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Dealing with an "affair" 17 years later, and ptsd

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Edward12 posted 6/11/2013 17:25 PM

My problems are a little different in how they came to be, but I think the effects are the same and I hope maybe someone would have some advice.

I have been married for 17 years to the love of my life, we dated for 4 years in college before marriage. We always felt that what we had was unique and special, and we get along great. Never argue, almost always see things the same way, have 2 beautiful kids (9 and 5).

During college (in 1995) W graduated earlier than me and moved away to San Franciso. She had family there and her father had put some kind of fear in her that getting a good job was the most important thing ever.

None of this was exactly a problem, and I planned to follow her anywhere. She felt the same way. We talked on the phone daily.

I eventually dropped out of college with 12 hours (I missed her) to go and went to join her. Things were good for about 3 weeks, and then she started nagging me about finding a job. I was kind of a lazy college kid, and did not really have any job qualifications, and I was kind of confused that my job search was seeming to become more important than our love. She got a promotion and then things really went to crap--every effort I tried to make to reach out to her was rebuffed.

The days went by and after a couple months our relationship had gotten very bad. She did not respect me because of no job, I had lost a lot of respect for her for devaluing our relationship. I had a couple friends teaching ESL in Korea and they were telling me about $60/hour jobs and much success. Unbeknownst to me, W was having lunch frequently with a coworker who "made her laugh" and who was "fun". I do believe nothing would have happened between them except for what I did. W is honorable, and not a cheater in the usual sense.

So then I made the biggest mistake of my life. I decided I would go to Korea for a few months and make a lot of money. Also, the toxic atmosphere at home was reducing my sense of worth to zero. I still loved her and she still loved me, but things were bad.

I tried to get her to come with me, but she viewed that as crazy. She said what about us, that she would not wait forever. I was mad at her and in a perverse way I thought if she missed me she would be sorry for treating me badly. She cried as I was leaving and asked me to stay. To me at the time, it seemed like it was not me that she wanted, but more like a piece of her plan was trying to get away. I thought there would be time and I thought she would wait, at least a little while.

So I got on the plane an left, and a couple weeks later I called her intending to say how sorry I was and what could we do. And the OM answered her phone and said she was out of town on business. And I was so shocked, and I thought maybe he was just a friend.

I had to wait a few days to reach her, and she confirmed that she was seeing someone . I yelled at her and begged her to let me come back to her, and she refused. She told be this year that she did intend to hurt me at that time.

I was thousands of miles away, and no easy way to get back, and anyway if she did not want me then I was powerless. I was in so much pain I thought I would die. Like just walking down the street that I would just die.

I wrote her and called her. As long as I did not mention OM and her, she would talk to me. So I said nothing and called and called. After a few weeks, it was like we were friends again. And I popped the question "Can we get back together? Will you stop seeing him?" Yes, and yes.

When I got back, she indicated that I was on a kind of probation. But she was her old self. Not the angry self that had been treating me so badly. In a couple weeks it was like nothing had happened, and things between us were good. She told me this year that for her it was such a relief when she agreed to stop seeing him. That it was more like a decision she made to erase me from her life, and she is one of these people who has a hard time reversing a decision once made.

At the time I came back, I had no idea if it was one guy or many. No idea what she had been doing while I was gone. I imagined terrible things. It tormented me. But the couple times I tried to ask about it she became enraged. She blamed me for everything, and I had no choice but to accept that it was all my fault. Now she says that she was terrified to talk about it and that's why she acted like she did. I was having flashbacks about those weeks of pain and misery when appeal after appeal was rejected. But also nothing, and I mean nothing, mattered to me except that we were back together.

I put it out of my mind. Things were good. I donít know if this is related, but about a year after this I was drinking quite a bit. Gradually over the years I turned into an alcoholic. But I never would have said it was to do with this. It's in my family and I always liked to drink. But what happened never bothered me and I just never thought about it. I quit drinking cold turkey about 3 years ago. I was specifically because of the support that W gave me that I was able to do this. I made her life hell and she stayed with me and she helped me when I could not even help myself. If she were not the person she is, I would be in a gutter somewhere.

So things were good for a while. W decided to get a Masters Degree and went to grad school. She had one particular professor who she really liked. And she talked about him a lot. She also spent hours a day isolated in her home office. Working on school, but also constantly chatting with friends on the internet. By this point something clicked in my head about the professor--some unconscious sense of something wrong. I even went to a lecture with her to size him up in secret, and to run him down to her. I started to notice that every time I went into her office, she was closing Facebook before I could see it. After this happened 5-6 times, I freaked out. I had the idea that I should snoop through her things and look for signs of guilt. I found a post on a forum she always used saying she had a "very wrong crush". I spent 2 more weeks trying to prove a negative--trying to find signs of something inappropriate. All I can say is that two weeks were horrible and I was in a such a panic, just like 17 years before.

I finally came to my senses, and just asked her to explain. Nothing happened with the professor, I am sure of that. She says she had an "intellectual crush" but that she realized it was becoming something inappropriate and she squashed it before I ever spoke to her. I do believe this. The issue of Facebook being closed down was basically because I have been a long-term Facebook-hater and she just did not want me to think she was wasting time. I also believe this. But these were the triggers.

And the damage was done. Within a week or two I was thinking obsessively about how I knew nothing about what really happened when she was seeing someone else. I asked her to talk about it. What she had refused to speak about 17 years before, she would talk about now. As I got details, I needed more details. Every answer caused me to need more answers. How could she do that to me when I loved her? How could she keep seeing him for weeks when I was begging her to come back to me. As the details came out it was, I guess, an ordinary kind of superficial relationship/affair. The OM was not physically attractive or very smart, but made her feel good when our relationship seemed, to her, to be over. He was available and she knew he would say yes if she wanted to date him. She initiated their dating a week after I left, and she initiated the sex with him within two weeks. A shortness of time that just shocks me. She says she would not take me back because she did not believe I actually loved her, that she did not trust me. Eventually, when we redeveloped our sense of friendship and she agreed to stop, she called him up, met him, and dumped him immediately. But it was my fault and something never to be spoken of, and I lived with that for 17 years--in a repressed memory kind of way I suppose, aided by booze.

