Struggling with Alcoholism and Infidelity
August 28, 2016 10:53 AM   Subscribe

My marriage is falling apart and I am getting very mixed messages from my wife. As she has finally started the road to recovery she also met someone else in AA and they are having quite the affair. I am struggling with the hurt and anger but also with still loving her and wanting her back. Please help me with some new perspectives.

We have been married 9 years. We have 2 wonderful and energetic children. Her drinking started 6 years ago and was off and on for a while. About 3 years ago she started on a long downward slide. This May she was in detox. Finally in June she started AA and really started working it.

While she was struggling, so was I. I became distant and angry, said some things, yelled a lot. I couldn't handle the drinking. As a result, we grew apart even as she was struggling.

As she kept going to AA, she was getting better until I started getting a feeling something was wrong. My hard shell finally cracked: she was seeing someone else. It took 4 weeks until the truth came out. A man in AA that at first was becoming her sponsor became more than that. Now she is in love with him and I don't kmow what to do.

I started seeing a therapist and going to Al-anon. This is a long process for me as well but it's made harder because I don't know what she is doing. My marriage is important but her recovery is even more so, we have small kids that need their mother.

We have a sort of truce. I started sleeping on the couch and that seemed to get to want to reconnect and fix our broken marriage. We are supposed to start seeing another couples councilor (the first one didn't help I think because my wife did not admit to the affair during sessions). I don't have a lot of hope for this because she is still with him. I don't know how we can work together on us when she looks at him and sees smiles and happiness and looks at me and sees years of baggage.

I am hurt and angry and I want her back. I don't know what to do.
posted by redyaky to Human Relations (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I can tell you from personal experience that affairs do not end until the cheating partner decides to stop cheating. There is nothing you can do to change her mind. It sounds like your wife right now has no intention of ending the affair.

You, however, have a choice. You can choose to not let yourself be treated so cruelly and despicably by someone you care about. You need to take care of yourself and do what's best for you. You don't have to wait around in the desperate hope that she'll eventually choose you. Even if she does choose you, will you ever trust her again? Will you ever be able to forgive all the lies, the marriage counseling sessions she participated in while clearly having no serious intention of working on the marriage, the fact that YOU are the one who has to sleep on the couch when SHE is the one actively destroying your marriage right now?

You deserve better than this. Don't continue to wallow and let her erode your sense of self-worth. Get a divorce lawyer now, and kick her to the curb.

I'm so, so sorry this is happening to you and I know firsthand how deeply painful and traumatizing it is to be cheated on and walked all over. You WILL get through this.
posted by a strong female character at 11:14 AM on August 28, 2016 [32 favorites]

The thing that is happening to her is so common it's a cliche and an unofficial rule in AA (no new relationships for the first year). Alcoholics early in recovery tend to be deeply needy and also craving any sort of feeling that drowns out the others (sometimes called "dry drunk"). She'll have been told this, in all likelihood. She doesn't care, and that feeling is more important to her than you or your family.

Your moving to the couch so she'll chase you is manipulation, even if that's not why you originally did it, not any real indicator of her willingness to be in the relationship. Just understand you're only triggering a needy response, not getting an honest emotion out of her. Mostly because she can't give one right now, and won't be able to for a while, especially while she's using some guy as her new drug. Which also means she's probably not really putting in her full effort to recovery.

My advice to you would be to go ahead and take whatever legal next steps are necessary to move on as a single primary caretaker of your children. If you want to wait a couple of years to see if she gets her shit together and wants to reconcile and go to counseling* with you once she's stable, that's a door you can leave open while still living apart either separated or divorced. (She will likely be too reinvented and too embarrassed and the ship will have sailed for you both. The person you want back is already gone, and it will be some time before either of you knows who the replacement is.)

*Marriage counseling is not for the crisis, it's for either averting it before it comes or dealing with the aftermath. She is still in crisis. She needs to be going to therapy alone. You need to be going to therapy alone. Divorce mediation is probably a better path for you as a coparenting pair right now.

You can't work on this with her when she doesn't want to work on it, and when she's this unstable she can't even really consent to working on it. I'm really sorry this is happening to you.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2016 [73 favorites]

I'm so very sorry for what you're going through. I can only imagine how much turmoil you're in right now and how torn you are to help the wife you love and support.

