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Cognitive Dissonance vs Duplicity

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 6:21 PM on Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

First post that wasnt a response to anothers. My betrayal is old....years ago. You can read a thumbnail description in my bio. I underwent years of therapy to deal with both the trauma and my anemic, rugsweeping response to it that set me up for a decade of pain, heartache and failure. Ive come to grips with my FoO issues. Ive built a great life with my new spouse and am thankful for the progess Ive made.

I hadnt thought of my betrayal for a long while until I hit a hugely traumatic trigger that brought back those memories and some of the old questions came roaring back and started haunting me again. Kind of splinters of the mind that never really go away. One of the biggest questions that arose from those terrible days which brought me back looking for answers here and elsewhere is the one alluded to in my post title and that is, how do you reconcile the concepts of duplicity vs cognitive dissonance? Is it one or the other? Is it both? Which comes first? How do they relate? If both, which is causative?

As a backdrop to this, my understanding of the two is that cognitive dissonance is in the psychological/psychiatric realm with a strong emotional component as the driver(?) whereas duplicity is intentional unethical behavior with the purpose of deceit. Ive leaned toward infidelity being solely duplicitous but the more I hear and research these subjects, the more I wonder if Ive missed the boat and have been face to face with CD and didnt recognize it. If that is the case, where did I go wrong and how does it dovetail with duplicity? I see it as a pretzel and my head hurts.

Ive discussed this at length with another BH and he is all in on the concept of CD, telling me that the mind is extremely intricate, that there are all kinds of overlaps, its not linear (I am a VERY linear thinker), and when you combine that with a flood of new feelinggs and physiological factors like hormones and neural chemistry, you can develop CD. Ive discussed this with my wife and she believes much the same.

So, I know this is a bit cerebral but I am looking for clarity. I have appreciated and learned so much from veteran posters here,both BSs and WSs, and would appreciate your input concerning, what is for me, a very thorny and painful subject.

[This message edited by DobleTraicion at 6:24 PM, Tuesday, August 16th]

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 1:19 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

BS here.

I think most of cheating follows happens without the express intent of cheating. I think any cheater that is "R material" will not have originally intended to cheat. This is a personal opinion, and could be shaped by my own experience.

"Not Just Friends" describes very well how a friendship or other relationship turns slowly into an affair. You end up around someone you find interesting and attractive, and you hit it off. It a gentle ramp and I would argue it doesn't have a simple break point where it becomes and A, though certainly we can see after the fact that it has become an A. This is what allows the non-intentional cheater to walk down the slippery slope into an A. Now, once the fuzzy boundary has been crossed, not only is everything after an A, everything before it becomes questionable.

Was the kiss when the A started? Well something had to build up to that point right? or was it just a spark in the moment?
Was the first solo outing when the A started? Did they go to lunch intending it to be a date? or was it a normal lunch with a friend?
Was the admission of attraction when the A started? Did they mean to act on it? or are they just a person that give a lot of compliments?
Was the flirting when the A started? Who flirts without meaning something by it? or is it just playful fun?
Was the first personal message when the A started? Why would they start messaging, except to start a relationship? or is it just normal to text your friends?

I think many people end up in proto-affairs that they prevent from going anywhere through solid boundaries. They go on solo outing with a friend they find attractive, but they keep their spouse informed and never make a move (even if they consider it, or consider the possibility of it). They put themselves in a precarious position that if they got drunk, or maybe if just the other person would make the first move, could immediately become an A. Are they deceiving themselves? "I can keep it together, I can manage this friendship, these feelings will pass and I just won't act on them". And many people end up being totally right. They can handle it, and "nothing happens". The fact that they were three beers and one kiss away from starting an A doesn't even register.

But once it's crossed over, all cheaters, jump straight into deception. Deception of themselves and deception of others. The specific lies they tell will vary to some degree, but it's lies all the way back to the first time they did something they know they shouldn't have. It's the choosing to do it at the very beginning that is closer to failed impulse control than to deception. Once they have started down the path though, it often becomes it's own self justification to continue. "Well I already kissed her, seems like if I'm gonna cheat I might as well be in it to win it. We already did it once, it's not like the number of times matters now. As long as BS doesn't find out, I can just end it whenever. You know, I work hard and have done so much for my family, I deserve something just for myself." Stuff like this.

Obviously, this all goes out the window if the person registered for an infidelity site, or went clearly seeking an A. Going to singles bars and taking of their ring. Lying about where they were before the friend to affair transition has occurred. That's a whole other world of shit.

