Low Self-Esteem and Infidelity

ImageLast night I was googling about infidelity and hypnosis. I wanted to know if I could be hypnotized to deal with the triggers and lessen the pain. Not that I really planned to do it–I just wondered if such a thing existed. What I stumbled upon was not what I expected.

Low self-worth and poor self-image are at the root of most relationship problems, because the inability to place appropriate value on oneself determines how others treat us, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others. If we don’t feel a sense of value about ourselves, don’t feel safe or secure being who we are, we act and react in a way that reflects our perceptions of ourselves and our lives. Coping with negative emotional feelings is de-energizing and draining over the long haul and good emotional and physical wellbeing is not sustainable under such a burden.

Contrary to popular opinion, people with low self-esteem are always very sure of themselves. They are sure they are worthless or worth less than others in at least one area of their lives and usually in most areas of their lives – they are absolutely sure they are flawed or inadequate. Anything positive that happens to them is just good luck, chance or someone else’s generosity. Any negative that happens they feel they probably deserved.

Later that night after the kids were tucked in bed and asleep, our discussion began. I recited what the script says above about self-esteem and self-worth and my husband looked at me like a light bulb when on in his head.

See, I always thought that because my husband seemed so sure of himself and I equated that with great self-esteem. I did see when he didn’t value his accomplishments but thought he was being humble. And his affair with Bat-Shit Crazy puzzled me because he relinquished not only control to her but his self-respect. I have asked him over and over again:

How could you [someone who is so self-aware] be involved with someone who didn’t care about YOU as a person–the things you value, love and define your character?

My husband was searching for an answer but he kept thinking that it must be the typical infidelity answers: self-absorbtion, selfishness, or ego. These answers bothered me because it didn’t make sense by the way he felt while in the relationship.

He continuously broke off the affair over the course of the year telling her it wasn’t what he wanted. Although his attempts to end it were futile because she would pull him back in trying to pretend all she wanted was friendship. Then she would offer sex. He didn’t have to say yes (and he didn’t accept it every time it was offered). He did it because he thought he was helping her get over the end of her marriage–but he didn’t care if she decided to get back together with her husband either. He hoped she would mve on so their affair would end. He was waiting for her to end it. He never promised or gave her anything–in fact, he did the opposite. He says he felt worse about himself while he was involved with her and I noticed he gained weight last year too. He relinquished his choices to her–she was needy. He believed (and still does) that she had no other friends to lean on (big surprise that a homewrecking whore doesn’t have friends, right?). He wanted her to go away but he didn’t walk away either. Why?

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So I read these words and I start to think of my husband. Confident but yet always feeling he doesn’t deserve anything. I’ve always struggled to figure out how my husband is so successful and loved at his job but he’s not successful in a manner that promotes himself. In fact, if I look at him professionally, his position has been stagnant over the past 13 years. Different companies–same job, no salary increases. How is that possible? Maybe it’s his trade. Or maybe it’s him. Maybe he’s comfortable in this place of worthlessness.

I am not making or accepting excuses for his decisions. But it was an AHA! moment. I realize that if you have low self-esteem you attract leaches. People who will take advantage of you. I’ve seen it before in his past with a boss taking advantage of my husband’s skills for personal gains. But I hadn’t seen it like this before…. obviously. In fact, in our relationship I thought he was strong, confident and masculine. But he has always said to me since day one:

I love you more.

Sometimes I would try to argue (“No, I love you more”) but I never won. Sometimes I would smile and kiss him. Sometimes I would wonder why he felt this way. I threw it in his face in the wake of my discovery of his affair. I realize now he never thought he deserved me… he sits there and says: “you are gorgeous–look at you; you are intelligent; you are magnetic….” . Maybe what he’s really thinking is:

Why would someone like you be with me? I guess I got lucky.

So I must love you more because I am not worthy of you.

You could never feel about me the way I feel about you.

Well, he’s wrong. I love him. I love him so much I am willing to work through my pain and suffering to salvage what was once beautiful about us. I am trusting my love to guide me through this battle. I am trusting myself and my heart even through the pain and sorrow. I love him in spite of what he did. I don’t believe I deserve what he did but I believe in us.

