I hope you can help. I've been married for 20 years to, frankly, the only woman I've ever loved.
About a year and a half ago, she began telling me I wasn't acting myself. She told me I needed to change, but I had no idea what she was talking about. She was hostile and angry toward me and I dismissed her comments as her problem. After a few months, I realized that my behavior was a problem and instantly changed. I cut back on the drinking, went to a counselor, adjusted my attitude toward my job and, basically, got my shit together.
Now. Here's the problem. I'm better, but she still resents me. After my attitude adjustment, my wife responded positively for a while, but quickly pulled away. She has since said horrible, hateful things to me. When I couldn't figure out what was going on, I logged onto her e-mail account and discovered she had affairs with at least two men. When I later confronted her, she denied it and attacked me viciously on a host of subjects going back 15 years. She will not admit her affairs.
So, Cary, we have a daughter we adore. I really want to make this work. We are seeing a counselor but the subject of infidelity hasn't come up.
I know now that if I bring it up, she will become defensive and she just will never admit to her behavior. I understand the concept that a relationship is built on honesty, but I don't think I can achieve that. Part of me wants to ignore it all and pretend everything is OK and part of me feels like a chump.
Forget my feelings, what is the best thing for my preteen daughter? I can't believe a divorce is the best thing.
Probably the best thing for everybody involved is to just keep working through this thing. You can't know exactly how it's going to turn out but you can be reasonably sure that persevering is going to have a better outcome than giving up. If you're concerned about what's best for your daughter, talk to your counselor about how to keep your daughter in the loop and let her know that this thing is going to work out OK. Show her that nobody's going to go crazy and leave, that you're all going to get through this together.
Things are tough right now but they will change. They will either get better or worse. If you keep working on them and stay in the process, they'll probably get better. If you stop the counseling process, or blow up and leave, or file for divorce, or start acting out by having an affair of your own, it's likely that things will get worse and your daughter will suffer as a result.
So I would say -- and it doesn't take a genius to figure this out -- your best bet is to keep doing what you're doing until you come out the other side. It's natural for there to be setbacks. But you have a lot going for you. You love this woman. You love your daughter. You're willing to make adjustments. You've demonstrated that.
You made some adjustments and had a setback when she didn't respond as favorably as you expected. But you're on the right track. It might take her more time. She may have more anger built up in her that you don't know about. She may have been hurt deeply by some things you've done that you don't even know about. You may not know everything she's going through. She may also have some guilt about the affairs that's causing her to blow up at you. You can't fix all her problems. But for the sake of all concerned, you can stay in the process and keep moving forward. It may be painful at times. At times you may feel like leaving. As a way to relieve some of the pressure, schedule some time away from the situation; find harmless ways to get away from the situation when it becomes too intense. That's better than staying in it until you can't stand it and then you just blow.
More will be revealed as you continue to meet with this counselor. Don't be afraid to raise the issue of infidelity. If it's bothering you, just say you'd like to talk about something and just stick to what happened and what you're feeling, and be ready to listen. There are some explosive topics here but they can be talked about if everyone is willing to listen and take some time to work through it.
You can't know everything that's going on right now, not in your heart, not in your wife's heart, not in your daughter's heart. You're in the middle of something. It's sort of like you're in the high weeds. You know you're going in the right direction, because you have a compass. But you can't see very far, and there may be more swamp ahead. That's the nature of the thing. Keep moving. Have faith. Take it one day at a time.
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