Here goes nothing... (sorry, very long)
72 hours into my world falling apart. I was recommended this forum as a good place to vent and get better advice than I'm maybe seeing elsewhere.
I'll try to condense as much as I can but I’m a writer by trade and I can’t edit myself for ****. The basics: I'm 35, wife is 42, married 7 years, been together for 9. 3 kids. Life was hectic but solid. I'm a freelancer, she's an academic. I gave up a lot of my career so she could pursue hers (or rather, I took the ****tier version of it but we did okay). We built a life, a house, kids, rhythms -- maybe more suburban than I would've liked, but it was working for us, and I wanted to give her the family she never thought she’d have.
As a side note: I would say we came in with a very strong foundation, not built solely on sex (although that was great): shared visions of our future, similar aspirations, some overlap in hobbies, we respected the hell out of each other, loved each other even more. Even today I don’t doubt any of that. Just wanted to say: it WAS good.
Fast forward to three years ago -- careers are going okay, finances are always edgy (freelancing is a lot tougher in a small town, but that’s where her career brought us), but we've got a house (thanks to a couple good years for me), we've got a family (3 babies in four years, it was intentional!).
It’s important for me to state that I think both of us would say at this point (4 years into marriage, 6 years into relationship) we felt VERY SOLID. Like our life was coming together finally. So many milestones, new baby, first house, jobs going good, etc, etc. But cracks are starting to show.
Sex is disappearing. Normal, right? Babies are hard, pregnancy is hard. Except... unlike the first two, after number 3 it doesn't seem to be coming back AT ALL. Every 6-9 months maybe ... for three years.
Fights. Prior to this mark (3 years ago) we had maybe 2 big fights. Nothing else. We literally didn't fight. I was amazed (I think something different now, but more on that later). We weren't fighting that much more at this point, but we were having the same fights: for my part it was feelings of isolation (a big city guy with no friends in a small town), career frustration, and lack of support and affection from her. For her: she felt I had anger issues and I was letting them affect our children (she was abused as a child I now understand). We had maybe 3 of these BIG shouting fights in the past three years.
We worked through many of the issues, spanking is no longer a thing in our house (or rather, I have stopped using it, she never did). I still get frustrated, but I’m trying to work on it. For her … well. We were roommates. We worked great as parents, but we were nothing beyond that. I had a wife, but I no longer had a lover. Recently, in the past year, she has taken the view that she has shut me away because of these anger issues, that’s where the lack of intimacy, support, general affection all went. A big fight like we had would cause 9 months of walled off emotion. Then there would be a thaw.
Maybe I shouldn’t describe it as a thaw. She wasn’t an ice queen, she wasn’t malicious. It was just … bland. Gone was the girl who was so in love with me I could see it shining in her eyes.
It had gotten so bad that I had decided that come December of this year (once she passed a major milestone at work – a five year project completed) and I finished my latest commission that we would start couples counseling. Otherwise, I was seeing no change in my unhappiness and I was thinking about divorce, not vindictively, but it felt like if we were both unhappy and there wasn’t going to be an effort to change then we should probably look for happiness elsewhere.
And then she beat me to the punch. We managed to carve out a few hours one Sunday night for a date, she took the opportunity to cautiously asked me if we could have an open marriage. I was stunned, how could she not see how broken we were? How could she not want sex with me, but want it with other people? Strangers, just physical, she insisted. It was an emotional night, she relented almost immediately, felt terrible that she had even asked, we really connected, spent a ton of time talking, tried to understand each other, we had sex for the first time in forever. Was this a turning point?
The next few weeks were tough but felt like we had achieved something, I was gone for a few days of every week for work trips. When I was home we were working through stuff, I started lifting and running again because I felt like she was telling me she had an attraction to that kind of super fit guy (more on that in a second), we were having good sex, we both started (solo) therapy. Things were getting better … I actually was starting to have hope that this might have been a turning point for us, that we might be back on the path to a happy marriage even if there seemed like a ton of work to go and the idea that she wanted the open marriage had been such a mind**** that I was still processing it.
