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R is tough - living in the grey - when does it get better

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lifeistough posted 7/7/2014 08:48 AM

This is my first post (and it's turning into a long one). I just found out about this site when reading a blog about infidelity. I've already gotten a lot out of the comments and advice people have given to others. I would have never thought this would be so tough and last for so long.

Here's the shortish version of what has happened to me and where we are.

My wife teaches at a graduate school. Two years ago this fall I stumbled on an email to one of her students (mid 20s) (we are in our 40s with two kids) who had moved to another state to attend a different graduate school. I wasn't looking for it and had no reason to suspect anything. The email had nothing terrible in it, but I sensed a familiarity and level of kindness that just caught my attention. I asked my wife about him and was blown off with responses like "you're projecting," etc. I let it go. Then in October I found out she had deleted the record of a 40-minute long phone call with the guy (I just happened to learn this in the process of setting up a new cell phone for our son, so I have no idea if there were other deletions). As an aside, this was a hectic time for us and the kids and if I had asked for a 40-minute block of time to sit down and talk, I think she would have felt put upon. She claimed she erased the call because she knew it would upset me but there was nothing to it. Then in January she received a flower and card for her birthday. She told me about it and she agreed that it was not appropriate. But as it turns out she didn't end the relationship, which slowly developed into statements of affection. In May of 2013 things came to a head and we began counseling. The counselor spent a lot of time with my wife who had a lot of things to address. During this time - I didn't find out about this until 2-3 months later - my wife wrote this guy to break things off. But in the process she told him that she was falling in love with him and that she had never felt this way about another man. And then even after this letter she sent him a text message while on vacation with my family saying she was thinking of him. I also did not find out about this contact until 2-3 months later when she came clean about everything. During the summer and fall of 2013 the student reached out a couple of times. She told me about this contact and she ignored him. And there has been nothing since as far as I know.

We have worked hard to reconcile. She has been patient when I want to talk about it though I wonder how long that will last. And she has been more attentive and affectionate (something she has to work on generally).

But I am still devastated and last week was really hard because we were back at the beach with my family so a lot of memories were stirred up. It is still devastating to me to think of my wife actually sitting down and writing a love letter to a 25-year-old. In my head I know this relationship was an escape and that the guy was like a giant People magazine on the beach. But it still really, really hurts.

The counseling opened her eyes to a lot about herself that needed some examination. And in some ways our relationship is better than before. But I am still devastated (geez, I'm overusing that word) and still think about this letter and the subsequent text almost every day.

A friend recommended a book, Hold Me Tight, which I read in the span of two days last October. I thought it was good and worth reading, so I asked my wife to read it, because I want to make sure we maintain progress and don't end up here again. She still hasn't read it and that hurts because it makes me feel like she isn't prioritizing us and is unwilling to work on the marriage.

I can't imagine leaving her because of what it would do to the kids. And I still do love her. But I also have a nagging feeling that she doesn't love me the way I would like (when I asked her a year ago if she was "in love" with me, she just stared at me blankly and couldn't answer the question). She says she does love me and has tried to express this and so I also recognize that my paranoia could be due to the hit my faith in her took because of her EA.

I like things to be pretty black and white but I realize that sometimes life is lived in the grey. But it doesn't make it easy. I guess now is the grey. I just wish I knew when I would know things are going to work out or not, because I feel a little bit like I'm in purgatory.

What's it like between one and two years? Does it ever get better and how do you know it is better? (Okay, so I realize that's a difficult one to answer).


jjsr posted 7/7/2014 09:05 AM

First off I want to say I am sorry for your hurt and situation. It sounds to me that you need some IC and that you both need some more MC. It doesn't sound to me like you wife is fully engaged in R and is only doing the minimal work needed. I have a feeling that there is more to this story and she is hiding it and it is one of the reasons that you still feel so devastated( which is normal) because I think you know there is more. Don't allow her to rugsweep. Draw your bounderies of what you need to R. If she is unwilling to do it then that is very telling.

