Quick update and sincere thanks to everyone who walked me through the last year of JFingO about the real state of my husband and marriage.
Divorce update, stbxWH is awful and vindictive despite being 100% in the wrong, and he's still holding himself up as a tragically misunderstood victim, somehow, in all of this.
He was always the kind of man who had to be the smartest guy in the room, his thoughts, feelings, priorities and ideas the most important, his voice louder, his audience bigger, his experiences more valid than mine. I've always suspected that it came from deep insecurity. He would often cut me off while I was talking so he could insert his own thoughts about whatever the subject at hand was and if I never hear the words "let me stop you right there..." cutting off one of my sentences again, it will still be too soon.
It turns out that after nearly two decades of dismissing his wife's thoughts, feelings, priorities and ideas, he has absolutely no idea what I really value in life, and as a result my attorney has been able to get so much of what I want by doing that Judo move of using WH's force against himself. He honestly seems to think that I value the same things he does - mostly material possessions that I have zero interest in - and so using those things as a bartering chip, it looks like we're going to be able to finish the divorce sooner than expected with a much better outcome than I could have hoped for. It keeps flooring me how little WH ever really knew me. How can he think I would ever want the things he covets? How can he not know how little those things mean to me? How can he think I would ever want, let alone fight for the flotsam of our fake marriage?
Another thing. I was listening to the podcast Betrayal and it's so familiar and so hard to stomach. In it, a woman discovers her husband has been living a second life and cheating for their entire marriage, including the same cast of characters my own WH was sleeping with (long term 'girlfriends', one night stands, sex workers, various fetishists, all at the same time) but in the podcaster's case her exWH was also preying on underage girls and went to jail. One of the things I've always sensed about my WH's affairs is that there are much deeper things he's done that I don't know about, and this podcast really made me wish I had more access to his online world so I would know the totality of what he'd been doing all these years. I sometimes wondered if he had another family out there, because I sense there's something large that is happening beyond the incredibly complicated sex life I now know about. And after listening to the podcast I do wonder about the age of some of his partners. I'll never know. In the podcast, the woman was able to interview some of the women her xWH victimized, and she asked them how they got involved with her husband, what they were thinking, what their motives were. Listening to the women was awful and also in some ways satisfied my own need to ask some of my WH's partners the same questions. I have to accept that I'll never know. It's still very hard to have so many unanswered questions and this pit in my stomach that tells me there's more, worse, that I might never know about.
In other news we also hired a forensic accountant to get an estimate of the money that was spent on his second life as far back as we can track and it's much, much larger a number than I could have ever anticipated.
As for me, I've been in a much better place lately. Peaceful for the most part, reflective, putting pieces together, telling myself, family and my therapist the real narrative of my marriage often enough that I'm starting to live in the actual reality more these days than retreating back into seeing my husband and marriage in the fantasy way I used to see things. I'm still struck by disbelief at times, but I'm no longer shocked. It's like the fantasy husband image was torched so hard that it couldn't stay in my mind anymore. I've seen him so clearly I can't ever get that old vision back again. And it's a relief. I feel almost like I don't love him anymore. Is that even possible? I can't attach the feeling of love to this new, more accurate vision of him. I don't know if this is a phase and I'll relapse, or if it's real. I want it to be real but the rollercoaster doesn't feel like it's quite over yet.
I want to thank everyone for all of the wisdom you gave me. I think this site and everyone who contributed to helping me on this thread and privately did more to change my vision of my husband than therapy did. I don't want others to have their lives blown up this way, but I'm so grateful for everyone who had similar experiences and who shared them so openly with me. It helped me to feel like I wasn't crazy. It also helped me through the excruciatingly painful phase of feeling like I was trapped with my arm under a rock and having to amputate it and be armless, or stay there forever trapped and in pain. In my heart I always knew I would cut off the arm, and reading back over the things people wrote to me back then I can tell that was obvious and everyone was so tactful but also in some ways cheering for me to get it over with and free myself. Invaluable. To have people who understand that exact feeling. I'm grateful for all of you, tough-lovers included.