Danger Ahead – You Can Live Without Your Spouse, But Not Without Yourself

sense of self

Infidelity can annihilate our sense of self.

By Sarah P.

From the time we are children, we are told that when we grow up we must find a prince or princess charming and get married. Much of the mass media trades on this idea. It is so ingrained in our society that people rarely question it.

It was not always this way. In the past, people got married because their families wanted to build alliances and empires. Women were considered property and marriage served a very specific purpose: to build a family line, create heirs, centralize power, and to create a stable society.

The concept of romantic love (versus practical love) was founded sometime in the 11th century in Southern France. Bards chose beautiful or regal women to admire from afar. A chosen woman then became the inspiration from which they wrote their songs and wove their stories.

“Courtly love (or fin’amor in Occitan) was a medieval European literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry. Medieval literature is filled with examples of knights setting out on adventures and performing various services for ladies because of their “courtly love”. This kind of love is originally a literary fiction created for the entertainment of the nobility, but as time passed, these ideas about love changed and attracted a larger audience. In the high Middle Ages, a “game of love” developed around these ideas as a set of social practices. “Loving nobly” was considered to be an enriching and improving practice.[1][2] Courtly love began in the ducal and princely courts of Aquitaine, Provence, Champagne, ducal Burgundy and the Norman Kingdom of Sicily[3] at the end of the eleventh century. In essence, courtly love was an experience between erotic desire and spiritual attainment, “a love at once illicit and morally elevating, passionate and disciplined, humiliating and exalting, human and transcendent”.[4] The term “courtly love” was first popularized by Gaston Paris and has since come under a wide variety of definitions and uses. Its interpretation, origins and influences continue to be a matter of critical debate.” (1)

 

Within the context at the time, this type of love was a lofty aspiration and not a reality. Many understood that it was a fictional type of love and it was created for the sake of entertainment. It took hundreds of years for this concept to take hold , but it did take hold. In the 19th century, this very particular (and perhaps peculiar) notion of marrying merely for romance, passion, and lust took off like wildfire.

To be clear, I am not criticizing romantic love and I am certainly not saying that people should marry those to whom they are not attracted. Somewhere along the way romantic love became the very definition of marital love. With it, there came mixed blessings.

People looked to the great romantic novels of the 19th century and they started to believe that good marriages were full of passion, lust, and unquenchable fire. To this day, authors of romance novels trade on this type of thinking. In fact, the industry surrounding modern day romance novels is a multimillion-dollar industry. Whether people admit to reading them or not, there is no doubt that these stories influence society’s view on love.

Love Versus Lust

I do believe that passion and lust are a part of a marriage, however they cannot be the only things and they certainly cannot be the only goal. This is because lust and passion wear off. Our brains treat these feelings the same way they treat illicit substances. Like substances, these feelings not only wear off, but they require increasing levels in order to self-sustain.

When people mistake these feelings for love, these feelings provide fertile ground in which an affair can take root. No matter how enamored the couple is when they first walked down the aisle, extreme lust and infatuation cannot be the norm.

Sooner or later, people settle in to their marriages and romantic love takes a backseat to comfort and safety. While lust and romance can be rekindled with a spouse, some spouses mistake this cooling-off of lust for falling out of love. They reason they have fallen out of love with their spouses and they need to go elsewhere to find “love.” This is not the case for all people and certainly not everyone believes that lust and love are the same thing.

Nevertheless, the modern marriage creates a burden for each partner because of all of its requirements. Many look to marriage partners to be the best friend, the confidant, the business partner, the partner in child rearing, and of course the lover. This creates a catch-22 since safety and unquenchable lust cannot exist for very long in the same space.

This false sense of love causes some people to stray and look outside their marriage. Or, if they do not stray, some secretly look at their partner and believe they have fallen out of love. Many notice that the look in their spouse’s eyes has changed.

A natural reaction to this is to try to become a better spouse; to alter ourselves to please another. This is not a conscious process, especially for people who like to please others. Besides, no one should be more pleased with us than our spouse.

Don’t Lose Your Sense of Self

In the movie, A Perfect Man (2013), a woman finds out that her husband is having an affair with her friend. This news is shattering to the wife and the rest of the film follows their marriage after the fallout of an affair. The twist here is that the man’s wife pretends to be a different woman during phone calls and he falls back in love with his wife in this novel way. At the end of the movie, the main character realized something very important. She realized that during her marriage, she gave up her sense of self in order to exist within her marriage. In the end, she learned an important lesson: she could live without her husband, but she could not live without her fundamental sense of self.

This is a very important lesson; indeed, no one should give up himself or herself in order to live with the other. In real life, the message that often gets lost in the noise is that affairs cause us to lose a sense of self. So much pain subsequently flows from losing self. Affairs cause us to lose a sense of self because the self that we built over all of those years was within the context of our marriage.

If our marriage seems to have been a lie, we feel as if we are cut loose in the here and now—a “ship without a sail” as the song goes. We feel as if we are powerless and we search the horizon for a beacon of light that could bring us back to safety.

We must have something to hold onto and prior to marriage it was the internal knowing that guided us. After we got married, we gave up ourselves and the marriage became us and we became the marriage; we became enmeshed with the other. Often this enmeshment did not happen by mere accident since we also get cultural messages that would say this is a good thing.

Many people have been given the message that after they get married they need to become as one flesh and one body. If this is misinterpreted, people might believe that they need to give up self in order to be married.

The Mortal Ego

While we don’t want to give up our sense of self while being married, we do want to give up the mortal ego. The mortal ego is not a positive thing since it is the source of lower drives—it could be akin to the ‘devil on the shoulder.’ I believe we have to give up this ego because it is often filled with selfishness, insecurity, rigid thinking, and all manner of destructive thoughts. It is also the part of a person that responds to the advances of others.

This mortal ego needs to be given up after getting married. But, we should never give up a sense of true self after getting married. If we give it up when marital trouble hits, we collapse from the inside out.

In the wake of an affair, we must persist by finding ways to fundamentally anchor ourselves to that which we can control. The only thing we can control is self and it is our task to rebuild that sense of self—the “I” that existed prior to marriage.

What Is A Sense of Self?

Well, this one might seem obvious or easy to answer at the outset, but it is not. First, let us look at what causes us to lose a sense of self: traumatic brain injury, dissociative identity disorder, neurological degenerative diseases, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; psychedelics, extreme depression, and the trauma of infidelity. (Please stay tuned for more on trauma; I will be exploring it more in a three-part series coming soon.)

That is the real kicker—that infidelity can cause a person to lose their very sense of self.  It is so very frightening. I love how this anonymous blogger put it so elegantly to words:

“Your Sense-Of-Self is that level of comfort you have with yourself. It’s how comfortable you feel in your own skin. It’s the sense you have of being “in your proper place” that gives you confidence and security. It’s a very physical sense, a visceral sensation, that sets the stage for what our mind thinks about our surroundings. Our sense tells us if we’re safe, if we’re competent, if we are up to handling the world around us.

If your Sense-Of-Self is disrupted, nothing feels safe. Nothing feels familiar. You may recognize your surroundings, but they don’t feel the same. You don’t feel the same. And because you don’t have a consistent sense of yourself in your surroundings, it sets off all sorts of alarm bells that you are not safe. IT IS NOT SAFE. Cue the fight-flight-freeze response. Cue the adrenaline rush…Something just doesn’t feel right. And that “something” is you…

And when that Sense-Of-Self is damaged, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Not only do we not know who we are anymore, but we also have no one to reliably depend on to make the right decisions and take the right actions in the future. We watch ourselves doing things and handling situations in ways that we never would have handled them before. We hear ourselves saying things that don’t “sound like us” and that seem to be coming out of a stranger’s mouth.” (2)

Raise your hand if those thoughts resonate with you. Do you feel like you are reading about what became of “You” after you found out about your spouse’s affair?

I certainly see myself in that description—it perfectly sums up how I felt after I found out my fiancé not only had another woman, but had also (violently) forced me out of our mutually owned home in order to move the other woman in.

At the time, I had no words for how I felt, just the overwhelming feeling that I was no longer safe—the world was no longer safe—and something menacing awaited me around every corner. The day I found out about the affair, my world was changed forever.

Now I would like to tell you something that might very well surprise you.

The author’s description of losing a sense of self is not from an affair recovery site. No, it is from a site called Broken Brain, Brilliant Mind about the author’s own journey through living with a traumatic brain injury. In my opinion, the trauma of an affair causes the same thought processes and reactions as a physical blow to the brain.

The Role of Meaning

We humans build meaning through others and we build identity with time and experience. For many of us, we will have been with our spouse as much or more than our own family of origin. For years, many of us have made Meaning (with a capital M) in our marriage. Often, it is hard to identify where the marriage begins and where we end. For people who were married for over a decade, the lines between self and marriage long ago became fuzzy.

Many merge with their marriage; the marriage becomes the safe backdrop against a random world. Our very sense of identity often finds an anchor in our spouse. Degrees of this scenario happen to all couples over the long haul. One cannot be completely individual while being completely married, since marriages require compromise of each individual.

