Need advice: Is it time for a divorce, or do I ride this out?
September 4, 2013 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Should I seriously be considering a divorce now, or give it more time? And if I do want to initiate a split--how do I do it, since this will totally blindside him? What else should I do to prepare if it comes to that?

I am considering asking my husband for a separation or divorce after I recently had an affair (which has ended). I am in such grief over this situation that I don't feel like I'm thinking clearly, and while I have been seeing a therapist on my own, I feel like I need more concrete advice from real people to help me decide what to do next.

Now for a whole lotta background:

My husband and I have been together nearly 10 years, married for almost five, with no children. When we met in college, he asked me out twice and I put him off before I seriously considered dating him. Then I decided to give him a chance and asked him on a date, and within two months, I realized he's the only guy I had ever thought about spending my life with. Over the next five years, he dumped me three times, but I always hung on to the idea that we'd end up together and he always came back (the last time, we had been long-distance for a year and he moved home for me). About six months after that we were engaged and married two years later.

We have always gotten along well, share many of the same interests and friends, hold similar values on money, spirituality, etc. We argue occasionally but usually about practical matters that are fairly easily resolved. His family is great (mine not so much, but they keep their distance). We both work full time and share household responsibilities fairly equally (after several years of encouragement in that area on my part), so overall we live a nice and comfortable life together. However, I've always had some doubts in my mind...a little voice in my head the day we got engaged and later when we got married...that make me think maybe I settled.

The main disconnect for us is emotional. I've always considered him to be sort of emotionally stunted, and I knew that before we were married. He is generally nice and shows a basic amount of affection (mostly at "expected" times, like when leaving the house or ending a call), but there's never been a deep romantic connection between us, and most emotions he expresses are anger or frustration (usually work related). I also find he lacks empathy in general for emotional people/situations, which has always made me reluctant to share my emotions or even play sentimental songs in the car because he'll start making fun of it. Early in our marriage I had a couple of health scares, and I was disappointed with how unconcerned he seemed to be, almost to the point where he seemed annoyed that I was so worried (I ended up going to a therapist without telling him to deal with the anxiety because I felt like I couldn't talk to him about it).

Also, his lack of decisiveness and initiative in general--whether it's handling an unexpected chore or doing/saying something nice out of the blue--make our daily relationship feel more like a mother/son or best friends as roommates type of thing. If I want anything different out of him, I have to explain exactly when and how. I'm tired of having to be the one who thinks for both of us, and I feel like I've lost some respect for him as a result. And I'm missing that sense of having someone caring for me and looking out for me that I want from my marriage at times.

We are also rather mismatched sexually. I've always had a stronger drive and more experience--he is very passive, lacks passion and seems happy doing the same thing each time. But if I don't initiate, we might only have sex only once a month, and he wants me to decide what we do each time. He doesn't really show desire or appreciation for me physically, even since I lost a fair amount of weight recently and look better than I ever have. I'm now in my early 30s and feel like I'm in my prime since getting in shape, but I still basically have to walk up to him naked and say "hey dummy, let's have sex" to pry his eyes off a video game most of the time. And forget about compliments about anything like my eyes, how I look when I'm all dressed up, new lingerie, etc. -- nothing. It has always seemed that he takes pride in not caring about superficial stuff like that, and I've told him I need more positive affirmation, but overall I think he fails to notice and I feel quite unappreciated.

I've also been in sort of a rut with work and my social life, which may be contributing to my general disatisfaction. We both work full time and spend a lot of our free time together, though I've gotten bored with the routine our lives have fallen into in the past few years. I've expressed this to him, and he encouraged me to get out and make new friends and develop my own interests (he's very much a homebody and is happy to stay home and play computer games most nights). So I started working more on hobbies and volunteering for various organizations...which is how I ended up meeting someone else.

Before I met this man, I had never felt such an intense attraction to someone just by meeting his eyes for a moment. Not in a physical way, really--he's not unattractive, but isn't the type of guy I'd normally go for--but we connected for a moment without saying a word. We ended up meeting for drinks a couple of times as friends before we decided to get physical, and it turned out to be the most amazing and passionate sex of my life. It was wonderful to feel desired and appreciated by someone who put so much effort into giving pleasure. We met a few times during the next couple months, and although we intended for it to be purely sexual/casual, we both admitted we had started to have feelings for each other and that was dangerous. He broke it off with me just last week, saying he wasn't comfortable with this situation anymore and he'd started seeing someone else (I know, I know...I got tested; all clear).

