Do I leave, and if so what do I say?
February 19, 2013 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Not an original story. I love my husband but I love someone else too. What do I do? Looooong explanation to follow, apologies.

I’ve made a big mess and while I can’t make it better I really don’t want to make it worse on everyone that I have to. I have been with my husband for 13 years, married for nearly 2. We’re mid-30s, no kids, rent a house (in his name), no joint assets or savings. I work 2 jobs and study part-time, he runs his own business. He’s a great guy and we’ve always been really happy and chilled. There have been a few issues I haven’t been thrilled with but nothing out of the ordinary. Namely he works a lot, but I can’t get annoyed about this because he says its for us. And also he can’t help me orgasm and has never shown a huge interest in this, (until recently) despite me bringing it up many, many times over the years. He’s a really nice, sweet guy but this leads to him also being very sweet in bed whereas I want someone very forceful and dynamic. Its not really about what he ‘does’ its about who he ‘is’ and I can’t change that and nor should he have to for me. So basically I had resigned myself to a lifetime of kind of unfulfilling sex – I always thought we’d fix it somehow though I wasn’t sure how – but the tradeoff was a happy, settled, mutually supportive relationship with someone who I loved and who loved me, who worked hard, was good in the house and the relationship was basically as good as I thought it could get. I didn’t think a man could be sexy AND caring.

I guess its obvious what’s coming… I met someone else. Through work. How very clichéd. I fell hard for him really fast, before we’d even had any personal conversations, before I’d even touched his hand. I’ve never felt so out of control of my emotions and my body, the chemistry left me literally breathless sometimes. But I didn’t tell him how I felt for nearly a year because I fought it so hard and felt so guilty about it because I was newly married. When I finally did it was in terms of ‘we get along really well and I’d really like to have you in my life, but we’re both married so I want us to be able to manage this properly and honourably.’ Oh how I laugh now at my idiocy. It turned out he felt the same but didn’t think I’d look at him like that – he’s 20 years older – but once we realised we both felt it, it kind of took over. That was a year ago and bar a few months of trying really hard not to let anything happen we’ve been having an affair pretty much ever since, and though I’ve ended the sexual aspect of it the emotional part is still ongoing. I’m not proud of finding out that I’m capable of things I really never thought I would be.

I’m in therapy and what I’ve realised is that I don’t have any sexual attraction to my husband though I love him a lot, and he’s very good-looking. I don’t know if I lost it when I realised he didn’t seem that bothered about my sexual pleasure, or if I found it hard to orgasm because I didn’t feel that desire for him. I always liked sex but I had no idea of what it could be like until the affair, I never got the idea of ‘lovemaking’ before, and that it could be intimate AND hot as all hell. I love my husband a lot, but I am absolutely crazy about this other man, and he about me. I never believed in soulmates before and now I do. Sorry for repeating the usual script. There are also other aspects of my relationship with the other man that it feels would be a lot better for me, in that we share a profession we’re passionate about, there are things we’d like to do together such as overseas charity work that my H would have no interest in, and the fact that we ‘get’ each other on lots of levels that my H and I don’t quite match up on, such as some political views. Again, nothing in and of itself that would lead me to divorce, but in comparison with the other man it feels that the new relationship would be better for me. (Until he goes and dies on me in 20 years and leaves me alone, but that’s another thread…)

I just don’t know what to do now. I know I can either stay or leave, but I don’t know what. I feel my H deserves a better life than the one I’m giving him now, and someone could love him the way I love OM, but then I wonder if I stay and put all my energy into my marriage could I make it work, or will I always have an empty feeling? I cant even imagine the pain I’ll be causing him if I left, but the pain of living with someone who doesn’t love you back the same is awful too. He has been trying to do everything right for me recently because I know he feels the distance, and its breaking my heart to see him while I just cant feel for him what I feel for OM. The last few times we’ve had sex he has tried to make me cum but I just feel uncomfortable and I cant relax, because it feels like I have no sexual connection to him anymore. I wonder why he didn’t try five or ten years ago, but then I also wonder why the hell was I so stupid to think this wouldn’t be an issue in the future when I married him? I feel pure joy around the OM, and at home I feel now like I’m pretending.

If I leave, do I say its for someone else or is that way more hurtful? I don't know what reason I would give when basically things are good, its just I feel more deeply for this man. He found a text from OM about 6 months ago that was just mildly flirty and he understandably threw me out of the house for a few nights, so if I end it he’ll ask is it because of him. I convinced him it was only flirting and he let it go which I feel crappy about but I just went into panic mode when he found it. The thought of lying to his face – again – is awful but if I say yes I don’t want to leave him with issues around anger and self-esteem which he has anyway. I know, I know, I should have thought of all this, but it all just happened so gradually and now here I am and I can’t put the clock back but I just don’t know what to do. The OM left his wife 6 months ago – they’d been having issues anyway but he said when he realised the depth of his feelings for me it wasn’t fair to stay with someone else. So he’s waiting for me, he really wants me to come and be with him, but he says he’ll walk away if that’s what will make me happy.

I’d really like to hear from people who were in either my H or my positions. If you left someone, what do you wish you’d done differently? If someone left you, what would you rather know/not know? How on earth do I start the conversation? When? He has a trip with his guy friends booked for a couple of months time, and he’s really looking forward to it. I don’t want to ruin it for him by breaking up beforehand but is waiting stringing him along (even more)? He’s been my best friend for a third of my life and he’ll never speak to me again, and I’m dreading losing him, hypocritical though that sounds. I also can’t stand to think of him being hurt or upset, though again I know that may seem hard to believe. There’s still a part of me waiting for these feelings to just pass and let me get back to how things were. We had our whole lives planned out and I’m devastated I’m here, my fault or not.

I feel the need to point out that my question is not, am I a horrible, lying, cheating, selfish whore who obviously doesn’t love or respect my husband? I have been on a LOT of forums over the past year trying to get a handle on things, and this (unasked) question has been resoundingly answered in the affirmative many times. And I don’t disagree with it. I just can’t take hearing it any more. A few paragraphs of text actually represents close to two years of 24/7 angst about this which has left me feeling literally suicidal at times, so I just cant cope with any more judgement please. Not at all asking for any sympathy, but I genuinely just want some constructive advice. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It was this line that really stood out to me: in comparison with the other man it feels that the new relationship would be better for me. (Until he goes and dies on me in 20 years and leaves me alone, but that’s another thread…)

Someone wise (I think on AskMe) once said:

If you're comparing two potential partners and trying to decide which one is better, you probably need to be alone.

Not as a punishment; not because you don't deserve love, but because you need some time alone to figure out what you like and who you are and what you want in a partner.

You should leave your husband and stop speaking with this other man.
posted by sockermom at 8:24 AM on February 19, 2013 [28 favorites]

If the roles were reversed, how would you want your husband to behave? Would you want him to hang on to you solely because he felt guilty and enjoyed your companionship? Or would you want him to let you go, as gently as possible, even though it would be mutually-painful, to ensure that you BOTH had a shot at the best possible life?

I think you know the answer.

