I Screwed Up My Marriage
June 8, 2010 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Help. I screwed up my marriage. I "emotionally" cheated on my wife with an ex-girlfriend and now I'm afraid the damage is done. I'm looking for any help or suggestions.

We've been married about 2.5 years. Prior to this, and going back about 10 years my best friend and I had a fling. When I met my wife, she immediately disliked my friend and my friend disliked her. Eventually my friend and I had a falling out and we saw less and less of one another. The sex ruined our friendship and there wasn't anything that really could be salvaged of our friendship at the time. Some time passed and my girlfriend and I became engaged. It was around this time that I started bumping into my former friend. She and I would meet up for a drink from time to time and unfortunately there was at least 1 but no more than 2 occasions where we crossed the friends line again (while I was engaged.) It was a horrible thing to do and I swore to myself never to do it again. I never told my wife-to-be about it.

My friend and I continued to see each other from time to time meeting up for a drink or just to catch up.... never anything sexual from that point on. She began seeing people and things were ok except for the fact that I was lying to my wife to be (who by this time became my wife) about seeing my friend.

This continued throughout our marriage.... about once every 3-4 months, my friend and I would meet up at a concert or for lunch--- it was purely platonic as by this point there were no feelings beyond that on both ends. However, I still continued to lie to my wife and tell her that I hadn't seen or spoken to her in ages.

The other day she opened my email (i left it on the screen by accident) and read through 10 years of email archives using her name as a search phrase. She now thinks that I have been sleeping with my friend this entire time (which isn't the case) and that I have been lying about seeing her (which is the case).

We have a 3 month old baby. She doesn't think we have a future together and has been googling "divorce" laws in our state. She has told her mother about this and that has probably soured that relationship (which until this point was as best as an in-law relationship could be).

Now... I feel absolutely horrible about the entire thing --- yes I cheated on her early on and continued to emotionally cheat and lie..... throughout my relationship with my wife....

However, I absolutely love love love my wife and would do absolutely anything for her and my baby. I feel horrible and can't eat or sleep and am absolutely miserable.

I have severed all ties with my friend for good. My wife doesn't want me in the house. I have no where to go. I'm embarrassed to talk to anyone about this as every single person I know (even my parents) would probably take her side. I am alone and really sad and pathetic right now.

I don't know what to do.

I'm open to all advice and suggestions. I want to salvage my relationship with my wife.... help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what you can do. But try to understand it's the dishonesty which destroys the trust that holds together the relationship, not the poor judgement or the feelings or even the sex. Having been in a similar situation, rather than pick through what was true and what was a lie, I ended up having to discard the whole thing and conclude that he never loved me at all. This might help you understand why she's reacting the way she is.
posted by Chrysalis at 8:57 PM on June 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

However, I absolutely love love love my wife and would do absolutely anything for her and my baby.

There's really only one course of action. Cop to what you did - all of it - and make sure you never bump into your friend again. Then hope for the best.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:05 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

With a new baby, which is a speed bump in your sex life, she's probably feeling vulnerable and insecure.

At this point I would lay off of the "emotional cheating" thing. You went to lunch. You lied. That was not the most honest thing. But emotional cheating is more like telling someone else you love them, talking to them all the time, basically treating them like a signifigant other. You didn't do that.

Full court press to convince her that you haven't been cheating on her, that you love her, whatever she needs to feel secure. At the same time, you have to remain as confident as you can.
So tone down the guilt. If you keep acting like you kept cheating with the friend, that's what your wife will believe.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:11 PM on June 8, 2010 [15 favorites]

I'm a Quaker, and once sat on a clearness committee--a Quaker thing, people listening deeply and asking questions to help a person or in this case a couple discern their way forward--for a couple in a situation like yours (right down to the discovery of incriminating e-mails). They had been married many many years, and are still happily married.

What it took for them to get through this was commitment and courage. They both wanted to save their marriage; they both were willing to be radically honest and to listen to the other one speak. So the one who had the emotional affair talked honestly about what he thought led him to it, and what he thought he needed to change. The other partner spoke honestly about her feelings and fears and anger, and he listened without getting defensive (or at least not expressing his defensiveness) or angry--he let her speak, he made it clear he was really hearing her.

Quakers are good at hard conversations. We don't argue or directly respond to each other but instead listen deeply, leave silence in between speeches, go into silence as a group when things start to get heated. There were four or five of us who were willing to sit with the couple, ask questions to help them say what needed to be set, be loving witnesses and supporters of their intention to heal their marriage.

