My heart is breaking
April 22, 2008 5:04 AM   Subscribe

Can this relationship/marriage be saved?

Here goes, my wife and I have been married 8 years. Over the last few years we have both been more focused on our educations, professions, and friends and less on the couple part of being married. My wife is/was very much a caretaker and I am a real slacker and I let her carry the load when in retrospect I should have jumped in with both feet and done whatever I could to help out. We were just puttering along with not much real passion when I get the shock of my life. I’m on a business trip and my kid calls me at 3 in the morning to say mom is banging some 22 yr old in our bedroom! Needless to say I was totally shocked and devastated. When I returned we talked about the incident and she said it was because she was drunk, etc, etc, and feels horrible about it. But then I find out that she is still seeing him after she fabricates a work outing and comes home at 4 am. I found out that she had been out with the same kid again and when I confronted her about it she said that she really enjoyed the fun attitude when they went out with no expectations afterward. Needless to say I’m failing apart at the seams and don’t know what to do. I’ve got a session with a counselor this week and she is in therapy also. I look back and really do think it was partially my fault for not showing how much I loved her on a daily basis. Now she says she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Her ideal scenario is to have us both. She wants me for the friendship and emotional attachment and him for the excitement. I just don’t think I can survive and stay sane like this for too long. I really do love her and have drastically changed what I do and the way I show her how much I appreciate her. But I fear it may be too little too late. Has anyone been in a similar situations and have some advice. Any insight would help. Anyone can respond directly at dormin78@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (89 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your 8-year-old (or younger) called to tell you that his/her mother was having sex with a stranger? Maybe it is time to focus on that kid.
posted by k8t at 5:14 AM on April 22, 2008 [30 favorites]


First, take a deep breath. Sometimes when you're worried or freaking out, you forget to breathe and relax.
Second, you are absolutely doing the right thing by going and talking to someone. My assumption here is that she's talking to a therapist privately and you're talking to someone privately and hopefully, the two of you can then talk to someone together, as a couple.
It might be a simple as it sounds, it might not be.
You might stay together, you might not.
Even though you want the former, you should consider the latter as well.
Hang in there, KEEP TALKING and see what happens.
Be open to all possibilities that are for the greater good for you as individuals and your child.
You are doing the right thing.
posted by willmize at 5:15 AM on April 22, 2008


I second k8t. The child and how this is affecting him/her should be your first concern.
posted by pearlybob at 5:20 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can't take care of the child without taking care of yourselves. All three of you should be the top concern at the moment.

And if the 22 year old happens to be a mefi reader: Go the hell away.

His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley does a good job with this type of counseling. If you could find a counselor that follows this model, I think it might help greatly. If not, buy two copies - one for each of you.

All the best to you and your family. Many folks would have taken their marbles and gone home. Kudos for your willingness to take a bit of ownership and work things out.
posted by stuboo at 5:40 AM on April 22, 2008


Once a cheater, always a cheater.
She's not into you anymore.
Sometimes you gotta know when you just let go.
posted by PowerCat at 5:43 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I look back and really do think it was partially my fault for not showing how much I loved her on a daily basis."

Nope. If she had a problem that necessitated cheating, she's under the obligation to tell you that she's unhappy first. If things don't work out after that, you can get a divorce and you can both fuck anyone you like.

But instead, she went behind your back, lied to you repeatedly, and apparently was stupid/hideous enough to fuck someone else more or less in front of your child.

I know this hurts and you think you are never going to get over this. In some senses, it's true - that betrayal will stay with you a long time. Maybe forever. On the other hand, why on earth would you want to spend time with a woman this selfish? This uncommunicative? Why would you want her around your son? Is this the kind of role model you want for him?

HER CHEATING IS NOT YOUR FAULT. IT IS HERS AND HERS ALONE. If you learn one thing from this thread, make it that. I have been through it as have many of my friends: men aren't the only sex that can be pigs.

Divorce her skank ass. Call a good lawyer. And go find a new, better mom for your son. This one's broken.

Drop me an email any time. Hell, you can call me on the phone if you want. Don't let her manipulate or trick you into taking her back. She wants both of you? Please. If she wanted that, she would have started by being honest about her thoughts and desires. She doesn't love you. And in a few months, you won't love her either. Do what's best for you and for your son.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:49 AM on April 22, 2008 [27 favorites]


In your home . In your marital bed. With your children present. Repeatedly, even after being confronted.

Friend, there is a time and place for forgiveness and reconciliation. This is not that time.
posted by Chrischris at 5:54 AM on April 22, 2008 [21 favorites]


Possible Outcome A: If your wife is ready to give up this other man and and both of you are ready to commit yourselves to working things out and putting this behind you, then yes, your marriage can be saved.

Possible Outcome B: If you are both willing to consent to an open marriage and both of you are committed to working through issues arising in an open marriage as well as other pre-existing issues between the two of you, then yes, your marriage can be saved.

Possible Outcome C: If she won't give him up, and you aren't willing to consent to an open marriage, then no, your marriage can't be saved.

And whatever outcome you go with, make sure you address your child's needs, and try to get your wife to do so as well.
posted by orange swan at 6:13 AM on April 22, 2008


Now she says she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Her ideal scenario is to have us both. She wants me for the friendship and emotional attachment and him for the excitement. I just don’t think I can survive and stay sane like this for too long.

You need to imagine an end to the story of your marriage that goes something like, "And we grew apart, for many reasons, but ultimately we both realized (in different ways) that the people we each were 8 years after getting married were too incompatible to stay married."

Because right now, it really seems like the only end you can see if something like, "And they both realized how much they loved each other, so they did everything they could to fix their marriage." Since you're so focused on this ending, you're completely overlooking the fact that to outside viewers, the details you've provided seem much more likely to be leading towards the first ending.

She's said that what she wants is (and forgive me for paraphrasing) for her husband to start acting like her BFF and support her while she has exciting sex with someone else. That is so not what you want.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:22 AM on April 22, 2008


When another person isn't honoring the relationship, you should start looking out for (1) your kid and (2) yourself. This isn't a situation where one partner brings up the idea of an open marriage, you agree, and then goes out and does this. This is breaking an agreement you had. You can't trust this person to look out for you or your child anymore. Act accordingly.

What's even more troubling is that she did it when your kid was present. That has got to hurt your child. I'm sorry you've had to face this.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:32 AM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


You've got a hell of a child custody case on the surface facts alone; she sounds out of her freaking mind!
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:34 AM on April 22, 2008


Life is short, so many of us choose maxims to live by. They make decision-making easier. A famous one (from above) is...

Once a cheater, always a cheater.

It's bullshit with a grain of truth in it. The grain is this: if someone cheats and says he won't any more, he may well be lying. No one likes to be caught cheating, so most cheaters are going to swear up and down that it was a mistake and they'll never do it again. They may or may not do it again, but at the time of the swearing, they haven't dealt with whatever impulse lead them to cheat. They're just swearing to get out of trouble.

But there are people who stop cheating (and never do it again for the rest of their lives), just as their are people who stop drinking, stop smoking*, etc. If you're interested (and brave enough) to face the truth, you have to deal with the fact that each cheater is different. Each is a unique person. Some will relapse; some won't.

If you want to be 100% sure that you'll never be hurt by the cheater again, then live by the maxim.

*Many former smokers relapse. So you might not want to place bets that your friend who quit will never light up again. But that does that mean "once a smoker, always a smoker?" Of course not. It means that many -- not all -- smokers relapse.
posted by grumblebee at 7:38 AM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Any relationship/marriage can be saved, provided both parties want to save it.

Currently, you want to save your marriage while your wife wants to fuck other people and keep you around as emotional support. Is that what you want?

Ya'll need to attend couples therapy, pronto. It may not work out, but if it doesn't you'll at least be able to say you tried.

Good luck.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your 8-year-old (or younger) called to tell you that his/her mother was having sex with a stranger? Maybe it is time to focus on that kid.


That's the nail on the head, right there. The very first thing that needs to be done is for both of you to agree that whatever happens next, you have to focus on the well-being of your child first. There is no compromise on this: the kid. comes. first.

