Using the Life Scissors
January 25, 2014 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I need to cut a woman out of my life, but I don't want to cut her out of my life. What's my next move? A polar vortex of cold fun facts follows...

At the company Christmas party in December 2012, I met in person a woman with whom I had only previously had email contact, as we worked in different offices. Our chemistry was flowing at 'hello,' and four hours later, we were sitting in her car singing and talking because neither of us truly wanted the evening to end. Next up was a facebook friend request (she initiated it), followed by random facebook messages (also initiated by her)...and mere months later, I had a work friend with whom I was exchanging upwards of 150 messages every day. The relative slowness of our jobs allowed for constant communication, and we soon began getting into each other's personal lives; I gave her (requested) advice on her dating life; she helped me in my search for new employment. We were, basically, close colleagues who happened to communicate via text message instead of at the water cooler or in passing in the hallways.

As I gather these things sometimes do...things escalated. She sent me a photo of her trying on her bridesmaid's dress for the wedding that September; photos of various outfits along with selfies followed. I found a new job that allowed us to continue our workday sharing of jokes, stories, recipies, songs, etc. We played a game of Would You Rather, opening the door to a lot of frank discussion about preferred sexual positions and places, how many people she has slept with (eight), and so forth. We met for dinner, drinks, and dancing. We went to a concert. Dinner, drinks, and dancing again. The dancing was risque, to put it mildly. I caved and downloaded Snapchat for further photo sharing. We message constantly. Everything above was spread throughout 2013.

It's important to note that, with the exception of the three times we have gone out together, we never have contact on weekends or evenings. Our relationship started as a 9-5 work relationship, and it has mostly stayed that way.

On some level, I love what we have built. Her messages make me happy. Her photos make me happy. Her sense of humor is amazing. She has expanded my musical tastes, and she's a ball to drink and dance with. She's beautiful, from her hair down to her shoes. I wouldn't go so far as to say I love her, but she's a light in my life.

And...I need to cut her out. You may have figured out where this is going (and I really buried the lede): I'm married.

I can lie to myself and tell myself this is just a friendship. It's not. When she got excited about a guy she met in August, I was jealous. I was upset. I was mildly happy when things didn't work out. I'm completely irrational...I've been known to glance down at my phone for absolutely no reason just to see if she has sent me a message. My job is not hard, so messaging her doesn't really take away from my work, though on some level it does. If I send her photos, I have to delete them from my phone because I'm paranoid my wife will go through my phone and ask why I took them.

Furthermore, though I can say many positive things about her, she is not an angel. I've caught her in white lies. She is lazy, overly narcisstic, lacks ambition, still lives with her parents (at age 30; I'm 33, since I bring up ages), and is terrible at relationships with men she wants to date. Even though she's beautiful, she's one of those women who tell you she's not. Despite the fact that we can talk for hours, our shared interests are minimal; she doesn't care a lick about sports, and she doesn't read. I couldn't even imagine introducing her to my friends; she is not the kind of person I have ever really associated with, much less been friends with, in my life.

I mean - brutal honesty here - I think, deep down, I just want to have sex with her.

[Some words on my marriage, because they obviously play into this situation: My marriage is happy. It's not fulfilling, but it's happy. What I mean by that is that we have a house, we have an amazing 2-year old son, we have a great circle of friends, we have a 13-year history to draw on, we have trust (I know, haha); frankly, anyone looking in from outside would think our marriage is excellent. In a sense, it is, but what this woman above has done is touch on the things that I don't get from my wife: the ability to let loose, go dancing, drink until we're silly...basically, she lets be the person that the Saturday Night part of me wants to be. My wife is not physically attractive, our sex life has never been good, and I'm almost to the point where we don't even have fun together. Trust me: We have worked on all these things. We've communicated these issues to death. We try new things, we utilize babysitters, we got a hotel room for our most recent anniversary. But I still feel like it's lacking a lot of the life that I really want it to have. This isn't a new development; it's just become more clear as I have aged and our relationship has pleateued.]

This 'relationship' aside, I've never cheated on my wife - even with all the things above, this woman and I have never kissed; we've barely even hugged. But what we do feels wrong, and I don't think anyone reading this would necessarily disagree. I've never broken up with anyone, much less anyone I really don't want to break up with. But frankly, this will end, and it's just going to get harder to end as we continue growing the relationship. So, what do I do?

I feel like I'm just scratching the surface...there's more information I can share in messages, if that would help you answer. Judgment-free answers would be greatly appreciated.
posted by st starseed to Human Relations (56 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Does she know you're married?

I'd start there.

I have a strong feeling that will be the sharpest pair of shears you could ever need.
posted by Sara C. at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

This happened because you are trying to tell yourself something. So end this relationship and figure out what you need to learn, and then figure out what you're going to do about what you learned.
posted by aniola at 2:54 PM on January 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

First of all, I commend you for acknowledging and addressing this as a problem; a lot of people would sweep this under the rug and make excuses and you are not doing that.

Second of all, I'd Google up some information on emotional affairs, because I think that may be what you're having.

Third of all, I would be very honest with her. Tell her that the relationship you have with her is taking up too much time and too much attention in ways that are probably not appropriate for a happily married man and that you need to end it because it's interfering with your marriage. And then whatever she says or does and no matter what guilt she lays on, I'd take it with a grain of salt. Because while I am sure she's genuinely fond of you, she's basically using you as her gay boyfriend while knowing you are not gay and not her boyfriend.

(There's a chance she's like you to be, but that's on her and neither here nor there because this is now over, regardless.)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:57 PM on January 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

You have a brutally frank conversation with this woman and tell her that while you value her friendship, you need to go incommunicado for an unknown period while you focus on your marriage. Does she know you are married?

Also, what's with being in a 13-year relationship with someone you aren't attracted to? Are you in marriage therapy? I think you should be. Maybe you and your wife aren't going to make it. But you need to face that honestly.
posted by amanda at 3:00 PM on January 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

what actions would best serve the 2 year-old son's interests?
posted by bruce at 3:03 PM on January 25, 2014 [19 favorites]

I recognized your user name from your previous questions about your wife.

You need to get into therapy and figure out what you're doing with your life and your marriage before you cheat on your wife in an unforgivable way- frankly, you may have passed that point already if your wife has no idea how important this woman is to you.
posted by MadamM at 3:07 PM on January 25, 2014 [22 favorites]

First, let's talk about your marriage. You describe it as happy but mundane. You say that this relationship gives you something you aren't getting from your wife. I mean, fair enough. But you do realize that that is the nature of cheating (emotional or otherwise), right? And that if you hypothetically left your wife and married this woman, you two would also reach a place in your relationship that would become mundane at best, irritating at worst? (If you even got to that point - given how little you seem to actually respect her as a person, something tells me that you and she wouldn't make it six months if you were actually just dating). I'm not trying to be judgmental here - just pointing you to look at something you're not focused on.

So, you want to cut her out of your life now. That seems smart, and ethical, and honest. But if you know what you should do and what you want to do, why haven't you done it? I don't ask that to be flip - only to suggest that you genuinely look into your motivations to see what's at stake for you in this situation and how or why you might falter.

If you really want a plan of how to execute this, here's what I'd suggest:

Tell her you need to stop talking with her. Don't explain (that only opens the door to negotiations), just say it once, be firm, and back it up with actions. I get the impression that she already knows you're married - if so, she'll know exactly why you're cutting her off. It may be easier if you confide in someone or distract yourself with something else for the first week or so.

