I am terrified I am going to lose my husband.
February 28, 2011 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I don't know what to do. Is my marriage doomed? My husband loves another woman and says he loves me too.

I'm so sorry this will be long. I know I should probably edit it better. It's hard at the moment. I have been married for 14 years and the two of us have been together for 20. He is 7 years younger than I am. The relationship has been disgustingly happy until... now, really. We don't even fight, really.

Before he met me, he had a major, major thing for a girl he knew in school, before he met me. She didn't want to date him; she just wanted to be friends. He told me about all of this when we started dating. Then all these years later, along comes Facebook. Perhaps you can guess where this is going. A while ago I saw her name appear in his friends list. I have quite a few old crushes in mine, and there has been no problem there, and neither of us is a jealous person, so I didn't say anything. But yet, I felt a twinge there and was a bit bothered by it. I have never ever felt jealousy about his female friends before.

At first they got together with several high school friends on nights when I was working or had other stuff going on.
But then it got worse. She seemed to always be around. He posts on Facebook and she's the first one to comment. He goes out with the boys and then somehow ends up meeting her and hanging out with her. She is having financial struggles, so he and another old high school friend buy her a laptop together! She sends some texts indicating that she might be suicidal, and he says he needs to drive 30 miles to her house at night to talk her out of it. (He does tell me this and invites me to join him. I can't, because I have a pile of work to do and I'm already exhausted. I don't want him to go, but of course I don't want to be the one who keeps him from helping her if she's really suicidal. He goes, and comes back hours later -- she's still alive, but really messed up, I guess.)

He tries to get all three of us to hang out together. "You have so much in common! I want you to be friends!" I don't really want to do this. He invites her to some stuff and I really don't like this and finally start telling him that I am really not OK with it. He tells me "she is just a really, really good friend and I want you to be friends."

Then he starts trying to make her go to the doctor for some medical issues (she apparently was avoiding needed medical stuff for lack of insurance or something), and when I ask what he's doing this weekend, he says "I'm taking (her) to the eye doctor." He's paying for it, too. I don't understand. She is an adult, after all. He didn't see her for 20 years and does not owe her any of this. I asked "Why are you doing things like this for her?" And he said the words that destroyed me: "Because I love her." Then, a beat later: "I'm not in love with her..."

He says he loves us both, and can't bear the thought of losing either of us, but that she has awoken "the 18 year old (him)" that has been dormant for many years, and that losing her would be like "shooting (his 18 year old self) in the head." He wants us both in his life. I am devastated.

I think this sounds like a classic midlife crisis, actually. He has the exciting "one that got away" suddenly reappearing, and she represents fantasy and youth. (He's 38.) And then he has me, the one who has been there for him for 20 years, who loved him even when this other woman rejected him. But I'm not the exciting one, I'm the every day one, the one who he's seen ill and unshowered and snoring and all of that stuff.

So I guess he told her that he told me and that my reaction was... less than positive. Her response? To tell him she can't see him any more. She doesn't want to be part of breaking up a marriage -- she doesn't want to be that woman. (My understanding is that their relationship didn't get physical, though of course I could be wrong. And I think that there had to be some hugging or whatever when he was "counseling" her.)

So now he is heartbroken over losing her and doesn't know what to do. I can't exactly console him over his loss. I feel like I've been kicked in the gut. Until this broke open late Friday, our relationship was still very affectionate and close, though now I am afraid to talk to him or touch him. I feel like he will resent me for driving her out of his life, and I am terrified that he will leave. And until now, I never really could have even thought that this would happen. Even when I started feeling twinges of jealousy over her, I did not think this would happen. He keeps telling me he loves me, he loves me, he's so so sorry, and that he's really fucked things up... and that he wants us to get through this and come out OK on the other side... but yet I don't know that I can believe this. And he can't say what he wants. He doesn't know, he says, and this terrifies me.

I don't think he's actually even lied to me throughout this (other than the omission of not telling me what was starting to happen), and yet, I don't know if I can trust him. I feel like this is a death blow to a relationship.

I don't know what to do. I just want to be back where we were before. I was so happy. So happy. I want to believe that we can stay together and be happy again. I want to believe that he will want that. I don't know if I can believe it. I know we probably need counseling. He doesn't know yet what he wants to do there. I don't know how to find one. I don't want to find a therapist who will just tell him to throw it all away.

Is there hope? I love my husband so much, I love our life together, and can't imagine a life without him. I want so much to grow old with him. I can't even imagine being with someone else. I don't want that. I don't want to be alone, either. How have others gone through this? What should I do?

I have set up a feedback address at lessobvious@hotmail.com if needed.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (74 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry.

I really want to wait and see what other folks have to say here, but... she sounds manipulative, emotionally unwell, opportunistic, and the whole "I'm breaking up with you" thing sounds like a ploy. And frankly, you don't seem like you are painting here in that light so much as this is just what she is.

It seems obvious that she's a user and up to no good. I'm wondering why your husband fell for this in the first place.

He sounds like he needs therapy to get himself straight.
posted by jbenben at 7:45 PM on February 28, 2011

Oh, god, I'm so sorry. I think you need to tell your husband, clearly and without equivocating, that you feel like his relationship with this woman is destroying your marriage. If he doesn't care enough to cut it off...well, maybe you need to kick him out. I'm so sorry he's doing this to you.
posted by smorange at 7:48 PM on February 28, 2011

Agreeing here that the other woman (OW) sounds like a manipulative drama queen. However, she did the right thing by ending the friendship with your husband.

Get thee to a marriage counselor, pronto, and start working this out. It doesn't have to be the end.
posted by xenophile at 7:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I could have told a story similar to this about a year ago. I'm not against open relationships, so my husband did actually end up sleeping with the woman in this situation, with my permission. And he wasn't so much with the "let's all three of us be friends" as yours was. But what really made it hard for me is that he so clearly LOVED this other woman as well. I didn't care a whit about the sex, but I felt scared that he would decide he prefers spending time with her than with me, and that eventually he would leave me for her.

Eventually she "dumped" him, because she got a boyfriend and the boyfriend didn't want her hanging out with my husband any more. My husband was devastated. He got so depressed he wasn't eating or sleeping, and that was really really hard for me, since I was jealous that she was so important to him.

Then the other woman's boyfriend broke up with her, and she came crying back to my husband.

Long story short - things have worked out okay. Their relationship just kind of wore out. This other woman is unhappy with her life, and spent most of her time when he visited crying, and he had to console her, and he kept having to help her with stuff and give and give, and wasn't really getting anything back.

In your case, I think that is also likely to happen. He has been with you for so long and you have been so happy together. That sort of relationship doesn't come along every day. The chances are, if he had dated her at 18, it wouldn't have worked out. It probably won't work out now. It doesn't sound as though she is going to make him happy. Eventually he will realise he is happier with you than with her. In the meantime, it doesn't sound like you are wanting to "wait and see" like I did (and good on you - that was a very stressful time for me).

Do what you can to support your husband while he is recovering from "losing" this woman. It will be hard, but treat it like you would any other "down" period in his life. Hug him and help him out, and get him through it. And things WILL go back to normal. But you also need to discuss boundaries about this sort of thing for the future.
posted by lollusc at 7:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Marriages have weathered far worse than this, and others have failed over less, so it really comes down to what's right for you guys. Have you considered counseling? That seems like the best first step.

Admittedly, we only have your side of the story here, but it sounds like you have a good handle on what happened--this woman from his youth appeared right at the time that he was probably having an OMG I'M ALMOST 40 freakout, and maybe there was some unspoken dissatisfaction with the marriage that he hadn't been able to articulate (guys will say they don't know what they want when really they are just afraid that what they want is going to upset their partners), and the combination of the events and circumstances probably made him really vulnerable to this kind of slip.

