Recovering your self-esteem after an affair is solely within your power and you have control over whether you reclaim your sense of self – or not.

Recovering Your Self Esteem After an Affair

By Sarah P.

Sometimes self-esteem can be a bit of a slippery thing that never seems to be stable. Other times, we feel very good about ourselves and we have a sense of self that seems unshakeable.  Then, we get blind-sided by infidelity and whatever sense of self we had before is temporarily destroyed.

In fact, one woman described the time directly after the affair and many months after the affair as “Horrorland.”

Indeed, for many of us it feels as if we fell down a proverbial rabbit hole and ended up in another place entirely—only this one is not populated with perpetually late rabbits and smiling cats.

No, the place that we ended up in feels like a living hell and everything that we used to take for granted has suddenly been changed.

We no longer trust our instincts. In fact, we feel like we cannot trust anything or anyone that is around us—was everything just a lie? But, the worst part is happens when we question ourselves, and our own worth as a wife, lover, and human being.

 

Battling Thoughts About the Other Person

Nevertheless, the very worst hit we take to our self-esteem is when we think about the other person. We are all too familiar with the hours spent fearing whether or not she was prettier, he was more handsome, had a better body, a better nose, face, eyes, toes, or anything else that he or she had that was better than what we have.

Then we believe that he or she probably did have a better everything (whereas we did not have a better anything) and as a result, our husband or wife had an affair. And then we feel as if we should crawl under the bed, wave the white flag of surrender, and just give up.

But, the good news is, all of those thoughts are just thoughts. In fact, all of those thoughts are UNTRUE and we can make the choice to think different thoughts.

We devote an entire module in our Survive and Thrive after Infidelity program. It’s called, “Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem: Finding Wholeness Again After Your Partner’s Affair.” Click here to learn more.

In short, we can chose how we feel, how we perceive, how we react, and in doing this, we can reclaim our sense of self. In doing this, we also find our own voice, we determine our own needs, and as a result, the man or woman who emerges after this process now has an unshakeable sense of self. Period. No matter what happens.

Most affair partners are not more attractive than the husband or wife, which simply does not matter because an affair is about how the other person makes your spouse feel.

Further, your spouse was looking for something externally to fill the void within himself/herself and he or she happened to look to an affair to fill the void. But sooner or later, your spouse will realize the only person that can get rid of the void within is your spouse himself/herself. Only he or she can do it.

None of us can look to external things to fill the void within since it is impossible to fill externally. Seen in this light, you should be able to let comparisons to the other person go because your spouse’s affair was never about the other person.

Emotional Infidelity: Comparing Partner to Spouse

Reclaiming a Sense of Self

Only you can reclaim a sense of self after your spouse has had an affair. Reclaiming your sense of self is solely within your power and you have control over whether you reclaim it or not.

If you want to reclaim it, you must give up all unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, over-eating, and indulging in recreational drugs. Becoming chemically dependent on something outside of yourself alters your brain chemistry and makes you depressed and hopeless. Or, in the case of overindulgence in food, it makes you overweight and hopeless. So, all of those things are no-nos.

Then, you must take care of your body by exercising daily, eating fresh food that is full of vitamins and minerals, and getting adequate sleep. You must take care of your body if you want to feel good and all three of those things are necessary.

Next, you must reach out to friends and family members who make you feel good and to find a hobby, skill, or sport in which you can excel. When you feel a sense of ‘mastery’ over a hobby/skill/sport, your self-esteem is boosted tremendously.

Finally, you must choose to stop thinking about thoughts that make you sad or anxious. When you feel yourself going down that road, you must simply STOP and start thinking about something else. Changing the content of your thinking is within your power and in your power alone. You cannot feel good about yourself while perseverating about things that make your feel bad or anxious.

Recovering Your Self-Esteem After an Affair – The Road Ahead

While it may seem like a daunting task now, I can assure you that if you do everything I have talked about above; you are going to get better. In fact, the sense of self that you rebuild post-affair is going to be ironclad because it will be based on a foundation that is not shakable.

Above all else, never allow yourself, in a time of weakness, to give up on trying to feel better. All will be well soon and you must believe it to be so since it is the absolute truth.

Recovering your self-esteem after an affair is one of the hardest things for a betrayed spouse to accomplish.  Please share your experiences with this in the comment section below.

We devote an entire module in our Survive and Thrive after Infidelity program. It’s called, “Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem: Finding Wholeness Again After Your Partner’s Affair.” Click here to learn more.