But if that doesn't take, you need a serious back-up plan. And I think that plan should be this: tell your wife. Granted, it's probably going to be painful for her. But in the long-term it could bring you closer together, give you accountability, and give you greater honesty within your marriage. This has been, essentially, what many people would call an emotional affair. If you want to continue your marriage, the typical post-affair advice is to double down and work harder on your marriage. It sounds like you, your wife and your son will all benefit from that.

You're self-aware enough to know exactly the right thing to do - I hope you're able to do so and that it goes well. Best of luck.
posted by leitmotif at 3:09 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

"I'm sorry," (insert further apologies and an explanation if she doesn't already know you're married, "But I like you too much, in an inappropriate way for a married man. I hate to lose your friendship, but we need some time apart so I can refocus on what's important to me."

So that's the first conversation.

The second conversation you need to have is with yourself, about your marriage, and what factors lead you to pursue a relationship (just because you didn't actually do the deed doesn't mean it hasn't been a relationship) outside that marriage. I'd posit that you're feeling pretty empty: you have Done The Right Things (married, kid, house) and yet you're still not happy. You're realizing the last 13 years haven't been fulfilling (being fulfilled will always make you happy; the reverse isn't true, so go for fulfilled I say), and that you're relatively young, but the next 13 look like the last 13.

Good luck.

what actions would best serve the 2 year-old son's interests?

I promise you, if a marriage is so far gone that divorce is on the table (which it doesn't seem to be, here, so...), staying together for the kid is never in the best interests of the kid. Far better to grow up in two houses than one cold and resentful one.

I'm not going to start linking to specific posts in your past, st starseed, but I see a pattern: you are unhappy with your marriage, and you feel like you've missed your youth.

It is really, really best to start getting these issues out in the open in both solo and couple counselling, if you want to get through them while minimizing the shrapnel. Please find a counselor. They help.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:12 PM on January 25, 2014 [16 favorites]

Actually I would like to pointedly disagree with the people who say you should confess your attraction/inappropriate attachment to this other woman in any way. While on the one hand, she COULD be horrified to find you're married, or horrified to find you're attracted, and make your job easy by cutting herself out...I don't actually think that's how it will play.

I think you will tell her, and then you will use her (probably fairly intrigued) reaction as an excuse to sleep with her. Because that's what you want to do.

So instead you're not going to say jack shit about being attracted to her. You are going to say that you need to focus on some work and parenting responsibilities, and so you're going strictly professional with all your work friendships for a while.

Then you are going to block her number, and find a marriage counselor, and tell the TRUTH to that marriage counselor, because your wife has been in the dark about a whole fucking lot, based on your question history, and she deserves better than that. She deserves honesty from the man she married.
posted by like_a_friend at 3:21 PM on January 25, 2014 [55 favorites]

It appears that your wife is your friend who you have a child with and your friend is your lover.

I will always vote for demonstrating to your children that it is better to be happy (your marriage is not happy, otherwise you would not be where you are now, it gives the appearance that is in that it ticks the right boxes) than to be miserable out of a misguided sense of commitment. You may wish to cut this friend out of your life, but I imagine there will be more who will come along in the future. Now, do you really want to do that to someone you care about?
posted by heyjude at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh boy. I'll withhold my judgement of you and just say this-

She sounds like she's fullllllll of drama.

I get a headache just thinking about where this is going for everyone involved.

Trust me, boring and unromantic is better than dramatic but crazy and life-destroying.

One thing you need to think about for sure- you want sex. Does she just want sex? Or does she want to use sex to get you to financially or emotionally or socially support her? Think about your son here. Could you ever see this woman being a mother to him?

Another thing you need to think about- maybe this has helped you realize your marriage is more flawed than you thought. That's fine. But is she actually going to help solve anything? Or will she just make everything ten times worse? I think you know. Whatever happens with your marriage, this other woman doesn't sound like a keeper either.
posted by quincunx at 3:35 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you *should* tell this woman you need to dial your relationship back. You don't have to say anything about being attracted or not attracted to her. The reason I say you have to tell her is that if you just cut her off all of a sudden she's going to keep facebook messaging you and you're not going to be able to resist replying to her. So, questions of ethics aside, I think it will be easier to end the relationship if you have her cooperation, and it's going to suck, and she's probably going to feel hurt.

Then you probably also need to find something else to do at work so that you're not always checking your messages. Like, I don't know, take up Candy Crush Saga or something. You need some kind of distraction that's at least as powerful as communicating with this woman.

You should also work on your marriage, but I don't know anything about that stuff so I'll leave that to others. Maybe you shouldn't be married to your wife. But that's a separate issue from whether you should be spending so much time interacting with this woman.
posted by mskyle at 3:36 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would definitely not tell this woman that you have innappropriate feelings for her. This relationship sounds borderline obsessive to me and, god forbid, if she does turn out to be... Well, you don't want her to have anything against you. Just tell her you can't see her anymore. Otherwise, I think you've gotten excellent advice here. As a wife, I hope in the future you work harder to make your marriage work.
posted by ancient star at 3:43 PM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

FWIW, I think the suggestions to just tell her you need to stop communicating, provide no explanations, and/or block her number are awful. This woman has to go, yes, and that is the primary objective, but you want to do it once and do it kindly. For good or for ill, you have a relationship with this woman. She's done nothing wrong and to treat her as merely disposable is cruel.

Working off Miko's breakup advice, I'd go with a lunch and say:

1. There's nothing wrong with you; you're great and we've had a fun friendship
2. But this relationship has become inappropriate and problematic to my focus on my marriage
3. I really really really really struggled with this decision because I like you and don't want to hurt you, but I need to cut off our communication.
4. I didn't make make this decision lightly but I feel sure it's the right thing.
5. Do you have any questions for me?

And then you can block her number and uninstall snapchat if she doesn't respect the boundary you've drawn.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:52 PM on January 25, 2014 [18 favorites]

Just adding one small thought that I haven't seen anyone else suggest yet.

In addition to stopping the constant texting/messaging with this other woman (other posters have already given great suggestions for that), you will probably then have a void...because you now view the constant messages/IMS/texts as rewards.

So what will you do with that down time? I would start texting your wife, a few times a day. Try different things.A joke.Plans. Whatever. Request that she send a picture of your son during the day.

Reach out to other friends/buddies, too. But fill up your time/world/brain with those other people.

I'm not a counseling/therapy type person, but this is one of the times that I'm on ask metas side on this.I would get counseling for both you and your wife.

If you haven't checked out Gottman, see if you can find some of his books. HE bases his ideas of relationships on research.
posted by Wolfster at 3:53 PM on January 25, 2014 [23 favorites]

Even if you have never broken up with someone before, there is no reason that this has to be different from any of the other ways in which people break up with friends, family, or partners every day and of which there is a ton of advice on the Green. You already know what to do, you already know how to do it. The problem is that you just don't want to.

Forgive my bluntness, OP, but I don't really believe you are serious about ending this "relationship." The way that you wrote this question frames this friendship and all that it entails as mostly her pursuing you, and you giving in... and since you point out that you don't really want to end it and have never dumped anyone before, I have the impression that even if you told her you needed to end the friendship (for whatever reason), if she kept contacting you, you wouldn't drop it either.

You need to find a way to fill that gap in your life with something that is less destructive to yourself and people you care about, or else you will never have enough motivation to stop doing this.
posted by sm1tten at 3:55 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think you have a happy marriage.

