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Still struggling to comfort my wife

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DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 13:24 PM

I'm not even sure where to start with this question, but I need to ask, so I'm just going to let the words flow...

We just entered year 3 of our reconciliation. While things between us are good in many ways, talking about topics regarding the affair still feels very much like a barrier/point of contention between us. Why it feels that way, and how to approach things so that we foster trust and communication instead of conflict, fear and doubt, well, that's the question...

My wife keeps telling me that she still doesn't feel seen or heard by me, feels that I don't "get" how much she is hurting and suffering, feels that I don't think about the affair much at all, feels that I'm not really making any kind of effort to restore her trust or empathize with her, feels that I don't/can't love her, and more than anything, feels that I am still so very selfish, entitled, victimized and uncaring that I am simply incapable of having any empathy or concern for her feelings and needs at all. She feels as if we don't talk at all, and when we try, that it always comes around to being "all about me". She also has told me that she constantly feels like she is being "blamed" for things, told she's a bad person or made to feel that she's responsible for my happiness or to tell me that "I'm a good boy". She keeps asking me what I'm doing to help rebuild trust between us. She asks me why I can't just empathize with the pain she is in, and be there to help comfort her? She says that other WS's are doing things to make their BS's feel safe and appreciated, and that she doesn't get that from me.

I don't know how to respond to her feelings and needs in such a way that it helps her to feel that she's not alone in this, rebuilds confidence and trust between us, and helps her to feel seen, heard, loved, supported and understood. Instead, my responses (or lack thereof) only seem to make things worse, and reinforce her feelings of being utterly alone in this with a husband who doesn't care about anyone but himself, and who still blames her for the affair and his own happiness and his own problems.

During the affair, I said and did a lot of very cruel and very damaging things to her and the family. Obviously there was the betrayal itself. There was the lying and gas-lighting. There was the sneaking around, and the fact that I flaunted the affair in front of the family. I blame-shifted and blamed my wife for my actions. I said terrible things to her, made her out to be "the bad guy" and called her a bad mother among many other hurtful things. All of these things were cruel beyond measure and I can't take them back. I regret all of those things, and while I realize that words don't mean much now, I simply don't think or feel the same way AT ALL now. I love my wife and family, and I am horrified and ashamed of the way I acted then, and the thoughts that were in my head. I am disgusted by what I did, and would kick my own ass if I could. The problem is, it is very hard for a BS to be treated in such a way, and then simply let it go later on, and trust that the person who did that to you is actually different in any way now. Once you see someone as selfish/entitled/victim, it's hard to accept anything they say and do in any other context. Simply saying, "Have a nice day" seems like they are telling you what kind of day to have, or just want you to have a nice day so they can feel better about themselves, and so on. It is an insidious trap for both partners.

It may be that I'm still too broken to help her. We say all the time that we can't give to others what we don't already have for ourselves. I'm still learning how to deal with unresolved pain in my own life. It's hard to validate your love and care for someone else when you struggle to do so for yourself. But that doesn't mean I don't care, it means I don't have the proper tools yet to express my feelings and to display empathy for others in a way that they can feel it. In the same way that you would have trouble speaking to a person from another country when you don't speak their language, it is not a lack of desire to communicate, but it is a lack of the proper and required skills needed for effective communication to take place. Absent that, the experience would be very frustrating and full of misunderstandings. That is how it feels right now, to me at least.

Part of what is so hard about this situation is that I feel that I DO have some tools to help her. She deserves to have a partner who can be there for her and support her through this painful process. The thing about infidelity is that it often leaves the BS with PTSD, depression, and a general feeling of having all their love and support pulled out from under their feet and then being kicked to the curb. It is a very lonely and scary feeling for the BS, and the accompanying feelings of rejection and abuse can make it feel impossible to accept what really happened and to learn to trust again. Nothing puts a person's "walls" up and keeps them up like betrayal. However, I grew up in such an environment. If anyone can empathize with those feelings, it's me. I know what it feels like to be hurt and disregarded with malice. The problem is, I still don't know what would help alleviate those feelings, because it never happened in my life. To be honest, I'm not sure there is anything my abusers could do to make me trust them. Rather, it comes down to my own desires for reconciliation, and what I would need from them is to see someone who doesn't purposely hurt others anymore. It has less to do with how they feel about me, it would have more to do with how they feel about themselves. If my abusers showed me that they desire to be good people more than they desire to hurt people, that's what would help more than anything else.

If I'm to be honest, I suppose that seeing at least one, single, honest-to-goodness tear from my brother, in acknowledgement of how much he hurt me and others, might do it. I'd at least know he connected with his true nature and crimes at some point, and found himself lacking. My feelings can't change him, only his can. Sometimes I think that is what ISSF is waiting for, for me to break down with guilt, or to somehow show her that I connect with her reality, to feel as though I've really "seen myself" and understand what I did to her. Then maybe she will able to feel seen and heard as well? I just don't know how to do that yet, and my attempts to convey those feelings only seem to frustrate matters further.

SO here is my question... in the hypothetical situation in which a BS is expressing their frustration with their WS (e.g You cheated, you lied, you emotionally raped me, you didn't care about me at all...) what are some ways that a WS can respond that offer aid and comfort to the BS instead of more frustration? Clearly, apologizing and letting her know I'm working on myself are not what's required here, or I wouldn't be writing this right now. I am not "looking for the right answer" or "what to do", rather, I'm looking for the concepts of understanding how to comfort someone when the pain they are in is directly attributed to your actions, and all trust is gone?

anxietydepressio posted 11/27/2018 13:40 PM

So I am not even 1 year into my R, so I am certainly not an expert. I will tell you that the quote at the end of your messages is exactly how I feel as well.

Can she be more specific in what she needs to see from you. Perhaps pointing out times when you could have done something differently? Then you would have something to go on.

Actions are always better than words. When my BS kept telling me she didn't want me to "do" anything. I couldn't stop showing her I loved her. That was all I could do. Small acts of kindness. The biggest change I have seen in our relationship is we are BOTH more grateful toward each other. We tell each other thank you much more often. Acknowledging each other, and showing that we appreciate something the other has done. Even if it is as simple as doing a load of laundry, or picking up a dirty glass off the table. Always looking for ways to do something for each other. I sometimes just walk around the house looking for things I can do to help out.

thatbpguy posted 11/27/2018 14:10 PM

It concerns me that after 3 years she is saying these things.

Either she doesn't feel safe with you yet (which should be coming around- if it ever will) or she needs some help coping with the situation.

For both your sakes, this probably shouldn't go on much longer. I hope you both address this very aggressively.

Luna10 posted 11/27/2018 14:39 PM

I canít give you the magic wand but I can tell you what my WH does which in turns makes me feel heard, seen and makes me believe, even if only temporary, that he has some empathy for what Iím going through.

First the background: when you are betrayed you swing very often between sadness, anger, grieving, emptiness and back again. Iíll address some of these feelings and my WHís reaction in turn which generally speaking help with my long term healing:

Sadness - nothing is more painful than the feeling of overwhelming sadness when you realise all that is lost and you feel powerless to change anything. You realise that no matter how many times you discuss the affair, no matter how many times you ask questions, no matter how many times you express how you feel the facts do not change. The affair happened. So then you are sad and basically feel lost. My WH generally FEELS when I am in this state. I canít tell you how. I just know that he instantly knows, the moment he sees me that I am overwhelmed with sadness. Maybe because Iím quiet. Maybe my eyes are saying it all. He isnít scared and he doesnít fear to ask the simple question: how are YOU feeling? He asks me if I want to talk. Sometimes I silently cry and he just holds me. Other times I tell him how I really feel. He listens. He participates. He tells me how shocked he is himself to know heís done all this. And he always tells me how much he loves me. How Iím part of him. How life without me isnít worth contemplating. He always apologises and tells me heíd do anything to get it back.

Anger- oh boy! When I go into one... God help us all. I can be a proper bitch! I am not physically violent. But I can be so sarcastic and my tongue can be so sharp that it may make you bleed. Sometimes I just say things just to see him flinch. By the way, Iím not doing it on purpose. I just canít stop myself. I go into sex details. I do comparison monologues listing all I know about the ow down to the level of dandruf she has as opposed to my lovely kept hair. I repaint the image of the scum he chose over me over and over again. My WH used to struggle with my anger. But in the last 10 months since dday 2 (yeah I had one of those too, my WH decided that his friendship with the ow is more important than saving the marriage he refused to give up on dday 1 begging to fix things, lucky me!) he never snapped. In fact you know what? He joined me in my anger. He tells me how angry he is too. How he cannot believe he gave up his ďheroĒ status in my eyes for that. How he cannot believe that he sacrificed everything he loves and cherishes for a POS (and no, heís not blame shifting, he calls himself the same names). He then tells me what a POS he was, how bad he treated me. Not only during the affair but before also. He tells me the changes heís making. He tells me how he discovered the beauty of putting another person first and making them happy which in turn makes him happy. He tells me how Iíll never regret sticking with him. How heíll thrive to be the best husband for me because I only deserve the best.

Grieving - here... we grieve together. My WH is not scared to talk to me about affair related subjects without me actually asking for it. He came to this conclusion by himself. The change came in the last... 2-3 months maybe. He sometimes sees me walking like a zombie. He knows... he knows Iím feeling lost. Thereís no way back. What we had is lost. But where is the path going forward? So he usually comes to bed and cuddles me and then he tells me, without me saying a word, how he feels. He tells me how he is also feeling lost. How he doesnít recognise the man who did that. He tells me how much he loves me. He tells me why heíll never do that again. He tells me how embarrassed and shameful he feels about everything he did to me, his best friend, his gorgeous wife, his wise and clever partner. He tells me he looks up to me. He tells me how he feels about me and us.

Two nights ago we got into bed and I was actually amazed. He told me that heíll always regret the day he met the ow. Heíll always hate himself for what happened. But he also told me that he feels emotionally naked in front of me and he never did this with anybody else in his life. Never opened up that way. He told me how scary it felt to become so vulnerable. But how this level of closeness would never have been achieved without it happening. He told me how connected he feels to me and how, when heís looking back (we were already very connected before the A) he realises heís never felt this before in his life.

Grieving together solidifies a marriage. The more vulnerable you become the more you link together. And I feel that too.

Hearing someone means listening. Hearing someone means not turning the conversation towards yourself. Feeling empathy means forget about yourself, just listen and offer all the comforting words and actions you can think of. Donít shut the conversation down. Donít postpone it. We cant postpone how we feel. Be in the moment. Listen now. It is about her pain, not you. Iíve noticed you mentioned your abuse in your post. Iím sorry youíve been abused. But please please please, when your BS talks about her ptsd and abuse forget about yours. It isnít about your abuse at that point. It is about hers.

Sorry for the long post, I want you and ISSF to make it. I want it with all my heart. I donít hope to give you a map. I just wanted to share a bit (well, quite a lot ) of what may be a success story sometimes in the future (the hope has returned). But even if we donít make it I will know for sure weíve done our best to try.

[This message edited by Luna10 at 2:44 PM, November 27th (Tuesday)]

Lovehurts777 posted 11/27/2018 14:40 PM

Wow, you're very good with words. How do you feel she would react if you showed her exactly what you posted here? I think she might appreciate the time and thought you put into your question and the fact that you care so much to think it all out like that. That, it itself, is a type of empathy that she might like to see.

I'm a BW and I know that for the past month or so, I've just been craving for my fWH to say the "right words" to me. Right words in this case would just be to tell me how sorry he is and how much he loves me and will work on this. I want him to "chase" after me. If I cry in the corner, I actually prefer that he come in and sit with me, show me he cares by showing empathy, hugging me and giving me reassurance of his love and that he will never hurt me again. He always thinks I'm crying in the corner to have space away from him, but just the opposite. I also appreciate the actions, but the words mean a lot too, almost more when I'm in a dark place.

It also means a lot if we see the same pain in our spouse's eyes. I saw my fWH crying with his head in his hands in the shower last night, and for the first time in our journey I actually felt like he "got it" and he needed me. So we cried together and it felt good that we were in this together and fighting together. Learning to show empathy might not be easy, but I think its expressing the same feeling that your BS has... showing that you also feel pained by your own actions. I know it meant so much to me to see that last night, and it has helped me change my attitude. I even contacted the OW this morning and told her I forgave her. Of course I'll probably be calling her all the names under the sun whenever I'm triggered next, but hopefully not. :) It's all baby steps, but hopefully some part of that helped.

hikingout posted 11/27/2018 14:41 PM

Daddydom,

To me, and I could be completely wrong, but the problem is in your day to day thoughts and focus.

I think you still want to focus on your feelings and pain because you want to hide in them. But, the reality is we can't heal ourselves by just thinking about it. We can't heal ourselves by willing it.

I would start with getting very conscious about your thoughts. Our thoughts guide our actions and everything that we do in life. Read the power of now and really get focused and mindful about your thoughts. He will talk about some simple meditation techniques and about being able to look at our thoughts objectively.

Right now your thoughts are really about getting things of value for yourself. You feel you want to protect your self interest, hide in your own pain, and your thoughts surrounding this crowds out your progress.


I would also recommend instilling a few daily rituals that you fully commit to every day. Here are mine (you need to find your own):


1. Every morning I reflect upon 3 to 5 things I am thankful for and what those things mean to me. Then, I take a few minutes to think about my husband, what I love about him, and what are some things I can do for him on this day that will make his life better or make him feel more loved.
Then I do a short breathing exercise where I envision breathing in the good and exhaling the bad.

2. I do some sort of exercise every single day. I know people have to be rolling their eyes at me because I say this every time but by moving our bodies even if it's just a 10 minute walk and really focusing on what we are doing it helps replenish serotonin and helps us feel more relaxed, energized and centered. I feel like my dedication to this has rewired me in many ways.

3. I follow through on whatever I decided in the morning I would do for my husband. If the situation allows, I do it without letting him even know I am doing it. In other words, just something that makes his day more pleasant but not something I am trying to get credit for. Sometimes he notices, sometimes not. And, at times when it's something I do for him that he will know I am doing - sometimes he doesn't show appreciation or whatever. I make sure that whatever reward I am getting is from me and not from him. If he rewards me in some way - a bid for affection, or nice words, that's just gravy on the biscuit.


4. I try to be mindful and in the moment as much as humanly possible. This produces joy and confidence for me as it also helps me feel more "zen" or balanced or whatever you want to say. And that practice really helps when things are heated or hard between H and I because I can find that peace in any moment.

5. I do 15 minutes of yoga before bed. There are healing properties of the poses that help my mental state.


You my want to consider a more formal meditation practice. Many people find it helps you really break into your thought patterns and change them.


When you become more mindful of your thoughts you will be able to see that you are focused on what's in it for you, what you are going to gain or get, or whatever pattern like that which is holding you back. When you can change how you think, you will change your actions.
When you change your actions you will begin to heal. And, if you keep this pattern up, you will gain a positive momentum.


Postive thoughts and feeling centered allows us to cope better, this will allow you to show up better for your wife. Instead of just sitting in shame, you will have built the ability to be present, feel comfortable in the uncomfortable, and be able to sit in empathy and compassion for this woman.


It seems like you have come back every month or two and have said the same thing. You will keep doing that until you change your thoughts - which is the core of who you are. If you spend the majority of your day thinking about yourself, what you need, and your pain, you are not only crowding yourself out from healing but there is no room for your wife, no room for you to create space for her that she needs. You will keep reacting to her the same because of this.

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 14:41 PM

anxietydepressio,

Thank you for your suggestions. She too has expressed that "actions are louder than words" (or more accurately, she feels that words are almost completely meaningless at this point since my actions betrayed them) and she is looking for the ways in which I respond to her needs and so forth. She wants to see that I am thinking of her more than myself, for example.

We too do "the little things" and both make an effort to say "thank you" for stuff like doing the dishes or cooking a meal, etc. These things are good and part of what is better in our relationship now. I think we both are more aware of our actions and how they pertain to the relationship. There are still many areas I need to improve in however. For example, she's been asking me to clean the garage out for quite a while now. I've started and stopped a few times, we moved stuff out and then back in again. But she just wants it done of course. So recently, I bought a motorcycle, and when I got it home, I immediately cleared a space in the garage so that I could park it in there. That really upset her because she said that I only took action when it affected ME, but not because it was important to HER. Which is a fair assessment of what happened. To be fair, there are things that I did get done just for her too, but just as many that I didn't. So it fair of her to be upset at these things.

In the absence of an affair, these things might be typical and less of a problem. How many wives complain that their husbands aren't taking care of the "honey-do" lists? But after an affair, every slight feels like a knife to the heart, and rightly so. And of course, it is about a lot more than simply the honey-do list. She needs to feel like I understand her feelings and what I did, and we're just not there yet.

Anyway, I keep trying. Thanks for your input.

Lovehurts777 posted 11/27/2018 14:43 PM

(((Luna10)))

I love hearing what your WH says to you. That's so very heartfelt and reassuring. :)

secondtime posted 11/27/2018 14:49 PM

My husband has been lying to me for most of our relationship, with regards to his addiction. We're 11 years out from DD1 and 1.5 years out from DDay 2.

The thing that helps me, the most, as a BS, is the fact that my husband simply embraces the consequences of his behavior.

We've been together for 22 years now. He's been honest for 5 of them. When I talk about the hurt, my husband acknowledges that I likely will never trust him with regards to his addiction. Ever. That's what helps. When we talk he says "I understand you may not ever trust me again, and that is a consequence of my choices."

Last night, actually was the first night I felt safe enough to have sex with him in a few months.
Our prior discussions have been me expressing how I am reluctant to feel vulnerable with him right now. His response: " I will wait until you are ready. I know this is a consequence of my choices."

There's no, "I'm sorry I (cheated, lied, was mean whatever)..but.. (I've done everything you ask, I'm working on myself" Complete acknowledgement and ownership of the damage he has done. Because working on himself..doesn't negate his past choices. Nothing ever will. And I think he understands that now, and so he acknowledges..because that's the only thing he has.

The recovery work...that's not for me, or the marriage. That's for really only for my husband. So, yes I am thankful he's working his recovery hard, again. But that's because I don't want to see him broken, dysfunctional. But, I don't like seeing anyone broken/dysfunctional, not just my husband.

After DD2, there are no timelines of when each have to be recovered by. The work comes, when and as it should. Not when we force it to. I cannot "make" my husband work through the steps by a certain date. It doesn't work like that. Just like there's no date by which I must trust my husband.

We both acknowledge, in our own way, that our marriage may not survive this. DH's concern is that I will never be happy with him. I am concerned that he'll have some epiphany in his recovery...that will lead him to believe that it's not healthy for us to be together. But, again, there's no timeline/rush to come to this conclusion. We will know when we know.

[This message edited by secondtime at 2:50 PM, November 27th (Tuesday)]

annb posted 11/27/2018 14:52 PM

Disagree with above poster.

I am 13 years out. It took me several years after the three year mark to feel safe. We discussed the A probably almost every day at that point, my PTSD (and accompanying meltdowns) were very much a part of our lives on a consistent basis.

Everyone has their own timeline for healing. Even though I'm 13 years out, I will never fully recover from this trauma. I don't think about the A very much, we don't discuss it very often, but somehow it's still there.

Yes, actions are the most helpful, but you need to back them up with words. My WH did all the right things, threw OW under the bus, found a new job, gave me access to everything, stopped any friendships he had with members of the opposite sex. He said he was sorry. Many times. Unfortunately, when you are deep into healing, those words don't matter. My life as I knew it was shattered, I don't think there was one specific thing he could have said to help.

It takes time, lots and lots of time, but with consistency your wife will build trust as long as you prove to her time and time again that you are a safe partner and your boundaries are rock solid.

As the above poster stated, small acts of kindness do help. My WH used to stop at a local bakery near the office where he worked during the A. Almost every week he'd pick up a couple of my favorite scones. I didn't realize that during the A he stopped as I was busy with life, school, work, and my children.