This is why infidelity seems to annihilate our sense of self. Sometimes, this self-annihilation becomes more permanent and I believe this unsafe emotional territory is one of the things that allows trauma to take hold. Indeed, losing oneself is very dangerous territory. Thus, redefining a sense of self and finding meaning outside of one’s marriage is paramount to recovery.

Here is another thought: affairs destroy the selves of both betrayed spouses and wayward spouses. While the destruction of self on the part of the wayward spouse is voluntary, the destruction of self on the part of the betrayed is involuntary.

This is one of the many reasons affairs are so unfair. It’s as if your marriage is one careless party where everyone knows the inside joke except for you. You believe one thing is happening at the party, all the while something very different is occurring right under your nose.

Summary

You can live without your spouse, but you cannot live without You. Please examine all of the ways that your sense of self has been eroded and find ways to get to know yourself again. Please stay tuned for my three-part series on trauma in the next few weeks. Trauma can certainly play a role in taking away your sense of self, so you can read more about overcoming trauma and regaining yourself in the coming weeks.

How has your week been? Can you give us any ideas on how you rebuilt a sense of self after an affair?

 

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Sources:

Wikipedia. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaston_Paris

Anon. Losing Your Sense of Self Is the Worst. From https://brokenbrilliant.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/losing-your-sense-of-self-is-the-worst/

 

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74 Responses to Danger Ahead – You Can Live Without Your Spouse, But Not Without Yourself

  1. Hopefull May 23, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Looking back I honestly wonder what I could have changed. I feel like the things I gave up or choices made are not always able to be equitable. So when I did give things up in the name of being a “team” in our marriage I am left with the short end of the stick. However when education, career opportunities etc all come into play the only choice I could have had was to leave my husband/divorce him if I was to not lose or give up part of myself. This is one of the hardest aspects of all of this. I do wonder often if I should have said no and left him before all of this happened. The options we had for him to pursue his career forced me to make other choices than I would have if we did not have to move for his education and career. In the end this leaves me resentful and frustrated. This is not something I can go back and undo at this point 20 years later. I have had many top career offers but it would require me to move. Now at this point that would be uprooting my kids, other family that has moved to be close to me and his career. So it would have far reaching personal and financial implications. My husbands reply was that by me making these choices it was an investment in him but whether we stay together or not that it will pay off since we would split our assets and he would continue to pay me. I still get insecure and frustrated knowing that it is usually 50/50 and when I paid for his education, supported us and paid for all of our moves that I was partially buying into investing into our future for the long haul. But ending in divorce does not mean I would benefit forever then. He sees it as a silly conversation since he is “going no where unless I ask him to leave”. But then I wonder am I staying only since I feel stuck. I would love to take some of these career opportunities but there is no way I would leave my kids or juggle a demanding work schedule and have it take the limited time left that I have with them.

    And the who in love, lust, love thing just makes me sick. To me it is all an excuse. My husband was well aware of the stages of love etc in any relationship much less a mature one like ours. Him telling me he would always love me even if we divorced but that he was not “in” love with me anymore was the lamest biggest excuse. It was one more thing he told himself to make himself feel better and to ease his guilt.

    • Sarah P. May 23, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

      Hi Hopefull,
      I did not realize all that you had been through. That is I did not realize the huge career sacrifice you made or the financial sacrifices you made to ensure your husband got through school. Truly he is all that he is because of YOU. And I am truly sorry about what he has done.

      On the other hand, you can remain in your marriage without sacrificing yourself. It’s an attitude that I am talking about more than anything else. It’s the attitude that you and your kids matter the most and your loyalty is to yourself and them. Making decisions based on this attitude forces life to play out differently. It forces your husband to get with your program. If I were you, I would tell him going out and drinking with friends is no longer acceptable. And I would enforce it and set boundaries. Tell him that you expect him to be a good husband and father and that drinking doesn’t have a place any longer. What do you think he would do if you refused to support such behavior?

      Many blessings to you,
      Sarah

      • Hopefull May 23, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

        Yes I understand what you are saying. The crux of it is that yes I have focused on myself and my kids but really to me that identity is woven into our family unit and our marriage. Even our kids I would say depend on their identity as part of a family with both parents that are married to each other. And I never thought twice about doing what I did to support him because I saw it as supporting us. It is what I saw my parents do for each other. And there was major sacrifice and putting huge parts of their lives on the back burner or giving up on it for the other person. And honestly I feel like as a woman and also the one who sacrificed the most that I am left in the worst position. He does not agree with this since he says he would give me whatever I needed or wanted even if I left him. That sounds nice and good but divorce does not increase assets or make life easier. I have always known that. Then he throws it back at me that because I have done what I have that I am very close to our kids and that is something he does not have. I know he means well but then I also think that he chose to live his life in a different way than I did. Yes he was working a lot but so was I but he spent his extra time with friends, travelling on guys trips, having affairs/feeling guilty about them and becoming distant. In the end it is hard I feel like I can’t win either way.

        We have discussed this regarding this friends. He feels that this is an issue on a continuum for anyone. He feels he falls in the middle to slightly having a problem. He feels that it needs to be balanced. In the end I have thought about making this demand but I honestly think that would eventually end our marriage. I am not sure if he would ever leave me. I think he would struggle with no friendships. He does not agree that their behavior or even his (especially in the past) is good or positive but he says he has fun just hanging out with his friends discussing sports, politics, their kids, work, golf… And he does not have one friend or circle of friends that does not live their life this way. He has pulled back and limited himself from them and some have noticed. If he never went out with them or did anything with them again it would create a major stir with each group of friends. He has told me he will refuse drinks while golfing saying he is waiting till dinner and many of his friends will pressure him. He stands firm most of the times but to me this seems so immature. I do not understand spending his valuable time with people like this. He tells me they mean well and are really good people deep down. I disagree but I think since they have been friends for so long this is how he sees it. He has tried to increase going out as couples and couples trips but it is all on us to plan and many have not gone along with it. So it leaves me at a cross roads. My therapist has said that it would be best to tell him if he goes out with his friends that I do not want to talk to him or see him when he gets home since he gets emotional. If he wants to talk then do it when he is sober.

        • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 1:24 am #

          Hi Hopefull,
          What you have gone through brings up more questions for me. The most pressing one is why you think asking your husband to give up drinking would end your marriage. I am going to ask you a tough question: does your husband have any narcissistic traits? I am wondering this because of all your sacrificed for him and how he felt it was okay to do things that harmed your marriage. I also wonder why he was so casual about the topic of divorce. It is interesting that he counsels people because I am going to guess that he would tell clients to leave someone who was behaving the way he behaves. I feel like your husband is trying to run from something and I would like to know what. He is definitely running from real intimacy but I feel like he is running from something deeper. It’s just an intuition on my part. I also feel like there are two different people inside of him. There is the person who is a great therapist and who has helped people. Then there is the person who does all sorts of things so that he doesn’t have to have true emotional intimacy with you or your kids.

          Hopefull, you are truly a gift to your husband and I would bet money that if you ever left, he would implode. Something tells me that he is able to be a successful therapist because of you and because of the stability you create. I truly believe he could not have accomplished it without you. Your husband is a conundrum in so many ways and I would like to know what causes him not to want to get sober or find friends who are on a higher plane of existence. Why the split personality where one side is responsible and the other side still participates in things that are very college-like?

          • Hopefull May 24, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

            Yes all so true. I would say I think over time it could lead to the marriage ending since by asking him to do that it would end all of his friendships. I am not saying that no one would ever talk to him but I think those friendships would dissolve quickly. I know that having no other outlet in life besides work, exercising and family would eventually lead to him being unhappy. At this point like I said if he spends time with his friends and does not drink or drinks less they give him a hard time. And this is with all of his friend groups not just one person or one group.

            And yes he will say he is and has been able to do everything he has because of me. He says he knows that I am good for him but he is not sure how good he is for me. So yes he does say that not often but he says that without prompting. I mean we have talked about a ton of theories together. None of them seem that major. I mean he is the elevated one in his friend groups and the natural leader, his friends tend to follow what he does. His identity was always tied to success in sports and as an adult that is gone of course so some of that I think played into his young adult behavior early on. I think a lot has to do with how he was raised. He received a lot of female attention since he was an athlete. I have not thrown around terms like narcissistic etc since usually that causes him to go professional on me and I cannot know everything he does. I have asked him what he would tell me if I was his patient and he has never answered that question. In the end I feel like he has some underlying issues and until he is willing to face them I feel like I am treading water or at a standstill or holding pattern. I feel myself pulling away. He on the other hand seems to be more and more attached to me. It is exhausting and confusing at times.

            • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

              Hi Hopefull,

              Yes, he certainly has some underlying issues and you are also the anchor in his life. At least he has enough insight to be aware of it.

              It’s terrific that you are naturally pulling away because he knows what it would be like to lose you.

              The biggest thing is that he won’t tell you what he would say to you if you were his patient. That truly is telling because it demonstrates he knows what he is doing and how hurtful his behavior can be.