This doesn't necessarily mean you don't care for your wife; it doesn't even necessarily mean you don't love her in some way. But I find it enormously revealing that when you insist you have a happy marriage, the things that you bring up as proof have nothing to do with the actual state of your marriage. You mention your son, and your friends, and a 13-year history, and the fact that you have the ability to appear to have a happy marriage. But when it comes to the marriage itself, you can really only note that you are not attracted to your wife and you do not find the relationship fulfilling. And being attracted to your spouse and finding the relationship fulfilling are, in my book, necessary preconditions for a happy marriage.

You need to stop dancing around the real issues. By all means, call things off with this other woman; tell her the truth and tell her that you wish her well, but you will be cutting off all contact with her, and that you need her to respect your decision. And then start facing facts. You need to accept the reality of your marriage, and then start making decisions on how to move forward from there. But as long as you keep fooling yourself, all you do is cause damage to yourself and those around you.
posted by scody at 4:04 PM on January 25, 2014 [13 favorites]

See a therapist, for real. You say you're happy, but have you looked at your own question history? Half your questions are about how miserable you are.
posted by Ndwright at 4:07 PM on January 25, 2014 [13 favorites]

Right before you met this woman you asked a question about your marriage that portrayed it as very unappealing to you (wife was overweight, not paying you enough attention, was boring and didn't want to go on adventures, you were burdened by responsibility etc) in which you buried the lede there that your wife had recently given birth. You were give a lot of advice in that thread. Right after that thread you knowingly began an emotional affair/flirtation, apparently not taking any of the advice of the hive mind. Now you are back, once again recognising the adult responsible thing you should do but trying to justify why you are the exemption. I feel very sorry for your wife that you have been deliberately chipping away at her security all this time (dollars to donuts she knows you are cheating and is heartsick) and blaming her for being insecure. Frankly, you need a mentor or other adult in your life (a therapist) who will bluntly tell you to either act like an adult or definitely leave so your wife can find a healthy relationship. Right now you can't have a healthy relationship with either your wife or your mistress.

My advice would be to contact your mistress once more and simply say "please don't contact me again" and block her. She knew what she was doing, that you are married, and does not deserve any more than that. Clearly you would not be able to maintain any type of healthy boundaries with her. You work in different companies and have no need to be in contact any further. The energy you have been pouring into the other woman can now be focused on your family. With a lot of support I think you can grow up and stop hurting the people you love.
posted by saucysault at 4:12 PM on January 25, 2014 [46 favorites]

Lord almighty. You're determined to drive your life straight off a cliff, aren't you?

Your past posts, the hivemind's responses, and your reaction to them are telling. You've asked us what to do about your marriage repeatedly. You've been told, repeatedly, and you clearly have chosen to do pretty much the opposite. So as a serious question back at you: why are you still asking what you should do when (judging by the past) you have no intention of doing that thing?

The answer is (just like it has been for the past two years) personal and couples therapy, and to start the process of growing up and taking responsibility for the choices you've made. First, you cut this woman off because it's the right thing to do. Then you get in therapy because it's what you really need. Then you can start sorting out the rest of your life.
posted by zug at 4:26 PM on January 25, 2014 [21 favorites]

Divorce your wife, already. Seriously! That's really the core issue at stake here. As soon as you start subconsciously seeking other people out to sleep with or develop emotional bonds with, you've begun cheating on your spouse. Come clean to your wife about not wanting to be with her any more, divorce her and do right by your child or children, and let her move on without you. You should get a therapist in the meantime and wait a good long while before you seek out a new partner. Fix your primary situation first before you start addressing the secondary stuff.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:39 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone saying you would benefit from a therapist.

I really don't go with 'therapy' as a response that often, but I think you're so muddled in terms of what you want. You seem unhappy, just flat-out unhappy, and feeling caught and lonely and unhappy makes people reach out to emotional connections that are inappropriate.

But if you want to back off of that and develop more as a person, you need a personal trainer e.g. therapist to help you take a good look at what you want.

As far as this:

She is lazy, overly narcisstic, lacks ambition, still lives with her parents (at age 30; I'm 33, since I bring up ages), and is terrible at relationships with men she wants to date.

Don't tear her down in order to walk away from her. It's not fair, and it's emotionally dishonest. You do like her.

As far as what you say to her, you say 'Person, I have to stop this. I'm so sorry. But I'm married, and as long as you and I are friends I can't work on my marriage or myself because it's so much fun to talk to you. We need to say Goodbye to each other. I wish you well, and my friendship with you has brought me a lot of happiness.'

And then you drop all social network connections, block her from chat, set her emails to auto-delete, and find a therapist.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

"My wife is not attractive". That's cold. Holy crap, that's cold. If I found out that my partner flatly referred to me as "not attractive", I'd....well, it would be the start of the end of it all.

Honestly, if I were you, I'd finish driving my life off a cliff, in the hopes that I could patch it back together once I'd hit bottom. Split from your wife - a woman you are preventing from finding someone who actually loves her*- and have sex with this woman. Pay your child support. Perhaps once you've gotten out of this godawful situation you'll be able to be more of a stand-up guy.

Also, think about what you're teaching your kid about marriages - that they're something grudging, where the man thinks the woman is ugly and boring and he checks out emotionally. That's what you'll teach your kid to expect and recreate.

*I have a friend who's fat. Who has been varying degrees of sorta-fat and quite fat. She's never had trouble attracting men, and although she has a striking face it's not like she's the plus-size version of Scarlett Johanssen either.
posted by Frowner at 4:43 PM on January 25, 2014 [53 favorites]

I would say, if you feel like you can trust this woman to not go crazy stalker on you, then be honest and tell her this friendship has crossed a line. Don't say you are madly attracted to her or anything, but just make it clear that you are a married man and it's getting inappropriate. Then cut off contact, for real. If you feel like you can't trust her, then make some bogus excuse and cut off contact. Either way, you need to step on the breaks, hard.

I used to be a cheater. (This is going back a long ways, I've grown up since then and would never cheat on anybody now.) Cheating can happen in little stages like this, you keep taking these little steps and telling yourself it's just a fun little diversion and you're strong enough to not let it escalate... and then the next thing you know, whoops, you're in bed together. And it's fun! So fun! Until you come to your senses, and realize you have betrayed the hell out of somebody who loves you. Seriously, you may as well just punch your poor wife in the gut; that would probably hurt her LESS than sleeping with this woman would.

You are on the path to cheating, for real. You have got to get off that path immediately, or it will happen. And as other posters have said, you need to take a look at your life and figure out why you were so tempted.

It may be that you got married and had a kid too young. Some people will call you immature and awful for feeling the way you do, but I can relate. I will ALWAYS be too young for kids, and if I got saddled with one I'd do a lousy job. But you have a kid now, and a wife who has no idea how close you are to betraying her, and you have got to stop this flirty bullshit right now and be a more mature person than you want to be. Following your bliss here could destroy some lives. You can be a dad, and still go out and party (sometimes) on Saturday nights. Find a way to make that happen. Get a sitter, before you shag somebody who is not your wife!

Finally, I don't know how complicated it would be to alter the details of your original post, but I'd strongly suggest it. You leave enough clues here that somebody who knows you well (like your wife) could probably figure out it was you. It's probably a small risk that anybody you know would ever read this, but people who care about your wife will not look favorably on your talk of dirty-dancing with some lady while your wife was home raising your kid.