They had to be very brave. They had to be brave enough to ask for help from others, which meant opening up the truth about their problem to other people, very hard for a couple whose relationship was looked up to by many as a model. They had to be brave enough to listen to each other's pain and anger, and to take the slow steps needed to heal. They had to be brave enough to admit their failings and take painful steps--I remember one time, at our third or fourth meeting as a group, the husband talking honestly about how hard it was to delete the e-mails from his friend, even though he knew that to move on in his marriage and regain his wife's trust he had to do it.

I am not suggesting you become a Quaker (though I do like it when people become Quakers). But since I had this experience--and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, watching these two take it down to the bone and put it back together again--I thought I'd share. Maybe there's something in there that will help you.

You say you'll do anything. The anything you are likely to have to do will take tremendous bravery. In some ways I think it would have been easier for this couple I know to end their relationship, easier than telling people how badly he'd screwed up and how vulnerable they were and how much help they needed, easier for him than listening openly to the pain he'd caused, easier for her than listening to him talk about what had been not-right in his life that made him vulnerable to the affair.

You say there's no one you can talk to. Is that true? Is there anyone you could call and say, "I screwed up. I'm in bad shape and I need help if I'm going to be able to fix things"? Do you think in time your wife would be willing to talk with a pastor or a counselor with you? Are there things you can do that might help make her more willing to do that, to show your positive intent? Are you willing to hang in for the long term while she figures out whether she can bring herself to trust you again? Are you prepared to be a decent guy and supportive father while she figures that out?

I can hear your heartbreak coming through the internet. It makes me want to tell you that everything will be OK, but of course I can't promise that. I can only tell you that I have seen it become OK in time.
posted by not that girl at 9:14 PM on June 8, 2010 [129 favorites]

There is not much you can do aside from laying it all out, giving her some room, and to be willing to abide by whatever conditions she sets for things to go forward, if they do.

You basically have to be willing to take the beating and do the time. I'd say even go and talk to the in-laws, explain what did and did not happen, and show how willing you are to do what it takes to build things back up.

And trust me, it will take time and effort, if she is willing to give you another chance.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 9:15 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You didn't just "emotionally" cheat on your wife - while you were engaged to your wife you had sex with your friend, right?

This is a huge, huge, monstrous betrayal on your part. All of it. But you know this.

The best you can hope for is letting her get her feelings out and give her time and space to be angry and hurt. She may be more willing to try forgiving you once some time has passed. Don't badger her to be let back in the house, just find someplace to go and go there for now.

Talk to a friend. Even if they chastise you for what you did, a true friend will be there for you even when you make a terrible mistake.

And at this point, talk to a lawyer as well. If she does want to get divorced, you'll have some messy custody and support issues to work through.
posted by kpht at 9:15 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm trying to think, if I were in your wife's situation, what I would want my husband to do.

Aside from begging and pleading this is what I would want him to do. Without my prompting, I would want him to find some reputable marriage counselors and make an appointment with a couple of different ones. At least, I think, this is a pretty solid demonstration of willingness to work on building up trust again.
posted by teamnap at 9:27 PM on June 8, 2010 [30 favorites]

Yeah, no matter how long ago it was, the physical cheating while you were a couple is going to be an issue. Even if these more recent meetings had never happened, you went into the marriage carrying that secret.

This is too close to the bone for me to offer you any real assistance so again I can only tell you what my ex did that I hated, and one thing was expecting me to "get over it" or "let it go" in his timeframe. He'd known about everything for a long time, I'd only just found out. Let her sort out her feelings in her own time. Try to resist running away from the discomfort of it.

That said, I'm really glad I left. And the one kind memory I have of him is that he let me go.
posted by Chrysalis at 9:29 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

while you were engaged to your wife you had sex with your friend, right?

Those are your words, kpht. His words are that they "crossed the friends line." Who knows what he means by this? It could mean they kissed. But even if they did have sex, he's already feeling enough guilt over this without rubbing in his face that this was "monstrous."

I'm with Dee Xtrovert and internet fraud detective squad, station number 9: be totally honest, but don't use needlessly inflammatory words like "emotional cheating."

