As with many of my posts I will meander around some issues. It’s because human interaction are seldom simple, although they do tend to follow patterns. I’m hoping that I can give you some picture of what’s happening to your marriage and how both you and your wife are reacting in a sort-of-predictable way, but a wrong way IMHO.
People can "say" things in different ways, and even say one thing while doing something else. They can even "say" things by not using words at all, but by their actions. Or there can be a great difference is what they say and what they do…
Like if you are walking down the road with your best friend and out of the blue, he punches you… He might apologize, tell you he isn’t clear what happened, and promise it won’t happen again, and you set off again down the road with your friend by your side. Only to have him punch you again...
How often would that have to happen before you realize that there is not much correlation to what he is saying and what he is doing? At what point would you decide that maybe it’s safer to have some distance between you two?
Well… Your wife might be saying one thing, but her actions are another. Actions being the key-word here. Actions outweigh words every time. Like I can state with words I want to lose weight, but it’s the ACTIONS of eating less and exercising rather than the verbal output that makes me reach that goal. Actions.
Your wife has told you what she wants: She wants to remain separated, she wants to be in contact with OM. What she hasn’t told you is that she wants a divorce.
That’s like your friend in the above comparison that still wants to walk beside you – despite the punches.
When you offer your wife time… the decision isn’t made now and then she waits for three months before implementing it. We often compare infidelity to addictions. That comparison is rather limited, but still holds some truth. Like if your wife was using drugs you have now told her that she has until NYE to decide if she is going to quit or not. Anyone that has dealt with a drug-addicted person knows that this doesn’t work… Even IF your wife were to decide NOW that on the first of January she’s going to commit 100% to the marriage… you can bet your last dollar that she will be spending the 31st of December with OM.
There is nothing – NOTHING – that prevents her from deciding NOW.
There is nothing – NOTHING – that will change from now until NYE unless YOU make it change.
What I suggest is that you do two things. These two things are more-or-less based on changing your stance:
First - Instead of focusing on what you think is saving your marriage – which in reality is like trying to save a drug-addict by providing him clean needles and syringes – then focus on getting out of infidelity.
Second – Focus on what YOU can affect and control.
To do the first then accept that there are really only two paths that lead you out of infidelity: The first is when your wife commits to the marriage and you two work at reconciling. The second is where you simply terminate the expectation of fidelity and marriage – divorce.
To get to R you need several things. The main one being commitment from both. There are other key-factors like NC and accountability, but none is relevant if there isn’t commitment. Well… no matter how committed YOU are then if she insists on seeing OM then your only way forward would be accepting some form of three-wheeled marriage… If that doesn’t sound so good then the second factor chimes in: Focus on what YOU can affect and control and that is YOU. If she isn’t offering you R then R isn’t happening.
That leaves the other path… divorce. The one you tepidly mentioned you might look at as a future plan on Q1 24…
Only keep in mind that divorce is such a complex yet simple path… One that doesn’t start or end with filing or even with signing the decree. It’s a combination of personal emotional steps as well as legal and financial steps. You need to both emotionally AND legally detach.
It’s not as if you can enter your petition to D on the first and you are fine on the second. It’s a process.
You have told your wife that there is no need for action on her behalf until the first. I venture that if nothing else changes you will be phoning her on the third and telling here that NOW is her final chance, that if she hasn’t responded before the 15th you will file, and that NOW YOU REALLY MEAN IT… Only for you to extend the deadline to Feb… Not suggesting you are weak, but rather that you are behaving in the typical use-an-ultimatum manner people tend to use… human interaction are seldom simple, although they do tend to follow patterns.
I suggest the following:
Tell your wife something along these lines (this is more-or-less becoming boilerplate text from me…)
Wife – I have had an epiphany. I have realized that losing you isn’t the worst possible outcome from your infidelity. In fact, I can see that I lost you as my wife the moment you decided to have an affair with OM. At best I have been sharing you with him. Well… toothbrushes and wife’s are two things I don’t share…
I have realized that losing you is not the worst outcome. What is immensely worse is SHARING YOU.
I know I previously talked about waiting out this year, but with the clarity I have now I realize there isn’t really any good in that. You can already decide what you want, and no time will really change that decision, plus I don’t really have to base my decision on what you want. What I CAN DO is base my decision on what is available to me. Right now – you are offering at best that I share you in some way, but that isn’t an option I want.
I am therefore starting on the work of terminating our marriage. It’s not necessarily the path I envisioned nor what I want, but it beats what you are offering. Losing you is immensely better than sharing you, because I KNOW that with time I will recover, but I can never accept sharing you.
I hereby absolve you of any expectations I have to you as a spouse. You can date OM, be with OM and behave in all ways as a single woman, but NOT AS MY WIFE.
It’s a complex emotional process but can be a simple legal process if we both agree to that. There isn’t really any rush and the legal system should ensure as fair a deal for both of us as possible. But I am starting as of today the emotional detachment and will start the inevitable legal process soon. I suggest you start learning about what to expect there because I am fairly certain that although fair it will seem harsh for both of us.
To clarify to stakeholders we need to share what’s going on because it’s inevitable. For me the key-factor for this end in our marriage is your infidelity. I have no interest in assigning blame, but nor do I want to sugarcoat things for stakeholders.
If you want a shot at reconciliation you can always let me know. The further along I go on my present path the more content I will be with it, and the less likely I will be to want this marriage. It would require some enforceable actions such as accountable NC and a commitment to therapy. But I’m not waiting – I have set off out of infidelity.
And then you just move on. Make a sandwich, take the car for an oil-change, clean the dishes… Whatever. No more discussion, no need for discussion.
She comes along and tells you the reason she had the affair was your bad breath, work too much, distance, lack of loving, your ugly shirts… DOES NOT MATTER… your stock answer is:
"I’m sorry you feel that way. If we were working on the marriage this would possibly be addressed in therapy, but since we are divorcing there really isn’t any benefit to hash this out".
She tells you she wants the car and the sofa and the dishes and the cat…
"I am too emotionally attached to this marriage to ensure my rights – and yours – in divorce. Talk to my attorney Mr. Sharkeater or better still – your attorney – at the right time. There are laws, regulations and processes that should ensure us both a fair deal".
NEVER argue. NEVER. Never feed her "this is the reason I had to have an affair" logic.
Then follow up with what you said with actions.
She calls you to hear how you are doing:
"Is this about the girls? You know this divorce is not of my choice but of your actions. I need to detach emotionally from you so please don’t call me to talk as if we are friends. Once this is done we will be good coparents but that’s it. In fact I feel that when you are being this friendly with me you are cheating on your new man".
If friends and family ask:
"Yes – we are divorcing. It’s my decision but not really what I want. But… I want it more than I want to share my wife who is having an affair with NAME OF OM HERE. I would be willing to reconcile, but of course that cant be done when she’s dating him. I would appreciate any impact you could have on her to realize what she’s doing with her actions – be it to commit to d or to our marriage."
Start the process at your end. Google and read about divorce in your state/country. Gather all the info you can. Bank statements, debt overview, assets, market-value of house and vehicles… Start separating credit-cards and accounts. Have a clear accounting of what joint assets/debts you are paying for. Start researching for the legal path and your choice of attorney. Save for the retainer.
Once you set off on this path it might be that on the first of January you really do follow your ultimatum through. But that will then be done from a position of power and where you know where you are headed, rather than an empty threat into uncertainty.