I have been struggling with my past and the why from my past for years now.
Sorry this is so long, here is what I have found in my digging into myself.
I grew up in a household with a dominant Mother who it seemed like my Father was afraid of and would do anything to just avoid a fight. I am very confident in saying that he was very able to rationalize and compartmentalize to avoid fights with my Mother. They seemed to live very separate lives without showing much love or affection to each other. He would love to just sit on the couch and she would complain that she was missing out on life and preaching to me to not make the same mistakes as her and bitching about him being lazy. I felt well taken care of as a child but didnít feel any great sense of affection. In fact I only remember my Father telling me he loved me the last time I actually spoke with him many years ago when I was moving away to escape from them. Shortly afterwards he told me that he didnít even want me at his funeral so I canít say that I actually believe his statement of love from that one time. It is certainly possible that he told me he loved me as a small child and I donít remember but if he did, it didnít make an impact that I remembered feeling loved.
I was a someone who always felt ugly. I was a chubby kid and remember hearing the comments about my husky jeans and also that my parents would call my brother skinny because he was thin. They werenít doing this directly to hurt me but it still made me feel bad about myself. I was always very self conscious of myself and I can remember always wanting to feel like I fit in with my friends. I felt like I was more of an outsider of the core group than part of them for most of my childhood. I played baseball and football because I wanted to be part of the team, not because I really liked either of them all that much. I actually preferred to be on a non popular sport team and really enjoyed that but would get snickers from my friends who were wrestlers or on the basketball team. It wasnít that I would ever get picked on for my skills, I was a really good athlete. It was more like I just felt like I needed to play certain sports because my friends did and the sport I really like I felt embarrassed to be a part of.
I was popular in High School because of the sports I played and the people I then hung out with not because who I was. I never had a girlfriend until my senior year and she was someone who told me that she liked me and wanted to date me. When we were dating I felt better about myself, I was less self conscious, she took me clothes shopping, and felt like I like I had a new identity. We were together for most of my senior year but then she wound up making out with one of her guy friends when she was drunk at a party who she then started dating. I felt upset but I didnít want to break up with her, I still wanted to be with her and I felt like her making out with someone else was something that I could be able to forgive. When she starting dating the other guy I felt like I wasn't good enough and those old feelings of not belonging and low self worth came back.
After High School I went to a local college and went out and partied a lot with my High School friends. We all bonded over drinking. We didnít do anything that didnít involve drinking. During this time I would hook up with a girl at a bar or party and then unless they were someone who was in my circle or friends, I wouldnít see them again. I never asked for phone numbers. I just liked the attention I got from them but didnít want to date any of them. I was pretty resentful of girls in general after my HS girlfriend cheating on me.
Then one night I met someone who I was very attracted to and was really did want to see again. She was beautiful and had a great personality and we hit it off right away. We saw each other and spoke to each other as much as possible before she had to move a big distance away soon afterwards. I had already planned on going away to College which was a bit closer to her so it was easier to see each other over the next few years. We were boyfriend and girlfriend and talking about marriage during those years but I was really not confident in us because of us not seeing each other very much and because I just felt like she would change her mind about me.
When I first went to College I didnít know anyone and was very self conscious and trying to fit it. I immediately bonded with my new roommates as we were all very heavy drinkers and drinking was the bond.
During those 2 years I cheated on her 3 times by making out with other girls at parties and bars. I never slept with any of them and never did anything with them more than the one night. It was very much like how it had been for the 2 years when I was single and hooking up with girls at bars. These girls all showed a level of interest in me before anything happened and that made me seek attention even more. If a girl made out with me it made me feel important and it made me feel like I was attractive and wanted. I was able to rationalize what happened by blaming alcohol and being away at College and then compartmentalize it rather than deal with it. I never told my girlfriend anything, even when she would ask me. I portrayed myself as a loyal boyfriend and downplayed the amount of drinking and partying that was going on. I lived the college life with the donít miss out on anything attitude that my Mother had instilled in me. I am certainly not suggesting that my Mother would condone cheating, I just mean that I over did it with the partying.
My family never accepted my girlfriend who became my wife which was mainly due to my Motherís controlling views over religion. There is a lot more to this dynamic of my life but the short answer is that I didnít stand up for my wife when my family treated her worse and worse. I just avoided the conflict.