God bless you, son. Do the right thing.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:44 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Stop trying to make other people responsible for your choices. It is not your wife's fault that you are in an emotional affair. It is not your marriage's fault. It is your fault. Your decisions brought you here. Do you want your wife to divorce you so that you don't have to be the bad guy? You're already the bad guy. Stop being cruel and take responsibility for your actions. If you want to party hearty and feel good and have adventures, go do it. But do it honest and above board. It is not fair to use this woman as a distraction from your marriage and it is not fair to treat your wife as a safety net. You made the baby together, and happy party times are over for her right now too.

You want to break it off? Say "hey x, you're great fun but I need to focus on my personal life and I won't be able to contact you anymore. Hope you understand. All the best, x". Yes, she will be hurt. Stop this now before you hurt anyone else.
posted by windykites at 5:00 PM on January 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

It sounds like you still haven't tried therapy with your wife? It's not on the list of things you've worked on?

In that case, quite bluntly, I think the best thing to do for your child is:
1) Immediately start therapy and figure out if you can salvage your marriage, or
2) Immediately start discussing divorce so that your child is young enough to not remember the messy details of it. Don't fuck around until they're old enough to remember a two-parent household and then upend everything, when you knew early enough to prevent that.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:01 PM on January 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

You know, for what it's worth, reading your question over I see a lot of self-awareness and willingness to be honest about your feelings. Working with a therapist will help you sort out the complexities better and get at the deeper underpinnings and help you make decisions.

Being in your late twenties/early thirties is a tough time. Many people feel wistful about being younger and aren't really old enough to be really successful. They don't have gravitas. They can't anchor a meeting. They're unproven. Being a mother of a two year old is a hell ride for a lot of people. My husband is true 50/50 parent, and when our daughter was two, it was a hell ride for us.

She isn't two anymore. She's going to be six. We've both been promoted significantly in the last few years, hitting some financial goals that seemed impossible and ridiculous five years ago. We are more settled. Though parenting and working is still hard, it's not exhaustion and the long dark night of the soul of early childhood.

Maybe none of this is true for you and where you are in life right now, but I'd encourage you to try to take an aerial view of this particular time in your life. Maybe there are some other truths. Things change.

Get a therapist. Try to take the long view.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:03 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

You already know what you need to do, you just don't want to do it. But you have to. It will be awkward, and it will hurt, and it will be extremely tempting to either half-ass the breakup or to contact her again in a moment of weakness. You can't avoid the hurt, and you will have to resist the temptation. The way out now is hard. It's easier in the long run than cheating and setting a time bomb in your marriage, but it's still hard. No way around that.

I have a lot of sympathy for you, even if I don't agree with the things you've done. You've been in an unhappy situation for years, and it doesn't seem like you've developed the skill set to tackle your problems in a healthy way. That's super common; I don't mean to single you out as being immature. And sometimes people don't learn to develop good coping mechanisms until they've run things into the ground with their bad ones. When you're single, the only person you're fucking up is yourself. But you have a wife and young child, and your choices affect them too.

Cut off contact with this woman, ASAP. Then make an appointment with a therapist, ASAP. You need to start holding yourself accountable for your life, and working with a professional on that will be much more effective than trying to sort things out yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:21 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I’m going to post two answers. One is a general answer to your question; one is a specific response to one sentence you wrote.

I went back and read your previous AskMe about your marriage. Are you having some success in working on it? Do you have a plan you're actively working on? If so, then here’s a draft script you might try.
"I’ve enjoyed our friendship over the last year so much. I can’t tell you haw much I enjoy talking to you and hanging out, and all the fun we’ve had together. But the truth is, I’ve been having trouble in my marriage, I’m working really hard to make things better between my wife and me, and I’m afraid that things between you and me might develop into something I can’t handle because of how much I like you and all the stress going on in my personal life. So, I think we have to keep our relationship strictly professional in the future. I hope it goes without saying that absolutely none of this is your fault; you haven’t done anything wrong, and you deserve to be in friendships without all this baggage."
And then you hang out with other people and suffer through the mourning process of not having this friend in your everyday life, which is horrible and unfair, but I personally don’t see a middle way if your goal is to reestablish a happy marriage with your wife.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:41 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Reading your past questions and remarks about your wife, I think this emotional affair you've been having is a symptom, not the illness. The illness is your marriage. Do you even want to be married? It sounds to me like you don't.

If you are hoping this pushes your wife into asking you for a divorce when she probably doesn't want to, that's pretty shameful and weaselly.

If you don't want to be married, don't be married anymore. Or stay married and work on your relationship. But don't sit in this halfway spot where you toy with the emotions of two women and provide a terrible example of a functional relationship for your child.
posted by sutel at 5:55 PM on January 25, 2014 [18 favorites]

It really sounds like you aren't doing any one any good right now. Your wife has been 'paranoid' about you having an affair for a while... And you friggin were!

You tell the world that the woman you're cheating with isn't someone you actually respect- you even go so far as to tell us how man sexual partners she's had (wtf do you want us to get from that? Are we supposed to think less of her or...) and you're pretty open about how you just want to bone her, but I am getting zero feelings of empathy from you toward anyone.

What a terrible thing to do to these women- to engage with them and use them when you don't really like or respect them. Do your wife a favor and stop gas lighting her. I can't imagine you are telling her the truth, and clearly she knows something is up. If there is any indication from your other questions, you are actively making her more and more crazy by living this bullshit and telling her she's just paranoid and insecure.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:19 PM on January 25, 2014 [58 favorites]

What you claim you get from this woman is the Fun Saturday Night Experience. It bears pointing out that regretfully giving up the Fun Saturday Night Experience is part and parcel of becoming a responsible parent -- not to say parents can't have any fun, but look, being a parent is mundane and boring a lot of the time, and really not conducive to wild nights out dancing on the tables. That's not your wife's fault, and it's pretty unfair to frame it as a failing of her and your relationship.
posted by Andrhia at 6:25 PM on January 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

Gosh. From what you've written here and in other questions, I get a really not good feeling about your situation. I'm a stranger on the internet, and I'm judging you from the things that you've chosen to write, so I'm coming at it from your point of view, aren't I? And wow, you do not look good right now. You look kind of terrible. Really. You need to rethink everything, because what you're doing right now doesn't work for anyone - not for you, not for your wife, not for your child.

I've been the other woman once, in a situation where I didn't know that the guy was married. I felt terrible; I never wanted that. I still feel just sick when I think about it. I thought we had a work flirtation and nothing more. The day I found out that he was married was the day that I completely shut down any non-professional exchanges. So, if that's where you are with your work-wife - if she doesn't know that you're actually married - mention it. Give her the chance to back off gracefully, because she doesn't deserve to feel terrible just because you make awful choices. And frankly, no matter what, she doesn't deserve the insults and scorn you've thrown at her here.

It very much sounds like you want an excuse to divorce your wife, and I hope that this thread gives you those excuses, because your wife deserves better than you. Judging from your past threads - well, shucks, she'd be better off without a man-child who doesn't even start to understand what having a baby can do to a person or a relationship. You don't seem to get what real life is about, and I think you need some time on your own to grow up.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:44 PM on January 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

You sound narcissistic, selfish and in love with suffering because it absolves you of having to make really difficult choices, live with the consequences of those choices, and move on without making excuses for yourself. If I had to slap a diagnosis on you as an armchair psychologist internet stranger I'd say your were pretty immature and maybe even a case of arrested development. And I'm not buying the false humility in your narrative; I think you're faking that, just like you're faking most things. You come across as pretty empty to me, bewildered as to why, and blind to the obvious reason that you've got nothing real invested in your life. And, without anything at stake, you need drama to make you feel anything at all. And that's particularly sad because you have a child.