I’m unsure if it happened immediately after she asked the “open marriage” question, or if it was a few days after that. But either way, she entered into an affair. In truth, she now admits the “open marriage” question was actually a cloaked request for permission to sleep with one specific man: our neighbor.
I’ll call him Fitness Bro. He’s a personal trainer, an Ironman athlete (key note: she used to be too, it was a huge part of her life before me, both of her major long-term relationships before me were men nearly identical to Fitness Bro – I wish I had known that). After much interrogation on my part I have come to the conclusion that it was not out of the blue, it was a long time coming.
When we moved into house three years ago, she admits she immediately found him attractive, but deliberately took steps to isolate herself. One might think: good! She knew the warning signs!
I now suspect it was merely because she was embarrassed of her pregnant body (we had our third a few months after moving in), and that he might not find her attractive, or at the least she was no longer in the shape that she might be considered a peer to Fitness Bro (and his equally fit wife), for the first 18 months we lived next door to them I believe she felt she was invisible to them, she was just the pregnant neighbor. Lots of self-esteem issues here I’m now realizing. It was not until 18 months ago (approximately) that I think she started to let herself think she might be attractive enough for him. Basically, once our youngest started giving her time to get back in shape. Jump ahead to this past summer.
In June I was gone for a month. Almost immediately a For Sale sign goes up next door. I do think this was purely coincidence, if only because I never told Fitness Bro anything, he was kind of annoying as a neighbor, though not anything I wasted time on. It’s possible she had already sparked a friendship, but with his wife still in the picture I’m not sure she ever would have. But then … the For Sale sign. Turns out Fitness Bro is separating from his abusive alcoholic wife.
No sympathy from me, but I do have sympathy for their poor soon, 10 years old, quite a **** sandwich he’s been getting from Dad and Mom. But I digress.
My wife started visiting his house to work out a training plan, to use his compression thing-something (for recovery), maybe once a week she’d go over. I’ll admit, I was jealous, but she was happy to be starting serious training again and I didn’t want to rain on the parade.
I’m a ****ing idiot.
They were doing all of that, but with Fitness Bro’s wife out of the picture now, my wife had taken her vague attraction for the hot neighbor to the next level. I believe she now had a crush.
That continued up to the “open marriage” question in September. During this time they started texting, that turned to flirting, and … following the open marriage question he eventually told her that he “wanted to be with her”. Her response was “[HUSBAND] will be out of town next week.” They had planned just to kiss, kidding themselves that it wasn’t really cheating … but it went straight to sex.
That was second or third week of September. It has been ongoing since then up until Sunday night.
I’m crushed. Because during this same time, following the open marriage question, I really thought we were getting somewhere. But now I realize I was just getting the emotional echo of her infatuation with this other man.
All the moments of great sex and happiness coincided (I now know based on a “hunch” log I was keeping) with encounters she had with him. In the stretches where she wasn’t seeing him because they were trying to be “just friends” she became distant, like she had been for the past three years. And then magically she’d transform from the stone-faced roommate I said goodbye to in the morning to her old flirtatious energetic self by the time we had a date that night. I’d later find out that it was only because she’d given him head in her office three hours before (that perversely seemed to be her pattern for how she ended their “breakups” she’d invite him to meet her in semi-public place – her office, our minivan in the Target parking lot – and suck him off. I’m sorry for the gory details. I just don’t know what to do with the mental images.)
This whole time I was insane with jealousy. I was losing sleep, I was convinced I was crazy because there was no evidence. No huge chunks of time missing (though I now realize she has a lot of freedom at work, it’s a quiet office where no one keeps tabs – it’s academia after all!). She quickly discovered Whatsapp. She locked her phone and turned off notifications, I was traveling so much it took me until two weeks ago to REALLY notice that odd behavior. And I was too caught up with maybe things getting better.
