How I Ended Up Here: Dealing with a Cheating Spouse

I’ve been dealing with marital infidelity for almost three months now. Let me give you some background on my situation.

I’m a man in my 40s, more or less happily married (or so I thought) for the better part of seven years. I was working a stressful, time-consuming job when I got married, and my responsibilities increased within a year of our marriage to the point that I eventually would have to work up to 60 hours per week on occasion. Although my job was in a highly skilled profession requiring extensive professional training and education, it was very poorly paid, and offered a salary that would barely meet the needs of one person, let alone those of a married couple. We were located in a small, rural town that afforded virtually no employment opportunities for my wife; she was not terribly interested in pursuing much work in any event, as she was going to make finishing her professional degree a priority. Through all of this, I attempted to move us forward by trying to find a better position within my profession. I came very close to landing several opportunities, but none panned out; on top of that, politics at work led to a small group of people forcing me out of my job. This landed me, unemployed, in the midst of an economic implosion right as it was beginning to take hold in 2008.

The pressures of my job had already led me to start withdrawing emotionally from my wife, and now the loss of my job and our need to relocate exacerbated things. I began to experience a mid-life crisis, feeling totally ungrounded in my life, having no idea of what to do next. My wife had made absolutely no progress toward finishing her professional degree, and as she had never actually held a full-time job with responsibilities in her life, she was thoroughly unprepared to step in and help out financially. In fact, she saw it as entirely my responsibility to provide for the both of us, regardless of what the economy and unemployment rates might say. We both struggled to get a foothold by doing various freelance jobs, and over time managed to build a relatively stable existence. We did not manage our finances wisely at all, not in that there was not enough money, as there was, but rather in keeping separate bank accounts and assigning different financial responsibilities to each other. This turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Although my wife’s contribution to our living situation amounted to only about 25% of our total income, she viewed it as an enormous sum of money that she had to raise; relative to her modest income, that was true. She began to view me as someone who sponged off of her financially. My financial burdens were much greater, but our income was virtually the same. This meant that nearly everything I made went right back out the window on bills and other living expenses; she was able to retain her surplus income, most of which went out the window into online shopping and other pursuits.

Fast forward to 2011. I knew that things were becoming problematic when during the summer I interviewed for a job that would have required us to relocate. There had never been an issue before with us relocating, but now my wife was telling me that she would not come with me if I were to get hired. I did not get the job, so that point ended up being moot. Little did I know that a serious crisis was right around the corner.

In September 2011, we went to a cultural event at a local community college. My wife is a foreigner, and wanted to attend this event, as there was to be a special ceremony presented by a shrine that was connected with her country. We participated in this ceremony, and afterwards I noticed that she was talking to a member of the shrine — an American in his late 40s, who seemed to be looking at her with a bit of a lecherous glint in his eyes. Soon after this event, she befriended this man on Facebook. I didn’t think much of it at the time; I was more happy that she was making a connection with her cultural traditions than anything else.

In October 2011, we attended a ceremony at the shrine itself. Unbeknownst to me, she went looking for this man to talk to him, but he was not around. He contacted her online the same day, and an emotional affair was precipitated. She was also beginning a period of very busy freelance work that demanded far more of her than she was able to handle. I was not aware of the emotional affair having taken root, and just five days after it began my wife unleashed a torrent of invective at me with the slightest trigger: I was lazy, I would never change, she was miserable and deserved to be happier, and so on. This concluded with her telling me she wanted out of the marriage. I’d heard similar things from her over the past couple of years as our crisis had been slowly building, but these were always triggered by stress and would eventually blow over. This time, it was different. She actually was telling me it was over and wanted to leave me. She did not tell me there was another man. From this point on, she moved herself out of the bedroom and began sleeping in the living room.

Her busy work schedule wrapped up around the end of October, and I had hoped that I could find some resolution. I had looked around for sources of marital advice, and found a book called Marriage Fitness by Mort Fertel. It was highly rated on Amazon, so I went down to the bookstore, bought a copy, and read through it in one night. I presented the ideas to my wife, and she told me that she just wasn’t interested in fixing our relationship, and that she thought it was over. A day or so later, she told me that she’d be going out by herself on Halloween to be at a party with some newly made friends. Furthermore, she told me that she might not be coming home on that night if the party went late. She said she really needed time to be alone with these friends, and that they were willing and able to listen to her and help her through her crisis.

When that fateful day arrived, I was filled with some dread. I had to go to work, and she told me she would go out that afternoon to do some shopping and then would go out with her new friends. She did not return home that night, and I was sleepless through pretty much all of it. I checked our bank account online, and saw some suspicious purchases, including a tab at a lingerie shop for over $100. This led me to think back on her recent behavior: she had become very secretive, and was spending a lot of time on the computer. It often seemed to me that she was doing a lot of online chatting with someone, but I had no proof. Whenever I’d enter the room, however, she’d either cover the screen or close her laptop, and she would seem to get very frustrated and impatience with my mere presence. So, at some point in the middle of the night I decided to turn on her computer and see if there was any evidence of infidelity. I found one email from this man she had befriended on Facebook, and it raised my suspicions. It was not proof of an affair outright, but the text itself was suspicious.

The next day she returned. That evening, I had a long chat that began with me asking her if there was someone else — not even necessarily in the sense of there being someone she might be having an affair with, but even just someone she might be thinking about being with. She assured me there was not. After an hour or so we had both broken down and shed many tears. I actually felt that there had been a breakthrough, and that our marriage was on the path to reconciliation.

The following day, we cleaned the house together, did a bunch of yard work, and generally had a good time. She was generally more open with me, and was not being secretive about her computer. Also during that day, I had enrolled in the Marriage Fitness program that is run by the author of the book mentioned above, as I felt that I really did need to try to turn my marriage around. She had a professional obligation that night, so I dropped her off at that location and went back to cook dinner. For some reason, I felt that I had to check out her computer once more, to see if my suspicion of there being another man in her life was real, or just imagined. She had mentioned to me that she had sent a bunch of text messages that month, so I still did feel that things were a bit off. Rather carelessly, she had left her Facebook account open. I found an extensive history of chat messages with the man she had befriended in September, and it was clear from their content that she had in fact been having an affair with him.

I was devastated.

My first reaction was to do exactly the wrong things: call my family and tell them that I was getting a divorce. Then, I steeled myself for the confrontation with my wife. I gave her the opportunity to confess, but she assured me there was no one else. I then told her I had evidence, and that I wanted her out of the house.

This was an awful thing to do, by the way. She had nowhere to go, so I told her she could stay. The following day we talked about it, and began discussing divorce. I planned on canceling my order to join the marriage counseling program, but luckily (as it would turn out) did not. I really did think it was over. She discussed the affair, how she felt that this other man was her soul mate, he was everything I was not, and that she saw no future with me anymore. I was thrown into an existential crisis. The emotional upheaval was horrible, and it was made worse by the fact that my wife — the woman who had betrayed me in the worst possible way — was still in the house.

But here’s the thing: I still loved her. Some part of me was not ready for our marriage to be over, no matter what she might have said, and regardless of how harshly I had condemned her the previous night. At the end of the week, I had my first telephone conference as part of the marriage counseling program I had joined, and based on the message that was provided I decided to give it a shot for a month to see how things would turn out.

That was two months ago to the day. In subsequent posts, I’ll give a brief overview of what’s happened since then, and will continue with regular updates on how things are going at the moment.

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