After reading your post, what I am left with is not that YOU are the booby prize.
It seems to me that the question is whether your husband is the booby prize. That was some next level disrespect- talking to an ex-AP (even as a “friend”) while your wife is having a mental/physical breakdown over your most currrent affair?
Is he in therapy? Because he needs a lot of help learning and internalizing the qualities of empathy, compassion and loyalty.
If he isn’t actively doing SOMETHING to learn about, and foster those qualities in himself (reading about it/listening to podcasts, therapy, support group - something!) I’d have a hard time moving forward with him.
Stopping bad behavior is not enough. Figuring out the how/why, healing the broken parts of yourself and LEARNING emotional IQ -are all imperative for the WS to do for a successful reconciliation in my opinion.
Keep in mind, his inability to show you love in its healthiest form has NOTHING to do with your lovability, your worth. It only highlights his brokenness.
If someone has a Picasso and doesn’t know it and stores it in the attic, it doesn’t become any less of a treasure. You are a Picasso. Do not let anyone, including your husband determine your worth.
I want you to take out a piece of paper and write down all the reasons you are a good person/lovable. Maybe you’d do anything for your kids, always show up for others, learn new things easily, laugh a lot, etc. Write it all down. Read and re-read this list. We are our own biggest critics so whatever is on that list is likely only half the story.
Every time you start feeling like a booby prize - look at that list. By the time you are done reading it, you shouldn’t be questioning YOUR worth - you should be questioning whether HE is worthy of you. And if he isn’t yet, ask yourself whether he’s on a path to become that person.
You are loving, loyal and honest. You are the prize - make sure HE is becoming worthy of that woman. If he isn’t, or at least on his way, move on. When people have to face themselves and their poor choices in the aftermath of DD they REALLY show you who they are. Those who have found themselves becoming something they didn’t want to be will make massive changes for THEMSELVES. Because they want to be someone they are proud of again. If they don’t - one of two things are true:
1) They saw themselves clearly and weren’t particularly uncomfortable with the person they’d become. They may realize that it is “wrong” in “other” people’s eyes and they don’t like that - but they personally aren’t that horrified or even uncomfortable with their behavior. This person will only temporary changes to make other people “happy” (or at least stop making them feel guilty) and as soon as is possible return to old behaviors. Because what they did wasn’t the problem in their eyes - just getting caught and how other people perceived it.
2) They see their behavior as awful, they don’t like who they became - but they feel powerless to change and becuase of this won’t put any effort into growing or learning new ways. It’s the “I am who I am” person. Until this person gives up their “victimhood” - they will take the path of least resistance and keep hating themselves while continuing self-destructive behaviors to mask their pain, which will make them hate themselves more. Until this person gets sick of their own excuses they will just stay stuck and take you down with them.
So please- take a LONG hard look at your husband and make sure he’s taking real, tangible steps to becoming more transparent, vulnerable and honest with you. Learning to show you empathy, love, and compassion when you are hurting or need his support. Whether he’s working hard to make sure he is not that same person who treated you so poorly.
He doesn’t have to be at the finish line (it’s early yet and these are BIG changes we are talking about) but he’d better be CONSISTENTLY TRYING, even imperfectly. If not, reconsider your commitment to rebuilding. becuase I don’t want YOU holding the booby prize. And the guy talking to an ex-AP while his wife melted down is definitely a booby prize. Hopefully, that was his lowest moment and he’s quickly developing much more attractive and lovable qualities.