Thank you to everyone who has posted before. It has been invaluable reading for me. I wanted to talk here about my wife's affair and the complication her mental health issues add to my ability to cope. I'm open to any advice you may have, as I haven't spoken with anyone outside of my wife and therapy. I feel like I'm flying blind, but I'm keeping it together.
My wife and I married in 2005 after living together for several years. We have two children, born in 2007 and 2009. I know now that it was these first years of our marriage when she was unfaithful.
Shortly after getting married in 2005, she started a job that she loved. In 2006 she left the job to start a master's degree in the same occupation. We found out she was expecting our first child just as she started school. She had some history of mental health issues, primarily depression, which derailed her master's degree. She hasn't worked or gone to school since.
Since the late 90s, she has had many suicide attempts and hospitalizations. She had trouble with post-partum depression after each child. In 2010 a suicide attempt led to a diagnosis of Bipolar (rapid cycling), a diagnosis that was helpful to both of us in understanding her ups and downs. A diagnosis of borderline personality disorder has been visited off and on but never settled upon, though I believe it has merit. She has always been willing to have treatment. She had ECT in 2012, which had the unfortunate side effect of indiscriminate memory loss - there are some moments of our kids' lives she doesn't recall. She hates the impact of her illness on herself and the family.
Over the years, there have been erratic behavior, especially early on in our marriage, that I dismissed. I always assumed it was because she was pokey. She often came home late and said she was shopping but didn't find anything she liked. Or she caught got in traffic. Or got turned around. I believed almost everything. There were times when going to work she'd take off her wedding ring, saying she worried she'd damage it. I believed her. In late 2007 she went out on a late Saturday afternoon, then came home around 3 am. We had a newborn, and I was up, worried, not able to get her on her cell. She said she went to Whole Foods for groceries. It was obviously a lie, I called her on it, and she said she went to a different Whole Foods that was further away. We argued, and she told me she had been invited at the last minute by some friends to see a band play at a bar. A guy from the industry she had worked/studied in was playing. She couldn't name any of the friends. She mentioned the guy's name - I'll use Dave (not his real name), but she didn't really know him. She begged me to believe that nothing happened, that she barely knew him, and that she wouldn't see him again because she didn't even know him. She begged me to believe her that she hadn't and would never cheat on me. This was a rough spot in our relationship, but I got over it. I believed she hadn't cheated, but she had been dealing with post-partum and needed to have some fun. His name didn't come up again until three years later, in 2010, when she said he called out of the blue as he and his new wife were moving near us and wanted to meet for dinner. She knew I was unable to go due to a prior commitment. Regardless- I didn't want to go because I still felt uncomfortable about what happened in 2007. That was all I heard about Dave until this year when I accidentally found some old correspondence.
Over the last 17 years of our marriage, we've had many tough times. You'll probably understand if you're familiar with bipolar and borderline personality disorder. Our family life revolves around her, even more so than the children, to my shame. We go through long periods when the kids and I walk on eggshells, knowing that we could trigger an outburst, rage, or a downward spiral. I've been in survival mode. I've always been the primary caregiver for the children; I do the housework, I pay the bills, I am the only income, I help with schoolwork. I often feel like a single parent with an adult dependent. The kids see me as their rock, and I hide my struggles from them. I am happy with them. I had given up on my needs completely - with my sole goal of providing the best life for my children that I can. Any activity I could do outside of the house could induce my wife to have a panic attack, and thus I gave up on friendships and any other non-work activity.
Don't get me wrong. There have been good times. There is still love. But I have always had to be on alert. I always need a backup plan ready for the kids. Safety first.
In April of this year, I discovered she had started an affair within a couple of months of being married (2005), with 'Dave,' and the affair lasted for several years. I believe it turned into a friendship in 2009 when Dave became serious with another woman, then engaged, then married.
