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Marriage, Gaslighting, conflict avoidance, Shame dumping and projection

Community Member

In the last 5 weeks, my wife has laid an impossible amount of grievances at my feet, having only discussed it in depth 2 weeks prior and coming to the view that we were all good, especially considering this whole pandemic, working from home and with each other in the same business.

In short, my wife has decided that my many aspects of our 15 year relationship (7 years marriage) and best friends for 20 years, contain behaviours on my part that she has identified that are no longer acceptable. They include Manipulation, Emotional Abuse, Dominating, 'taking up all the oxygen', never taking the blame and much more. She now says that she has never been able to tell me the whole truth because she is terrified to talk to me. That she feels emotionally abandoned and unsupported. That there is deep resentment about specific events that go back 10 and 15 years.

I have PTSD from a deeply damaged childhood. I have had, and am having Counseling to work through my PTSD and behaviours that i know are difficult when im not at my best. My wife has a high anxiety all the time which is untreated. She avoids any conflict with anyone, not just me. We have known this about each other since the start, we have helped each other through our pain and built a life.

Within the last 5 weeks, we are now at crisis, my wife doesnt know whether she wants to be in the marriage anymore. My wife has chronic health issues, and we are both exhausted, both mentally and physically. We have agreed that we need to take the time to make a sound decision. not to rush into something that will rip our kids lives apart.

To confuse matters, when all this came about, i found out she is having an online relationship / emotional infidelity with a young 30 year old, who lives at home, no job, no commitments, no kids. complete online real time 24/7 unbridled support from the other side of the world. she now has feelings for this guy.

This has blown me out of the water to the point where my Anxiety is so pronounced i am taking serious Anti-Anxiety medication. I am in limbo until she decides what SHE wants.My Psychologist tells me its possible that i am being gas-lighted, shame dumped and she is blame shifting. She has never accepted any responsibility for anything, there is always a reason for her decisions and poor behaviour.

I continue to defend her position, to say she must be right, im the one who has failed. My Psych. says that I'm carrying an unfair burden.

I have never felt so worthless as a human.

42 Replies 42

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

Many interesting descriptions in your post. “She must be right” and “I’m the one who has failed “ kind of tells a story of low self esteem likely from your childhood issues. This could be a situation where you’re appeasing her, she knows it and with this online affair quite bluntly- you’re in the way of her emotional fantasies.

The gaslighting comment from your psych is also on the money imo. That takes attention away from her own errors/ deceit that she should be accountable for.

My children was 7 and 4yo whenmy first marriage split. I was extremely concerned for my kids and constantly rang their school to check on them. The principle eventually told me to relax, the kids are more resilient than us adults. Something to take into account.

Im sorry but I can’t iffer you much hope with your marriage continuing as it only takes one to ruin it. At this point on I would focus more on my own well being and if needed put aside some time to have strategies if the marriage dissolves.

Your children is your priority. My dad told me once- “ better to be a part time dad than no dad at all.”

Take care, Reply anytime.


Thank you so much Tony for your advice.


wife initially agreed to put this online realtionship to the side so we could have clear air to go to coiples counselling, get our own counselling so she could work out whether or not she was prepared to even give me a chance.

I have now found out that less than a weeke after she has not only restablished the online relationship, but they are now in a 'relationship and has now become sexualised.

She is not aware that I know and is now lying to me and the children every time she looks at us and speaks to us.

We can't even see a couples counsellor until the end of the month.

In some ways this has confirmed what everyone is telling me that all the blame is being shifted to me to justify her actions, being gaslighted.

Even now I still defend her, this is clearly an addiction. If it was an alcoholic addiction or a drug addiction would I leave or stand by her to work through it. Is it part of a mental health problem.

I will feel like an a hole if it turns out later that she was / is in some sort of addiction based mental state that we could have worked through and i left without supporting her.

on the other hand, maybe this is the new version of my wife.

We can't know until we get to counselling. That's not for another 3 weeks.....

At least now I can stop doubting my own sanity, questioning my core fibre and essence of who I am. Even so there are issues on my side i need to own and address.

Its so exhausting having a brain, and more exhausting having your heart torn out.

I wonder whether this post is in the wrong forum thread. Maybe better in the families one?

I posted here thinking my PTSD was at the whole core of our issues and would need advice about my PTSD.

Its so hard to think straight with this pressure and anxiety all the time.

Dear Pants_77

Welcome to the forums. I'm glad you're here, yet so sorry for the reasons you came here.

If you wanted to start another thread in the Relationship / Families section then please do.
You can do whatever you want or need to as long as it's within the guidelines.

Indeed it seems like you're in a pressure cooker, so please reach out in any ways you need.

There are lots of understandings you can gain online by putting in a Search of your questions..
THIS is what saved me when exH was doing VERY VERY similar to me years ago.

Chumplady is awesome. In fact it would be a great site to help your mental health during this crazy time.

People who cheat seem to enjoy putting ALL the blame on their betrayed partner, when in fact it was THEIR decision to cheat and all blame lies solely on them. Your W is doing all the things mentioned by infidelity sites; blame shifting, rug sweeping, gaslighting, smoke screening and probably more, from memory there are 8 typical cheating behaviours.
The effects on the betrayed partner are closely aligned with Narcissistic abuse.