You don't need to make any choices right now, but please focus on taking care of your children's needs and your own. Speaking as a child of mental illness and alcoholics, the focus on the person in crisis can easily take up all your energy. Your children will need you to be their advocate for what's best for them.

And speaking as someone betrayed by infidelity, the pain may seem unbearable, but you'll make it through in time. Try though to get to a place where you no longer let her hurt you.
posted by A hidden well at 11:19 AM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

My goodness. My heart aches for you reading this, what a difficult and painful situation you are in. Seeing a therapist and going to Al-Anon are both really great places for you to focus. Also please consider focusing, with your therapist and in Al-Anon, on the fact that while your children need their mother and her recovery is an important part of their development and happiness, you do not need to stay married to her or be abused and taken advantage of in order for that to happen.

Having an affair with your sponsor is not part of recovery. In fact it is one of the few rules that you are not supposed to break - sponsorships are not supposed to be romantic. It is a really bad sign that she is not actually serious about her recovery and is instead chasing a different thrill.

Keep going to al-anon, keep going to your therapist, and do everything you can to remember that this is not your fault, that this is not something you should take personally, this is not. about. you. It is very hard to hold your chin up when someone you love so much prioritizes their own issues and addiction before you, but it's not because of something you did, some deficiency you have, or some failure to be great enough.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:21 AM on August 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

Have you had any time with her that was fun or romantic lately? Protecting yourself, setting boundaries, preparing for crisis, all that's important. However, you mention she "sees years of baggage" -- if you could muster it in yourself to try to show her another side of your marriage, and yourself also, maybe that would balance the bad stuff a little.

I realize this may not be possible, both because of time constraints and because you may just not feel like it. That's OK. We all do what we can do. I just wanted to mention it as a possibility.
posted by amtho at 11:27 AM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are given any opportunity to have this conversation with your wife, and if this is financially/insurance-wise feasible, you might have a discussion with her about doing a 6-12-week Intensive Outpatient Program, ideally one associated with an actual hospital with a staff of medical doctors including psychiatrists, as well as psychologists/social workers/behavioral therapists that provides medical, psychiatric, and counseling treatment plus some group support. A comprehensive treatment program.

AA is a support group. Regardless of media/public mythology, and references to "the program" and possibly its own internal documentation, it is neither the only nor the best addiction (or mental health, which is always comorbid with alcoholism) treatment program available. It is better than nothing, and is okay as a support group, but you wouldn't use a support group alone to treat your diabetes or anxiety or chronic pain or bipolar disorder. It is a handrail, not a scaffolding.

And given how poorly she's following even the basic rules of AA, I think it is not working for her. Better treatment still may not save your marriage, but it might create a better situation for your children.

She has to want to do it, though. It'll always come down to that.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:04 PM on August 28, 2016 [25 favorites]

Since you're in the US, I agree that you should be seeing a divorce lawyer immediately and getting your ducks lined up ready for a serious fight. I can see this turning into a huge scrap over the kids whereby one of you convinces the system that you're the only suitable parent, or you have to put up with whatever arrangement she prefers. I can't see a good outcome.

On the other hand, the process might shake her up enough to decide she wants nothing more to do with alcohol nor AA and to save her marriage. You can't decide this for her. You can only prepare and be ready to protect yourself and your kids. Best of luck.
posted by tillsbury at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think your wife doesn't want to be in this marriage. (I am NOT saying that this is your fault at all.) Rather than facing up to her feelings she tried to break the marriage with her addiction and when that didn't work, this new affair. She's trying to end the marriage without actually womaning up and saying she wants out. I don't see how you can ever rebuild any sort of trust from this point onward.
posted by MsMolly at 12:39 PM on August 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Decide what you want with regard to money and the kids, get a good lawyer, and upgrade. I don't even know you and I can say you deserve better than a cheating drunk.
posted by MattD at 1:12 PM on August 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Gosh, this is screwed up. Your wife is being 13th stepped by someone who I'd call an AA sleaze bucket. On rare occasions these relationships last but most of the time end in a few months. I am sorry you are going through this. Lots of good advice has been given up thread. Just like her recovery (which isn't happening at the moment) needs to be first, so does yours. Take care of yourself and your kids. Kick her to the couch... She left not you, and leave the door open. You both need help. If you both get into whatever recovery works for you, your relationship could survive. I have seen all kinds of people, overcome all kinds of crazy bullshit behavior, and end up back in their marriage. Good luck. Take care.
posted by cairnoflore at 1:57 PM on August 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

