me (WW/BS): 48
4 kiddos in mid 20's
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
ETA: Expect there to be times where things seem to be moving forward. Even happy beyond belief. But as a BS, it's everyday life events that will give that "hit by a bus" feeling. The feeling of, "holy crap! That really happened! Wait...am I ok with this?"
[This message edited by TattoodChinaDoll at 10:26 AM, August 11th (Sunday)]
How does an abusive spouce now make up for more damage than they thought they had done?
Did you not know at the time how emotionally abandoning her was cruel and abusive? How did you ignore her pain?
If you were aware and saw her hurt, I honestly don't know how you make up for that. My ex would tell me how sickened he was when he saw my pain. It was easier to see as it was very visable, bruises, swelling, but it was also in my eyes. The shock that someone that expressed, and at times showed, such love could purposely hurt me.
I still don't understand. When I made my choices most every cell of me hated him and the rest were quite pissed off. Seeing pain from him would have been comforting for me.
Did you see her pain and ignore it? Why? Maybe understanding why you felt justified making those choices will help guide you in answering how you make up for it.
'til the roof comes off. 'til the lights go out. 'til my legs give out, can't shut my mouth
Trust takes a second to break and a very very long time to rebuild...
Sounds like you have already made big steps in changing yourself for the better, not only for her spouse, but for yourself.
Keep fighting for what you know is right.
Yes, it is. Also not true only to waywards and their choices. Whenever we erode a persons trust by actions or lack of action it's tiny fractures that can lead to a chasm.
When some waywards post here that they didn't think their spouse cared, sure can be complete bullshit. Also the sad truth. We've had BS's post here how they honestly didn't care about their spouse anymore. In fact a few were actually surprised that the offending spouse could find someone that was interested in them. Think that wasn't felt or communicated in 100 ways?
God, people can really be shitty to one another. Huge breach of trust right there!!!
Has nothing to do with someone's choice of cheating. Pretty fucked up none the less.
For me, the single biggest aspect of my abusive behavior was trying to bring my wife back to reality. Here is an example of what I mean:
Earlier this year I got a work cell phone assigned to me. I had never had one before, but my new work group spends lots of time on the road, so company cell phones are necessary. So I started off OK, by telling my BW first thing when I got home that I had been issued a cell phone, and that while I didn't have access to the actual phone records, I would bring it in to the house every night and let her check the call list, then turn off the phone and hold onto it until the next day. Now I knew full well she was going to be upset by this new communication tool, but for some reason I expected that she would accept my solution to the issue and move on. It doesn't work that way. It takes TIME for the BW to process new information, especially information like that, when the VAST majority of my A took place through texts. So when she was still upset after a very short while, I decided (like an asshole) to point out the "reality" of the situation, being that I could very well have a secret phone already... Hell, I could have TEN secret phones. Why would this phone that I was given by work, the site of the A, be such a huge problem?
Well, you know what? She KNOWS that already. She's not an idiot. She knows that I could still be communicating any number of ways with OW. She doesn't need ME to remind her of that fact. Me trying to snap her back to reality was really just driving the nails deeper into her heart. And it served to do nothing more than make her feel like her emotions meant nothing. That she was crazy. She had every right to be upset, and as her WS it was my job to be there for her while she processed this new information and incorporated it into her life. If I hadn't been such a scumbag in the first place, me getting a work phone wouldn't have been a big deal anyway.
I'm sorry that this is getting a bit long-winded and rambling, so I'll try and sum up what I'm driving at. Listen to your BS. She is going to be upset. For a LONG TIME, even under the best conditions. She is going to trigger, sometimes over things that you can't even begin to see the connection to... at least at first. These triggers will sometimes ruin good times, seemingly out of nowhere. And you know what? It's your fault. It sucks, but it's true. It's something I struggled to come to grips with for WAY TOO LONG. You aren't going to be able to fix things quickly, it doesn't work that way. If your BW is hurting, LISTEN to her. Tell her you're sorry. Let her know that it's OK for her to hurt, be angry, be sad...Whatever. And think about what she's saying to you. Let your words show her that you understand her pain. I can tell you that it's better to say nothing, or just say "I'm sorry," than it is too say the wrong thing... at least for a little while. Eventually, if you want things to work out, you're going to have to get on the same page.