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 2:28 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Thanks for the well thought out cogent reply This0is0Fine. I tend to agree with your description. I guess where I struggle is in the area of intentionality. I get the small steps toward the "slippery slope" and finally getting to the point of no return. I wrestle with the "autopilot mode" I read WSs describing during their affair. Seriously? Are the blinders THAT powerful??? I know that this discussion could take us down the "affair fog" lane as well and Im not sure I want to go there although I can see its clearly related.

Using your first description, not the ring-abandoning-looking-for-a-hook-up type of affair, when does the morality/ethics switch turn off and morph into cognitive dissonance? Where does intentional duplicity begin?

Case in point, part of the reason I have delved back into this arena is due to a horrendous event that took place some time ago where I lost a friend to suicide due to infidelity. It was horrible, heartbreaking and a HUGE loss. And for WHAT??? This person was good looking, accomplished, a top performer at work with the income to match, well liked, great spouse and kids, and it all went up in flames.

When they were in deep, they would ask my opinion and I advised them to stop, to bail, to come clean, to work on themself and do their best to work toward true remorse and make ammends. This otherwise logical, methodical, intelligent, do-the-right-thing, marriage and family loving individual seemed in an altered state of consciousness. I could not get through to them. Hell, I couldnt even make a dent. BUT, when the reality of the fallout hit, it all imploded...marriage, family, career, AP, all gone. It was all too much for them and they resorted to self deletion. So I ask again, where did the switch flip, and, what more could I have done/said to get through to them in that state? I used the morality/ethics argument to try and reach them, when maybe I should have discussed their altered state of mind and how out of character it all seemed.

Hope I didnt ramble too much. Thanks again for listening.

[This message edited by DobleTraicion at 9:05 PM, Wednesday, August 17th]

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 6:45 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

I really do think there comes a "point of no return" where it has crossed into affair space. At this point they are in an A right. If you end an A what do you get? Nothing you still have to lie every day that it didn't happen. If you stay in it you get continued attention, illicit sex, and fun. This could be considered justifying further violations by thinking of the previous or just an extension of the concept. I'm not saying it isn't objectively better to stop and come clean, and better yet to never cheat. I'm saying in the mind of the cheater it's like, "well I'm already guilty of cheating, it's not like stopping will make me innocent, so why not indulge a little".

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

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icytoes ( new member #79512) posted at 9:42 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

I believe cognitive dissonance and intentional duplicity are both present from the very beginning before the affair is fully underway. The potential cheater tells themselves, "I am a good and moral person who would never cheat on my spouse" as they begin to hide texts and flirtations from their spouse.

And then during the affair they purposefully don’t think about what they are doing because the cognitive dissonance is too great between their actions and their beliefs about themselves. This is the "autopilot mode" you refer to.

Eventually they change their beliefs about infidelity and convince themselves it is acceptable in their unique situation. Throughout all of this they are lying to themselves and everyone else.

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icytoes ( new member #79512) posted at 10:50 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Also, I don’t know that there is anything you could have said to your friend to get them to stop the affair. Most people will dig in their heels and cling to their position more strongly when confronted with evidence that they are in the wrong.

[This message edited by icytoes at 10:54 AM, Wednesday, August 17th]

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 12:07 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Thank you This0is0Fine and icytoes for your responses. Gives me more to chew on and process. My thoughs on the CD as it pertains to infidelity is that the cheater MUST minimize the fallout and impact of the affair in their mind in order to continue with the behavior, which in reality is monstrous with possible catastrophic results, kind of a "firewall" of the mind" but when that firewall fails due to real world results, the shock is debilitating, sometimes fatally so.

I want to throw in a wild card here to see what you think. This gets to the nature vs nurture debate as it pertains to cognitive dissonance and duplicity. I have long thought that much of the capacity for this behavior is due to a lack of maturity in the area of ethics and morality due to a developmental gap in their upbringing. Family of origina issues are discussed much here and on other forums but Id like to use a finer tooth comb and zero in on a developmental gap in the natural growth of the individual through childhood and puberty which is when moral/ethical bounderies are (should be) taught and emulated by those in parental roles. When this vital component is missing due to trauma and/or neglect, a developmental gap is formed that may not necessarily show up for years, but when it does....BOOM. This may be too convenient and an oversimplification as I know of people whove had great upbringings (attested to by other siblings) that've done terrible things in their adult years, but still, coukd be a contribiting factor.