Then you call a divorce lawyer. There is, as said above, a time and a place for forgiveness. This is not that time by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:52 AM on April 22, 2008


I'm really sorry this is happening to you. You seem to believe that you deserve this. You do not deserve this.
Repeat. You do not deserve this.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:54 AM on April 22, 2008


no. get out. now.
posted by lester at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2008


I just don’t think I can survive and stay sane like this for too long

Well, this is a pretty clear statement about your needs. This situation isn't working for you, because you feel sad, stressed, and frustrated. You don't want a relationship in which your spouse is sleeping with someone else.

You're taking too much of the blame on yourself. You may have made some relationship mistakes, we all do, but they are not the CAUSE of her infidelity. She chose that, and she chose to do too much caretaking for years, and she chose not to communicate with you about it directly, and she chose to get your attention through infidelity. Her communicating with you now could be seen as "too little too late," not your attempts to show her that you care.

You can fix your relationship if you both want it, but it's not clear what you both want yet. counseling will help. So far you've expressed that you want a relationship in which you don't feel upset and not "sane." It remains to be seen whether she can give you that relationship. Your kid, meanwhile? What chaos for the child. Do what you can to be a stable, grounded person for the child. Stay in counseling. Value your own feelings and speak up for your own needs. You didn't bring this on all by yourself.
posted by Miko at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2008


If you want to make it work you will have to cut back on your professional life or outside social life. You can never have the best of all worlds. Cultivate your garden.
posted by JJ86 at 8:21 AM on April 22, 2008


(Regarding the kid, it's possible he or she from a previous relationship and is older than 8. I'm not sure why, but I actually assumed the child was older,... I guess because I find it unlikely and <8 year old would call up Dad at 3am to say Mom is "banging some 22 yr old". I agree the welfare of child is important, but I'm not sure it's part of the question.)
posted by danOstuporStar at 8:21 AM on April 22, 2008


She is supremely angry at you. As pointed upthread, she had sex in YOUR home, in YOUR bed and in front of YOUR child. These are not the actions of someone who wants your forgiveness nor is hiding anything. And yes, you say you are willing to change and all that however, it is too late if her anger has reached this level. Chalk this to experience and change your behavior for the next person.

Focus on your child. Your child has been profoundly traumatized watching the dramatic breakdown of his/her parents' marriage. You man up, and make sure that your divorce goes well and not inflict anymore pain on your child then is absolutely necessary. You are not the only one hurting and in mourning.

Your wife, may be wavering but to be honest, wanting the 22 year old and you just means she is pausing for the final knife slit. Usually, I do not join the DTMFA threads or voices but in this case I will tell you from personal observation that when a woman reaches this level of behavior it is hard to reconcile to a peaceful state. No one is happy in the situation so the situation needs to be changed and it is not about you any longer nor her, it is all about your child.
posted by jadepearl at 8:21 AM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


What everyone else said, more or less - a little less on "once a cheater always a cheater" but a little more on the "with your KID in the HOUSE?!?" front.

However.

You love who you love, and marriages and families have come back from worse. Given the rates of infidelity, I'd be somewhat surprised if most marriages that make it aren't making it in the aftermath of adultery, but that's neither here nor there.

Surviving Infidelity is sort of the go to place for this. You will be blown away by how much work it takes to save a marriage and how long it takes to rebuild trust, but you can find a lot of people who's marriages are recovering, and a lot of good information on "what do I do now?" because there are actual, concrete steps you can take to give yourself and your marriage the best chances for survival.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:23 AM on April 22, 2008


1. She cheated on you in front of your child.

2. She essentially wants to continue screwing this guy in front of you.

You can make your marriage as open as a corn field, but her selfishness and dishonesty are still a problem. And she doesn't get to use the "I was drunk" excuse when she admits she doesn't want to let the other guy go.

Good for you both for going into therapy. Based on what I know of this, though, I'd be talking to my therapist about starting over on my own.
posted by katillathehun at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Either take the kid and leave or kick the bitch out and tell her to go live with the 22 year-old. Then get a good divorce lawyer. Grown people solve problems by talking, not by fucking some random sleazebag in front of their kids. To reiterate what was said above, you absolutely did not do anything to deserve this. This relationship is not fixable - more to the point, she's not fixable: cheating on your husband in front of your kids is about as low as one can go.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:26 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems like too many people overlook the fact that not giving time to the relationship is on the same level of "cheating" as fucking around. The admission of the OP, "Over the last few years we have both been more focused on our educations, professions, and friends and less on the couple part of being married." kind of spells out the fact that he was "cheating" well before she slept with some younger guy.
posted by JJ86 at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Relationships end (and last) for many reasons, but whatever the reasons they come from the simple fact that there are two individuals each of whom has acted in a certain way over a certain length of time. Neither of you can change the way you acted, but can potentially act in a different way in the future.

No matter how much you are willing to change, and no matter how much you want the relationship to last, if she can't act in a manner acceptable to you (and you have the right to find certain behaviour acceptable or not) then I'm afraid things are over. And no, saying she wants both of you is NOT being acceptable. It's fucked up. A marriage is two people, not three. Your initial reaction to her suggestion was not, hey, that's cool, no problem. It caused you to fall apart at the seams, and this ain't your fault. It's not on you. For your sake, it needs to end. It's over. Sorry.
posted by jontyjago at 8:30 AM on April 22, 2008


If you're ready to sholder the blame, I'll bet she'll be more than willing to let you have it.

Let me tell you, I've been in (similar) shoes. What you'll be asking yourself years from now, when you've left her after months or years of trying to 'fix' things, after years of wondering why you didn't come to your senses quicker, after God-knows-how-long feeling guilty that you didn't try harder to keep your child from becoming an emotional mess, is this; "Why did I ever even consider letting her treat me like that? Why did I let myself get so far out of my head that I put my child and myself in a situation as unhealthy and unreasonable as that?"

Then you'll realise that you had an opportunity to extricate both you and your boy from what has become (for whatever reason) a poor excuse for a family and a poor excuse for a partner. No, despite what she's done, she doesn't get all the blame here, but neither do you. You do, however, have a responsibility to your child, and to yourself, to get out of this ugly situation and get something other than a man-sized portion of remorse out of this thing.

Counciling? I wouldn't bother. But I would find myself a new place to hang my hat.
posted by Pecinpah at 8:36 AM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Two things make this terrible: 1) She allowed your child to discover her cheating, thus damaging the kid. 2) She continued the affair after you found out about it.

Find a good divorce lawyer. It sounds like you're making all the effort to try to salvage this relationship. Why? She's the one who poisoned it. Yes, it sounds like you contributed to its decline, but she is the one that caused this rift. If she really WANTS to make it work, she'll get her act together when you get your divorce lawyer. Let her be the one to initiate the marital counseling - you worry about your kid and yourself. There's a tiny chance you guys might be able to repair the relationship, but it depends on her initiative. If she's been going behind your back and keeps on doing so, you trying to be the perfect husband now is just going to push her away further. For your sake, stop letting her trample on you, stand up for yourself, and you just might keep her in the process.
posted by Happydaz at 8:43 AM on April 22, 2008


I have tried to save a marriage with opening the marriage to an open relationship. Part of why it didn't work for me was that I am simply not wired to do open relationships. It didn't occur to me for a long time that I wasn't wired for it, but that turned out to be true for me not only in the marriage (which eventually failed, though my ex-wife and I are still good friends) but also true in later relationships (I have stopped trying).

I just wanted to say that because sometimes folks just can't do it, no matter how ideal a solution it might be for at least one person in the partnership.

Anyhow, I also wanted to say that a lot of people take objection to your wife exposing your child to her infidelity, and I think it's morally reprehensible in the way that a lot of people seem to be objecting to simply to do that, but what I object to more is that what your wife did put your child in the position of being entangled with that action and put your child in the position of having to tell you that very very upsetting thing on top of putting your child in a position where s/he had to worry about whether your marriage was ending, apparently without thinking for the child.

I think this in combination with your wife's flagrantly violating the principle of giving you any respect at all and her taking your current weakness (due to her behavior) to try to railroad you into accepting a very not ideal situation are really poor indicators of her having any good faith at all with which to negotiate this situation with you.