I am heartbroken and can't deny I wanted more with him, but I knew it would end up that way because of my situation. And even if I was single, despite the amazing chemistry we had, we aren't really at the same place in life and aren't all that compatible in more practical ways. So there's no thought of me leaving my husband to be with him--but the experience really highlighted many things I've felt are missing physically and emotionally in my marriage.

That said, I never really thought about divorce until I met this other guy. I'm not sure if my judgment is being clouded by lust/infatuation or if there are other good reasons to consider splitting up.

A big concern is that I'm not even sure I love my husband anymore, though he is my best friend and I know he's a good man (and this idea crossed my mind long before I met that other man). I know he still loves me and tries for me--I think he's noticed something has been bothering me and has been sweeter and more attentive in response. And if I ask him to do something better, whether it's something around the house or something behavioral--he usually picks it up. So we could have conversations where I ask him to be more assertive, to be more vocal with his emotions, to express his desires and generally "be a man" for me...But I know I can't teach him to be the true partner I want him to be, to be more passionate, or love me/accept my love the way I now want. That has to come from him, and I'm not sure he has it in him.

So am I taking a good thing for granted here? Or is it time to free ourselves and seek greater fulfillment elsewhere? I'm afraid that the love and desire and passion I seek is something that will always fade, and maybe it's better to look for the comfort and compatibility that we already have. But I also fear that the emotional and sexual disconnect we have will only get worse with time, and maybe we'll regret wasting more of our years together.

As far as the issue of telling my husband about the affair--this would be tantamount to asking for a divorce, since I've always known he has very strong views on cheating. (It could be argued that I already made the decision to get a divorce by doing what I did.) And I understand the idea that he deserves to know the truth and make his decision. But I think at this point, if a divorce might be in the cards for other reasons, that's painful enough and I'd rather spare him from that last detail. I honestly fear that he might hurt himself or me if he found out that he was betrayed and losing me at the same time.

Do these issues (aside from the affair) sound like grounds for divorce, or am I overreacting out of grief over my affair? How do I bring this up? What do I say? I'm especially interested in hearing from people who have gone through divorce or considered it but are still married. We haven't had a serious talk about our relationship since before we got married (part of the problem, I know), and I'm pretty sure broaching this subject at all will automatically make this a red alert, so I need to be prepared. Thank you for your advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
That said, I never really thought about divorce until I met this other guy. I'm not sure if my judgment is being clouded by lust/infatuation or if there are other good reasons to consider splitting up.

Your marriage is emotionally over, and it would be legally over if your husband knew about the affair, regardless of your decision.

It could be argued that I already made the decision to get a divorce by doing what I did.

It sounds like you already know the answer to your central question here - are you just looking for confirmation?

I'm sorry that you're dealing with this, but I'll give you the standard MeFi answer: end this - you both deserve better.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:59 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are not overreacting.

This is all quite serious.

You need to be honest with your husband about your feelings about the relationship, the affair... all of it. He's part of this marriage too.

BUT if you fear for your safety in doing so (and it sounds like you do) PLEASE talk to someone with real knowledge about potentially dangerous situations. This hotline is a fine place to start -- don't worry about looking like you're overreacting. If you feel unsafe, that is a feeling worth paying attention to, and you should take steps to protect yourself.

(FWIW, I am recently divorced, no affairs but there were some similarities to your relationship.)
posted by pantarei70 at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2013


It really sounds like you want a divorce, so you should get one.

