Mental struggles over his affair

Crumpled piece of paper to illustrate the damage of violating someone's trust

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I don’t want to convict my husband in the court of public opinion — or even in our private lives — about his affair or other problems in our marriage. He has many fine qualities. That makes it doubly hard for me to mentally and emotionally reconcile his long-term infidelity with the kind man I’ve known for decades.

We met in college in 1979. He and his roomie lived just down the dormitory hall from my boyfriend (my first husband), and I remember liking his blue/green eyes back then. Many years later, our paths crossed when he moved to my town, and we started dating. We married in ’94. This month will mark our 21st wedding anniversary. He is my third husband. I am his first wife but not his first long-term relationship.

I have struggled with just UNDERSTANDING his affair.

The simplest explanation I have been able to puzzle out is that he felt abandoned by my major depression, angry because I blamed him for mishandling our money, and unappreciated when he took on multiple jobs to try to recover financially. He also was disgruntled because his wife was showing signs of aging, and he was hoping to hold onto the illusions of immortality for a little longer.

I think he felt entitled to some sympathetic companionship. She acted as his surrogate wife, exchanging little texts and calls throughout the day and into the wee hours of the night. They talked about their spouses, their day-to-day lives, work, children and other interests. He poured his attention into that relationship and left me to sink or swim on my own, emotionally.

He was able to hide this from me for at least THREE YEARS. (He’s a little fuzzy. Says it was three or four years or so. Ugh.) And we are a couple who spend a lot of time together. And one of the ugly post-affair things that I discovered was his smoldering anger at me over small and large things that he had shoved down inside; either he didn’t communicate them to me at all, or he did so in such a mild and offhand way that it in no way communicated the depth of his anger. He still cannot or will not voluntarily communicate negative feelings.

After the affair was exposed, some of the things he said repeatedly were:

  • “I just thought you were through with me.”
  • “I thought it was just until things got better between us, and then I’d cut things off with her.” (This said while he was still in the denial stage, saying that they were “just friends.”)
  • “I didn’t want to bother you.” (Really?!)
  • “We didn’t talk about anything in particular, just our lives, our kids.” (Contrast this with texting each other consistently from breakfast to bedtime, from 30 to 100+ times a day. Phone records are a bitch to look at, but they do give some insight.)
  • “We never had sex. We just talked.” (Maybe so. She lives a long way off. But I know for a fact that she has taken a business trip to this area, and he has gone down to her area several times without me, to visit his parents. There were opportunities. He eventually admitted, “But it was probably headed that way.” I still don’t know what to believe. And my head tells me it doesn’t really matter — that an emotional affair is often more painful than a physical one. Still. I would like to KNOW. It is not just morbid curiosity. It is that I no longer trust his morals or my ability to perceive things accurately. It feels like I’m trying to balance on a rope between buildings.

All of this is magnified by the knowledge that I have experienced significant depression several times in my life already. I believe it could occur again. So I don’t have confidence he can be trusted if I once again withdraw, and I don’t have faith in myself that I’ll be able to recognize that I’m sinking into the gray zone and pull myself out of it or ask for help.

When is the next time he won’t have my back?

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