I have struggled with anxiety (while appearing outwardly calm, commanding and very high performing, successful) for my whole life, and the heart of my consolation in that inward private agony, other than my faith, has always been my wife. She was the person I trusted most in the world, and whom I felt the least insecure with. When I discovered a few months ago she was having an affair, and she said no longer had feelings for me or loved me, it was as though my chest had been compressed until my heart couldn't beat and lungs couldn't breathe. For days, weeks maybe, every step was like one taken underwater, or in a nightmare, where it requires unspeakable effort.
It turns out she'd reconnected with an old friend on social media and developed an emotional affair, which finally culminated in a physical affair. He is many states away and it's not easy for them to connect, which means the relationship remains primarily phone, messenger, texts, etc.
We have four children, all of whom are young, and who I love beyond measure. And the truth is, I still love her - though I am not blind to her faults, and at the moment, her willingness to lie to me without compunction.
I'm a deeply religious person, though not in a pain-in-the-ass holier than thou kind of way, and also very aware of my own faults, and have struggled for years to be a more generous person with my attention, both to my wife and children, and this has been a common focus of my prayer. I am an introvert, and it's easy for me, especially during stressful times, to retreat to books and ideas and my own thoughts rather than reaching out to people. I can see how it would have been very lonely to married to me during the periods of my greatest anxiety and stress as I struggled to excel at an extremely demanding job to provide for the family.
I see my marriage as not just a legal situation, but a sacramental one. I am the sole provider for her and my children. I don't believe her choices absolve me my responsibility toward her as my wife.
When I first found out about the affair (several evenings of unusual and intense arguing led me to asking point blank questions that finally provided true answers), we agreed to try and fix things. She said, if I come back and am 100% committed, will you have me. I said yes, and off we went with counseling. However, it was clear to me that she was still holding herself at a remove. To my eyes, she was acting as though she was trying to stay "faithful" to the AP.
And finally after about a month, it came out she had not broken off communication with him. This resulted in the most massive bout of personal grief I think I have ever endured. Worse than the initial revelation. That resolved with me writing her a letter saying I was giving up pursuing and trying to fulfill her emotional needs, but that I wasn't leaving either. I would be here, and ready to work things out if she decided she was willing, she responded very thoughtfully to the letter, and I see she still feels a great deal of ambiguity. She does not know what to do next any more than I do, and so here we stay - in detente.
I realized I couldn't chase her, cajole her, bribe her, or win her back with affection and tenderness. I realized that whatever this thing was that she was going through needed to play out long enough for her to get clarity. But I also realized that I was not ready to leave my house, leave my children, leave everything that we had built together over 16 years of marriage.
At the same time I realized that the changes I'd known I'd needed to make in myself - to be present - not just to her but to the children, to all of the people in my life were happening. Long accretions of defensive scales and selfish inward-directed ness were burning away in the pain. I have been doing what folks recommend - trying to take care of myself, continue to use this trial toward personal growth, and growth as a father, and in all my relationships. But it is so painful underneath it all to be so uncertain as to whether this can work out, whether her vision will clear, whether she will remember the love, or how much we have built together. And always knowing he is there, sending sweet and tender messages from a distance, at his convenience, while I do the work. I would say it's unfair, but that's ridiculous in a world where fair is so relative, and so many have it so much worse. But it hurts and it's hard nevertheless.
I wondered, and still wondered, if this is part of God's plan to make me the person I've been asking him to make me. If so, I'm glad, and I accept, but I wish there'd been an easier way.
In the meantime, though, I'm stuck in the position of being here, with her, trying to be kind and warm without pursuing or demanding, wait out this long distance emotional affair, while being massively present and living for my kids, and not trying to win her back through grand romantic gestures, though the temptation is always there. I will not compete with this guy.
I'm not sure what I'm looking for by posting here. Affermation? Advice? Maybe just a chance to say some of this. I've been discrete amongst our mutual friends and community, and that's hard too. I'm not looking for someone to give the hardline speech about manning about, growing some balls, and kicking her out. I feel like I've got both clarity, and courage, and the decisions I'm making right now are about strength and faith and duty. If I have to subjugate my ego to play a long game here, I will, it is not the same as denying my convictions, or being a doormat, especially if it can save my kids the pain of a divorce and salvage something that has been so good for so many years, and maybe make into something better than it's ever been.
So there's the gist of it. Tell me something, community.