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Well, LW1's marriage is definitely over, like Dan said.
The question is whether he can get over his anger and build a new working one with his wife. It might end up being better, because it won't be built on lies, but it's hard to know. He seems a fairly level-headed guy, for this level of revelation, so it seems like there's some hope.
How do people form relationships?
LW2:Creep, YES! For Pete's sake call the guy up! Gonna let you in on a little secret...the vast majority of guys, even the really good looking ones, rarely get calls from women, so it's kind of a special treat. He fucked you once, so there must have been at least a bit of attraction there (and I'm assuming you're not coyote ugly.) Nothing ventured, nothing gained...but have a plan..."Hey, Bob. I had a really good time last time...got some tickets to the community theater all-Munchkin cast production of Urinetown, wanna go? And if, by some channce, he turns you down, don't take it personally...it just means the time isn't right this time. The occasional rejection is the price of playing the game. Gotta develop that "water off a duck's back" attitude & try, try again.
I am not in any way defending lying. But as someone who did have hidden BDSM activities (in my case, seeing prodommes although my wife knew i was into BDSM befre we married and i tried several times to get her to engage but she felt that nice girls don't spank or pee on their hubbies, no matter how much their hubbies want it!)
And then at some point, trying to get my wife into participating, I had to let her know about what was and had happened in our marriage. It was coming out that opened the communication that allowed us to get to where we are today. I was a jackass (I just did the dishes so I am entitles to use the past tense) but we got thru it by talking. I had to let out that I seen prodommes. And not just that, that I would continue to do so in the future and it would ave to be open. The first time she sat at the computer with me looking at prodommes and deciding which one she wanted to accompany me to see was thrilling. When we swung and found cuckold play, it was better still. Now she knows that nice girls fuck who they want, spank and pee or find someone to pee on their cuckold husbands and much much more.
If you leave her you will face the prospect of finding someone new. Will you wind up with someone you are far less connected with? Who, once you have a new relationship, may cheat on you, or may just not fit as well as your current wife? Or may be fabulous and bring to you new levels? Who knows.
But if you work thru this big pile of hurt and cheating, then you have a relationship that survived the fire. But to get to that spot, you need to get beyond the hurt and you need to work out a new arrangement. She is not going to stop having sex with others, so that needs to be a part of your going forward if you don't immediately go to divorce court.
Finally the positively touching way you describe the relationship with your wife,sounds like if she had worked out the terms of the sex with others before it became cheating, then you would be in a pretty great relationship. You can choose to be hurt, or you can move on, with or without her. I'd try to make it work with her. Just me though (I'd positively get off on her escapades)
Marriage with two perfect children. I honestly have no fucking clue what I would do if I found out something like you did. I think it is commendable and
Noteworthy that you can even think about the love you have for your wife and about the wellbeing of your children. I know for me, the greatest pain in finding out about betrayal like that would not be about the fact of sexual infidelity, but about the discovery that my partner could deliberately hurt me so badly, for any reason whatsoever. I don't know if I would want to keep living with somone who could do that to me. But what makes it so hard, and what glib "DTMFA" commenters don't understand, is that the same person who did that also loves you and supports you and gave birth to your children and parents them and shares their soul with you in a thousand ways. If you decide to leave no reasonable person could blame you. But if you decide to try and heal your marriage, don't ever let anyone make you feel like a chump about it. It would take an amazing act of generosity and be a great demonstration of courage and faith and dedication to your family. Good luck, either way.
You want to forgive her. She wants to be forgiven. Work through it. Maybe spend time apart if it's possible. Get an apartment, stay with a friend, or vice versa. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. If you just see each other during counseling and overlap coparenting duties you can better see why you are together. And then when you are apart you can decide if you want to work it out or if you like being alone. Because if you split you will be alone. Not necessarily always but potentially. Weigh your risks and rewards. I think a compromise on sex would be the best solution.
from your wife. Good answer Dan.
Linda@7; I have similar feelings, finding out about this behaviour would be devastating.