It looks to me like boundaries need enforcing, and you need to do that. She doesn't seem to be inclined to do it, so you'll likely have to do it.
posted by kalessin at 8:55 AM on April 22, 2008


Just to play devil's advocate, what if this was a post saying:

"My husband of 8 years is never around. We got married when we were 21. He is totally consumed with work and is totally selfish. I do all of the work around here and he doesn't help with anything. One night, while he was on a business trip, I got a sitter, went out with some friends and oopsies, hooked up with a young stud. It was dumb, I know, but I let the alcohol get the best of me. I had this guy meet me at my house after the sitter left and well after my child was asleep. I think that my son woke up though. I am so worried that he heard us. Should I ask him if he heard any funny noises last night? And what should I tell my husband?"
posted by k8t at 8:56 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your 8-year-old (or younger) called to tell you that his/her mother was having sex with a stranger? Maybe it is time to focus on that kid.

This is zero evidence to support the idea that the kid is 8 or younger. It should in no way be taken as a fact.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:56 AM on April 22, 2008


It seems like too many people overlook the fact that not giving time to the relationship is on the same level of "cheating" as fucking around. The admission of the OP, "Over the last few years we have both been more focused on our educations, professions, and friends and less on the couple part of being married." kind of spells out the fact that he was "cheating" well before she slept with some younger guy.

My previous comment was deleted for reasons I can't fathom -- I guess the mods (I can guess which one) don't like my tone.

Let me repeat, however, that the quoted statement is horseshit. Failing to give a relationship adequate time is in no way like fucking a stranger in your marital bed while your child watches (or listens). To say otherwise is totally absurd. You are penitent, you recognize the problems in the relationship, you are beating yourself up -- that's all fine. But you are the victim here. To claim otherwise is nothing more than holier-than-thou crap and it doesn't help and it certainly doesn't answer the question. Pointing out that the statement is horseshit is simply my way of adding a datapoint: I do not believe that you were "cheating" by failing to give time to the relationship (particularly if it was mutual) and I do not believe that you will find a useful way to reconcile yourself to the outcome (whatever it is) if you start from that point.
posted by The Bellman at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apologies to anon if I'm wrong, but this AskMe sounds like a setup.

Lots of discussion about what he/she wants/needs and no expressed or implied concern for the child. Mom's in therapy, Dad's in therapy, the only mention of the gender-unspecified "kid" is that he or she is up at 3AM making phone calls.

Smells funny to me.
posted by Rafaelloello at 9:00 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I get the impression you got married in your early twenties, for some reason).

Being focused on education, work, and your social life may not be the ideal way of starting off a marriage, but sadly it's pretty much going to happen when people marry young. I've seen this happen with friends who have gotten married while still in college. They love each other, but one person will often feel like they're missing their chance to sow some wild oats. Once the marriage moves into the actual adult world, with jobs and kids and mortgages, they fantasize more and more about being young and irresponsible.

What I'm saying is that your wife does not sound mature enough to be in this relationship. She's not behaving like a partner to you, and she's certainly not behaving like a parent to your child. She's behaving like a college freshman at her first sorority party, because part of her thinks of that life as the most enjoyable, most fun way of living. But part of her still recognizes that actual adult concerns exist, so she wants to be able to rely on you for emotional support, financial security, and stability. This is nothing but a selfish, immature way of behaving--one that exploits the love that you clearly have for her and uses your concerns about being too busy for your wife to make you feel responsible for what is her problem.

Don't let her feed you something about an open relationship. The only people I know who have successfully set up such a marriage have been emotionally mature, happy people who are willing to talk honestly one another. Your wife got drunk and fucked a college student in front of your child--she is not an emotionally mature, happy person, and she certainly doesn't sound prepared to be honest with you. Not, at least, until she's caught. I can only see a mix of seething resentment and resigned sadness for both of you if you turn to an open marriage as a solution for this problem.

If I were you? Get custody of the child and end the relationship. She needs to experience a life of irresponsibility before she begins to behave like an adult. In ten years she may realize what she had, but I expect that by then you'll have found someone who's much better for you.
posted by Benjy at 9:01 AM on April 22, 2008


strongly seconded
posted by Pecinpah at 9:02 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Rafeaelloello, I agree. My knowledge of 8-year-olds and under (and I am assuming the kid is young, due to the "78" in the e-mail address, s/he couldn't be that old) is that they would react to "sex noises" that may be unusual in the middle of the night in a "scared" way. And if the child ran into the bedroom to be comforted or see what was going on, well... I just can't imagine how that would turn into calling Daddy at 3am, especially Daddy who has been "absent". Doesn't add up.
posted by k8t at 9:04 AM on April 22, 2008


Anonymous, there's one phrase that stood out to me and ran big red alarms in my skull. "I just don't think I can survive and stay sane like this for too long."

Mentioning survival — i.e., continued life — sounds to me like the possibility of suicide might've gone through your head.

If you are considering that, please, take that decision out of your hands immediately and put yourself in a caretaker's hands (i.e. very temporary self-committal). Despite your wife's behavior, and even aside from the own intrinsic value of your life, you have a child whose entire life would be utterly devastated. And if you terminate your own life, you forever rule out the possibility of change for the better; you fix the situation not only in the bad state it is, but you worsen it for a huge legion of people by doing what you do.

I think the three possibilities have been well-enumerated by others: (i) she gives him up and tries to work it out with you; (ii) you and she agree to an open marriage; or (iii) divorce.

Of those three, I don't see her behavior as showing her being willing to do (i), and I don't see you being able to stand (ii). That leaves you with divorce.

I also see a pattern of you taking blame for her actions. ("I am a real slacker and I let her carry the load." "I really do think it was partially my fault." "I fear [the way you've "drastically changed what [you] do" is too little too late.")

When we've been deeply, deeply wounded, we take blame for the wound. We do that because it's a way we can take control of things. It's easier to say "I caused this wound; it's my fault" because if we caused the wound, then being hurt that deeply then falls under our control. But the problem is that accepting that blame — unwarranted — hurts you in the long run far more than what your wife did to you.

Your wife is presumably an adult with a power to talk about her feelings. If you weren't paying enough attention to her, she had a myriad of adult, mature, civil ways to communicate that to you instead of drunkenly banging someone in the middle of the night loud enough to wake your child up.

It is her fault. It is not your fault. You cannot be expected to be perfect, but your wife owed you — as part of the normal duties between husband and wife, or, hell, between two adults who love each other — the duty to communicate to you problems she was having with your relationship in a way that you could have fixed them. She did not. The fact that she did not makes this squarely her fault.

I'm so sorry that this happened to you. You need to hire a divorce attorney, divorce your wife and arrange an equitable custody arrangement, and try to move on with your life as best you can. And lean on this community; the majority of Mefites are creative, intelligent, good nuts and will help you get back on your feet.
posted by WCityMike at 9:05 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK...I setup a sock puppet to reply. The Child is 20 years old from a previous marriage. I'm not sure how to make this work and if it doesn't I will move on but I really want to try because besides what happened we are really each others best friends. I'm not without guilt here as I had checked out for a while focusing on other things besides us. Also, for more background she used to be obese thru her whole life and recently got skinny and is considered one of the pretty people. So I think part of this is she can finally hang with the cool kids for a while. I was hoping she would out grow this but it hasn't happened yet. Thanks for all the advice so far, please take another look at this situation without the thought that there is an 8 year old child involved.
Thanks.
posted by sockpuppetsatan at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2008


While it is good to try to honestly assess your past behavior, don't blame yourself too much. My ex started her affair just short of our eleventh anniversary. Instead of a younger guy it was with a ten+ years older "Mr. Career Move." I beat myself up a lot thinking about how I could have been more attentive, etc., but in the end it was her selfishness and moral failing. We hadn't been fighting and if she was having problems with me before she met him, she never clearly communicated them. She was presented with an opportunity and she took it. There was very little I could have done, short of having a crystal ball a year beforehand.

I KNOW what sort of hell you are in. All I can say is take the high road, don't be destructive (anger is natural, but don't let it explode in harmful ways), and continue to get any help you need. Take care of the kid and your sanity. Don't let her walk all over you.

