How can a father leave his family yet remain a father?
December 26, 2011 8:47 AM   Subscribe

This is not going to be pretty. I need to know if there is any way for me to maintain a life with my children if I cannot maintain one with my wife.

As the child of a broken family with a father who abandoned us, I have always held steadfast to the rule that should the day come that I was a father that I would never break my family. Unfortunately, someone has come into my life that has turned that wall of stone into sand and I am rapidly trying to come to terms with what is ahead of my life.

It's really quite incredible, to me, how fast this has all come about. I could spin yarns of justification and reasoning and I think I need to do a small bit of it just to make the question more useful:

My wife and I have been married for close to eight years. I have always carried a sort of emotional "hole" with me the whole time. My wife was convinced, and convinced me, that the hole was solely related to my feelings towards my father and that she knew we were perfect and not to worry. So it was a good fantasy and we would bond and I would agree with it and feel lucky that someone understood me.

Unfortunately, this explanation has proven inaccurate. We had several breakups prior to getting married, which in hindsight I should have been more resilient about – Yes, I did all the breaking --, but we pressed on and paint was applied over the hole and we had a lovely wedding and first few years.

The hole, the emptiness, would come and go, and I would mostly try to press on and not think of it or think of it in the terms that had been explained to me. About 4.5 years ago there came a schism that unnerved me because it felt like an obvious sort of disconnect but it was written off as a bad fight and hey these things happen and let's not do that again.

So, life goes on, and, hey, we're blessed -- children! Beautiful, perfect, children. They are the light of my life; I love them so very much. My wife and I are lucky to be so fortunate.

But that hole, that hole is still there, in the background, gnawing at me, making me miserable late at night, and early morning and every time in between. I gave up and decided that I would carry this hole with me in secret and never let it affect my family and, as they say, just keep a stiff upper lip. Give the kids a steady home. So, fine, except I have now met someone, someone out of freakish chance, who has essentially filled the hole with just words. Magnificent, powerful, perfect words that just rain down and fill me to the brim and make me feel happiness in a way I cannot adequately measure. More than I have ever felt in my life.

I told her. I told her the first day – I am a happily married man. So what if I lied? I had to believe this lie because this is what I’ve told myself and the world around me no matter what I may have at times felt inside. Marriage is hard, life is hard, it’s not easy, you have to work at it – yes, absolutely. And here I am failing it. Talking.

I can’t stop thinking about this new person and I am besides myself where – instead of formulating plans of action to never see or run into or think about this person, I am instead thinking how I can absolutely destroy my life and my psyche and everything I’ve ever built in my life in order to fill that emptiness.

It’s that good. I am being so selfish. I’m Ulysses and here is my ship and there are the rocks and there she is and I am compelled with no rational manner of recourse.

So, that’s the backstory. Oh, and my father. My father was a worthless bastard who did everything possible to wrangle his way out his marriage (with his two kids! What are the !#()%*! odds.. fuck!) by doing underhanded things and trying to convince my Mom to be the breaker and not the break-ee to make it easy for him to never pay anything or see us ever again. The bastard. He died before we could make up and I still carry hatred and a grief for him. And this will probably kill my Mom, who never remarried, and I was the good son. So, you know, this whole episode is probably going to send me to the funny farm.

THE QUESTION:

If I must be weak and destroy my family and get a divorce – I think my children can have at least the existence that I had, and maybe, oh god just please maybe, I can do everything I can to be involved and support everything and visit them whenever I can and share custody with my wife, etcetera, etcetera.

Have you done that? Has anyone out there seen a divorced family actually manage being integrated with their kids? Because all I grew up with were deadbeats and assholes, all talk and show until they were out the door then you never saw them again. And, my eternal happiness aside, I will be trading one hole for two smaller holes made of my kids, and I just cannot fathom not being involved.

Argh. Burner email here: mefiulysses@gmail.com . Thanks for reading. Happy… Holidays! [hamburger]
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (91 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think 99 times out of 100, this "other person who understands me perfectly" is just a red herring. If you're really going to leave your wife and children, do it for yourself and be single.

That being said, you don't really articulate what's wrong with your marriage, but I think you should get therapy. There is of course a way to have a relationship with your children, but it will in all likelihood be very different. Your wife will almost definitely have custody of the children, seeing as they are so little. Also, your wife will always be the children's mother. You can't not have some sort of relationship with her.

tl;dr: get therapy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:56 AM on December 26, 2011 [34 favorites]


If I must be weak and destroy my family and get a divorce – I think my children can have at least the existence that I had

You mean a miserable, self-loathing existence with a perpetual "hole" in his life?
posted by jayder at 8:58 AM on December 26, 2011 [31 favorites]


A piece from the Guardian that may be relevant.
posted by holgate at 8:59 AM on December 26, 2011


Do you really think this "hole" will be solved be leaving your family for this new person? I am not always opposed to divorce, but it really sounds like you have other issues and the new person is an infatuation.

The cognitive dissonance in your post is unbelievable.

As the child of a broken family with a father who abandoned us, I have always held steadfast to the rule that should the day come that I was a father that I would never break my family

If you want to get a divorce, then so be it, but have no illusions about the potential damage you are doing to your children.
posted by seesom at 9:02 AM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have a good friends who are divorced and have two kids of their own. They share custody about 50/50 and get along reasonably well as people but did not get along as husband and wife.

Their children are great children, and there seems to be no lack of love towards them from either parent. The father (who I am closer to) certainly loves his children and supports them and is certainly their father and in their lives. Sometimes the kids have problems, the parents have problems, but I don't think you can put the blame on the divorce--kids and parents have good times and bad times no matter how the family looks.

From my outside perspective, they certainly seem happy.

I would suggest that you try to talk to someone uninvolved about your "hole," though. If you don't want to go to a therapist, you could consider talking to a priest or an internet acquaintance, or even just starting with a journal to get the thoughts out of your head. I think it's not the other woman you need to start with, but why you feel you need another person to fill your hole and why you can't fill it yourself.
posted by that girl at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes, you can still be a father (maybe, and possibly for reasons out of your control), but if you divorce, you will never be a family the way you are now. Yes, maybe you can divorce, build a new life with this new someone and your soon-to-be ex will do the sameou will co-parent the kids you have made. On the other hand, if you follow through with this, you might find that your soon-to-be ex does everything in her power to keep you from being a father to your kids. She might remarry a man who is a great dad to your kids and they might end up calling him Dad. Being such a young age, that is a good possibility.

My point is that you can imagine a future life with another woman and imagine that things with the kids will stay the same, but there are other factors completely out of your control that will influence the relationship with your kids - your soon-to-be ex wife's decisions, a possible new man, and the kids themselves who will decide what they think of you as they get older (much as you have done with your own dad.)

If you have a hole in your life, go to a therapist and do the tough internal work needed to sort through your feelings about your dad. Don't assume that a new woman will fill that hole. She won't. And don't assume that your kids will be okay with you leaving if you somehow try to make up for them losing their family by trying to be a good dad. If you leave, your kids will probably see you as a "worthless bastard who did everything possible to wrangle his way out of his marriage." You will put a hole in their hearts by your abandonment. Is that the legacy you want to pass on to them? Really?

Be a good dad. Go to a therapist and deal with your issues so you don't pass on the wrong legacy to your kids.
posted by eleslie at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Do not leave your wife for an object of infatuation right now. You have a new baby. You're fucked up and probably sleep-deprived, and you're not in a position to make that decision right now. Get a therapist, recommit to your family, and reevaluate where you stand when you're not infatuated with someone onto whom you're probably just projecting all your baggage.

Plenty of divorced parents maintain good relationships with their kids. But that's not the issue right now, because this is not a question that has been posed by someone making a rational, grown-up choice to end his marriage.

Also, dude, there's no "hole". That's a rationalization to justify selfish behavior.
posted by craichead at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2011 [118 favorites]


So, fine, except I have now met someone, someone out of freakish chance, who has essentially filled the hole with just words. Magnificent, powerful, perfect words that just rain down and fill me to the brim and make me feel happiness in a way I cannot adequately measure. More than I have ever felt in my life.

I don't want to doubt your experiences. However. Salvation rarely, if ever, comes from other people, let alone mere words from other people. What other people can give us are superficial, momentary fixes. The high of a new love can make it feel like everything is right in the world, like nothing could ever be broken--but that's just a high. It doesn't last. It's not real. In your shoes, I'd be terribly worried that this other person's words weren't actually filling up the hole but instead merely covering over it with masking tape for the time being.

Most likely, the only person who stands a chance of truly, earnestly filling that hole is you. Go to a therapist. Work to understand yourself. It's a stupid phrase, but it may be the right one for you, right now: happiness comes from within.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't leave your wife. Maybe you should. But I think it would be best for you to think about leaving your wife as an issue separate from this other person. Being in a bad state of mind or a broken relationship can turn other human beings around you into mirages--from your description, I'm worried you're starting to think of this other person in inhumanly perfect terms, because you see them as representing everything you currently don't have but really, really want. But, what if that other person weren't there? What if your task is just this: find a way to fill that hole? Does that involve leaving your wife, or not?

Lastly, if you want to give your children a good childhood, give them a good childhood. It sounds like your father was an asshole, and that's why he left you. Are you an asshole? It doesn't sound like it -- so why are you worried you'll become one, just because you divorce your wife? Being a good parent comes from being a happy, healthy, functional person. Do what it takes to be a happy, healthy, functional person, whatever that implies about your marital status, and you'll be able to teach your children to be similarly happy and healthy.
posted by meese at 9:09 AM on December 26, 2011 [20 favorites]


You seem like you are in great turmoil. I do think you should attempt therapy before you make any life-altering decisions, and should be very careful not to mistake an infatuation for some transcendent, quasi-religious love. (Reread what you've written above; it's all a bit much, isn't it? You can't actually expect "eternal happiness" from any relationship, much less from a woman you've only just met.)

That said, people divorce and retain relationships with their children all the time. (My parents did.) It's incredibly common. If you decide to divorce (after the requisite time and therapy, and probably couples' thrapy too) you can have that too. Your relationship with your children will be forever altered, and probably significantly for the worse -- my relationship with my parent who left certainly was -- but it's still not the all-or-nothing existential choice you're making it out to be here. You're hyperbolizing this too, in other words.

