Left my husband, dumped by my affair partner, how to carry on?
April 15, 2017 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I’m back for more advice, after you helped me last time. So I did it, I moved out, I left my husband. But now I’m really struggling with living on my own and the aftermath of my affair.

If you haven’t read my first question, I had sex with this guy who was my best friend, it got really messy, he totally cut me off. I tried to fix things with my husband but couldn’t. I moved out about a month ago. I haven’t said to my husband that our marriage is finally over. I still love him a lot and I don’t know how to be certain it’s over. I have been honest with him in couples therapy, telling him that I love him but that I don’t think I can carry on in a relationship where there’s no sexual connection on my part.

I made the decision to move out while my friend wasn't talking to me, so it wasn't prompted by the idea that I'd jump straight into a relationship with him, although I admit it's something I've always wanted.

Right before I moved out (which was a month ago) my friend got back in touch with me and we ended up having sex again. He was incredibly nice and supportive about me moving out, seemed pleased it was happening, and said lots of things suggesting we could try to forge a real relationship once things were less complicated (talking about going on holiday together, saying he’s sorry for treating me badly, that kind of thing).

Since I moved out we met up one more time and slept together and he freaked out and basically dumped me – saying that he doesn’t feel the same anymore, there’s a space between us and that he wants to be friends, but he’s now ignoring me again. I think he's seeing someone else.

This is causing me intense pain. I feel worthless, bleak, awful. I’ve never been in love with someone before. I love my husband a lot but I never experienced the whole ‘falling in love’ stage, or a strong sexual attraction like I have with this guy.

I know logically it probably wasn’t a great idea to leave my husband and immediately start something with this guy, but it’s just killing me that he doesn’t want me after everything he said, I can’t understand why he’s done this. Moving out has been really tough, I miss my own home and my old life so much, and everything seems so bleak. I don’t know how to move forward.

On top of that I came off anti-depressants and birth control, which I think was the right decision, but it’s brought my sex drive roaring back, and that’s a big part of why I’m missing this guy.

The only things that seem to help distract me are watching TV series, sleeping, and going to work. I had a therapist for a year but she just had to stop seeing clients for family issues, and I miss her so much. She kept saying I need to learn to love myself but it feels so hard, I don’t know how. Seeing friends is great, but as soon as I’m on my own the hole opens back up and I am totally swallowed in it. I can’t stop thinking about this guy and why he doesn’t want me, and planning ways to get back in touch with him, and it’s killing me. What can I do to get through the days and move forward?
posted by Concertion to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Filling time alone is the hardest part of being single. TV, reading, exercise, and cooking have all worked for me in the past. Establishing post work routines that involve one or more of the above are also really helpful.
posted by noloveforned at 9:07 AM on April 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

The first thing I would say is to take a holiday. Get some sun and some rest - and some space!
Read some good books and try to relax a little. See how things go from there.
posted by Glosters at 9:08 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am assuming that you have engaged the question of whether this is all a massive effort at self-sabotage, haven't you?

Feeling unlovable for many years, suddenly this guy loves you, maybe you do not know how to accept it. Maybe you're not attracted to him (husband) because there must be something wrong with HIM if he doesn't see how wrong YOU are. Maybe you feel trapped by his unwavering commitment to you and unconditional love so there is nothing there for your underlying pain to latch onto.

That, combined with a case of Fear of Missing Out, could explain your circumstances, including ambivalence about leaving.

Speaking as someone with shame issues who pushes away people that love her, I can see elements of my own pattern in your posts. Before you pull the trigger on ending the marriage for good, ask yourself if you have considered this theory adequately.

In case you are only asking about getting through the times alone as a Singleton, I enjoy physical exercise and binge watching web TV. You might also want to start a creative pursuit - working with clay, journaling, adult coloring books might all support you.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:30 AM on April 15, 2017 [19 favorites]

From reading your prior questions, you said you felt undesirable throughout your life. You married your husband because he chased you, and you felt you could not do better. The affair made you think you could find mutual attraction... but you still have insecure feelings that say it would only be with this one guy (affair partner).

What type of things make you feel more confident? Exercising? Dressing well? Being in nature? Proactively asking out guys? Work on things to boost your self confidence. It could take years to get to a truly secure confident place (you will probably find one or many mutually sexually attracted partners along the way).

The goal is that one day, you will have the confidence that at any time, you can find mutually attracted partners. Then if any one of them dumps you, you will be sad but it will not shake your confidence. This affair guy will probably see your confidence and come back, trying to get more drama and validation. You can treat him like no big deal with your new confidence.
posted by cheesecake at 9:33 AM on April 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

Also, stay away from affair guy. I don't think his behavior shows anything that is healthy for you right now. He is either using you or emotionally unavailable and neither will help you very much. Just a thought.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:39 AM on April 15, 2017 [22 favorites]

A new therapist would probably be helpful. Also, and I mean this in the best possible way, but you need a hobby. Something to do and think about other than your love life.
posted by vunder at 9:53 AM on April 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

it’s just killing me that he doesn’t want me after everything he said, I can’t understand why he’s done this.

