So my facts are different than yours, in some ways "better" and in some ways "worse." I "quote" those because it’s all horrific and awful and the worst thing I’ve ever been through by a lot. Bear with me while I explain, it’ll circle back to you in a moment.
My wife’s affair was "worse" in that it was much longer, happened much closer to "home" (it being with my best friend who was regularly around my family and in our homes), and involved my wife treating me with complete contempt for several years while literally accusing me in marriage counseling of EXACTLY what SHE was IN FACT then doing. She alleged I was hiding money, having an affair, lying to her, spending too much time on my phone, ignoring her, and so on. She distorted our past, distorted our present, vilified me, lionized him, and told him - but not me - that she wanted to divorce me to be with him.
My wife’s affair was also "worse" in that even after I learned of the affair, she lied to me about what she did during the affair with him for over two more years post discovery, and that was damn near by itself the reason I came within one pen stroke of divorcing her (I’m a trial lawyer, I’ve done divorce work for thirty years, I could prepare my own divorce complaint in five minutes). Her omissions and cover up lies were always to diminish the intimacy, both physically and emotionally. For example, she claimed for months to have always used condoms, she eventually admitted what I knew in my gut: they never did. She denied they ever had sex in our vacation home only to admit later that they did more than once. She minimized the number of times they had sex only later to admit it was many more times than she had first confessed. She admitted later that she’d given him money when he was broke. She minimized and distorted the degree to which they had been emotionally intimate long before they became physical. And so on. It was this prolonged deceit post discovery that damn near caused me to divorce her.
It was November 2020 before I finally told her "I’m done, you get one last chance to make a full and honest confession." She knew I was done for real, and she took that opportunity and made the full disclosure. We worked with a counselor to do the disclosure properly, as if we’d never had any disclosure discussions, and in a "safe" space that didn’t get emotionally derailed. What I learned in that full and final disclosure was 90% confirmation of what I had already surmised on my own, her confessions were mostly confirmations of what I’d told her the evidence I had pointed at, and there were another handful of disclosures that did come as a surprise to me but were not deal breakers (turns out my wife’s AP had a fetish for sucking her toes - which made her cringe then and more so now. When she told me that I literally laughed at her and told her "well, y’all can keep that one.")
My wife’s affair was "better" in that I did not learn of it until it was over for five years, he was long gone from our lives, and in those five years she had done EVERYTHING the collective wisdom of this board suggests is required to reconcile, with the obvious exception of telling me about the affair so I could make my own choice about the marriage. But in those five years of ignorance, she became not only the wife I always wanted but the wife most men hope to have. Totally honest, devoted, cooperative, basically the complete opposite of what I’d experienced for the three years of her affair. I believe that if I had discovered the true nature and extent of the affair during the affair I’d likely have divorced her. It’s hard to know for sure, of course. My kids were adolescents at the time and I was a very, very involved dad (for example, my sons did not play a baseball or football game I did not coach until they were playing for their schools). They are adults now, and they are better off for the time I spent with them when they were younger.
The time between the end of the affair and the day I learned of it allowed her to show me what kind of wife she could be. I was not confronted with divorcing a woman who was having an affair, I was confronted with the impossible dilemma of reconciling with or divorcing a woman who had spent five years being an AMAZING wife (but for the omission of a voluntary confession, which of course is not a small thing). I would never have been able to divorce a woman acting badly in the present, I’d have been divorcing a woman for what she did many years ago that I learned about only much later and quite by happenstance. She never had the "fog" and I never had to give the "no contact" ultimatum or enforce it. So the delayed discovery is a mindfuck all its own, but it’s in some sense "better" than the people, like you, who discover the affair essentially during the affair.
Now, back to something you might find helpful. I do not find that my wife "refuses" to offer me what I need. I have come to believe that she is constitutionally avoidant of shame and conflict, and she has become hyper averse to risking the marriage (again). If she gets a whiff of affair related disruption, she will feed me, fuck me, send me off to play with my friends, anything to steer very clear of revisiting the affair. She would rather double down on making the marriage better by acts, gestures, concessions, and so on than risk one minute of affair disruption. But it’s not rugsweeping. She never has insisted and does not insist that we never talk about it. She does not demand or even suggest or insinuate that I "get over it" (and if anyone wants to call it rugsweeping fine, but she’s been interrogated by a professional interrogator (me) for hundreds of hours, we’ve been to many, many counseling sessions, she’s never run from it or tried to bury it, she’s stood in the storm whenever I’ve asked).
