Dear Mr. Fibble,
Thank you for your kind words and sorry you are in this position.
In my profession – like many professions – I interact with people a lot. It’s very important for me to have an idea of “the truth” when I do what I do, mostly to protect the client. As a result, I focus heavily on actions and give short shift to words.
People lie to protect themselves. It’s a terrible thing, but they lie because they don’t want the consequences of their actions. There’s a saying (that I’m probably butchering) but it goes something like “it’s not the lie that gets you, it’s the cover-up.” And, yet, people still lie in the face of inescapable evidence.
To do this is human. To do this is instinctual. To do this hurts others, but it is something hardwired into us – at least on some level.
The first thing you need before you make a decision as monumental as the one you’re making is an idea of “the truth.” It is just now – days ago – where you got that. Because of the speed of the divorce process you’re forced into making a decision where – and forgive me if I am wrong – I don’t feel you have enough time to build the knowledge of “the truth” into your process.
Some life altering decisions get forced on us with very little time to make a call – such as medical and some employment decisions.
This is one of those decisions. It’s a huge one. You have two roads where your life could take wildly different courses.
On the one hand, you might be able to salvage something with your WW with a huge amount of effort. You might be able to keep the home together. You might be able to maintain this life, now with some tics and problems – but you might be able to do that.
On the other hand, divorce is no joke. The money can sometimes be a factor (does not appear to be here), but it is the intangibles that often make it a hard road. What do I mean by that? First, there are the kids. You will have to navigate the kid’s lives being in upheaval, likely for the next year at least. You will have to deal with shared schedules, activities, summer camps and some nights with a lot of tears. (I’ve been there.). The effect on the kids is not minor. Most come out OK in the long run, but it is a trauma for them. Now, clearly, you didn’t start the process or make this decision in a vacuum. This trauma would be the result of her actions. I am not saying that you bear some moral responsibility in this, but it is real.
Another part of how divorce is real is that it impacts you. This person – your WW – has been part of your life for a long, long time. She’s been part of your daily existence for what appears to be the majority of your adult life. The marriage looks to have been pretty decent prior to her stupidity.
What does this part – the part where you say goodbye to someone that has spent that kind of time in your life - look like in practice if the divorce goes through? I don’t want to sugarcoat it. I also don’t want to put too much of my experience in this.
There are nights you wake up wondering where they are. There are evenings where you think you hear them sometimes, but it’s only a trick your mind plays. There are dates with other women where they like you, but you have this void where she used to be that you don’t want anyone else to fill. There are days where you have the kids, but might need to run an errand, and you have to find someone else to watch them instead of just having her cover.
Your children will have major life events – graduations, marriages, grandkids, parties, holidays… the whole lifetime. With divorce comes something awkward here. You will want to go to these events and you will be expected to act friendly. If you divorce, then it is likely your WW will find someone else and you probably will too and then you have to coordinate those events so mother and father can both attend. You’ll have to act friendly. And, likely, because of the length of this, you’ll probably have this thought of “what if” in the back of your mind frequently.
Again, divorce is no joke.
The feeling you should have if you are getting a divorce is one of relief. You should feel slightly giddy at the possibilities after this. You should feel confident in your decision. You should be able to add up those negatives above and the result of the math should always be in favor of getting a divorce. (If there was a toxic environment then I would say that you need to find the courage to divorce because it is killing you, but that does not seem to be the case here, yet.)
Based on your thread – whatever your decision – I think you probably want more time to make it. If the divorce goes through in the next two weeks then I think you will also have to deal a lot with the “did I make the right call” question. And that one eats at you worse.
It is better to be comfortable with your decision than it is to live with regret for making a hasty one. I am not calling your decision hasty – it may very well be what you actually want. I am saying that it doesn’t seem that you’re entirely comfortable with it yet.
I’m going to put some more of my own story in here for context, but please understand that I do this being a different person from you and that I might make different decisions.
I was very “in love” with my now exww, even while it was abundantly clear – for years – that she no longer felt that way about me and might not have the majority of our longer marriage. I found out in 2018. At first, it was two one year long LTAs. I did the math, and on the balance, I thought there was something worth saving.
I had four terms – and they were large. I wanted her to drop the other man. I wanted a post-nuptial agreement that was fair to both of us because I didn’t want a divorce battle. I wanted a polygraph test because the truth was extremely important to me. And I wanted a sign that she was invested in her partnership with me, as opposed to her investment in keeping the marriage for appearances. She agreed to these terms in the aftermath.
Well, two LTAs for a year each eventually became something closer to five years in the months that followed and TT happened. I still kept on, even with that information. I got the post nuptial agreement and the “sign” that she was invested in her relationship with me.