You need to step back and try to think about all this as rationally and objectively as possible, without romanticizing or exaggerating the stakes involved. A therapist, again, could really help with this; your wife could too, perhaps, and in any event deserves to know the things you're feeling, and what you're looking for permission from us to do before you've already done it.
posted by gerryblog at 9:10 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ramp down the drama, please. You are not a character in a novel; you are the novelist, and the choices are yours to make. I am the child of divorced parents and we were practically the poster family for amicable divorce, thriving multi-household parenting and subsequent blended families. I also have a very close friend splitting with his wife, the mother of his five children, who just spent a joyful Christmas day in his former family home. These were good divorces. If you leave your wife with a four month old baby for another woman, this will not be a good divorce. See also a previous answer on a similar situation.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:12 AM on December 26, 2011 [99 favorites]


Can you break up your family the day after Christmas with a brand-new baby in the house without having them hate you forever? Hard to say but I'd wager on "No."

Look. Hole shmole. You are not just the product of your upbringing. However, separating out those things can be difficult. So, you know we'll suggest therapy, right? You so need it. You deserve it. Your family deserves it.

Do you know that if you blow this up, there's no going back? Take stock of your blessings and make sure you realize that even if you change your mind later, nobody is required to forgive you or let you back in or let things go back to the way they were.

And under no circumstances in this day and age is it appropriate or in any way anything but the height of selfishness to leave a mom with a newborn. Unless you're able to leave her better off without you (Maybe you're an abuser or a gambler or have addictions are are more like a third child in the house than an active partner?) then at the least you need to stick things out and do your best to fix yourself (your own responsibility) until your wife can better stand on her own two feet and give you hell for leaving. Doing that with an infant in the house is needlessly cruel.

Your wife didn't trick you into marriage. Maybe you were seeking an answer to your life's questions in her. However, on the day you die, she may or may not be by your side. But you will definitely be in your own head. It's your responsibility to make your life right. Fleeing one marriage and children for a mirage will probably not play well in your list of life's regrets.

Of course people manage to be good fathers and ex-partners after a divorce. However, I'm not seeing that you've set things as right as they could be right now. Therapy for yourself. Therapy for you two as a couple once you've worked out what a few of your problems are. (I think it's cruel to bring a post-partum wife/mom into couples counseling and too-soon because you don't know what your problem is.) Therapy will help you unravel this ball of yarn that you've tied up -- I just don't think you have correctly diagnosed yourself. And this other woman cannot save you.
posted by amanda at 9:16 AM on December 26, 2011 [58 favorites]


I have friends who separated when their kid was nearly a year, but they were living together while she was contemplating a divorce since the baby was a few months. (I assume things were bad before.) Kid is now 3.

They live near eachother, celebrate holidays together, go to parent-teacher conferences together, etc.

But challenges that I've seen:
- Being alone with 1 or 2 small kids without another adult is fucking hard. Granted, it is only half the week, but it is much harder than the 2 parents in same house.
- Dating partners need to understand that there are multiple adults involved in kids' lives. If anyone of you want to move, you all have to move (if you're doing 50/50).
- Financially it is way harder to pay 2 rents.

Personally I think that your youngest is too young for you to fairly leave. Your wife needs help. Hold off until youngest is a bit older.
posted by k8t at 9:22 AM on December 26, 2011


The way you're phrasing this--your father left you with emptiness and grief, your wife convinced you that the marriage could work, this new woman has healed your heart--you're rejecting agency. In that first situation you were actually a helpless child being wronged, but in the other situations you were an adult man making choices.

When I've observed people failing to successfully co-parent with an ex, and failing to have positive relationships with their kids, they've very frequently said things along the same lines: from their perspective, bad things or big life changes happen to them rather than as a result of choices they make. And I'm not saying that their lives are easy, or that no outside person or factor ever influences lives or events, but I will say that I've noticed a pattern of saying, "[Other person] did [something], so therefore I have no choice but to [follow one particular path]," when a more accurate statement would be, "[Other person] did [something], and I am choosing to respond by [following one particular path]."

I think you owe it to your kids and to your marriage to use your agency. You can seek help for the hole you feel inside. Therapy, medication, support groups, and your religious community (if you have one) are a few options. You can use your agency to pursue a type of healing that doesn't just plaster over the hole and pretend it isn't there. You can go to couples counseling with your wife to determine whether the relationship is salvageable. It might not be, but the responsible way to find out is to do the work and own your decisions. DarlingBri is right: you are not a character in a novel; you are the novelist.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:28 AM on December 26, 2011 [42 favorites]


I gave up and decided that I would carry this hole with me in secret and never let it affect my family and, as they say, just keep a stiff upper lip. Give the kids a steady home. So, fine

Actually not fine. Choosing to suffer in silence rather than communicate with your wife, seek therapy, etc., pretty much guarantees a future where you resent your wife for not being what you want her to be, for not filling the "hole" that she didn't create to begin with, for dragging you into a marriage that you never wanted (because you did all the breaking up before, right?), etc.

So far you have refused accountability for your own actions and thoughts. You are just being carried on the waves other people create.You've set your wife up to fail -- no way can she fulfill your needs when you don't even express them!

Your wife is not your problem. Your marriage is not your problem. Your "hole" will not be filled by her, by marriage, by this new perfect-in-all-ways person, by anything or anyone external to you. Your hole is yours and you have to fill it, or accept it, yourself.
posted by headnsouth at 9:28 AM on December 26, 2011 [22 favorites]


From what I have seen, the Asshole Dads:
(a) run out without a backwards glance, disappear so nobody can sue for child support, go utterly AWOL.
(b) MOSTLY run out but with a few backward glances, pop in and there to play "weekend daddy" and possibly drop a $50 on the dining room table once a year.
(c) find a happy shiny new wife and have happy shiny new babies with her that don't come with the baggage and mom that his first set of kids do. Asshole Dad either pulls (a) or (b) behavior on the old family because of the baggage.

I don't see you doing (a) or (b) right off, but I do think you sound like a strong possibility for (c) behavior.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:29 AM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


I strongly, strongly recommend you get into therapy. Solo therapy. I mean, sure, consider starting couple's therapy too after a few months of therapy on your own, but I think your current mindset wouldn't make couple's therapy a good option until you've had some time to unpack your own head for a while.

I could spin yarns of justification and reasoning and I think I need to do a small bit of it

Yes, this is what the bulk of your question was. It's good that you identified what you were doing. Really sit with that identification. It was a yarn. It presented your life as being shaped entirely by forces outside your control - your father's abandonment, your wife's forceful "convincing", your own romanticized emotional "hole" and your own romanticized strength in coping with these forces. The fairy-tale princess come to rescue you from your tower. It was a yarn.

Has anyone out there seen a divorced family actually manage being integrated with their kids?

Yes, but from what I've seen, usually those families who manage it have parents who parted amicably after really trying to make it work and don't immediately turn to a new partner/wildly change their lives. They tend to be the types who acknowledge their own agency and responsibility for their actions. Your question as it stands doesn't seem to put you there, yet.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:35 AM on December 26, 2011 [22 favorites]


Oh god.

Your hole will not be repaired by the new woman. You are in the initial stages of infatuation. Surely you must know this. Your hole may have temporarily scabbed over but it will rip open once you fall into the mundane day-to-day with this new woman. The bliss will not remain. I question this other woman's integrity. How can she date a man who is married with very young children? You both need to get a grip on reality.

The best chance of having your hole repaired is remaining with your wife and children. Marriage is a kind of therapy. It is healing. Eight years is a short time. Keep going. Love your wife and children with all of your heart. You are kidding yourself if you think the best option is to leave now.

You are repeating your father's mistakes. People do it all of the time. Think about it longer. See a therapist. Go to therapy with your wife.
posted by Fairchild at 9:36 AM on December 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


How can a father leave his family yet remain a father?
Has anyone out there seen a divorced family actually manage being integrated with their kids?

Well yes, I have, plenty. And given I think you are pretty much dead set on getting a divorce, here's what the "integrated" fathers did:

-They were always reliable. If they said they were going to do something, or be somewhere, it happened.
-They spent a lot of time with their kids. They took a very strong interest in their children's lives -- knew the children's teachers, knew the children's friends, showed up to sports games, had family dinner on the nights they had them, taught them the things they needed to know as they were growing up, chatted with them.
-They were psychologically and emotionally stable, not erratic, and they were an accepting and loving source of emotional support for their kids.
-They were financially stable and provided solid financial support to their kids.
-They didn't talk shit about the children's mother, didn't try to screw over the mother, or use the children as a pawn in any way.
-They didn't give their children TMI about their personal lives or try to use their children as a therapist.

Basically they were just all-around stable, level-headed, responsible men who were not self-centered, never shirked responsibility for themselves and their actions, and DEMONSTRATED caring for the total well-being of their children with actions, not words.

You have got quite a ways to go here in my opinion. And I think you need major therapy to pull off the accomplishment you are asking about.

-The heightened dramatic language throughout your post is very off-putting because it gives the sense that you are quite enjoying this whole scenario and find it kind of epic. I mean, you compare it to a literal epic for fuck's sake. You have cast yourself as the star of a literal epic. It's the very definition of self-centered.

This entire very long post was all about you and your issues and barely half a sentence about your children. Honestly, it doesn't seem at all like this post was made out of genuine concern for your children. It seems like it was made as an outlet to talk about your thrilling situation and get a bit of validation from us that pursuing it could be a fine thing for you to do.

I think you need to go to therapy and ask about working on self-centeredness. You acknowledge being selfish and in the same breath compare yourself to Ulysses again, like even acknowledgment of selfishness is an opportunity to be in the spotlight again.

-Woven throughout the thread was a whole lot of responsibility-avoiding language:

I have always held steadfast to the rule that should the day come that I was a father that I would never break my family. Unfortunately, someone has come into my life that has turned that wall of stone into sand and I am rapidly trying to come to terms

Someone else did this to you, and you are just trying to come to terms with it. It was totally out of your control.

My wife was convinced, and convinced me, that the hole was solely related to my feelings towards my father and that she knew we were perfect and not to worry.

Really, your wife is at base the one to blame for what you thought or didn't think.

We had several breakups prior to getting married, which in hindsight I should have been more resilient about – Yes, I did all the breaking --, but we pressed on and paint was applied over the hole

More passive voice with a small acknowledgment of responsibility quickly inserted in there, and then rapidly back to passive voice again.

Even more than the self-centeredness and melodrama, I think this tendency towards responsibility-shifting that you have is THE thing that will damage your kids/your relationship with your kids. Again, this is something to tell your therapist that you need/want to work on.

And then there's this:

But that hole, that hole is still there, in the background, gnawing at me, making me miserable late at night, and early morning and every time in between. I gave up and decided that I would carry this hole with me in secret and never let it affect my family and, as they say, just keep a stiff upper lip. ... So, fine, except I have now met someone, someone out of freakish chance, who has essentially filled the hole with just words. Magnificent, powerful, perfect words that just rain down and fill me to the brim and make me feel happiness in a way I cannot adequately measure. More than I have ever felt in my life.

