I wrote this article several years ago and, as I’ve matured and grown in my own marriage and seen marriages crumble around me, the idea of fidelity- and whether it’s even a viable option is something I grapple with on a daily basis. Keep reading and then let me know; What do you think?
Despite a tumultuous 14-year marriage, “Annemarie” believed she and her husband were finally turning a corner. As a couple, they weathered her husband’s bouts of alcoholism, his three stints in rehab, her multiple job lay-offs, and yet Annemarie felt her marriage was better for it.
“I was not going to fail at my marriage because I loved this man, and I thought there weren’t any problems that were insurmountable,” says the fortysomething mother.
She and her husband finally managed to settle into a comfortable groove. They were both doing well at their jobs, he religiously attended his AA meetings, and they made sure to eat dinner as a family every night.
In fact, for a few precious hours on New Year’s Eve, Annemarie believed in the possibility of “happily ever after.”
“We were sitting across the table from each other in a charming restaurant bathed in candlelight, and I reached across the table and took my husband’s hand and said, ‘This is going to be our year,’ ” she recalls.
“As I gazed into my husband’s eyes, I promised him I would do everything in my power to get our marriage back on track. He sat there, smiled and wholeheartedly agreed.”
But, Annemarie never got the chance. Her fragile marital cocoon was crushed when her husband confessed a few months later that he was having an affair with one of her best friends, a recovering alcoholic who attended AA meetings with him.
“When he uttered those words, my world just crashed. I was completely blindsided,” says Annemarie.
At first, she believed her marriage was salvageable. “I told myself, ‘We’re going to get through this, he’ll just cut off all ties to this ‘other woman’ and we’ll fix this.’ ”
The marriage, though, was beyond repair. Annemarie spent the following weeks in a zombie-like state, weeping uncontrollably during her daily commutes into Manhattan, while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy for her two children when at home.
Though she sought the help of a therapist, she still felt extremely isolated. Suddenly she was a single mother, and her dream of “the two-parent family and home complete with the white picket fence” had died. She couldn’t wait to go to bed or escape at work.
Annemarie thought she’d never return to her happy self – that is, until she came across the Web site, www.survivinginfidelity.com.
FINDING SUPPORT ONLINE
Created by a couple – who go by the names “Mangled Heart” and “Deeply Scared” and who survived adultery in their own marriage – Survivinginfidelity.com is a safe, anonymous space where millions of members worldwide share their sorrow and feelings of isolation caused by an unfaithful spouse.
The site welcomes anyone to become a member, from those attempting reconciliation or going through a divorce, to the betraying partner, provided that all are committed to healing. Members are encouraged to network with others to endure the various stages of grief, anger and sadness and to come to terms with the loss of a future they once thought possible.
All of the volunteer moderators of the site are well into recovery, whether divorced or reconciling, and offer members advice, friendship and understanding.
The site is a place where Annemarie could vent her sadness, anger and self-pity freely, because each member, in one form or another, had been “in her shoes.”
“The people on this site embraced me immediately,” she notes, adding they “didn’t coddle me; they gave me their honest opinions.”
A month after being “truly empowered” by the site, Annemarie gained the courage to serve her husband with divorce papers.
TOUGHING IT OUT
In contrast, another member, Tim, decided to try to work it out with his wife of 26 years after she cheated on him.
Before the Oklahoma City resident found out about his wife’s infidelity, he thought the marriage was perfect. “I was still on my honeymoon and crazy in love with her 20 years later,” says Tim, 49, who asked that only his first name be used.
“To me, she always seemed to be very happy,” he continues. “We talked a few times about how other couples always seemed to have difficult times in their marriages, and I remember her saying that having trust in your partner makes everything easy.”
The only problem in the marriage was that she was not as interested in sex as he – or so he thought.
After catching his wife in several poorly disguised lies, Tim did some snooping and amassed a mounting pile of evidence detailing her extramarital affairs.
He found out his wife allegedly had half a dozen “quickies” in the parking lot of his local bowling alley and also engaged in a seven-year long-term affair with a co-worker.
“It’s quite a blow when you realize you’ve been a fool, and now you question everything, down to your children’s paternity,” he says of his wife’s acts of betrayal.
“The irony of the whole thing,” he adds, “is how completely I did trust her; it was the foundation of our relationship and marriage, like a badge of honor.”
After he confronted her, the two decided to go to marriage counseling and eventually chose to reconcile, since she seemed remorseful.
“We don’t talk about it anymore,” Tim notes. “It’ll be three years in April.”
Tim also credits Survinginfidelity.com with helping him deal with the pain.
The site “has been a good place for me to vent with people who can really understand me,” he says. “We can compare notes, give and take advice because we’re going through or have been through a similar situation.”
Tim’s wounds are still healing, and he says he will never love her or trust her like he did before.
“Maybe it will get better with time,” he reflects, “but I’m not really caring if it works out or not. She can stay or she can go. One screw-up and I’ll make up her mind for her.”
Still bitter, Tim admits he thinks about the affairs every day and isn’t sure whether or not he has forgiven her. There are days when he’s sure he’s making a big mistake and believes he should leave her and find someone else.
“Is this the one I want to grow old with?” he asks himself. “She’s no longer as pretty as I remember.”
Tim admits having sex with her is a problem. “I don’t make love anymore, it’s just sex.”
So why, with so much pain still present, is he staying with his wife?
“That’s a hard question to answer,” responds Tim. “Is it love? Is it a fear to start over? Is it refusing to admit failure in my marriage? Am I stupid or just stubborn?”
“Maybe it’s what in poker we call ‘pot committed,’ ” he considers. “You’ve got so much money invested, what’s a few more bucks to see the last card?”