After lurking here for months, I want to acknowledge a debt to Tim for sharing his experience and philosophy about how people should try to rebuild their lives after the wounds of infidelity. Mainly I've profited from the articles, but several of the podcasts – on what to tell the kids, why contact between the affair partners has to end – have also been extraordinarily useful. And I've learned from all of you on this forum as I try to navigate one of the worst moments of my life.
My wife of two decades, 48, the mother of my two young children, had an affair with a man she met through work, and who had, in fact, substantially boosted her career through his influence in the organization in which he works.
(Note: She claims the relationship was "only" emotional, never sexual, but because she lied so much, I don't really trust anything she says about it, so I may never know).
Unlike many others here, I saw it happening in realtime, there was no D-Day gotcha moment. When it got unbearable, when she was lying and denying things for which I had solid evidence, I told her I wanted a divorce. That might have been the end of it; surely it would have been painful, though I'd have eventually moved on. But she had a damascene conversion, and announced that she would end all contact and work on rebuilding our marriage. I wanted to save the family for my little kids, and I'd loved this woman for a long time and couldn't imagine life without her. So I agreed to keep trying.
In fact they were in contact again almost immediately, a pattern was created where she said she wouldn't talk with him again, then I caught her, she repented and said it was over. Many months and thousands of dollars worth of couples counseling later, I realized she had been secretly in contact with him all along, lying to both me and the counselor, essentially manipulating me with deceit while I laid my soul open like a book. (Tim noted in one of the articles that in more than 90 percent of cases he's seen that he can tell the betrayer is still in communication with their affair partner if they say they're having a hard time getting over him or her. Bingo! I'd have skipped a lot of suffering if I'd discovered this website at the very beginning.)
She repeatedly deceived me about what was going on. A few examples: Months after they'd supposedly broken off contact I realized they had an elaborate semaphore system on Cheatbook, sorry Facebook, changing profile photos to signal when to contact one another. I discovered that she had a a disposable calling card, the kind used by terrorists, drug dealers and cheaters, with a secret number to hide her digital tracks. And she broke down and told me that she'd sent him what I would describe as a love letter just a few months ago.
For me, it's not the infidelity, I understand that "stuff happens"; in fact, I had proposed something like an open marriage when we were first engaged, because the most important thing for me was that whatever happened we must be deliberate and transparent and honest. Rather, it's the deception that has been an acid eating away at our marriage.
She says it REALLY IS ALL OVER NOW, and I don't need to be hypervigilant any longer, that in fact my suspicions are bad for our prospects. She seems contrite and says she's committed to making it work. But I feel like any day I'm going to see the same thing again. The difference is that I have thought through how divorce will work in practical terms and am finally ready to pull the trigger to protect myself if it happens again.
Finally, I have attained "clarity." It's not a happy state, exactly, but one in which I feel confident and resolved. I told her I'd throw her out if she couldn't stop, and I strongly urged her to go voluntarily if she wanted to be with him. This is what clarity means: I'm exasperated and, frankly, bored by this drama, which has paralyzed me at a time when I desperately need to be thinking about my career future.
Here's what I want to know: This is not standard behavior for my wife. I reached for many explanations, including that she was - in her heart - a pathological liar, a manipulative narcissist deliberately out to hurt me, or that she didn't want to be a mother and was unconsciously trying to destroy our family to escape. I told her that she needed serious psychiatric help. I've backed away from those exteme interpretations, but I'm not sure what to think. I've seen some people rationalize affair behavior as being caused by an emotional "fog" - but there's nothing "foggy" about conspiring with your lover to set up a signaling system on Facebook or deliberately going out and obtaining a secret calling card; that's coldly deliberate.
Is this "crazy" behavior? Or is it typical of affairs?