Been married 18 months, no kids but one puppy, together for 6 years, and I (28M) think my wife (27F) is emotionally cheating on me and not actually willing to work on the relationship issues we've been struggling with. We are both lawyers; the "OM" described below is an attorney at her law firm, he is my age, too.
Need advice, encouragement, and perspective. (Long post, sorry!)
TL;DR: Based on my reading of others’ experiences, and various articles, and my own feelings, I am concerned that my wife is emotionally cheating on me (I share examples in the long thread). My therapist and close friends who know the details all think that my wife’s behavior is NOT OK, but I’m struggling with the best way to initiate a conversation with her that will be open and honest and productive. If she is emotionally invested in someone else, I don’t think I want to continue being in a relationship with her. But I want her to tell me that so I can have some sort of confidence in making my decision moving forward because right now I feel like I’m trying to stand still on shaking sands and I’m hurting and it all absolutely sucks.
Sorry for the long post. I'm happy to answer any questions or provide further details as needed--just ask! So things have been pretty rocky between my wife and I for several months. We had a rough 2020, (didn't most of us??) but I thought it was more due to the stress of my job, then COVID-19, then she lost her job and my job started getting worse as I felt a stressful anxiety to perform even better as the only income earner at the time. Then she started a new job and we sort of...drifted apart. Early this year we had a talk about this where I expressed my sadness that we are so distant and haven't connected in a long time. We haven't been physically intimate in nearly all this time tier. In early April I commenced individual therapy and it has really helped me process my thoughts and feelings and I've been actively trying to share those with my wife and be confident in being vulnerable and honest and genuine.
She told me, however, that she feels like she is smothered and overwhelmed and needs space--which I've tried to respect and give to her. Through all of this, though, she's indicated that she does want to work on improving things with me and getting to a place where we can both be happy. So I've had hope that if I keep trying and putting in effort, things will move toward a better place.
It hasn't. I don't know if anything I'm doing is helping or hurting. Giving space, trying to be more supportive of her, not trying to be controlling or restrictive....she still seems so far away. I find myself holding back things if normally be excited to tell her about because she gives off a vibe that I annoy and distract and bother her. I brought this up to her and how I felt like she's not putting in much effort from my point of view, and that I don't think there's a way to improve our relationship without actually spending time together talking about it and addressing it. She indicated that she had been "trying and putting in effort" for the past year and felt like i was the one who wasn't doing anything and now she's kinda burnt out? I apologized and said I can't change what I did or did not do in the past, but I'm ready and willing and trying hard to fix things now, but I need her help too.
She didn't have much to say to that. And because of the distance between us, I've started to notice how close she has gotten with a coworker of hers. A single guy, about my age. They see each other every day, go out to lunch almost every day (sometimes just the two of them, sometimes with others). My wife frequently stays late at work and, though not confirmed to me, I'm pretty sure he's always there too. They go out for drinks with coworkers and have attended soccer games together, just the two of them, and then gone out to bars and I know they've gone over to his place till after midnight as well.
This all makes me feel super uneasy and hurt. My wife doesn't do any of this with me. In fact it seems like a chore to her to have to spend time with me. But she willingly and gleefully seems to adore being around this guy (I'll call him Mark for ease of reference). This has been happening since like early March at least. I didn't bring anything up then because
1. she even mentioned to me that she didn't want to make me sad by hanging out with Mark, but that he's a "good guy" and had "never tried anything";
2. things were starting to get rocky between me and her and I wasn't confident enough to assert myself;
3. I didn't want to feel like the "jealous boyfriend type" and tell her she can't be friends with a guy.
Well, as things have deteriorated between us and I've observed her talking to him and spending what seems like most of her time with him, it's been hurting me more and more. I told her last week that they are making me uncomfortable. She asked "well, what do you want me to do about it?" And I felt very strongly that she should be the one to decide what she wants to do with the information I give to her about my feelings on her closeness with Mark. She never suggested anything, just said that I can "put my mind at ease about that" and it kinda tapered off into her accusing me of not trusting her. I told her that I do trust her to jot do anything physical with him but that I do not trust mark because I don't know him. She seemed taken aback by that.
After I told my wife that I was uncomfortable with her and Mark being together so much and their "friendship" or whatever it is, I felt very strongly that I shouldn't tell her what to do or anything. I didn't want her to feel controlled by me, but she also didn't propose anything to resolve this herself. The next few days I did notice she was at home more often and didn't go out for her usual drinks and happy hour with coworkers, which usually resulted in her spending extra time afterwards with Mark. I could tell she was sad and really down and I ended up telling her that I want her to be happy and do what makes her happy and I worry that she basically took that to mean that she should continue doing whatever she's doing with Mark regardless of my feelings.
