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Dealing with an affair and a failed marriage simultaneously

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dbellanon posted 6/30/2013 20:39 PM

I'm having a bit of trouble keeping things straight in my head.

My wife's affair was, as far as I can tell, a classic exit affair. She had already decided that she wanted to leave the marriage, and the affair just sealed the deal.

My WW did stop short of actually blaming me for her affair, but just barely. In her mind, she would have been seeking a divorce whether she had an affair or not, but she probably wouldn't have had the affair if she had been happy in our marriage.

I feel that this complicates the way that I sort through these events.

In the beginning (before knowing about the affair), I was so struck by how bad things had gotten without me realizing, and how deeply my wife seemed to have been hurt, that I practically hated myself. I was so distraught, believing that I had brought my own marriage to ruin. While I believed that my wife was absolutely in the wrong for thinking that divorce was the answer and believed that she was making a horrible mistake, I still blamed myself for getting us to this point of crisis in the first place.

Then two things happened that changed my perspective: First, we started going to therapy, and over time, I began to be able to think clearly about our relationship and see that my wife was culpable as well and that many of the things that had hurt her were situations and unhealthy patterns that we had created together. While I didn't stop taking responsibility for my side of things and where I had gone wrong, I started to modify the narrative that my wife was putting forward, which was that I was a horrible husband and the primary question that needed to be answered was whether she was willing to give me a chance to reform. If our marriage was going to be saved, we would both have to accept responsibility for where we had gone wrong and work together to make it better.

The second thing that changed my perspective was obviously my discovery of the affair. My wife was no-longer the long-suffering saint that she wanted to see herself as. I realized that a huge part of the narrative she had been spinning was a lie, that she meant to keep me trapped in it until the very end, taking me to task for my failings, but never admitting the horrible corruption in her own life. I had been horribly wronged, and a sense of moral and personal indignation gradually rose up.

But even if the affair had never happened, we would have still had to deal with our problems. In my mind, my wife's greatest crime was that she didn't. She didn't deal with our problems. She tried to escape from them instead, and in her thrashings horribly wounded someone who loved her.

So the question is, what do I think of myself now? On the one hand, I feel like I've needed to regain a healthy dose of self-respect. My self-esteem took a brutal beating from all of this, first by being put down and berated for being a horrible husband, and then from being lied to and betrayed. I've pumped myself up to a certain extent with a sense of moral superiority, since I kept my honor and integrity intact while she shamed and dishonored herself and me, and showed herself to be of low character.

But at the same time, I know that I need to have sense of humility, and a real contrition of my own. I feel like I can't just puff out my chest, and declare, "Well, bitch, I'm awesome, and it's your loss if you don't realize that." To do so would be to deny the very real insights I've gained into myself, and some of the very real ugliness I have seen there.

I want to believe in myself, believe that I am a good person, worthy of love, but I don't want to gloss over my faults, and I still feel a personal sense of failure when I look at the end of my marriage.

And it makes me wonder, if my WW ever does come out of the fog, whether she really will think that she gave up something worth having, or if she'll still be glad that she left.

I suppose what I'm trying to highlight is how complicated it is to try to work out how to feel about an affair and a failed marriage simultaneously, where the affair was clearly one person's fault, but where blame for the unhealthy marriage is shared.

Anyone else have trouble sorting this out?

[This message edited by dbellanon at 9:04 PM, June 30th (Sunday)]

nomistakeaboutit posted 6/30/2013 21:13 PM


Well, I'll tell you one thing for sure, your therapist is earning his money. That's some complicated stuff you just laid out, dude!

Ok, so I'll try here, but you might need a PHD to sort this out.

Basically, I think you have two separate issues at play here.

1. Bad marriage

2. Wife makes bad choice to have an affair. Affairs are not an acceptable way to exit a marriage.

You wrote this:

My wife's affair was, as far as I can tell, a classic exit affair. She had already decided that she wanted to leave the marriage, and the affair just sealed the deal

In other words, she gave up on the M, wanted a D, but along came the opportunity for an A and she took it? It was somewhat coincidental. She was leaving anyway. The A didn't really make it easier, it just made it more complicated. She didn't need the A to exit.

So, one problem at a time.