This was about 18 months ago. Since then I have come to constantly have obsessive thoughts and flashbacks. Constantly throughout the day I re-experience was I felt long ago when it was happening. My day to day life is an intolerable misery. I cannot go 30 seconds without thinking of it. W wants to help and is very sorry. She's not a bad person, and not really a cheater, and she loves me deeply. But for me it was the same as cheating, and I think made far, far worse by her refusal talk about it back then when it happened. I just wish she had said she was sorry for hurting me back then, instead of making me accept all the blame because she was too scared to talk about it while I was too scared to lose her again to force that discussion.

As I write this I am having another day where I keep bursting into tears, where I can barely drag myself to work, where I was up until 4am trying control my hatred of her for this unending pain she caused in me. It's been like this for months. I know she loves me and is willing to do anything to help, but I am forgetting what it even feels like to love her or to feel loved by her. The pain is so great that the love just has no power. She has been loyal, a wonderful companion in life, and a good mom. She has not actually done anything now. And even back then, I played a huge role in what happened--we both made stupid choices and had the wrong priorities. She is desperately scared that I will leave her. And she does not deserve that. It's so stupid that something 17 years ago could end our relationship now--a formerly happy marriage, with true love and a good life.

And "end" is not just a simple choice. I hate her because of the constant pain, flashback, triggers, and re-experiencing--she afflicted me with these. It's hard to feel anything but hate when you feel as if someone is hurting you right now, even though they are not. But I need her desperately and the thought of losing her again terrifies me and makes me feel sick. I honestly have no idea if splitting up would even help me feel better. It could be a permanent decision that I would infinitely regret.

Things I have tried:
-I have been exercising like a nut (lost 20 pounds, got big muscles, was doing 5-6 days per week).
-Taking D3, Fish Oil, Inositol, St. John's Wort (all supposed to help with this, but not really sure).
-Trying to focus on the positive, talk about good times together (almost 22 years of good memories but they all feel distant and lacking in substance compared to what transpired over an 8 week period).
-We started seeing a psychologist. I am not sure if I would call it MC since it's mainly me and the therapist talking--our marriage would be great if it weren't for what's happening in my head. We have only seen the therapist 4 times, but if anything I usually feel a lot worse after a session.

The only thing that really works is focusing on not thinking about it, but that is not easy. The constant struggle get so wearying that I lose hope and then the memories come for me. And I end up hateful and bitter, and my enemy is the one who loves me and cries and apologizes and I feel like she deserves so much more pain.

I have a sense of great dread that things will keep getting worse and eventually it will be the end of us even though it's not what either of us want. I have thought about suicide over this, but no body get too worried--I am not that far gone.

I apologize for how long this is. Thank you to anyone taking the time to read or comment.

[This message edited by Edward12 at 5:44 PM, June 11th (Tuesday)]

newnormal posted 6/11/2013 17:52 PM

Just letting you know youve been heard. That stinks! Keep working with your ic. And if you get stuck, find another one. Deal with all this now so you can get past this forever.

putonahappyface posted 6/11/2013 21:42 PM

PTSD is actually very common with betrayal. It's just so traumatic, & easy to get stuck in one of the stages of grief. Many here, including myself, have had success with EMDR. If your therapist isn't trained in this technique, look around for one that is. It sounds like hooey, but I really do think it brings relief.

I'm sorry you're still in pain. One day at a time...

doctor49 posted 6/11/2013 23:28 PM

It's now time for you to put you and your needs first. Until you do, the risk is that things won't improve for you.

Sometimes moving forward needs you to leave things behind. Because more of the same isn't the answer.

An IC might help you with the conversations you need to have with you. To understand the choices you have and may need to be prepared to make yourself and with your WW.

0115 posted 6/11/2013 23:41 PM

Just letting you know I read your story and am praying for you and sending you strength.

Edward12 posted 6/12/2013 10:43 AM

Thank you all for responding. I felt better after posting this, and better still to hear your words of support. I think this has been a secret pain for a long time--I had to live with the idea that my pain was not valid or was deserved.

putonahappyface: my therapist does do EMDR and recommended it and we were going to start it, but she then backtracked. I think she wanted to get a better feel for the specifics of my problem/get more familiar with me and my case. It is definitely an option, though. I guess I want things fixed right now, of course, but I am trying to have faith and trust my therapist's experience--at least until we have had a few more sessions.

doctor49: You are very right. In my last session our MC said that my lack of separation as a person from W is very significant in my inability to let this go. This feels true. I wonder if counter intuitively I need some distance from W in order to restore our relationship. I know I feel that putting me first caused the original estrangement, and ever since I have pretty much judged our relationship only by what W thinks about it. Meaning, if she thinks it is good then it is good and it's that simple--and I kind of have to keep checking with her if everything is still OK . I am realizing/being told that this is not healthy. Despite my fears, she's not going to abandon me if I have my own feelings (I am just unreasonably scared that she would).

Newnormal and 0115: Your words are very appreciated. Thank you. They really do mean a lot to me.

May we all find healing.

doctor49 posted 6/12/2013 21:30 PM

Despite my fears, she's not going to abandon me if I have my own feelings (I am just unreasonably scared that she would).

In these circumstances, what do you want your WW to do to help you?

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