It's going to be hard, but someday this horrible time will be the past. There are new opportunities and adventures in your future. You just have to keep yourself together to get there.
posted by D.C. at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2008


I'd really like some input from women who may have been in a similar situation as the cheater. About why you think it happened and what the outcome was. TIA
posted by sockpuppetsatan at 9:13 AM on April 22, 2008


sockpuppet said: I'm not sure how to make this work and if it doesn't I will move on but I really want to try because besides what happened we are really each others best friends. I'm not without guilt here as I had checked out for a while focusing on other things besides us.

You want to make it work so I would again advise against all popular comments about dumping her and try to make it work. You will have to make some sacrifices but love is about sacrifice. You can't keep love alive by just getting married and not doing anything else until death do you part. If you do nothing, the relationship will wilt and you will have to live with the consequences. I'm surprised that so many people think otherwise.

sockpuppet said:Also, for more background she used to be obese thru her whole life and recently got skinny and is considered one of the pretty people. So I think part of this is she can finally hang with the cool kids for a while. I was hoping she would out grow this but it hasn't happened yet.

Try to be one of the cool kids and satisfy all her needs. If you do that and she still sexes up younger guys, at least you tried and can honestly end the relationship. Until then you really cannot honestly divorce her.
posted by JJ86 at 9:18 AM on April 22, 2008


Just to play devil's advocate, what if this was a post saying:

"My husband of 8 years is never around. We got married when we were 21. He is totally consumed with work and is totally selfish. I do all of the work around here and he doesn't help with anything. One night, while he was on a business trip, I got a sitter, went out with some friends and oopsies, hooked up with a young stud. It was dumb, I know, but I let the alcohol get the best of me. I had this guy meet me at my house after the sitter left and well after my child was asleep. I think that my son woke up though. I am so worried that he heard us. Should I ask him if he heard any funny noises last night? And what should I tell my husband?"

posted by k8t

Wouldn't she have had to further ask, "When he'd returned from his trip, my husband told me that our child had called him on the phone to tell me he'd heard us. I felt horrible about it, but I just couldn't stay away from this younger guy. I enjoy this young man's 'fun' attitude; his attentiveness, his newness. I husband found out that I'd seen this man again, and now we're both in counciling. I tried to explain to my husband that I would ideally like to have both this younger man and him, but he just won't listen."?

I understand the 'Devil's Advocate' thing, but it's hard to justify that position as anything other than selfish.
posted by Pecinpah at 9:18 AM on April 22, 2008


But I would find myself a new place to hang my hat.

No, don't move out. Ever. Stay there, keep your child there, let her move out if she wants. There's no law that says the male has to move out.

Segregate your money asap. Stop automatic deposits to joint accounts if any. Change passwords. Cancel joint credit cards. Protect yourself and your divorce case including your right to substantial custody by making the best moves now. (I'm not however suggesting you make any moves to penalize the wife, just to stick up decisively for your own rights.)

See a lawyer asap, even if you are going to try the counseling route.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:30 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


[a few comments removed - please stick to the topic or head on over to metatalk, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:34 AM on April 22, 2008


> You want to make it work so I would again advise against all popular comments about dumping her and try to make it work.

Occasionally, popular comments are popular simply because they express a popular but incorrect sentiment. More often, a trend in comments is popular (i.e. frequent, in the context you're using) because they reflect a common, and usually true, wisdom.

The comments you made could easily — and I daresay much more accurately — be addressed to the wife.

> Until then you really cannot honestly divorce her.

I also with great alacrity question the wisdom or compassion of suggesting that a cuckolded husband "try to be one of the cool kids" to his cheating spouse.

The moment she had sex with someone else loud enough to wake up their kid, he could "honestly divorce her".

The moment she went back to that person a second time after first confessing to the poster her infidelity, he most definitely could "honestly divorce her."

Sheesh.
posted by WCityMike at 9:45 AM on April 22, 2008


OK, sockpuppetsatan, I'll give you another shot since you antied up 5 more bucks:

You are commitment-phobic, and your wife is too. You've sabotaged your relationship because you wanted it to end but couldn't commit to ending it. Now it appears your wife is taking up similar behaviors, she can't commit to ending it either. And you don't want it to end now, and neither does she, because either choice requires a commitment by somebody. My feeling is that you both really want out, but don't want it to be of your own doing ( "Wasn't my fault. He/She left me!").

You're both all-in, or you're both all-out are the only two healthy end games. I don't see how you get to either of those places without professional help, though.
posted by Rafaelloello at 9:46 AM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


She wants me for the friendship and emotional attachment...we are really each others best friends

That she wants emotional support from you is clear. But what is she prepared to give you? Not emotional support, certainly. Sure as heck not a best friend. There's nothing supportive or friendly about lying, breaking commitments, or turning one's back on the pain you've caused to a "friend". When she chose to sleep with him again after seeing that it had wounded you, she made it clear that your feelings -- about yourself, her, or the relationship you two supposedly share -- are unimportant to her. What little she wants from you is one-sided. All give (you) and all take (her). What she wants is not a marriage.

You can save a relationship where both people want it. She doesn't. She's already made that choice plain. Repeatedly. I'm so sorry for the pain you are going through. It is NOT YOUR FAULT. She has been deliberately choosing to take actions which she knows will cause profound hurt both for you and your son. I call that cruel.

There's a hint in your description that something else may be at issue. Why was "she said it was because she was drunk" an credible explanation in both your minds? A normal level of social drinking does not transform one into a cruel and selfish being, does not cause one to forget there is a 20 year old step-son living under the same roof, and nor suddenly make one willing to put an 8 year marriage at risk even for a night of young hot booty. Normal drinking doesn't turn a committed wife, friend, or (step?)-parent into that asshole. Most post-college aged adults are done with getting drunk anyway. That you both believed "I was drunk" could possibly explain her actions...that raises a warning flag. How hard does she drink, and how often? Something to discuss with your therapist, and divorce attorney.

If drinking has been playing a role here, add it to the list of reasons to get you and your son out of this family broken dynamic.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:51 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


*BLINK* If a man's wife repeatedly cheats on him with another man, the relationship is failing because of the man's sabotage?

My understanding is that this is an 8+ year marriage and the infidelity is a recent occurrence. I think most reasonable people would consider the entire 8 year period and what has occurred, what is of value, and what should be salvaged or scrapped.

I suppose, as a younger man, I may have once equated "lack of infidelity" with a "good relationship", but that is SO not reality.
posted by Rafaelloello at 10:11 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


> I suppose, as a younger man, I may have once equated "lack of infidelity" with a "good relationship", but that is SO not reality.

There is that which weakens a relationship, and that which causes it to utterly fail. It is the difference between poorly welded seams on a submarine and a torpedo strike into its hull.
posted by WCityMike at 10:13 AM on April 22, 2008


we have both been more focused on our educations, professions, and friends and less on the couple part of being married

I undertsand the temptation to see this as your fault. If only you hadn't been so absent, she wouldn't have cheated -- which means that if you stop being absent, you can solve the problem! Things are rarely so simple. You told us yourself that both of you were failing to invest time in the relationship -- not just you. You told us that she had recently lost a significant amount of weight which has changed her attitude and desires in ways that are detrimental to the marriage. And it's very interesting to look at what you didn't tell us: you didn't tell us that she ever talked to you about how unsatisfied she was with the state of your marriage. You didn't tell us about any of her attempts to change the relationship or claim more of your time and attention.

I realize that this takes the power our of your hands, and that's really scary, but denial is not going to protect you and it's not going to help you save your marriage, so let me echo the sentiment that many have so vehemently expressed: you did not make this happen. You were part of the problem, but you were not all of the problem. You made choices that contributed to your wife's unhappiness, but you did not take away her free will. You did not, do not, and cannot control her. You can't make her want you or not want the 22 year old d-bag.

What can you do? To the extent that you have identified problems in your behavior, you have endeavored to change it:

I really do love her and have drastically changed what I do and the way I show her how much I appreciate her.

And that is a strong first step. Therapy is also a good idea. You need to figure out what kind of marriage you are able and willing to accept. Then, you need to talk to her about what you can and can't live with.

We were just puttering along with not much real passion

This is clearly a central problem. Does she no longer find you attractive? When did this change happen? Did it pre-date her weight loss? Did it pre-date the distance between you?

I look back and really do think it was partially my fault for not showing how much I loved her on a daily basis. Now she says she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Her ideal scenario is to have us both.