 

    19 replies to "Recovering Your Self-Esteem After an Affair Is Within Your Power"

    • Stuck Sara

      I am not all that sure it isn’t about the other person in my case. I am sure this Love my husband has for OW is very real. I certainly agree it’s about how they make them feel, but what if the feeling they give them is what they were seeking all along. He feel in love with her 44 years ago and that has never changed. He married me but I was never the love of his life, because that is her. Yet he says he loves me too. What if it was a mistake but now it’s gone too far and it’s too late for them to break away, 5 years in my case. They can’t seem to not see each other. No amount of my finding self esteem helps that.

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Stuck Sara:
      Your husband “fell in love with her 44 years ago” so I’m guessing your husband hooked up with a former girlfriend from high school or college? I’m confused by your reference to “5 years.” Have you been married for 5 years, or has he been cheating on you (having his cake and eating it too) with his HS girlfriend for 5 years while staying married to you?
      My cheater Husband hooked up with his old HS girlfriend 43 years later, after 28 years of marriage to me. So, your situation resonates with me. I get the pain and confusion you’re feeling. 2 years after D Day I’m still incredulous – DUMBFOUNDED about how the betrayal got started, and my husband’s choice of AP. She’s an old high school girlfriend who fished him on Facebook 43 years later. She’s not a long lost first love, they weren’t kept apart by cruel fate. Their high school liaison ended when she cheated on him and dumped his ass for another guy! Figures, right? I don’t think they’d spared each other much thought over the last 43 years. I was shocked to learn my (usually) discerning Husband of 28 years was THAT guy – a willing patsy who step by step followed the cheater’s playbook to engage in a texting EA, followed by a PA, with an old high school girlfriend – who fished him on FACEBOOK! Jeez, what a pathetic cliché.
      I understand why you might wonder if “this Love my husband has for OW is very real.” Ummm, no, it’s not real. Their affair is all about fantasy. No bills to pay, no dirty laundry, no real life pressures to intrude on their grand passion.
      Ask yourself this – if their former relationship was so great and and their love was so “real” what ended it 44 years ago? There are reasons their old juvenile relationship ended, and why most juvenile romances end. People grow up. People change. Passionate romantic attachments eventually fade because human beings are wired that way. Those who seek to sooth their egos with the brief endorphin rush of a new romantic attachment (or affair) are doomed to a cycle of wash, rinse, and repeat. The challenge of a long term relationship is to keep tending the garden. That’s where the deep and lasting rewards are. That’s where real and true love is. And, if their love is so all consuming and she’s the “love of his life” and if the “feeling…….is what they were seeking all along” why did it take 39-44 years to reignite their great passion? Heavy sarcasm here.
      In my Husband’s case, there were many reasons why he betrayed me, which actually have very little to do with Cockroach. Or with ME. It was all about HIM. Husband was someone facing deep existential struggles. A sense of failure in life, fear of aging, fear of job loss, fear of being honest about his feelings, inability to handle life’s stresses, depression…the list goes on. During the affair, he hid these struggles; after all, the goal of the affair was to bury his problems while playing house with Cockroach in an alternate fantasy. And what better mirror of his former self could a troubled middle aged/late life man hope to gaze into than an old high school girlfriend? Affairs are a distraction from real-life. A parallel fantasy world in which the rules don’t apply. In my husband’s case, he was on a self-destructive path. The affair might reflect back to him the man he used to be; false hope for a retreat to simpler times. The betrayal was self-medication.
      I tortured myself for a bit, wondering why he chose to betray me with her in particular, and wondering if their love was “real” – as you are now wondering. I can reassure you that it is not about her being better than you, or how great their “real love” supposedly is. In my case, regaining my self esteem after the one-two punch of the affair and the year of post D-day trickle truth (continued lying) was a turning point in the betrayal, and our marriage. Respect for myself helped me realize my worth, and helped me articulate to my Husband that I would be okay without him. If he wanted to leave our marriage it would be an opportunity to trim some dead wood out of my life. Good riddance.
      Loving myself (another way to frame self-esteem) helped me to come to a decision about our marriage/family. We have an adult daughter – I had to model for her that it wasn’t okay to put up with emotional abuse. If he wanted to stay in our marriage, be part of our family, he’d have to prove it. Consistently. No more competition with OW; it was time for me to make my expectations and NEEDS explicit. Which I did.
      Sounds like your husband is sitting on the fence, he says he loves you but can’t stop seeing her? Is this okay with you? What do YOU want? Finding self-esteem may help you figure this out, to see your own worth. Hope this helps!

