I'm sorry you find yourself here. It's plain that you've been doing a lot of reading and self-educating on this and perhaps other infidelity forums. I can see you poised with your clipboard and your checklist at the ready. And yet your post literally roars to me about a giant "forest/trees" issue infused in your approach to this. The way in which you seem to be methodically and painstakingly crafting the simulacrum of R brings to mind the replica car culture in Thailand, where craftsmen will painstakingly recreate, for example, a Lamborghini Aventador built on the chassis and engine and drivetrain of a budget Mitsubishi. Their craftsmanship and attention to detail is breathtaking. To an untrained eye, one is touching and beholding and sitting in, even driving, a Lambo. They even mount giant turbos on the little Mitsubishi engine, giving it banshee horsepower once spooled up to proper RPM. Yet at its core, under the fancy body work and plush leather seats, it's a used Mitsubishi, pushed beyond its limits by too much turbo charging.
You don't say how old you/your WW/your kids are. Since she cheated on you 30 years ago, since you've been married 25+ years, and since you have school-aged kids, I'm assuming you met young, possibly even as teens. Were you two first-and-onlies when you met and wed? I reckon you must now be in your 50's (but is it 50'ish, early 50's, or late 50's?), and that your WW is the same or close in age to you. If your kids are school aged, I'm assuming you had them relatively late in life, like in your later 30's. That is, you were in a relationship, either dating or married, for many years before kids, with a wife you believed had already cheated on you once and whom you didn't trust. Why the late child decision? I'm asking these questions because I feel a distinct sunk cost issue infused in your relationship decisions with your WW, though you facially disavow this when you question whether you want to invest further into the relationship. That's not a criticism, by the way, just an observation. Many of us men feel, rightly or wrongly, that we are "failures" if our marriages end in divorce. Even worse if they end in divorce resulting from a wife's infidelity. Some of us remain stubbornly invested in marriages way beyond their shelf life because of this (often unspoken and unrecognized) inner voice. It's especially true, I think, where the marriage springs from a relationship that started in younger years, as a possible result of which we have few (or none) other serious relationship experiences to draw from.
By the way, you don't say how her EA with the AP began. How did they meet?
You also don't describe what the OBS has said to you.
Most important, your post describes almost nothing in terms of your WW's actions and words in the wake of Dday. Here is what you do say about her:
But I'm fearful that she'll quit or opt for "easy" since those have been her go-to behaviors -- avoid; hide; escapism; fantasy -- whenever she feels stress or anxiety. I feel a lack of long-term commitment, like she'll heal enough to the point where she says something like, "I should have never done what I did and it was wrong. What I should have done was tell you I no longer want this marriage and file for divorce. So I'm doing that now." Like to her, "I'll never betray you again," can be satisfied both through true R or by D. I think she'd see her opting for D as her healing journey continues as "telling the truth," and not as further betrayal and trauma. I'm not extending grace just so she can have a safe space to fix herself and a smoother exit.
My friend, I think you realize your WW is a shyte human. You describe her as a "good-looking professionals with sterling gold reputation". You don't say what profession she is in, but often individuals who are highly successful professionals (from an economic perspective) are Type A Machiavellian type people. Not nice individuals.
As an aside, I'd advise you to back off messing with her work. If you divorce her, you want her earning as much as possible. It will make things way better for you financially. And if you divorce, you won't care that she still works with the AP (if you're telling yourself that they are 100% NC at work, you're kidding yourself, btw).
But I digress. Traits that yield professional success are often traits that are anathema to marital success, especially in the wake of infidelity. Most important, the one trait that, above all others, is critical to successful R is empathy. Empathy is also the one trait that high-achieving professionals often lack. To that end, I noted that you say this:
but mainly because I've been able to see and experience what I thought were genuine remorse and contrition on a few occasions.
