Should I show my cheating wife an angry letter I wrote? Can our relationship be saved?
March 29, 2009 10:06 PM   Subscribe

She cheated, I'm heartbroken, how much should I hold back? Should I deliver an angry letter? Can our marriage be saved?

I just found out my partner of 8 years (wife of 1.5) cheated on me for 3 months - starting about a month after the wedding. This was about 18 months ago but I just found out by reading some things scrawled in a notebook left in living room (flipped through it to see if it was mine, came across some crazy stuff, confronted her and she admitted it). I believe her when she says it's over but now I'm left with feelings of mistrust, anger and shame.

She seems ready to open up and be honest with me and claims it never happened before and won't happen again. I still love her but like I said I'm angry. She's been away and won't be back for a couple of days. We spoke on the phone and by IM a few times but I don't want to discuss it too much before we can do it in person. I've written an angry stream of consciousness letter and I'm trying to decide whether or not to share it with her. The letter is angry but honest about my hurt feelings and aside from a few swear words, doesn't really try to hurt her. Should I share it? I don't know how but I'd like to eventually put this behind us and work things out, but I also want to own my anger and tell her how she made me feel. (FYI: We're in our late 20's and have no kids)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Read the letter. Now read it again. And now read it for a third time. Go to bed. Wake up tomorrow, read the letter again. Maybe eat breakfast or lunch or brunch or whatever. Now read that letter one more time. If you still agree with every single character of every single word in that letter, then you need to share the letter with her. If there is even one thing you want to take back, don't show her the letter.
posted by banannafish at 10:13 PM on March 29, 2009 [10 favorites]

If it will help you to feel better, I think you should show her the letter. You do not need to put her needs, feelings, or your desire to protect her first right now. You are allowed to be angry and raging and there's no reason to protect her from that.

I also think you should read some of the articles at Surviving Infidelity, and perhaps browse the forums. You should be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that will follow, and having been completely blindsided, you will probably find it helpful to know what a reasonable response is. (You don't have to trust her, you're allowed to ask for her phone and all her passwords, you can demand counselling (which is a good idea), you're allowed to rebuild trust by verifying - all things you probably have not even thought of while you're reeling.)

In fact, if your wife is not coming back for a few days, you could ask the people there on the forums what they think.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:18 PM on March 29, 2009

Marriage Counseling.

That being said, I don't think you should give her your letter. It sounds like you were letting out a lot of steam there, anger, hurt, betrayal... And now you've got your initial anger out of your system, write another letter- same candid honesty, less swearing, and focus more on how it made you feel. Try to keep this in the form of "It made me feel...." and not "You are so...!"

If you want to save your marriage, the last you both need is accusatory name-calling.
posted by tachikoma_robot at 10:23 PM on March 29, 2009

I think banannafish really hits the nail on the head. Few things hurt worse, cut deeper, or make you question everything quite like getting cheated on. It will destroy your trust and make it very difficult to rebuild. It will make you feel a bit of a fool, for having not noticed. It will make you feel like you're not adequate in some way. And it will make you feel miserable.

I am not saying this to bolster those feelings--but they need to be acknowledged, and accepted, and not shuffled away. You need to explain to her, in any event, how you feel, and then you need to talk things out with her so that she understands what it is you're looking to undertake in working to rebuild the trust with her.

Simply ignoring those feelings (which I don't think you're doing, but which hiding the letter might be construed as) is a disservice, as this WILL fester if you don't hit it openly, head on, and with your share of expressing your pain.

She shouldn't simply "seem" ready to be honest with you. At this point, the onus is entirely on her to make things work and to show you in whatever way she can that she is fully and 100% committed to you and your togetherness. Naturally, we're only hearing your side here, but in my mind, cheating simply isn't ever acceptable. It doesn't matter what other circumstances surround the relationship, confront them, end it, or whatever, but don't drag another person's dignity down that way. It's also a very harsh act of selfishness.

You are completely in your right to let her know how you feel and how angry and hurt this has made you feel. I would avoid dropping to cheap slurs or nicknames or anything *truly* cutting, but if you're angry, you're angry, and she should know it. This isn't for you to swallow, sugarcoat, and never get to express how you feel. That's not how these things work. Instead, you need to focus on having a completely honest, 100% communicative relationship. And that means communicating the bitterness and anger you're feeling right now, along with your approach to trying to feel better, her approach to making that work for you, and how you're coming along.

This is a process, but it's not one that needs to be fully internalized. You shouldn't bring it up over and over, but if you feel tinges of pain or if something still bothers you with things, as you're working through the healing and rebuilding process, you need to express those feelings to her. You need to evaluate, as you move on, how likely it is that you'll be okay with things and that you'll be able to get past these, or you need to identify if you need to find a contingency.

It seems that you're wanting to move past and make things work. That's good. She needs to be expressing to you her interest as well, because if she's not, it may be a sign that this isn't going to work, and that she's not invested like you are. It's absolutely critical, to me, at least, that she express this to you, so that you can use her desire, willingness, and sincerity as a foundation to build on from here on out. You're going to need it.

You're going to go through a period where you want to know what happened, with whom, why, and how she could do this to you. I think it's important that you know everything you want to know surrounding things--otherwise, you're still in the dark and there are still secrets. But there are plenty of specific details you don't need to get into and shouldn't focus on, despite your aching curiosity. Instead, focus on understanding the situation, seeing if you can understand her, and ascertaining if what she did was at all a dealbreaker.