      • Stuck Sara

        Thank you for your reply. We have been married 40 years. He told me about her just before our 35 anniversary while we were on vacation. They were pulled apart by her parents after high school. She obeyed. Her parents did not like my husband’s family.
        I thought our marriage was good and I had no idea he was unhappy. He never talked to me about what he was going thru but I believed he struggled with many of the issues your husband did. I dont think this is fantasy affair. For them its real, but she refuses to divorce again. She is on her 4th. She claims it is because she has always loved my husband. He claims the same. It’s taken me awhile but i know I didn’t cause this and its not my fault, but it still hurts. There is no sex between them so to them that means it is not an affair. I have tried talking with him and at this point he refuses to even do that. He tells me I am crazy and making things up. I am not. I am struggling leaving a 40 year commitment on my part. Stuck Sara

      • Nicole

        This was an amazing response. This actually helped me more than the article (no offense Linda and Doug, your site has helped me tremendously). Thank you

        • Doug

          No offense taken…Sarah wrote it! LOL. Seriously, I’m glad our site has been helpful in some way.

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Hello Stuck Sara:
      Wow. You’ve known about this for 5 years. And I’m guessing it may have been going on for a while before he told you. That must be truly soul destroying. And traumatic. I am so sorry. Sara, you’re right – you are not crazy! Sounds like your husband is gaslighting you. My gut tells me there’s more going on between the two of them than he’s divulged. The OW is on her fourth marriage! Oh boy, that doesn’t bode well for everyone concerned. Interesting (and telling) that she refuses to leave her 4th husband even though your husband is supposedly the love of her life. How does her husband feel about this I wonder? It must be frustrating that your husband refuses to even talk to you, and denies that the fact that this is indeed an affair. And gaslights you about it.

      But make no mistake. Emotional affairs are affairs, and can be just as damaging to a marriage (maybe more damaging!) as physical affairs. That third person in the marriage is like a super massive black hole floating in space. You can’t see it but it is there, sucking up your husband’s attention. Absorbing all the emotional intimacy that should be yours.

      During the year long texting EA phase of my Husband’s betrayal, I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on it. He stopped really talking to me, stopped sharing his day to day thoughts with me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my husband was slowly building a wall between us. He was sharing more of himself with Cockroach than he was with me. Eventually he stopped talking to me unless I confronted him. He’d shrug off my hand when I touched him. He was busy devaluing me, looking for excuses to cheat on me. He was also busy devaluing our Daughter, our town, and our home. He spent a lot of his time thinking about her and her needs and NOT thinking about me much at all. Unless it was to devalue me. Devaluing me justified his actions “see what a b—- she is, she doesn’t really love me, blah, blah, blah.”

      Rewriting our history to justify his actions was also happening. He claimed he was “unhappy with the marriage for years” which was a big surprise to me. Like you, I thought our marriage was strong. Interesting that I didn’t hear about this “unhappiness” until the Cockroach fantasy was in the middle of our marriage hoovering up his attention.

      And my husband’s betrayal with Cockroach WAS a fantasy.
      Although I don’t know you or your husband, I could argue that an EA with a high school flame that’s been sustained for years MUST have a foundation of fantasy. Keeping their relationship always out of reach, true love thwarted etc. must somehow serve the construction of their fantasy world: she was unable to succeed in four marriages because of their true love thwarted, true love thwarted gave your husband permission to withhold emotional investment in your marriage.

      My Husband won’t admit this, but I KNOW the truth – the PA did NOT live up to the fantasy of the EA. Difficult to sustain the endorphin rush when the sobering reality of whom she really is was revealed after a few mornings waking up in bed next to her. I still can’t believe the two of them convinced themselves they knew each other. Hello, high school was 43 years ago! They didn’t have a CLUE who the other person was anymore. Hence, fantasy. And, they couldn’t gaze into the false mirror of their former selves reflected back at them forever, or maintain for long the delusional hope for a retreat to simpler times. It was a fantasy that could not survive the cold light of reality. Perhaps, deep down, your husband and OW know that if they really got together and left their spouses to consummate their “true love” their fragile affair world wouldn’t survive the strains of day to day life. Somehow, this works for them. But does it work for YOU?

