From the forums:
We did hard battle later because he wanted to wait to get married and I was ready to start our life together. We come from traditional families that did not like us cohabiting and would not have approved of children before marriage. Finally, we got married last year, but after having argued so bitterly over it, the shine was kind of gone and on our wedding day I felt almost…emotionally mute.
Over the past year though, we’ve grown closer and he’s really opened up and been more considerate of me in many ways. He expresses a lot of affection, and he says marriage has made him feel safer, showing how much he loves me because he had feared needing me too much before. For my part, I felt very content and was the closest I had ever been with him. Since things were going so well, we decided to revisit the idea of adding to our sexual relationship (which has always been great) with others. We had a great time with another couple and decided to take the next step by trying to develop outside relationships of our own, with the caveat that we should not become emotionally involved beyond a sort of friends-with-benefits understanding.
Three months ago, I met someone. He was gorgeous, older and worked in my field (but not at my job) and for the first time, I had someone to ask questions to and bounce ideas off of who really empathized with my position — our work is emotionally very tough and draining, sometimes even demoralizing, and my husband has a lot of trouble understanding this aspect of my life and how deeply it affects me. But this man brought out a side of me that I thought I had outgrown. He was kind and reflective and very sensitive and open, and I found myself so excited to see him and so happy and at peace when we finally spent time together that I was becoming distracted at home by the thought of him. My husband said I was acting out of character and became increasingly jealous and combative, which, in retrospect, is completely understandable. After a short time, my “FWB” told me that he was falling in love with me, and although I knew it was against the rules, I realized that I felt the same for him. I had tried to talk myself out of it, but selfishly, I felt too understood, appreciated and involved to do what was right and end it.
Unfortunately, my husband decided to snoop through my messages, and after reading about the trajectory of our relationship, became infuriated and demanded that I end things with my FWB. I was devastated, even though I knew it would have to end eventually (my husband and I always had an understanding that we’d be returning to a more traditional marriage when it came time to have kids). The “breakup,” if you can call it that, was very tearful and extremely difficult. Although there was never any possibility of our having a real relationship (due to his own situation), I cannot seem to get myself out of the rut I’ve been in since I said goodbye to him. It’s not the wish that things were different so we could be together that is dragging me down — it’s the cold fear that I won’t be able to revive my marriage now that I know it is possible to feel this way about someone else.
I don’t want to be near my husband right now. He says he’s forgiven me, but I feel as if all the air has gone out of our relationship. I miss this other man so much that I feel like crying every time my husband tries to kiss me. I guess I am looking for someone to tell me that I am going to get over this pretty soon and start to see my husband as a partner and not as a shadow of this other man. — In Love with Another
First, whatever you do: DON’T HAVE CHILDREN YET!! I say that upfront and in all caps because you mention kids twice in your letter and you have a history of pushing life events — like marriage — before you’re ready. And you are not ready for a baby. A baby will not save your marriage and it will not be the secret ingredient to make you happy. I cannot stress that enough.
I also cannot stress enough how important it is that you get yourself to therapy. Yes, couples therapy is absolutely important, but in your case, individual therapy is probably even more important. You have a pattern of making really bad decisions that needs to be addressed by a professional. That you moved in so quickly with someone with whom you had serious trust issue, and that you married someone you weren’t happy to marry — after what sounds like years of pressuring him to marry you — and that you believed you could make a rule to not develop feelings for someone and then were shocked to discover you could actually love someone else besides your husband, all indicate some not entirely realistic or healthy views on love and marriage and relationships.
Of COURSE you can develop deep feelings for someone other than your partner (and of COURSE you can fall in love despite “rules” not to!). Everyone is capable of falling in love with multiple people — even at the same time. It’s especially easy to believe you’re falling in love when your entire relationship is cocooned in intimacy and all the real-life, day-to-day stuff a true couple has to deal with is shielded from your couple bubble. In short: your husband and your FWB are not on equal playing fields, and it’s unfair to compare them or compare your feelings for them.
Your feelings for both men are related though. After feeling “emotionally mute” for so long and like your husband didn’t understand you or empathize with you, despite finally opening up a little more, it’s easy to understand why the sparkle of an affair would be so alluring. But the sparkle is merely a distraction from the mess of your marriage and the rest of your life. And if you now put all your energy focusing on the distraction, rather than your marriage, your life is only going to get messier.
So let the distraction go. Get yourself to therapy. Stop sleeping with other people. Don’t get pregnant. And make some decisions about whether your marriage is worth fighting for now that you know that, yes, it is actually possible to love other people. Because while it’s possible to love other people, love is different than commitment. Certainly, a two-month affair is different than a marriage. Marriage is about acknowledging life’s many, many distractions — temptations, obligations, shifting feelings, a longing for something more or something different — and working through them (together) and putting every effort into overcoming the distractions, while balancing your own personal needs. If that balance can’t be met, or if you just don’t feel like making the effort, perhaps it’s time to MOA. But you need to understand that EVERY relationship involves distractions and compromises and, just because you experienced two months of couple bubble bliss with your FWB, doesn’t mean that guy is your soul-mate.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.