Nitrobob posted 7/7/2014 12:49 PM

I concur with the above. There is likely much more to come, and until it does, it's hard to reconcile. I think EAs are possible, but typically there is the PA part too some BSs just never hear about.

Do a little detective work. Check all of her credit card statements carefully from last year. Look for hotels, obviously, but also parking garages. Look on shopping sites your wife uses in the history portion to see if gifts were purchased and sent. Youll know which sites from the credit card. Ask for those passwords in front of her and then log in immediately. Look at the phone bill, find his number, plot the number of texts per day.

When they aren't texting they may be together.

[This message edited by Nitrobob at 12:50 PM, July 7th (Monday)]

sisoon posted 7/7/2014 13:12 PM

First, welcome to SI. As I read your post, I kept thinking, we're (you, me, and 1000s of others) not alone in this struggle.

I thought years 1 & 2 sucked, though they gradually sucked less and less, but my W was fully on board for R from the moment she revealed her A. I can't imagine how bad they would have been if she hadn't been remorseful and willing to work on herself. For me, life started to get good again about 30 months into full R, but that's going to vary a whole lot, depending on how much work you both have to do.

The people in R who stick around and say SI benefits them tend to make solid demands on their WSes - true NC, honesty, transparency, IC for WS to change from cheater to partner, MC when appropriate, IC for BS when appropriate, plus other requirements that vary by individual.

It sounds like your W is floating through recovery. I suggest you consider identifying your reqs and insisting she meet them. I know that seems risky, but it probably isn't. Your M and a big part of your life are already in shambles. An unremorseful WS just keeps compounding the pain. If she quits, maybe you haven't lost much.

Checkout some threads in JFO, like:

Also, the thread in WS on 'What every WS needs to Know' -

Check out the Healing Library -, especially the BS FAQs.

Also, check out the Betrayed Men thread(s) in the ICR forum.

R is a marathon, not a sprint, and the course of R can change at any moment - especially if one of you takes action.

[This message edited by sisoon at 1:16 PM, July 7th (Monday)]

4better4worse posted 7/7/2014 14:54 PM

I can really relate to a lot of what you wrote. My WH and I are doing fairly well in R, we have been communicating better than we ever have and I feel like our relationship is becoming stronger through all this--- however, I still do have some really bad days and serious doubts when I think look at the print out of the phone records and see the sheer number of texts they wrote back and forth (in only two weeks) and it kills me to not know what those texts said. Were they "innocent flirtations" and mainly just chit chat like he said? I too have some self esteem issues about myself since this happened. (sorry, getting to the point here) He did immediately feel guilty, told me the whole thing and went NC and totally transparent but even though I still I have days where the anxiety gets me and I have to go checking phone records and look at his phone. I have no reason to feel he is not being 100 percent honest now, I know he feels awful for what he did.

I know I can't keep dwelling on it but yet, I wonder too if he really loves me like he says or is it the paranoia getting the better of me? It is a TERRIBLE and overwhelming feeling when it hits. I have to talk myself off the wall. The paranoia of the way it changes the trust you had, and not feeling like you will ever fully trust like you did before the EA. I believe it's possible that things will continue to get better--- this roller coaster is no fun for anyone. It takes a lot of soul searching, a lot of time, a lot of forgiveness and a lot of hard work. Just hang on to the good days so when the bad days hit you can put them in perspective.

lifeistough posted 7/8/2014 11:00 AM

Thanks, jjsr, Nitrobob, sisson, and 4better4worse. I really appreciate your taking the time to respond.

jjsr and Nitrobob, I hear what you're saying. Believe me I scoured various records, etc. last year and I do actually believe that it never went beyond EA though had they been in the same state maybe it would have. Thankfully, our lives were too busy for her to travel. But I do think there is more though I don't think it's worse than what I already know. But there were some questions I didn't ask and the answers to those questions gnaw at me a bit even though it's somewhat irrational because it won't change what happened. I think I just want to know.

But I agree that I think she is having a tough time coming to terms (completely) with what she did. Her MO (for lots of reasons) before this was always to compartmentalize as a coping mechanism and I think she is still doing that to some degree.