To that - the first year and change that you have a kid is a litmus test of the strength of your marriage and your ability to accept responsibility. Many, many marriages fail during this period because babies are awesome - in the truest sense of the word - but utterly brutal, unforgiving task masters and the sleep deprivation alone will make you wish you'd focused instead on being a really great uncle or aunt.

Staying together for the sake of your son is a terrible idea in your case because, in my opinion, you don't come across as having the self-awareness - real self-awareness, which isn't just a well-written or acted fake out but honest to goodness depth and complexity - to truly put your son first. And that is the deal with kids. They come first. All these shenanigans with this obvious head-case girl are time spent not putting him first. All this hostility towards your wife, this projection of your own self-loathing onto her, is not putting him first. His mother is the single most important person in his life. She deserves not to be hated and put-down by his father. No person deserves that.

So, how? Well, you do as advised many, many, many times here and get your head to a head shrinker. You find the courage in yourself - somewhere, it's probably underneath all that self-loathing - to say to your therapist that you settled in your marriage, you don't love your wife, and you literally cannot leave. You say you need help to actually make the break you have to make; like, you might need to do it in a therapist's office so that your wife's obvious pain won't overwhelm you and make you chicken out and promise things will be different (again) and then go through this whole crisis again in a few months. You leave. You pursue this woman. You have sex. You both get bored and disgusted with each other in a few months. Then - THEN - you put yourself in real therapy. The kind of therapy where you don't ask questions like, "How do I leave my wife?" but "What is responsibility? What is character? What is sacrifice? What gives my life meaning? Who the fuck AM I?"

I really do hope you can gut up and get yourself onto a professional's couch Monday morning. My fear, though, is you'll probably just cheat on your wife with this woman some more until it ends badly. I fear that will just foment a bunch more ill will between yourself and your wife because she's probably not as dumb as you think she is; she just feels trapped, like you, in a bad marriage with a kid. And I also fear your kid will grow up thinking that's normal.

If you really accept your responsibility as the parent to this little boy, you will try to change yourself as much for his future as for your own. Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:47 PM on January 25, 2014 [26 favorites]

It's important to note that, with the exception of the three times we have gone out together, we never have contact on weekends or evenings. Our relationship started as a 9-5 work relationship, and it has mostly stayed that way.

Why is it 'important to note' this? Because it makes you look like not such a bad guy, since you've kept her separate from your home life? Bullshit. Talking about sexual positions and sending each other selfies is cheating on your wife, whether you do it on the clock or not.

If I send her photos, I have to delete them from my phone because I'm paranoid my wife will go through my phone and ask why I took them.

See? Cheating. Otherwise you wouldn't need to do this.

I couldn't even imagine introducing her to my friends; she is not the kind of person I have ever really associated with, much less been friends with, in my life.

What, despite her being a 'light in your life', with 'an amazing sense of humour', who is 'a ball to drink and dance with' and is physically beautiful? Strange.

I mean - brutal honesty here - I think, deep down, I just want to have sex with her.

No kidding. (And by the way, 'burying the lede' halfway down is coy and irritating. Why not just admit in the first paragraph that you're married and having an emotional affair with a colleague?)

My wife is not physically attractive

No, you are not physically attracted to your wife. There is no such thing as an objectively physically unattractive person.

our sex life has never been good

So your sex life was bad for over a decade, yet you still married her and had a child. You made your choice. You are not some victim of fate, here.

I feel like I'm just scratching the surface...

Here's the thing: I know it feels like this to you, and I'm honestly not trying to be bitchy, but you are over-dramatizing this situation. Everyone's own drama seems unique to them, but cheating on your long-term partner with someone new and exciting is an age-old story, in which only the details change.

You're being selfish, and you know it. You're putting yourself before either of these women, but worst of all, before your own child. For his sake, you need to make a clean break with the colleague (kindly and truthfully), 'fess up to your wife, and go to therapy.
posted by Salamander at 6:48 PM on January 25, 2014 [29 favorites]

Relationships go through difficult times, and I'm not convinced your marriage is doomed.

My advice is as follows: (1) Cut ties with The Other Woman, being brief and firm. "I'd like you not to contact me anymore." It shall stand that you did the right thing in the end if you preserve your dignity-- and attempt to let her preserve her own-- by being both gentle and quick. The two of you will still be emotionally entangled in a kind of psychic aftermath, and she'll fill in all the unspoken spaces as time goes by. I mean, of course she knows you're married. Of course she knows you're conflicted. You've exchanged like 50 thousand text messages. She knows how you feel about her (it's complicated) and she (and you) know what's right.

After that: (2) Take a solo vacation. I don't know your situation, but if any of this makes sense you to I urge you to go for it: See about taking some time off from work, even just a week or 10 days. Get cheap tickets to some awesome city overseas in which you don't speak the language. Stay at a hostel, be a total tourist, allow your senses to be overwhelmed. Take chances, get lost, visit museums. Let your bones ache from so much walking in poorly-thought-out footwear. (Yes, I'm drawing from personal experience, how can you tell?)

The idea isn't that it's a luxury get-away, or a spa vacation. The idea is that you'll almost go into survival mode and your worries and philosophizing and heartsickness will have to fall to the back burner... You'll be in your head all right (no one speaks English. Paris is good for this. They just pretend to not speak English but could come through in an emergency. I did it for less than $1K USD last year, this thing I describe: in Paris), but your troubles will feel significantly more sorted out as you take that flight back home. It's a blast. It's a challenge. You might feel like the villain in your story, and taking a vacation from your family might sound further-awful, but I say go for it.

Step (3) has to do with cutting out all the other distractions from your life. Finally. You'll be ready to do so at some point. Any side-crushes. Fantasies about what could be/could have been. Any finger-pointing. All of that shit interferes with clear vision-- The clear vision which I romanticize is an attractive woman you've shared an important part of your life with. (Wife!) Relationships sometimes feel hopeless. Like, really: This shit is dead. And, then... You realize it was just a rough spot and you're a stronger, deeper pair for it.

posted by little_dog_laughing at 7:01 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just spent 40 minutes reading your past questions and answers. I remember some of them, probably because we are in the same area. And so I am imagining you in one of the McMansion-filled 'burbs, surrounded by vapid people (like your friend, I think you're implying?) but feeling yourself apart from and above them because you're more smart and creative, and constantly trying to find that new breakthrough endeavor that will change everything, but then not seeing it through... I don't know how accurate that is, but it's a common enough story. But the thing is, left to itself, there's not a great end to that story. Some people here have told you to get a divorce and go find yourself/grow up. But there are a lot of men (and women too, of course) out there who did just that, and only grew old. I'm around your age, and I have had several friends whose absentee parents have just recently tried to be a part of their lives again after years of wandering and pursuing their own dreams. If you leave your son when he's a toddler, move away and wander from one job/apartment/relationship for the next 30 years, all in the name of finding your precious inscrutable self, and then suddenly give him a call when you realize you're getting old and might need him, how will he react? Don't be that guy. Get therapy, yes, but stick it out. Outward changes like leaving a relationship or moving don't change what's missing inside, and instead raise more difficult feelings.

