ThrivenotSurvive
First, let me say that this is a GENUINE attempt to understand something that makes no sense to me.  I am not trying to belittle anyone - I am seeking to understand a mindset that feels so foreign to me that I can't make heads or tails of it.  

Far more often than can be put down to coincidence, I have seen stories on here (and in life) about someone who was cheated on in the past and later became either a WS or an AP.  Given that they understand FIRST HAND how horrible this experience is, I struggle with what seems (at least to me) to be a far bigger level of justification to make that leap. 

One of the commonalities of the non-serial cheaters is that they don't seem to have understood the true potential for fall out.  They thought it could stay hidden, if they were found out they imagined their spouse would be upset, not suicidal and that their kids would be only mildly affected... etc.  

But if you've been through it, you know that it is like a TSUNAMI and flattens MANY people in its wake.  So how in the world could you do that to YOURSELF  - or another person?  I've seriously looked at this in about twenty different ways and can not seem to get a handle on it.  

One caveat - it seems that in all the cases I know of  - the person got very little help and did not feel their pain every really healed... so I am sure that plays a role... just not one I can quite figure out.
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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UrbanExplorer
It didn't happen to me in marriage, where the stakes are so much higher, but I was cheated on in three serious dating relationships. I used to feel like that's just what happens between people and it's not realistic to expect more. I never broke up with anyone over it. I didn't let myself feel jealous. I wanted to be the person who was OK with everything. I suppose that part of my personality played a part in my becoming a WS, the part that copes with distress in secret. And certainly, the part that allows people to blow past my boundaries with impunity. I allowed my former AP to turn me into a WS in the same way I entertained unhealthy behavior by legitimate partners.
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BorealJ
What's the one thing you felt as a BS? For me, shame.  There's something wrong with me.  And when people have high levels of shame, they often seek external validation as they don't get it from themselves.  It's why so many BSs (including myself) ignore the advice to take good care of themselves and stop looking to the one that hurt them for healing.  One of the big why's of an affair comes from that need for external validation.  If a BS moves on with a less than healthy coping approach as opposed to real healing, they're probably carrying around a faulty narrative or world view.  Again, probably one of the big "whys".
My wife wasn't a BS, but her mother had an affair and left.  She has always experienced shame, insecurity and a need for perfection.  She has also expressed the notion that because of her parents, she didn't believe people could be happy staying with the same person.  Because of that, she has been willing to use others in relationships and has played with others' emotions.  Not necessarily out of a mean spiritedness, but just not realizing that people had true emotions invested in her.  I understand her better after dday than I ever could have before.  I was much more like her after dday. 
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EasyAsABC
I really want to answer this, but please keep in mind that things are still really very fresh for me. 

In my case, my first love cheated on me, gave me chlamydia. I got pregnant and lost that pregnancy. I met my husband soon after, and never truly fell in love with him, but felt stuck when I once again got pregnant, this time I had a child. My husband cheated on me not once, not twice, but so many times I lost count. With so many women I don’t think he even knows. It ranged from sexting, to full physical affairs, but he NEVER had emotional affairs with these women. He never fell in love with someone else. So, cheating was always just a thing that happened, in my mind. 

My AP found me at my weakest, when I wanted so badly to finally move out of my marital home, after telling my ex husband I was done, we were separated, but still living in the same house, so the abuse continued even though I moved out of the bedroom. Part of me blamed myself for all the affairs, after all, I never really loved him. We were together out of necessity, because we had children. 

I’ve explained in another thread, but the attached man I was seeing was VERY available to me, I saw him at times 5+ times per week. We went on dates during the day, during the evening. He came over to my house 3-4 times per week, at night, after my kids had gone to bed. He spent my birthday with me, he was able to do things for me like take care of me when I was sick. We even went on a trip together, he spent the night at my place, etc.. We were in constant communication, there wasn’t a curfew to us being able to text in order to hide things from his gf. I didn’t know his gf, didn’t know her name for a while, still don’t know what she looks like. He didn’t talk about her, they aren’t married, so it’s not like he wore a ring either. It was SO EASY for me to live my life like she didn’t exist, because basically, she didn’t, not to me. There was rarely a reminder of her existence to me, not even when I went to their house. 

