My wife and I have been together since high school. I love her. We have created so many special memories. We now have two sons. However, in many ways being with her has taken a toll me. I am aware of new information and behaviors that have me worried.
Throughout our relationship, she has always been too flirty with other guys. She has also always been a people pleaser and attention seeker. For the first several years in our relationship, and right after we got married, I would have to point things out to her to keep her in check. Still, I did not imagine she would fully cross the line and have an actual affair.
Several years ago I got skeptical. I didn’t have real proof of anything, besides her being overly protective of her phone and spending way too much time reading really graphic erotic romance novels. I also noticed Facebook messages left up on the computer. They were with other men and heavily flirtatious. I questioned her if she was having an affair. She was upset but swore that she was not and never would. She was embarrassed when I asked about the novels and the Facebook flirting, but said I was over exaggerating.
Well, recently she decided to tell me she kissed a coworker shortly before our wedding. I wanted an explanation. She said they were just friends and it was an accidental quick kiss. However, she has continued to tell me other versions.
Most recently she said that the kiss was much more sensual in nature and that after he quit working with her they texted back and forth for months. I am hurt by the betrayal, but also creeped out because things seemed so perfect when that was supposedly going on. There were no red flags. Plus, she cannot even explain why she did what she did.
I am now worried that she was, in fact, having an affair during the time when things did seem off. She swears up and down she was not. My gut tells me that something is not right. I want to live in the present and enjoy life, but wondering what she did makes me worry about the future. She seems to align with the criteria for histrionic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. I know she was sexually abused growing up. What should I do?
Labeling her behavior, if she is histrionic or borderline, doesn’t change the reality of her lying and disrespect of your feelings. Whatever you want to call it, whether it is a full-blown personality disorder or elements of one, the pain and sense of betrayal is the same.
Trust yourself. If you feel something is off, trust that feeling more than what your wife is telling you. It sounds like she doesn’t know herself very well as she denies the impact her behavior has on you and your family. She might not be the best source to confirm your suspicions. Looking for a diagnosis to explain her behavior is very understandable, but it doesn’t necessarily do much more than giving a name for what is happening, even if it is accurate.
There are several things I would recommend. First and foremost take ownership of what you are feeling. You have a profound sense that something isn’t right — and it isn’t. Realize that your discomfort and concern is enough to declare the marriage is in trouble. You do not need your wife’s confirmation. Her behavior is unacceptable because it makes you feel uncomfortable. s confirmation. You are uncomfortable because her behavior has become unacceptable. This is yours alone to validate. Don’t look for her to give you permission to be upset.
Secondly, seek personal therapy for yourself for this realization and these feelings. When this type of thing happens the spouse that has to declare the marriage unsuitable needs support from an outside source. Do not burden extended family members with your concerns as this will tint their perception of your wife and if the marriage gets back on even footing any you and she have recovered — the family may not be as ready. Share your concerns with a therapist that can help you sort through your feelings and thoughts.
When you are ready to confront your wife decide if it is something you want help with through a marriage and family counselor, or if you will need to do this on your own. If your wife is unwilling to go with you to a couples counselor then this confrontation may have to be one-on-one. I recommend if it is with a counselor that you ask your wife to come with you because you think the two of you need the help of a professional. If she is unwilling have your conversation in a public place without the children present. This is not a conversation to take on in the privacy of your home with the children’s home. Using public space as a type of container for a difficult conversation is one way to help keep the discussion civil. At home, the familiar space may create a too comfortable environment for excessive feelings.
Be clear about what isn’t okay without it being an attack. This isn’t a character assassination. It is time for you to discuss your disappointment, pain, confusion, and discomfort. This is more about you than it is about her. During these times the key is to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. “I’m uncomfortable with the way I feel;” I don’t feel good about our marriage;” “I’ve lost my ability to trust.” Are ways to keep the issue on your side of the fence. Blaming your wife isn’t the goal — helping her understand that you are taking action in dealing with your feelings is.
Next, this isn’t something that you try to fix for her. This is hers to deal with — or not. Explain what you are willing and not willing to do. As an example, you might say you are willing to go to couple’s therapy, but you are no longer willing to ignore your feelings about this issue. Do not set ultimatums at this point. Statements like: “If you don’t go to therapy I’m going to divorce you,” doesn’t help very much. “I love you and I want to figure this out, but I can’t take care of my feelings and yours.” Give a more balanced sense of the truth — without saying if this — then that.
Finally, keep in mind that whatever is going on for your wife is — at the very least — on a different timeline than yours. You have been dealing with your disappointment, anguish, and uncertainty for a long while before this comes to the surface. For your wife, she has been living in a different awareness. She may be in denial, she may be suffering from a personality disorder, she may be doing things deceitfully, but whatever her state of mind is she is not on the same timeline as you are with being confronted with this issue. Give her time to adjust and be clear about what is true for you and what isn’t. Saying things like:” I don’t know what it means for our marriage, but I do know that something has to change for me.” Is a truth that lets your wife know this is serious and you are taking a stand for yourself. What happens next largely will depend on her ability to hear you.
Wishing you patience and peace,