The one thing that my own discovery event did for me is it took away any place I have to hide in my mind from the reality of who WH is, and believe me I've tried to hide from it.
This is one of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles that many of us have had to deal with. It’s part of what is so paralyzing (hopefully not indefinitely) about deep trauma. Because even though we can’t hide from the reality of who our WHs are, paradoxically, our complex mind has to loop through this realization over and over and over because our normal version of reality is very fixed and deeply imprinted.
Really believing and accepting that the partner that we thought we knew literally DOES NOT EXIST except in our minds requires so much crushing and difficult re-programming. Really understanding that this new, horrible, unacceptable version of that partner is the REAL version instead of the one that we’ve believed we were married to for decades is just. . .mindfucking and heart-rending in the most shattering way. Grasping the million and one horrible implications of that reality, from our family to our community to our own psyche and emotional stability to our future to our memories, to Every. Single. Aspect of our existence and identity is just impossible to rush through. It’s what healing is about, and we all know that that healing takes a very, very long time with this magnitude of trauma.
We are in a million pieces that we keep trying to put back together over and over only to have them fly apart again with every reminder of our new reality. There’s no solid ground to stand on. We flip between irrational hopium, denial, bargaining, and then having the crushing reality hit us again, over and over. This is where you are right now, and where you’ll be in one stage or another for quite some time.
What I found so difficult in all of it was making any decision at all. In spite of all of the advice on SI, I couldn’t quite believe that my WH would not ever grasp the horrific price of his selfishness and dishonesty. There wasn’t any benefit to him in doing that. I kept believing, in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary, that the person that I now understand (from a great distance in time) only existed in my mind was still in him somewhere. The thing is, that person was never going to "reappear" because he literally never existed in reality in the first place.
But I lost years not realizing that. My kids suffered and experience a lot they shouldn’t have because of that.
I see clearly now that I got stuck in denial that he was really who he showed himself to be over and over. My WH never got around to owning his shit. He never got around to finding empathy or understanding for the pain anyone else experienced or the damage that he continued to do because of that. He never developed the courage that he had never had to face what he was/is and want to change. He had always been able to hunker down and wait everyone out. He was willing to wait forever safe in his compartmentalized shell.
So most everyone here is likely speaking from greater distance out which may not be helpful to you sometimes. I remember SO well the absolute complete disorientation and lack of solid ground of where you are right now. I let that go on FAR too long for myself and for my kids because the trauma was so profound and the hope was so deep (irrational, but deep). We all have to walk through this, and we all have to get where we need to in our own way.
But I’ll let you know that my biggest (and that’s saying a lot) regret is that I gave it and him SO much time. Time during which so much more damage was done. Time that I lost not healing myself because I was so focused on getting him to do SOMETHING to help the rest of us heal. Time lost to family trauma when my kids should have been able to rely on me to remove them from ongoing trauma and help them resume their fleeting childhood. I don’t know about the regrets of giving up on a marriage "too soon." But I can tell you that the regrets I feel for not accepting the reality of the situation and of who my WH really was far sooner are at times truly crushing.
That’s very likely where some of the well-intentioned advise is coming from. We can’t help hoping that you can be spared those regrets and that damage.
But this is your path, and you have to find your way through it. We’re just here to support and try to give you the sad benefits of our experiences. All of this knowledge is SUCH bitter, bitter knowledge to have. One of the great things about this site is that we have the opportunity and the hope that this knowledge, so horribly costly to each of us, can benefit someone else. That going through this will be worth something to someone.
So please just know that I—we—absolutely respect your need to walk through this the way that works for you. You are strong and thoughtful and great at articulating how this journey is affecting you. This helps not only you, but the rest of us too. I can’t tell you how much value is laced throughout this thread of yours, including the gold in your own posts. You will have much to share here to support others from your experiences too, including the inevitable things that you’ll wish, in retrospect, that you had handled differently. That is just part and parcel of the shit sandwich that we’ve all been handed.
Here are some things that I see (from an outside perspective) in your posts:
I saw the screen grabs of him video chatting his OW from our bed. We have a guest room, he didn't choose to use it. He wanted to bring another woman specifically into our bedroom. He told other women he loved them. That they were his soul mates. That he was in love with them.