      I respect your struggle. 40 years of commitment are a lot to walk away from. I struggled also. My refusal to be the third wheel in my own marriage was what turned the tide in my marriage. But my husband wanted to stay, and I was willing to take a chance if he was committed to looking at his own stuff. He had to take responsibility for his actions. We had to build a new marriage. I certainly didn’t want the old marriage back! If your husband is refusing to talk to you or acknowledge reality it seems like you don’t have much to work with right now.

      I’m interested to hear other perspectives on this. Anyone have any thoughts to share with Stuck Sara?

    • BoundaryBuilder

      PS:
      You deserve to be with someone who you can fully love you and be fully committed to you. Not someone invested in a mythical “true love” that isn’t you.
      Recovering my self esteem after D-day helped me recognize that the affair was emotional abuse, helped me set my boundaries, and know my own worth.

      • Stuck Sara

        Thank you BoundaryBuilder! You are so right that this is a fantasy. I see it that way, he does not. Emotionally they are both stuck in high school. He claims that it just happened, I claim it has been 5 years of deception and lying on his part and that was a choice he made everyday. You are right about how much an emotional affair takes away from the marriage. What I have found out and this has been the most devastating is he treats her like she is very special, ways he has never treated me or talked to me. I wish they would have had a physical affair because i believe that would have ended it and probably ended it for me. She knows that, which is why I guess she has withheld. I have bad boundries, I know that and I am working very hard on myself. I know now he will never apologize about what he is doing, i dont think he can. Stuck Sara

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Yes! “It just happened” is classic Stupid Shit Cheaters Say. My husband used that one too. No, the betrayal they shared came from acting on that very first attraction to another person, and then grew, each selfish choice followed by an inappropriate choice. When you act on your attraction for someone outside the marriage – take that first step over appropriate boundaries, you are growing that relationship, whether you realize it or not. Step by step the two of them followed the cheater’s playbook, with each selfish choice leading further down a slippery slope towards possible destruction of our marriage.

      And, yes, the intimacy they shared really hurt. I read a lot of their texts. The false flattery my husband dispensed to Cockroach was shocking. So unlike him. He also used words with her he never used with me. Like “I can’t believe how beautiful you are” – trust me, this woman is not beautiful 🙂 However, it was obviously transactional – you stroke my ego, and I’ll stroke yours. Very high school. Not much emotional investment from either one. No “I love you” or anything like that. No complaining about me, thank goodness. Both of those things would have been a bridge too far for me.

      Sara, here’s the difficult thing about setting boundaries. With boundaries comes consequences. So far there haven’t been any consequences for your husband or OW. They’ve carried on a 5 year affair that detracted from both marriages. Having their cake and eating it too is working for them. They get to keep both marriages intact AND have their unicorn and rainbows fantasy affair world as well. If it served THEIR needs to leave their spouses to pursue their “true love” why haven’t they done so? OW has been married four times. What’s one more marriage (LOL)? Financial consequences maybe? Does her fourth husband ensure a comfortable lifestyle? I don’t know how old you are, but I’m guessing retirement is rapidly approaching or already here. Divorce would force splitting assets for both marriages. So much more cost effective to keep the marriages intact. Fear of harsh judgment from friends and family maybe? You get the picture.

      I’m glad you are “working very hard” on yourself. And you’re right – he may never apologize about what he is doing. It took months of introspection and much turmoil for my husband to get to that place. I was relentless. Before D-day, equilibrium in our marriage was maintained by me swallowing conflict to keep the peace, and making my needs very small. Post D-day all bets were off. He broke the marital compact so the old unspoken arrangements that served his needs were null and void. There were CONSEQUENCES for the choices he made. I was ready to leave. I’m not saying this is what you should do. You should do what is right for YOU, and focus on your needs and what you want in the marriage. In my case, I believe that making my needs small and not asserting myself somehow gave him permission to not see me; gave him permission to devalue me and pursue his self-entitlement to have an affair and lie about it. Hope that makes sense!
      Best wishes.

