rebuilding self esteem


By Linda

A couple of years ago when Doug and I really started to experience problems in our marriage, not only did we become distant but we also began treating each other with disrespect.  I know that I was not too supportive or encouraging and neither was Doug.  

Additionally, there were times when I would want to discuss things with Doug and he would shoot me down or dismiss my point of view.  This was a huge hit to my self-esteem. As a result, rebuilding self esteem has been a major struggle for me. 

As a result, I really started feeling bad about myself.  I began to doubt my abilities as a wife, mother, teacher and woman.  Even though I had a master’s degree I questioned my intelligence, and even though I looked good for my age I questioned my desirability. 

I realize that Doug did not intentionally try to make me feel this way.  Rather, I believe that he too was suffering from some low self esteem and uneasiness and just took his frustrations out on me.  My low self esteem was affecting every aspect of my life.

When I found out about Doug’s emotional affair with Tanya, it reaffirmed everything I had been thinking about myself.  I truly believed that I was not good enough for him.  If I had been a better wife, mom etc. he never would have found someone else. 

So what did I do?  In essence I gave up on myself and my true identity by setting out to be just like her.  If he fell in love with her then she must have these wonderful qualities that I don’t have.  I had to know what those qualities were. 

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Unfortunately I have never met the women, so I acted based on my interpretation of the “facts” that Doug was telling me.  Of course he painted the picture of the perfect woman – yet another blow to my fragile self concept.

Do as I say, not as I did

If you are now in the same position as I was, you probably feel or have felt the way I did, and you may be wondering how this information is beneficial to your recovering from an affair.  This is a prime example of what not to do, so please learn from my mistakes and make better choices.

The most important lesson I learned is when your spouse is involved in an emotional affair (or sexual affair) the only thing you can control is you.  You cannot change your spouse’s mind nor can you control his/her behavior. You can only control your actions and your thoughts. 

The most important thing you can do is to focus on you.  You need to figure out right away just how and what you need to do to make yourself feel better and to boost your shattered self esteem.  You want to find activities that will occupy your mind and that are going to have a positive effect on you.

In the beginning I was so focused on us and how to save our marriage that I was afraid to stop.  Consequently, I did nothing that I knew would be right for me.  My self worth took such a blow that at times I really didn’t think I deserved to focus on me, nor did I have the confidence to try something new.  It was a very difficult time.

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For months I continued on this downward path, then slowly I began to realize that Doug’s affair wasn’t really my fault, and that I had many positive, desirable qualities.  I decided that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and to move on.  I needed to act as if my marriage had ended and I was beginning a new life.

I continued to show Doug that I cared for him and that I didn’t want our marriage to end, but I just stopped focusing on trying so much and starting focusing on what would make me happy instead. 

Often I would think about what I would do if my marriage ended.  I even made plans for things I was going to do.  I wanted to train for a type of marathon race that involved kayaking, biking and running.  I would join a local rock climbing club. I would learn to be a really good cook.

Today I still am upset with myself for not pursuing these things when I first found out about the affair.  For one thing, it would have been a good distraction, and also would have allowed Doug to see me in a different light and not as the predictable wife and mother that he believed was a constant in his life.

Rebuilding Self Esteem – It’s been a long road to recovery

Recovering my self esteem has been a struggle for me.  I wish that I wouldn’t have given up on myself so easily.  I stopped being the person that I was before this all happened.  I stopped being the excellent teacher because in some ways I blamed my dedication to the downfall of my marriage. However, that was a big part of who I am as I am a great teacher and have received many personal rewards for my accomplishments.

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I stopped being a great mom for the same reasons because I felt it had taken away from my marriage. By doing these things I felt it would allow me to be the person Doug wanted, but in reality it took away every part of my identity and resulted in me becoming someone I really didn’t know or want to be.  Instead of rebuilding self esteem – it lowered it even more.

So you need to take a good look at yourself.  Be honest with who you are.  Do not allow a situation or another person to take who you are away from you. 

Make a list of all your wonderful qualities, focus on the things that you are really proud of and that you enjoy, and make an effort to do them everyday. Do things for others and don’t compromise who you are because of the situation. 

I believe that if I would have stood tall, believed in myself and let Doug know that indeed there were some behaviors that I needed to change, he would have realized sooner that I was indeed everything he needed in a woman, that he was making a great mistake, and in no way was I not good enough to be loved by him.


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    8 replies to "Rebuilding Self Esteem – Don’t Lose Your Self Concept"

    • Sally

      Wow! This one hit home. I really have been thinking I have been bettering myself until just recently when I realized I was not concentrating on who I really am as opposed to who I think he wants me to be. Just within the last week, I started to make some changes to myself that I believe make ME happy. I hope that it will make him happy, but in the end if all I do is make myself happy it is still a good thing for me. I have found something I have wanted to do and I am starting to pursue it. I am immersing myself in my kids, spending time with them and trying to mix things up. You don’t know how much this really helped me. So much on here is exactly what I am going through. It is sometimes scary, but always reassuring to see that I am NOT crazy. I really thought I was for a while. It is also reassuring to see that there are others out there, that even though they are balancing on a precipice in thier life, are not ready to give up even in the face of all the adversity they are be challenged with.

