I am a soon to be 40 year old woman. I have been in a stable monogamous relationship with the same man for 15 years, married for 10 years. We have two children, 8 and 6. In may of this year and after my asking about it, my husband admitted to having an affair with a co-worker. I was suspicious of an emotional affair, but this was a full fledged long term (3 years) relationship. We started marital counseling and we decided to work on our marriage. In the meantime, he continued working with this woman and their relationship continued to be inappropriate from my point of view. I read everywhere that for an affair to be over it is necessary for the affair partners to separate. My husband is this woman’s supervisor, and he refused to ask her to go work somewhere else. She was supposedly separated from her partner, with whom she has a child. After the affair was supposedly over, I read an e-mail my husband sent her saying “I love you” and her response saying that she loved him too. I confronted him and he said that had been “stupid” and called her and told her that it had been a mistake. She has written me insulting e-mails, which I did not acknowledge. And my husband kept insisting there was nothing between them. Well, last weekend she went out of town to get her passport to travel abroad in a work-related trip my husband organized for her, and sent my husband an e-mail saying that their love grew everyday even though they were not together anymore. I went crazy when I saw that e-mail (I am normally a very rational person). That did not look like an e-mail from a woman that has been told their relationship was over, it looked like an e-mail from someone that had been told “I love you, but I will stay with my wife for the kids” (which was what she said in one of her e-mails to me). I printed out the e-mail and took it to her partner, from whom she had never separated according to what he said. He knew nothing of the affair, although he suspected as I did that they had an inappropriate emotional intimacy going on. I destroyed this man, and I am not proud about it. I also went to their workplace and told their co-workers, and asked my husband for a divorce. But he says he will not divorce me and he wants another chance. I feel ill used and betrayed, I feel that this past four months I have given more than any human being should give. I have lost almost 50 pounds, I have been seeing a psychiatrist and taking anti-anxiety meds. I am afraid my husband is a narcissist and that he actually wants the two of us around somehow. I can’t take this anymore. But as awful as this all sounds, I am still in love with him. Or maybe I am in love with the memories of happier times. I know I am not afraid of being alone and I am self-sufficient. But then why am I even considering the option of giving him a second “second chance”? Is there any hope in this or a am I just deluding myself? Thanks for your help.
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Whatever your husband’s experience of your marriage has been, yours has been a good one it sounds like, up until recently. Given this context it would be unnatural for you to feel no ambivalence regarding a permanent divorce or separation from this man and the end to a very significant part of your life. I think it is very normal for some part of you want to give him a second chance, given the context. It is normal to want things to be back the way they were during “happier times”.
p> However, these are not happier times. Many marriages survive dramatic infidelity, but only so long as 1) the affairs are repudiated and the partners are able to come back together emotionally so that they can trust one another again, or 2) the partner who has been cheated on finds ways to not care about the cheating. Your husband has not made it clear to his affair partner that the affair is definitively over, despite the exposure of the affair. This is a real statement about where he is at. Also, it doesn’t seem that you can find a way to tolerate the affair.
p> There are a lot of guys out there (and gals too I imagine) who are immature enough to want to have their cake and eat it too. Your husband seems to be one of them. He will “get away with it” so long as you let him get away with it. I see no rational reason to be faithful to a man who cannot or will not reciprocate. Your children will be harmed more by continued fighting and trauma then they will be by the example of a strong mom who recovers from adversity and makes a new and better life for herself.
p> I repeat: It seems very likely that your husband will continue to do adulterous things so long as you fail to take action to limit the damage. This is true whether or not you stay with him or not. I think you need to think carefully about whether you can forgive this guy, and if you think you maybe could (and many women could if he could reform himself), you might give him a further firm opportunity to cease and desist with the affair and segregate himself from the affair partner. If he remains ambivalent in the face of your firm offer (or if you cannot make that offer and mean it) I’d say it is time to gather up your children and hire a divorce mediator or lawyer. In any event, do not spend a lot more time allowing this selfishly-acting man to dictate the terms of your own happiness. Dictate your own happiness, if necessary, by removing yourself from the situation. Divorce, should it be necessary, is a shattering thing, but it is not the end of life. It is the end of a chapter of life. The next chapter has potential to again grow into happier times.