    • Stuck Sara

      I too have read many of their texts and letters to each other. In 40 years I have never received anything close to what her feels about her. He has never told me the things he tells her. It’s like he is someone I never knew and completely different eith her. How I would have loved to be cherished like that and be the recipient of this special love. I don’t believe he feels anything close to that with me. To them it’s a real love not a fantasy. I need help with boundaries and consequences because I can’t seem to enforce any. Whenever I try I just feel i am doing the wrong thing. Nothing seems to work anyway. I have made myself physically sick over this. I have tried improving my communication with him about my needs but he is so heavily invested with her I just dont think he can give her up. I am 2 years from retirement and I am the only one with a retirement, he works for himself. I would lose alot to leave, and probably would have to continue working and my job is physically and mentally demanding I have been looking forward to retiring. I have always supported him, moved around for him and sacrificed security so he could have his own business. I am pretty sure she has plenty of money saved and is financially is set for retirement, probably way more than I am. Her husband has no clue about this affair. Is there any suggestions about what boundaries to enforce and how to go about it. I never know what to say correctly. Thanks.

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Hello Sara:
      I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I know what you’re suffering. My heart goes out to you. There isn’t any right or wrong way to deal with infidelity, and it must be frustrating if your husband refuses to participate. I think you need to take care of you right now. Focus on yourself and what you want. The rest will follow. Taking things one step at a time got me through. It took months for me to figure out what I wanted to do. One minute I was packing my bags – the next minute I was a quivering mass of jello not knowing which way to turn. I too made myself physically sick. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. I lost 30 pounds in a very short time. I couldn’t maintain focus at work. It was apparent I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed help. What worked for me was to reach out for both professional help and emotional support. Sharing the humiliating fact that my husband betrayed our marriage and lied was not easy. Even though in my heart I knew it wasn’t my fault, I still felt a lot of shame and embarrassment.

      I started seeing a therapist for the first time in my life.
      A therapist helped walk me through what I wanted to do and how to do it and didn’t let me beat myself up. She reinforced that even though our marriage wasn’t perfect, the infidelity wasn’t my fault. It was a choice he made. Hopefully you have a health plan that can help with $$$. If not, please still get professional support if you haven’t already – it will be the best money you ever spent. I was lucky that the therapist is a firm believer in the concept that infidelity is indeed emotional abuse, and that I was experiencing a type of PTSD. That is key!

      I visited my Doctor for an STD panel, and to get help with the physical symptoms I was having – the sleeplessness and panic attacks. Husband swears there was no overlap with Cockroach and I in the sack, but I wasn’t going to believe someone who lied to me. The Doctor was a big help. It was such a relief to have him on my team, to have prescriptions available if I wanted them. He was willing to write a note to get me excused from work for 6 weeks. Don’t know about your work, but apparently if a Doctor writes a note stating the leave is necessary, the Doctor doesn’t even need to specify what the problem is. I had enough accrued sick time to make that happen. I never did take advantage of the leave from work, but it was good to have it ready.

      I reached out to a few select friends and family. I told a good friend, my sister and 2 friends at work what was going on. I hope you have friends and family you can count on to unconditionally support you as I did. Even if you have only one friend that lives hundreds of miles away and the only way to connect is the occasional phone call that can make all the difference. These ladies listened to me, let me vent. And they supported me without personal agendas, that I should either forgive him and put up with the situation, or that I should kick him to the curb. They wanted what I wanted, whatever I felt was best for me. They never told me what they thought was best for me. Didn’t know it at the time, but this was also crucial to help me heal and figure out next steps.

      Educating myself about infidelity was also a big help FOR ME. Not to fix him or fix our marriage, but to wrap my mind around the research and what is really at play here. Lot’s of information out there about reconciliation and forgiveness, which isn’t necessarily what I was looking for. To be honest, sometimes reconciliation isn’t the best choice. I certainly wasn’t sure that was the best choice for me. And, if we did reconcile it was important to proceed with my eyes wide open, armed with knowledge.

      Eventually, after first getting the emotional and professional help, I took additional steps to be sure all bases were covered. To be confident there weren’t any more secrets lurking in our marriage. I took a very, very close look at our finances. Before D-day I was way too trusting about finances. It was a rude awakening to realize that someone who carried on an EA under my nose for a year and then continued to lie about it for another year was probably also capable of stealing from me. Harsh but true. I learned that no financial abuse accompanied the emotional abuse. Lucky me. I also talked to a lawyer, just in case, to see what was involved if I did decide to divorce. Most lawyers offer a free consultation, which I took advantage of. Depends upon where you live etc. what kind of settlement could result if you decide to divorce. If you live in a “fault” state those letters and texts between the two of them could come in handy.

