This is and interesting (and not uncommon) problem and I am glad that you brought it up, because I think a lot of people can relate.
(I'm going to cut/paste your post a bit in my reply - please feel free to point out if this causes what you said to be taken out of context.)
Originally Posted by ferenc
Why do I feel resentful that my wife is more present, loving and appreciative of me after she sees her boyfriend?...
I had quite some issues with jealousy, even though my wife was genuinely more loving towards me as a result of her other relationship. ...
So this afternoon my wife and I spent the most connected and emotionally intimate time together in years. When I asked what had brought this on, she said that she had seen her new friend and seeing him was reminding her to appreciate me, at which point I got upset and felt resentful that she could only be so connected to me after seeing another man.
I mean really, what is the matter with me? Here's something which is dramatically improving our marriage, and I'm resentful???
So, first off, I don't think that this is unusual or that there is anything wrong with you.
Secondly, I completely understand where your wife is coming from.
I will expand:
I think that it is not unusual for the established partner to have some degree of resentment that it took another person for their partner to "see the light" in terms of realizing how awesome their established partner is. ("If I am so great, how come you didn't see it before?")
be thinking (not saying that you are): "Here is this newcomer, who barely knows her, and his mere presence can cause her to see her immediate surroundings and relationships in a new light? I've been here the whole time, we have these significant conversations, done all this work, but THAT wasn't enough?!"
Let me come up with an analogy...you have a box of old pictures. You kept them because you actually really like them, but most of the time they are in a box in the closet, you take them out occasionally, look through them, reminisce, and back they go. A friend of yours takes up a new hobby, and asks you for your favorite picture. You pick out one of your "old favorites" and give it to them. They take it, clean it up, blow it up, mat it and frame it - and THEN you see this picture in a whole new light. This picture, your favorite, that was hidden in a box of snapshots is now (da-da-DA) a "Work of Art." The picture is still the same picture...but the context
Sometimes we don't see our partners fully because of all the day-to-day crud (bills, laundry, chores, etc.) and past baggage (ongoing fights/disagreements, past betrayals - however small, times of neglect, etc) that many long-term relationships have. Sometimes, it takes a shift in perspective/context for us to realize/see what was there all along.
My relationship with MrS was good before Dude came along. We weren't perfect, but we were solid. Many of our friends looked at our marriage as the best example of "happy" they had ever seen. Yet still, when (after one of the most tumultuous times of our 20 years together) MrS gave his stamp of approval to my exploring things with Dude..holy shit, MrS came into "focus" in a way that I can only compare to our early NRE days.
THIS man, who has stood beside me through years of my own angst-y shit, who has explored life with me day-by-day-by-dreary-day, who has seen me at my best and my worst - he is still here. Someone I have sometimes taken out my anger on (unwarranted), that I have neglected at times (because he is a fixture in my life), THIS man is here, by my side, through THIS - my exploration of a connection with an "other." Even THIS is not enough to shake his love for me - even though he is uncomfortable at times, even though he is unsure at times, even though he can't predict how things will turn out. Still, here he is, hanging on - to me, to us, to our marriage, to what we have created together. How could I have not seen? How could I NOT love this WONDERFUL man? (Ah-hah! a light - I CAN'T NOT
love him...NOW I can really SEE and APPRECIATE this man that is my husband.)
Originally Posted by ferenc
A little background, we've been together 11 years and still love each other. We've had a tough past 5 years and it turns out we don't deal with stress too well, and we've been behaving badly towards each other and fallen into some bad habits which we are in the process of fixing (being reactive, not listening properly, not talking nicely). So while we love each other, I would not say we're totally secure and have complete trust in each other (again, yet). Both of us being depressed (on medication) probably isn't helping either...
I think that the insecurity and "rocky foundation" are probably playing a large role here in your reaction. You are "framing" her responses in terms of your old bad habits. The solutions, from my standpoint (and this is only my opinion) is to recognize when your "old behaviors" (being reactive, not listening properly, not talking nicely) are coming to the forefront and taking things S-L-O-W-L-Y.
If anything in this (too long) post was helpful - great. If this ramble was not useful, feel free to ignore it.