The Affair: Are you saying she's still in a fog? In other words, she's not remorseful? Are you suggesting that she might not be remorseful because your marriage had been bad before the A? I don't think that is correct. Remorse should be there, regardless.

You don't think that you and she could go back and fix the bad marriage and THEN she would start to feel remorse? That sounds a bit far fetched. Why would she want to do that, for starters?

No, I think the A need to be addressed on its own. That leaves two possible pathways.

1. No remorse, no reconciliation. Game. Set. Match.

2. She finds remorse and THEN you and she start to think about whether you are both willing and interested in creating a healthier M.

dbellanon posted 6/30/2013 21:25 PM

Yeah. The remorse needs to be there no matter what. It's not. For whatever reason, she either doesn't realize or doesn't care how much she hurt me. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that she had become emotionally detached from me before the affair, but I think it has more to do with her unwillingness to face the full weight of guilt that would go along with admitting to herself what she really did.

But of course, part of the problem with this is that even if this happened, it wouldn't necessarily make her more likely to want to save the marriage. It really does seem like they are two separate issues.

On the other hand, I think that there might be core issues with her that underlie both.

My STBXWW seems to have a real empathy problem, which is funny because that's what she's been accusing me of (projection much?). She doesn't seem to be able or willing to see things from my perspective. Now whether she has turned completely inward as a kind of defense mechanism, or whether this was always present in our marriage is something I'm trying to figure out.

Kajem posted 6/30/2013 21:45 PM


You just described the end of my marriage to a T.

The lack of empathy is my XH, and is a characteristic of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. --- Things get very complicated when dealing with NPD.

My X shows a mask to everyone, his family, the world. No where does he relax,he is always 'on stage'. Even if that stage is in his own mind, he is on stage. He is like an actor that cannot be seen without a mask... when that mask slips and someone gets to see the true him. Well they need to be Devalued and Discarded (D&D for short). During the D&D period.. about 2 years before his exit. I was treated like public enemy #1. It was horrible. I was a mess.

His affair was an exit affair... but it started 2 years before he left. At least that is when I can figure it out via OUR phone records, he did have a work phone that might have been used, but I do not have access to those records. He was planning his exit, to set himself up very well financially. OW was doing the same.

I told him to leave, well before they were ready.

My advice... do not worry about them, the end of the marriage or anything else to do with her. Concentrate on you. Yes looking back there were things in marriage I was not proud of... I need to change them. You will find similar things about yourself.. work on changing those things. and keep going till you feel your self esteem returning.. it will.

If she wants to reconcile... she knows where to find you. And if not... you are that much healthier to start a new relationship free of the baggage she left behind for you.



Markay81 posted 6/30/2013 22:00 PM

Wow your story sounds so close to mine. I had to reread to make sure I wasn't the one who posted it.
I got mind F%&#ed for months. Our marriage was in an awful place for along time. My WH decided he wanted out. Didn't tell me. Started his A. Came to me and said he wanted to separate (Swore there was no one else). Continued his A came to me alittle while later said he wanted a divorce. Still having A. Came back alittle while later said no didn't want a divorce. STILL having A. Ended A a couple weeks later. I found out about A 3 months later.
I am so sorry you are having to go through this. Have you looked at doing the 180? I have heard great things from people who have done it. Is your WW in IC? I got to the point I was over the mind games. I told my WH you want out so freaking bad fine there is the damn door. But if anything in you wants this marriage you need to start proving it. Remorse, transparency, IC ect. It is not easy. Even on days he is doing everything right I still think of running for the hills. It is an uphill battle. No choice you make is going to be an easy one.

heartbroken_kk posted 6/30/2013 22:18 PM

Are you certain you know when her A started? Or that this is her first A? It sounds like your M could have been suffering because she was already in an A.

In my case our M was becoming the pits, while he had already decided to start sleeping with other women on the side. Energy he could have invested in our M was being siphoned off, and I didn't know what was going on. I did not react well to this.

aesir posted 6/30/2013 22:32 PM

Damn, I lost a lot I was typing when the tab closed on me. I will start again because you really need this.

I am not buying the narrative as presented here, even though I am sure it is accurate to the best of your ability.

