Wow this one went right to the depths... What do you think?
Good morning, Stef,
I’ve been watching listening to and reading your content for over 6 years. I’ve benefitted greatly from your work and exemplified commitment to reason evidence and virtue; and I hope to continue to. I want to reach out because I am desperately in need of help and I don't trust myself to know or do what's right.
I'm in my 30s, and for 10 years have dated a young woman [name], to whom I proposed very late. After 7 years I had finally proposed and there was shock followed by an unenthusiastic "yes." The engagement lasted for a couple of weeks until it was stillborn. She doesn't need a marriage, she says, to signify the strength of a relationship and cynically views it as a stand-in for real strength. We spoke a few times about it since, and after a crushing depression and going to therapy over suicidal ideations she's joked that it's her turn to propose.
That was over three years ago and we've maintained the relationship since. The disfunction of our relationship has in my view primarily comprised of 1. the "withdrawal pursuit dynamic" and 2. my inability to derive emotional security from within myself. Unlike me, she can self-soothe which stems from her broken childhood household, her neglect from her narcissistic mother, and abandonment from her father. She is somehow impressively stable and confident and I view myself much more lowly and as what Gabor Mate described as a hungry ghost. The disfunction of our relationship was more or less stable until earlier this year when [x] was hired.
[x] and I got along incredibly well naturally, share interests, have a lot in common (including both being in long-term committed relationships). After a couple months, in April is when I started noticing some strong signals of attraction from her that I've never gotten from a woman before. Being hungry for external validation, naturally enjoying her company and finding her attractive it wasn't long before we were having a secret affair. I lied to myself at first about it being an affair somehow. I sought guidance from my elderly adopted mother, who gave me the green light to pursue what made me happy (I secretly hold her in contempt for this now). I fantasized about the affair turning into a long-term relationship after [x] started increasingly sending signals (I now think of as hooks) of her being everything I wanted including wanting marriage/everything I told her my relationship didn't have. From April to May we stayed late after work, went to lunch together, met after hours to hug and hold hands. Inevitable calamity ensued when things came to light and I severed things with [x] and re-committed to [name]. I strived to prove over the following months my ability to care, be sensitive, be an excellent partner. Things were seemingly going great.
And then I relapsed a month ago. I started talking to [x] at work again over a chat program, and slowly things were fun and flirty until [name] found out again days ago. The chances of the relationship working after the first affair were perhaps 20%-30% but now I think it's at 0% and I am free-falling right now. I'm completely unmoored on the turbulent seas of despair and chaos. I just wanted a wife, a child or two, a family and in a sickening self-fulfilling prophecy my fears and weaknesses have taken that away from me. I have taken it away from me. I'm not sure what to do but even if I figured it out, I wouldn't trust myself because I'm a liar even to myself but mostly because I'm unconfident in everything especially now.
I don't think I have hope but if I were it should be laser-focused on having hope for myself, not myself and another person.