But, he sounds remorseful, so that's a good sign. It sounds like this is not a habit with him, which is another good sign. I don't think it has to be the end of your marriage, but for your peace of mind, you guys need to come up with a plan to get your relationship back on track. If he's willing to do that, then yes, there's hope.

It'll probably take a while. I don't think there will be one long, cathartic conversation that will set everything right, but it's a start. Good luck. I'm sorry this is happening to you.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:55 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mod note: comment removed - the next person to make a threesome joke gets a week off.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [58 favorites]

I don't know if this is the right thing to do, but part of me wants you to kick him out. Not just for daring to put you in the #2 spot to this stranger's #1, but also because making him miss YOU and have to try to live without YOU and the happy life you have together might wake him up out of this haze.

He's confused, and he needs to understand that his wife is not the consolation prize.

The thing is, while he would certainly come to realize this eventually, it might take a while, and in the meantime you might burn your emotional bridges.

I do think some sort of ultimatum is in order. If not a "get out of here" then at least a "I am not going to lose our 20 year marriage to this nonsense, stop it right now."
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:58 PM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

Your husband has been taken in by a con artist. She's no different than she was years ago, still stringing him along, except now she needs financial assistance and he's an easy target.

Chances are good that with time, assuming she continues to roundly reject him, he'll give it up.

Would talking to her be at all a good idea? It sounds, honestly, like you might make more headway with her than with your husband and get her to shut it down.
posted by Nixy at 8:02 PM on February 28, 2011

Well.. he has never really resolved the issue, and has gotten himself stuck between what-if and reality. In this one area his maturity has slipped. It is a bit... silly, to say "losing her would be like "shooting (his 18 year old self) in the head." 1- he never really had her, and 2- he is not 18 years old anymore, that self is long gone and clinging to it is the problem. Unless you are specifically in an "open" relationship there is just a time in life where you grow up and quit acting like a love-sick puppy unable to make a decision. 38 is well beyond that point.

Is there hope? Yes, absolutely, but it will take work on both of your parts, this is almost quintessentially what couples therapy is all about, and can address.
posted by edgeways at 8:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry you are having to go through this. I can't imagine the hurt and pain they have both caused you. As I was reading this, it brought tears to my eyes. I don't understand how he could be so selfish, and hurt you in such a way.

I think you need to ask yourself what you truly want from your marriage. Ask yourself if you really want to try and work things out or end it with him.

If you want to work it, tell him you want couples counseling and you want him to have individual counseling. He needs to figure out why he would let her manipulate him to the point of all but abandoning you for her.
posted by Sweetmag at 8:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

She's a grifter and thinks that by removing herself from the situation, he'll be even more obsessed with her. I'd kick his ass as far as I could, change the locks and tell him to have a nice life. And don't let him have access to any joint accounts.
You didn't drive her away. She took herself out of the equation when he started to get cold feet or feel remorseful. Don't call her--she'd welcome the attention.

Okay, now that I vented--if you really want him back, he has to earn it. Go to therapy if you think that will help. I think supporting him in his hour of teen-aged wackiness is silly. He needs to man up, realize where his priorities lie and get back into the job of being your husband.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:10 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds like he is infatuated with her, not in love with her. Agreeing with the suggestions of therapy.

My brother was in your husbands shoes, 6 years ago, and thanks to therapy he & his wife were able to move forward and are still happily married today.
posted by jazzman at 8:10 PM on February 28, 2011

Well, I apologize for the threesome joke...

Here's what's on my mind right now. Other readers have recommended seeking therapy. I am all for it. In fact, I think it will be worthwhile to explore both individual and couples therapy. I sincerely hope that things will work out for the two of you, and I have a feeling that it will.

Now, when I read your posting, I thought about the movie, Annie Hall. You know, that movie that supposedly Woody Allen wrote in tribute to his relationship with Diane Keaton?? Well, Woody was in a relationship with Diane Keaton (her nickname was Annie, and her original lastname is Hall, thus Annie Hall), but they broke up. Woody was pretty upset, wrote the story, made the movie, and today, he's still close with Diane Keaton... Ugh! I am probably not making much sense here, la di da, la di da, da da... But I want to shine some light towards the end of this dark tunnel for you.

Things will work out. You will feel better eventually. The universe will right itself. Remember to always take the high road and communicate.

Good luck. :-)
posted by jchaw at 8:11 PM on February 28, 2011

Yes, chiming back in here - the idea of "helping" him through this is ridiculous. Even if he does snap out of it, you'll lose your respect for him forever (and part of your respect for yourself.) He is being cruel and horrible to you, his wife. Whether slowly with therapy or swiftly by being kicked out (and I mean kicked out of joint accounts too) he needs to man up and figure this out on his own and ask you for forgiveness, not coddling.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:14 PM on February 28, 2011 [19 favorites]

This life you have built together is your life as much as his. Don't give up on it just because he has been distracted. I don't even think this is about the woman as much as it is about his wanting to see himself differently. He said as much, he wants his twenty-years-ago self back. Back then, he was full of dreams and hormones and felt excited and manly. This woman reminded him of his young self and to cap it off, she offered a very potent enticement: she needed him.

Be smart about this. Think about what you would do if he were momentarily distracted by a smooth but dicey business offer or a wilderness adventure that is presented as harmless fun but on closer inspection is seen to be full of danger and high cost. You would be well aware that he is dealing with the attraction and needs enough time to become aware of the negatives in those propositions. You wouldn't react as if those distractions were about you. This is not about you, either.

Trust in what you have built together and get some good counseling to help you fight to keep your good life and rejuvenate your relationship with each other. Don't give in to fear and jealousy. Be wise. You two are still within talking and touching distance and that means your relationship is still alive. All relationships go through rocky periods. If he's having an attack of adolescence, now is not the time for you to do the same. Hold it steady. I think you'll both be glad you did.

I wish you the best.
posted by Anitanola at 8:34 PM on February 28, 2011 [21 favorites]

Honestly? Compared to many similar questions of this nature, it sounds to me like the two of you have a strong, good relationship that can weather this. It seems like he's tried really hard to be honest about his feelings-- it sucks that he is "in love" with this woman, but he seems to be doing his darndest to be as upfront as possible. It also sounds like he tried a number of times to bring you into their relationship to make the whole thing more legitimate, and though I totally understand why you didn't want to be involved with this woman, I do think you sort of missed an opportunity to keep this whole thing from igniting. Not at all saying it's your fault; it just sounds to me like both of you have been as honest as possible and I think that bodes well.
posted by threeants at 8:38 PM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

Your marriage is not over.

Yes, he was boneheaded. But it bodes well as others have said that he kept you in the loop.

I advise marriage counselling so he will understand what happened and keep it from happening again...because the truth is all of us can be attracted by people outside our relationships, and we have to learn how to not go down that rabbit trail.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:55 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Do not pay attention to responses saying to kick him to the curb.

You are probably right that this is a bit of a mid-life crisis for him. Probably most of us have a "one who got away" fantasy, and sure, it would be tough to resist if that person came back around when you're 38. Your husband has in essential ways, as far as you know, resisted.

Let's assume he is being honest with you. That says a lot.

The other woman cut him off, which could mean she's a drama queen or con artist or whatever, or it could just mean she's a decent person.

Many, many relationships survive physical and/or emotional infidelity. From your account, it doesn't even sound like your husband has ever deceived or misled you. Give him time to get over this: chances are good that he will.