I wouldn't want to be married to someone who, secretly, was having affairs, reflecting on my lack of satisfaction with the marriage, and thinking concretely about divorce.
posted by carter at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


When we met in college, he asked me out twice and I put him off before I seriously considered dating him. [. . .] Over the next five years, he dumped me three times, but I always hung on to the idea that we'd end up together and he always came back [. . .] I've always had some doubts in my mind...a little voice in my head the day we got engaged and later when we got married...that make me think maybe I settled. [. . .] The main disconnect for us is emotional. [. . .] there's never been a deep romantic connection between us [. . .] I also find he lacks empathy in general for emotional people/situations, which has always made me reluctant to share my emotions or even play sentimental songs in the car because he'll start making fun of it. [. . .]Also, his lack of decisiveness and initiative in general--whether it's handling an unexpected chore or doing/saying something nice out of the blue--make our daily relationship feel more like a mother/son or best friends as roommates type of thing[ . . .] We are also rather mismatched sexually.[ . . .]I feel quite unappreciated. [. . .] I'm not even sure I love my husband anymore[ . . .] (It could be argued that I already made the decision to get a divorce by doing what I did.)

This is not the story of a happy marriage that is going through a rough patch. From what you've written here, you want to divorce him. If what you need is permission from the Internet, I hereby grant it to you.
posted by KathrynT at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


You don't like or respect your husband, and you definitely sound like you cheated as a way to help yourself get out of the marriage. You both deserve better than the marriage you have now.

You could tell him you're deeply unhappy and that things would have to change in big ways for the marriage to work for you, and that you should probably go to a counselor to help you work on it. Though you don't sound like you want to work through it and stay with him, a counselor may help ease this conversation for the both of you.
posted by ldthomps at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It sounds like your affair managed to throw the pre-existing problems with your marriage into sharp relief. Sexual and emotional withholding is a big deal. You can be "best friends," compatible on many lifestyle issues, etc. but without sexual and emotional satisfaction - whatever that means to you as a couple - your marriage stands little chance. (Some married couples have sex once a day, some once a month - but the important thing is that both are happy with what they are having.)

Have the two of you been in couples counseling? Does your husband know how unhappy you are? Do you think he would be more giving if he knew you needed it? Is he one of those people who resist counseling because "it's bullshit" or "therapists are out to get me?" Resisting counseling is a huge red flag.

All that said, you have no children, so you don't have to consider their lives and happiness along with yours. You can evaluate the marriage in terms of "how happy am I?" without guilt. And if you divorce, you are under no further obligation to your ex other than being classy and decent - you don't have to be in contact as you would with kids in the picture.

If you are afraid of your husband, definitely call a domestic violence hotline. And do speak to a divorce attorney and get your ducks in a row BEFORE broaching the topic of divorce with your husband.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your entire love story from college till today is purely irrelevant, and a distraction (to you).

What is immediately material is, you cheated on your husband. The affair (whether you like it or not) moves all your private grievances into a secondary folder, temporarily. Right now you need to inform your husband of the affair and the potential impact on his health and life.

In other words, he needs to have a say in next steps.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:16 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


You make this marriage very comfortable for him, taking care of everything, making all the decisions. He has no reason to ever stop playing his video games.

You've outgrown him, leave.

Be thankful you have no children.

Don't tell him about the affair, it is tangential and will just hurt your position legally. Talk to a lawyer but stay friendly as far as possible.
posted by Dragonness at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't think it is at all unreasonable to be thinking about divorce under the circumstances. My guess is that you two just got together/married too young, and you are now only figuring out what kind of partner you want to have (and to be). This "other man" just brought all of this to the fore. So he is probably more a symptom of the 'illness' in your marriage, rather than the illness itself.

Maybe I am projecting b/c I had a somewhat similar thing happen to me when I was in an 11-year [unmarried] relationship (I didn't 'do the deed' with anyone else, but major make-out sessions), but my actions made me give deep and detailed consideration to what I was dissatisfied with in my relationship. It took me a *long* time to figure it out, even after I moved out of the house we shared; because, like your husband, my partner wasn't a "bad guy" and he was my best friend. So I couldn't figure out if I was having a major "grass is greener" episode and might be risking the best relationship I would/could ever have. I.e., I think I can see why you are so torn. You two have basically grown into adulthood together. And hey, that works for some couples, if they were right together to begin with and grew in the same ways. But maybe it doesn't work for all of us who begin relationships in university.