      Anyway, sorry for the laundry “to do” list. I know you’re hurting right now and you just want it to stop. Please, please gather your tribe and get some professional help if you haven’t yet. Focus on you. Like I said, one step at a time. One day at a time.
      Hugs.

      • Stuck Sara

        BoundaryBuilder,
        Thank you for the todo list. Your recounting of what you did is everything I have done over the past five years. I have talked to family and friends. All were very supportive. I had a therapist who is supportive. My dearest sister passed away from colon cancer 2 years ago and I miss her dearly. She was the one person who I could talk with daily and she helped me thru those first horrible months while she was battling cancer herself. Now with Covid and most of my family gone I have very few contacts. It has been lonely.
        My husband treats me with kindness, he is not mean or unloving toward me. In fact probably as nice as he has ever been, probably learned from her. He insists he loves me. I don’t think he has an idea I know so much. I am a good detective. I have control of finances so aside from buying her gifts and cards and food and his secret phone, he hasnt hidden money or stolen funds. I believe he stays because he doesn’t have a choice. She won’t leave her husband and he can’t convince her to. We are good companions, roommates I guess. It’s not enough for me, but it is pretty much how he has treated me for 40 years. That is why it is so hard to believe how he treats her. So lovingly. I truely believe he loves her. Somehow I feel so inferior because he has never loved me that way. I feel cheated out of the life I wanted with him and he so freely gives it to her. Thank you very much.

        • Shifting Impressions

          Hi Sara
          I hope what I’m going to say doesn’t offend you…..that is absolutely not my purpose.

          I’m thinking you must be an excellent ping pong player…..every suggestion is expertly deflected!! You have either tried everything or have a reason why something won’t work. It’s almost like you are trying to convince yourself that there is no solution. You have also bought into this fantasy that this is your husband’s one true love. After all who are you to get in the way of their true destiny (sarcasm)!!!!

          You say your husband treats you with kindness and is not mean or unloving……I BEG TO DIFFER!!! You mentioned earlier that you are the one always making the sacrifices!!! He has a hidden phone!! He lies and gaslights by telling you it’s all in your head. You have a full time job and also take care of everything in the house!! He has been having an affair for five years!!! And why would you think that he learned a single lesson in kindness from a “so called religious woman” who is on her fourth marriage and engaged in an affair with a married man while being married herself??. There is so much wrong with this picture. And yet somehow against all odds they seem to have you convinced that what they have is “true love”!!! Plus he refuses to talk about it…..is that loving or kind??

          Also since this has been going on for five years I doubt that the OW’s husband is as clueless as you say. Your husband is betraying you with a married woman…..there is absolutely nothing loving or kind about that!!!!

          Sara….you have so much more power than you are willing to admit. I entreat to try and understand why you are willing to be treated so poorly!! We always have choices!!

          • Stuck Sara

            Of course everything you say is true. I have a choice and i know that. I can leave or confront him and tell him how much I know. Either way it’s the end of our relationship. I never take anyone’s suggestions the wrong way. I know I only control me and nothing i did caused him to do what he has done. But it is me who always does the “work”. I must inflict the consequences, be the strong one and find a new life. I am so tired of carrying everything and everyone in my life. I have made the decision to leave in the spring. All I was looking for is other people who have had a similar experience with old high school flames and how they handled it. It has seemed like a unique circumstance with the lost love, no sex and length of time. I realize how he treats me and always have. I don’t make excuses for why I take such treatment from him. It makes me very angry. I just felt very alone in trying to figure out what to do. Thank you for your suggestions.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Sara
              I’m sorry you feel so very alone. Your story tugged at my heart partly because Of our similar ages and having been married so many years.

              It’s not about making excuses about taking such treatment but figuring out why. You deserve so much more.

              Take care thinking of you.

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Hello Sara:
      I hope this doesn’t feel like Shifting Impressions and I are tag teaming you. Not my intention to offend either.

      I’m glad you are angry. In your earlier posts there was grieving/sadness, bargaining, and acceptance but no ANGER. You should be angry! The half life you’ve been living, the lying, the gas lighting, and your husband pitting you in an unspoken (and apparently un-winnable) competition with OW “true love” are not what marital loving and kindness look like. It isn’t a coincidence that our conversation unfolded under the tagline “Regaining Your Self-Esteem After an Affair is Within Your POWER.” Please regain your sense of self. Step up and claim your power. Consequences, such as moving on without him, are within your power. As Shifting Impressions said, you do have choices. Yes, it is up to you. Doesn’t seem like you have much to work with here. And, yes it isn’t easy.
      In a round about way, this is what I was saying, using my journey as a metaphor.