              Even though he is a therapist, you are the mature one here. I think it is interesting that you are “the therapist” to a therapist. In the end, he looks to you.

              • Hopefull May 24, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

                Yes totally. I have fallen into this role. Through the years he avoided all work talk with me of any sort. If I asked for advice related to our kids or insights he would not want to discuss it. I know now this was so he could draw a line and separate the two lives. I know he hears a lot of bad things in many ways but I know for a fact that he has told me since he hears what others do in their relationships and the level of their cheating etc that it actually made him feel better. He would tell himself he never spent money on these women, they contacted him, he did not have a throw away phone, it was sporadic…. so he used his work experiences just like his friends to justify and make him feel better. Even though before it all started he knew it was wrong and the biggest offense he could have on me and our marriage.

                In his mind he has made dramatic changes, is transparent and authentic. He says since dday there is not one thing he has done that he regrets or he could not repeat or tell me about and feel bad at all. So he sees that as a major win. In the end he tells me he wants me to be happy and it is up to me to decide if that is with him or on my own. When this all started out it felt like it was about me and now it is totally the opposite. I feel like an innocent bystander. What it seems to me is he first and foremost let himself down, lied to himself and did not look out for his best interests. He did not go into this thinking it would be amazing and he says he hated it all along but kept going for 10 years. To me that just screams red flags. To me it makes no sense to do something like that unless you are clinically depressed or have some sort of disorder.

                He has told me I should go back to school since he thinks I would do well in this field. He said the other week he feels like I am the kid in the movie how to train a dragon and he is the dragon. Interesting analogy. Hmmm.

                • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

                  Hi Hopefull,

                  I get the impression he uses his ‘formal’ psychology degree and profession to manipulate. He will only use it when it benefits him. This is why he was not willing to give advice about kids. This is also why he could look at the lives of his client’s and make himself feel better. He was using his training and his work to benefit him in many ways.

                  I am of the mind that if someone gets a psychology degree, they should be sharing whatever they know to benefit whomever crosses their path. Isn’t that why most people get psychology degrees anyway?

                  This comment about you being “Hiccup” and him being “Toothless the dragon” is interesting because it kind of gives everything away. Hiccup is the responsible and trusting one who knows how to use a dragon’s power for the good. And he knows how to train the dragon to be useful to others.

                  I absolutely agree that you should consider going back to school to be a psychologist. The thing is, you probably have more knowledge than many programs teach. As you know, trying to locate therapists who have extensive training in handling infidelity successfully is a tall order. This is because there is no curriculum in programs. Therapists either learn it through experiencing it themselves and reading all of the material about it, or they learn it after many years of counseling couples after infidelity.

                  There several women here (all of the regulars) who I think would make excellent psychologists and you are definitely one of them, Hopefull.

                  I say you should look into enrolling in school part-time or wait until your children are grown and enroll full time. Your husband is correct about you being a great fit for the field. I am glad he recognizes that.

                  • Hopefull May 25, 2017 at 8:55 am #

                    In the early weeks and days I was astonished when I asked him how many classes he took related to infidelity or what training he had. And it was zero. He said there were relationship classes but he said they were broad. And they learned cognitive behavioral therapy but nothing specific. He said maybe it came up in a text book or class but he had no memory. And his training was not related since it was all in another area that would not touch on this at all. So he has only learned through his own reading and on the job I guess you would call it. I was blown away. He had a basic understanding that it was all him and his issues and had nothing to do with me. And that it was the biggest violation in a marriage. That is it! I was honestly shocked and had never thought about it. So yes I have read more books and information about it than he ever has I am sure of that.

                    I do think now when he is faced with it professionally he has a new perspective and I am sure he is a stronger therapist for going through what he did and our recovery. I would say it is similar to him treating kids before and after us having kids. He was trained and able to work with kids before but after having kids he has a stronger ability and is a better therapist and clinician. So I do feel good that I think he has a better perspective and has learned a lot through our recovery that will help others. I do know he never “sided” or agreed with the cheater. I think the only time he would even consider it okay is if someone was being abused or something like that. And even then he would support getting out vs cheating. So he always knew what was right but did not follow what he knew or have the moral compass to follow through.

  2. Shifting Impressions May 23, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

    Sarah and Hopeful
    I am in the middle of a most interesting read…..your post seems to fit right in.

    The title of the book is IT TAKES ONE TO TANGO by Winifred M. Reilly. I have been underlining like crazy.

    • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 1:09 am #

      Hi Shifting,

      The book sounds great so I ordered it. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Shifting Impressions May 24, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

        Sarah, I just finished it and found it rather fascinating……I would love your take on it when you are done reading.

    • Hopefull May 24, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

      I am going to look it up. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • Shifting Impressions May 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

        Hopeful
        you might find it very interesting….as the author is a therapist and she if very open and candid about the difficulties in her own marriage.

  3. Shifting Impressions May 23, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

    After d-day my world did indeed feel shattered, and yes my sense of self definitely took a hard hit. But just a few months later I would tell myself that it was his behavior that was “Less Than” not mine.

    I fought hard to continue to take the “high road” even in the pain, as I wanted to be able to face myself in the mirror.

    I think it helps to look at the positive steps one took and in all probability is still taking in order to survive and work through the nightmare of infidelity.

    Focus on what you have done well and don’t let your partner’s poor choices rob you of your accomplishments etc. I believe many of us have found a strength we did not know we had.

    • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 1:11 am #

      Shifting,

      Agreed. Don’t ever let your spouse or anyone for that matter rob you of your accomplishments. That also goes for not allowing people to rob you of your joy, your wellbeing, your health, and your peace of mind. It doesn’t have to be done immediately but its a goal to work towards. Unfortunately, infidelity kills self esteem like nobody’s business.

  4. TryingHard May 24, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    I truly think it’s the validation Hopefuls husband gets from his friends. That validation has a strong emotional draw for him but he struggles with that need and his need to be a good husband and father. Also his fear of death and aging. As long as he keeps his high school friends hes that 17 year old football hero.

    Personally, I would not condone or encourage the trips or outings. I would not be his sounding board or reciepirnt of his shame and guilt he puts in you. Your therapist is 100% correct. Do not discuss it but let him know you don’t condone it. You cannot disallow him from going with his friends because then you are Mommy. He has to make that decision. Right now he is perfectly willing to sacrifice his relationship with you to satisfy his emotional needs that are met with his pals. He shows guilt once he’s done it and I’m sure he’s torn and in his own personal hell but it’s a hell hes created by not dealing with his own fears about the progression of life.

    Men are more frightened of aging than women. My husband became a grandfather during his affair. He told me it scared the hell out of him. I had no idea. I thought he was thrilled and he is/was. But with aging and milestones like becoming a grandfather looms in their mind that they are getting old and all that comes with aging. Impotence, loss of work, loss of dexterity, loss of relationships, etc. but when one accepts the ageing process one finds so many joys.

    Hopefuls husbands affairs were a natural progression to fulfilling his need for validation with his friends. Regardless if they “knew” or not. His relationship with them leaves you out if a big part of his life and emotional needs. A big part. That’s not good for any marriage. He knows this. He’s very good at compartmentalizing but now that all the dirt is out the compartments of his life are spilling over into one another.

    Truth is he still wants his cake, guy friends, golf, sports bars; and eat it too, his marriage. It’s all good in the marriage until that pull for emotional validation from his friends calls.

    God why is life so hard?? People suck!!!

    • Hopefull May 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

      Trying Hard, I think you are 100% right. Just the other day he said “how did we get so old all of sudden?” And I am like we are old? I don’t feel old at all. So you are right I could care less what my age is. He on the other hand is and I think has struggled with it. I have pointed out how it is interesting how all of his friends fit a type whether from middle school, high school, college, adult life. They all are guys guys only none of them want to include or be with their wives and everything they do involves drinking. He says he can’t help who he became friends with in middle school etc. But you can help who you remain friends with and also I think there is some reason he is drawn to these people. To me everything is connected their drinking, behavior, poor quality of relationship with their wives. One huge thing is I know they all make him feel better about himself in every way. He makes more, is more athletic, drinks less, spends more time with his family, is more successful, works harder… so they boost his ego a ton. I think that is a huge factor. And he did admit that he feels he can be himself with them with no judgement.

      But the issue is as you said now that things are in the open he is conflicted. He wants to be open and tell me everything but everything does not sound good. He wants to be home and not miss anything with me and the kids but wants to have his fun. I have taken the road of not playing the mother role. I refuse to do that and always have. But he cannot figure out how to have it all. And maybe you just can’t have it all. And you are right he will go weeks a month without seeing his friends if not longer so it is not this constant thing but it pulls him back in.

