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I can't tell what is real or not since I found out about my wife's affairs
December 19, 2011
4:06 pm
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lear2
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I'm here because it's been a little over a year since I found out that my wife was having an affair.  It would take much too long to go over it in almost any level of detail, so I will try to give the most general overview of our situation.  We've been married for 17 years.  I learned about the affair she was in in the beginning of Nov last year when she made a comment that prompted me to look at her email for the first time ever. There I found an incredibly painful stream of very emotionally charged communication that made it clear that she was just in the early stages and highly charged phase of this affair (about 6 weeks).  I confronted her in an almost casual manner not knowing how else to approach it.  My initial feelings were not so much anger but devastation and disbelief.  She told me that it was over and that 'nothing ever happened'.  We went into a phase of heart to heart talks about it, etc etc.  I thought I would be able to handle it alone since it seemed like we were coming together and my devastation had, how shall I put it, softened me to the point of being a very gentle, sweet man.  I'm not by nature a macho hard ass, but I have dealt with the stresses of life and finance at times in a less than appealing manner, though never in violent or abusive way, just more generally angry at times.  So now I was a sweet, gentle, perhaps castrated man, confused, in love, afraid of my wife wanting desperately to be with her yet knowing that she was the source of all of my pain.  We seemed to have launched in a new, second honeymoon phase of our relationship.  Then about a month later, right after we made love, she began to weep.  She has wept in the past during our lovemaking but this seemed deeper and different in some way.  So that night I once again went into her email thinking there might be other reasons for her deep sobbing.  What I found was not at all what I expected.  What I found was that she had had another, much longer term affair that I would characterize as mainly hot sex, if not entirely.  Once again I confronted her about this new revelation and after denying several times, she realized I knew too much.  She broke down and said that she was an awful, bad person.  Ironically, I instinctually went to her to hold her and support her and tell her that she was not a bad person.  I learned more about this and she told me that it had lasted for 2 years. 

I have already gone on much too long and realize that there is almost no way I can condense this, for I have only just begun, really, but it will end.  I will say that we went to a marriage counselor whom I know well and is a wonderful person, she was not entirely on-board but did agree given the crisis we were in (she does not give much credence to counseling in general), and went through about two months of healing, and counseling during which time she continued some periodic phone contact with the most recent affair (lying about it), and once I found her lying about it one last time, it came to a boil and she realized that she had to end it in order to save her marriage.  A few months later I found out by looking at the phone logs (her many lies had made it difficult for me to leave this behind) that during the first month after the disclosure of the recent affair, when we were going through this incredibly emotional, loving re-awakening of our relationship, when everything appeared to me that we were in love all over again and at a deeper level, she had continued to talk with her affair partner almost every day during the week, and even learned that she had encouraged me to go play gold with a friend so that he could come up our way for an afternoon.  To this day she insists that the two of them never went to bed, but I also learned through emails that one day they met for several hours at a hotel and I even managed to ferret out (through the hotel) that he had made a reservation with a request for an early arrival that day.  And she still denies that it happened by saying that she did not know he was going to do that and she could not go through with it in the end.  I have confronted her several times about it, and she still holds on to that story. 

In spite of all of this, we have actually evolved in our relationship in significant ways.  We don't find nearly as much as we did at one time, and I would say that when we do they are really just minor skirmishes that we quickly mend.  She tells me that she loves me allot, and I too. It feels like we are so much closer than ever.  She has said so many times that she is so sorry for what she has done and the pain that she cost me.  She has told me over and over again that I am the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with.  She has even agreed (and not surrendered to) to going through a book dealing with recovering from an affair with me (Not Just Friends, by Shirley Glass) which I have found to be invaluable.  And yet in light of all of this great positive movement forward, I can't shake the images of way too much information that I discovered that continues to haunt me even as I loved her dearly.  She almost never gave me information about what happened unsolicited, and what she admitted to was often after denying it several times.  I still believe that she is lying about the real extent of her sexual involvement with her second affair which was really a love affair.  She does acknowledge that it was a fantasy that did not live in reality, but the emotions are nevertheless quite real. 

I don't know how to bring this to a close for myself because I do think we can make our relationship work and work really well.

Your insight and advice please if you have managed to make it all the way through this tome.