I wound up with a new job which came with some travel perks. Right after I started I went on my first trip with a group of guys who had been working together for a few years. One of the nights we were there we went to a strip club and one of the guys bought me a lap dance. Now even though my wife had told me very clearly how she felt about strip clubs I went anyway and even accepted a lap dance. I felt like I absolutely needed to go to be part of the guys and also would have felt like a complete wuss turning down a lap dance. I wonít say that these were the only reasons I did what I did, because I was excited to see what a strip club was like when it was suggested we go as I had never been to one before.
A few years later we had our first daughter after a difficult pregnancy. The next few months were really hard with less sleep and less attention from my wife as I used to have. Having more kids since then I can certainly say that this was just the normal first few months of a babies life but I didnít know any better then. My wife and I were also not communicating much at that time and I felt very distant and weird in my new role. Then a few months later I went to another conference and was really ready to go out and party. I also had a female coworker who I later found out was having marriage problems and because of this was out partying really hard. There were a bunch of us on the trip and we were all drinking together and on the last night after a big party I went out on the dance floor with a bunch of them. I was dancing with the group and dancing with this girl who was aggressive and was getting to close to her because I liked the attention. I made out with her on the dance floor and felt the way I did in College which was that I felt good because I felt like I was wanted. In College that was always the end of it but in this case the girl made it known to me that she wanted me to come back to her room. When I felt this, I immediately freaked out and left her on the street and walked back very upset with myself to my hotel. The next morning I met up with her and we both agreed that it was a big mistake and that we should just be friends and that we could talk more when we got back home. She lived in a different state so she asked me to call her which I did. The phone calls were behind my wifeís back and became very frequent. They were filled with some talk about sex topics and sexual innuendos. I didnít take the sexual innuendos seriously, but I liked the attention and the escape from my home life which felt really difficult.
A few months later my wife found out about my secret relationship and I immediately downplayed it all and lied to her about the nature of the phone calls. She told me to cut ties with this girl and I resisted at first because I was trying to prove that she was just a friend but then went back and cut ties when my wife gave me an ultimatum. I did whatever I could to cover up whatever I could so that I would not have to deal with my past and avoid as much confrontation as possible.
After that I continued to travel for a few more years and there were additional strip clubs and another lap dance even though during that time my wife found out that I had been to strip clubs and was really pissed because of it. But again when the guys were headed there I went along rather than not being part of the group.
I know this has been long so far but I think all from above is relevant in my decision making and the why question.
Here is what else I have found out about me in the last 2+ years of therapy since 2011 when my wife found out about the physical cheating and then later about content of the phone calls.
I know that my love language is Words of Affirmation
I know that I have low self esteem and look to others for approval
I know that I base my opinion of myself on how others look at me
I know that I am a follower
I know that I have a problem with alcohol
I know that I am an attention seeker
I know that I made many excuses for myself
I know that I downplay everything
I know that I rationalize everything
I know that I compartmentalize things
I know that I am a liar
I know that I have self control issues
I know that I am spontaneous and donít make wise decisions
I know that I am a very selfish person
I feel like I cheated in College because I was seeking attention and I was trying to fill a void in my life when I was separated from my girlfriend. I was able to rationalize making out with other girls because I blamed it on alcohol and the College lifestyle and also because making out with girls was a very casual thing for me in the past and because I didnít respect relationships or girls in general like I should have because of my past experience. Because of my ability to rationalize my behavior and compartmentalize it, I was able to not hold myself accountable for this and repeat it again and again without feeling the guilt and remorse that I do now.
I feel like I went to strip clubs and disrespected my wife because I was wanting to be one of the guys and not look like a wuss. I felt like my wife was overreacting at the time and that it was not a big deal because all of the guys I was with were married and they also got lap dances. I know how disgusting this is because who cares what other guys do, I should have only cared about my relationship with my wife and respecting it but back then I wanted to be one of the guys and strip clubs were not personally offensive to me so I was able to disrespect the views of my wife.
I feel like I cheated when I was married because I was having a difficult time after my daughter was born because of the lack of attention from my wife. I was seeking both attention and an escape from my home life and because it was difficult and because I had gotten used to doing things behind my wifeís back.
I know that I made the choices I did because at the time for the critical decision I felt more compelled to do the wrong thing and get the benefit of temporary feeling of being wanted or being accepted over thinking about my girlfriend/wife. I attribute my neediness to my low self image from childhood and my experience of being cheated on by my only other girlfriend. I sought out the approval from others in every aspect of my life. I always tried really hard to try to please and be accepted by others and this was at the expense of my wife, my family, the relationship with my wife, and myself.
I am still looking to dig deeper and looking for any help you can give.
[This message edited by islesguy at 6:53 AM, May 1st (Thursday)]