      The other day he made a comment saying that he is so happy with everything 99% of the time with us. That caught me off guard the way he said it. This was after he had been out. I was trying to avoid any conversations with him but he followed me to continue talking. He said he thinks about me every hour all day long and he wanted me to know that. But he was talking with a friend who is divorced and said that he said it is awesome not having to answer to anyone ever. My husband said that 1% of the time would be nice not to have anyone to answer to and not to have anyone to be responsible for. I get it deep down and there are days all of us could use a break, but I honestly have never thought I wish all of this could go away so I would have no worries. It says so much about him. He of course turned it on me saying I am negative and focusing on the 1% vs the 99%. But to me it is revealing. As I said earlier I find myself pulling away from him more. I am not sure how much more I can talk and facilitate. At a certain point he needs to figure out who he is. I feel so frustrated since at the core I feel like I am the same person as I was as a small child. I feel like deep down I am the same person I was in kindergarten. Of course I have learned more in all aspects of my life but deep down I am the same person.

      • TryingHard May 24, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

        Hopeful–I’m no pro but I don’t think he’s abnormally narcissistic.

        My h has said too that he feels he is not good enough for me. Haha I agree!!! As I have started my detachment I feel him becoming more clinging and needy. He’s gotten invited on golf trips and turns them down. The last one he was invited on was last February I encouraged him to GO!!!! I like my alone time. However he never does the “boys night out thing”.

        Actually once men get to a certain age that whole ‘boys night out” starts looking pretty pathetic IMHO!! I don’t know how old your h is but if he’s past 45 he needs to really rethink how pathetic a bunch of old men look sitting on bar stools getting drunk. Not a good look.

        • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

          Hi Trying,

          That image of a bunch of drunk older men ‘not being a good look’ made me laugh. Thank you.

          As for the narcissistic thought about Hopefull’s husband, this was honestly the first time it ever came to mind. The reason it never came to mind before was because he doesn’t have typical narcissistic traits. But by Hopefull’s description, it seemed that he would cave in if he did not get a semi-constant dose of constant admiration. At least it is one of the things I interpreted based on what she was saying. That caused me to remember covert narcissism. It is a lesser known form and I don’t think the DSM describes it. But I believe covert narcissism is real.

          There is a Psychology Today blogger named Preston Ni and he describes covert narcissism perfectly:

          “Narcissism is often associated with its many external manifestations, including attention seeking, grandstanding, superficial charm, lack of reliability, boundary violation, manipulation, and many other traits.

          However, not all narcissists are openly grandiose and outwardly intrusive. Various researchers and authors have written about the introverted narcissist, variously identified as the covert narcissist, the hypersensitive narcissist, the closet narcissist, and the vulnerable narcissist (1)(2)(3)(4). This subtype of narcissism is more hidden, and yet can carry the same self-conceit and negative contagion as their extroverted counterpart.

          It’s important to point out that many introverts are not narcissistic. The ones who are, however, may have a way of influencing others around them to feel off-balance and/or insecure.

          What both extrovert and introvert narcissists have in common is their employment of an outer veneer of superiority, to disguise their inner sense of vulnerability. While the extroverted narcissist will say, in so many ways, that “I’m better than you”, the introverted narcissist will strongly hint at it.*

          Below are seven signs of an introvert narcissist, with references to my book (click on title) “How to Successfully Handle Narcissists”. While some people may exhibit a few of the following traits at one time or another, a pathologically introverted narcissist tends to dwell habitually in several of the following personas, while remaining largely unaware of (or unconcerned with) how these behaviors affect others.”

          Source:
          https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201601/7-signs-covert-introvert-narcissist

          Anyhow, Hopefull’s husband has some of these traits but not others. Honestly, I can only surmise what is going on with Hopefull’s husband based on his actions. I am seeing some signs of covert narcissism but I cannot say for sure.

          • Hopefull May 24, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

            Yes I can see that making sense. And what is interesting is now that he drinks less and comes home earlier he has mentioned looking around the bar watching games at even just 10pm and saying how bad it looks to him now. He says he cannot believe the time he spent. And it is not just the day or night drinking for him. He is done the next day and down for days. This pattern has ended which is positive and in the right direction. This was a big thing for him to acknowledge.

      • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

        Hi Hopefull,
        I know what you mean about always being the same person, even from your earliest memories. Same here. I always had a fixed identity and I never gave into peer pressure when I was younger. I would see people drinking, taking drugs, and being very promiscuous in high school. I felt sorry for them because they were ruining their lives. No matter how much they pressured me to conform, I never did.

        Unfortunately, all of those people who conformed either did not have fixed identities or they did not have enough confidence to say no. I remember how in school everyone was afraid of being made fun of by the popular kids and they would do the stupidest things to try to conform. For whatever reason, I was never interested in that dynamic. I had friends from all groups and refused to be part of a clique. Frankly, I just did not care for people who would judge me because I was friends with a girl with epilepsy who had ‘walking seizures’, and a girl who was blind, and a girl who was an unbelievable artist but whose parents could not afford braces. And so many people made fun of her. Just cruel because she was the kind of person everyone would want as a friend if they cared to look deeper. All three of these girls were the type of people who were true friends, but no one cared to look deeper. And it was their loss.

        I have found that this high school attitude of not having a fixed identity and looking to the crowd for approval has carried through into many adults. I know people in their 70’s who honest-to-God still participate in the pettiness of high school. When I was younger, I always thought people would mature and grow out of it by 30. Yeah, that did NOT happen.

        I am wondering if (similar to what TryingHard said) your husband never grew out of that high school identity– the one who was the star athlete, the one who everyone admired, the one who got his identity based on the approval and admiration of others.

        Another part of me wonders why your husband feels like such a loser on the inside. This is ‘reading between the lines’ on my part. He needs to hang out with people who give him a huge ego boost since they don’t have their lives figured out to the same extent. It seems like he would fall part if he did not receive a regular helping of “ego feed” from others. Am I totally wrong on this or is there some truth to it?

      • Shifting Impressions May 26, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

        Hopeful
        Maybe that’s part of the key….maybe stop facilitating and talking. They expect us to do that…and maybe in some strange way, that meets a need in us as well. I know I’m going out on a bit of a limb here. It’s just that I really relate. During the recovery, I have taken on more “facilitating and problem solving etc” than is my job.

        Maybe take a step back and focus on you. We can’t change anyone….but we can certainly try to figure out why certain things are so difficult for us. We are responsible for our own happiness as are they.

        • Hopefull May 29, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

          Yes I agree totally. I think this late night dynamic is a habit from when we first met and kept going. When I look at phone records he would call me first than the ow. Interesting. There is something about it for him. In thI past I would have been up after putting the kids to bed etc. Now I know it is me being insecure that if I am not available to him will he seek out someone else. That fear is there if I think about it. And yes at a certain point he needs to do the thinking and take ownership. He has the knowledge and skills to make it happen.

          • TryingHard May 29, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

            Hopeful– I do hear you. I know that fear. Fear if we aren’t there for them they will turn to someone else. It’s crazy making fear. Truth is they turned to someone else despite the fact we were always there for them. it’s not our responsibility to try to keep them faithful. It’s there’s. of course we need to be supportive but drunken conscience bearing talks are beyond reasonable. But I know what you are feeling.

            My h called me too before and after being with the OW. I think it was to figure out where I was. If it was safe. If I was expecting him home or to give a lame excuse why he was late. Heck I put those phone calls in spreadsheets and sorted them according to date and time and tower pings!! And while I know how pathetic that sounds I learned a lot about my h and the affair. I could tell exactly how long he spent at her house. There were patterns I saw.

            He wasn’t calling me to assuage his guilt. He was busy covering his tracks. Nice right? Wonder how could he felt betraying someone that totally trusted him and believed him. Not too hard to do. Kinda like tricking a child.

            I think your h was calling to cover HIS tracks too. Maybe after they were with the OWs there would have certainly been a lot of anxiety and adrenaline going in them and a phone call was the way to test the temperature of the home waters before returning home. I know for a fact my h does/did this.

            Im not sure but I wonder if we sometimes miss the point of some of their actions both during and after the affair?

            • TheFirstWife May 30, 2017 at 7:48 am #

              I don’t think we miss the point. The point is that the CS is selfish and out for themselves.

              I think it is just hard to accept that someone we love will become a liar and cheater.

              • TryingHard May 30, 2017 at 8:58 am #

                TFW–yes and you points are a given. Inarguably correct. But you know when we don’t have all the answers we will judge other people actions by our own filters.

                I know my h wasn’t calling me to see how I was doing. He couldn’t have cared less how I was doing. He wasn’t calling me for any input. He was calling me to clear his tracks. Find out where I was. If the coast was clear. He didn’t turn to her because I was unavailable. He turned to her because SHE was available. And many other narcissistic reasons.

                Sometimes we don’t see the forest for all the trees. And you are correct about his motivations.

    • Sarah P. May 24, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

      You called it– there is certainly a fear of aging going on here. I have often wondered why men have such a hard time aging. After all, women are the ones who are often judged first on youth and beauty. Men have other things that people admire about them: career, intellect, leadership, etc. that have nothing to do with aging. Any thought on that?

      This is not true for everyone, but it was certainly the case before feminism came along. Also, judging by who Hollywood puts in movies, it is apparent that Hollywood still buys into this wrong-thinking that would say women are in their prime prior to menopause. This is one of the reasons I disconnected cable in 2003. I was sick of seeing sexist viewpoints reinforced in the media.

