Am I just stupid?
Our history (as brief as I can make it):
Married 24 years. Two children: 21 and 11. Met in college, but didn’t start romantic relationship until senior year. Got married soon after graduation.
Two weeks before our wedding, my soon-to-be wife slept with her first boyfriend (BF #1). She expressed remorse, pledged love to me, and I forgave her. We got married as planned and moved on as if it never happened. Of course, in hindsight, I see how this was a big-time rug-sweep.
Within a year she went to visit another old boyfriend (BF #2) whom she considered a friend and mentor. I didn’t want her to go, but was under the delusion that saying no would make me a jealous and controlling husband. She went and swore that nothing inappropriate occurred over the weekend she was with him. After coming back from that visit she abruptly quit her job (without consulting me) and went back to school full-time. I supported her in pursuing her education and we found a way to make it work. In the years that followed there were a few signs of continued contact with BF #2 (occasional cards and letters) but it didn’t appear they were more than friends.
During that period we worked through a number of life challenges, finishing graduate school, starting careers, losing two pregnancies, the birth of our oldest, and the death of my wife’s mother. I always felt like my wife and I had moments of great alignment during this period, but that something was always just a bit off.
A few years later she went to a week-long reunion for a summer camp where she had worked and I suspected she met up with BF #2, though I could never prove it.
Life continued and in the ensuing years we experienced more lost pregnancies, several in vitro attempts, individual and marriage counseling, career transitions, and the adoption of our dear youngest child. I loved her, but continued to feel like there was a distance between us that we would never be able to bridge. Before the adoption I seriously considered leaving my wife, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Our lives stayed busy, with both of us progressing in our careers. By 2005 I was working a lot of hours, traveling a lot, and nearly always tired when I was home. Admittedly, I was more withdrawn from her and our children. I was not the husband and father I should have been during this period, but I rationalized it because I was making strides in my career and strengthening our financial future.
This past summer I discovered that she had been engaged in a long-term EA with BF #2. They had mainly exchanged emails, but also phone calls and facebook chats. In addition, they had met in person once, but had not slept with one another (verified by their emails). I also confirmed that they had maintained significant contact throughout our early marriage and that they had spent time together at the reunion many years ago. Again, they had been physically close at that time, but hadn't had intercourse, according to their emails.
I soon got into her email accounts, including the secret account she created to correspond with him and saw that even before her contact with BF #2 she was exchanging “fond remembrance” emails with BF #1. With BF #2 they took on a more overt romantic and sexual overtone, though that seemed to become less intense in the last couple of years.
Since D-day, we have been working toward R. There has been NC as far as I can tell—and I have been pretty diligent in my monitoring. I have been in IC and have made significant strides in becoming a better husband and father. When I ask her about the EA, she talks about what I wasn’t giving her and how disconnected she felt, etc. There is regret, but I am not sure there is true remorse. She suggested MC, but is leaving it up to me to make the arrangements (a familiar pattern in our relationship—she has a need or complaint and it is left up to me to “fix” the situation.
So, I find myself caught emotionally between wanting to stay and trust her and wanting to leave. I don’t want to be her second or third choice. She says I am not, but how do I believe her? We are getting closer to being empty-nesters, yet I don’t know if I can stay long enough to get there. Within the past two weeks I have been approached about an appealing career opportunity in another part of the country. It would be the perfect chance to move on without her.
1. I know I contributed to the circumstance we’re in now, but am I a fool to think she can be true to me for the remainder of our marriage?
2. Should I broach a separation if I end up taking the new position, or will that completely kill any chances for us to R?
Thanks in advance to everyone.