My wife had an emotional affair that eventually turned into a sexual one. It ultimately resulted in a "relationship" between her and her affair partner. We had been married for just shy of 6 years and together for just over 12. No kids thank God but we had a lovely home, a cat that has spanned the whole relationship, and a horse. Below is my (long) story. This ended up being much longer than I planned in fact but hopefully it is helpful to others.
Background & Lead Up
Her affair started with an individual that was part of her guild in one of the online games that she played. They had known one another casually for roughly 2-3 years on regular game playing. At some point it turned more than casual and they became friends. Last summer, a few members from the guild (some living in our city, others from different states) came to our house for a 4th of July BBQ. The affair partner came in from another state and stayed with us for a long weekend.
*** Quick side note: Both my wife and I have long had friends of the opposite sex that were good friends and were very open about that.
About a month later, my wife asked if I would mind her going to another city to see the AP for a long weekend to catch a show they were both interested in about 1/2 between each city. I told her that was fine. It was about this time I had my first subconscious "something isn't right" moments. Although honestly everything seemed on the up and up, for some reason this friendship felt different - even if there was nothing that had happened that was outside the norm for us.
About a week after this trip we ended up having a long state of the relationship discussion unexpectedly in a parking lot of a large strip mall. It was in this conversation I brought up the fact that the relationship with the AP felt like it had the chance of being more than just friends. Although she could have been acting dumb, I do sincerely believe when she said "I never looked at him like that but now that you say it I guess I could see him as more than just friends". We left that conversation both agreeing we wanted to be with one another and acknowledging we needed to work on some aspects between us.
*** Tidbit found out later: About a week after this event, wife and AP had a conversation where AP admitted he had feelings for her but had not said anything since she was married. Not sure exactly how this came up but I assume due to the sharing of said night above by wife.
Jump ahead one month. AP had a trip planned to come to our city for a concert with my wife and some friends. This had been planned since before earlier BBQ. In retrospect, this trip never should have happened and he never should have been allowed to stay with us again. However, hindsight is 20/20. Just before he arrived I found out my wife was taking vacation the whole 6 days AP was going to be in town.
This week ended up being the worst week of my whole life. As the week progressed, it was increasingly clear something was going on. Again not quite something you could put your finger on, but something was not right. One night near the end of the trip I had hit a breaking point. I was furious and was certain my wife at least had feelings for AP. In a decision I am sure I will regret for some time, I decided I needed to sleep on things before taking any action. My wife and AP had seen a movie that night and came home late. I faked sleeping when they came home. They both came to bed (separately) shortly after coming home. As I complemented everything falling apart in my world something caught me off guard. As my wife laid down next to me in bed, she grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze. In that moment, it was something that was reassuring and made me realize I may have been over reacting. In retrospect, I believe it was more of a I am sorry for what I am about to do to you.
Jump forward a few days. AP had left the morning before. I had told my wife that the last week had been the worse days of my life. Her and AP were killing me but I did not want to over react with a guest in our house (I know, I know. That's me, no apologies.) The next day, I had a light work day and messaged my wife that maybe we could grab dinner somewhere and talk. She was not really hungry and after talking back and forth we decided to walk to a Mexican chain up the street and bring some food back to our house to watch TV. It was a quiet walk and dinner went by relatively quietly. My wife said she was going to prepare for some of her gaming later that night. About an hour later she came upstairs fell to the floor in tears and said she had been very unhappy in our relationship, that she may have feelings for AP. I asked what they had done. She responds: Everything. As many on here know, nothing prepares you for that. No matter what you suspected hearing that out loud wrecks you in a way that cannot be described.
She also wanted a divorce and did not see any chance for us to reconcile in any sort of way. We talked long into that night sometimes crying, sometimes a bit of yelling, but a lot of honest talk from both of us was the main thing I remember taking away. It all sucked but there were things being said that I think both of us had wanted to say at one point or another and finally had the "well it just doesn't matter at this point so I might as well say it" moments.