I know it feels like you are offering your wife support, but actually you are enabling and re-enforcing her unhealthy behaviour. She has to feel the consequences of her choices, and that means she moves out, loses custody of the kids, and loses her awesome husband. I'm sorry, I know that is not what you want to hear, but she has no respect for you while you are a doormat and she is going to treat you worse and worse until you snap and get to her level. Whatever is causing her to be self-destructive recognizes that you are preventing her from hitting the bottom she feels she deserves so she is going to focus all that destructiveness on you.

You have children, they need to be your priority, and you need to do this legally and officially with a lawyer and court documents. Get some family counselling as well as individual counselling to learn skills that will help you break this dynamic.
posted by saucysault at 2:01 PM on August 28, 2016 [18 favorites]

While she was struggling, so was I. I became distant and angry, said some things, yelled a lot. I couldn't handle the drinking. As a result, we grew apart even as she was struggling.

I was the unfaithful wife. Part of what drove that was how critical my husband was. He made me feel fat and ugly and we both blamed a lot of things all on me because I had been molested as a child. Other men thought I was beautiful, among other things.

It might help you find a path forward to find something to blame other than her. Blame the alcohol. Blame her childhood. Blame your long hours at work. But stop making it all her fault. Making it all her fault can only end in divorce. If you want to keep her, you have to find some other framing for the problem.

The guy she is currently in love with is selling her on the idea that, unlike her husband, he truly understands her and accepts her. This is almost certainly a lie and their relationship would likely end if she left you. But he is making her feel accepted and understood. In contrast, you are yelling at her.

You need to try to be the shoulder she cries on, not the reason she cries.

posted by Michele in California at 2:04 PM on August 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh, you said you are getting mixed messages from your wife, but actually she has been 100% clear. It is just that you haven't accepted the truth from her. Listen when people tell you who they are in words and deed. This is NOT the person you married, that wife, and life, is gone.
posted by saucysault at 2:04 PM on August 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

First things first -- lawyer up. Get as good a divorce attorney as you can find and set things up. You don't need to follow through but if/when it comes time to get out you've got it all in motion.


As Lyn Never has said, tacky relationships in early recovery -- AA or any 12 step program, really -- tacky relationships in early recovery are common as Birkenstock sandals at a folk music festival. Since he was setting himself up as a sponsor to your wife it's almost certain that he's got some sober time behind him and he's a predator, and he damn sure knows it.

Even if it started out in good faith, with just a straight-up desire to help her, once he's crossed that line he's a predator.

In a solid, healthy group, members with good, strong recovery will get right in the predators face and bark at him or her, and get right in the newcomers face and tell them exactly what time it is. This may have happened already, no telling, but neither he or your wife can or will set it down.


Why are you sleeping on the couch? You're not the one who stepped outside your ring -- she did.

After you speak with your new attorney, and if said attorney gives you the green light on this you can tell her you're not willing to put up with her shit, and to get the fuck out of the house, and if she snivels that there's no place for her to go you can tell her about sober houses, residences where she'll share a room with another sober alcoholic or drug addict and have a strict curfew and strict rules about keeping sober and strict rules about going to meetings and common kitchen and bathroom areas etc and etc. I've heard of this happening in marriages that are quaking like yours is quaking right now, might be too strong a cup of coffee for you just now but it's there. I don't think you can legally get her to skate -- your attorney will tell you -- but you could sure make the house a place that is not at all comfortable for her. Might be that this would chase her right into this other mopes arms but that might happen anyways.


Al Anon. I had an Al Anon tell me that on her first meeting with her sponsor, the new Al Anon went on and on about her spouse. And the sponsor says "Great! Say everything you've got to say about your spouse right now! Because you're never going to say his name again when we meet." Al Anon is for you, and about you, and not about the alcoholic and whatever they're doing, or not doing.