Let it be said: if you are a responsible grown-up and your partner is a responsible grown-up and there are no mitigating factors (cancer, disability, Acts of God, etc.), you are NOT, NOT, NOT doing them a favor by sticking around out of a sense of obligation and/or inertia. Everyone deserves to be with someone who WANTS to be with them. If you cannot be that person for your husband, cut him free so he can find the person who CAN.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:26 AM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was in your shoes. I left the marriage, not "for" the other guy but sort of using him as a crutch which wasn't fair to anyone.

You need to figure out what YOU want and need, perhaps in the context of being deliberately single. Work(ed / ing) for me (not in the context of finding a happy relationship, but in the context of not wanting to die, loving myself and taking good care of myself).
posted by mibo at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

You don't love the work guy. Love doesn't work like that.

I agree with sockermom. If you're going to leave your husband, do it and be alone for awhile.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wish I had come clean sooner and I wish I hadn't lied and lied - all in the name of "protecting" her. It was something like a decade before she was able to really talk to me again - not because I broke up with her, but because I was a disrespectful person who lied and lied and lied.

Whatever you end up doing, don't lie about the reasons, to yourself or anyone else, especially your husband or this other man.
posted by rtha at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and while I realize this may be an unpopular suggestion, here is goes: while you have lied to your husband for a long time for dishonorable reasons, I suggest that you continue to lie to him through the divorce process, only for an HONORABLE reason. Do NOT tell him you had an affair, that you're not attracted to him, etc. Why? Because having that information will do him no good - e.g. he won't be able to change and improve as a result of knowing it - and it MAY do him a lot of harm (demolish his self-worth and sense of trust, for instance). Be merciful and kind as you cut him loose, okay?
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:30 AM on February 19, 2013 [30 favorites]

I feel the need to point out that my question is not, am I a horrible, lying, cheating, selfish whore who obviously doesn’t love or respect my husband?

Well, first off, you're not horrible. You're human. Sometimes life gets away from us. We make mistakes. I think you're a good person who is understandably conflicted for very good reasons.

The truth is that you have to end things with your husband. You know that, even though it pains you. You are not getting what you need from him in your marriage. That's enough to leave.

You can't keep lying to him. That will just make things worse. There is no easy here. There's hard and harder. But it will be worth it. Because you will have stood up for your needs. This is a valid thing to do. You deserve the things you need to make you happy. You are allowed to get them.

Be honest with him. It's the human thing to do. He knows you had an affair. End the lies and be free.

As for your other man...well, maybe you need to be by yourself for awhile. Take things slow. DO NOT MARRY HIM. At least not immediately. See if the feelings for him are a flame or an ember. Get in touch with yourself. You can be happy. You can have what you want. Make sure he's it before you commit again.
posted by inturnaround at 8:31 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Honestly, I don't think you love your husband in the right way for your marriage to work, regardless of the other man. That doesn't make you a bad person, it was just the wrong decision-that happens. I think you need to spend time alone, without either man and working with your therapist to find out why you felt marrying a man that hadn't made you happy for 11 years was a good idea. The other man is a red herring in the whole situation-this is about you.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just don’t know what to do now. I know I can either stay or leave, but I don’t know what. I feel my H deserves a better life than the one I’m giving him now, and someone could love him the way I love OM, but then I wonder if I stay and put all my energy into my marriage could I make it work, or will I always have an empty feeling?

This might not be the most popular answer you will see, but I do think it's possible to love your husband in deeper and more intimate ways, with or without his cooperation, in ways that are also good for you and will help alleviate that emptiness. And I do believe that much in life is learning to stem passions for what we want for what is right (I leave up to you what the right is in this situation). Marriage often has these moments where we look at our spouses and wonder if we settled. This is normal, and I think what you are going through right now is a pretty textbook testing of your commitment to that relationship. Your feelings aren't odd, nor is the temptation. Love, in part, is defined by what you do with that temptation.

I believe there's a path out there for you to walk that you would find honorable, although difficult; and although there is no guarantee it will be fulfilling in the kind of way that you dream of (although it could, you never know!), I believe staying true to the one you love and have committed to is the pathway to longer life fulfillment.

There are often many things that people go without in marriage that feel like loss. Many of them aren't discovered until later in the game (like playing poker, you often can only see a few of the cards up front). So, having a certain level of disappointment in a relationship at some point is normal. The thing that defines love, in part, is a willingness to give to others in ways that won't reciprocate during those times. This is not all of love, for sure, as love perfectly exemplified is reciprocal. But love is also about self-sacrifice and a faithful and hard walking in the same direction, and sometimes long-suffering. Of course, it's not all of that, and that is when you focus on what is good in that relationship, and guard it like a treasure to be protected. Life isn't perfect, but I think it might be a bit of an illusion when we go looking for what is lacking in other relationships, as it tends to blind us to what will perhaps be missing in those relationships, as well.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

There is no rule requiring you to stay in a relationship with someone you don't love. That's true even if your husband is the sweetest, most wonderful man in the world. It's true even if your husband loves you deeply. It's true even if you were leaving just to be alone, because you didn't want to be in a relationship anymore.

Tell your husband what is true about your relationship with him. Tell him that you feel unfulfilled and lonely. Tell him that you think you both deserve more. You don't have to decide right now whether to tell him about the affair (and I would seek the advice of an attorney before deciding exactly what to tell him about that, because it can, in some places, have enormous implications for your divorce, both financially and legally). Just tell him that you want to separate from him.

By the way, I do not think you're a terrible person. In fact, there are at least two places in your post where you said things that made me think you might be on the receiving end of a controlling, possibly abusive marriage. When you say, "he works a lot, but I can’t get annoyed about this because he says its for us," does that mean that you feel guilty about complaining, or that he tells you you have no right to complain? Because if it's the latter, that means that he's deciding for the both of you what your life together should look like, and that's controlling. And when you say "he understandably threw me out of the house for a few nights" over a flirty text, no, that's not understandable, that's abusive. Couples who have healthy, happy relationships do not throw one another out of the house, even if one of them has a good reason to be angry at the other. The fact that you think that's acceptable, understandable behavior from him tells me that you don't have a clear sense of what a healthy relationship looks like and what kind of treatment you deserve. Either your husband is treating you very badly, or you're taking on a huge burden that isn't yours to bear (possibly both), and that's above and beyond the fact that you no longer love or want to have sex with your husband.

If I were you, I would get your own apartment, tell your husband you're leaving, and live alone for six months or so, at least. If you want to date the other man, do that. But do not move in with him or marry him or make a long-term commitment to him until you've had some time to breathe and sort yourself out emotionally. Because you deserve that time to figure out what you want. Go to counseling. Find hobbies. Reconnect with your own friends. Focus on your own goals. Because you've been in this relationship since you were, essentially, a child (yes, early 20s is still very, very young), and I think you need some time to figure out who you really are as an adult woman so that you can decide what sort of relationship, if any, you want going forward.
posted by decathecting at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2013 [28 favorites]

If you leave, I would not tell your husband about not being attracted to him, but I would tell him about the affair, because that's a sexual health issue for him and he deserves to know so that he can get tested for STIs or do whatever else he finds necessary.
posted by jaguar at 8:37 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're not a whore, you are someone who was dissatisfied in her relationship and instead of working on that, decided to have an affair. Not your finest hour, and I'm sure you and your therapist are discussing it.