      • Hopefull May 24, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

        Yes I agree totally it seems it should be opposite since women are judged more harshly for their aging and looks. How many older women date/remarry younger men especially significant? I mean once in a while you will see it now but it is really rare. Women have it so much harder yet how are we able to cope. I do know I was always mature at a young age so that contributed to it.

        I can see why he was drawn to me and because I was mature and independent also it worked for him. He could benefit from me and be who he wanted with others. And this just transferred over to his affairs too. They were younger and lower level too. He mentioned at times feeling insecure around my friends and other things related to me. The friend that introduced him to both affair partners felt I was snobby and elitist. Interesting… again these people allowed him to feel better about himself.

        I do think it has to do with some home dynamics/his parents/expectations and things he never really told me until more recently. It was nothing horrible or bad but I think it struck a chord with his identity especially the jock/sports aspect.

  5. TryingHard May 24, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi Sarah– Because what society values in women can be seen as we age i.e. wrinkles, grey hair, LOOKS, flabby tummy, menopause. And that can be nipped and tucked and covered up. Women aren’t valued for their business acumen/political acumen. Quite to the contrary, they are accused of 1. sleeping their way to the top 2. power hungry bitches or 3. they are obviously lesbians!! Well at least women aren’t judged for the lack of business acumen or success in their careers. At least not like men are judged.

    Female athletes are not valued at all. Just look at the purses for women’s golf and tennis. Don’t even talk about women’s soccer or basketball. Women’s athletics are a joke compared to men’s.

    I think after the initial shock of aging; When the hell did THAT wrinkle show up??; we move into older age and accept it; Screw it, I’m letting my grey grow!

    Men, on the other hand, it doesn’t make any difference if they are wrinkled or grey (oh yeah that’s considered handsome, graying at the temples) or flabby tummies. There’s not much emphasis on looks, or loss of looks, as it is for women. Male value is not judged on looks as it is for women. Societally speaking.

    But what men lose can’t be seen. But they know it’s happening. Their years in the workforce are starting to wane even if they aren’t “ready”. The young Turks in the office are faster, smarter, better than them. Their golf drives don’t go nearly as far. They have to hit from a shorter tee box. Tennis serves aren’t nearly as fast, neither are backhands. Knees and hips hurt as they hike. And then there’s the whole bedroom scene. They have a lot more physical work to do there than women right??? They see loss and death looming because everything they value is in their work or sports. And what have they really done to create a meaningful legacy?

    Some women fight the aging process. I know I do. There’s all kinds of things we can do to “soften” the effects of gravity. But eventually we accept it. Our legacy is the fact that we had human beings come out of our bodies. We nurtured and raised those humans to go on and remember us. Children ARE a woman’s legacy. So beware women, if your children are shitheads you’ve left a pretty rotten legacy!! JK!!!

    Men birth careers and sporting wins. So if your biggest perceived accomplishment is when you were in high school and you were the sport hero of the school you are going to constantly reach back to validate that legacy. Their ego gets a little more puffed up to get them through the next day, month, year “yeah man I was great at one time and people remember it!!!” It must be very hard for high school heroes to accept the mundaness of adult life.

    Thing is I’m CERTAIN Hopeful’s husband knows this about himself. The cliche is true, Our heroes feet are made of clay.

    I am in contact with no one from my high school and I live 10 miles away from that town. Same for college friends. I have nothing in common with those people. I’m not even in much contact with people I was friends with when my children were growing up. People change and move on.

    My husband was no athlete in high school and he doesn’t have any high school or college friends either. There’s no “hey remember when you caught the winning touchdown” nostalgia. There’s nothing in common anymore. We may see some people when we are out and we say hello but that is it. I have zero interest in striking up a play date with them.

    I believe as men start seeing the end of their career, end of their agility with sports (which is nothing but an organized who’s got the biggest penis contest!!!) they feel the aging process and inevitable death, more acutely. They don’t know how to verbalize they are scared either.

    So we can be all judgy about women who fight aging that get botox or fillers or face lifts, but every time you see an old guy in a Corvette (and seriously every freaking Corvette has an old guy driving it!!!) or a fancy sports car, trust me he’s doing the same thing as the woman who goes to the plastic surgeon. He’s running from old age. And BTW this is why men have affairs too. Personally I say buy the fucking car!!! It’s cheaper.

    Seems we humans need to be relevant and validated even if it kills us!!! Fear of death, fear of loss is a crazy motivator.

    • Hopefull May 25, 2017 at 12:30 pm #

      I love the line that men birth careers and sporting wins. So true. I cannot tell you how many times people ask me my name and then ask who I am married to and say oh the “insert sport” player. And this is from high school. We have been out of high school a long time. And yes he is still put on a pedestal and games are still relived. And scores are still discussed. And none of his friends were good athletes but he is still friends with grade school, middle school, high school and college friends. He tells me that is a positive thing that he has such strong friendships but what is it built on? I have no high school friends and a few from college. I agree people change and their interests and priorities do too.

      I do think that everything is related and that this is all connected. My therapist said from the beginning that it was the jock syndrome with him. I think that is why he had his affairs at a younger age too. There was no mid life crisis affair. At midlife he is more grounded than ever before. But I think this all happened when we were young since this athletic ability and attention started to drop off or at least decline. And you are right if he had a bad round of golf there was no talking to him for days. And this was with any sporting event whether he was a participant or spectator.

  6. TheFirstWife May 25, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    Getting back to the topic of the article, I find it interesting that the title is so very profound. By that I mean it is true that you need to show up in your life.

    I think in the immediate moments after DDay we all attended to stumble around and function. For me, it was difficult because of my children. They were home from school during the summer break. I had to pretend that things were normal to the best of my ability. I did not want to drag them through the mud and have them subjected to this awful situation.

    I think that I hid my pain from them. I don’t think they are aware of anything that happened.

    But I can honestly say that I will remember the difficulty I had even performing the most simple and basic tasks. What is interesting is that my husband walked around thinking there was nothing wrong with any of it. He flaunted his affair in my face as though he was not doing anything wrong.

    I just hope I showed up for my kids during that time.

    • Hopefull May 25, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      I agree it was and still is hard at times not letting it show around my kids. They will ask me time to time why I am so quiet. And this is the reason. I tend to become introspective and quiet vs upset or cranky. I try to carve out time during my day where I really think about what I want to do both daily, short term and long term. I focus on me and that is something I never did. It was always about others. Even with my kids we talk about what they can do to support me and our family.

      This is a hard road but one day at a time.

    • Shifting Impressions May 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

      TFW
      I am sure you did show up for your children….unfortunately our children are more astute than we often give them credit for.

      People close to us and yes even children often see deeper inside of us than we realize.

      During my husband’s first EA (unbeknownst to me for twenty years) my children were all home. I knew something was very wrong but didn’t know what it was. One of my daughters picked up on the pain in the house. She told me later…you and Dad didn’t touch as much during that time. She was a teenager and had no idea of what was really going on but still knew something wasn’t right. (Did I mention she is now a psychologist…go figure)

      After d-day….everyone was grown up and out of the house but nevertheless picked up on the pain. One saw it in my eyes and one heard it in my voice.

      My mother passed away suddenly about five months after d-day….so I figured if people saw me in pain they would attribute it to that…..but even through that my sister figured I just wasn’t myself. It was well over a year before I started crying and told her what happened.

      We do our best as mothers.

      • Sarah P. May 26, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

        Shifting,

        It’s always amazing to me how many women are brave and don’t tell even their closest relatives what is going on. They nobly want to ‘spare the children’ because they don’t want their children ‘thinking less of their dad.’ I am not saying this is what you did, but you certainly kept it to yourself after D-Day despite the immense pain you were in.

        It is always mind-boggling to me the absolute unselfishness that betrayed spouses are capable of despite their wayward spouse’s UTTER SELFISHNESS.

        • Shifting Impressions May 29, 2017 at 2:27 am #

          Sarah
          I can honestly say, that throughout the last three and a half years….I didn’t feel alone. The amazing support of a few close trusted friends and family made all the difference. The right people, the right books and the timely posts on this site were indeed part of my saving grace and they always came along, at just the right time.

          I wasn’t alone….my faith in God was definitely made stronger….something I am truly thankful for.

  7. TryingHard May 25, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    So I have a funny story that fits right in with the discussion of sports.

    I saw a friend last night and her husband while we were out to dinner. I noticed the husband had lost weight and I commented that I noticed and he looked good. I should have know better because this guy def fits in somewhere the Narcissistic bell curve.

    Well, it wasn’t enough for him to say “thank you” or be humble. OH NO he had to regale me with how when he was in college and played football (lol not a starter and NOT Big 10 either) that he was trim and slim and burned calories like crazy because of course according to him he was a BMOC as well, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. So I stood and listened and smiled, complimented him again and left.

    You would think this guy was like 30?? No he’s 52!!!! Still living his glory days, still associating everything with being an athlete in college. I wanted to ask how on earth he could remember that long ago!!