Last. This new guy -- she doesn't love him. She can't -- she has no idea who he is. He doesn't love her, same reasoning. It *feels* like love, to both of them, and that's what they'll call it, but that's not what it is. (See: Limerance.) She does love you. And you love her. Years of marriage, children, life spent together, even though it's gotten rough -- you two love one another. You can look her dead in the eye, calmly, quietly tell her "I love you." and it'll get in. It might make you cry but that's okay. I think that it's a good thing to put on the table, face up. Because it's true, no matter which way things go.

I'm not saying you're going to make it together, or that you should try to do so. Love and support your children, as best you know how to do so; they're the most important thing of course. (Tell them that you love them, too, and so does their Mommy.) Try to walk slow. You'll know what to do, day by day, sometimes it'll be hour by hour.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:07 PM on August 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

But stop making it all her fault. Making it all her fault can only end in divorce.

I disagree vehemently with this sentiment. Cheating is 100% the fault of the cheater who made the decision to cheat. It is never, never, never the other spouse's fault. People decide to leave unhappy relationships all the time without cheating on their partners first.

OP, please know that you had nothing to do with your wife's cheating and that it was entirely her own choice. If she was unhappy with the marriage, she could have voluntarily left the marriage at any time, without having an affair. You are not responsible for her bad choices.
posted by a strong female character at 2:51 PM on August 28, 2016 [26 favorites]

the first one didn't help I think because my wife did not admit to the affair during sessions

dude what

She is not taking this seriously.

LAWYER. UP. Your top priorities are your children and yourself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

Your moving to the couch so she'll chase you is manipulation, even if that's not why you originally did it, not any real indicator of her willingness to be in the relationship. Just understand you're only triggering a needy response, not getting an honest emotion out of her.

It is called doing the 180. It is the only thing that will work. There are no such things as honest or not honest emotions. There are only emotions.

The 180 is designed to allow you to learn that you can live without your cheating partner. The side effect is that your partner will see it too.

I suggest you head over to to get support and help. I would also inform the head of the AA group and his SO if he has one.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:16 PM on August 28, 2016

You're holding on to a relationship that's over. She didn't say the words "I'm leaving you," but her behavior says them for her.

You don't know what to do because you're still holding on. You think there might be something you can do to save this relationship--but you can't, not unless she's 100% on board, but she hasn't even stopped the affair. Now is the time for you to try to make peace with the relationship ending as best as you can, and to come up with an exit strategy.

A divorce lawyer would be a very good place to start.

This is very heartbreaking, but... hanging on won't make it less so, in the end. It will make it worse.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:19 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm really sorry this is happening to you. There are some people who feel like they need to change their partner in order to change their life. It sounds as though your wife is one of those. In the end, therapy will not be useful unless she ends the affair. And she won't end the affair unless she wants to do so. You can't make her want to do so. Focus on taking care of yourself and your kids and leave her to it.
posted by frumiousb at 4:23 PM on August 28, 2016

Your wife is being 13th stepped by someone

Just in case anyone thinks this was a flip comment, being "13th stepped" is very real, and the fact that this guy was her sponsor is beyond the pale. I really would not count on her recovery being stable.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:26 PM on August 28, 2016 [25 favorites]

Oh no, this sounds so incredibly painful. :( Several people have said what I was going to, that this kind of affair is common. Once alcohol is off the table, people start looking for the next high and the next escape, and infatuation is a common one.

This is such a tough situation. I would prioritize what your children need -- stability, sober supervision, etc. Here is one link, but I just found that by googling "how to talk to a child about their alcoholic parent," and there were other good resources.
posted by salvia at 4:27 PM on August 28, 2016

Calling someone in Al-Anon will help more than MeFi can. If you don't have a sponsor yet, get one — this is what they're for.
posted by billjings at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know you don't want to leave you marriage as of yet, so for now it's probably best if you focus on caring for yourself and your kids. It's really good that you're seeing a therapist and going to Al-Anon, so definitely keep doing that. Consult a divorce attorney to find out what your legal options are. I think you should try to get custody, as at present you're the most stable parent. Then start figuring out how to create a home for you and the kids, either by asking your wife to move out, or, if she refuses, by moving out yourself with the kids. Sometimes you have to remove yourself from a relationship before you can even start to develop the perspective to understand just how bad the relationship is. It sounds like your marriage has been bad for a very long time and you are so focused on trying to save it that you don't see how unsalvageable it is. Try to create that space for yourself and then see how you feel.

