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How does anyone stay in a serious, committed long-term relationship and marriage? Part rant, part reflection, and part serious q

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 Lurkster (original poster member #77252) posted at 4:12 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

I'm in the process of divorcing my WW (though she still doesn't admit to having any kind of affair) so I'm feeling lots of anger, sadness, confusion, and obviously in pain and will likely be in this state for some time, but maybe you lovely people at SI can help me out with this.

Seriously, how do people do it? People, by their nature, are so fucking fickle and volatile that they can just be like "I'm out of here" out of nowhere despite telling you they love you. That's why I think the phrase "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" is such bullshit. When it comes to romantic love, saying you love your partner means you're IN love with them. They mean the same goddamned thing! If you don't love me, then you're not in love with me, PERIOD. Is that me trying to apply logic to explain away an emotion? People are chaotic and are growing every which way all the time that it seems like there would have to be some cosmic miracle in order for people to be married for 50+ years nowadays. Are traditional things like marriage and lifelong monogamy going by the wayside? Maybe it's society that's given people the idea that LTRs are becoming obsolete, that vows are bullshit (which I'm inclined to believe now because they're just words), that you can cheat and shatter someone's heart, but that's ok because there's another bus every 15 minutes. Everyone's replaceable, no one really matters, and every man and woman for themselves. I hope this bitterness doesn't stick around.

Up until this divorce, my main love language was "words of affirmation". Now, I realize that talk is cheap. I was never much of an "acts of service" guy, but I am now. Fuck words, SHOW me you love me, not just say you do. Of course, her lying about who she was hanging out with on D-Day, having one-on-one time with her male coworker alone in his house, and lying to me about it all wasn't my fault (I can't call it an affair though because my sweet, caring, loving wife won't admit to such a thing. Did I mention that already?), but it's my fault for not seeing my wife's ACTIONS that communicated that she didn't want to put in the work necessary for our marriage to thrive. She kept saying that things between us were great and that it was my jealousy, insecurity, and anxiety that were messing things up. Even when my spidey senses tingling that some fuckery was afoot and driving myself crazy over it (due to her gaslighting of course). I don't want to be pointing the finger at my wife for everything. I want to grow and become better. I know I wasn't perfect either, but overall, I thought I was a pretty good husband, though my wife might disagree. My wife's words and actions weren't congruent, but come on, she's my wife, the one person whose words I should believe because there's blind trust there for that person and they have the same for you. That kind of trust is fucking beautiful to me, almost sacred.

Fuck, she needs to stop living rent free in my head now. WE'RE GETTING DIVORCED! IT'S FUCKING OVER! GET OUT OF MY HEAD, JESS!!!

It may be hard to believe given that I just had that outburst, I'm a pretty gentle, sensitive soul. Maybe society is what instilled that into me. A Nice Guy, perhaps. I got soft, lost my assertiveness, didn't prioritize myself enough, and got complacent in my marriage. I'm sure that happens to the best of us, but maybe I let it go on for too long and my wife lost attraction for me. I must have lost my masculine edge along the way, which led to her loss of attraction and her ultimately checking out of the marriage before I had a clue. I did give her countless opportunities to communicate with me about it, but she didn't take them.

I'm 34 in a few weeks. We were only married for three fucking years and she didn't want to work on things when the first big hurdle in our marriage presented itself. When the going gets tough, she gets going - grade A marriage material there. In the aftermath of D-Day, she said she's questioning vows and the whole of marriage as an institution. I feel like a fool. How could I have misjudged someone that I was with for a third of my life? How can I trust myself with looking for red flags and judging whether or not future partners will be long-term material or not? I don't know what's fucking real anymore!

Speaking of not knowing what's real, maybe I need to find God or something. My wife and I are pretty agnostic, but every successful marriage that I know of thus far has some religious element to it. God seems to give them direction, purpose, and a rock solid guide to how one should show up in their marriage and life.

I could go on for hours making this post, but there needs to be an end at some point. How do people stay in successful LTRs and marriages for the rest of their lives? I'm at a loss for so many things right now, but this question is bugging me.

[This message edited by Lurkster at 4:13 PM, Wednesday, December 1st]

posts: 52   ·   registered: Feb. 4th, 2021   ·   location: CA
id 8701959
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Stevesn ( member #58312) posted at 6:17 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

I know at least half a dozen couples who claim to be religious and regularly attend church but have either divorced or one or both has cheated.

I know many agnostic/atheist couples who have been together successfully for decades. There is no hard and fast rule.

There is no hard and fast rule.

You and your wife lacked viable communication about what you wanted and what your boundaries were and what was troubling each of you.

In the end unfortunately it sounds like she doesn’t care enough about you which is hurtful but the truth.

I agree with you about the ILYBINILWY thoughts tho. If they married you but could do this to you, they don’t love you. Even if they are remorseful now (your wife isn’t) they still didn’t live you while they were cheating.

