This is my first post - so if I do anything that's not cool here - please let me know!
DH and I have been married for 16 yrs. Together for 20. Our journey has never really been an easy one. We've worked our way through an early bankruptcy (mine), substance abuse/rehab twice (his), infertility (ours) and now infidelity. In a lot of ways, we are opposites, but we have always had mutual respect for each other's differences, as they challenge us individually in many ways. He's the outgoing, full-throttle, passionate about life adventure-seeker, and I am the introverted, doesn't-leave-my-comfort-zone, compassionate and articulate cerebral one. It might be hard to imagine, but we balance each other out most days (and other days, it's really difficult, lol).
About a year ago, I found texts from a former girlfriend of his on his phone. Lovey-dovey texts about "being together" with words like "soulmate" and "safe harbor", etc. I confronted him, and he admitted to having an affair. It was a one-night stand, followed by email communication (she lives in another state). This hit me like a ton of bricks. In all our years together, I hadn't had to deal with this. Addiction, yes. Financial issues, yes. Infertility, yes. But not infidelity. If I'm really being honest though, I can't 100% say I'd never imagined it - because addiction is a slippery slope, and over the course of his two rehabs and subsequent family work, I always figured it could have been a possibility. It came with the territory for so many of his rehab friends. I never really pursued it. Probably because there was a part of me that almost couldn't handle it/didn't want to handle it, but also because I knew that there were SO MANY things that addiction does that were destructive to our family while he was using. I kind of drew a line in the sand, and after he got sober/clean, I looked at things as a fresh start. We're not looking back, we're looking forward kind of thing.
Back to the affair. He agreed to be open and transparent, to communicate with me about needing to feel connected to me, to work with a counselor and we started right away. Our counselor is wonderful. (She's also very expensive.) We tackled the chasm that had brought us to this place in our marriage. The biggest revelation that came out of our work with her, is tantamount to the idea of our "love languages". His love language is affection and physical touch (those are my least important ones, by the way). My love language is acts of service and quality time. She helped us find a way to explore these needs in a way that felt good. We dug deep and put in the work for a year, ultimately, focusing on trust and honesty and rebuilding our life together. I thought things were good and safe and comfortable. After all, we had worked through much harder things in the past, so I made an effort to dig deep into that well, and honor my own needs while also trying to honor his.
Fast forward to 6 weeks ago, our 13-year old daughter discovered pictures/texts on DH's iPad that she randomly had to use for school when her computer wasn't working. She told me about it right away (called me at work, crying). Come to find out, he was exchanging them with someone who had been a friend of ours - in fact, she was in my bridal party 16 years ago (!). I confronted him right away, he didn't deny it or excuse it. I asked him how long it had been going on. He said "off and on since I got sober (8 yrs ago)". She too, lives in another state. I read through the FB messenger thread, and discovered that for the past 8 years, they only exchanged texts/pictures. But they had been physical with each other before we were married - or rather - while we were getting married. (This was when he was actively using, btw). He apologized to me and to her. Things have never been the same in my family ever since. My daughter was essentially traumatized. She is not really speaking to him - 6 weeks later. I've got her working with a therapist weekly to help her process this. This has been the most devastating part of this entire journey. It's one thing for him and I to process our marriage challenges ourselves, it's another thing entirely for a child to have to be pulled into it.
Okay, so now fast forward to 2 weeks ago. I can't explain it, but once again, I (women's intuition is REAL ya'll) felt the need to dig into his devices. And this time, sure enough, I found an email thread with woman #1 (former girlfriend) about how they "were meant to be together" and how they were "soulmates" and blah blah blah. This time when I confronted him, I told him to move out. I was done. I was shaking I was so mad. He begged me - BEGGED ME - to give him one last chance. Like, literally, sobbing, crying, on his knees, saying he was sick and he didn't know why he does this, and to please, please, please not make him go. He said that those emails were all just a fantasy. It was an escape.He was never going to leave me, or our family, or our life. He was just getting the validation/affirmation that his ego is seeking. (I think this is definitely some kind of sickness). That was 2 weeks ago. We haven't even told our counselor about this yet - we meet every 2 weeks (this happened the day AFTER our last session).
SO. Here I am. I told him that for all intents and purposes, nothing he says matters to me. I don't believe anything he says. I don't have high hopes this will work out. I have so many questions. Is this just another addiction? Did he just trade one for the other? Is there any hope if that's the case? He and my daughter tiptoe around each other and I feel absolutely stuck and depressed and trapped. I still have to muddle through my daily life. We are in the middle of a basement renovation. We are a month from Christmas. My daughter is a typical, moody teenager who is suffering greatly in this climate of virtual learning. I am working from home (or trying to). Some days, I can barely get out of bed. It's all pretty soul-sucking. I have no idea how to move forward. He knows I don't trust him, and he knows his daughter doesn't trust him. But I'm just not sure that's enough.
I think my biggest struggle is the fact that we have an audience. Knowing that my daughter got unwillingly pulled into this makes me sick to my stomach. I am so worried about her future - as a woman, as a wife someday. On the one hand, my wish is that maybe she can see that marriage is not easy, that adults are not perfect, that people make grave mistakes and work through them, and the small religious side of me wants her to believe that forgiveness and grace are a good thing. On the other hand, my other wish is that as a female, she doesn't see a mother who consistently has low standards for herself and her family, and that she does not accept crumbs from her own future male partners, friends, etc. I am so overwhelmed with the idea that we have stolen her innocence, and that she is doomed to have dysfunctional relationships going forward because of all this.
I vacillate so much, on a daily basis. This has been such a storm of a marriage. From the beginning. And yet, after 20 years of this crazy journey, we HAVE built a life together. We HAVE had good times. We DO love and challenge each other. We both have major imperfections. I am so torn. I don't necessarily want to throw away everything, but I also don't feel particularly happy right now (understandably). I know that all marriages have their issues. Sometimes, I say to myself that other husbands would have other problems. And then I say to myself, that I deserve better.
Not sure what exactly I'm looking for here. I guess this was part-introduction, and part-plea-for-insight/support/advice/guidance. It would be so helpful to hear other people's perspectives on this. Thank you so much.