Adultery/Wife had an affair for 10 years
QUESTION: Ms. Giles,
Thank you for taking the time to address my problem. I am much obliged to you for doing so.
After many years of what I thought had been a very responsible and solid marriage, with a decent although reduced sex life I found out two months ago that my wife, someone I had always considered on the team, a wonderful mother of 3 with the highest honesty and integrity, had had an affair with a married man for the previous 10 years. I was crushed.
They would meet (according to her account) up to 4 times a year and began the affair when my youngest child was 6 month old right after she left the company where he was her boss. By the way, I found out about the affair in 107 emails that she had on her laptop and most of what I know has been verified by those emails. They met for the first 2 years in a park and had intercourse and oral sex deep in the trees. Of course this boggles my mind because I had always been certain that my wife would never do anything like this. I am not blowing smoke when I say she is of two parents who have long been honored in their community for honesty and integrity and my wife is of the same stock. After I started another job, they started using our family van (yes, we still have the damn thing) and did it on the backseat. Along the way they used a hotel a couple of times and used our bedroom once and his bedroom once, the former while I was picking up our son from his grandparents house several hours away and the latter when I watched the kids while she went "down to the mall." In short, they have abused our marriage in all ways possible, I have emails offering bj's on our 20th anniversary (he apparently enjoyed that day very much, WHO knew she could do such things?) and begging in jest for sex from him on my last birthday (and yes, he did get lucky). Yes, she even constantly told him how much bigger he was and how lousy I was as a lover. To add insult to injury, they even started texting nude photos of one another back and forth.
I tell you all of that because she is now very remorseful, she wants me to keep the family together and she claims that she got caught up in it and got used to it, that it was "only for the sex" (yikes!) and she never told me because she loves me and wants to stay with me forever. I believe she did fall in love with this person, but of course he loves his wife too and was never going to leave his family. But my wife is very loving now, it is like 15 years ago (we have been married 25 years this October0. During the affair she had cut me down to once a week for sex but now we are back at it all the time and she is better than ever. She seems like she wants to be together with me and I want to keep my family together.
But the question is, IF I am determined to keep us together, HOW can I reduce the pain of all of those years of what I call lost or false memories"? I look at all those photos of my kids growing up (they are now 14, 11 AND 10) with their mother on her 47th birthday with photos of them all smiling and email confirmation that she had spent that day in a hotel with her man who by her own admission did it 4 times in 4 hours (gee, what a guy....) I have so many photos and memories and they all seem so false now, I fear it affects my feeling for the children as well. If I could just get past some of that, I think I could let alot of it go. But I am SO insecure now and do not want to make decisions right now. Is there anything I can do to help my situation?
ANSWER: Dear Keith,
I understand that your faith is shaken and you are horrified. Now that the truth has come out, your vision of your wife and marriage will have to adjust to accommodate this new information if you are to move forward together.
Q: But the question is, IF I am determined to keep us together, HOW can I reduce the pain of all of those years of what I call lost or false memories"?
A: First, time is a great healer. You have to allow you both time. This isn't something that can be rushed. While the time is passing, use it to reconnect. You say your wife is far more affectionate than she's been in ages. Enjoy it. If you hold back, question, or resent her, you will lose out on what she's trying to give you now. The joyous past isn't diminished by what she was doing when you weren't looking unless you decide that is how it is to be. She was insensitive and dishonest, but that doesn't mean she didn't enjoy you and your kids too. Life is complicated. It's not usually and either/or thing.
>>>> I have so many photos and memories and they all seem so false now, I fear it affects my feeling for the children as well.
Don't let your wife's actions influence who you are. These are YOUR children as well as hers. They are innocent. They have not betrayed you. Your thoughts are normal, but if you notice that they create emotions and behaviors that are not in alignment with your value, please talk to your pastor or a counselor to help you with this. I am sure you don't want your children negatively impacted by your issues.
Q: If I could just get past some of that, I think I could let alot of it go. But I am SO insecure now and do not want to make decisions right now. Is there anything I can do to help my situation?
Commit to not making any major decisions for a year. You are going to have a lot of ups and downs. Give yourself time to know yourself and your wife again and see things with a wise mind (vs. an emotional one).
