My Marriage Is Dead (But I Got My Life Back)

If you’re visiting this blog because your partner had an affair and you don’t know what to do, I’m sorry you’re going through this. When it happened to me I couldn’t contemplate not having her back. When you love someone it truly does blind you. I don’t normally preach, I just tell my story, but I just got burned and I want to say this: Right now you’re hurting and you can’t contemplate what you might be about to lose. Don’t fear it. Your partner should have respected you, but they didn’t. That’s no basis for a good relationship. You never dreamed they could do this to you? Maybe your partner is not what you thought they were. Maybe they’ve just changed. Either way, that person may or may not be the person you thought you loved. There’s still every chance you can pull something out of the rubble, and whatever option you choose now is up to you, but don’t be paralysed by your fear of being alone. Maybe you just need to be free?

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I choose to love you whatever happens, however I feel, whoever I meet, whenever we have problems, whether or not I feel in love.

This is what my wife said to me in her wedding vows. It seems that however sincere it was at the time, for her it was a whimsical romantic notion. Sad to say, we have now been separated for two months.

In the months leading up to Christmas she started getting pretty weird with me. Sex almost completely dried up, loads of little things just seemed wrong. She started saying that she felt “trapped” but at the same time tried to reassure me that I wasn’t pressuring her or asking her for anything other than what one expects from a loving wife. She didn’t resent me, that seemed like at least something at the time. But I was hurt when she told me quite casually that she really didn’t mind if I wanted to sleep with other women, in fact she said there was a part of her that wanted me to. It seemed our relationship was beginning to mean very little to her and that she didn’t have the feelings she should anymore. But it had all happened quite quickly. I thought back to the summer, remembered how we were together on holiday and around that time. She seemed like she loved me, I had this photograph I particularly liked of her kissing my cheek while we stood next to a lake.

So I slowly became wary until about a week before Christmas when she began to talk about “just getting through Christmas”. I suspected that there was more to this than I had first thought, and decided to start keeping an eye on her. It was late that night while she was sleeping that I found two emails, from her to her now ex-boss. The first read:

Just thought…. There’s always my mobile number if you can’t catch me at my desk: ***********. Was really good to see you on Thursday night :-)

She’d been at a Christmas party that night, and had assured me he wouldn’t be there, and that he wasn’t there. She never mentioned that he was either… And contacting him by choice like this was a massive boundary to have crossed – she had clearly already given him her card so he could call her at work. The second email was what killed it for me though:

At the risk of looking really neurotic, I’m sending you another email! Please call me before Christmas holidays, I’m going a bit nuts. Or email me? This address should work.

She sounded so desperate. I was racking my brains at this point trying to think of some explanation. She wouldn’t do this to me again? Surely not? I thought, seeing as she hadn’t seen him since July when she left her job with him, that maybe being with him for an evening again had stirred up some feelings. Which didn’t line up with her previous story of having got over him completely. Unsurprisingly I was angry and went to wake her with the feeling that unless she had a damned good explanation for it all I’d be telling her to leave.

I don’t know that being woken by having cold water poured over your face is much fun, I just happened to have the glass in my hand when I arrived at the bedroom. I’m happy to say I’ve never mistreated my wife even after what she put me through. She woke with a start, and I asked her what was going on. She tried to wriggle out of it, she said that she knew he was going to be there but didn’t tell me because she thought I’d stop her going. She said she had a nice time and just wanted to be able to stay in contact. She said she just wanted to be friends and she had no feelings for him. I wasn’t buying it. The more I thought about it, the more I was inclined to think that if she lied about this, what else has she lied about lately? Given her strange behaviour I stuck to my guns and told her to go. She moved out the following day.

During the course of the Christmas holidays she and I had a few conversations about what happened. Each time she embellished her story I could see new holes in it. She could tell I wasn’t buying it so eventually she told me the truth. They resumed their affair, perhaps April or May time last year, and it didn’t end when she left in July either. She retained contact by calling him on his work phone and used to pop in to see him the odd day on her way home, because she was on flexitime I never knew. They lost contact when he left his job there in October. It would explain why the time since then had been such hell… She could cope with faking it for me while she still had him, but then he left and she just got miserable.

Interesting I thought, that he never bothered to remain in contact with her. I wondered what that said about their relationship. A man in his late forties does not expect to be pursued by a woman in her early twenties, she’s adamant that he loved her. His actions make me question whether he was trying to do the right thing. I wrestled a lot trying to decide whether or not to tell his wife. Most of the advice I got was to stay clear. I’ve been through enough. The truth has a habit of coming out eventually anyway and she might not thank me for telling her. Ignorance, to some people, is bliss. I tried to remove the temptation to contact her by deleting the phone number I had stored for her but I’ve since discovered that she has a website for her home business with her address and phone number on it. I’ve been tempted to send her a link to this blog anonymously and see if she puts two and two together. But there’s still a chance that the family might survive this way, they have two children who deserve a decent family to grow up in.

