She slept with someone the next night. I don’t know what now.
Let me rephrase; the relationship was described to my mother-in-law, by my wife, a MONTH ago as perfect, we’d be married forever. My wife cheated twice before we got married, but things were honestly perfect three years later. We’re best friends. She got a promotion recently, and for a month things have been strained, and I get jealous. Part of me thinks I’m stupid for even trying. I always said if she cheated while we were married it would be over. Now I find myself going back and forth. I wouldn’t be so torn if we’d had an awful marriage, but we’ve had so MANY moments of Zen oneness. I want to blame myself for not being supportive enough or too jealous of this guy she’s been friends with. At the same time, I feel like I want a wife who doesn’t cut and run when things get tough, and I feel like I can find someone better. When we got married we always said that we didn’t want to get divorced, and that people (who in this country get divorced at an alarming rate) only need to find their way back to that original love. We had rough spots through our marriage, of course, but things overall got better and better. If we can work through this I think they’ll be the best yet, and we’ll be able to deal with anything, but she won’t quit her job where she works with this guy even though she says they’ve decided to keep it professional. I feel like I can work past this, but she seems confused and unwilling to choose our marriage over her career. Is she a compulsive cheater? Should I throw in the towel, or fight for the woman I love? I have a friend who got divorced after his wife cheated, and he said six months later, all he wants is to go home and crawl in bed with his wife. I don’t want to be in that place, so am trying to do things slowly, but I don’t know when (or if) I should move on.
— Worse for Wear
Dear Worse for Wear,
It sounds as if you are both very confused and unsure of what you want. This is neither a good nor bad sign, just a normal human condition.
I think there is a difference between a compulsive cheater and someone who is chronically dissatisfied or restless. Some people find it difficult to recognize or accept happiness. If this were about the cheating, I suspect there would have been other affairs by now.
You describe the relationship in cyclical terms. You have a pattern of happiness disturbed by a transgression of some nature, followed by reuniting with a stronger bond than ever. Explore this a little more, and see if you can’t identify some triggers for the recurrence of this plot line.
You are asking yourself the hard, but right, questions. Is it the marriage or the woman you want and love? It is good to have determination and a sense of commitment to the institution, but it cannot be the sole reason to stay together. How will you move forward after a major break in your trust? How will you feel in six months or a year from now as opposed to the reaction you are experiencing now?
I understand why it seems urgent to you that she quit her job, but understand that she worked hard to get there and just received a promotion. Can you afford to live without her income? What if you do divorce her and she doesn’t have a job? Finding a secure and well-planned exit from that situation is a fair compromise. It will take work, like the rest of your relationship.
Are you still preparing to move forward with a trial separation? This might help you answer some of these questions. You will have an opportunity to examine your feelings for her outside of the comfort and expectation of your married routine. She can explore the importance of her job in contrast to a home life where she doesn’t have you to take for granted.
This might still feel worse before it is over. We’ve discussed some therapy options previously in this column and via email, but I also want to stress the importance of friends and family during this time. Don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need them.
Much love and perspective,
Your Uncle Mat
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