Review the letter again. But don't hold back on how you're feeling just for the sake of holding back. Hold back the truly vile stuff that sometimes comes out in these situations because you DO love her, and you DO want to make things work, but you're also better than that. She needs to know how badly this hurt you, and your relationship, and she needs to show you that it truly matters to her. If that's the case, there's a good chance you can move past this.

Good luck. It absolutely SUCKS, and when you don't deserve it, when you're better than that, and when things weren't otherwise going terribly wrong or anything of that nature, it's all the more confusing, painful, and frustrating. But sometimes people make mistakes, and sometimes they deserve a second chance. It's up to you if you want to extend that offer and make things work. But it's also up to her if she really, truly wants to accept it.
posted by disillusioned at 10:28 PM on March 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

...cheated on me for 3 months - starting about a month after the wedding.

She seems ready to open up and be honest with me and claims it never happened before and won't happen again...she's been away and won't be back for a couple of days.

I would revise the letter as suggested above, but rather than revising it downwards, I would revise it upwards: angrier. Then leave it on the table for her to discover when she gets back from her little trip. Then disappear for a few days so that she has to internalise her emotions and think herself sick, with no outlet, as you've been forced to do.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:34 PM on March 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

There is one question you have to ask yourself.

"Would I rather be with her than without her?"

That is the answer to the question "can our marriage be saved?"

She can hurt you because you care about her. If you split up, will you, five years from now, still think about her & judge all your future relationships against the standard she set?

Get all the anger out. Own your feelings, you have a right to them. But if you think it can work, tell her up front you think it can work. If you're not sure, tell her you're not sure, but you're willing to work through it. And once you've said that, give her the letter, let her know how much she hurt you because, in our human way, being hurt is proof you care.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:47 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Show her, don't show her, it doesn't really matter in the end. It might make it worse or better temporarily but not irrevocably either way. The important thing is that you don't hide your feelings from yourself...what do you actually want to do about this and what are you going to do to deal with that. Keep in mind that whatever you do you'll be allright in the end, and that you shouldn't blame yourself for her actions by second guessing every little move you make. Be free, be easy, and be cool. Good luck.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:17 PM on March 29, 2009

if you got something to say, say it to her.
maybe take some time on your own for a bit.
posted by edtut at 1:14 AM on March 30, 2009

Give her the letter, but be prepared to explain the "stream-of-consciousness" that it comes from - it's the way you felt at the time and you have the right to have that heard. Editing the letter would be wrong, because then you are writing for effect rather than being honest about the way you felt at that particular moment.

You have a right to be as angry as you damn well like, frankly and her role is to suck that up and acknowledge that she had destroyed your trust in her, most likely forever. I hope for your sake you can learn to trust her again, assuming that she deserves it - I know I wouldn't be able to. And now she's away again? Doing what? With who? If you aren't asking those questions of her, you're a better man that I (or woman, but it would be easy to be a better woman than me;-).
posted by dg at 1:35 AM on March 30, 2009

Any relationship can be saved if you want it, but of course you also probably want to be sure that you're getting (back) into the kind of relationship you want, and that the cost is something you want to pay.

I'd lower expectations, myself, and try not to obsess on the fact that she didn't instantly adapt to the restrictions you (probably reasonably) expected her to adopt. Did you even talk about it before? Was monogamy part of your "deal" or did you just sort of assume it was critically important without really discussing it? Marriage means a lot of things to people, not always 1950's fairy tales. I mean, you probably didn't expect her to quit her job and spend all day cleaning the house and baking, either, right? So marriage definitely has evolved some.

Heck, even if yours was an explicitly restricted agreement, nobody human is perfect, and getting married and suddenly being expected to turn off your sex life (or restrict it dramatically) can be hard for a lot of people, I think.

As for your state of mental health, I'd repeat "sex is just sex, sex is not love" to myself over and over again until I calmed down. Don't think of marriage as vagina ownership, a la 1800's, and start thinking about marriage being spending a huge amount of your time with someone you truly want to spend it with. And encourage her to actually be honest and open with you, so that if something "bad" happens again, she's not afraid to tell you about it.

Lots of good advice above, too.
posted by rokusan at 4:08 AM on March 30, 2009

I would revise the letter as suggested above, but rather than revising it downwards, I would revise it upwards: angrier. Then leave it on the table for her to discover when she gets back from her little trip. Then disappear for a few days...

I'm usually a hardcore member of the turgid dahlia fan club, but I think that's an advice misfire right there.

Nothing good ever happens from raising the drama level, and the little "oops I left a note" thing combined with vanishing sounds a little petty to me. This is a time for more maturity and cooler heads.
posted by rokusan at 4:10 AM on March 30, 2009

you're allowed to ask for her phone and all her passwords

Yeah, you're allowed to do that. And she'd be well within the norms of a self respecting adult to tell you "No."

Try to keep in mind that just because she fucked someone else doesn't mean she doesn't love you. She fucked someone else. It can be very difficult for otherwise decent people to be honest with themselves about their sexuality, so much more so then being honest with someone else. If her fucking someone else is the worst thing that ever happens in your relationship, you will have been very lucky indeed.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:37 AM on March 30, 2009

If her fucking someone else is the worst thing that ever happens in your relationship, you will have been very lucky indeed. no attention to this statement.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 4:54 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try to keep in mind that just because she fucked someone else doesn't mean she doesn't love you.

