BlindCheetah
Today H apologized for staring at me this morning. I was confused and asked what he meant. After sex (initiated by me) he spent some time admiring the view and was worried about me feeling objectified. Um, if I didn’t want him to see me naked I would have just let him finish his YouTube video. So I told him it was OK and it was a lot better than being told he hasn’t been attracted to me in 2 years (one of the many things he told me when he was trying to justify what he was doing). He just stopped and ate his ice cream without another word. He occasionally brings stuff up like this, it’s frequently the things I’m least concerned about. The other night he asked if I was sure I’m not really staying just for the kids. He’s done some really horrible things and lied a lot but I can’t just ignore all the good in the last 20 years. 
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JKoloseik
Unfortunately, my WS was the very first guy I ever felt free with. I was 37 when I met him. Even when I gained a bunch of weight, I never felt ugly, and he was the first guy I ever enjoyed keeping the lights on with. I was so open and free to be me. I loved who I was with him. Now it's like,  "I don't care. Keep the lights on. I already know you prefer something else. Just let me have my fun knowing I'm just another "thing" to add to your lists of lies and lusts." Self-esteem? Who cares. I already know it's not me he wants. Not unless I perform things I will no longer ever do. Ever. He wants his filth? He can get it his usual way. Cheat. Nothing new. And now I'm starting the "change." Boy don't I feel beautiful and feminine now. Spinster living is such a wonderful thing to look forward to.
Female BS 
DD 10/16/16
WS multiple relapses
Physical affair, emotional affairs, online affairs
In-house separation 06/11/18
Complete separation 01/04/20
Last relapse 01/07/20
Don't be afraid. Don't be dismayed. The battle belongs to the Lord.
2 Ch. 20:15
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BlindCheetah
For clarification it’s his self esteem I’m questioning mine is mostly in tact.
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JKoloseik
Psh his self-esteem. Counselors have been telling me all along that it's my responsibility to give him words of affirmation. Ha. I excelled at "cheerleading" when he had his affair. It came so naturally to me. I was always so proud of him, and often told him so. How is it now my "RESPONSIBILITY "? Then I started reading and researching here. It's crazy how many counselors have it backwards! How damaging they have been to us. HE had the affair. He should be giving ME affirmation! Yet, once again we're tying a new counselor. Even after he agreed we need a specialist. Well, we're separated now. Heck. Why not? Reading what you guys say is so encouraging and helpful. I just wish I knew what to say when the counselor tells me, "try believing him, that'll help him be honest." "Try initiating fun time, that'll help him remember the fun he had with you." "You need to be his best friend, so he'll feel safe being honest with you." "Don't tell him when you're struggling, that'll just increase his shame." Or better yet, "don't tell him you're struggling, it's bringing up the past." What do I say? We're meeting the new one this weekend, and I know he's gonna say those things. "If he won't initiate prayer, you should." How do I answer stuff like that without sounding like I'm being the difficult one? I've been accused of being the hard one. I've been accused of not wanting to fix the marriage because I won't initiate. It's his lack of effort that's destroying it! It's not my burden. But how do I explain that without sounding cruel and unwilling? 
If your guy is asking questions because he's self-conscious, that means he's exploring empathy. That's good. He's a guy and probably won't get it right half the time, but he's asking. That's such a good thing. I am so proud of you for holding onto your self-esteem!
Female BS 
DD 10/16/16
WS multiple relapses
Physical affair, emotional affairs, online affairs
In-house separation 06/11/18
Complete separation 01/04/20
Last relapse 01/07/20
Don't be afraid. Don't be dismayed. The battle belongs to the Lord.
2 Ch. 20:15
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BlindCheetah

JKoloseik wrote:
Psh his self-esteem.

If your guy is asking questions because he's self-conscious, that means he's exploring empathy. That's good. He's a guy and probably won't get it right half the time, but he's asking. That's such a good thing. I am so proud of you for holding onto your self-esteem!


Considering his depression is a large part of why we are in this mess I consider his mental health important. 

He is currently doing a lot of things right. He’s pretty good at catching when something is bothering me and asking if I want to talk but he occasionally assumes something bothers me that hasn’t even registered on my annoyance meter. 

