First, let me say that most of us are talking from well beyond where you are in this process. Where you are is perfectly "normal" and as we all keep saying, you really are doing amazing. We say it because most of us were not anywhere near as effective as you in refusing to accept the worst of a wayward’s reaction to being caught in the web that they’ve spent a lifetime spinning. So even though we’re telling you what you may not be ready to hear, you really don’t have to make any huge decisions right now, or take any advise you’re not ready for. Some of us (present company included) took years to get as much clarity as you seem to have instinctively. That will serve you well. Have patience with yourself. You’ll get where you need to go.
But it won’t be where you wish or want to go because that doesn’t exist anymore. It will be something new, but, judging from how strong you are, it will be something that is yours and of your choosing. That’s really important after having all your choices and agency taken from you for so long.
As SicTransitGloria asked, what does doing your best to save your marriage mean? Does it mean pretending that he hasn’t done what he has? Helping him snow you again and hide from his own shittiness? Become his rescuing angel by sacrificing yourself?
Your WH was more right than he knew: he DOES need your help. He just doesn’t need the help that he thinks he needs. What you are doing right now is actually the help he needs. If he has ANY hope of ever becoming a real human being instead of maintaining all of the facades that he’s been projecting for a very long time, the ONLY thing that will work is for you not to throw him a life preserver, rugsweep, enable, or otherwise excuse, comfort, or ignore who he really is and what he’s really done. The ONLY thing that will work is for him to take full responsibility for his life, for his issues, for fixing his own shit, and for supporting the people that he’s devastated by not doing that before now.
This is his hard road to walk alone. He may not choose to do so.
Anything less will involve you taking on his burden and trying to fix him. That. Doesn’t. EVER. Work. The love of a good woman doesn’t mend his brokenness. If it did, he’d already be there, right? Because he’s had that all along. It’s not about YOU trying harder to take care of this giant, destructive toddler who refuses to own his shit and grow up. You aren’t his mommy. You clearly don’t have the answer to his problems because again, you’ve been there loving him all along. You loving him harder and trying harder to fix him Will. Not. Help. Anything.
And I can sadly tell you that while you are putting your energy into trying to save him from himself, your son will be learning a lot that you don’t want him to about women’s and men’s roles and responsibilities, how men treat women, how women suck it up and take it. I know this from devastating experience. None of what they learn from a broken, manipulative lying wayward is healthy, well-adjusted behavior.
You know all of this. You’ve been instinctively refusing to take responsibility for his shit and comfort the person who destroyed your marriage and your son’s happy family. You’re just still trying to bargain everyone’s way out of this no-win shit sandwich that he has made for all of you. We’re all so, so, so familiar with where you are right now. It takes so long for your brain to stop running from one horrifying detail to the next.
It takes so long to stop your brain from racing and cycling through possible courses of action that salvage the nuclear devastation of everything that was most sacred and treasured to you. (and honestly, I don’t know if it’s possible to ever stop looking back and trying to figure the solution that salvages your family, your marriage, your dignity, the future that you had planned for yourself and your family, even when you have long since accepted that it isn’t possible).
The worst of this is that it is truly the no-win, no good solution scenario if your WH isn’t ready to COMPLETELY, and I do mean completely, rework his brain and the way he has operated in life. Even is he’s willing, he is obviously amazingly adept at lying to himself and thinking in highly disordered ways about everything. That is something that is almost impossible to fix, and it is completely impossible if the WH doesn’t have complete acceptance and remorse for the heinousness of a million decisions that have led him here.
It is completely impossible if the WH can’t accept complete responsibility for everything that he has done to all of you.
It is completely impossible if he isn’t able to care or even conceive of anyone’s suffering but his own.
It is completely impossible if he doesn’t desperately want to really look at what he’s done and devote his every energy to fixing himself and becoming a safe, actual human being for himself and others.
Has he even shown a glimmer of any of that?
Believe me, I so know what it’s like to look at the person that you’ve completely entrusted with you and your children’s well-being and see a total monstrous stranger. I know very well how disorienting and shattering that is, and how much your brain and your heart fight not to believe that the person you knew is still in there just waiting to be found and help you with the horror that you’re living. And I know that it’s excruciatingly hard when that person becomes a pitiful child of a victim that makes you feel responsible and pushes every compassionate button you have. I know how mean you feel when he cries and wallows in shame and just wants you to take responsibility for making him feel better about himself like all of his AP’s have done too. Remember that: you’ve been one of many whose purpose in life was to make him feel like a good and lovable person.
I say to you from my own sad experience that it’s possible to waste years waiting, hoping, and convincing yourself that he’s "trying" and that it’s really hard but he’s making tiny progress. It’s possible to force yourself to see hopeful signs in gestures that are only manipulations and lies and testing to see what small, meaningless pretense you might accept. It’s possible to be fooled again because you so want to believe.
Years. Your son is living his childhood right now. It will go by much more quickly than you want it too. You have already said it, so I know you know it better than I did: your energy shouldn’t be poured into trying to save someone who won’t fight to help you or to fix himself. Because that would definitely take your best energy away from your son. Please hear me when I say that as bad as it is right now, you can’t imagine how much more he can fuck you over by seeing you shattered and continuing to lie and manipulate and blameshift AFTER he’s done this to you.
You can’t imagine looking at five or six or seven years of your son’s life that you spent thinking you were trying to save something that honestly never really existed. Which marriage would you be fighting to save? The one you believed you had never was, because he has never been the monogamous devoted happy husband that existed in your mind. That marriage, I’m so desperately sorry to say, is gone forever. There is no saving what never really was. Anything that exists going forward would never be that, whatever it might be.
And believe me, I know this because it’s exactly what happened to me. It is still sometimes hard to accept that the foundation that I built 27 years of my life on, that I built my kids’ life on, was a mirage painted by a person that didn’t have any idea how to be a real, authentic person in a real loving and reciprocal relationship and still doesn’t.
The good news is that you don’t have to do anything right now except take care of yourself and your son. And watch. Watch what he does, not what he says. You know that when he talks, he’s probably lying, so stop listening to any of the shit he says. Your listening should be reserved for really listening to yourself right now, and your son. YOur WH NEEDS time on his own right now. What he does with it will help you know what to do from here.
Sending you huge hugs of strength and support. NowWhat