Repost of my story with updates...
The first part of this post is a repost from my first post. I thought it would make the story easier to read. I've included updates of what has been going on since. I apologize for the stupid long read.
My wife and I had been suffering from a semi-dead bedroom for a long time. When we had sex, it was ok. But then we would go weeks without sex. Often it was only 1 or 2 times a month. I would get turned down often. We had many, many talks...some of them very emotional about it. She would promise to change, and things would get better for awhile, but then things would go right back to where they were.
But it wasn't just sex that was missing. It was intimacy. I distinctly remember getting a haircut in Japan, and the woman did a quick scalp massage afterwards. I remember being surprised by how nice it felt to be touched like that. Then I realized that I hadn't been touched like that by my wife in a long time. She always said it was because she was just so stressed out all the time between working and the kids. So I tried to take as much off her plate as I could. I started doing all the dinners and grocery shopping. I became the primary driver of the kids to sports, etc. Nothing changed.
Then I started seeing the signs:
- She was distant
- low affection
- peck kisses
- low interest in family
- more interest in how she looked, putting on make-up more
- working late (she is a teacher)
- suddenly stopped wanting to receive oral sex
Then I noticed weird signs. She changed the passcode on her phone. I discovered it when I picked it up for something random. We share everything, so it wasn't unusual to use each other's phones. She gave me the password right away, and said she changed it because the kids figured it out. But it was just weird, you know? And she didn't enable her car to read her texts outloud...which is something she always liked about my car before she got the new one.
But what really bothered me was her absolute lack of effort for big events. Mother's Days were elaborate. Homemade poached eggs and strawberry waffles in bed. Picnics to every botanical garden withing 100 miles of our home. Father's days were meh. On our 20th anniversary, I surprised her with a trip to Paris and a diamond necklace. I started planning and saving for it the day after our 10th anniversary. I worked with her boss to schedule her time off and ensure she had a substitute. A week before our 20th, she said she still didn't know what she was going to get me...ugh. She did almost nothing for my retirement after 25 years in the military.
I became convinced she was cheating on me. And once I got that in my head, it just wouldn't leave. I kept it to myself, but I was slowly dying inside. One day she had to work on Saturday (new parent's). She got all made up. Then, she called me from work and told me she was going to meet an old girl friend for lunch afterwards. I drove to the restaurant and camped out...and then she came out...with the girl friend. She didn't see me, but I was ashamed for having doubted her. But I still felt like something wasn't right.
I got to go to Hawaii for a work trip and we decided to make a mini-vacation out of it. I figured that this was our chance to reconnect. Away from the stress of our daily lives. After the second time she turned me down for sex, I finally lost my temper. I blurted out, "Are you having an affair?" She appeared shocked, then she cried. But she swore up and down no.
When we got back, she went to IC. (I thought that was weird, since I finally agreed to MC, but she said that she needed IC first). Almost immediately, everything changed. She became crazy intimate and crazy sexual. And it didn't seem forced. She touched my arm at dinner one night, and I was amazed at how nonchalantly flirty it was. I was like, where has this been for the last 10 years? I thought it may be the zoloft she had started taking, but it turns out that zoloft actually reduces libido. It honestly felt like she was love-bombing. It felt like to me that she had been caught and was trying to fix things.
One other thing I would like to mention.
One day a couple of years ago, my wife mentions that she rode with a (guy) parent (we'll call him "B") to one of the field trips. She works in a private school, so they rely on parent volunteers for field trips. She talks about how nice the guy is and how she thinks he and I would get along.I tell her that I am uncomfortable with her driving with male parents, and I ask her to avoid doing so if possible. She agreed. One of her co-workers was once really aggressive in trying to have an affair with me, and I built real barriers to limit our interaction. (I would never tell my wife, but I was really tempted by the coworker). My wife felt it was fair for her to do the same thing.
A year later, we are at a school picnic, and she introduces me to this same guy "B" and his wife "S". Over the last year, our daughters had become best friends. But, the energy was just weird. He was really awkward towards me, which I felt was odd since we both had military backgrounds. But he seemed comfortable talking to my wife. And my wife, who is pretty shy, seemed comfortable talking to him. Big red flag for me.
Then I find out he was a firefighter (my wife has a thing for firefighters). Then I find out (from my daughter) that his station is literally within walking distance of my house. Alarms are going off big time. Again, no personal emails. No texts. 1-2 emails about school work. I remain silent but vigilant. One day when S and B's daughter is being dropped off at my house for a playdate, I spy through our ring doorbell the interaction between B and my wife. (How crazy is that?!) I wanted to see how they interacted when I wasn't around. Nothing weird. He actually didn't even get on the porch. (but then again, it's obvious we have a ring...see how my mind is spinning?!)
