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Having a hard time not knowing the whole story

WTFIwassowrong posted 4/20/2021 23:16 PM

I am so confused. I found out about a month ago that my husband has been contacting his ex wife the whole time we have been married. We are going on 18 years this August. I was looking at our phone bill for totally unrelated reasons and a number keep coming up. I did a reverse search and found that it was his ex. From June 2020 to March 2021 he had been calling her 3-4x a week. Started right when I started going back to work after the initial COVID shutdown. She never called him much, mostly just him calling her. I confronted him and he admitted it, I had proof, there wasnít much to deny. About 2 weeks later, he admitted he has called her the whole time we have been together. I feel shattered. I never suspected anything. When the exís mother passed he went to the funeral. I asked him when he came home, not to call her. I had no idea he had already been calling her. She cheated on him for 16 years of his 18 year marriage. During their breakup, she tried to get him to commit suicide with her. He checked her into a hospital and she checked herself out the next day to go be with her boyfriend. He says he hasnít been able to let go of her because he always worries if she is okay. I might could have accepted that if 1) I had known about it and 2) if he had ever called her in front of me and let me listen to their conversations. Instead, he erased all the calls from his phone and all the emails they have been exchanging through the years. He definitely didnít think I would find out and claims he didnít think it would bother or hurt me. She lives about 4 hours away and I am fairly certain it has only been phone calls, but with him being so sneaky I cannot wrap my head around him lying to me for so long. If it was truly innocent conversations, I should have been told about it. I thought we had a good relationship. He has treated me like a Queen. When I tell him, checking on someone occasionally does not include calling 3-4x a week, he just keeps saying he doesnít know why he was doing it. And it was so stupid and he is sorry he hurt me. I have been on a roller coaster for over a month now and for the first time in my life am having panic attacks. I have two children from a previous marriage. They were 2 and 5 when we got together. He was always so jealous of them that he couldnít be a good stepfather and most of the time complained and asked me not to be so involved with them. That was not negotiable to me. I stayed very involved with them and he stayed angry all the time. I resented him but could not leave for financial reasons. I feel very confused and told him I am not ready to make any decisions about us. He says he wants to fight for us and he says he cannot understand why he didnít think this would hurt me so bad. I donít feel like I am getting real answers from him for his behavior. We are both seeing counselors separately now, I am having a hard time moving past the anger. I feel like I donít really know the man I have been married to all these years. I never fathomed he could do this. I asked him if I had not found out, would he still be calling, he said yes. I feel so lost and unable to make a decision because I canít get any real answers from him about why he would do this. I told him if he ever speaks to her again, it will be over between us. I insisted about a week after I found out that he go visit his sisters in another state. I was so self destructive the whole time. I was drinking every night, journaling my anger, and even bought some cigarettes and smoked them. I hate smoking, but it was the only time I felt calmer. This week I am visiting my mom out of state and told him I did not want contact with him. He has texted me both days that I have been gone so far. I told him he has to respect my boundaries or we will never be able to rebuild trust. He has made his life miserable and has no friends. I think he was always afraid I would run off with anyone who came around. I have never ever given him reason to think that. I have been an open book the whole time weíve been married. I am 53, he is 67. I have a great support group of girlfriends which he has also been jealous of. He has a close sister that he talks to a lot but she is mad at him right now. Why do I feel sorry for him having to deal with this all alone? I am furious with him and of course there is no trust. He swears he never wants to talk to her again but I donít think that will be the case. Especially this week while I am away and have asked him not to contact me.

Bigger posted 4/21/2021 07:19 AM

Hi and welcome to this best terrible club on the internet. Itís a place you donít want to have to go, but if you do, then this is about as good as it gets.

What you describe is called an emotional affair (EA). The go-to book to both understanding and often healing EAís is called Not Just Friends by the late Dr. Shirley Glass. Itís available online, in paper, digitalÖ whatever. My recommended first step would be to get a copy Ė maybe even one for each of you Ė and then follow the steps in that book. If nothing else it will give you a better understanding of what you are dealing with.

I told him if he ever speaks to her again, it will be over between us
Are you really willing to enforce that?
You mention financial reasons for not leaving. WellÖ as a rule I see these ďreasonsĒ as more of an excuse than a reason but stillÖ IF you discover that she phoned him and he answered, or that he phoned herÖ ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO ENFORCE THAT ULTIMATUM?

If not Ė then stop using these types of ultimatums.
Use a more careful open one such as ďWhen I hear of any contact between you two it erodes whatever will or belief I have that we can survive. At some point I will decide itís not worth itĒ.

The1stWife posted 4/21/2021 07:51 AM

Iím sorry you are facing this infidelity in your marriage.

