Once-happily married man comes to find out he's a selfish jerk!
May 18, 2010 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm married. I left. Intellectually I think this is a mistake. I KNOW I'm being selfish and short-sighted. That doesn't change how I feel right now though. I could really use some perspective. Some advice. Let me bore you with my story.....

Ahh yes, another relationship question. Despite the tone below I really am struggling and could use a fresh perspective. So, so many details below.

On preview, this is a novel, I tried to pare down the content, but this is what is left. Most of it is spacing. I don't know if I would read it, but I hope you do. I could use a hand.

My wife and I:
Late 20's/Early 30's. Very successful and satisfied professionally. Married for 5 years, together 2 years prior to that. No kids. Until 4 months ago, very happy.

The past 6 months WE:
1) Sold our first house and moved into a big, beautiful, new house (with a big, beautiful, new mortgage…well within my means, but definitely more substantial).
2) Began seriously trying to have children, unsuccessful but promising, although moving towards pretty invasive procedures.
3) Have been fighting a lot for the past few months, not related to having children or money or anything, but related to my not including her as much in my life lately, and a general suspicion about my faithfulness.
4) In couples counseling.

In the past 6 months I:
1) Befriended a charming, beautiful girl, who I, of course, became very interested in being with romantically. Fine…call it a crush. Nothing happens beyond flirting.
2) Left a good, but boring and frustrating, job to take an exciting, new job. Similar compensation, slightly more risk, slightly less stability.
3) Left home. Ahh, here it is. At first there was a house that needed house-sitting for a week, a convenient way to get some room. Then a business trip. Now…..I don't know when/if I'm going back. Been out of the house a little less than 4 weeks now.
4) Am in individual therapy for the first time in my life. I feel like it's been productive.

A bit more background:
The baby thing: This was something I always thought I wanted. We've always talked about it. Always…white picket fence, kids, you know the picture. Whether we could conceive or adopt really didn't matter to me. Of course conceiving was difficult, and my wife was taking drugs to help. I don't believe they resulted in any serious mood-swings, but I could be wrong.

The fighting thing: I've been more social with people that she doesn't know. This is new for us. Since we first met I brought her into my social circle and we've always been there together. She makes no bones about wanting to be included in this new group. I feel that this new group is brought together by something very specific, and it's all very insider talk. Bottom line, though, is that I didn't want to include her. It involves maybe 2 happy hours (a long hour…runs late into the night) every 3 weeks. Maybe there were 6-7 total. My crush is, of course, a part of it (another part of why I don't want to include my wife). My wife suspects infidelity. Suspects and suspects and suspects. Can you blame her? She's obviously picking up on something with me. There is none, but not for lack of thinking about it.

Our marriage: We are extremely, extremely close, as couples go. We do everything together, spend 90% of our free time together. By choice. It's how we were. I really never minded. A point of note is that several years back she left me. Woke up one morning and decided that she didn’t love me anymore. Moved out, didn't want to work on it, didn't want anything. Came back to reconcile a couple of months later. A painful 6 months to a year followed but she spent a lot of time in individual therapy, we spent time in couples therapy, and I really believe we ended up being stronger than ever.

The crush: Started off as just friends. Flirty though. I begin to talk to her a lot (emails, that sort of thing) and began to really want to spend time with her in an increasingly "not-appropriate-while-married" kind of way. It's definitely mutual. Nothing long term, probably no scenario where there's a future, but that doesn't make me not want it.

The separation: I just wanted to leave. To make it easier to plan to spend actual time with the crush? To stop fighting with my wife? Because I wanted out? Because it was easy? I'm sure yes to all those things. Did I have a plan? No. Intellectually, did I think I was going back home? Yes. Emotionally, did I want to go back home? No.

My wife: Crushed. Devastated. Painfully obvious that I'm ruining her life. Desperately wants this to work. I'm going to put the flippant tone aside for a second. Hurting her is killing me.

Where the situation stands:
I'm out of the house. I'm talking to my wife, but making no illusions about my ambivalence (except I'm not telling her that there's another woman involved in my decision to leave). I'm talking to the crush. I'm walking a very thin, very selfish line. One step in either direction and I lose the other. Losing the girl, that would not be pleasant but we would both be ok. I just don't want to do that. Losing my wife is going to emotionally devastate her, putting her through that is going to devastate me. I cannot begin to imagine it. I'm so disappointed in myself. When I lay it out like that, I can't believe this is a decision I'm having so much trouble making.

The crux:
I get what this looks like. I get it. What an obvious 1/3rd life crisis. Began to achieve what I felt I had been working towards in life, facing increasing responsibility, took a new job, made some new friends, more and more tied down, a perceived encroachment of my freedom. Intellectually, of course I should go back to my wife while I still can and stop being selfish. Intellectually, I think it's better-than-even-money that I'll forever regret leaving my wife. Intellectually I should renegotiate the terms of my relationship with my wife, allowing for more freedom, and working through our problems.

But that doesn’t change how I feel. What if I did go back now? Does this just stop? Does this come up again in a few years? Do I hold lingering resentment or bitterness? Could I bring CHILDREN into this situation now? Plus, I WANT to be with my crush. I'm crazy about her. It's fun. Being able to see the situation objectively doesn't override the way I'm actually feeling.

What is evident though is that I need to do something. Not doing anything is ultimately making this worse for all parties, and is arguably the most selfish thing of all.

Is it possible I'm just different now and leaving and exploring new thing is the right decision for me? Or am I ruining my entire life for something that I won't feel in a month's time. Or, god help me, are both true?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (76 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
You're making a huge dramatic thing about this. Don't waste the energy. You're interested in new girl enough to want to be with her, and however you feel about your wife, it's obvious you're not into her enough to want a long-term exclusive marriage. Sack up and grant her a divorce and go enjoy the rest of your life.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:19 AM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

These are tough questions, but you're never going to discover good answers to them if you don't remove your crush from the equation. Stop all contact with her and see where a month or so of reflection gets you without that distraction muddying your thoughts.
posted by spinto at 8:27 AM on May 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

It's fun with the new girl because it's a fantasy. Fantasies are always fun. Your crush didn't leave her socks on the floor for the millionth time, she didn't leave her dishes in the sink, she doesn't ask you to come home when you're out having fun with your pals. Your crush hasn't farted in front of you (probably); you only see her when she's putting her best foot forward, not in her ratty pajamas on a Sunday afternoon.

She's a distraction to the real issue.

If there were no crush girl, would you still be thinking about leaving your wife? If the answer is yes, you need to break up with your wife.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:28 AM on May 18, 2010 [57 favorites]

My first, not-nice thought was: for fuck's sake, grow up.

My real answer is that this crush is a nice distraction from the (quite normal) stresses in your life, but how likely is it that it would develop into the incredible closeness you share with your wife? That is really, really rare to find. I think you need a lot of excitement and adventure in your life (hence the new exciting job? purchasing a house? your crush?). So try to get it in ways that involve your wife. Rock climbing, sky diving, hiking through the Amazon, whatever. There are plenty of ways to take risks that don't endanger your marriage. I suspect you'll always have the urge to try new things; just make sure one of them isn't another woman.
posted by desjardins at 8:29 AM on May 18, 2010 [61 favorites]

If you want to stay in your marriage, stop doing things that are going to threaten it. Otherwise, rip off the bandaid: leave, let your wife heal, get on with the next third of your life.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:29 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

You sound awfully flip for someone who is torpedoing his own marriage.

There is no way you can begin to approach your relationship with your wife while still "hanging out" with the other woman. If you're really interested in the possibility of working things out with your wife, you have to cut off all contact with the other woman. Once she's out of the equation, you can see how things feel. If you feel that you are incapable of cutting her out of your life, that's your answer. Do one kind thing for your wife and do it sooner rather than later.
posted by crankylex at 8:31 AM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

5 Years Married + 2 Years Dating = Seven Year Itich .

I think spinto is exactly right - your crush should have nothing to do with this decision. If you want to leave your wife, do it, but don't do it for some random fling. Do it because you've realized that you two won't work over the long term.
posted by CharlieSue at 8:32 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I honestly don't buy that you regret leaving your wife. You regret hurting her, sure, and you miss the closeness you once had, but I think from what you're saying that you like the freedom you have now.

The thing is that it's okay not to want to be tied down. You just have to be honest with yourself and the person you're with. It sucks that what you wanted or thought you wanted changed, but you need to deal with it honestly.