Thanks, Sisoon, for the links. They are very helpful. Of course, as others have said, it's nice just to see that I am not crazy, or at least, if I am, I have lots of good company.

4better4worse, I feel just like you - my perception of our relationship is so clouded by the pain caused by the EA that I don't know how much is really real or how much is temporary. Like you, we have made a lot of progress and in many ways have grown closer (we've have more heart to hearts and she has been more affectionate - though not as much as I would like), but there is still this sort of nagging feeling that it won't last. I know it sounds cliche but there have been times when for whatever reason I think about the letter she wrote to the guy and my breath is taken away. I have never felt like that about anything before.

At the end of the day, I think if we did not have kids, I probably would have left. That's not to say that that would be the right decision, but that does give me a good sense of how I feel. But I do think I owe my kids more effort than that (of course, there is some resentment in the fact that she basically got to take a year off and then I have to pick up the pieces to try to save the family).

Anyway, jjsr, I think you're right that a little more IC and MC might be in order. I can honestly say that were it not for the MC we definitely would not have made it this far.

Thanks again to you all for your advice. It won't go unheeded.

sideways posted 7/8/2014 13:18 PM

Hey lifeistough - I can totally identify. My wife had an EA although with a longtime mutual friend. In our case he lives in the same town and they can bump into one another on the commuter train and they are the same age. We've been doing IC and MC as well. I could never find any evidence of a PA either. I know what you mean about living in the grey. I've finally come to the conclusion that either she commits 100% to our marriage and walks away whenever she sees him, or we separate. We have kids too, thinking about divorce is brutal. But I'm ready now if she can't make us her priority. I feel really understanding what you need and want is critical. And whether you feel you can maintain status quo for the kids sake or if you are wasting your life away waiting for something to change. Yes marriage is about compromise, but indifference to the aftermath of an EA is not compromise on the part of your wife.

lifeistough posted 7/10/2014 09:58 AM


Seems we are almost living parallel lives in terms of kids and timing of EA, etc. And, like you, if it doesn't work out, I think I am more ready now than ever before just because I feel like the pain is already there. There have been times when I wish I had caught her talking to him again so it would all be over - cut and dry. But I realize that doesn't necessarily mean I want the marriage to end. It's just a sign of how hard it is to trust her anymore and not wanting to live in the grey. But I think that's what I have to do for a bit. We did have a good talk this week and I actually had her read a good number of the FAQs from here and that seemed to help. And she has admitted that she didn't read Hold Me Tight because she didn't want to be reminded of what she had done. But she gets that that is a crappy excuse and she has to read it. If she doesn't now, I'll have my answer. We'll see. Here's to hoping.


seethelight posted 7/10/2014 12:29 PM

I can't imagine leaving her because of what it would do to the kids.

I really resonate with this part of your plight.

And I still do love her. But I also have a nagging feeling that she doesn't love me the way I would like

This is a true statement, and I feel the same about my wayward.

Clearly the word "love" means different things to us and my wayward and I don't share a similar moral code.

I could never cheat on someone I loved. Prior to learning of his affair, I was actually propositioned by several men who outright suggested an affair.

I avoided them, and one time asked for a transfer to get away from one pushy guy.

So, no, they don't love us the way we see love or expect them to love us.

FixYou71 posted 7/10/2014 23:13 PM

Yes. It really does completely mess with your reality. So difficult to determine what is real, what is only temporary, what will stick, and it's hard to feel safe like that.

Perhaps you and your wife would also benefit from reading a few good books together. 'Not Just Friends' (boundaries/infidelity) and Hold Me Tight (intimacy) are two highly recommended books here on SI.

Do you feel you wife is working to determine why she made the choices she did to betray you as opposed to all her other options ( divorce, therapy, discussing marriage or personal issues etc)? Is she working on shoring up her boundaries with other men?

So sorry you're hurting so bad. You've stumbled on the best support site you could imagine. We're here for you.

lifeistough posted 7/11/2014 07:14 AM


I know what you mean. I have had the opportunity to cheat and didn't. And it actually wasn't a tough call. But I think when people cheat it is so complicated that it is more than whether they love in a particular way. I think it has more to do with them than anything else. At least in my case it did.


