Marriage down the tubes
June 6, 2006 7:23 PM   Subscribe

10 years of marriage. Possibly down the crapper. I've been married to my wife for 10 years and have 2 fantastic kids. We've had six weeks from hell though, and we are both considering calling it quits. What can I do?

It all started when I found an email from my wife to a male friend thanking him for the lovely picnic - and telling him that he she hadn't been treated like that in ages.

I should digress a bit and state that I wasn't snooping. We both use Gmail, and my wife had logged into my laptop for a change and left herself logged in, the message was there.

Anyway - so I flew off the handle. I didn't know this guy at all and felt very hurt, excluded and jealous. She told me that she didn't tell me because she knew I would be jealous. My mind starts thinking "what else hasn't she told me for that reason?" I don't honestly think that she would have an affair, but the fact that she didn't think it was apropriate to tell me, sort of made me feel unsure about our whole relationship. She told me she was attracted to him, and in a post to his blog, he admitted to being "physically and mentally attracted" to her. They both state that they would never act on it.

She sees this man twice a week, as he teaches a craft class that she is in on one day, and my kids on another day. I don't want to ask her to stop going, because she really enjoys it, and I know she would resent me forever.

But every week, I've been getting this knot in my stomach when she goes out to the class. I've been trying really hard to get over this, and to be aloof about it, but it seems that every week something happens that drags me down into the mire. Today it was the kids telling me about horsing around with this guy, playing horsey at the class. They were an hour late coming back from that class, and I was at home making dinner, wondering where they were.

So now we are at the point where we've gone to a counselor a couple of times, talked and talked and talked and just can't seem to get past this. I know, and she knows that this guy is a symbol of something bigger - a problem about our relationship. I walk around feeling hurt and rejected and she feels accused and restrained. We're both miserable.

I really don't want to be a 37 year old divorcee. I don't want to see my kids just on the weekend. I don't want to be the lonely guy living in an apartment somewhere. But we can't go on like this. Advice? trial separation? Change of scenery? More counseling? Do trial seperations more often lead to divorces or getting back together?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (82 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Put yourself in her shoes. If your wife flipped out because you were spending a lot of time with your craft teacher behind her back, would it be worth it to you to just quit that class or would you be prideful and stubborn and say I have to go to this class? If the marriage is important to her, she will stop seeing this person and focus on you and your marriage. I feel bad that she hasn't done so already, but I'd say it's time to give her that ulitmatum.
posted by mattbucher at 7:41 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine your pain. That said, there are two of you in your marriage. Why is your wife going to a class with a man who poses a threat to your happiness? It's not a matter of you letting her...why is she so insensitive to your feelings? Would she be OK with it if the shoe was on the other foot?

What kind of guy goes on a picnic with another dude's wife? Doesn't your wife have female friends? Male friends that she's not attracted to?

This is a symbol of something bigger. You left a lot out. Like your wife's reasons for hanging out with this guy. What her issues are with you. But since you didn't elaborate, I'll hold off on the advice, hopefully, things work out for you...
posted by black8 at 7:41 PM on June 6, 2006

First, you shouldn't feel guilty at all for what you are feeling or for "snooping," so don't beat yourself up. Of course you should feel jealous over this... it's obvious your wife is running around behind your back even if she isn't having sex with the guy. That's a pretty crummy thing to do to a life partner.

I guess I'm pretty old-fashioned, but you need to put your foot down. If your wife had any respect for your feelings, she would find somewhere else to take a craft class, preferably one taught by little old ladies and not men who enjoy private picnics with other men's wives.

I don't mean to go all Taliban on her or anything, but she's your wife and she shouldn't be running around with other men like she is. That is totally wrong.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:43 PM on June 6, 2006

Having never been in this situation, I'd say find another craft class in town and attend it together. Go on picnics together. Find out if it's primarily the activities or the other guy she's interested in. Take the other guy out of the picture and focusing on the activities.
posted by scottreynen at 7:52 PM on June 6, 2006

I know someone who is in this position, but she's the wife in a flirtatious relationship with another man. For her, this is definitely symptomatic of the problems of the marriage, and not the cause of them.

I don't know what advice to give, other than try to work out what is motivating your wife. There might be an underlying issue in your marriage that you haven't seen. Examining the relationship some more is definitely needed until the reasons behind this are discovered.

In the mean time, I don't think it is unreasonable of you to ask her to not spend time with this man. I don't know if it's practical, but maybe you could drop the kids off and pick them up from his class, and ask your wife to find a different class with a different instructor. I think that you have every right to be upset. In my opinion, close friendships with someone of the opposite sex when married, especially when one or both of the people involved is attracted to the other, is a sliding slope for something worse, and such a relationship can get to the point where it becomes adulterous, even with sex taking place.
posted by jonathanstrange at 7:55 PM on June 6, 2006

As someone who's 37 and is also going through a very rough spot, I would say you should keep your cool and try to be a person your wife can feel comfortable coming back to. My advice is very unorthodox but I don't feel that you can force your wife to do anything -- if raising concerns about this hasn't fixed the situation, putting pressure on her will just hasten the way to divorce.

If you're trying to avoid divorce, you have to work on the friendship and be supportive and someone she wants to see. I'm not saying that you should be a doormat, but you should patiently work to win back her feelings. At best you'll spark the friendship and romance, and at worst, you'll be able to work towards a mutually acceptable divorce without an awful legal battle (saving you and your kids a lot of money). Don't forget to work on your relationship with the kids.. this not only binds together something that will outlive any divorce but will demonstrate to your wife what she needs to be part of.

Again, this is just advice if your true intent is to save the relationship (not just the symbolic marriage, but all that it entails)... if you suspect your wife is out to screw you, has a mean heart, or your intent is to protect assets, then definitely look for an attorney. But you're in control still.

I can say that this worked for our relationship... my wife had relations with a couple of guys for awhile... yet expressed how startled she was with my acceptance and support... our friendship is back in spades, and four months later I can honestly say that things are better than they've been in years.
posted by zek at 7:56 PM on June 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

without sex taking place, I mean. Oh dear!
posted by jonathanstrange at 7:56 PM on June 6, 2006

Most people say they'd do anything for their kids. Of course they don't mean that. They want 'what's best for them', which usually winds up being what's best for the parent.

"I don't want to ask her to stop going"


If you'd take bullet for your kids why wouldn't you stand up and do that? Its not like you're asking her to take a bullet.

Fight for your marriage now, or fight for custody later. Just don't think you have a choice between those two options.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:02 PM on June 6, 2006

Sounds like a bad situation. There's one red flag here for me and that's hearing that after you confronted her, "She told me that she didn't tell me because she knew I would be jealous."

That sounds like someone being manipulative, trying to make this infidelity into your problem and something that is somehow your fault. You've done nothing wrong here. A married spouse hiding something that sounds like a "date" from you sounds like someone being dishonest about the relationship and to you.

