I guess I'm just not in a place right now where I have the emotional energy to really process other people's long view when I'm so mired in just getting through each new day in front of me. It's so hard. It's so hard to feel like one day I wake up strong and empowered and feel like I could cling to this feeling and rise above what's happening to me, and then the next day I'm back to having the same exact arguments with my absent WH while alone in my car and feeling like a smear on the sidewalk that people are walking over me and grinding me into nothingness. Not people here, specifically, just in general. Like when someone is rude to me in a store, I take it so personally right now! Some days I feel like everyone is out to get me, when intellectually I know it's just not true, people are going through their own things and none of those things have anything to do with me. But I'm in such a defensive place inside my own head, I see everything as being dangerous and directed at me. It's hard to know what's real.
As always, your self-awareness is so spot on and so valuable to others in this situation. This describes so perfectly how I felt for probably the whole first year post discovery. Every bit of equilibrium in your life is destroyed so completely and unexpectedly. There is no firm ground anywhere a good part of the time (even when you are as clearheaded as you are to understand on some level that you are the lighthouse).
I have always felt like a very self-possessed and confident person, but when the person that you trusted above all others in the world suddenly reveals himself to be the person who has disrespected your very existence and being, your ability to trust ANY of your reactions to people disappears. Suddenly, it’s easy to see disrespect in a very personally wounding way wherever it comes from and no matter how impersonal it really is. My sense of my own ability to keep myself safe and accurately judge others’ reactions was just shattered. The world just doesn’t feel like a safe and benevolent place anymore—anywhere.
I honestly don't know how he even found time to have that much paid sex, much less also "fall in love" with multiple women at the same time AND maintain our marriage relatively seamlessly. Maybe he doesn't actually have any other hobbies. Maybe all his mountain bikes are props. So far the only thing he's told me that he was unhappy about in our marriage was that I looked into his psyche 'too harshly' and that when I noticed patterns in his behavior it felt like I was pouring alcohol on an open wound.
He has led a life completely focused on one person and on satisfying his every single whim without consideration of anyone else in the world. He didn’t consider whether or not his whims were healthy for him or anyone else, whether they were actually good things to want. He just indulged himself. Your marriage was probably the same—he participated in the marriage that he wanted to have and got the things he wanted from it.
This was my WH. I’m the one who filled in all the rest around him and our kids. One of the hardest parts for me was realizing how dishonest I had been with myself about what our relationship had been. Since I pride myself on preferring reality to fantasy (especially after this—i want nothing to do with rose-colored glasses), it’s actually weird how much of how I saw him in our relationship was complete fabrication on my part. It took me a long time, and a lot of small epiphanies and moments of small clarity, for me to discover and acknowledge that. I still have those moments sometimes.
My WH used to complain that I was controlling. After discovery, he said one day during a difficult conversation that I controlled all of the decisions in our life. My immediate response (in light of what I now knew) was that I had controlled NOTHING in our marriage. Much of this was because you can’t really have any control when you are clueless about the decisions that are being made in secret in your marriage. With my WH and his love of secrets and shitty secrecy to get around anything that he wanted that he thought I wouldn’t agree with. He ended our marriage without bothering to tell me and left me to discover it 7 years later when I’d been wondering for quite awhile what the hell had happened to the person I thought he was.
Another reason that I had no control in my own marriage and family was that he manipulated all of us as the poor victim. No one would ever suspect him of being an emotional bully because he was such a sad sack and so butt hurt over anything he perceived as criticism (as in asking him to hang out with the kids on the weekend when he wanted to just sleep on the couch and watch Marvel all day or reminding him that if he left dirty dishes on the counter after a nighttime snack, it would draw ants). Everyone would turn themselves inside out to make him feel better—including reversing whatever we’d done to make him feel bad or just sucking it up and doing it yourself rather than mentioning anything. So he ultimately got what he wanted AND as a bonus, got to resent us for being so mean to him to begin with. I sucked up more and more of the responsibilities of our life and just didn’t ask.
So yeah, when I hear your WH’s demand for counseling, I see everything that you and others have pointed out here. Honestly, you are seeing the whole picture so clearly right now, so I know that you’ll make the right decision for you and your son. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a mindfuck if you agree to MC. It will because he still has the power to hurt you just by being who he is at this point when you needed and depended on so much more from him. But you know this, and you’ve been amazing at knowing yourself and what you need to do in spite of him. Whatever you decide, you’ll get through it and be true to yourself ultimately.
This is all wading through shit, whatever we do, thanks to their bad decisions. You get to decide the path you take through it and whether or not you avoid the deepest pools or plunge right in because there’s something you need there. You always have the right to stop it completely and get out. You’ll know when to do that You’re never stuck with any course. He’s broken literally every commitment to you that he ever made. You only owe yourself and your son now.
You’re absolutely right that this will be the first battle of many, and it’s important to consider your decisions carefully. You are SO wise to do that. If you have the option, I agree that demanding veto power / choice of the counselor and a preliminary meeting for each of you alone with the person first would be important, especially the choice of counselor. Will he bullshit and try to control and paint himself as the victim and the reasonable one? Of course. Will he try to paint you in any number of dishonest ways? Absolutely. You know this in advance. That’s why the counselor is such an important choice if you decide to proceed.
A firm limit on the commitment is really important too, as many have mentioned. At this point, I’d suggest that absolutely nothing should be open-ended and without benchmarks. As I’ve said many times, time has a way of getting away from us in this situation. He will absolutely try to get you wound up in ongoing messes to keep you engaged and prolong the time during which he maintains some control over what’s happening. Setting limits gives you those real points when you can stop and assess where you are and how far (or how very not far) you’ve come in a measurable frame—3 mediated counseling sessions or 2 months of stonewalling or another birthday for your son.
You are seeing so very clearly here and doing SO well. Frankly, just rereading your own posts here, where you’ve said so much of value for yourself and others, might be the best idea when you’re feeling uncertain.
Sending you huge hugs and positive energy as you deliberate your course. We’re here whatever you decide and at this point, we all KNOW that you’ll plot the best course for yourself through this.
[This message edited by NowWhat106 at 7:14 AM, Saturday, October 29th]