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MaryContrary posted 9/20/2013 11:35 AM

Hello all.
I am looking to know if any of you have experienced what is called the well spouse affair, either from the perspective of the well spouse or the ill spouse.

In my case, I am the ill spouse and have never been able to keep up with my husband of 7 years sexually. I have been increasingly ill throughout our 12 year relationship. Last year, I was diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). I am 41 and very well preserved. To look at me, one would not think I am sick at all, but unfortunately I have a lifetime of difficulties with pelvic infections, bone and joint pain, fatigue and endometriosis, and now the CLL on top of everything. Quite a bit to handle, and while I lead a very busy life (work full time, play in a band, exercise, travel, etc), I am just not interested in sex more than 1X every week or two.

My husband runs very hot and would like sex every day. He has never been able to adjust to our limits, and isn't particularly interested in anything other than intercourse, so options are quite limited. We have gone through years of counseling both together and independently, and it has helped, but what it can't fix are my unchanging physical limitations.

We have talked at length and feel outside of our sex life, our relationship is strong and we do not wish to divorce.

Last year, we entered into an agreement facilitated by our counselor that he had my permission to pursue an outside relationship as long as kept his priorities focused on me, practiced honesty with me about it, used common sense and was safe, and kept it quiet so neither of us would be embarrassed (as we are both relatively visible people in our social circles).

I know for a fact he is pursuing someone now (because he left his facebook account open to his messages on our shared iPad and there it was) and now that the agreement is in motion, I am feeling very conflicted and sad about it. He seems to be following the guidelines we set, yet I am struggling with my feelings more than I thought I would.

Your perspectives, if any, will be very helpful to me. Thank you.

Morhurt posted 9/20/2013 11:43 AM

I have no personal experience with a situation like this but it sounds like communication would be very key.

Can you talk to him about how you're feeling now? How it's making you feel now that it's actually happening.

I'm sorry, it sounds very stressful to me.

MaryContrary posted 9/20/2013 11:55 AM

I'm reluctant to bring it up since I discovered it on accident. I am afraid he will think I purposely snooped. Things have been pretty good between us as of late and I'm loathe to rock the boat, esp. since I haven't been feeling so great.

I am going to talk to our counselor next week to explore options.

Keep the feedback coming, please... and thank you.

[This message edited by MaryContrary at 11:55 AM, September 20th (Friday)]

OldCow18 posted 9/20/2013 11:57 AM

I'm so sorry you are in this position. I, personally, could never be ok with the agreement, but I guess I'm more of a "in sickness and in health" kind of person. Obviously I haven't walked in your shoes so I don't judge you at all, but wow, I wouldn't be strong enough for that. I hope someone has great advice for you, and again, I'm so sorry you are faced with this.

realitybites posted 9/20/2013 12:00 PM

I am the ill spouse and have never been able to keep up with my husband of 7 years sexually. I have been increasingly ill throughout our 12 year relationship. Last year, I was diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). I am 41 and very well preserved. To look at me, one would not think I am sick at all, but unfortunately I have a lifetime of difficulties with pelvic infections, bone and joint pain, fatigue and endometriosis, and now the CLL on top of everything. Quite a bit to handle, and while I lead a very busy life (work full time, play in a band, exercise, travel, etc), I am just not interested in sex more than 1X every week or two.

Have you ever just found an IC for you and you alone? I mean this very gently, you may not be able to hear this because we BS's always seem to want to "save the marriage" but I would bet alot of money that once you find a way to listen to your gut, find an IC who is only for you and your needs and really learn to love yourself again.....I bet alot of your illnesses go away.

This is just my opinion only. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

Tred posted 9/20/2013 12:02 PM

If you are feeling this angst now, how do you think you feel once he follows through with his tryst?

Undefinabl3 posted 9/20/2013 12:06 PM

practiced honesty with me about it,

So you said this is one of the guidelines you set....

I'm reluctant to bring it up since I discovered it on accident. I am afraid he will think I purposely snooped. Things have been pretty good between us as of late and I'm loathe to rock the boat, esp. since I haven't been feeling so great.