It doesn't sound like she will stop going to this class anytime soon and it sounds like it would have turned into a full blown affair if it hasn't already. If the counseling isn't changing any of this, I don't know what else could possibly happen aside from an eventual separation and divorce.
posted by mathowie at 8:03 PM on June 6, 2006

I know, and she knows that this guy is a symbol of something bigger - a problem about our relationship.

The question is probably if the problem is bigger than the commitment of either you or your wife to your marriage.

People have all kinds of big problems in their marriages, and don't divorce. Some of them probably should, but most of them can actually work things out.

I don't want to ask her to stop going, because she really enjoys it, and I know she would resent me forever.

I don't think your concern about the guy in question is unwarranted or unreasonable, especially if it's as you've framed it. It may not be something that's going to end in infidelity, but it's understandable why that could be a concern. Has your wife acknowledged that? Has your councelor examined that issue? If not, is there a good reason?

Because if there's something that breaches trust, generally the spouse that's been involved really should make an effort to demonstrate greater trustworthiness and good faith... even if the issue is not necessarily something huge, even if doing so involves some sacrifice. Likewise, the hurt spouse definitely has to be willing to go on faith for a while while the trust is rebuilt.

You can pick up your part of that by starting to go on faith, and you probably should, if you can, even before she offers up whatever indications of trustworthiness help you.

But I don't think it's too bold to ask for some of those indications, too.
posted by namespan at 8:04 PM on June 6, 2006

"I didn't tell you because I knew you would be jealous" is pretty serious disrespect. It means she knew it would hurt you but did it anyway. It means she decided to avoid the possibility of you being hurt by the expedient of not telling you rather than the more correct actions of simply not doing it, or else by discussing it with you beforehand. And it means she is trying to put the blame on you for her choice not to tell you. That is the trifecta, my friend.

She may or may not have a point that you could be less jealous, I don't know you at all, but the fact that she feels "accused and restrained" by the fact that you object to your wife going on a date with another man (which is what it was, make no mistake -- friends don't e-mail each other after lunch to tell them how much they enjoyed it) and then continuing to have regular contact with him afterward... is frankly absurd. It doesn't matter how innocent it was; what matters is that it hurt you, she knew it would hurt you, and that wasn't enough to stop her.

If you knew your wife would be hurt by something completely innocent, like, say, eating cheese, wouldn't you stop doing it, no matter how irrational her feeling was? Of course you would. You would try to help her get over it, because it is a strain on the relationship, but in the meantime you would stop doing it until you were sure you wouldn't hurt her. You deserve the same consideration from her. Not to say you should forbid her to see him and force her to change classes. It's clear that this will antagonize her. Yes, you're damned if you do and most likely damned if you don't. But she should have done this much already on her own initiative, and I'm sure she knows it, but she didn't do it. She has let you down.

BTW, it's my understanding that trial separations usually grow up to be divorces. Not always, but by the time you separate, the relationship is in pretty bad shape and will take Herculean efforts from both partners to put back together, and it doesn't sound like she's willing to pull her weight. I'm sorry to say this, but I think you are in for a very rough ride.
posted by kindall at 8:05 PM on June 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

Acceptance and support are not a bad thing, but make sure she knows that you're not indifferent. Probably she does, but make sure.

Let her see how strongly you feel -- not just anger (but be honest), but the pain and sadness that come through in your post. And if you can show her that you love her, not just in a sad lonely way, but in an energetic, we-make-a-good-team way, that's even better.

Yes, she should make the relationship a priority, but it's maybe not unreasonable for you to put some additional effort into making the relationship attractive; the effort will also demonstrate that you really do care about her and about your life together being a beautiful thing.
posted by amtho at 8:05 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just want to say that I give mad props to amtho's comment above.
posted by zek at 8:08 PM on June 6, 2006

Maybe have a talk with her in a neutral place, like a fast food restaurant or a public park bench, where she won't feel threatened. Be calm, try to stay rational, ask if she feels there is a way for the relationship to continue, if there is a way for *both* partners to improve it, or if she is past the point of wanting to salvage things. I've been where she is, and I felt I had to misrepresent my feelings repeatedly because of fear of the explosive reaction the truth might bring. Don't make things drag on painfully for both of you. If there is hope, I wish you both the best! If not, try to deal with the upheaval in small steps. It gets easier day by day. I hate to think what a ghastly life it would have been for our offspring if the parents had stayed together "because of the children" all these years.
posted by fish tick at 8:12 PM on June 6, 2006

This throws up red flags for me, too. The chummy relationship avec kids, especially.

However... 10 years of marriage, possibly done after 6 weeks of something? Sounds like there's a whole lot of other stuff going on.

"Honey, this is causing me to feel jealous because XYZ" is the way to go, "How about you tell me what you're thinking about everything?"

Non-confrontational and supportive. it's altogether possible that this man is showing a level of interest that you, after 10 years, are no longer (naturally, it would seem, based on most relationships I've seen) are no longer showing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:12 PM on June 6, 2006

Shut up, I screwed up that sentence.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:13 PM on June 6, 2006

The fact that she intentionally hid it from you is a serious breach of marital ethics.

I would highly recommend some counseling for both of you.
posted by fenriq at 8:21 PM on June 6, 2006

There's no reason you should get past this. She is in the early stages of an affair with another man. She may or may not have slept with him but that is where this is headed. There is no reason why you should not be jealous. She is causing you pain.

There may well be many other factors contributing to this situation in your past with her, but there is no chance that this will be resolved while she is still seeing him.

There are two possibilities here.

1. Her marriage is ultimately more important to her than he is.

2. He is ultimately more important to her than her marriage.
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Has your wife, anytime in the past year, told you she wanted a divorce? If those words have ever crossed her lips, she is acting on it and you are in a bad situation. She wasn't joking or threatening you, women say it only when they mean it.

You need professional help and fast. Having lived through the situation you're in now, I recommend you spruce up the wardrobe, get in shape (if you're not already) and try and win her back. Don't, however, let her go back to that class! Think of thoughtful, tactful ways to keep her home.

And my best advice: ask God for help. You may scoff, but what have you got to lose that's not already in peril?
posted by rinkjustice at 8:23 PM on June 6, 2006

What zek said. If you love someone, let them free.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:31 PM on June 6, 2006

"set" them free.

I'm an idiot.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:32 PM on June 6, 2006

she told the guy that she 'hadn't been treated like that in ages'... maybe she's seeking it from him because she doesn't get it from you any more. why don't you set out to charm her again? imagine you've just met her, for the first time, today. win her over, be romantic, be fun, be spontaneous, do what you did in the first few months together.

maybe she just enjoys this guy because he gives her what she wants from you. if so, then this is a wake-up call and a reminder to both of you that you need to keep working at the relationship and can't just let it slide now that it's been established.
posted by twirlypen at 8:36 PM on June 6, 2006

I really don't want to be a 37 year old divorcee. I don't want to see my kids just on the weekend. I don't want to be the lonely guy living in an apartment somewhere.

What you left out of your list of regrets is telling - I'm sure there were reasons you married her in the first place. Maybe you should look to see if it's still there?