All of this is much easier said than done. Believe me I know. And you're not going to be perfect. Nobody is. But you're going to have get it right a WHOLE LOT more than you get it wrong. I got it wrong FAR too many times, and I'm lucky to still be speaking as a WH and not as an XWH.
And honestly, I never personally had a hard time accepting that I was capable of all of this, because you know what? It's all laid out, right there in black and white. I did it. And now it's time to correct that brokenness and make things right. Good luck to you, and again, I apologize for the rambling.
How does an abusive spouse now make up for more damage than they thought they had done?
For me the first step has been recognizing the level of damage, and that in itself is a slow process. Your experience is similar to mine, I never thought of my conduct as abusive in anyway. As TimeToManUp put it, I thought of abuse as inflicting intentional harm, being manipulative intentionally, consciously acting with the purpose of hurting someone. It's taken time and effort to recognize that all of that is wrong. I distanced myself from my wife, I focused only on myself, on making myself feel good in the moment. I denied her efforts to fix our marriage, denied that there was anything to fix, let her believe that she was imagining things, that she was unstable. No, I didn't ever yell, or call her names, but I told her I was struggling with remaining attracted to her (blame shifting all the time).
For me it wasn't until a good period of time in IC and MC that I could step far enough back, and every time I thought I had the full picture, I found I could step back farther and see that I still wasn't there, I still had more to recognize. I can't say that I've recognized it all even yet, but I think that's ok. Because I recognize that there may be more, I am open to the possibility that there will be new discoveries of ways that I hurt her, that I took things from her to satisfy my own selfish wants. It's brutally painful to look at myself in this sort of mirror, to see myself as I actually was, to look at the life I have and think of how poorly I treated it, how little regard and respect I gave to my family and my marriage. But I did it. I acknowledge that, I own that and I take responsibility for it. I can't change what I did, but I can choose what I do with it going forward. The fact that you are acknowledging the nature and depth of your behavior matters, I think it's one of the big steps in actually changing who we are.
What everyone else has said about time is right too. Our marriage counselor has often told us that she sees a strong foundation between my wife and I, and that is the reason she believes this is something we can overcome and succeed through. I like the way she describes it because it gives me a good visual....you ever see the footage of towns ripped apart by a tornado, or a fire? Houses literally taken down to the foundation. That's us. Me and my affair were the tornado, and I tore it all down. All that's left is a foundation, and I have to do the work to start rebuilding, and it's a massive project, one that took years to build in the first place without the obstacles I have now created. Roll up your sleeves, dig in, it feels overwhelming, and it feels like parts get built and crumble over and over. That's okay, if it weren't worth it, it wouldn't be this hard.
2 Year Physical & Emotional Affair (Co-Worker)
Q: "How does an abusive spouse now make up for more damage than they thought they had done?"
A: The gist is that you have to think of it as more than just a game of balancing out the wrongdoing. You must make every effort to do that, too. But it is only the beginning. The rest of the work involves truly understanding, fully and without deflection or denial, A) the very real and permanent effects of the bad choices that you have made, and B) that making amends is actually a gift that your BS is giving to you, the WS, and *not* the other way around.