    Some people never progress or evolve past high school or college. I feel sorry for his wife. She’s a brilliant lawyer and a wonderful person. How she got stuck with an egotistical jerk like him I will never know.

    • TheFirstWife May 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

      I meet guys like that ALL the time. Stuck on HS or college sports.

      Give it up already – you are no longer fit to run 50 yards without needing CPR. Lol

      I liken them to the “beauty means” as I call them. You know the pretty mean girls in HS who become the mean moms in your town. Pretty and fun and nice to your face but will stab you in the back every chance they get.

      Or they are now no longer thin and beautiful and are embarrassed by it and constantly talk about when they were a size 4. I kind of feel bad they cannot accept themselves – another topic.

      But the guys who start conversations with “I played (football or lacrosse) in HS – your insecurity rings loud and clear.

      In my town we have famous people – soap opera starts, radio personalities, jockey, sports stars and coaches, elite country clubs for rich & famous. Many rich people. My H one time was talking to a famous star and he didn’t even know who she was. Lol.

      Lots of cheating and divorces and split up families too. It is sad to watch. Many midife crisis affairs. Some people just prefer to live in fantasy land.

    • Hopefull May 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

      My therapist says at some point most men make the switch. Well my husband only made the switch professionally. He has been highly successful from a young age and he feel more focused than ever. He says he got to where he was because of me originally and he contributes his recent focus and happiness at work with me and me giving him a second chance. I think for me I am highly independent and mature for my age and always have been. I was successful and hard working early on in my career. I think that was what drew him to me. He could have that stability but since I was independent and also worked so hard he could do what he wanted. I was never naive but he was so good at lying to my face when directly asked questions. He sees this all now but has a ways to go. I think this is all ingrained in him and many behaviors become habits.

  8. TheFirstWife May 25, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    Hopefull. I don’t find the need to “think” anymore. My brain is just numb sometimes.

    Even being almost 4 years out my H still says and does stupid things. Last week he said something that literally made me want to throw something at him. It was the way he expressed his opinion. I’m telling him I don’t feel like he communicates with me on a certain level and I feel disconnected. Rational conversation.

    He mentions sex. I swear it had NOTHING to do with the topic (except in his mind) and I just lost it. I literally locked myself in my room for the night. Supposedly I am the love of his life and for the millionth time I am telling him he is not showing up 100% emotionally. He will tell me details about his day. Great! But I want to talk about deeper stuff – how do you feel about things or process things or talk about heartfelt things once in awhile.

    He thinks it is about sex. Seriously?!!

    Sometimes I wish he had an edit button or rewind button.

    He told me he had an affair b/c HE felt disconnected. So I am now telling him I don’t feel he is as connected as he could be. And he thinks it is related to sex.

    SMH!!! Seriously I don’t make this stuff up.

    The good news is that this validates it is not me sometimes!!

  9. TryingHard May 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    Hopeful– I should have added that I don’t subscribe to any of the bullshit I wrote. Fathers are responsible for children too. They don’t birth them but the are certainly relevant in their lives and their roles are very important.

    I believe women’s careers are just as important and meaningful. Female athletes should be just as revered as male athletes. But we as a society have placed these crazy expectations on each gender. It’s not right.

    I feel bad for your husband that he can’t move on from the past and that this is his only self proclaimed glory. It’s def NOT. He’s done way greater things since his glory days in HS. My h comes home after a poor round and will sulk. I ask how his round was and if he’s upset I remind him he’s not a pro golfer and that he had fun right? But damn these fools like to WIN!! It’s sad they just can’t enjoy being outside and moving and playing a game they like. But that’s just me.

    I think your h is figuring it out though. Were I you I would detach from his cognitive dissonance after a night out. I would certainly not encourage those friendships and maybe develop friendships where you are included. Maybe state that to him. Right now he is being lazy because he doesn’t have to do any work with these friendships. They are seeking HIM out so he acquiesces to their invitations despite his risk or remorse afterwards.

    He’s the one that is going to have to figure this out. Problem is it’s a well ingrained habit now. And no, I don’t think it speaks positively that he is still friends with all these school yard pals. Quite the opposite. It’s sad. But this is HIS experience. These are his life choices and I think he probably is trying to break the cycles. It’s hard to break those old habits even if the desire is real. You have your own emotional needs to meet. However when he starts the lamenting and expressing his remorse for his own poor choices that he continues to make over and over that is when you need to place your own boundaries in place. He knows how you feel and you should not have to keep repeating yourself or assuage his guilt. That would get old really fast for me at least.

    Hopeful,I truly believe you got this. I also believe your h will get it soon enough too.

    • Hopefull May 25, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

      Yes I knew you did not mean that husbands/fathers don’t have those responsibilities. He is even facing the fact that he did miss out on a lot because of his choices that led to his detachment. I know I probably think too much but I feel like I have so many past conversations swirling in my head. Even before the affairs started I knew what was right and challenged him but he was already gas lighting me and telling me what was wrong with my way of living and looking at things. The one thing is I do feel better knowing it was not me but him! And he is figuring it out. It is slow. Recently he said he feels bad for me if he dies since I will have to sit and listen to his family and friends say all these good things about him and how much they like him and here I know the truth. I said yes true but at this point all you can do is make better choices and change your life moving forward so maybe it will match what they think. I am not going to say none of what he did matters but if he wants to improve I will support it. I agree I am not going to be his go to person and sounding board only after a night or dinner out with friends. I am done with that. I even told him a couple of times ago if he came home happy and upbeat telling me about the great time but it turns into woe is me and how sad I am etc. If he wants to talk about that then do it sober.

      TFW – Love your comments and so true about these women. Lucky for me we do not live in a community like that. There are a few here and there but not many.

  10. TryingHard May 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

    FirstWife–LOL you are assuming they have depth!!!!

    I hear you though and I try the same thing. I ask if he’s ok, seems down, what’s on your mind, what are you thinking etc. I get I’m good, nothing’s bothering me, nothing…. aaarrrgggh

    We moved his parents into an independent living facility and imagine this, it’s not going so well??? Shocking right? Anyway asked him how he felt about it if he wanted to talk. Nope he’s totally cool with it, nothing to feel or think about!!!!

    So yeah, you may be trying to give credit where credit is not due. I know I am sometimes. Deep as a thimble!

    • TheFirstWife May 25, 2017 at 3:37 pm #

      Yes TH you are right. I assume there is something deeper.

      I think part of me is jealous over the attention he gave the OW. Their communication was intense and all that.

      But I took a step back and it was that way b/c it was new. She was new. Exciting. Different. I doubt his emotional connection was any different than it is with me but I imagined it to be.

      Not any more. I have moved past that.

      • TryingHard May 25, 2017 at 10:02 pm #

        TFW. Yes she was new. He got to tell her his life story that you already knew. He got to embellish and make himself the hero. He got to tell her all his woes that you know are/were bullshit. It was brain vomit!!! He could say whatever he wanted and give advice to the ingenue. No I doubt he had much more depth of emotions with her than he does with you. Probably less and all just fantasy

        • Sarah P. May 26, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

          TryingHard,

          Everything you said it true. And I also think this type of “needing to feel powerful” on a man’s part also explains why single, middle aged men go trawling for women 20 years younger.

          There is a ‘payback’ story involving this that happened to a guy at my husband’s work. My husband told me a male nurse in his mid-50’s got divorced after he and his wife finished raising kids. He would talk about his dating life and would says things like this: “Since I am a fit, handsome, and wealthy 55-year-old man, I deserve a woman who is at least 20 years younger. People should understand why I am only attracted to women under 35. Women over 35 look so old.”

          I asked my husband if this guy was an exceptional 55-year-old and my husband said he was. (By the way, when I did meet this guy when I went to drop off Christmas cookies and treats, the guy WAS NOT what I had imagined. He was short, very slim, and had a huge head of gray hair. He looked 65, not 55). Now, please do not get me wrong, there is no issue with a man looking like this fellow. He would have been a catch for a woman his own age (possibly) if he didn’t have such offensive thoughts about dating women his own age. The only thing I am trying to point out is that the image this man had of himself was so radically different than the reality.

          Anyhow, he ended up talking a 33-year-old woman into marrying him. He said that she was his soulmate and that he deserved someone so perfect for him. But pretty soon after the 55 y.o. married the 33 y.o. woman, she told him that she ‘required’ a brand-new 3,700 square foot house, than than the apartment they lived in. To get this done, the guy had to liquid one set of retirement funds since she would not let it go. So he had the 6-bedroom house built. But, about a week later, she informed him that her parents would be coming to ‘visit’ and that they could not kennel their dogs so the dogs would be ‘visiting’ too. A day after her parents arrive, a set of cousins arrive with their dogs. So now the house is full of 5 male dogs (that are not neutered), her parents, and her cousins. And then they drop the bombshell that they are permanently staying because their houses are in foreclosure. Then, he discoveries his house starts to smell bad. It seems all of the male dogs are trying to stake out territory and so they spend all day spraying on their territory.