You need to be more in tune with what you really want. The problem with your marriage and your husband is that you took the path of least resistance. I have to wonder why, in the 11 years prior to your marriage, you didn't marry earlier.

I suspect it's because you were comfortable and not unhappy. Once married, I think you realized that you were locked in, and the minute another option came along, you seized upon it.

So it's clear that you were probably never really meant to be married to your husband, but you SETTLED.

I hate that idea. You get what you settle for. In this case an enjoyable companionship, but not what you wanted out of a relationship.

What you don't say is if your married lover is interested in leaving his wife. Even if he were, I wouldn't go all-in with him.

You might connect on different levels with OM, but trust me. It's a whole nother thing when your hot and exciting clandestine affair turns into a regular relationship. You'll be two different people. And you may both become completely disenchanted. It won't be fun, the two of you both going through divorces (ugly or otherwise) and there's ironing to do, and the catbox to clean and all sorts of mundane things to worry about.

I agree, I think time on your own is what you need. Separate from your husband, with an eye to divorce. He too may be unhappy, but he might not have the tools to express it.

Find out what you really want in a relationship. It might surprise you to know that it isn't OM after all.

Be honest with your husband, but kind. "I'm not happy in our marriage and I'd like to be on my own."

Don't give him a laundry list of his faults, don't confess to the affair; it may come out later, but for this conversation, it's immaterial.

Good luck, you've an intersting road to travel and the first step is the hardest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:39 AM on February 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

His anger and self-esteem issues aren't your fault. The fact that he never bothered with your sexual pleasure until now is whack and not your fault. Throwing you out of the house for a few days is a ridiculous overreaction; plus, even though it's in his name it's your home too.

Leave. Don't get with this other guy necessarily but leave. You only get one life and you should try for a mutually fulfilling and honest relationship. This is not that.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I guess its obvious what’s coming… I met someone else.

No. You didn't meet someone else. You fell out of love with your husband, left your marriage before you actually ended it, and THEN met someone else. That's how it works and don't fool yourself or us with any other story.

Your marriage is over. You just haven't admitted it to yourself. Tell your husband you're leaving him. Show him - or at least the memory of what you had - a bit of respect. Tell him why you're leaving the best you can. And then leave.

As many others have suggested, knock it off with the someone else and get your feet back on the ground.

There are good ways and bad ways to end a relationship. You are on the path of the bad way. Get off it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:48 AM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I was once in a relationship where my partner at the time was having an affair (or a whole other relationship, depending on how you want to look at it) for most of the time we were together. He didn't tell me about it when he ended our relationship. I found out anyway, later on. He continued to lie about it, even though he was still in a relationship with said woman.

I would tell your husband about the affair. In my situation, after my partner left, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could have done differently, and hoping that our relationship could be salvaged. If I had known the true circumstances from the start, I believe my reaction would have been different. And it hurt like hell to find out from another person later on, and to continue to be lied to about it.

This is not to say that your husband has no responsibility in the deterioration of your marriage. This is clearly a two-way street, but the marriage is over. You are not a terrible person. You are a human being who has made some mistakes. Your husband has made some mistakes too. It's time to stop making them together, and for you to take a break from relationships and figure out what you want and need, and what sort of decisions you want to be making in the future.
posted by dysh at 9:00 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your marriage is over. You just haven't admitted it to yourself. Tell your husband you're leaving him. Show him - or at least the memory of what you had - a bit of respect. Tell him why you're leaving the best you can. And then leave.

I just want to throw out there that people have successfully repaired marriages that have experienced situations like yours. Whatever advice you take from this thread, please don't think that this might be an impossible course of action at this point, if you decide that you'd like to pursue that option. Emotions don't dictate the rest of our lives, or even what we'll be feeling in a few months from now. And there is often redemption in the least likely of places, and with the least likely of people. Giving your husband respect is also about giving him the option to forgive, if he so desires. Just weigh all your options carefully before calling it quits.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:00 AM on February 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

Having been on the other side (OM), I can tell you that overwhelmingly you can completely fuck up three people doing what you're doing - the woman I was with's ex had a mental breakdown, not because he found out that she was cheating, but because she was never honest with him about why she wasn't emotionally available and he could not figure out why. He tried so hard to make it work and she just stayed around and unavailable. Your husband is trying and you've checked out - this is unbelievably hard on him.

I ended up waking up one morning to realize that there was no way that I could actually be with this woman - I mean, I loved her dearly, but how on earth could I trust her? What would happen the first time we had a rough patch and she showed signs of pulling away? You can't trust someone fully who backed into your relationship in an untrustworthy way - I'd heard from her numerous times she was ready to leave, but she never actually did it.

I watched the other guy go through a lot of pain and I still, years later, carry around a lot of guilt for my role in it. I also miss her, because I truly did love her, but I ended it because what she was doing was torturing everyone involved and she had no plans on truly stopping. We've all extensively been through therapy and I found it tough to be in a "normal" relationship for a couple of years - even still, I struggle at times with it and need to go see my therapist.

The point being - you need to cut the cord. You have broken your relationship - maybe it wasn't meant to be, but there's no going back from where you've been. You can't keep emotionally starving out the people you love and expect for it all to work out somehow - you need to get a little courage and be honest for the first time in a long time - not necessarily about the affair, but about how your relationship is over.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:02 AM on February 19, 2013 [17 favorites]

What SpacemanStix said. Marriages are not supposed to be disposable and people who urge divorce at the drop of a hat are toxic and reprehensible. You owe it to yourself and your husband to try to make it work.

I suggest you read Divorce Busting or Divorce Remedy by Michele Weiner-Davis. She writes:

When you are having a rough time in your marriage and feel convinced that change is impossible,consider this.

When you got married and you were feeling in love, if someone would have told you that years later, things would be this bad, would you have believed them? Would you have thought it possible for things to have deteriorated so much? Probably not.

Well, guess what. Positive change is just as likely as negative change. In fact, with a little bit of effort and determination, it's even more likely. Healing is a natural tendency. Stick it out. Get some help.

posted by entropicamericana at 9:07 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

The way you talk about your sex life with your husband indicates that it's something that's always been a problem, but that you haven't been able or willing to work on. If you decide to stay with him, that has to start now. You need to start communicating about it and any other sources of long-term resentment.

Leaving is also an option. I will be frank here: it does not sound like you have the basis for a lasting relationship with this other guy. The good things you mention are superficial (similar interests, sexual compatibility), and there are at least two major red flags (feeling out of control/not sticking to the plan to "manage" your attraction, the fear of abandonment you mention w/r/t his age.) But, if you really feel like your incompatibilities with your husband are not ones you can or want to deal with, then you should leave, for both of your sakes.

Both of these will be very hard, and whichever one you take, you'll probably wish (maybe even frequently) that you'd taken another way. The "easy" option, in this case, would be to keep on as you've been keeping on: don't fix or end your relationship with your husband, and keep up the affair, but I think you understand why you shouldn't take that route.