Nope. Genuine remorse is grounded in empathy. She either has empathy, or not. Maybe you perceive that empathy in her is something that is sputtering to a reluctant start, like the sound of one's lawn mower starting for the first time after a freezing winter out in the shed, but I frankly don't hear in your post any real expectation that, after you fiddle with the choke for a bit, your WW's empathy motor will warm up and settle into a steady, reliable hum. Instead, I hear you describing yourself as a marriage cop, imposing rules that she facially abides for the nonces, biding your time as she bides hers. You're not in a marriage at present; you're in detente. A giant portion of her interpersonal nexus of connectivity is infused with aiding, abetting, or at least supporting her infidelity. You are demanding that she self-amputate, but how much can a human be expected to self-amputate, under duress, before she rebels? Here is what you tell us:
She's not happy with it and I doubt that it'll last. She'd said several times, in the immediate aftermath of discovery, that if she had to pick her friends or me, she'd pick the friends.
Dude, when a WW tells you who she is, believe her. She has uttered, out loud, a wish that you were dead. WW's who haven't yet asked for D don't say hurtful things like this unless they mean them. By far, the truest thing in your post is the following:
I feel a lack of long-term commitment, like she'll heal enough to the point where she says something like, "I should have never done what I did and it was wrong. What I should have done was tell you I no longer want this marriage and file for divorce. So I'm doing that now." Like to her, "I'll never betray you again," can be satisfied both through true R or by D.
If you've been reading here as long as you say, you know that one of the over-arching mantras is "trust your gut". You've been married to her or in a relationship with her for 30 or so years. More than half her life. You know quite a lot about her, including the depths of horrible behavior and deception she is capable of. She has been actively cheating on you, and lying to you, for over 5 years, arguably longer given the intermittent but steady presence of AP1 throughout your entire marriage.
The other thing you have probably seen if you've been reading here long enough is the repeated warning to newly minted BH's to stay off the hopium pipe. Hopium is the drug most commonly abused by newly minted BH's. We micro-analyze every breath, syllable, facial gesture of our WW, searching desperately for a flash of kindness, of affection, of love. We become like a dog who has been scolded, desperate for any affirmation of affection. Your post reeks of it:
Good in that it makes life logistics easier, sure, but mainly because I've been able to see and experience what I thought were genuine remorse and contrition on a few occasions. That's been really important to me; if I didn't see and feel her doing the work and if I didn't have some glimpses of her horror at what she did and the pain it inflicted on me, then we'd definitely D. can see her doing her work and trying and that helps keep R on the table. But it's bad in that . . . there are more opportunities for conflict and her doing her work and me doing mine and us trying to live and parent together at the same time . . . it's a lot. Is my own healing not on the path it should be on because I've got her doing her work, sometimes badly, right in front of me? Most likely.
"A few occasions." "Glimpses." "I've got her doing her work." Meanwhile, underneath all of that, you fundamentally mistrust her. My brother, there is no way you can build a successful long term relationship with a partner whom you do not trust.
What I sense is that, without admitting it to yourself, you are desperately trying to control the outcome. If there is any takeaway from this forum at all, it is that you must, absolutely without question, let go of the outcome. You must remain true to yourself, because if you lose yourself in this process, you lose everything. "Don't set yourself on fire to keep somebody else warm", it is often said. Fundamentally, your inner core is telling you she isn't worthy of your trust. The one thing said here more than any other thing is that if you want a chance to save the marriage, you must be ready to lose it. Your marriage as it existed previous was shyte in any event. Do you really want to save it?
Here is the message you should be giving her: "WW, I have read and seen what you have said about AP2, and I am of course aware that you are still in contact with AP1. I'm also aware that many of your friends believe you would be better off with AP2 than with me, or at least you'd be better off without me. I want you to know that I love you and am devoted to you and our family. Bottom line, I want nothing more than for you to be happy. It's clear that you are most happy when you are interacting with AP2. I could see it written all over your face when I watched you exchanging texts with him. You smiled in ways you have never smiled with me. I want you to know you are free to spend time with AP2, or AP1, or your affair-enabling friends, as much and as often as you want. I am done imposing rules or injecting energy into an attempt to R. But I won't share you. So as you pursue your preferred life, I will take steps to end our marriage. If you wish to remain married to me, I'm willing to hear your plan to change yourself into a person I can trust, into a person who can convince me she truly loves and cherishes me. At present you are not that person. I wish you nothing but the best."
[This message edited by Butforthegrace at 9:30 PM, Wednesday, May 11th]