Sure thing :-) My perspective has changed with each passing year. That feeling that something is missing or off, does fade with time. A lot of this process just requires time and that part we have no control over. It makes sense that we have these guarded feelings; someone hurt us and we are naturally protecting ourselves. Some of that might even be subconscious, because in nature we (and all animals) have to constantly adapt to survive. I think it is a mild (or maybe severe) form of trauma and PTSD. Just seeing XOW a few weeks ago out of the corner of my eye, made my stomach churn before even processing the sitch and that she is no threat! ... Naturally over time, as the trauma/assault does not repeat itself, the feelings and triggers fade and eventually die. The feelings that something is wrong or missing is much less with each passing year.
There is also a grief process that in some ways has been like a death. The death of the M as we knew it before. It can be confusing because while the person is standing in front of us, the R we had with them is now changed. Personally, I have had SOOOO much sadness that my R with H was lost. the first 10-15 years together we had a strong romance, intimacy and attraction. It felt awesome. I was totally blindsided when BD happened. During the time we were separated, I wasn't able to fully detach and let go so I didn't grieve the end of the R. I have had to grieve while piecing something new with him. That has been very confusing at times. ... I would say go easy on yourself, and allow the sadness in. Take as much time as you need to process that part.
You mentioned that you have four boys. Have you thought about how much your own actions and choices will influence their future? What advice would you give them when they are grown men and come to you with these same dilemmas? What kind of men, husbands and fathers, do you hope they will be? Can you let the answers to these questions guide you? I think when we have so much emotions (triggers, trauma, etc) influencing our thoughts, it can be hard to make the decisions that we really want to make. My biggest goal has been the separation of emotions and choices.
My sitch, and this site, have really helped me try to separate these two things. It has taken me years to get to this place. If I feel hurt and triggered, and I think about the past, and my H simultaneously does something I don't like, my response can be more emotionally driven. There has been many times in the last 3 years that I have considered (and once even tried) leaving the M behind me. However, when I deal with the emotions separately, and allow decisions about my H and my M to be more based on the present and more logical, I respond in a way that I can feel better about. I then make better choices for me and for my Ds. This has been a skill set that has benefited me in other parts of my life. My goal is to master it because I recognize now how much of my life has been guided by my feelings and emotions!
I also wanted to add, that we often hear conflicting advice on if we should stay married because of the kids. We have all heard "we will stay married until the kids are adults because that is what is best for them." (in fact XOW said that years before her A with my H). And we also hear, "it's not good for the kids to stay M just for them, especially if you don't model a healthy R." I personally don't see this as so black and white. I actually agree with both. If both people are willing to stay in the M, really work on it, and model a healthy R, then I agree that is best for the kids overall. If they stay together, yet full of bitterness and resentment, that can be detrimental for kids.
What I have come to appreciate about my H (and I need to give myself some credit too) is that we are willing to work this out, even when at times we don't feel it. This has been a choice we have both made for our R and because we believe it is best for our kids. It's not one reason or the other, it is both. So we both have to commit to doing what it takes to make the adjustments. I am not sure we would be making these positive changes had the last 4 years not happened. So I consider that a silver lining. And maybe as time continues on, my idea of what it means to love someone will change too? I think this might be a more meaningful type of love than what we shared before; choosing someone when life is hard and still wanting change for them. I'll let you know when I figure it out ;-)
It sounds like your W is committed to making this work too. I would encourage you to hang in there through the hard moments, give it time, and keep challenging yourself to make the small changes you need to. Change for you, for your sons, and for the M. If time goes by, and you see her doing the same, then down the road you may be in an even better place.
Keep posting! People do read and it helps to process with others! This post helped me today too.
“Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.” – Nelson Mandela