IF you depend upon Ws fidelity to move forward with your marriage then she is clearly not being faithful.

I decided I didn't want to do the whole "tracking and monitoring" palaver, that some sites recommend. No way.

I strongly suggest that you do NOT twist yourself in knots over Ws affair.
There is a thing called 'the pick-me dance', don't bother.
If W doesn't see the value in you, your marriage and your family as worth her focus then she's made her choice.

NB: I also noticed incredible cruelty from exH towards the children for a long time.
I know now that ex was horribly resentful towards them and me, wishing he could wipe the slate clean of the lot of us and start again.
Read up on Family Violence because if W if doing this to the children then you may be able to do something about it.

I wiped the slate clean for ex via multiple Courts.
None of us were born to be "burdens" on others, we simply don't need that abuse. Neither do you or your children.
I now have the children 100% and secured the home for us too. Our story was not that of simple infidelity, it was far far far worse, which all came out in the end.

You can read up on "the 180" and the Gray Rock Strategy. You may need these very much whilst continuing to live under the same roof with a cheating spouse.

Post as often as you want.

Hi Pants_77

Behaviours that are no longer acceptable can translate to be behaviours that have become intolerable.

While your wife may announce what she can no longer tolerate in you, I'm betting she holds some traits you find difficult to tolerate. Does she give you 'the silent treatment' at times? Does she give sighs of disapproval, where you ask what's wrong and she responds with 'Nothing'? By the way, impressive to hear you're finding greater self understanding, through the help of counselors. Such an effort is inspiring.

I actually told my husband some weeks back that I could no longer tolerate the relationship in the form it had been in for just over 20 years. I told him I could no longer tolerate the lack of excitement, the lack of adventure and him shutting me down arrogantly whenever it suited him (as opposed to listening to what I was trying to express). I told him that the depressing relationship we'd become so used to was over and he had the choice of beginning a new relationship with me or we could simply call it a day. When he told me that he's just not an adventurous or exciting guy, my response, 'You are, you just don't care to explore these aspects of yourself'. I'd tried leading him to excitement and adventure which he always genuinely enjoyed a lot. I could no longer tolerate being the one to put all the work into bringing out the best in this relationship.

So, we've started over. Even though we've been together for over 20 years, we are in a new relationship. There are many trial and error moments where communication remains paramount. I no longer fear his abusive comments because I refuse to tolerate them. Pants_77, you definitely should not be tolerating your wife's online affair. If you both want to look at starting a new relationship together, this is not the best way to start. I believe you both have to be honest in what you can't tolerate in each other and then deal with such factors together. Everything we can't tolerate holds a challenge. One spouse says 'You never really hear what I'm saying to you'. The others challenge is to listen more carefully, not listen carelessly. The other says 'You never pay any attention to when I'm feeling down'. Their spouse's challenge is to learn to read what being down looks and sounds like and then face the challenge of what it takes to raise them.

Relationships challenge us for good reason. While they may bring out the worst in us, they also hold the potential to bring out the best.


Community Member

Thank you for your kind and honest words of support and guidance. I've never been in a community like this before so it's all new to me. I didn't know what to expect.

I firmly believe that we are all flawed and can be a better human than the day before. thats why I continue to think my wife will come out of this online addiction, this fantasy. I want to believe she can..... that she can wake up?

I learned from the psychologist I saw 11 years ago and am seeing again now. We can transform into the next version of ourselves if we want to.

My psych said to me 9 years ago that my goal was to learn to cry. that was (one of) the paths to the next version of me and a healthy way to let out my deeply pent up PTSD issues. I hadn't cried for over 30 years because crying was the expression of weakness, that is what I was taught by the patriarchy.

When all this was laid out on me by my wife, our of nowhere that it was potentially all over, it hit me like a wrecking ball. I had been judged and awaiting sentence ( still waiting)..

When I saw my pysch 2 weeks ago, after explaining the situation to her, her first comment to me was about how crying was my goal she left me with 9 years ago, that it was how I would unlock the next version of me.

I just burst into tears. I had spent multiple times in tears everyday since my wife it out on me. One morning I cried while cutting up cucumbers for my girls. I couldn't thinking how many cucumbers am I gods get to cut up before they're gone, before all this ends. Before my fate is decided. I felt pretty ashamed for being weak. Then immediately stupid for thinking that.

I've digressed.

There is a lot of advice in all your replies that make perfect sense and also help to calm me down.

Despite what I survived growing up, I have never doubted myself like I have over the last 5 weeks.

Learning that she has gone back to this online fantasy has in some ways allowed me to remove the doubt about myself as to why this all didn't make sense. To know that despite being a flawed human, husband and father, that my values, focus and who I am at my core have worth, that I'm always moving forward, even if I stumble.

That " The 180" list just blew me away how much of that I'm doing so thank you for that ecomama. Thank you as well the rising. Both your advice is amazing.

I just wish I wasn't so in love with her.