I am very sorry you're going through this. I don't mean to belittle your pain, at all. I just don't think you should give up on your husband, not yet. Definitely tell him that you and this other woman are not going to be friends (that's silly), and that it's not possible for him to have both of you. Most likely, he will come around.

Truly, he hasn't done anything unforgivable or even unusual so far, unless there is more to the story that you don't know.
posted by torticat at 8:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

Nthing counseling, counseling, counseling, counseling. From what you said, I truly believe the two of you can get through this.

Sorry for the pain you are in.
posted by hansbrough at 9:17 PM on February 28, 2011

After reading your story, I'm pretty disgusted by him.

You don't have to leave him just yet, but start saving up money in a separate account, and maybe pull some of your finances apart from him, just in case you decide to leave. You don't have to leave, it's just so if you need to, he can't hold your half of your joint liquid assets hostage at the moment you do decide to leave, if you decide to leave.

I really feel for you. He's been so selfish, so hurtful to you, and he's too crazed to care. He needs counseling separately from your joint marriage counseling.

And all bets are off because he's acted like an irrational child. Start hiding your money.
posted by anniecat at 9:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just to briefly address the bit where you asked how to find a therapist: the Mefi Wiki has links on this topic which can be found here. Also one simple place to start is to ask a doctor who you trust for a referral. The goal of therapy in this situation is not to have the therapist tell you whether to stay together or divorce, but to help both of you figure out what you want and how to best pursue that.
posted by unsub at 9:44 PM on February 28, 2011

You can't imagine a life without your husband, your husband is sorry he fucked things up with you, and I doubt very much that a relationship counselor is going to advise you two to give up on your relationship. Go see one, and I'm confident you'll overcome this together. Your husband can prove his remorse to you by finding the counselor and making the appointment.

As for "shooting his 18-year-old self in the head", that's the kind of melodramatic BS you might expect from a teenager, and your husband should really be encouraged to pull the trigger and let that kid die.
posted by milk white peacock at 10:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Having been in a kind-of-close-to-the-same situation, I know your head is absolutely swimming.

I was not the jealous type, and when this person showed up in my SO's life, I did my best to be okay and happy with the situation. My SO also did the "I want you both in my life/everything will be great if I can just try to force you two to be friends" thing (unfortch, I just didn't like new guy as a person. At all. From the second I met him. Regardless of his relationship with my SO.) I also got the "I love new-guy" admission, which really sucks when you're married and the admission comes from YOUR only love. In hindsight, I was exposed to a lot of mis-directed cruelty under the guise of "being honest." Ultimately, things didn't work out and my marriage ended. Looking back, though, I realize that the minute my SO's choices started being more about having new-guy around than caring about my feelings about the situation or our marriage, our relationship was effectively over.

By sticking around, being made to feel "second place" and generally being miserable, I wasn't being the "cool, not-jealous" partner or the "rock" to which my newly penitent SO would soon return. I was just being used. And the fact that my 10 year relationship (and my SO) could so quickly and easily crack due to the mere presence of new-guy...well, it seemed to me to be proof that the two of us were never going to have the life-long happy marriage I once envisioned for us. But there were a lot of other things going on and this ended up being the best thing for both of us, in our particular situation.

Again, I am really really sorry you are going through this. I do hope you and your husband can come to a conclusion that makes you both happy in this situation. Just please make sure that you go down a path that will help get you to where YOU want to be. I wish you both the best of luck getting through it.
posted by buzzkillington at 11:13 PM on February 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

As for "shooting his 18-year-old self in the head", that's the kind of melodramatic BS you might expect from a teenager, and your husband should really be encouraged to pull the trigger and let that kid die.

The trick to having an inner 18-year-old hopeless romantic is not to murder the bastard outright; it's to make him understand that if he wants to hang around, he has to make himself useful to the cause of the adult he's become.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:28 PM on February 28, 2011 [26 favorites]

I think love is a feeling, but relationships are a choice.

I think people who are attracted to each other can be friends - close friends, even. But only if they are clean around it - that is, honest about how they feel, and what choice they've made (which is to be with other partners).

It sounds like part of the problem is not that your partner finds himself attracted to someone else, but that your partner was not actually honest with himself, or with you (perhaps not even with her) about how he felt about her, perhaps because he felt that honesty would require action on his part. (If I'm attracted to a person who isn't my wife, if I have feelings for a person who isn't my wife, I might have to leave my wife, my wife might leave me, I might 'not be able to control myself and make a move on the other person I am attracted to', etc.) .

But I don't think that's true. I think it's easier to accept both joy and wistfulness of having someone else in your life who, if the situation was different, you might be in a relationship with. But also the acknowledgement that both person A and person B (maybe even person C) are wonderful, but you've make a choice to build a life with person A. So person B and C are, at least in this lifetime, just good friends. I think in that context, it would have been possible for you to be friends with this woman, and appreciated her as another person who recognizes how wonderful your husband is.

But he didn't do that. He tried to create a 'false normal', where he didn't feel what he obviously felt, and suggesting that you 'all be friends'. And you can't. Because friends are people who have the ability to trust each other with the things that are most precious to them. Friends are honest with each other. By him not not being clean around it, and perhaps by her not being clean around it, it made it messy for all involved. And you intuitively don't trust him or her, so no, you probably couldn't have all been friends - but not because you weren't cool with it, but because they weren't cool with it. That's not your fault. Just like her 'ending the relationship' with him isn't your fault either. I think that's the cheap way out. Dumping a friend "for their own good" in situations like this, is often just another way of of her saying that she's not willing to do the (self) work to be a good friend, and respect his choices. I'd respect her more if she said that she was dumping him because she couldn't handle seeing him, but she didn't even own that. Her behavior is worthy of an eye-roll, and is a weak friendship behavior.

That said, it doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is over with your husband. Relationships are living things, that have to be tended to by both people for them to thrive, and to survive inevitable storms. Right now, if therapy is the only thing you can think to do, then you do it, together, and feel how you feel - and let him feel how he feels. Make the choice for tomorrow to remain in the relationship and at least identify what kind of relationship you'd like to be in, even if you don't know how to get there. For example, if you want a partner who will put you first, say that. Define what 'putting you first' means to you. If you want a partner who respects the vows he made to you - whose word is good, who you can trust around other women, say that. And if you want a partner who respects your relationship enough to do the self exploration and gain self awareness about himself to be honest with himself to figure out if he can remain true to those vows, and respects you enough to end the relationship if he can't, rather than the drama filled pussy footing around, say that. Talk to him about what this situation has made you realize. Because before you can figure out how to get somewhere, you have to be able to articulate what it is you want. Then you can fumble around - together - to figure out how to get there, as a team. Maybe you'll come up with ground rules about how you all need to behave in situations where one person is attracted to someone else. Because it just does happen. Maybe you'll come up with something else - a common understanding of what each of you think is important to trust the other person. There are many good outcomes that can come out of craptastic issues and troubles in a relationship - if both people are curious enough to explore them together - the key word being together.

Even if you go to couple's therapy, consider individual therapy as well. Because part of this is about you being clear about what your boundaries and deal breakers are, based on what your values are and who your partner is, not on who you wish he was. There are many wonderful people who one can't be in a relationship with (anymore), because they don't meet your expectations of what you want and deserve - not just from someone you love, but someone you are in a relationship with. If a central value for you is that you want to be able to trust your husband, and if part of trusting him is his ability to be self aware, and honest, and mature enough to respect the choices he has made (to be in a relationship with you and not with another woman) - and he's not.....well you have to be clean enough around it to end that relationship, and seek out someone who meets that criteria. And consider your times together with much joy and wistfulness yourself.

