Thank goodness for this place. I felt so low and reading these replies as well as just getting it out made me feel better. Normally, before I left, these feelings would be more fleeting. Because, well, hey there is this man making my breakfast and smiling at me and then it feels a lot more obvious you are the prize - but now he's gone it's harder to push the thoughts away.
I had mentioned NPD traits in another post but I completely agree with the overlap with ASD. All of our lives I have ascribed certain things to the undiagnosed ASD (which I feel entitled to do as a psychiatrist, also our son is diagnosed mild ASD and its just very very obvious). Only after the A did I start to think there was an NPD trait side to this. That could just be my resentment talking and/or the selfishness of an A and the terror of facing the consequences may have spawned the NPD trait behaviors (defensiveness, selfishness about helping with recovery, etc.). I think the inherent difficulties with reciprocal communication in even mild ASD makes the recovery process essentially too challenging for them.
I have a big family, and at least half of them are autistic, so I can recognise what's what pretty easily. I think trust your judgement but also remember a lot of the characteristics you're describing are just basic human maladaptive survival mechanisms. My WS is nothing like a narcissist, even if he displays some of their ugly behavior at times.
I think mind blindness plays a role in it. He struggles to "picture" what I feel or imagine it, so he can't. He gets self absorbed and can't feel what I might be feeling. In his mind it was simple: he loved me and not her, so why couldn't I just see how obvious that was? Right now, these last couple of years, she's irrelevant to him. He doesn't even have a positive opinion of her, so I think it's confusing to him that I harbour the feelings I have.
Overwhelm plays a role: autistic people get stressed out and then go into a meltdown and his most stressful thing imaginable is probably be being in pain or angry at him. Communication also plays a role: he doesn't always know the right thing to say even if he wants to. Autistic people can also get stuck in loops of unhelpful thoughts or behaviors which they struggle to leave if they're stressed. And, a big one, autistic people can often get attached to people (like nutty AP's if they are kind to them). They move in the world in different ways.
Maybe you can assess all of that with your husband and see what fits and what doesn't.
After 8 years, and the fact that my WS has never demonstrated the most remote desire to reconnect with this woman it feels very obvious that this thing meant really nothing to him. So if you were to decide to get back with your WS I do think eventually you would feel the prize again.
I think ultimately beyond words: that demonstrates that she meant nothing to him. And I guess it does for me too, but my brain just doesn't want to accept it. I think this just violated a very deep part of me that felt special and almost sacred and I have no idea how to explain that but it's a unique pain for me that there was ever a minute he might have felt any of these things for another human being.
I got a message from him a couple of days ago before we went NC and it said:
I just wish you were home and we could be nearby and everything would be okay again. I miss you so much :( I am so sad when I get home and can't tell you the stories from my day. I just want to share everything with you. I am so sorry I haven't done everything you needed. I really wanted to and am trying to learn. You deserved everything, and not getting it is a shortcoming in me and no reflection on you. I am so lucky to have been with someone like you. You're completely irreplaceable and I am sorry that the things I did made you feel like you were not enough because you were always far more than enough. I am just a fixer upper, and that's why any of this happened. I feel so trapped because I am overwhelmed and have no idea what to do. I am so sad. You are my anchor and I am adrift without you. I love you so much. I miss you so much :( You are the girls of my dreams and you always have been. This is actual physical pain. I can't even breathe. Or see to type. I wasn't sentimental, but I am now. I miss you so much :( I can't bear touching your things because if I leave them where they are then it's like you never left, like you just popped and and you'll be back soon. I miss so much the us that won't do the things we planned. I just wanted everything to be okay again. I am crying and I just can't really breathe. I'm sorry. I don't know what to do. I can't stand it that you're sad. I just don't know what to do. Being with you was the best thing that ever happened to me and I can't think of a world with no us.
I looked at that after I posted this thread and remember reading his message to AP which were largely "Leave me alone!!". At best they were perfunctory like you'd talk to a sister. Even (and this is so awful) basically complaining to her after DDay that he was heartbroken that he had ruined his relationship with me and literally to her face saying how much he loved me. I have no idea why AP had such low standards as to accept this.
For whatever reason my head keeps switching itself to the only nice communication he ever wrote her, which was the final goodbye letter which said lots of nice things about her and described a wonderful friendship etc. That still makes me feel physically sick to my bones, and I read it back to him recently and all he could say was "I do not feel anything like that now and I was not in my right mind when I wrote it and I am so sorry"
I believe a lot of the A is down to the ASD. Essentially my husband has difficulty making friends.
I believe exactly the same. I think we were long distance, he had no friends, he's not good with "the guys" and there was just someone being maternal and nice to him (and also pretending to share all his weird special interests at a time he was vulnerable. Not excusing him, but I completely believe he is that dumb that he thought "oh wow, a new friend" because he literally has said to me for years he has no idea how to make friends. Actually, he has none. She was it pretty much.
When they are in the A they have their own personal cheerleader, chock full of flattery and ego kibbles. For someone who struggles a bit socially I think that is incredibly addictive. Even if they essentially see the AP as beneath them and not as someone they would ever get together with in real life. I definitely saw the withdrawal when he sent her on family leave for 6 weeks on my insistence. He then went behind my back and let her back into the office. I found out a week later and she was finally let go with severance.
Yeah, this sounds probably true. I also wondered a lot of time if she has become his "routine". He is prone to gigantic autistic burnout at times of stress (emotional stress is the worst) so I think on some level because he was used to his emotional support dog he found it hard to change that routine.
You said « I guess I just feel like I wasnt the prize, and because he never put 100% into R - I don't think I ever regained that feeling.« It is completely understandable that you would feel this way. But, it probably had nothing to do with his sense of you being the prize. He probably isn’t really capable of putting 100% into R. It is reasonable for you to decide you can’t accept that but it sounds like him not putting in 100% is more due to his personal challenges with intimacy than the fact that he doesn’t care enough about you.
Thank you so much for saying this. I needed to hear this to chase these thoughts away. I really miss feeling like the prize to him. It sounds like we have so much in common! I do think your husband's ASD will have a lot to do with why he is acting like he is. I have a lot of experience with this, so if you ever want to talk or ask questions about it, it is a field of things I am an expert in - having raised an ASD child and completed training on the topic. Part of the reason I fell in love with WS is that I have a real soft spot for autistic people and the beautiful ways they react to the world.