He's the kind of person who sleeps with married people. These people are typically not interested in commitment and they are also typically kinda shitty people. Not always, but as a good rule of thumb.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:26 AM on April 15, 2017 [45 favorites]

Start running. Start slowly, walk jog walk jog, but keep at it. Push yourself. Set goals and reach them. Get really into it. Read Runners World and Born to Run. Think about the pros and cons of barefoot running. Whenever you feel down or bored, go for a run. If you're angry, put that energy into a run. Hills are good for anger. Think about nutrition and hydration. Figure out your best post-run snack. Don't run with music -- run with the sound of your feet and your breath. Learn your limits by getting as close to them as you can. Exhaust yourself. Keep a log. Watch your progress. Notice how strong you're getting. And how far you've come. Notice that when you start your day with a run, you have conquered a hard goal before the day even begins. Embrace this strength and power that is yours, that no partner has enabled, but that you have done on your own. Notice that your confidence in yourself increases as you gain strength and stamina. Then notice how many other people in the world are noticing you because of the confidence with which you carry yourself. With your head up, you will begin to see just how many options you have. And when you are giving running the attention it deserves, you will not have the time or patience to deal with the arbitrary demands selfish people make, and you'll also find that running is way more interesting than going over the past or worrying about what to do next.
posted by janey47 at 10:28 AM on April 15, 2017 [29 favorites]

After seeing it recommended multiple times on the green, I've finally started reading Attached, which pretty much explains my entire relationship history in a way that's enlightening, comforting and validating. I highly recommend this book.

There's nothing wrong with watching TV, sleeping and going to work. Give yourself permission to do what you need do to right now to just take care of yourself and get through one day at a time.

The advice above to get a new therapist is solid. As is the advice to seek out a hobby - maybe something that involves evening classes or meet-ups. Exercise is also good.

I'm sorry you're having such a rough time but it seems normal that anyone might struggle in the circumstances you describe. Give yourself a break, and know that now is not forever.
posted by bunderful at 10:31 AM on April 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

It is time to work on you. For me, reading a lot of self-help books and interacting in self-help forums helped get me out of the old non-valuing mindset I lived with for a good portion of my life. Therapy is key, and it is mostly a matter of finding a good fit of someone who tolerates no BS from you and can listen objectively and not steer you in ways that are not helpful. Non-helpful ways? Reconciliation with either H or OM. Why? OM bails at the first sign of messiness - not a solid partner in any event. H is not a good partner for you, either, and not just because of sexual incompatibility. That ship is basically gone and while that doesn't mean friendship could not exist at some point - it needs to be a period of healing for both of you without the trappings of relationship feelings and memories forcing something that isn't truly there.

Being single and healing is very much what you need right now. Explore the hows and whys of your affair beyond the surface level stuff, start repairing that side of you so that whatever partnership you form with another human in the future does not tread on the same map. Take this time to make yourself the person you long to be. Grow your confidence, learn new things, seek out new friendships (friendships only!), spend a lot of time putting love into your own lovebank for yourself. Rely on no one besides yourself. Strengthen your vulnerability boundaries.

Also, do not fall into the trap of beating yourself for the affair. It happened, you resolve not to let that sort of thing happen again and you move on. You can't change the past but you can change your future. Become that future. You're going to enjoy it there.
posted by missh at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Why take yourself off antidepressants? I'm not a doctor, but a majorly stressful time like this seems exactly the type of situation they are designed for!

Tearing down the sorta-mostly working/not working at all sucks and is miserably hard. It's worse than remodeling a kitchen. You've lost (or acknowledged the loss) so much in such a short time.

And your mind and body grieves. Its draining and sometimes you can't consciously process the pain and loss, but it's there.

Three things are causing you pain: your husband/the marriage, the affair partner, and yourself. Everything you built over the last 15years is crumbling. All the safety, shelter, and comfortable routines are falling apart. It is a natural human instinct to try to cling to our comfort zones... But sometimes you have to dynamite the ruins so you can start to rebuild.

I think your affair buddy has shown his true colors. He does not seem like a good foundation for a new life. And yes, his behaviour was shitty and hurtful. But what do you get by pining after him and thinking about the million and one "what ifs"?

What if you could change your view on him from "this complicated mix of lust and like and pain and abandonment" to... Just some guy who helped me learn a lot about myself, my relationships, and what I want out of life.

Part two... Your marriage. If your husband said its over, hes starting to file for divorce... Would you feel more relieved, sad, or upset?

From your post, it kinda sounds like you don't want to be married any more, but don't want to hurt him by pulling that trigger... And simultaneously destroying whats left of that safety net of home and old life.

Being left in limbo and indecision is hard on everybody. I'm a big fan of realism... I want the world to be rainbows and sunshine, but reality is(it sounds to me) that you are not going to love your husband like you want, your affair buddy isn't prince charming, and you do have a long hard road in front of you.