Joy and wistfulness are pretty much par for the course in long term human relationships. And that's actually okay. There is this poem, by someone I can't remember, that says something like: "I run from my fears, and they consume me. I turn and face them, and they transform me". Being open to being vulnerable and curious in the face of even painful things like this lousy experience that you so did not ask for has the equal possibility to refine your thinking, and strengthen your relationship in the long run, as it does to end it.

Best of luck to you, OP. Regardless of the outcome of your relationship, my hope is that you yourself will be okay.
posted by anitanita at 12:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [21 favorites]

I'm trying to think of things that you can do. I noticed that you took a long time to object to this, because of your standards of acceptance with each other, even though you felt a twinge of uneasiness. That is absolutely the wrong thing to do. There are exceptions that prove the rule. In your case, it would have been perfectly OK to have a standing rule of crushes on facebook, but to veto this particular woman. When you ignore your feelings you don't communicate and you do yourself and your husband a profound disservice.

In relationships with a degree of openness (and yours was/is one - with emotional openness - just not to the same degree as mine), it is wise to discuss things like this in advance. Take a boring rainy Saturday, you've just played video games for three hours, now have a cup of coffee and thrash this stuff out as pure hypotheticals. You can still do this here, that horse has not left the barn, the wonderful edifice of trust that you two have built is still there.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:56 AM on March 1, 2011

If she really is out of his life...count your blessings. That is a huge relief.

First things first, I would wait out the immediate crisis. You're reeling, and he is going to be upset and irrational for a while over this rollercoaster relationship/friendship. Neither one of you is in a place to make good decisions.

While things are calming down, do your best to be basically respectful of him. If you're unable to be polite or you start to lose control, walk away. You are perfectly justified in your anger, mistrust, frustration, fear, and sadness (or any other emotions you might be feeling). However, lashing out or being contemptuous is going to make you feel worse in the long run. If you need to vent, find a trusted friend, therapist, or possibly clergy member.

Setting boundaries with him: I suggest asking him not to talk to you about her at all. If he is infatuated, I'm sure he talks about her CONSTANTLY or at least far too frequently...using any excuse. It's a function of the infatuation, and totally normal, but not something you have to tolerate if it bothers you.

If you have the means to see a couples counselor, this is an ideal situation for it. Especially if she pops back up. I highly doubt her new-found morality. She might have been using your husband for money and gotten sick of him. Or gotten a new boyfriend. Then conveniently she becomes moral to make herself look good. She sounds unwell, which is not something you can change and is not your fault. Eventually, with time and distance, you husband will calm down and be able to look at the situation more rationally and realize what a dangerous and unpleasant situation he put you both into.

Best of luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:06 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

And to answer your first question: your marriage is absolutely not doomed. It has a strong foundation, it just needs time, space, and positive communication so that you can both heal and move on from this isolated incident. You'll get through this, and the chances of something like this happening again seem very low.

That is not to discount the incredible amount of stress that you're under right now. Take care of yourself, we're all pulling for you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:22 AM on March 1, 2011

There's a good chance your husband is dealing with Limerence, among other things. I'm not taking his side, but he's probably pretty effed up emotionally & mentally at this point. It's going to take a lot of time for him to get over her and move on. Be patient. Be supportive.
posted by shoepal at 3:37 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

You and your husband can get through this. Your relationship is not going to be exactly what it was before, but it can rise again as a fine and lovely thing. Hemingway's "Life breaks us. And when we heal, we're stronger in the broken parts." seems appropriate. There's work to be done, and some mourning along the way, but all is not lost. Not by a long shot.
posted by jon1270 at 4:30 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

- Nthing that your husband should be the one to find the counselor. It's a great suggestion.

- Have a plan if this person pops up again or if your husband seeks her out. I know it's painful to think about, but some folks have mentioned you had a right to disagree sooner and/or voice your feelings sooner. I urge you now to make a worst case scenario plan. It's painful to contemplate, I know. But I think you'll feel more in control if you have some options for appropriate reactions in mind. Just in case.

posted by jbenben at 4:36 AM on March 1, 2011

I don't see her as a con artist. Just someone with a lot of problems. Your husband is high on the intimacy of being with someone who is defenseless, quite a contrast from when she rejected him. He feels really powerful in this position too. She probably needs to remain broken for their "relationship" to work, even though he imagines "fixing" her. These feelings are so powerful that they are interfering with his understanding of the bigger picture. It's like being addicted to a drug and avoiding the unpleasant knowledge that it is destroying one's life by remaining high. It's hard to get an addict off drugs so I can't be as encouraging as some of the others, but he needs to get into some kind of therapy that will let him see what's going on outside the distracting feelings she generates in him. Her inability to take care of herself makes her innocent like a pet. People find it easier to get along with their pets than with other humans, but you can't have a marriage with one. He needs to understand this and stop hoping for the fix that will get rid of those unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:08 AM on March 1, 2011 [12 favorites]

Sounds like that your husband has obviously had an emotional affair with this woman, and to be honest, you can't discount the possibility of a physical affair. I would think he has a ton of work to do to win back trust that he destroyed. That takes time and patience for both of you. As tough as the road is during a break up, it's just as tough (if not tougher) during reconciliation.

If you want to stay in the marriage, I think the obvious answer is couples counseling. You can't "fix" your husband, but you certainly own half of the marriage and should look into seeing what, if anything, can be salvaged.

Ultimately, though, do you want to be in a marriage where you were treated like an option instead of a priority? The answer for everyone in this situation is different and will likely guide your next steps.

A book you might want to look into: "Not Just Friends" by Dr. Shirley Glass.

Good luck!
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was in a situation sort of like this, but I was the other woman.

From the time I was 14 until I was 18, I was in a relationship. I'm 32 now, and I can say it was not a puppy love thing, it was real, serious, and intense.

We broke up. He got married young, at 21. Within a year or so, he was trying hard to look me up. I resisted. When he got in touch with mom (who loved this guy) to try track me down, I told her not to give him my number, and threw away the letter he wrote me, unread.

Not because I didn't love the guy- some part of me still does even now- but because I didn't want to be involved in anyone's divorce. I knew through mutual friends that he kept telling his wife I was "a good friend" of his, and that didn't sit right with me. I was the one that got away- I know this because he was, and still is, honestly, my "one that got away", too.

He and his first wife ended up divorced. I am sorry for that, but I am really, really glad that I had no part in it. It sounds like your husband's OW has fewer boundaries than what I did, and that she really does need someone to lean on. Even though she kinda sounds like a mess, I have to admit, I don't think she's the one to blame here. Your husband is the one who took vows to you, and she, albeit too late, is trying to back out of this mess.

It sounds like there is much worth saving in your relationship. I would nth the counseling suggestion. If you can forgive him, please do.
posted by Leta at 6:44 AM on March 1, 2011

Whether he loves you is irrelevant to whether you are capable of being sustained and nourished by the relationship he is offering you.
posted by hermitosis at 6:46 AM on March 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

On a closer read of your question, I'd like to say that I really hope she sticks to her decision, but she may contact him in the event of a crisis. And it sounds like she has no shortage of these. Give him a little room to mourn this, but then you will need to work out a plan with him in anticipation of her changing her mind.

Unfortunately, he really may end up harboring some resentment toward you because of this, even if he feels your response was perfectly understandable. That's something that can be worked through, if he is interested or capable of doing so.