And, by the way, because you are in this area, there are a huge number of opportunities to get involved with things bigger than yourself and to help where it is truly needed--other people, youth, animals, the environment, art, and other awesome endeavors... it might help you to find some perspective and gratitude. In addition to therapy. Please try therapy.
posted by lily_bart at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've never broken up with anyone, much less anyone I really don't want to break up with.

I just re-read your question and saw this. This is not why you're having such a hard time calling things off with the woman you're having an affair with (because that's what this is: an emotional affair). This is why you are refusing to confront the fact of your own unhappiness and the unhappiness of your marriage. Because if you do fully face the fact of your unhappiness, then you know on some level that you have to take responsibility for confronting all the possible options that exist as a result. And one of those options is that you decide to end your marriage.

I suspect you are doing everything you can to avoid confronting this because you don't want to have to do something that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and which will be the catalyst for something as painful as a divorce. Morever, I suspect that one of the major reasons you don't want to do this is less about the pain it will cause to your wife (though I think you're aware of that, and probably feel bad about that), and more about the fear of what this will mean for your sense of self and how others see you.

In other words: all those friends who think you have the perfect marriage? You don't want them to think you're a bad guy. You don't want to think of yourself as the bad guy.

And yet, it seems pretty clear that at this point, you don't really want to be married. So how do you reconcile not wanting to be the bad guy with not wanting to be married? You transfer the responsibility for all of this on to another person's shoulders -- in this case, two other persons. Scenario 1, Having an Emotional Affair With Someone Else, functions essentially as a speeding train: you "somehow" find yourself on board and can't stop it, in which case the other woman is the bad guy (that narcissist who can't take compliments and slept with 8 other men!) who pulled you into all this. Scenario 2, Making Your (Fat! Unattractive! Unsexy!) Wife So Unhappy That She Initiates a Divorce, functions essentially as what a friend of mine has dubbed the Reichstag Fire method of breaking up: you light the match to burn everything down, but someone else gets the blame.

Either way, these scenarios are the mark of a coward. I know, because I cowardly looked for a runaway train of my own to end my marriage when I was in my early 30s while my own husband was pulling a Reichstag Fire on me, and several years later (well after I was divorced, and had moved on to my present relationship) a now former friend of mine cowardly tried to cast me as the runaway train in his life to get him out of his own unhappy marriage that he didn't have the guts to face.

In every case, we all had to find the courage to face what felt unbearable, and to take responsibility not only for having made the choices that led up to that point, but also for the lives we genuinely wanted to lead. For me, it meant getting divorced and figuring out what I really wanted in my life (and not just romantically), which eventually helped set the groundwork for a happy, healthy, long-term relationship.

In order to be happy and to be capable of building a happy relationship (whether with your wife or with someone else down the road), you have to grow up and take responsibility for yourself and your life and your marriage and your future in a way that you have managed to avoid for 33 years.

You have agency. Stop kidding yourself that you don't. It's time to own it, no matter how frightening or hard that is. You have to accept the fact that you are a person who may have to break up with someone (well, you certainly have to break up with the other woman; you may also have to break up with your wife). Of course it's hard to even conceive of this. But there are times when the hardest thing to do and the right thing to do are one and the same. This is one of the things that we learn on the path to becoming an adult.
posted by scody at 8:23 PM on January 25, 2014 [90 favorites]

Pretty much everyone thinks they are a good person. Sometimes people make mistakes, and do bad things, but that doesn't mean they're a bad person, right?

Wrong. There are no good or bad people. There are only the good or bad things that you choose to do.

Do the right thing.
posted by bq at 9:14 PM on January 25, 2014

Your question was primarily about how to handle the breakup. At the risk of stating the obvious, let me just prepare you for how much it will suck. It will suck a lot. If you've never broken up with someone before, you have no clue, plus I suspect there's something even more addicting to this kind of relationship, one that is fun and exciting with no responsibility, one that intersperses these bursts of humor and enjoyment throughout the entire day. So just prepare for a lot of pain, depression (as if the one thing that made life worth living was just taken from you), guilt (as if you are killing something small and precious), and attempts to justify undoing the decision ("we can just be friends, that's all we ever were anyway").

You will have to really set your mind to it and refuse to turn back if you are to succeed. But it will be worth it. It sounds like you know you are not doing the right thing. You'll feel a lot better if you can be on a path that you feel is moral, even if that path has its own pain.

My comment in this thread might also relate to your situation.
posted by salvia at 9:17 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

First, break up with this other woman. Tell her you are a cad and need to act more professional. Block her email, phone, face book and what ever you can.

Then, learn to love your wife again. Tell her often things you like about her. Email and text her. Complement the food she fixes, the clothes she wears, the way she fixes her hair. Initiate sex. Often. Bring her flowers, spend time finding her small gifts she will like. Date her. Kiss her often. Learn to love her again by seeing her beauty.

Right now you don't want to love her or see her beauty. You need to teach yourself to do this, and you need to do it constantly. She knows she is overweight, but that doesn't matter. If you want to save your marriage, you need to stop oggling this other woman and focus on the important woman in you life. If, if you focus on all of her positive traits, do things to make her feel special, and have more sex with your wife, those feelings you once had will come back.
posted by 101cats at 10:06 PM on January 25, 2014

Listen to Scody.

Breaking up a relationship sucks. Especially a marriage. Especially one that involves a child. That's not fun for anyone. But you're not being good to your wife in this situation, and I'd say, you're not being good to yourself (only having gone back to read your previous questions afterward, I did notice how long it took you to mention "oh, yeah, I'm married." That's not a judgement. I think it just shows you how present that is in your life).

I don't know if you need to make your marriage work or not. That's your choice. But don't act like you're powerless in this situation either. Both these women (your coworker and your wife) are people. They have their own lives and can make their own choices. They deserve to feel how they feel.

Whether or not you end up in some situation with your coworker, this is your wake-up call. You either decide you want to make your marriage work (my gut is that you don't, but well, I don't know), or you decide you want to leave -- not for her, just for something else (and that's not uncommon). But these are your choices.

(Best case scenario to me: You decide to divorce and you cut out this other woman. But that doesn't need to be all at once. It can be a process. But there's a preferred order for that.)
posted by darksong at 10:26 PM on January 25, 2014

I don't know, dude. I mean, stop talking to the other woman, obviously. You don't work with her anymore, you've seen each other in person, by my count, fewer than five times--you don't even need to say anything if you don't want to, though I think that'd be an unkind way to do it. I can kind of cut you some slack on that part, due to your lack of experience breaking up with people, but this isn't the towering obstacle or epic tragedy that you're making it sound like.

In the end, the problem isn't that this woman was so sexy that you couldn't resist her, despite having a laundry list of things that you apparently hate about her (several of which are sort of hilarious: she tells white lies? She doesn't like sports? What are you, twelve?), and the problem isn't that your wife is boring or fat.

You know that saying, "The one constant in all of your failed relationships is you"? You say about two nice things about your supposed friend who you're infatuated with, and then you spend a paragraph dissecting her flaws. You don't have a single kind word about your wife, as a person. Oh, but the way your friend makes you feel when you're with her is amazing! And your marriage is so good! I mean, it's impossible to totally decouple what you think about a person and what you think about your relationship with them, but there's something gross about how much you clearly love what these relationships give you while not seeming to really care about the people who are in them with you. (A cynical part of me wonders if this AskMe is also more about constructing some sort of life-narrative or getting some kind of emotional feedback than it is about getting a question answered, considering that this time you acknowledged that you were burying the lede, deep, and did it anyway so that you could write an appropriately dramatic love story. I suppose it doesn't really matter, since it's pretty unlikely that someone's going to wind up with a broken heart from answering a stranger's question on the internet.)

