Essentially, it is a matter of figuring out how to embrace and work through this soul-crushing remorse and own what I did to my wife, marriage and myself while also working on ways to be authentically good and strong and build honest measures of self esteem.
I cognitively realize that these two categories are complementary to one another in the long term but figuring out how to work both sides at the same time is stumping me.
Building things about me and in my life to take legitimate self-esteem from is going to be part of what I must do in order to get away from my problems of external validation and all of the charismatic overlays that I used for so long. Also, if our marriage is going to survive, my wife needs to see something in me worth her interest.
At the same time, I am committed to having the full emotional experience of the wrongs that I have done. Living the pain of what I have done to us; grieving the loss of what I had with my beloved wife and really working to understand her feelings about the ways I betrayed her are part of the process of healing and growing.
How the in the world does one build honest worthiness while looking your own unworthiness in the face?
There is only so long that you can declare your faults and cry mea culpa before that becomes the narrative for both of you. By the same token, moving on to build the "new you" without delving the badness that you are trying to expunge is just a matter of trying to plant a new garden on top of a cesspool.
I know, there are no magic answers. I just needed to get it out for a moment. I wish that I had never done this. All that I want out of life any more is to be worthy of the love of my wife, cats and myself. Everything else is gravy.
Another thing to be careful of is toxic shame and self flagellation. We can be remorseful, and yet at the same time not call our selves names or look upon ourselves as useless.
What are the plans you have so far to build the "new you"?
The same part of you that was hurt (which led to selfish coping) is still hurt but can choose to deal with pain in a healthy way.
The way to gain honest strength IS to face the bad choices we have made. By facing the bad, you grow, you change for the better. It may look like a big ole mess in the process, but the product of a healed (or forever healing person) is a healthy, strong, and honest person.
These things aren't mutually exclusive. One births the other.
If that makes sense.
Your words were very moving to me. There is a deep sincerity that is apparent to me, and it takes a HUGE amount of courage to put forth the energy to understand what has gone on with yourself as well as with your wife.
I am a betrayed wife. I would have given a right arm to hear my WH adopt even an ounce of the introspection that you summarized in your post.
I wish you the very best of luck in your journey.
Fooled twice - almost exactly 10 years apart.
No more flirtation, no more grand gestures that make me look cooler than I am.
Drawing boundaries with everyone but my wife and I on the outside. Those are the no-brainers.
Figuring out ways to have simple self-esteem is harder. We've been doing a lot of work on the house in preparation for sale. The work has been good and pretty. It is making a more attractive place in the world through the work of my hands and it will directly benefit us in the sale of the house. Supporting my wife's design and vision with my own contributions is hard-earned and real.
I've been a martial artist my entire adult life and it is very important to me. After we move, I'm going to find a dojo and start from the beginning. No teaching, no tournaments, no flash. Just quiet work and getting back to basics.
Taking all the time in the world to do things with my wife. My job has been given boundaries and they will be followed.
There are other things, but it is time to go in to bed.
Thanks to everyone who replied. See you tomorrow.