Trying to discuss or work on improving your relationship while the affair is active is about as productive as discussing sobriety over a glass of wine.
Sissoon’s post is spot on.
Well… If the AP says the physical side has to stop… I guess you now know there was a physical aspect. After all – in order to stop something, you need to start it first.
I’m going to suggest a mindset or some concepts that can help you possibly decide your next steps. It’s a number of lose and seemingly disconnected points, but maybe this will all tie up in the end.
First of all. You don’t need to convince her she’s having an affair. Nor do you have to prove it. Infidelity seldom impacts divorce (do some quick 10-minute research for your neck of the woods to confirm this), and you don’t have to convince a judge, your family or your wife that she’s having an affair if this ends in divorce. You don’t have to reveal sources, give details or anything. You just state "I know you are having an affair with OM".
Why is my first comment about divorce? Well… definitely not because that’s what I’m suggesting you do. It’s rather that IMHO this can only end in one of three ways, and you do need to decide which one is the best for you (or even the least bad one for you).
You can reconcile. In order for that to happen the affair needs to be acknowledged and over, and your wife open to the hard work required. It has relatively little to do with the marriage per se initially, but a lot to do with her, her decisions and her justifications.
Reconciling with an ongoing affair is like I say in the beginning: Like trying to be sober while nursing a drink.
If the affair is ongoing and/or your wife doesn’t want to reconcile you have two options. Maybe only one. This is depended on what you and/or your wife want.
You can divorce. To divorce only one of you needs to want that path. It sounds drastic, but realistically D is something that happens all the time to plenty of marriages. It’s a process, a known path and although emotionally exhausting and tough and financially impacting it’s something people do and recover from. Even the kids and stakeholders in the marriage. I do think this is so tough that it shouldn’t be decided on lightly, but if your wife refuses to end the affair and/or do what’s required then divorce is IMHO your best option.
The third option? Basically, do what you are doing, only accept it. If you are not willing to confront, not willing to let her know you know and all that… IF losing this marriage is the worst possible outcome and you are convinced it will wreck your kids for life… then maybe do what numerous spouses have done over the centuries (generally wives’ though…). Accept your wife has a lover and pretend everything is hunky-dory. Pretend to believe her when she says there is a conference next weekend, that she’s going to the mall all dressed up and so on. Maybe be a bit more careful about STD’s and such but turn a blind eye to what you know is going on. Chances are this affair will blow over in the next 6 months and maybe she won’t find a new lover. Or maybe she does.
That’s where you are IMHO. You have three choices. It’s not good options like if you are getting a scoop of vanilla, chocolate or pistachio ice-cream, but it’s options. Each one with it’s unique path forwards. One (R) is dependent on both wanting it, D is dependent on either of you wanting it and the third is dependent on you accepting it.
Notice I use the word path and paths? That’s because these are only tools to a destination. The destination isn’t R or D or accepting she’s having an affair. The destination is out of infidelity. Strange as it sounds, then if she has a lover with your knowledge (even if she doesn’t know of it) it’s no longer infidelity per se.
OK – of the three above which sounds best and which worst?
Another issue to contemplate:
This isn’t anything special…
This might sound harsh, but it might be the most important tool to help you.
The only thing unique about "your" infidelity is that it involves you and your wife.
The way it’s structured, the likely response from her, the likely response from OM, her initial reaction when confronted, his reaction, the next 2 weeks, after that… It’s all more-or-less scripted.
If I take one step: When you confront her initial reaction will be denial, followed by accusations of invading her privacy, followed by blaming you for why the marriage has reached a stage where her only path was leaning towards OM, to minimizing the affair to threatening to leave. This is the path probably 8 out of 10 confrontations take.
If you let OM wife know (assuming he’s married) then 8 out of 10 married men drop their affair partners to save their marriage. It actually sounds like your AP has already started that process (in refusing more physical). Being cast out by your paramour tends to be a real mood-killer for women.
If you accept this – that she’s only having a run-of-the-mill affair… you can heavily lean on this site for guidance.
OK – I get the fear for confrontation, but it has to be done. Maybe a letter? Maybe something along these lines:
"Wife. I know you are having an affair with OM. I always envisioned growing old with you, and I think our kids deserve that we work on our issues. However, I have realized that there are worse things than losing you. I could even say that the minute you decided to start an affair with OM I lost you. Whatever you are offering me now – while you are actively in infidelity – is not a marriage.
What I have now is at best sharing you with OM. I don’t share my wife. Nor will I force you to be in a marriage with me. Both you and I entered this marriage on our own free will and the only thing that should keep us together is if we both want it. Your decision to have an affair tells me just as clearly as direct words that you don’t want this marriage.
I therefore set you free of marital expectations and obligations. You are free to be with OM, date OM, spend time with OM… whatever. But not as my wife.
There is a know process to deal with the legal aspect of the termination of marriage. We will need to go through that. I have no intention of demanding more than is my right and if we are both reasonable this can be done with minimal emotional and financial cost. There is no rush but as I get further along in my personal recovery, I will initiate this process.
If you want this marriage you will need to let me know in very clear and direct terms. I did not make you cheat, nor did the marriage. YOU DECIDED to go this path. There are certain things I will need to believe you truly want this marriage, such as the total truth and ongoing accountability. You have a window of opportunity for a relatively short time to let me know, but the further I get into my personal recovery the more content I am with this marriage being over and dead and the less inclined I will be for reconciling."