We finally slept for a few hours and then continued talking until about noon that day. She had talked with her parents and decided to go home to them for the weekend (they lived about 2 hours away). I thought that was a good idea.
That first weekend was bizarre. The first day in the afternoon I went to my parent’s house to talk with them. Within the first 18 hours I had talked with all my family (parents & 2 sisters). It was good to talk with them and they were all very supportive as I fully expected. They have been a huge strength for me throughout this whole process and I have grown closer to them. (More about this later)
I also was part of a men’s group at my church that had started two weeks prior to all this. It was a series called How to be Her Hero (How not to suck as a husband). In light of events from the past couple of days, I was not sure that was a place I really wanted to be. I debated all the way up until actually driving halfway out to the church if I would even go.
It ended up being a great decision to go. I talked to my table lead to let him know I might be a bit quiet that morning and gave him some high level details of what was happening in my life. He completely understood and let me know how sorry he was that this was happening to me. He was essentially a stranger but it felt good to have his support. He said I should talk to one of the pastors at our church and that he would mention me to that individual so he knew I would be reaching out. He also asked if he could pray for me. This was something I never really had anyone do for me, not in this way at least. I said that would be nice. While he prayed for me in our church lobby, I had a strong sense of love surround me. I had a weight lifted from me. I can’t totally explain it, but it happened. Without question I had much more pain and struggles to come but in that moment there was a huge sense of calm. I was raised Catholic (active at that) and in my adult life shifted to a Protestant / Independent Christian Church background. Although I have always considered myself “a Christian”, for the first time in my life something felt different to me.
This would be repeated two more times in the first few days. Later that night after church service the pastor mentioned above prayed for me. On Monday, my first day back at work, after a few meetings I messaged a friend working at the same client as me and asked if he had time for coffee. He was a good friend and I let him know everything going on. He too asked, while we were in a conference room at work. If he could pray for me. Each time, I had a very similar reaction. For the first time in my life, I think I understood what some people mean when they say the power of prayer.
My wife came home from her parents and decided she would not return to the house. She stayed with her brother’s family initially, then some friends and found her own apartment about a month later.
A week and a half after D-day we had our first joint counseling session. We would continue these essentially weekly for about 9 months. Again, more on that later.
Taking Care of Me
First off, if you are going through anything like this find a professional to talk with. I was just talking with a friend last night that I think by the time you hit your teen years, it should be a standard process that we all get a counselor on retainer (maybe sooner for some). I think this world would be a much better place. I digress.
One of the first things that came up with my solo counseling session was what kind of man did I want to be regardless of how everything progressed. I knew for me I wanted to be able to walk away from this whole experience and 1) Be able to look myself in the mirror and be OK with my actions 2) Make a legitimate effort toward reconciliation and be able to walk away if need be know I did everything I could, and 3) Improve other relationships in my life.
None of those were small tasks but all ones that have been key drivers for me through out the whole process. Early on my counselor encouraged me to take some of the insights I was gaining from my solo and joint therapy and try to find places to apply the concepts elsewhere in my life.
One of the first areas I focused on was my family. Although I would describe my relationship with all members of my family as good/very good, there still seemed like there was places I could extend those relationships further. As I had grown up, some of them were not as close as I wanted. My dad was the top of that list.
He and I saw one another regularly but I felt we were missing the father / son bond that had once been much stronger. One night while we had dinner together, I told him I was not happy with what our relationship was and that I wanted it to be better. He agreed and we put some basic things in place to improve it. One was simply planning to see one another at least once a month for just the two of us. The other was to reach out informally (phone / text) more often. In just a few short months I was surprised by how much our relationship had improved. About 8 months after D-day my dad had a stroke. It could have been much worse but it was not minor either. I remember thinking how thankful I was that I had spent the last 6+ months building that relationship up. It was really nice building back that relationship and it felt that much more valuable to me now.