In the beginning (before knowing about the affair), I was so struck by how bad things had gotten without me realizing, and how deeply my wife seemed to have been hurt, that I practically hated myself. I was so distraught, believing that I had brought my own marriage to ruin.

How much do you know about the affair. Do you know when it started? How much do you know about the POSER?

Long lost to the archives I posted a summary of "7 Types of Affairs" based not on the actions and events, but on the WS's behavior, motivations, and how they justified it. This sounds like a classic My Marriage Made Me Do It. The truth is, these are not caused by the marriage. Rather than a bad marriage causing an affair, it is far more likely that an affair caused a bad marriage. When a bad marriage causes an affair, it usually appears totally different, and we have a few WS's around that can tell you about those, but they do not sound relevant to your case.

I dealt with one of these, and recovered only for her to do it again a few years later. For what it's worth, I think she now understands, but as she knows I am unwilling to consider getting back together, she is unwilling to com right out and say it. I was really good at tracking down communication between her and POSER, and all her co-conspirators, traced it all back to before it started with the co-conspirators. I traced so much that I could even outline how everything from her friend the "professional astrologer" was a cold read. I was thorough and relentless in getting the facts, and I now know more about her first A than she does. I can give you a brief summary of a few years here, though I have not told the story in a long time.

Had a stressful business I had started with some pretty serious commitments involved, bought a house, got married, were happy. Her father was diagnosed with fatal disease, I helped her mother in looking after him in the hospital. Her mother had a sudden fatal heart attack, and we were there to watch as they disconnected the machines, and I was mostly left alone to look after her father's last couple of months while we also planned a funeral for her mother right at Christmas. Then her father died and she sank into an almost catatonic depression. I handled everything I legally could regarding the estates and such, and spent my time caring for her. We suddenly had 3 houses, so we moved to her childhood home as it was familiar to her autistic brother. To minimize triggers I redid the interior to completely change the look of the house so it was healthier for her to live there. Between all of this and the business (there is no stress or bereavement leave or sick days when you own the place and have to meet payroll), I was exhausted, yet I still tried to care for her. She appreciated this, and all of her communication with everyone, including the stuff I was never likely to see expressed this, and the most common phrase used to describe me was amazing. She had always loved acting, so I encouraged her to take a class she found, as it was something she would consider fun, and it would mean at least once a week she had to get dressed. She slowly began to perk up while taking this class (and getting dressed at least once a week), and all her communication still described me as amazing, how wonderful I had been in looking after her and caring, how I had kept her from being institutionalized, and how much she was enjoying her class. Then one day in a PM on a board like SI she mentioned to her astrologer friend some people in the class, including POSER. I was still the greatest husband in the world, but not for long. The conversations started to shift to less about us, and more about her class, and how much fun she was having acting with POSER. Eventually, without changing anything, I started being mentioned again in the conversations, along with the marriage, but now it was not so good, all the good stuff was related to POSER. To me it appeared there was a relapse to her depression, so I tried to care for her and engage her in conversations, but it was no use. I had to be away on business when her aunt went to palliative care, and I got an angry phone call about it. I said I would be home as soon as possible, and she said she would get a ride that day. I spent the day completely rearranging the employee schedules to cover for me, booked a flight for the next day, packed my stuff, drover for over 8 hours to the city with the airport, arriving just in time to get a ride to the airport, caught a plane and got an hour and a half of sleep on the flight, took a cab home and drove her to the palliative care facility across town and stayed with her. I was unaware of the A, so did not know that the previous day POSER had driven her across town and dropped her off. Guess which one was the big fucking hero, and who was the cold insensitive asshole that was never there for her?

You with me so far? Ready for a nice checklist?
How well does this block quote describe your WW?

Characteristics of the person who says that a bad marriage made me do it
• At one time was clingy and fairly passive in the marriage
• Does not want to take responsibility for his/her behavior
• Attaches self to others. Others become the guiding star
• May have bouts of sadness and dejection
• Deep down thinks of self as inadequate and weak Reluctant and seemingly incapable of expressing own desires wants, needs, ideas (doesn't know what they are)
• Can be very generous and has difficulty saying no
• May be naive or Polly Anna like
• More passive, does not like competition
• May be closely attached to parents
• May be overprotected by parents
• May typically express put-downs about self
• Complains. Whines. Things are never right or good enough
• Those who know him/her well will usually be exasperated and frustrated

How about this sequence of events?