Part of the problem here is that it's so gendred. Female infidelity has become A Blow Against The Patriarchy and Male infidelity Deadly Sin #8. (Rumpole's junior, Mizz Liz Probert, was calling it that way even before the turn of the millenium.) Normally I shouldn't mind how OS couples care to organize themselves, except that they will go and make rules and laws that punish SS people for OS misconduct. But I'll steer clear of the sexual aspect for that reason.
I suppose LW1 could study Dame Iris - in Murdochland, marriages tend to survive affairs on levels close to those of W1. But the difficulty (to pick to most non-gendred thing I can) in keeping the marriage going is that M1 has modeled Contempt for the children involved. To remain married probably requires a sacrifice on LW's part that is far more likely to do the sacrificer harm than to do the children good. But, staying or leaving, more counseling please for LW1 individually lest he take it out on the children (my mother did) and this situation turns into the Cracker episode "White Ghost".
I'm just hoping that the advice isn't for LW1 to Embrace His Inner Cuckold (or, even worse, Create one that didn't exist) or Be Thankful Because He Gets Benefits from her outside adventures. That latter strikes me as a particularly Reaganesque idea, which makes it really strange to keep hearing Mr Savage's pounding the drum for it.
Were her extra marital relationships compulsive in a way that she knew she’s doing something wrong yet couldn’t stop it, then feel really shitty about herself only to do it again few days later?
Either way, I suspect her pattern started long before you’ve met. For good or bad, she may have tried but couldn’t stop yet wanted a “real” life, like the “story” Dan alluded to. She probably grew up in an environment were women were not supposed to be kinky, let alone poly. Not to minimize her insincerity and manipulative ways, just saying where she may be coming from.
That she is “repentant and relieved that I finally know” is likely to be true. She must have lived in constant fear- again, she is the one to be blamed for it, fear nevertheless- and whatever the outcome is, she knows she’ll have to face her issues as well as the consequences, whatever they may be.
As for “she promises that she will be faithful from now on” – and I assume by “faithful” LW means no sex with anyone other than him- well, for good or bad I seriously doubt it.
I enrolled in the program in order to arrest “compulsive” behavior/s like most others. And like most others I didn’t go there because I wanted to. It took me few trials to find a group I felt somewhat comfortable to be in, and another six months to think I’m comfortable enough to tell my story. Even then I was sweating nervously just like Richard Nixon in his first televised debate with JFK.
Things got much better after two years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Listening to others- something I was never good at- made me realize how similar our struggles and joys are despite the different genders, orientations, background, and so on. And sex is only part of our whole selves.
With that in mind I’d like to point that LW’s wife need for secretive (or not) emotional connections seem to be just as strong as sexual. Looks like she had sex wth some guys just so she can keep it as emails only.
So what’s now? For the sake of both of you and the kids I’d suggest therapy together and alone, as there’s a lot to process here.
Give space to each other and also have designated times you’re on your own.
Attending meetings of any kind, not only SAA, can also be good. Talk about your life, listen to others, do introspective step work.
Decide what you take and leave, don’t be cruel to yourself by counting sobriety days, and always add things you like to your outer circle.
See your marriage now as a business necessity of some sort. You’re there for the kids and hope to proceed in a somewhat civilized way regardless of the outcome.
Avoid the calls to open the relationship, slam the door, or anything else right away. Try and work it out first despite the difficulties. If all fails at least you tried, learned new things about yourself and others, and acquired new tools to help you cope with whatever may be coming your way.
My opinion on HAD and his wife as to keeping their marriage going, now that they both know the truth about HAD's wife's frequent infidelity is what they both value in staying together, and making their relationship continue. But that is something they BOTH have to work on mutually. HAD doesn't sound like he's cool with his wife's having multiple sex partners, as he's found out recently. And they have their children to think about, as well. I hope it works out for the best, especially after 17 years.
Of course, she could have chosen to be honest with you sooner, but then you'd have been done 15 years ago. If your last 15 years were pretty good, maybe not being aware of the "infidelity" is a small (retroactive) price of admission.
HAD: Can't wait to hear the guespert's advice, but I agree with Dan. You need to decide which is more important to you: this woman with whom you've had a "wonderful life together" for 17 years, or a hypothetical woman who is monogamous. Your wife is not faithful by nature and she never will be. Can you accept that, lay out rules re: safety and level of honesty expected (some people feel most comfortable with full disclosure, some prefer DADT), possibly embrace that an open relationship is open for you too, and embark on a changed relationship with her, which does not include an expectation of what she isn't willing to deliver? ("Yes" and "no" are both acceptable answers.)
