If I'm understanding your thread correctly, just a couple of years into your brand-new marriage, you learned that your WW was in an 8-month physical affair while you were deployed in the military. Brand new bride, who should be head-over-heels in love, fucking another dude while you're serving your country. In most threads here where the BH is in a brand new marriage, the overwhelming advice to him is to cut his losses and run screaming, thanking her for showing her true colors early so he could get out while still young. If I were talking to young DavLaw, that is what I'd say.
By the way, how did you find out about the A?
Reading between the lines, it sounds like you more or less rug-swept it and your WW didn't see any real consequences from her A. During the next several years, you suspected that she was still cheating, but you mostly ignored the alarms from your "Spidey Sense", essentially avoidance as a coping strategy, which is a species of rug-sweeping. As you now know, your Spidey Sense was correct; she was cheating. She was also therefore lying to you, habitually and chronically for years.
These facts, if even roughly accurate, are more than enough to describe the basis for a strained, distant marriage in the ensuing decades. You say this:
Fast forward through 40+ years and our relationship was never as close as it should have been but we had children and demanding professional careers that became our "norm".
To me, this smacks of a reverse-engineered rationalization you have created in your own mind, again as a coping strategy, again driven by what I suspect is your conflict-avoidant personality. It's a sort of "backronym."
FYI, "backronym" refers to the phenomenon of reverse-engineering an apocryphal acronym as an ersatz etymological explanation of a slang word. The most famous examples would be "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and "Shipped High In Transit", both of which have no basis in reality. FWIW, other than military coinage (e.g. -- "fubar"), almost no slang ever evolves from an acronym.
But I digress. I think you have your cause/effect reversed. The first 5-8 years of your marriage, by themselves, are enough to explain a few decades of strained, distant marriage. You were justifiably angry, resentful, emasculated, distrustful of her. She would have been reactive to these things: secretive, distant, possibly still cheating, but even if not cheating, certainly not at all honest in any sort of intimate way. In other words, the fundamental dynamics of your brand new marriage were anathema to intimacy and partnership. To keep things together, you immersed yourself in work and fathering and endured 30-40 years of a disengaged wife.
I suspect there were other trysts during her college years as well as afterwards, periodically throughout our marriage. I don't have evidence of such but would be consistent with her behavior and needs as an adult who was probably still discontent with our marriage after having children.
Your spidey sense in the early years told you that you thought she was cheating -- and she was. So often here, we find out that the gut is right on matters such as this.
As I see it, her cheating during the first 5-8 years of your marriage doomed you to a distanced, detached marriage, a cold place with little emotional intimacy. You stiff-upper-lipped it, possibly because you vowed to stay with her for better or worse, not realizing how bad "worse" really was. Now, in your retirement years, you're faced with the choice of leaving her way too late to go out and pull some hotties for your own fun, or stay with the woman who deprived you of your agency to choose your life. Your own version of the metaphorical "shit sandwich" (stuck in a universe of two bad choices) every BH must choke down after Dday.
Your thread then takes a curious turn:
Recently we both retired and started gaining a different level of intimacy and closeness - a very deep, true love kind of thing that we had not experienced prior.
What changed, in your opinion? I'm truly curious.
One morning, while lying in bed, I told her I had questions about her affair when we were youngsters that I had never asked. She was empathetic and willing to talk candidly. We talked for an hour or so. Very healthy conversation. She was emotional, full of regret, and grateful we had made it through it. Then - out of the blue I asked her were there others. I was shocked when she said yes.
These "found out years later" threads have an element that is layered atop the normal elements of infidelity. In my observation, a big piece of whether the marriage has a realistic chance of R is the quality of the marriage, from the perspective of the BH, during the years between the cheating and the Dday. We've seen some threads here where the WW repented, regretted her infidelities, and threw herself for years into being the best wife her unwitting BH could ask for. We've seen others where the marriage was "meh" in the interim.
In your case, it sounds like you had the better part of 40 years of "meh" -- which you have endured by synthesizing the false narrative that the pressures of work and kids made it that way -- followed by some unspecified period of "better-than-meh".
The main thing you'll need to answer for yourself is whether you can get over losing those 40 years of "meh" which, let's be honest, was not caused by work and kids but rather was caused by the fact that your WW was a serial cheater for the first 5-8 years of your marriage and you rug-swept this reality while she opportunistically pretended it wasn't there.
Which she is still doing. Keep in mind that this strategy has worked for 40 years. It's unrealistic to believe that she will suddenly change tactics after that sort of long-term success.
Said she thinks about it a lot and isn't ignoring me. She recognizes I need closure and that her decisions have caused my hurt as if it were yesterday. She knows about my chronology though she hasn't asked to look at it. Same with the class rosters - she knows I have them but hasn't asked to look at them. Having said all this, she hasn't once brought up the topic and mentioned anything she has recalled.
This, my friend, is bullshit. She feels no urgency because you're not taking any action. My bet is that she won't do anything unless and until she feels urgency. Which she may never feel. You might take steps to leave the marriage and she'll just say "don't hit yourself with the door on your way out." D, or the threat of D, should never be deployed as a gambit to elicit a response from her. You D because you don't want to be married to her. Period.
It's hard not to be pissed. I am hurt and find myself getting angry.
No shit. Anybody would be.
[This message edited by Butforthegrace at 8:01 PM, July 12th (Monday)]