But yet you found out about it on accident?

so how can you say that he seems to be following the guidlines if you were not told he was involved with someone??

You need to take your first guideline "Keep his priorities focused on you" and let him know that now that you know he's involved, but did not tell you about it upfront, that you are scare that he will continue to keep secret the women, the times, the places, and all of the other information you may need to know to continue to trust him.

If he truely does have your best interests at heart, loves you, and honors your vow 'in sickness and in health' then he will either stop the relationship or open up and be more honest.

aesir posted 9/20/2013 12:15 PM

So essentially, this is a medically driven open marriage, with only one party actively pursuing the opportunities?

I would be concerned about how this goes, as managing an open marriage, even when that is what both parties want, is very difficult.

confused615 posted 9/20/2013 12:22 PM

Are you truly ok with allowing your husband to have sex with other women?

Or are you doing it because you are ill and feel bad that you can't keep up with his high sex drive?

There are other ways to get off,other than having sex...that he "isn't particulary interested" in those ways tells me this man is incredibly selfish.

He doesn't *have to* have sex with other women. You are his wife.

"In sickness and in health"..right?

The fact that you feel sad tells me this is NOT ok with you..and it doesn't have to be. You can not help that you are ill. he CAN do something about his high sex drive..if he HAS TO get off he can always use his hand. Is it the same thing? No. But his marriage and his wife should mean more to him than his need to have intercourse.

I understand men..and women..have needs. YOU have a need to feel safe and loved and respected. This "agreement" doesn't protect you. Not all STD's are passed through intercourse. Is he going to kiss them? Oral sex? Both of these are high risk. An STD is the very last thing you need. Condoms aren't 100% What if he gets someone pregnant? What if he falls in lurrrrve? What if he pursues married women and becomes the OM..affairs are dangerous..OW could become a bunny boiler..she could stalk and harass you and your family..or her BH could find out and show up at your house with a gun(it happens). And your WH would be trusting OW not to talk..because the two of you are well known..chances are..it WILL get around that he is having sex with other women. You can not control anyone other than yourself.

Please..rethink this. My feeling is that you felt pressured into this agreement.

[This message edited by confused615 at 12:25 PM, September 20th (Friday)]

SisterMilkshake posted 9/20/2013 12:57 PM

My heart goes out to you, MaryContrary. You are trying to be a good wife, but as confused says, I don't feel you really are all in on this. Or, maybe, intellectually you are, but your heart is telling you something different.

You must be honest with all your feelings with your husband, Mary, and it isn't too late to change your mind. Imagining and reality are very different.

I am so sorry for all the pain you are going through physically. (((MC)))

MaryContrary posted 9/20/2013 13:36 PM

All this is good. Thank you. This is why I came here.

confused615, you make a plethora of good points. Many VERY good points.

I thought long and hard about this decision (several years). I did a lot of research on well spouse affairs, their pros and cons. I truly do not feel I was pressured - I asked myself that many times and soulsearched it deeply. But still, like SisterMilkshake pointed out, I couldn't know how I'd feel until it happened... and I was aware of this risk.

I have put myself in his shoes. He is a healthy guy. No physical worries at all. Everyone in his family lives to be 90-100. To be married to a person who is almost always in pain or not feeling up to snuff cannot be easy and brings with it it's own pain and suffering.

When I boil it down to the basic elements, I fear what would happen if I changed my mind. I am afraid he will decide he can't take it and leave and I will be on my own with all my health stuff. I'm not really feeling up for a divorce, you know? I do not have any living family, and it's super hard to think about reaching out for help to friends who know me as mostly well. Misplaced pride? Perhaps. I am human.

As the person he is talking to lives on the east coast (we are in TX), there is still time for me to think on it a bit and decide what I want to do.

I appreciate all your inputs. If anyone has other thoughts, don't hesitate to post.

truthsetmefree posted 9/20/2013 13:50 PM

He has never been able to adjust to our limits, and isn't particularly interested in anything other than intercourse

Marriage is about being willing to adapt.

