This will be long and meander about a bit…
What age are your kids? If this ends in divorce, then you definitely let them know in an age-appropriate and as non-alienating way as possible why you are divorcing. This has to be done extremely carefully for so many reasons. For now, just accept that it has to be done, don’t bother talking to your wife about it or arguing about why and if. IF you decide to go for divorce then at some point on the walk along that path this becomes a milestone. We can guide you on when and how if and when it comes to that point. Chances are we will suggest you do so directly without your wife’s participation or involvement.
So far there isn’t really anything unique or unexpected in your WW behavior.
I have never really understood the flash-in-the-pan, instant, happens like a bolt of thunder expectation many have that a spouse that is in an affair does a total 180 change the moment or instant the affair is discovered. I think it’s a gradual process, a process that can take TIME. Like I think a WS can only show true remorse – as opposed to the remorse of getting caught – once they realize the damage caused and that only happens some months after R starts.
Keep in mind that the affair took time to develop. There is nothing sensible or logical about infidelity, yet they do it. This isn’t like breaking your diet by eating a slice of cake; something that could be explained by a spur-of-the-moment decision. This is more comparable to being on a diet and yet reading cake recopies, selecting one, obsessing about it, buying the ingredients, baking it, eating a slice, hiding the rest…
Maybe it’s better to explain this using a very common comparison here on SI:
We often compare infidelity to addictions. Let’s imagine your wife had a drinking problem. When you confront her she minimizes, but once you point out that three times in the last 12 months she’s gone out for an evening with the girls and not come home for 72 hours (the three visits to OM city) and that daily she’s finishing off 2 bottles of white and some gin. She acknowledges she has a problem. Only her suggestion is that she stops going out. Or only drink white wine. Or only drink one bottle per day. Or only drink 2 bottles of white every second day. Or only quit for a week and see how it goes.
Fortunately, you are at a stage where you tell her no, it’s total abstinence. One reason you are so insistent is that you have access to a group of people that have walked in your shoes and they are telling you that total abstinence is necessary.
So, she agrees to stop drinking/ending the affair.
Any person that has dealt with a dry alcoholic will agree that initially the most important step is simply not drinking. If you are acceptably secure that she is not texting, phoning, e-mailing or in contact with OM… you are in a relatively good place. If this was alcohol then you would feel safer if your wife didn’t drink, nor did she spend time looking at the bottles or walking up and down the booze aisles at the store. If, however you came across your wife staring at a bottle it should and would make your doubt her commitment – sort of like discovering she’s been looking at OM Facebook page.
Any person that has dealt with a dry alcoholic will also share that without help and guidance sobriety isn’t likely to happen. Any recovered alcoholic will probably agree that the hardest steps were the ones leading to the first AA meeting, followed by the steps of starting and committing to 12-step work with a sponsor. All YOU – the person impacted by her affair – can do is demand she takes those steps. Maybe guide her in the right direction. But SHE needs to take them.
I think that right now she’s afraid of taking those steps…
That’s OK. But just like the alcoholic then if she doesn’t take those steps she will relapse.
The big difference between you and her is the support you have.
The reason you have support is because you shared with us – and based on our advice – with your in-laws and family. You are in the right. I don’t get a sense that her mom or sister or friend encouraged the affair or suggested she follow through on it. She’s not getting the support she expected – or rather the FORM of support she expected. Nobody is understanding or supporting or justifying her affair, because most people realize it is wrong.
Then there is the guilt – the admission of wrong…
It’s basic human nature to minimize and justify our wrong actions.
On my first week as a police officer my mentor suggested that I note that no matter the infringement or crime then whomever we were dealing with would minimize and/or justify their actions. This turned out to be true in nearly all instances, ranging from speeders that “were only following traffic”, DUI’s that “only had a beer” or “Gee… I guess I have the flu”, spouse beaters that claimed it was self-defense, pushers that “only sold those that want drugs”, rapists who said “she wanted it rough and enjoyed it”.
It was an extremely rare occurrence where somebody simply raised their arm and simply acknowledged that they had done wrong and shouldered the blame fair and square. Generally, those that did were people I only dealt with once as a cop.
One of the reasons – and probably the MAIN reason – your WW talks about missing feelings towards you and all that is to justify to herself her decision to have an affair.
It’s a lot easier for your WW to convince yourself that she had an affair because her emotions towards you were flat and that they became flat because you were distant or inattentive and that the affair “just happened” rather than admit the truth. Truth being she deliberately at every stage of the process decided to take it one step further along the road of infidelity despite knowing at each turn what consequences that decision might have. That she was getting some form of validation from OM or the affair that was neither healthy, sensible or logical. Sort of like when teenagers sniff glue. It’s a lot easier to say I was misled rather than I was wrong.