Being free of all the collapsing hopes and dreams is, oddly enough, freeing. The loss and hurt and grief and fear sucks, bad. Real bad. But you get through that with therapy and days spent watching tv and venturing out with friends when you have the strength.

It passes. It really does get better. Your life in a few years can look drastically different... A better you, free to find someone who has both sexy and security. But first you have to finish the destruction and look around and go "this is where I am now. This is what I fix to avoid this next time"
posted by Jacen at 12:02 PM on April 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

I feel for you. This time is the hardest there is. Advice above is very good, and I agree that you shouldn't go anywhere near affair guy. Ditto that you should see your gp and think about going back on the happy pills and possibly birth control, particularly if they reduce your sex drive temporarily and stop you doing something you might regret. And that therapy might help you.

But otherwise this is exactly the time when you should be working, watching rubbishy tv and sleeping. Then seeing good friends as and when you feel up to it. You will need a few months of this.

When I was in this place I made a pact with my now ex that we would see how much of our assets we could share and how little we would give away to lawyers. We managed to split 20 years worth of complicated trusts, companies, houses, and kids amicably by spending a grand total of $2000 on lawyers between us. They were not happy about it :-)

You referenced in your first question that you didn't want to "give up your chance of having children and a life partner". You definitely haven't. The world is heaving with good guys in their 40s who are together and secure and would give anything to find a life partner around your age who knows what she wants to start a family with. That you're intelligent, know what you like, have a "roaring" sex drive, and don't already have kids you have to deal with your ex about puts you at the very top of the list. You'll be beating them off with a stick.

So try as hard as you can to just stick with it from day to day doing the things you have to do, and treat yourself whenever you like. It will get much better, soon.
posted by tillsbury at 1:33 PM on April 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

Nothing to add to the above-except when I see you're grieving not having children yet, and you just went of birth control-I'm hoping you aren't thinking of getting pregnant accidentally-on-purpose. Especially not with your recent lover's child. You have so much going on right now I'd hate to see beingg a parent on top of that, until you have a chance to take care of your own needs and become clear eyed about your future. (And you really really don't want to be tied to this guy forever. Trust me).
posted by purenitrous at 2:29 PM on April 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

Your "friend" is no such thing.
posted by spitbull at 3:50 AM on April 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yes, whatever you do, do not contact your so-called friend. Remember, "dignity first".
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 7:00 AM on April 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Time, that's all.

You left your husband because you were totally unattracted to him sexually and you know that's no way to live. You preferred to be single than to have to sleep with him anymore. Right? That's a reasonable thing to do. Some people would even say it is the ethical thing to do - not to deceive him that he's in a loving marriage when in fact he makes you cringe.

The affair guy - meh, you know? He liked what you had there for a while. He liked you as something on the side. He doesn't want to settle down with you. This is very hard to swallow, it hurts like hell, but time will help fade the sting. (Don't take his calls anymore.)

I think going back to your husband, knowing you hate having sex with him, would be the wrong move. I think you should focus your energy now on hard exercise. It's incredibly good for the mind and the body, and it will keep your mind off your personal stuff as you get ready for the next phase of your life.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:14 AM on April 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I broke up with my partner a little over a year ago. It was hard and painful, but I'm in a better place after walking away from a wonderful yet inappropriate person for me.

You survive painful situations one day at a time. It helps if you reach other to other, non-romantic folks such as existing friends or by joining meet ups to make new, platonic friends. It helps if you acknowledge your genuine emotions, to the extent you can identify them, in the moments in which you feel sad and/or lonely, tired, angry, despairing, etc. It helps if let yourself feel those feelings but don't wallow in them for days. If helps if you move your body regularly. (I started talking walks regularly and rode my bike.) It helps if you treat yourself like your own best friend and learn to enjoy your own company and allow yourself to experiment with learning what you, alone, like or dislike. (Most of my life I've allowed myself to be primarily defined by my partner and his likes and dislikes rather than by who I am and what I want.) It helps greatly if you think of yourself as someone who is making a choice rather than being a victim.

I find it especially helpful to remember that investing the time and energy to become as emotionally healthy and adult as possible is an investment in having a better life overall, plus becoming more attractive to other emotionally healthy and adult individuals. Taking a year off from dating gave me the time and space I needed to become a more together person. Recently I realised I needed another break from dating, and I'm taking it. Because the goal for me isn't dating or having sex, however enjoyable they may me. The goal for me is to become the best-possible version of myself. I can be that person with some guys, but not with many others. (That's less about any individual guy, and more about my childhood, my struggles, etc.) That makes it especially important for me to make good choices about the romantic company I keep; to keep to myself when there are no good choices; and to nurture myself in a variety of ways regardless of my dating status. Good luck, OP!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:37 PM on April 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Thank you everyone for your help. It does help to know that it's normal to feel this sad and lonely and angry all the time and I just need to get through it.

I do actually have a lot of hobbies and I am already a runner, so throwing myself into that seems like a good idea. I find it hard to do anything creative while I'm anxious and depressed but running is always an option.
posted by Concertion at 3:27 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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