Do NOT by any means bring children into your life now. Please just wipe that thought from your memory. It's beyond a bad idea.

You both need an ending so you both can have another beginning. Circling the airport isn't helping anyone.
posted by inturnaround at 8:33 AM on May 18, 2010 [8 favorites]

My first, not-nice thought was: for fuck's sake, grow up. Agreed!

My real answer is that this crush is a nice distraction from the (quite normal) stresses in your life, but how likely is it that it would develop into the incredible closeness you share with your wife?

Precisely. You need to cut off your crush, ditch happy hours for awhile, go back to your wife, and work on rebuilding the life you were happy with until 4 months ago. You're just going through a stressful time- the mortgage, the job, the kids thing. Don't let a hard time throw you off track.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:33 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is much more straightforward than you think it is.

Every single thing you mention that's pulling you away from your wife is related to your crush on this girl. Which you say yourself has no future.

The problems started when you started flirting with this girl. Your wife suspects you of infidelity because you're flirting with this girl. You're not including your wife in this "new group" because the girl you're flirting with is in that group. You're pretending that you're "walking a fine line" between losing your wife and losing a girl who you're just flirting with. You talk about wanting to "renegotiate the terms of your relationship with your wife, allowing for more freedom," because you want the freedom to have an affair with this girl.

Stop kidding yourself that this is about anything other than your desire to have an affair with this girl. Everything else you've mentioned is just window dressing and obfuscation.

"Doctor, it hurts when I do this," as the old joke goes.
posted by ook at 8:35 AM on May 18, 2010 [84 favorites]

Do your wife a favor. If you don't want to be married to her anymore, then unequivocally leave. And do it fast, so that she can pick up the pieces of her life. You'll ruin her life more by staying married to her for however many years, feeling like you're dragging around a ball and chain before eventually and inevitably bailing out. And the longer you wait, the more likely it will be that there will be children whose early childhood will be traumatized by your quarreling, and then your divorce. Been that kid, done that, it isn't fun. Better of course than "staying together for the sake of the children," but it still sucks.

You already have left your wife. You still love her... kind of. But, from your words above, you won't be devastated on your own behalf if you leave her, instead you'll be devastated because you don't want to be the kind of man who leaves his wife because he's got a crush on another girl. But you already left your wife, and it's too late to change that. It might be better-than-even money that you'll regret leaving, but it's also better-than-even money that you would regret staying.

Plus, the longer you string her along like you're doing, the more you hurt her chances of being able to conceive and bear a child, which I presume is fairly important to her, given that she has already been undergoing a lot of inconvenience to be able to do it. Living apart from your wife, but talking like you just might come back after all, is dog-in-the-manger behavior. You don't want to be with her, but you don't want to end things so she could possibly find someone else, either.

This sounds pretty harsh, I know. I don't think you're an awful person or anything like that, just confused. But your confusion is really fucking up your wife's life in addition to your own, and I think you need some therapy and that you need to make a decision soon. I think that, based on how you're sounding now, the decision will probably be to leave, but I'm not you so I can't say for sure. If I were your wife, I would prefer if you just flat-out left me -- even if you come back "for her sake," how can she trust that you won't do this again, say, when she's eight months pregnant or suffering from an illness?
posted by kataclysm at 8:35 AM on May 18, 2010 [11 favorites]

I agree that you seem to be enjoying the drama--and the attention (two women who want you bad!)--a little too much for this to seem like a sincere cry for help from the hive. One thing is certain: if the only reason you're staying with your wife is to prevent her from the pain of losing you, just leave already. That's patronizing....and suspect, given that I detect there might still be resentment or passive aggression here on your part over her stab at leaving YOU earlier in the marriage. Also, your attempts to exclude her from this new social circle come across as peevish and punitive as well.

/just a stranger on the internet, but hey, you asked
posted by availablelight at 8:36 AM on May 18, 2010 [12 favorites]

I'm glad you are in individual counseling as I think it will help you come to these conclusions.

But, here's a question for you. Don't think about the answer. And I really do want you to answer it out loud wherever you are with a simple, "Yes," or "No."

Do you love your wife?

Again, do you love your wife?

Did you answer yes? Then maybe you should add couple's counseling to your therapy regimen. Did you answer no? Then maybe you should figure out what happened to cause that response in individual therapy and reflect on the results.

Honestly, 2 years together + 5 years marriage = 7 year itch. And for bonus points, add the difficulty conceiving. There's a lot going on here emotionally, probably for her as well at the moment. I'm not surprised that you need some space or even that you would develop a crush on another girl.

I just also don't think you should throw a good thing away without fighting for it first.
posted by zizzle at 8:36 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by zizzle at 8:38 AM on May 18, 2010

This kind of thing happens for many married couples at about the seven year mark. Man up, get away from the crush, go back to the wife and grovel for her to take you back, then work on keeping your marriage together. Marriages are hard work but when you are with the person who will take a bullet for you (no matter how stale and boring the relationship has become) then that is the person you need to be all googly eyed over is the spouse.
posted by MsKim at 8:43 AM on May 18, 2010

Go back and think about all the women you dated, or wanted to date, before you met your wife. Back to college, back to high school. Try to think of somebody you had a really big crush on, I mean somebody you REALLY longed for. Preferably somebody you never got to be with.

Now: let's say a genie tells, "I'll change the past so that you'll have a happy memory of a three-month relationship with your high school crush, but the price is you have to trash your marriage."

Do you do it?

I'll bet not, right?

OK, the way you feel about your high school crush? That's how you're going to feel about your current crush five years from now. Your five-years-older self is telling you "Don't let your feelings for your crush drive lifetime-scale decisions, because you're deciding not just for you, but for me, your ten-years-older self, etc. We're a team and sometimes you've gotta take one for the team."
posted by escabeche at 8:50 AM on May 18, 2010 [16 favorites]

Yeah, that seven year mark is just hell on relationships. (Guess how I know?)

The separation: I just wanted to leave.

At least now you know pretty much how your wife felt back when she left.

Does this just stop? Does this come up again in a few years?

It's hard to tell. Your wife is clearly glad that she decided to come back, so that bodes well for you. This is something the two of you need to work out together. I think it's obvious that talking about kids right now is a bad idea.

I think you should go back home and deal with it from there. You've made your dissatisfaction known, so there's little worry of just going on as before, pretending nothing is wrong. You'll make more progress, and faster, if you confront the situation instead of drifting about in the periphery.

If you get involved with this other person now, the odds are pretty great that you'll wind up wrecking her life as well. You are not in a good position to be responsible for yet another person's feelings, no matter how much fun you may have together in the short term.
posted by hermitosis at 8:50 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with everything everyone else has said about how you're using this as a fantasy to get out of your [stresses at home/predictable life with wife/whatever]. But I also noticed that when you're with your wife, you spend "90% of our time together." That's not healthy.

Have you seen Knocked Up, where Leslie Mann thinks Paul Rudd is having an affair and he's just doing fantasy baseball? Before I noticed the part about the crush, I saw the part about your activity that doesn't involve your wife and thought, "Oh, good, he's getting some time for himself." You're your own person, first and foremost, and you need to preserve that.

I've been there -- both the joined-at-the-hip part and the needing time for myself part. OF COURSE you need time for yourself, particularly during this time in your life with so many things changing. You're faced with such a huge amount of responsibility, and it can feel like it's all on your shoulders. It's not... but only if you don't treat it that way. (And how about your wife? She's willing to undergo invasive medical procedures and give her body over to producing and gestating another human being. That's not as easy to run away from, is it?)

That said, don't take this as an endorsement of your behavior. You sound like you've been going about this the wrong way, and you owe it to your wife to grow the fuck up and do it right. Even if that means getting out of the marriage, you'll still face these issues in any other relationship until you manage how you're finding a healthy amount of space for yourself.

Therapy can help, and I'm really glad to hear that you're finding some assistance there. Keep going, and stay away from your crush. Until you decide what happens with your wife, your crush isn't anything more. Don't throw away all that you've built for a chance at short-term hijinks.
posted by Madamina at 8:53 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would do this. Intently seriously and vividly imagine that your WIFE were your CRUSH and vice vera. That is, reverse the situation and circumstances that surround them (your CRUSH wants a kid, and needs invasive surgery, and spends 90% of her time with you and your WIFE is a woman you have to sneak to see, and not act on your desires, and it is an adventure to go meet up with her).

if you do that thought experiment (and I would spend all of a day and nothing else that day visualizing it) and think you STILL want to pursue the crush... well there it is.

