the first ten years of my marriage my spouse had been with 15 other women...two of the women he went all the way with. i felt in my heart all the time he was lying and living a double life. he broke down, opened up and shared all the hurtful details....we (really he) went through intense counseling. it's 20 years later and we are still 'working' at it. this has been the most difficult thing that has ever happpened to me. i still struggle with memories/nightmares and wake up as if i am living it all over again. how do you trust when your heart never forgets? if anyone has any helps in this area i would appreciate you sharing.
Welcome to MB, wife83. I am so sorry to hear of the events that you have experienced in your marriage.
I suspect that the underlying reason why you still "wake up as if I am living it all over again" is because you are not sure that you are NOT living it all over again. You feel that your marriage is still at risk from the behaviours that you know took place in the first 10 years.
How do you know that the behaviour has stopped? Also, are you experiencing the deeply integrated and transparent marriage that you should have been living all along?
How much did you find out about the 15 other women? Did you ever find out who they were? Unless these women were prostitutes, there is a good chance that you know many of them, unless your H travelled a lot and was able to hook up with multiple strangers. A spouse can get away with any amount of affairs with strangers if, like my H, he has a job that takes him abroad, but if it was YOU who travelled, or if neither of you travelled, then the women must have been connected to him through either work or personal acquaintance - like a neighbour or someone who works in a local bar.
If you don't know who ALL these women were, you don't know if you are still living next door to one of them, or buying your groceries at the shops where some of them worked, or sending them Christmas cards each year as friends of the family. You might be having them and their H's to dinner. you might be sending your kids round to play with theirs. No wonder you have nightmares.
If, in addition, your H lives the same lifestyle that made the affairs easy, such as still travelling in his job or still working in the same industry or still going for "boy's nights out" or hunting and fishing with his men friends, you have no right to assume that he has ended his promiscuous lifestyle. Unless you know who his friends are and what he says to them - which means being able to read his emails and text messages whenever you want, including those sent from his work accounts - and unless he spends all his leisure time with you and never alone or with other people, you don't really know whether he is still living a secret second life. Dr Harley, who devised the Marriage Builders programme, always advises extreme measures with a serial cheater (and your H's cheating was off the scale). He would say that there can be no part of the cheater's life that is not connected to the betrayed spouse at all times - including work. He advises serial cheaters to give up their jobs and for the spouses to start a business or find some other way of working together full-time. A serial cheater needs to be in sight and sound of his spouse 23 hours a day (he gets an hour off to go to the bathroom) if the marriage is to stand a chance of recovery and if the betrayed spouse is to stand a chance of personal, emotional recovery.
If this isn't happening for you, then, as I said, no wonder you have nightmares.
So please read the article that BrainHurts linked and let us know if your marriage looks anything like the recovery picture that Dr Harley paints there.