OP, you don't specify whether, since your wife's discovery, you've been totally upfront and apologetic with her. If not, you need to do so, ASAP, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

Stick to the facts (not over-the-top characterizations), and profusely apologize. Profusely apologize = say (1) you're sorry, (2) what you did was wrong, (3) it's entirely your fault, (4) there was no excuse for what you did, (5) you realize you hurt her a lot (don't use the word "if"), and (6) you promise you'll never do any of this again, and specifically, you'll never contact her ever again.

I don't know if that will salvage things. But I think you need to say that, at the very minimum. As others have suggested, taking additional positive steps, like marriage counseling, could be a meaningful gesture.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:43 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Throw yourself on your sword, tell her the whole story, affirm that you want to spend the rest of your life with her, get counseling yourself, and ask if she'll go to couples counseling with you.

People have healed their marriages after something like this, but you're gonna have to address the underlying reasons why you essentially have been sabotaging your relationship with your wife since before your marriage.
posted by desuetude at 9:47 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Since you lied for so long and only admitted to it because you got caught she has no reason to trust you. There is nothing you can do but accept her conditions and her timeframe. Respect what she has asked of you and move out, let people know so they can support her (too many cheaters want it kept a secret to protect their pride and deny support to the person betrayed) and let her know you will do anything to rebuild her trust. While you are separated make sure you give her full access to your joint money as money is another big trust issue. In your post you use a lot of weasely words (see the debate over whether you had sex unthread). That isn't truthful and if you are trying to hide behind words instead of owning up straight with her you are compounding the damage.
posted by saucysault at 9:59 PM on June 8, 2010 [10 favorites]

so when he says "yes, I cheated on her early on", I think it's safe to say that he had sex with his ex while he was engaged to the woman he is now married to.

Oh, I don't think that's safe to say. You're implying that anything short of having sex isn't "cheating." You're entitled to that opinion, but not everyone has such a narrow definition of cheating.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:02 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please do seek out friends and family, even if you fear they'll take her side. You may not want to lie in the bed you've made, but it's preferable to no bed at all.
posted by sallybrown at 10:52 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's really only one course of action. Cop to what you did - all of it - and make sure you never bump into your friend again. Then hope for the best.

Or not

You will have to cop some of it. But you are allowed to have friends. Also three month old, your wife will be feeling extremely vulnerable. So you will have to ride this one, but now it the time to fess up and say - I'm not having sex with this woman - I love you, but I utterly insist on being friends with X - and that's all that this is, friendship, and possibly a teeny emotional affair
posted by the noob at 11:06 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Marriage and family is important. There's no one she your family needs more now than you. Lying is bad, but breaking up a family is worse. Just tell her this and hope everything settles down eventually.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:18 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would like to emphasize that it'll be her time frame. She may forgive you, yet get angry again later when she feels insecure. It may come in cycles.
posted by Monday at 12:02 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Avoid telling her what Mr. Gunn says - I'd be furious if after expressing my devastation and anger at you I was then told that I and our child really need you anyway and therefore it would be wrong, "worse" in fact! to break up with you what to do or not to do. I'd probably divorce you just for that.

I agree with whoever said that looking up couples counsellors and suggesting it to her because you want to do whatever it takes to rebuild her trust and save your marriage would be the best message to give. That, and recognise that the information itself and how she feels about it is out of your hands now.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:18 AM on June 9, 2010 [24 favorites]

I also agree that it would be helpful to tone down the language of "emotional affair" but what you didn't mention is the content of the emails she found in your archives. Were they just planning on when to have coffee, or were they a lot more than that? Your lying about spending time with your friend is a huge hurdle for your wife. If the emails were flirty or expressive of feelings beyond friendship, it's going to be that much harder for her to get past this.

Apologize, certainly, and make pro-active effort to show her that it's over and that you want to do whatever it takes to make things right. Finding a good counselor was a great suggestion, as is giving her plenty of time to learn to trust you again. I think the long term problem for these situations is that the one who has been unfaithful (in whatever fashion) is usually anxious to move on, and the one who feels betrayed can perceive that impatience as a sign that nothing has changed. I hope you're able to patch things up with your wife, but be prepared to be extraordinarily patient with the process.
posted by contrariwise at 3:07 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

What are you looking for here?

The only option you have if you would like a loving relationship is to be honest with your wife and be prepared to earn her trust back.

You also need to think really hard about why you didn't feel you could be honest with your WIFE about seeing some chick for lunch.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:25 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I agree with Omnomnom - inferring that not wanting to stay married to someone who cheated, then lied, then deliberately created a relationship with someone I expressed a dislike of* and lied about it is a greater crime than deliberately fucking doing that? Really uncool and totally a dick move.