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ThrivenotSurvive
My guess would be YES.   Frankly, I would say that self-esteem issues are par for the course for WS.  It is part of the emotional soup that allowed them to go down that path.  People with a very clear sense of who they are, along with healthy doses of self-respect and self-value, struggle with dishonesty because it would make them feel bad about themselves.  And they LIKE themselves and want to continue liking themselves.  The idea of doing something that would make them not like the person they see in the mirror is too great a loss for THEM.  

Those with low self-esteem DON'T stand to lose much - they already think there is something lacking in them.  So the short term gain of the "feel good" feelings of validation seems like a fair trade for their integrity.  

Anyway, yes, I think your husband is struggling with feeling of worthlessness.  Especially the question about whether you are just staying for the kids.  That is a clear sign of how low his self-esteem is currently.  I would say deservedly so - he doesn't have a lot to be proud of at the moment.  If, in time, he grows, helps heal you and this marriage, that could easily change, but for now, it is a reasonable outcome of his actions.  I would also venture to say it is a reasonably clear-eyed view of the horror of what he has done and pain he has/is putting you through.  That is good.  It is only in really coming to terms with the extent and depth of their betrayal that they can begin to repair the issues in themselves - and begin healing the marriage.   

If they keep trying to minimize it (it's only a LITTLE hole in the dam!) then they see no reason to do RADICAL repair on themselves  - and the dam floods the city (your marriage) during the next rain storm.  So, on one hand I think his current state of self doubt and self recriminations are HEALTHY signs of accepting the weight of what he's done.  

But, it is not a healthy or safe place to STAY in.  My husband was similar.  I chose to handle it in the following way - feel free to ignore if it doesn't feel right to you.   I was honest both about the bad - and the good.  I didn't try to make him feel worse - and I didn't particularly try to make him feel better.  I pointed out why I had always believed he was a good man (with examples) and why I still believed he could be that man (with examples).  But I also shared that he was right - he had failed me deeply and tragically - and there were times when I was scared that I believed in him more than he believed in himself.  That if he wanted this marriage to work, he needed to dig deep and find a way to heal himself and PROVE to me that my faith was justified.  That if HE couldn't find a way to believe in himself and create the kind of self love and self value that can't BEAR to act without integrity, he would have to let me go.  

He struggled with self-hatred and anger for several years.  As we got farther and farther from DD, I would try to help him focus on all the things he was doing right vs. all the things he HAD done wrong in the past.  But mostly, i let him move through the natural guilt on his own.  It got better slowly, but only recently (in the last 6 months) did he tell me that he'd finally started really actively LIKING himself again.  That he was able to focus on all his efforts to become a more loving and generous person, to repair his relationships with me, our daughter and our extended families, and generally be a proactively GOOD person (helping others, etc) rather than think about the ways he'd failed me and himself in the past.  

I think just as our wounds and healing take a long time - their movement from self-judgement and self-hatred to a resurrection of a self they can love and feel proud of - do too.  Neither one can be rushed - or should. If they (or we) try to rush them "feel good" without sitting with the fallout of what they've done, how can they learn and grow from it?  How can they truly gain empathy and understanding?   Both types of healing - our and theirs - need to be undertaken in a way that REALLY promotes healing.  That is usually slowly - with care, time and introspection. 

My two cents - take it for what it is worth (which may, in fact, be less than two cents, lol).
BS - Female
Married 27 years, one adult child
DD May 2016

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” - V Frankl
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ABCOneTwoThree

I definitely agree with Thrive’s assessment that the WS more often than not struggles with some sort of self esteem, self hatred, feelings of inadequacy, etc... I’d take it a step further and touch on the fact that most APs are the same way, even though that’s not really being covered here. 

My exWS pulled the “you’re only staying for the kids” bit quite often. It really gets under my skin when I hear it now, and think back to all the times he “accused” me of it. For him, it was a sympathy ploy, I’m not sure if you feel the same about your WS. It was a way for him to get me to lament about how much I loved him, and how much I wanted things to work. And when I didn’t give him that positive reinforcement, he’d inevitably find it somewhere else. But, I didn’t feel like expressing feelings that I didn’t actually feel, just to make him feel better was my responsibility. 

I have experience being the OW, and I have had many married men use their lack of an “emotionally/sexually fulfilling relationship” as justification for trying to hit on me, both online and in person. The point is, the more women “want” them, the better it makes them feel about themselves. But it’s a temporary high, and doesn’t address the underlying issues, so the lows set in again, their confidence plummets, and off they are again to get positive attention from whoever will give it to them. 

Formerly EasyAsABC 
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