesome you are to them. It’s just a tool.

When my affair started I didn’t know we had shared interests. But any we had became accentuated very very quickly. I think also some people meet through hobbies so the shared interest is a way to justify talking with that person at first.

Sure, we had shared interests and talked about them but only to the extent that I could come off as having great taste in music or whatever. It’s another way that we make the whole thing seem special. I agree it’s an aspect of the bonding or making each other feel like you are more compatible than you are.

5 years of hard work
Reconciled
WS & BS

posts: 6083   ·   registered: Jul. 5th, 2017   ·   location: Arizona
id 8739857
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sundance ( member #72129) posted at 5:21 AM on Monday, June 13th, 2022

hikingout,

thanks for taking the time to answer my many questions.

and while i don't see myself, my M, or my A in the same way that you describe feeling about yourself, in your M, or your A (at least in this thread), i don't disagree that many WSs are seeking validation.

also, there was a point you made in this thread, that reminded so very much of Laura McKowen's words:

"Things like approval seeking, people-pleasing, not voicing my opinions, and avoiding conflict at any cost — these were all dishonesty masked as something sweeter and more socially acceptable." ― Laura McKowen, We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life

Rusty: You scared?
Linus: You suicidal?
Rusty: Only in the morning.

posts: 135   ·   registered: Nov. 21st, 2019   ·   location: USA
id 8739927
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Notaboringwife ( member #74302) posted at 1:18 PM on Monday, June 13th, 2022

hikingout,

Thank you for sharing your experience about common interests..it is a different angle worth noting.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Separation after D-Day March 2019. Re-united June 2019. Me: Late 60's. Him: Late 60's.

posts: 297   ·   registered: Apr. 24th, 2020
id 8739944
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