Having read through this post I am struck by your strength , wisdom, compassion and clarity of expression. You really have a wonderful way with words. I found myself really feeling your mixed emotions – on the one hand wanting to be the supportive and caring wife to a man who is going through a hard time , and on the other hand wanting to look after your own needs and attend to what you feel and what you need to express.
All the while, you have a third hand ( not anatomically possible I know! ) which is being a caring nurturing mothering, keeping a mask of happy family on for them. It’s a lot to juggle and you express it so well in your posts.
I wanted to refer you to the wonderful work of the highly respected therapist Ester Perel . She has done a lot of work on couples and also on affairs and the meaning of them.. Look at her great Ted talk on youtube
She also has a great website
One of the gems that I have taken from her work is that most of us will have more than one marriage … sometimes with the same person ! What she means by that is that sometimes we have to accept that the “first” marriage we had with our partner is gone, now we have to renegotiate a “second” marriage and what it is going to look like.
After an affair, it is a good time to decide if you both want to enter into your “second marriage” and if so, what will that look like? What are our needs now, 20 years after our first marriage vows? How is it different? How have we changed in those 20 years? What do we know about ourselves and each other now that we didn’t then that might make the basis of this marriage commitment different?
What I mean is, you cant go back … neither of you can expect to go back to business as usual after the affair. Things ARE different. But you have an opportunity to decide HOW they are to be different. You said yourself that that you cant just move on like nothing ever happened and I don’t think you should. You need to spend this time working out who YOU are, what YOUR needs are, developing the strength and confidence to express them without fear of abandonment.
To have the belief in yourself that you deserve to have your needs met. If you keep putting yourself second in the belief that you are being “ a good wife”, you will cope for a while , but eventually you will start to develop resentments and anger Ultimately it is our responsibility to know ourselves and then express our needs to those around us in a calm clear way. Our partners may know us pretty well… or they may just know “ the mask” or what they want to see.. It is our job to show them some more complex sides to us and then clearly state (without anger or aggression) what we feel WE need in order to feel fulfilled, safe and happy.
I suggest you work with your therapist to clarify some of these objectives. I know he has mental health issues, but that does not render him incapable of some discussions. Bipolar illness does not mean he has no empathy, lack of intelligence or inability to tolerate some complex thoughts. It may mean that he will get “flooded” or volatile more quickly if overloaded with negative emotions so any discussions may have to go slow and be calm and clear… but I see no reason to proceed once YOU have sorted out your own needs and feel strong enough to present them in. It may even be a relief to him .
I’m sure he WANTS you to be happy, and I think he needs to know that talking to him will make you happy even if he doesn’t have answers. He just needs to say “I hear you” , or “I can absolutely see how you can feel like that”. Just acknowledging of the problem is a terrific starting point. Solutions come later.
Good luck with your “second marriage”. I feel hopeful that you can move through he chaos of this and find peace again .. but only if BOTH of you work together to create it.
PS therapists can really be super valuable in all of this as long as you feel they are neutral . You might need to find one that is not aligned to either you or your husband .