Infidelity almost killed me, unfortunately literally. After finding out my wife's affair, I fell into clinical depression (coupled with some hellish anxiety attacks) for approximately two years... including one suicide attempt. To put it simply, my xWW blamed her infidelity on my short-comings and I believed her.
After deciding to get divorced, I had about 4-6 weeks of almost delirious happiness. Basically, the weight of a failing marriage was off my shoulders, which was a major boost to my mental health. In hindsight, it was the divorce equivalent of hysterical bonding, but without all of the sex. I was simply happy to be free of the burden that was xWW.
As this period of bliss was ending, xWW started the legal battle that was my crazy divorce. At the same time, I met and began dating my current wife. My new partner has her own parallel history of bad marriages, although hers involved alcoholic partners whereas mine involved narcissistic partners. We are/were both co-dependent as hell, which makes for an interesting relationship for sure.
As awful as the divorce was, having a partner to help me through it was amazing. An interesting point is that I was required to do a psychological profile during the custody evaluation and I was identified as having trust issues. At the time, I just sarcastically commented that I had just got out of a marriage affected by infidelity, so that was no surprise.
However, in digging deeper, I *do* have trust issues. Virtually everyone in my life has violated my trust, including most of my romantic partners and most of my family of origin. I literally can identify only four people in my life prior to September 2018 who are/were trustworthy in hindsight (my father, my paternal grandfather, my cousin, and my uncle).
About 95% of my positive New Beginnings story is that I have found a fifth person that I can trust in my life: My wife, who I married in December 2022. We have very compatible personalities, political views, and life aspirations. But, more importantly, I am now in the first healthy romantic relationship of my life. Sure, we have our issues (mostly involving our co-dependency), but I never have those 'gut feelings' that she doesn't love me or that she is cheating on me.
In looking back, I've never had a relationship where I felt safe and secure. And if I did have a relationship that appeared to be safe and secure, I sabotaged that relationship. As my first therapist has said, I tend to associate emotional abuse with love and affection. I didn't want healthy; I wanted comfortable. And "comfortable" for me was an emotionally abusive relationship.
These days, I would describe myself as "calmly happy." It's not the deliriously happy that I experienced post-separation, but just a normal, healthy happy.
For the first time in my life, I feel like there is enough "space" in my marriage for
. I recently took a couple of days off of work for some "me time", which is something my wife supported and encouraged. In the past, time like this would never be allowed and if I did it anyway... there would be very vocal complaints in response about the fact that I was being selfish. This "me time" is a two-way street too, as my wife gets her "me time" whenever she wants. Even better, when she takes her "me time", I don't have that painful pit in my stomach that she is up to something nefarious.
My mental health is now as good as it has ever been. Although I was wrong to believe that xWW had an affair because of my shortcomings, I have shortcomings and the years of therapy have helped me tremendously. Co-workers and friends have openly commented that I am happier and calmer than they have ever seen me before. I haven't had depression symptoms since my divorce trial (it turns out that listening to my ex complain about me for 6 hours on the witness stand is not good for my mental health). I can vaguely recall having anxiety symptoms at work as recently as six months ago, but those also are mostly gone too. I definitely had lingering feelings of "being broken", but even those feelings are now gone. As my therapist once told me, there is nothing wrong with me other than the abuse that was inflicted on me. I am a kind, giving, and caring person, which are the traits that I admire, even if people (especially my wives and mother) can exploit those same traits for their own gain.
At the beginning of our relationship, my wife told me that eventually that I would get to the point where I would pity xWW and I am about there. Her entire life has been affected by trauma, which has turned her into the terrible person that she is. I have met her emotionally abusive mother and I have heard enough stories from her childhood; I understand the source of her trauma. These days, I treat xWW as the "ghost of marriage past", meaning that I don't worry about her at all because she's a ghost and I don't believe that ghosts exist. We often cross paths at our children's events and I basically treat her as someone that I have never met, which is literally true because she is not the person that she shows to the world. That is, after 15 years of marriage, I can honestly say that I have no idea who she is even if I know that she has not changed. I know that she has cheated on her current live-in boyfriend and that she still gaslights and emotionally abuses our children. I know that she is a scared little girl who is afraid to show anyone who she really is. As Don Henley once sang: [Her] prison is walking through this world all alone.
If I had a complaint about my current marriage, it's that my wife absolutely hates xWW. I don't think that it's healthy for her to hate anyone, but I also see her hatred as coming from a place of love. My wife knows what xWW did to me, especially during the divorce that she experienced in real time. It's comforting to know that my wife is so totally on my side that she hates someone who has damaged me. It's also nice to have a wife who is proud to have me as her husband. If I had to give my previous marriage a title, it would have been "Not Good Enough" because that's something that my wife beat into me on a continuous basis.
My experiences of the last 6+ years have also benefitted my life in other ways. I now understand better how to deal with my narcissistic mother, who is still as mean and judgmental as ever, even though her mind is starting to go (it's kind of interesting to listen to her spew hatred and then to continue listening to her as she openly forgets why she is so angry at someone).
In conclusion, I have survived infidelity and I have re-built myself in the process. I felt broken for so very long, but I have finally put humpty-dumpty back together again.