This morning we had a conversation through text message. I was explaining to him how proud I am of him opening up and sharing very difficult feelings with me and FOO issues that I never knew he was even dealing with because he kept it all in. Then I communicated to him that sometimes when I am talking I feel like he is listening but not hearing, or that he is distracted all together. He has fallen asleep when I am sharing deep feelings before (granted I am sharing them at midnight) but I told him how this makes me feel like my feelings aren't valid and I would like for him to work on being a better active listener. His immediate response was "so basically you're telling me I am failing at listening. Tell me, what else am I doing wrong?".
It immediately clicked for me that he was projecting his own lack of self esteem and feelings of failure onto me so that he could justify his own feelings by thinking "see, everyone else thinks I am a failure". I poited out to him that I never said he was a failure I was just trying to express an area I felt we could improve on and sharing my feelings about being unheard. It took him a minute to process it, and then he realized too how he was projecting his own deep emotions onto me. I could then think back to so many arguments we had had pre-A where it would start out with me sharing a feeling, and then would blow up into this big thing about him thinking I wasn't happy with the relationship and that he wasn't man enough for me. I could never really wrap my brain around how that ever happened, but today I saw a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind, and it really made me sad that he feels this way about himself. Pre-A (and even still, though he has really hurt me) I have seen him as such an amazing person who has accomplished so much in his life despite struggles, but his inner voice has over shadowed that and he has thought this whole time he wasn't living up to my expectations.
We definitely have a LONG way to go, but I felt like the fact that I was able to recognize him beginning to self destruct and then explain it to him and he could then see it too, was a very positive sign as far as improving our communication and helping him build up the self esteem he needs to become happier with himself. I just wanted to share this as a positive breakthrough.
"Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice." - Nelson Mandela
I am curious, how does that play into the A? I am wondering bc my husband turned 40, started loosing his hair, lost his dream job, and was having a hard time getting me to be romantically involved in our relationship. He became depressed. Found another job that he dislikes and within the month emailed his ex girlfriend from 20 yrs ago to reminisce...and here we are almost 4 years later.
He says that the OW made him feel good about himself and the affair was easy. He says it was an escape from daily life but I wonder: was he trying to escape being a failure?
Do you suspect he was feeling like such a failure that he needed to bolster himself with an affair? Plus, he may have felt the affair was so easy that he couldn't "fail?"
Thank you for the insightful post; I find the perspective useful.
I'm also glad you a seeing some rays of sunshine :)
Thanks for your comments. When he finally finished TTing, and the wave of "truth" came out, he did say that he felt like he was failing at everything, and that he was looking to feel good, being extremely selfish in doing so. He said that he already felt he was failing in our marriage, so what was one more thing. He has also admitted to me that our whole relationship (5 years) he was never "all in". He always had one foot out the door and walls up to protect himself (FOO issues, being hurt himself etc). When he actually had sex with AP that is when he finally thought about what he was doing. It didn't stop him from hanging out with her again (no sex, he thought he could separate the friendship they created from sex). I think he was trying to escape feeling like a failure because he never really talked to her much about his personal life, just had light easy conversation and she had no judgement about him.
Right before the A started, he was miserable at his job, cut back his hours, failed a semester in school and his IC went on Maternity Leave, we were struggling with money. He felt like he was failing in his duties as a husband because I was taking on the financial burden (i didn't mind I wanted him to be happy). Sounds fairly similar to what you're going through. When was your DDay?
Married 5 years. Dating 9. Living together 8.
If a man took his time on earth
to prove be for he died
what on man's life could be worth
I wonder what would happen to the world
- Harry Chapin
Now, don't give on things. Sometimes when they take a step forward we misinterpret it as not needing to continue to hold them to our requirements. Don't back off at all. Tell him you are proud of him and support him, but don't back down yet.
