Questioning the Affair

I’m going to take a moment here to respond to a reader’s comments. She took the time to give me a well thought out straight-up answer. I want to respond in the spirit of continuing the conversation – not to refute her statements. Because she is right on many of them.

Can you give me an example of what your wife isn’t doing that you would want her to? (not sexual but emotional)

This is a really hard question to answer as I feel that I must find something concrete, but most of this isn’t concrete. It’s an emotional minefield. I will do my best.

Essentially what I want is for her to want to put me first at times. But not just anytime. Not like when I bring it up and she goes over the top and does everything I want to do for three months and then it disappears. That is fake. I mean a real genuine interest in what my needs are, and helping me to find solutions to them. To actively listen to me, and ask questions to dig further and understand me. If she understood me and cared for my growth and happiness she would help to push me and support me in who I want to be.

I want her to be able to sacrifice for me. I’ve made major sacrifices in my life for her. I don’t regret it. That is who I am and I’m very proud of what she was able to accomplish with my support. But at some point I wanted to get my life going too. To get back to the things that are important to me. Whether those be hobbies I’m interested in or future career plans. I cannot do them alone, and honestly I can’t do them when I’m with her. Her career is and has always been first priority. When I ask for things she points out all she has already done, and then turns it into a competition of who has done more. Completely missing the point. I need future emotional and goal seeking support, she compares that with the actions of washing the dishes and grocery shopping. No matter how I explain, she does not understand how those are not equivalent.

I want her to recognize the toll she places on me with her own neediness. She would never say that I could not go do something for myself, but she doesn’t have to because I will keep myself from going simply by anticipating her needs and the reality of our situation. She does not even recognize when the things she does have a negative impact on my own growth. I cannot depend on her to support me in what I need. She will say she supports me to the moon, but her actions inadvertently say something else. Over and over and over.

It turns out I do have a concrete example. I have been trying to find a new job and I needed to update my resume and LinkedIn profile. I was struggling to find the time. I worked out a deal where she would come home early a couple days to watch our daughter so I could run to the coffee shop and get some work done. On two out of three occasions when I returned home she was upset because she felt like she had to be a single mom while I was gone. Now during that time she also took it upon herself to try to do several extra things that were not a priority and overwhelmed herself. However she blamed it on me being gone when all I asked was that she watch our daughter. I didn’t ask her to do all the other things.

Her reaction crushed me. I felt completely betrayed. It was like watching my future, which I had finally thought might be possible, get crushed like a soda can. By the time it happened the second time I stopped asking for time to myself. It’s too much pain to take. Her reactions to things are so intense they often overwhelm me.

Another thing is that she really doesn’t know me. Not deeply. And she has no curiosity to learn. When I try to hint at who I am she pushes me away. I mean she knows all the basics of who I am, but not the deep stuff. I need to be known by my spouse. I need to be accepted. It’s been hard going my whole life as an outsider and even harder having to live a double life within my marriage. I guess I thought eventually she would care. But she doesn’t. She won’t. I’m not even sure she can. It’s not in her personality to explore my mind and ideas.

All of this really hit me this year. All the gaps. All the places I’m unhappy. It was like I was waiting, playing musical chairs, and all of a sudden the music stopped and I don’t have a chair. You see I followed her to med school when we were only a couple years into marriage. I didn’t even know myself well then. While away it was just us. I was having a hard time but assumed it would all be better when we returned. Then we returned and it wasn’t all better. It was worse. She was in residency and I was alone in my own city. My anxiety was bad. But maybe it was just residency. She finished residency and we bought a house. The first year working was hard for her. So I waited again. Then we had a kid. The first year with a new child is trying. So I waited again. Now we are having another and it hits me. This is it. It’s not going to magically get better. The future I’ve been waiting for is here and it’s my wife’s future. Not mine.

But you know some of the important stuff is sexual. We shouldn’t discount that. Considering all of the important relationships in your life there is only one person (at a time) whom you experience sexually. It’s an important part of a romantic relationship. When you find that your sexual needs and your spouse’s sexual needs are far apart, and they are not coming together, then you are left with a choice. It sounds rather petty I know, but sex is an important part of bonding with a spouse. If you remove sex from the equation you would just be really close friends and roommates.

Have you considered counseling for yourself? as a couple? Here is the thing — as long as there is a third party in your marriage nothing she does (or you do) will make things better.

I have considered counseling. We were working on finding a good counselor this summer. Someone with a sex positive attitude. Unfortunately two in a row fell through and then life and the pregnancy got in the way. I do agree that we need marriage counseling and my wife needs a counselor. One thing we found from talking about our problems together as a couple is that she felt trapped. As if there was no one to talk to because she always talks to me. I don’t want her to feel trapped. Early next year we will continue the hunt for counselors. You are absolutely right on this one. No matter how things turn out we need to try this avenue. There is too much at stake.

My girlfriend and I have stopped seeing each other. Having the constant interaction does make it very difficult to judge things objectively. But you have to recall I am not basing the success of my marriage off only a few weeks of observational data. I’m working through problems we have had for many years.

Then there is the fact that I can never truly forget what I had with my girlfriend. Even if we don’t see each other everyday now. It was beautiful on a number of levels.

And affairs are the epitome of fantasy. There are no responsibilities, no living together, no stresses about money, etc.

This is all true. I can’t deny that you are right. It’s not possible to really date someone while you’re married. You have to infer quite a lot. I would say this is your “grass is greener” argument.

My only attempt at this one is that we’ve known each other fairly closely for over three years. We have discussed what family life and our financial situation would be like. We’ve been together as families. But mostly they are only discussions of a possible future. We have not had to live them, and although I feel confident we would do very well at life together it is only a dream at this point.

….

End your affair — really end it and then move forward with whatever path.

We are no longer seeing each other. I know that isn’t really what you said, but it’s a good start. We do need to end it. I need to focus first on my marriage and my family. What do I need to move forward? Can I make this marriage work?

Frankly I’m not sure on either account but I’m going to try. Then if all does not go well I can search out my girlfriend and try that relationship out without the secrecy.

I will tell you though it is very hard. Extremely hard. I think about her everyday. All day long. She really changed the way I see myself and the world. The thought of not experiencing a future with her is almost too much to bear. But I will do everything I can to do the right thing first.

I want to thank you for your comments. You really helped me to think through what I have been feeling.

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3 thoughts on “Questioning the Affair

  1. I think you are looking at this from the wrong end. I have doctors in my family and they told me that med school and residency are so tough that you need tunnel vision. I realize this is too general but here goes. Men are not naturally nest builders or the primary nurturers. Your roles have reversed without either of you realizing the amount of pressure that decision would have on you. Now you want to go out into the world in the man’s natural role. Your wife cannot give up what she has studied years for and what she enjoys. You want a job that you enjoy. Men always define themselves by their jobs. You are not doing that. I realize there are stay at home dads who love it. I am not getting that from you. Your gf is not going to fix your unhappiness. Neither is your wife. What might work is total honesty with your wife. You need to tell her your ongoing unhappiness, which, by the way, sounds a whole lot like lifetime depression. You might need a workup from a doctor to see if you need medicine. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. You are being totally unfair to your wife. If you have a girlfriend she has the right to a lover as well. Your children need a father who does not sneak around on their mother.

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