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Well, my wife started taking a boot camp class a year ago where she gets up at 5 a.m. four times a week to work out. It has been great for her — she looks great, feels great, and has met many new friends. Over the last six months, work has become very stressful for both my wife and me, and I am even looking for a new job because I am no longer happy doing what I have been doing for last 10 years. My wife was promoted and has much more responsibility, causing her a great level of stress and extra work hours.
In the last few months, I do acknowledge, there was not a lot of fun in the house. My wife and I were definitely going through the motions of work, kids, and life, with little connection. We still remained regularly intimate throughout this time, but there was not the same connection. I noticed my wife spent a lot more time on her phone. And one night she asked to go have drinks with some of her friends — not uncommon — and I said “No problem if you just help me put the kids to bed first.” Then I see a text message preview on her phone from a man saying “can’t wait to see you.” Curious, I open her phone to see a text log of 4K texts over the last few months to her personal trainer in which they both say the magic words, “I love you.”
I completely broke down, and I asked what the hell was going on. I was ensured nothing physical had ever happened (who knows if that would be true had they met up for the first time that night). I’m told their emotional affair started as a friendship where he gave her praise and compliments as a mother who works. She enjoyed the connection and getting to know someone with a vastly different background and view on life. She started sharing with him personal info about our lives and how stressed out she is with work-life balance and how little I was helping lately. He started acting like a life coach, allegedly telling her she needs to ask for more help around the house. She referenced that the fun was gone. They started having fun conversations ALL the time by phone and by text. And then the connection grew into more and she never stopped it. She says she never thought about leaving me or the family. She never stopped loving me and still loves me with all her heart. She wants to do everything possible to rebuild our relationship better than it was before.
The last few weeks have been the worst of my life — with little sleep, high anxiety, and lots of difficult conversations. I have since realized and admitted that I had become a bit closed off at home with her — never with our girls, but what little time around the house I had I spent working late for my bad boss while searching for new job. I had slacked on some of the chores around the house and took my wife for granted in all that she did around the house to keep it a well-oiled machine (chores, laundry, buying groceries, kids’ clothes shopping, buying birthday presents, keeping the family calendar updated, etc.) I did not do enough to remind her of what an amazing woman she is. I assumed she knew because I married her and I tell her I love her every day. But I did not truly state out loud how much I appreciate all the things she does. We have had many great, in-depth conversations about my personal reflections and the changes I commit to make, like sharing more of the family task load, making more time to keep our connection, and bringing the fun back to our marriage.
The issue now is that she has become fully committed to her boot camp crew of girls (20 of them), and has said very firmly that she needs to still maintain that routine schedule that is a part of her work/life stress balance.
This obviously kills me to think that she will then be in the same location multiple times a week with the very man with whom she had an emotional affair. But she maintains that if she does not go, a part of her will be missing and she will be crabby and unfulfilled. She reiterates that her connection with the trainer is 100% dead and that working out is completely separate from him. But my brain cannot separate the two from each other. I allowed her to return for a few weeks to see how it goes. She is happy, and we are continuing to rebuild our marriage and grow our love. But I am dying inside everytime she goes to bootcamp knowing he is there.
What am I supposed to do???? — Dying Inside
Wait, so your wife has been emotionally cheating on you for months, and now that she’s been caught and you have promised to commit to re-investing in your marriage, she says she, too, wants “to do everything possible to rebuild your relationship better than it was before”… except change gyms? That’s not what someone who is truly committed to a marriage would say or do. I don’t care how much her boot camp ladies mean to her; they cannot possibly mean anywhere near what her husband of ten years means. They cannot possibly be worth continuing to hurt you and risk losing her marriage. She needs to find a new gym! And you need to tell her as much. This needs to be your line in the sand.
Yes, you both failed each other, you both messed up, and I’m going to take you at your word that you WANT to be more present in your marriage and your family life — to do more in the way of emotional work, child care, domestic chores, AND romancing your wife, and I believe that you believe that you are. I would suggest here though that when two partners in a relationship have high stress, demanding jobs with long hours (and/or long hours plus a very long commute), it is nearly impossible to balance work and home responsibilities without some outside help (and even then, still so hard). Since your wife just got a promotion and since you are very unhappy in your job and looking for a new one, I wonder if an answer to some of your issues might be your finding a job that requires less from you — maybe a part-time job or a job consulting, where you can set your own hours and potentially even work from home and more easily take on some of the domestic duties that typically fall on your wife because she gets home earlier than you (and, let’s be honest, because she’s a woman and you both were likely raised and socialized with the message — either by your own families or by the culture at large — that the wife/mother takes on more of the domestic duties, and that has stuck for you even though women now work more out of the home and for higher incomes than at any other point in history).
So, those are some suggestions for you in your quest to legitimately and earnestly re-commit to your marriage and ease some of the burdens that have more typically fallen on your over-worked wife. But what is SHE doing? Literally the one thing she could do to show her equal commitment to righting her wrongs would be to leave the gym where the man she’s been confessing her love to for months still works. And she isn’t willing to do that? Because she loves her boot camp crew too much? Dude, no.
Draw the line in the sand, tell her it is absolutely unacceptable that she continues going to that gym, make an appointment with a marriage therapist, invest some of the income you both must make from your “extremely successful” careers into outsourcing some domestic help to ease the burden on your wife (or cut back on the hours you work to be more present at home and take on a bigger load of the housework), and hire a babysitter to give you and your wife some more time out by yourselves to re-connect so that neither of you is tempted to look elsewhere for much-needed emotional support (by the way, a babysitter could also help with after-school chauffeuring and shuttling the kids around). If you aren’t both on board with making the bare minimum sacrifices and compromises for the sake of your marriage, you aren’t left with much choice but to MOA because it’s not enough to talk the talk of doing “everything possible to rebuild a relationship”; you gotta be able to walk the walk, too. And right now it seems that the only walk your wife wants to do is whatever her bootcamp crew is doing.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.