Then this year, B and S withdraw their daughter from the school. Awesome, I think. Now my wife has absolutely no reason to see him at all. Then my mom asks my wife to start a Girl Scout troop. My wife tells me, she is going to ask S to help since S and B are experienced campers. The thought of B being on a camping trip with my wife is just something I can't stand.
Later, after a good day, and after everything blows up and is getting better, I tell her my concerns and ask her to cut them out of our life. She has asked me to cut out a few ex-girlfriends that I had remained friends with. And I did it willingly. I felt it was fair for me to ask the same thing.
I must say, I was a bit disappointed in her response. She said it felt like I didn't trust her. And she was sad to cut out two of the only parents that supported her in her first year at that school. I guess, I was hoping she would say, "sure honey". A couple of days later, she agreed to do it, but I relented...mostly because I didn't want my daughter to lose her best friend.
My wife started telling me everytime she saw B (due to their son still being at my wife's school, but not in her class). My wife refused to drop off my daughter at their house and instead sends me. But I still remember the weird energy my wife and B had at that school picnic. And I am resentful that that energy wasn't being directed at me at a time when it was missing in our relationship.
A month or so later, I caught my wife in a lie. A lie over something so inconsequential, that it was comical that she would even lie about it in the first place. The one thing that was helping me get over all our issues, was that I didn’t think my wife was a good liar. I truly thought that she could never look me in the eye and flat out lie. I was wrong. I called her out immediately with pretty inarguable evidence, but she just dug her heels in more. I was flabbergasted. I actually had a panic attack one day while driving thinking about it. I was a combat Navy pilot that flew in every conflict since 9/11, and this is what gave me a panic attack. Crazy. I finally sit her down and explain how this lie is affecting me. I tell her, if she can lie about the little things, then she can lie about the big things. She finally admits the little lie. But the damage is done. Now that I know she can look me in the eye and lie, I’m wary about everything she says.
Jump forward a couple of weeks. My wife starts acting distant and preoccupied…just like she did right before I was convinced she was having an affair. I’m worried about her, so I try to be extra nice and helpful. One day, she needs to take a bunch of stuff to her school (she’s a teacher at a private school). The stuff is in heavy boxes, and it’s actually her birthday, so I volunteer to drive the stuff over in my car and bring them in for her. She says that it would make more sense for me to just give her a ride too. So we drive together, but the whole time, she is cold and acting nervous. Small things like fidgeting with her hands and not making eye contact. I’m trying not to take it personally. We get to the school and we walk in together with me carrying one box. I drop it off and head out to get the other box and she goes to walk with me. I tell her she can stay there, I’ll get the box. I mean, that was the whole point to me coming. She looks really uncertain and a little annoyed for a moment, but ends up staying in her classroom. I walk out the school, and guess who is just hanging around. The guy "B", the one guy in my wife’s life I have always been suspicious about. Oh, did I mention, my wife made herself up super pretty that day.
Surely, this just a coincidence, right? B had to drop off his younger kid at the school. But he could have done it from the car like EVERY other parent. My wife was the one that suggested riding together. But why was she so nervous for such a routine drive? Surely she wanted to look pretty for her birthday. But man, it was the most effort I’ve seen her make in a long time. This is what the specter of infidelity and gaslighting do to a person. It makes them question everything, all the time. Even their own sanity.
I swallow my insecurities and things get better. One day out of the blue, I have a dream that reminds me of what my wife said to me during one of our lowest points…but before I accused her of cheating. I was watching her get dressed one morning, and she catches me. She says, "I appreciate you looking at me, but sometime its just too much". I did not, and still do not, know how to take that. I find her sexy. I want her to know that I find her sexy…even after 24 years. It wasn’t like I was making comments or being rude. I was just watching my wife get dressed. I bring this up to her, but she denies ever saying it. But she goes overboard in love-bombing me the next day, which only makes me even more suspicious about what was going on in her head at the time.
Then Christmas roles around. We have had this tradition of going to the Santa breakfast at the local firehouse. But my youngest is already 10 and does not believe in Santa. My two oldest are in H.S. The kids absolutely do not want to go. And of course, since B works at that firehouse, I'm not keen on going either. In fact, no one sure if it is still going on because it had been cancelled a couple of years due to Covid. So I'm like, "cool...out of site, out of mind." But my wife shows me one day an email from B with a picture of a flyer showing the times the Santa breakfast is happening. Ugh. I just want this guy out of my life.
The worst part of the email is the fact that it is very obvious that the email is a continuation of a previous discussion. But there are no other previous emails when I checked her phone later. Big red flag for me. But I'm trying to be cool. We go to the breakfast. I never see B. I do notice my wife keeps looking around like she's looking for someone. But I kind of am too, since I'm looking for other neighbors we might know. (of course none of them are there, because their kids are too old...but I digress). I ended up having to leave early due to coaching, but I figure my teen boys being around would limit any interactions. I have no idea if B showed up or not later.
