I tend to be a realist. So far, I have sensed and read some interest on your behalf to save the marriage if possible. Opinions might vary here on SI on when and if a marriage is salvageable when in fact the major determining factor is what YOU accept. What you can settle for or with.
I think CuriousObserver hits the nail on the head. Only its not as simple as that. Or maybe it is. She wants a marriage; she WANTS to be married to you. But she also wants the marriage to be based on conditions that are not the conditions you two entered your marriage in. It’s like a renegotiation of the marital contract.
That’s OK… That’s allowed… In fact, I guess all marriages change over time. Change from being a me-and-you thing into a family-thing, from a lets-have-sex-and-holidays thing into a let’s-do-a-budget-and-get-an-early-night thing. Only the changes she’s asking for are unconventional and radical. Radical enough for you to have to think: If she’s capable of these demands and has these needs is she capable of not having them met?
Technically you could accept a marriage where your wife has "friends" and posts pics of herself and "friend" on social media and stays overnight at "conferences" doing "work" … or whatever. It can be a silent acceptance or an open acceptance with everyone in the know. Definitely it’s not something the majority here would accept (me included), but fact is many couples live some form of "alternative" form of marriage.
YOU need to have a marriage within the terms YOU are happy with. There might be leeway to negotiate or make compromises, but the key factors need to be respected. If monogamy – emotional and sexual – is one of those factors for you, then there really is no way to sway that.
If you have your requirements clear, then all you can do is ask her if she can meet them. You two could then create a plan on how to work towards those requirements. You could have discussions on lesser terms. For example, the requirement for monogamy is carved in stone, but if you demanded she have no other male friends… that could be worked on based on conditions and situations.
To use a small example: I love fishing and the outdoors. I could spend my vacation sleeping in a hut or tent, eating baked beans and sausage, and going to the toilet in a hole as long as there was a lake with trout nearby. My wife – strangely – wants to have electricity and hot and cold water where she holidays. Our compromise is that I do some fishing, and we do some vacations together. She also does some things of her own – generally if I go on a fishing trip over a weekend, she might have a friend (female) come visit or go visit her family. Marriage is a lot of compromise, but the unit needs to accept them and have a common goal.
OK – there really isn’t anything new or ground-breaking in the above.
However, if it’s correct then there is a logical conclusion or deduction:
If your set-in-stone requirements aren’t met there isn’t a basis for a marriage.
There is no purpose or goal in negotiating or discussing what you need. It’s not like you would concede to her not having make friends if she was allowed to have other male lovers (but not as friends).
Arguing or discussing this is like two kids taking turns at yes, it is – no it isn’t, yes, it is – no it isn’t, yes, it is – no it isn’t…
It has no logical purpose or practical goal, and usually ends with one kid running home crying.
I find the reasons you give for why she shouldn’t divorce you poor…
- this EA has likely cost her our marriage,
- it will ultimately cost us 100s of thousands,
- her long awaited posting to that other city is likely now off the table noting custody requirements,
- our 3 daughters when they come of age are going to have some hard questions for her, and likely won't judge her favorably,
- our very comfortable combined income is now going to be reduced to her to a 1/3 to a 1/4 from her POV. And she'll likely be paying me child support if she takes the posting anyway.
I’m not sure what you goal was with these statements. I get it that you are angry and hurt, but frankly some of those statements aren’t correct, and some are non-relevant. Trying to make her stay married because that’s the financially sensible thing to do is a terrible base for a marriage.
So is divorcing as a form of revenge.
The only way this divorce will cost you 100’s of thousands is if (a) you are both total aholes on already predetermined processes and therefore ballooning your legal costs or (b) you have assets of such quantities and complexities that it makes proportional sense to have a legal team and accounting team spend that money in dividing it.
The custody arrangements have yet to be determined. Coparents have done successful coparenting over distance. She also has the option of opting out of custody.
Her future career once you divorce is of no concern to you.
Her relationship with the three daughters is something she must create herself. I can more-or-less guarantee one thing: Being happy doesn’t ensure you are a good parent but being constantly unhappy prevents you from ever being a good parent. IF her needs for a marriage are not met within what you are willing to offer, and she remains married to you… she isn’t going to be happy. Not any more than you can be happy remaining married to her if she can’t accept your requirements to a marriage.
My suggestion is this:
List what you need to remain married. Shouldn’t really be a long list but I would imagine it would include things like emotional and sexual monogamy, accountability, a joint goal…
The details on how to attain those items can be discussed, but the requirements should be clear. For example: monogamy isn’t really open for discussion and (at least) sexual monogamy is quite clear and obvious, but maybe some definition is needed for emotional.
Once that list is there then don’t wait. Tell her this is what’s needed, and if she isn’t capable of meeting the requirements then it’s regrettable but inevitable that you two stop talking marriage and start talking how best to end your marriage.
No threats about alimony, child support, wrecked careers… No fear about hundreds of thousands of millions… People divorce all the time, and the process is fair. The laws in your area will determine how things go.
Then move on. Unless and until she takes your list and shows with her words and actions that she accepts your conditions you are simply moving on along what is basically an inevitable path.
You don’t do this to save your marriage or to MAKE her stay in the marriage. That is simply an outcome that MIGHT come out of it. You are doing the above because the present situation isn’t sustainable. You need change. Whether that change is something that leads to you two establishing a new marriage on terms you both accept or if that change is a divorce… either is totally fine. Totally acceptable. As long as it isn’t what you are being offered today.