Seriously Considering Divorce

Hi Toni-

My spouse and I began seeing each other about ten years ago when we were both married to other people. We grew up in the same area, had mutual friends and had even dated briefly as teens. Then, in our 30s, we reconnected and the chemistry was incredible. When we began our affair, neither of us had children and both of us had been unhappy in our marriages for some time. We had both thought a lot about leaving and once we got together, the decision was easily made. Yes, there was hurt, guilt and fallout to deal with, but we have been married for eight years and have two small children.

We had everything going for us, and a connection like neither of us had ever had with anyone else. Therefore, when our relationship began to cool about two years ago I wrote it off at first to life stresses. Then after months of feeling an increasing distance between us, I became aware that Jeremy was spending a lot of time with a woman who lives in our neighborhood and whose children are in school with ours. They would talk a lot when they ran into each other and then the texting began. I became uncomfortable and talked to him about it, but he said it was nothing, she was just a good friend. The situation is more difficult for me because Jeremy is self-employed, has no real schedule--and is often called to deal with something at odd hours and I can never be sure exactly where he is or when he will return.

Several months after this, this other woman's spouse confronted Jeremy about a text he had sent to his wife. Apparently, it said that she was the "love of his life and they would find a way." My spouse denied sending it, then in the face of proof, said it was taken out of context--and at that point I was not only very upset, I told him he could not have any more contact with her and he agreed. We also began counseling to help us deal with what had happened.
I continued to feel uneasy and a few months later found out through a woman friend in our circle that my spouse had been using an app to contact his "friend," so nothing showed up on phone records. Shortly after that we had a big blow up and then a man friend of his told me about a conversation he had with Jeremy about this other woman in which Jeremy told the guy; "You just don't get it, we have a special connection."

Since then, we have continued counseling, have had many blow-ups and our once close relationship is in shambles. Our therapist is good, has been very assertive in dealing with this and pushes both of us to work on specific interventions to see if this marriage can be saved. I really loved Jeremy and wanted to work this out, but I've become numb in the face of his distance and denials and believe I just can't trust him. My therapist is supportive and will help us work towards separation if that is our choice. Jeremy's words deny he wants that but his actions say otherwise. What should I do?
--Former Other Woman

Dear Dear Former other Woman,

I'm sorry. From what you have shared, it's clear that SOMETHING was (is?) going on. It may not have progressed beyond an emotional affair, but these are just as destructive. In spite of Jeremy's denials, you have solid proof of his lying to you, hiding the relationship from you and confessing strong feelings for the other woman to your mutual friend. In fact, it seems as though you know about the relationship because of friends who have come forward with information, which is telling in itself. They were concerned enough to take sides and warn you.

You took a good first step when you contacted a therapist for help. The structure and support she can provide while you work on looking for ways to heal and move forward or decide this isn't possible, will help you to know you are doing and have done all you can. Speaking of which, it's important to acknowledge and then remind yourself that YOU alone cannot make your marriage work. Yes, you play an important role but until Jeremy can take responsibility for his past actions and consistently demonstrate through his behavior that he wants your marriage to work, it just won't.

Your therapist will guide the process, but the following are strategies I would include if I were working with you.

* Set goals and have specific time frames assigned for each. If you don't do this you could end up spending a lot of time in an unhappy situation with no movement or resolution either way.

* Regularly assess how each of you are doing and how you are doing as a couple. Take notes so you won't have to rely on memory, which is often flawed and can lead to an he said, she said scenario.

* Be proactive as opposed to waiting for his next move and then responding to it. You need to ask for what you need and put your priorities out there. If your spouse is not on board, this will become apparent and can be discussed in sessions.

* Weigh you financial needs, the needs of your children, and the impact on staying VS going on you and the children. Part of this process will require you to make copies of all bank statements, information on assets and investments and tax records and put them in a secure place. You need to be prepared if the situation becomes unstable and/ or he makes any sudden moves to leave.

Talk to a lawyer and start to make a tentative plan for how you would handle separation if that is what gets decided. The more preparation and planning you do, the easier any potential separation would be. Divorce is traumatic--don't get caught without adequate resources in place to deal with it.

Most of all, listen to your gut. It was telling you something was wrong even before your friends did. If your spouse is truly remorseful and motivated, you will know it. If not, it will be apparent. The most important information you will need to make the right decision will come from paying attention to what he does, not what he says. If his behavior says I love you and want to be with you--you will be able to move forward together and put this behind you. If his behavior says otherwise, you will have the things in place to do what you will know you need to do.

(from December 2014)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

This is the first "Emotional and Physical Affairs" column.

List of more
"Emotional and Physical Affairs"

"Is Facebook ruining my marriage?"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008-2015 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

Distribution Rights: The above material is copyrighted, but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site.

Reprint permission will be granted, upon request, to student newspapers, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. Advance written permission must be obtained for any reprinting of this material in altered or modified form.