No, the fact that she fucked someone else means she massively breached your trust.
I know too many people who have cheated on their significant others (usually followed by dumping them) and it pisses me off to no end how they just brush it off as if they had done nothing wrong.

Convenient little trip she took there. I wouldn't show her the letter: I would talk to her face-to-face at very least and tell her that it's over.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:56 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all, at some level, she wanted you to read the notebook, or she wouldn't have left it out.

Second, this is the sort of thing marriage counseling is for. Go get some.

I don't think the letter is important. What's important is discussing things face to face.

Also, you have to decide what it would take for you to be able to trust her again. You don't want her phone password. Either you can trust her or not. If she wants to cheat, she will, whether or not you have passwords. And having the passwords will drive you CRAZY with distrust.

What you need to know is WHY did she cheat? If that's not resolved, she'll cheat again. If you can fix it, it's entirely possible she won't. Most people who cheat, do it because something is wrong in their main relationship.

Don't feel your pride is at stake. Some good marriages have bad patches. You don't HAVE to terminate the marriage unless you really want to.
posted by musofire at 6:00 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't really know what rokusan is talking about. Nowhere in the post does it indicate that the OP thinks of marriage as "vagina ownership" in some sort of patriarchal way. Monogamy is generally what is expected in western marriage, and only if the couple has talked about NOT being monogamous is it not cheating to have sex with someone else. Polyamorous couples usually tell their spouse if they plan on sleeping with someone else, they don't sneak around and let it come out through a notebook left on a table. So the argument that she didn't understand that she was expected in this LTR not to sleep with someone else is a reach at best.

You have every right to be angry, and you should really tell her these things face to face. The impact will be a lot greater in person. It's your decision whether or not to try to make the marriage work, but it's mostly her responsibility to make it work, since she's the one who fucked up, not you.
posted by fructose at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2009

The only helpful relationship advice I have ever gotten was from a sociology prof who told me this book would have saved her marriage: The Passion Paradox. I read it, re-read it, and realized everything that had gone wrong with all my relationships. That said, it's still hard to put into practice, even when you realized what is shaping the dynamics that lead to things like insecurity, co-dependence and cheating. So I'll also second the people that suggest marriage counseling. Good luck.
posted by lily_bart at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2009

I would revise the letter as suggested above, but rather than revising it downwards, I would revise it upwards: angrier. Then leave it on the table for her to discover when she gets back from her little trip. Then disappear for a few days so that she has to internalise her emotions and think herself sick, with no outlet, as you've been forced to do.

Hoo boy. Rokusan, stick with the turgid dahlia fanclub on this one. I have been in a similar situation. There is nothing more appallingly fucked up than coming home from work expecting to find your boyfriend of several years (who has been unemployed for some time, and living with you) there as usual, but instead finding ALL of his stuff gone and a note on the table and WOW HE HAS MOVED TO ANOTHER STATE WHILE YOU WERE AT WORK. And he's not answering his phone. And then the phone bills start coming in and you realize he's been planning this for a while....... if I had had the chance to leave him stuck somewhere, forced to think about what he'd done, I'd have done it in a heartbeat.

(The story got even worse from that point, but I won't go into it).

I should mention, though, that we did get back together for a while -- I even sold my house, quit my job and moved to where he'd gone to make that happen. In the long run, it was a good call, it gave me a lot of career opportunities I would not have had if I'd stayed put, but even thinking about it now, I can feel the numbness, the absolute shock I felt walking into my house on that day.

Would I have gone the counseling and therapy route? In my situation (for the reasons I don't particularly want to go into) it wouldn't have helped. But I think that the poster should show his wife the letter, because she needs to know the effect her actions have had on him, and then they need to sit down and have that seriously painful "where is this going, and do you want to salvage our relationship?" talk before committing to finding a counselor who can help them work through their different feelings and perspectives on the situation.

You don't have to end it if you don't want to, but your wife's going to have to expect you'll be more than a little anxious and paranoid going forward until she re-earns your trust. My former boyfriend didn't manage that part particularly well, and that's one of the major reasons why we failed to stay together.
posted by at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2009

I would write as many letters as it takes to get your toxic rage out of your system. It is not good to hold that stuff back. As for staying with her, you are the only one who can make this call. Don't listen to friends, family, counselors, anyone here, or her. Whatever you are feeling right now, it is okay. If you still love her, if you hate her, if you really do not care anymore.... it is okay. Listen to what you are telling yourself. I hope you find happiness out of this mess one way or the other.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:32 AM on March 30, 2009

DTMFA. Never happened before and won't again? It happened a month in to your marriage. If it happened when the marriage was that new, what do you think is going to happen when things get to be more routine? When the newness has *truly* worn off?

Sorry to be blunt. But I don't see how this can end in happiness for you.
posted by aleahey at 7:41 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I don't really know what rokusan is talking about. Nowhere in the post does it indicate that the OP thinks of marriage as "vagina ownership" in some sort of patriarchal way.

Good, let's hope not. I advised not thinking of it that way NOW, when angry, when it's probably pretty easy to feel possessive. With a three paragraph question to work from, it's all a little graspy and strawee, anyway, and everyone is adding their own guesses and biases here, so I was just positing an angle I didn't see anyone else mention, and I think it's still a good idea to at lest give that vector a thought. Maybe "cheating" wasn't such a big deal to her, but it was to him. That kind of disconnect in expectations is a root problem. People can't live up to standards they didn't know they were supposed to live up to. The fact this kind of thing is so often "expected to be understood" rather than talked about explicitly is, I think, unhealthy... and a smoldering fuse.