Doing something you absolutely know would devastate your partner is not love and you me, it’s actually a form of hate.

fBBF. Just before proposing, broke it off after her 2nd confirmed PA in 2 yrs. 9 mo later I met the wonderful woman I have spent the next 30 years with.

posts: 3265   ·   registered: Apr. 17th, 2017
id 8701979
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Linus ( member #79614) posted at 6:33 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

IMO, many, if not most, cheaters at least display higher than average narcissistic traits. Some are full blown NPD. Once you get a handle on that, you start to sort of understand what you were dealing with.

The literature suggests maybe a 2% incidence of NPD among the general population. I believe it is higher since the 2% comes from diagnosed cases. Most personality disordered folks avoid treatment, ergo diagnosis, like the plague.

Then, there is the issue of future avoidance. These folks select their prey/supply for certain characteristics, like the ones you describe having once you became complacent.

Start educating yourself on the red flags. They can be subtle, hidden to a large extent during courtship and early on in the relationship. There is a ton of info on how to spot these folks but it is not foolproof. Lessens your odds of becoming g prey, however.

posts: 146   ·   registered: Nov. 21st, 2021   ·   location: Connecticut
id 8701982
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PSTI ( member #53103) posted at 7:38 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

The people I know who are married religiously? I don't think they're happy. What good is longevity if people are only staying together out of duty or because they think that they have to because of their religion? I can't even imagine being okay with my partner staying with me ONLY because they made a promise to do so.

The things that I think contribute to committed long term relationships? Good relationship skills, for one. People who communicate their thoughts and feelings rather than letting them fester and build up into prolonged unhappiness. People who do the work to maintain connection in their relationships even when life gets busy or stressful- they don't backburner their partners. People who have good conflict resolution skills and don't take everything their partner does wrong personally (please note I am NOT referring to cheating, but the little everyday stuff). People who share similar goals for the future. People who genuinely enjoy each other's company. People who trust that their partner was acting in good faith when they screw up, and extend to them the grace they'd want when they screw up themselves.

I'm sure not everyone will agree with me on this last one, but people who have a good sex life. It's amazing to me how much of a boost to intimate connection you get when you have great sex with a partner.

To my mind, marriage shouldn't be a prison where people feel like they have to stay. I think that's one reason why the divorce rate has gone up since women are more likely to be financially independent. They don't need partners, they want partners. So no reason to stay in an unhappy marriage, and that's a GOOD thing in my opinion.

Most relationships aren't going to last a lifetime, and I think most shouldn't. People change, and they want and need different things then they did ten or twenty or thirty years ago. Should we put longevity over happiness? At what point do you give up your own wants and needs because the relationship is worth more? That's something everyone needs to decide for themselves.

If you don't continue to keep working at shared compatibility, keep the love and romance going, and continue building connection- people aren't going to be happy with each other long term, even if they stay.

That's not even including the people who I don't think really know what happiness is, and keep chasing the next high and imagining life will be like that. Some people don't know what they want, or aren't happy in themselves; so how can they be happy with another person?

Where that line is, I think will be different for everyone based on their individual wants and needs. Where does needing something different in a marriage become selfishness? But ultimately, I don't think people should have deep regrets about their relationship choices, and stay married. I think that causes much more harm than leaving.

Maybe there should be less focus on finding a life partner, and more focus on how to BE a good life partner. Goodness knows the cheaters could sure use some classes on that :P

[This message edited by PSTI at 1:42 PM, December 1st (Wednesday)]

Me: BW, my xH left me & DS after a 14 year marriage for the AP in 2014.

Happily remarried and in an open/polyamorous relationship. DH (married 3 years) & DBF (dating 2 years). Cohabitating happily all together!! <3

posts: 745   ·   registered: May. 6th, 2016
id 8701989
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Walkthestorm ( member #72157) posted at 9:16 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

I think committment is a choice. There are 8 billion people in the world and chances are there will always be someone out there that you could be more compatible with, that you can be more attracted to or whatever. But in the end, committment is a choice.

It also helps to realise that love that is mature is not to be mistaken with the infatuation phase of falling in love. And to accept that people evolve and change and that long-relationships have ebbs and flows.

posts: 89   ·   registered: Nov. 26th, 2019
id 8702008
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PlanNine ( member #46311) posted at 9:16 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

Speaking of not knowing what's real, maybe I need to find God or something. My wife and I are pretty agnostic, but every successful marriage that I know of thus far has some religious element to it. God seems to give them direction, purpose, and a rock solid guide to how one should show up in their marriage and life.

When my WW told me she was leaving me (and before I knew about her affair), one of the reasons she gave me was our "spiritual disconnect." She had become a devout Catholic. Me, not so much. Apparently, what led to this revelation was that her AP was able to connect with her on a spiritual level...so much so that some of their "dates" were going to mass together. Yupper, that's a solid foundation for a healthy relationship right there, yessirreebob.

"I was also thinking, 'Maybe I'm not a bike racer.' I doubted myself for a while, but now I'm back on track. I may not be a bike racer, but I can beat plenty of them that reckon they are." - Guy Martin

posts: 459   ·   registered: Jan. 12th, 2015   ·   location: Florida
id 8702007
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This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 9:46 PM on Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

So the Sternberg triangle theory of love kind of applies to "I love you but I'm not in love with you". They are saying their love for you has moved away from the passion end of the triangle. Maybe "I feel a intimate connection but I'm not infatuated with you and so I've decided not to be committed to you" is what they really mean.