CMD @12: Thanks for your perspective.
The LW says he wants to work it out..
I see Dan trying to achieve that. If the LW had posed an open question, "what should I do?", DTMFA would have been uttered by many.
Maybe she won't change Fan@19, maybe she will. If she does some work on herself, following CMD's suggestions or by going into intense therapy, understanding her behaviour.. change is possible.
To be quite clear, I could see preserving the household as a possible best option if the couple can co-parent successfully. If divorcing would put an economic or even a psychic strain on the family (aaagh - the F-word!) [question to the really-long-time followers; before Mr Savage became the corporate behemoth he is today - I could make a political comparison here, but I won't - was he more inclined to consider economics in his responses?], it's not necessary. But the Happy-Face Temporary Bandage (waiting for the kiddywinkles to turn 18), which occasionally works for other problems, is less of a potential good choice here.
C1 has modeled (inadvertently on LW1's side) W1's spousal contempt presumably as the normal Way of Marriage. If they both really-really-really-really-REALLY want a genuinely good marriage and not just some fantasy of one, I see that as a major hurdle, possibly the largest. Most people would probably rather have the fantasy, and LW1 does seem to provide a worrying (however understandable it might be) inclination to Magical Thinking.
When students at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls finished the equivalent of elementary or perhaps middle school, they had to choose from two educational tracks, Classical being the more rigourous (Mary MacGregor was denied because her marks were insufficient). Of Miss Brodie's set, only the athletic Eunice Gardiner stood out to be on the Modern side, because she wanted to learn modern languages instead of Latin or Greek and have the extra emphasis on sports (being the only Brodie girl of any use to the school ideal of the Team Spirit - "Everyone agreed that Eunice was so good at games she could not help it."). Miss Brodie, in preparing her set for The Choice, would be careful to say, "There is nothing wrong with a Modern education," or "Modern and Classical; they are equal," but her own preference between the two was indisputably clear, even to the dim Mary.
That's not how I read it. When people are young/immature, they do feel some pressure to play it cool. I remember doing this myself though it embarrasses me to think about it. The idea is that you want to present yourself as young and free and cool and independent, etc. It's silly that we can't just say we like things and people when we like those things and people, but that's what immaturity is. So this LW left without any attempt to get the guy's phone number because she wanted to seem so cool (the sort of spirited girl that would just fly into your life for a night of fun and then fly out again without a second thought), and then afterwards realized that this was silly. It would've been much better to just say, "hey, this was fun. Can we do it again sometime?" but then of course you risk the chance of the guy saying no or giving you the number but not calling etc- and learning to handle rejection gracefully is also part of maturity, etc. It's understandable that she did this, considering it's her first ever hookup.
So the part that she worries might be creepy is that AFTERWARDS she's looking him up on FB and Tinder. There is no way she can contact him again without him knowing that she actually went home, thought about all of this, looked for him in various places, then found him, considered contacting him, then decided to take the plunge. All of which is absolutely NORMAL behavior, but totally destroys the (very immature) image that she has projected of herself as this spirited love 'em and leave 'em woman. It's a little like losing face. I suspect she hasn't really thought it through this way and instead asks if it's creepy because she needs permission from Dan that looking him up and contacting him afterwards is still totally cool and perfectly normal and she doesn't have to be embarrassed about it.
I think the whole thing is sort of charming, but maybe it's made me wistful for my own youth.
I agree with Dan that she could be a good person otherwise- they have had a happy marriage and a happy family. I wonder if they'll work it out. But she should've been up front about this from the beginning. I bet the secretive nature of her affairs is part of the excitement. The husband sounds reasonable. He doesn't say whether or not he would've been OK with an open arrangement, but since they are already kinky, I can't see why else she wouldn't have at least brought it up. It must be that deceiving him is part of her kicks. Why else bring her lover around their children? It's just such a violation. It's like some people really don't understand that they are playing around with people's actual lives.
Hope there's a follow up.