What can I expect will happen?
1. Expect that your spouse will have a very powerful attachment to the other person. The other person will consistently be on her mind. Your spouse will shift energy away from you, the children, the household and her career to her affair relationship. She will be focused, but not on you.
Your spouse will attempt to push you away by avoiding you, ignoring you, closing off communication or walking away.
2. The affair will most likely be a long-term affair. It will be very difficult for your spouse to walk away from the other person. He may try on a number of occasions but will continue to gravitate back to the other person. He will hold on tenaciously.
This is probably the first or only affair for your spouse. Your spouse is not interested in playing or fooling around but powerfully attaching to the other person. The other person is the savior!
3. Don’t believe that the affair was planned before hand because of a bad
marriage. These affairs usually just happen. They usually happen with someone in close proximity: co-worker, neighbor, friend (frequently of friends with whom you socialize), etc.
The other person is usually the aggressor, your spouse lacking the confidence to seek out the affair. The rationale that it happened because of a lousy marriage comes after the affair is in bloom.
4. The more you try to persuade, convince or pursue, the more strongly he will attach to the other person. He will perceive your efforts as weakness and will want to attach more intently to the other person whom he (at perhaps an unconscious level) deems to be the powerful and loving answer-to-all.
5. Efforts to use moral or religious arguments to call a halt to the affair will be strongly resisted. Your spouse is not guided by rightness or wrongness. These standards have not been internalized and do not carry much weight, especially when it comes to the important chunks of her life. The actions and thoughts of your spouse primarily originate from her need to attach to another person. Any behavior or concept that serves the purpose of maintaining the attachment will be valued. Others are discarded.
6. Expect you will spend a significant amount of time and emotional energy in the next 2 to 4 years (especially if there are children) attempting to resolve the relationship. By resolve, I mean, coming to a point where each of you are fairly free of the emotional entanglement that holds you together and generates the pain and fear. It will be important for you to resolve the relationship whether you continue to be married or separate and divorce. Again, if children are present, it is vital, let me repeat, vital, that you and your spouse or ex-spouse come to a working relationship freer of emotional baggage and game playing.

Here is the authors advice for this type of affair. Call it a ProTip.

Tip: If your partner/spouse is having an affair and blames it on the” marriage,” don’t buy into it. The “marriage” is not the problem. You are not the problem. Your spouse/partner chose the affair out of ignorance, fear or inadequacy.

allatsea posted 7/1/2013 06:48 AM

Thank you Aesir,

I read your post and see my STBXWW in all of your statements. It is unfortunate that she will never see how text book she is behaving and neither will she listen to reason. Sending her this text would make no difference whatsoever.

My STBXWW has made me her enemy and whenever I try to correct her untruths she starts throwing hurt around.

She is totally gone

Abbondad posted 7/1/2013 07:16 AM

Wow. Nearly identical with my WW as well. Scarily so.

Here's an additional gold nugget:

When my WW promised she would end it with the POS, and did--for almost a WHOLE WEEK!--and then broke NC, it was my fault. Why?

Wait for it....

"I was being too desperate."

(Me--her husband was. I drove her back to him because I wanted my marriage so badly she felt pressured!)

You can't make this shit up. But you can probably find it in a psychiatric textbook.

dbellanon posted 7/1/2013 11:36 AM

aesir: Your first checklist doesn't really have a lot of resonance for me.

The second list is a little more accurate.

I am fairly certain about the timeline, but it's hard to say exactly how determined she was before and after the affair to end the marriage. She was definitely pessimistic, but it is quite possible that the affair did "sap the energy" that she otherwise might have put into saving the marriage. Without the affair, could she have been convinced? I don't know.

The fact is that I don't know if I could have done anything to prevent any of this. But I do know that there were things that I could have done to make my marriage better, things that even if my wife had done everything the same, could have helped me leave this with a clearer conscience. I feel guilty for not doing those things, but I also feel resentful towards my WW for what she did and is doing.

Maybe I'm resentful even about the fact that, having realized things I could have done better, I won't get the chance to, that even if she does come to a realization of the severity of her crime, all we'll be left with are regrets over the terrible way things ended. It's a story without a happy ending.

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