But I I suspect you are looking more for adventure and novelty than from any actual difference between the women. The crush seems more dangerous and interesting than your wife (just like your new more unstable but "interesting" job). Hopefully the visualization will allow you to FEEL that difference as well as intellectualize it.

And it is not unrealistic, 2 years from now, that might be your situation... Married to your crush and cheating with your wife.

Also consider another visualization... and that is that both of these women hate you, never speak with you and you are on your own longing for both or either of them. This is also a very real situation, as you point out.

Finally... if the circumstances surrounding the woman are all that is making you have this "itch" then share this with your wife. Maybe she wants a change too? I know she has that nesting instinct, but she is still young, you can go on a second honeymoon or extended vacation (6 months minimum) living in another country, or do some volunteer peacecorp type work or SOMETHING. And if you say "well that's too expensive" consider the cost of a divorce.

It's a lot easier, not to mention more ethical, to change the context that surrounds people than to just change PEOPLE every 7 years.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 8:55 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

But that doesn’t change how I feel. What if I did go back now? Does this just stop? Does this come up again in a few years? Do I hold lingering resentment or bitterness?
It doesn't just stop; you just stop, or not. Yeah, if you just go back now (emphasis on 'just'), you'll likely keep revisiting this. What can make it different - and probably the only thing that can - will be your having made a conscious decision about what you want and conscious choices what you are willing to do and to not do to have it, and most importantly, then making peace with that decision.
There are always going to be other attractive people, times of more stress in your marriage, times when either of you needs to turn more inward for a while; sometimes at the same time. In those times you'll need to be able reach in and find that peace.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 8:59 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm talking to my wife, but making no illusions about my ambivalence (except I'm not telling her that there's another woman involved in my decision to leave). I'm talking to the crush.

You're not actually talking to your wife in good faith if you're not telling her about this other woman.

Start there, preferably in the couples counselor's office.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2010 [12 favorites]

Everyone's telling you to get a divorce. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned or naive or LTR-having-but-never-married (I am probably all of those things) but what about the "forever" aspect? A marriage is not something that just happens to you. This is something that you did. You picked it. You promised to love her and be with her forever. Five years is not the end of forever. Unless you're having gigantic, sanity-and-life-threatening insurmountable difficulties with each other--and it does not sound like you are--divorcing is treating your marriage very casually. When you marry someone, you relinquish the right to become interested in someone else and then leave your partner for her. That is what marriage is about. Or, at least it is what marriage should be about.

You don't really sound like you want a divorce, so this is more a rant against earlier comment-makers than against you. I think you should suck it up and try harder and move back home, because you made a promise, and if you don't, you will make a liar of yourself and probably be a lot worse off. Something about your wife made you want to be with her forever. It's still there. You're just not taking your very serious commitment seriously enough.
posted by millipede at 9:03 AM on May 18, 2010 [42 favorites]

I'm not sure what advice I can offer other than that I've been here too. This is a fairly common feeling for late 20/30 cusp I suspect. I was recently in a place where I could have said almost everything you just did verbatim.

When I was in this situation the external crush just burned away at me, became all I could think about. I wanted it so god damn much.

So I went for it.

Caused a lot of pain to my girlfriend in the process, but I went and did it anyway.

How did that turn out you ask? Well, the initial torrid union with the crush was awesome. Felt so good to get what I had been lusting over for so long.

But then, that was it. Shortly after this hook-up I started to realize I really wasn't all that into the crush. Like almost immediately after I got what I wanted I realized it wasn't what I wanted after all. I broke up with her approximately 2 weeks after we got together.

I spent some time single. Had a little fun, but in the end I came crawling to my girlfriend. I'm still with her now.

So I guess the long and short of it my little tangent anecdote is not to underestimate how good it is to have someone that loves and supports you unconditionally and how shitty you will feel for hurting someone that feels that way about you.

My advice: take your alone time you have now and examine the pros and cons of your current relationship as if it were in a vacuum. If it is something worth keeping, then man up and be with her unconditionally. If it is something you feel trapped in, then get out and go have some fun with the crush. But whatever you do, don't make the decision based on how much you want the crush, as this feeling may be as transient and ephemeral as a summer breeze.

Regardless of what you choose, you will probably feel like an asshole afterwards. Such is our lot in life. Sorrs.

Oh, and don't go having kids anytime soon as you are still a kid your self until you have figured this situation out. The quarter/third/nth life crisis is a rite of passage.
posted by cirrostratus at 9:04 AM on May 18, 2010 [10 favorites]

Dude, both your thoughts and feelings are correct. You are being selfish. And your feelings are totally natural and valid.

Who would blame you for feeling the way you do? You're young with a lot of energy and potential and a wide world of prospects in front of you. You are now confronting the idea of Forever. Your relationship with your wife is no longer New and we all like that feeling of New. The idea of verging on Fatherhood scares the shit out of many good men. Yes, the grey days of responsibility will clamp down around you and you cannot just up and take that adventurous transfer to Lima or buy the Harley and take a four week rambling trek across Baja. Many of us want to be someone extraordinary and being a family man seems so, well, ordinary.

What makes us men and not boys is that we are not directed by our feelings. We take control of our feelings, set our minds on something, and build it. At some point, you choose your mission in life. None more noble than to build a household and grow a family. But no matter what mission you choose, you have to build it past the point that it quits being new. Anything meaningful you commit to becomes a daily grind. But deep meaning, lifelong fulfillment, and true joy can only be found by grinding away. The only way out is through.

Don't seek the dopamine rewards of New Experiences at the expense of slogging thru the familiar dailiness of devoting your life to something bigger than you. Because keeping your options open is a prison of its own.

As for kids, I always say that I am blessed that I didn't venture into adulthood without children to protect me. I thank God every day that I have a family to challenge me, disturb me, and not let me rest for too long. They are how I keep from being completely self-absorbed. Which is, in my experience, a particularly common mode of hell I wish to avoid.

(Reading that might help: The Power of Commitment by Scott Stanley)
posted by cross_impact at 9:05 AM on May 18, 2010 [22 favorites]

You don't mention your sex life with your wife. Was the sex good/exciting? Are you looking outside the marriage because you're bored with the sex?

You're in your early thirties. You are just figuring out that fidelity in your wife means no more sex with anyone else. Yes, you love her and are extremely close. But you get drawn to a potential fling because you can't countenance the death of the possible, the conquest, whatever. Your irrational move-out, in spite of your intellectual opposition, is you giving into your emotional adventurer side.

My two cents -- the way you are thinking and approaching this situation tells me your marriage is doomed, and that no matter how hard you try to make it work, you will still sabotage it ultimately.

The politically incorrect solution is to 1) move back in with your wife, apologizing profusely and 2) in a year or two, have the occasional sex-only fling with a mistress, French-style. In this way, you vent your sexual/rogue steam, and still have the bedrock of the marriage and a happy wife.

(This assumes that your wife would not be happy with a more open relationship.)

Otherwise, if you just tamp down your impulses, you are only going to delay them until later. Children will just make the pressure to holster your weapon stronger.

All of this sucks, but it's biology and it's confirmed by male behavior again and again.
posted by teedee2000 at 9:05 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two more small things.

1. You write about your wife's suspicions as if they were incorrect. They're not. Plenty of married people can enjoy having a crush on a co-worker. without it affecting their marriage. It is spectacularly clear you are not one of those people. I promise, you can find something else to enjoy.

2. You should let your wife come to the happy hours. Remember: "I feel threatened when you do X without me, and I don't want to do X, so I don't want you to do X" is controlling spouse. "I feel threatened when you do X without me, so please bring me along" is pretty reasonable. If she's bored by the insider talk, she'll stop coming.

3. I don't mean to say it will be easy. Knowing the right thing to do is pretty easy -- and it seems from your post you already know the right thing. Doing the right thing can be hard. But people do hard things every day.