There's also a weird passivity in your version of events that doesn't really square with the level of involvement that you've gotten to. You "caved" and downloaded Snapchat to better exchange photos with this woman? Given that the question is not titled "Using the Life Scissors (When There's Blackmail Tied On)", I'm guessing that there wasn't a ton of coercion involved. You say that you've done all you can to work on your marriage (When, exactly? In the last year, while you were essentially having an affair? Or was it the year before that, when you were harassing your newly post-partum wife to marathon-train with you?)

I think everyone can get at least some of the life they want, but I don't think very many people ever get everything they hoped for. Maybe it's true that your marriage will always be unsatisfying. Maybe it's true to the point that you're better off breaking up. Maybe things will change and you'll reach a point where you know the life you have is the one that makes you happiest, but you'll still always have a little bit of lingering regret about other experiences that you missed. Growing up's a bitch. But I don't get the sense that you're really present enough, emotionally, to make an informed decision about that.
posted by kagredon at 12:07 AM on January 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

Mod note: A few comments deleted. Please note that all the usual Ask Me guidelines apply to this thread: Avoid side conversations with other commenters; answer the question or help to answer the question; do not drop in just to scold the OP.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:02 AM on January 26, 2014

I have sympathy for you, OP. You've made some (totally ordinary) mistakes, and now you've got some work you need to do.

Yes, break up with her. Say something like "We've been really good friends, and I've really enjoyed it. But I need to stop. I've been realizing that our friendship has been pulling my focus away from my marriage and my son, and that's where I need to be centred. I think you're great, and I wish you all the best. Thanks for everything." Be clear, be kind, be honest, and stay a little on the formal side. And be careful, because when you do it your emotions will be high and you risk actually escalating into a physical affair. Don't delude yourself that having sex would be no worse than the flirting -- it would be much worse.

Standing back a bit -- IME and in my reading, most/many people who have affairs seem to do it because they're having trouble either ending or fixing a relationship that isn't working. Basically they're stuck, and the affair is an attempt to dislodge themselves. And it's a way that allows them to hold onto some thin shred of purported innocence -- like, rather than taking responsibility for making the decision to end the relationship, they get to present as someone to whom something happened. This fits with your language -- "things escalated," she initiated, she requested, you "caved," etc. It's a fiction though, obviously: you're a player character not NPC. So you might want to start aiming to be more self-aware and deliberate, and think about how you can start addressing stuff directly, rather than letting it build up and explode in ways you don't want. You really do need to get your relationship resolved: you need to either fix it, or leave it.

I'm sure you know that much of what you're experiencing is absolutely normal. People get bored, they get tempted. All that matters is how you handle it. Good luck.
posted by Susan PG at 2:29 AM on January 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ahh I dunno. Very thought provoking thread. A lot of people (I think) want the comforts of a relationship and the excitement of being single. I get that. Though for a kick off when a kid comes along.. it can't be all about what you want (I sense it isn't all... to be fair.. there does seem to have been a degree of restraint?)

I don't know what the answer is to that particular dilemma. A while back I decided I wanted safe excitement. I think it might take me 20 years to figure out if that could be an actual thing and what it might look like.

Is there any way to fulfill the craving for excitement? Yep you're going to need another distraction to break with the mistress. I found looking up my ancestory a genuine rush in a slow work period.. or perhaps a job where you are busier?! I'm sure people would be queuing up to take yours!

That's just a bit of practical stuff. It's up to you how ready and willing you are to start the soul searching.
posted by tanktop at 3:34 AM on January 26, 2014

nthing involving your wife in said excitement could be nice, but satisfying that need alone not a waste of time either.. after all, it might make you less dependent on others to fill the void.
posted by tanktop at 3:37 AM on January 26, 2014

My prior comment got deleted presumably because the snark factor was too high. But scody's take is spot on and that is exactly what passive aggression is and does. My recommendation stands: look it up, start realizing the consequences and causes of your actions, take responsibility for the crap you're inflicting on your family.
posted by Sublimity at 5:38 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would encourage you to divorce your wife, pay the alimony/child support, make the best of visitation with your son, and try to start a full time relationship with your daytime penpal.

Seriously, it'd be best for everyone. Trying to delay the inevitable is doing no one any favors.
posted by 99percentfake at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think you should "break up" with this woman. My hunch is that if you tell her you need to focus on work and then simply stop responding and never look at photos again, it will take less than a week for her to refocus all her attention needs on whoever else is on her IM list. Pretty sure she knows you are not single.

What you are doing with this woman is just no good for either of you. Yes, you do need to cut her out of your life. Do it first thing Monday and don't look back.

You really need therapy. And your therapist is likely to suggest marriage counseling.

There are not magical easy answers. You have work to do.

You can be the man you want to be, but you have some hard work ahead of you.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:41 AM on January 26, 2014

Oh starseed, I am sorry. You've failed to build a life for yourself that is stimulating and challenging and exciting and fulfilling. This affair with this woman is grasping at straws. All your questions lead to this.

You're still young, you can still improve it (it's never too late, really). Figure it out. Do you need to get a divorce? Do you need to move your family to a different city? Do you need to get a sitter every single Saturday and take your wife out dancing once a week? Plan a vacation with your family to Thailand? Buy a motorcycle? Start making REAL intentional moves to build the life you want.
posted by amaire at 9:51 AM on January 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

You say that you haven't crossed any lines because you "haven't even as much as hugged her", yet you stated earlier in your thread that you guys went dancing and what you two did would have been categorized as "more than risque, to put it mildly".

These two statements don't make sense- they completely contradict each other. You've absolutely crossed the line.

Sorry to be direct here, but after looking at your other posts I'm going to be-
I don't think you're going to do anything about this situation. I think you're going to let it continue for as long as she initiates it. I don't think you've told her you're married. She'll keep contacting you and you know this, because to her you're just some fun person to flirt with and have an emotional bond. You describe her faults in a way that seems to me that it makes you feel better about what you're doing if you can paint her as the one with problems, and not you. That's she's the one with some serious issues, and you're the sensible one because you don't "go after her" or initiate, which I'm sure by now it IS reciprocal between the two of you. You delete pictures of yourself that you send to her, because you know it's wrong. In every way, you are having an emotional affair with her, which you absolutely want to lead to sex. Then you can just discard her emotions when she starts becoming attached to you (sex usually is a predicator for such emotional closeness). After all, she does have a history of 8 sexual partners (why on earth would you list her personal information on here like that? Oh, because that proves that she's the promiscuous one, not you, right?).

It seems you want to relive your youth. The majority of your past questions are about just that (your post about "exercises to make you look good naked", I'm guessing was not about looking good for your wife which you so coldly describe as plainly "unattractive", which is a pretty shitty thing to say, excuse my language). You can't relive your past/glory days (or what you've built them up to be). They're gone. You are different, and time has moved on. Even if you haven't moved on mentally (which it sounds like your mind is still stuck in "let's party like we don't have any responsibilities and and also act that way, i.e with this coworker friend). But you do. You do have responsibilities- a wife, a mortgage, and a CHILD, for heaven's sakes. You no longer get to party and act without thinking of the consequences of your actions like you did in your youth (well, you do, but you will have adult consequences for your behavior. Child support and a messy divorce/office scandal comes to mind).