"Where you were before" may not really exist anymore. Which is okay, because nothing lasts forever, relationships change over time. But you are at a point where you are going to have to evolve, separately and/or together. It doesn't seem to me like everything is shot to hell, but this should not be something that is allowed to fade into the past without careful exploration.
posted by hermitosis at 6:55 AM on March 1, 2011

I've seen something similar to this happen with a few couples I know. What you need to do first is decide what you want. Perhaps a few meetings with a therapist would help you figure this out, perhaps you can remove yourself from the pain enough to make the decision by yourself.

If you decide you want to be done with the marriage, or punish your husband and make him hurt like he's hurt you, by all means throw him out.

If you decide you truly want to stay married, and are willing to work through an incredibly difficult time that is not close to being over, then you'll need to develop a strategy and stick to it. What that strategy is should be based on your objective understanding of your husband's personality. Moving beyond this situation and recovering your marriage will not be easy or quick, and you will probably need to rise above and be patient.

One friend decided to follow the advice in The Divorce Remedy, and asked for our support since the approaches in this book look quite unfair from outside the relationship. Other people I know have had to work quite hard on working through their resentment, anger and hurt at the betrayal in order to move forward in the relationship with their partner.

Couples therapy would be great for you, and it is a very good sign if he is interested.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:00 AM on March 1, 2011

I'm a little amazed at the people projecting motives for this other woman in the absence of any evidence whatsoever. To me, Obscure Reference hits it on the head - your husband has fallen into the convenient and oh-so-romantic (in one's own head anyhow) role of White Knight. This woman sounds like she has a lot of problems, someone he can feel powrful with and try to help. To her credit, when he told her how he felt, she cut contact.

I don't think your marriage is over, and he should be seeing someone individually as well as you both as a couple to help weather this storm.
posted by canine epigram at 7:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

My best friend is a different sex to me. I sympathise with your husband.

Commonalities: We've been in the situation where I've spent money for her on things she couldn't afford. She's my best friend, so although I'd never be stupid enough to tell my other half I love her, I guess by some platonic measure I do. I'd happily drive 30 miles if she were in trouble. We have a deep emotional bond. I've hugged her, and she's hugged me. In fact, we hug every time we see each other. The relationship between her and my girlfriend is frosty & there is jealousy. If I was dealt an ultimatum, the friend may try and distance herself & this would be devastating for me too.

Contrary to you, I'm in a situation where this friendship was in place when I started dating. I'm also not in the throes of a midlife crisis.

So - For the record. There's absolutely no way I'd ever cheat with this woman on my girlfriend. I'd never do it, and the friend would never allow it. In fact, I don't think I'd ever have a relationship with her. Unless there was some kind of end-of-the-world-last-two-people thing going on.

I'm in a situation like your husband, and if it is platonic between him and her, then the way you've reacted to it is bad. He has a friend that he helps out. She just happens to be a female. I know it's hard for you. But it is possible for men in relationships to have good female friends. It's not that common, but it does happen.

You have to ask yourself if you'd feel the same way if his friend was a man. I think this is more about your fears than it is about his abuse of your relationship. You need to man up and figure out a way you can live with this situation.
posted by seanyboy at 7:46 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This may be a total over-read, but your pointing out that you are 7 years older than him was a red flag for me. Not entirely because you are 7 years older, but that you pointed it out. With that said, I don't have an actual solution for you other than what others have opined, but I think whatever solution you choose should take into account a slightly significant age difference between you that generally isn't an issue when the man is older.
posted by teg4rvn at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you everyone for your comments. (And thank you Jessamyn, for keeping the jokes out of the thread.)

I wish I could mark some "best answers." I especially appreciated the ones that gave me hope and listed some of the positives. Because, before I posted that, I had read a bunch of older posts about marriage issues in AskMe, and honestly, from what I had read I was afraid that everyone was going to tell me my marriage is doomed. It has helped knowing that there is some hope and it's not just me being in denial.

He is still communicating, still says he loves me. He won't, at the moment, commit to wanting to stay together, because he "doesn't know what he wants" and "needs to get himself back together." (This really, really frightens me, but is it just normal under the circumstances?) He is going to see a therapist.

I have told him that I want us to see a marriage counselor as well, but his response is that he wants to get his head back together before we do that. I think we should do these things simultaneously, actually, but do you all have any thoughts on that? It is good that he is open to counseling and knows he needs to see someone. But I fear that the result might be that he decides he is happier without me. I don't know. I haven't yet pushed hard for immediate marriage counseling, but I did make it clear that I think it should happen. I am going to keep trying there.

I talked with a long-time mutual friend (of all three of us) and she believes that the woman is not a con artist, not a manipulator, and really 100% is not interested in breaking up our marriage, and is completely horrified at what has happened. Perhaps that is true. I don't know. I did get more background information on the situation from both him and mutual friends that actually makes this seem more likely than I would have thought.

I appreciate that some folks said "kick him to the curb" but I don't want to do that. As I said, he is communicating and I believe he is being honest with me. I don't think that kicking him out would help the situation. But I have been very up front with him that I am going to fight for this marriage.

I loved what fairytale of los angeles said: "The trick to having an inner 18-year-old hopeless romantic is not to murder the bastard outright; it's to make him understand that if he wants to hang around, he has to make himself useful to the cause of the adult he's become."

A couple of other comments:

seanyboy, I didn't give him an ultimatum about her. I was still trying to figure it all out, honestly. If it really felt completely platonic on his part (it may be fully that way on hers!) I think it would have been OK. He has some close female friends already and I have good male friends. And there has not been jealousy on either side. This situation has felt very different all along. (The laptop thing, for example... I didn't find out about it until afterward. If it was for someone else, we probably would have talked about it together first. And other stuff that I didn't mention because it would have just made the question too long.)

teg4rvn, I don't know why I mentioned the 7 years. It may not be relevant -- I don't fear that he would dump me for being older than he is. (He has always been the "old man" or the relationship anyway. He was always mature and very grounded, which is one of the reasons this is all so out of character.) It might be relevant in a sense, though. Those who do the math might realize that we've been together since he was pretty young. He didn't have the relationship experience before we got together that I had. I think there might be part of him that sort of wishes he had... but also, maybe he doesn't have the perspective to realize how good our relationship is because he's never been in an awful one. His parents are happily married, too. I had relationships end horribly and my parents are divorced. I know that our time together -- until Friday -- has been really good and so many people are not that lucky.

Anyway. Thanks all so far.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:55 AM on March 2, 2011

Perhaps one thing you can do to help right now is to find a therapist that you can talk with about the change that is happening in your life. The truth is, while we speak of our "relationship," there is no "it," no "relationship" in the sense of an entity which can somehow be acted on. Only the people involved can be counseled. The people are not identical and the counseling is something you each need. You are changing just as he is changing. I would expect you could use a little support right now in the areas of trust and fear, if nothing else.

Change can hurt like the dickens and also be very, very good.
posted by Anitanola at 6:24 PM on March 2, 2011

I agree that you seeing a counselor of some sort by yourself, now, is a fine idea. Your husband has his own work to do, and you really can't make him do it in the way you'd like him to do it. Finding your own bearings again in the midst of all this scary unsettledness is work that you have to do on your own, for yourself. Your fears are totally legitimate and reasonable, but it's up to you to find a healthy way to work through them and make your own decisions. It's no good to pretend that your husband's mistakes or betrayals give you license to demand he say or do particular things (like see a marriage counselor). It's also no good to lower your standards for how you want to be treated, holding your marriage together at any price (ask me how I know). Vulnerability is part of the deal. A good therapist can really help you find your way through all this.
posted by jon1270 at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, all. I am the OP. I finally made an account for anonymous postings.

I wish I could post good news. There are better days and worse days. This is a worse one which probably means I shouldn't be posting. I should be working, but I am having so much trouble focusing on work. On the worse days I don't eat much, either. This isn't good.