Thoughts?

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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The1stWife ( member #58832) posted at 1:13 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

I completely disagree on your last post.

Cheaters know right from wrong for the most part. Just like you know if you cheat on your diet you won’t lose weight. But you give in to the "want" or make the choice to eat the chocolate cake even though you know it’s not the right decision.

It’s making the selfish choice that is the issue. A cheater knows they should not cheat but they do it anyway. There are a million lies they tell themselves like "we are friends" or "it’s an innocent lunch".

Yes all those "innocent" encounters you don’t tell your spouse about and lie to yourself about.

Yes people grow up in dysfunctional homes and really bad environments. However - it’s not an excuse or reason to continue to lie and cheat.

My dad grew up with an alcoholic serial cheating parent. He’s not an alcoholic and he never cheated on my mother. I have many siblings. No one ever cheated on their spouse either. We just knew it was wrong. And not tolerated either.

Survived two affairs and brink of Divorce. Happily reconciled.

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ISurvivedSoFar ( Guide #56915) posted at 1:28 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

I actually think there are two types. There is the person that slips into infidelity. Let me qualify that by saying the individual at some point knows there is a line to cross and they allow themselves to cross it. It's like someone trying an illicit drug for the first time - they know it is potentially dangerous and then convince themselves it will be okay. At some point the line is crossed knowingly but perhaps they don't set out to cross it initially.

Then there is the other - the serial cheater looking to bolster their ego. In that case it is duplicitous.

Can there be a mix of the two? I suppose of course there could.

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.

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mommabear1010 ( member #79915) posted at 4:56 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Yes people grow up in dysfunctional homes and really bad environments. However - it’s not an excuse or reason to continue to lie and cheat.

100% AGREE!

Especially when we're dealing with ADULTS in their late 20s, 30s, 50s and beyond WS absolutely know right/wrong, and consequence of their actions. My feeling is either:
1. They don't care and fee entitled to their affair (my WH)
2. They don't think their BS will actually leave...probably rug sweep, be in the dog house for a bit, slap on the wrist and move on (again my WH)

Dday- 1/19/22
Trickle truth
Dday2- 2/8/22
Dday3- 3/10/22
Divorcing

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 6:04 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

On lunch break typing on my phone so bear with me.

Thanks for the input. This is helping me dial in a better understanding (I think).


"Yes people grow up in dysfunctional homes and really bad environments. However - it’s not an excuse or reason to continue to lie and cheat."

I agree with this. There, are no excuses for a betrayal-by-adultery that is infidelity. My thought, however, was that the developmental gap can result in a predisposition which acts as a "chink in the armor" or "blind spot" so to speak so that when the conditions arise, it makes it easier to slide down the slope.

The hole in this argument, as I see it is that there are people who enter into affairs whove had stellar upbringingings with NO apparent developmental gap, just fell prey to the sheer temptation of it.

[This message edited by DobleTraicion at 7:00 PM, Wednesday, August 17th]

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 6:08 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Tech question, how do you use the quote box application?

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 6:36 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

"It's like someone trying an illicit drug for the first time - they know it is potentially dangerous and then convince themselves it will be okay. At some point the line is crossed knowingly but perhaps they don't set out to cross it initially."

I have thought of this as a parallel too. Ive had experience with drug and alcohol addiction in close family members and have talked extensively with psychiatrists and doctors specializing in substance abuse/addiction and its very sobering (pun noted, but not intended). Using your analogy, there are people that use an illicit drug, or even alcohol, and after the first hit(s)/drink(s) it creates a neural pathway that avoids the logic center of the brain and goes right to the pleasure center. Ive actually seen the before and after brain scans and they are pretty scary. The more this pathway is used, the more entrenched it becomes. Ive long wondered if the parallel held with short term affairs that end because of being caught, LTAs and serial infidelity. This doesnt hold for everyone Im sure, but for many it may. Some of the language used by waywards is the same as in, "it was a high", "my A was my drug", etc.

There is a saying amongst addicts and alcoholics that is an eye opener, "One is too many, ten is not enough".

[This message edited by DobleTraicion at 8:52 PM, Wednesday, August 17th]

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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icytoes ( new member #79512) posted at 6:42 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

For quotations:

Copy and paste whatever you are quoting into your post.
Highlight the text you are quoting.
Click on the quotation marks provided. It will show the html symbols before and after your text, which will show up as a quote box once you post the message.

