stillme, what you said is so very true. I have become 'lesser' while he's 'growing.' He's given a chance to really live his life well and genuine, while I now have to reassess my 'genuine' way of living and being honest and vulnerable because like you said, it was used against us. I am happy to hear that your husband has done everything right since then, as that is very important in your healing. Mine just started out and while he's really motivated to learn, he is definitely not doing everything right or even close for that matter. I get it's a learning process and will take time but it does not make it easy.
I strongly believe there will be a day when you are not less, but more.
It is my personal belief that finding a way to be vulnerable, gentle and kind after knowing just how much it can cost you is about the bravest thing a person can do. It is natural, normal- REASONABLE to shut down, close off your heart after something like this. I wouldn’t say a word against a soul who did. I understand exactly where they are coming from. BUT that doesn’t mean that I don’t live in awe of those who find another path. Because they are the ones who continue to make this world just a little bit better every day.
I recently read a book called “Everybody, Always” by Bob Goff that reminded me how important it is to live by your values even when you feel fear, doubt, anger. And even when it is taken advantage of. Because if you don’t they are just ideals - not an intrinsic part of you. Granted I haven’t always been able to live up to that - and that’s okay. But I think is the striving to reach them that make us better.
A side note in case this comes out wrong (print is a hard medium) - I do not mean passivity, not setting boundaries or anything that puts you in harm’s way. I mean being willing and open to take calculated, well measured risks to fully engage with life. I would not, even for one second, council someone to open themselves until the other person has given ample reason to believe they are worthy of it. Which means that WS are going to have to earn that back slowwwwwww with years of repeated growth and effort.
I am only trying to say that what should occupy the BS’s mind a full 80 percent of the time, especially in the first year or two, is how they can gently, lovingly and healthfully refind themselves. The other 20% can be spent on the marriage. If their WS is truly repentant and ready to change they should support their BS in these efforts, watch the kids while they attend a retreat, take a class, clear their mind and reconnect with themselves. And while they provide that space they need to work like hell to resolve whatever faulty thinking/habits got into an affair.
Focus on YOU, not him. Use that as a mantra. Best case scenario, in a year or two when your nervous system has been able to quiet down and you’ve had time to reconnect and fall in love with yourself, your husband will have grown too - and you find that you get to keep all the good from your old relationship and replace all the bad with two people who are wiser, more compassionate and well aware of how fragile and valuable their relationship is. Who guard it like a prize.
Worst case scenario? You are still healthier, happier and more whole - but you realize he’s in the same damn place emotionally. But you are stronger now, and you pick yourself up and go make a life with someone worthy of you.
Both scenarios require that YOU focus on YOU. Treat yourself as if you are your child, sibling, parent going through something like this. You wouldn’t be angry with them when they didn’t just “get over it” but you would get them to eat as healthy as possible ( you’d know their body needed fuel to deal with the stress), you’d encourage them to focus on things that make them feel good about themselves( hobbies, volunteering, learning new skills), you’d encourage them to focus on what they are doing right, and give themselves a break when they fall down the pit of despair.
Be kinder and more supportive of yourself than you have EVER GIVEN YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE. Remind yourself daily that you will be restored to yourself - it might take a year - it might take five - but with, or without your husband YOU are going to stay true to healing YOU for better or for worse.
I hope this doesn’t come across too preachy - I don’t mean to be. I know how hard it is to do what I am saying because it took Herculean effort for me. But I want you to know I believe it because I’ve lived it.