Beware - this is going to be rather long...
Welcome to Talk About Marriage. You've come to a good place. Please linger a while and read up on how others have dealt with similar troubles.
I am so sorry that you are facing this trouble. It's very painful and sad. However, there is hope. You love her, and you mention that she loves you. That's a great, great sign. It's a good way to start a healthy recovery from this disaster.
First things first: calm down! Take a deep breath (or more). Nothing happens in an instant with regard to affairs, and there is a process you can got through to help end this and start heading down the right path together. You have time. Experience your fear, anger, etc. - allow yourself to feel these things (since you are going to anyway!) The key here is not to act on those emotions. Don't act out of fear, or anger, or any other emotion. The actions you can take to save your marriage are deliberate, thoughtful, and meaningful. Your emotions will go all over the map. Allow that to happen.
There is a set process that you can use (we've found this to be very effective) by which you can recover your marriage.
First, I am sure you have an inkling of why affairs start
- you mention it in your post: things go great, then die down, and get 'comfortable,' etc. Most marriages go this way. It's not often that people start out being deliberately
married. By deliberately married,
I mean making deliberate choices every day that are designed to strengthening the marriage. Most people go through much of their married life 'status quo' - until something major comes along - at which case they jump to work and fix things - and then go back into dormant mode. We've found that your marriage will be much more successful, and much more happy, if you work at it all the time, rather than when things get so bad there is pain.
The reason? Because things don't go bad 'all of the sudden.' It is a gradual process, and eventually there's enough pain that a fight, or an affair, or some other incorrect solution rears it's ugly head.
So you know why affairs start
. To end an affair is also a deliberate process - you take the first step, if that works, you move on to means of recovering. If the first step does not work, you move on to the second - and if that works, you move on to recovery. If that does not work, you move to the third step, etc. Before you start:
make a vow to yourself that you will become the Greatest Spouse In The World. You will become the person your spouse married, the one they fell in love with. First step:
Sit down with your wife and formally request that she end the affair. Don't fight about it, don't plead, don't try to bargain. All you want to do is make the statement, pure and simple. What this does is starts the process of recovery, regardless of whether your spouse agrees or not. By formally requesting an end to the affair, you bring it to the forefront as a focal point for both you and your spouse. It can no longer be ignored, excused, hidden, etc.
Part of the formal request is to ask you spouse to stop ALL contact
with this other person. This is a bigger step than you can at first imagine - there's a lot of information that we can get to you later.
If your spouse agrees to stop the affair, you can move on to working on recovery (yes, there are some deliberate things you can do there too) Second Step:
If your spouse does not agree to end the affair, then you must bring it to light. That means exposing it to the right people. The Other Person's spouse/significant other should be aware that their partner is being unfaithful. If the affair is at a work place, alert the Human Resources Dept (or equivalent) about the affair. Talk to parents, pastors, counselors, friends, etc.
This step is NOT designed nor intended as anything vindictive. It is used in order to bring the affair to light. Most affairs are hidden things - part of the allure is the 'secret-ness' of the whole thing. They are fantasies that are created in a world of dishonesty and illusion, manipulated by misdirection. What this step does is shed light on the affair - revealing it's ugly side.
If this step succeeds (it quite often does) you can move on to recovering your marriage. If it fails, then you have some work ahead of you. The third step:
This involves what you've already begun. For the time being you will have to live with your spouse being unfaithful, and hurting you every day. In this step you will continue to be the person your spouse fell in love with - and grow to be more than that - someone they desire.
HOWEVER! This step must be temporary.
No one can continue to be hurt by the careless actions of their spouse indefinitely. At some point you will lose all love for your partner altogether - something you don't want to do. Perhaps set yourself six months or so. Stick by that limit.
There are two reasons for this step: one reason is that you will leave a lasting impression on your spouse about the person they were harming. The other reason is that you can face the next step with grace - knowing that you did all you really could.
It is quite possible during this step that your spouse will begin to fall in love with you again. That's the whole purpose of this step - to rekindle the love you once had, an to build on that.
If, however, your spouse continues in the affair, and the end of your preset time allotment comes - your must move to the next step: Fourth Step:
Here you will either move out, or move your spouse out of your life. You will break all contact with your spouse, and allow them to face the full consequences of their choice of someone else over you. This step is not one to be taken lightly, and there are some specific things you must do while setting this one up. Don't undertake it without advice from people who've had experience with it.
Many affairs don't get this far. I doubt seriously that yours will at all. In any event - don't skip over any steps. Do them one at a time, in the order given. And keep posting. We'll be here.