4. Maybe to make it easier you should remind yourself that, in the opinion of most people here, dumping your wife and chasing your crush would not just be the wrong thing to do, it would actually screw up your life and make you unhappy in the long term, the medium term, and actually probably every term after a few months or so. I think your problem is short-sightedness, not selfishness.
posted by escabeche at 9:07 AM on May 18, 2010 [12 favorites]

You're being selfish and self indulgent. You made a commitment, grow up and stick to it.
posted by newpotato at 9:07 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you already left your home (and marriage) weeks ago. And now you're looking to the internet for some flogging and/or permission to leave.

If you're really not sure what You want for Your own life, you might want to look at some more intensive therapy for a little while. Because its obvious that what you're doing now isn't helping any of you move forward.
posted by ldthomps at 9:08 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've known a few guys like you. Get married in your twenties/early thirties after a few years of dating. Things are humming along until he thinks some girl is into him (Man!! I still got it). Problem is, the guys that dumped their wives for these girls are now into their mid forties and are still dating women in their twenties (creepy dudes that are still looking for something not realizing they had it). Everyone that once knew the guy shaking their heads saying 'what a fucking idiot'.
posted by repoman at 9:09 AM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

I agree with those who are saying take the crush out of the equation, and see what you have left. But also, this:

"Losing my wife is going to emotionally devastate her, putting her through that is going to devastate me."

You said "is going to" rather than "would". It sounds as if, emotionally, you're already gone. As if you're just hoping that someone here can justify it for you, because you're having a hard time justifying it to yourself. While I hate to see any marriage end, it seems to me that if you don't end it now, you'll just end up doing it in a few years, for some other crush. There's something you feel is missing from your marriage (passion?), and if you don't figure out a way to get it within your marriage, you're always going to be looking for it elsewhere, at least subconciously. The question you need to ask yourself is, "Was it ever there?" If the answer is yes, figure out what you need to do to get it back. If the answer is no, then do your wife a favor and end it, so that she doesn't have to additionally deal with the thought that you wasted all those years of her life, while you were trying to get up the courage to get out.

You can love someone a great deal without them being the right person for you to spend your life with. On the other hand, the grass is always greener on the other side: but maybe that's because you're not taking very good care of your own garden?
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:10 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dude, I was that crush once. Either shit or get off the pot.
posted by jgirl at 9:13 AM on May 18, 2010 [8 favorites]

Your wife, from what I see, is not the problem. You are the problem. You didn't take your marriage seriously, and you've messed up as a husband, and I'm surprised she's still with you. She should leave you, divorce, and have a child with another man who isn't duplicitous. That's what she deserves, because she's being wronged. You won't even admit that you're creating complete instability in the relationship and she's psychically aware of it.

You write about your wife's suspicions as if they were incorrect.

This is completely right. What your paragraph actually describes is a guy who thinks he's not at fault because he didn't have any clear responsibility to anybody but himself. I really don't think you should have kids until you can figure out to how to actually be the kind of guy you think you are, which you're not, which is to say, the kind of guy who is a real best friend to his wife and really close to his wife. You think you're close, but you have no semblance of loyalty to her, whether or not anything happened with your crush.

I predict that a year from now, if you don't actually step back and turn things around, your life is going to be in utter shambles and you are going to not only regret what you're doing, but you're going to realize how you've just ruined everything.

Unfortunately, you'll only see it later. You're showing a lot of arrogance and overconfidence in your way of describing this situation, and it's hard to believe that you won't really be able to 'get it' until you're at the bottom of the cliff.
posted by anniecat at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2010 [15 favorites]

A marriage is not something that just happens to you. This is something that you did. You picked it. You promised to love her and be with her forever.


I say this as a pretty liberal person who thinks consenting adults can do pretty much whatever they want with whomever they want in whatever arrangements they want--when you make vows with someone, you must honor them. Marriage isn't a guarantee that you will be together forever, no, but because you chose to make vows that outlined the future plans you each agreed to, you owe it to your wife and to the marriage to honor that. That means you do not keep talking to your crush while you also try to talk things out with your wife: you see the mess that this crush is causing in your thinking and in your life, and you cut her out of your world. And, moreover, you see the other messes and complications in your life that have skewed your view of the marriage to something negative, something you want to escape--and you address those things soberly, with the goal of adhering to the vows you made.

Many marriages don't work, many end. But a high divorce rate does not mean that you are excused from honoring the vows you made. And the reason you made vows--or at least a huge part of the reason, is that there is a whole population of potential crushes surrounding you and your wife, and a whole life full of stress and complications, all of which will swirl around your marriage and make it really hard. Your vows were not meant to keep you committed to the marriage when you were not distracted by an exciting crush: they were explicitly meant to address that experience. Many wedding ceremonies include the phrase "forsaking all others"--you don't need to "forsake" someone you're not interested in and can simply disregard, you "forsake" someone you are interested in who catches your attention. Like, for instance, your crush. You should forsake her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:24 AM on May 18, 2010 [66 favorites]

A point of note is that several years back she left me. Woke up one morning and decided that she didn’t love me anymore. Moved out, didn't want to work on it, didn't want anything.

Was this before you were married? Could how you're feeling now be because she left you before so you want to hurt her? Do you think she left and cheated on you, and then came back and you want to even the score because your pride was hurt or because ever since a tiny part of you felt insecure that she would do the same thing again?
posted by anniecat at 9:27 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it possible I'm just different now and leaving and exploring new thing is the right decision for me? Or am I ruining my entire life for something that I won't feel in a month's time. Or, god help me, are both true?

Most of the answers so far are assuming that being with your wife is the right thing to do and anything else is just a deviation from that natural and proper course. You should be asking yourself that question, what do you really want for yourself? You can't be with her out of obligation, that just isn't going to hold, now or in the future. You might be able to bear that for a while, but eventually it will end up right where it is today all over again.

I've been in the position a few times and inevitably discovered that what I was trying to do was hold on to the comfort of the thing, the structure, the history - but the love and the relationship had gone. Or, even worse, I felt so bad about the pain I was causing someone so I held on to protect them (or myself from the fallout).

Your crush isn't your reason for leaving, and it's not the cause of your issues - obviously you know that all these issues existed before the crush and would continue with or without the crush. Don't let the crush become a proxy for the problems you're having with your wife - she will fixate on it and you will too and that is a road you don't want to go down.

Bottom line: You could drag your wife through your indecision and torture her with it, but from what you wrote, you already know how that will end, you're just delaying it - Instead, I think you should release her now, let her move on and find yourself the space to work on your own stuff, figure out what you really want for your life. But you must respect her and the relationship you've had, be there for her in any way she needs because you owe her that. Help her understand everything that's going on with you and find her own closure, speak to her honestly about everything.

You're worried about 'ruining your entire life' - there is no 'life' to ruin. Your life is not a plan that must be followed, it's an adventure to be discovered - don't let guilt or fear stop you from living it. Stop feeling bound by a life you think someone else expects you to live and find your own way, otherwise you're hurting yourself AND her even more.
posted by jardinier at 9:27 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

If I were married to someone who thought about me the way you think about your wife, I'd pack his bags for him. Then I'd be free to find a single man who finds me as "charming" and "beautiful" as you find your crush. It's only fair.
posted by December at 9:32 AM on May 18, 2010 [8 favorites]

Despite the tone below I really am struggling and could use a fresh perspective.

This has sort of been said above, but the tone is part of the problem. You are enjoying this way too much and finding yourself way too interesting. You are leading yourself on with your own superficial playing with words. Try writing out a matter-of-fact description of the situation, leaving out all the sort of side winks to the audience and the insincere acknowledgements of how predictable all this is.

My gut feeling is you should leave unless you can recommit yourself thoroughly. And without feeling like you are doing your wife a big favor or bowing down to the insititution of marriage. That institution is an awfully convenient thing to rebel against any time you are feeling bored.
posted by BibiRose at 9:45 AM on May 18, 2010 [22 favorites]

I'm married. I've had trouble conceiving. I have flirted and had crushes. I've been in individual therapy, and couples therapy. Just to give you my dossier here.

Let me be blunt: You have to stop seeing your crush. Cold. You HAVE to. If she's the One You're Meant To Be With, she'll still be there at the end of two months. But you owe it to your wife, and to the friends who came to your wedding, and the people who stood next to you and vowed to support you, to do everything you can to save your marriage. Because that's what marriage IS. You have made that bed; it is time to lie in it. You don't have to go home right now, but you do have to stop seeing the crush. No more happy hours; if they're important for work, go with an agenda, don't drink, and sit across the room from your crush. No more flirtation. Cold cut her out of your life for two months. This is the least you can do.

