Infidelity on both sides
Five years ago my husband began an on-line affair. I found out totally by accident and when I confronted him he expressed the desire to leave our marriage. We managed to get by this incident, but unfortunately I was left totally traumatized, and I vowed that I would never give myself to him fully again. Our sex life consists of him pleasing himself, because I will never allow him to please me again...I have a huge trust issue and seem incapable of getting by it. Our life appears very happy and "normal" to all who know us, but it is difficult for me.
I have entered into an emotional relationship - with limited sexual activity - with a work colleague. This was totally unexpected, very unlike me, and against all that I believe in. He is interesting, kind, makes me laugh...a lot of the things I am missing in my primary relationship. This colleague is also married. He has no intention of leaving his wife...nor did I have any intention of leaving my husband. We made the assumption that we were both happily married...ergo it was OK to have fun together. Huge mistake. It turns out that I think about and enjoy this colleague more than I thought I would and the situation is making my life unbearable. He will never leave his wife, and has told me so.
My problem is that I have an overwhelming physical attraction to him, not to mention emotional. I do not have the same physical or emotional attraction for my husband, and likely have not for five years. I need some advice on how to withdraw from this extra-marital affair and try, if at all possible, to get my married life back on track.
Dear 'Life is messy',
If your goal is to get your married life back on track, then entering into marital counseling with your husband is an important step to take. Although things between the two of you were "smoothed over" on the surface five years ago, nothing was truly resolved, and the damage has been festering and causing distance in your relationship ever since then. Counseling will be beneficial, however, only if you both truly desire to work things out and are willing to face the hard work that will be necessary to do so. If either of you is a reluctant participant and is not really willing to try to make things better, then counseling will not solve your problems.
The first thing that you will need to do is to find out if he is even willing to begin the process with you. You might try saying something like, "I feel like our relationship has not been as strong in the past five years as it used to be, and I would like for us to try to make things better between us. How would you feel about going to a marital therapist with me to see if we can get our relationship back on track?"
You and your husband will need to both feel comfortable with the therapist for the therapy to really work well. If one of you does not feel satisfied with the first therapist that you see, then by all means continue to meet with others until you find someone who you both feel understands and can be helpful to you.
You will need to end the affair in order to put all of your energy into repairing the damage that has occurred between you and your husband. This will not be easy, given how you feel about your colleague and the fact that you will see him every day at work. It may help to start individual counseling on your own, in which you can explore what keeps you involved in your current affair and what it would take for you to end it. Your colleague has told you that he will not leave his wife, but perhaps inside you still think that one day he will. Or perhaps knowing that he will not leave his wife is part of the appeal for you and a reason why you continue on with him. Whatever the particulars of your exact situation, counseling will help you to understand what is going on and become clear on what steps you are ready to take. The hard part is getting to the point of understanding what keeps you in the affair, what inner beliefs you have (about yourself and what you deserve/are worthy of in a relationship, and about relationships in general) that keep you involved in it. Once you really and truly desire to end it, the actual process of ending it will be relatively simple and easy.
There is much that you and your husband will need to talk about together in counseling. You will need to let your husband know how you felt and feel today about the on-line affair that he had and how it has affected you over the five years. You will need to tell him about your affair, and then deal with his reaction and feelings. He will need to talk about the reasons that led him to start his affair - probably there were aspects of the marriage with which he was dissatisfied, and he was trying to fill the void of what he felt was lacking in the marriage with the affair. The process will not be an easy one, but it is possible to heal your relationship and become close once again if you are both ready and willing to work towards that goal with the help of a skilled therapist.
Susan Maroto, LCSW
This question has been answered by Susan Maroto. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She uses an eclectic approach to holistic healing, mind-body relationships, life transitions, depression, and anxiety.For more information visit: http://www.therapywithsusan.com/