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Marriage/After a One Night Stand While On Vacation


Dear Dr. Becky,

This is a loaded question with many background facts that contribute to where my relationship with my wife stands at this time.  The current situation is that 6 weeks ago I had a one night stand while on vacation out of country, alone.  The woman was much older than I was, and not nearly as attractive as my wife. The other part was during the same vacation, I developed intense feelings for a girl local to the country I was visiting.  She turned out to be only 21. I am in my mid 30's. Ironically I was respectful of this relationship in the sense that I did not do anything physical with her.

I anguished  over my apparent new feelings, ones that at the time I felt were new, and possibly love at first sight.  I consciously decided to try to harness my "adult" thinking and understand what was going on.  In a few short days I managed to destroy my life.

What I discovered through my thinking process was that the feelings I experienced were intensified by what I was lacking in my own relationship. The relationship I started abroad was not realistic.  There was a language barrier, age barrier, location barrier, socito-economic barrier and the fact that I knew nothing about this girl.  So what I experienced was adoration and appreciation. Someone found me interesting.

The actual physical affair, in my opinion was a result of many combined things: Just desire to have sex, unemotional marital sex life, pornography addiction, desire to "hunt", boredom... the list goes on.  The end result was that I regretted it and was embarrassed by my actions.

Upon arrival back home, I made the decision to tell my wife about the emotional connection I made, but not about the physical affair.  After a few days I felt that I needed to come clean about everything and dropped the second bomb.  This was also inspired by the threat of an STD (which after us both being tested was not the case).  

So after all of that (summarized of course), my wife decided to stay with me.  We were working on the things we shared with each other.  We talked more than we ever did before.  Our sex was intense and for me very meaningful and passionate.  We had sex nearly everyday for over 5 weeks.  We had a lovely vacation as well, probably the best we've had.

The problem is that when we got home, reality shot right back.  She suddenly is back to bashing me verbally (and she has the right to given what I did).  This was the behaviour before I went on my trip that I hated.  The way she acted when she got angry was verbal violence.  She now wants a divorce.  In 4 days, she went from really trying, to separating, to divorce.  I know there is a cycle, I have been through it (she cheated on me 4 years ago).  I know it takes a long time.  In fact through this event, I was able to open up the wounds from her affair and deal with them properly.

My question is, how do I move forward?  I love her and feel she is making a wrong decision.  I know her so well.  I know she loves me and I feel that she is wanting avoid me so she doesn't have to face the hurt.  I am prepared to accept the consequences of my actions though.  I do want this to work, and want to know how to show her my trustworthiness, and ultimately my love.

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for writing. It sounds like you have quite a mess on your hands. If I was seeing you and your wife during this crisis, I would tell you that it is premature to divorce at this time as it is never smart to make irrevocable, important decisions in the midst of an emotional upheaval. It is much wiser to slow down and move through this process deliberately and wisely. This is an absolute if you have children involved.

There is no way that you two should proceed one step further without professional guidance. This is such a fragile time that one wrong move could send the marriage into the disaster zone. Just the nature of a marital crisis means that chemicals are coursing through your brain that make each of you irrational and incapable of making wise decisions. One day one person wants in, the next day out. A marriage therapist will show you how to endure the crisis, and to repair the things in your marriage that got you into this season of discontentment in the first place. A therapist will also tell you whether it is wise to separate at this time, or whether you should live together for now.

One thing is for sure, you have been behaving in extremely immature ways lately. This can be completely understandable in certain contexts, and I am sure you have reams of reasons. There simply isn't enough information here for me to tell you much more other than you absolutely must get yourselves to a counselor for professional guidance. Your family and future depend on it.

I hope this helps.

Doctor Becky


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