On October 14, 2011, I was in the kitchen making dinner. My wife had begun preparing for a grueling work schedule that would continue through the month of October, and she was really beginning to feel the pressure, and to recognize how unfeasible that workload really was. She came into the kitchen as I was finishing up cooking, and I gave her some food. Then, I made one critical mistake: I took a pot that was not in use off of the stove, and instead of putting it back in the pantry, I put it on a crate underneath a utility table. We keep a couple of skillets there, so I figured it wasn’t a big deal.
It was. She erupted at me, and asked me why I didn’t just go put the pot back where it originally came from. I responded that I was in the middle of cooking, and that there were other more important actions to take, like, for instance, feeding her, so she could get back to work. She then said, “You are lazy, and you will never change,” and left the kitchen in a huff.
When I entered the living room, she was sitting on the couch, watching TV and eating the food I had prepared for her. As I sat down, she really unloaded on me. She told me that she felt our marriage was over, and that she wanted to separate. Actually, she wanted me to leave the house. I had heard her get this way when she’s been under similar pressure in the past, so I thought this was just temporary and would blow over. I said, “look, I know you’re uner a lot of stress right now…”
That was clearly the wrong thing to say. She told me that this time it was different, and that she meant business. She wanted me out of the house, and suggested I move back to California with my family at Thanksgiving. Or, perhaps I could get an apartment that was closer to work. Either way, she wanted me out. “I deserve to be happier than this,” was her summative remark.
I was flabbergasted.
This was the beginning of my marital crisis. Today is Monday, May 14, 2012. The scene I described above happened 213 days ago, making it exactly seven months since all of this began.
I thought our problems were solvable. What I didn’t know at the time is that, to her mind, they were not and never would be solvable. She had begun an emotional affair 5 days earlier, and had been probably flirting with the idea of starting that affair for at least a month prior to it beginning. From that night forward, she did not sleep in our bed. She moved herself into the living room, and slept on the fold-out couch at night. She did that for two and a half months. Then she decided to make it more “real,” and moved in with a couple of friends in early January. She would spend most of the day here, but would sleep at their house. This apparently wasn’t real enough, so she began to limit her time at home in February, and eventually actually did move out toward the end of March. That was 52 days ago. At some point thereafter, she moved in with the adulterer. I don’t believe this happened right away, but as near as I can figure, it was probably on or around April 6. That would make it 38 days that she’s been living in the house of a twice-divorced, serial adulterer, a man who has no qualms about lying to his own flesh and blood (his daughter) about the nature of his “relationship” with my wife.
I have been waiting patiently for the affair to end for over six months now. I have heeded the credible advice I was given, and just gotten out of the way so that it can run its course. I have continued to reach out to her and to work on myself in the interim.
I am all but certain that the bloom is likely off the rose at this point. They initially did not get to spend much time together, but since at least February they have had relatively unrestricted access to one another. And, there is really nothing like living with someone to learn what they are really like. I don’t think my wife and I ever really began to have disagreements or arguments until we began cohabitating. Of course, there was a big difference: neither of us had another committed relationship going on, and so there was nothing to hide or to be dishonest about. Neither of us was or had ever been married. She has all these problems now, though: she is married, she does have to hide things from me and from others, and she does lie about things constantly. That’s a trifecta if ever there was one, and it will bring down that affair.
213 days is a long time. I know people who have been in marital crises for even longer. One thing I have in common with these people is that we are committed to our marriages, and will not give up on them just because things have become difficult. I know people who have obstinate spouses, and others who have spouses who, like mine, are committing adultery. I know of some wayward spouses who are hiding their affairs and trying to keep a sense of normalcy in their marriage, and others who have decided that the affair is the path of the future, and are doing everything in their power to make that fairy-tale future a reality.
The one thing that all of these departing spouses, obstinate and wayward alike, have to contend with is a formidable force that they had not reckoned with: the unconditional love of their spouses who are standing up for the marriage. Our message is clear: “no matter what has happened, and no matter what is happening now, I still believe in us, and I will always believe in our marriage.” This is an inconvenient message for spouses to hear, if they are seeking to undermine their marriages. They are reminded that they are quitters, that they don’t want to look at their own fixings, and that their spouses are taking moral positions that need no defending whatsoever. Thus, they tend to fight back, and they sometimes fight back hard.
With all that said, I’ve seen some encouraging signs over the past week. I have no idea where they’ll lead, or if the trend will continue, but just moments ago I received an email from my wife thanking me for helping her in editing some texts she had translated. She was emphatic about it, too: “thank you soooo much,” she wrote. Her behavior this past week has not been characteristic of a woman who wants to destroy her marriage. Instead, it’s been one of a woman who still feels a connection to her husband, and who is reluctant to give that up, even if she thinks her current trajectory requires her to do so.
So that’s where we’re at, 7 months on. I am hopeful that there will continue to be positive signs, and that these will lead to a real breakthrough in the coming days.