I ended up seeing a therapist to help me sort out my feelings about my then-partner and my needs, b/c I have never been very intuitive about my emotions (oh, except embarrassment, anger, shame, etc.) and tended to approach all major life decisions in a very logical, rational manner. I couldn't really logic my way out of feeling dissatisfied somehow with our relationship. I gave this a lot of time (2 years) and, in the end, decided to end the relationship b/c, you know, if you can't figure it out rationally/logically during all that time and you are still dissatisfied, then that in itself is a sign.

So how long have you been dissatisfied? What does your gut tell you about staying? What does it tell you about leaving? Does the thought of staying feel stifling? Does the thought of leaving feel scary-but-exciting? Try your best to identify your instantaneous reactions to these different options.

And if you aren't seeing a therapist, get thee to one immediately and try to work out how you got yourself to this place and how to get yourself out of it (either with or withour your husband).

But I agree with the premise that there is no need to tell him about the affair if, ultimately, you are going to leave anyway. What would be the point?
posted by Halo in reverse at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't usually answer these questions. In my life experience, barring financial dependence or faith/value-based pressures or fear-based abuse or a large age discrepancy at the onset, people don't stay together ten years unless they are fairly well matched in important ways. But that's not really your question.

I would ask: Does this essay really capture how you feel and what you think of the relationship? Not just in a fleeting way, but a steadily-held opinion over the course of a couple of weeks or even a month. If so then I would recommend divorce. Because from what I have seen, relationships don't bounce back from these type of deeply-held issues.
posted by 99percentfake at 10:34 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is nothing objectively wrong with your marriage - it would work just fine for some people, you just may not be one of them. But I will tell you this: my young niece recently asked me "How do you know when it's time to give up on a relationship?" and my answer, after some consideration, was "When you've clearly asked for what you need and you still can't get it."

I don't think you've really done that - not in a bald, high-risk way - and I think it's lame that you're considering bailing without giving your marriage your best shot. You understand how you and your needs have changed, but your behaviour and your way of relating to your spouse probably isn't any different than it was a couple of years ago. People evolve and perhaps the same is true for your husband.

Separate if you need to, but I think you owe your marriage and your spouse a solid, good-faith run at relationship therapy.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:37 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


[This is a response from an anonymous commenter.]
Look, I've been in your shoes. I was in a more-or-less comfortable marriage with somebody who shared my interests, but we were not igniting each other's fires. Our sex life was gone, I had lost respect for him, and we were on diverging paths. We both knew this, and had discussed it, but neither of us really wanted to fix the marriage. During this time, I had a drawn-out affair with someone with whom I had been involved previously. While I knew that this person and I would likely never end up together permanently (which was the case), I realized that I could not stay with my husband, that he and I were not happy.

You are not obligated to reveal this affair to him. I never told my husband about it, and I stand by that decision. Others may not agree with you, but it's your life, and you have to decide if he really needs that information.

Good luck in finding a happier life for yourself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:41 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't know how many close friends you have that are also married and if you ever talk with them about what goes on at home, but I don't think you realize how far apart your marriage is from a good one (or maybe you do and you just want us to validate what you already know). It's not the affair, it's the way you write about him - you say he's a good guy but that's not how you interpret his conduct towards you (ex. not enough care when you were sick). Objectively, there may be more or less wrong with his behavior towards you than you believe, but it's the fact that you don't accept who he is, you want him to be something different, and love is accepting who someone is.

My partner does a lot of things "wrong", I'm pretty sure, all the time (and I do too, oh my, likely much worse), and yet if I try to pick something out off the top of my head I can't come up with an example because whatever it is it doesn't matter to the way I love him or the way I know he loves me. Someday I hope you have this same feeling.
posted by skermunkil at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


So you are heartbroken over a man that you only saw a few times over a series of months, who is not your husband- the husband that broke up with you three times after which you got back together and married only 6 months later? Are you kidding me? Why the hell did you two even get married? You sound like walking drama.

If you aren't happy with your husband and you don't want to be with him, then leave him. And don't go out with anyone else until you get some therapy. You don't sound ready for everything that an adult relationship entails- but accepting that your partner is never going to be the person you want him to be because you can't change people is a good start.