This is your question, and you can only control your behavior, but I think what a lot of people here are expressing is that you don't seem to recognize that in order to save your relationship, your wife needs to make changes as well. It is not enough for you to work on yourself. I'm not just saying that because iI find the inequities that are explicit and implicit in your question grotesquely unfair. I'm saying it because if you want to have a good relationship with someone other than yourself, you can't do it without the other person's contribution to a shared vision of that relationship. It concerns me that you aren't telling us what she is changing, and it's not clear from your question (or subsequent follow-ups) to what extent she is in fact committed to making this marriage work. Without that commitment, you cannot save your marriage.

Finally, you need to give yourself some time to deal with the reprecussions of her adultery. It's likely that you will feel many strong (and sometimes conflicting) emotions. This does not make you a bad person or a bad husband. Give yourself permission to be angry, sad, remorseful -- whatever you feel.

It is possible to save your marriage, if you and your wife work hard and are honest and committed. I'm sorry that you are in such a difficult situation. Good luck.
posted by prefpara at 10:20 AM on April 22, 2008


Hmm. I'm female, but not a cheater, and I have been with a cheater so I don't have a ton of sympathy for them. However, to my ears, there is a world of possible pain contained in this statement:

My wife is/was very much a caretaker and I am a real slacker and I let her carry the load.

I can imagine this feeling like a little abandonment everyday, culminating over time in the kind of rage that leads someone to do something that obnoxious. I'm actually really surprised that so many guys here are so convinced that it is beyond the pale and no-way-no-how related to his behavior -- can you not imagine that someone could find it extremely, cumulatively painful to always be left alone with everything and conceptualized by their SO as "a caretaker"? Guy, I'm not trying to be hurtful to you, I'm just speculating. She might just be awful and you might be being overly self-critical, but it's possible (not necessarily probable) that you might have been delivering the death of a thousand cuts and she just gave you one good whack back. If you can come to an honest answer about that without over- or understating your responsibility (big if), that would go a long way towards establishing whether it's worth further investment from you or not.

I find the whole "In Your Marital Bed, Bro!" to be a macho red herring; yeah, it was probably intended to be a 'fuck you', the relevant factor in the question "is this salvagable?" is whether she had a reason to say 'fuck you'.

I will say that you two sound like bad candidates for an open relationship because your communication seems to be iffy. I wouldn't do it. If you want to give it a go and you think she needs to sow some pretty-girl wild oats, maybe you should separate for half a year which she could use for being a Girl Gone Wild and you could use for quiet contemplation and healing from this painful experience (or for being a Boy Gone Wild).
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 10:26 AM on April 22, 2008 [7 favorites]



Try to be one of the cool kids and satisfy all her needs. If you do that and she still sexes up younger guys, at least you tried and can honestly end the relationship. Until then you really cannot honestly divorce her.


What in god's name does "cannot honestly divorce her" mean. Try to be cool and satisfy all her needs and then when she continues cheating on you then you can feel even more horrible about yourself. You caught her and not only does it seem she hasn't OFFERED to end the cheating (in fact she first lied about how it happened), she doesn't seem like she WILL end it. For the love of god, self, and country... leave her.
posted by rob paxon at 10:29 AM on April 22, 2008


[a few MORE comments removed - your options are 1. answer the OPs question and follow-up 2. MetaTalk. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:34 AM on April 22, 2008


Now she says she doesn’t know what she wants to do. Her ideal scenario is to have us both.

Well, that's pretty clear. It seems obvious from your post that you can't accept this, and that's totally understandable and natural. If she is serious about wanting to have both of you, I'd say it's time to salvage your dignity and move on. I'm sorry this happened to you, but your wife has acted completely outside the bounds of what is acceptable in marriage, in my view at least.

Please try to protect your child from all this. It sounds like he/she has enough to deal with already.
posted by number9dream at 10:53 AM on April 22, 2008


Well, hmmm. Yeah, you can save the marriage but are you sure you want to? Listen to prefpara - BOTH of you are going to have to want to fix this for it to work. Not just you. And it isn't going to be easy. Here's a forum you may find helpful; I know people who swear by it. Maybe some time out is in order; maybe you need 6 months or a year apart to figure out if there's anything left to save.

My own marriage didn't survive (his) infidelity, by the way, but I have also been the cheater, although not in a marriage. That relationship didn't make it through either. It's usually kind of the death knell and when I did it, I was, yeah, angry, yeah, confused, yeah, drinking too much and yeah, not really thinking about anything like consequences. I was also about 25, which, frankly, is roughly how old I thought you and your wife were from the tone of this question. Now that I'm assuming you are at least in your late 30s or early 40s I'm a little surprised. It's kind of late to sow wild oats, most particularly the kind of wild oats that hurt other people.

And this whole 20 year old kid in the picture kind of blows my mind. Is it your kid? Her kid? Boy? Girl? What 20 year old wakes up in the middle of the night and finds step-mom or mom doing it with a member of the kids' peer group and their immediate first reaction is to call the other parent? Not to mention that, how did they get caught in the first place? What, were they on the couch? The living room floor? Or did 20 year old feel perfectly fine about walking into the parental bedroom at 3 am? Without knocking or asking a question through the door? All of that bothers me and is something you might want to look at pretty closely; the middle of the night phone call tattling is really weird and says to me at least that there's a whole lot of anger there. I think family counseling is severely in order regardless of whether the marriage survives.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2008


Dear Doormat:

Please take the following steps, in order:

1. Stop being a doormat.

2. Get a lawyer.

3. Get exclusive custody of the kid. Get a restraining order against wife and 22-yr old. Change the locks. Tell your kid that drinking alcohol makes mommy sick. This is better than the truth, which is that mommy is crazy whether or not she's drinking, and that daddy is a few cards short of a full deck himself. But the divorce process in practice is engineered to keep moms with their kids, so you need to start building your case right now. Save the phone record that shows the call from your kid, BTW.

4. Take whatever steps are necessary to accomplish the emotional equivalent of throwing your wife out with the garbage.

You do not love her. You think you do, but you don't. She said she wants you as a friend and the other guy for sex? In less evolved circles, that conversation ends in a homicide.

You say you are a slacker. You are probably clinically depressed. You need therapy. But later.

Get a lawyer, get sole custody of the kid, spend every minute of the weekends building a better relationship with your kid. This means you have to stop acting like a child or a cuckold, and embrace your responsibility.

Good luck.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:03 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The kid is twenty (20) years old and from a previous marriage. Please recalibrate your outrage meter to accommodate this newly discovered fact.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2008


Oops, I just saw the sockpuppet comment where you mention that the kid is 20. Ignore everything I wrote.

You should probably get a divorce. It doesn't sound like she wants to be with you all that much anymore. Sorry. Look at this as an opportunity to redirect the course of your life, to start fresh with someone new and without all the baggage about who took whom for granted. Just think, if you make positive changes in this life, your new girlfriend will think of you as the guy who never takes her for granted. Now you get to be that guy.

Some people are saying that maybe she was hurt by you thinking of her as a caretaker, and maybe you think so too. That is very possible. But she could have brought this up, she could have warned you that you were pushing her. But her response instead was an atomic bomb.

Let her go.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:14 AM on April 22, 2008


No. The relationship's dead. Sorry. Life does go on, eventually. (Bias: been there, done that)

Could it be remade, reborn? Maybe. But I wouldn't.
posted by coffeefilter at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2008


Her ideal scenario is to have us both. She wants me for the friendship and emotional attachment and him for the excitement.

The chances for your relationship are very poor: she has not changed her behavior and she is so far gone in her desire for the excitement of her infidelity that the quoted line of inane, loony-tunes nonsense makes some sort of sense to her.

The two conditions that would seem sane for going forward is her breaking off contact with her lover completely (and accepting that her out of the home activities are going to be much more closely scrutinized for a long time to come) and seeking joint therapy. She needs to decide between your marriage and "excitement" before you can even approach the issue of whether this relationship can be salvaged from your mutual regret and her infidelity. If I were you I would be working on finding a divorce lawyer and thinking about how the logistics of separation and living arrangement changes might go right now no matter what.
posted by nanojath at 11:37 AM on April 22, 2008


The only way this can be saved is if your wife is willing to give up the other man and work on your relationship. If she is not willing to let him go, you simply won't be able to compete. It doesn't matter how great you really are and how much you are willing to do; she has bought into this new relationship and to her you represent the old one. Of course a new relationship will be exciting and passionate--until it wears off, and then it's likely she'll want you back, but you will have been put through hell in the meantime, and you don't want to do that to yourself.

