My husband told our counselor that I am torturing him. He says that I remind him of his affair every day and throw it in his face. He says I am not in pain anymore. I just torture him with the thought of it. The counselor did not ask for examples or for confirmation from me. He looked at me and said, “When you do these things, you are not building up the relationship. You are in the Punishment Box.”
Let me start by saying that I do not believe this. I do not bring up the affair every day. I try very hard not to. If I made him aware of every time I thought about his affair, we’d be talking about it many times every hour of every day.
He will not accept this, but he has triggers just like me and I think those triggers are what make him think I am reminding him of it every day. In actuality, all I need to do is get a faraway look in my eyes and he thinks I am thinking about his affair and that is a reminder to him. A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my daughter about a book that my online coach ecommended to me. He got mad and said I was throwing it in his face again. What? The only thing I can think of is that he knows that my coach told me about that book. So the book reminds him of my coach. Thinking about my coach reminds him that I need someone to help me put my life back together. Thinking about that reminds him of his affair. So that’s how I remind him all the time about his affair. Did I really do something purposeful to throw it in his face? I don’t think so.
The only other time I was aware that I was reminding him of it recently was this past weekend. I was sitting on the love seat after lunch. Sitting there is an accomplishment for me. That was where I was sitting when I found all those emails. That’s where I see myself when I have a flashback. But I can sit there again — pat myself on the back for that one. I was spazzing and looking out the window. I was trying to remember what it felt like to be me before his affair. I’ve forgotten. It was so long ago. Seven years is a long time to hurt. The hurt was different before D-day. It wasn’t all-consuming and devastating, but it was still pain. Pain that we were not connecting, that something was amiss. Then later thinking that something was wrong with him and I didn’t seem to be able to get through to him. I thought he needed help but he wouldn’t let me help him.
So what did it feel like to be me before 2004? What did it feel like to be connected and wrapped up in the secure love of a man I cherished? What does it feel like to be unscathed by heartache and betrayal? I don’t remember anymore.
I was thinking these things and staring out the window when my husband came into the room. I turned my head to look at him and did not try to hide the pain. He saw it. His face darkened in anger and he went outside. We did not talk again until bed time.
I wasn’t sticking it to him or torturing him. More like torturing myself, I think. I’m sorry if my pain is a reminder to him, but it’s there. What do I do with that? Cover it all up and make like nothing happened? Put on a happy face and make like I have no pain and that I want to rebuild our relationship even if that means disregarding any issues I have? That seems to be what our counselor wants me to do.
What about the reminders for me? What about the callous remarks and staying out late and going to the office without telling me on weekends – things he knows damned well are triggers for me. What about the fact that those emails are still on his computer? For over a year, he has promised to get rid of them, but they are still there. What about him telling his friend, in my presence, all about this certain company and how it operates. It’s where his OW works so naturally he knows all about it. All the reminders… I am tortured, too. Is he not also in the Punishment Box?
BUT I have also tried to see it from his perspective. I don’t think he is lying when he says he feels tortured. He is really feeling that. And if I talk about needing my feelings validated, should I not also be concerned about validating his feelings? How do I do that without accepting his unrealistic perceptions of my actions?
So we are both tortured and both in pain. But is his pain because he had to give up the love of his life or because he hurt me? Or maybe both? I don’t trust what he says about it. I cannot be married to him if I am not the one he loves above all others, the one he wants at his side when he takes his last breath. I don’t know how to move beyond that.