If I were your wife I would be fucking terrified - I've gone through this massive life changing event and you're off fucking about with someone you've told me repeatedly you no longer see. Looking down the barrel of single parenthood is terrifying but there's no way at all I'd bring my child up watching you lie and cheat. And the fact you have done this the WHOLE relationship and only fessed up when caught out? Not a good sign.

Tell her you love her. Cut out all contact with this chick. All contact. Ask your wife what she needs - it may be space, it may be time. If you came in with the 'I can be friends with whoever I want' I would lose it - you've proven you can't be 'friends' and I would absolutely lose any respect for you. Work out what is wrong with you that you think being 'friends' with this woman is worth the relationship you have with your wife.

She's more than likely freaking the fuck out and imagining all those times you worked late/went to concerts/went out were you hooking up with this woman. And because you set the precedent of lying you're in a really difficult place. And I can tell you right now, the idea that while I sat at home pregnant my partner, my coparent, my best friend was lying to me and off with a woman I never liked? Gut wrenching.

Don't blame the hormones. Just don't. What you did was realms of wrong and she's reacting to that and while the hormones are probably part of it, you will get nowhere telling her to 'settle down' or 'think for a while'.

*Did she specifically say she didn't like the other chick? Did she mention discomfort with the relationship? Did you try tell her there's 'nothing going on'? Because if she did, and you did, you've really fucked up your foundation. You've proven you'll lie to protect yourself and get to do what you want without repercussions.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:25 AM on June 9, 2010 [30 favorites]

In a similar vein to The Five Love Languages, there is also a book about The Five Apology Languages. Have a read of that, and see if you can work out the best way of apologising to your wife.

Ask your wife what you can do to make it right. She will know better than anyone whether or not there is anything that can be done, and whether or not she actually wants you to do it. At the very least, I'd cut off all communication with someone/something that caused you to lie to your wife for years*. This isn't your friends fault, by the way. You chose to lie to your wife, and it's up to you now to ensure that you put that right. Then I'd get marriage counselling sorted out, even if she doesn't want to go. If she doesn't want to go, go on your own. This is the point at which you fight for the relationship, even if you're sure it's pointless.

*It might suck for your friend, but you chose to lie to the woman you chose to go into a legally and emotionally binding contract with because of her. It's fairly obvious that you can't be trusted about that, so it's going to be better from your wife's POV, probably, that you don't see this woman again.
posted by Solomon at 3:30 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

This may be slightly off-topic, but: if you're lying or cheating, who do you keep 10 years of email around? Ultimately, the ease with which she discovered your shenanigans kinda makes me think you wanted to get caught on some level.
posted by kidelo at 3:33 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

You will have to cop some of it. But you are allowed to have friends. Also three month old, your wife will be feeling extremely vulnerable. So you will have to ride this one, but now it the time to fess up and say - I'm not having sex with this woman - I love you, but I utterly insist on being friends with X - and that's all that this is, friendship, and possibly a teeny emotional affair

Don't listen to this. Yes, you are allowed to have friends. But someone you have cheated with (emotionally or physically) is not an option for that if you want to continue to be married.

Recovering from infidelity requires a lot of work on both sides. Your wife may or may not be willing to do that work, but there's no way she'll be willing if you aren't willing to do your part. Your part includes seeking counseling (go alone even if she won't go with you), cutting off all contact with the other person (possibly with a phone conversation while your wife is listening in), and committing to total honesty and openness from here on. That means you have to tell her, in as much detail as she requires, exactly what happened with the friend. It also means telling her where you are at all times (and actually being there), and freely giving her permission to check up on you - including e-mail passwords. And whatever else she needs to be absolutely sure that you are never doing anything you shouldn't be doing. If you do everything you can to earn her trust back, while accepting her lack of trust in the meantime, she may eventually learn to trust you again. Sit down with her and offer all of that and show her how hard you will work at saving this marriage, and you might have a chance.
posted by Dojie at 5:56 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Honestly? Moving out isn't that bad of an idea and meet up for marriage therapy. She needs time. She's really pissed at you and trust is impossible at this stage. She needs to cool off, get her head straight. At least you have remorse. Most men don't and make excuses.