I have read Hold Me Tight and my wife said she would read it but then hasn't. That was disappointing and was the topic of a discussion this week actually. She confessed that she hasn't read it because it's a reminder to her of what she has done and she was just avoiding that. She has agreed to read it and I think she will but only time will tell. Angle of Repose is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, by the way. It's a novel (but somewhat based on a real story) and so in a very different category. But it's a beautifully written story of marriage (actually different marriages of different generations). It is a slog at times but - at least to me - well worth it.

In my wife's defense, she has done some soul searching. We did MC but she also did a lot of IC to address issues that she should have addressed many years ago about her childhood and the way she learned to cope (i.e. compartmentalize, avoid) with some difficult issues. It's no coincidence that just a couple of months before this relationship started her mother moved to our town to live in an assisted living facility. Her mother was a terrible, unloving mother and my wife has finally started to unpack all the damage that did to her, but there's no doubt that her move here was the straw that broke the proverbial back. Certainly not the only thing, but a major factor. The therapist also worked a lot with my wife on being honest, completely honest with herself and others. But I really want her to read Hold Me Tight so we can continue to move forward so she doesn't fall back into bad habits. If she doesn't read it, that will be pretty big sign to me.

Thanks for the response and the suggestions.

FixYou71 posted 7/11/2014 12:05 PM

She confessed that she hasn't read it because it's a reminder to her of what she has done and she was just avoiding that.

Gently, this kind of thinking has to stop. She put your family/marriage/life in jeopardy when she betrayed it and there is no room for self pity. Instead of looking at how it's going to be difficult for her she should be looking at how it can help YOU heal and help your M get stronger. I understand it being hard to face what we've done but it's not ok to continue to put herself not wanting to feel uncomfortable over your need to see that she is willing to stand up for this M and your healing.
She should be the first one in line to volunteer to walk over hot coals if it will help.

Oh, and sorry, somehow I skipped the paragraph in your original post where you talked about reading and asking her to read Hold Me Tight or I wouldn't have suggested it. Either that or I just forgot by the time I read the responses.

lifeistough posted 7/11/2014 14:01 PM

Or, maybe, you just forgot by the time you had read my post - it was a little long.

You're right - she does need to stop. And, of course, that denial and lack of willingness to confront things that aren't comfortable is exactly what landed us where we are today. So, I am going to push. And, at the end of the day, if she is unwilling then that'll tell me a lot about what the future holds if I stay in this marriage. But I'm trying not to think that far ahead because it gets a little overwhelming. I'm not going to mention the book again for a week and see if she has begun reading it on her own. I sure hope so.

Skan posted 7/12/2014 14:56 PM

I agree with your last statement. You need, NEED to push for that which you need to heal, and accept nothing less. If child's arm was broken and the doctor said that ignoring it was better because the pain of setting it would be upsetting to the child, you would rightfully call out his thinking as utter bull. You WWs rationalization of not wanting to do whatever is necessary to help you in your healing because it's too painful for her, is minimizing YOUR pain. That has to end and you, IMO, need to communicate that to her forcefully. Frankly, I would sit her down and have an utterly blunt discussion about how you feel. I'd tell her that at the point that you are now, if it weren't for the kids, she would be history. And I would ask her ANY question that you feel you want or need to know. If you need answers to ugly things for your healing, then go ask those questions.

I'm glad that you joined for support. We're all here for you.

lifeistough posted 7/12/2014 19:14 PM

Thanks, Skan.

I guess I'm confused about what I need. Part of me wants to know things like (what did he say after he received the letter from her), but I also wonder what I get from that and whether I should actually be trying to move forward. But, I also want to ask whether she still has anything from him. But, again, when do I stop thinking about that? Ugh, it's frustrating. Really frustrating to be having all these questions and feelings almost a year out.

On the positive side, this community seems wonderful and very supportive. I really appreciate it.

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