My husband lied and cheated with many women over the course of our marriage as well. We were married almost ten years, and I frankly lost count of the amount of times I discovered more affairs/inappropriate messages/sexting/etc...
Like your wife, my (now ex) husband only admitted to what I could actually prove. So if I had a message saying he went to a party to hook up with someone, he’d only admit to going to the party and TRYING to hook up with someone. If later I found proof he actually had sex with her, only then would he admit to doing it. We did this dance for years, he never got to the point of confessing things in their entirety, at his own volition. That was one of that MANY breaking points for me. To this day (separated for over a year and a half) I still don’t know everything. It will take a massive personality shift in your wife to get the truth from her, from my experience. I was tired of feeling like I had to constantly monitor my husbands online and cell activity, I wanted a husband, not another child.
He was also a fan of needing me to move on ASAP from these affairs, “I haven’t done that in over two months, why are you bringing it up again!” 🙄.
Now, there was definitely more to our demise than just the infidelity, he was also abusive. Mentally, sexually, and in the end physically. So reading about you slapping your wife was a bit of a trigger for me, and I’m actually not surprised that your MC didn’t feel comfortable continuing. The abuse always eased up right after discovery, and then got worse when I didn’t “get over it” fast enough. Until eventually I just turned into this shell of a person that felt nothing, I didn’t cry or really express any extreme emotions for over 2 years. My ex also pulled the victim card when I talked about leaving or when I wasn’t “over it”. And then when he cheated again it was my fault, because I wasn’t being the wife he wanted, it’s a viscous cycle.
I am a firm believer that there is a serious difference between the one time cheater, and the serial cheater. Your wife is a serial cheater, and as such will need MUCH more time and effort to become the kind of wife you deserve than your average one time cheater. My ex husband was never going to be up for that challenge, he spent years proving that I could never trust him again. Those are precious years I wish I could get back. Do you think your wife is up for that challenge? She essentially will need to rewrite her entire being at this point, lying and cheating is so much an ingrained part of her personality right now that it’s going to be her default until SHE changes that, you can’t force it. Honestly, there’s very little you can do to even help that process, it’s going to have to come completely from her. Think of it like an addiction, it doesn’t change unless the person with that behavior sees the need for change, and makes the change themselves because they want to.
I became the OW for a different person after leaving my ex husband, he was also a serial cheater. Last I heard, his BS knows only a fraction of the truth, they’re still together with her believing she knows everything she wants/needs to know. And he threatened my safety in order to ensure she’d never know more. That’s how much this personality flaw dictates these people’s actions. Once lying becomes part of who you are, it’s hard to ever live honestly again.
Right now, I’d say focus on just you. On the things that make you feel good, and feel whole. Independent therapy may be a good place to start, and yes, you’ll probably need to address the slapping incident however justified you feel it was. As much as it may hurt, I would suggest not giving into your wife’s pity party right now, unless it becomes dangerous. I did wind up calling the cops one night when my husband threatened to take his own life because I had finally resolved to leave him. A week later he told me he only threatened to take his life to see if I still cared enough to stop him, and then he threatened me with a knife, pushed me, and slammed my arm shut in a car door when I tried to leave with my kids. When narcissistic and self involved abusers feel they are losing control, they’ll do whatever they can to maintain it.