1) First, you absolutely must understand what emotional abuse is. You cannot do enough reading on the subject. Search for psychological studies. Read the pain and anguish that is being poured into the posts on this very website. You must own completely that emotional abuse is every bit as horrific as physical abuse, and many would say that it is *more horrific*. What is so insidious about emotional forms of abuse is that they cause the abused person literally to question reality. That is a degree of horror that you should never wish on anyone. I have thankfully not experienced physical abuse, but try this thought experiment: imagine a physical abuse situation (beating, for example). Now imagine that the inflicted wounds (bruises, cuts, scrapes, broken bones, etc.) are actually *invisible* to the naked eye. This is what you have done to your spouse. Now imagine how the abused person should make sense of his/her situation. The abused feels the cruel effects of being beaten, but looks down and sees no bruises, no welts, nothing apparently cracked. "Did it really happen?" The abused feels intense pain from the beating, but sees the abuser act as if they have not done anything egregious. "Is the hurt that I am feeling really caused by someone else?" the abused spouse begins to wonder. The abused sees friends and family not be able even to see, let alone understand the hurt and pain that he/she is feeling. And this makes the abuser's lack of feeling seem almost normal. "Maybe I'm imagining the pain I feel? Maybe I shouldn't really be feeling it? Maybe I deserve to feel it?" And the insidious downward spiral continues from there. "Maybe my wounds aren't really real," the abused person starts to think. "Maybe this is just normally how I should feel." It is very, very hard for most people to keep their internal compass pointing toward true north when everyone around them, including themselves, cannot physically see the wounds that have been inflicted upon them. Just like grievous physical wounds, though, emotional wounds leave *permanent* marks. Your BS will bear the scars of the wounds that you have inflicted for the rest of her/his life. Like many wounds, most of those scars can heal and the BS can resume a normal life. But they will never disappear, and they will *always* be a reminder of what happened. You must never allow those reminders to lead to the fear that what happened might happen again.
2) Second, you must understand that making amends for abuse is *never* a game of reverse abuse quid pro quo. That is, it is not about performing in return a degree of suffering equal to what you have inflicted. You may think that your BS wants to see you suffer in exchange for the suffering that you have inflicted upon him/her. Your BS may even think this. But what he/she really wants, underneath all of the pain and hurt and confusion, is to get back what you have truly stolen: his or her self-esteem and dignity. You cannot give that back to them by inflicting pain on yourself or performing that you are suffering. You may be suffering. You *should* be suffering (not in a moral sense but just in the sense that as a feeling person this should be a consequence of your actions). But you are suffering from a self-inflicted wound. Your BS will resent being expected to feel something positive within themselves from seeing you suffer from the effects of that wound, too. For this your BS must see that you understand the devastating magnitude of the pain and hurt and confusion that *you* have caused, and that you completely understand that the abuse you have inflicted is WRONG. It is unequivocally and without wishy-washy hedging, WRONG. Your BS did not deserve *any* of that abuse, for *any* reason.
3) Third, you must understand and own, unequivocally and with absolutely no illusions of expectation, that the opportunity to make amends is a gift that your BS is giving *to you*. In making amends, you are not giving anything to them that you have not already illegally stolen, that is not already theirs by right. The way for you to get there mentally is to own the fact that you may *never* be able to give back the dignity and self-esteem that you have stolen from your BS. That's right: you must own the fact that it may be *impossible* to make amends for the pain that you have inflicted, to give back the self-esteem and dignity that you have stolen. The reason that this realization is so important is that it will help you, again, to come to grips with the fact that this is not a game of reverse quid pro quo with all of the commercial expectations that this entails. My WW has said to me in the past few weeks that she doesn't want to try to repair the marriage (read: the damage that she has caused to it and to me) if there is no chance that I'll want to reconcile. I resent the hell out of this line of thinking, because it's saying, "I made a huge mess and I'll only help clean it up if you'll forgive me." Absolutely not the right way to be thinking about the world. Healthy people clean up their own messes for the simple reason that they are responsible for making them. Your BS, if he/she is still talking to you, likely wants to find a way to reconcile with you, but has no idea how to make that work in a way that will make him/her feel happy, strong, and 100% safe from the kind of abuse that you have proven you have the capacity to inflict. It may seem like what I'm suggesting here is forced groveling, but if it feels like that, you have more self-work to do to empathize with the pain that you have caused. It is *not* a game. You are not making amends so that your BS can love you again, can give you the things that a spouse should give. In this transaction, you are trying everything you can to give back what you have stolen, but what you are receiving in return is an even more precious gift: a chance to heal yourself. Healthy people do not cause harm to other people, especially not the people whom they love the most. Healthy people think about the consequences of their actions, both direct *and* indirect, and they think about those consequences *before* they act. Your betrayed spouse is giving you a chance to be healthy, to look in the mirror and be proud of what you see reflected there. From my own WW, I hear so much that "she didn't want to hurt me," "she wasn't trying to hurt me," "she doesn't think of herself as an abusive person." She is fundamentally missing the point. The point is that she wasn't actively trying *NOT* to hurt me. Healthy people actively try *NOT* not hurt others. They never forget about indirect consequences and collateral damage. The wounds suffered from indirect abuse are just as painful as wounds suffered from direct abuse. You may not have inflicted pain on purpose, but you were purposely neglecting to make the protection of the person you love your priority. And this neglect is very difficult for sensitive people to understand when the neglect has led to real suffering on their part. This is an egregious thing for a person to do to anyone, let alone a loved one. It is abuse. It is abuse. It is abuse. Abuse is abuse is abuse. Only when you fully realize all of this can you fully embrace the fact that you are lucky, lucky, lucky even to receive a chance to make amends.