Nora Ephron once summed up some of the lessons she'd learned through life and one was: "People have only one way of being."
So it is up to you to decide what you want to do, whether you can move past this, if your wife is sufficiently sorry for the pain she's caused you. You can weigh the good against the bad, consider how good the good really was/is and how bad the bad really is/was. You have learned something that has turned your world upside down and it would be a good idea to sit with it for a little bit and let it sink in before reacting in any way.
I agree with those who say your wife isn't going to change--she's not wired for monogamy, and if you extract a promise from her, she'll probably cheat again, Then she'll feel like a guilty piece of shit and you'll feel angry and betrayed and hurt. So if you two try to work things out--and it sounds like you have something pretty good and some compelling reasons to try and make it work--know that you'll have to redefine your notion of what a marriage is or how it works.
I hope you find happiness, however it works out.
Monogamy is overrated in my opinion.
Honesty is not.
My ex is my ex because she was dishonest as a matter of course. At the beginning of our relationship, I laid down a condition that monogamy was a prerequisite if we were going to have a relationship. She agreed.
And then she cheated at her first opportunity. She hid this from me for a year, until we were living together. Something happened. I called her out, and she confessed. And then she gaslighted me. I was young and inexperienced, and I fell for it.
We were together two more years, and she cheated on me constantly from what I was later told. I don't know how I never caught anything. After I put two and two together I never spoke to her again. I could do that, because we were young and not as invested in each other as are you and your wife, so your situation is far more complicated.
My gut says that ending the marriage, or not, is entirely your call. Couples counseling is all well and good, but she should also be undergoing intensive therapy on her own (and making progress!!!!!) given her history.
It sounds like you want to stay together. I understand. But for the love of God, go into it with your eyes open. There are plenty of us in healthy, happy relationships that are not exactly monogamous, or where monogamy was never even a thought.
As others have said, it seems clear that your wife is simply incapable of being monogamous. That's not a dealbreaker if you decide that it is not, and if she proves herself capable of abiding by any conditions you may impose, but I dont know if she is capable of respecting you, or your rules.
Hiding and sneaking are corrosive behaviors, as you well know, and from your letter it's clear that she has a problem and that is 90 percent on her. She made it your problem to a certain extent when she bore your children, but she is responsible to make herself a better person if you decide to allow her to remain your wife.
But I see no reason why you have to make that decision now.
I wish you luck. You're going to need it.
But by this point she is who she is, and not a "better person", so try to not believe that she desires to be anyone but the woman you married.
Back when you were first thinking about marriage, if Mrs. HAD had come to you and said "I really don't think I'm wired for monogamy. I can't imagine having sex only with you for the rest of my life. Do you still want to marry me knowing that I'm likely to have boyfriends on the side.?" If she had said that, what would your answer have been? If your answer would have been, as I think it would have been, "no, I'm looking for a monogamous marriage. You should have told me sooner before I was so invested," then your marriage is over. I am so sorry. But if there's any possibility that you would have answered yes and then worked out the details, then your marriage does have a chance. It doesn't excuse her lying, but you do have some possibility of working it out.
The poor guy says they have two children. No she has two children and he has two possibilities. The other thing he needs to do is DNA testing. Anyone a vile and deceitful as this woman is certainly capable of passing off her lover's children to her unsuspecting husband.
I read thru a few of the comments and am stunned at the number of people willing to justify this woman's actions. It is shocking.
I think you’re mistaking “people willing to justify this woman's actions” with advice addressing HAD’s desire to work it out and stay together.
DNA tests and consulting with divorce lawyers are something he should look into.
Yet going all war right now is not likely to help with any healing and understanding of any involved. Again, it may not work but at least give it a try.
Not to be implemented right away, about two years from now after some soul searching and assuming a mutual decision to stay together and open the marriage:
Wife helps hubby find casual sex partners every now and then. If she continues meeting other men, two women for hubby for every man she meets.
For the last 9 years she has had two one-night-stands, along with a bunch of phone sex and online flirting. And she maintained an intimate but not physical relationship with this older guy, and made him a friend of the family.