Don't start hating her before she's gone. You'll have plenty of time to hate everybody involved, including and especially yourself, if you wind up in divorce court.

...she hadn't been treated like that in ages.

Quit thinking of this as some horrible betrayal, and start thinking of it as a request from your wife to get your mind back on the game.

36, 2nd marriage.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:39 PM on June 6, 2006

I disagree with rinkjustice. You don't need to spruce up or think of devious plots to keep her from going to her craft class. All you can do is tell her exactly how you feel, and then listen to how she feels. You said you've already done this, to a point - if you feel you've both been sincere with and listened to each other to the fullest extent, then you need to make a decision. You can't force her to stay home or not pursue a friendship and/or relationship with the other guy. You're not responsible for her feelings nor can you can control her actions. You can only control yourself, and so you have to decide what's better in your mind: staying in a relationship in which your wife may or may not have an affair, and may or may not be honest with you about it (basically, riding it out and hoping for the best) or being separated from her and starting a new life.

Choosing to stick with it isn't a terrible option, nor does it make you weak. It might be a phase. It might not be a phase. But if you'd rather be with your family more than anything else, and you're not sacrificing your well-being to do so, then so be it. If you feel like your life's only going to be miserable and you're going to be worried and tense each time she leaves the house and you're at the end of the rope, then leave.

When it comes down to it, it's not your decision whether she goes to her crafts class or has a friendship with the other guy. You can only tell her how much it hurts you. Beyond that, you must decide your next course of action. If you've truly exhausted all options, then you need to focus on yourself and what's best for you at this point. Good luck.
posted by Zosia Blue at 8:40 PM on June 6, 2006

I'd like to add something that will sound horribly callous, but here goes.

In a negotiating situation where you have a weak hand, which is where you seem to feel you are, the best single thing you can do it strengthen your options should the negotiations not go the way you want. Counterintuitively, this gives you a much stronger hand in the negotiations in question.

Your wife is leveraging your fear of divorce to continue her relationship with Mr X.

By reducing your fear of divorce etc you will enormously reduce her leverage and SHE will have to confront the notion of living on her own.

Does she think that Mr X is a realistic life-partner? If so, you are up shit creek without a paddle right now, although I will say that part-time craft teachers/ski instructors/tour guides do not, as a rule, step up to the plate in these situations.

If she is not confident that Mr X is a possible life partner, your exploration of the alternatives to simply suffering will probably pull the rug from under her feet in a dramatic way.

I know this sounds like gamesmanship but I presume you are fighting for keeps here.

I think you probably need to say something to her along the lines of: "I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. If I have neglected you or treated you badly, I will do everything I can to change my behavior and put things right. But I cannot take the pain you are causing me by continuing to see that guy, and if you don't stop our marriage will soon be over." And you need to be serious when you say that. You need to have explored the options. No blame, no fault, but you tell her you can't take it and no reasonable man would.

All the counselling etc is a good idea but until she stops seeing him, it is just kicking the ball into the long grass.

I am sure they mean what they say about 'never acting on it'. And of course they won't, until they do.
posted by unSane at 8:43 PM on June 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

You have to ask yourself what need this extramarital relationship is addressing for her, and figure out how you can start providing whatever that happens to be. It doesn't sound like she is after money or better sex, it sounds like she is able to communicate with this man on a much more intimate level than she can with you. This is bad news, the money and sex issues are easier to fix, especially since you now have (justified) trust issues of your own. Yep. Counciling. Find a good one, and fast.
posted by lilboo at 8:44 PM on June 6, 2006

I'm soooo sorry you are going through this. I really am.

that's all.
posted by FeistyFerret at 8:47 PM on June 6, 2006

I think you should ask her to hold off from seeing the other man until you can work through your issues -- this way, you are not commanding her to do something, but rather are working on finding a solution for both of you.

To add to what amtho said, you can try starting to woo her again as if you were dating.
posted by spiderskull at 8:48 PM on June 6, 2006

I've been in the same boat, and I agree with zek ...
it depends on the individual situation of course. But I opted for roughly the same course of action as zek, and it worked out pretty well.

On preview Zosia Blue's advice too.
posted by forforf at 8:54 PM on June 6, 2006

Wow, that sucks. I completely agree with all those who've said that your wife really needs to stop seeing this guy. The fact that she hasn't decided to do that on her own worries me. If she hasn't even asked whether you want her to stop going to the class, that would make me think that she may have already decided that your marriage isn't worth saving. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but that's the vibe I get.

You don't mention her apologizing at all. That, combined with her trying to place the blame for her not telling you on you, makes it sound to me like she's either not feeling guilty about what she's done or she does feel guilty but doesn't care enough about your feelings to do anything about it.

As I see it, if your marriage is to survive, these are the things that need to happen:

1. She needs to stop seeing and communicating with this man immediately.

2. She needs to accept the blame for betraying you, and sincerely apologize for doing so.

3. The two of you need to work together to figure out what inspired her to cheat. Something must've been missing from your relationship, and unless you restore it the situation can't be repaired.

4. You need to figure out if and how you will be able to trust her again. This is probably the hardest part.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:59 PM on June 6, 2006

I have a friend that just went through something similar. Unfortunately, after lots of counseling, it ended in divorce. I say continue the counseling, and be as honest there as you are here. Six weeks is early. Pick yourself up and keep being honest with everyone, including the kids, as appropriate to their age. But realize that sometimes you don't pull out of the power dive, and that's OK, too.

My friend's husband was cheating on her. Another friend openly wondered, "At some point, she has to realize that she must show her kids how real adults handle this kind of situation. Real adults don't hide things. Real adults face facts and do what is necessary." Ultimately, this is what she did. And although it was a messy divorce, everyone is the better for it.
posted by frogan at 9:00 PM on June 6, 2006

Well, I see two issues. The first is that your wife is clearly feeling neglected. I would address that issue head on. Spend time LISTENING to her tell you how she feels. Don't defend yourself -- earnestly gather informaton on how to fix what has gone awry. You can't talk her out of her feelings by convincing her your actions are justified -- you need to hear and learn how and what you can change to make her feel good again. Start dating her again.

I also think that her new relationship (sexual or not) cannot continue if you two are going to make a meaningful effort to save your marriage. SHe needs to make that choice -- but you need to ask her the question: "Do you honestly think that his continued presence will not be a barrier to fixing what has gone wrong between us?"

Finally, I think counseling is an excellent choice.
posted by GIRLesq at 9:02 PM on June 6, 2006

What this is is emotional adultery. You need to see it as such, and she and the kids need to find another class. That is not asking too much. If the roles were reversed, believe me, she'd be demanding it of you.
posted by konolia at 9:05 PM on June 6, 2006

You said that you don't want to ask her to stop going to the classes, b/c she would resent you forever, but how much resentment will there be if this hippie douche crafts dude breaks up your family?
Step one in healing your relationship (if you both want to heal it) is getting her and your kids out of that damn class!!!
I've been sitting here putting myself in your place for the last few minutes, and I'm furious at her. I would feel betrayed, and the idea of my kids spending any time with this guy would make me nuts.
I would tell her that if she wants to flush the last 10 years down the crapper along with your kids happiness, then she can keep going to crafts night, but there is no way in hell that those kids are ever going back.
Now, do YOU want to stay with her and heal things? More counseling won't help if your heart is not there. If you both are down with giving it a shot, then yes, more counseling would be good. First you have to make sure that you're both on the same page about moving forward with a little reconciliation.
posted by BillBishop at 9:09 PM on June 6, 2006

Maybe she wanted you to see the email, after all, she left her gmail acct logged in on your computer. Maybe she wanted to make you jealous. She could be one of those people who wants a big knock-out screamfest, or some elaborate show of male jealousy.

She told me she was attracted to him, and in a post to his blog, he admitted to being "physically and mentally attracted" to her. They both state that they would never act on it.

Ok, this is my personal limit. For fuck's sake, he's writing about his attraction to your wife on his blog. And your wife knows this, knows that you know, and still sees him regularly. She would "resent you forever" if you asked her to stop going to the craft class? There are no other classes on this particular craft in your area at all?

I would probably approach this by calmly telling her why it upsets me and asking her to stop seeing this guy. If the conversation degenerated, I would be prepared to separate, because my limit had been reached. My advice to you is to find out what your personal limit is, clear your head, psych yourself up, and have respect for yourself.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 9:13 PM on June 6, 2006

She should knock off the craft class of her own volition, and she should certainly quit the class if you ask. And you have every right to ask.

You should also seriously consider her "I knew you'd be jealous" comment - to me, that implies a lack of trust on her part, and a pattern of behavior on yours.

And you should consider your words about not wanting to be the lonely guy, not wanting to see the kids only on the weekends - not wanting to be a divorcee - those aren't reasons to avoid divorce. Those are selfish words, and it sounds to me like pretty concerned about how the divorce "will look".

If you have a sincere interest in saving the marriage - which really involves saving the 10+ year friendship with your wife - then you need to think seriously about the reasons you should save it. Do you love her? Do you like her? Is she your bestest friend? Or is she inconvenient? Do you get jealous because she's interested in someone else (and therefore not so interested in you), or do you get jealous because of how that "disinterest" in you looks?

It takes two. If your marriage is on the rocks, the responsibility for that is on both of you. Don't you wonder if her interest in another man says something about you?

My relationship of almost 10 years went south when it became clear that neither of us really had any interest in staying together - a condition that had been true for a couple of years. The view of the white picket fence and the 2 cars and the safety and security and the "appearance" that all was perfect was really important to both of us - until my partner found someone that was more important.
posted by disclaimer at 9:13 PM on June 6, 2006

This is what I would do.

I would decide that there is so much invested in this relationship that it is worth fighting for. Then I would tell my wife that, and let her know that I think she and I need to tell mr. crafty that his relationship with her was inappropriate, and can't continue like this.

I would find less crafty craft teacher and attend those classes with her, together.

I would find some of our closest friends and tell them about the struggles together and ask for help.

I would ask my wife what she meant about "hasn't been treated like that for ages" and work on myself for maybe not treating her like a special person for ages. (Yes this would be hard).

I would completely acknowledge that she was wrong, but since there is so much to lose here, I would try to be the "bigger man" and go above and beyond what is fair in order to turn her around and set this ship right (that paragraph wins the award for most cliches in a paragraph).

Seriously, that is what I would do. At least then you'd know you tried your hardest.
posted by visual mechanic at 9:19 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Your wife left that email on your computer on purpose, maybe not consciously but some part of her wanted to get caught before she went to far. She wants you to fight for your relationship. Forget about all the bad stuff that lead to this stray walk she's taken. Take her out to dinner or somewhere romantic and talk to her about everything - about the future, the past, the present. Work it out. It's been my experience that marriages go sour because of one thing - lack of communication. Give her a chance to vent her frustrations and you can vent yours and you can both find your way back to middle ground where you can live.
posted by any major dude at 9:30 PM on June 6, 2006

saying what needs to be done is easy, making sure you can both do that comfortably is the hard part. i don't know anyway to accomplish that other than to honestly and with every fiber of your being concentrate and work on it. that said:

1. your wife is being dishonest. however understandably (or not), however innocent her reasons may (or may not) be, she should tell you when she's going out with some other dude for some reason if it's important to you to know. she should respect and care for you enough to do that for you.

2. you are being overprotective and jealous. (note: OVERprotective does not depend on whether or not she's doing anything wrong. it's a state of mind, not a state of reality.) you need to be able to hear her tell you things that might make you jealous and take heart in her honesty. that way, if she doesn't tell you something, you have reason to wonder. the way it is now, she doesn't tell you about innocent things because you overreact to them, so you have no idea what's innocent and what isn't. more importantly, if she DOES tell you about something, you have no reason to wonder at all, and if she has the freedom to tell you about things without you flipping out, then she can feel free to enjoy herself without feeling like you're controlling her whole life. this is important. so important.

3. you both need to be open and honest about what you need, and what you can live without. it's reasonable to not be okay with her seeing another man a couple times a week without you, taking picnics with him, having the kids spend time him (whether it's just after class or not) and missing dinner with you to be with him. it is NOT reasonable to expect her to cut off all ties with a man who is attracted to her because you don't trust her. flip side: it is reasonable for her to do things without you, and enjoy other people's company. it is not reasonable to do something that hurts you simply because she knows she's not cheating on you.

what it comes down to is: is the guy worth the losing the marriage to her? is the security of knowing your wife isn't cheating on you worth imposing more severe restrictions on her, and therefore making her less happy (and probably losing the marriage) to you?

compromise is key. give her some slack. accept that she'll do things without flipping out. in turn, she has to be willing to take that opportunity you'll provide for her to be more open and honest with you about her activities. you both lose small things and get a lot more in return.

and lastly: keep working at it. even if you both agree to do these things, you'll fail at it over and over again. just keep working at it and practicing it and you'll go it without thinking eventually. but if you give up at the first sign of adversity, you're fucked.
posted by shmegegge at 9:30 PM on June 6, 2006

I don't know you, I haven't been through this, but I watched another couple go through a similar situation. My guess?

You've been married 10 years. You've changed. Your wife has changed. You've had kids. And yet in many ways, your relationship is continuing along in patterns that were set down nearly a decade ago.

There were things about you that irritated your wife even when you first got married. Those things haven't changed. Meanwhile, some of the little nice things that you did in the early days of your romance have faded due to the pressures of adulthood, childbearing, etc. She's frustrated. Little things that might not have been such a big deal a few years ago are really starting to irritate her. She feels like you don't know who she is any more. She still loves you, but she doesn't feel appreciated. She doesn't feel special.

So, what do you want?

The status quo is not an option. If you continue to expect your wife to be the woman you married, you will lose her. She's an evolved version of herself. She may feel lonely. She probably wants acknowledgement.

What can you do?