Your H is lying and cheating. Those are the facts. He only called her for one reason ó because he wanted to because he has feelings for her. Any other reason is a lie to you.

Iím glad you have your own counselor. That will give you the support you need right now.

Your H knew it was wrong and that is why it was done secretly.

The big question is what is he going to do now to fix the trauma and make amends (assuming you feel you can reconcile)?

It really stinks finding out your spouse has been lying to you for years like that. I know that pain.

Cooley2here posted 4/21/2021 08:08 AM

This is all about power and control. He has always wanted to control you. He came into your marriage as a broken person. Broken, scared, people grab on, hold on and smother. The fact that he did this behind your back is his way of thumbing his nose at you because you never gave up your sense of self worth. His poor sense of self worth might have started in childhood but it was certainly damaged by his first wife cheating.
Good for you that your children came first. Thatís the job of parents.

The1stWife posted 4/21/2021 11:40 AM

I would have questioned anyone who said I should not engage with my children so much. I would have thrown the person out immediately. That is a huge red flag as to a personís character.

Papercoversrock posted 4/21/2021 15:07 PM

As someone desperate to know at least some of / ideally, the whole story in order to reconcile and not have to divorce and end a long marriage with a wonderful, caring wife (other than the long-ago cheating of course), I can sympathize with your position.

I canít help but wonder if that is his position as well.

If he divorced without getting the answers and details he needed from his wayward spouse, he could still be haunted with intrusive thoughts and be seeking information to put the betrayal trauma to rest and perhaps heís maintaining or reestablishing a relationship for that reason.

BUT, if that is the case, odd that he wouldnít share that reason with you immediately (and if you mention it as a possibility to him now, I could see him, falsely, seizing on it as a better excuse than the first ones heís thought of).

On the other hand, because all my naive illusions that spouses donít lie to each other have been shattered and I now think this way. There is the possibility that he lied to you from the beginning, that he is the one that cheated and broke up his first marriage.

Welcome to the rabbit hole where you question everything you thought you knew. Sorry you are here but at least thereís some great company.

RealityBlows posted 4/21/2021 17:07 PM

Wow, 18 years...

Has he ever gone through counseling after his previous marriage? The betrayal trauma he experienced then, must have been horrific and left unresolved could certainly be the source of his clingyness (jealousy of the kids and your friends network) insecurities and antisocial behavior.

Regardless, you two are in an active state of infidelity which must stop immediately if heís truly interested in R. The boundaries you have requested are an excellent start but, as Bigger explained, must be clearly understood, realistic, enforceable and enforced, and closely monitored.

My current wife appreciates NC with my Ex except for professional co-parenting communications only. As a show of respect for her and our relationship, I have taken this boundary a step beyond and voluntarily add transparency whenever possible. This is easy. When you truly care about your relationship these efforts are easy and intuitive. I was married to my Ex for 25 good years and I have zero desire to speak with her other than co-parenting comms. My focus is entirely on my current partner. Which leads to the next concern.

He needs deep IC to figure out why he hasnít moved on. Why he thought it was ok to maintain a continuing relationship with his Ex, covertly. What damage heís sustained has a result of his ExWWís affair, and what issues he might have had prior to that.

He needs to tell you EVERYTHING. Full transparency. Was it just phone calls and emails for 18 years? Is she remarried? If so you might want to consider notifying OBS, coordinate with him on boundary enforcement and info sharing. Find out if gifts or cards were exchanged. Find out if money left your family coffers. What the hell do they talk about 3-4 times a week? What level of betrayal has occurred? Any deal breakers? Find out if there were meet-ups of any kind and, of course, evidence of a PA.

Get your arms around this before you commit to R.

Monitor him closely. Some will strongly suggest ongoing discrete surveillance of some kind such as VARs in the car, GPS tracking.

He may deny it. He may minimize it but, donít be gas lighted into thinking this was anything less than blatant premeditated willfully sustained betrayal and Infidelity. Iím sure your emotions are screaming that at you right now. He needs to sincerely own that, soon if not now. Iím sure he already realizes it...otherwise he wouldnít have gone through such extreme efforts to hide it for 18 years. That takes a lot of work-like a full time job.

Also, you YOU need to take time and consider what you ultimately want, if you can recover from this. Is this a deal breaker for you. In addition to evaluating if heís a good candidate for R, you must discover if you are a good candidate for R.

The1stWife posted 4/21/2021 17:13 PM

I doubt he will admit heís still in love with his XW.

But his actions do Telegraph that loud and clear.

ArkLaMiss posted 4/22/2021 17:54 PM

Schedule a polygraph test IMMEDIATELY. He's still lying. There's more, I promise.
Good luck. Go talk to a lawyer to know what your rights are.