Here's what I see when I read this. This man badly needed psychological help and rather than getting it, he has now escaped into a world of magical thinking and dramatic romantic fantasy. And he has convinced himself that this romantic fantasy will make him all better. Getting psychological help and solving your problems that way is not easy, and it's not quick, exciting, or romantic. It's hard and it takes a long time.

The tendency of avoiding problems and then deciding they can be fixed by fantastical thinking and fantasy, is something I think you will have to get a grip on in order to be a good father.

Honestly I think the best thing you could do for your kids is see a therapist and bring your question.
posted by cairdeas at 9:38 AM on December 26, 2011 [79 favorites]


From what you've written, I think your father, as you see him, is still the hole in your life and this other woman is not filling it - but sucking you through it.

Perhaps it's best filled with your taking the necessary actions to be the person you want to be in life, not the person you seem to believe you're destined to be. You are no longer the child of a broken family - you are an adult who can chart your own course. If you want "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" and "give the kids a steady home" - and if you must dramatically insist "I’m Ulysses and here is my ship and there are the rocks and there she is and I am compelled with no rational manner of recourse" - remember the Ulysses Pact, and lash yourself to the mast. Get some therapy. Fill every minute more with doing and less with thinking for a bit. Do what is good for your kids, helpful to your wife, and healthy for you.

Or, well, listen to the siren, go insane, and let your "aged wife" (if we're going to go on considering this your epic) be their steady home, and just try to be the best person you can be to all of them from then on, and make the best peace you can with all that. Of course you can all have a good life even in divorce and there's great advice above on how to do that - but now might not be the best time to get started on it. There's what you're feeling, what you're doing, and timing to to manage all through this and it's entirely possible to be undramatic and civilized and kind no matter what happens. You don't sound like a thoughtless person, but perhaps a dramatic one. So, I'd still suggest that you put some wax in your ears for now, and try some therapy. Maybe life isn't about filling holes, or even walking around them - but building things over and above them and doing everything you can not to fall through.
posted by peagood at 9:42 AM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, as to reliability --

I have always held steadfast to the rule that should the day come that I was a father that I would never break my family. Unfortunately, someone has come into my life that has turned that wall of stone into sand

I think you are very good at convincing yourself that you are a super reliable person, and if there's any evidence much to the contrary, that it's someone else's fault. And/or that the situation was just so special and epic that you couldn't possibly be held accountable.

I don't know about anyone else, but the above sentence that I quoted is not at all convincing to me. I think your wall was always made of sand.

You need to get to a place where the walls you say you have are real.
posted by cairdeas at 9:42 AM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


I am instead thinking how I can absolutely destroy my life and my psyche and everything I’ve ever built in my life in order to fill that emptiness.

Honestly, you sound waaaaaaaay overdramatic about this, probably based on your past history, i.e. Dad. Based on that, you should haul your ass into therapy toot sweet. 'Cause you're setting up all these huge icons and broad vistas of the relationships and life and it all sounds like a teenager, you know? SOmetimes people marry the wrong person. Then they meet a the right person and get a divorce and find happiness.

But you need to figure out whether that hole can be filled up by you or another person.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:44 AM on December 26, 2011


Respectfully, get over yourself. Yes, your father was a horrible human being. No, I don't doubt you're messed up because of him.

But wholeness comes from within. No person, not even a child, can fill what is yours to take care of.

Therapy is the solution, as is a big dose of grow the hell up and tone this dramatic fantasy down.

You can do it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:45 AM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


There is no hole. Your wife did not mislead you about that or trick or trap you. Millions of people have fathers who did much worse than leave and stayed and beat them, raped them, made their lives hell every day. Do they have endless black pits? No, they have lives, we all do. We adapt and move on and do the best we can. If you want to leave your wife then do that, skip the dramatizing, be the best father you can.
posted by meepmeow at 9:54 AM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


This hole you speak of? It's you. It's the problem of your life. It has nothing to do with who you're with. You allowed it to be spackled over before, with your wife. This new affair is just more of the same spackling. I think you're romanticizing your own problems in a way that almost gives you permission to break your promises to yourself, building a perspective of life that justifies these kinds of decisions instead of confronting your problems realistically and constructively.

The solution to deep personal problems should never hinge on someone else's presence. Because you know what? People die. Or they leave. Or you become adjusted to them and you grow complacent until your problem begins to manifest in new ways. You need to work with a professional to get to the root of what's eating you. If it results in a divorce, so be it, but at least then you will actually be able to trust the decisions you're making. Chase this woman at the expense of your children's happiness and one day (probably sooner than you think) you'll regret it.
posted by hermitosis at 9:56 AM on December 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


I think you're romanticizing your own problems in a way that almost gives you permission to break your promises to yourself,

QFT, except I would add that this is your method for getting yourself out of promises to others, too.

Promise-keeping is pretty much the bedrock of being a good dad.
posted by cairdeas at 10:03 AM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Agree that you cannot count on someone to fill your any holes in your soul. But you can't count on therapy, either. But you can't live a lie because it (the hole) will get worse and consume you. That's what happens: they're like acid. In the end, you're a husk 'cause it'll have eaten you alive. But.


Eh, I'm a romantic, so I think being really in love-- if you're in love and it's stable and it works out-- but if that work (and words are not enough), then it's a lot easier to feel ok about things, to work on things. It's a tight-rope: you can't depend on people, really, on any people, but if you only depend on yourself then your life isn't worth much. So how can you be a dependable dad?

It's not that hard, if you get a decent divorce settlement. This may seem like a weird comparison, but I had a grandma that used to live with us (in the same room) and was a huge part of my life until I was six. She drove me insane, actually. But then she move, and she was still a part of my life and I got as much from her as I needed. How? Well, it's a perception shift, a bit. I want to tell you this because it's so, kind of, outside American culture but makes so much more sense: the way I kept her in my life is because I visited. Sure, she visited too, but I could just bike over there anytime I wanted-- stay the night, be fed, take a bath, hang out with the kids living in her building. It's not weird to have a second home with grandparents, without it being a 'split family' and all loaded-- but why does that have to only apply to a grandparent? You can have a custody arrangement, but ultimately it's artificial and traumatic because it creates hard limits and very obviously 'breaks' the family. But when my grandma moved, my relationship with her changed (for the better-- I got half a room to myself!), but the family wasn't broken at all. Why? Well, she just moved, that's all! She was still my grandma, wasn't she! And she had a cool apartment. It had an attic!

Try to think about this from a kid's pov, y'know? If you don't move too far, and if your wife cooperates (and if you have a cool attic, and games/food/etc), then it's not a break, it's just a change. You'd be mom and dad, but dad lives over there, and he's got these cool digs, too! If they could be dropped off, and when they grow up if they can drop by (without asking permission, even!), and so on-- then I think it should be fine. They're young enough that they won't get too much about adult relationship stuff. Just be there and do all the stuff you did as much as they want. Not as much as you want; make sure your kids get at least 80% the interaction level they want, and realize there's no reason this has to take place in your current house. I mean, it's just a house. You're their dad, and nothing can change that. So don't change it, that's all.
posted by reenka at 10:26 AM on December 26, 2011


Hi. Child of a "successfully divorced" family here. My mom divorced my dad when I was about 4, and remarried. I grew up with my step dad and my mom in a different state.

What do I mean by "successfully divorced?" My mom and dad still talk, when I go back to his state to visit my grandfather with everyone, he frequently comes to family events with his new GF who everyone likes. Is it awkward? Perhaps for my mom, step dad, my dad's new girlfriend and my dad, but not for me. It's always been like that. And if it is awkward, nobody lets on to it.

What things did my dad do that helped? He made an effort to fly me in to visit. Called, remained part of my life, etc. A lot was done behind the scenes coordinating with my mom to make that happen for which I'm grateful. I'm not particularly close to any of my family though. Perhaps chalk it up to being extremely independent, or perhaps it was a side effect of the divorce at the young age. In any event, I'm getting married next summer and all my family will be there so I'm sure some day I will face some of the questions my parents faced that ultimately led them to the path they took. Perhaps I will choose a different one.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:28 AM on December 26, 2011


So, fine, except I have now met someone, someone out of freakish chance, who has essentially filled the hole with just words.

I have a terrible feeling that you met this person online and that you have not met her in person. I hope I am wrong, but if I am not... you need some serious, serious help in therapy. This is a drama-filled fantasy.

Either way, you did not meet by "freakish chance." I meet people every goddamn day, some of whom I might be interested in if I were single, but I do not let myself go there in my mind. I do not open myself up to the possibility, because I am committed to my marriage. I don't have intimate conversations with other men and therefore they cannot fill any empty space in my life. You are not committed and you intentionally left yourself open to meeting this person whether you realize it or not.

I have some choice words for you, but I don't think shaming you further will help matters. I urge you to TRY your best by seeking therapy, communicating with your wife, and above all, completely ceasing communication with this other person.
posted by desjardins at 10:30 AM on December 26, 2011 [37 favorites]


So you decided that your staying with your wife and helping her raise your kids was too much work, eh? So you went looking for a shiny new relationship with a woman who could "fulfill YOUR needs." And you went looking, buddy, believe me. Millions of married men meet millions of women without getting themselves into a position where those women who filled the hole with just words. Magnificent, powerful, perfect words that just rain down and fill me to the brim and make me feel happiness in a way I cannot adequately measure. More than I have ever felt in my life.

Great, so you're going to base your new relationship on words. And just how long will your shiny new relationship based on words last? Self esteem comes from within, not from another person's words. I'd suggest some therapy for you, mister.

A lot of men have bad childhoods, and they make the decision to raise their kids as best they can, supporting the mother and providing a solid home.

I think my children can have at least the existence that I had, and maybe, oh god just please maybe, I can do everything I can to be involved and support everything and visit them whenever I can and share custody with my wife, etcetera, etcetera.

Sounds like a bunch of words with no meaning or sincerity to me. You don't want better for your kids, just at least the existence you had, which you say f_ed you up. Nice that they can have existence, good for you. Please maybe? 'Maybe' doesn't sound to me like you're all that committed. Visit whenever I can? That's big of you to be in their life whenever. Do you tell yourself you are 'babysitting' whenever the kids are left with you and your wife goes out? Sounds to me the kids primary relationship is with their mom, and you haven't yet attempted to be an equal parent. Distance doesn't make the heart grow fonder. Wiping butts, giving baths, combing snarly hair and cleaning dirty faces is what makes you a dad. You just want to abdicate all that to your wife, giving her the work raising your kids, and the responsibility of making sure there are no 'holes,' while you swoop in and be the "good dad" on weekends. I know other 'good dads' who bitch and moan about child support and how their wife is getting a free ride on 'their' money.