December 20, 2011
12:03 pm
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dop
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Sorry to hear of your situation. I would assume you are battling a multitude of emotions which is probably an overload to sort out. I have had a few friends go through this and the first thing I tell them is you need to take care of yourself. Guys tend to fall to their knees when their spouse has cheated on them. It's quite devastating to our ego's to think that our wife has had an affair. The first thing we do is to tend to think we have failed and want to reclaim and fix it. One of the problems that begins to show up is anger and resentment. You need to ask yourself can you fully forgive her. Will you ever to be able to trust her again when your not around. Are you going to torture yourself with images of your spouse with another man. One of the main things is can you live with your decision to stay. That is why you need to take care of yourself. You don't want to be beating yourself up for the rest of your life because you let yourself down by accepting the situation. You have got to be totally honest with yourself and determine whether you can live in a changed world with your wife.

December 30, 2011
11:57 am
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lear2
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Thank you for your response and valuable insight, Doplar.  I had not logged in for a couple of weeks since I wrote that.  I think you cut right to the bone of the decision I'm faced with, and I appreciate the importance you bring to really owning that decision and being honest with myself about being able to live with her without letting myself down by that.  

What adds to the complication of this decision are the other rather overwhelming consequences that would result from choosing to end our marriage.  These seem unfair choices but that's life.  My wife and I have two children, one in grades school and one in high school.  We both love them very much and even though we're struggling with the challanges that come with raising a teenager, we are both very committed to our family.  To add to that, despite all that has happened, I really believe that my wife and I are a great match in so many ways.  No doubt there are fundamental differences in certain areas (as in most marriages), but we have a great deal of compatibility, shared interests, believe it or not very good sex, and ironically, very strong feelings of love for each other. 

So the question that really concerns me is whether my decision to stay with her is predominantly to avoid to the horrific other choice: braking up our family and the devestating effects of that decision (destroying our family and our marriage (and 18 years of our life), dealing with the social embarrasement, for lack of a better word, the financial crisis that adds to already existing problems, the loneliness and isolation that is inevitable when one is no longer a couple, the guilt of the awful pain you know you have dealt your children, the humiliation on both of our parts when the inevitable disclosures surface, and so on and so on).  Quite frankly, I don't know how people actually go through a divorce given the price.  My guess is that they must have little to lose in the trade, or certainly didn't care much about some of the consequences I have mentioned.   Is the decision to stay mainly determined by how high the price of the other choice is and not really about choosing the one to stay? 

I know that none of this is either one or the other.  That it's a very complicated, gray set of factors amounting to the final choice.  And I also know that we rarely have the simple, easy, no brainer choices that are heavily skewed to one end.  I am frustrated by the thought that we are both, in essense, settling for one another since the other real choice is so terrible.  I guess in the end we must choose and be commited to that choice, and, it's also not the end of the commitment to that choice. It's up to us to make that decision work. 

What has kept my anger and resentment going, among other things, is that my wife sees the need for marriage counseling, of going through the process of understanding what happened and why it happened, as something I need, but doesn't see it as something she needs other that needing to do it to resolve things for me.  In fact, she doesn't want to go to a therapist with me, and will only work with me through the book I mentioned before (No Just Friends).  She doesn't see the point in examining her own resentments, frustrations and unmet needs that led her unconsciously to her behavior. She thinks that if we do it, it's only because I need it, not because she believes it has any value, especially for her.  And because of that, I feel that she has, in an oddly arrogant way, refused to accept real responsibility for her actions.  If she's doing it for just me, it's not good enough, as strange as that me seem.  For me to feel whole, she has to acknowledge that she herself needs to examine herself.  She needs to be more self-reflective, instead of having desdain for an effort to understand things authentically.   It's as though I'm the only one who has had a problem.  It's as though the victims of a crime are the only ones who need help to come to terms with what happened.

January 1, 2012
8:15 pm
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dop
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Having children involved would weigh heavily on my decision. Their well being becomes top priority. It sounds like this is what will steer your decision. However your wife put herself first over her children and marriage.  This is just a suggestion. I would seek counseling fairly soon. Somewhere in your conversation I would voice your concerns over your wifes inability to take responsibility for her actions. Your wife has indicated  that it is becoming more your problem than hers. My guess is she may not feel comfortable with counselling in fear she maybe called out. Your wife stays more in control with the issue if it's keep between you and her. I hope you are able to work it out but as you said you will become more angry if she cannot own up to it.                                                                                                                                   