Monogamy is generally what is expected in western marriage

And most western marriages fail, especially over stress at that particular point. I was encouraging lowered (i.e. more realistic) expectations, that is all.

Marriage is big. Life is big. Sex is not.
posted by rokusan at 8:20 AM on March 30, 2009

I advise against the revenge/punishment fantasy as illustrated by turgid dahlia. The world would do well to have fewer sad, bitter, angry people, not more. It might make you feel momentarily better but please think about the community and the world and hopefully decide that we don't deserve it.

I'm sorry you've been so badly hurt. What she did is pretty damn terrible.
posted by birdie birdington at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Write as much as you need to sort your thoughts out, but don't give her the letters. Tell her in person how you feel and open up a dialogue about things, and let her see for herself the pain you're going through.

Be an adult, not a teenager in this situation - if you really want to stay with her, then lashing out at her with everything you've got isn't how to go about it. If you end up making her feel like you're going to punish her every chance you get, she might very well reconsider the relationship. If you really care about her, don't show her your most evil side. Might feel good and justified at first, but you can't take it back.

Prove you're an amazing man she should regret betraying by being incredibly mature about the whole thing.
posted by lizbunny at 8:40 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

(flipped through it to see if it was mine, came across some crazy stuff,

You snooped, however "benignly." You need to live with that also. As for having access to passwords, etc., I would not want to live on either end of a marriage like that, with one person being in the crosshairs of the other's scope, at any time.

IMO, you need to talk this out, and agree on some ground rules for the remainder of your marriage, and then (this will take awhile) try to let it go and move forward. If you feel that you can't trust her to not do this again (and if this is a deal-breaker), then best to move on now.
posted by Danf at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

(on second thought, perhaps the epony-hystericalness of my name made my comment seem less than serious -- ye olde username is unrelated to the story told, though...)
posted by at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2009

Couples "cheat" all of the time. It's common. Total discretion is an absolute must.

As you can see, the Americans all say "get out now this is the worst thing ever."

It's not the worst thing ever.

So yes, this is another vote for: "It's just sex, for crying out loud. Get over it."
posted by Zambrano at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I want to reiterate, go visit Lots of good resources there, written by people who have been in your shoes, many of whom have saved their marriages. FYI, most of them will NOT say things like this --

You snooped, however "benignly." You need to live with that also. As for having access to passwords, etc., I would not want to live on either end of a marriage like that, with one person being in the crosshairs of the other's scope, at any time.

-- because a good many of them believe that once their partner has breached their trust in such a fundamental way, what follows -- if you are to reconcile -- is a process in which the wandering partner must accept FULL responsibility for the affair, assume that ALL trust has been destroyed, and work to earn your trust all over again, from the ground up -- no matter what it takes.

In short, it makes no sense to talk about the wife deserving the OP's trust when she herself has smashed that trust through her own actions. Let me repeat: she destroyed the trust that existed in this relationship. If the relationship is to survive, trust must be rebuilt from scratch. And in a lot of cases, that means that the wandering spouse has to make herself, her communications, and her daily routine completely transparent to the betrayed partner. If the wandering spouse can't deal with that... then s/he may not be able to deal with the long and painful road to repairing the relationship.

Please ignore all the people here who would like to talk about how you were somehow partially culpable for daring to -- gasp! -- flip through a notebook lying around in your own living room, and get over to the aforementioned website, where there are tons of resources to help you work through the emotional minefield you've just been dropped into. And my very best wishes to you in the days ahead.
posted by artemisia at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2009

Tell her to pack her shit, there is no way you will ever be able to trust her fully ever again as it stands right now, and honestly who cheats that early in a marriage? She is not a keeper, and you are still young enough to find someone who isnt that selfish and stupid.

As for the letter, I like the idea of reading it and re reading it a couple of times before you decide whether or not to show it to her, but right now you need to think about whether you really want this "relationship" to continue.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:01 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

To all the people saying sex is just sex -- did you see the part where she carried on this affair for THREE MONTHS?

Show her the letter. If you want to keep the marriage, she needs to see how deeply she betrayed you and your trust and your love for her. She will need to work hard to regain your trust. It will be difficult, you will find yourself suspecting things even when there is no reason to. If you truly love this woman, and she is truly remorseful, you will eventually be able to forgive her. It is your ability to forget the transgression that will determine whether you will be able to stay with her.
posted by Night_owl at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2009

There is one question you have to ask yourself.

"Would I rather be with her than without her?"

I have to respectfully disagree. The question is, can you be with her. You could very much want to be with her but she isn't the right person for you.

First, this probably has a lot less to do with you than you might think. People who engage in this sort of behavior are usually persons who fill up holes in their lives with things like drugs or affairs. They might not be capable of changing.

Second, all bets are off. You get to make this decision based on your needs alone. Her needs should not concern you. Also, don't let anyone tell you your feelings aren't real or don't count or you shouldn't have them.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2009

Call a divorce lawyer today and follow her or his advice. Use your wife's absence to gather all the available information uninterrupted, including electronic data. Divorce her and leave her with nothing. She cheated on you a month after the wedding: she does not love you and probably never has. Good luck and I'm sorry you have to go through this.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:53 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

IF she is willing to cheat on you RIGHT AFTER THE WEDDING then to me there would be no hope. I say contact a divorce lawyer .
posted by majortom1981 at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You have two questions here.