As for what to tell your husband: that's a question that's very difficult to get consensus on in AskMe. There are people who would want to know about a partner's affair, always. There are people who would never want to be told or find out. There are people who thought they were the former and discovered they were the latter. On the flipside, there's people who felt a burden lift when they admitted infidelity, and people who felt worse, and people who wish they'd admitted it but never did. There is one hard-and-fast rule: if you haven't been tested for STDs since your last sexual contact with the other man, you need to do that, and if there's anything amiss, you must tell your husband. Otherwise, it's going to be something that you'll need to use your best judgement on, based on your knowledge of yourself and your husband.

Best of luck.
posted by kagredon at 9:08 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need to be on your own for a while. Separate from your husband, drop the other guy, and sort your thoughts out.

As an aside, as a mid-20's male who was recently cheated on, I read things like this and wonder why I would ever want to get married.
posted by irishcoffee at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I understand the timeline, you "fell" for the OM just as you got married, crushed on him from afar for a year, and have been having an active sexual/emotional affair for the second year. And you haven't been married for two years yet. Is there a connection there?

I do not see anywhere where you have had couple's counselling with your husband, you have devoted your relationship energy to someone you spend more time with than your husband, and you seem to have not communicated to him how you felt about things that were important to you. Instead of recognising the temptation the OM was to you and quitting jobs/getting couple counceling/focusing on your husband, you gave into the temptation. Basically, it sounds like you have not given your marriage a chance and are now blaming it for being still-born. Relationships take work, on-going hard work, and open communication, espcially in the fragile "we just got married and omg things are different" phase.

You mention feeling "empty" inside. NO ONE will fill that emptiness, not your husband, not the OM, not children etc. I know crushes and limerance make it seem like that emptiness is being filled, but really it is just being pushed under to resurface at the most awkward times. That emptiness is something you need to address seperately from your relationship because that is coming from you. I wonder if that is related to the lack of agency you seem to feel in your life; the affair "just happened", "it kind of took over" "my fault or not".

And sorry, but I don't believe in the "soulmate" line you are feeding yourself. If the OM had been a good person, an honorable person, he would not have encouraged you to have an affair, to have sex with you, to break up your marriage and leave your husband. When you broke off the sexual affair a good person would have respected that you were conflicted and ceased the emotional affair. If he wanted what was best for you he would have either left you alone or, upon hearing your decleration of love, told you to sort your own life/desires out seperate from him, and told you to look him up in a year or two when you had been divorced for a while. A good partner wants what is best for you - not his own immediate sexual and emotional needs. You talk about losing him twenty years early because of his age, but what if you lose him in ten years because he has found a new young co-worker "soulmate". Will you still be happy with the choices you have made knowing that he is capable of cheating on you, lying to you, and replacing you at any time? He sounds like another "empty inside" person trying to fill that hole with relationships. People that fill that hole with relationships end up moving on from person to person as each relationship fails to fill that hole.
posted by saucysault at 9:11 AM on February 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

please get a lawyer and end your marriage ASAP, and tell your lover that you need some time to be alone and process everything/figure out your own wants and needs. what you're doing now is hurting everyone including yourself. stop the suffering and angst and do the brave thing and walk away from this so you can find some peace for a while.

if you need to, give yourself "permission" to get back in touch with the older man a year or two down the line, after your divorce is finalized and you've had a chance to live alone without either of these relationships. the possibility of this may help keep you at peace now but i bet a year or two down the line you will find you don't need or want to reach out to him anymore - not because you don't love him, but because right now that limerance you're feeling is the fact that he's a crutch and a rebound, kind of.

i'm sorry you're going through this. if you have the courage to do the right thing then you can be free and wholly available to meet someone in the future who really makes you happy and with whom you're compatible.
posted by zdravo at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have been with my husband for 13 years, married for nearly 2. We’re mid-30s, no kids, rent a house (in his name), no joint assets or savings.

You've been together since you were both a little over 20. Unless you were very mature at the time, you were still kind of kids and you are very different people now. Also, there is NOTHING WRONG with not having kids or a house or joint accounts it does sound like you may be in more of a 20s lifestyle than a 30s. It may be time to leave in terms of your personal development.

But you have never been on your own as an adult and I would suggest that would be a really good experience.
posted by BibiRose at 9:14 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

"I love my husband but I love someone else too. What do I do?"
You honor the commitment you made to your husband. Ditch the other guy, and pour all your emotional energy into really trying to make your marriage work.
posted by MelissaSimon at 9:15 AM on February 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

People who urge divorce at the drop of a hat are toxic and reprehensible.

This isn't the drop of a hat. I think that decathecting had a very perceptive insight when she said that the husband sounded potentially abusive. It sounds like the OP was not able to share her true feelings in this relationship; that they were denied and argued with.

I'm not excusing her affair; I'm pointing out that we don't know what happened. We're giving advice based on the available evidence.

People that fill that hole with relationships end up moving on from person to person as each relationship fails to fill that hole.

And that's why many people here are encouraging her to leave: she needs time alone, to work on herself, to fill that hole with hobbies and interests and love for herself.

That's possible within the context of a marriage, but not if he's abusive.

OP, I assume you've spoken about this with your counselor a bit. If your husband isn't abusive, I think that some people here are right: you should try to make it work with him. If you can leave knowing that you gave it your all, that you tried your hardest to make it work and to love him despite of (and because of) his flaws, you will be able to leave in peace.

If you've already tried your hardest and you're being met with nothing but more abuse (and only you know if you're being abused; we can't help you with that, based on the information in your question) you should just leave.
posted by sockermom at 9:20 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Do not start a larger argument about whether suggesting divorce is or is not problematic on its own. Leave your own baggage out of this please.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:22 AM on February 19, 2013

I think it's never a bad idea to seek couples counseling and do everything you can to help your marriage. You have a history with your husband and you say he's your best friend. I guess it depends on how miserable you are now. If you have spent that last two years in angst about this, maybe you are horribly unhappy in this marriage. We don't know what goes on day to day. Only you know that. What this takes is some guts, some balls. Do you have what it takes to leave if you're terribly unhappy and cannot picture a future with your husband? Do you have what it takes to fight for your marriage if you still love your husband? Only you know if it's worth fighting for.

Part me thinks if you have no kids -- go now. It will hurt people but not as complicated.

And as an aside: It's okay, normal, and healthy to be responsible for your own orgasm and help things along (apart from oral sex) during lovemaking. Forgive me if I am stating the obvious and you are already doing this and still not orgasming. If I relied on my husband to bring me to orgasm every time we did it, we'd have a lot less fun. That's a lot of pressure.
posted by Fairchild at 9:25 AM on February 19, 2013

People who are telling you to tell your husband about the affair did NOT grok that you might be in a controlling and possibly abusive marriage. Anyway, only a LAWYER can advise you there.

No one gets kicked out of their own home over a flirty text. No, that is not understandable. It is not normal. Sorry. Furthermore, if you confessed to the affair, do you think you would be safe physically? You do know that you would be out on the street immediately, yes?

It's not your fault that your husband has self-esteem and anger issues (see above) and likely this dovetails into him not being very concerned about your intimate fulfillment until now that you have already given up and checked out.

Here is what I think:

You got together with the guy very young. Getting married brought all of the cracks in the relationship to the surface, you have been massively missing out on a great relationship while your husband put work and other priorities above you and the marriage (including the sex.)

Someone came along and fulfilled those needs emotionally and physically. This will happen, nature hates a void.

Your new guy sounds pretty good to me. He's getting divorced. I wouldn't be so quick to kick him to the curb.

You do need to see a lawyer ASAP.

You are not an awful person. Your marriages doesn't sound great, and since you got into the relationship so young, I'm pretty sure your judgement is waaaay off. It sounds like you were languishing emotionally and otherwise.

Hon, your marriage wasn't going to last because it wasn't giving you enough to live on. That's an equation you can't fix.

See a lawyer.

Don't breath a word about an affair until you, and your belongings are SAFE.

You are not a whore or a bad person. Face that your relationship with your husband wasn't whatyou hoped and pretended it might be, and move on with your life.

Go be happy.

(I was in a marriage once when I lived with him for a long time, we got married, it almost immediately fell apart because being married made it clear things between us just were not good enough. I'm happily remarried now. It works out. But you must take that first step and admit it is over. Good luck.)
posted by jbenben at 9:26 AM on February 19, 2013 [18 favorites]

I think you owe it to your husband to try to make it work. You are not legally bound to stay with him forever, but morally you made an adult commitment to him and therefore the adult thing to do is to try to make it work. The existence of the other man in your life is making it impossible for you to do that. Dump the other man and take some time to see if you can make things work with your husband before you bail out of your commitment. Not being able to catch your breath is not love, it's an infatuation or obsession or crush.

If you don't take this advice, then the other thing I would say is it's important to know what's going on in the other man's life, for example is he ready to leave his wife, what's his situation with her, etc.
posted by Dansaman at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Be honest with husband, cut all ties with OM, even if it means quitting that job.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2013

The last time you were single, you were in your teens, or barely out of your teens. That was thirteen years ago. You claim that you once believed your husband is your true love, and that you're "crazy" for this new guy.

Honey, you sound like a high schooler in love. You have very little dating experience, and you seem to believe in all the magical, but not-so-true aspects of love. You can't even recognize that you are in the starry-eye phase of your new relationship, which happens with all new relationships. All new things are appealing and attractive. Even when you first started dating your now-husband 13 years ago, everything about him was most likely very magical, otherwise you wouldn't have called him your "true love." However, it's been 13 years since that time, and a lot of that magic has worn off. A lot of that obsession and magic that you are feeling with this new guy, you most likely felt with your husband 13 years ago, even if you don't want to admit it, or convince yourself that they never happened.

Honestly, I agree with everyone else saying that you need time to be single. You are borderline out-of-control with your feelings, and you really need so time reflect without the influence of your husband and your handsome co-worker. Perhaps get some more therapy. Besides, getting into a relationship right after you divorce is going to look really bad on you. You induged your passions before when cheated on your husband, don't do it again and start dating this new guy prematurely.
posted by nikkorizz at 9:30 AM on February 19, 2013

There is a lot of conflicting advice going around in this thread. Clearly this kind of situation pushed peoples' buttons. I would like to suggest to you two books, both by Mira Kirschenbaum, that I think will help you think about your situation in a more objective way.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad To Stay is kind of a diagnostic manual about relationships. When people had X problem, they were happier apart; when people had Y situation, they had a pretty good chance of getting back together happily. In light of the observations that people have picked up about your marriage--I too concur that being thrown out for a few days over a flirty text is way over the line--I think it'd be good for you to take a good long look at your marriage, on its own merits.

When Good People Have Affairs is great for teasing out what exactly your extramarital involvement is doing for you--why you're in it, why you've chosen this particular person, how to think about what to do next.

Good luck. Sounds like you're really struggling and I hope you find the best path forward for everyone.
posted by Sublimity at 9:41 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm with decathecting and jbenben on this.

The one thing that really struck me is just how busy you are - between 2 jobs, being a part-time student, a marriage and an emotional affair, where is there time for you?

Re. this sentiment - Basically, it sounds like you have not given your marriage a chance and are now blaming it for being still-born.,

I think that a 2-year old marriage based on an 11-year old relationship is not so much a freshly born thing. But it can foreground problems which were submerged in the routine of day-to-day life beforehand. I wouldn't shout abuse, but I, too, am a bit concerned that you were chucked out of the house over a flirty text (even if we know there was more to it than just that - and I would still be puzzled even if your husband had found out the whole story). How did he chuck you out - did he demand you leave the house for a few days, did he shove you out, did he tell you he didn't want to see you for a few days? Maybe this is just me, but I think there are very few circumstances which warrant making someone sort of homeless in the space of a few minutes and with no forewarning (and, I repeat, even if he were heart-broken. You leaving of your own accord is a different matter).

Anyway, my feeling is that you are paralysed and made extremely meek and self-effacing with guilt, and that your current schedule will leave you barely breathing with stress. This is why I, too would recommend taking some time off and figuring out how to get some peace for myself. From that place you can then figure out if there is hope/desire to reconciliate with your husband, or if you want to move forward with OM, in a more traditional way (taking it slightly easier, introducing some mundanity into your relationship to see if it survives the cold light of day etc. I see absolutely no reason why things shouldn't work out with new man - I know quite a few relationships which started as rebounds, as it were, and which turned into strong long-term things. Also know very well pondered, worked-hard-at relationships which didn't last. No hard-and-fast rules).

Good luck to you
posted by miorita at 9:48 AM on February 19, 2013

...we’re both married so I want us to be able to manage this properly and honourably

What? The OM is married too? Is he still married? Because you do NOT have a future with this guy. You truly don't. Everything you are saying is cliche' because it's cliche' and has been done a million times over; nothing new under the sun, as it were. That's not meant as an insult; it's meant as "you are a human, and this has been happening to humans since time immemorial." You're living out a fantasy that is so great because it's a fantasy and will fail to be great as soon as it meets real life. In this sense I agree with saucysault... Nobody will "fill" your emptiness, including the other man or another guy like him, because what is fulfilling to you about the other man IS (at least in part) HIS OTHER-MAN-NESS. If you were married to him, it would be lovely for a year or two, and then one or both would start falling for somebody else. And with your (combined) history... we can see that neither of you will be the one going to their partner saying "hey, I'm having problems in our relationship. I am finding myself starting to be strongly attracted to other people and I feel that it is a red flag for our marriage and our current level of intimacy. We need to go to counselling and put this as a serious priority because I don't want to hurt you or myself." Which would be the right way to go about it.

I know there's a continuum on this, and people will land on all sorts of points on the line from "stick it out no matter what, never ever get divorced even if he's abusive because that is your god-ordained duty" to "don't settle for anything less than 24/7 joy and passion and amazingness, and the minute it gets boring or you start feeling meh about that person let them free to find someone who truly loves them because clearly you really don't." I kind of feel like a lot of metafilter tends towards the latter, probably as a reaction and push-back against the former, but there is a middle ground. I don't get the impression that the OP's partner is abusive. Sexually clueless, probably. We don't know his background or experience level or personality. I think that anyone feeling this deeply dissatisfied with the sex life in their relationship should make it a top priority long before it reaches this point (or, as an emergency issue when one realizes it has already gotten there).