Six months later, I was reeling. I was at my lowest point. I would have rather been dead. It was at this time that she let slip something that showed me she was still in contact with the OM. And then, the morning after that slip, she told me that she would not take the polygraph test. That afternoon, the OM contacted me to meet up and tell me that they had not been in contact. It was then – six months later – that I knew I was being played by both of them and decided to go for a divorce.
And, yet, a part of me still held onto hope even then that something would break. I sincerely did not want to divorce – for whatever reason. Every friend and family member I had knew it was killing me and that it would never work, but it needed to be MY decision.
I filed. And it went through.
In the aftermath, I saw my exww go back to her OM, then onto a new guy months later.
The certainty that I had in my decision was that my exww did not “love” me and had not “loved” me, probably since the inception of our marriage. I wasn’t the guy she wanted, I was the guy that was there to “save” her.
I say what I say here not to influence your decision but more to give you an idea that even in the clearest cases where divorce is the only way to proceed, that it can still be a difficult decision. I would be lying if I told you that it is not difficult and that something in me still would like my life to be easier – but I know, with a certainty, that my exww did not care about me. And that makes the decision one that I had to make, not one that I could ignore.
In short, after a year of hell emotionally, I was comfortable with a decision that I knew had to be made. She simply didn’t care about me and nothing that I could do would force her to have feelings for me again. You can never force a person to love you.
I can’t say that I am “ok” completely even years later. There’s still a huge hole in me. I have extreme trust issues. I have problems being open and having fun. There are days I feel like a ghost. And this is years later.
I think, often, we get into these thought loops of “this is what you do when this happens.” It’s a knee jerk reaction. I think you are decisive and I think you think you know what you want. You are probably very decisive in your normal life and this seems like something that you can do. Maybe you’re extremely good in stressful situations.
But you’re also, probably, in shock, even months later. I think for months you have harbored the idea that she slept with the OM. I think you now have enough proof to believe that she is telling the truth. And she did this without you forcing her to do it. She may have been lying about some things. To lie is human and to preserve. But taking the polygraph test – even when divorce is two weeks off. Doing that when it was all going to end in her mind anyway – just so you know… I think in part its to stop the divorce, but I also think there’s a part of her that wants you to know how much she values you. She screwed up, sure, but she wants you to know with certainty your red line wasn’t crossed. That’s a kindness no matter how this ends.
And, it may end. You may be OK with your decision. I don’t think you’re there, but I don’t know you as a person – I only know your words on the internet. What comes through to me is that you want to make a decision and you think this is the right one, but there is something holding you back from doing it. Your heart may not want to do it. And that’s OK.
The big thing that I would do is see if you have pause this process a little bit until you become comfortable. See what she becomes. See what you become. If the relationship becomes toxic then you can leave it knowing that you tried. (That feeling is huge).
Evaluate what is happening now and work on you. The question you should be asking yourself, the ONLY question, is “is this relationship acceptable to me?” “Am I getting what I need on an weekly basis?”
I worry what will happen – if you don’t give yourself some more time here – is that you will be down the road a few years and wonder “what if?” It’s the doubt that haunts you more than anything. With you still being in shock, two weeks before this is final, and with only now being sure of the truth… I don’t think any human being could figure out how you will feel down the line.
And, frankly, she could cheat again and you could leave then. You could get with someone else that cheats on you too. Life is uncertain. There are no guaranteed outcomes, save two.
There is only one goal here – to get out of infidelity. I think you’re out. You’re still in shock and only now know the truth, so it might take some time to figure out where you want to go. THAT’S OK. Evaluate. Think. Feel. Roll this around in your head a bunch until you feel grade A, 100% certain that this is the course that you want to walk, and then start walking. There’s no map for either path, but there are some certainties on what you will encounter on either.
Be kind to yourself. Take the time you need. Be sure. Then, do what is the best option for you. So long as your assets are secured and you’re safe – there is no harm in taking a rest now, letting the stress drop, and really thinking.
I’ll leave it with this analogy since this has become more a novel than a post.
You start running, scared, down one path through the forest when this hits you. You run as fast as you can. Thorns and barbs whip you as you go. You come across a fork where two paths diverge. For some of us, it’s clearly toxic and we have no choice but to run down one path. For others, it’s a marathon to run to even get here. You’re here. You have two paths. You’re exhausted, panting and in pain, but, you can take a seat, drink some water, and so long as you’re safe, you can ponder which path you want to go down. You now have a choice and some breathing room.
Again, only so long as you’re safe (custody and assets clearly legally delineated and sorted out), you can take a seat, catch a breath, and figure out where you want to go. Take all the time you need.