1. Should you show her the letter?

I would agree with sleeping on showing her the letter. It is good that you wrote it, because it got a lot of your thoughts out of your system so they're not making a maelstrom in your brain. But I would hesitate to show it to her; once you show it to her, she can't ever un-see it. So wait a couple days and then re-read it again, and ask yourself, "do I want for her to know that I said/thought any of this 20 years from now, no matter what happens, or is any of the stuff in here anything I would have regret saying for any reason?" If you 100% agree with everything in the letter, then great. But if you think that any parts make you cringe -- for any reason; it could have been you think you're too shrill, it could be becuase you think you sound too wimpy -- then don't.

2. Can your relationship be saved?

I can't tell you for certain, but I can say that the only way it can be saved is with a LOT of counseling, I think. She seems to be very conflicted about things, and she will need to sort that out; and you need to have your trust repaired. It's possible that you get through counseling and realize you aren't suited to each other, too; but trying to just go on along like nothing ever happened is doomed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2009

Don't show her the letter. Say it all to her face so she can see the emotions behind the words.

I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by agentwills at 10:59 AM on March 30, 2009

I'm going to give you this advice as someone who is, historically, a cheater. I've cheated in the past, many times. I haven't done so in my current relationship, nor do I expect to do so, but it's a subject about which I know a thing or two from personal experience. My current girlfriend knows that I've cheated on other people in the past, and she trusts me not to do it to her. There's a bizarre and possibly perverse pride that I take in never, ever violating that trust. I've taken steps to minimize the chances of problematic circumstances or even the possible appearance of impropriety (I'm never alone with people with whom there might be even the suggestion of sexual interaction, for example).

Strangely, cheating is not the thing that ended most of the relationships in which I cheated. This is because getting away with cheating is easy. Finding someone who is willing to have sex with you and is equally willing to not reveal your sexual relationship is not a challenge. Similarly, even for someone who isn't a practiced liar, not tipping your hand to your partner is something that requires little to no effort. I can't even keep surprise birthday parties a secret, but there's a remarkable simplicity to not opening one's mouth about the subject of on-the-side sexual relations.

That's what the "it's just sex" people here aren't mentioning. If it was "just sex", it would have been the simplest thing in the world for your wife to keep it from you. If you're cheating, and it's "just sex", you use a little discretion to keep things under wraps. You don't write notes about it and leave them in the communal areas of your home. Your wife didn't accidentally let something slip; she manufactured a circumstance in which you were forced to confront her.

Something is going on in your marriage, and I'm not sure what it is, but it's a lot deeper than cheating. Your wife had to go out of her way to get caught. I don't know what her motive for doing that was, but whatever it is, it should probably set off some serious warning lights. Even if the "sex is just sex" people are right, the circumstances imply that your wife set you up to catch her, and that's something that you should consider. In most cases of infidelity I'd suggest marriage counseling, but the way that she set things up for you to uncover this suggests to me that there's something bigger at work with her, and my gut feeling is that you should run for your fucking life.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2009 [7 favorites]

I think your question is not really about the letter, but since you asked it that way I'll answer it that way. This is going to be a long process, no matter what you decide to do (repair things or split up). You will be filled with things to say--angry things or hurtful things, conciliatory, pleading, desperate, mean, cutting, sweet, mature, irrational--and you will wake up for months if not years thinking "Oh, I just remembered something I want to say." The letter is one vehicle for this. So are conversations, with her or your friends or a therapist. But nothing you say or write will ever be an adequate response to this. It will come in bits and pieces. There will be times you think you can rise above this and times you look at your wife with real contempt. So please don't think of this letter as your response to the situation, as if it will explain everything for all time. Whatever you say in the letter is a record of your feelings at that moment. And those feelings are going to change. So fill a notebook, burn your friends' ears off, talk to lawyers or therapists. This is your process, and she shouldn't be part of it. Tell her what you need to tell her. Or not. But recognize that the letter is for you, not her.

After something like this happened to me, I filled two notebooks with my rage and pain and bafflement. But they were for me. She either knows how badly she hurt you, and a letter wouldn't make a difference, or she has no conscience or empathy, in which case a letter won't make a difference either. Don't give her the letter, and don't worry about the letter. Figure out what you want to do about her.
posted by fiery.hogue at 12:33 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Guys, this is a month after the wedding. That's effectively a "guarantee" and she broke it within four weeks! How come she's the one off fucking around - for three months - and he's the one who has to end up feeling like shit and internalising his emotions and trying to make nice? And on top of that she just disappears for a couple of days? She's lucky all she's getting is a letter and not a flaming bonfire of all her shit with sparklers spinning around in it that spell GTFO.
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:44 PM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

OP, would you consider *reading* the letter to her? It seems like your goal is to tell her to the best of your ability how her actions affected you, and how you feel. That can be frightening I think, because sometimes people are afraid that the other person won't stick around to hear it - all of it, to willingly listen to (repeated) discussions focused on your confusion and anger. There's also the sense that it could open you up to hearing things about your behavior or actions that you don't want to hear.

So much of the trouble seemed to happen between you outside of the presence of the other. What about going through this process together, without getting caught up now in what the outcome is going to be?

