My wife and I have been married for just over 24 years. Over that time we have had two wonderful children and, I have to confess, I have strayed once (about 18 or 19 years ago). Our marriage has become comfortable (perhaps too comfortable) but now things have changed. I don't know whether this is normal but our sex life was pretty vanilla and, to be honest, infrequent; my wife had become disinterested in sex (possibly due to the fact that it had taken 5 years to conceive our first child and it had become quite mechanical).
I should cover my infidelity first. It was after some online communications with a woman in a game which got quite sexual; the liaison was a one-off occasion, I was slightly drunk and afterwards I felt enormous guilt over what I had done (I wouldn’t have been able to hide it anyway as I had contracted some unidentifiable infection). I confessed all to my wife and (after a period of time) we got back on track. I never moved out of the house but I did move out of the marital bed. I have never strayed since.
I have been working from home for a number of years, my wife and I have been in contact almost 24/7 (though she works in a nearby office 3 days per week and we both have interests we pursue 3 evenings of the week). As I said, very comfortable. In May of 2014 my mother in law passed away after a long fight with cancer and my wife began grieving. I don't grieve over death in the same way as many people but I do grieve (as you'll see later); as a result I tried to support my wife but I probably didn't empathise with her as much as I should have. Eventually she seemed to recover and I noticed a change in her - she became very much more sexually aware and wanted to make love often. She couldn't understand why I wasn’t revelling in all this opportunity, the common refrain was “most men would be overjoyed if their wife was like this”. Anyway, as time passed I tried to appreciate the change in situation and began to rebuild my dormant sex drive.
Fast forward....... On Tuesday night (5 days ago) when we went to bed, I turned out the light and asked my wife if there was something going on (without being specific) as I had begun, over the previous weeks, to observe changes in her behaviour. She went very quiet - not a good sign - and then told me that she had been meeting men for sex through a swingers site for the last 9 weeks after engaging in sex chat online for a few months previously. She was brave to tell me, she could have lied but she didn't. Needless to say I was completely devastated, hurt, shamed, and all those madly whirling emotions; I was a washing machine on spin cycle. At that stage anger wasn’t at the forefront of my mind (indeed it still isn’t). We talked (I didn’t rave or shout though I did weep) for a long time into the night, sitting on or pacing around the bed, and eventually we turned off the lights to try and get some sleep. She asked if I wanted her to sleep downstairs and I said no as it wouldn’t really achieve anything. While lying in bed with the light off we even hugged each other. Sleep didn’t come that night in any great amount and at 2 in the morning I went downstairs to call the Employee Assistance Programme set up by my company to speak to a counsellor.
Since that time we have both spoken to counsellors on a few occasions and we have told a few close, but not mutual, friends. My wife has told her sister who is her unbiased support in this but no other family members know (and ever will know even if this doesn’t work out). We have tried being closer, sitting together while watching TV, holding hands etc. We have spoken at great length (though my wife is always quite closed mouthed). On Saturday, after exchanging a few messages of love, my wife said she was coming home from work for a little while. When she arrived she burst into tears and told me that she had something to tell me and that I would hate her for it but I needed to know. Last September (4 months after her mother passed) she had started an on and off affair with a man which had lasted until he had ended it by moving away after 7 months. She says that is was a friends with benefits relationship and there was never any real love, only mutual attraction and lust. She did wonder if she was falling in love with him at one stage but had decided absolutely not. After the affair she had investigated other options for getting her sexual fulfilment and this had led to the sex chatting and then the swingers site. Again I didn’t react with anger or any negative emotion, we held each other and cried. She can’t get her head around the way I am handling this.
Even though it’s early days, I decided very quickly that I wanted us to get through this together, to come out of it stronger as a couple and closer and more intimate than before – I still want that with all my heart. My wife has said she wants that too but I have no idea at this stage if she is just saying the words for me (out of guilt); for herself (as she is frightened of being alone); for the children (because she’s terrified of what it might do to them); or for us. It is far more likely that her emotions are in as much turmoil as mine. We are still close. Part of me wants to be with her all the time; trust issues must have a part to play in this but more than anything I want to show her that I am committed to us. She knows that there can be no more infidelity of any kind and I think that scares her, I think that is one of the reasons that she is so confused. She doesn’t even know for sure why she made that first step (though I am sure that feeling wanted, knowing that someone found her attractive and the thrill etc are part of it).
So where am I know? I’m lost, I hurt more deeply than ever before in my life (and I’ve been through PTSD), I crave confirmation that we are going to come out of this together. I fear for my wife and her emotional state and I think about her constantly. I am still in the washing machine and regularly enter the spin cycle. Throughout all of this I have tried to communicate with my wife with grace and (to a certain extent) understanding.
We have continued to sleep in the same bed and had some lovely, intimate (not sexual) moments, but this morning we had a discussion about the possibility of a trial separation – to give each other space. The thought scares me, I don’t need the space, I need her to be near me and be on the same page, but I asked her if she needed space. She doesn’t think it would make sense – we are trying to maintain an appearance of normality for the children and financially it would be awkward. I asked if she would like me to go out for the day just to give her that time. She has said I should go out only if I want to and not for her, then said no, we can take the dog for a walk later today together with the children.
Tomorrow, my wife is going to a counsellor for a face to face meeting to try and begin the process of working out (for want of a better word) her demons. I’m hoping that it’ll be the first step on a road to positive recovery for us both (preferably as a couple).
Are we handling this badly? I know its early days but any thoughts would be appreciated. The friends I have spoken to about it (3 of them) all tell me that I’m dealing with it in an amazing way but I’m so confused – today the rational side seems to have taken a back seat and I’m very tearful.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, I apologise for posting such a long story.