From the Midlife Club forum comes this exchange between a new member and a survivor. First, the questions:

These are the questions that have plagued my mind over the past few weeks.  I know the answers to most of them.  Many people on this forum have asked them long before me, but that doesn’t stop the questions from intruding into my thoughts every day, multiple times a day.  They are exhausting questions, and I’m hoping by writing them down I give them to the universe to share the burden and won’t spend so much of my energy on them.

1.   With all the lies, how do I know which part of the relationship was real vs. a sham?  His timeline for unhappiness changes from off-and-on over the 14 years, to the past 7 years, to the past 2 years.  What was real? How do I stop second guessing it all? I don’t want to have to rewrite my entire relationship, but I also want to know what was the truth.

2.   Why now?  All the other ups and downs of a relationship we worked through, so why give up now?  Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but nothing was a “deal breaker” so what changed that he can say “I’m not in love with you and don’t want you as my wife.  I want to live my own life without being responsible or accountable to anyone. I don’t want to consider you in my decisions.”

3.   How can he still claim he loves me, he’s just not in love with me and doesn’t want me as his wife?  You don’t do this to people you love!

4.   How can he think being alone and having no deep love and connection to anyone is better than being with a woman who loved and supported him unconditionally?  It sounds like such a lonely unfulfilled life.

5.   How can he see me as disposable?  How can he reject me?  How can he just throw away 14 years?

6.   Why didn’t he even try to work on things?  Why didn’t he say two years ago that he was unhappy?

7.   What kind of happiness can someone expect to obtain knowing it was at the expense of the person who loved him most?

8.   How can he not appreciate what our relationship was?  How can he not appreciate all that I have done for him?

9.   Why did he lead me on?  He told me he didn’t want to lead me on, and I asked him not to lead me on, but he did anyway.

10.   He could have ended it cleanly, I gave him so many opportunities, and instead he did the most hurtful thing possible by having an affair with someone he doesn’t even love or want to be with.  How could he implode the marriage in such a ruthless manner?

11.   Why do I feel humiliated when it was him who cheated, lied, and imploded the marriage?  Why am I embarrassed my marriage failed?  I’m the first of my friends to get divorced and that embarrasses me.

12.   How did I not see this coming?  How did I not realize it was already over for him 2 years ago? Was I just naïve?  My pride is hurt. I feel like a fool. I put him on a pedestal he didn’t belong on.  Did I just not want to see his true character?  I fell for his outward personality which was that of a good man, he deceived everyone, his true character is that of a coward, liar and cheat.

13.   How do I forgive myself for fully loving a man who was capable of doing this to me?  In hindsight I see some character flaws that my mind just overlooked because they were never deal breakers for me, I always saw them has his “quirks”.  I loved him more than he loved me, I had no idea how broken he became, he hid it so well.

14.   Why am I not enough?  Why wasn’t I worth fighting for?  Everyone keeps saying that I’m such a great catch, if that’s true then why doesn’t he want me?  What is it he wants that I’m not able to give him?

15.   Why can’t I just give up on him and let him go as easily as he has let me go?  I have hope he will find himself and get some help and realize what he’s done and want me back.  I don’t actually want him back; I just want him to want me back.  With the last shred of my self-esteem I am trusting myself that I am better off without him even though I miss his desperately.

16.   How am I going to survive going NC when I move out in 2 weeks?  I’m addicted to him.  Being around him and talking to him feels so natural.  How am I going to survive not having my best friend?

17.   How can my heart continue to love a man who has treated me with such disrespect?

18.   How do I stop feeling like I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life and since he didn’t want me that no one will want me?  How do I stop feeling like damaged goods?  How do I begin to heal?  I have nothing but self-doubt about my future.

19.   How will I ever feel comfortable being with another man (both emotionally and physically)?  The very idea of trying to connect with another man, opening myself up, allowing another man to touch me makes me nauseous, yet he was able to do that with his MOW so easily.

20.   I may be legally divorced in 6 months, but when will I be psychologically divorced?  When will I be able to sever the emotional, intellectual, and sexual connection I had with my H?  How do I do that? How do I begin to let go and heal?

He has broken my spirit, and I feel rundown.  I see a long hard and lonely road ahead of me.  The pain is unbearable at times.  I know there will never be answers to these questions that will satisfy me, I know no answers will give me closure.  Perhaps that is the point, perhaps I’m not meant to understand because I’m not a person capable of doing what he did.  It’s just so tragic, every fiber of my being is sad.  I’m grieving the loss of the man I loved, my marriage, and a life and future I planned for.

And this response:

Twenty Answers

1. What was real?  The parts you felt were real, even if you now have more information about the past.  Your judgment is better than his reporting on this subject.

2. Why not fall apart now?  There’s nothing else to distract him, no ladder to climb or prestigious thing to chase.  It’s midlife.

3. He sees love as a feeling, not a collection of behaviors inspired by that feeling.

4. Don’t be so sure he’ll be alone for long.  He may not be alone right now.

5. You don’t fit in the new life he sees for himself.  You remind him of when he was a better person.

6. Because he wasn’t unhappy two years ago.  Expect his narrative of unhappiness to expand with each telling however.

7. He can expect the kind of happiness that is cheap, easy, and unfulfilling.  It’s all he wants to commit to right now.

8. He did it to you because he’s a selfish, unappreciative jerk who feels he deserved more than you gave.  No matter how much you gave.

9. He lead you on because his life was more convenient with you in the dark.

10. He would have been happy to keep deceiving you but he got caught.  If you hadn’t found out, and his affair partner was cool with it, he probably would have continued indefinitely.

11. You feel embarrassed because we tell women it’s their job to sustain relationships.  Culturally we say, “she couldn’t keep her man happy, so he went elsewhere.” It’s bullshit, but no one’s immune from cultural baggage.

12. You didn’t see it coming because you had invested thoroughly in your marriage, and as a functioning adult, you know no relationship is one continuous joy-fest.  You projected your level of commitment onto your loved and trusted partner.

13. You accept that loving someone well is a part of who are you and it’s a POSITIVE attribute.  You trust that it’s not something you need to forgive.

14. You aren’t enough because nobody is enough to give another person character or moral fiber.

15. It likely took him a long time to get to the point where he discarded you, even though it seems sudden to you.  The devaluation process took two years in his mind.  You will get there but you’re playing catch-up to his huge head start.

16. NC is going to make your life MUCH easier.  Being around someone who has contempt for you is soul-killing.  Getting away from it will give you perspective.

17. See Point 15.  Time.  Perspective.  Your heart will heal and you will be able to see that you were never the problem.

18. You will stop worrying about “being alone” for the rest of your life when you start to trust yourself again, and figure out that knowing you’ll be OK if you *do* end up alone makes you a much stronger person, and one more selective about who she invites into her life.  Being alone is FAR superior to being with someone who makes you feel small.

19. You’re still attached and loyal to the person who used to be a husband to you.  When you realize that person has been emotionally absent for a long time, you’ll stop generalizing about ALL men and place the feelings where they clearly belong: on the ONE MAN who treated you badly.

20. Nobody can tell you when you’ll be psychologically divorced.  NC will help.  Watching him do shittier and shittier things from a distance will help.  Beginning to trust your judgment again will help.  One day you’ll wake up and realize you wouldn’t take him back if he crawled across the country to beg your forgiveness.  But there’s no way to tell you what day to mark on the calendar.