Who knows how you're going to feel or how long you'll feel that way? Who know how she'll respond? Who knows what you'll discover, or if you'll ever trust her again? You can't know that I think. No one could. But you can be present for the process, and accept how you feel, and the outcome that comes of it. You have 8 years together. Why not give yourself, say 8 months to see what unfolds when you are candid and honest about how you feel? Before deciding that you want to stay in the relationship, why not just go with how you feel right now. Right now you want her to know something that churning inside you. Why not just focus on that and tell her that, in person, and see what happens then? You're in uncharted territory here - you're angry, and with good reason - so just focus on the thing you know you want to do (share how you feel), rather than figuring out what it all means yet.

nthing what everyone else said about finding resources.
posted by anitanita at 1:57 PM on March 30, 2009

Having unknowingly invited in and cooked dinner for the man my ex-wife cheated on me and left me for two days before she walked out, you have my sympathy. With that said, I found out with her having left; contrastingly, you found out by a manufactured accident.

We tried one session of marriage counseling. Afterward, I had no need; she had made up her mind. I highly reccommend it, but don't go in thinking you'll save your marriage. Go in thinking that you'll get a better understanding of what your marriage means to her. From that, you get to decide what you want to happen.

As far as advice about the letter? Wait on it. I don't think there is a single smart thing you could say between just you and her that shouldn't be said infront of a marriage counselor - you will only do more damage. Truthfully, even if you think you do, you don't forgive her yet, and pretending you do is going to make matters much worse for you.

In the interim, setup a family psychiatric account, which both parties should be putting money into. You both need counseling; you need counseling; and she needs counseling. Start making calls to mariage counselors, but get in to see your own counselor right now, and encourage her to do the same.

Today - do not pass go, do not collect $200 and check *all* finances. I do not reccommend that you tell your wife about this. Get a copy of both your credit scores. Get the blue book value for both your cars. Know the account status of all credit cards, bank accounts, 401Ks, social security values. Start going through the 3 month period and outline any odd charges you were either unaware of, or that need to be discussed. Honestly, I'd open up a second bank account and begin depositing my money in that, and moving money over to any shared expenses *only* as necessary. Start putting a cash value on your posessions, particularly things that may be contested. If you own your house, start getting a feel for the market so that you know what kind of loss you may have to take on its sale, should things go that route. If you rent, re-read your lease and make sure you know what steps you need to take in order to break the lease, should you need to. Find out what options you have for housing, should you find yourself needing to change your current situation.

Unfortunately, Parasite Unseen and I share a gut feeling: there is something about this that screams run like hell. I'm just trying to make sure that you have your ducks in a row so you can do so on your terms.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:13 PM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

I believe that Nanukthedog has it. The only thing I might add is that I'd emphasize the distinction between cheating one time (an "accident" or "drunken error", etc.), and cheating for a prolonged period of months--especially pretty much immediately after pledging a lifelong commitment. Don't get me wrong, I think cheating is 100% wrong in either context. Wrong wrong wrong. but the second seems especially cold-blooded, premeditated, and fundamentally alarming. Secretly carrying on with someone outside your new marriage for months at a time--and never telling you about it--is not just about sleeping with someone else once. It's a variety of betrayal that has been much more sustained, and is arguably more emotional.

Captain Obvious moment over, but one last point: Whether she left the journal out on purpose or not, she has never taken the initiative to bite the bullet, put her love and respect for you on the table, and come clean to tell you everything and apologize. Is she truly sorry now for what she's done--or is she sorry you caught her and it turns out she'll actually be held to account? Just a thought experiment.
posted by teamparka at 2:29 PM on March 30, 2009

The point I am trying to make is that an affair lasting for three months is fairly unlikely to have just been about sex. This, coupled with whatever she wrote in that notebook, makes it seem likely to me that it was more than just a physical affair, it was mental and/or emotional as well. You're right, sex does not have to be owned by your partner. But especially in a scenario where marriage does not equal sex ownership, the emotional closeness between a couple should not be shared or had by anyone outside that couple.
This doesn't take into account poly relationships, but I think it's a good bet the OP isn't in one of those.
posted by Night_owl at 2:38 PM on March 30, 2009

Oh... yeah, TAX returns... If you haven't done them - get on top of them now.

By the way, I am in no means saying 'get a divorce'. That is your decision alone, and you should come to any conclusions with much much trepadation. What I'm saying is your marriage, which you believed to be fundamentally sound until the other evening, has been turned on its head. In that case - you and I share a very *very* common bond. What I am saying is - you need to make the steps NOW to protect yourself, because trust me - if you think its painful now... it can get much much worse.

Get yourself into therapy, get to a psychopharmacologist... I was on lexapro and ativan for probably a 9 month stint. I avoided drinking, drugs, smoking, and making a mess of my life beyond what it already was. Instead, I clung to a bizzare mantra-esque things I am doing to take care of myself list. It allowed me to keep my productivity at work up, minimize my panic attacks (which - wow! I got panic attacks!), and get my life in order much much quicker. Just remember, any scenario which actually pans out at this point is going to be depressing, the drugs just kept me able to stay focussed long enough to deal with it and come to terms with it.

Divorce is horribly unpleasant and its not something that you have to go through, but there is a highly likely chance that it is something you will have to consider. Even in a 'you go your way I go mine, thank you very much hav a nice day' style divorce like I had, it is financially expensive, time consuming, grueling, and depressing. I would never will it on anyone.