Two things, simultaneously:

1. Commit to proving your love to her.

2. Be honest with her about your concerns regarding her actions.

How do you commit to proving your love to her? Make this your top priority: getting to know the new, grown up, changed, mother that you are now married to. Appreciate her. Appreciate how she has grown, and how the woman she has become is an evolution of the person you fell in love with. Tell her you love her every day. Make romantic gestures. Commit to doing this for the rest of your life -- to continually getting to know her, to continually appreciating her, to continually giving her signs that you actually appreciate her, to continually realize that she won't know unless you tell her.

How can you be honest with her? Tell her you're scared. Tell her your marriage is the most important thing to you. Tell her you love her and you can't handle the though of her with another man. Promise her that you'll be a better husband. Ask her what she needs.

Is this fair? By following my advice, you'll giving up a lot, commiting to work a lot, and it doesn't sound like you're getting much. Except your marriage. Is it worth it?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:32 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Two more points:

A lot of women take "emotional" infidelity more seriously than the physical kind. That's why one hears so often, "He said it was just sex, she meant nothing to him," etc.

I don't know any women who would say to a platonic friend, in the context of a day spent together, "I haven't been treated so well in a long time." This sounds like a date-like thing to say, as well as indication that your marriage has been discussed in an unfavorable light.

But platonic friends could easily say, "I haven't had such a nice treat in ages," which refers to the effort the host/hostess went to arranging the picnic. It is not clear to me which one your wife actually wrote/meant.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 9:46 PM on June 6, 2006

If she did not collapse in guilt and confusion, and start crying when you first confronted her, that is a Very Bad Sign.

Prepare for the worst. Go to a psychiatrist and get a prescription for an antidepressant. They take a couple of weeks to really start kicking in, so make the appointment now, and tell them it's an emergency. I judge from your post that you are highly emotional (a good thing) and she is not (not so good), which will put you at a terrible disadvantage if this becomes purely a struggle for power and position. My guess is, for her it is already.

Next, make an appointment with a lawyer, tell him or her ('her' will have more impact on your wife and will give you at least the illusion of a balancing extra-marital interest), your situation and say you want to put together a divorce settlement which will be fair to your wife and protect your kids as much as possible.

Next, tell all the members of your immediate family, especially your parents, if they are still alive, what's going on. Tell hers too, most especially her parents. Then tell all your friends. If you are at all like me this will be hard; you will feel ashamed. But if there is any shame in this, it is your wife's.

Good luck! Please let us know what happens.
posted by jamjam at 9:51 PM on June 6, 2006

One detail that might be important is the craft class itself -- why did she sign up for it? Has she been bored? It might be that she's felt empty or unfulfilled and took on this class (creativity is a good outlet in situations like this) and is now feeling validated and special in a way that she hasn't in awhile.

If this scenario rings at all true, that'd be something to tackle at the same time as the relationship work. She might need more or other classes, independent travel, non-mommy friends, time to read, a worthy project, or any number of things that would rebuild her identity, if it's something that had been drifting away from her with the rigors of parenthood.

(That doesn't excuse her secrecy, of course, but it might explain her attraction to this man -- through his attentions in the class, he's validating her creative talents and encouraging her to self-actualize. If she could get this reassurance in lots of other forums, perhaps it wouldn't feel like something to cling to at all costs and she could give up this particular class.)
posted by xo at 10:04 PM on June 6, 2006

Don't give up.

Work hard to make your marriage everything you want it to be - you can't make decisions for your wife, but you can be the best spouse you can possibly be, and make sure you're doing absolutely everything in your power to make it work.

It sounds like your relationship hasn't reached the point of no return yet. Keep hoping, keep working, keep trying. Good luck.
posted by eleyna at 10:05 PM on June 6, 2006

Well, going to on picnics and posting on his 'blog' about how he's physically attracted to her? WTF? And It's just a crafts class, not like the guy is her PhD advisor. I think I would have been pretty upset if I found out a wife of mine was acting that way. A picnic is totally a date.

Honestly it seems like your wife wants out at the moment. I mean no offense but that's what it seems like to me. Obviously if your wife was interested in saving the marrage it could work but who knows if she does.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 PM on June 6, 2006

I would disagree with the "your marriage is doomed" comments. The other dude is a symptom of problems in your marriage, not the cause. She's got needs you're not meeting (emotionally); you've got needs she's not meeting (sexually?). Consequently, you've probably both compartmentalized your lives and lost the connection to one another. That connection may be reestablished if you're both willing to do some hard work. But marriage is all about hard work, otherwise, what's the point of commitment, anyway?
Best to you and your wife.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:26 PM on June 6, 2006

let her see this thread.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:32 PM on June 6, 2006

Having been in a similar situation, I've got to say I agree with jamjam.

Try for the best resolution, but prepare for the worst -- because if that's where this is headed, then she's already considerably ahead of you in the process of emotionally seperating herself from the relationship.

If it comes down to you having to negotiate the cleanest ending of the relationship for all concerned, you do not want to be the one emotionally devistated while she's already dealt with her own feelings and moved on, or you may regret it for many years to come.

What I wish I had done was prepared myself ahead of time, and then confronted her, and suggested counseling -- if that had worked out, I'd have been happy to have carried forward in a new relationship with her under new terms, but if she refused or it didn't work out, I'd at least have been much more prepared to look after the interests of my children and myself.

I'm very sorry you have to deal with this, and I wish you all of the best in the world.
posted by nonliteral at 10:54 PM on June 6, 2006

Oops -- minor addendum; I agree with jamjam except the part about telling everyone. Plenty of time for that if and when you have to pull the trigger. Once that's done, it's all over.
posted by nonliteral at 10:56 PM on June 6, 2006

She sees this man twice a week, as he teaches a craft class that she is in on one day, and my kids on another day. I don't want to ask her to stop going, because she really enjoys it, and I know she would resent me forever.
That's ridiculous.

You should read this question. My first thought was, "She can't possibly be serious. Her boyfriend wants to buy a vibrator for his ex-girlfriend, and she's asking whether she's being unreasonable for objecting?!?" I had a similar reaction reading your question.

Your wife went on a picnic with a man she's attracted to, a man who posted in his blog about his attraction to her — and you don't feel comfortable objecting because she likes her crafts class? I don't mean to be rude, but seriously: What the fuck is wrong with you?
I know, and she knows that this guy is a symbol of something bigger - a problem about our relationship.
Ha. The "symbol of something bigger" theory. Personally, I think that's a crock of shit. Maybe the leaky roof is a sign that the house was poorly constructed, or maybe it's just a leaky roof because life is quirky and these things happen — but either way, you're standing there talking while water's dripping on the carpet. Plug the leak.

I honestly don't mean to be rude. I sympathize with your pain, your frustration, your insecurity. I wish I could help you. A lot of people have written a lot of words about a lot of big ideas, above — and mostly, I think they're bullshit. I abhor divorce, but the tragedy here isn't that you're considering divorce — it's that you and your wife are possibly about to throw away 10 years of marriage and harm two children for nothing. For absolutely nothing.

There are legitimate, complex, painful reasons to divorce. There are women who endure physical abuse and men who begin to question their sexual orientation. There are couples who are stricken with paralysis or stillbirths, who try to make it work but can't. You're contemplating divorce over a fucking crafts class. That's an insult, both to the sanctity of marriage and to the gravity of divorce. And you've got kids. You should both be ashamed for even considering it.
posted by cribcage at 11:03 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by ab3 at 11:03 PM on June 6, 2006

The fact that you have come to an internet forum to discuss your emotional life with a bunch of people who don't know you, don't have any understanding of the history of your relationship or your respective personalities suggest that you have given up looking for the answer from within yourself and have decided to take a consensus approach.

Well in that case, I would say that there is strong evidence that the marriages of most people in your situation generally fail these days sooner or later. So if that is what you are looking for, there is your answer. Start preparing yourself for a few very painful years and look to build a new life.

Just remember there is another way and you have the answer to find it somewhere within you. You won't find it on some anonymous forum from a bunch of people who just happened to have a fair spare minutes to kindly offer up their idle thoughts about your life history.
posted by zaebiz at 11:09 PM on June 6, 2006

I know a couple in this exact situation right now. My two cents: the situation is probably worse than you think it is. That's all I have to offer—there are a lot of good answers here that cover anything else I might say. Read them thoroughly.
posted by limeonaire at 11:23 PM on June 6, 2006

Your wife's behavior here is ridiculous and inappropriate. But I suspect you know that already and are just looking for some confirmation and moral support. In which case; consider this moral support.

If you love your wife and want to make it work, tell her so. But she can't continue to see this guy. Not telling her she needs to quit the craft class is being an emotional doormat!
posted by Justinian at 11:41 PM on June 6, 2006

I don't want to be the lonely guy living in an apartment somewhere.

Why can't you be a 37 year old divorced guy out with friends, or a date? It's not either/or. You're miserable with her. She wants someone else. You don't sound so much in love than scared of being alone.

You can see where this is going.
posted by justgary at 11:49 PM on June 6, 2006

Most people in happy relationships don't cheat. There is something in your relationship that is making the idea of another man enticing. Sometimes thats just boredom. Sometimes its something that has been nagging at you for the last two years.

In either case, figure out whats causing it and fix it - or lose your wife. Once you've fixed that, then deal with her behavior. Going on dates and not telling you is NOT ok, despite how you'd react. Continuing to go to this class - given your PERFECTLY REASONABLE feelings - also not ok.

I also want to second matt's comment that not telling you because you'd be jealous is sleazy and manipulative. I guess the same could be said of fucking someone else... i mean, you'd be jealous right?

That said, sack up. Try leveling with the fact that this may turn out badly. Being 37 and single isn't the worst. Strengthen your relationships with your friends. Lean on them - its what they're there for.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:44 AM on June 7, 2006

I would suggest asking her to stop the classes for a month while you try to get things back on track. This should not be as much of a big deal for her as quitting altogether - it's just like a vacation - and you can make a ton of progress in that time. Even two weeks would be workable. Use the time to demonstrate your love for her in every way you can think of.

Also, since nobody else has said it, it is quite possible for your wife to get enormous pleasure from spending time with a man who makes her feel attractive without having any intention of cheating on you. I don't say this to dismiss your feelings, which are completely legitimate, but to balance out some of the other comments in this thread.
posted by teleskiving at 1:46 AM on June 7, 2006

This definitely sounds like an emotional affair. It's better to have found out now, than 5 years down the road. I agree with those who have said that saying you weren't told because you'd be jealous IS a pretty manipulative thing to say, especially since she clearly had some sort of romantic picnic with this guy. If it was a simple lunch, and she didn't tell you because she thought you'd be jealous, I could maybe understand that, but the reason you hide a romantic picnic isn't because of jealousy, it's because you enjoy the illicit thrill of having an emotional affair. Duh.

However, having said all that, you WERE snooping. Don't try to kid yourself into thinking that you weren't. Unless that particular email was sitting there, already open, you snooped. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Of course, it turns out that you had REASON to snoop, and you busted her, but don't go trying to take the moral high ground on this one. Sure, you didn't crack her password, but you actively opened an email that you could have left well enough alone.
posted by antifuse at 1:52 AM on June 7, 2006

As a woman, I can tell you that normally, we do this kind of thing because of a lack of attention at home. You should sit her down (maybe make a nice dinner for just the two of you?) and ask her "What can we do to make our marriage more solid? What can I do to bring us back?" I hate to put the burden on you because you are going through a lot, emotionally right now. But, she is looking for something outside of your marriage that she stopped getting inside of it. We all tend to get lazy, from an emotional standpoint, and after ten years, well....we get rather blase, I guess. We think that the marriage, on its own merit will provide the strength to keep it alive. The "snooping" part...I think its good it happened. Now you know. So, now you have to take action to save your marriage. It won't happen with one talk, but if you two sit and talk about your needs, and how to fulfill them again that is a great start.
posted by peglam at 2:56 AM on June 7, 2006

Also, since nobody else has said it, it is quite possible for your wife to get enormous pleasure from spending time with a man who makes her feel attractive without having any intention of cheating on you.

It needed repeating. And what Zek said.

I'm a flirt. I love it when a man flirts with me, and I can flirt back. No, not planning on anything. It's a simple lift of the ol' spirits. Such encounters provide an enhancement to the sex drive, which I spend at home to the benefit of my relationship.

Peglam also echoes this sentiment. Your lady isn't feeling very cherished. That's something you simply must fix, and the cost is in time and effort, not money. It is almost certainly the case that you've done the classic "taken her for granted". (Of course you have! That is your right as her husband! Doesn't mean it keeps things happy though.)

I can't offer any detailed roadmap for how to get back to where you wish to be. No experience! I'm in the 9th year of my honeymoon.
posted by Goofyy at 4:25 AM on June 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

1) keep going to counselling for a while.
2) both of you should reflect on the things that brought you together in the first place.
3) ask her to stop seeing the craft teacher socially--- taking a course from a male teacher is reasonable... having a picnic with another man is questionable and she knows it.
4) you need to be more attentive to your wife. When was the last time YOU took her on a picnic? you HAVE to keep courting her forever... that's what a marriage is all about.
posted by mykl at 5:44 AM on June 7, 2006

I hate all this "You aren't paying enough attention to your wife. It's your fault that she's going to other men." bullshit. Stop making assumptions about her motives for going on a date with this man behind her husband's back. Yes, he might not have been the best husband in the world (by her standards), but she flat out betrayed him.

