Here is what I need help with: How do I begin to believe that he understands how this has hurt me and what the impact is? I don't entirely feel that he has "owned" his actions, but I also don't know what he would need to do for me to believe he did own them. I'm not even sure this makes sense or if anyone else has felt this way. I know he is working to understand why he was able to do these things, but I don't think he really gets how truly horrifying his actions were. Serial affairs over 15 years, most recently with our closest family friend. And he is a person who is considered a wonderful family man. Everyone would say we were were such a cute couple (we work in the same organization). He says he wants to "integrate" himself and not live a double life, but he also says that he doesn't want to give up his core self - a person who connects easily with others and seeks close connections. But up until now those "close connections" have been with willing women - lots of flirting. Not exactly neutral territory.
Maybe it's just too soon to know any of these things.... I am willing to accept that, but I wanted to hear from you all about this. I can't believe how much I hurt, and how confused I feel. I love him and want to have a strong and healthy relationship, but I also need him to really understand the damage he has done, even if good comes of it in the end. And I don't know how that will occur.
I await your wisdom, and thank you for your support.
But..he doesn't want to change?
That's a problem.
..that feeling you get in your stomach, when you heart's broken. It's like all the butterflies just died.
Maybe it's just too soon to know any of these things....
WAY too soon. He has been having affairs for a good part of your marriage. For him to snap out of it and suddenly get on the right track after a few counselling sessions and a few short weeks is unlikely.
Words at this point mean nothing. You will see it in his actions. Good luck.
IMO, they will NEVER fully understand the depths and the magnitude of how much they have hurt us. It is impossible. They can "understand" but they never will feel our pain or understand the despair they have caused.
There is a great article in the Healing Library that I recommend you giving to your husband to read.
You are still very early in the recovery stage so give yourself time to feel everything you need to feel and ask all the questions you need to ask. It is impossible for you to fast track through the process.
On average it takes 2.5 or longer to truly heal from the pain of an A.
You are doing all the right things with IC and MC.
he also says that he doesn't want to give up his core self - a person who connects easily with others and seeks close connections
I would probe this very aggressively in MC. If he has been a serial cheater for 15 years he needs to give up his "core self" because that "core self" allowed him to behave in EA/and PA. This core self of cheating and flirting is an issue. So his "core self" is damaged and flawed and needs to be addressed.
At this point if he wants to R he will do WHATEVER YOU NEED to feel safe in the marriage. And I assume that would be NC with other women and no flirting. Very hurtful and disrespectful. So Mr. Friendly needs to check that behavior at the door.
Good luck and look out for YOU right now. You can't fix him but you can get stronger and define your boundaries.
You will know he gets it, when he is truly sorry for what he has done, not for being caught. For me I knew this had happened when I could ask questions, and see the pain in his eyes because he was going to answer me, and he knew the answers would hurt me. I knew when I snooped, and he didn't care, he didn't get angry, he didn't get upset, he didn't ask when will you let it go and trust me.
You have been lied to for a very long time, and you cannot, should not believe anything he says. I would strongly recommend that you get a keylogger, and other spyware on all of his devices. I would also suggest paying attention to the $$ he spends, and what it is spent on. Get a VAR in his vehicle, etc. Many WS when they are trying to quiet the situation, and pretend the A's are done get a secret email, and a secret phone.
It takes a long time to rebuild the trust, and for you to be able to believe anything that comes out of his mouth. At this point actions speak much more loudly than words do.
Make him get tested for STD's, and also get yourself checked. He's admitted to 5 different affairs. Chances are he didn't use protection. Take care of you.
It's very hard for me to consider spying on him - that just feels so icky and petty. I guess it's hard for me to really understand what it means not to trust him. But maybe I am contributing to his having trouble "owning" his actions if I'm not asking for his passwords and asking to read all his emails. This is all so confusing. Our therapist says there is no way to think my way out of this...hence my username - I am learning to feel my way through rather than try to understand. But it's hard.
It's very hard for me to consider spying on him - that just feels so icky and petty. I guess it's hard for me to really understand what it means not to trust him. But maybe I am contributing to his having trouble "owning" his actions if I'm not asking for his passwords and asking to read all his emails.
One of my favourite mantras from SI is "trust but verify". I do not consider it "spying" on my H by checking his phone, emails and messages and asking questions about his passwords. If your WH is getting it, he would freely offer these things to you, in order to show that he truly understands what you did and wants to prove that he can be trusted. For me, each time that I check and find nothing, a small amount of trust is added. My therapist tells me that it is still entirely normal to be checking, and that over time, if H is truly remorseful, the need to do so will lessen. I still check emails/messages on a daily basis, whereas before I used to check multiple times per day.
As to whether H understands the damage he has done, time and his actions will tell you. My H has always been the life of the party and likes to tease others, including women. As part of his work, he would have lunch with female clients or colleagues (OW was not a client or colleague). Before my discovery of the A, this did not bother me. Now I do have a problem with it. In order for us to R, I laid down some pretty clear boundaries one of which is to maintain appropriate distance with other women, which included no more lunches with women without someone else present and changing his behaviour at social events. Be clear to H about what you need now in order to heal. By telling you about his interactions with the other women at work, your H is starting to recognize how he needs to change. This is a good sign. Just keep watching and as always, trust your instincts.
Here is the truth. When he decided to go the way of a cheater, he changed his possibilities, his future, and his "core". If he is going to R with you he cannot be that flirty, easy to get to know person again. He has shown that he cannot handle the responsibility of knowing members of the opposite sex as friends or acquaintances. Many on SI will tell you that the only way they have been in R is because their FWS has little to no communication with the opposite sex.
Do that sound radical? Yes. But the best predictor of the future is past behavior. In order to alter behavior, radical changes have to be made. Probably for life. When he can admit he needs a radical change in his life and works toward that, you may believe he gets it. It is not sacrifice when done freely for love and family.
Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose