What Should I do?
July 13, 2017 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I have been married to my husband for 13 years. Most of them have been very happy. The past 4 have been miserable.

We have gone through so much with me transitioning to a full time job and him changing jobs and hating what he does. He has been in a rut for years and is very hard to be around. He resents me going back to work and has told me that he feels that I have no time for him. At one point I asked him if he even likes me anymore. The peak came when we got in a huge fight about going on a vacation where a hurricane was projected to hit. I did not want to drive down and get stuck with our kids. He didn't want to miss binge drinking with his friends. We didn't end up going. He exploded and called me every name in the book, threatening divorce and laying it all out for me as if he had been planning it for some time. That weekend was the straw that broke the camels back. I completely fell out of love and lost so much for him, not to mention trust.

I began an affair with a coworker almost immediately after the fact. It has been going on now for 9 months. The coworker is also in a strained marriage. After being in this affair for some time, I began to realize that I was wanting more and that I was using the affair as an Exit Affair whereas my coworker is more of a Split Self. He has no plans to walk away from his wife, but says that he loves me.

I am in love with my coworker. I have been to marriage counseling and have worked with my husband to try and get back on track. There has just been so much love lost there that I am loosing faith in every being able to repair it.

What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the first thing you need to do is lose the coworker, because there is zero chance of a happy marriage while you've having an affair. There's also zero chance that coworker will leave his wife for you. Even if he did, you're now stuck with someone you can't trust not to cheat (and so is he).

So, these are your options:
1. stay with husband,continue affair, be unhappy
2. stay, end affair, probably still unhappy
3. leave, continue affair, still unhappy
4. leave, end affair, move on

#4 is your only real option and I think you know this. You don't want to do the emotional and logistical work to make it happen. I'm not going to lie, divorce suuuucks. It was the worst thing I've ever been through. But when you make it to the other side, it's glorious. You have your life back.
posted by AFABulous at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2017 [63 favorites]

You don't need permission to want a divorce--it kind of sounds like you want a divorce, and it sounds like a bummer of an atmosphere for both you and the kids.

The co-worker thing isn't really relevant--sounds like that relationship won't go anywhere, but the divorce will free you for something else. I would strongly recommend you stop seeing him; it's just going to hurt more and be an emotional drain when you need to be present for your kids as you and your husband split up. And you need to be thinking of the future anyway.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

What is your end goal with the therapy? Are you and your husband making progress? Do you want the therapy to put your marriage on a (long, hard) path of recovery, or are you going through the motions to check off the pre-divorce boxes?

You mentioned very few reasons to stay (one sentence about 9 years of happiness) and a lot of sentences about dysfunction and affair. And honestly, labeling your 9 months affair an Exit event makes me think you are getting ready to divorce, but just aren't ready to pull the trigger for some reason.
posted by Jacen at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Step 1 is to break up with your boyfriend so that you can be properly focused on yourself and your kids when you proceed to Step 2, which is to get a divorce.
posted by 256 at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

You need to get a divorce and take care of yourself and your kids.

The affair sounds like it was a way to give yourself some attention and comfort when you really needed it. I doubt (as an online stranger) that you are really "in love" with this person, but rather projecting a lot onto the relationship as a way to get through this tough period.

Everything about your post suggests you know all this already. The internet agrees.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Wow yeah, get out. He screamed at you for not getting to binge drink in front of your kids when a hurricane could come through? That's divorce behavior even excluding four miserable years.

Focus on getting out and taking care on the kids. That includes stopping this affair, which I know will be hard. But spend some time single. If it's meant to be, you'll reconnect when you are both single and happier and no longer co-workers.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Aw, friend, you know the answer here. The relationship with your husband sounds just untenable. I suggest forging a path toward extreme self care, many facets of which will probably Not Feel Good but are Good For You: breaking up with your co-worker, finding a great therapist to help you work through this, locating a place to live, learning to love yourself as you are without a partner.... This is a long road, but do you know what's longer? A life of misery.

Honestly you may want to contact a womens shelter, they helped me a lot when I was stuck in a toxic relationship. Your husband sounds very problematic and like his behavior would qualify you for at least a discussion about a safe exit plan from the relationship.

And also part of self care is not beating yourself up. I feel tinges of anger at yourself in your question. When I left the man who yelled at me, I also had an affair. This is not uncommon. It's ok and you do deserve love and at least for me the affair was a way to try to validate that I in fact did deserve love. We broke up because it turned out that (1) He also was a yeller, and (2) I needed to process the closing of a very turbulent chapter of my life. But I still deserve love and I am grateful for what that affair taught me.

So my advice is to try to treat yourself like you would a dear friend. Be kind. Help yourself reach out and find resources (like you did when asking this question). Support yourself and forgive yourself.

Life is short. It's too short to be yoked to a toxic person who makes you feel miserable.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

Oh, another question I asked of myself a lot while going through the process of leaving was: "What am I getting out of staying?" I wrote these things down over time and after reviewing them I realized the answer was "not all that much, really." Most of it was intangible stuff that I wanted to believe about myself, like "I am a good person" and "Love means never having to say you're sorry" and "I am forgiving" - all things that either were not true or did not need the relationship to prove their truth.

So I'd encourage you to really ask yourself: what are you getting from staying?
posted by sockermom at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm pretty sure you know the answer, even if the answer sucks and is very hard.

Please end the affair: going to counseling with your husband while continuing the affair is fucked up, period. Would you want your kids to know about this? I wouldn't either. Stop now. Probably look for a new job too.

You sound done with this marriage. I can't say if that's true for sure, but that's the message I'm getting from this post. I would recommend getting space from your husband too - maybe take the kids and hang with a sibling or close friend for a couple weeks while you think this out.

So sorry you're going through this.
posted by latkes at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Things have been bad for 4 years and you're in love with someone else?

I think you already know the answer. Move on and give both of you a chance at happiness.
posted by xingcat at 10:41 AM on July 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

You're miserable, your husband wants to binge-drink with his friends, and your kids are absorbing this.

I know it's really hard to make this transition, but please get out. It'll be better for everyone and you can date people who are up for having a future with you or at least having fun openly instead of secretively.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:44 AM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please, please, please consult with a divorce attorney in your jurisdiction before you do anything else. Learn, from someone who's job it is and not the internet, what your statutory rights are and how divorce normally shakes out in your family courts. Divorce is the #1 predictor of poverty for women and children and it is not a fucking joke. You need to be 100% clear on interim support, asset allocation, family home entitlements, child support and alimony, all in light of how custody works where you live.

I absolutely, 100% believe that you need this data to make any sort of decision here. It is extremely easy for people on the internet to say "you should leave" but this is not just you, it is your kids, and you have an obligation to them to make sure you are not setting them up to be a statistic on the consequences of divorce. Know exactly where you stand before you take a single step.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:57 AM on July 13, 2017 [44 favorites]

What DarlingBri said, except you should drop the boyfriend immediately and regardless. That relationship is doomed to cause you more anguish than joy, and the anguish-to-joy ratio will only get worse over time. It's also something you probably do not want coming out during divorce proceedings, so best to distance yourself as much as possible from it, starting right now.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:42 PM on July 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

You have an obligation to tell your husband about your affair. Now.
posted by jpe at 3:55 PM on July 13, 2017

Do not tell your husband about the affair until you talk to a divorce lawyer. Put your kids first. Put them ahead of your lover, your husband, yourself. Talk to a lawyer.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:05 PM on July 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

At this point, if you're leaving, the only possible reason I can think of to tell your husband about the affair is if you have caught and potentially passed on an STD to him that would require immediate treatment. And even then, if he's shown any signs of anger problems, I would say to wait until you and your children are somewhere safe.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:44 PM on July 13, 2017

You are not obligated to tell your husband about the affair.

He may not be dangerous, we can't know for sure, but there are a few yellow flags in the question that make it unequivocally a bad idea to tell him about the affair, not now (maybe not ever, that depends on many factors which you can work through as you move through this process). The risk to safety is too great. Please do not take this advice.
posted by sockermom at 7:58 PM on July 13, 2017

Tell your lawyer about the affair. Do whatever your lawyer says. Don't tell your husband shit about shit until you talk to the lawyer, and especially don't confess an affair when you're thinking about divorce.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:36 PM on July 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Very good advice here. I'll just nth it:
1. Get out of the affair relationship
2. Lawyer up
3. Divorce
?. Happier life!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:17 AM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you ever had a separation from your husband? That might be worth considering.
posted by windykites at 1:26 AM on July 14, 2017

The following two books helped me
1. Understand the situation I found myself in, and
2. Make a decision.
Then all I had to do was find the courage to do it.

When Good People Have Affairs
Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay

I've never, ever been the "type" of person to cheat... and yet that's exactly what I was doing. It was crazy-making, because on one hand, I was utterly horrified at my behavior, I really couldn't see any other option at the time. I'd felt trapped for years, and it still took me a few more months to get my ducks in a row financially.

Oh boy, between the financial fear and the fear of his reaction, it was hard. But oh my goodness, the utter relief once I was out - It's been almost two years, and I'm STILL happier than I was during the last 5 years of that 8-year relationship.

Don't beat yourself up... but DO realize that this is a sign you need to make a change. You can choose to stay, if he's actually willing to work to change things with you, or you can choose to go, and move on... but don't stay and be miserable. It's not worth it. Hugs, if you'll take them, and good luck.
posted by stormyteal at 8:27 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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