After the A, he'd stop at our local coffee shop and pick up my favorite latte. HOnestly, in the beginning, I felt like throwing them in his face....but I got to the point where I appreciated his small gesture.

Has your wife tried EMDR therapy? It didn't work for me, but I know several members here who had great success with it.

Do your best to not ever hurt her again. Ever. Even with little things.

To add, my WH took everything I threw at him. Everything. On occasion he'd get angry and want to throw in the towel, but those times were very few.

If you truly want R, give her the time she needs.

Luna10 posted 11/27/2018 15:07 PM

One more thing I wanted to add: a lot of times I read the phrase ďI work on myself, the WS works on them and together we heal the marriageĒ. A lot of times I think that phrase is wrongly understood. We donít put on hold the marriage while we heal ourselves. Yes the BS will build walls, imaginary (in an emotional way) or real, separate accounts, insurance policies etc. But the WS needs to knock down those walls if they want a chance.

I remember my WH in the early days clearly avoiding a conversation on a ďgoodĒ day. Not knowing if he should open the can of worms or just let it be. So I would open THE CONVERSATION and he would participate. It used to annoy me. Do I really have to always tell him how I feel without him asking? You know when I realised he may be R material? When I had a really good day and at the end of it, when we got into bed he said to me ďI know that today you struggled at various points. I also know you had a good day overall but I want you to know you donít have to suffer in silence. For me this is the new normal and it doesnít drive me away. I am grateful Iím still allowed to hold you, please donít suffer in silenceĒ.

DesertLily posted 11/27/2018 15:46 PM

Your post sounds much like the struggle I'm having with my WH. I want empathy, real, honest empathy. But I'm just not feeling that from him.

I have discussed this in IC with my therapist, and you hit the nail on the head when you stated that your inability to empathize goes back to your childhood.

As an abused child, you experienced the pain of betrayal and neglect at the hands of one who was supposed to love you. In order to survive, you locked those feelings up tight and shoved them way back in the furthest reaches of your mind. Those feelings became part of your shadow self. And because ultimately the shadow self must be acknowledged, those unresolved feelings twisted and you became the abuser. It became you hurting and abusing those your supposed to love the most.

So of course you logically understand how your BW feels, after all, you've been there. BUt you don't feel it because those emotions are locked up tight and shoved way back in your mind, probably even surrounded by barbedwire and marked with a skull and crossbones. And for so many, many years, your very survival has depended on you not opening that box.

It's ironic, isn't it, that now your survival, and that if your family's, is dependent on your ability to open up to those feelings. Because make no mistake, in order for you to feel your BW's pain, to empathize and move forward in R, you're going to have to connect with your inner child and crack the lid on that Pandora's box of hell.

You wrote that your feelings can't change your brother, only his feelings can do that. And therein lies the answer to your problem with empathy. You can't think logically about it, you can't say you're sorry, you can't do 'things' to fix what's broken. You have to feel it.

Only by getting in touch with your feelings, the feelings of your abused, neglected and abandoned inner child, will you be able to express true empathy for your BW. But to do so, you will have to have great courage, strength and fortitude.

I don't think your Bw wants you to have a breakdown, but she does want you to have a breakthrough. After all, it was the denial of your pain that grew a monster. And it is by bringing that pain into the light that the vampire explodes into harmless dust.

Good luck to you.

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 17:09 PM

Thank you all for your responses so far. I spent the last hour+ typing responses to your posts, and then my PC crashed and I lost all of it. :(

I have to type it back out again.... but just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your help and will get back to you asap.

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 17:27 PM

Luna10,

Thank you so much for taking the time to offer your assistance and express your opinions. It means a lot to me, and I'm sure it does to ISSF as well.

Regarding the sadness paragraph...
I can usually tell when she's contemplative or upset. She gets quiet, prefers to be alone or positions herself away from others, gets a vacant or agitated look in her eyes, and so on. I love that you and your husband can talk even when the conversation gets uncomfortable for one or both of you. It is also wonderful that you are able to allow him to comfort you even as you are expressing your frustrations with him. This is where it would be wonderful for us to get to, and what we are both working towards. I think there is still an expectation of things going awry if we allow ourselves to become too vulnerable, and when we go to talk, it is with one ear listening to what's actually being said, and the other ear listening for "the other shoe to drop". She's afraid that I'm going to say or do something selfish or mean, so her guard is up. I'm afraid that I'm going to trigger and say or do something unkind as a result, and so the two of us go into what should be a supportive conversation, but with great trepidation and caution.

Anger- oh boy! When I go into one... God help us all. I can be a proper bitch! I am not physically violent. But I can be so sarcastic and my tongue can be so sharp that it may make you bleed. Sometimes I just say things just to see him flinch. By the way, Iím not doing it on purpose. I just canít stop myself.