If it sounds like I don't have much respect for most divorced dads, I don't. I've seen what kids go through when that happens, and even kids in good situations still have 'a hole' left in their lives. The way you've written your drama out makes me think that you need to re-read what Meg_Murry said and seriously think about how everyone else is supposed to make you happy. You even state that this new woman has that responsibility! She makes you so happy with her words. What happens when she stops shoving her words into your hole? Oh, yeah, along with divorced dads, I'm not impressed with women who throw themselves at married men with children.

Seriously, you need therapy to find out why you can't grow up and let your past stop defining you. If that doesn't work, then divorce your wife, because you owe it to her to let her find a chance at happiness with a man who can commit to HER instead of to himself, AND you owe it to your kids to have a chance with another man who might be the dad you've decided you won't be.

I'm with headnsouth and jayder on this.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:36 AM on December 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


Sorry to get all Sigmund Freud on you, but the 'feelings' you think you have for this new woman are really just a release of your own inner tension and have nothing to do with love for this person. You've always known you were going to repeat what happened to you when you were young, but you've always resisted it, because it's so awful. And now you're being presented with that opportunity to fulfill your destiny that you've always secretly desired - of course it feels liberating and powerful. You'll get to feel whole, but the price will be repeating your own abuse, all over your children's and your wife's lives. The "hole" you speak of, the thing that's always been missing, is abuse, not fulfillment. Being abandoned can make life seem upside-down.

What I'm saying is that there is a 0% chance that you would be making the right choice by leaving. You don't understand yourself yet.
posted by facetious at 10:36 AM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Try to think about this from a kid's pov, y'know? If you don't move too far, and if your wife cooperates (and if you have a cool attic, and games/food/etc), then it's not a break, it's just a change. You'd be mom and dad, but dad lives over there, and he's got these cool digs, too! If they could be dropped off, and when they grow up if they can drop by (without asking permission, even!), and so on-- then I think it should be fine.
Taking care of a toddler and an infant, which is what the OP's kids are now, is really hard work. It's 24/7, and a lot of it isn't fun. Children can absolutely sense when one parent opts out of the hard stuff and only opts back in when it's convenient and fun. And that's not really being a parent. It's being a cool uncle, which is very much not the same thing.
posted by craichead at 10:41 AM on December 26, 2011 [24 favorites]


If you do this to your wife right now and it makes her depressed or anxious, or if she simply grieves like a normal person would, there is a chance that it will have a long-lasting effect on your baby's happiness and mental health. From the World Health Organization:
Very young infants can be affected by and are highly sensitive to the environment (largely represented by the mother) and the quality of care, and are likely to be affected by mothers with mental disorders – especially if the mother has low mood, social withdrawal, irritability, impaired thinking and feelings of hopelessness. [...]Depressed and anxious mothers are less likely to look at their infants’ faces and emotionally connect with them, and they are also less likely to understand cues of hunger, happiness or distress and therefore are less responsive to the baby. [...] Infants of chronically depressed mothers show less sociability with strangers, fewer facial expressions, smile less, cry more, and are more irritable than infants of normal mothers. Children of chronically depressed mothers do not perform as well on thinking and intelligence tests at 18 months of age and this is especially true for boy babies’ speech development. Children of depressed mothers are also more distractible, less playful and less social up to age 5. The effects of maternal mental disorder in older children in the family may include neglect, abuse and slower social, emotional and cognitive development, including higher rates of school and behaviour problems.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


I also wanted to come back and add - try, for a moment, to do a Dickensian future possibilities tour. I could see, if you keep everything (including your denial of agency) on the path that you've set, a question a year down the line from you reading,

"This is not going to be pretty. I was preyed upon by a woman who stole me away from my beautiful wife and children with promises that turned out to be lies. She manipulated my emotional pain to force me to alienate my family, and now my ex-wife is draining my bank account while dating a new man. Since I have to keep a steady paycheck for child support, I don't get enough time to spend with my children and they're starting to call my ex-wife's new boyfriend Dad. I have to rent a dingy apartment and the woman who perpetuated all of this on me has now abandoned me - just like my father did - so I'm all alone."
posted by vegartanipla at 10:47 AM on December 26, 2011 [28 favorites]


All the other overwrought, overdramatic, overthinking aside:

I need to know if there is any way for me to maintain a life with my children if I cannot maintain one with my wife.
Yes, of course there is. It won't always be easy, but people do it all the time. To be honest, if you have the will and desire, this will be the least of your problems.

I am pretty much the last person to jump on the bandwagon that everyone needs some therapy but you really should strongly consider getting some for at least yourself. I, too, have the horrible feeling that you've fallen into some online affair and let me tell you that what you are feeling is not 100% real and you cannot base your life decisions on it. Being unhappy/emotionally damaged and seeking to fix that, to plug that whole, does not make you a bad person.

But... Throwing your life away for a stranger? Yes. Not fixing yourself and giving your family the 100% you have not been giving them? Yes. Staying in the marriage because you think that being present is better than being whole and healthy for your children? A thousand goddamned times yes.
posted by sm1tten at 10:50 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You sound like you are in great emotional upheaval. You also have a 4-month old, which causes sleep deprivation and may have led to depression and other things. I would urge you to first seek therapy and to figure out what is going on for you emotionally, before you have an affair (physical or emotional) or leave your wife.

I have an amicable relationship with my ex. We even take our children on family vacations. We sit together at the school play/concert and other activities, so our kids can just look out and easily find both parents at once. We do birthday parties together and take the kids out for holiday meals and so on. I give my ex birthday and Christmas presents, because I want to model giving and for my kids to know that I would give their dad a gift, just as I give many other people gifts.

I've been able to do this, even though it was an abusive marriage. I have certain boundaries and certain things I do to keep myself safe (including a safety plan). But if I can do this, I think there's great hope for your family. You can be divorced and still be good to your kids' mom, which, really, is about being good to your kids.

Also, if you do the leaving, be clear that you're going to have to do a lot of work to keep things amicable. Your wife may be caught in an emotional storm and it may take time for this stuff to come around. My ex was abusive for the first six months.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:55 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think 99 times out of 100, this "other person who understands me perfectly" is just a red herring. If you're really going to leave your wife and children, do it for yourself and be single.

Yeah... my perfect relationship that bolstered my thoughts about divorce - over and done with in under a year. I think relationships have to be based on something concrete and solid, not freakish chance and perfect words. Your marriage had problems before this chance meeting, and I think you should see a therapist.

If you're really convinced you need to get a divorce, then get a divorce. It can be successfully done, if you work hard and always keep one thing in focus: what's best for your kids. What is best for your kids is most likely equal time with you and your wife, and what's definitely best for your kids is no badmouthing by either party. EVER.

The most important thing you can give your kids is your time, so do everything you can to make that happen. Divorce with custody issues is long, drawn-out and painful. This new perfect person you met - if they're the perfect person for you, they'll understand and they'll wait. Do what you need to do for your kids first:
(1) Tell your wife, and don't mention a thing about this perfect person.
(2) Tell your older child with your wife, using simpler terms.
(3) Find a good lawyer, who can focus on co-parenting and keeping things calm and reasonable.
(4) Find a new place, and make sure you have everything your kids need there.
(5) Get your kids settled in the new routine: time with mom, time with dad, rinse and repeat.
(6) Begin getting over your divorce, and rebuilding your life.
(7) No, seriously, get over your divorce and the hurt feelings there. This will take some time.
(8) Months later: begin dating casually with lots of people. Chances are that hole this perfect person filled is only there because of your unhappiness with your marriage. Get past the marriage, feel better about yourself, fill up that hole, then start dating. There is no one person out there that can fill that hole. Whoever you date/marry is only human, and you can't expect someone else to be responsible for your happiness.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 11:01 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


My parents divorced because they were caught up in various romantic "now I have the answer at last"/"this person is my other half"/"things will be easier"/"my life story has a happy ending" self-indulgent idiocy when they decided to get married to each other, and it took them a little over a year to realize it. I get to deal with most of the headaches from that era.

Don't do that to your kids - the ones you have now and the future one(s) you'll be having with this fantasy woman (who is just about exactly the same amount of "not going to fill that ole" as the actual woman you are already married to.)

Fix yourself with therapy and hard work and dedication to something bigger than you - the family you're already in is a natural candidate.

Fundamentally, your father was scared and unwilling to work and had poor insight and low empathy. That, not some specific storyline, is what you need to avoid repeating.
posted by SMPA at 11:07 AM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Life is hard, and when you're married and things don't seem to be going well in your life, it kind of makes sense that on some deep subconscious level your spouse would seem to be part of the problem. Your spouse is there in your stressful life, right along with you. They are no longer a refuge or relief because they're stressed and anxious, too.

So this new person that comes along has the advantage of not being associated with the stresses and anxieties of your life.

That's a pretty unfair advantage the new person has over your wife, isn't it? Your wife is the one who's been there with you, you've even had kids together, you've pledged lifelong fidelity to each other, and yet this new person comes along who is not tainted by the associations of your dreary life, and you're considering dropping your wife and leaving the home to be with this new person who has "filled the hole" in your life.

I think everybody here is very correct, to be cautioning you about this being an illusion and a disaster in the making. You're unhappy for reasons having nothing to do with your wife, and if you leave your wife and children to go with this new person who delights you and soothes you with her words, soon this new person will be tainted by your miseries as well, isn't that likely?
posted by jayder at 11:07 AM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


If the young woman in question realizes the situation and is still willing to be with you, then she's not worth being with.

I’m Ulysses and here is my ship and there are the rocks and there she is and I am compelled with no rational manner of recourse.

Ugh! Time to grow up. You've chosen to have kids; your life is no longer about you, Ulysses (although you've chosen an aptly self-centered metaphorical other). Your life is about raising your kids -- giving them everything you never had.

There's always the problem that maybe your kids would be better off without you raising them, and if that's your point of view, then maybe walking away if the thing to do. If so, here's my advice as a child with a selfish ass for a father:

1) Make a clean break. Don't seek custody. Don't even seek visitation unless you're fully invested. Such things are hell on children.
2) Don't ever say a word about the children's mother to them. No matter how much a bitch she is in the divorce. No matter how much of a well-deserved financial soaking she gives you. No matter how tempting it is, they don't need to hear about how their mother is the waves your ship is taking a beating from.
3) When the new relationship ends -- and it certainly will once the novelty wears off and you realize the source of your unhappiness is YOU and not some outside force -- don't go back.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:08 AM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


One more comment and I'll stop: the best reason for never bad-mouthing your ex to your kids is that she makes up half of them. To an extent, if/when you bad-mouth her, you bad-mouth them.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 11:12 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ulysses? Seriously?