He is going to therapy but I don't know if it is helping. We aren't yet in marriage counseling but I am still trying to get that to happen. He has complained about the cost of his therapy (which I guess isn't covered by his insurance) even though he is willing to go, and our insurance will only cover 5 visits to marriage counseling if we can find one (so far the folks that his insurance recommended were people he didn't want to see -- some too religious, and some too corporate), so I don't feel I can see anyone myself and add to the hardship. I don't make enough money myself to afford it -- or much of anything -- on my own. Plus I really want us to see someone together, primarily.

At the moment he won't commit to trying to stay together, just to "trying to figure out what he wants." But he still acts very loving and affectionate much of the time. Alternating with extreme mopiness and distance. An example: when I asked him why was upset one weekend, he said "(She) had to spend time this weekend with her family, and I know that is really hard for her and I can't be there to support her." (If he would stop following her online, he wouldn't know this stuff. But he won't do that.)

...but what about how hard this is for me? It really hurts. I am trying to be as positive as I can so he doesn't feel like I am awful to be around. But it is killing me and I can't keep it up anyway. I mean, to hell with how this feels for her. She is not his wife! I DON'T CARE HOW SHE FEELS.

I can't really talk to my friends about it, either. I mean, yeah, some of them have heard. But I can't talk to them every day about it or they will hate hanging out with me too.

I just want my life back. I want to go back to a few months ago. I had complete trust and security then. I really feel like my whole life foundation has gone.

Even now, he says things like "I will always love you" but it sounds as if there is an implied "...but" at the end and he will end it "...but I can't stay married." "...But I need to be with (her)." But, but, but. Maybe I am just getting insecure now. I never had that feeling before. I don't like it.

There are days when he seems normal and those are the good days. A few of those were strung together in a row a while ago and I was feeling pretty hopeful. The last week has been tough, though. Tonight he had therapy and then said he wanted to be alone for a while after. I understand that. But hours later incommunicado, I am just frightened. (Last Friday, he dropped off the face of the planet all day and night. I had to be out of town that night and could not sleep, because I could not sleep imagining where he might have gone. I ended up getting maybe 3 1/2 hours of sleep.) Like I said, I was never insecure about this stuff before. If he was out late, he usually told me where and he was out with his friends that I knew. And I did not ever worry.
posted by lessobvious at 10:12 PM on March 18, 2011

You have my sympathy; this sounds brutal. But I think it's a mistake that you're not seeing a therapist on your own. I understand that you hope to conserve your resources, but no marriage therapist and no change in your husband's behavior is going to fix the private damage you're suffering. Rebuilding your marriage, if that is what eventually happens, is going to be a 2-person job. Sacrificing your own personal health will not improve the situation. This business of swallowing your own hurt, not getting any help, not talking to your friends about it, trying to be "positive" with your husband -- it's weakening you, and neither you nor your marriage can afford that.

Several people upthread mentioned the need to set some boundaries. I get the impression that you might've missed or discounted that advice. Your marriage doesn't need you to swallow your pain and be accommodating. Your husband isn't going to "figure out what he wants" until he he is forced to make a choice, but you are actively prolonging this situation by protecting him, at great personal cost, from ever having to choose. At this point, I don't believe that patience and sacrifice are your friends. I understand that you are terrified of what his choice might be, but you can't sustain this indefinitely. I encourage you to start taking care of, and standing up for, yourself. If your marriage can't tolerate that, then it's not worth saving anyhow.
posted by jon1270 at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if this were my husband and he was acting like this I would tell him, hey, buster you are married to me and we will either make this work or your butt hits the highway. None of this torturing the wife crap.

Y'all made vows. He can either keep them or not. If not his butt needs to be on the road.

You deserve better than this wishywashiness. I'm willing to bet that if you tell him you are not willing to put up with nonsense he might actually figure out that he is at risk of losing YOU and he needs to shape up.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

--He's the one making you crazy, he needs to pony up for individual counseling for you. It's NOT selfish.

--You also need to protect your financial interests here. Meaning you should talk to a lawyer.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:35 PM on March 19, 2011

Thanks, all.

We have found a marriage counselor and will be calling him on Monday. It turns out that my husband has been reading this thread, and he told me last night that, yes, it's OK, I should see a counselor myself. I guess I will. I don't know who yet. I'm a little weirded out by it because I don't really open up to people much other than my best friend... my husband. I am uncomfortable about therapy, and scared enough of the couples counseling. But I guess I can try it.

I am trying to set boundaries here. Things have gotten worse in some ways -- he is drinking more and isolating himself from me more, and it seems to get worse on the weekends. The way it's been on the bad days, is that he disappears after work or before I get up, doesn't answer phone calls or texts, or just answers cryptically. He no longer checks in on Foursquare or uses Google Latitude like he used to, so I can't find him at all. Then when he comes home and he is really, really drunk and seems miserable.

(He has never had a drinking problem, and was always basically a social drinker, getting a little drunk on beer with friends but not really ever hard drinking. But in the last few months it has changed to hard alcohol, and then more recently to drinking a lot of it quickly, and getting really drunk -- and instead of the good-natured happy intoxication it used to be, there's an uncomfortable edge to it. People who didn't even know what was going on with us have noticed and expressed concern. Could this be depression? Could that be what is behind a lot of this?)

I told him last night that this has to stop -- if he still loves me as he says he does, and does not want to make me not love him, he needs to treat me like someone he loves and cares about. If he needs time alone, I need to know what's going on, at least, and not have him just disappear from the known earth until 2 a.m. And he needs to cut back on the drinking to extremes, because it's really frightening me and not helping him.

I didn't want to imply earlier, by the way, that I haven't talked to my friends about this. I have -- I just don't want to talk to them about it as much as I'm actually thinking about it. Because that would be just about all I ever talk about, then, and they have other things going on in their lives, y'know? But it is true that I don't really open up to them that much. I have never really been good at that.

It's a little weird now that I know he is reading this...

Anyway, thanks again. I am still reading and thinking about all of your advice.
posted by lessobvious at 5:35 AM on March 20, 2011

Okay, I call shenanigans. I totally believed it when your husband told you he loved you and he was so sorry he fucked things up, but he's not acting like he loves you and he's so sorry he fucked things up, he's acting like a man who still thinks something might happen with the other woman and totally wants to keep fucking things up as much as possible. Good for you for telling him it needs to stop. I wish you all the luck in the world with your marriage counselor.

Hey OP's husband, since you're reading: Your little girlfriend dumped you. Man the fuck up already and stand by your poor wife. She loves you more than you deserve.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:34 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think he's really going to leave. I don't know what to do. Oh my god.

We saw a counselor once. I think it felt worse after. Today he said... a lot of stuff. Not trying to be mean stuff. But that maybe we never should have been married in the first place. Oh my god.

I don't know what to do.
posted by lessobvious at 3:34 PM on March 26, 2011

Lessobvious, I think you should tell HIM to leave.

I am not a fan of divorce.* I AM a fan of calling people on their bs. And this crap is BS.

He does NOT get to stay and torment you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:32 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know how I could do that.

I think that his therapy, after a month, has led him to the worst possible place. He now seems to think that his feelings changed for me even before we were married. Even nearly 20 years ago, not long after we got together. How can this be possible? He has been so loving and good for the entire time. How could he have felt that way? How could I have never known? Just a few weeks ago he said he wanted us to stay together, he loved me, he wanted us to get through this and grow old together. I don't understand. I trusted our relationship completely. Absolutely.