I can't really say if you would ever be able to reach a better level of intimacy with your husband, but I can 100% guarantee that you can't while feeding yourself fantasies of other guys, and I can also 100% guarantee that your fantasy relationship with the other guy will not last forever. Break up with both and be alone, or go to therapy WITH your husband, and see where that goes. That's my advice.
posted by celtalitha at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

On preview, I see the OM left his wife... well, my advice still stands.

And personally I don't think being kicked out over a "flirty text" is abusive, depending what you mean by "flirty." Honestly, the guy probably had a hunch that his wife was cheating on him, and (this is the key part) HIS HUNCH WAS RIGHT. This ain't gaslighting, this ain't crazy jealous psycho dude, this a man who pretty much knows he being onced-over and reacted accordingly. And the OP lied and persuaded him to conclude that his intuitions were wrong and to let her back in. If this were the other way around gender-wise, we'd be saying that the OP is the one doing the gaslighting here.
posted by celtalitha at 9:59 AM on February 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

He found a text from OM about 6 months ago that was just mildly flirty...The OM left his wife 6 months ago.....

It sounds like the OM is actively trying to break up your marriage right when it was convient for him and he was feeling lonely; taking away your agency to make your own decisions by forcing your hand.

So he’s waiting for me, he really wants me to come and be with him, but he says he’ll walk away if that’s what will make me happy.

False promises of being willing to walk away be damned (why hasn't he walked away, if he knew you were "soulmates" and would get back together with him after you had been divorced a while?) Because he knows your relationship does not have strong foundations and that your relationship with your husband is a threat to him.
posted by saucysault at 10:01 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Think of it this way:

"Dear Metafilter... My husband has been acting weird and distant from me almost since we got married, two years ago. He doesn't seem interested in sex and spends a lot of time outside the house with vague explanations. Six months ago I found an intimate text on his phone from a female coworker; it prompted an argument after which I ended up making him leave my apartment for a few days, but then I felt bad and let him move back in... He tells me I am crazy, nothing is wrong, he's not cheating and that my jealousy is controlling and unattractive. We have had sexual problems before and I have a hunch that he isn't attracted to me but he insists that isn't true... yet he never seems to enjoy our encounters. I guess I just don't know how to please him, and I'm afraid he is going to leave me. What should I do?"

I think the DTMFA to that poster would be loud and clear. I feel bad for the OP's husband, honestly; the OP needs to 'fess up, with the knowlege that she will probably have to move out immediately. I say she needs to confess because otherwise the husband is just having to live with confusing, contradictory messages as to why she's leaving/why she is being distant, and that can (in my experience) be more long-term-mind-fucking than knowing for sure.
posted by celtalitha at 10:22 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is the other guy going to leave his wife for you? Whatever you do, you definitely shouldn't stay married to your husband. He went ballistic over another man sending you a flirtatious text.

You don't have to tell him this is about someone else. He needs to learn to let go of you with dignity.
posted by discopolo at 10:31 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do, you definitely shouldn't stay married to your husband. He went ballistic over another man sending you a flirtatious text. 

It's the other way around - you are cheating on him, to this day. And he doesn't know. He should be the one to have the choice at least on the matter of forgiving, or not. You have to decide if you can be honest about the deceit if you wish to work this out.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:37 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

The other dude is a symptom of your problem. Think of him as a pre-rebound, if you will. You’re open to him because you are unhappy. This is not to say that cheaters are all simply unhappy, or that they’re possible to please, but generally this sort of thing is when you hang the fantasy of an ideal that isn’t your current dude (but is kinda good enough) on another dude who is a closer match. And because you don’t have to actually date his ass, only enjoy him is show off courtship mode, you end up being able to sustain the fantasy.

The sad truth is that much like people often find a new job while still employed, relationships tend to have a little overlap. I don’t mean that everyone cheats. I mean that most people aren’t abusive asses, and if you have enough basic compatibility to make it through courtship, and you’re good enough to each other by the standards of what you think is okay in a relationship, you can muddle on for quite some time.

Of course, sometimes the “lack of passion” or similar purely taste based motives cause the relationship to be terminated. Metafilter gives very vocal support to the idea that our more or less okay monogamous pairings are not a life sentence, and that you’re not bound by some sort of contract to keep someone with nothing too awful about them- after all, not being an ass is only the minimal price of admission, not a scarce trait to be rewarded.

But in practice, break ups are expensive and stressful and you end up temporally homeless sometimes. Women especially, take a fiscal beating from divorces. Thus financial and emotional security and the moral judgement of your often shared social group provide the impetus to keep things going. And generally the mind adapts and provides justifications for your choice. A relationship which you never would have embarked on if you knew the “meh” stuff going in stretches months and years inside it. Some people don’t even know how to break up. Seriously, if you’ve never observed healthy break ups you can feel compelled to stay in even shitty situations- that’s why Mefi is so insistent that “staying together for the kids” is a bad idea. After all initiating a break seldom feels good and we generally don’t do stuff that rewards us with pain.

But back to your problem- the challenge with the other dude is that he doesn’t actually fix the problems that you had in your first relationship. It’s rarely about sexual chemistry. Yeah, he might shag your brains out and really be a ‘forever’ match, but you’re still the sort of person who tolerated over a decade of meh sex. Now some shit that happens to us in relationships is not our fault- this is not advocacy that everyone builds their reality “The Secret” style. But if you had prolonged “meh”, you played a part in it. I don’t know you, but take a good long look at some of the other stuff that coloured your relationship. Why was it good enough half a decade ago?

And that’s the big problem with affairs. Outside the trust issues, fixing things with a new boyfriend doesn’t change the things that are within your control. That’s actually one of the reasons why people advocate resolving love triangles with picking neither of your suitors, because in the end, you have to live with yourself even if neither one works out. The dude is, after all, primarily a symptom that it was time to shove off.
posted by Phalene at 11:18 AM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Dear OP: Abusive relationship isn't when one person is being hit or yelled at. Abusive relationship is when one person is having power over the other one. You are in abusive relationship because your husband is having power over you and you have none over him.

Act of throwing you out from the house wasn't designed to save your marriage; it was designed to assert power over you. Any concerned spouse in similar situation would try to talk things out. He didn't.

You are being treated as a property not a human being. DTMFA.
posted by przepla at 11:31 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

There is an awful lot of power in being the only one in a relationship that knows the truth; especially if the husband was feeling gaslighted and the wife insisted his intuition was wrong and refused to honestly communicate about the problem he was trying to address. She has said she does not feel he is abusive, we should accept that in good faith.
posted by saucysault at 11:40 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've done the married-with-no-sexual-attraction thing, leading into a emotional affair that eventually caused me to ask for a divorce. That affair turned into a short-lived but passionate omg-I-can-have-orgasms fling during/after the divorce, but it crashed and burned in a most spectacular manner after only a few months. This left me devastated and alone; my ex-husband and most of our mutual friends hated me, I lived far from my family, and had basically hit the reset button on my life. I had my share of regrets during that time, but now I couldn't be more glad I escaped from that marriage.