I wish you the best of luck.
posted by stormpooper at 6:29 AM on June 9, 2010

Pack a suitcase and book yourself a week in a hotel; give your wife some space and respect. Once that's done, you can figure out where to go next (sublet a studio, stay with a friend, whatever).

Then, find the best therapist in your area and start working on figuring out why you believed you could control this situation. Lying is about control. You've been lying to your wife throughout your whole marriage. That's huge. The details of exactly when it was cheating and when it was platonic don't really matter much. Don't get so mired in self-loathing and sadness that you just wallow. Make concrete changes in your life. The reason I think it's so critical for you to start this process on your own now is that if your wife agrees to do marriage counseling, she'll be agreeing to do some really hard work. If you expect (or even just want) her to do that, you need to be willing to go even further, work even harder.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:21 AM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

> fess up and say - I'm not having sex with this woman - I love you, but I utterly insist on being friends with X

This is terrible advice, and I trust you're sensible enough not to even think of taking it.

Your marriage may very well be over, but if you have a chance of salvaging it, that chance lies in finally putting your wife first—that is, ahead of everybody else, even "old friends." (You need to do this for your baby as well.) And you need to somehow convince your wife that you have done this, and that you will keep doing it. It won't be easy; there's some useful advice above. Good luck.
posted by languagehat at 7:40 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

On the other hand, you do have a little baby, and you should be able to be interacting with the baby--changing diapers, settling him/her down to bed, singing songs...all the things a dad does.

I'm not sure how to balance that against your wife's anger. Has she discussed couples counselling, as opposed to divorce?
posted by leahwrenn at 7:41 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think moving out is a good idea if you can avoid it. Leaving her to deal with a new baby by herself while she's going through emotional trauma is not going to help the situation. If you have another room in the house you can move into, that might be enough for her to get some distance from you while you're still there for the baby. Just stay the hell out of her way so that she doesn't have to look at you all the time and think about how angry she is. If she insists on you moving out, don't go very far and make sure you arrange to spend as much time with the baby as possible. You and your baby need to be together and your wife will need time to be on her own without a baby.
posted by Dojie at 8:06 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I strongly second finding a marriage therapist or two and setting up appointments, but I also suggest this: Write to your wife. Write her letters. Explain what you did, and apologize for it as utterly and deeply as you know how. Be honest. Do not include ANY weaseling or excuse-making or pleading or manipulation or demanding in your letters. Understand that your letters may not fix things, so you must write to her--communicate with her--from a place of selflessness. The thing about dishonesty in a relationship is that you start to feel like your partner is a stranger. One way to try to fix that is to show her what's in your head, how you feel about her, how you feel about the really awful thing you've done to her (and your child). Write to her every day, and get the letters to her as unobtrusively as possible, and know that she may not even read them and you would actually deserve that. You need to be abject, honest, and yourself. I say this because this is what I'd want, if I was in your wife's situation. Communication without pressure along with time to settle my mind.

And dear god, do not tell her that you're going be friends with this other person. You're right to cut your ex out of your life for good. Your marriage is worth that; you've made your ex into a hot-button and you have to suffer the consequences of that. Any chance you had to claim any right to being friends with this person ended when you cheated with her while engaged to your wife.
posted by hought20 at 8:07 AM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

hought20, what you have just suggested is exactly what persuaded me to forgive my man in a very similar situation. It took him awhile to stop weaseling, offloading blame and minimising the damage, [so good call with that advice], but with counseling, moving out, organising marriage counseling for us both he was able to show me he was worth hearing, working with, forgiving. He wrote me letters, many, many letters. They made me cry and made me angry. I really read them and almost learned them by heart. I cut them into sentence length strips and made them into a huge art piece which was very cathartic in an odd way. I loved the man and I wanted to hear him, no matter how angry and humiliated I felt, tell me that he was sorry, explain what had happened, why etc. He sent me a copy of the letter to the woman to explain that he was no longer going to be in contact with her and why. He took full responsibility for behaving wrongly with her and apologised for it. He moved work so that he was no longer anywhere near her orbit and he told mutual friends what had occurred and took responsibility for the damage he caused at home.

I suspect you are immature and this is not a great way to learn to grow up of course, but really look at what you have done with this woman and with your wife. I mean that in the nicest way as I know you are hurting. I occasionally get angry with my partner even now, five years later when some reminder of that time, that person etc occurs. And he hears me out, lets me be angry and he quietly says "I was wrong, I am still sorry for that lack of judgment, those lies, that neglect during such important times for us, and I love you. Please keep forgiving me. I am a good, true man and I am yours, completely. I am a strong man now and I don't want to be the person who would do that to anyone ever again."
posted by honey-barbara at 8:56 AM on June 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Brace yourself for the possibility that your wife may never, ever trust you again for as long as you live, even if she takes you back.