I'm sorry you're in this awful situation. Best of luck to you.
posted by orange swan at 4:35 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

She's not taking her recovery seriously. People in AA are told not to enter a new relationship for the first year because 1) nobody's good at major decisions in the first year 2) they need to concentrate on working their own program and building their life.

Because she's an addict, it's quite likely she's just concerned with herself and what she wants. Accept that you're no longer married, and take care of the kids because she's not going to be ready to do that wholeheartedly for quite a while.
posted by wryly at 7:42 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm still recovering from my divorce, so take this with that caveat- but I got really tired of her choosing to hurt me for her new guy. I can honestly say I gave my 100% to working on things when I found out there was the big problem (Mostly new guy) but... she chose to be hurtful. She chose to put the marriage at risk. She chose to drive it into the rocks. I think your wife is choosing to hurt you. I think this is a lesson you will have to learn for yourself (I didn't listen well either!) but- don't let her continually hurt you. She will, she is. Cut this nonsense off at the knees. Protect you and the children.
posted by Jacen at 10:36 PM on August 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for writing, even if it's hard to hear/read.

I knew that much of the advice I would be getting would be of the "lawyer up" variety. I'm still struggling with that, partly because I can't afford it.

I was very interested in opinions on her relationship with this guy from AA. Like dancesblue said, I feel that his behavior is predatory but I don't know what to do about it. I told my wife (in gentler words) that I feel that he is hurting her in the long term, but I don't know if that's helping. And yes, she was told to avoid relationship and life changes in the next 6 months. She was also warned about romantic relationships and AA. Would there be someone in the group I could talk to and warn them about him?

Lyn Never, she was in an IOP program in May but was kicked out due to repeatedly relapsing. AA was just the default next option. She is seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist on her own, but I am concerned that she's not telling them everything. In fact, I know that her therapist only found out the true extent of her cheating last Friday, when it's been going on for at least a month. This was very disturbing to me. Also, thank you for calling me out on being manipulative. I had reasons for doing it but it's all become muddled and now it's like a little protest, like a college sit in or something. If I gave up on that and moved back to bed, would that also be manipulative? I don't know.

It's true that I wasn't emotionally available for a long time and that with this information coming out I "woke up" and it might be too little, too late. I take responsibility for my mistakes: not being more supportive, not seeking help for me (al-anon, therapy) soon enough, not learning more how to deal with an alcoholic sooner. At the end of the day, I have some comfort in knowing that if my marriage fails because I didn't know how to deal with alcoholism, that's OK since most people don't know how to deal with that.

Everyone here is right though, I need to focus on the children. I made some tentative steps to isolate some finances and find a lawyer. I do hope I won't really need all of this in the end but I guess it will be good to be prepared. I'm paranoid she and her "sponsor" are already working on a lawyer and that I'll be late with that too.

Finally, thank you everyone for being so supportive and wonderful.
posted by redyaky at 8:05 AM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Nah, at this point a rubicon has been crossed. You get the bed because you're not cheating and you're the adult who's been stuck managing her fucking mess, and also you're the one staying in the house when she leaves, so retake the bed and if you let her stay she can sleep on the couch.

But it is time to throw her out. Between you and her predator, she's been protected from hitting the bottom she really needs to go on and reach.

You'll probably need to scrape up a small retainer (a couple hundred) for the initial meetings with the lawyer, which you really need to do so you can get her out of the house. Borrow from friends and family if you have to. If there's any finances you can reswizzle (like, we recently found out we were paying way way too much on our car insurance, check all that stuff now since everything's about to change anyway), cancel cable, do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:24 AM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't agree with the just dump her now position people are taking. Early recovery can look a lot like the end drinking months for some people. The bottoming out process can get really ugly and the alcoholics behavior unfathomable to most people. If she does not give up lying she will drink again and the outcome could be much worse than anything she has experienced so far. She is in terrible emotional pain and probably could really use an inpatient program to reset herself. If that is possible I would strongly suggest that.