TTC (trying to conceive) is wearying, and it takes the most intimate part of intimacy and makes it a scheduled, boring chore. The roughest time in my marriage was when I was a year and two miscarriages into trying to get my first kid. The wedge that can drive between couples is subtle and awful. And whether or not you think the fertility drugs have caused mood swings, I guarantee you they've done SOMETHING; I've never spoken to a single woman on clomid who said it was anything other than the worst PMS of her life. Talk to your wife about how the process is making her feel, as a person, as a woman, and as your sexual partner. She may be worried that her infertility is driving you into the arms (and uterus) of a fertile partner. She may be right. Either way, you have to sit down with her and really examine your feelings about fertility treatments and adoption, bearing in mind that adopting is no picnic and is frequently more time consuming and expensive than fertility treatments. Do this with your counselor. Do it again with your wife. Do it a third time with your wife and your couples counselor.

If, after looking long and hard at these issues, you decide you don't want to be married, then you should file for divorce and fast. But don't do it until you've cut your crush out of your life and taken a cold, hard look at the devastating impact infertility can have on your intimacy, physical and emotional both.
posted by KathrynT at 9:46 AM on May 18, 2010 [18 favorites]

Go home and talk to your wife. There's a lot going on in your life, and you haven't been dealing with how scared you are of it by running. You don't think you'll miss your wife because you haven't actually left yet and have bee running around in a sort of sanctioned limbo that absolves you of all responsibility to decide anything. You owe it to yourself to see if you're really done with your marriage or if you are just freaking out. Go home, talk to her, stop seeing the girl, and keep seeing the therapist. If you still want to leave after 6 months, then you have your answer - but you'll always question your decision until you give it another try.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:49 AM on May 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

...and yes, as KathrynT said above, trying to conceive is incredibly rough on a marriage. All of the tiny cracks in my marriage turned into vast canyons after the first miscarriage. Mine didn't last, but that doesn't mean that yours won't. Take some time to figure out what you really want.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:51 AM on May 18, 2010

* Your vows were not meant to keep you committed to the marriage when you were not distracted by an exciting crush: they were explicitly meant to address that experience.*


FWIW, she shat on you for whatever reason and left you years ago...might you still harbor resentment? If so, you're now even. Now stop seeing your crush and work on your marriage. Frankly, I think you have better chances than most because of her having left you once.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:10 AM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've never spoken to a single woman on clomid who said it was anything other than the worst PMS of her life - so true. It's horrible.

Anon, I think the 7-year itch is a cliche for a reason. My wife and I are in a similar situation right now, and I thank god that there is no crush in the picture, or man, I would be sorely tempted to try to distract myself with the shiny new thing.

To be honest, though, I should thank myself for it because I have made damn sure that there would be no crush. It really is a matter of choice. You choose to flirt, you choose to open yourself up to those feelings, you choose to be inappropriate with someone even though you know that your wife would be - and is - hurt by it.

Your wife is worth fighting for. You need to turn this inward and focus your energies on your relationship instead. It isn't easy.

Have you tried talking to someone about this who knows you both? When my wife and I asked our best friends to be our maid of honor/best man at our wedding, we specifically asked them to be a support to us and our marriage in tough times. I'm speaking to mine later today, knowing that I can vent a bit to her and she will keep it confidential and support me while also being pro (my) marriage. I think a good test for whether to do something is whether you can tell it to someone who has your best interests at heart. If you can't, because you're ashamed or don't want to deal with the consequences, whatever - then you shouldn't be doing whatever you're thinking.

Good luck. Remember, these are the times that define us. It's easy being committed when there's no temptation around. It's what you choose to do now that the rubber is hitting the road that matters. Who will you choose to be?
posted by widdershins at 10:20 AM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

You know the answer here.

The crush is a distraction, but the fact is that you are not ready to have children with your wife. The fact that she left you and then came back shows that she was in a similar state at that time.

You need a divorce. If you don't get one, you need to significantly lower your expectations in life in general in order to stay married with any degree of happiness. This is the sex you'll be having. This is the codependency you have agreed to. After kids, you'll have less and less time and freedom. The crush won't magically go away, either. You'll look her up every few years and have to fight that off forevermore.

The additional fact that you're kind of digging being in this mess, that it feels to you like some kind of Updike-style-badge-of-adulthood, also indicates you're pretty naive yet and not ready for all the work that marriage with kids will bring.

The marriage is clearly not worth that to you, and if she knew the all the facts here it wouldn't be worth it to your wife, either. Thinking that you're ruining her life is rather egotistical. She'll be sad and angry in the short term, but ultimately, she'll be fine.

Move on.
posted by Pliskie at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've been pretty much where you are, not so long ago. The only thing that stopped me from actually leaving is that I couldn't bring myself to hurt my husband. I didn't even have a place to go but I was ready to live in my car if I had to, and that was without even knowing if the crush might be mutual. You might find my answer here to be relevant to your dilemma.

My crush has been over for awhile now. I still see the person regularly (it's unavoidable) and while I still find him attractive and sweet, now that I'm over the crush-induced insanity I can feel in my heart what I always knew in my head... I would have been a fool to choose him over my husband.

Getting the marriage back on track took a little bit of tweaking from both sides, but only a little. And now we are doing great and happier than ever.

A couple of books that helped me find my way through: Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay helped me figure out that I really wasn't ready to give up on my marriage just yet; and When Good People Have Affairs helped give me some perspective on whether life with the theoretical other person would make me happier than staying with my husband. You might find them useful as well.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:29 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

The crush won't magically go away, either. You'll look her up every few years and have to fight that off forevermore.

That may or may not be true for you. I had a couple of crushes while married to my previous husband... crushes so intense I thought I'd never get over them. A few months down the road I looked back with no pangs of regret whatsoever about not acting on them.

In fact, one of the crushes asked me to a friendly lunch a few years later with the ulterior motive of seeing if I'd agree to do a threesome with her and her boyfriend and I couldn't muster up even a glimmer of interest. There just wasn't any spark there any more at all.

That's not to say you might not find yourself crushing on someone else down the road, but you are probably not destined to pine for this current girl forever if you let her go.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:39 AM on May 18, 2010

Dude, I was that crush once. Either shit or get off the pot.

Yeah. I was that crush once, too. Guy left wife to be with me. Seven years later, Bam! I get dumped out of the blue by guy, probably because he found distraction number three.
This guy was the love of my life for me, and it took a pretty painful separation for me to figure out that I was just a phase to him. I ultimately walked away from the relationship glad to be done with it, because I didn't see him as the man I cared about anymore, I saw him as just this big heaving pile of weak.
This is you.
A commitment is not just for the duration of the fun exciting times. It's there for the boring, mundane, hard parts, too. You work at this, at keeping this commitment with the woman that up until 4 months ago you described as
...very happy...
We are extremely, extremely close, as couples go. We do everything together, spend 90% of our free time together. By choice.

and you will have a much stronger loving relationship on the other side. You walk away now and you will likely regret it for the rest of your life. This has nothing to do with your wife or your relationship. This has everything to do with you not acting like a spoiled baby and actually putting in some effort to live up to a promise that you made to someone that you love.
posted by newpotato at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

This was almost exactly how my first marriage of 7yrs (!!!) ended. He liked to spend time with me so edged out my friends slowly, and I was happy spending almost all of my time with him. Then he started waiting until odd moments, like when we were about to go to bed (and work the next day) and heading out to meet some "friends". Or if I showed signs of having a cold - off he went and I better not go with to spread my cold to his friends. Eventually he just admitted that he preferred going out without me - that really hurt since I was good friends with most of his friends and would also have enjoyed hanging out with them.

Much much later I found out he wanted to hang out with his friends plus his crush, and he couldn't do that like he wanted if I was around. I had no idea at the time though and thought it was me and I was not fun anymore or getting too fat for him to like having on his arm or .

He came home late one Sunday night and told me he didn't love me and wanted a divorce. This was a real shock although in retrospect I should have seen it coming. I threw up, I got drunk, I used up my sick time and watched daytime TV for a week. Then I started packing and moved out. I still had my pride, I never begged for him to stay or work things out (since he didn't ask for that, he just said he wanted out).