I don't blame her the least little bit for getting frustrated and upset with me, and going off on me when she does. She has every right to, and I certainly deserve it in every way. I hear every word she says, and feel her pain, I know I caused that, that I treated someone I love so dearly with little more regard than I give to the trash. So yeah, I can't really complain, and if I were her, I'm sure I'd feel the same way. I also understand PTSD fairly well, and I realize that once triggered, those feelings and thoughts need to come out, or they just stagnate and will eat her alive. The way we process those emotions is to express them, both verbally and physically. What worries me (and I want to say here that I did read your comment about my own abuse, and not bringing it up, however here is why I think it matters in some cases) is that MY triggers are tied to conflictive situations and any conversation that makes me feel "less than" for whatever reason. That is NOT a good trigger to have when the person you love needs to be able to express their frustrations freely without fear of reprisal.

He joined me in my anger. He tells me how angry he is too. How he cannot believe he gave up his ďheroĒ status in my eyes for that. How he cannot believe that he sacrificed everything he loves and cherishes for a POS (and no, heís not blame shifting, he calls himself the same names). He then tells me what a POS he was, how bad he treated me. Not only during the affair but before also. He tells me the changes heís making.

This is the part where I need advice and understanding. I feel that, when I say things like this, that it comes off as "playing the victim" or "all about me" or "blaming her" or "pet me and tell me I'm good", and so on. Maybe it is the way I word things? Or maybe it is simply that my actions during the affair were all of those things, so those kinds of words can be very triggery for her? For what it is worth, it especially hit me hard when you mentioned giving up the "hero" status. I used to be her "rock" and the one person she trusted most. It is agonizing to see her look at me with such disgust and disdain sometimes.

But where is the path going forward? So he usually comes to bed and cuddles me and then he tells me, without me saying a word, how he feels. He tells me how he is also feeling lost. How he doesnít recognise the man who did that. He tells me how much he loves me. He tells me why heíll never do that again. He tells me how embarrassed and shameful he feels about everything he did to me, his best friend, his gorgeous wife, his wise and clever partner. He tells me he looks up to me. He tells me how he feels about me and us.

This is where I think I fall on my face most often, and what hurts her a lot. I think and feel all the same things as your husband, but I don't communicate that nearly enough to her. It is my own fear and shame that keeps me at bay, and fear of my own triggers. But it is not fair to her at all. She feels unloved and rejected, and that is a soul-crushing way to feel. Sometimes it feels very hypocritical of me to tell her things like "She's my best friend" or even simply how beautiful she is, knowing that I threw her away in such a vulger way. But she needs to hear those things as much as I do, and I know how it feels to live without those words and feelings. It is horrible. My IC is working with me on this.

Hearing someone means listening. Hearing someone means not turning the conversation towards yourself. Feeling empathy means forget about yourself, just listen and offer all the comforting words and actions you can think of. Donít shut the conversation down. Donít postpone it. We cant postpone how we feel. Be in the moment. Listen now. It is about her pain, not you. Iíve noticed you mentioned your abuse in your post. Iím sorry youíve been abused. But please please please, when your BS talks about her ptsd and abuse forget about yours. It isnít about your abuse at that point. It is about hers.

Just an amen here for the wisdom in that quote.

I want you and ISSF to make it. I want it with all my heart.

Me too. She wants that too. Just not like this. Infidelity destroys so much. The thing is, there is so much more to be gained. I try to keep my eye on the positive.

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 17:49 PM

Lovehurts777,

How do you feel she would react if you showed her exactly what you posted here? I think she might appreciate the time and thought you put into your question and the fact that you care so much to think it all out like that. That, it itself, is a type of empathy that she might like to see.

Thank you. She does read all of my posts.

If I cry in the corner, I actually prefer that he come in and sit with me, show me he cares by showing empathy, hugging me and giving me reassurance of his love and that he will never hurt me again. He always thinks I'm crying in the corner to have space away from him, but just the opposite. I also appreciate the actions, but the words mean a lot too, almost more when I'm in a dark place.

I should ask her about this. She tends to want to be alone when things get really dark, and will go back to our bedroom and close the door and get under the covers. It is very sad, and I imagine that was likely how she dealt with stress in her youth. I think it allows her to run the thoughts over and over again in her head which is how she copes and processes, so I try to respect that. I do however make sure to go back a few times, offer her some food or water, tylenol, offer for her to come join us watching TV or whatever. She shouldn't have to suffer alone.

I know it meant so much to me to see that last night, and it has helped me change my attitude.

I think it would help her too. Right now the defenses from my own abuse get in the way of that, but I think that over time, as I process the damage in IC, it will allow me to open up and by more vulnerable with her.

I'll share a secret with you. My wife is honestly the first and only person in my life who has shown me true and complete love. She has never lied to me, and does not take joy in my pain, and has sacrificed so much for me, and still does to this very day. Having grown up in a den of wolves, I never knew what it felt like to be in a relationship like that, to have someone actually love me for me, heck, even love me with all my faults. I hurt her as much as any one person can hurt another, and she is still here, fighting for our relationship to survive. I honestly don't even know what to do with that. I'm used to being treated with all the respect you'd give a doorknob. You'd think being loved unconditionally would feel wonderful, and it does, but when you are used to being hurt by the people that should love you, it can be disorienting to be loved in such a way. It doesn't feel "normal".