If you don't have any friends to talk to candidly about infidelity that have been through the process in this light, PM me and I'll do what I can.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:13 PM on March 30, 2009

Some of this stuff is really crazy. A marriage certificate is a legal contract. One of the terms and conditions of that contract is "Thou shalt not fuck around". If either party does so, the contract is nullified. It isn't a matter of "owning" your partner's sex, whatever that means, but intrinsic to the entire arrangement is an unspoken agreement that you're not going to be shagging other people (at least without discussion - open marriages or relationships are all well and good but my impression of them is that both parties talk about it beforehand).

My own perspective on this has been revised, thanks to Optimus Chyme and others. You need to take stock. The letter you wrote? Don't show it to her. The only documents from you that she needs to see is a set of divorce papers. I can't say I'm sorry for you because I don't know who you are, but if I did I would certainly be sorry for what you now have to go through: this isn't a marriage you want to save.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2009

I can only offer a newlywed female's perspective on this. I've been married for six months, and had I been tempted to cheat merely a month after the wedding, for three months, writing things down about the indiscretion, and leaving said things for my husband to find? I would fully expect him to divorce me, because I clearly have no idea what "commitment" means. You are either a saint or a fool for wanting to work this out.

Either way, show her the letter. Actually, read it to her. She needs to feel the full impact of what she did.
posted by desjardins at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

When it comes to wedding vows it is ridiculous that so many people take "forsaking all others" much more seriously than "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part" (or whatever your exact vows were, assuming they included such quaint romantic notions).

If you made a vow to love and support your wife in good times and bad times, it is not annulled because she broke her vow to you. Unless your vow included "until death do us part or you fuck around". A vow is intended to be solemn promise without contingencies.

Show her the letter or tear it up. Get a divorce or try work things out. But don't believe the bullshit in this thread that your wife breaking her vows are grounds for you breaking your vows. If you want to break your vows, be honest about your own lack of commitment to your vows.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:28 PM on March 30, 2009

That is an interesting perspective McGuillicuddy. But I think many people believe the commitment is between two people and when one of them purposefully breaks the commitment then both are released from it and any further obligations. Since he has just been devastated by such an enormous betrayal I don't think the OP needs your moralising on how ultimately any divorce is entirely his fault. Sadly, there are just some supremely selfish people out there and they tend to end up with people that forgive them/put up with their crap for a while.

OP, you seem far more concerned with her feelings than your own, perhaps you are just in shock and that is how you are processing it. I wish you luck in this difficult time, but like the others, warn you to look after yourself first. She has lied to you for the past 18 months and there is no reason for you to believe any of her "honesty" now except as it serves her own interest. Yes, your marriage can survivie cheating but you need to be very self-aware of your own motivations and acknowledge that this is a process that will take years. Your marriage will never be the same. Maybe it will be better, maybe worse, or maybe divorce will be the best thing (and don't assume you are the only one that can choose divorce, she may leave you even after you "forgive" her). Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 5:32 PM on March 30, 2009

It's not the worst thing ever.

Yes it is, Zambrano, yes it is.

Nthing most of the above (apart from Zambrano and McGuillicuddy and rokusan). She fucked someone else a month after you got married. Be it once or for three months, it moakes little difference. You need to be rid of her.

I'm really very sorry you're going through this.

But in the end you'll be happy. Focus on the future, and focus on what is right for you.

I wish you all the very best.
posted by idiomatika at 5:33 PM on March 30, 2009

Also, McGuillicuddy, "in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part" are all external forces on a marriage that partners can face together, whereas to betray your spouse's trust requires a choice by one of the spouses to deliberately break the commitment unilaterally.

Sorry, but your statement really bugged me, especially as it was not directly related to the OP's question.
posted by saucysault at 5:41 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Leave her before you get into a bigger mess than before. If it's only been a month or two since you've married, hopefully your assets aren't too entertwined. I would speak to a divorce attorney and see if you can get it annulled for fraud. (I'm not a divorce lawyer, but she lied to you.)

I would say something else if she'd done this before you two were engaged to be married...but my gut reaction is that she is not trustworthy. This is an incredibly horrific and shitty thing for someone to do to their spouse. She was newly married to you and cheated on you.

Also, get a counselor or therapist to talk to. I'm sorry she did this to you.
posted by anniecat at 6:15 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

saucysault, my reply directly addressed the situation in which the OP finds himself. Your second response, in contrast, did not address the OPs question whatsoever.

Between the puritanical preachers of fairweather fidelity and the DTMFAs (aka pussy-purity patrol), the OP has been provided with responses from a heteronormative conservative perspective. What I suggest is that the OP considers a wider range of human perspectives in relation to his own situation. A vow is a vow. Maybe you and he vowed "for better or worse, but see the fine print regarding fucking around" when you took your vows. People can justify breaking their vows for all kinds of reasons, but that doesn't make it any less of violation of those vows. Blaming another for breaking one's own vows is a convenient approach to abrogating responsibility to those vows. The OP cannot control what his wife does, nor can he deny responsibility for his own actions.

I empathize with the heartbreak you are experiencing, OP. My advice to you is to keep it in perspective.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 6:38 PM on March 30, 2009

Between the puritanical preachers of fairweather fidelity and the DTMFAs (aka pussy-purity patrol), the OP has been provided with responses from a heteronormative conservative perspective.

Well, the OP and his wife are in a heterosexual relationship, and it's more than clear that fucking around was not anything they discussed or that he even imagined, so it makes sense.

