Kate and DM-thanks for the welcome, it’s a bit of a relief to know I might have found someplace where someone gets it, instead of just towing this strange line between the spouse of a survivor and a betrayed spouse, and being a survivor of trauma myself.
7 months out and while it’s a bit quieter, the rollercoaster is still going on. For the first 2 months I only got out of bed some days for work-and only working 3 nights a week, that really said something. I am super shocked to this day that I only missed work one day, which was D-Day (that was a fun, hysterical call to my boss). I dropped about 15 lbs. in three weeks, spent the nights I was home laying awake and staring at the ceiling and the days I slept after work spending the entire day in bed. I pulled away from friends and didn’t talk to my mom for nearly a month-I felt like this was all bursting at the seams and there was no way I could be authentic without it all spilling out all over the place. I still have only told 2 people-my best friend, who, while she means well, has a difficult life to manage (I don’t want to weigh her down), and some very vague facts about it to my direct supervisor, such that she could be aware of any potential triggers and help keep me responsible and accountable for my own self without putting clients at risk. There are still days I’m super irritable with no real outward cause, and everything H does, if he breathes wrong, bothers me. Other days all I want is to curl up in bed and cry and have him hold me. Some days I’m fine not seeing him most of the day, other nights he comes home a half hour late and I’m an anxious mess. I’m mostly just exhausted. I know I have to, at least, kind of socially, “fake it til you make it,” but it’s draining.
I find the “mask” of being happy and OK really difficult to manage. While I know that trying for 6 months for a baby isn’t long at all, and it takes time, a child is something I’ve wanted for 4 years and which has been delayed due to H’s medical issues (and, I’m sure, underlying issues which will only come out in time). I’ve recently switched career paths for a hot second in order to work daytime hours and be closer to him (we now work at the same place, though we don’t see each other at all during the workday) to get my clinical career going in a different direction, so the problem now lies with everyone looking at us and holding their breath for that baby. All the while every last friend I have is getting pregnant (some even accidentally), and I struggle with those feelings of being robbed of this for the moment. And the paralyzing fear that in the process of his recovery and our putting the pieces back together, that I’ll miss it. That biological clock, however silly I sometimes tell myself it is, is nevertheless ticking away.
It’s also hard socially to have just started this new job in a place that is, in some ways “our turf” socially but his professionally. People there believe him to be this wonderful, “together” man, and we’re this wonderful couple they’ve known for years, and it gets exhausting playing the adoring wife who’s so glad for the opportunity to be closer. It’s confusing for me because as someone who has her own issues with confidence and self-worth (but a stellar outward appearance of such), H has been for almost half of my life now been my one safe person; the one person I felt most secure standing next to in a new situation (like a new job) and around new people, but now it just makes me feel more unsteady. Sometimes I feel like when I walk into a room like everyone can see this big thing about me-not even as much about him-that somehow they can tell I’m walking around with this humiliation, this rejection-because it’s that profound some days that I feel it’s probably visible from space.
We have HB’d (I presume you mean sexually) I think 3-4 times in these last seven months-most of them were in the 2-3 months after D-Day. It’s usually him who initiates and me who allows it, but we haven’t in over 2 months because each time it leaves me feeling confusing and angry as soon as it’s over. As much as I get that his acting out was about his trauma and not about me per se, that whole notion-that thing he said when I asked him that inevitable “Why?” when it all came out- that, “You had nothing to do with this,” makes me feel so small and insignificant still. So immediately after, I’d have these resentful, intrusive thoughts-“Why are you initiating when you spent the last 6 years either outright rejecting me or communicating it to me that you seem totally uninterested in touching me?” “Why do you all of a sudden care about bonding with me like this after I’ve been left feeling abandoned like this?” And I’ve decided for the time being that it’s not emotionally safe for me to engage that way with him, and not the safest thing for him to face the me that emerges afterward. It brings out old wounds in our marriage about being rejected sexually, and feeling like I was being placated, and trying to reconcile it with this abuse and re-creation he was struggling with, his guilt about it, and how now it’s come out that it’s all knotted up quite messily. It raises more questions of, “What of it was me? What of it was him and his history?” And it just hurts too much.
He does sometimes get upset because despite all the cuddles and physical comfort, and the general comfort with nudity (showering, changing, etc) that comes with 13 years and marriage, I’m still not comfortable with kissing on the mouth (except in those rare instances of HB)-because I know that he primarily engaged in oral sex, and because it’s such an intimate thing at all to kiss each other-it somehow feels violating to me sometimes. Like it means I’m condoning it, accepting it as OK, when there are still so many days for me when it’s not OK.
We had to get rid of our couches and I still sometimes, if I’m there for long enough, have a hard time being in my family room (where I now know the acting out occurred). This unsafe thing has entered the one safe space we designated as ours, and there are days I just want to burn the whole thing down. I’ve been assured over and over again that the OM was only in this one room, but there are nights H sleeps soundly and I lay awake, wondering if he was ever in my bed, if my H did those things and (pardon the graphic language) made this other person come when he didn’t seem interested in our bedroom activities or my needs in that arena for years…and it makes me angry, confused, hurt and resentful. He tells me the OM was never there, but it still sits back in a corner of my mind like an unwanted pest.