In my mind, she was me. I hated my husband, didn’t want to be married to him. His affairs sucked, but the physical, sexual and mental abuse were worse, at least she didn’t have to deal with that, right? I figured she was in the same boat as me, given all we were able to do without her knowing. He assured me that if she found out, she’d probably be upset, but that she’d just leave him, which he suspected she’d be eager to do. I asked him to leave her, to choose me, but it was never “the right time”, and I bought it. 

I was “different”, or “special”. He said he didn’t love her, so he had been having empty sexual affairs for years, and meeting me changed his view on that, that he realized what he really wanted was to be in love, and he had found it with me. I ate that up. After all, this was nothing like MY husbands affairs, this was something real, with depth. If anyone got hurt it wasn’t because of some empty, meaningless affair, it was because we had fallen in love, what’s so bad about that? 

Who knows how much of that was a load of horse sh*t, all that matters is that when she found out, she definitely didn’t react the way he though she wound. And when it came down to it, in three days time he promised her he’d cut me off and do whatever it took to gain her trust back, and told me that he couldn’t leave her to be with me. 

A few days after that, he was back in my life, claiming he felt like he made a mistake, but that he wasn’t sure. That he still loved me, not her, but that he felt forced to stay because of her mental health. At this point I was well aware of what the affair could do to her, but I was already in so deep with my emotions that I let it continue after DDay. He strung me along for another six months, claiming he was still undecided about whether or not he wanted to stay with her long term, until I finally came to my senses. I was staying because I thought he was being manipulated, but I was the one being manipulated in the days post DDay, I still have a hard time painting pre-DDay as anything awful, but I’m sure I’ll get there. 

All in all, I felt like this affair was different than the ones my ex husband had had. That because we loved each other, it made it.... not okay, but less awful. And after all, I lived through many affairs just fine, she wasn’t getting hit or raped, so what did she have to complain about? But pain is subjective, and the fact that she had what she thought was a good life with him made the affair that much worse I suspect. 
BS to an abusive H 2009-2018
OW 2018-2019
I wear many hats.
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anthro
EasyAsABC wrote:
Who knows how much of that was a load of horse sh*t,


.... literally everybody does. 
Formerly known as Anthropoidape... male bs, long affair, d-day Feb 2017.
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anthro
Me, I don't accept the premise.

I think cheaters are relatively rare and cheaters who were previously betrayed are very rare. I think it is like, say, rapists or child molesters. There are not actually all that many rapists or child molesters out there. There are just enough, and they do just enough damage, to make it "feel" common.

For the last five years about 80% of my work has been with separating couples. So, a good 100 couples a year or so. By definition these are acrimonious cases, not amicable ones. In the last five years fewer than ten of those break-ups involved any cheating history. That doesn't prove anything (and my IC says she sees reasonable numbers, as an alternative data point) but it makes me skeptical about the prevalence of cheating. 

I tend to think there's a relatively low number of cheaters and a good percentage are persistent serial cheaters. Even a site like this really has relatively low numbers on board. 

Sadly there are no believable stats out there, none I've seen anyway. 

The living-a-lie most cheaters have to do would, for most people, just not be worth it. There are strong internal barriers stopping most of us.
Formerly known as Anthropoidape... male bs, long affair, d-day Feb 2017.
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UrbanExplorer
I'd like to think it's rare, but after my affair triggered me to pay more attention to it and I ended up in discreet conversations with people about it, it turns out that I know a whole lot of people who've been affected. Dozens, maybe? Monogamy and fidelity are obviously not the same thing, but I think monogamy over a lifetime is not innate for humans and takes real work. I wish I had protected my relationship more.
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ThrivenotSurvive
Thank you all.  This has provided me with a lot of insight and material to think on.  It really did help. it is always amazing to me how things can get so turned upside done in the midst of pain.  How people can justify things they would normally never do.  

Pain begets pain.  It's why I think places like this are so important. Hopefully we can learn more about each other, heal and stop the cycle.  