With all that in mind, I would ask her her some serious questions: what happened in year 8 to end their affair? What are her thoughts on safer sex? Did she get tested for STIs in secret all those years? Did she trust to fate? What sort of sexual relationships does she want in the future? Where does BDSM fit in? Where does her marriage fit in?
In addition to joint counseling, I think they would both benefit from individual counseling to figure out what they want out of life and relationships and whether these two people, now being their true selves, are compatible.
Also, BiDanFan @19 raised the issue of HAD's "perfect children."
It sounds to me like HAD had a lot invested in seeing his life, his wife, his marriage, and his children as perfect. People aren’t perfect. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for something you don’t want, in the case of a relationship. You do, however, have to be willing to see people as they really are, rather than as you wish they were.
And as long as we're back to children, I was quite serious earlier about the danger of LW1's taking it out on them. I didn't know it at the time, but it was confirmed later that my mother did retaliate against me for my father's affairs, at least while she was still trying to save the marriage (with a Happy-Face Bandage). The one thing I can say in some sort of attempt at being as fair as possible is that she thought I knew what was going on and deliberately didn't tell her, but I had no clue there was boinking involved.
Please -- won't somebody think of the choldren!!!
HAD: (re: @19) That's it, right there. I couldn't say it any better. I hope everything works out for the best. Good luck.
@36 cgd: You have a good point, but I think BiDanFan is emphasizing what HAD considers important, here: whether to stay married to someone he knows is unfaithful under new ground rules, or move on after 17 years.
@36: Exactly, she's actively told him she can not be monogamous, has not ever. Trying to dictate that sort of monogamy with her at this point of their relationship is foolish and naive.
CMD @12, thanks for your insider's perspective on SAA. Of course, the wife would have to commit to engaging in the program and doing the very hard emotional work it entails. This letter reminded me of that old joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? -Only one, but it takes a very long time, and the lightbulb has to WANT to change.
I'll echo CTMC @39 that a paternity test is a very bad idea. Poor guy is already shattered by finding out the truth about his wife. The last thing he needs is to find out his kids have a different bio-dad. He loves them and they love him - that's what truly defines fatherhood. He and his wife will have a difficult enough time patching their marriage back together (assuming he is emotionally up to that challenge) without any additional drama around paternity.
Some more insider information:
“the marriage deal-breaker here isn't the long-term infidelity, it's the chronic dishonesty”
These two often go hand in hand. A person with a long streak of a specific repeating shameful act of some sort may develop a dual moral system. One as they want to be seen by the world, the other is coping with a controlled-or-not habit they feel they have to hide and rationalize it for themselves over the years.
Some here might point the latter at the husband. I think he’s certainly not perfect, as opposed to the children, and should face his own insecurities, unrealistic expectations and other shticks. While relevant and should also be addressed his is not the main plot here, at least not right now.
In other news:
Wales failed to become the new Iceland.
I note this, because if there is any reason to think that HAD and his wife might be able to get past these infidelities it is because much of this illicit sex took place nearly ten years ago, and she's has been more recently satisfied with online outlets. Of course, this assumes she has come completely clean about her extramarital affairs, and it presumes that online sexual encounters were o.k. in this context.
But I suspect these betrayals are going to be too much to sustain this relationship. Particularly so if staying committed requires HAD to open up his marriage when his preference is monogamy, and more so if his wife starts conducting an active extramarital sex life, while he struggles to find any outside partners. Of course there are other forms of openness, but if illicit aspects of extramarital sex is what motivates HAD's wife then there may not be any good compromise.
@31/klydeodewengi: Interesting point to suggest DNA testing of his children. As HAD writes, his wife's sex partner "is a man I know. She has introduced our children to him." Perhaps that introduction was made so this man might get to meet his biological children?
“she has been more recently satisfied with online outlets”
Whether right or wrong there are often-different attitudes towards behaviors that involve “infidelity” as opposed to others, say gambling. In the infidelity category the main sub division is likely to be actual physical contact.
Online activities with others, as well as alone, can also be consuming and provide similar hits as the skin-2-skin related ones.
“and more so if his wife starts conducting an active extramarital sex life, while he struggles to find any outside partners.”
My payback program was serious, though I’d suggest taking a mutual timeout and discussing all matters first in context of the entire relationship tune up experiment.
