The last 16 months has been amazing, watching so much growth between wife and me, and the re-building of so much. But when I disclosed an 8 month online affair, I minimized much around it (see other posts). Last week, much came out, including the fact I've been battling with and hiding a porn addiction - I would go months before sliding, but still slid, still did not include my wife in my struggle.
One thing I find amazing about WS's in general (myself included) is our ability to to have multiple conflicting realities exist, as well as double standards, but to also be completely unaware of those conflicting points of view. I think this is a great example. You start out by telling us (and yourself) how much amazing growth and re-building exists between you, but then immediately follow that up with the fact that you are still hiding and lying about things to her. If you were truly experiencing growth and re-building, then that would be predicated on the fact that total honesty was being practiced. If you weren't being honest (and in this case, you weren't) then the growth and connection you mentioned... is really just one more lie being told, to both her and yourself. It is one more manipulation of the relationship, with the outcomes being skewed directly to your own needs and desired outcomes. There is nothing about making your wife think she has all the truth, while actually hiding it, that says, "We're doing great" and "I love you and your welfare matters to me". You are in fact, lying and gas-lighting her, which is exactly what happened during the affair as well. Or in short - nothing has changed. Whether or not you are actually having an affair, you are still actively betraying her, and thinking only of your own needs. If you were truly concerned about her, you'd have fessed up months ago. You cannot lie and hide things from another person, and still claim to be reconciling.
I apologize if that last paragraph stings a little. It's not my intention to berate you or make you feel bad about yourself, quite the opposite in fact. The thing about being a WS is that we lie to ourselves before we lie to anyone else, and so in order to heal, we first have to dig through those lies and see them for what they are. You can't fix a problem you aren't aware of in the first place. So the first and hardest step every WS needs to take is to learn to take a self-inventory of themselves. This is an incredibly difficult thing for most people to do at first, which is why it helps A LOT to have support, such as an IC, or a support group such as this one. If you opened up SI one day and read a post from someone that read, "I slept with my AP last night, but got home before my wife woke up, kissed her good morning, she made me breakfast and I left for work, so things between us are going great!" how would that make you feel? Would you feel things are truly going great for them?
I'll share with you a trap that I fell into constantly after D-day, and that is that I misunderstood the lack of anger/tension, and saw it as "things are better". My wife and I would go to MC every week, and the MC would ask me how things are going, and I'd say, "I think they are going pretty well. We haven't fought all week." And then she'd turn to my wife and ask the same question, and my wife would say, "They suck. Yeah, we didn't fight because I'm exhausted from fighting. But he didn't even once ask me how I was feeling, or what I needed, or do anything other than what HE wanted. He didn't make me feel seen or special, and doesn't seem to care. He's happy because I'm not screaming at him, but inside, I'm screaming, and dying, and utterly alone in this because he has zero empathy for me. He thinks I'm great because he's great." How's that sound? Does it sound as if things were actually great? Does it sound as if I had any actual grip on the reality of the relationship? I thought things were great because I desperately needed them to be. Because I felt better about myself when she wasn't actively aggressive towards me. But the truth was, not only were things not good, they were quite the opposite. BUT I HAD NO CLUE BECAUSE I COULDN'T GET PAST MY OWN HEAD. My point being, I'm not attacking you, rather, I'm observing you, and acting as a mirror, albeit a mirror that lacks the rose-colored glasses I had on.
I do love my wife. I do regret everything I have done. I wish I had an answer to how I can claim I love her when I have done all this. I cannot, but I do know I love her.
Which brings us to this. How can someone lie to someone, deceive them, betray them, kick them to the curb and think only of themselves and their own needs... and at the same time, actually love that person that they are treating like dog shit? I want you to really think about that answer for a bit.
Thought about it? Now, another question. Can a person give someone else a thing that they themselves do not possess or control? In other words, if I asked you for a dollar, and your wallet was empty, could you give me a dollar? Of course not. You can't give another person something that you yourself do not possess, control or understand.
The cardinal rule of life is that you cannot possibly love someone else if you do not first love yourself. A person who truly loves themselves would NEVER, EVER have an affair in the first place, not even because of what it would do to the other person (which is also important) but because they would never lower THEMSELVES to do such a thing.
If you saw a kid with a lollipop, would you push them down and steal it from them? If not... why? For most people, while we'd not want to hurt someone else or take something from them for their own sake, the much, much larger driving factor would simply be that we ourselves do not want to be the kind of people that hurt others and take things that aren't ours to begin with. If I hurt a kid and stole from them, I'd not be able to sleep at night, or live with myself. How about you, how would you feel? Would you be proud of yourself for getting that candy? Or would you be disgusted with yourself for being a bully and a thief?
People who love themselves don't have affairs because they would never disrespect and devalue themselves in such a way. They don't do mean, hurtful, controlling, gross and destructive things because they'd rather die a thousand deaths than be a person like that. They have integrity and authenticity. They have the ability to empathize with others. Their self-respect is core to their being.
So here's the big question I have for you for today. If you lied to your wife... cheated on her... hid it... kept doing it for months on end.. finally ended it (I hope), but still kept lying about things in order to protect yourself (at her expense) only to leak it out later when she's already hurt, allowing this now to hurt her again, and hurt her even more... what about that says, "But I really love her"? I think you need to really get with yourself and understand that none of that is love, and that if that is true, then did you actually ever love her? Or did you love the idea of loving her? Did you love how it made YOU feel to be "in love" with her?
I think one of the hardest things I had to do in my journey to recovery was admitting to myself that any love I think I had for my wife at that time... was impossible, and therefore, just one more lie I told myself. And learning and accepting that fact HURT LIKE HELL and fucked with my head for a long time, but I had to accept it as truth. Once I was able to do that, it made it easier to see how other things in my story weren't really true either. Once I could sort out truth from bullshit, my recovery really began, because I knew what was broken, and that gave me a path to start fixing things and doing better.
I'm not sure the details are important.
To us... not such much. To her... massively. It's not really the details although that's part of it of course. It's more about honesty, and about showing that you not only know what you did, but to display actual understanding and remorse for how it has impacted her. Whether you and the AP ate at Burger King or Mcdonald's doesn't matter much, but if you lied about it, then that shows an attitude of CYA, not of helping your spouse to put all the details together. Since all BS's were viciously lied to, details matter a LOT for them, because that's their "lie detector", similar to how the cops deal with it. If your story changes over time, or doesn't make sense, or even just doesn't "feel right", then your BS is going to HAVE to assume you are lying. Offering up details, especially ones that hurt you or leave you feeling like you just threw yourself under the bus, are more helpful to the BS (and ultimately, to you, even if it doesn't feel like it now) because it shows them that you are willing to bear the pain and pay the price for what you did wrong, in order to help them. And THAT, is genuine. Fair warning, a lot of lies were told, and so when you DO tell the truth now, your spouse may still not believe it. Oh well. It's the price we pay because we created this shitstorm in the first place. It's not fair but what we did to them was much more unfair, so we need to learn to suck it up and keep doing our best.
Best of luck to you. Please keep coming back. And please keep trying to understand yourself better. All the answers you need are inside of you. You just need a little guidance to get to them.