I cannot defend my actions. My behavior was self-serving at a time when I was emotionally unstable and very hurt. I wanted to be “wanted” at both times when I was feeling emotionally rejected. Both instances occurred when each woman made clear sexual advances…but I did not stop the situation.
Some would argue that my upbringing is immaterial. But I came into the relationship intellectually mature but emotionally immature. During the course of our dating I began to go into short bouts of depression that would progressively descend into something more significant.
After marriage, I took a leave of absence from work and wanted to find an apartment for us to live together. It needed to be near her university which made it difficult for me to return to my job. She was finishing her last semester as an undergraduate, which can be a very stressful time. I found a place and organized the move. But she was not happy. I came to find out later that the stress of moving and the stress of school was not welcomed. To me it was an exciting opportunity to be together. It hurt me that the excitement was shared.
The trigger for my first affair came soon after moving in together. One night while we were well into sexual foreplay I heard her say she didn’t want to have sex with me. She wanted me to be emotionally there and not distant. First, I was incredibly hurt at being rejected so soon after being married (and so soon after moving in together). Second, I had no idea what she meant or how to be there in the way she wanted. Not long after that, the ex-wife of a friend made it clear she wanted to seduce me after her friends had left. I did nothing to dissuade her and gave into my urge to be sexual again. I did not attempt to continue the affair and things ended there.
In the intervening years before the next one-night affair, my fear of rejection stayed with me. I was afraid of being judged and found lacking. Intimacy and sex were rare. Also during these years I began to descend into mental illness. It took more than 10 years for me to be diagnosed bipolar with generalized anxiety (pre-dating the marriage). What I see in retrospect is my inability to cope with the loss of my faculties and emotional stability while trying to hold down a demanding job and a marriage with emotional expectations beyond my understanding. My frustration and anger with my deteriorating inner life came out in my behavior towards my wife. I was self-centered, condescending, disrespectful and unpredictable. It is something I look back on with heavy shame.
The second affair came over 6 years later with a former work colleague. I was traveling for work and had a free weekend. So I went to visit. The day I landed was the day that the movers arrived at our new house. We had moved across the country as I tried to continue my career from afar. For me it was a move that would sooner-or-later end my career with my employer of over 10 years.
I had managed the moving out and she would be preparing the new house and managing the arrival of the movers. I recall talking with her on the phone conversation upon landing on a work trip. She was not happy. The paranoid side of me looked at the risk I was taking to my career and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to buy her the farmland and house that she wanted. I was crushed. My first day with my friend was cordial and fun. But in the evening it became clear that she wanted to have sex with me. She made advances and I did not resist. Somehow it helped with the pain and the fear. I left the next day.
My wife found out when she was reading my emails looking for something else. She was devastated. I admitted to that affair…and later we both admitted to things in the past. Me: my first affair…her: sex with another man while we had been dating. We went into counseling. Around this time my bipolar disorder was diagnosed and I was put on medication. I have been predominately stable for over 6 years and completely faithful. I saw the incredible hurt that I had inflicted on her and never wanted to do that again.
The stability I’d found the bipolar medication allowed me to see what I had done and gave me a place to work on becoming more emotionally mature. But it has been very slow for me to gain the ability to deal with my immature emotions and engage emotionally in an adult way. This is something that should have been part of our relationship from the beginning. As for repairing the damage to our relationship, my focus has been on stopping all the unpleasant behaviors of the past. But that is clearly not enough. I am still avoidant of emotionally uncomfortable situations and it has never been easy for me to bring up things for discussion. My attempts are short lived as my emotional states still change and I have some memory loss with each bipolar cycle. But I admit that I have not pushed myself in the way I’ve need to.
I have since quit my job due to the ending of my work project. But it was also about the toll it had been taking on me and my wife. My work stress came home as stress for her. I think it’s been good for us to be together without my constant travel. It’s been good to be able to work together with the small scale farming/homesteading. Things are better but not great overall. She’s unhappy with a distant and somewhat unstable partner. And it has been far easier for me to coast along without a job.
Any advice for moving forward?
How long have you two been "stuck"? Is your W on SI?
What work has your W done regarding her unfaithfullness to you? What are her reasons "Why"?
By the same token, what work have you done? What are your "Why's"? Have you communicated to your wife the intimacy issue you posted about?
A great book for you both to read together is, "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. Every person has a hierarchy of needs. For some, physical touch followed by acts of service followed by gifts are a person's love language and their partner's could be gifts followed by physical touch followed by words of affirmation followed by quality time.
You stated that some would argue your upbringing is immaterial. The consensus here isn't so. Many of us here, WS & BS believe very much that a person's FOO (family of origin) play a vital role in why they're here as well as the choices they make.
[This message edited by stilllovinghim at 6:15 PM, August 8th (Thursday)]
We’ve pretty much been “stuck” to some degree since D-day. My progress at having emotional discussions without getting unstable have significantly improved. But it has been slow. Counseling helped to a point. But beyond that it was expected that I resolve my issues and be a good partner. I’ve developed considerable acceptance of other people (and myself). But she seems to interpret many of new actions/intents as the same poor past behaviors. Each time I make a mistake it sets things back considerably. You might see my frustration that occasionally boils over.