Nope. My kids have strong personalities, both of them, and I love them dearly, but I wouldn't have used any variant on "perfect" for them since they were six months old. Besides, HAD hasn't been away from his kids, unless he's emotionally distant from them. Do you have kids yourself? And would you describe them as "some variant on 'perfect.'?
People frequently start their podcast questions by saying something like "I'm a 24-year-old straight cis female living on the east coast," and then go on to talk about something that has nothing to do with being cis or 24-years old or living in any particular geographic location. People feel the need to use these little verbal place holders, and describing your children as "perfect" when they're not the point is typical and undeserving of comment or criticism.
What should husband do? Sadly, there's no changing the wife, she is who she is; her ability to become "faithful" is about as developed as his ability to be cool being with his wife fucking other dudes. Guess which wall will crumble first in the war of wills?
Sure, you can fight on for the relationship; but that's pride - no one wants to be a quitter, especially if the alternative is to be 45 and single. But both of you are better off being who you are - and fucking on your own terms - than the alternative.
Remember, as Elizabeth Bennet tells Mr Darcy when he wonders how well she has estimated his character during their two dances at the Netherfield ball, "I must not decide on my own performance." At the same ball, recall Mr Bennet at supper, when Mary, having barely made it through one song, is about to begin another, and his stopping her, "You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit."
I think my fingers become dyslexic when it comes to typing.
Louise Fitzhugh: c.1974 Nobody's Family is Going to Change. Thank you--I have taken note and will look for it in my local bookstores and libraries.
Don't stay for the children. Divorced people can be great parents.
Your wife sounds like a very good liar. I would be surprised if this was the only thing she has lied to you about.
Do what you think is best for you. Stay or go, but do it for yourself.
LW 2 Send that message.
CMD @34: Your idea would only work if HAD actually wants to have sex with other women. It's a strong possibility he's naturally monogamous, which is why I said "possibly" @19.
CGD @36: Because it's easier to believe a realistic promise than an unrealistic one.
Capricornius @44: I believe Mrs HAD intends to go forth and be monogamous, or at least at the time she made the promise she intended to keep it. But I don't believe her future actions will match up to her present intentions. She's cheated in every relationship she's ever had. Her inability to resist temptation is almost certain to override her promise, once HAD forgives her and they settle back into their routine. I wouldn't say she's incapable of being honest; I'd say she's incapable of being faithful, so better for her to be honest about it. (Agree that if it is, indeed, the thrill of deception that gets her off, DTMFA is the only choice.)
Nocute @52: I disagree. I think most parents would say they had two terrific children, two wonderful children, two beautiful children, etc. Not "perfect." Anyone who thinks their children are "perfect" is demonstrating that they're not completely in touch with reality. (Which was the point of HAD's letter -- discovering that his "perfect" marriage was not.)
Sportlandia @54: You forgot speculums.
Would have been simpler to just say "no sex with anyone else." (Which would also cover sex not involving penetration of her vagina, which I assume hubby would also disapprove of.)
CREEP - Erm maybe he wants to see you to but he doens't even have the benefit of knowing where you live! Go back and knock on his door and tape a note with your number if he isn't home.
There are other kinky fish in the sea who will treat you better, get free so you can have a chance to find them.
As someone who went through a less intense version of that discovery, my perspective has shifted on fairy tale happy endings with perfect spouses and perfect children and perfect neighborhoods with perfect schools.
Now my friends are kinky like me, my kids and spouse and lover (and their other partners) are human like me, and I get my happiness from small pleasures like a walk in the sun, rather than by contemplating that I've checked off the boxes for my happy ending. Not that you're doing that, but just to say that I speak from my own experience when I warn against describing anything beyond "this sunny day" as perfect. Call me superstitious.
Maybe you can all vouch for my application for veteran's PTSD-related disability compensation (from 25 years ago and entirely another story for another time)..? Obviously, I don't type so well, either----even when I'm sober (I can see your eyes rolling from here, Hunter).
Some Germans are bitter after what may be viewed as an unfair, humiliating defeat signed in France.
I wonder whether a Murray win or loss Sunday will have any effect either way on the English-Scottish tension of late.
Rather “the last time and the time after.”