He had all of the parts of HIS life where and how HE wanted them. They weren’t as compartmentalized as we sometimes want to believe. My WH did this too. He actually took me and MY KIDS to meet her once. This was something I just couldn’t get over. He delivered my kids to her. Because they were HIS. They were just neat stuff to show her.
I'm glad he's in therapy but I'm also afraid he snows his therapist.
He will. He doesn’t use language to explore his real self and feelings. My WH doesn’t even understand another purpose for language because he doesn’t conceive of sharing and exploring his real self—even with himself. He is always creating an image or constructing an imaginary self for himself and everyone else.
I'm wondering if he has disdain for me and other women. If it's universal.
He does. It’s part of being a narcissist. He’s the smartest.
I think about those nights now - some of those nights happened the very same week that I read the OW's first message - and I think of how much absolute disrespect for me WH must have to entertain that conversation with all of these women he's invited into our lives, our bedroom, the shared bacteria and viruses from their body entering my life, my own body, my pregnant body. He shared pictures of our son, innocently smiling into the camera. Any one of those women could have shown up at our home. Spied on our son at school. Gotten obsessed and angry and vindictive. Stalked us. Affairs are dangerous. That door was wide open, WH cut that door into our lives and then left it wide open with a Welcome sign on it.
Every few days I obsess over another part of his betrayal and this is something I can't stop thinking of. He smashed our marriage to bits 15+ years ago and I've been living in wreckage, thinking it was secure. He did that to us. He did that to his FAMILY! His son, and to me. We've been vulnerable and we didn't even know it, didn't have a chance to protect ourselves.
I don't think there's any way I can ever, ever get past this. How do I ever feel safe again?
There is no marriage for me in that, by definition. I cannot willingly, knowingly be part of a stable of women, only I'm the pathetic idiot who also cares for him day to day, cooks for him and takes care of him when he's sick, deals with his family, picks up the slack at home while he vacations with his other soul mates. The last conversation we had about this I just kept saying I'm done, I'm done, I'm done I'm done I'm done. I can't even repeat some of the admissions he made last week, I'm too ashamed and I haven't even DONE the things. I'm ashamed of him, I'm sickened by what he's been doing, I'm ashamed to be married to him.
Your posts are full of these kinds of stunning and astute observations and realizations. Gently, what I notice in your flare ups when you feel pushed to something that you’re not ready to accept at this point (which is TOTALLY normal and right for you right now) reminds me of what you said about your therapist visit and the cards. You said that you really had a hard time categorizing things as dealbreakers because that would mean that something had to be done about them. Could be that you’re having a stronger reaction to others pushing you to categorize things as dealbreakers for you. Like in your therapy session, your mind pushes that idea away forcefully. It’s protecting you from looking at the irreconcilable enormity of his crimes against you and your marriage. Again, perfectly understandable. What I’ve learned from this site is that the things that make me feel defensive should be looked at more than the others in much the same way that i learned to see things that my WH was defensive of as revealing of places where something was being withheld.
And I read some of the posts here of people who tried to put their marriages back together at any cost and I wonder - do I just not love him enough? Should I be doing that too, even if it doesn't work, even if it causes me more pain and is ultimately not going to work, should I try to stay by his side anyway to show that I'm committed to the marriage even if WH isn't? But then I look back at my secret stash of evidence and it falls apart. He isn't a WH who did something wrong, he is a WH who is a different person than I knew and loved.
Again, gently, love does not require you to throw yourself on the fire to warm your WH. That isn’t love. It’s self-immolation. That has nothing to do with loving someone enough or being a devoted enough spouse or being a compassionate and forgiving enough person.
You are moving forward, Sigyn. It’s not a linear path. You will get there. We’ll be here for you whatever you decide is best for you and your son. You’re doing great. Truly.
And I’ll just say that I’m so, so sorry that you have to learn these things and do these things and experience this horrible pain and trauma. I’m sorry we all did.
Huge hugs to you. NW
[This message edited by NowWhat106 at 4:16 AM, Sunday, October 23rd]