Goofyy - it's one thing to flirt. It's another thing to plan a secret picnic in the park with another man, and then go on to tell him how great it is that he treats you so much better than your husband. This has all the markings of "emotional affair", and whether or not her husband drove her to it, her reaction to "not being cherished" should have been flat out saying "You're not cherishing me" as opposed to starting to date other men.
posted by antifuse at 6:33 AM on June 7, 2006

Whoops, posted a bit quickly there - If the gender roles were reversed here, and it was a case where the husband had gone out on a date with another woman, I think the answers in this thread would have been TREMENDOUSLY different.
posted by antifuse at 6:34 AM on June 7, 2006

disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. advice: perhaps start keeping a journal of your wife's behavior that may help you at a later date if custody issues develop.
posted by mecran01 at 6:43 AM on June 7, 2006

Zosia Blue: Actions like looking his best, being more of a gentleman, spending quality time with her (and keeping her from that class) and using every available self-respecting angle to win her heart back will speak alot louder and clearer than "Baby, please don't leave me!" Mere words are cheap and will not convince his wife to stay. His wife wants to see change, and now!
posted by rinkjustice at 6:45 AM on June 7, 2006

I think croutonsupafreak makes a lot of sense. Give it your best, most unselfish and generous, shot. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll know you did the best you could-- and that is an investment worth making. You'll avoid a lot of late night self-recrimination.

It's not uncommon for men or women to find themselves infatuated with someone during the course of a marriage or relationship-- and it's usually a sign of discontent. This doesn't mean the end of love and it doesn't have to mean the end of the marriage. The most important task here is to find a way to make it a problem both of you are addressing together. To be in a place where it's about you, as a couple, dealing with anomalous feelings and impulses. It's important to take advantage of the fact that you know about it right now before it goes any further.

Last, but not least, mykl is right. Court her. After my marriage ended my ex went through a brief period of trying to win me back. It was too late by then. He tried arguing, reasoning, and rationalizing until at one point he said with great frustration, "What do you want? Seduction? I know how to do that." All I could think was "Then why have you never once seduced me in the last ten years? Why didn't you try it when it mattered to me?"
posted by idest at 6:57 AM on June 7, 2006

I think you need to ask yourself and your wife the same question: Do I (you) really want this marriage to work?

Everything stems from the answer to this question for both of you. I have no idea what the answer is, and I'm not sure that you do either. Your own reasons for not wanting a divorce are compelling, but also strangely limited to the pain that it will cause you. Your wife's continued attendance at the crafts class is troubling.
posted by OmieWise at 7:02 AM on June 7, 2006

If the gender roles were reversed here, and it was a case where the husband had gone out on a date with another woman, I think the answers in this thread would have been TREMENDOUSLY different.

What if he'd gone to a strip club and wrote about how he hasn't been sexually aroused like that in a long time? I don't think we'd be hearing about how looking at another woman naked and being turned on is an absolute betrayal of his wife.
posted by transona5 at 7:19 AM on June 7, 2006

I was in a very, very similar situation several years ago. A woman and I met via the internet, met in person a few times, actually had a picnic. We were physically and mentally attracted to each other, and said so, but, of course, denied that we’d ever act on it, and didn’t (until later).

Her husband (of 15 years) was aware of the situation, and accepted it, since he didn’t really want a physical or emotional relationship with his wife, anyway. They’d been going to counseling, and had decided to divorce, but were still living with each other, for the kids, you know.

I, too, was married (for 10 years) at the time. I told my wife some of the details, and, of course, she exploded, demanded I break things off, all that. I refused. We did the trial separation thing, but, really, it was a trial divorce, and we legalized it as soon as allowed by our local laws.

So, why did I go through all that? It wasn’t for the other woman. She and her husband split, and we did go out for a year. But we both sort of knew the whole time that the relationship wouldn’t last.

The emotional affair was more of a symptom of a failing marriage than the cause of one. Until I met this woman, I didn’t know, at least consciously, that I wanted out of my marriage. Meeting her, talking to her, connecting with her, made me realize that I didn’t have much of a connection any more with my wife. My wife and I did go to counseling, but it was rather half-hearted on both our parts, so of course it didn’t do much good. My wife was happy with the status quo (except for the part about me seeing another woman), and just wanted things to get back to normal. Having seen what could be, I wasn’t happy with normal anymore, so I had to make the horribly difficult decision to get a divorce.

Even though I broke up with the woman, I learned a great deal about what I needed and wanted in a relationship. Now, 8 years later, I’m happy to report that I found it, and have married again.

All this is to say that I don’t have much hope for your marriage. I’m sorry, really I am. But your wife’s situation, especially the part about her refusing to break things off with they other man, sounds so strikingly similar to my own that I had to weigh in. You can feel free to contact me off list if you want to talk more about it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:55 AM on June 7, 2006

transona5: completely different situation (although I bet we WOULD be hearing that from at least ONE person). Seriously, switch the roles around, and have HIM getting a secret picnic from a woman he sees twice weekly (not in a social manner, or so the wife thought), and making comments about how much better the woman is than the wife (which, let's face it, is what this guy's wife wrote in her email), and I think people would be seeing this much differently.

If you want to talk about "Oh, women have emotional needs that men don't have" etc etc etc, you might be right, but that still doesn't excuse her actions. That's like saying "Oh, men have sexual needs that women don't have" to excuse a man having a sexual affair. To be fair, people DO this, but that doesn't make it right.
posted by antifuse at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2006

All good advice. You may also consider talking to the guy. Not in a crazy, donuts-on-his-lawn, stay-away-from-my-wife-or-i'll-kill-you sort of way, but talk to him and tell them that you and your wife have issues that need to be worked out and he needs to step aside and let you work on them.
posted by electroboy at 8:01 AM on June 7, 2006

Well, I'd start by threatning the crafts guy. Let's face it: this guy runs a crafts class and a blog. I'm thinking he's a total wimp. Next time you pick up the kids from the class have a little talk with him. Let him know that you don't like what he's doing and if he keeps doing it then there will be consequences. Most guys respond well to such threats but there's always a few who'll treat it as a dare. Still, it'll put you in a good mood.

I'd also recommend against 'courting' your wife. If you only treat your wife well when she's having an affair--well let's just say it's not a good sign. It's also positive reinforcement for what's really terrible behavior.

You should confront your wife. Tell her you don't like her having an affair behind your back. Yes, you should use the a-word becaus, yes, this is an affair. Don't dictate her actions because this sets a dangerous precedent. Instead you really have to be totally blunt with her. Ask her if she wants a divorce, ask her if she's bored, ask her if she still loves you. These are hard questions to ask but they have to be asked.

I'll also second the vacation suggestion. Get away and be together for some time. It seems to me that you don't really know your wife that well and now would be a good time to fix that problem. A 4-7 day vacation somewhere where you two can really bond and talk would probably clear away all the little secrets you keep from each other.
posted by nixerman at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2006

If you're not feeling any hope or change from your therapy, you might need to find another counselor. My experience is that lots of therapists who do couples counseling don't really know what they're doing. Like maybe they took a course or two while in training, but don't really have it as a serious specialty.

Personally, I'm a big fan of John Gottman's work, but I'm sure there are lots of good couples therapists out there.
posted by jasper411 at 9:11 AM on June 7, 2006

You may also consider talking to the guy. Not in a crazy, donuts-on-his-lawn, stay-away-from-my-wife-or-i'll-kill-you sort of way, but talk to him and tell them that you and your wife have issues that need to be worked out and he needs to step aside and let you work on them.