As far as turning the guy in... AA doesn't work like that. Everybody knows what is happening. They are consenting adults, who have lessons to learn, is how most people look at these situations. Predators, both male and female, in AA will always exist. It's a great place for them to find willing victims.

You sound like you are trying your best to look at yourself and help her. Good luck to you and yours.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:29 AM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's true that I wasn't emotionally available for a long time

I was not accusing you of anything. I am trying to help you find a path forward.

Currently, the Other Guy (hereafter: OG) is her shoulder to cry on and she sleeps with him. Of course, she does not live with him, does not have a child with him and there isn't a long history of her letting him down in some way. So, it's easy for him to play that role. I read all the research I could. Affairs almost never lead to Happily Ever After, though they two people almost always think this is a better love than any other. It is a delusion, fostered by the lack of real world stuff intruding. If she left you, took the baby and moved in with him, the illusion would quickly burst.

The truth is that neither one of them handles real responsibilities all that well. If she moved in with him, she might soon conclude she had it a lot better with you. Though relationships typically cannot be rebuilt once it goes that far.

I don't agree that you should consign her to the couch on the theory that she is in the wrong. I think you did the right thing by moving yourself to the couch. I was married 22 years. The divorce was amicable. Neither of us ever once issued the ultimatum that "You need to sleep on the couch." If one of us was that upset, we left for the couch ourselves. We had a few humorous incidents of arguning over that -- "I am sleeping on the couch" "No, I will sleep on the couch. You stay here!" -- and the marriage went as well as it did because we generally still cared and respected each other even while fighting and feeling hurt. All is fair in love and war. You should try to err on making loving exceptions to social expectations if you want to stay, not warring ones.

I would not lawyer up just yet. Instead, let me suggest you read some books. "Getting to Yes" is short and research based. "The seven habits of highly effective people" is a good read. You might find "The truth about addiction and recovery" interesting. But be forewarned: People in AA often have strong negative opinions of that last book, so you might want to not mention it to those folks.

My dad drank real heavy for years. No one ever used the word "alcoholic" and he never went to AA or any kind of treatment. Family stories indicate he drank like a fish, but I think he did so in part because he fought in two wars and drinking suppresses nightmares. He left the army when I was three in order to escape a second tour of Vietnam. I remember him having a beer with dinner, but I think he tapered off once he was no longer active duty, thus could no longer be sent back to a war zone. When I was seven, he was diagnosed with a heart condition, blamed the beer and quit cold turkey. There was no delerium tremens, which there should have been if he had not spent four years tapering off.

I think people drink for a reason. I think it will help you to try to figure out how this mess happened in the broadest terms possible. Life is complicated and there are many factors that contribute to any given outcome.

Last, I generally find this concept useful for close relationships:

It is you and me against the problem, not you against me.

posted by Michele in California at 12:03 PM on August 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

OP, as you may know, Al-Anon recommends that people new to the program make no major life decisions for the first 6 months unless they or their children are in danger. That's because emotions are running high when you first join the fellowship and how a person feels now (I want a divorce! I don't want a divorce!) often changes as you get more meetings under your belt, are introduced to more tools and, ideally, find a sponsor.

I am so sorry you are in this situation. My sponsor and people in the program often remind me that if I can see only two options, I'm probably not ready to make a decision. Another slogan is "Don't just do something, sit there!"

It's easy for Internet strangers to tell you to kick your wife to the curb. I'd suggest moving slowly, not deciding anything immediately, continue going to meetings, and above all, do what is necessary to keep your children safe and yourself sane or, at least, headed toward sanity if you're not there yet (I wasn't!).

That means figuring out the boundaries and limits you need to establish to take care of yourself and your kids, for example. There's really nothing especially speedy about the process; you'll need to do that if she continues to share your home, or you separate, or you divorce. You are in a painful and horrible situation. But unless your home is literally burning down (or your wife is smoking crack in front of your kids or driving them while drunk, etc.), you have time to figure out what you need and to ask for it or arrange to get it.

