Hi, Carolyn: I recently caught my husband, 66, in an emotional and sexting affair with another woman, 53. We have been married 25 years, and there has never been the slightest hint of infidelity in our marriage before.
I knew pretty quickly that something was going on: He took his cell everywhere, never leaving it unattended for a second, he took walks to the store at night, he rushed me off to bed claiming that he had work to do and needed quiet. Most upsetting was the love he expressed to this figment of his imagination. How can I compete with someone that is always loving, pleasant, hot for sex and never has any chores?
I am wondering whether this is a fluke born of the ruts of a long-term marriage with its predictable ups and downs, or a clear message that the marriage is over. We have re-connected emotionally and intimately and are rebuilding our marriage; it seems hopeful. But I can’t dismiss this nagging feeling that I am lying to myself, and our love will never be the same.
Doubtful: Well, your marriage isn’t over, so any message to that effect is far from clear. This may seem like a “duh,” but simple places to start can be useful when things get confusing.
Another simple truth to embrace is that your love will, in fact, never be the same. You can’t get new information — on who your husband is, on what is possible — and not change how you feel. That just doesn’t make sense.
But it also makes no sense to take the emotional affair as the last new information you’re willing to receive on your husband and marriage. You just learned he’s capable of sneaking around and betraying you, yes, and falling in imagined love. You also learned, though, that he’s not a smooth operator in the slightest and telegraphs his misbehavior to anyone paying attention; that’s useful, to know how the alarm system sounds.
Also among your new information is that his response to being caught was to make an effort to fix the marriage.
These all matter, they all tell part of the story of where you are now, and they all change the love between you in their own way, as they should. The way you’re responding to this crisis is also informing and changing his love for you.
And while it’s a singularly lousy way to shove a marriage out of its rut, you are in fact out of it now, putting thought into the way you live your lives together.
You don’t have to be lying to yourself to see the promise in all of these developments, even as you live with the understandable pain. You don’t have to be delusional to place your hope in someone whose frailties you’ve just seen up close.
You just need to be honest with yourself, with him and about what a “happily ever after” looks like now: lumpy and fragile and not always in your control. But, then, I could argue that’s always been true, you’re just aware of it now. Give yourself time to get used to this different perspective. And trust yourself, too. You’ve managed ups and downs and ruts and this, and you’ll manage whatever comes next.