Far be it from me to question your therapist’s assessment — she’s spoken with you on multiple occasions, and her insights are doubtless more informed — but I think her framing falls short.
She describes your actions as a coping mechanism: You told a stranger lies and abused your husband’s trust to escape your miserable life. If you weren’t so fucking miserable — if other people and/or circumstances hadn’t conspired to make you so fucking miserable — you wouldn’t have done this. You wouldn’t be doing this still. But despite your therapist’s efforts to help you down off that hook, CATFISH, you seem determined to hang there. She’s offering you absolution, in whole or in part, while you stand around flagellating yourself (“POS cheater,” “fucking coward,” “bad person,” etc.).
Personally, I think you’re entitled to your feelings. Go ahead and feel terrible. You did a bad thing. It’s not the worst thing someone’s ever done online, and most people know not to take what a stranger tells them on the internet at face value. But if feeling terrible doesn’t motivate you to make changes… well, it’s not for me to question your sincerity. But some people think it’s OK to do terrible things so long as they have the decency to feel terrible about having done them. If you’re not one of those people — if you actually feel bad — doing something about it and learning something from it will alleviate your misery.
Here’s what you need to do: End things with your boyfriend. Write him an e-mail, tell him the truth about your age, marital status, and unavailability. Don’t share your real name with him; you’re under no obligation to do so, and if he turns out to be the vindictive type, CATFISH, you don’t want him to have your real identity. Apologize for not coming clean when he did — he lied to you too at the start — and thank him for the pleasure of his virtual company and the joy he brought to your life. Then block him.
Here’s what you need to learn: You didn’t do this because you’re miserable — or you didn’t do it just because you’re miserable. You did this because it was fun. We call it “play” when children pretend to be someone or something they’re not; child’s play is also, yes, a coping mechanism. Vulnerable children pretend to be big and powerful superheroes and/or monsters to cope with and momentarily escape their relative powerlessness. And nothing makes a child’s playful fantasy feel more real than a good friend who plays along.
Most adults don’t make time for play — most of us aren’t LARPers or kinksters — but even adults need play, and some adults need play more than others. You found a space where you could play (that online fetish forum), and you found a playmate who helped make your fantasies feel real (a guy you’ve never actually met and who could still be lying to you about all sorts of things). It got out of hand when arousal, orgasms, oxytocin, and promises you couldn’t keep got stirred into the mix. The play made you feel better at first, but the dishonesty and stress of deceiving two people eventually wiped out the benefits you were getting.
You need to find a way to build some play into your life, sexual and/or nonsexual, that doesn’t require you to lie or hide. It would be great if you could do that with your husband, CATFISH, but if he’s not willing or able to play with you, get his okay to play on your own.