The early years of your marriage were "good fantasy" but somehow this woman (who you are already lying to) has the magical ability to rain perfect words into you is more real than your wife and children?

It sounds like you have been the primary fantasy manufacturer in this relationship as you will be in your next relationship.

I think your biggest fantasy is that you can break-up your family without the consequences of breaking up your family. It is a childish dream to think you can act without consequence and to think you can have two mutually exclusive things. I think the others are right, you're rationalizing doing something very painful to your family by dressing it up with showy melodrama that makes it all seem like a fait accompli.

You have a hole in your soul. That's okay, lots of us do. Take a number. Lots of us figure out how to live with and heal this hole without trampling on other people's souls. Your wife did not fill this hole, two children who you adore did not fill this hole. Why on earth do you think this new person will? When she fails to keep the whole plugged (and she will because it is not her job) will you then leave her and any children you two may bring into the world?

You will never fill this hole until you know it and can can confront it honestly. Your wife it seems has fewer fantasies about this than you...start with your dad and work your way up from there. The best way to fill a hole is from the bottom on up. Only you can to that.

Do not delude yourself that your children will remain unaffected by a divorce. From their perspective a frequently visiting dad is not nearly as good as a dad who is always around. A child's parents are the bedrock of their security, especially when they're young. You can't crack that foundation without long term consequences for them. It is chilling that you're more interested in the two little holes your children might create in you instead of the hole your absence will leave in them.

Also, do not kid yourself that a marriage that is split up because of someone else will be as amicable and honest as one that dissolved because both parties worked as hard as they could to stay together. Your kids will understand this too, at some level. If you leave without a fight they may easily come to believe you left them without a fight. And they wouldn't be entirely wrong.
posted by space_cookie at 11:16 AM on December 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


That's a mighty fine hole you've got, the only trouble is that it's not *deep* enough.

Now if you divorce your wife for another woman, fall out of love as quickly as you fell into it, and find yourself a terribly bitter man with the burden of paying for wonderful kids you get to see one weekend a month -- now *that* will be a hole worth keeping. Also you'll now own it rather than carrying it around on your father's behalf.

I am sure some father somewhere could deal with all that and not let it affect his children in any way, but I get the impression that you aren't that guy. Sorry.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:33 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The language of your post is really, really dramatic. It's definitely unwise to make any huge decisions while you're feeling as much inner turmoil as you seem to be.

If you do decide to leave your wife, I think you need to do some serious pondering about how to make your exit in the least dramatic way possible. This probably includes not leaving her during the holidays with a two year-old and an infant for another woman you just met. Like, don't.

Lots of divorced fathers have a relationship with their children. If the divorce is amicable, I don't think having said relationship is as difficult as you make it sound. However, from reading your post, I'm not sure that your approach will result in an amicable split.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:39 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


FWIW, if you're really SO into your kids, I'm surprised that you do not realize how incredibly difficult it is/would be for 1 adult to care for 2 children of that age.
posted by k8t at 11:40 AM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Save this post. A year from today the purple prose will probably embarrass you as much as I suspect it thrilled you to write and preview. You certainly have managed to encapsulate your problem - you are deeply unhappy, so much so that you've convinced yourself the world should stop until you can fix it again.

You say that this new person "has essentially filled the hole with just words." -- I'm not sure whether "essentially" means "just words and bj's", but if you're literally saying that you haven't had any sexual contact at all with this person, and she is meeting your emotional needs with conversation, then YOUR MARRIAGE IS FIXABLE. Words are something you can get from our wife if you know how to describe what you need, from friends if your wife temporarily isn't up to the particular combinations of praise and sympathy you're looking for right now (in light of your kids' ages), or even your children within a few years, if you take the time now to start talking with them and reinforcing the things they say that fill your "hole" (as your 2.5 year old gains better control of language, you will find that it takes so little from toddlers to cheer you up, far less than from an adult, because they mean everything they say).

Start a journal and write down what those "magnificent, powerful, perfect words" are that make you so happy. Are they compliments? Support? Empathy? Praise? Whatever they are, that's what's missing. That's your hole. And that's something you can sit down with your wife and say "Look, I am unhappy - this is what I need right now to keep going." If she loves you, she will be more than willing to help you with this, to the best of her ability (keeping in mind how hard it is to be sympathetic and worshipful of a spouse when you have screaming children and lack of sleep).

But here's the thing - if you actually want to save your marriage (and your post really makes it sound like you don't, but if we're all in the same boat that your leaving will not be in the kids' best interests, and that's what you want), you don't get to say "I'm unhappy, this is what I need" - even if it's only conversational demands - without it being reciprocal. So when you say "this is what I need," know that it comes with one string attached: your wife has unmet needs, too. The flip side to getting from her what you need, is to listen to what she says she needs, whether it's positive reinforcement, or taking the kids out once a week so she can have a long morning to herself, or being home more from work, whatever it is. I can guarantee you there is something she wishes you were doing that is directly contributing to her inability to tell you the words you need to be happy. The more you withhold from her emotionally, the more likely it is that she is also withholding from you - when she's already stretched thin with the children (especially a newborn!) - investment in a person takes effort, and if you're not making it, if you've put her on a back burner, it's pretty arrogant to expect her to still be putting you first.

If you are dead-set on leaving, and are only going through this exercise to convince yourself that so long as you consider your kids needs throughout your actions, you're not being an asshole, then I have only one response -- if you can take your marriage, and your wife, and your life together and your kids together, and lump all of it into "I have this hole and they don't fill it" - then getting divorced won't help your kids in any way, and won't fill anything. The hole is you. The problem is you. Being a good father is more than just showing up and listening and buying cool toys. Being a good father - a good parent - is whenever it's possible, putting your kids' needs ahead of your own. Feeling emotionally stunted is awful, and you may end up divorcing down the road regardless, for your own sake. But feeling rejected is worse, especially for children. And leaving your family in the scenario you describe - where there's no abuse, no financial hardship, no substance abuse, no real incompatibility - is nothing but an outright rejection. Saying "I come first and all of you have to suck it up and understand." And I don't think any spouse or child will have sympathy for that, no matter how great you are with a shiny new partner.
posted by Mchelly at 11:48 AM on December 26, 2011 [37 favorites]


I have a terrible feeling that you met this person online and that you have not met her in person. I hope I am wrong, but if I am not... you need some serious, serious help in therapy. This is a drama-filled fantasy.

Strongly seconding this. Those "words, just words" are just that: words. Have you met this person? Or only communicated online? Because you say nothing at all about her except for her facility with the language that you want to hear; and words are the easiest things of all. Get therapy, and do it as soon as possible. Take those words with you into therapy and figure out why they were so special and why you responded to them the way you did. Then bring that into your own life, and leave this phantom person behind.
posted by jokeefe at 12:15 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Basically, what everyone else said (about this being a bad idea, and why).

However, your narrative is so dramatic as to be unreal. It's so unreal that I am wondering whether this new person you're so infatuated with is actually aware that you are thinking of leaving your wife for her?

Because it's not only that you don't indicate that you've ever met her in person. You also haven't said anything that makes me feel sure you are anything more than a (online?) friend in her eyes, much less that she is "throwing herself" at you as some posters have charged.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this woman is a siren urging you to leave your wife for her. But from the way you're talking, I could believe that the whole grand sweeping forbidden romance was in your head.

Either way, I wouldn't show up on her doorstep with all your worldly possessions tied up in a handkerchief, because if you do that, my guess is that reality will start biting even sooner than you think.
posted by tel3path at 12:16 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Magnificent, powerful, perfect words that just rain down and fill me to the brim and make me feel happiness in a way I cannot adequately measure. More than I have ever felt in my life.

Further to this: I'd suggest you make very sure that you're not being manipulated here, by somebody with an astute understanding of the garden-variety problems you're experiencing (and do understand this: nothing that you are going through is unique or special or makes you unique or special by experiencing it; if you're paying reasonable attention to your wife, you'd know that she has her own problems, likely her own "hole", just as deep as yours-- why? Because we all do, somewhere). You could be being played by somebody who enjoys online interaction without consequence. Just putting that out there.
posted by jokeefe at 12:21 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, as others have mentioned, welcome to Club Hole. Who doesn't have that to some degree?

Look, it's no secret that there's a tendency in people to repeat the damaging behavior modeled by their parents. But it's also quite possible to learn to identify it and head it off at the pass. The difference is almost always therapy, so for your kids' sake, please consider them worth at least giving it a shot.

Incidentally, if you think you've got a "hole" now, wait until you've ditched your family for some breathless teenage-style crush that isn't likely to stay so breathless once reality catches up to it. A wounded family + the discovery that the grass is not so green on the other side of the fence = a hole that will make the one you've got now look adorable in comparison.
posted by bunji at 12:25 PM on December 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


Speaking as a child who has five parents from many, many different marriages - you will fuck up your kids with a divorce. It's inevitable. They may be fine later in life - I'm doing just peachy myself... BUT! it's after a metric assload of therapy that I can say this. And I had to cut out two of those five parents for my sanity. There's no small amount of up that my childhood was fucked.

If you leave your wife and your children because you have a "hole" in your life, that's your choice and maybe it truly is the lesser of two evils - but you need to accept and take responsibility for the fact that doing so is going to fuck up your kids. No doubt about it. No matter how amicable the divorce, no matter what the custody arrangement, it's going to mess them up on some level. You talk about your issues with your father and yet you're totally willing to make the same choices and very, very likely end up repeating the same results.

The worst of the divorces I've been through is when one parent immediately got together with a new partner immediately following the break. That was one hell of a head trip and took years to get over.

I'm 30 now and only within the past two years can I say that I've found peace with my childhood.

Do what you need to do, but you absolutely need to accept that divorce is NOT what's best for kids. Sometimes it's necessary, but from the point of view of a small child, it's never good. For older kids who can understand relationships a bit better... perhaps they could see that mom and dad are happier afterwards, but you're not in that situation right now. Perhaps your 4mo old will never know different, but she'll also never be close to you in the way that she might have been if you stayed with her mom.

Get therapy, do what you need to do to fill the "hole," but absolutely know that divorce and an immediate relationship with someone new will fuck up your kids.
posted by sonika at 12:27 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Any woman who would want to take you from your young family is by definition evil.
Do you not see you are playing out your father's scenario?
Dude.......therapy. stat. And cut off all contact with the other woman. You owe that to your children.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:27 PM on December 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


By the way, you may be feeling a little cheated here as people have focused on you and not your question.

Here's something to think about: You wrote fifteen paragraphs about yourself and your plight up there, and one third of one paragraph is your actual question:

Have you done that? Has anyone out there seen a divorced family actually manage being integrated with their kids?