WTFIwassowrong posted 4/22/2021 23:06 PM

Thank you to all who have replied. I too believe that his secret was in response to his jealousy of me and my children. I believe it caused a deep anger towards me and this secret made him feel in control and able to level the field from his jealousy. I spoke with my counselor yesterday. She said I should not share with him the reason I think he was doing it. He has been constantly fishing and trying on different excuses to see which one I will accept. He has always tried to avoid confrontations so that he can avoid any consequences of his actions. His standard answer is always, ďI donít know whyĒ. I asked the counselor how will I ever know if he is being truthful. She felt like if he can start admitting the ugly truths and facing what his lies have meant to him, we might have a chance, albeit, not for a long time. My anger has dissipated some, but now the sadness and reality has set in that he is not the person I thought he was and he has never been that person. I never knew there was a third person in our relationship all this time. I put WebWatcher on his phone, but he could easily go purchase a burner phone. Any suggestions on how I will know his sincerity? I havenít spoke to him for 3 full days now. I am returning home in 2 days. I will be contacting a lawyer just to find out what options I have financially in case I just canít do this. I am very sad, I canít believe my life has changed so much so quickly.

PricklePatch posted 4/23/2021 01:34 AM

I to struggled with not ever knowing the whole story of my His bouts with massage parlors. I know he was devout in his attention to his SIL. She flirted, her real target was his single cousin. In my heart with his behavior online and with her in attendance I believe he was EA on his side.

The1stWife posted 4/23/2021 06:10 AM

I donít know your financial situation. I am suggesting you get your plan B together in case you decide to leave. Have money in an account in yiur name alone plus copies of all your financial statements such as tax returns and retirement accounts etc.

Honestly if you have to spend your life monitoring a man-child who is jealous of your children then I wonder why you would choose to remain married to him. Plus if his affair was a revenge type of situation then you could be facing infidelity again and again b/c he could have some ďperceivedĒ slight about something really insignificant and go out and cheat again.

Your counselor sounds very good and seems to have pinpointed his issues and his ďwhyĒ.

Cooley2here posted 4/23/2021 08:00 AM

Iím going to stick a thought in here. Look up covert narcissism. After rereading your first post I see a little of that in what you say.

WTFIwassowrong posted 4/25/2021 10:55 AM

Thanks for the advice about covert narcissism. I gave him the 23 question quiz, he scored 102. Answers in the 80ís is considered high. He feels like that is a lot of stuff he needs to talk with his therapist about. Talked to him for a long time last night. I kept asking him questions about how he felt when he was jealous. What was he jealous of exactly? How did it make him feel and did he ever want to do anything about how he felt. From all my questions he finally admitted that mainly because of his jealousy, immaturity and insecurity he was very angry with me. Not because of things I was doing but because of how he perceived them, like putting the boys first or having several great friendships, jealousy of my ex, not wanting to have children with him, etc. Keeping his secret was a way of getting back at me so he didnít have to express his anger towards me and upset our relationship because he thought I would leave. He called her out of a sense of responsibility to check on her because he always thought she was suicidal. He said it never occurred to him that keeping that relationship could have led to other things. He never saw it like that. But when I told him how she reacted when I said something to her about wanting to commit suicide (she scoffed and said, ďoh yeah, that, huhĒ, like it was nothing) he said it was like a balloon burst and he felt really stupid for caring about her at all and taking such a big chance of losing me. He said he never really thought he could lose me. Am I crazy for actually believing him? He would not have ever admitted this stuff years ago. He was so angry in the past there were several things I didnít talk to him about because I felt like it would make him more insecure. An example would be having a dream about another man, even someone very unattainable like a movie star. I told him about a dream once and then had it thrown back at me over and over in a jealous way. I originally thought it was something we could laugh about. Nope. So anyway with the actual threat of me leaving he has seemed like a different man. I told him I am in no way ready to just forget everything. This has put me in a spiral of depression and anxiety that cannot be easily fixed.

The1stWife posted 4/25/2021 11:39 AM

Heís not that clueless. Iím sorry but he KNEW calling his XW and not being honest about it was wrong.

And it was not a one time thing. It went on for years.

Question is what is he doing to repair the damage and make amends?

RealityBlows posted 4/25/2021 13:34 PM

Sounds like he has a lot of unresolved Affair trauma from his last relationship. Did he get IC for that?