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So this low self-esteem thing needs to be worked on. The hypnosis website says their treatment is proven to work. ;)  I don’t know if I am ready to go that route but I think we do need to delve into his subconcious more.

27 thoughts on “Low Self-Esteem and Infidelity

  1. Wow… Thanks for this post. Talk about a lightbulb going off. My husband was similar. He was very successful in business but would not even put his VP title on his e-mail signature. I never understood why, he would say “It’s not a big deal”. He never gave himself credit, he acted like his accomplishments no matter how big were insignificant. He let people take advantage of him, especially his business partner. He tried to break it off with the OW and she would keep coming ater him, he would get drunk and give in. This went on for 6 long years. He had no self worth and it got even worse after all of this came out. He’s in addiction recovery now which is helping with the low self esteem. Again thanks for this informative post.

    • I believe their failure to keep their vows leads to more feelings of worthlessness too. So then they get pulled back into the relationship by their AP it is like another confirmation of what they believe themselves to be.
      I love my in-laws but they constantly treat my husband’s profession and his accomplishments like it is a waste of time. Yet, my husband’s profession is one of his passions and loves. He actually is one of the lucky few that pursued his talent and made that a career. I think not having that validity from his parents means more than he’s ever told me.

      • From someone that has struggled with low self-esteem her whole life I can tell you that you are on the right track. He may not say much about his parents lack of acknowledgement, but I would bet it does add to the not feeling good enough.
        I have a question for you….Do you know what you need from your husband to start your process of healing? What are things you can do to stay out of your head? Because being in your head for any amount of time right now is going to cause you pain…You did not ask for this but it has been bestowed a pond you, therefor it is now yours. I think the fact that you are talking about it is really good. It means you are dealing with it head on…

      • Your site does not like me…or my long post….I just wanted to throw some thought out there for you to think about…I know you are most likely thinking about it a lot, but I wanted to remind you to take care of you…Help guide your husband to do the same, but make you come before anything else, to me you have earned that much. What I am trying to say is take care of you..Pamper yourself a little. Buy yourself something nice….none of these things will take the pain away, but they might help you stay strong and out of your head..Just some random thoughts running through my head…

  2. This really has me thinking as well. This could bring some light to the “why” answer I have searched for. It all fits and makes sense in so many different ways with JR’s behaviors. This will be a topic of conversation when I get home.

  3. Mr. Wanton here:
    Me and the Mrs. have discussed a very similar dynamic. It’s hard to love and feel love, when you don’t love and value yourself. She said something to the effect, that the affairs were her way of validating the negative self talk and the negative inputs she was receiving from a relative.

    • Yes… I feel like they can’t come to us (their spouses) because we will not validate these negative inputs. My husband has a hard time understanding that my entire first reaction to his AP (before there was an affair) was based on him debasing himself and putting her talents on an undeserved pedestal. Every time I bring this up he tries to equate me saying the same type of thing about a famously talented person in comparison to himself. He knows now that his view of her was clouded but he still cannot accept that he himself is talented, unique and intelligent.

  4. Light bulb going off here, as well. I think (emphasis on the I THINK) we confronted the issue in the fantasy/flirting stage, before it became reality. Alarm bells immediately started going off when he came home singing the praises of “drop-dead-gorgeous-Heather” and how she could hold her own with the big boys, but was coming to him for advice…needed a friend…blah, blah, blah. I met Heather. She was nothing special on the eyes. And, she was very dismissive (actually gave me the stink-eye on one ocassion) of this spouse.
    My husband is brilliant, but lacks the institutional credentials to back it up. Often our conversations (about his job) begin by his saying, so-n-so is brilliant and he can talk circles around me, but he’s just plain wrong on….
    Definitely going to ponder this truth. Thank you.