Life is full of disappointments, but disappointments can be our greatest gift if we use them to learn something, continue striving and grow. Use this to see what your marriage is REALLY about. Figure out who your wife really is and how you really feel about her. Find out how she really feels about you. Ask yourself what you want and what you value. Find out what the affair was REALLY about and use that information to try to meet your wife's needs so that she can be fulfilled in your marriage. Demand radical honesty so that these types of secrets can't happen in the future. This means you have to be more open and you can't punish her for telling you truths.
There is a LOT you can do to help your situation. The best way to do this is with the help of a counselor. A counselor can make sure you do the right things in the right order. He can support you and keep you on track.
So often relationships improve a little and then people stop working because they don't want to do the real hard work. A little later, it all falls apart again because the underlying issues were never discussed. If you want real resolution, you've got to do more than agree to not talk about it. You have to meet it head on.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Ms. Giles,
Thank you so very much for your prompt response. You are correct about ups and downs, just last night I was so excited to have popcorn and watch TV with her and she held me tight while I cried a bit (these emotions are killing me, I am NOT used to them!:) and we had a nice night. Then this morning I am driving in and so angry at the abuse, so angry at those two for doing it in our bedroom with all of our wedding photos around and I get frustrated. Then I call her (why couldn't she just for once call me with a "thinking of you" type-call) and see how she is driving to work and she cannot answer because she is listening to a book that is really good and I wonder if both HE and SHE are going to just move on (thanks to me, I have not spilled the beans to either his wife OR her parents) while I get to stew over this. It drives me insane. So I am back and forth, back and forth, while she and he get to just move along, reputations intact. My wife wants me to do NOTHING against him, she believes he is really the suicidal type and I should leave it alone. She does NOT seem to consider that her own husband, upon finding out, vomited repeatedly and hurt so bad that he spent 7 hours sitting on the edge of a bridge over the Mississippi River right after finding out. She KNOWS I am not the type to do it, so she does not worry about that. But he might, so she begs me not to do anything. How do I get past my anger for a man who by his own words in his emails thought it would be great fund to screw her "harder than she has ever been screwed in that bedroom". He needs some form of retribution in my opinion. He knew better and now cries to me on the phone, begging me not to tell his wife and kids. I obsess about him and read his wife and kids facebook and twitter accounts, and they just KNOW he is the father of the year! Again, he uses my wife again and again and gets to mock me many times in the process and gets NO payback? How can I live with that? The two of them would call each other in the mornings almost every week during this period so that she could talk dirty to him while he masturbated in his office. On business trips, she would wear one of his old shirts and nothing else and would call him late and night on his office phone and leave messages about what she was doing while masturbating and looking at photos of his penis. The hurt goes on and on and why does he/she get away with it?
As for my wife, she is nice and she is remorseful in her own limited way (although she has NEVER groveled at my feet for us to stay together so that I would KNOW she was truly remorseful) but she seems to be moving on just fine. Good lord, I have to feel better about this. I appreciate all of your advice and I thank you again.
All your thoughts and feelings are normal. Feel what you feel, but do not act from an emotional, irrational place. You will regret it. I promise you that.
I understand your desire for your wife's family and the other man's family to know what they did, but if you told them, your kids would know too. All of that would complicate any recovery efforts. You've got to think big picture. If it turns out 6 months from now that you can't take it, tell them all then if you still think it's wise.
It is normal for your wife to care about the other man- particularly if she thinks he would kill himself. Would it be better for you if she could have done those things with someone she cares nothing about? She is likely grieving a lost love. She is having a separate crisis from you. I am not trying to twist the knife, just trying to help you see why she isn't behaving the way you'd like her to. She had a separate life. She still has a separate life. If the two of you want to make it one again, you've got some work to do.
When a person steps outside of their marriage, it's because the marriage isn't fulfilling in some way. You need to find out what this guy did for her that was so attractive that she could continue an affair for ten years. If you can give that to her, your marriage will be secure again. (Or if she can figure out a way to get that for herself, but this doesn't tend to be the way it works).
If you want revenge and groveling, you are likely to be disappointed. That is not the way to love. There is no such thing as free lunch. Your wife and the other man haven't gotten away with anything. The things you do will also be yours to bear.