But now I need to protect my children, give them all my love more than I ever have.

Hi P77

I have C-PTSD from childhood/adulthood abuse. For me that's all "so what" in the mix of Ws behaviour in your case, in my case too. But I applaud your efforts of personal growth, healing & therapies.

Your girls & YOU will depend upon you to carry them through.

You've made the choice to "improve" yourself.
W has made her choice of continuing her affair.
I see that you are suffering from Ws infidelity, This is understandable. It's betrayal.

You said:
1. You're waiting for Ws decision?
2. Waiting for her to "wake up"?
3. From this "online fantasy"?

My responses:
1. By default you are doing the "pick me dance". You can Google this too re: affairs. All things in italics you can Google.
2. W is in the "affair fog" and is making her firm decision to stay in this zone with zero regard for the pain she's causing others, even you.
3. It's not a "fantasy" even though you want it to be. You are "minimising" Ws affair. This is an emotional affair. It's a real person who is responding to her in real time. They are in a REAL relationship, it's not in physical presence but it's real all right. It's within the very real realm of possibility that this person could & will fly out to be with her. Why not? Australia is a great place to live, especially with a sugar mama. They may have already discussed this.

SO this leads to now - you making a stand for your own dignity & self respect.
You refusing to be a doormat & an unwilling observer to Ws real affair in front of your face.

Please don't think you won't be cutting up cucumbers for your daughters in the kitchen for much longer....you will.

During spouse's affairs there have been many betrayed spouses who have presented their fait accompli to the cheating spouse in one fell swoop.
Tbh I would get prepared.

You can see the writing on the wall & frankly you do not deserve this type of abuse.

There's a Free Men's Legal Service you can call.
You can book Mediation (as per Family Law) & begin.
It's a LONG process.

IF & WHEN this process begins, W will KNOW FOR SURE you mean business & you will not put up with her bs a second longer.

Watch Brene Brown's "The Call to Courage" on Netflix. Her online talks too.

I'm glad you're connecting with the pain & learning how to cry WELL DONE YOU. This is NEVER a sign of weakness but a sign of emotional connection.

You're doing REALLY WELL and should acknowledge this to yourself.


Hi Pants_77

So happy for you being able to vent through tears. This is a unique achievement. Tears are far from an expression of weakness. They are an expression of overwhelming powerful emotion. Crying, sighing, screaming, talking the stress out of us (therapy); there are a whole stack of ways in which we vent.

If you were given a choice to be sensitive or insensitive, which would you choose? It's crazy when you think about it but that 'Toughen up' mantra we're often taught in life can be seriously destructive. In saying 'Toughen up', folk may as well being saying 'Become more insensitive. Become numb to emotion, your own and the emotions of others. Be careless in how you feel, rather than careful.' It does all sound a little crazy, hey?!

Exploring who you naturally are requires sensitivity. As a mum to 2 teenagers this is what I tell both my daughter and my son. Sounds kinda strange but, as I say to them, you will feel a lie, just as you will feel the truth. I'll explain. As a kid, some of us may have been told that we're hopeless, weak or we're unlovable. Have a think about how we feel this message through our body. Our heart gets this sinking feeling. We may feel physically sick. We may even want to vent (cry) immediately. The truth does not feel this horrible. When someone says 'You're amazing. You're one of the most inspiring people I know', we can be left feeling like we're on cloud 9. We feel lighter, through our body. We feel raised. This is what the truth feels like. We lose our natural ability to be human lie detectors when we are taught to 'toughen up' or become numb. Another benefit to being so sensitive: When someone tells you something that doesn't ring true or something that brings you down and you feel it, this is where you learn to question 'What leads that person to say such a thing?' as opposed to thinking 'What's wrong with me?!' So, you become sensitive to other people's quirky or questionable nature.

So important to be sensitive in life. There are many benefits we're rarely ever taught about.

Definitely a tough road for you to be unlearning other people's faults. You know all those faults that belonged to those around you, growing up. A lot of the belief systems you've inherited aren't your faults when you think about it. Some may even have been passed through many generations, without question, and now you're endeavoring to consciously put a stop to it. Pretty powerful mind altering stuff. 'Tis a hero's journey.



That pick me dance article just hit me right in the face.....

And then I read the affair fog.....

And then I read the minimising article.....

Im speechless.... just speechless.

And now I'm panicked again.

I just cant believe how text book this is.


And yet,.... my heart still wants to give this person who has been literally my best friend for nearly 20 years, the opportunity to come out of this, for us to heal and evolve, to save the family, the woman I love. But what I have right now is a shell, a poor facsimile of my wife.

Back to feeling like a love struck fool.

Today, in particular was weird, very chatty all day, starting most of the conversations (after making clear she didn't want to talk me for the last week or so).

she brought me a present because "you know, its been such a shit year and I thought you'd like it".

Nevertheless, I have gotten legal advice, evidence of the affair and we are for now-cohabitating until we get to counselling.

Part of my legal advice is to demonstrate my role as the primary carer, which I've been doing for last 5 months as well as running my business.

The further I look back, the more I see signs that I missed.

Love is so blinding when SO much trust is given.