And I don't know what to do. He makes ten times what I do. I love my house and I can't afford to buy his share. I can't afford to pay the bills. I don't want to lose my cats. I don't want to move. I love the life I have had until now. I was so happy! I had the best husband in the world!

It's like I not only lose my emotional rock but everything else too. I will have nothing.

My job doesn't even give me health insurance, and I have a small chronic condition for which I have to have medication that is expensive without insurance.

He said today that he would still pay the mortgage and the bills, but if he really leaves... if I were to kick him out, even if I could...?

I don't know how I can get through this.

(Please don't call the police on me, Jessamyn... I'm not suicidal. I just don't know what I am going to do.)

I always thought the relationship was too good to be true. I was afraid that he would get run over by a bus or something, and it would end. But I never ever thought this would happen.
posted by lessobvious at 5:03 AM on March 27, 2011

You're in a very difficult situation. I'm so sorry to hear about the pain you're going through. It sounds like you need more information about what your options actually are. For example, after twenty years of marriage, it's not at all likely that a divorce would leave you with nothing.

You need a therapist of your own, with whom you can talk this through, and you need to have a consultation with a divorce lawyer who can tell you what would happen if your marriage were to end. The first consultation with a lawyer is ofter free or relatively inexpensive. Mefi can help you find inexpensive counseling in your area.

Please do this for yourself.
posted by prefpara at 6:25 AM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am very sorry you're going through this. I was divorced when much younger, without such financial implications (we didn't have anything to fight over), and it was still very painful.

Try not to let this crisis infect your understanding of the distant past. Your husband's apparent belief that something was wrong with your relationship from the start is just a narrative he finds comfortable. It does not mean that your relationship has always been fatally flawed, that you were fooled, that there's something wrong with you. Because there isn't.

Disparity of income is why alimony exists. Even if your marriage unravels, which is sounding increasingly likely, you are not going to be shoved out onto the street. But as The Young Rope-Rider suggested a week or so ago, it's time for you to be talking with a lawyer. You have real interests to protect. DO NOT leave it up to your husband to look after your welfare.
posted by jon1270 at 6:27 AM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You will not have nothing. Talk to a divorce lawyer to allay that concern.

Also, jon1270 is dead right about your husband finding a comfortable narrative for himself. It's a self-serving story he's telling himself so that he can live with what he's doing to you.
posted by smorange at 8:41 AM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

prefpara, we have been together for 20 years (in July) but only married for 14. We have been living together for 18 years and bought our house together (both names on the title) 6 months before the wedding. We just refinanced a couple of months ago...

I think he might only make 8-9 times what I do, now that I think about it, but I actually don't know. I just know there is a huge disparity.

I feel like talking to a lawyer would make everything worse. I understand why you all say I should. But wouldn't it just make everything more bitter at this stage? And harder to reconcile?

That is all I really want... for him to get his head out of his butt and realize we had a great thing going here, and splitting wouldn't make anyone any happier.
posted by lessobvious at 2:43 PM on March 27, 2011

That is all I really want... for him to get his head out of his butt and realize we had a great thing going here, and splitting wouldn't make anyone any happier.

That would be a terrific best-case scenario. However you are at the point where you might have to prepare for a less-than-best-case scenario and it's a good idea to think about what that would look like while at the same time hoping for the best. So, a few guidelines

- He cannot leave you high and dry even if he wants to [which it sounds like he doesn't], you have legal protections. Again, you do not need to call in the lawyers until things start getting unpleasant, but at the point at which you start talking about who stays and who goes and who keeps what and who pays which bills it's important to know that you have legal rights in addition to responsibilities and so does he.
- You need an emotional support system that is not him, in addition to whatever support he is offering. Now is a good time to talk to friends, talk to family. You don't have to go the whole "woe is me" route if you think that won't be good but "I may need some assistance with some practical stuff in the months to come because this has gotten difficult, I'd like to have you as someone I can call on" sorts of things.
- You also could use your own therapist, as people have been saying. It sucks to have to do "me" thinking when you're used to "we" thinking, but if he's already doing that, you need to think along those lines as well.
- Agree with everyone this "maybe I never felt the ways I said I felt" is convenient and maybe helps your husband with some of the more cadish things he's doing and saying but it's NOT TRUE and it's NOT HELPFUL as a thing to dwell on. Really what's done is done and it looks like now is a pretty terrible time to start having "But you SAID..." conversations.

Again, I am sorry you are going through this, but there are things that you can do now that will be much more useful for you down the road and being able to motivate yourself [or get help motivating yourself] to do some of these things is going to be much more useful than morning after quarterbacking what you or he should have done in the past.
posted by jessamyn at 3:36 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I am very reluctant to even address your situation further than I have. I don't know you, I don't know your husband, I'm not a psychologist of counselor, etc.,etc. Yet here I am futzing around with your marriage. I feel like a kid sticking a fork in a toaster. I hope you have / find someone who's able to offer more solid advice than I can.

That said, I have two things to add.

The first is that a lawyer is not going to make you get divorced. If your husband wants to save his marriage, he will have just as much chance to do so after you've talked with a lawyer as before.

The second is that your comment earlier today, "He now seems to think that his feelings changed for me even before we were married. Even nearly 20 years ago, not long after we got together." reminded me of the work of John Gottman, a psychologist famous for having established a technique for recognizing relationships that are destined for divorce. He looks for a particular series of indicators, the last of which is described like this:
The Sixth Sign: Bad Memories

The final sign that divorce is inevitable is when the couple recalls their past life with a negative view. "Couples who are deeply entrenched in a negative view of their spouse often rewrite their past" (Gottman et al 42). Excess negativity leads to a distorted perception that can affect the past, present and future of a relationship.
Which I think pretty much speaks for itself.

Please get your ducks in a row.
posted by jon1270 at 3:50 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I saw a therapist. I can't say I felt that it helped much, or any, really. I don't know. Maybe another appointment would help. Honestly, I didn't feel any better or different afterward.

Going to see the couples counselor for the second time tomorrow. Things got noticeably worse after the first visit (my last couple of posts were after it), and it doesn't seem to be getting better. My husband is not communicating, not touching, not meeting my eyes at all. This is all much different from the way he was the first couple of weeks after this blew up, when I had a lot of hope. Something has changed in him pretty suddenly to make him be completely different.

He is cutting himself off from me and he is making that happen with his own actions. I am treating him as normally as possible while he is in the house because he still lives here and I don't want him to think of the house as an awful place to be. Plus, I don't want to leave, and it has to be non-awful to live in for me too. So it has to stay tolerable. But when he does come home he sits miserably with his arms crossed, doesn't laugh, and looks like the most miserable creature in the world.

I don't try to talk to him about this all the time. I try to talk about other stuff. But when I do try to talk about it he won't really say anything.

Jessamyn said "Now is a good time to talk to friends, talk to family." Most of my friends are his friends too. I don't have a lot of family and the family I do have are not in a position to be very supportive. Some of my friends are helpful, though. Most of our mutual friends do not know yet that any of this is going on.

jon1270, that last post... well... it's terrifying.

I don't really know what could get my ducks in a row. Yes, yes, a lawyer. Not until after this next counselor visit tomorrow, I guess. I'm hoping to have a bit more clarity on what is really happening by then. I don't know what else to do. I am not going to start packing. This is my house. I am not going anywhere.

(BTW, I live in Washington, a community property state with no-fault divorce if that affects any advice. But I don't want a divorce.)

A weird thing is that I got strange Facebook mail this week from someone who seems to think I am the "other woman" with her husband. (I don't know her husband -- or her -- at all! It is really weird. She says her husband has shown her pictures of me and everything. This isn't possible unless he got them from the web or something, since I don't know the guy!) In the emails I got called a bitch who should spend time with my own husband and not ruin someone else's family. The irony is painful.