Her fear is that if the affair is causing me a problem on a random Tuesday, I might sign that divorce complaint that afternoon. Her preference, therefore, is to not be the person who brings it up. It’s as if she thinks, "well, we are having a great week, must not be on his mind, better not remind him I slipped and fell on another man’s dick for three years." Meanwhile, she’s feeding me, fucking me, making a great living and stashing all her income in a joint account (we live on my income), co-parenting (to the extent one coparents adults), supporting my hobbies and interests, planning trips for us, and so on. She will, sometimes randomly and sometimes because she is tuned in to me, ask "how are you?" Or say "checking in…." In a way that clearly connects to the affair, not just an inquiry in the air.
So she doesn’t "refuse" to give me what I need. She has literally "refused" me nothing in the four years since DDay. Nothing. Any kind of sex, any thing I wanted to buy for myself, any time I wanted to go do my hobbies, anything. She has offered me 100% of what comes naturally to her, too. I’ve gotten the best version of my wife since the affair and we’ve been married for thirty years, so that’s saying something. So it’s not that she "refuses" to give me what I want/need. It’s that she doesn’t trust that if she is the one who initiates it, if she brings it up, if she says those things, that somehow that moment will be ruined, that it will be that moment that is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. And I understand that risk assessment, and I also see that there is a healthy dose of selfish self-serving convenience in it, too. If I’m honest about it, I would be even worse at her role than she is. I would lie, obfuscate, minimize, and be terrible as a wayward spouse. When I say, "there’s something I need to ask you, please tell me when is a good time to do that…" she knows what’s up and she’ll make it happen. So she doesn’t "refuse" to give me what I need, I just have to ask for it, which is not as good as if she would volunteer it without being asked.
Now, to the second part of your remark, about where would you be in ten years. I actually do feel better, far better, about where I am now than when I was only a couple of months removed from the discovery. We are now in a very open, transparent, honest, highly sexual, mutually supportive marriage that is actually a better marriage than before the affair, in spite of the scar she put on my heart. There has been a huge improvement over the four years during this very painful and difficult joint effort. So I encourage you to give yourself some time, you cannot know where you will be in a month, six months, a year, or four years. You do not need to make a decision now. You can, but you don’t have to do that.
And think pragmatically, too. I know you’re superlative at that. You can no longer have the marriage you wanted. You can no longer have the marriage you probably deserved. It took me a long time to accept that. It took me a long time to accept that I would not get the "prom to grave" love story we could have had. And that was crushing, but it was also a relief. So, to the present. If the marriage I promised her and that she promised me is forever unavailable, what is the next best thing that I can get. For me.
And that requires a cold comparison of what I have vs what I could perhaps get. I have a wife who loves me, who adores me, who does all things I’ve mentioned above.
What could I get? Well, without being too obnoxious and conceited, the simple truth is this: I would have the opportunity to spend time with many high value women. And let’s don’t get tripped up on my use of "high value" - I am intentionally using that in a 100% subjective to me and me only way, when I say "high value" I mean "women I would find attractive for all their qualities." I know I would have these opportunities because I’ve gotten hundreds of them a divorce, I know what the "market" is. I’ve been propositioned, sometimes completely inappropriately and sometimes in a more "well, if you’re ever not married call me" way.
And dating, and having sex with, high value women sounds like a lot of fun. A lot. But, I know myself. That would be fun for a while, kind of like going to a theme park - you go there to have fun, but you don’t live there. Soon enough, I’d be navigating a very complicated world with one woman who had her own past, her own trauma, her own separate family, her own wants and needs, her own eccentricities, her own reactions to my many eccentricities, and so on. And that negotiation, if it made any progress at all, might or might not ever put me in as good or better a position than the one I have now.
So, Dr. Strangelove, we cannot know the future. We can roughly know the past. We can interpret the present, but we need to do so with full cognizance of our filters, our biases, our pain.
Your head is awash in grief and pain but your compass works. Give it some time to settle down. Observe your wife over time, do not rush to a decision hoping that you can extinguish the pain or gain some closure or create the complete solution, either way.
Breathe. Enjoy that which is enjoyable. Look the pain in the eye and receive it. Know that your fears, your anxieties, your struggle is all perfectly normal. And know that you have time. You, me, either of us can divorce our cheating wives tomorrow without any further justification. And in that freedom is power.
[This message edited by Wiseoldfool at 8:28 PM, Friday, May 27th]