Many years and relationship attempts later, I will say this: good, intimate, mutually satisfying sex is an absolute NECESSITY for a healthy marriage. Whenever anyone tells me that they "married their best friend" but "they aren't very sexual" or "can live without passion" my bullshit detectors start going off. Do not ever, ever, ever compromise in the long term on sex or intimacy. Your husband might be the most awesome man in the universe, but if he doesn't get your juices flowing, you should not be married to him. Your affair is a sign of how really, seriously unhappy you are with the compromises you've made in your relationship.

I fucked up a lot about my own divorce. I lied and skirted the issue and caused us both a lot more anguish than I needed to. Here are some concrete things I'd suggest if you decide to go that route. They will suck a LOT but in the long run you will be happy you did them.

* When you ask for the divorce, tell the truth about why. You have been unhappy with the lack of passion, and you've figured out you're just not attracted to him. You've had an affair. You are truly sorry and you know how much it hurts, but you owe it to him to be honest. He will try to press you for details and it's up to you if you want to give them. It's okay to say "the details don't matter" or "I don't want to talk about that" if you've been honest about the high-level issues.

* Back away from the other guy for a while, unless he is really dedicated to starting a relationship with you and you feel ready to take that step. If it's just hot fling-y sex, let it go until you're through the emotional rollercoaster of the divorce, and spend that time reinforcing friendships instead.

* Confess to friends and family. Talk openly about how you feel and felt. More people will sympathize than you know. Your husband will be very wounded and will probably try to draw people to him, but you have the right to build up a support network too. Being honest and giving them your side of the story will help.

I know this is probably hard to hear, but your relationship should have ended a long time ago. I hope that you can find the strength to go through with it and that you end up on the other side far, far happier than you ever imagined possible.
posted by annekate at 11:41 AM on February 19, 2013 [13 favorites]

I feel like the know/not know preferences depend on the person (sort of like the question, 'would you like to know you have an incurable illness and 6 months to live'). To be honest, moooost people would probably not want to know about the other person (because it would hurt almost anyone more), unless that person will otherwise cling to you more and it's nicer to them to make a clean break. Like, so you'd be hurting them more for a 'good cause'.

'Don't be an asshole' is the only rule; what I'd wish the other person had done in any case was not be hurtful, keep me in suspense, take pity on me (that hurts) or pretend to feel in ways they don't. Any whiff of a lie hurts more afterwards, even if the lie is for the person's own good (like staying with someone 'cause they're a good person-- in its own way is a lie). Anyway, I don't consider not describing the other guy as a lie of the sort I mean-- I meant within the context of your relationship only. Your husband has a right to know all your feelings and concerns about him. It may happen that he would insist on couples therapy or what have you and/or put you in the spot where you have to explain about the other man, so it's good to be prepared for that. I guess I just wouldn't use the other man as 'the reason', though as I said, YMMV.

Anyway, things aren't 'good' if you feel things are better with the other man and your husband doesn't do it for you sexually. I guess this is about standards, but (unfortunately for me?) my standard is that it's supposed to be great; if it's not that great, it's not that this other person is above-and-beyond, it's that your husband isn't up to snuff. At least within the first few years, you should feel this is a no-brainer-- if your feelings aren't that intense (for your husband), then you should never have married him. This is just my opinion, but it's a foundational thing in terms of why it's a good idea to leave someone (or not). "I realized I need a lot more from a relationship" is an okay thing to realize. "I just need to feel the fire" is an okay need. "I'm sorry, I was wrong about what I needed" is a common enough experience. You have to own your needs; one way to do it is to assume the way you feel for this new man is how you should feel. In reality, many people settle without realizing they're settling, but it's okay if you act on it once you realize. It doesn't make you a bad person to realize what you need in life. Everyone is happier pursuing their true happiness rather than accepting an insufficient but 'all right' standard. It's difficult to say 'I need this degree of desire and closeness' 'cause (before you met this new man) it would have meant you were alone your whole life, so it's understandable you didn't let yourself realize it before. But now that you realize it, it's okay to say, "I know myself and what I need, and I'm not getting it with you."
posted by reenka at 12:22 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

My dear: if you have gotten to the point of feeling suicidal over this, there is more going on than your relationship with your husband or your relationship with OM. I suspect there is much going on with you, your feelings, how you view relationships, and how to view yourself in the context of those relationships.

I am trying to say this as gently as possible, and I hope you know that there are SO MANY people who've been in your situation, and who have reacted as you have. I have friends who could have posted this question, verbatim. It's okay. You are not some nefarious bad news bear who is bad and needs to pile guilt on herself.

But you really need to keep seeing your therapist, and you should probably talk to her about much more than this immediate crisis, because I suspect this goes beyond your marriage or affair. And I think you need to do this for you, because it is the only way to open a door that will allow you to develop happiness in the future. I don't even see this relationship with OM as something that makes you genuinely happy; it's tapping into some deeper unhappiness, somewhere, which is why it feels so intense and consuming.

Take care of yourself, first. Then your relationships will fall into place.
posted by vivid postcard at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Very sad to hear this. Do end it with your husband because you do not love him, you are merely being obliged to be with him. However that is not doing him any good and the lies will only get worse. It is not about you, it is about him. He has lived to the vows of the marriage, you havent. You should have left before you had the affair. You owe him that much at least, to leave him so that he finds someone who truly loves him.
posted by pakora1 at 3:43 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should leave your husband and stop speaking with this other man.

Favorited this so hard. I know someone in a situation like yours, and she handled it beautifully: she stopped all contact with the new guy, then worked through a (much messier than you'll have) divorce, thinking that when she was free she'd go to the new guy. By the time it was all said and done, she realized she didn't know what she wanted, and so she stayed solo for a while. Then she met a third guy, and now they've merged their families into one and added to it as well, both very happily.
posted by davejay at 3:47 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's something I wrote recently to a friend who was in a similar situation. He ultimately decided that leaving without even attempting to work on his marriage would be the worst mistake he could make. That may or may not be the right thing for you. Only you can decide. But my friend said this reflected a lot of his thoughts, and maybe it will have some relevance for you too.

Here's my perspective, for what it's worth: When I was younger I thought that when you found the right person you didn't ever question whether you were supposed to be with them. Ever. At any point in the marriage. As I've gotten older and had more relationships and been privy to the thoughts of more married couples, here's the conclusion I've come to: EVERY married couple will get to a point where they are on the brink of divorce. Even the ones that are the most suited for each other. Your annoying habits rub up against someone else's annoying habits for that many years and it's pretty much inevitable. But what I've also seen is that because there are no marriages where one or both people won't have this moment eventually, there is no "perfect" out there to search for. I do indeed believe that almost everybody can be equally happy with multiple people. There is no "one". But there are some people that we get along with waaaaaay better than most. It's true in friendships and it's even more true in relationships. And if you are lucky enough to be in a relationship with one of those people, the best outcome that would happen if you broke up would be to get incredibly lucky and find someone else who fits you incredibly well in a different set of ways. But that also means that that person will have another set of things that ANNOY you in entirely different ways too...