I hope that makes sense.

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 6:59 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Thanks icytoes!

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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icytoes ( new member #79512) posted at 8:18 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

I am really interested in everything that has been brought up in this thread. I agree with The1st Wife that cheating really comes down to selfishness.

I don’t know the research into the childhood development of morality/ethics, but now that you mention it I am curious to know more.

Obviously, children are going to learn how to act, how to cope, how to resolve problems, how to communicate, and whether or not it’s safe to be honest in their childhood environments. All of which I imagine will play some role in whether or not they are susceptible to cheating later in life.

Regardless, I hesitate to blame parents, because our childhood environment is so much greater than just our parents. And the best parents can have a difficult child who defies them at every turn.

I am especially curious about how the cheaters who intentionally set out to cheat could be so selfish and devoid of empathy. How did they get that way? Maybe they did miss out on a crucial stage of development like you suggest.

No answers here, just more questions.

[This message edited by icytoes at 10:43 AM, Saturday, August 20th]

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 9:12 PM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

"Also, I don’t know that there is anything you could have said to your friend to get them to stop the affair. Most people will dig in their heels and cling to their position more strongly when confronted with evidence that they are in the wrong."

Even though they asked for my input, I could tell I was getting nowhere. I hit a brick wall. Possibly because they didn't get from me what they wanted to hear and were hoping Id just agree? I was stunned.

Given their level headed history, I now think I was staring cognitive dissonance right in the face.

[This message edited by DobleTraicion at 9:25 PM, Wednesday, August 17th]

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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Seeking2Forgive ( member #78819) posted at 1:22 AM on Thursday, August 18th, 2022

DobleTraicion, I'm sorry for all you've had to go through. Life isn't fair. I'm sorry for the loss of your FWW. I hope you found some peace with her at the time but I'm sure that the fact that there is nobody to answer your renewed questions makes things that much harder.

Our stories are very similar although I'm fortunate to still have my FWW. For me it has been nearly 20 years since Dday. The trigger for revisiting everything was finding some old files combined with my sense that as we approach our golden years, these are not the fond memories that I signed up for.

This seems to be a common theme these days - BSs backsliding after many years. My opinion is that it's the result of a lot of IC and MC practices that encouraged rug sweeping and minimizing and failed to deal with the real impact of betrayal trauma. I think this is doubly true for those who are either codependent or have fear of abandonment based on past trauma.

I'm not sure that I follow how you're using "cognitive dissonance" here. Normally, I hear cognitive dissonance described as how one perceives information that is contrary to what they believe to be true. So that and duplicity are slightly different in nature - perception vs intent.

If what you're asking is whether they understand the wrong of what they're doing and still somehow manage to perceive themselves as justified or "a good person." I think the answer is absolutely yes. They know very well what they are doing is wrong but at the same time they use a whole litany of lies and mental tricks to justify it to themselves. They amplify their unhappiness and blame it on their BS. They project their unhappiness and unlovingness on their BS. And they compartmentalize it all so that they're not struck about the shame of what they're doing any time they're fully intoxicated with limerence.

Of course, if you flipped it all around on them and said that you were unhappy, and they hadn't been loving, yadda, yadda, yadda, and you had an affair, would they think, "Well, fair enough." Of course not. They know it's wrong.

When we're fortunate and the IC/MC doesn't validate some version of the unmet needs fallacy, the WS should rightly look for answers on what personality or emotional flaw led them to betray a loved one. Often these reasons are just one degree separated from the unmet needs fallacy. It's still an unmet need driving them, they just cross out the part where its your fault for failing to meet it.

But we all have unmet needs. So the real question is, why did they feel justified in betraying a loved one that they swore fidelity to in order to pursue some perceived need? Isn't the answer selfishness? Selfishness allows them to apply completely different standards to themselves than everyone else.

Me: 60, BS -- Her: 59, FWS -- Dday: 11/15/03 -- Married 37 yrs -- Reconciled

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 DobleTraicion (original poster member #78414) posted at 2:59 AM on Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Thank you all for posting. The contributions here have been very helpful in my quest to think more critically about this issue. For the sake of this discussion, this is the reference definition Ive been using for cognitive dissonance:

"Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress people feel when they hold two contradictory ideas in their mind at the same time. When the ideas have ethical dimensions, this discomfort is called moral dissonance.