I kept a log though, and it matches up with startling accuracy. So there’s that at least. My “gut feeling” – it was ****ING RIGHT.
I caught her Sunday night because she made the mistake of going into the office at an unusual time to finish grading papers (normally she’d do that at home).
When I saw Fitness Bro drive off in the same direction as she left I knew it was on. I followed with the kids (in our – unknown to me – recently defiled minivan) and stood outside the office building while I watched the light turn on in her office, and two silhouettes appear, and come together.
Oddly, I just felt triumphant. I even said “I ****ing knew it!”
I went home, put the kids to bed, waited for her to come home. I worried she might deny it, I went for a drive – that was a mistake. I think she knew something was up. Texted me: “You okay?” I think that’s a pretty common guilt question from cheaters, right?
I drove home, stormed into our room, snatched the phone out of her hand and starting shouting. She stonewalled (had managed to lock the phone) for a few minutes and then eventually confessed.
The rest of the night was a lot of tears on her part, a lot of prying on my part. An almost immediate promise that it was over. At one point I stormed next door. The dip**** answered the door in his underwear. I wanted to break his jaw but I knew me spending the night in jail (much less potentially losing that fight) was not a good look for our kids. So I just told him “It’s over” and kept repeating it until he stopped pretending he didn’t know what I was talking about.
And so here I am. Three days later. ****ed up. Lonely. Hating this woman. Desperate to get her back, to get back to the way we were years ago. Wondering if we’ve changed too much. Wondering how she could be so vindictive in how she went about it – I mean asking me? Then days later making plans to do it anyway? It’s like a ****ing alien took over her body – she’s like the sweetest person you’d ever meet. I’m seriously wondering if there’s a brain tumor at work here. And most of all I’m wondering why I keep ****ing her every night, why holding her while I fall asleep makes me feel so calm. Only to wake up the next morning and hits me in the face like a hammer that ITS ALL STILL HAPPENING.
I’m seeing signs of remorse, but there’s still a lot of “I don’t know” and “it was a blur”. She tells me the sex was bad, I’ve read that’s a common white lie. She’s been slow to reveal details, though I’m getting most of them now I think. I believe she wiped her phone after I confronted her. I can see why she would do this, but I’m not sure if this is a huge red flag or not. She otherwise seems remorseful and checking off all the boxes.
I do have a few questions that I was hoping someone could help with:
Exposure – if the affair has ended (so far that appears to be true) is that necessary? I want all her people to know, and none of mine. I’m so ashamed that my wife has done this to me, I know my friends will be supportive, but I just can’t feel lesser in their eyes. And my family, God. They LOVE this woman so much. I swear, they’d adopt her if they could. They’re either going to get their guts ripped out, or my sister is going to try to beat her ass. I can’t deal with all that stress right now.
I keep hearing about “scripts” that affairs follow. Is there anyone with experience trying to reconcile with a spouse with the affair partner still next door? (The dumbass won’t drop the price on his house, which is still for sale at 10% more per sq ft than every other house that’s sold in our neighborhood recently. He just can’t stand to take a loss because he overpaid. He’s a ****wit.)
Speaking of proximity, how do I deal with daily (or multiple times a day) triggers, and it seems like a huge risk for my wife. Especially when I travel. How do I track her movements while I’m gone?
How do I deal with the fact that she’s being remorseful and honest, but today she told me that she wanted to call him? She didn’t. But she felt that way. It feels honest, and a good step. So I’m glad. But I’m also not sure, I didn’t trust so many red flags that I saw before. What do I trust now?
And more than anything, I just need to know that I’ll be happy again one day. The kids are already picking up on it. I can’t raise three children who imprint that “a good Dad” is one who’s miserable. Like what are the odds here? 50-50 if you’re willing to work? Or … Han Solo navigating an asteroid field?
Anyway, if you managed to defeat that wall of text. Thank you. Here’s your reward: my gratitude for reading the entirety of my pain at a time when I just need somebody to listen.
PS – I am in therapy already, it’s helpful, but only once a week.