And even so, none of this is to say that every couple, even the ones that are really well suited for each other, SHOULD stay together. But it's good to keep in mind that there's no person that's going to fix whatever problems there are without bringing a whole different set of problems. And sometimes that trade is totally worth it, and sometimes the problems are things that really can't be worked out in the current marriage, like one person has their heart set on children and the other would not procreate if you put a gun to their head. But I think it's important to sit down and think about what problems can be fixed WITH the person you're already with. Like, if somebody was all "I hate this marriage because I never get to go race motorbikes since we spend all our money fixing up the house!" the instinct might be "it's my spouse keeping me from those sweet sweet motorbikes!" when really they might not care if you spend some of the money that way, or they might care, but change their mind when they realize how important it is to you. (Was that a dumb enough example? I don't know where "motorbikes" came from.) 😃 And sometimes you might be SO ANGRY with the person that you're married to. And you don't realize that, or think you can't tell them that because it's simmered for so long that you're at the point where if you let it out you're afraid it would come out as "and I also hate your stupid FACE!"

And I think this happens in some form or another to everyone. EVERYone. And so what I think marriage vows mean to me personally, though they could mean something different to you, is that while you can't realistically promise someone you'll love them forever without ever reaching the point where you hate their stupid face, you can promise that when you do reach that point you will talk about it together. (With counseling if it helps to have someone there to sort out what's really getting you mad that you may not have realized is getting you mad.) And you'll try to fix the things that can be fixed together. And THEN if you really gave it an honest 100% try and you still want to leave, then you leave. But the reason marriage is different than just a long term relationship is that you're making that pledge to each other to try WITH the other person.
posted by MsMolly at 5:10 PM on February 19, 2013 [19 favorites]

I think MsMolly's post is brilliant.

You say you love your husband and he is not abusive. Given those factors, then yes, you owe it to him (and to yourself) to try and work through this.

You made vows to your husband, not to Other Man. If OM has chosen to leave his wife, then good for him: that's where he was at in his marriage. This should in no way influence how quickly you rush out of yours.

I disagree with the advice to lie to your husband out of 'kindness'. Put your cards on the table, and ask him how he wants to proceed. Cut off all communication with OM in the meantime. Give your husband, and your marriage, this respect.

If you can't work your marriage out, take some time to be by yourself. This Other Man, this soulmate? He's just left a marriage, too. He needs time by himself, whether he knows it or not. If it's meant to be, then a few months won't change things.
posted by Salamander at 5:45 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I disagree that people who end relationships need "time by themselves." It's just moralistic. I think your marriage is over. You're in love with somebody else with whom you have much in common and who wants you and who is now available.

I say go for it.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with celtalitha and others, i think it's somewhat hilarious how much the tune changes if you flip the genders wrt how AskMe will reply to things like this. It's honestly pretty gross sometimes and really bugs me.

And honestly, looking back on similar situations even while single that i've experienced, and that i've seen friends go through.. i would be leaning towards the side of this being one of those "which of the two should i choose?" questions where the right answer is neither. This isn't to say that's always the answer, but situations like this require a lot more introspection about what you actually want and how/why you're in this position than they almost ever get.

I might be a bit more hard line on this than some other MeFi people, but i think that going straight from one relationship in to another is always a bad idea, and is both emotionally unhealthy, and can even reflect pretty badly on you. It's just really, really high school. This isn't some moralistic point, nor am i drawing some sort of conclusion that relationships can only be strung together with some kind of cheating. i just think that alone time when you're unsure of what you want, and also when you just got out of a serious relationship are supremely undervalued and important.

Basically, the choice here shouldn't be which one, or even really what your question was which really comes off as "how do i transition from one relationship to the other without feeling like an ass?", but your thoughts should really be redirected to more of a "how do i respectfully end this relationship and make plans to move out and spend some time alone" zone.

I also have extremely mixed feelings about being told about cheating. The post above explaining that people run the gamut on that is pretty spot on, but i really think it's worth considering that it's often more about making yourself feel better by telling him than being honest. It's justified as full disclosure and whatnot, but there's definitely a big component of it that's just unloading it off of you. from a certain angle, it really seems like a selfish end to a selfish act.

I don't necessarily think he shouldn't be told, but some introspection about why you actually want to disclose it, and what it will actually do for you personally is in order imo.
posted by emptythought at 6:56 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of shocked at the people insisting OP may be abused despite there being nothing to indicate that is the case and the OP herself insisting it isn't the case. So I'm going to answer the question as written.

OP, it seems to me that the worst thing you can do is to continue on as things are, cheating on your husband. Whatever else you do, don't do that. You're breaking your vows, you're lying to your husband, and you're endangering his health in a callous fashion.

So your choices are to leave your husband or to stay married and work on your relationship. It doesn't sound to me like there is anything unsalvageabe here except possibly your husband being uninterested in working towards a more satisfying sexual relationship with you. So I'd suggest breaking it off with the other guy and working hard on this with your husband for at least, say, 6 months. Get marriage counseling if it seems appropriate. Talk honestly. Tell your husband you need him to work with you on things.

If he refuses to acknowledge there is a problem or you guys are unable to improve things after some time passes, the best thing to do is to get a divorce. Neither your husband nor you deserve to be in an unfulfilling marriage. But from what you've said in your question the best way to honor your promises to each other is to actually work on your marriage for a while and see if you can make it work. If you can't, you can't. But you'll know you actually tried.
posted by Justinian at 7:44 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I disagree that people who end relationships need "time by themselves." It's just moralistic.

Can't speak for anyone else, but for me it has nothing to do with morals. It's for self-protection and self-development.

OP hasn't been single since she was, what, 20? I don't think leaping straight from a marriage to another serious relationship is actually giving the new relationship much of a chance. She might benefit from taking time to clear her head and think about herself as a discrete person, not as half of a couple.
posted by Salamander at 8:35 PM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I had a tough decision like this (sans OM) The man I was with is/was the love of my life. We were best friends, we had some slightly different interests, and we had just-ok sex (we were working on it) But I loved him, he loved me and we would lounge on the couch telling each other how lucky we felt to have each other.

When I broke up with him, I told him that I didn't want to be with him anymore and I gave him my honest-to-God reason. (It was a fundamental cultural difference that I felt could never be resolved between the two of us.)

Was he upset? Hell yes. Was he broken hearted? Definitely. Did I hurt to see him hurt? Of course. Did I doubt myself in the days, weeks and months after? You bet I did. After all, didn't I 'love' him? Shouldn't that have conquered all? I agonized back and forth. Cried for weeks. I kept reminding myself that I had made the right choice. That assured me and got me through it.

You're agonizing back and forth right now. Should I break it off with OM and work on the relationship with my husband? Shouldn't I leave my husband for xyz reason?

All you have to do is make a decision and STICK WITH IT. Whatever decision you make is gonna hurt like hell because we can't live two lives simultaneously. There's always going to be something that you don't get to have because of the decision you made.

The next step you need to take is put your own foot down and do it. You'll grieve for the loss of one of the men in your life. But keep soldiering on and live life moving forward.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 10:45 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell your husband about the affair when you leave.

I was cheated on by someone I loved dearly, and I could not understand why the relationship was ending. I found out about a year later, and what I was most upset about was not the affair, but the lying about it after there was no longer a reason to do so.
posted by corb at 6:10 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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