I’ve thought a fair bit about all those times I thought something was up and challenged my wife, I should have quietly watched her instead. I’d have found the truth then. She used to tell me I was paranoid and needed to learn to trust her, so I squashed those feelings and learned to ignore them. Turns out she was lying to my face, making me doubt my feelings and perceptions when really it was her in the wrong. A textbook example of gaslighting. It’s not like she’d just been “distant” either, she’d actually been really demanding… Selfish to be truthful. On top of looking after the kids, doing all the housework, shopping, washing and cooking I regularly took two hours out of my day to drive her to work and from work during the six weeks after she broke her arm and couldn’t ride her motorbike… It turns out that about once a week in that time she’d tell me she was going out somewhere she wasn’t while she really went to see him. I was doing all the giving and making all the sacrifices while she was off enjoying sex without responsibility.

So it seems, some people really aren’t worth the trouble. I don’t regret giving her another chance, I know I did everything I could to save our marriage and I’m happy that my conscience is clear in that regard. There is a place for forgiveness. I’m a forgiving person and I showed my wife a lot of grace. I don’t regret that at all, many of my friends have expressed real admiration for how I’ve handled what has happened. I believe the right way in a marriage is to put your partner’s needs first, that way one’s needs are always met by the other’s giving, not the one’s taking. But if your partner doesn’t share or live out that ideal, it has to be abandoned. If you have a gracious heart, stay gracious… But don’t be a doormat. Your partner has to give something back. Some people will take advantage of anything they’re offered and will use you until you’re spent with no thought of ever giving anything to you.

Me and my two boys are doing well, we’re going to grow up big and strong together. To be truthful, things have been a whole lot easier since she’s gone. I feel motivated, released from a relationship that was sapping my energy. Sure, it hurts what she did and I grieve a bit every day, but I’m just getting on with my life now without her to hold me back and that feels great. My two little boys are my number one priority, and I’m finding time to see my friends more and do more things I enjoy too. I remember when she first betrayed me I was so afraid to end up a single dad. Strange how misplaced that seems now… It’s not always your circumstances that determine your well being, it’s often just your state of mind. The way I see it, I just got my life back!

One Year

It seems weird to think that I discovered my wife’s affair just over a year ago. It feels like a lot longer than that. I prefer not to think about that day, I think about the day she came back. The day we started again, the first step of the journey that brought us to where we are now. That was a year ago today.

I think of what things would have been like if we had separated and I’m convinced I’d be a lot more messed up now if we had. In the long run I’m glad we saved it… It was worth the work we’ve put in. Some things are too precious to waste, even when they’re tarnished.

It’s got me thinking about the next year, she’s going to be working in her new job while I look after the kids. I’m still quite insecure but I’ve seen that it has got better, I’m definitely not as broken as I used to be. Each month that passes increases the distance between us and the affair as it fades into history. I wonder how I’ll be feeling about it one year from now?

I’ve conquered my past, the future is here at last
I stand at the entrance to a new world I can see
The ruins to the right of me will soon have lost sight of me
Love, rescue me.

Those words (from the song “Love Rescue Me” by U2) have slowly become true for me. I said at three months “it’s just like watching something disappear into the distance, like being on a boat going out to sea watching the land getting smaller and smaller behind us.” I’m not really even watching any more, occasionally I’ll look back but the land’s too small to see. I’m more interested in what’s ahead of us.

Another Ending

Our marriage has seen a few different “endings” in the process of recovery. The end of the affair, the end of our brief separation, the end of my wife’s feelings for her boss, to name but a few. My wife admitted to me recently that when she remembers what she did her reaction is something along the lines of “Ugh! What was I thinking, having sex with some old guy?!” It is a strange comfort for her to be able to share my disgust at what she did. I’m happy that she’s got the right perspective.

Although their affair ended they were still working together as colleagues, I felt uneasy about it for a long while if only because it hurt to know they had a relationship on any level. It is, though I don’t like to admit it, to their credit that they were able to go back to keeping a professional distance. In retrospect we’ve realised that it has actually made our recovery easier than if they had cut off all contact simply because their ongoing memory of each other now is that of colleagues not lovers.

I regard their working relationship as the last remaining present element of the affair but there is now another ending: my wife is starting a new job in a few weeks time. It’s a little further to travel but with better pay and the absolute relief that their relationship will now be completely over on every level and left in the past forever. I’m feeling very happy!

The Surviving, Living, Breathing Husband

It’s been over three months since I last wrote. I’ve occasionally considered what I could write and really haven’t had anything to say. Looking after two young boys is relentlessly tiring, certainly soaks up your energy. But it’s not like I haven’t had energy for other things – I’ve been picking up the things I used to do before it all fell apart. I was wasting energy or using energy on the aftermath of the affair… either way I’ve got a lot of it back now.

There was a time when “The Surviving Husband” defined me quite well as I clung on to my marriage and my sanity. I am no longer simply “surviving”. I’m living. Yeah, I still hurt sometimes. It’s just something I have to endure, best not to dwell on it I find. I keep on forgiving, accept it’s in the past and that I can’t change it.