You're not doing either of you any favours by staying together. And your husband has the right to know that you had sex with someone else, if you haven't already told him.
posted by windykites at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, just because you got tested for STDs does NOT mean that you couldn't have passed something, like HIV, which can't be reliably tested for for 6 months, or genital herpes, which isn't tested for and doesn't always show symptoms, to your husband. He does have a right to know that he's at risk.
posted by windykites at 12:06 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


maybe it's better to look for the comfort and compatibility that we already have

But you're not comfortable or compatible. You're telling yourself that because admitting you spent ten years not getting your needs met, being dumped, being neglected, and having bad or no sex is very painful.

You know what's more painful? Having to deal with having been in a bad relationship for eleven years. Move on.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:40 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I ended up going to a therapist without telling him to deal with the anxiety because I felt like I couldn't talk to him about it
You're not really in an emotional relationship with your husband at all.

the experience really highlighted many things I've felt are missing physically and emotionally in my marriage.
Yes. Exactly.

I still basically have to walk up to him naked and say "hey dummy, let's have sex" to pry his eyes off a video game most of the time

IMO, you don't owe him a confession of your affair - he's not involved enough with your sex life to be owed that.

He's like, on the outskirts of your emotional life and now that you're 30, not 20, it's just not enough for you. Fair enough - it sounds like he's not that bothered to get any closer. You aren't happy after 10 years: that is a good enough reason to exit the relationship. Try and do it with loving care to yourself as well as to your husband: Halo in reverse's advice is good here. And be sure and look after your physical safety - between his feelings and your safety, please prioritise sensibly.
posted by glasseyes at 1:57 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hi there, I'm you. Meet my husband, your husband.

You are where I was five or six years ago, except we have two kids--which changes things considerably.

It's possible to change this situation but in my experience it's incredibly hard and will require being willing to end the relationship entirely. There are a lot of posts in my history that pertain to the struggles in my marriage, if you care to look, or you can MeMail me directly.

I think it's worth getting into the struggle because it really is a two-person dance. There are a lot of things up with your husband, but you play your role in this dynamic as well. Odds are very good that by getting into counseling together and fighting the good fight, you will get a lot of insight about how you came to get into this situation. Note I'm not blaming the victim here--I think your husband likely has a huge blind spot about emotional skills and has a lot of growing up to do--but learning about why and how you tolerated this in the early stages of your life can help you as you move forward, with him or without him.

Good reading material to start: Patti Henry's the Emotionally Unavailable Man; Terry Real's How Can I Get Through To You; Terry Real's New Rules of Marriage.

Good luck. This is really hard.
posted by Sublimity at 1:58 PM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


It sounds to me like you both are doing a whole lot of thinking about yourselves as individuals and not nearly enough about being a unit, and possibly have been for quite some time.

Something I constantly forget is that marriage isn't "Going Steady: Level 100" but rather something uniquely its own: A unification of two people into a cohesive unit, whose function is to support and care for the other equally. This cohesiveness falls out of whack whenever one party (or both) sit one out, or simply quit the team.

Sometimes this return to self stems from a fundamental and festering incompatibility, sometimes it's a rut that people get into, sometimes it's out of boredom, sometimes it's out of sheer laziness and/or ignorance, you could increase the list ad inifinitum for reasons for this. However, once the team is no longer playing together, things just don't work right.

What you did was wrong, and you're going to have to live with the emotional consequences whether you tell your husband or not. Please understand that it doesn't make you a bad person, just a normal, run of the mill, selfish one; who chose the excitement and thrills of an affair over the same 'ol shit.

I don't envy where you are, but neither do I think I'm invulnerable or so 'holy' that I'll never be exposed to one side or the other of your current drama.

My only advice is to stop thinking about yourself. Do what's best for those around you. Not just your husband, but your family, friends, your future children (if that's in your plans), etc.

This may look like a divorce, or this may look like really buckling down and (ulp!) communicating with your husband about uncomfortable things.

I find that when I try to take care of others, I just naturally do things that are in my long term best interest. When I'm trying to take care of me only, I usually gravitate to the instant gratification, long-term harmful shit. But it takes honesty and strength to really do what's right.

One last note: If you don't know what it is that you really, really want. Make a list of things you really, really don't. (I find these usually come easier to me). Then make a list of the opposite, and there you go!