I don't even believe you.
posted by General Tonic at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

I was in a similar situation to your wife's, though I was not married to the guy nor did I have a baby. The whole thing still colors my trust 4 years later, so I imagine your WIFE will have an even bigger hurdle to get over (if she feels like it - having been through the following myself, I would throw in the towel).

When I was in the same situation I felt like my partner took me for granted. Like I was stupid and it would be easy for him to keep other girls on the side. Like I was a sure thing but boring. I wasn't zesty, fun, dangerous, or exciting like the other gilr but at least i did his laundry and grocery shopping and cleaned the house. That's how I felt he viewed me. I don't want to be second fiddle.

You can't continue to lie about anything, not even what you ate for breakfast. After I found out about my partner's cheating I would look at his phone, his AIM logs, everything and I would see that he was still talking to her. I didn't bring it up, waiting and hoping that he would mention it, as it was usually innocent chatting about their shared interest, but he never did. It festered in my and my guy told me that something was up. Eventually I found them trying to plan a trip together during a week that I was unable to take off work. It was clear they were still into each-other.

At that point I mentally checked out of the relationship and decided that I could play by these same unspoken rules of having someone on the side. So I met someone and started cheating, but the difference between myself and my partner was that it made me feel insanely guilty because I loved my partner and didn't want to do this to him. That realization led me to question whether my partner loved me, if he was so not bothered by something he knew hurt me. I ended up confessing everything to my partner and groveling for forgiveness and trust. We actually stayed together, though as time goes on a future with this person actually seems less and less likely because I have been slow to allow myself to check back in to the relationship. Every little out-of-habit thing he does makes me question everything. The toilet paper roll was put on the other way - could he have been in a rush to go see someone before I woke up? It's a miserable state for a relationship. And it's the state your wife will be in for years.

At this point, you need to fight to the death for a sliver of a chance to save your marriage. In addition to ruining your marriage, you have ruined your wife's image of what you as a person are all about.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:34 AM on June 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Sorry if i came off as harsh there. As an internet stranger, i don't know what kind of person you are, but you probably have your good aspects and tons of people who look up to you and enjoy your company. I was just trying to show you why your wife likely thinks you are a very shitty unforgivable person right now.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2010

Damn right WeekendJen:"In addition to ruining your marriage, you have ruined your wife's image of what you as a person are all about." That's absolutely how I felt.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:43 AM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

What you did was bad, but you are not a bad person. You screwed up by a lot, but at the same time, people have done far, far worse.

I think you're in a little bit of crisis mode right now: You just got found out - your worst nightmare come true. You can't keep up the charade anymore, and you have a baby, and you don't know what will happen next. I agree with others: move out, take some time for yourself, give your wife space, and try to find a supportive friend that you can talk to. Find a therapist too.

You have to be honest with yourself first about why you did these things. My sense is your wife disliking your friend is a factor (however, I am not trying to blame your wife). Maybe you had some anger/resentment to your wife about this. I'm just shooting in the dark here. I don't know what the dynamics are between you and your wife, but you lied for a reason about this. No matter what, at the end of the day, you chose to see your friend. You chose to lie about it. And ultimately, you chose to lie to yourself (maybe things like "It's platonic, nothing will happen, this is ok, what she doesn't know won't hurt her" whatever). Maybe doing these things were a symptom of other things in your relationship. At the same time, I think the lying to yourself is the biggest thing you have to face up to. If you can't be honest with yourself, you can't be honest with your wife (or anyone else).

Tell your wife that you want to work on things, but it is her choice if she doesn't. If she doesn't, just say that you still want to be there for the baby. But do not guilt-trip and put your baby in this middle of this.

I think the way forward, no matter what happens, is to become really, really, honest with yourself. Saying "I'm a monster, a horrible person" is not honest. This is not about beating yourself up because that does no one good. Accept that you have made a mistake. Now that it's in the open, what are you going to do? Show your wife that you are committed to trying to be a better person. Don't just say what you think are the "right" things; be honest. A question to ponder: are you sorry that you got caught, or are you sorry that you did these things with your friend? Are you sorry that you lied? If so, why? Maybe you'll find out that you're not sorry you lied. I don't know. Other things to ponder: What about your wife do you love? Or don't love? Do you want to be married? Why or why not? What do you need and want in a marriage? Have you been getting it? What are you willing to do to have a healthy marriage (don't say "anything" - be specific)?