A few months later he came by my new apartment and begged for me to take him back. I said I wouldn't, especially since I had no idea why exactly he left so how would I know it wouldn't just happen again. Only a few months after this did I find out the crush, now ex-crush and it was not from him. I might have considered taking him back if he had been honest.

I am happy I did not though, I have a wonderful new husband and life now.

My advice: get a divorce now, she is better off without you, and if you want to option of getting back together later then be honest about why.

posted by meepmeow at 11:01 AM on May 18, 2010 [10 favorites]

mMy wife was taking drugs to help. I don't believe they resulted in any serious mood-swings, but I could be wrong.

You are wrong. Those drugs wreak unholy havoc on a woman's body, and if you haven't seen it, you're either woefully insensitive, often absent, or she's doing an amazing job of hiding it. Perhaps all three.

I didn't want to include her.

We should want to be with our partners often, but it's nice to have some apart time, too. However, that doesn't mean you should want to keep her separate from certain aspects of your life -- just that she shouldn't always join you. That you don't want her involved with that group at all is a red flag.

My crush is, of course, a part of it (another part of why I don't want to include my wife)

And so we know what the red flag is, and it's a big one.

My wife suspects infidelity. Suspects and suspects and suspects. Can you blame her? She's obviously picking up on something with me. There is none, but not for lack of thinking about it.

The only difference between you cheating on her, and what you're doing now (specifically, excluding her from your group to be able to continue fantasizing about the possibility of cheating on her) is the fact of it. The way you're treating her (excluding her, ignoring her, avoiding her, etc.) is no different, so how could she possibly tell the difference?

...(all the rest)...

So she left you, realized she'd made a mistake, and came back. Now you've left her, and she thought you'd realize you made a mistake and come back, but you haven't, so she's hurt. She probably also feels like part of it is her failure to give you kids, whether that's really a factor or not.

Meanwhile, you can't see this thing clearly, because you're actually dealing with two things at once: your relationship with your wife, and your relationship with the crush girl. Here's what you do:

1. Sit down with crush girl, and say: "Crush girl, you know how I feel about you, and my feelings are getting in the way of me figuring out what's best for me, and I need to concentrate on myself right now. I'm telling you this, because I am going to step away from you long enough to get things straightened out with my wife. Once I've got things settled, then I'd love to spend time with you again and see where it goes, although I know you may not be there when I come back."

2. Sit down with wife, and say: "Wife, I know that my leaving hurt you, and that my behavior has been confusing and stressful. I am sitting you down to tell you, in no uncertain terms: first, I have not been cheating on you, and second, that I have thought about it, because I'm not happy with our relationship. I think we should stop trying to have kids until we've worked things out between us. Your body probably needs a break from the fertility drugs anyway, because I know they've been wreacking havoc with your system, and it's amazing that you've taken on that burden for the sake of our family for so long, and with so little complaint."

3. Find out from the doc how long it will take to get the drugs out of her system, and be patient. Then go to couples therapy and tell the truth about how you feel towards her. Listen as she does the same. Then both of you accept that things can't stay this way forever, so you're either going to try to fix things, or separate as amicably as possible, and that decision won't be clouded by her being heavily doped up on hormones or you knowing you have a girl waiting for you on the outside.

Meanwhile, MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN until this is all worked out. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 11:03 AM on May 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

Oops, to avoid offending folks with my poorly-chosen words:

"She probably also feels like part of it is her failure to give you kids, whether that's really a factor or not."

By this, I don't mean to minimize the possibility that the asker is to blame for the failure, or that it is a woman's role in life to "give [her husband] kids" and so somehow it is a failing. My intention is only to suggest that some women do feel that the inability to conceive a child is a personal failing, even when they aren't packed full of hormones (which themselves really throw a person's perspective out of whack), and she may be feeling this way.
posted by davejay at 11:07 AM on May 18, 2010

Oh, I have one more thing to say: the process of dealing with infertility can suck all the life and fun and sexual joy out of a marriage. It is a difficult trial, and not the easy "take drugs and fuck a lot" fantasy that many uninformed people believe it is. The trick (at least it was for me) is to find friends to talk to about it -- and not crushes, or people who may not have the same goals as you and your wife (and so cannot be relied on to support you.)
posted by davejay at 11:17 AM on May 18, 2010

If you don't get [a divorce] you need to significantly lower your expectations in life in general in order to stay married with any degree of happiness.

Well, sure, you could look at it this way. If you want to declare defeat before you even begin.

There's something to be said for the one who has Been Through It with you. It does require changing your expectations, to be sure, but I do not agree that it requires lowering them. The opposite, if anything. (Though that includes your expectations of yourself towards your partner, as well as the other way around.)

Which is not to say I think this particular couple should -- or should not -- try to get it together at this point. I don't think anybody but them can make that judgement.
posted by ook at 11:29 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some great points above, but one thing I didn't see was anyone mentioning the possibility that you are, at late 20s/ early 30s, beginning to feel OLD. Your crush, is she younger? By even just a few years? Does being with her make you feel that the experience of being in your early/mid 20s is nearly in reach once again? Do you thrill to the idea that someone with that youthful glow and charming naïveté could be interested in you? Like maybe, baby, you've still GOT it?

Yeah. Been there. It sucks. But you know, if the crush is 22 or 25 or even your own age, she's gonna get older too, just like you and just like your wife. The inexorable march of time is unavoidable, and recapturing your youth is a fruitless and harmful enterprise. Do yourself a favour and accept life, and aging, on its own terms, because it's unavoidable.
posted by Pomo at 11:53 AM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Talk to your wife. She may be a bigger help than you can imagine.

Realize that affairs often happen around sudden life changes, and you've got a trifecta:
- Moving into your thirties
- New job
- Trying to have kids

Do the thing that you'll want to have done a year from now.
posted by asuprenant at 12:23 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's for better or for worse, remember? Cut off contact with that other person and work on your situation with your wife. [That woman knows your married, right? Who does that?] Continue therapy. You may be subconsciously punishing your wife for what she did to you before.
posted by bunny hugger at 12:42 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

If there were no crush girl, would you still be thinking about leaving your wife? If the answer is yes, you need to break up with your wife.

And if the answer is no, break up with her anyway. She deserves someone who doesn't question the situation as soon as someone new enters, and you deserve a situation that needn't be questioned. At this point, you're only staying together because of the time you've invested together, and wasting more time while you figure out the inevitable.

Clean break. Now.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:44 PM on May 18, 2010

i was the crush a couple times in my early 20s. you don't want her, you want what she represents. she doesn't want you, she wants to be desired so much that a man will destroy his life for her. she feeds off the drama - if you actually push that forward, either you'll realize you built it all up for nothing or she'll go off to find more drama. this is just one gal's experience - but if you asked me to rank all my sexual partners by my respect level for them, both while it was occurring and now years later - the married men would be at the plum bottom of the list. i found them to be boys in men's bodies, lacking decency, and prone to throw temper tantrums. it was like watching a 6 year old sneak a chocolate bar from the cabinet when he doesn't think mom is looking and then getting mad when she makes him put it down. a lot of the married men i know who take up affairs have put their wives in the role of mother/caretaker and then resent her for that.

as others have pointed out - your wife suspects you of being unfaithful because you're being unfaithful. it doesn't matter if this crush isn't actually wetting your dick - you are carrying on a relationship to the detriment of your marriage. you are cheating on your wife already.

your "happy hours" have to stop (also, late into the night are not happy hours, they are drinking binges). you're excluding your wife in a way you never have before and you're doing it to carry on a crush. whatever "insider talk" is happening is you trying the same tired line on us that your wife saw through.

if you respect your wife at all, stop treating her like an idiot - tell her about your crush, tell her how right she was in every fight where it came up, tell her the crush is the reason you've been shutting her out. let her decide if she wants to be with someone who lies and turns things around on her. don't you owe her that much?
posted by nadawi at 12:50 PM on May 18, 2010 [53 favorites]

Hurting her is killing me.

To be blunt, if this was actually true, you wouldn't be writing AskMe and you would be meeting with your therapist, trying to figure out why you would ever do something to hurt the woman you married.

It's your call if you want to throw away a 7 year relationship for infatuation, but dude, stop leading your wife on when your priority is making yourself happy and not making a happy marriage.