  5. I am still trying to figure out men…But for me being acknowledge is a big deal…But do men feel the same way?? I know that men like to feel needed, so I can see them falling prey to a woman who ‘needs a shoulder to cry on, or whatever the reason’ but I am thinking its more of the need to feel helpful and needed that men crave. So do we as wives start needing our husbands more to help with this or that? I know sometimes mine drives me nuts because I just want to talk but he want to fix it for me and I do not need it to be fixed all the time I just need to talk it out, but maybe that’s the problem, I am so use to being strong and independent and not wanting to give him “more” to do, I forget that maybe he needs to do more to feel good. Instead of always being the strong woman that attracted them to us, do we
    need to be helpless once in awhile??? Just some random thought running around in my head. Could it be that simple??? Any ideas about this I would love to hear…

    • Hi Sassy Sarah,
      So many great points you are making. I am beginning to do things for myself for the first time in years. I am pursuing my interests and setting goals for myself. I am hoping to go back to school to get another degree–this time one that suits me. One that could form a career that will fulfill me.
      I also am not feeling guilty about spending money on myself for the first time since having kids. I have the money–why do I only spend money on the children? It was me too.
      You are right that spending too much time in my own head is not good. Sometimes it creates unnecessary pain. Feelings or thoughts take roots that should be weeded out instead. I am working ont that and pushing my husband to do the same. The biggest burden for him right now is this feeling that he will never forgive himself. My husband loves me so strongly and it breaks his heart that he had an affair. He says for the rest of his life he will never forgive himself. Idk…
      Lastly, yes, I think men need to feel needed. They need to feel like they are a hero, savior…
      Thanks–please feel free to send more advice and thoughts.

  6. I can’t get over feeling that I am ugly compared to all the skinny, cute, fun women he had affairs with. I’m larger than most women- ironically more active too. I don’t go for trends or say flirty comments. I’m in the minutia of life and getting lost in the details while these glittery, attractive fake breasted women slept with my husband. I didn’t find out about his infedelity until a decade later. We seperated and he struggled getting back to me. It’s been up and down… mostly up. We are pregnant again and we are more in love but my mind is always telling me he would prefer me thin, glittery, fake breasted and less intelligent. I can’t stop obsessing about how worthless I am. I feel I am a disappointment to him.

    • Hi,
      I am so sorry you are struggling with these feelings and insecurities. Focus on the goal and what you want. As women, we can compare ourselves and fall short to almost every other person and thing. I know how hard I am on myself and my husband sees none of the flaws I focus on so intently. Love yourself. You are more than his infidelities and his failures with your marriage. He fell in love with you once because he found you beautiful, intelligent and special. Remember that… I know how hard it can be on this rollercoaster. Decide what you want out of life and work towards that goal. Don’t let anything stand in your way. And, congratulations on your pregnancy!

  7. Probably you are beyond this now(?) but I am doing self-hypnosis from a reputitable website I found. They have specifice on infidelity but the ones that help me the most have to do with good positive things like self confidence, or being optimistic or inner peace…those type…The ones on infidelity only made me focus on a painful event even as it tried to help me overcome it…that is me! I can give you the website if you are interested.

  8. Wow, this is really hitting home. I always thought my husband was so outwardly confident. Everyone adores him. But after a 6 month affair, end of contact, and finally counseling, etc, I’ve realized he has a very low self worth. The feeling of being needed by OW who needed a shoulder to cry on, made him feel important. Among a lot of marriage issues we have to work on, I hope he can look inside himself and have some personal growth in that area. His parents are martyrs, nothing he has ever done is good enough. He thinks it is not connected, I think it’s very much connected, but it is his own personal growth to figure out. I hope our new therapist can help both of us on our individual issues. (That was very rambly, excuse me, lots of thoughts right now!) Thank you for putting your thoughts and experiences out here for others of us to relate to.

    • Hi,
      I think everything you wrote about your husband probably contributed to him getting involved with his AP. My husband sometimes writes things down when I am upset and he is trying to figure out what I need. The other day he wrote that before the affair he felt like his career was lackluster and he wasn’t living up to his potential. I think that is a huge reason–he knew I was aware that he felt this way but his AP had no idea. Her false compliments fed his ego. He didn’t have to tell her that he was disappointed in his career because she thought his career was amazing. It doesn’t excuse anything but it allows me to see how damaged he was… but the damage from the affair is so much more to his ego and my trust. I wish men could know everything at stake before they cheat.