          The last time my husband worked with this guy, he was about to have a nervous breakdown. So, the 55-year-old man who was so happy he ‘got what he deserved’ by ‘scoring’ a 33-year-old woman, is now GETTING WHAT HE DESERVES for being so sexist and proud.

          And when men have affairs with younger women, they younger woman is of the same ilk as the woman that guy married. They are there to use. But, they allow the older guy to tell his story of ‘being victimized’ by a cold cruel wife. They pretend to empathize and they build up his ego. They want whatever the guy has to offer, but generally not the guy himself. They want access to money, or (alleged) power, or gifts. And so they continue to make this guy feel like he is on top of the world all the while knowing there are there to use. I have seen this happen time and again. The other woman is not sincere and she tolerates ‘brain vomit’ because it is a means to an end for her. It’s too bad that good wives have to get hurt by their spouse’s stupidity.

          • TryingHard May 26, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

            Sarah– that is a hilarious story of Karma at its best!!

            I’ve been reading a lot about ageism. It’s amazing how people make disparaging remarks about people because of their age where the “joke” or comment made using race or religion or sexual orientation would be considered not done. Look at the skits and comedies made about old people. Substitute a race or religion and apply the same kinds of stereotype and you will see what I mean.

            So skinny old gray haired man got his due!! Bet he’s eyeing up women his own age now. He’s concerned with only outside appearances. Skinny or not trust me when that guy takes his clothes off well he’s no 32 year old guy!!! He’s probably got his stash of little blue pills with him always.

            • Sarah P. May 26, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

              I forgot to tell the best part of the story. Sometime after marriage and before the relatives with peeing dogs moved in, he started complaining to the men at work that his ‘poor, formerly healthy wife developed a migraine disorder.’ I highly doubt he has need for the little blue pills. (Wink, wink)

              As for ageism, oh it is one of my biggest pet peeves of all. From the time I was born until I was about 4 years old, we lived just down the street from my dad’s parents. They often took care of me since they were retired and my parents worked long hours. They were both the greatest people and were heavily involved in my life until both of them died. I was their only grandchild and instead of being spoiled with stuff, I was spoiled with their time and attention. My grandpa was always taking me to the park, or to the stream, or to the forest and teaching me things. He was a retired government geologist. Then there was my grandma who was a retired first-grade teacher. They were both really loved people in the community because they went out of their way for others. I owe much of who I am today to my grandparents and I am not afraid to tell everyone that. Any good in me is largely due to their wisdom, their influence, teaching, and kindness. (My parents are great too, but my grandparents were exceptional.)

              This caused me to really appreciate people who were much older- the same people who this society deems invisible. The thing with ageism now has become worse than it ever was. It used to be that ageism started at 50, then it moved to 40, and now I believe it has moved to any woman older than 18 years old. If you really dig to find the ages of models who model products for adult women, some of them are as young as 13 years old with the average age being 16. (That is these are CHILDREN modeling women’s clothing.) The only company who does not do this is Chico’s.

              There are ‘token’ actresses who still get work: Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Gillian Anderson, and Tilda Swinton. But the thing is, they are still young– just not young by Hollywood’s standards. Then there are also the ‘token’ overweight women who are ‘allowed’ to be on TV like Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy. But they are cast in the role of being loud and brash or being slightly pathetic and low-key. Then there are the male actors who still get key roles into their 70’s.

              Even though I disconnected cable and don’t order magazines, I still get to see ageism all around me. I still get to see that Carl’s Junior has run ads with naked, implanted women eating burgers. And I still get the Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Edition even though I have called the company and asked them not to send the magazine. This year I got to see there was a naked woman on the cover of that too- unless of course you count an 1/8 inch string of fishing net as a swimsuit. Fortunately, I caught it in the mail before my boys saw it. I am raising my boys to respect women and to realize that a woman cannot be chosen based on the size of her implants or her injected butt photos on Instagram. I have no control over what they do as adults, but I am raising them to admire the right internal qualities in women and be more concerned about how a woman is on the inside than outside. Sure, marry a beautiful woman– more power to you- but she must have a beautiful personality that matches her exterior.

              Western culture needs help. A good part of it is consumed with ageism and materialism. Neither of these things lead to happiness- they just lead to cultures de-volving.

              And that is my rant for the day!

  11. Rachel May 26, 2017 at 5:53 am #

    They love to tell “their” story and get pity and attention from these women. It’s all about them!!!!
    I changed my name on Wednesday and I just can’t wipe that silly grin off of my face!!!!
    I was nervous I have to admit. Nervous about where will I park and will I be back to work within the hour??? Not nervous to ditch the name that I have carried for 30 years, or that I will have a different name then my kids. Weird how things change with time.
    I found a parking place right in front of the town hall, and didn’t even have to parallel park!👍🏻
    Saw the probate judge, he made me copies of the name change decree, he shook my hand and wished me luck.
    My smile was huge!!!! Walked out of the building, kissed the sky as I know that my dad was right by my side. Drove back to work and cruising through all 12 green traffic lights!!!!!!!
    My older son remembered that I was going and wished me luck.
    My younger son was working on his truck when I got home from work and I said to him, well, my name was changed today. He said, oh great mom, congratulations! I bet you’re happy that you don’t have to carry that name around anymore.
    I was quite surprised about his reaction. And Happy. He gets it.

    • Hopeful May 26, 2017 at 9:28 am #

      Good for you! I can understand why it was so important to you and it seems like everything aligned for you that day. And so sweet your sons recognized it was good for you. What great kids!

    • TheFirstWife May 26, 2017 at 9:46 am #

      So glad for you!!! You deserve it. 💕💕💕

    • Doug May 26, 2017 at 10:36 am #

      Awesome Rachel! Or do we call you by another name now? 😉

    • Shifting Impressions May 26, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

      Wow…that’s wonderful, Rachel.

    • Sarah P. May 26, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

      Rachel,

      Congratulations!! I love how God stepped in and gave you a parking spot and 12 green lights!! I am pretty sure God was giving you a thumbs up 🙂

  12. TheFirstWife May 26, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    I think the common thread with cheaters is that they are “unhappy” being married to their spouse. The stupid AP believes everything the CS tells them.

    I don’t love my spouse
    He/she is mean
    We don’t have sex
    I am staying for the kids
    My spouse doesn’t understand me.

    The last one is my favorite. Seriously your spouse doesn’t understand your lying and cheating ways. And yes my dear CH – you are surprised by that?! Idiot!!

    Funny how every time I told my H – you can go- you are not required to stay with me – he did not leave. He would ask for divorce – I say OK – he begs to have me reconsider and he swears he changed his mind. Only to have the same routine play out a few days later.

    I swear the cheaters are insane and/or psychotic.

    So while the BS is peeling THEMSELF off the floor to get thru the day, the CS walks around like life is good.

    And my H asked me if I ever cheated on him!! As a way to justify his cheating and multiple affairs? I looked him dead in the eye and made sure he knew the answer was “no” and don’t you ever ask me that question ever again.

    Honestly I wonder what happens to people that they become someone or something else???

    So I just keep myself moving forward and don’t look too far into the future. Because some days I just want to run off to Tahiti and live on a beach.

    Or buy a house and soend my days baking, cooking and gardening and reading a book.

    • Shifting Impressions May 26, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

      TFW
      I actually think they are “unhappy” period. So instead of asking why am I feeling this way, they seek to “blame” others or the circumstances in their life during that time. Much easier to place blame elsewhere than look deep inside.

      OW comes along without all the ups and downs of real life and makes them “feel good” at the moment. And he does the same for OW if she is married….as she was in our case. And they tell themselves….here is someone who understands me.

      During my husband’s EA before d-day….I knew something was so very wrong..I also told him I only wanted him to stay with me because he wanted to and because he loved me. He didn’t go anywhere…just kept up the EA behind my back. It was a difficult time in his life, but rather than digging deep and dealing with it the actual problems….he blamed others and got his ego stroked by the OW.

      Our children are raised…there is enough money for us to lead separate lives….but that is not what he wanted either. I also told him to go if he wanted after d-day….I told him I would survive. He looked at me and said that he didn’t know if he would.

      And yes, he told me later, he never stopped caring for me during that whole time…how does that work?? But he suffered over the affair….during and after….never did walk around like life was good. He felt caught….as he went against his own moral code.

    • Sarah P. May 26, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi Trying,

      I think in the past it must have been easy to change one’s identity and to escape. I don’t blame you for wanting to run off either.

    • Sarah P. May 26, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi TFW and Trying,

      The comment was meant for both of you. TFW, I would not blame you if you flew off to Tahiti and TryingHard, I would not blame you if you ran off to France since you have joked about it before. I think it was easier in the past for people to do these things, but now everything is tracked so intensity. Tracking things is good in a way because it prevents bad people from running off with a good person’s money. But it also prevents a good wife from going through the hassles of a lengthy and malignant divorce.

      TFW, that’s so interesting that he asked you if you cheated on him. Good, old-fashioned projection.