January 3, 2012
1:25 pm
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Thank you for your insight, and sound advice, Doplar.   I think you got where my dilemma lies and where my biggest obstacle to moving ahead in a healthy, resolve manner is located.   I want to make sure you know that the disclosures of these affairs took place 14 months ago.  After the discovery of the first initial affair that lasted 3+ years on and off, she agreed to go to counseling with me.  To someone I knew and respected, and she knew a little.  Once she met with him privately, she really liked him (her first therapist was not someone she cared for and ended that in three weeks), and she saw him one on one and also with me as a couple.  This went on for about four to five months, and then she decided that we had made a lot of progress and she didn't really get much more out of it.  She was correct in that our relationship had really advanced in a much closer, more intimate way than before, and that I seemed to be in better shape after the first few months of deep trauma.  Unfortunately, what I learned over time after that, is that she had lied even during our initial recovery (before the discovery of the first relationship) when she had continued to stay in almost daily contact with her affair partner.  Looking back on it, I was so devastated that I wasn't able to stand up for what I should have insisted on from the start.   Over the months during and after our counseling, she lied quite often at multiple stages, and rarely offered any unsolicited information.  During the late spring and summer it seemed like we had sincerely moved ahead. Our relationship has never been better or closer, and I believe her when she tells me how stupid she was in doing all those things.  And she also tells me that she is completely committed to me and our marriage and would never risk losing me again.  When the anniversary of the trauma and her second, very emotionally charged affair came this past October/November, I began a downward path back into all of the obsession and information hunting etc.   Last week we talked again about dealing with these unresolved issues that won't go away, and she says she will absolutely work with me with the book and techniques to explore and resolve these issues.  However, she again rebuffed the value of therapy for herself while saying that she does support me going to counseling since I value it. 

I was particularly taken by what you said about control.  Part of the problem is that she is stubbornly not self-reflective. She says she makes a decision and moves forward.  She says that through all of our countless (and they are countless as you might imagine from my communication tendencies:-) discussions about it, she knows why she did what she did.  While I agree that she has learned some things from her initial sessions, I think she has simplified it for herself.  One of the biggest issues I have that is centered on trust is her ability and willingness to lie even after she's been found out.  Even after she has seen how forgiving I have been.  I am also still concerned about her ability to compartmentalize her mind and behavior such that her activities and relations with an affair partner didn't seem to interfere with our relations Of course, that is not true but her words, her behavior, her emotions, her feelings of love for me were all quite real she insists (and I believe her).  That itself is what scares me.  And I don't really think she understands how dangerous that capacity is.  I can't expound on these, but some of her actions were truly unconscionable, and so much so, that I wonder how it was possible. 

I think I may have to insist on the counseling again, and to a different therapist who might provide new perspective. 

Sorry for running on and on once again.  Your concise insights and valued advice unfortunately only generates more volumes of this stuff.

Thank you.

January 5, 2012
12:46 pm
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dop
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I am assuming from what you said that she tends to minimize her behavior and the issue is for you work on. I was also wondering what the previous counselor suggested. Doesn't seem that you came away with any direction. To respond to a couple of your quotes above and i don't mean to be harsh but I believe it is what it is.

The first initial affair that lasted 3+ years.   She tells me how stupid she was in doing all those things.                                                                         Just my opinion, that's along time to be stupid. 

Looking back on it, I was so devastated that I wasn't able to stand up for what I should have insisted on from the start.                                               I think your response is normal I wouldn't expect to be on my game when you've been blind sided with such an emotional situation. Don't start beating yourself up over what you should have said or should of been done.

 I don't think you have all your "why's" answered yet. Or a sense of sincere responsibility for ones actions. Have you asked yourself "what would it take for me to get past this". Maybe your unclear of what that might be. A different therapist might be the way to go. You may want to see one yourself to clarify what your looking for. Maybe someone else might chime in on this to give you a different perspective. 

January 17, 2012
7:43 am
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lear2
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thank you again for your insights and recommendations.  I'm assuming that you are trained in this area given your analysis and direction.  Here's where I am right now which is why I haven't responded till now.  Around the time that you responded to my last post, my wife and I had a very intense and emotional confrontation.  I use that word (confrontation) only because there was some degree of conflict but it was not in any way abusive verbally or otherwise.  I can't recall it exactly, but I think I just let her know how angry I have felt about her attitude and position on counseling in general (arrogant and ignorant), how the very idea of perhaps three months of ramping up with a new counselor seems such an imposition to her despite the importance of what's at stake (this view was offered by my own therapist), how she has viewed this problem with healing and getting past this as mainly my problem, etc etc.  I think I got her attention because she immediately agreed to go to counseling even if it might take one or two tries to get the right person.  And she also immediately agreed to start reading the book which up to that point she had used our busy lives as an excuse for not starting it.  I know this happened in large part because I put the fear of what could have happened to begin with right in front of her (meaning, the end of our marriage, family, etc etc).  Nevertheless, she started reading this book that very night and has made it part of her routine.  The result has been almost surprising to me, though I wasn't sure what I had expected to begin with.  On a few occasions she has turned to me after a while of reading expressing her absolute regret in having done what she did, etc etc.  One time she broke down in what seemed to me the most intense sobbing I have ever seen from her in all the years we have known each other. 