We have a little dog that was abused as a pup, we rescued her. She flinches anytime one of our feet gets near her, or if we move too quickly. I guess she was kicked and abused as a pup. We took her in and have given her a safe and loving home, but even so, after 2 years, she still flinches a bit. People can be the same. When you grow up being kicked, it is hard to learn to not flinch, and it feels weird to trust others when everyone else has always kicked you. Sometimes we expect to get kicked so much that we just do something "kick worthy" to get it over with, and to feel "normal" again, even though it sucks to get kicked.

DevastatedDee posted 11/27/2018 18:05 PM

DaddyDom, I know you aren't my WH and though you remind me of him sometimes, I try not to project too much. Having said that, lol, I'm going to project a tiny bit. My WH is an addict. The core of that is self-centeredness. He also struggles with childhood abuse. It is something I've watched him struggle with even though we're split up. He's going into a treatment center in the next week or so (we'll see), and he said something that blew my mind last night. He started off my acknowledging how he has tormented me with his selfishness, that his self-loathing and self-pity has made it impossible for him to see my pain and has apologized for that a number of times through the past year. He followed all that up with "What I worry about the most is that I'm going to get out of rehab with a new lease on life and ready to move forward and live and my wife won't be by my side because she's not ready.". He presumes that I will ever be by his side again, strike 1. He presumes that the reason I won't is that I'm not healed, strike 2. He can't seem to comprehend that he did so much damage to me and the marriage that he doesn't have me anymore. For me to have stayed, he would have had to be outstanding and earn me back. He definitely didn't do that. You haven't screwed up NEARLY like he has in R, but you're still making presumptions, I believe.

Here's the thing. You two are still together. You have a chance. I think in order to make it, you have to understand that you need to win her back. You lost her. You damaged her so much that she is no longer really your wife. This could end at any time. I know you've heard it, but really hear it now. The marriage died. What you build is new. You no longer have that guaranteed person by your side. You have to act as if you're convincing her to marry you all over again. You have to give her reasons to stay that aren't based on a long history of being together because that long history is now worth shit. You are a risky proposition to her right now. You have shown her your absolute worst and what you're capable of. Let's be honest, if your brother told you all the reasons he's fucked up and why he hurt you, that wouldn't fix your pain. If he dedicated himself to doing for you for years, that might help more. Knowing that your family abused you so horribly doesn't fix what you did to her. She is the abused person right now. She is powerful as hell, but she's also weak and vulnerable inside and needs that part to be comforted. Don't let appearances make you think she's invincible.

gtflng posted 11/27/2018 19:27 PM

DaddyDom! You are bringing me out of lurkdom.

Careful, careful, careful. You are going to get some validation here in this thread that would be wise to largely ignore because I know your intention is not to receive headpats, but rather to look at the hard stuff.

So. Here I am!

First things first, I'm going to give you a BRAVO. While I was initially annoyed to see you go back to your childhood abusers and wax poetic (said with love) about what you would need from them.. I then changed gears. Because you know what?! I think you are saying "I am failing to show my wife that she can trust me. I am not showing her what she needs to be safe, and that's what I would need from my abusers". And you know what's great about that? I'm pretty sure you just subtly acknowledged you are not just an abused person any more. You have also been an abuser. To me, that is PROGRESS. Which to me means - KEEP AT IC! It's working.

But the flip side. Because I know you want to hear it.

This really, really irked me, and exemplifies my issue with living in the past. This is food for thought.

Having grown up in a den of wolves, I never knew what it felt like to be in a relationship like that, to have someone actually love me for me, heck, even love me with all my faults. I hurt her as much as any one person can hurt another, and she is still here, fighting for our relationship to survive. I honestly don't even know what to do with that. I'm used to being treated with all the respect you'd give a doorknob. You'd think being loved unconditionally would feel wonderful, and it does, but when you are used to being hurt by the people that should love you, it can be disorienting to be loved in such a way. It doesn't feel "normal".

You have been married for TWO DECADES. This doesn't work anymore. To me, this lands that all the love in the world from your wife has not registered with you. It has not been enough. No, your wife's love cannot fix the trauma from your abuse. BUT! I don't think you can get away with saying "when you have been used to being hurt by the people that love you". Well DaddyDom, you shouldn't just be used to that. You should also be used to the love of a good woman. I don't want to hear how you can't receive it because of abuse. I think I get that. But I don't want to hear "when you are used to being hurt by the people who love you". That's not a now problem. (Like it is, in terms of your personal healing). But you've also as an adult been incredibly loved. You're wearing you victim coat in this instance. Your recent history isn't being abused. You have two decades of love from your wife. So. I don't like this. That's living in victimhood to me.

I give you one pro and one con. That's progress from me.. so that's a testament to you.

[This message edited by gtflng at 7:32 PM, November 27th (Tuesday)]

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 20:04 PM

hikingout,

Thanks for your advice, it is very good. Meditation and mindfulness are things that I have found helpful too, and now that I have an IC, she uses them as almost constant tools in our sessions. We always start by getting into a rested state (a "safe place") and then go into EMDR for about an hour. We wrap up by pulling back out of that state of mind. A lot of times, when we talk about emotions, she asks me to figure out where in my body I am feeling the emotions. I think that, since I disassociated during my "break", she's trying to keep me present and grounded.

