Insights from a betrayed spouse on ego, self-esteem, and perspective changes after her husband’s affair.

new perspectiveBy Linda & Doug

Almost four years ago, one of our readers, “blueskyabove” made a comment on a post pertaining to her husband’s affair, that we thought was pretty great.  We wanted to convert it to a post back then, but forgot about it for some reason.

Luckily, we ran across it again the other day and decided to share it now.  Better late than never!

Please read on…

My Husband’s Affair – “All Attack is a Cry for Help”

by “blueskyabove”

I believe it is so important that we can get to the point where we see that we have been given an opportunity to change, grow and become the best we can be. Everyone of us. I’ll say again, I don’t believe in coincidences. To me, there is a reason why we have all come together on this site…total strangers, all joined together from around the globe to help each other. Below is what my husband (H) and I have learned.

During the initial days, weeks, and months after DDay our perspective of our marriage and our life in general becomes extremely constricted.  Our focus is narrowly confined to the affair.  It is all-consuming.

I had read several years earlier that “all attack is a cry for help”.  It made sense to me at the time and I readily believed it…until I discovered my husband’s affair and the subsequent verbal and emotional abuse that followed.  At that point it became impossible for me to even remember the statement let alone believe it anymore.  It has taken a long, long time to change my perspective on his affair, see it in a different light, and come full circle back to that statement.

We all know about the “fog”, the distorted thinking on the part of the CS, but for some reason when the CS is spewing their venom at us we take the words they say as proof that this is the truth.  Their words hurt.  Logically, we know it doesn’t make sense, but at this stage we aren’t in a very good place either and we grasp at anything that we think might give us an exclamation…even if it’s harmful to our self-esteem.

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Unfortunately our spouses have been exposed to destructive, self-serving  ideas/advice that normally they might bounce off someone else if it wasn’t so critical to keep it secret.  They can’t do this while they’re in a secret affair.  There isn’t anyone else they can talk to about what they are doing and so their affair partner has a lot of control over their thinking.  Their so-called ‘friend’ isn’t really interested in their well-being, but only in what they can get out of the relationship themselves.  

All-in-all it’s a very UN-loving relationship they have.  I still believe that ANYONE WHO IS WILLING TO HAVE AN AFFAIR WITH A MARRIED PERSON DOES NOT HAVE THAT PERSON’S BEST INTEREST AT HEART!  I could be wrong, but from my current perspective, where I presently am, i.e., my level of consciousness, I’m not able to view it any other way.    I’ve read that “awareness merely registers what is being experienced.  There’s nothing the mind believes that isn’t erroneous at a higher level of consciousness.”

I can now see that the anger my H used against me was a cover-up for his real feelings.   He had told himself I didn’t love him anymore.  He gave up on us.  He recognizes now that he felt powerless to get my attention.  He has said that after he became involved with her he started thinking how much easier it would be to start over with someone new.  Why?  Because he had found someone who was willing to validate his thoughts, tell him his marriage was dead, and he deserved to be happy!  

Logic tells me that if he really believed, before her input, that our marriage was dead then it would be a simple matter of filing divorce papers.  (Wouldn’t that be the ‘right’ thing to do?)  If he still believed this after receiving her validation then, again, just file for a divorce.  So, why didn’t he?  According to Dr. David Lieberman all of this has to do with our ego and self-esteem.

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The ego and our self-esteem are inversely related.  As we gain self-esteem our ego diminishes.  We only gain self-esteem when we do what is right over what is easy or how it appears to others.

When the ego reigns, our perspective narrows.  We make choices on what we think makes us LOOK good NOT on what IS good.  Our emotions cloud our thoughts and we seek instant gratification which leads to feelings of guilt.  We then punish ourselves with activities (have an affair?) disguised as pleasurable.  We seek out indulgences that will feed our empty selves and dull the pain.  We desperately want to love ourselves but instead we lose ourselves.  We look for a quick fix rather than look for lasting solution for the pain and hollowness we feel inside.  Overindulgence is not coping.  It’s avoidance.

When reality clashes with our ability to accept it, those with low self-esteem have to make sense of their world and choices in the least painful way.  They justify their actions.  Being RIGHT becomes more important emotionally than doing the right thing.   Without the ability to maintain self-control we are unable to make better choices.  Consequently, our ego becomes inflated which automatically deflates our self-esteem.  

My husband’s affair partner did just exactly what was expected of her.  She validated everything he told her so he could be ‘right’.  She stroked his ego not knowing that ultimately this would diminish  his self-esteem and lead to him ending the affair.  