      If it helps, your circumstances aren’t unique. The Cheater Playbook may vary a bit, but the behaviors and goals are surprisingly predictable. Now that I have a more complete picture of your situation, I see that your marriage is of use to your husband. You provide a comfortable lifestyle. Security. Once OW resurfaced in his life, you became Plan B. He throws you a scrap now and then “being as nice as he’s ever been” and saying that “he does love me.” This is intermittent reward. Intermittent reward is a very powerful behavior management tool. He keeps the marriage intact and keeps you dancing “working hard on myself” to win him serves HIS needs. You get to be the wife appliance, pay the bills and manage the home, OW gets all the goodies.

      Sara, there is a cue – a tell – in your screen name that gives me hope. You are Stuck. Which means you can get UN-Stuck! Yes, it will be a hard road to travel. It feels lonely, but you aren’t alone. Go back to that therapist. Reach out to your friends/family again when you’re ready to act. Continue to reach out on blogs for support. Being a betrayed spouse makes us members of the proverbial “club no one wants to join”, but there are millions of us out there. There’s another online community that might be helpful to get you unstuck http://www.chumplady.com. They’re kinda intense – their organizing principle is “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life” but that approach could be just the ticket for you right now.

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Ooops. I meant to say Intermittent Reinforcement, not Intermittent Reward. http://psychopathsandlove.com/intermittent-reinforcement/

      He instills a fear of losing the relationship by setting up a competition with “true love” that you can’t win, and then relieves that fear periodically by bestowing acts of kindness and attention on you.

    • Stuck Sara

      Boundary Builder, Thank you, I have read ChumpLady. I do like her and admire her attitude. I technically am not a chump because I know whats going on and say nothing. I am choosing to stay and not leave at this point. It is very hard for me to view my husband as the kind of person you describe. I want to believe this has been out of his control too. On the days he sees and talks to her, he is happy, on days he doesnt, he is grumpy. He is very busy in his business and is overworked. I am a healthcare professional, our hospital and state are overwelmed with Covid patients. My job is demanding and I have all I can do to stay healthly and help others survive. Thats why I said I am waiting till Spring. I know he has a fear of losing me, I am his support and financially I carry the retirement and benefits. We are a no fault state so he is entitled to half of my retirement as he has none. It would be a very one sided divorce. Not an excuse on my part but I am 2 yrs from retirement and I do have to consider how I would get along alone. It is not possible to go to the therapist as much of our state is shut down. The same with friends, all are of an age that we must be careful. Again not an excuse, its just the way things are right now. I know other areas have not been hit so hard.
      I am not sure its a competition between us, as I think she is so completely different from me, and someone he is more suited to. He just loves her. Thank you for the links. Stay safe.

    • BoundaryBuilder

      Got it. I didn’t mean to say your husband is a psychopath as the link on Intermittent Reinforcement described. Simply substitute the word Husband for Psychopath in the article :-).

      You do have your hands full right now! I thank you for your service and sacrifice to help others survive. Eventually when things calm down a bit maybe you’ll have time/energy to tackle next steps. Many therapists are taking appointments over Zoom or Skype right now. I’m having a Zoom happy hour with three friends tonight! Not quite the same thing as meeting in person, but it does help me to connect with them even if their faces are little boxes on a screen. And there’s always the phone……..

      One of the hardest things for me to accept was that my husbands behavior and choices were indeed within his control. He was struggling with some existential issues at the time, but that was no excuse to betray me. TO LIE. TO PLOT WITH OW TO BETRAY ME. Yes, it is a plot, a collusion between two people when infidelity happens. Everyone struggles, everyone has periods of unhappiness. But not everyone cheats. I was unhappy during that time as well but I didn’t betray him. Educating myself about infidelity opened my eyes and helped me understand the motivations and behaviors at play in our marriage. That he was a person who could blame shift about the stupidest things rather than take a look at his own behavior because that would involve withdrawals from his depleted self esteem account. That he could regularly pull DARVO on me (Defend, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) if it helped him avoid responsibility.

      Here’s the thing. Looking behind your husband’s mask will help you to really see. And you’ll be better equipped to take care of YOU rather than putting all your energy into dancing to maintain the status quo. Ready to do whatever it is you decide to do this spring.

      You stay safe too.

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