When I read back through things I’ve written in the past it strikes me that with how cut up I was it almost looks like I lost sight of the good things, but I never did. I know that I’m a lucky man to still have what I’ve got. We came so close to losing everything, and it certainly wasn’t easy putting it back together. Our marriage does feel much stronger than it ever was, our attitude is that it’s all or nothing now I guess. We’re much closer than we were, even other people have noticed it. I am glad to let go of the past and I love my wife. She is a loving faithful woman and a good mother to our children. I cherish her every day feeling thankful to have her in the knowledge that it was very nearly all lost.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” – Bob Marley. True, that.

The Birth

My son is finally here.

I’ve always been cautious about the way some people look to these sorts of events to galvanise existing relationships, but for my wife and I it feels like a whole unpleasant stage of life is behind us now. We’re not trapped by the pregnancy any more and we now have two sons. Seeing my wife bringing another child into the world made me really proud of her. She was brilliant!

The first time I held my son was a little unpleasant for me. It’s a moment I just wanted to enjoy but I found myself looking at his face and thinking “does he look like me? Is he definitely mine?” I know he’s mine, I know when he was conceived and when my wife’s affair started and there’s just no way he couldn’t be mine. Didn’t stop it crossing my mind and to be honest it took me a couple of days to completely get over it.

The weird thing about a birth is that your child at first is a stranger. You sort of expect to feel like you’ve known them forever and be gushing with emotions but it’s not like that, my son is a new person and I’ve needed a few days to get to know him. He is marvellous, we’re all very happy. We expected his big brother (being just a toddler) to be a little jealous but the first thing he did when they met was to kiss him on the cheek, and he does that quite often!

I am ever so happy with my family.

Hills

Some days I just feel overwhelmingly sad and it can take me a long while to figure out why. I had one of those days today.

Tomorrow is my first day back at work. Still no sign of the baby yet, I’m leaving my wife at home with the boy. It will be nice to come home to them but I know I’m going to miss them and to be honest I could take it or leave it with work. These days I only work to pay the bills, my emotional state seems to have taken the fun out of things like working. It’s one of the biggest and worst side effects of the affair, that I’ve lost my love for life. I find it really hard to stay motivated about anything and on a day like today it’s hard to do anything, my feelings seem to paralyse me. It’s now 11pm and I’m yet to iron a shirt.

I get like this all the time and there are moments still when I can’t see or think straight and just want to get out. I feel like tearing the world apart on occasion, such is the torment inside of me. We were having a conversation about how I was feeling today, and I said to my wife “Sometimes I feel like ‘accidentally’ blabbing about what happened to my work colleagues or some other friends, just so I don’t have to keep it a secret.”

“I suppose I can’t really stop you, ” she replied. I was a little shocked at this, having expected a stronger reaction. It wasn’t a threat. I don’t really want everyone to know, it’s just because it still hurts and I don’t know what to do with my feelings.

“I’ve not blabbed yet, despite very strong temptation,” I said, “I think it’s safe to say I’m not going to”.

It’s like my son’s teething pain again. The other night he woke up and started crying and I could hear a thudding noise coming from his room. I walked in and switched the light on and there he was, sitting at the end of his bed banging the side of his head against the wall. Pain makes us do stupid stuff.

Deep down I have a fear that the way my wife is now (uninterested in sex and other physical stuff) is not just because she’s heavily pregnant, as she thinks. Only time will reveal the truth and I mostly think she’s right but it’s going to hurt if that’s not the case. If the libido mysteriously doesn’t return I’m going to really struggle to make sense of my marriage.

Overall it’s just the short term things that send me crazy. In any journey it’s hard to focus when your destination seems a long way off. I used to do a lot of road cycling, and it’s really hilly around these parts. My favourite run was from our old house near the town centre to my mother in law’s home way out in the sticks and then home again. There were three particularly strenuous hills to climb, it takes a lot of determination to keep going when you’re already tired. This pregnancy reminds me of one of those steep hills. Right now I can feel the burn but it will be worth it to get to the top. Hopefully once we’re there we’ll be able to coast for a bit! Perseverance is something I do well.

Christmas

It’s something of a milestone really, Christmas. I look back to early August just after my wife came back and I can remember what a mess I was, how I felt inside. I remember a telephone call to my mother, when I told her I was looking forward to Christmas, I know I was wondering how I’d actually feel by now – but also I knew that if we got there it would be a good thing.

Being together at Christmas seems like such a great reward, for everything we’ve come through. There’s a nice frame of reference too, between now and last Christmas… a time before and a time after the affair in which the affair was and is not occurring. It is contained within, it cannot pollute the past and it will not pollute the future. Last year it was my son’s first Christmas, this year is his second. Two happy times with some rough bits in the middle, I’m happy to forget about the rough bits now – they’ve had their time. It reminds me that there is good in our past and there is good in our future. Maybe next year there will be better stuff in between. Come new year I shall more than likely be saying “good riddance, 2010″!

My wife knitted me a really nice sweater for Christmas, it was hard work and took her about eight weeks. Stuff like that is so encouraging, that she will put the time into something for me. I know that she’s mine and nobody else’s again.