Obviously, you get that.

But does he?

There are so many facets when you bring another person into a marriage...things that can't be predicted or controlled by established boundaries beforehand. It doesn't make sense to me that you don't want to divorce over sex...yet you are introducing something that could destroy your marriage. Have you two discussed this?...that you are essentially gambling with what IS good in the marriage?

MaryContrary posted 9/20/2013 13:58 PM

truthsetmefree, yes we have discussed this in depth and at length, working to outline how doing this could undermine everything else we have that is good. We ended that conversation with the agreement than if one of us felt uncomfortable, we would talk about it (easier said than done, obviously!) and that it might mean deciding to divorce anyway.

We have agreed this is basically our last available option, after 5+ years of trying so many different ways of being.

Sounds simple enough. Sure isn't in reality.

aesir posted 9/20/2013 14:22 PM

When I boil it down to the basic elements, I fear what would happen if I changed my mind. I am afraid he will decide he can't take it and leave and I will be on my own with all my health stuff. I'm not really feeling up for a divorce, you know? I do not have any living family, and it's super hard to think about reaching out for help to friends who know me as mostly well. Misplaced pride? Perhaps. I am human.

As the person he is talking to lives on the east coast (we are in TX), there is still time for me to think on it a bit and decide what I want to do.

I would mention again my question earlier.

So essentially, this is a medically driven open marriage, with only one party actively pursuing the opportunities?
The reason I ask this, is that there are ways that an open marriage can be made to work, but an affair can not. We have had members here who were involved in open marriages and quite happy in them, only coming to us when one partner crossed the boundaries and had an affair. (Yes, that sounds strange, but people in open marriages sometimes still have affairs.)

Essentially, the basis of this whole agreement as I understand it is to allow fulfillment of a physical need. He has permission to go out and have sex with other people in order to increase the frequency with which he has sex beyond the once a week or so that you feel up to. Based on this agreement, one would assume that if it was a steady sexual partner, he would want someone local, or at least within the state of Texas. Instead, he has chosen someone on facebook that lives on the east coast. I am afraid that he is not pursuing this at all within the confines of your agreement, and is instead involved in a plain old long distance emotional affair through facebook. If it was truly about just sex, he would have found a local swingers club or something, perhaps hired a professional, joined a sex only dating website, in short, found people he would not be forming an emotional bond with. I also suspect that he may have been up to this before you two reached your agreement, but I can not be certain of that.

This has already started off very badly, it will not get better.

uncertainone posted 9/20/2013 14:29 PM

Mary, I did a similar thing except for different reasons. I told my ex we could stay together and but live as single people. Never hid anything never lied to him.

It was an absolute disaster. It destroyed my self respect and left scars years of childhood and even marital abuse didn't inflict.

The reason, for me, is that I felt marriage was a team. The "cover me I'm going in" partnership. Regardless of circumstances or outside assaults it was someone that had your six and you theirs.

When you introduce anyone into that equation, especially if not seeking an open relationship going in, it destroys the team and creates a triangle.

I have a chronic health condition as well. Suffer similar pain and times of being "ineffective". I couldn't view my partner in a caregiver roll with those dynamics. I'd not feel safe. I'd feel further like a burden if my medical needs came up "inconveniently" when he had plans.

Conversely, I'd never even contemplate it if my husband were compromised. No way. Couldn't begin to think about being away from him knowing he was in pain and being alone. I could no more do that than abandon my children. Not out of a sense of duty or obligation but because by his side is where I'd want to be.

You mention he has a higher sex drive but also he doesn't like other activities other than intercourse. One of those things is not like the other. Just being physical regardless of penetration is a wide open territory. So many things to see and do.

Please don't let your condition take away from who you are. It should never be, "he loves me inspite of". Life is full of "surprises". Car accidents, job loss, life stresses, family illnesses, child raising traumas. It's the partnership to handle these that gives us strength.