I also like the idea of writing her a letter - and only put honest things in it. I wouldn't write every day - that's a bit much, especially if she is absolutely livid at you; she probably doesn't want to hear from you at all. Just something to consider. Also try to see things from her point of view - and how hurt she must feel.

On preview: really liked honey-barbara's comment; her partner exemplifies the kind of honesty that you must now undertake.
posted by foxjacket at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

anonymous, I am sorry for you--but certainly, you know that you roundly deserve the punishment that is being meted upon you. What do you expect your wife to feel? How would you have felt if the tables were turned? Once trust is gone, it is looong gone and your bereft state will not change that.

Obviously you felt something major were missing in your marriage or you would have been able to make the necessary break with your "friend". Your wife knows this too. I sense that you are soft pedaling your involvement with your "friend". It is most likely you aren't being totally forthcoming even in your confession to us. You want us and your wife and your in-laws to believe you met with your "friend" and emailed her for 10 years and it was "platonic". I just have to say it: YARITE. Sorry, not buying it.

You need to take your lumps and stop candy coating your affair. Look at Jesse James. "Rehab" and public apologies have not gotten his wife back. You are in the same boat. Accept it.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have been where your wife is. The marriage ended.

I can't say whether it wouldn't have if my ex had followed geek anachronism's advice, but that would certainly have given it the best chance.

One thing I think you should consider very carefully: ask yourself, seriously, if you can do this. If you can really try to see things her way. If you're willing to go to counseling, to give her time, to put up with her (now justified) suspicions or whatever accommodations she needs from you to heal. If you genuinely want her back and aren't just afraid of being alone.

Because if you ask her to take you back, and undertake to do the things that the other commenters have recommended, and then don't? That is, if she makes herself vulnerable by trusting you, knowing full well how that worked out for her the first time, and then you don't follow through? Or if you - I hesitate to even say it - break her trust again?

That would be unforgivable.
posted by AV at 11:00 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

My soon-to-be ex-wife cheated on me, and the single most frustrating thing for me was that she couldn't really answer the question why she did it for several months. For yourself, for your wife, you have to understand that.

Anyway, a lot of what I would say has been said, but I'll add this: do you really love her? Is this really the woman you want to spend your life with? Your behavior could suggest otherwise. I'll echo the advice that you should get a personal counselor for yourself, in addition to a relationship counselor, to work through that question. Why would you cheat when you were engaged? There has to be something there.
posted by kryptonik at 12:43 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some great words of advice here -- I don't have anything to add. But one thing I'd like to say is that it seems to me that your wife has been already suspecting. She searched your e-mail with your friend's name, right? The little doubts that she has always had accumulated and exploded at once, so what was just an imaginative scenario became the truth in her head.

Just try your best to have your wife understand the "real" truth and how you feel about all this.
posted by dustoff at 3:09 PM on June 9, 2010

I don't think you should dramatically cut this ex/friend out of your life for good because of your wife - I think you should not be friends with a person who was willing to "cross the line" when she knew you were engaged. That wasn't a friendly thing to do.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:50 PM on June 9, 2010

I don't think you should move out unless your wife specifically asks you to. Go to another room, or the sofa. Now that she knows for a fact that she can't trust you out of her sight, I wouldn't make her wonder where you are.
I agree with naplesyellow: I don't think you're telling the whole story even to us.
posted by uans at 4:04 PM on June 9, 2010

There is a book called After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful that was recommended to friends of mine going through similar issues. I have not read it myself, but have heard that it can be quite helpful for both partners.
posted by judith at 2:31 PM on June 10, 2010

You need to write her a letter explaining all of this. The cheating during the engagement is unforgivable, but water under the bridge. I wouldn't mention it if she doesn't know. The important thing is you've been faithful during the marriage. The seeing of your friend while married and not telling the spouse is a big deal, but I wouldn't drop my marriage over it. I think that would be over the top. The issue is trust and it will be enormously difficult to get that back. If you really did not cheat on her, you need to make that as crystal clear as possible.
posted by xammerboy at 10:42 AM on July 26, 2010

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