Maybe that's for her to leave, at least temporarily. Maybe that's therapy for you twice a week. Maybe it's a whole host of things, including some time off from work. As others have pointed out, AA is not an evidence-based treatment (although it helps many). Also, her alcoholism is not your responsibility. There are predators in AA because there are predators everywhere and this affair is a known thing that happens to newbies in 12-step programs. That's a shame, that's not your fault, and don't let that distract you from whatever you need to do to care for yourself and your children.

One of the hardest and most useful tools of Al-Anon is learning to cultivate loving detachment. To be able to be neutral or, better yet, loving toward people you love who are doing dumb-ass shit that makes you and your kids feel crappy. Learning to not take such behavior personally is an incredible gift and that, too, takes time.

Whatever you decide to do is whatever you decide to do. No one but you can decide what your next right action is. Most Al-Anon meetings have a phone list and in a crisis or hard moment I've often been rescued from my own darkest impulses by going down a list and dialing numbers until I found a kind stranger from Al-Anon willing to listen to me spill my guts until I was calm again.

Me mail me if you want my number. We all wish you the best. Nobody asks to find themselves on this path. For many of us in the program, life does get better. Regardless of what the alcoholics and addicts in our lives choose to do, we can still learn to enjoy our own lives and find happiness again. Sometimes with them, sometimes without them. Please hang in there and take care!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Sorry you're going through this. This advice is based on my own similar experience.

You - take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep and eat right. Start or restart exercising, running, yoga, whatever you can do to stay healthy. Get your kids involved if that helps, go for walks or bike rides. You'll need to be at your best to take care of your kids. Stick with Al Anon if its helping, find a therapist if you think you might need one. Watch your posture, hold your head up, breathe deep, try and stay positive especially around your kids. Don't start any relationships for at least a year after you are officially divorced.

Kids - I'm not sure how old they are. Don't be negative about their mother in front of them. Do the best you can as far as school, day care etc. Involve the kids in cleaning and cooking so they can learn to help. Don't be afraid to ask for help from family, friends etc. Trade off babysitting with friends if you have appointments, shopping. Let your kids know whatever happens is not their fault and they have a safe place in your home. If they're in school and you want to let their teachers, social worker know whats going on, do that. Also if your wife is still drinking and shouldn't drive the kids, the school should know that too.

Wife - the thing I had to realize is that when my ex wife started her affairs and acting out, she considered our marriage over, so she could justify her actions. She just didn't tell me first. Your marriage might be different. Don't let the jealousy about this new guy cloud your judgement. She probably checked out of your marriage a long time ago. Now she can have you do the hard work of forcing a divorce. You might try a mediator and see if that route would work. It might be a cheaper easier way to go. If your wife isn't being honest the mediation process won't work. If you have to live in the same house for a while, be polite. Set a good example for your kids.

Legal - You can't just kick her to the curb. If you own your house or if she's on the lease, she has the right to stay there until the court says something different. The court won't care how many guys she's boning either. The alcohol will be a factor. All the assets ( retirement, bank accounts) and bills ( mortgage, credit cards) will get divided up between you both. You can try to set a little money aside, but if you save some she has the right to half of it. Try and save a little each week and have your mom or sister hold it for you. Initial consultations with attorneys are usually free. (Pro tip - if you see an attorney for an initial consultation, she can't use that attorney. So if you see the good ones for an initial consult, she'll have to go to someone else). You might get a credit card or two in your name only now. Lock the others down so she can't rack up bills you end up paying. Its sad but true, in the end the fighting will mostly be about the money.

Things will work out for you. Do what's best for your kids. Take care of yourself. Get help from family if you can. Don't be bullied and feel guilty, this isn't your fault. Read a book or two on divorce and you'll realize that your situation really isn't unique, it happens all the time and the outcomes are predictable. So be prepared to fight when you have to and compromise when you have to. You sound like a good guy, remember that. In the end if you act like a gentleman your kids and family will respect you. People will say "Damn, that Redyaky is an awesome dude, his wife have been crazy to leave him".

Good luck.
posted by mikedelic at 7:15 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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