I'm sorry to hear about your shitty situation, and just know that if you keep your head up, do what you believe to be right, whether you want to or not, that in a year's time, you'll be well on your way to moving past this, whatever your personal future looks like.
posted by Debaser626 at 2:07 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was reading along with this- the positive life changes including new friends and hobbies, the appearance change and waiting until I got to the bit with the affair. It was kind of telegraphed pretty strongly by the case you were building.

No, I'm not interested in judging. However I think that subconsciously there was some pushing in the trajectory you took- and the best thing for you is to follow this story to the logical end, which is usually the exit.

Your relationship has past its sell by date. You sound pretty desperate for some sort of stimulation and you have 10 years of evidence that it's not going to come from him. Your moral an ethical framework decides how you handle the affair (as well as your insight into what your spouse would have wanted), but you need to focus on getting the happiness you want in a way that'll not require you to justify it to yourself like a crime.
posted by Phalene at 2:30 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are addicted to the novelty of a new relationship. Don't fool yourself that it is all troo wuv and passion all the time. In your search for novelty, you broke your vows to someone who sounds like a good and decent man, from what you've written here. Are you looking for someone perfect? Perfect people do not exist. You need to tell your husband about your affair. There aren't excuses for that; your dissatisfaction with the relationship is entirely secondary to your betrayal.
posted by Unangenehm at 4:47 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was you at 30 minus the affair.

I divorced and happily remarried. Second time I chose a better match for me.

FWIW.

I like that someone up top says your husband is not involved enough with your sex life to be told about the affair, I agree.

I also know from experience that the compatible but intimacy-less relationship you describe is not sustainable.

Lastly, unlike other commenters...

I don't think you sound unkind towards your husband. You sound honest, and it sounds like a tough relationship to be in.
posted by jbenben at 7:27 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


"I still basically have to walk up to him naked and say "hey dummy, let's have sex" to pry his eyes off a video game most of the time"

IMO, you don't owe him a confession of your affair - he's not involved enough with your sex life to be owed that.

What? No.

Getting married to someone automatically confers a right to know about their sex life. It's implied in the contract, unless specifically agreed otherwise. You don't get to unilaterally decide that, welp, they've been a neglectful spouse so you don't 'owe' them that bit anymore.

As far as the issue of telling my husband about the affair--this would be tantamount to asking for a divorce, since I've always known he has very strong views on cheating. (It could be argued that I already made the decision to get a divorce by doing what I did.) And I understand the idea that he deserves to know the truth and make his decision. But I think at this point, if a divorce might be in the cards for other reasons, that's painful enough and I'd rather spare him from that last detail. I honestly fear that he might hurt himself or me if he found out that he was betrayed and losing me at the same time.

This is self-serving and, I think, a bit disingenuous. It's also unfair to your husband. You know that fidelity is vital for him, and you chose to cheat. He deserves full disclosure so that he can make the best decision for him about whether to stay in the marriage. You're not 'sparing' him anything by hiding that (rather massive) 'detail'.

I'm not trying to make you feel bad; the marriage sounds rough. But choosing not to tell your husband you cheated would be both selfish and counterproductive at this point, IMO.
posted by Salamander at 10:41 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're essentially chasing butterflies at this point and have put your marriage in serious jeopardy with the affair.

It sounds like you want validation in all areas of your life and if you want to leave your husband (and frankly, it sounds like you do), I'm not sure why you need the validation of internet strangers to do so.

I do hope that you never have to experience what you are about to put your husband through. It's not fun to be on the receiving end of the news you are going to have to give him.

Get your divorce. Then seek individual therapy to find out just what it is your looking for. Seriously.

Good luck.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:16 AM on September 5, 2013


One theme I notice in your post is keeping information from your husband. Not just your affair, but your therapy as well. Perhaps what you've told us about your relationship is more than what you've told him, or you may have kept more of your feelings and activities from him than you realize.

Whether or not you choose to stay in this marriage please consider some introspection about self disclosure for this or your next relationship. Hiding information about yourself from your partner doesn't keep a marriage in good health.
posted by Breav at 7:40 AM on September 5, 2013


It sounds like the OP has had some pretty harsh experience that has taught her that her husband won't be receptive or sympathetic to her vulnerability and emotions--for instance the situation with her health scares where she felt abandoned and rejected, and his disdain or mockery of emotional stuff like songs on the radio. Not to mention that intimation about explosiveness when he's angry at work, and the fear that he will be abusive if she confesses. Experiences like that can train someone that keeping information away from an unsupportive spouse is preferable than risking opening up, which is likely to be met with rejection or worse and will make a painful situation even worse. The stonewalling and disinterested husband described on this page probably seems really familiar and the rest of the information about angry and abusive men is worth some serious consideration as well.