A key to personal reconciliation is when your wife simply acknowledges that her affair was totally 100% on her. She had options, she had choices but SHE decided to have the affair. Whatever you did or did not do, the state of the marriage… still her decision to go THAT route rather than a healthier and saner route. The actions or attentions of OM… still her decision to encourage it and follow through.
This brings another key issue: The affair was a choice and a decision. It didn’t just happen. There was a series of choices and decisions that led her to where she was. At any time or point along that path she could have made another more sensible and moral choice. Heck… a BETTER choice would have been to tell you she was divorcing so she could chase after OM. A BETTER choice would have been to ask you if you were OK with her dating OM. At least those two choices would have given you options up-front.
This decision and choice is very important. If your wife was walking with you along the pavement and slipped on a banana peel that would be an accident. If however she saw a banana peel ahead and purposely changed direction and timed her pace to step on it then her slip is no longer an accident – it’s a consequence of her decisions.
Your ability to monitor her and listen in… It’s a double edged sword.
Sometimes she’s only venting yet you probably focus on the negativity. Sometimes thoughts are best spoken, because hearing them sometimes makes the speaker better understand they are wrong.
What’s best about the ability is to monitor if there is any ongoing contact.
Then there is the fantasy and drama of infidelity… That in itself can become a drug.
Have a good understanding of what divorce would be like. Even if you don’t want to divorce. Look at it like learning CPR. You do it as a precaution. When you realize what that path really means and what it enables and allows it also makes you more aware of how delicate the marriage is and therefore the level of care and attention it needs to survive.
Remember how I told you to tell her she was free to be with OM? Well… She is also free to file. As are you. Neither of you needs the others permission or even acceptance to divorce. You don’t need to be long on SI to find numerous posters that claim they can’t divorce because of money or the kids or the pension or the or the or the…, or will divorce once the kids leave or that they are divorcing and have been for a very very long time while still living a married life… There are things worse than divorce or reconciling IMHO, namely remaining by choice in untreated or undealt infidelity…
My advice for NOW and the next days – maybe even week – is this:
Let things calm down a bit.
Be careful not to replace the fantasy and drama of infidelity with the fantasy and drama of either reconciling or divorce. Don’t go about all sad and moping – YOU have a goal. Your goal is to get out of infidelity. For the moment there is plenty for you to do irrespective of what she wants. There is no rush.
Even if you want to file then divorce isn’t like it has to be done today. There is loads of preparation. It’s not like you need to file first and then get copies of tax-returns, check your accounts and cards, learn your state’s laws on divorce and so on. You can prepare and then file once you are committed to that being your path.
I would also expand the circle that knows. Basically all stakeholders that can impact your wife. This is totally irrespective of if you D or R. If you R then their help might make R possible. If you D then it won’t make any difference since D will always alter the group of stakeholders in your life.
Start making the possibility of D real. Don’t make joint purchases – that car won’t be renewed, those reservations to Disney not paid, that boat not bought. Cancel plans to joint events: “I’m sorry I won’t be there. My wife has chosen her infidelity over our marriage so I wont be at the family reunion”. This is not done to shame but rather to make the affair real and the consequences of the affair real.
Make it totally clear to her that you are getting out of infidelity. You are maybe not 100% clear if that will be through divorce, but that she too has a choice and can impact your decision. If she wants the marriage, then she needs to convince you about that. The only thing that is 100% clear is that there is no way this marriage can survive if she is not 100% committed to it. While her decision is not clear then carry on with all the necessary steps for divorce – only skip the drama. Also make it very clear that YOU are moving on and the further along YOU go the less inclined you will be to slow down or turn things around. Her inaction will eventually force you to take the fork in the path called Divorce that eventually gets you out of infidelity.
Finally: I will never suggest making divorce harder than it needs to be but get rid of any “amicable let’s be friends” ideas. Divorce is by it’s very nature a confrontation and even amicable divorces are rough. Aim at having it fair. Best way to have it fair is for you to consult an attorney and have a good understanding of what to expect. I am fairly certain that in divorce the 80/20 rule applies: 80% of the cost is spent arguing over 20% of the value, and that tends to be value that either is entitled to but the other refutes. The laws tend to be clear and – for example: if she’s entitled to half your savings then that’s probably what she will end with, no matter how much you ask your attorney to refute it.
[This message edited by Bigger at 7:45 AM, January 12th (Tuesday)]