I see that your past could play a HUGE part in how you perceive the betrayal (and allow you to assume others will feel it in the way you have.)  I have experienced a lot of pain in my life - but mainly from "Acts of God" - death, accidents, etc.  I have been fortunate that those around me were genuinely kind, if messed up, and so I had little to no experience of betrayal or lying to those you loved.  In my family, if there was a fault, it was blunt honesty.  

So I was ill-prepared for this betrayal.  The first thing I asked my husband was when he'd started hating me so much.  Because I could not believe that you could have one good feeling about someone and do this to them.  You would have to hate them wholly.  I assumed she had to hate me too, because I could not imagine doing it to someone I didn't like, much less someone I did.  It never occurred to me (and I still struggle to understand) the level of disassociating with another living, breathing person that it would require not to think of their pain.  

But the way you explained it I could see how both your past and your interpretation of her mindset could allow you to justify your choices.  

Given that my husband and I were having to live apart and I was rarely visiting, the AP likely used many of the same justifications.  Of course she didn't know I was helping my parent's with a cross country move after losing their home to foreclosure and nursing my daughter back from a severe bout of bulimia. 

My husband has said that they only talked about me in the beginning when they were just "office friends".  First about how much he missed me.  She told me this herself the one time I met her months before the started "hanging out".  Then later as his resentment grew he shared how distant he felt I was being and how bummed he was that I couldn't/wouldn't visit. 

But once they started seeing each other outside of work - even as friends - he said they stopped talking about me.  Once they were sleeping together it became an unspoken rule not to reference anything about his "real life", because it made them both feel bad.  I think she thought I was "disconnecting" from my marriage because my husband was angry and hurt by what he saw as me putting everyone else before him (there's a history with my workaholiscm that fed into his seeing THIS circumstance as a continuation of a theme he felt had played throughout our lives.  Him wanting me to be with him, but me choosing to prioritize something/someone else.)

As I said, I need to think about all this and roll it around in my head - but I really appreciate each of your responses.
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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hurting
I with anthro on this one. I don’t think it is that common IF the BS has been able to look inside themselves and healed, seen their own self worth, rather than the flip side of having to stuff it down, not be so deeply affected by the betrayal or blame it on the OW. 

My friend was betrayed by her long term partner (over 10 years together). She then went on to cheat on him (tbh I’m not sure how much betrayal that was- he was still actively cheating at the time) but with a MM. The fact that she could/would do that with a MM blew my mind. 

My understanding is that she felt that she ‘had been unhappy for so long that when the chance came to experience some happiness, she went for it’. I’m pretty sure these were the words she said to me. She had also normalised men cheating on their spouses, as EasyAsABC said. She felt that ‘this is just what men do’. So she was hurting badly. But none of it was addressed and she identified the source and reason for her pain incorrectly. Hence why I think she went looking for relief in the wrong places.

Although her primary relationship was still breaking down (had been for several years post the AP of her spouse contacting her by this point), she was obviously still in pain FROM said primary relationship. There was nothing good left there. But she still didn’t want to leave. She would cry when I tried to encourage her to leave. It took her a LONG time to break out of both dysfunctional relationships. 

One thing to say, is that she mainly blamed the OW for the affair. Now it’s as clear as day that her partner was mainly to blame... but she couldn’t see that for a long time. 

She was one of the first people i told I told Post d-day. Her advice to me was literally what she did- ‘find someone else to be with’. She actually told me to go sleep around!!! This girl wasn’t this kind of person before. She has been in a long term committed relationship and had never cheated! I considered it for about 2 seconds. Then told her that wasn’t something that I could do- not for the sake of my WS, but for me.

The external validation surely would’ve felt good, at a time when we are truly at our lowest. We were full of shame. We felt worthless and trampled on like a piece of garbage, by the one who was meant to treasure us the most. So I get the temptation to have an affair based off those feelings. But like anthro said... some of us have internal barriers which stop us from said behaviour. Others don’t... or perhaps those barriers are breached by pain and a feeling of worthlessness.