My H had gotten himself into a real mess and didn’t know how to get out of it.  Luckily for him my discovery of the affair gave him the impetus to end it.  We can see all of this now, but in the next few days, weeks and months it wasn’t that cut and dried.  

Some of this knowledge took several years to discover.  Such as:   He was ashamed, embarrassed and scared.  What if I didn’t love him?   What if I left him?  What if I truly didn’t care enough about him to help him?  He couldn’t put any of this into words at the time.  Had I remembered “all attack is a cry for help” our recovery might have gone smoother, but then he wouldn’t have learned how to express his emotions and neither of us would have broadened our perspective.

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When you can look at things differently (even a little bit) you will discover that you have more options than you might previously have thought.   I know I have a lot of growing within myself left to do simply because I have not been able to accept my husband’s affair partner as a fellow human being who is fully entitled to the best that life has to offer…yet.  On the other hand she has made me look damn good to my H and for that I can be grateful!

In  Summary:  Our ability to maintain self-control helps us make better choices.  When our self-esteem increases our ego decreases.  A smaller ego means greater perspective.  Greater perspective makes it easier to maintain self-control.    Every component depends upon the previous one to exist.  This works the same way whether we are working with positive or negative energy.  We progress or regress incrementally.

Ultimately, I believe that is what is most beneficial about this site…the opportunity to broaden your perspective so that you can see more clearly.  It’s really hard to do alone.  I believe this is where Doug and Linda want to continue to take you.


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    10 replies to "A Reader Shares Her New Perspective on Her Husband’s Affair"

    • EyesOpened

      BlueSkyAbove. You are very wise I’ll never forget your kindness (and book recommendation). You have a huge heart and open mind and this is such an insightful post.

      Doug and Linda – thanks as always for all you do. I’ve been following all the threads – learning and growing as I go. Such an amazing, strong and intelligent community here. You are all phenomenal people!

      • Doug

        Thanks EyesOpened. Good to hear from you again! Hope all is well.

    • Falling Ash

      Blueskyabove is a very wise woman. I have followed her posts on here and have always agreed with almost all, if not all, she says. My OH has always sought validation. Before the OW, I was the person he sought that from. Once he started getting that from the OW at work, he no longer had that need with me, so he emotionally withdrew from me and our relationship. It happened so incrementally that I didn’t see it for a very long time. I will always wonder if I had seen it, would I have been able to forestall it? Who knows. He has started individual counselling against this week to try and fix what is broken within him. His counsellor sounds like someone who won’t tolerate his bullshit and deflecting tactics. I hope she keeps that up!

    • Fragments of Hope

      Blueskyabove thanks for this fantastic post that has helped me understand not only my husband but myself and also difficulties that we currently have with our son. The ego is only compensation and it was quite evident over the years that my husband was engaging in shallow ego behaviour rather than cultivating true self-belief. Your article has also shone a spotlight on my son’s fragile self-esteem and the maladjusted behaviours that come out of that. His focus has become so narrow, he lacks self control or motivation or any belief that he can make a difference, then he blames the system (just as our CSs blamed us!) It’s given me a handle and a route to take when approaching him in future. An interesting question also came up between myself and my husband as to what I could have done (not saying that it’s my responsibilty to stop the affair) but what could I have done, if anything to lift his esteem and steer him away from the (hidden) ego behaviour. We realised that life ends up making it very difficult sometimes to show the other person that you really do admire them and value them (and lets face it, sometimes we don’t act that way). He thinks that acceptance and positive comments would have worked but I suppose that depends on at what point – if he was already embroiled in the affair would it have made a difference. In my husband’s case his actions resulted from a build up of stress and tragic life events at a particular time, in other cases I suppose the behaviour is more compulsive, addictive and long term.

      • exercisegrace

        Fragments, this is magical thinking and it can lead you to dangerous places. I did that quite a bit after d-day. I reconstructed our lives in the year leading up to his affair, and second-guessed my every decision. At the end of it all, I realize there is no….If I had done this, would he have done that? If I had said this, would he have made a different choice? If I had done this more, or done that less? Would it have made a difference?

        Affairs come from a broken place inside the cheater. There is no word or phrase or action by the faithful spouse that will save the day. Cheating is a long and slippery slope. It is a fantasy created by two people, and fantasy is always more attractive than reality if you CONFUSE that fantasy for reality. It almost always happens ever-so-gradually, and by the time the cheater realizes he is actually cheating, it is too late.