  9. I am about 10 weeks out from D-day and find your blog so helpful with all the emotions that I am feeling. My husband and I are in counseling and have come to the conclusion that low self esteem is the reason why this has happened. I am having trouble keeping all the wild thoughts I have under control in my head. How have you stopped yourself from reliving everything over and over in your mind? I left another comment on your my story post about this but it isn’t showing up. I am also having problems because the OW in the picture is my sister. Every healing site I look at talks about completely cutting the OW out of your life, but I can’t do that. Let me be clear…there wasn’t a physical affair but my husband sent my sister some inappropriate messages basically saying he had always had a thing for her and asking her to admit the same. After that I found out he has been having a 5 month long EA with another women. We have been married almost 16 happy years and have two children, I want to move on but I cannot stop my mind from going there. Any advice?

    • Hi–I just responded to your comment. Sorry for the delay but I have to take time away from my blog for my own sanity and well-being. :) I also have to screen all new commenters on my blog because I get some very hateful comments from Other Women.
      If you don’t see my response just let me know… but basically, I wrote about refocusing your mind when triggers come in. Think of something–anything else but that thought. I read we have 20 seconds to refocus our brains before our emotional memory is triggered. I know you cannot eliminate the OW from your life but make sure you are in control of your relationship right now with her.

    • Interesting article. I agree and disagree with what she wrote all at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever made an excuse for my husband’s affair but I have tried to understand what happened. In the end after finding out all the reasons I realized that none of this really helped me cope. It just filled int he puzzle–what happened in our relationship and with him? How did we get from point A to point C without a point B? The thing is–all the reason are just reasons/excuses/etc. It doesn’t excuse the behavior.

      • Hey there, I’m not sure how I got to this post today. But I couldn’t agree more with Chumplady.I find the problem with focusing on the betrayer’s supposed low self-esteem, is not recognizing that low self esteem does not equate with low character. The lying deceit, and other despicable affair behaviors clearly point to a decided lack of integrity and character. There are many people with low self esteem that do not cheat. I dare say the majority of us may suffer from some sort of esteem issue throughout our lives. But we handle them and don’t use it as an excuse to do whatever the hell we want and hurt-devastate others in the process. No, cheating displays a profound lack of character and definite narcissistic tendencies.
        The other problem I find is that in trying to understand why the affair happened we betrayeds unintentionally and out of compassion, project ourselves, our values and way of thinking onto the betrayed. Because Rick Reynolds astutely characterized this as “assumed similarities”. But we need to recognize that we cannot view the affair and its causes through the same lens as the betrayer. We are acutely aware of boundaries. We think of the impact that our behaviors have on others, most especially our loved ones. But they compartmentalized, justified the unjustifiable, or otherwise detached and turned away, and therefore did not think or even care about us until they were discovered. That behavior, my friend, has little to nothing to do with low self-esteem but rather reeks of self-absorption, furtiveness, entitlement and weak character. And I don’t think we can ever fully understand unless the betrayer does the work, digs deep, does some real introspection to honestly look at himself and the circumstances and how they allowed or gave themselves permission to start crossing boundaries.

  10. Positive Affirmations are quiet simply short and powerful statements that you read aloud to your self on a daily basis, similar to positive thoughts, affirmations will slowly re-program the subconscious part of the mind and relay a new positive can do attitude to the conscious part of the mind.

  11. near the end of your post, it was like verbatim to what I said, what he said, and what was done..how I thought, when I found out 23 years later, that my husband cheated all that time. I’m still with him and I still ask during a trigger, “why am I still here?..am I really that stupid?!..” but then realize, just like he said, he felt from day one that he didn’t deserve me. ..I have to ask though, then why do that? why not become someone I deserve then….. he couldn’t answer. Still hasn’t.