I think her cheating partner broke something in her... and she was in so much pain that she didn’t know where to turn or how to get better. So she took whatever she could. Her WS continued to cheat, lie, disappear, empty her bank account and place her into debt etc. there was no help from that front. On the other hand, the MM was doing stuff like listening to her when she had a hard day at work. Saying good morning and good night. All NORMAL relationship type things which she craved... but her own partner had not given her for a long time. She wanted these things so badly that it didn’t occur to her that she was taking them from someone else. All she wanted to do was relieve her own pain.

Although I hate what she suffered through, I am grateful I know her story. She walked this path before me, and hers was a guide as to how to NOT do things post d-day. She would say to me in the days after my d-day, that she felt my approach was better. That I was making better choices. That she wishes she had approached this the way I was doing.

what she didn’t realise, was that I was looking at her story and learning from her mistakes. Another friend who knew both our stories would say to me that I had a perfect guide as to how NOT to live my life. Just don’t do what she did.
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ThrivenotSurvive
One point of clarity - I think I may have used a poor choice of words.  I did not mean to imply that I think cheaters are around every corner and that MOST BS's choose to become a WS or AP later.  That was not my premise.  

What I meant to say is that it surprised me that it happened at ALL.  Then,  as I looked at the pool of people I knew from this site and in real life who'd experienced infidelity, it shocked me even more to realize that while it might not be a COMMON thread, it wasn't exactly an anomaly either.  Given that I couldn't even wrap my head around it at ALL I expected that it would be the equivalent of a meteor hitting the earth.  To find that it wasn't confused me. I wanted to understand what these people had experienced/felt that could have allowed them to justify something that I thought they 'd be more inclined than most to avoid.  

Once again, words aren't the most exact things.  Or at least not always in my hands 🙂
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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UrbanExplorer
My general feeling is that loneliness is epidemic and crosses backgrounds. Among friends my age (40s), all faithful, many are at a low point in their marriages and have thought about leaving at some point in the future, like when kids are older. They are 15-20 years into marriages with kids at home and are in the thick of their careers. It's a vulnerable point, being that overworked while also aging and feeling unseen. And these days, with social media, someone can feel innocent sending a message to their high school boyfriend/girlfriend, reminisce about an easier time, and get into an EA in a week. Or they can become obsessed with internet porn and go that route for an escape. No one plans to do it, but when faced with it, people let it happen.

I think it's easy to ruin a marriage by an affair or even just neglect. It's really something to stay together through it all. The only hope is to come right out with how you feel, even the bad stuff, and not to pretend it's supposed to be easy or a fairy tale or that the other person can make you feel entirely complete. That kind of communication takes practice and will take me a lifetime to master.
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ThrivenotSurvive
Eloquent as always, Urban.  I couldn't agree more.
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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BorealJ
One point of clarity - I think I may have used a poor choice of words.  I did not meant to imply that I think cheaters are around every corner and that MOST BS's choose to become a WS or AP later.  That was not my premise.  

What I meant to say is that it surprised me that it happened at ALL.  Then,  as I looked at the pool of people I knew from this site and in real life who'd experienced infidelity, it shocked me even more to realize that while it might not be a COMMON thread, it wasn't exactly an anomaly either.  Given that I couldn't even wrap my head around it at ALL I expected that it would be the equivalent of a meteor hitting the earth.  To find that it wasn't confused me. I wanted to understand what these people had experienced/felt that could have allowed them to justify something that I thought they 'd be more inclined than most to avoid.  

Once again, words aren't the most exact things.  Or at least not always in my hands 🙂
It'd be interesting to see how common this is.  There was another topic on here about how studies have shown a high correlation between people who have cheated and a family history of infidelity.  It kind of supports the idea that we learn our relationship skills in our most important relationships.  Those are with our families and romantic relationships. 
Anthro, I'm not sure it's as rare as you think.  I'd be surprised if it was as common as some of the studies that extrapolate that close to 70% of marriages are affected by infidelity at some point in time (based on just over one third of the population answering "yes" to the question), but I sure don't think that it's rare.  I've taken much more notice of other relationships since dday and there are plenty known to be affected while certainly many more are more discreetly handled.  I've also noticed how the recipes are there for it like UrbanExplorer points out.
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