The best thing for you to do is to tell her that you are willing to work on the relationship, go to counseling with her, the whole deal, BUT that she has to show you she is willing to commit to the two of you by saying good-bye to the new guy and giving her marriage a real chance again. If she won't do that, then kick her out. SHE needs to be the one to go; she's the one having the affair.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you! Sometimes these situations can be worked out, but if she isn't willing to go there, don't blame yourself. At least you stayed faithful to your partner and did your best to make it work once things went wrong. Life lesson learned for moving on.
posted by misha at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2008


So the specific circumstances of her infidelity are slightly different than some of us originally thought. That doesn't change the fact that her expectations of you (be there for me emotionally and financially while I fuck this guy, please!) are fucking mental.

Buy your son an XBox 360 or kegerator for letting you know. Then get the best divorce lawyer you can afford and don't back down, even for a moment. She is at this point nothing more than an obstacle to your future happiness. It is hard to be strong in these circumstances, and lord know I made my mistakes (trying to be compassionate, giving, caring) while dealing with a partner's infidelity. But if it happened to me again I would be way more mean, ruthless, and unforgiving. Don't listen to her bullshit.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:58 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


If your wife allowed your son (over the age of majority) to overhear or manipulated him into calling you, it's still fucked up and still totally over the top disrespectful.

Honestly? It sounds to me like she's trying to make it as unlivable as possible for you. Whether it's intentional or unintentional, I don't care. Enforce boundaries legally or personally (I mean verbally, not physically. She can't not be aware she's jerking your chain.
posted by kalessin at 12:24 PM on April 22, 2008


Kudos for being willing to go talk to someone about this situation. I think it is also encouraging that your wife has been willing to go to therapy. That tells me she is willing to work this out.

You mentioned that you were married before. Maybe you should try to figure out what the common demoninator is that has caused trouble in both relationships?

I'm really amazed at the number of replies here calling you the victim. You said yourself that both of you had been slacking on the marital responsibility front. True, she shouldn't have cheated, but you are both responsible for the break down of your marriage. The cheating is just a symptom of a systemic problem, namely, lack of communication and selfishness on both your parts. In a marriage, you can't always put your own needs first.

Should you divorce? Only you can answer that. I think often, rather than working hard on their marriage and battling things out, many people take the path of least resistance. Not that divorce isn't hard and painful, but shouldn't it be the absolute last option after you've tried everything else?
posted by socrateaser at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I could have been your wife. I was also in a marriage where I felt that my husband wasn't pulling his fair share - I felt put upon and left out of his life. I lost all sexual interest in him and I began to look for emotional connections outside of our relationship. Eventually it became apparent that if I kept up my behavior and all of the crazy, wishful thinking that goes along with it, (your wife's little pipe-dream about keeping you as a sob-sister and her hottie as a treat on the side are definitely signs that she's slipped over from fantasy to full-blown denial) I would have an affair.

Personally, I couldn't do that to myself or anyone else, and I left. I can't say that it was easy, but it was far better than the alternative. My husband pretty much fell limply to the side and gave up - and that sealed the deal.

It takes two to tango - if you really want this marriage to work, then you are going to need to step up and make some demands. This might be well-received by your wife - because if you are anything like my ex, then you may abdicate any difficult decisions to your wife and you don't have any practice in standing up or making decisions for yourself. The only way to save this marriage is to put your foot down, demand couples counseling, demand that she get rid of her boy-toy, and STAY PRESENT. You will need to participate fully in all of this if there will be any chance of it working. I have to say, though, as someone who's been there - that once a woman even CONTEMPLATES an affair, things are pretty far gone. I wish you luck.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:29 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm actually really surprised that so many guys here are so convinced that it is beyond the pale and no-way-no-how related to his behavior -- can you not imagine that someone could find it extremely, cumulatively painful to always be left alone with everything and conceptualized by their SO as "a caretaker"?

Its beyond the pale because (1) its okay for her to indicate she has a problem with this; (2) its okay for her to divorce him over this; (3) its okay for her to separate from him over this; (4) its ok to ask that the behavior stop over this; (5) its ok to ask for him to go into therapy over this;

(6) its not ok to break a vow to be faithful that you made over this.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:30 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


besides what happened we are really each others best friends. I'm not without guilt here as I had checked out for a while focusing on other things besides us. Also, for more background she used to be obese thru her whole life and recently got skinny and is considered one of the pretty people.

You and she are not best friends, not even friends. You, sir, are her utility infielder. While she is having fun she has you in reserve until she decides she wants to cut you from the team and sow her wild oats, or not bail where she'll call you in to pinch hit in the late innings.

You also mention that you checked out, but in the first post you mentioned that you *both* checked out. So again, the fact that you weren't an attentive husband or were sailing through the marriage justifies her being angry, seeking therapy, a lot of things, it doesn't justify banging a young stud - or anyone behind your back, attributing it to drink, and lying to you. She wants the benefits of being married to you, but not the responsibility. Shee-it. I'd like that too, wouldn't we all, but I respect my wife too much to do that. Your wife simply doesn't respect you.

My wife is/was very much a caretaker and I am a real slacker and I let her carry the load.

I can imagine this feeling like a little abandonment everyday, culminating over time in the kind of rage that leads someone to do something that obnoxious. I'm actually really surprised that so many guys here are so convinced that it is beyond the pale and no-way-no-how related to his behavior -- can you not imagine that someone could find it extremely, cumulatively painful to always be left alone with everything and conceptualized by their SO as "a caretaker"?


You know what if the roles were reversed and the OP wrote, well I was so busy with work, etc, etc, that my husband was the caretaker and I was a slacker, so he started banging his hot young secretary and he wants an open marriage, to come home to his family but still bang the hot young secretary on the side. I think there would oodles of e-ink spilled over how this man is a pig, etc., etc., etc. What is the difference here?

And also, the justification for cheating comes uncomfortably into the territory of justifications that abusers user when they are abusive. Just like a wife being a bitchy harridan doesn't justify violence, a husband not being attentive doesn't justify a wife's banging someone on the side without his knowledge. Sorry. You have a responsibility to make your needs met and if they are not you walk. You have an obligation not to be deceitful in marriage.

So to wit, the OP's original post should be.

Should I stay with a wife who doesn't respect me and wants all the benefits but none of the responsibilities of being married to me or should I bail?
posted by xetere at 1:45 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why is that? Because (assuming that my speculation has any basis in fact) while the slacker spouse broke the spirit of the law of marriage for years, the caretaker spouse broke the letter of it once?
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 1:46 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


She may have tried to talk about things and he didn't notice. It happens a lot that men feel broadsided when their wives leave or seriously threaten to leave, but the wives feel like they've given him a thousand chances already to improve things.

Also, if the son is twenty, then it sounds like she's been doing the caretaking of HIM the last eight years? While the OP focuses on his career and his friends and doesn't act like a lover to his wife? I can empathize with the anger.

That said, she handled it very badly and it sounds like both of you could use a LOT of work on communication skills. I would make that first priority.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was directed at Ironmouth, sorry.

You know what if the roles were reversed and the OP wrote, well I was so busy with work, etc, etc, that my husband was the caretaker and I was a slacker, so he started banging his hot young secretary and he wants an open marriage, to come home to his family but still bang the hot young secretary on the side. I think there would oodles of e-ink spilled over how this man is a pig, etc., etc., etc. What is the difference here?

1. These people are a couple. There is an adult kid from a previous marriage.
2. If I'm reading the OP correctly, they were both busy with work, but she was taking care of home as well. I don't know any couples where that precise work distribution has been reversed along gender lines, but if I did, I wouldn't apply a different standard to a man if this made him feel pain and abandonment over the long term and he did something out-of-character shabby all of a sudden as a result. Assuming that is at all what happened here.

And also, the justification for cheating comes uncomfortably into the territory of justifications that abusers user when they are abusive.