Just officially leave. You guys are already having fertility problems and she wants kids.
posted by giraffe at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Miko says it in the best way possible.
posted by lalochezia at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, weird - I was just coming in here to comment, and here lalochezia found a way more organized version of what I was going to say to you as well, anon. So, that's my contribution! Thanks lalochezia.
posted by Miko at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

But that doesn’t change how I feel. What if I did go back now? Does this just stop? Does this come up again in a few years? Do I hold lingering resentment or bitterness? Could I bring CHILDREN into this situation now? Plus, I WANT to be with my crush. I'm crazy about her. It's fun. Being able to see the situation objectively doesn't override the way I'm actually feeling.

Forgive me, but I'm a mom and this really does sound like a child having a tantrum in a toy store. "But I WANT it! It's fun! I don't care if it was just Christmas, I want this, too!" Heard it before.

Seriously. You're too old for that kind of behavior. You've had the ceremony, set up a house, and are working toward achieving your mutual goals. This crush is just so much fool's gold. What nadawi said about her wanting to be desired so much that a man will destroy his life for her is dead on. If she's single then she has absolutely nothing to lose by winding you up to see where you'll go.

If you go back, will the crush just stop? Not if you keep feeding it, it won't. Lingering resentment and bitterness? For what? For not being able to sleep around while you're still married? This is a simple question and it really has nothing to do with your crush. Even if she moves to another country, there are potential crushes everywhere. Do you want to be a married man or do you want to be a single man? Only you can say.

Whatever you decide to do, you're not currently behaving honorably towards your wife. It is beyond unfair for you to leave her hanging while you sleep somewhere else and she worries about what's going to happen with her marriage, her new home, and the rest of her life. My advice would be to break off contact with the crush, go to couples counseling to see if there's a marriage to save, and certainly suspend efforts to have children for the time being.

Marriage is a promise to remain faithful to one person. It is quite possible to make that vow and find out later that you were gravely mistaken about your ability to live up to it. We are not all the same. Just please don't drag your spouse through hell while you go exploring new things. Either commit to your wife, or commit to being single.
posted by contrariwise at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2010 [8 favorites]

You are already cheating on your wife emotionally. Excluding her so you can be alone with your crush. You need to cut that shit out or divorce your wife. You can't have your cake and eat it to, while devastating your wife. It's horribly, horribly selfish.

Also, what kind of woman is your crush, having this flirty relationship with a married guy? Clearly her boundaries are not very strong in this department, so if you think you'd ever want to be tied down with the crush, keep that in mind.
posted by ishotjr at 4:27 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Actually, it would probably be better if y'all get divorced. You have already hurt her too much for her to be able to trust you, and you don't seem very capable of being strong in a marriage. It's probably better if you're single, and she can find someone who can be more committed than you.
posted by ishotjr at 4:29 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Infertility is very hard on marriages. You are not alone.

Also, if you're tallying, I'm in the "forsaking all others" camp. Man up and end it with your crush.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:05 PM on May 18, 2010

Look, you don't think the rest of us old married people don't have crushes? It's biology. It's also what people above said-it's escapism, it's fantasy, it's NOT REAL LIFE.

This is why some of us choose to be very cautious in friendships with the opposite sex. My husband and I both have friends of the opposite gender but the difference is we talk about it. Even up to and including any crushes. We understand we are married, not dead, but we are MARRIED.

I promise you that if you throw away your life and go with this other woman, you will regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but sooner or later you will come to your senses and wonder what the hell you just did to yourself and your wife.

Do you really think you have the right to break your wife's heart? For that matter, is this just revenge for the time SHE walked out?

Whether you move back in right now or not, you need to run like hell from the group that has your crush in it. I don't care how wonderful the group is. Doesn't matter.

Your life matters. Your wife matters. You are hurting HER and it needs to stop.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:11 PM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you are really mad at your wife. Why?

This is just my gut impression but I think if you were able to answer that question, you'd know much more about yourself. It doesn't really matter if she is to blame--the point is to explore this and why you checked out, because it seems to have happened some time ago.
posted by Riverine at 6:56 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

People don't have crushes or affairs in a vacuum. It's because some of their needs are not getting met in their primary relationship. I am not equating crushes with affairs, btw, though a crush can certainly lead to an affair.

You need to stop hanging out with your crush and identify what your crush is giving you that you aren't getting from your marriage, then figure out whether you can get this need met in the marriage. If not, is having this need met worth throwing your marriage away for?

Is whatever your need is something you can meet for yourself? A self-esteem issue? Are you looking for external validation for something that can't really be validated by anyone else?

The fertility drugs your wife is on can do more than change mood, they can change body chemistry and pheromones and make the chemistry between the two of you go haywire. Wouldn't it be awful if you thought you weren't attracted to your wife anymore just because drugs made her biochemistry different and you made a major life decision based on that assumption?

You've only been going through this for four months. Please give it more time. This seems way too impulsive. And keep going to therapy, both couples and individual. You may want to find a counselor who does Emotionally Focused Therapy.

I agree with everyone who said to back off the attempts to have a baby while you are working through this.

I disagree with everyone who said you should leave your wife or intimated that you were a bad person. Four months of doubts is not enough time to make a huge decision like this. Also, you can use this crisis as an opportunity to grow into being an honorable man. You say you are disappointed in yourself. You will be proud of yourself if you keep your commitment to your wife.

I know I said it before, but ditch the crush. It sounds like it's an emotional affair already. Why did you marry your wife? Why were you once happy? If your marriage was rooted in healthy love, respect, and commitment, why end it? You are in a rough spot, but all long-term partnerships have their ups and downs and temptations. If you got together with crush-woman, you would have them with her too.

New relationship energy is intoxicating but it doesn't last. I know it feels "right," but it's an illusion. Are you reaching for your crush the way someone might reach for a drink to numb the pain and confusion you're going through? If this is the first really hard time you've had in your life, you may be really scared at some level. The crush might not even be about the person you're having it on but about what they represent: a new life free of the burdens of adulthood. But if you want that life, one day you will realize how empty it is.

You can deal with this. You're dealing with a lot of stress, but you can do it. You can do the right thing.

I think you will find, if you leave your wife and life for this crush, that it will feel surreal to be with someone new and you will miss your wife more than you can ever imagine. It will be the comedown after the high. I speak from experience.

I recommend the book Choice Theory by William Glasser. It talks a lot about the need for freedom vs. love/belonging and I think it'd be worth your while to read.

I also want to put this out there: is anyone in your family bipolar? Would you consider getting evaluated for it? I've seen people on the cusp of a manic episode who are behaving the way you are.
posted by xenophile at 6:58 PM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

So are you sure you want to move in, propose, and try to have kids with your crush?

Want to spend 90% of your time with crush?

Or, more likely, just want to have fun mindblowing sex for a while?

A test: give it six more months. Don't see the crush. Or talk. Or email. Or phone. If you stop feeding these feelings, they will go away. Try it.
posted by ysabet at 12:10 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, what kind of woman is your crush, having this flirty relationship with a married guy? Clearly her boundaries are not very strong in this department, so if you think you'd ever want to be tied down with the crush, keep that in mind.

Having been in crush's shoes at one point in my life, I can clearly underline this. Sane, healthy, balanced women who are in a good place to pursue a relationship do not, I repeat do not, pursue them with married men whose wives disapprove. Your crush is knowingly engaging in this, and that's a big signal she has absolutely no idea what she's doing and certainly doesn't trouble herself about what it's doing to your marriage. This is not someone who's a good prospect for a relationship at this time.
posted by Miko at 5:58 AM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you've been with your wife for seven years having a healthy relationship don't throw that away. I had a friend in this position and thank God he pulled his head out of his ass and recommitted to his wife.
posted by xammerboy at 6:43 AM on May 19, 2010

One thing that troubles me: you were living at home and increasingly cheating (at least in your mind) and she was angry with you about it... so you moved out and now have her devastated and begging for you to come back. So you've regained the upper hand. No wonder it's hard for you to imagine going back.

Crushes are addictive like a drug. You feel excited and blissful. You mentally escape your daily realities. The addiction grows stronger. It creates problems in your daily life. So you want an escape more. You grow attached to the fantasy. You have a lot of momentum headed in the wrong direction.