      • Doug

        Sally, That’s great to here that you are concentrating on you and your happiness. Hopefully, he will see the light and realize he is making a mistake with his actions. It is quite amazing how many people’s situations are so similar.

    • Elaine

      You have no idea how much this post just woke me up. I too thought I had been focusing on me and I was to some extent, but it was with the ulterior motive of showing him how I could be different so he would want me. I am finally realizing I am worthy of being loved completely for who I am not who he wants me to be. If it isn’t him who wants to do that then eventually I’ll find someone who will and that I will be happy no matter what.
      You will probably never know how much or how many people this website is helping but you truly are doing a great thing here! It is sad how many people’s stories are the same but if we all focus on what we have in our lives that we can be grateful for, the sadness and pain of what we’re going thru is less overwhelming. I’m off to sign up for art class, something I’ve always wanted to do. Thanks for the inspiration!!!!

    • michael

      I too have found myself sharing my feelings and then trying to show her what I think she could do to help. But to my dismay I’m shot back at with a comment like. “I don’t know what to do to change.” Or “I’ve been doing that you just don’t see it.” Or the ever so popular “sorry that’s just not me.”. Its hard to hear that. And some times I’m not sure if she really wants to work on getting through this or just make it go away.
      I don’t see any good outcome of just making it go away. If things don’t get better, or get bad again, it might happen again. If I feel so unloved I might justify me doing something similar. Or worse. And I will not go through this again. It is the worst thing that has happened in my life. But I’m here and so is she, so that says a lot. But is it truly enough for me or her.
      So here I am. I can’t change her. I can’t show her what I need if I don’t know what it is that I want. I did do things right away to see if that was what she needed. Things I thought were what she was looking for. My worst mistake was she was still in that bubble with him. I think about it now and wondered if he was having a good laugh at my expense. Hearing what I was doing to try to “win her back”. While she was still head over heals for this old flame. I look back at emails and hurt for the words she spoke. She was still gone.
      About the time I discovered I wasn’t going to make her change, I made the decision to work on me. To feel happier about me. I am a good man. I have been a good husband. I have lots of friends who love me for who I am. I will be ok without her. It was about that time that I started to see a change in her. And a more openness in me. I did do something I regret but that’s for a different post.

      • Doug

        Michael, once again you have some inspirational words to share. Thank you! We’ll be curious to hear what it was that you regretted doing. We all have done something when in this situation that we have regretted. They obviously don’t teach this stuff in schools and we often act out of frustrations, anger and panic. Often the way we act or the things we say just leads our spouses right back to the other man or woman.

    • save marriage

      Great post on managing relationship issues. It can be really laborious sometimes. Love your insight into managing romantic relationships. Stay up for testing new updates on your blog.

    • Daphne

      Yes it really do make a whole lot difference when I decide to focus on myself rather than the marriage. When I found out about the affair in June, my whole world just crumble down. I started to focus on her and him. I was going on a downward stream so so much that I lose myself totally. In Sept, on our wedding anniversary I decided that I will end this marriage. That’s when I told him I will let him go after months of waiting for the affair to end. I start focusing on myself and that’s when i started noticing the changes in me and finding my own identity. I am not totally over it yet but I manage to stay strong

    • Liz

      Take what you want and leave the rest. That is what they say at Alanon. So if some of this helps in your recovery take it and if it doesn’t skip it. I am talking to the ones who would like to be able to recover from the pain of their partner’s affair, which is no easy task. I have stayed married for 54 years, and the benefits to me outweigh the cost, saying that it has been quite the struggle. After 30 years of recovering this is what I now know. Yes, in the beginning I fell completely for what my husband was telling me that I had nothing going for me and the Limerance object was perfect. He said he made a terrible mistake marrying me and he had finally found true love. He just couldn’t live without this object. It is only recently that I have understood that my husband had a Limerance affair. Understanding Limerance has made everything crystal clear. It has taken years and years to recover from my tormented thinking of what an affair really is. Finally after 30 years and 30 years is a long time, but it has taken this long to finally be able to have a thought in my head about this horrible affair, let it come in my head and then flow out without me having terrible anxiety or PTSD. Affairs are about being ugly , empty souls. I told my adult daughter about a friend of ours, whose wife was into an affair and was probably with more than one partner. She was saying she was surprised because this person wasn’t very good looking. I told her people who have affairs are ugly through to the core. Affairs are not about good looks, far from it. There is no such thing as beautiful looking affair partners. Furthermore anyone who has an affair, knows nothing about intimacy and sex. To people in affairs, sex is a way to rape and destroy. These words are not pretty but affairs are about evil and evil is not pretty.

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