If you look into any descriptions of emotional abuse, you will find that emotional distance and neglect are given more ink than infidelity.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:01 PM on April 22, 2008


Sorry to pile on more crummy news, but STD testing for your both is advisable. Having already proven that her word has become unreliable, you have no good way of knowing for sure how long she's been with this guy, whether there have been other parterns, and whether safer sex practices have been consistently applied.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:19 PM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you look into any descriptions of emotional abuse, you will find that emotional distance and neglect are given more ink than infidelity.

True and I don't want to gloss over emotional abuse or chronic neglect...

But

...OP says that they both pretty much were cruising in a passionless marriage. They both were more focused on education, professions, and friends. And while the OP might not have been attentive, and he says his wife was a caretaker and he was a slacker, I hardly think, absent more evidence, that he is guilty of emotional abuse.

I don't want to minimize the corrosive effects of taking a partner for granted and not pulling ones weight in a relationship, but frankly, the OP comes across, at least in this thread as such a doormat, I'd like to know more about how slack he really was and how caretaking she really was.

No offense to you, OP, please feel free to set me straight or provide even more clarification
posted by xetere at 2:21 PM on April 22, 2008


So, you've probably noticed that this thread has, in some ways, become a discussion about how to allocate blame for what happened. Some people feel strongly that your wife deserves most of the blame, and others argue that it's more your fault than hers. I think that the reason for this is in part the way that you framed your original question. It's all about what you did wrong, what you're doing to change, and what you should do in the future. It's not about how she behaved, what she's changing, and so on. Nor do you express anger towards her, other than to describe your emotions (without saying that her actions influenced them more than your regret over your past behavior). That lack of anger/condemnation is making people feel like something is wrong. They see that anger as "missing" and are expressing it for you. In general, in the script that most cultures have for this situation (adultery), the person whose spouse has cheated expresses extreme anger. You haven't done that, so the script is incomplete, and people are supplying the neccessary but absent anger.

I understand that your focus is on healing and mending, but that cultural script is there for a reason. It's powerful enough to motivate people to act out your role for you for a reason. It's hard to believe that you did not feel, do not feel, and will not feel angry, hurt, or betrayed. I think what is mostly unspoken but implicit in the reactions is that you NEED to express and accept those feelings. I think people are worried that you are suppressing those feelings because you're afraid that if you allow yourself to be angry, that will destroy any chance of putting your marriage back together.

I can't tell you what is right for you in the short term -- I don't know enough about your situation. But I can tell you that even if you need to remain calm and rational today, this week, etc., you absolutely need to allow yourself to express those emotions at some point or, in the long term, your attempt to fix your marriage will almost certainly fail. You don't want to bottle up your resentment; it will not disappear on its own. I'm not saying that you need to confront it now, but come back to this when things are a little less chaotic and find a safe space (therapy?) and a safe way to feel and express these things.

You need to take care of yourself and your own mental health if you want to achieve other goals (such as fixing your marriage). You can't fix your marriage without the help and participation of your wife, as I said before, but you especially can't do it without being yourself, as you realize, sane.

Good luck.
posted by prefpara at 2:31 PM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


That said, she handled it very badly

Yeah, in case this is really necessary to re-iterate, I think it was a very cruel thing to do no matter what the reason. I just can't believe that the caretaker admission is so effortlessly subtracted from the math of the relationship breakdown by so many guys in this thread. It's a little disturbing.

I hardly think, absent more evidence, that he is guilty of emotional abuse.

Me neither, but I'm not the one who framed speculating about the wife's perspective as tantamount to dismissing abuse.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:31 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't want to minimize the corrosive effects of taking a partner for granted and not pulling ones weight in a relationship, but frankly, the OP comes across, at least in this thread as such a doormat, I'd like to know more about how slack he really was and how caretaking she really was.

I think this is critical. The fact is that the OP may be unaware that he is exaggerating his complicity in the situation--it sounds like these words may be coming out of the post-infidelity discussions. He may be a doormat here and the point I'm trying to let the OP see is that her justifications for her actions might not really reflect the situation as it is. To be honest, her actions sound like the emotionally abusive ones--she continues the situation and wants to have the cake and eat it too. Usually that's the position of the abuser, not the "its all my fault" position, which is usually the position of the abused in a situation involving emotional abuse.

So, OP, don't take her explanations as the gospel truth. Examine them. See if you have indeed been a terrible spouse. I'd suspect that the truth is not so.

And, get a lawyer, stat. You have interests that need to be protected.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:59 PM on April 22, 2008


Usually that's the position of the abuser, not the "its all my fault" position, which is usually the position of the abused in a situation involving emotional abuse.

I think most couples counselors would tell you it isn't anywhere near this simple. I am not saying that I think anyone in this story (which we've only heard one side of in any case) is an abuser. But there is nothing unusual about an exploitative partner also being self-deprecating to outsiders to the relationship.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 3:25 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes MeFi really frustrates me.

OP, you asked can this marriage be saved?

If your wife becomes remorseful, if you are both willing to do the long and difficult work of reconciliation, and if you yourself find that you still want it to work after the shock has worn off, then it is very likely that yes, it can.

But that's a lot of if.

MeFi is really crappy for anything other than a straw poll on this issue, and you do not want to make decisions about the rest of your life based on an internet straw pill. Really, again: Surviving Infidelity. Go.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 PM on April 22, 2008


What DarlingBri said.

And bear in mind when reading the responses here that a lot of people will be carrying personal baggage on this issue.

personal 2c: i do not believe that drunkenness can ever explain, let alone justify, cheating. if somebody is so drunk that they can no longer tell right from wrong regarding extramarital sex (or sex outside of a relationship in general) then by my definition they'd have to be too drunk to walk, let alone fuck, or even stay conscious. just my opinion, because "should i or shouldn't i?" is not some kind of slippery-slope, grey area question that you can somehow misinterpret when tipsy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:55 PM on April 22, 2008


Regardless of whether or not you were the ideal husband, cheating doesn't just happen, much less repeated cheating in your marital bed in front of your child.

I am sorry, but this marriage is over, and you need to contact a lawer, kick her the fuck out of your house, and make sure she no longer has any part in yours or your child's life. I promise you will feel silly for wasting so much emotion on this whore later.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2008


There is far, far too much information lacking for us to give you much useful insight, poster, but from the barest of facts that we have here, my best guesses about your wife's state of mind are that she is either to some extent psychological disturbed and not thinking straight at all right now, or that she has basically cut out, stepped over, snapped, emotionally removed herself... she just doesn't consider herself in a marriage any more.

Either way, unless there is more that we don't know about, it seems there came a breaking point - possibly a mental illness breaking point, or an emotional one, but one doesn't normally go from eight years of faithful caring and giving to bringing boys home in a drunken spree, and then, especially, stating that, yeah, she'd just like to sort of go ahead and keep doing that.

It seems that either: She got so fed up with being... what? The housekeeper, cook, laundress, nurturer, all-around worker bee? without any emotional payback that she snapped one day, and said "That's it, now I do for me and whatever I want when I want it, because nobody else is going to spend a second thought on me if I don't ... and they can take it, or they can lump it. It's very unlikely, if this were the case, though, that she wouldn't have articulated these feelings at all in the time leading up to this. I would imagine that this level of anger and distance from your feelings would have been preceded by what she would consider a lot of warning and pleading for change.

Or: She has become psychologically unbalanced and there might even be some substance abuse issues there (I'm not really talking about the drinking, because a serious problem with that should probably have become fairly apparent under most any circumstances).

These are my top two guesses, based only on the info presented. It just seems to me that if she were the self-centered sort of person who wants their cake and eating it too, she wouldn't spend eight years not being that sort of person. Someone mostly concerned with satisfying their own desires regardless of how it may impact the other people in their lives don't usually go for years and years denying themselves. If she wanted to take advantage of the poster, use him, abuse him, satisfy herself and to hell with him ... would she have held off all these years just to make it sting that much more? It just doesn't seem likely to me.

If the situation is one of these two things, then in the second case there definitely is hope for the marriage if she has a treatable illness or abuse situation and you find help and work through it together, as well resolving the issue of mutual neglect.