Murray is our mayor, and he looks a bit like Paul Scholes or vice versa.
Bridge if I may… We used to play “spades” while in high school. Spade is the trump; one round of bidding and numbers only. My (cards-playing) partner and myself joined a bridge club while hs seniors. He continued, did very well, international competitions and such, but unfortunately died some 15 years ago.
Mx Wanna - Ah, yes; one can often tell who was a spades player because they say "cut" instead of "ruff" for trumping. It confuses bridge-only people. Our local newspaper ran a spades column for about a year, but it didn't take.
RUN. The sooner you get out, the less damage you will internalize, and the more hope you have of ever being able to trust or love again.
I am projecting, of course, but based on my experience, you're in the early stages of pain—i.e.: shock—and though you can still see a window to happiness, you are unable to take decisive action. You may still see your wife with love and desire, based on the years of living in a fantasy. It's so easy to run to that window, as it confirms your hopes. You may even find a sort of renewed "deep connection" with your wife based on the novelty of emotional purges and a closeness from "honest" conversations. You may even have some hot make-up sex, which will make you think you're making progress.
But these feelings are an illusion that will only delay your exit, and compound the damage. Eventually, if you stay—and unless the two of you do an expert job of processing this, which, given the naïvité exhibited on both your parts in previous years, isn't very likely (sorry)—you will only become accustomed to your discomfort, and you may possibly wind up a resentful, broken yet passive zombie like me.
After I learned of my wife's long-term affair—which began some ten years ago now—she acted ashamed and devastated, and made promises and avowals of love. Yet she continued to lie about it, and the bonds between her and her lover only became stronger. She could't bring herself to end it, nor could she quit me, whom she claimed to love deeply; just not in a physical way. I was in such a shocked state, so deeply hurt (yes, I know I was naïve, but I trusted her completely), that I couldn't manage to act in any direction. I only wanted what we once had (or what I thought we once had). As I learned more (you bet I snooped; how could I trust anything she said?), the words between them, and later, the videos, haunted my dreams and eventually all my waking hours. I became utterly paralyzed.
Then she asked if we could just stop having sex. It's a request you can't really argue with, can you? In today's terms, it is the “revocation of consent”. It was also a total rejection of myself as desirable, even to the one who married me and still proclaimed love for me.
At this point, Dan's advice—had I asked for it—would likely have been for me to seek extramarital fun. But I didn't want sex with someone else. I longed for the connection and reinforcement of love I thought we shared. It wasn't long before the thought of her in any sexual way became a trigger for pain—the mere sight of her body became linked in my mind with his face, and worse. Deeper and deeper into the dark I sunk. The only solace was the friendly, quotidian banter we engaged in about anything but our relationship. Total avoidance was less painful and awkward, so we just ignored it. Another big mistake. She seems to think I'm doing fine.
My self-esteem and self-confidence was so low I couldn't find a way to save myself; to say nothing of trying to look elsewhere. The depression resulted in me self-medicating with food, gaining weight, and becoming physically even less attractive than I apparently was to my wife. The anti-depressants that killed my libido did nothing for my pain, so I weened off them (my therapist has since found something a bit better, with no side-affects, but I'm not much happier). I have essentially admitted that my sexual life is over.
We're still married, ten years later, though now in a long-distance arrangement. I even visit her every couple of months to exchange custody of our dog. She's still seeing her lover, and if her personal ads are anything to go by, they see themselves as a "very sexually active hetero couple, looking for some bisexual threesome fun." Meanwhile, we Skype and message every day, and though she always signs off with "I love you", I'm unable to return the sentiment. I can't love anymore.
Even desire seems to have gone. The sight of an appealing woman often invokes the opposite of lust. I still have a vestigial libido, but at this point gay porn, for its absence of nude women (which brings up emotional wounds), is all I can take. I've become something like the male version of an abused woman who becomes what was once called a "man-hater". I don't trust love. I don't trust romance. I don't trust "trust". The transactional game of relationships—where love is entirely conditional, and played only for one's own benefit—is offensive to me. I find women and nice-looking men I encounter as attractive as wildflowers; something nature has created which makes the world more beautiful, something to perhaps admire, but with which I am unable to interact physically or emotionally. I enjoy Dan's column and his podcast, and reading all your comments. For me it's like visiting The Museum of Feeling Humans. Like visiting the camp of another tribe; fascinatingly similar, yet fundamentally alien. It's a small world, after all.