The sad thing is that by putting this on the table and his acceptance and implementation, I fear is the door opened and light shown on something that can never be not known or forgotten. I know you didn't intend this as a test but his response should have been immediate and visceral, "No fucking way and how dare you even suggest that".

Tell him. And as far as the term Well-spouse. How fucking sad. Spouse does not come with a qualifier.

truthsetmefree posted 9/20/2013 14:30 PM

Aesir makes very valid points. It does seem that your H. is bringing in an emotional/courting element to this that isn't necessarily part of the original agreement.

Mary, I don't envy your position at all. I can certainly understand how this is a rock and a hard place when you were already living in Shitsville. Big, huge hugs. I do think you need to discuss this further with your H.

7yrsflushed posted 9/20/2013 14:43 PM

I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said. I just have a question. Who suggested the agreement and in this agreement, did you ever discuss and get his feedback on YOU going out and having sex with someone else as well. I only ask because your post reads like you are very concerned with your husbands welfare and your inability to meet his needs but IMO he should be just as focused on you and your needs.

I am not in your MC sessions and you know your H best but honestly if the shoe was on the other foot how would he feel. I don't say that to suggest you test him or anything your story just reads like you are bending over backwards for a man that is at a minimum very selfish and not very understanding of your situation but is very focused on his situation and lack of sex in the M. Just my 2 cents and I wish you the best.

LeopoldB posted 9/20/2013 15:35 PM

Taking into account all that you have previously considered and all that has been said here; appreciating that all marriages have challenges and that not all cultures would think such arrangements are odd; and understanding how difficult this must be and how neither you nor your husband ever wanted to be faced with such choices; I think this could be one of the most loving and caring decisions a couple could make in order to stay together. I hope he proves himself worthy of your love and deserves you.

MaryContrary posted 9/20/2013 15:38 PM

aesir - yes, medically driven open marriage where only one partner wants to pursue other opportunities.

The distance thing is the crux. That's what I've been chewing on for days... we did talk about him hiring a professional in the beginning. There seemed to be an ick factor for him with that. I never thought of swingers clubs or sex-only dating sites (didn't even know those existed, to be honest).

There's some other behavior that's interesting which makes me feel he is in a state of conflict about it. Not excusing, just analyzing the situation.

1. He used to be a touring musician (I know, I hear you all groaning and slapping your foreheads) and suddenly three months ago he just HAD to get a perm job here in TX. It was a really funny 180 for him - totally out of character. The act of giving up touring would make it much harder for him to see this person... it does eliminate him being spotted by those who may know us (we are well known in the music scenes in all major TX cities so you never know who you will meet)

2. He's also been telling me odd little facts about his dreams and personal worries which I discovered in seeing the FB messages came from conversations with this person. Almost like - "I have this secret that's trying to burst out" so by telling me little things he somehow relieves his internal pressure?

3. He's been working extra hard at being responsible, doing chores and communicating well when things are difficult. Not like a spectacular turnaround but enough effort to make me go, "Hmm, he seems to be really getting it now." Maybe that's him trying to justify his actions to himself?

You know, writing this all out and getting feedback makes this feel really grotesque... I feel a bit foolish, actually. I do believe he loves and cares for me as he has certainly walked the walk many times, but there does seem to be some disconnect with him. Like being with me is too real and therefore too painful, so he needs a fantasy diversion he can control and shape and use to forget about the difficult reality he has found himself in.

SisterMilkshake posted 9/20/2013 15:39 PM

I don't want to pile on you about this as you have explained

I thought long and hard about this decision (several years). I did a lot of research on well spouse affairs, their pros and cons.

however, I have to agree with uncertainone and 7yrs.

As I said, I believe you are trying to be a good wife, you love him so much that you are willing to do this, but at what price to you? When we get married we are saying "in good times and bad, in sickness and health".

Personally, I would be broken hearted either way this "well-spouse affair" came up. Either me (or IC or MC) offering it and FWH not saying immediatedly "no fucking way" or if he came up with it on his own.

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