In the first case, it seems very unlikely that the marriage can be saved, but if she's willing and you are - sure, see if there is something left to salvage. It doesn't sound at all like she is much willing as it stands now, though.
posted by taz at 9:09 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


taz's comment about the emotional breaking point was what I was hinting at by suggesting that people don't simply "slip up" when drunk. At most, the drunkenness only precipitates something that they've consciously or unconsciously decided for themselves earlier.

I'd suggest that this applies particularly with women, who tend to link sex with emotional connection to a greater extent than men do. That is, she must have reached a point where she lost that emotional connection with you, enough to first contemplate, then put herself into a position where something might happen, then actually carry through with the idea of sleeping with somebody else. That kind of stuff doesn't just happen randomly, out of the blue. It's something that's probably been developing over some time.

The fact that she did this in a place where there was a high risk of being caught red-handed (your home), allowed herself to get caught out a second time, and explicitly wants to continue with her affair, suggests to me that she's become very emotionally detached from you, in which case I don't have high hopes for your future together.

The only way I'd modify what taz wrote is to suggest that the "emotional breaking point" probably wasn't a single crisis or life-shattering realisation, but just a slow wearing down, a process of attrition whereby over a longer period of time she simply stopped caring about you the way one should in a healthy relationship, such that one day she woke up & found herself completely emotionally open to sleeping around behind your back.

Whether or not that can be reversed, I don't know, but I tend to think not.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:36 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's normal for someone who feels completely disempowered by a shock like this to try to take on the responsibility for the failure of the relationship. However, your wife is perfectly capable of fucking up her own life without you being responsible for it, and in a perverse sense, denying her autonomy is in some ways a slap in the face. On some level you probably want to be responsible for it so that you can fix it by changing your behaviour, but you probably can't, especially if she didn't give you plenty of warning that she was building up to this.

Normally with kids in the mix I'd say try to salvage something, but if your only child is 20, it's time to cut and run.

I fifth the advice to get a good lawyer; a shark in fact. There's too much anger here (or will be a soon as the denial ends) for a mediated divorce to work.

As for who moves out, it should probably be both of you. Unless you've got a pre-nup it's time to start tightening the belt and budgeting. Post-divorce your lifestyle is going to take a hit. Get out in front of it, before you rack up a ton of debt.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:38 PM on April 22, 2008


The only way I'd modify what taz wrote is to suggest that the "emotional breaking point" probably wasn't a single crisis or life-shattering realisation, but just a slow wearing down, a process of attrition whereby over a longer period of time she simply stopped caring about you the way one should in a healthy relationship...

Yes, I agree, and this is what I meant, really. The emotional breaking point I mentioned simply being that ultimate flash point, before which things were one way... and after which, in the very next moment, completely different. It could be triggered by a word, lack of a word, a careless act, a cloud passing before the sun... or something somewhat more substantial - but it's the eventual expression of months or years of frustration.
posted by taz at 4:26 AM on April 23, 2008


(a turning point, or a watershed, perhaps. not even a specific incident, or trigger. just the day she thought "i kinda think it would be ok for me to fuck somebody else", not necessarily in response to anything in particular, but simply because of the gradual erosion of caring):

it's the eventual expression of months or years of frustration. - True.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:28 AM on April 23, 2008


Thanks for everyone's insight and varied points of view. We are talking things thru as honestly as possible and I'm planning for the worst and hoping for the best. I think taz's post above most accurately describes the situation. Just a culmination of 3 years of me really not showing how much I love/respect her and her instincts to try and handle everything herself as she has since she ran the house as a child with a full time working mom and younger siblings to take care of. She thought I didn't love her and fell out of love with me. Not sure it can be recaptured but we'll work thru it and figure out if we should stay together or divorce. We plan on seeing another couples therapist after a month or 2 of individual counseling to see if trust can be rebuilt and if their still is an "us" left. Trying myself to work thru the anger issues. The sex part doesn't really bother me as I've had multiple partners in my premarital days and understand the "fun" sex thing. The lack of respect and violation of trust is a much bigger issue that I must decide to work thru or not.
posted by sockpuppetsatan at 9:30 AM on April 23, 2008


to be honest, I fail to see why discussions of who is at fault help the OP. OP, the question is can it be saved? Ask your wife--tell her what you want, which from your question is a monogamous marriage. Tell her if she can do that you will stay with her, otherwise you will leave. Tell her that you are willing to work on any part of the relationship she wants, but that her continued fidelity is a dealbreaker.

Sometimes you have to make an ultimatum to make the situation clear for everyone involved.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2008


but that her continued fidelity is a dealbreaker.

uh, that's infidelity.

Best of luck.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2008


Finally, a question that got me to pony up and subscribe to MeFi.

Sockpuppet, I'm in an almost identical situation, except for the numbers (ages of participants, length of marriage), and there have been no midnight phone calls. I'm a
wife who recently found a new flame and that relationship has cast the dissatisfactions of my marriage into sharp relief. A few people (Light Fantastic and Your Time Machine Sucks) have played devil's advocate here and I thought I'd join in with the first-person perspective from the other side.

The dynamics of my marriage are similar to what you describe--I'm chief caretaker and "worker bee" in the marriage, as someone eloquently put it above. My husband and I both work full time and have been keeping our noses to the grindstone with work, kids, etc etc for the past several years. And my husband has pretty much emotionally checked out for a long, long time. He's reserved by nature and his means of coping with stress is to withdraw further. I have tried everything I can think of to draw him out and get him to reconnect emotionally for years now, with little success. Despite my efforts to engage him, our sex life is nil. We can and have gone for weeks without even perfunctory kisses.

For the past few years I've been resigned to living parallel lives under the same roof without any meaningful interpersonal engagement. We make a pretty good team as far as the practical stuff of day-to-day goes, and that counts for something; and I don't want to completely discombobulate my kids' lives; so I figured, and still pretty much figure, that this is just how it will always be. I have been working on accepting the fact that when it comes to big decisions (financial, childrearing, etc.) I'm going to always be the one in the lead. I have a harder time accepting that I will always feel completely abandoned upon those occasions that I have a personal crisis, I will always be left twisting in the wind; my husband just cannot work up the emotional guts to offer a hug or a simple "I'm sorry you feel so sad" when I'm crying about a friend's illness or losing out on a job I wanted, for instance. That is excruciating in the moment but so far I haven't reached the breaking point.

A little while back I met a man who, wonder of wonders, actually responds to my gestures of friendship and affection and is concerned about my feelings. God, it's like water after a drought.

As I said earlier, this has thrown the dynamics of my marriage into relief; it wasn't always like this, it doesn't have to be like this, I don't want it to BE like this. My husband is fundamentally a good man and I still don't want my marriage to end. The affair and a few other issues seems to have woken him up to the fact that Things Really Are Bad. We're working through John Gottman's book The Seven Principles of Successful Marriage (something like that) on the recommendation of a close friend who recently surmounted a serious threat to her marriage and I am hopeful we can close the gap. I really, really, really hope we can and I am still willing to work toward that. I wish I could say I have confidence that my husband will meet me in the middle somewhere but for now it's wait and see.

I'm trying to keep my new flame in perspective, grateful that he has revived some long-dormant parts of my life, not entertaining ideas of building a new life with him, etc. But it's incredibly hard to walk away from someone who actually feels...alive.

Anyhow, Sockpuppet, I wish you and your wife well. For the rest of the reading audience, be assured that this kind of thing can be, I daresay often is, a LONG time in coming, and that both spouses play a part.
posted by Sublimity at 5:38 PM on April 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Damn. Dude your ass needs to run. This is a pretty horrible story. I'm really not sure what sort of reconciliation can come from this.
posted by chunking express at 9:03 AM on April 24, 2008


I whole heartedly endorse reading up on John Gottman and his advice. John Gottman is one of the only psychologists that bases his relationship advice on verifiable and replicable results. If you listen to what he has to say, you might be surprised.

This American Life did a profile of some of his research in this episode. Here's a fantastic interview with him about what he's found about being a successful couple.

Here's a link to his site. The good news is that most of what makes a great relationship is about communication and is something that can change.

Just because it hasn't been, doesn't mean it won't be.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:56 AM on April 25, 2008


« Older Point me to some books and/or websites that give...   |   Swing the pig iron hammer! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.