I never sent any emails like that to the "other woman" in my scenario. Not to say I wasn't tempted.
posted by lessobvious at 11:15 PM on March 30, 2011

FWIW, therapy is a longer-term process than you seem to suspect (or maybe just wish). The first visit is about enough time to meet the therapist and tell him or her about the trouble you're struggling with, and to ask a few questions about how the therapist works with people in your situation; it's more like an interview than a service. It's not about feeling better right away, except perhaps in the sense that you might feel better simply because you get to say some things out loud that you ordinarily keep silent about. Even if you and your therapist work well together, I'd expect it to take several visits to feel much sense of progress.

This must be an excruciatingly slow-moving and draining situation for you. Take care of yourself as well as you possibly can, even when other people's comfort seems to conflict with yours. Eat, exercise, get out of the house and talk to whatever thoughtful, sympathetic ears you have available to you. Your mental and physical health are worth preserving.
posted by jon1270 at 2:51 AM on March 31, 2011

He is moving out.

He says he doesn't want to work on it. He wants to be independent.

He said we had a good marriage and yet he just doesn't want to be married anymore. How can this be possible? Oh my god.
posted by lessobvious at 6:05 PM on March 31, 2011

What a butthead.

I am so sorry. But you will get through this and you will be okay.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:08 PM on March 31, 2011

It is really hard to believe that at the moment. I don't want to be divorced. I want to be with my husband and I want him to be with me. I don't understand why he has changed so suddenly. And why a marriage that was good -- and he says this as well -- could fall apart so suddenly.

I spent a couple of nights reading stuff about divorce in Washington and it just terrified me more. It sounds as if it will be a horrific process.

Going back to an earlier post, jon1270, I know that one visit with the therapist isn't going to solve everything. I just kind of thought that I'd feel a bit better than I did after talking to her, at least, that I'd have a feeling that I'd gotten something off my chest or... I don't know. I think it's possible she just isn't the right one for me.
posted by lessobvious at 3:51 AM on April 1, 2011

I'm so sorry.

I think it's possible she just isn't the right one for me.

Certainly possible. There's no reason to force yourself to go if you're not feeling it; just make sure you're getting support from somewhere.
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 AM on April 1, 2011

I am probably going to see her one more time, and I have other options as well if I decide we're not clicking after that.
posted by lessobvious at 5:19 AM on April 1, 2011

I am very sorry about the way things are going. It is good that you are trying counseling and if this is not the right therapist for you, please try another. Also, talk to your close family and best friends. You need to have a few people you can talk to. This is a frightening time that wise and steady advisors can help you to navigate. Many, many women have been where you are and have gotten through it. You can too. It will hurt--it already does and you've gotten through a month of it. It will hurt some more but you can get through it and you will not have to be sad and lonely forever.

You're going to need to redefine yourself -- something I don't think is a bad idea from time to time as we go through life. You need to be your own best friend. This is not the end of the world.

Reach out for the help you need. Talk to a lawyer; reading books and articles about divorce is not a substitute for legal advice and, as you say you cannot pay the bills on your own, you do need to find out now what you are facing financially. Since your husband has pretty much demonstrated that he is not your best friend, you can't just ignore that and trust that he'll pay the mortgage and the bills after he has moved out because he said he would.

Did the increased drinking start before he took up with this woman? If he's drinking more because of this relationship and his guilt about pursuing it, perhaps it is preventing clarity in his thinking. He also has to redefine himself and drinking neither averts that nor helps to accomplish it.

I really do wish you well and hope you find yourself stronger and happier than you would ever have believed.
posted by Anitanola at 10:55 PM on April 1, 2011

I can't be sure, but I think the increased drinking did start after he began hanging out with her. I'm not 100% clear on the timeline there.

He's been gone for 4 days with no contact now.
posted by lessobvious at 4:14 PM on April 4, 2011

I wanted to post an update before the post is closed.

He didn't come back. I have seen him only a few times in the last year. I haven't counted, but it could be less than ten. It is very strange for someone I had seen nearly every day for almost 20 years.

On Easter last year he said he wanted a divorce.

It hasn't happened yet. He hasn't wanted to rush it, I think partially so I can keep my health insurance. I still don't really know what is going to happen. But he is gone, he lives in his own place, he has a new life without me.

I am getting by as well as I can. I am still worried about money. I have an additional part-time job now but I am still not making enough that I feel I'd be able to get by well, and I don't feel that either job is stable long-term.

He still hangs out with the woman that precipitated this whole mess. He says that they aren't dating, that they are just friends. I have no idea what is happening there. When I have seen him he has indicated that he has been dealing with some depression. I hope he is getting treated for it. But I don't really know.

Mostly, I still don't really understand any of it. I have some ideas what might have gone wrong on my husband's side, and why he still says that he was always unhappy, even before we got married. But I don't really have a clue whether my theories are correct. I don't know if I will ever know. Or if he knows yet.

This is not the life I wanted but I guess I have to live with it.

I do want to thank everyone who contributed to this thread last year. You were all helpful to me during the beginning of the hardest time of my life. I read this page many times while sobbing my eyes out. But it it still helped. Thank you.
posted by lessobvious at 1:40 AM on February 28, 2012

I'm sorry you've suffered such an awful blow.

On Easter last year he said he wanted a divorce. It hasn't happened yet. He hasn't wanted to rush it, I think partially so I can keep my health insurance.

He's also avoiding having to pay alimony, while keeping you in limbo indefinitely.

This is not the life I wanted but I guess I have to live with it.

No, it's not. You can take charge of the situation yourself: look up a good lawyer, and make an appointment.
posted by jon1270 at 5:28 AM on February 28, 2012

Sorry, that should've been, "No, you don't."
posted by jon1270 at 5:28 AM on February 28, 2012

I don't know if I should reply, really, since the post is going to close in a couple of hours... (I wish Ask posts didn't close.) But I should say that while I am in limbo it's partly because it seemed to be the best thing at the moment. (So I had something to do with this decision as well.) Filing would basically cause me to lose my insurance through his employer, and then if a court ordered him to pay for alternate insurance for me... well, you know how it is in the US these days. It would be a lot more money than he pays now and it would all be going into the insurance company's pocket. I can't see too much benefit to that for either of us.

Additionally, he's currently still paying the mortgage and all of the bills for the house I live in. We are going to discuss transitioning some of that soon, but at the moment I kind of look at it as alimony anyway.

So I'm not rushing to force a change yet. The main thing is that I don't want either of us to file until the medical insurance situation is figured out. He seems to be willing to make sure I don't get screwed on that situation and I do believe that he is honest about that.

There are some reasons why it would be good to go through with the paperwork, of course. But I am not in a hurry. It is much more important for me not to lose coverage.

(Stupid American health care system. I hate it.)
posted by lessobvious at 4:22 PM on February 28, 2012

(And thank you -- I am listening to your advice. I know I need to consider all of this.)
posted by lessobvious at 4:23 PM on February 28, 2012

And I don't mean to imply that I know exactly what you should do or when you should do it. But I think that at some point you will have had enough of this, and it will be time to cut him loose. I don't mean to push you in any direction so much as say that you have the right to make your own decisions. Take care, and good luck.
posted by jon1270 at 5:20 PM on February 28, 2012

I understand that you think that the way things are would only be worse if you made any efforts to interfere in any way, but I encourage you to talk to a lawyer, just to get the perspective of someone on your side who isn't you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:56 PM on February 29, 2012

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