So to HAD, my advice is: Feel the rage, and act on it. It may be the only thing that can save you.
I’m afraid yours is the sanest advice here. I’m so sorry.
I also didn't hear HAD say that he wasn't open to a more open relationship, just that he was really saddened by what was going on without his knowledge. Lastly, I heard him clearly that they have a good and loving relationship that they are both interested in.
Maybe she won't be able to be honest about her needs, maybe he won't be able to forgive 17 years of deceit in this area (I didn't hear other broad issues) and so maybe they won't stay together, but I have hope they will be honest and heal and find a compromise they can both be comfortable with and be happy again, in full view, with no dishonesty.
I think the sane people are telling HAD to 1) focus on what makes him happy and 2) figure out the boundaries he needs to keep himself happy.
Yeah rage is as valid an emotion as any. But never an excuse to hurt others. If you need to wallow in it to "make yourself" stay away from the stuff that hurts you, fine. So long as you're not blaming everyone else for your unhappiness, so long as you're remembering that no one is going to make you happy but your own self.
That's not the way everyone works, though. When it's not some huge crisis, people simply avoid the things that don't work for them, no need to rage. For someone who complains that others' love is conditional, you seem fine staying married to someone who stopped meeting YOUR conditions to get "I love you" back. Healthy people are affectionate. Not martyrs or slaves who do what YOU want with magical unconditional love.
Depression sucks. I hope you get help. And a divorce. And the ability to interact with people who don't need to shit all over others. So maybe you can have a sex life again.
If you have to see her every few months because of your dog, then that should be it. And divorce her.
Let her go and find a new life for yourself.
You seem pretty lonely. Ever talked to anyone about your stuff- people in similar situations, trusted friends, family?
There are some issues you’ll have to look into yourself: if you suffer so much why continue, are you taken advantage of, dependency or not, did you always have homosexuals tendency and may be happier living with a man, and so many more…
It takes time to figure things out and one has to regain confidence in order to do so. Doing it all on your own is likely to be even harder.
Unfortunately neither pills nor a weekend workshop with a renowned expert offer a sustained solution. And be aware that sustainability also means withdrawals, demoralization, flash backs, and the like from time to time.
Lots of sweat and tears, but also joy and achievements.
I have said many prayers, shed plenty of tears, and can only hope.
Sitting and meditating in my sweet little car helps a lot.
@82 GasparFagel: I'm so sorry. I can empathize. I stayed unhappily married for 9 years too long before I finally broke free (I made a vow earlier to Dan and everyone here with Savage Love--so this is it on any recaps).
I hope all works out well for you and that you can heal.
Gaspar @82: Add my sympathies; that sounds like a horrible situation. I agree with the commenters who have said divorce now; stop the daily skyping now; get some counseling now. How dare your wife continue to say "I love you" after all she has put you through. "Thanks for continuing to be my doormat" is what she means by that. I wish you strength.
That said, he’s not the one to be blamed on either front. His colleague on the other side was phenomenal today. Ronaldo’s injury may have been a deliberate attack.
At least there were no pk’s.
Another positive outcome: very likely to be my last football-related post in here for another month or more.
That would have been Philophile @68 RE CREEP, the second LW who wanted permission to get in touch with a hookup. Dan said to send him a note. Philophile said to knock on his door.
There’s an exchange program going on.
Round-football questions will be answered promptly.
As much as I love my pets, "dog custody" is absolutely an excuse to stay in someone's physical presence and not about the dog itself.
@100 & @101: No contest--my cat joined my beloved, fully packed up car and me when leaving my abusive spouse. I'm the better cook, and my culinary skills as well as my physical and mental health since my divorce have only improved. Dumb luck that.
Flo, of cartoonist Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur fame, where are you? We need your ejection spring and trapdoor dropping Offshore Diner booth seats, preferably at the GOP Convention, and for easily swayed, especially stupid voters.
@105 marilynsue: Lucky we are, indeed, and thank you.