    He’s gained so much weight, while I lose… but yet, I’m the one with low self worth… while he, as he told me the 2nd day of finding out “get over it”… there are days though, that reminds me why I stay, but then those days are over taken by those that I really want to take his head, rip it off and slam it on a stick and place it in the front yard for everyone to see while I do my chant around a fire praying for a meteorite to slam everything into the ground.

    Yes, probably, I need to see a therapist, but I haven’t found one yet, that can handle me… needless to say, I’m not ready to talk about anything.

  12. I could definitely use some advice on how to move forward after going through very similar stuff.

    In December of 2012, my husband confessed out of the blue that he was unhappy and didn’t really know why. That escalated quickly to thoughts of him leaving, which I also did not understand. I immediately suspected he was depressed, since he had lost his job over the summer of 2012 and immediately had gotten a new one- but a much, much less satisfying job. He lost about 30 lbs in 6-8 weeks. We began fighting for the first time ever. I couldn’t deal with the thought of him leaving out of the blue, and everything he said seemed to contradict who he really was, what he has thought and felt all along, etc. He told me he didn’t love me, after being the most loving, wonderful husband for 3.5 yrs (6 years together at that time, total). He ultimately left on April 1, 2013, once he had saved the money to get an apartment.

    In June, he came back around, stating that he missed me. We started spending a lot of time together. Within a few weeks, he seemed to switch gears to cold and distant again- said he didn’t want to give me false hope, etc. After some talking and significant changes in him, he came home October 5, 2013 (this is a significant date- bear in mind).

    Things were great from October-January, but I could tell he was still struggling. He had some depressive moments, while other times he was incredibly clingy and didn’t want to be away from me. He also still had some anxiety, although not to the extent I had noticed before. However, on January 16, 2014, something inspired me to check his phone while in the shower. The text I saw was “good morning beautiful” to a number I didn’t recognize. I immediately barged in on his shower. He admitted that it was his friend from the (new) job, we will call her Autumn. I had suspected he had liked her since he began working there in August of 2012, and I figured they had been talking while we were apart. There was an unspoken rule, though, that we had already been through enough- both Autumn-related and not- that he would not be doing this. A big blow up happened, and he cut off all contact with his friend he had “feelings” for. Little did I know.

    In February some paperwork came from his phone company. He couldn’t hide it- the number on the paperwork was the same one he had been texting the month prior. He had put Autumn on his cell phone plan. WTF! At that moment, he came clean about everything, that he had been seeing her most of last summer, and that is why he would pull back from me and become cold and distant. He cut her off in September, and moved back home October 5– HER BIRTHDAY! (another wtf!). I guess she came back around in December, and they talked for about 6 weeks before I found out. He says nothing happened since he has been home, but he relied on her a lot to discuss all of the issues he had about what I did not know. He said he questioned whether he could continue this marriage, even after being home, because of what I did not know regarding his fling from last summer. He’s right, I couldn’t really deal, and I still can’t.

    This brings us to today. He has been the most amazing, wonderful husband since the day he cut her off– more so than he even was when we were dating. A truly model husband. He has no contact with Autumn, and he requested to be back on my cell phone plan so that I would never have to worry. He has not done anything suspicious and said that once he recommitted to me in January, it was a one-and-for all thing. His ring went back on. I’m not sure what we were doing prior to January, but I guess it was a trial in his eyes. He said he loves me even more for continuing to love him even after what I know. Suddenly he wants kids and a forever. All of this is wonderful, and I have very little worry about it happening again (we were apart, after all…) so WHY can’t I get over what happened last summer? It repeats in my head, over and over— the images of her and him, the day I found out, all of it. I try to stop the cycle, but I can’t help but hate all of it. As is typical, the affair partner is no winner- she’s a pathological liar, and super trashy: the opposite of his wife.

    Sigh. Any advice? Sorry it is so long.

  13. I have had exactly the same experience. Your post has validated my feelings and makes me feel not alone in my experience. Right down to trusting in your love to guide you through this battle. The things your husband has said but feels. You have given me more hope and helped me look forward to healing. The comments and replies have been fantastic to read. Thank you

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