I like your daily routines and will adopt some of those into my dailies as well. After reading "The body keeps the score" I realize that PTSD needs movement to help it process.

It seems like you have come back every month or two and have said the same thing. You will keep doing that until you change your thoughts - which is the core of who you are. If you spend the majority of your day thinking about yourself, what you need, and your pain, you are not only crowding yourself out from healing but there is no room for your wife, no room for you to create space for her that she needs. You will keep reacting to her the same because of this.

You are certainly not the first person to say this to me, and I'm sure you are right. I still struggle to see my own "inwardness" sometimes. Thank you for reminding me to leave room for her. I will add that to my daily thoughts to review as well.

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 20:27 PM

secondtime,

There is a lot to consider in what you wrote. Sometimes I catch myself making excuses, even still, even when I'm consciously trying to stay present and real. For example, my stepdaughter was home for the past few days, and my wife drove her to the airport today to go home. However, I forgot to say goodbye this morning before I left for work. It wasn't on purpose, and I can give you the litany of reasons that I forgot (it was a Murphy's law kind of morning for me) but none of that really matters. What matters is that she felt hurt that I didn't stop and hug her goodbye. (She got hurt by the affair too). When my wife told me that, I immedeatly began to run through the morning in my head, and as I thought of each little thing that went wrong this morning, I ticked off an invisible checkmark.

"This happened (check) and then that happened (check) and this too (check) and yada yada yada... and so of course I flaked and forgot to say goodbye!". That's what went through my head. But at some point I came around and realized that I was thinking about reasons I could assuage the guilt and justify my forgetfulness, which might make me feel better about myself for the moment, but not so great for her, as it leaves me with excuses and her with feelings that aren't even acknowledged or addressed. If anything hurts more than feeling rejected, it is feeling rejected twice or more. Anyway, my point is, I'm getting there, it is still just a bit of mental/emotional practice for me. Emotions are sometimes like muscles... you have to use them to allow them to grow stronger and more flexible. And it takes time and a great deal of effort to build them up into something strong.

Yup, there are no timelines, we can take as long as it takes. But there are invisible, unknown timelines. At the moment, my wife sees me working, trying, and even though I'm still not where she needs me to be, she's sticking with me for now and watching to see what happens. She's not going to do that forever however. I don't know when she'll reach the point of "enough is enough" and I don't want to find out. I wish I could buy a can of "recovery" at Target and just chug it down, but it doesn't work that way. So I have to keep pushing myself despite any backslides, because losing her and our family is simply not an option.

DaddyDom posted 11/27/2018 20:47 PM

annb,

Thank you. The fact that you are 13 years out both encourages and terrifies me. On one hand, it is helpful to see that you are still together and that relationships can continue to work if you work at it. On the other hand, it makes me sad to know that, even this far out, that the pain of betrayal is still enough of an issue that you are still here on SI, still thinking about it enough to want to talk about it and work through it. Knowing what you know now, if you had to choose R or D all over again, would you choose to R again? I'm just curious.

She tried EMDR once or twice with our MC and she said that it helped. She doesn't have an IC yet, and I keep encouraging her to get one, as I think EMDR will do a world of good for her in terms of letting some of the "stuck" pain to process and heal. I do roughly an hour of EMDR once a week or more, and I have to say, I think it helps me. Unfortunately, by its very nature, EMDR tends to yank all of the "emotional muck" up, and at the moment, I think it has me very out of sorts, as the past and present are starting merge more, and as I start to recover lost information. Not memories per se, but emotions, conclusions, insights into why I think/feel/react the way I do. It is helping me to reconnect with myself.

Do your best to not ever hurt her again. Ever. Even with little things.

A small sentence, but props for truth. Honestly, it is the small hurts that sometimes matter most. Something as simple as forgetting to lock the door at night ends up making her feel unsafe, and enforces the thought process that she can't trust me, and then leads her down that dark thought path of, "He didn't do <this>. He knows <this> is important to me, so if he didn't do it, then it means he doesn't care enough to do it, or care enough to remember to do it, and so that means he doesn't care about me". Is that really the case? No. But whether it is true or not is immaterial at this point. What matters is that she feels rejected, and since I clearly rejected her during the A, this is simply one more straw on the pile. I continue to hurt her, not because of sustained infidelity or abuse, but simply because I continue to fail to meet the most basic building block of a relationship. I didn't make her feel loved and wanted. So she feels unseen and unheard and unsafe.

To add, my WH took everything I threw at him. Everything. On occasion he'd get angry and want to throw in the towel, but those times were very few.

I need to do better with this. Therapy has already begun to help me with this (my own triggers are based on conflict, blame and shame, and guess what most BS's need to express?) and I know that soon I will be able to handle things much better without triggering or excusing. Right now, I try, usually I do okay, but as you implied earlier, one "aw shit" can wipe out a lot of "atta boys".

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