This is a man who's willing to cavort with a married woman and write about his attraction to her on his blog. I'm thinking the "don't be a douche" request isn't going to go well. Don't bother. Besides, he may be an ass but he's not the one breaking/bending vows made to you, she is.

If you've been to a counselor a few times and s/he hasn't suggest to your wife that she might want to stop associating with this guy as part of getting serious about fixing what's broken.... then maybe you need a new counselor. Or maybe you're just now at the point where you have talked so much that you're prepared to say "okay, are we making a serious effort at fixing this or are we discussing how to make splitting less awful?"

In your shoes at this point I'd point-blank tell her "I want to fix this, I will work to fix this. Do YOU want to fix this?"

And be prepared for her to lie, sadly - a close friend of mine went through that with his wife of less than a year. He did All The Right Things, they went to counseling, he tried to make concessions, work on behavior, identify problems.. and at the end she left, apparently having just been trying to get him to be the one to call it over. She was reluctant to agree to stop her emotional affair (which she admitted later had been physical on a few occasions), agreed in counseling to stop seeing him but kept doing so on the sly and eventually left.

You can't know what's going on in her head, but you can try and do the Right Thing every chance you get. That's not the same thing as being a doormat or agreeing to everything she wants and it isn't always enough, but if it all goes to shit you'll feel better about it and yourself knowing you did what you could.

Good luck. Being reactive and the one who wants it more in a relationship is hard.
posted by phearlez at 10:02 AM on June 7, 2006

I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking you need to have a "little chat" with Mr. Crafty. If I found out that some guy was actively courting my wife, let's just say I'd disabuse him of that notion REAL quick. Be poker-faced, right up in his face. Keep it short and sweet, something in a Stay-the-Fuck-Away-From-My-Wife. If Mr. Crafty is visibly rattled at the end of the discussion, it worked. Then proceed with the counseling, immediately.
posted by Scoo at 10:12 AM on June 7, 2006

"Well, I'd start by threatning the crafts guy. Let's face it: this guy runs a crafts class and a blog. I'm thinking he's a total wimp. Next time you pick up the kids from the class have a little talk with him."

That was the first thing I thought, but then decided not to post it because it would likely be bad advice. There are all sorts of ways that could backfire, unless the wife wants him to act jealous, which is all sorts of fucked up.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on June 7, 2006

This is a guy whose reaction to his circumstances has been, "I'm understandably jealous about my wife's wildly inappropriate behavior — but I don't feel like I can stop her from going to the class, because she enjoys crafts and I'm afraid she would resent me."

Do you really think he's the type to show up on anyone's doorstep?

Do you think that if he did, Crafty McBloggerston would back down? I mean, sure, the crafts teacher who blogs about being "mentally attracted" to another man's wife is probably a wuss. But in this particular case, he seems to be the lesser wuss — if only because, so far, he's winning.
posted by cribcage at 10:54 AM on June 7, 2006

Having left someone for a "friendship" that had been developing, here are my thoughts. Though we weren't married, so this is obviously a different situation.

I actually did think it was a friendship, until, as others said, I suddenly realized I wanted it to be more (and started to break up with the first person). Up to that point, I did recognize it was a bit unusual how very much I liked talking to the new person... but didn't feel like it was really a threat... it just made was something I liked doing. I wasn't planning to break up with the guy I was dating.

So up until the last minute, I was talking to OldGuy about what wasn't working. As my interest in NewGuy slowly came into my consciousness, I responded by talking to OldGuy more about what wasn't working with us. It showed me that I wasn't as happy as I could be, that things were missing that I needed. I was pretty clear-headed that I didn't know for sure I'd be happy with NewGuy, but this moment arrived that felt like "now or never," and I thought I had to try -- but at that moment, the decision was as much about hopelessness of things changing with OldGuy as anything else (though I didn't know it at the time). Is there some long-standing issue(s) that haven't been addressed, that she feels she's getting nowhere on? I'd start there.

What else? The appeal of NewGuy was that he was really fun and happy -- smiling and laughter are serious feel-good drugs -- and he was new -- so I was getting to grow in different ways -- and he felt really "there" -- both listening and talking, wanting to engage. Happiness, novelty/personal growth, active emotional connection. I think croutonsupafreak has great suggestions in this area.

Last thing, I wouldn't ask her to cut off seeing the guy. Sounds like she's hooked on him. I tried to cut off seeing NewGuy at one point, and it felt a bit like dying. If he's providing vitality and happiness she wouldn't otherwise have, it might seem too much to ask, like you asking her to cut off a lifeline, without providing a replacement. I'd patiently try to build up your ability to provide vitality and happiness to one another before saying tactfully that you'd like it if she'd focus on your relationship. I think maybe this is what zek was saying. She obviously needs it for some reason, and I wouldn't treat that need as a threat, so much as a curiousity -- "what is it that makes you feel so connected to him?" You'll have to really have pumped up your self-esteem to listen to the answer. So, I'd try to cast a spell on yourself that you deserve someone who loves you fully, that the end of the relationship would be her loss, and that if this doesn't work out, you'll find an even better situation -- all of which is true. Then you can get curious about her as a person, what does she need? how can things get fixed? This happened with me and OldGuy, but it happened after I had made my decision, so I'd say, do it soon. Sorry this sucks so very much. You have my best wishes.
posted by ruff at 11:27 AM on June 7, 2006

Uh, unless the gravity of vows has completely gone by the wayside here in the enlightened 21 century, experiences with breaking up with a BF/significant other, while they may have some verisimilitude, ain't the same thing as the behavior described by a married woman.

There is much good advice here, anonymous, that upon preview I won't repeat. You need to synthesize all of it into what you feel is right, and what you (& your kids) can live with regardless of the outcome.
posted by Pressed Rat at 2:09 PM on June 7, 2006

Dude, that's messed up. Your wife of 10 years has been having secret picnics?!? With a guy who's playing with your kids?!?

Maybe you want to save your marriage. Maybe you can save your marriage. But when your wife is sneaking around to see if a prospective partner gets along with your kids, she has a whole lot of 'splaining to do.

I don't know your wife, and I don't know you. But as a guy married 14 years, three kids, I'd say that if you get anything short of:

1. an abject apology and
2. flat-out promise never to see him again,

despite how incredibly painful and wrenching, it's time to

3. work out the endgame.

Don't flip out. Your children need at least one parent who's acting like a responsible adult. As terrible as this is to you and your conception of your current life, worse things could have happened. I mean, you're not camped out in a pediatric cancer ward or anything.

There will be a future for all of you, and this doesn't have to ruin your children's lives. You and her can even be happy again. Just maybe not together.
posted by sacre_bleu at 4:37 PM on June 7, 2006

Pressed Rat, I totally agree.
posted by ruff at 5:31 PM on June 7, 2006

She should stop seeing him, and the two of you should seek counselling.
posted by burhan at 7:53 PM on June 7, 2006

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