Finally around February, I just can't take it anymore. I tell her flat out that I was really disappointed in her reaction when I asked her to cut B out of our life. I tell her that even though she had agreed to a "soft" cut back then, her original anger and refusal upset me. I had done a lot of growing since the previous year (thanks almost solely to this website and some Reddit subs), and I think she sensed my seriousness. She apologized, promised me nothing was or had happened, and agreed to cut B and his family out.
After that, it was really obvious that my wife started trying really hard. Unfortunately, I was hurt and bitter, so while I was loving on the outside, I was incredibly angry on the inside. She really thought we were on the right path, but I was starting to think that I could not get over all the hurt and, for the first time, wondered if the relationship would last.
I realized that if she was trying, I should too. I started IC. I don't think he helped much, but it did give me a chance to say things outloud. Getting my thoughts and feelings instead of bottling them up took a great weight off my shoulders (who'd thought?). I started feeling better, but I was still having trouble forgiving.
The therapist asked us for a joint session. Not really a MC, since he didn't give advice or anything. He just asked questions and pretty dispassionately took notes.
The funny thing is that after that session, things got SOOOOOO much better. It's like my wife became a whole new person. Agreeable, loving, passionate. And it was the little things. Like one time she was in my home office talking to me. When she left, she picked up a dirty plate that was on my desk and took it to the kitchen. You may laugh, but this was uncharacteristic.
It went on like this for about a month. Just the happiest I've ever been in my marriage. I had a couple more IC sessions, and said I felt like I graduated. The therapist agreed.
Then.... A week later, we are watching season 1, episode 3 of Black Mirror: The Entire History of You. No one that visits this website should watch. Anyway, infidelity is a main plot point. The whole episode is triggering, but one scene really gets me. The husband comes to a party unexpectedly. When he walks in, he see's his wife talking to another guy. The wife is all giggly and warm, but when she realizes her husband is there, she gets cold. It's a sci-fi show, so the guy has this moment recorded, and he keeps playing the difference beetween her faces when she's talking to the husband vs this seemingly random guy.
IT HIT HOME. This is exactly how I felt with my wife and B. This fictional character's pain, was MY pain. All the negativity I felt before came screaming back. All my progress was negated.
I didn't want to ruin the awesomeness of the last few months, but it was eating me alive. I told my wife that I was emotionally affected by the episode. She was very understanding, but it did take a little off the high we were riding. And I can't get it out of my head.
Then, because the universe hates me, the next day B's wife "S" texts my wife suggesting they should set up a playdate. My wife shows me immediately. I just roll my eyes. A day later, I ask her if she had texted S back yet. She says, "no." I tell her to go ahead. I tell her that intellectually I'm ok, but that my emotions are a work in progress. We talk about B again, and she reassures me that nothing was ever going on. I ask her if B ever ended up substituting at her school (oh yes, I forgot that part...he volunteered to be a substitute teacher. To be fair, my wife showed me immediately when she found out.) She says, she doesn't know. Then she says it doesn't matter, because B and S are pulling their son out of the school anyway. When I ask why, she gives me the details. Cool, I think.
That night, around 4 AM, I wake up with dread.
1. How is it possible to not know if B ever substituted? It's a tiny school.
2. How did she know so many details about why the son was leaving if she's not in contact.
I confront her (gently) the next night. She has pretty realistic explanations. But honestly, I keep thinking about that inconsequential lie she told me and how convincing she would have been if I didn't have ironclad contrary proof.
Long post just to say that I'm a hot mess. Things are still good between us, but I fear that they are sliding back to normal. And I fear that there is too much hurt in me to let go. I really thought I was doing ok. But 1 f'n tv episode just blew everything up.
Thank you for reading...
12 comments posted: Sunday, July 9th, 2023
Enlightenment I found off of a Tik Tok, of all things:
Not a Boundary: You can't talk to me like that
Proper Boundary: If you talk to me like that, I will hang up the phone
Not a Boundary: You need to do a better job
Proper Boundary: If you don't make these specific improvements, I will ...
Not a Boundary: You need to be more considerate and thoughtful
Proper Boundary: I would like you to do these specific things for me, and if you don't, that's ok, but I will not invest more time into this realtionship
Boundaries are not mandates for other people to follow
Boundaries are not demands
Boundaries are not expectations
Boundaries are not ultimatums
Boundaries are not idle threats
Boundaries are a particular course of action YOU take to take care of yourself when a particular set of circumstances arises.
It's about what YOU do
Not about what THEY do.
8 comments posted: Sunday, May 28th, 2023