It’s overall just really lonely. It’s a lot of trying to keep my head above water emotionally (and more recently professionally), all the while keeping on a happy face for everyone around us. It’s absolutely exhausting.
It gets really difficult for me to balance my intellectual and theoretical understanding on the situation given by background and training, and my emotional responses because suddenly this is MY situation. I am 1000% on board being his cheerleader in this process; explaining to him that I now understand how dissociation has played a role in our relationship since I can clearly see it now and explaining to him that he’s not crazy or spoiled goods, and that with time, with patience and with hard work, he can reintegrate those parts of his personality that he broke as a child in order to survive his abuse. That part, rationally, comes naturally to me. I get it.
This has honestly just been a huge blow to an already fragile self-esteem. Most of my life, from parents who adored the older child and saw me as less than (and engaged in lots of comparison) to friends who walked away with not a lot of notice, to a boyfriend who literally tore every strength of mine through the mud and was a textbook abuser in more ways than one-despite knowing objectively what my strengths and weaknesses are, I don’t have the healthiest view of my relative importance. I’ve always received that message from others around me that I’m not good enough. Certainly a good daughter, friend and girlfriend, and a good enough wife. But not good enough to value for who I am instead of painfully comparing me and finding me less. Not good enough to not talk about behind her back, or exclude, or walk away from when I struggled no matter how loyal I had been over the years. Not important enough to treat kindly and to love fairly, to not rape me.
And apparently not important enough to not betray like this.
And I know why H did so. I know he was scared and ashamed and because of his ability to compartmentalize it, when I came home after a night shift, when we were together, this re-creation didn’t exist. Those texts and images and videos didn’t exist. That man didn’t exist. Someone else did those things. I get it.
But it doesn’t stop that niggling voice in the back of my head that tells me that if I had been better, or been enough, that H would have trusted me enough with his hurt self. That he would have known I’d never scream at him, hurt him, or abandon him because I never have. That the only thing I ever want is to protect him, because for all these years we’ve been the team, we’ve been each other’s safe person.
And how, at the end of the day, when faced with that choice to act out or not act out, that I wasn’t, according to him, “anywhere near [his] mind” when he decided to go ahead and do this. That the thought of hurting me wasn’t enough to make him pause and not go forward. It makes me angry at him, since he’s not safe anymore. That now I have to work so hard to reconcile the man I thought I knew, who I thought (despite his distraction in our relationship and our issues) was a good man and was able to be trusted, to this man who had been betraying me and our relationship for over half of it. Who knew this betrayal was there and still asked me to take vows, not knowing this was here between us (that anger of feeling like he tricked me? That’s an ugly, totally unpleasant thought when it intrudes). Who wanted to have a baby with me while he was going behind my back and doing this. And not knowing if I was ever truly safe to begin with.
All of that anger in stark contrast to this intense protectiveness and desire to support and cradle the hurt little guy who’s there inside.
There’s this consistent battle between wanting to be the angry wife and wanting to just help him heal. Sometimes I get angry with myself for resenting him when he’s thoughtful and caring (“Why now, when things are so broken? When you wouldn’t seem to care before?”), and sometimes I’m scared to share any of this pain and suffering with him, no matter how supportive he tries to be, because I don’t want to hurt him more.
We hemmed and hawed about the idea, once H’s disclosure became more complete, about finding a separate therapist each. We are continuing to work with our MC/IC psychologist, as he is trauma certified, and meeting with him individually and together (each of us once/week and MC once every other week) in order to process his trauma with him, process this whole dual issue with me and flesh out the anger and the helplessness and the boundaries, and then together for us to figure out together how to navigate this revelation of trauma together, especially now that some of H’s dissociations have become more pronounced.
H is super remorseful and responsible and has been great with taking measures to try to earn my trust back, and letting me into this process he’s in now. We’re still working on his trying to tamp down the voice that tells him I’m angry with him when I’m simply upset, and being able to tolerate my questions about whether he’s still with me or has dissociated with some degree of openness. Typically when he dissociates, he will go quiet and then say something verbally that is blunt, hurtful, and pushes me away pretty forcefully. He still feels threatened by most negative feelings I have, but he’s getting better with hearing me when I say I’m upset at how I feel and about the situation, I’m not angry with him in that particular moment because of something he just did/said. And that even when I am angry, I always want more contact, more connection, more comfort. Never distance, and never silence between us.
He gets the loneliness of not being really able to reach out for support from family or friends and comforts me, but he sometimes seems to espouse the idea that this is just something he kept from me that is just going to take time to get over, and can’t handle the fact at times that I’m not just upset about the situation we’re in that has us so isolated, but really hurt and broken and humiliated and rejected over the betrayal aspect of this. He doesn’t always get that as much as he’s trying to be safe for me, he’s just not right now.
I know this has been long and rambling and I apologize-I try to come onto SI when H’s not home because although he knows I’m here and is totally supportive of it, he gets a bit distressed when I have these raw, exposed feelings. So it all tends to come tumbling out. Hopefully with more regular visits and interactions these posts will become a little more concise and coherent. But all the advice and the empathy you both have shown so far means so, so much for me, and I’m glad I took the deep breath and posted. Thank you <3