        My husband told me early on that it was HIS failure entirely. On d-day and for a short while after, he wanted to believe I had some culpability. He wanted to think there was something I could have done that would have SAVED HIM. Saved him from himself. His bad choices. The clutches of a woman who lied to married men and took what her own broken self needed. When it is all said and done, it is healthiest when the cheater reaches a point where they can acknowledge it was THEIR mistake. Only then can they fix what was broken inside of themselves, healing can begin, and a new future worked towards.

    • exercisegrace

      Loved this. Ultimately, our self-esteem must come from inside ourSELVES. We cannot look to other people to “make” us feel worthy, or important or loved or…..insert your own word here! If we do that, they will always fail us. The marital relationship provides a great deal of boost, but it cannot replace a healthy “self”. A number of external things went awry in our lives and a work friend stepped in and provided an artificial sense of self-esteem for my husband. Her pursuit and attention was a useful escape from nearly losing his business, grieving the deaths of two parents, etc. It was easier. It felt better than wallowing in his depression. And yes, she certainly told him all the things he wanted to hear. When we discuss it (rarely now) I refer to them as “all the pretty lies”. ie: he was never at fault, he was always right, any bad outcome was attributed directly to me, and so on. It lifted his feelings of failure.

      Too many times we listen and believe the cheaters when they say things like “I didn’t feel loved by you” or “you didn’t pay enough attention to me”. If you take the effort to examine these statements and trace them back through time, you usually find these feelings came about AFTER the affair began. They became the EXCUSE for the bad behavior after it started. Cheaters don’t want to say….I was flattered by the opportunity and I was a selfish shit. Instead, they cast around for a justification for WHY they made the choices they made. Blame is deflected away from them, their guilt lessons a bit, and life is tolerable.

      As far as seeing the whore as a fellow human being who is entitled to life’s best? Honestly, I do NOT. Because I don’t believe life “entitles” us to anything. We make our choices and we work hard. She has chosen repeatedly to chase married men. She has chosen repeatedly to harass me and my older kids. She is unremorseful over what her part in this mess has done to my kids and myself. She has chosen her own “best”. We all have pain in our pasts. Most of us stand and deal. We don’t choose to go out and ruin the lives of other people. Innocent people. I am past the point of wishing her a miserable life. I frankly no longer care. She is most likely making the same bad decisions and reaping the same bitter harvest. And if that is so, it will bring her exactly what she deserves.

    • Fragments of Hope

      Exercise grace you make some really good points. Its very true that they chose to cheat or at least once they got to the line they crossed it and did not stop once they knew it was wrong. I suppose what I was saying with both my husband and son in mind is that when people are in the depths of depression or grief and they need someone to reach out to them and help them (especially men who find it hard to admit they need or access help) perhaps if they’d got that help at the time the affair or, in the case of my son, the depression, and complete withdrawl from school) might not have happened. But all these things are very complex, both your husband and mine were dealing (or not dealing with) grief but when I tried to get my husband to open up he said he was fine. I am trying to get help for my son but, at 15, he also has a mind of his own and does not accept the help we offer. There is only so much you can do if the person themselves does not face up to their own difficulties. And as you say, exercisegrace the choice remained theirs in the end to choose a particular path.

    • Alfonso

      Linda..Doug…almost 20 month since Dday…always go back to learn, appreciate and enjoy life experiences from all Bs and also CS. In my case besides therapists haven’t got the chance to interact with anyone, fortunately don’t needed…more than enough have I fond here.Bless you all my dear EA friends. Only God knows we are strong we won’t quit and we will succeed in our own battles..

      Bless all

    • Min

      I understand the thought process of this post but isn’t life full of temptations and ego strokes and things like that? What does it say about a person that falls for it and leaves those they love by the wayside? Why does it need to be worked on for the person having an affair to understand the weight of their actions and the thought process behind it? I feel like someone who repeatedly lies to keep an affair going has to have thought of what they were doing while its ongoing. I feel bad for the spouses who have to deal with the trauma and then sit and listen to the reasonings from the offending spouse. Isn’t this post sort of trying to rationalize and excuse the behavior?

      I appreciate how people want to keep their marriages and families together but in order to do that do we have to put a martyrish spin on something so selfish and irresponsible?

      • Untold

        Excellent perspective Min. Seems the best way to explain what drove them is addiction, obsession, etc.. I guess we try to put a martyrish spin on it so those like me who stay with the cheater can feel like they won’t do it again, and don’t feel like such idiots for staying with them, Thank you.

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