Most people think of themselves as ethical. But studies show that most people also frequently lie and cheat in ways they would not want others to know about or see. This conflict between their moral self-image and their immoral actions creates cognitive dissonance and most people (consciously or unconsciously) want to resolve this psychological discomfort.

Ideally, people will settle the conflict by stopping their unethical actions and living up to their own (good) self-image. But more often, people resolve the dissonance by finding ways to think of themselves as good people while continuing to do bad things."

Whereas one definition for duplicity is:

"Duplicity comes from a Latin word meaning "double" or "twofold," and its original meaning in English has to do with a kind of deception in which you intentionally hide your true feelings or intentions behind false words or actions."

DobleTraicion, I'm sorry for all you've had to go through. Life isn't fair. I'm sorry for the loss of your FWW. I hope you found some peace with her at the time but I'm sure that the fact that there is nobody to answer your renewed questions makes things that much harder.

Thank you for that and for your further insights Seeking2Forgive. Its true that not being able to address these things with my first wife, has made this harder in a way. The recent trauma of the loss of my friend was, as I said, the impetus for me to dig deeper. I have also had to help a child through the trauma of infidelity so this thing has reared its ugly head with me and my immediate circle. Ill never get complete resolution, I know, but I want a deeper understanding which is why I came here.

Ive read much from both BSs and WSs about cognative dissonance. Most of the WSs input that I read did NOT use cognitive dissonance as an excuse to shield them from responsibility (if remorseful), but DID absolutely affirm the role it played in their affairs to some extent.

When I started grapling with this, I was a clear proponant of infidelity being a cut and dried act of intentional duplicity and that cognative dissonance was just a fancy way term to try and wrangle out of responsibility. Im not completely there anymore. I am leaning more toward icytoes statement where they said this:

I believe cognitive dissonance and intentional duplicity are both present from the very beginning before the affair is fully underway. The potential cheater tells themselves, "I am a good and moral person who would never cheat on my spouse" as they begin to hide texts and flirtations from their spouse.

And then during the affair they purposefully don’t think about what they are doing because the cognitive dissonance is too great between their actions and their beliefs about themselves. This is the "autopilot mode" you refer to.

Eventually they change their beliefs about infidelity and convince themselves it is acceptable in their unique situation. Throughout all of this they are lying to themselves and everyone else.

[This message edited by DobleTraicion at 3:03 AM, Thursday, August 18th]

"You'd figure that in modern times, people wouldn't feel the need to get married if they didn't agree with the agenda"

~ lascarx

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Seeking2Forgive ( member #78819) posted at 6:23 AM on Thursday, August 18th, 2022

Thanks for that clarification. I understand what you mean and I think what I wrote above applies.

I have long thought that much of the capacity for this behavior is due to a lack of maturity in the area of ethics and morality due to a developmental gap in their upbringing. Family of origina issues are discussed much here and on other forums but Id like to use a finer tooth comb and zero in on a developmental gap in the natural growth of the individual through childhood and puberty which is when moral/ethical bounderies are (should be) taught and emulated by those in parental roles.

I think there may be some of that, but I never would have married someone who seemed to lack maturity in morals or ethics. My W grew up in a church family and had a very strong sense of right and wrong. She did lack some maturity but we met and married relatively young.

One of the popular cliches from IC and MC that I think minimizes the seriousness of infidelity is this idea that "they're not a bad person, they're a good person who made bad choices." That may be true of someone that kisses a coworker at a party, for example. But at some point when a person engages in a full-blown affair, with all the betrayal, lies, and deceit that go with it, they become a bad person. Their moral compass goes completely askew. Whatever it is that they're getting from the A becomes like a drug and like an addict there's almost no limit to how low they'll stoop to get it.

But at the same time she was cheating, my FWW wouldn't tolerate any impropriety or deceit toward her from others. That's the selfishness. And I think understanding the root of that selfishness is one of the things that any WS should be looking to get to the bottom of.

I get why WSs don't like to think that they were bad people. It seems like a harder path back to redemption than just saying that you made bad choices. But bad people can redeem themselves and become good or return to being good. You just have to do the hard work.

One of my big discoveries in this was realizing that at the time, I didn't want to accept just what a bad person the woman I loved had become. So I rug swept it after getting little information. In the process, I made almost as many excuses for her as she made for herself. It's only now after digging into the true ugliness of the details that I feel like I'm finally dealing with it properly.

Me: 60, BS -- Her: 59, FWS -- Dday: 11/15/03 -- Married 37 yrs -- Reconciled

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