So 1/45th of your post was the putative question. With a ratio like that it seems like it could be worthwhile to consider what question you were actually trying to answer here.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Divorce and abandonment are difficult for any child to live through. That said, you're an adult now, and people who have gone through much worse situations as children and don't use their pasts as justification for ditching their tiny kids during the holiday season. Probably phrased more harshly than necessary, but this was hard to read.
posted by dovesandstones at 12:52 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm happily married and have been for 12 years, but I have been known to get sideswiped by a major crush now and then. For me, it's disconcerting and sucky when I get these crushes, because I love my husband. I get crushes probably because of my own spiritual hole, or because it's really tied into my roots as a human animal. New, shiny people, places, things = New upticks in reward hormones, etc.

I think you've moved beyond crush and into infatuation. You're being bombarded by all of these hormones and feelings, and well, frankly, your own dramatic coating on these events and feelings.

Don't be a victim of your own bullshit (really, it's a major life skill). Stay the course, without this interloping wench, get some therapy if you can afford it and realize that this will pass. If you let it.
posted by Issithe at 12:52 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Has anyone out there seen a divorced family actually manage being integrated with their kids?

Since Tell Me No Lies pointed out your actual question, I'll answer it.

Yes, I have seen divorced families who work well together and the children turn out alright.

In none of them did the father left for another woman. All the children I have known whose father left for another woman have lifelong issues because of it. Every. Single. One. I know at least 20 of these kids. I also know several ex-wives who still hate the guy's guts twenty years later.
posted by desjardins at 12:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]



Sorry to get all Sigmund Freud on you, but the 'feelings' you think you have for this new woman are really just a release of your own inner tension and have nothing to do with love for this person. You've always known you were going to repeat what happened to you when you were young, but you've always resisted it, because it's so awful. And now you're being presented with that opportunity to fulfill your destiny that you've always secretly desired - of course it feels liberating and powerful. You'll get to feel whole, but the price will be repeating your own abuse, all over your children's and your wife's lives. The "hole" you speak of, the thing that's always been missing, is abuse, not fulfillment. Being abandoned can make life seem upside-down.


This a thousand times. Please, please believe me that the pull to repeat your parents' worst mistakes is incredibly strong. Without going into details (and honestly, they were pretty boring mistakes) I can tell you from my own life that this is absolutely true. I bet you anything that you've been unconsciously feeling all this anxiety about what your dad did and whether you'll do the same thing - what made him do it? Is that thing in you too? And now you're getting pulled to repeat his actions. Of course it feels fated - it sort of is, but not a good, magical epic fate; a bad, bad-male-role-model fate. Sometimes the only thing we can do (again, IME) is to soften the curse (like, if we want a metaphor, Sleeping Beauty falling asleep instead of falling dead) - doing things that parallel what our parents did but that are less painful and destructive.

Seriously, don't leave your wife with a newborn for someone you've just met - someone who is dodgy enough to pursue a married dude with kids. She may be wonderful in LOTS of ways - that may be perfectly true - but she's missing a core ethical piece. It's not fate and destiny and true love to pursue a married man with a baby - it's immaturity and ignorance at best and selfishness at worst.

Therapy, therapy, therapy. Put this on hold - you're still pretty young; a year or two of therapy and getting through the baby-wrangling before you decide what to do won't wreck anything. Just tell yourself that you're putting important decisions on hold. And as hard as it may be to do so, cut things off with your new friend. If it's really fated and mystical and so on, she can wait a year; if it's not, there's no way that you can get back to a place of love and comfort with your family if you're always thinking about Word Girl.
posted by Frowner at 1:02 PM on December 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


You won't be ready for anybody else either without a considerable amount of therapy. The other woman will turn out to have needs and problems. (Probably quite a few, if she's willing to hook up with a married man who has a baby and a toddler. You do know that a lot of women who go after married men are specifically looking, if only unconsciously, for somebody who is not available to marry them?) I mean, she won't just compliment you all day long. You would be extremely liable to repeat yourself.
posted by Adventurer at 3:01 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you owe it to your wife to do couples therapy.

You have to figure out whether your relationship with your wife can work. If it can, you should stick it out.

But if there really has been a hole in your life that your wife doesn't fill, and someone else does, that's important. I was never happy in my first marriage. Second marriage, deliriously happy for the past 8 years. Second wife fills the hole in my life.

But it could also be an infatuation, yes. You have to know for sure. That's what time, and therapy, are for.

As for the kids, divorce is pretty normal. So long as you have joint custody, and live reasonably nearby, and don't ask the kids to choose between mommy and daddy -- well, it's just not that big a deal for the kids. Kids think of it as "two homes" not "broken home." Kids adapt.

You are not obliged to be an asshole like your dad. But you're also not "weak" to choose happiness. If you choose unhappiness 'for the sake of the kids,' what are you teaching the kids? That they should stay in an unhappy relationship out of a sense of duty? I'd rather my kids learn to choose the path that makes them happy.
posted by musofire at 3:57 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you go down the divorce path, you might wind up like my dad. And boy, that would not be pretty.

My dad left my mom when I was 6 months old after having an affair with one of his nurses. The divorce was ugly as hell, though luckily I was too little to remember any of it. My dad's family was embarrassed by his actions and my mom's family pretty much wanted his head on a platter. As others have pointed out, it is the height of selfishness to leave your postpartum wife with an infant.

You honestly sound a lot like my dad: endless justifications, empty and grandiose theories on the merits of parenting (as if the simple recognition of the value of fatherhood actually makes you a good dad) that are immediately thrown to the wayside as soon as your immediate comfort is imperiled, whining about how you're just not happy.

I haven't seen my dad in years. He was so humiliated by his behavior towards me and my mother that he couldn't even show his face at our door. And my mom, bless her heart, did everything she could to get him to visit me, but he had a new wife now, and new kids, and I guess Family #2 didn't come with all the emotional baggage that I did, so he just opted to spend time with them. I've seen him twice in all 25 years of my conscious life.

But here's the most important part of this anecdote: for a while I was in passing contact with his two kids from the second marriage, especially my half-sister. As it turns out, the woman my dad left us for, the woman who was the perfect pearlescent beacon of love and commitment, so awesome that he simply HAD to leave us in the lurch, is actually just a regular woman now! And they're not very happy together, and they bicker a lot, and he spends a lot of time going on suspicious "trips" out of state to who knows where. His kids aren't particularly close to him, and view him as threat to their mother's happiness. I don't feel particularly ripped off for not having him in my life.

My dad is the kind of person who values his happiness above everyone else's, even his children's. My dad is the person who never knuckles down when the going gets tough, when the baby won't stop crying and his wife is tired and hormonal and flush with baby weight, when the marriage requires a lot of work and isn't all sunshine and roses. He bails. He bailed on us, and he's bailing on his new family. The irony is that being that kind of person, the happiness-seeking, affair-having, woman-fetishizing person, ultimately brings sadness and pain to those around him, including himself.

My mom wised up later in life and married a guy who truly valued the commitment of being in a family. I call him Dad.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:07 PM on December 26, 2011 [75 favorites]


Nthing therapy. You need to get in that hole, get on your hands and knees and muck around in it; find out what size it is, what kind of dirt it's made of, what's been tossed in there (whether by you or by others), and how it makes you feel. This is so you can figure out, with the help of the professional hole-getter-outer (therapist), what kind of ladder you need to build to get out so that you can get proper bearings, and why doing so will make you feel better. This is why you need to know the details of the Hole and what it conjures up for you: so that you can specifically say what you would like in place of it. If you don't know what you're dealing with, you can't know how to improve it.

The new woman won't improve it, by the way.

Also, not by way of guilting you, but by way of pointing out what happens when a hole remains a Hole rather than a Known Entity: nthing commenters here who have shared their stories of fathers who leave their young families for a new woman who knows they're married (yeah that's not a good sign). I unwittingly dated one of these guys recently. He has three young boys. Left his wife (or she left him, I'll never know the truth) after cheating on her for three years with one woman, then cheating on his wife and his first mistress with a second mistress for a year, then after filing for divorce, he continued with the two mistresses while dating other women. All to fill his Hole.

He said the saddest thing I've ever heard after phoning his second mistress from my apartment, claiming she was a "new woman i'm dating."

"Yeah, I guess I'm just not honest in relationships."

Children are relationships too. You need to be honest, otherwise what will you be left with in life? Relationships you've built on lies and coverups? That's not a life, that's a sham. You trade your hole for an abyss when you do that. So start being more honest with yourself. Stop romanticizing the Hole and get yourself a guide (therapist) to help you figure it out so that you can spare many people, far too much pain. Do it, especially, so that you can have hope of one day knowing that you lived your life honestly; so that your wife and children can look at you and think, "he may be wordy/intense/whatever at times, but he's an upright guy who faces things. We can trust him." It's worth it.
posted by fraula at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


If I must be weak and destroy my family and get a divorce – I think my children can have at least the existence that I had, and maybe, oh god just please maybe, I can do everything I can to be involved and support everything and visit them whenever I can and share custody with my wife, etcetera, etcetera.

Can you actually "support everything" in a financial sense? I mean, can you leave your wife and two little kids without sticking them into an impoverished situation? Or is the "oh god just maybe" a prayer that you can somehow find a way to do that? Because there are plenty of other reasons why this sounds like a terrible idea, but the way you toss off "support everything" makes me think you have no idea what would be involved in doing right by your kids if you did leave.
posted by BibiRose at 5:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


and maybe, oh god just please maybe, I can do everything I can to be involved and support everything and visit them whenever I can and share custody with my wife, etcetera, etcetera.

I missed this line before. The fact that you're acting like "being involved," "supporting everything," and so forth, are things that might "maybe" happen... the fact that you phrase this like you're begging someone else to make it happen... bodes incredibly badly to me for your kids. From this line it seems you don't view being involved and supporting your kids as something YOU will make happen or not. As something that will be YOUR DECISION to do or not to do. It's just something you kind of beg and plead to some unknown other about, and if it doesn't happen? Well then it was just the whim of that unknown other. Nothing you could do about it.
posted by cairdeas at 5:09 PM on December 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


And the other thing about good fathers is that they don't put their children into precarious situations. Divorce in and of itself is not a precarious situation. Leaving a two year old and an infant, on a whim, to be raised alone by a single mother who was dumped out of the blue, is about as precarious as it gets, unless you're confident that you can support them all to a good standard of living, that the mother will be able to handle this very well by herself, and the mother will be emotionally functional.
posted by cairdeas at 5:12 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm going to have to bow out of this thread because the more I think about it, the more my blood pressure, rises, but the last thing I have to say is this:

I think you are very good at manipulatively framing things so that even as you acknowledge your selfishness, you are also a huge martyr and other people would be even MORE selfish for having a problem with your actions.

And, my eternal happiness aside, I will be trading one hole for two smaller holes made of my kids, and I just cannot fathom not being involved.

"Yes, yes, there will be two small holes made of my kids if I do this. I guess I should set aside MY ETERNAL HAPPINESS and consider this, not like MY ETERNAL HAPPINESS is important or anything"

But that hole, that hole is still there, in the background, gnawing at me, making me miserable late at night, and early morning and every time in between. I gave up and decided that I would carry this hole with me in secret and never let it affect my family and, as they say, just keep a stiff upper lip. Give the kids a steady home. So, fine, except I have now met someone, someone out of freakish chance, who has essentially filled the hole with just words. Magnificent, powerful, perfect words that just rain down and fill me to the brim and make me feel happiness in a way I cannot adequately measure. More than I have ever felt in my life.

"Of course it's important to give my kids a steady home. There's only the small matter of the HOLE THAT KNAWS AT ME DAY AND NIGHT AND EVERY TIME IN BETWEEN. And of course now my chance at HAPPINESS I CANNOT ADEQUATELY MEASURE MORE THAN I HAVE EVER FELT IN MY LIFE. But of course, yes, that steady home thing. That's really important."

I am instead thinking how I can absolutely destroy my life and my psyche and everything I’ve ever built in my life in order to fill that emptiness.

I'm hurting myself just as much as anyone else, don't you see? Probably even more, after all my LIFE, my PSYCHE, and EVERYTHING I'VE EVER BUILT IN MY LIFE will be totally destroyed.


I don't buy a single word of this martyr act, not one single word (even your acknowledgment of selfishness is a way for you to play the martyr), and I don't feel sorry for you in the least.

Many of us had fucked up childhoods. Many of us had parents who did more damage by staying than by leaving. Try reading the a bunch of the stories in this thread when you start feeling like your epic self-pity justifies you do to whatever. I'm out.
posted by cairdeas at 5:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [23 favorites]


I am rapidly trying to come to terms with what is ahead of my life.

Why so fast?

In your description, there doesn't seem to be any cause for urgency other than the exhilarating thrill of the happiness you have been recently experiencing with this new woman. You are at a real risk of getting ahead of yourself here. A true quest for eternal happiness should be able to accommodate your taking a step back here, especially when you have a newborn. A sleep-deprived parent of a toddler and an infant should know enough not to operate heavy machinery, such as a divorce proceeding, without much more careful reflection.

In particular, what was the deal with the "schism" 4.5 years ago? That appears to be a critical turning point in your life, and that alone is worthy of exploration with a qualified professional before you permanently upend the lives of four people.

Please also reflect on the fact that you only seem to be doing the math on trading in the one hole that you feel now for two smaller holes that the you'd have if you give up being a daily part of the lives of your children. The true math here has to include the three new holes that will be created, in the hearts of your wife and each of your children, if you continue to follow the path you are fantasizing about. Your happiness is important, of course, but it's jarring that you only seem to be calculating how to maximize the outcome for yourself. It is not, as they say, all about you.
posted by argonauta at 6:25 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


We can't help who we fall for but we can help what we do about it.

And actually, we can help who we fall for in a lot of ways - we can take ourselves out of a situation that we know to be fraught with potential temptations, we can make conscious choices about how and where we spend our time, and with whom, and under what circumstances. And we absolutely can choose to put the interests of those we venerate and love ahead of our own - we have that ability, the one that lets us do the right thing even if it isn't the easiest or most immediately gratifying. 20 years down the line, your children will still be your children. This new person may be long gone. Anything you do now, while your children are young, will impact on them and have repercussions long into the future - are you prepared to have them feel towards you as you felt towards your father, because that is a possibility.

"I told her. I told her the first day – I am a happily married man. So what if I lied?"

So, did you actually lie? By that I mean has the strength of this giddy cocktail of lust and infatuation and hormones swept you up so that you are retrofitting your reactions at the time to what you're now feeling? It might be worth thinking about that, about whether the hole is actually as deep and dark as you are now thinking it is, or whether you were actually making a good fist of things, bumbling along as we all do day to day.

And the hero of the Odyssey fought long and hard to get home to his wife and family; the Sirens didn't lure him off course because he didn't allow them to - he heard the song, but chose not to let himself succumb.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 7:08 PM on December 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


I know someone who essentially did this, who is emotionally similar to how you describe yourself, with the same fucked up past and emotional hole and blah blah blah.

He regretted leaving. He probably still does. His next three relationships--including that "magical" relationship for which he ended his marriage--were terrible, awful things, because he was such a damned wreck.

Don't leave. It's a really, really bad idea. You are not in a place to make this kind of decision right now, and you are absolutely jeopardizing your relationships with your children, if nothing else.

Also, lord, get therapy. No PERSON is ever going to fill up a hole inside. It's always an illusion when you think that they can.
posted by hought20 at 7:13 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mefi pile ons with such resounding unanimity aren't all that common. Perhaps they aren't all that effective either, but none-the-less spring from the hope that the cautions of 65+ people might be a powerful enough to at least give the poster pause before doing something deeply foolish and destructive.

So, the abridged version of these 65+ voices

What to you sounds and feels like epically tragic unhappiness redeemed by epic love sounds to us like a middle aged cliche of a dude who behaves as if it's up to the women in his life to make him happy and whole. Get a therapist already.

If you want to leave with integrity, then you need to confront this hole on your own, with all of the force, thought, energy, time and passion that you are prepared to funnel into this woman. You can't do this without help. Get a therapist already.

The bad news: you are the problem.
The good news: you are the solution.
Get a therapist already.

There are very few scenarios in life where a father can leave the mother of his newborn and toddler children and not be the designated jerk for all eternity. If you don't leave without first doing lots of good-faith work, you don't have to be that eternal jerk. Get a therapist already.

The same self-absorption that gives you permission to have an affair (yes, you're having an affair) and plot leaving your wife and children is the same self-absorption that makes most of your readers doubt your ability to be the kind of supporting and present father you claim to believe you can be.

Yes, you are acting like your dad. This will have similar affects on your children as your dad had on you. You know the dynamic. If you could change it on your own you would have by now. It's not cosmic fate, it's psych 101. Get a therapist already.

Whatever you think you have with this woman is a mirage, a distraction. Her involvement with you by definition makes her sketchy as all get out.

Your children, young as they are, will not get out of this unscathed. Leave or don't leave, how you choose to manage this hole in yourself will have very real and very lasting repercussions for them.

Your wife deserves better than what you are doing. You deserve better than what you are doing. Your kids deserve better than what you are doing. So why not do something different?

The kind of work everyone is telling you to do is scary, painful, uncertain, lonely and very hard, but you and everyone in your life will be better off if you do it.
posted by space_cookie at 7:47 PM on December 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


I don't know if this point has been brought up yet, but consider this: once your wife becomes a free agent again, you have no way of knowing if your eventual replacement will be somebody who will care about your kids and be good to them.

I know whereof I speak... after my parents divorced when I was ten, my dad was still a very good dad to me, paid his child support, visited on weekends, was there if I ever needed anything. But there wasn't a damn thing he could do about the parade of boyfriends and stepfathers my mother welcomed into our home, and most of these were not nice men. All four of us kids were abused in various ways by one or another of the stepdads.

Similar thing happened when I split up with my ex. My life was pretty up in the air at the time, so by mutual agreement he kept custody of our daughter. He was an excellent father, I never for a moment doubted that he would be a fine custodial parent and I was committed to continuing to be a good mother to her. It never even occurred to me to worry about who he might marry. He remarried within a year and the stepmother hated my daughter. She was mean to her and said horrible things, including telling her that I had left because she was "bad" and I didn't want her (which is absolutely untrue.)

I didn't even know about the abuse for months because my daughter never said anything and of course my ex didn't mention it either. It was so bad that one of her teachers called me and begged me to get custody of her, which I did shortly thereafter. But by that time a lot of emotional damage had been done already. She's grown now, but her stepmother and step-siblings still manage to cause trouble between her and her dad, and as a result they are not nearly as close as they could have been. She lives with a lot of pain and resentment towards both me and her father.

So keep that in mind when you imagine how your kids lives will be after you leave. It probably won't be just mom & the kids forever.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:32 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I just came home from Christmas at my dad's house, and maybe that's why this question hits me hard. My dad left my mom when I was 5 (and I had a younger sister and a baby brother), for a coworker he'd been having an affair with (they're still together all these years later, though I don't think they're happy). There are a lot of ways in which he has gone above and beyond what most divorced dads do to be a decent, involved parent, but it just wasn't enough, and it was not remotely the same as being a parent every day (I feel closer to my stepdad, fwiw). And maybe this isn't right or fair of me, but it still feels like he was given a choice between my siblings/me and that woman, and he picked her. I am 27 years old and there is just still a lot of stuff there that hurts.
posted by naoko at 11:23 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You made the decision to get married. That's a serious, important thing.

Then you made the decision to have kids together. That's non-negotiable.

Get a therapist, stop looking for excuses for your behavior. Most people come from fucked-up families, to varying degrees.
posted by bardic at 12:00 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


craichead: "Also, dude, there's no "hole". That's a rationalization to justify selfish behavior."

I disagree with everyone saying there's no hole. You can get involved in relationships for all kinds of reasons, get stuck in them, and then you feel trapped so you can't leave. And when there's something missing in the relationship, you can feel this hole.

Here's the thing: when you have a large hole in you, anything out there looks like it will fit in that hole. And the truth is, those things that seem like the perfect fit may not be, and there's no way to know for sure until long, long after you've made a set of decisions that can leave even bigger holes elsewhere.

Oh, and if you must divorce your wife, don't do so to be with this new person. That sounds toxic to me. Instead, divorce her because you are incompatible, and spend some time alone figuring out just what's going on with this hole of yours. If this stranger's words are enough to fill the hole, then maybe you can fill the hole with your own words? Maybe you can give yourself the love that you're missing and find the strength from within?
posted by Deathalicious at 5:17 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


k8t: "Personally I think that your youngest is too young for you to fairly leave. Your wife needs help. Hold off until youngest is a bit older."

Oh yeah! As a father of a newborn I'd say from a logistical standpoint you leaving now is pretty much impossible. I'm trying to be a good daddy and help out all the time. Between the two of us, we're just barely able to tread water in terms of keeping the baby happy and ourselves sane and relaxed. I can't imagine how she could cope with rejection, divorce, and caring for a newborn all at once.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:20 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


You are not the only person with a hole. Everyone has a hole. Comic that mentions exactly what you are trying to do. Make peace with the hole.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 5:44 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


"I told her. I told her the first day – I am a happily married man. So what if I lied?"