Delay is the deadliest form of denial. - C. Northcote Parkinson
Your standards aren't up for negotiation just because he/she can't meet them.
he did say that he felt like he was failing at everything, and that he was looking to feel good, being extremely selfish in doing so. He said that he already felt he was failing in our marriage, so what was one more thing.
My WH pretty much said this exact thing word for word. I always knew he struggled with self-esteem and depression (and probably PTSD), but it was his sense of being a failure that gave him "permission" to fail even further. Logically it seems very wrong to me, but I honestly do believe this was very much the "reason" for the A.
Our Dday was 6/23; 6/22 I discovered the EA and 6/23 I discovered the PA.
Last night I discussed with WH his emotional state before the affair started. I recapped things he's said, dreams he's had, the circumstances of the time (job loss) and how they all seem to point to issues related to self esteem. It was funny because he was sort of agreeing with me but kept saying, "maybe but that's no excuse for what I did..."
I agreed and told him I wasnt excusing it but that it's important he consider his state of mind, attitudes, and behaviors that got him to this point so he can avoid it in the future.
I asked him, would you have chosen to allow yourself to get involved with her if you were happy and feeling good already? He thought a moment and then said that he didn't think so. That he reached out to her because he was feeling sad and down and wanted anyone to talk to (its true, he wrote to many different old friends at that time) and she gave him the time of day. She was promiscuous in her youth and quickly brought this to the forefront and he was intrigued bc he was sexually frustrated on top of his depression. He thought dabbling in elicit conversation wasn't harmful and wouldn't lead to anything. (Boy, was he wrong.). After experiencing the highs of her attention, he got hooked.
We talked about a few patterns to work on:
- general happiness - finding ways to enjoy every day life, look on the bright side, while setting realistic goals
- coping and communication skills - finding constructive ways to deal when things aren't perfect, when he's feeling down; talking to me or a male friend
- understanding that reaching out to other women as confidants to lift his spirits is not acceptable and dangerous; he is to completely avoid it and he's not to reach out to ex gf which is who the OW was
- understanding that protecting our marriage means keeping intimate conversation between us
- changing his attitude to accept that flirtation and sexual conversation is not okay
- remembering that all he does affects me even if I don't know!
So, again, thanks for your post because I think it helps me to see things from his perspective. To see how is state of mind played a role in the stupid decisions he made. Decisions that were very out of character for him.
Sometimes I find it helpful to step out if my wife role and listen to him as a friend would.
Low self-worth, low self-esteem, lack of love as a child (from his parents) and being the middle child have all come into play. We know he craves love and attention and he associates love with sex. He had told me that many many times in the 28 years we have been married. I did not share that thought so I just dismissed his. I also have FOO issues that caused us to never communicate past trivial conversation. Nothing ever of substance. I have learned things about my WH these last 2 months that I never knew.
Thank goodness his IC is helping him figure out how to find self-worth internally not externally and that goes for self-esteem too. He has never loved himself and always felt like a failure as he could not live up to the image he thought I had of him. I have to admit I did encourage that thinking as I had high expectations I knew he could never reach. We are learning how to have a proper M and it feels good. We both have to do the work for this M to survive.
My WH is also having a breakthrough in his inner workings that led him to 3 A's in 15 years. Had he addressed his issues 15 years ago after the first A we might not be here, but we rug swept and thought we could fix things ourselves. We just did not know that his issues were way beyond us and he needed professional help.
Summerluv I am sorry that it has taken so long for him to have a breakthrough. I know it's hard to look back and think "if this...then that", because I do the same things. If he had just shared his deepest feelings with me, then he may have turned to me with his distress instead of away" and that kind of thinking kills me because we can't erase the past. I hope he continues to have these break through's. I feel very "fortunate" that WH is putting in so much work now to figure this out and better himself. We really can't afford his IC (he doesn't have insurance right now, he has a new much more positive job now but is part time to focus on school) but she worked out a deal with us and we are tapping our savings a bit because I feel this is so important for our future. I wish you all the best of luck and if he is having a breakthrough I believe you can only go up from here.