ABC, I’m so sorry you feel so awful right now. Reading your story, it’s obvious that your marriage was emotionally and sexually abusive. To be sexually violated by your own husband must have been awful. It’s rape, and until relatively recently it wasn’t a crime for a man to rape his wife like it is now in most civilised countries. Any kind of sexual abuse or violation is going to result in shock and trauma, and in many cases PTSD. All this is in addition to his verbal and emotional abuse, and his multiple infidelities, not to mention threatening you with a knife in front of your children. This was a very abusive relationship, no doubt about it.
I can understand how it felt to be thrown what probably felt like a lifeline by D, even though in the cold light of day you were only probably clutching at straws. He was offering you something, even if it was only a fantasy of feeling loved and wanted, and perhaps the dream of having the happy marriage your husband denied you. In reality, D wasn’t the man you wished he could be. He was just another man who was cheating on his wife. I can also understand the feeling of having the power to entice a married man away from his wife after your own husband betrayed you repeatedly. Your husband had a choice and he didn’t choose you over the chance to be unfaithful with several women. D had the choice and it was your chance to be the “chosen one”. Even if he was just another cheating husband, it must have felt powerful to be chosen as opposed to being rejected like you had been in your marriage. You might not have been doing the “right” thing, but after all you had been through I think you ought to show yourself some compassion. You needed to heal from your relationship but how could you possibly know what to do for the best after leaving a living nightmare. You were not in a good place when you left that marriage.
My own way of dealing with emotional pain was by developing an eating disorder. It was on the EDNOS/OSFED spectrum, similar to anorexia in that my food intake was restricted but without the goal of weight loss, although it was inevitable. Every so often I would become so emotionally distressed by what had been going on in my marriage, so I would eat and then I would start becoming distressed about having eaten and would become disappointed with myself and tell myself I was harming my body through eating the “wrong” things. What happened next was that I’d be depressed about my eating — NOT the things that had been making me depressed BEFORE I ate. So I had effectively replaced my anxieties about my life with anxieties about food. Suddenly my brain was filled with thoughts of food and eating, not the real issues that I really couldn’t handle. In the same way, I’m wondering if your affair with D and the hope you had about him leaving his wife etc was one way of shifting all the distress and trauma of your marriage for something else that perhaps was less upsetting, less traumatic, even if less than perfect. A distraction from all you had to deal with. I wonder if that makes any sense to you.
We don’t all get it right. We don’t know how to handle difficult life events until they happen. We all make mistakes and errors of judgement, every one of us. Nobody is immune from being a fallible human being. That doesn’t make us bad people, or worthless, or failures, or whatever. Never forget that your husband was a very abusive man who tried to kill any self respect you once had for yourself. You had enough survival instinct to get yourself and your kids out of that situation. You might have been down but you were never out. That strength is in there. Give yourself the credit you deserve and the compassion that you need. You will emerge a stronger woman with her dignity still intact. Take care.