The hierarchy of priorities in a relationship should be:

1. The couple
1.5 The kids
2. Parents
3. Best Friend(s)
4. Career

The couple should always come first with the kids a very close second or almost equal ranking. Without a strong parental union, the kids will suffer or the parental union will suffer. The parental union is the foundation of the family. In a blended family this gets a little murky. Iíve seen older kids from the first marriage disapprove of the step parent and sabotage the union because the couple allows it by not prioritizing the union ahead of the disgruntled children. Where do you place your husband on your priority list?

I have also seen couples place their spouses below careers and BFFs.

None of this gives justification for your WH to continue a relationship with his Ex, as he has.

But, going forward, after his infidelity has been addressed, and his wayward behavior definitively fixed, you may want to take a look at this as well as any unresolved A trauma he might have and FOO issues that might contribute to his insecurities.

Iím currently in a blended family. I have three older kids prior and one kid with my new wife. My new wife has a kid from her previous marriage. It is a challenge keeping everyone happy. Plenty of insecurity to go around for EVERYONE involved. It requires ALOT of communication. My older kids get jealous of their half sister. My new wife gets jealous of my ex. I get jealous of her ex. Etc, etc. Everyone fighting for equal attention. Above all this shit, my wife comes first. Our love for each other keeps us communicating, keeps us from surrendering to our fears and insecurities and from interfering with each otherís relationship with our kids. It takes lots of communication, reaffirmation and reinforcement of priorities.

[This message edited by RealityBlows at 1:49 PM, April 25th (Sunday)]

nekonamida posted 4/25/2021 16:09 PM

WTF, he absolutely needs to see if he is narcissistic per his IC. If he is, there is no cure for narcissism. Management of his disorder has mixed results. Him seeming like a new man is likely a temporary show he's putting on to keep you from leaving. The chance of him lying and this going much deeper than he says is also highly likely. Please research narcissism more and understand what you would be signing yourself up for if you stayed with him and how the chance of you not going through what is called a "discard phase" is low. Your marriage is not likely to last if he is indeed a narcissist.

IF he is a narcissist, his repeated contact with his exwife makes sense. He's going back to her for ego kibbles. Maybe there's a romantic/sexual element to it. Maybe not. All he needs is to know that she's struggling without him (ego kibbles) and offer her some guidance (savior complex). My XWBF had symptoms of covert narcissism and this was definitely his MO. He hit up his exGF for that quick fix with secret phone calls and letters. Even if it wasn't romantic, that wouldn't make it healthy. It wouldn't make it NOT an EA given the context and the fact that he hid it from you. He absolutely was NOT "just checking on her". He needed that validation from her.

There's always the chance that he isn't narcissistic but the relationship you have described with him DOES NOT sound healthy. Raging at you over and over again over a dream IS NOT normal or healthy. Being jealous of your children IS NOT normal or healthy. Being jealous of your same sex friends IS NOT normal or healthy. Healthy relationships don't feel like walking on eggshells and being too afraid to talk about certain things knowing he could fly off the handle about it. Healthy relationships don't negatively impact your relationship with your children. They enhance it. Healthy relationships don't cause you to have to choose between your friends and your partner. Please get an IC for yourself and examine why you have put up with this for so long and why you should continue to keep it going.

[This message edited by nekonamida at 4:09 PM, April 25th (Sunday)]

HouseOfPlane posted 4/25/2021 16:44 PM

I feel like I donít really know the man I have been married to all these years.
That's because you don't really know the man you've been married to all these years.

It also means that now you have to get to know him, and that means starting with un-knowing him. Practice forgetting everything you thought you knew about him, and just seeing him with absolutely fresh eyes. Like he is a total stranger. Really watch him.

Because he really is a stranger to you.

Sending strength!

lifestoshort posted 5/2/2021 22:11 PM

He has a bond trauma with his ex. thats why he wants her. He is in love with her cause she cheated and left him too. He has power in calling her and her picking up. that beefs him up and thrills his ego after all that hurt.

to me this is not so much about an affair but an inappropriate exchange for years that he knew was wrong because he hid it.

when I remarried, I kept in good contact with my ex whom I have 3 kids with. My new husband seemed a bit jealous and I was attentive to that, but I remained friends w 1st ex for many years until he got a jealous new gf (to this day that woman is a sore in my side- she is actually going to prison now for raping her son) none the less, my then hubby knew I would hang with him for the sake of the kids. I never did anything appropriate, I asked him if it was ok and we invited him often to attend. whether or not he could make it was his issue (2nd hubby was cheating the whole time) I never hid a darn thing and 2, my kids are super honest and blunt.

so I can get having a relationship for a good reason,
but to hide any messages or that I was with them, would have crossed the line and I would have felt very guilty. what your hubby did was morally wrong and against his marriage vows. Id be super pissed and hurt too.

Marriage counseling is what I would recommend.

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