I believe my “Why” came from insecurity & self-centeredness that were magnified by bipolar/anxiety. I wanted the validation of approval for my self-esteem. I had extremely low self-perception both times. This was based on my interpretation of her behaviors that resulted in me feeling hurt. My reaction to being hurt early in the relationship was to hurt back. I admit to saying things that she interpreted as me not finding her attractive. I’ve been able to stop hurting back. But what I said has had lasting sting.
My wife and I have had continuous discussions about physical and emotional intimacy. It’s clear that we’ve both been hurt and it stands in the way of initiating contact. For me, it is much more difficult to initiate an emotional connection simply by talking. It’s not something that was done in my family so it does not come naturally. I make efforts during one bipolar swing…then lose continuity and lapse. So we go through good patches, my mood swings, she gets frustrated, bad patches, etc. I do not begrudge her the terrible experience of having an ill spouse. Sadly, I do not expect some parts of my illness to ever recover. In some ways, the worst part for her is that I can’t remember and for her she can’t forget.
Thanks for the response and the book recommendation.
When you post, there is an option to uncheck the stop sign for BS responses. However, for this post we are going to leave the stop sign on for WS responses only.
"That's the thing about pain, it demands to be felt."
A big problem I'm seeing is your W and you are both rug-sweeping her A. There are no "mulligans" kwim? I can tell its bothering you and you're wanting to keep the peace. However, communication leads to intimacy. Your W can't heal from what you did if she ignores what she's done. It doesn't work that way.
You both are BS as well as WS. You can only fix yourself. She can only fix herself and the M must be mended by you both. Your W doesn't get a pass for her A just because you guys weren't married yet. That's a load of bull and is, IMHO, one of the main reasons you guys have been stuck for so long and a question I have is, how long would your W had held on to her "secret"? Forever? I mean, she didn't tell till you did. She's walking around with a lie up until the day she confessed.
As far as her dealing with your illness, you know you're responsible for taking your meds, going to therapy, finding healthy outlets, etc. You keep up your end of the deal. This is a mental illness you didn't choose to have. Your W promised in sickness and in health. If she can't help take care of you, watch for warning signs of mania and depression, etc, then she needs to find someone who will. I know its exhausting and frustrating but there's a bunch of websites for caretakers of ppl with BP she can go to. If you had cancer would she act the same way? I hope not. I can tell this is a hinderance as well. Your W either needs to learn to accept this and find healthy outlets and coping mechanisms or hire a care taker.
Anyway, I wish you both a lot of luck. Also, do you both have an agreement on posting on here? As in, you're okay with her posting on your threads, she's okay with you reading/posting on hers etc. Or she can read but not respond on your thread, vice versa or some type of agreement?
[This message edited by stilllovinghim at 9:27 PM, August 8th (Thursday)]
I see your point concerning “no mulligans”. But I also understand the situation and see parallels. So I accept it knowing it was in her past and before she made her vows of commitment. Those vows are incredibly strong and important to her. So not a mulligan…but a shot out of bounds in a practice round that was honestly offered up and in a very mature way (completely unlike mine). I have respect for that.
Your suggestion of BiPolar support is oddly prescient. After she read my post we had a long discussion about the dual burden of my infidelity and my descent/stabilization in BP. The damage to the relationship both did was enormous. I’ve never been quite sure she completely buys into my diagnosis…but she sees the stabilizing effects of the meds and that’s a good thing. But it hit me how heavy a stone simply dealing with a BP spouse is…independent of my emotional immaturity or my infidelity. I started looking for good Spouse of BP support sites after we had our talk. Good suggestion.
I’m reasonably set on the maintenance of my BP. I’ve had decent stability for over 6 years…still mild highs I self-moderate and lows that manifest as sleep. You’ll see another post I made this morning that shows how a social/exercise activity helps me stabilize and be happier. But my, there was a bevy of thoughts on my running group.
We don’t have a formal protocol on reading or posting. We’ll discuss it. My position is she can read my posts but we discuss content privately. I do not feel that I am owed access to her posts and would never consider replying on the site. That is for her to discuss with me on her terms.
I have a feeling you agreeing to her statements regarding her cheating because you feel guilty for what you did and she's helped feed you that load of malarki.
If you two continue to trivialize her actions, that's ultimately your decisions. However, what happens when she doesn't feel so committed to you again? What does it solve for her internally to choose to be inactive in grevious acts of betrayal?
Anyway, there are awesome sites that you both can go to for knowledge and support regarding the BP. I get what you said as well about the posting here being like journaling, its a good start and I think there's even a feature to start a journal here but its public....not sure if it can be set to private.
Anyway, once your more comfortable posting here, try to make it a point to journal at least once a week. Pick out a cool journal that reflects your personality, hell I draw these goofy little doodles in mine from time to time, but it helps and I like to pretend I can draw really well.
One of the things I find great about this site is the wonderful open sharing of thoughts/opinions. It really helps think through my situation, especially the insightful questions.
It also strikes me how difficult it is to accurately convey my situation and some of the replies that seem to assume detailed knowledge. Maybe I am missing something...just observing and wondering what I could do better. Any thoughts from your experience?
When you asked what you could do better, are you referring to how you relay your story here or in regards to the work in your M?
I've definitely drafted somes questions (and responses) to replies I've received. Even that seems to force me to think about things more thoroughly...which is good.