I found it by accident, ironically finding out about another time that she likely cheated on me, exposing the affair. I found out because my daughter had been having a rough time, so I thought to put together a scrapbook for her of all the well wishes we received when she was born/young. I looked back at messages my wife and I received on our Facebook walls in 2007/2008 (note we rarely use Facebook). I noticed she had months of communication with a man I'd never heard of (another guy; I'll call him Joe, again - not a real name). Joe went to the same university that my wife and I went to. Ironically, he grew up a few miles from me, but I didn't know him. I logged into her Facebook account and saw that after months of planning, they met up for drinks at a bar one night when she was on a trip for a wedding that I didn't go to. She was staying with my extended family; they watched our daughter while she was out. She got home around 3 or 4 in the morning - and said she was at her godparents' - but she went and met with Joe for drinks. I took a day to collect my thoughts and confront her. She said she couldn't remember anything. In the middle of talking about this, I brought up the 'whole foods' lie that had happened near the same time with the guy I'm naming Dave. I asked her if I should have looked into that more. Under her breath, she said I should have.
The next day I drilled her with questions about Dave. She continued to say she barely knew him; nothing happened. She had never reached out to him. They never spoke aside from what I had known about. I asked her if I could look at her emails, and she agreed. Her email had nothing. However, from 2007 until 2013, I hosted our email on my own server. I had several backups of that data on old hard drives. I found many, many emails between the two. They often referenced cards they sent each other or a little gift she sent him. They frequently talked about meeting up. They went to church together; he met my oldest daughter. They attended talks together. In 2008 they were in almost daily communication. I wish I could go back to get text messages. I have some of her old phones - but she doesn't remember the passwords, and it was before sim cards.
I printed all of the emails and showed them to her. I now know I should have held back some. I now know they met in September 2005 at work. They stayed at the same hotel for a conference for a week in 2006 (though she says they never slept together - they only hung out at the bar together). He had helped her with her master's application. I googled their names together and found they attended various events together. I found some of her old planners in the basement where she had his name at different times, with notes of when Dave's band may have a show. She still had a birthday card from him in the basement, in a box of old papers to be shredded - it had a joke about licking her face.
I lost 10 pounds in the first two weeks of finding out. I could barely utter a sentence at work without thoughts intruding. People noticed something was wrong with me. I worried about paternity. I sent both of my kids' toothbrushes to a lab; thank god they are both biologically mine.
We started couples counseling. Any truth I'm getting from her is anchored on what I've discovered. It took her two months for her to admit she cheated on me. That she had an affair. She insists it wasn't physical, just emotional. I'm not able to believe her. She says she can't remember anything because of her ECT, that she only remembers after I jog her memory with something I've found. I don't know how true this. There may be some truth and some fiction.
I look at our entire past through a different set of lenses. I feel like the world's biggest chump - even though I know I shouldn't blame myself for trusting. Couples counseling is tough because we are catering to her instability. After the affair was discovered, she went into a manic phase. Twice she tried jumping out of our car while moving on an interstate when we were arguing. If pushed too far, she could become unstable, and we're worried she could try to hurt herself. (Note - she's never physically hurt the kids or intentionally hurt me).
She's stable at the moment. She is affectionate. She is remorseful. There are so many factors here I'm not sure what to do. I sleep in the spare bedroom - we told the kids it was because my snoring was keeping their mom awake - they seemed to have bought it.
I think there is a long, difficult road ahead. I considered what would happen if we separated. I could never risk the kids staying with her without me there, and if she was abandoned, there is a real risk she would try to kill herself. My intention is to stay married and get through this.
Besides, I am still in love with her, though I feel completely shattered and unable to trust her. Again I feel like a chump.
I was able to get a therapist for myself, doing remote sessions. I'm not sure how good the couples therapist is - and if anyone has tips on this I'd appreciate it. I've assured my wife that I'm committed to staying married no matter what. She swears the same. I've tried to make it safe for her to talk, but I'm not getting much. She claims she'll tell me everything she can remember, but she just can't remember.
If you've read this far, thank you - and I'm sorry if it was too much. I appreciate there is this safe place to get this off my chest. I'm not sure what I'm looking for here - but I appreciate any advice or tips. Thanks!
[Edited 9/24/2022 - I did say above that "I've assured my wife that I'm committed to staying married no matter what." I'm not sure why I typed that. I've assured my wife that I'm committed to do the work to create a better marriage. However - I know that the 'better marriage' has to become a healthier marriage, where I have an identity, and my children have a more stable environment, and we're better models for them.]
[This message edited by hurtpartner73 at 5:22 PM, Saturday, September 24th]