To a lesser degree I did similar building with my sisters and mom. I also started opening up more with some of my friends and taking a few chances that I might not have otherwise to reach out to people. I also found that I was making even more of an effort to connect with friends and family when they were facing challenges. It was an area in my life that I felt the improvement and the value it had on my life.
I also started identifying some areas in my personal and professional life that I knew could be improved. Not that they were even huge issues but places I knew I could be doing more, be more intentional about. Again, I saw payoffs in those areas.
There has been a lot of personal growth for me over the last 9 months. I feel better about many aspects of my life and know that the future me is going to be a better person because of everything that has happened over the last year. Not the path I would choose to get there, but it has had more than just a silver lining in many ways.
My wife and I started joint counseling almost immediately after the affair was disclosed. From the beginning, she was adamant that divorce was the only path she saw. I was not 100% sure of the future path but I was pretty sure I would not be able to look back without regret without at least making an effort to consider reconciliation.
Unfortunately my wife and the AP would not break off their relationship. Although he lived a few states away they stayed in contact regularly. I believe I was once told her therapist thought him being there for her was even a good thing for her for support.
Our initial therapy sessions were pretty rough and it took us a few weeks to be able to get to the point of really being productive. A breakthrough moment for me came when I realized if I really wanted to save my marriage I needed to break the affair and the problems of our marriage into two separate entities if any progress would be made. My wife could only focus on relationship issues (and generally in an angry way) while I was more focused on my anger from the affair. One of us had to shift for either of the topics to have a chance to be productive. There was some progress early on and we both started to see some things from the other person’s perspective.
Where therapy took a turn that I am not sure we ever really recovered from was when my wife and her parents had a relationship meltdown. My wife was having the classic rebellion against authority / the world and it culminated in a huge breakdown with her parents. Several months of our joint therapy often ended up getting dominated by that topic. By the time we came out of that period, the tone had turned from a slight chance of talking about a future to when can we move towards a divorce – at least for my wife.
9 months later we are starting the paperwork for a divorce. My wife’s actions, reactions, and words could be pulled from a textbook reading of an emotional affair. She is choosing the love she has found with the AP because he accepts her for who she is, they get one another and have common interest, and she has never had feeling so strong for another person before. She is “sorry” but can’t imagine there is any way she could have feelings for me. She has at least moved past the “I never had feelings for you” stage. Although she has read millions of words on affairs she does not see her situation falling into the patterns or norms or an affair. She has told me she is no longer in an affair but she and her AP have a relationship. I have said to people it is like watching an accident about to happen from your car while sitting at an intersection. There is nothing to do but watch it happen.
Where I am at
My counselor once asked me what I would do if I had an unsolvable problem put in front of me and was told that it could not be solved. There is a part of me that would like to say I would give up on it since it was unsolvable. I know the real answer based on how I approach problems (professionally and personally) is I would keep hammering away on it. The experience of trying to find a solution from different angles is what I would drive me.
That said, I also know when expending energy on something is no longer worth it. That is where I am at today. I am certain reconciliation between my wife and I would be possible. I am frustrated that it has never been considered an option. I am tired of it.
This spring has brought on addition life struggles to overcome that make the absence of a wife all that more apparent. My dad’s stroke as would be expected raises all sort of emotions and thoughts. Shortly before his stroke, I learned our cat most likely has cancer and I have been dealing with how to move forward with him. I also had minor surgery at the end of the winter. Nothing life threating and minor in the grand scheme of things but still requiring to go under and several weeks of recovery.
Overall, in nearly every aspect of my life I feel better about things today than I did one year ago. I have grown a lot and continue to do so. I know that wherever I am headed, it is a good direction. It may not be the one I planned out but one that is good. There is one area that is not better and it is one that saddens me greatly every day. That too I know will pass but it is sad all the same. I have a great amount of resiliency built into my DNA and I know all of this one day will help me deal with another challenge in some way.