Your youth doesn't exist anymore (in that sense that you can make huge messes and have someone else be responsible for cleaning it up). In this case it's no longer mom who cleans up after you, it will be your wife (figuratively speaking, the mess you will make of your life together, and the mess that you're currently making for her, with gaslighting her into her current state of paranoia). Sounds fun for her. Oh, on top of that, taking care of a child. In your current state though, it seems like there are two children she's trying to take care of.

You need to go into individual therapy and find out why you're stuck on your 20's, and can't give in to the fact that they're gone. The past doesn't exist, you can't recreate it. You can only make a new life for yourself in the present. You're hanging on to a ghost, which is causing you problems in your life you are living NOW. You'd rather chase an apparition of some tangled "possible" pleasure, than appreciate or build on the life you currently have (i.e. your wife and child).

I say this with a air of sensitivity, but I don't think you will go get help. That would mean you would actually have to work on the problem of letting go of the past and frivolous decision making, and you desperately don't want to. Denial is a strong defense mechanism. If you keep denying there's a problem, you never have to address it. Because there is no problem. There also is no growth whatsoever, either.

I hope you get counseling. If you truly want to be happy, you'll try to work on your core issues. Because it's about you, not these women. Even if you feel your youth was robbed by marrying so young, that's not your wife's fault. You made your decisions to marry and also to become a parent. You need to work on you, you won't find happiness anywhere else. Nor will anyone else find it who is involved with you, with where your head is currently at. You certainly won't find it chasing parts of your life that don't exist anymore.
posted by readygo at 2:29 PM on January 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

OK then. I was once in your situation - exactly - apart from the part that I am a woman. Not your wife, not the other woman, but like you, a person at 33 with a 2yo, a spouse I had lost my love for, and a special other person I couldn't ever imagine within the life I had (even down to the detail of him living with parents!). And I too had a sense that the friendship was very wrong even if there was no sex involved with that other person.
I find a lot of comments here judgmental - let he cast the first stone etc. I could never have imagined myself ending in that situation, and I was very judgmental of others before it happened, so there we all are.

What I did then was what a lot of people here are recommending: I told the other person what I felt was wrong; he agreed, we stopped seeing each other, and I focused on rebuilding my marriage. This didn't work at all, we divorced after terrible fights and a long, long season of bitterness ensued. I lost my savings and my business - partly because of the divorce itself, partly because of the stress and disorder it came with.
Some of the above commenters would conclude: see, you should never have engaged with that other person, you ruined a happy marriage, what about your child? My ex certainly would see it that way at the time and till recently. Many times in the years after I have seen it that way on and off.

But: there is never one time in the past 18 years I have missed my ex. Our child is a brilliant and successful young student at a good university. I have rebuilt my career in a completely new way, more suitable for me.
After many, many years of bitterness, my ex finally moved on and began rebuilding his life and career, and became what he had always dreamt of, and what he never could have been with me, because to be honest, I didn't understand his dreams - we did not have shared values. I only wish, for the sake of our child, that he had done this right away when we divorced.
Some years later, the special person invited me to his wedding, and since then we have remained friends, (obviously not at all intimate, neither emotionally nor sexually). I soon realized that the notion that he wouldn't have fit in with my other friends and relatives was ridiculous.

As I see it today, my marriage should never have been - it began at the exact point where our relationship should have ended. And this was not a coincidence: we married because we hoped marriage would provide the sense of togetherness and mutual confidence we did not feel. We'd been together for a long while, since we were very young, and we had different reasons for not wanting to accept that it was over. Instead we married, bought a house, had a baby. This is all completely banal, hundreds of thousands of young people do it. But it doesn't feel banal when you are in it. And neither does that emotional affair.

By the way. In my marriage, I was the one who felt one had to work on making it work, who believed in making an effort now for the long term happiness. I was not flippant about it. My ex-husband was the one who was always questioning our relationship, and suggesting we split up, with different reasons, but mainly out of his insecurity.

Don't misunderstand me, I have no regrets. I am happy with the life I have lived till now, and I am happy with where it is going. I am not pining for my friend, nor am I bitter about the marriage I was once in. But if I were to advise a younger me, I'd say: go with your heart. No overthinking what you feel, or what is wrong with your love interest. No therapy charades, no trying to "do the right thing". The right thing is wrong. We are not in the little house on the prairie, you don't need to stay on for the children or the farm or the neighbors. The mistake you made was to marry and have a child with someone you don't love, and that was a bad mistake, but you cannot right it by staying on and the child is still a miracle you must love and protect by not dragging them through ages of lies and pretenses.
I'd tell my younger me to stop feeling sorry for my husband, since he was and is adult and perfectly able to take care of himself, and that his continuous whining was a means of control, as was "younger me"s overbearing charity.
The younger me would protest and say current me has no values and is cynical, and that she really, really wanted to save the marriage. And I'd need to shrug and say everyone has to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons.

You are not a younger me, I don't know you, and though many things are alike, others are very different. But if I am asked to advise people I know personally, I try to ask why they do stuff. Would your wife be happy to know you stay on, even as you find her unattractive? Will it be good for your son to grow up with an unhappy father?

As for your stated question: just tell your friend about your thoughts, as you have done here. Say what you feel - not all those rationalizations. Say you need to be with your family and get grounded. She's not made of glass, she can take it.
posted by mumimor at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2014 [19 favorites]

It's kind of classic to want to have an affair after having a baby. Get re-engaged in your marriage. Take your wife out, be an involved Dad, support her attempts to be in shape and lose baby weight.

Your friend knows you're married. For whatever reasons of her own, she's emotionally invested in a married guy. Cut her loose; you're not doing her any favors by being her emotional affair. It's as simple as I need to spend more time focusing on my work and my family.

Use spare time and bandwidth at work to get great at your job, improve your skills and education, get promoted.

Get a hobby or 2 to share with your wife. You're a grownup, it's not all about sex and who's cute. Go camping, fishing, collect local art, do volunteer work. Shared experiences build a relationship.

If the sex isn't great, accept some responsibility, and make it better. Make sure your wife is able to get rest; nothing like exhaustion to kill interest in sex.

Being a grownup and building a great life is awesome. Being only 1/2 in your marriage and involved with somebody else leads to divorce, which is crazy expensive, in money and human terms.
posted by theora55 at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I keep thinking if I were in your wife's position and I knew the real you, I'd never forgive you and I could never really love the real you---not for the house, not to save face, not for the chance to raise a kid in a so called "unbroken" home, not for anything.

So I feel bad for your wife. I think the humane thing and mature thing would be to confess and let her initiate the divorce process. She deserves so much more, and she can get so much more out of life being free from the dissatisfaction you continue to invite into your marriage than staying trapped in an unhealthy marriage.

You owe her the opportunity to be free.
posted by discopolo at 4:25 PM on January 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

You claim you've never cheated on your wife, but emotional affairs are considered to be cheating by many people.

It sounds to me like you want your happy, cozy domestic situation to stay the same because it's fulfilling your desire to have the 'American Dream-' the house, the wife, the kid, the happy holidays, and all the trimmings- but, like so many people before you, you want exciting sex on the side. I think the answer in situations like these is to get real with yourself and put an end to the emotional affair before you expose your wife to an STD (I highly doubt it's only '8').

Hopefully she files for divorce and finds someone who truly appreciates her.
posted by OneHermit at 1:14 AM on February 1, 2014

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