I've spoken with my therapist about my feelings on this and what I'm wary about and what is giving me pause and anxiety about my wife's friendship with her coworker.
I told my therapist about how it makes me uncomfortable that my wife And Mark see each other all the time. That she chooses actively to spend more time with Mark than me. That she seems to constantly be texting him. That I've seen her sitting on the other couch near me, texting him long threads or continually chatting when I am lucky when she sends me three texts during the day.
...That she has on several occasions gone out drinking with him and then went over to his place and didn't get home until around 2am when he drove her home??? That just last weekend she brought our dog over while she went out with some girl friends and had Mark dogsit while I was out of town and didn't even tell me about that until after the fact...
That she seems to be happier when she comes back from hanging out with him or when she's talking him. That reminds me of how she seemed and acted when we were first dating and getting to know each other and that crushes me. I just have really weird gut feelings about the whole thing. From my perspective --which is the only one I have since she won't talk to me about this--I feel like lines have been crossed that should not be in a marriage. In fairness to her, maybe she doesn't think any boundaries have been broken. Or maybe she is "towing the line" and it's only a matter of time until stuff gets physical.
...I told my therapist that it hurt me when I explicitly told my wife last Sunday that her closeness with him is making me uncomfortable and uneasy she immediately responded with "well we are just friends, so you can put your mind at ease about that". And then immediately shifted the conversation to "well what do you want me to do about it? He's one of the few things that have brought me happiness and support lately" which absolutely crushed me. It doesn't feel to me like they are "just friends" and I can't shake the weird feeling. And it makes me feel so bad and guilty to feel like this, because I want to give her the benefit of the doubt and not assume the worst...but also I feel like my feelings are valid and deserve to be respected too.
Anyway, after I told her that I want her to be happy and do what makes her happy, this past Saturday night she went to a coworkers wedding with a big group. This has been planned for a while, it was a small wedding, and I didnt go. Mark was there. They all got super drunk together and then a DD brought her home at 1am and she was absolutely wasted and while I was helping get her into bed and making sure she'd be OK, she just kept repeating over and over "how's mark? Is mark ok? Did mark get home?" And I said "im sure he's fine. I don't have his number, you can find out tomorrow." Then she goes: "I know his number!" and started saying my number. That hurt. Then she kept asking about how he was doing and if he was ok until she fell asleep.
Now, a couple days out of that moment and still processing it, I feel even more like she's totally lost feelings and attraction for me and that she's not just friends with this guy but is more emotionally invested in him than she's willing to let on or maybe even admit to herself.
It's really hurting me and I can't get it out of my head and my mind keeps wandering and assuming things and I really want to have a real honest conversation about this with her but am nervous that
1. it's going to come out as accusatory and interrogative on my part and make her super defensive and dismissive from the get go; and
2. I get all hung up that I already "shut the door" on this issue and shouldn't rehash it with her because I already brought up that I'm uncomfortable with their dynamic and then a few days later told her I just want her to be happy and do what makes her happy.
I'm constantly hurting. I feel like a doormat. I wish I had figured things out sooner and stood my ground better. There's a pit in my stomach. I don't have an appetite. I'm not sleeping. I'm losing weight. I can't focus or concentrate. I worry all the time about if she's flirting with him or texting him sexual stuff or hugging him or if they cuddle when they're together -- all things she doesn't do with me. I get angry because he's a single dude who also actively chooses to spend all his time with a married woman--what's in it for him?? And then i feel guilty about feeling all this stuff...
Anyway. I'd love some advice. I just want this hurt to stop. I want her to be honest with me. If she's done with "us", then tell me. If she would rather be with him, then tell me. If she's emotionally cheating, I want her to know that, own it, and understand how it's hurting me.
How can I broach this subject with her? Should I? How can I get some...answers and definition about the dynamic between her and Mark but not in an accustory/interrogative way? Is she emotionally cheating on me? How should I confront this?
My therapist didn't really have suggestions for me beyond "yes you should have this conversation and you should firmly know going into what your boundaries for a married relationship, even one that's rocky, are and what is and is not okay for your partner to do."
I've confided in several close friends and my sister about the details I shared here and every single one of them thought it was fucked up, even for my wife to be doing in a marriage where everything was okay. That makes me feel a bit more validated, but I still don't know the best way to go about initiating this conversation and having it be an open and honest discussion where my thoughts and feelings can be heard and where she doesn't immediately feel defensive and defective.
Please help. I welcome any and all advice, comments, thoughts. And please be blunt. Feel free to DM as well.
[This message edited by CheesecakeBaker at 1:53 PM, June 22nd (Tuesday)]