Some of the stuff in your narrative makes me really question this woman you've found yourself mixed up with. Generally when someone is acting in a decent, above-board manner with a married person, there's no need for the married person to say "I'm a happily married man." I mean, why would that even come up unless she were propositioning you?

I really wish you could update and clarify this situation through a moderator, because from what you've given us so far, this woman sounds like a really evil untrustworthy person that, even if other lives weren't depending on you, you'd be foolhardy to throw your lot in with.
posted by jayder at 6:04 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, why would that even come up unless she were propositioning you?

Or unless you were projecting your own desires onto her?
posted by tel3path at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with everyone else that leaving your wife for this woman would be a dumb, selfish thing to do. In fact, I think you know that. I think you came here to have us all tell you that (which is good!).

Your question is anonymous, so I can't be sure about this, but it reads like a question written by someone who's pretty familiar with AskMe. There's no way such a person would not know, on some level, how this question was going to go down. So I'm going to interpret your question as charitably as possible: some part of you knew that you needed to have some sense slapped into you about this, and also knew that we would be happy to provide that service here. Now that we've done so, you can stop talking to this internet person/possible grifter/whoever she is, and focus on taking care of the new person your just made.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


Anonymous emailed me and asked me to post an update:
Thanks, everybody. Thank you all. This is the exact reality sledgehammer I needed. The near-perfect unanimity of the pile on was perfect in helping me face the truth.

So first time for everything, I am now looking for a therapist. Would buy a "MeFi Saves Marriages" shirt. Thank you.
posted by desjardins at 6:35 AM on December 27, 2011 [33 favorites]


Give him some credit, here: he's working on it, which is a very long way from his initial question.

OP: Wishing you and your family the very best. Go and do the work and be honest with your therapist; you won't regret it.
posted by jokeefe at 8:02 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, good for you, OP! There are people who just go through life making this kind of mistake over and over again - well, that's not going to be you!

You shall overcome.
posted by tel3path at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I disagree with everyone saying there's no hole. You can get involved in relationships for all kinds of reasons, get stuck in them, and then you feel trapped so you can't leave. And when there's something missing in the relationship, you can feel this hole.
I'm not denying that the OP is miserable, or that he has a lot of baggage from his childhood to work through, or that his marriage may not ultimately be salvageable. But the hole is a metaphor, and I think it's a particularly self-serving metaphor. Holes can be easily fixed: you find a thing to fill the hole, you fill it, and you're good to go. And conveniently, he's found his hole-filler in this new woman. But I don't think unhappiness is like a hole. You don't just find a convenient filler and fill it. You have to figure out how much of your unhappiness is you and how much is your situation and how much is just the kind of crap that everyone tolerates because nobody's life is ultimately perfect. The question sounds really different if you ask "do I leave my wife with a two-year-old and a four-month-old because I'm unhappy with my marriage and have fallen for a wonderful internet chat-lady?" rather than "do I fill this hole now that I've got a perfect hole-filler?"

I don't mean to pile on Mr. Anonymous any more: I'm sure that he'll figure out how to deal with his stuff and be a great father to his kids. But I don't think the hole metaphor is going to help him do that.
posted by craichead at 9:22 AM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm so glad you will consider thereapy in working through the pain of your hole!

This "hole"... Everyone has a "hole." Its called the human condition. Also, everyone temporarily forgets the hole, whenever they get a crush. Crushes are exciting, romantic, and fun. This woman who fills the hole..... There is nothing special or magical here. Its a crush. Please don't leave your young children for a crush. It WILL be hard on them, and WILL negatively impact their lives. Find another way to ease your hole pain.

Also please take responsibiltiy for what has already happened; This did not happen to you, you made it happen. You're looking for a way to soothe your "hole pain", and crushes ususaly do the trick. You invited this.

You are currently in the worst part of having kids. Babies are a DRAG, and you probably haven't bonded with the younges yet. I (a mom) didn't feel bonded with my 2nd baby till he was 10 months old! Sleep deprivation and drudgery make the hole worse! I'm so glad we didn't give up because now we get the pay off: Profoundly rewarding relationships with our children, who are happy, and a (nearly) constant souce of delight and for which I am grateful beyond words.

Here is a "pop psych" trick which I find helpful when I'm feeling sorry for myself: Cultivate an "attitude of gratitude." Rather then dwelling on what is lacking, Really contemplate your blessings.

Good luck!
posted by hollyanderbody at 9:30 AM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah craichead!

By calling it a "hole," we are giving it more power and importance that it probably deserves, causing OP to act rashly in response to something everyone goes through.

A less poetic, more accurate description of what is going on here might be: boredom, depression, restlessness, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, disillusion...
posted by hollyanderbody at 9:36 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm relieved that this immense pile-on didn't make you defensive and push you into the arms of another woman.

People were really critical about "the hole," as you put it. I am too, but it took me many years of therapy and tough love to get to the point where I can peacefully exist with the mild sadness of never knowing my dad. Before then, I spent a lot of my early twenties chasing mean men and setting myself up for messy break ups, tearful fights and low self-esteem. I wanted validation from selfish men who reminded me of my father, but this time if I just just make them like me enough, pay attention to me, find me worthwhile, then the sadness would disappear. Surprise! That crap only made it worse.

Our stories are not unique. We live in a society that doesn't really value fatherhood all that much, so lots of us come from broken homes and sport emotional scar tissue long into our adulthoods. Our culture falsely pits personal fulfillment against images of family and commitment. Personal fulfillment fantasies can justify many demons, like affairs, conspicuous consumerism, wastefulness, selfishness. Look at movies like The Change Up to see just how little respect we have for family men. I'm an ultra left wing liberal, and I can wax a long time about how capitalism is anti-family, but suffice it to say that the fetishization of leading the epic life or having the epic romance has lead many well-meaning people astray. And sure, sometimes they're happy, but I generally think that happiness is found in small moments with people who humbly but passionately love you at your worst as well as your best. No swelling soundtrack in the background, just the hum of ordinary life.

I (eventually) learned to deal with my biological father's shitty behavior constructively; I married a loyal, kind man who could not possibly fathom abandoning any potential children we may have. You can deal with the "hole" by being the best father you can be. Feel proud of yourself for asking advice before plummeting into an ill-advised affair. You stopped yourself in time to save your marriage from immense heartache, even if it means getting a divorce after much therapy and soul-searching. You almost definitely saved your relationship with your children by not cheating on their mother and abandoning your family at their most vulnerable.

Like craichead, I object to the term "filling the hole," because it's not something that can be filled, just responsibly handled. You heal the wounds of your childhood by offering a better childhood for your kids. You ease your sadness by being a better person than the ones who hurt you. Good luck.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:44 AM on December 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


I've read the thread, so I've seen the update. I will chime in briefly as a therapist for both individuals and couples.

If you choose to go to therapy, either alone or with your wife, to try to figure out what you're going to do here, please make sure you aren't just going to check off the "tried couple's therapy" box before moving on with leaving your family. Going to therapy with that as the ulterior motive is a waste of time and money, and makes it significantly less likely that you can come to the kind of good understanding that will aid in having an amicable divorce.
posted by OmieWise at 10:57 AM on December 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


This shiny magic new person, they know you have wife, kids, and new baby and still they are up for sexy fun time? That truly sounds like a quality human being. That's the kind of person with whom you can build months, may even years of pointless, destructive drama.

Therapy. The Internet cannot tell you this enough. Therapy.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am so happy for you, anonymous. You have made the right choice and I send you great luck with therapy, now go and be an awesome dad and husband!

I am so, so relieved!
posted by Tarumba at 2:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your question has reminded me of this web comic. At some point you need to make peace with the fact that, as a human, you will feel pain, and for most people, things will never feel "perfect." You're not the only one who has felt this way. You're not special. We ALL feel this way. And that's OK.

Unrelated to your decision to divorce/not divorce your wife, I have something to say about the overall tone of your post:
You remind me of my father. He's not a bad person, and wonderful in all sorts of ways...but he is just. so. very. selfish. It's not intentional, but in the end he still processes the world like a teenager, where the universe revolves around him. Everything affecting him feels SO VERY IMPORTANT, as if whatever it is is threatening to consume his soul. Aaaaand everything affecting everyone else kind of just makes him uncomfortable (and then his discomfort is just so terrible and hard to deal with and oh woe is him!). He just cannot seem to get a handle on his emotional relationship with the world. Everything seems to be Epic to him. Everything. He's not a bad guy, he just wasn't much of a father. He divorced my mother in a much more honorable way than you were thinking about (heh, glad you've decided against that) and did his best to be there for me.

Now, the point of this comparison: As you might be able to tell from this post, while I love my Father dearly, I have very little respect for him as an adult. He was never an asshole to me, my mother is so much happier without him, and I was lucky enough to have the best stepfather anyone could ask for. I'm fine. I'm better than fine. My Dad didn't hurt me in any way...but I don't really respect him. I love him, but I see him as a perpetual child, albeit a well-meaning, loving one. I predict this is the very best scenario for your relationship with your kids (whether or not you stay married to their mother) if you don't get a handle on your style of thinking. Do your work in therapy to get some perspective on your emotional experience vs. everyone else's. I can promise you that you are not as special as you feel.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 7:18 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and because the tone of my post is, er, kinda harsh, I should add:
You sound like you love your kids DEARLY and I have total faith that you are going to be an awesome Dad, even if things don't work out with your wife. You care so much about your kids, so you're already a bazillion steps ahead of your own Dad. I don't think you'll ever be like him...so good luck and hug your babies!
posted by JuliaIglesias at 7:20 PM on December 27, 2011


Another update from the OP:
In case anyone is still keeping score, I have closed out communication with the new person completely. And let there be no mistaking that I am fully cognizant of my active decisions and actions that led me to this point -- I claim no helplessness in my situation lest for that random chance that brought me in touch with her. I am again grateful for the multitude of counsel given to me here -- I think Ragged Richard pretty much nailed it, even if I was immediately unaware of my need at the time of writing it. Many thanks.
posted by desjardins at 7:59 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


You are sleep deprived and likely very very vitamin deficient. Start taking supplements, especially extra vitamin c every day for two weeks and then check back in with yourself.

Lack of sleep and having a run down system makes for loco thinking. You sound loco! No one can magically get you more sleep with a four month old in the house, but taking massive doses of vitamin c with a good multivitamin will help your body and mind make it through.

Vitamins and sleep. Once you are feeling better physically, you'll be shocked by how you felt and behaved during this episode.

And

Therapy for the underlying issues you have towards your father and wife.
posted by jbenben at 8:56 PM on December 28, 2011


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