Posted: 26/03/2015 at 13:25
CM - I know exactly how you are feeling. My first marriage ended because I had an affair. The marriage wasn't great but it wasn't bad. In truth, I married for the wrong reasons (alcoholic mother, escape to new town) and then realised I wanted more. I was too scared to admit it (even to myself at the time) so took the cowards way out and had an affair and used that as the catalyst. Other party was also married (with kids, I had none) and eventually stayed with them - thankfully as it turned out.
I've been through all the guilt, shame, should-have-worked-at-it, I'm horrible, feelings over the years (it was 20 years go this year - help I'm getting old!), and it took me a long time to be at peace with myself.
I have accepted that I did a Bad Thing in having the affair, something I frown upon in others, but I also recognise that it takes 2 to have an affair, so I no longer feel as guilty about the effect it had on the other family as I did (can't help feeling some guilt, even now, especially as my kids are now the same age as his were then).
I know I made bad choices - I should have been honest about my feelings and either not got married in the first place or tried harder to make it work, or been honest with him about how I was feeling - but I didn't. Making bad choices is something we all do, but when it's a biggie that affects others, it does cause shame. I couldn't speak to anyone about the whole business for years because I felt so awful.
Tipping point came when I met an old school friend, and told her I was divorced. "Someone else?" she asked. When I said it was, she immediately started calling my ex all the names under the sun. I was so ashamed that I didn't even correct her! When I got home later I cried my eyes out. Since then I have always tried to take ownership of my "wrongdoings". I don't blame my ex for not being the person I wanted him to be, my mother for "forcing" me to get married because she was so awful to live with that I had to get away from her, or the other man for encouraging me to have an affair. I did it. I married my ex for the wrong reasons, and in hindsight did a good job of convincing myself that he was "the one". I let the marriage sink to the point I really wanted out because I wasn't prepared to make the effort to change it to something good. I embarked on an affair that I knew was wrong because it felt good, and we all like to feel good, don't we?
So in short, I was selfish - and that isn't something I like being. But I can't change the past, all I can do is try to be less selfish in the future. It's mostly working. I still have the odd flash of shame, but I remind myself that I have accepted what I did and that I won't do it again.
I can totally understand your feelings about N - he's a reminder of the whole awfulness of what has happened, and just being there is a barrier to you moving on. I may be the only one to think that possibly you do need to go it alone, for your sake and for your kids - but that's just based on my experience and I don't know your whole story.
Whatever you decide, forgiving yourself isn't the key (IMO). Recognising what you did (which when you break it down probably isn't as bad as the all-consuming shame would have you believe), rationalising some of the reasons for it (which in my case was selfishness) and making a pact with yourself not to do the bits of it that you hate the most ever, ever again, might help you move on.