People are chaotic and are growing every which way all the time that it seems like there would have to be some cosmic miracle in order for people to be married for 50+ years nowadays.

From the "Esther Perel" thread, I think this is something some people might agree with her on. Most people have three or four long term committed relationships in their lives. If you work at it, they can all be with the same person.

My wife's words and actions weren't congruent, but come on, she's my wife, the one person whose words I should believe because there's blind trust there for that person and they have the same for you. That kind of trust is fucking beautiful to me, almost sacred.

I've come to the conclusion that this is a protected, naive way of thinking. You might get away with it. The same as you might never get burgled even if you never lock your doors and leave your garage open. Doesn't mean those actions are advisable. While it would be nice to trust humanity, and to trust your partner so completely, it is just a dream.

I'm sure that happens to the best of us, but maybe I let it go on for too long and my wife lost attraction for me. I must have lost my masculine edge along the way, which led to her loss of attraction and her ultimately checking out of the marriage before I had a clue. I did give her countless opportunities to communicate with me about it, but she didn't take them.

The perfect committed marriage can't compete with any affair. Just like a nice square meal can't compete with a wonderful desert. The illicit nature of the affair is part of the draw, and that is simply impossible to replicate in a marriage. If you tried, it would be incongruent. Like dipping a steak in chocolate. The A is in no way your fault, no matter how your M went.

God or something.

I've mentioned on this site multiple times that I'm an atheist. I don't think this is going to help. There are plenty of religious folks on this board with religious WS's. Many are pressured to forgive and forget or rugsweep by their pastors. I don't think there is any particular bonus or negative to being religious or not. It's a matter of how strongly you really follow your ethics. Anyone can be a hypocrite (and most of us do fail to always uphold our ethics).

I find it odd that you would get crushed by the one person you are supposed to trust and you would go off after an unprovable existence to gain a more solid footing.

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

posts: 1648   ·   registered: Dec. 11th, 2019
id 8702015
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icytoes ( new member #79512) posted at 2:18 AM on Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

First of all,

I got soft, lost my assertiveness, didn't prioritize myself enough, and got complacent in my marriage. I'm sure that happens to the best of us, but maybe I let it go on for too long and my wife lost attraction for me. I must have lost my masculine edge along the way, which led to her loss of attraction and her ultimately checking out of the marriage before I had a clue.

No, No, No! You are not in any way responsible for her cheating. If she does not value honesty, fidelity, empathy and keeping her commitments she probably would have cheated eventually. It’s better that you found out her true character now rather than later. You are young and have lots of time to meet someone who shares your values.

In answer to your question, yes, it is possible to have a long-term committed marriage without infidelity. As you have discovered, it does take both partners. Even a perfect husband cannot prevent his wife cheating if she does not value her commitments.

Right now you need to focus on your divorce, and protecting your assets. When you have healed sufficiently from the trauma of the betrayal you can revisit this. My suggestions for finding a spouse who will be faithful are to make sure people you date value honesty, kindness, and have good boundaries.

Honesty -
Does the person you are dating tell small lies or justify dishonesty even a little? That is a red flag. My parents always taught me to be "scrupulously honest" and I have always taught my children that I would rather they fail a class than cheat on a test. I also try to make it safe for my children to be honest by telling them they won’t get in trouble for being honest.

Kindness –
Does the person you are interested in treat their family, friends and strangers with kindness? Are they considerate of the elderly or people with disabilities? Are they kind to you? I try to model empathy to my children and I encourage them to put themselves in others’ shoes, to think about others’ feelings and to befriend and include those who are being excluded.

Boundaries –
Does the person you are dating have good boundaries? Do they know how to say "no" to people who infringe on their boundaries. Do they focus on your needs rather than being a KISA to every stray waif that comes along? Do they control their flirting?

There is no way to guarantee that a potential partner will honor their marriage vows throughout the whole marriage, but if you focus on the above qualities you have as good a chance as any. This may be controversial, but I have seen studies that show people who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate. This is just a statistic and I don’t know if it is still valid. I think it may be that those who are not 100% committed from the get-go may have a harder time staying committed when the challenges of life hit later on.

There are plenty of other qualities that will help make a marriage successful. Most especially good communication skills. I would read everything you can about how to have a good relationship. Listen to podcasts. Share what you learn with friends. This is something good to do with your partner before you get married. Find good books about communication and relationships and read them to each other. I spent my engagement reading relationship books out loud to my future husband.

My parents have been married for over 50 years with no infidelity. When my mom was talking to her friends about what she was looking for in a future husband, she said she wanted someone who was nice. Everyone looked at her like she was crazy. Well marrying a nice guy paid off. My father traveled all over the world for his work and never cheated on her.

Lurkster, Things will get better and there are women who will appreciate you for being a nice guy. Don’t give up!

posts: 9   ·   registered: Oct. 25th, 2021
id 8702066
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