My conclusions right now is that part of her refusal to get seriously into counseling was not just a disdainful view of it, but an underlying fear of it.  Given that she's not naturally self-reflective, I think reading this book has forced her to look at what she was doing, what the effects of her actions were, and by making all of this ironically more real because she was seeing it from the perspective outside of herself and me.  She has also told me a couple of things that were unsolicited and which actually confirmed and expanded some of my view of her first affair.  

You mentioned that 3+ years was a long time to make a mistake. No doubt.  However, as bad as that was, I understand it for what it was and why it persisted.  This was purely a sexual escape and a way to get a taste of the taboo (which we both share, by the way, though I have never cheated).  I think that she never expected to get caught, and therefore never really considered what the catastrophic consequences were, let alone some of the unconscionable actions that were part of it. I do understand how people once engaged in this line of behavior lose all sense of perspective and many of the simplest notions of right and wrong.  It's not much different from the behaviors of a drug addict or alcoholic.  The one big difference, of course, is the addictive substance but here again, I think (and she agrees) that she has some degree of an addictive personality, which must have been a part of this problem. 

At this point, I want to continue having her read this book and around the half way point (almost there), we will start reading together where the exercises for repairing the marriage begin.  I want to continue in this manner for the time being rather than going to a counselor mainly because I'm satisfied with the effects of this approach.  You asked me if I had asked myself what it will take for me to get past this, and that is a very important question. I have asked myself this in some ways, but perhaps not directly enough.  What I believe it will take for me to get past this is feeling a sense of trust again.  Feeling that I can believe her and believe in her.  She and I have already undergone a significant transformation in our relationship simply in how we interact with each other on a regular basis (and this began about a year ago).  It's a far less adversarial relationship, a much more personally intimate feeling, and the beginning of an acceptance of what our lives are about, what is positive in our lives without constantly looking at what's missing (had been more her than me, but me too).  She has had to give up her dream of the life she had envisioned, and I have had to give up the dream of the person I had envisioned, and we both have had to embrace the life we do have and the people we want to share it with. "We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us", Joseph Campbell. 

Thank you for all of your help, and I do hope we have crossed the Rubicon in many ways!

January 25, 2012
11:38 am
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This is amazing to read.  You are very very lucky to have a partner who is willing to try and work together on this level.  It is inspiring to hear about what the two of you have accomplished considering what you have disclosed.  You are a very forgiving soul.  This must be very rewarding but very difficult on many levels.  Kudos to you and to  your wife.  I wish the men that I had loved in my life were willing to be as supportive and patient as you are being.  You know its not about the cheating, its not about the actual addiction (substance) its about how we use the substance or behaviour to avoid the pain.  Pain hurts.  I think as humans we try so hard to avoid feeling it.  It is often times overwhelming.  I see so many people swallowing, avoiding, just tuning out.  Whatever works to bring about a resolution for the both of you, you will figure it out if you really want to.  Please don't give up.

February 14, 2012
12:32 pm
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Wow. I find this very interesting and wonder if you have asked yourself "what have I done or not done that caused my wife to leave the marriage and seek out love in another man's arms?" I think regardless of whether or not your wife is willing to seek counseling, it would be best to go for your own healing and personal growth. Surely there are things you can work on with the help of a professional that will give you insight and understanding to make you a better man/husband/father. I had an affair with my boss and can tell you that part of what drove me away was the constant control and inspection of the relationship. I felt smothered and after nineteen years of marriage was fed up with the control but no connection. I think your fooling yourself to think there has been any real growth, especially if your wife refuses to look inward and ask herself "what caused me to go to such a place." I wonder about her childhood and the addiction you were not able to talk about. There is such a thing as codependency and I suggest you read up on it. This will happen again without getting help. I can promise you that.Best of luck.

June 5, 2012
5:24 am
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lear2,

 

Cheating is painful not to think that it's also a mortal sin. Whether you'd be angry or not, you can never get that moment back when she was still faithful to you. The decision now is all up to you. Can you still forgive her and willing to give her another chance? You may need to consult and analyze yourself first why did she cheat on you and chose to be with another man while still married to you? Ask yourself why she did that before confronting to her. There might be some things that are lacking in your marriage causing her to just have an affair. Remember that you both took an oath to be together through thick and thin, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, and till death do you part. Think it over before throwing the blame. It might be best also to consult a marriage counselor that can help you overcome your relationship struggles. That way, you will be given an advise before making any final decision.

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