I have been married for 31 years to a wonderful woman. We have 2 adult children and a 7-year-old boy we adopted 5 years ago.
Twenty months ago I became involved with a coworker. Our relationship blossomed and I found myself more in love with her than I've ever been. Throughout the course of our relationship, my wife became increasingly suspicious, but I denied everything and she believed me. My spiraling integrity finally got the best of me and I told her the truth. I left her for the other woman, but only briefly. I then moved in with a relative and began couples therapy with my wife as doing so was "the right thing." We really never had any serious problems. I love her, but I remain more in love with the other woman (we continue to work together, but have ended our affair when I moved in with a relative).
I feel trapped between Christian/ethical expectations: The fact that I still love my wife (although struggling to feel "in love" with her); the fact that I will sacrifice the relationship I have with my adult children and family members; and the degree of love I feel for the other woman. I'm trying to find the love I once had for my wife, but it continually feels shadowed by what I feel for the other woman (who is also very in love with me).
I once had a wonderful relationship with my wife. Then I discovered something with someone else I didn't know was even possible in terms of emotional connection. Now I'm ignoring all of that for the sake of what I had with my wife and children and for everyone else.
I think (operative word) I can make this sacrifice (giving up the relationship with the other woman), but I'm not certain if I want to or if I should. I've got a "fake it 'til I make it" kind of mentality going on, but it's a struggle. Any advice?
Yours is a classic situation. You're not the first caught in this dilemma. And there is no one solution.
I read that you have made your choice. You're committed to returning to your wife and staying faithful, however hard you find it. The advice you are asking for is, how to succeed, and resist the pressures to fall back. Am I right?
There is a trick for dealing with difficult, painful decisions and intentions. Ask the question, "In what way can I become a better person from experiencing my problem?"
If you'd simply stayed faithful to your wife, unquestioningly going along with societal expectations, you'd have saved a lot of suffering for yourself and others. But, because you had the affair, you have been forced to think, to question, to grow. This is painful, and it's easy to doubt yourself, to be tempted to fall back. Growth always hurts.
But, have you become a better, wiser, more decent person because you were faced with a difficult choice, and decided to rebuild your marriage?
I suspect your wife also found herself in a similar situation. Her temptation will have been to reject you, hate you, want revenge. Instead, she also made a good choice, and worked toward a reconciliation. So, she also has grown through suffering.
All the same, her suffering is the direct consequence of your past weakness. You owe her restitution for this, and that may be the answer to your request. When you feel it's just too hard, remember this. Feeling guilt and shame are counterproductive, but feeling responsibility for having imposed pain is good. You owe her. You can pay by giving her a good life, the security of being able to trust you, by acting in a way that makes her feel loved. We are what we DO, not what we think or feel. Whatever that is can stay private.
Finally, you have experienced a joy you didn't know existed. For this, you can stay thankful. One glass of wine can be fine. But now, having drunk that, you don't need to become an alcoholic.
Have a good life,