OP, you mention in passing that your family of origin is troubled (not so great). Chances are good that you learned early how to tend to your own garden emotionally, because those around you wouldn't or couldn't care for you that way. You got accustomed to it and so you didn't notice or mind initially when your husband started doing it too. But now it's gone on too far and too long and you are having to confront that it's really not working for you. (For whatever it's worth, on your husband's side of things, even families-of-origin that are "great" can have some seriously screwy emotional dynamics at work. Sometimes when they seem to conform to our idea of how families "should be"--longtime marriages, material success--it can even be much, much harder to comprehend that things are actually fucked up beneath the surface. Something to consider.)

I think an affair like yours can serve as a wake up call. You're like that frog in the pot of water who just came to consciousness that it's heated up to the boiling point. Someone who came along and gave you some things that you've really been missing--attention, emotional connection, passion, pleasure--has made it so you have to acknowledge that yes, you really need those things, and yes, they really matter.

They *do* matter, but other things do as well. I believe you that your husband is in many ways a good person and a good friend. I believe that there are other parts of life where you mesh well, and probably always have, and these were the things that you selected for when you chose him as your mate. They matter too and this is why your situation is so hard. It would be much easier if it were cut and dried.

Should you tell, or should you not? That's a really tough call. I think you need to level with your husband that there are some parts of your life where things are really in trouble, in serious trouble. Feeling unsupported, unappreciated, undesired, and without a partner pulling equal weight are really, really big problems. Based on your past experience he may well just blow that off--for exactly the same reason he waffles and can't commit about other kinds of big issues. It's easier to just ignore than deal with the anxiety.

Dollars to donuts that's exactly the same kind of passive-aggressive dynamic that keeps him from engaging with you emotionally and sexually, even though he must know how much that all means to him. He's mad at you about other stuff, he can't deal with the conflict that will come from addressing it directly, so he takes it out on you by withdrawing.

So, what will take him to engage? What is a serious enough indicator that he will realize that you are dead serious that you two need to get to counseling and make some major changes? Well, telling him about the affair will be high-impact. That's one way to get him to realize you've been seriously unhappy.

You could try the tack of telling him you need to have a serious conversation, that you've realized how unhappy you are, and that you need for the two of you to get into counseling. If he does rise to the occasion, engage honestly in the process, and is open to making changes just as you are, right?--if he does that just from that conversation alone, then great.

If not, well, you can follow up with what you told us. I think that will be awful for everyone involved--but someone in this relationship needs to get honest and own their shit. If you totally level with him, come clean, share your own self-reflection, be willing to do your own work, that will be some powerful positive motion in your marriage, and he may be willing to get on board to do that too. At least if you really own it--yes, you did something really hurtful to your husband, against your own moral code, and you are honest and want to make amends and do better--that gives you back a huge measure of your own integrity. You have to own 100% of the affair, but each of you needs to own 50% of the state of the marriage before that. You may have to be the one to start the process of getting both of you to do just that.

Again, hard road ahead, no matter what.

Good luck to both of you.
posted by Sublimity at 6:58 PM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


For me personally, chemistry is very important and with it comes the sexual compatibility factor. From what you've described it doesn't sound like you two are on the same level nor ever will be. Add to that all the other issues - and the fact that your were indeed able to have chemistry and a sexual spark with someone else - and I wonder why you would keep trying? If nothing else, ask for (and go through with) a separation to give your husband the wake-up call he needs. Maybe mentioning the affair will just muddle things unnecessarily (and distract from what's wrong between the two of you), and maybe you'll find at a later point that it will be useful (i.e. helpful in order to resolve things) to bring it up later on.

Good luck to you; I agree with the notion that at least there's no kids involved so you can concentrate on yourselves only.
posted by mrsh at 3:52 AM on September 20, 2013


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