A vow is a vow. Maybe you and he vowed "for better or worse, but see the fine print regarding fucking around" when you took your vows. People can justify breaking their vows for all kinds of reasons, but that doesn't make it any less of violation of those vows. Blaming another for breaking one's own vows is a convenient approach to abrogating responsibility to those vows.

Breaking the terms of a contract, legal or moral, is almost always grounds for the innocent party to declare the other binding aspects of the contract null and void. Stop blaming the victim.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2009

Outside of the whole people using this to debate lifestyle choices (which isn't helping the OP work through his personal pain), I'm going to assume that the OP and his wife had made an agreement to be faithful to one another.

Under the circumstances, he's entitled to be angry about being betrayed, which occurs when a person hurts you despite agreeing not to.

In addition to my advice above, I suggest meeting with an attorney tomorrow, so as to know all of the variables involved.

Best of luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:57 PM on March 30, 2009

Marriage is not "I will stay with you NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO TO ME." If my husband hit me, I'd be out the door and he'd be in jail, THE END. If he cheated on me, I'd find myself as conflicted as the OP, and depending on the circumstances, I may stay or go. If he became a heroin addict that refused all help, I'd have a similar heartwrenching decision to make. People need not stay in relationships no matter what their partner does to them - that is called being a doormat and ultimately makes both miserable. Only the OP can evaluate whether this is a serious enough breach to warrant dissolving his marriage, but my vows did not include severe betrayal or abuse, and my husband knows this. That is part and parcel of the contract we entered into.
posted by desjardins at 9:24 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your anger is going to be a big part of what you and she will have to deal with moving forward, both together and separately. But giving her the letter? I'm not sure that's a good idea. I think you should tell her what you feel, but in a way where you're not actively trying to hurt her. I'm not sure if that would be your motivation in giving it to her, but if so, don't do anything just to hurt her, unless you like thinking of yourself as a spiteful person. I'm sorry you're having to go through this, but I'd try to maintain your self-respect in the way you handle it. Here's an old comment from tkolar. "I picked a them[e] for my divorce: integrity." Don't be a doormat, but behave in a way you can be proud of. How you behave now might be the beginning of the next phase of your life.
posted by salvia at 11:15 PM on March 30, 2009

Lots of people here are giving advice based on their own perceptions of marriage, perhaps because the asker didn't give a great deal of information about what cheating means in his/her relationship. For many people, it's no big deal - it's just sex, right? For many people (one of which is me) it's an absolute deal-breaker, but we really don't know how the asker feels about this, apart from being angry. Obviously cheating is not an automatic deal-breaker in this situation, but clearly it's a significant issue.

Really, nobody can tell you how to feel about this, but you certainly have lots of perspectives up there and probably more than enough advice. How do you feel, though? What was your immediate reaction when you found out? If it was "that's it, the end, it's over" then maybe that's how you really feel, because often our first reaction is the only one we can trust - it's what we decide the situation is before we start rationalising things.

From my perspective of cheating being an absolute deal-breaker, a perspective that is shared by my partner and which is a pact that we sealed right from the start, there's no way back from here. If the situation isn't that way for you, there may be a way forward, but it will no doubt be incredibly difficult. Unlike many, I don't think that counselling particularly helps here - it just gives both parties a way to avoid communicating directly and the only winner is the counsellor who ends up with a new BMW out of your pocket. That's your decision, though, if you decide to try and stick with this relationship.

One word of advice, though - you have no kids. Make sure things stay that way at least until you are sure you're over this. If you think life is complicated and sucky now, throw a couple of rug-rats into the picture and you have a whole different scenario and a whole other bunch of joint responsibilities that override your personal happiness. That way madness lies.
posted by dg at 1:49 AM on March 31, 2009

I tend to keep my personal judgement of those who break promises to myself. But the responders suggesting you disregard a solemn promise that you (presumably) made with full knowledge of the possibilities is predictable but it is also disgusting, makes a mockery of traditional marriage vows, and indicates they are not people to be taken at their word.

To be clear, OP, regardless of whatever arrangement desjardin and Optimus Chyme have worked out with their spouses, when I hear someone has taken a vow "for better and worse", "in good times and bad", or "until death do us part", I actually expect that that person will honor the vow they've sworn before those gathered (and their god[s]). Traditional marriage vows are not made solely to one another and don't have contingency clauses for spousal indiscretion. A vow is an individual's promise, not a mutually binding contract.

Cheating or beatings may certainly be considered "bad times" but if you didn't specify them as grounds to cancel your vow, then choosing to break your vow on those grounds means you failed to keep your vow just like your spouse did. Which is not to say your anger is misplaced. But how you deal with your anger will determine your suitability for traditional marriage vows. Perhaps renegotiation and more realistic expectations are in order.

So can the marriage be saved? Is it worth saving? Contemplate the vow you took. Did they address bad times such as these? Did you mean the vow as you took it? Was your vow contingent upon unstated clauses and/or reciprocity? Do you honor your vow now?
posted by McGuillicuddy at 2:36 AM on March 31, 2009

People can't live up to standards they didn't know they were supposed to live up to.

What? When people get married they aren't supposed to fuck around. This isn't some secret expectation? There are some pretty silly answers in this thread. For example, I'm curious how many times Zambrano has been cheated on.

OP, your wife was cheating on you a month after you got married. That doesn't seem like a good way to start a life together.
posted by chunking express at 12:44 PM on March 31, 2009

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