      • TryingHard June 1, 2017 at 11:00 am #

        Hi Sarah–Yes running away is a fantasy of mine. I’m looking to rent a loft apartment in a city much closer than France. Not leaving leaving but getting away on a regular basis 🙂 That might be as close as I ever get to my running away fantasy!

  13. TryingHard May 26, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    Rachel– I am so happy this came thru for you. Even tho a name change is seemingly not a big deal symbolically it’s a big deal. You’ve shed the last vestige of your ex. It’s ok you and your sons have different last names. The times they are a changin’ as Bob Dylan said. Seems it’s pretty common now.

    What’s great is the message you’re sending to the world. You are your own woman !!! Narc ex won’t like it and I’m sure will have something ignorant to say. Be prepared but eff him!!

    Glad your sons are supportive of you. You’ve raised good ones who will always be there for you it sounds like. Yay Team Rachel

  14. Rachel May 26, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

    Thank you all for the great comments. It Is a good feeling to have that narsarsist out of my life, name and all.
    As far as the CS being unhappy, yes mine was. Nothing made him happy. And if someone else was happy he made sure that they weren’t. It’s nice living in a happy house. Laughter always, never put downs or someone picking a fight or argument. Breathing good air!

  15. Hopefull June 1, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    Shifting Impressions,

    I finished It Takes One to Tango. I feel like we need an entire post for this one. So many thoughts…

    • Shifting Impressions June 1, 2017 at 10:55 am #

      Hopeful
      I know what you mean……it’s caused me to shift my focus in all my relationships. I find I’m asking myself different questions. Such as why certain things bother me or what was my part in this situation.

      Or what am I doing that’s not working and what change can I make. One that is really jumping out at me is that I want fix things….even things that aren’t mine to fix. It’s hard taking a step back but also very liberating,

      • TryingHard June 1, 2017 at 11:09 am #

        SI–You sound like me. I am always looking for constructive criticism. I think that’s why I spent so much time in therapy. And I’m not bragging but all my therapists have said there’s nothing wrong with me. My expectations are reasonable. LOL heck I even argue the point that if they are reasonable why do I suffer so?

        I examine all my relationships, but now I am trying to take them a face value. I used to put so much value on all my relationships but I’m trying to stop that. I think my motivation was I wanted to be liked. Being liked is just not that important to me anymore. It is liberating to step back!

      • Hopefull June 1, 2017 at 5:23 pm #

        I think the most useful tip is to pull back or step back especially when in a heated discussion or argument. That need to have the last word or to be right really is not helpful. And does it matter all these little things how they are done exactly? No. I think what I learned long ago is take care of it myself, let it go or work to establish a new system and get buy in from those around me. When I come up with a solution my husband and kids get on board. Rather than me telling them what they are doing wrong. Yes it would be nice if they did it but after so long it is just a gerbil wheel as the author says. And as a couple in an argument the biggest thing for me is not talking just listening. To me it is revealing. And if the silence is uncomfortable then why. As I said below in the end I feel better about myself. Getting all emotional and upset especially about the same arguments is never good. Deeper issues of infidelity I think take more work but I still use the technique of asking a question or what I would think of as a prompt and then just waiting for what I hear.

    • TryingHard June 1, 2017 at 11:01 am #

      Hopeful–What was your take on the book? I haven’t read it and I am a little reluctant to order. LOL kinda sick of those kinds of books, had my fill. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and if it’s worth it.

    • Doug June 1, 2017 at 11:57 am #

      Tell you what, Hopefull…I can order the book, read it and write up something, or you’re more than welcome to submit a guest article if you so desire. Your call!

  16. Hopefull June 1, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

    I would say this is more of a general marriage/relationship book. There is only brief mention of infidelity. I find it hard to understand how to utilize a lot of what she suggests even at the point we are at. Actually many of the suggestions she has I have used for a long time even during the affair years. Many of them are things my husband suggested we do.He has stated it in a similar way but he always told me to deal with our kids without emotion or if that was not possible remove yourself from the situation and that otherwise the kids will feed off of my emotion. He of course only cited this as a way for me to deal with the kids but this is how I dealt with him too. Very matter of fact and lacking emotion. This is similar to some of what is suggested in the book. It was very effective and especially at protecting me. Rarely did I ever feel good unleashing my emotions and it ended up worse than where we started. So I am coming at this from a different place. What hit me though was that my husband told me a lot of this information for my use but in the end he did not follow his own advice. Or he followed just what he wanted. We rarely ever fought or fight and deal and cope with our differences. The only things I ever brought up through the affair years were let’s discuss our priorities (always careful to say our and not target him) and I did challenge him and the amount of time he spends with friends and the type of time.

    I feel like the book is helpful from the direction of focusing on you and what you can control. I think that is a good perspective since you cannot change someone else or control their actions. I feel like I need the next layer or the next step. Based on what my husband did for so many years most of these techniques I used and it did not matter. I would have liked to hear more severe examples of how this is effective but fighting over being late all the time or cleaning up around the house seems so trivial and something we never faced. Our disagreements were about who and what we were. And when someone is cheating and lying for 10+ years no matter how much I focus on me it did not seem to draw him back in. The flip side is maybe since I did use these techniques to take care of and protect myself maybe that is how I was able to make it through and be so strong after dday.

    I am glad I read it and think there are points of value this is just where I am coming from. I do think underlying the most important part of the book is empowering that we must focus on ourselves and it gives some great examples that we can all use. I find the information in the book is helpful to my relationship with my kids and others too.

  17. Trying Hard June 1, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    Thanks Hopeful. Hhhm maybe I’ll pick it up.

    • Shifting Impressions June 1, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

      Trying Hard
      For some reason something shifted in me as I read the book. It is causing me to look a little deeper. Just asking the question….why is something so upsetting to me? Or why do I always want to fix everything??

      Asking…what’s really going on here, when in the middle of an altercation, be it a friend a child or my husband.

      And one of the books Sarah P. recommended THE NEW CODEPENDENCY….is also forcing me to look at my own patterns etc. like the fixing thing and making everyone happy.

      Must be that detachment thing again Lol!!

  18. TryingHard June 1, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

    SI–ooo I love books that provoke such thought. I think I might be the rare person that relishes constructive criticism and to challenge myself.

    I read a little bit of The New Codepenency. It looked better than the first book Codependent No More. Crap that book was like chewing on straw!!

    I am so thrilled to hear that the whole detachment thing is working as well for you as it is me. It’s a freaking epiphany as far as I’m concerned. Fir the first time in years we spent an evening with some people and I didn’t wake up the next morning freaking out about whether or not I offended them!! Ha. Don’t care. DETACH baby 😊

  19. Shifting Impressions June 2, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    Trying
    I am finding the detachment, although effective….not always easy. I just find myself asking myself more questions. Maybe the answers are in the questions…..if that makes any sense.

    For example….to borrow your example…did you ever ask yourself why you would do that to yourself after an evening with friends?? Asking myself why I am upset about something or why something is bothering me so much is a bit of an eye opener. You know….it’s that what’s really going on here type of thing.

    Yup…just love making you think a little more…aren’t I a pain lol!!!

    • Trying Hard June 2, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      SI–Thank you so much for asking that. and the answer is YES every.single.time. And it seems it would happen to me in the morning. As if, “did I have too much to drink and say something for which I could be judged?”

      By detaching I also figured out ‘hey TH you aren’t that important that someone would be thinking about what you said!!!’ But what I KNOW is I have very opinionated judgmental friends. If you aren’t just exactly like them then you are worthy!! I decided I needed different friends because I am not just like them in any way shape or form and I didn’t want to be.

      I feel detachment is also accepting YOURSELF just as you are. Don’t try to be someone else just to impress or please anyone else. Detach yourself from caring what they think. Essentially it comes down to not caring especially where friends are concerned.

      Now with family it’s a much more delicate balance and tight rope right? But we can detach in small ways by not taking things personally. Family sometimes is the worst.

      Thanks for being provocative. I like it. You are not a pain at all. You make me think and that’s a good thing.

      • Shifting Impressions June 2, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

        You’re right Trying
        Family is the hardest….you have so much invested…you love them so much. For me the detachment is more about allowing them to make their own choices and mistakes etc. About finding the balance of caring but not taking on what is their responsibility.

        Stepping back, while being loving and supportive. For far to long I have been “the keeper of the emotions” as I like to call it, in our family. Sometimes I think my husband never had to show any emotions as I would do it for him.

        All of this really does relate to recovering from the affair. I am stepping back….working out my own issues. Even with the the kids (all grown Ups) If they ask what did Dad say or what is Dad thinking or feeling………I tell them ask your father. This happened twice this morning with two different kids. I told them you need to go straight to him….I will no longer be the “middle man” or should I say woman.

        But like I said…..I know I have had that role for years….but now I am stepping back, but more than that I am asking myself Why was I in that role and What was I perhaps getting out of it. Damn….must be all that codependcy crap I am reading.

        Glad to hear I’m not a pain…..but my head is starting to explode …way to much reading and thinking.

        BTW I agree with you……nobody needs judgmental friends….you are wonderful, just the way you are.

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