4) Last, you must never forget, for the rest of your life. This is the only thing that you must perform for your BS. For the rest of your life, you must vocalize and demonstrate the absolute fact that you have never, ever, forgotten. Again, the pain of the wounds that you have inflicted as an emotional abuser will hopefully not be permanent, but the scars will be. For the rest of his/her life, your BS will bear them. You, in return, must bear the responsibility for inflicting them. The question is whether some deep dark part of you will feel guilt for the rest of your life and you will simply do everything you can to ignore it, or whether instead you will know at the deepest, most sacred part of a healthy core that you once made horrible mistakes, but you have returned what you have stolen and learned that you can never, ever steal such things from anyone, ever again.
It is never okay to be a physical abuser. It is never okay to be an emotional abuser. It is never okay to be an abuser. Never.
Abuse is abuse.
[This message edited by 84CF at 9:31 PM, August 13th (Tuesday)]
God, this is exactly, EXACTLY what my marriage was like for years. Years.
Talking about a problem or difficulty I had guaranteed that it wouldn't be addressed... Would only make the problem get worse.
Our sex life completely evaporated. Absolutely nothing would revive it. Telling him I missed sex (god, our sex life before kids was out of this world!), wished we could be closer, lingerie, fantasies, even finally gave him a little token stamped with "good for one roll in the hay". He never redeemed it. I found it years later when we moved and threw it away.
Got to the point where we weren't even kissing. Not even little pecks. I waited a few weeks to be sure it was true and brought it up. Didn't bug him in the least.
I told him I was unhappy, things needed to change, I was so so sorely tempted by an EA early on.... Met with a shrug. I brought home marriage improvement books, we read them, nothing. Later on be said that yes, he'd recognized a lot of our marriage in those books, but didn't think that meant he had to do anything about it.
Story upon story about how he was mild, pleasant, dutiful, even a doting father--but in a million million ways showed me that my thoughts, fears, desires, concerns, didn't mean shit. Was perfectly happy staying married, except for the part about having anything to do with his wife.
It was fucking crazymaking.
I was the one to have the A in this case--and it was realizing that I'd stepped so far outside of the lines that made me go nuclear and demand change.
When I told him about the A, he was pretty much completely unconcerned. I was a wreck, though.
When I would raise issues with him, his typical response would be to not say anything at all. The aftermath of the a was what made me enough of a mess to finally say, "I know it's hard for you to hear these things, but I have a problem in this marriage and it can only be solved if we work together. If you literally will not speak to me, we can't solve those problems, and we will have to get a divorce." This was a major turning point: he had never considered that divorce might ever be a possibility. Because in his mind it was totally legitimate to act as though the mother of your children had never even spoken after she pled with you to please, please work on your marriage.
It's been an awful, hard few years but he's finally gotten it. I think. I also think I have something like PTSD from being blown off--essentially gaslit--for so long in the process.
Neglect is as bad as physical abuse, but yes, much more nefarious because "nice" guys do it too...