To change course would require both dealing with the loss of the drug and facing the other harsh realities. It is going to be really painful to lose this crush-person from your life. Really painful. You will probably end up having to grieve it like any break-up. AND you won't be impervious to your wife's anger anymore. I'm sorry for what you're about to be going through, but the good news is that your wife is still willing to take you back. I agree that you will thank yourself later.
posted by salvia at 7:16 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

the thing is, crushes happen. you will continue to have them. it's not a sign that you're always meant to be with new crush-person; it's a sign that you're a human animal. you could use this opportunity to be open about your crush with your wife. maybe she's had them too? you could talk about it, and decide together how you're going to address this in the future. i know you probably don't want to tell her, because airing the feelings about the crush means it's not your personal little secret world that you get to retreat to in your head. that's kind of the goal. take away the thrill of the forbidden & make it an issue for both of you to work at in the context of your marriage. it will probably bring you closer together.

i know you've heard that relationships take work, but it can be kinda surprising to realize how true that is. you may have thought "work is something other people need to do in their relationships; if i felt that way, i would leave. true love is supposed to make this easy!" but at a certain point, love will only take you so far. you have to actively try to become closer to your wife again.

if you did leave her for the new crush, you would still need to think about these things. how will you handle it when you get the next crush? or when your partner does? pretending that will never happen only leaves your relationship vulnerable to circumstances like the ones you find yourself in now. talk to your wife. it's not the ending you want right now, because your crush-hormones are raging. but i agree that if you give in to those crush feelings, you will regret it, big time. you can get the closeness back into your marriage. at the very least, give it a real try. if it doesn't work out, at least you know you gave it your all. and you can enter into the next relationship with the self-assurance that comes from that.
posted by apostrophe at 7:44 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

... she doesn't want you, she wants to be desired so much that a man will destroy his life for her. she feeds off the drama - if you actually push that forward, either you'll realize you built it all up for nothing or she'll go off to find more drama.
posted by nadawi

I can be a harsh critic of female character, and would tend to agree with nadawi's assessment. However, to give crush-girl some credit, YOU are the one who has been orchestrating this whole scenario. YOU have been making sure that you appear before crush-girl as amazing Mr. Available Guy by excluding your wife from these social events; YOU have been making your partner of many years miserable by said exclusion and not coming clean about your motives. As such, I would recommend following nadawi's advice to the letter.

The only thing I have to add to the top of the dogpile is that the hivemind seems to have done a good job of illuminating the many aspects of this drama. The comments you read that make you most defensive, the ones you want to immediately and angrily deny -- that is likely where the crux lies for you.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:46 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think there's a lot of good advice here, and I basically agree with the idea that you like the crush because she's a fantasy, and all fantasies are great, and that you should basically do some deep thinking about whether and how much you like your wife.

That said, these stories and the advice they generate make me depressed because of a fact that often goes unacknowledged.

Here's that sad fact: growing up kind of sucks. It just does, and it's hard to accept. Being an adult is, basically, not that much fun, a lot of the time. Doesn't matter if you have a nice house, or a nice boat, or whatever. Being an adult means giving a shit about stuff you never cared about when you were young and vital and the world was ahead of you. Now you have to care, or pretend to care, about the shrubbery in the yard, and whether your retirement account has ticked up or ticked down, slightly.

You may be living with another adult, and have to be around him or her ALL THE TIME. Everything you do involves, if not compromises, at the very least, explanations. No going out the front door for a walk and coming back when you feel like it; you have to explain what you're doing, and about how long you'll be. Not the biggest deal in the world, but one of the things you just do when you live with someone else. Your freedom is impinged on, slightly, all the time. (I don't want to make this sound completely grim, as this is just part of social life, but it isn't what things were like for you just a few years ago.)

I speak as a late-30s male. Dating changes, too. Let me tell you, dating women in their 30s is not like dating when you're in college. Hovering behind every relationship you start in your 30s is the question of marriage and children, and so forth. There are fulfilling things about these pursuits and all, but fulfilling isn't the same as fun.

So, my advice to you, as a married 37-year-old with a kid who would often be happy playing Madden on the PlayStation from the minute I get home from work until about 3 am or so, is this: decide what you want, Fun or Family? Because it's hard to have both.
posted by Philemon at 6:47 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Here's that sad fact: growing up kind of sucks. It just does, and it's hard to accept. Being an adult is, basically, not that much fun, a lot of the time.

Just another man in his late 30s dropping by, in case OP is still reading this, to say that not all of us experience it this way. In fact, I'd guess most of us don't.
posted by escabeche at 8:51 PM on May 29, 2010

decide what you want, Fun or Family? Because it's hard to have both.

And I really think this depends a lot on what you consider "fun." As people mature, they find satisfaction in different kinds of things. I really don't want the kind of fun I had at thirty, even though I loved it at the time, and it was totally appropriate. At forty, having that kind of fun would make me feel, and look, a little stuck.
posted by Miko at 5:15 PM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you'll see anything new in what I have to say especially so long after you posted, but I have a few thoughts. Please forgive me if I'm repeating anyone:

I am not trying to be rude, but I’m surprised that at your age, you don’t have a stronger awareness of what people usually realize in their teens or 20s- that crushes are not indicators of fate or of relationship partner suitability, AT ALL. Crushes are brain chemicals that give you a high, and the high obscures suitability. And that high will wear off without question. And sometimes what you see when the high wears off is ugly. Better to determine suitability (of your crush, of the people you're not currently crushing on, etc.) after that haze has worn off, not before. Better to determine whether someone is the right person for you or not, and whether you love them or not, after the haze has worn off.

I am worried that you think if you just found the right person, you would have that thrilling crushy feeling with them forever. It does not work that way. It’s like everyone said upthread. Pursue this crush, or any other crush, and in 2 or 3 years, you’ll feel the boredom for them that you feel for your wife now.

The craving for those thrilling crushy feelings is not a craving that can be permanently satisfied. You can chase that, cycling through relationships every few years, always looking for something new, into your 40s, 50s, and beyond. Or you can accept that all crushes come to the same point in the end (no more thrilling crushy feelings)(that’s why you need something more real underneath) so it’s kind of a pointless thing to pursue. But please, if you decide on the cycling through relationships option, be brutally brutally honest about that with the people you date. No more getting involved with women who want to marry and have children. Let them know there’s a non-negotiable expiration date.

If you want to go down the other road, of staying away from that craving ... you asked if this just stops, or if it just goes away in a few years. I think that crushes develop from fantasizing. Say- if I just saw a hot guy on the street, I might be attracted to him in the moment, but I wouldn’t call that a crush. But say I saw him go into an office, and then I thought of him whenever I passed by there, and started looking for him … and then I thought about what would happen if I ever went in there, and what I’d say, etc.- I think that’s how crushes develop. Fantasizing and thinking about it.

So that means that crushes aren’t something that happens to us, just something that smacks us out of the blue that we can’t control. We are active forces in their creation.

So going forward, don’t allow yourself to do it. Practice self control over your own thoughts. Don’t indulge yourself with the fantasizing and ruminating. Don’t allow that “maybe I could …” to creep in there even for a second. There are many decisions, not just on this topic but in all areas of life, that become a lot easier once “maybe I could” is decisively off the table.

You may find that you have to avoid working closely with attractive women, having attractive female friends, or maybe even having female friends at all. That could definitely be an annoyance. I guess it would be up to you to decide how much you really want to ensure that you stay crush-free, how important that really is to you.

I think you probably already have an idea of what kinds of situations lead you into temptation. Maybe getting together with people and drinking without your wife, for example. Any situation where the opportunity for this sort of thing arises. The way not to make “mistakes” or do things you “didn’t plan to do” is not to put yourself in the situation where those kinds of things happen. And if you do allow yourself into those situations, then you are taking a path that leads away from your wife.
Like everyone else says, in order to rid yourself of this particular crush, you are going to have to give up all contact with this girl, just cut it off. I do think that it is 100% your choice and within your control whether or not you put yourself in conditions that are ripe for you developing crushes like this. It’s not something that “just happens” so don’t worry about it “just happening” some years down the line. If you stay with your wife, it is up to you to take precautions to ensure that it does not happen.

I also think you need to decide what kind of character you want to have.

In your post I think have noticed a tendency to shirk responsibility for the direction you have steered your life, as if the mortgage, trying for a child, the amt of time spent with your wife, settling down, developing this crush – these were all just things that other people decided, wanted, or convinced you of, or things that just happened to you. This responsibility shirking seems to contribute to the problem. If you do decide to go for therapy, I think this might be a good thing to bring up- how you can develop more of an internal locus of control.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:00 PM on June 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

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