I am a new member but have been lurking for several months. I’ve gone back and forth around where to post my first post and this seems like the most fitting place.
My UW and I started dating at 18 and married at 21. I was her first an only up until that time. We started running into some "bumps" in our marriage a little over a year in and my wife went to a party with work friends and didn’t come home until the next morning (this was 1985 so no cell phones or anything). I quizzed her the next day, asked if she had cheated. She denied it and said she just got drunk and fell asleep. I accepted that but about a month later she told me she "wasn’t sure she loved me anymore". We fought, I told her to leave, and she was astonished I reacted that way. Anyway, we reconciled and later found out she was pregnant (yes, my child) and things proceeded.
About 18 months after that incident, she started treating me coldly. Again says "I’m not sure I love you anymore". I ask if there is someone else, she says "yes, but we haven’t slept together". The next day I stake out her work and she leaves and parks in an adjacent parking lot. It’s obvious she is waiting on someone. She spots me and flees back to work. I go there and tell her "I see you". Later she comes home, we fight and she goes to her mother’s with our son. I think we are done. The next day she calls and cries and begs to come home. I say "OK, but you have to ditch the bf". She agrees.
Things progress and we have another child the next year. Things seem "OK" in the marriage for the most part but we are swamped working with two small kids. 2 years after our daughter is born, I change jobs and we move out of state. I’m depressed leaving my family and all I have known. My wife is cold and distant and withholds sex. About 9 months after we move, she stays out all night again for a "work thing" and I get the "I don’t think I love you" again. I asked if she is cheating and she says "no". I ask if she ever has and she says "yes, once before we moved" but won’t give me the details. We fight, we cry, we decide to "give our marriage one last shot". We go to the Florida Keys with her parents. While we are there, I’m trying to build intimacy and "connect". My wife is cold and distant. While there I went and stood on a bridge overlooking the ocean. I told myself if she ever tells me she doesn’t love me again or cheats, I’m out. I call this the "Bridge Pact".
Shortly after returning, we move to another state yet again. We both look at it as a "fresh start". Life progresses, the kids grow, we become successful in our jobs and I think we have "made it". We are no longer trying to change one another, we have a great life other and we are comfortable having separate interests as well.
Flash forward many years and we are long time empty nesters. Dogs have become our "kids" and we do everything together. I develop a speech disorder and retire early in 2021. For some reason, I become reflective and wonder how many times my wife has cheated on me. Over a year, I become more and more obsessed with that. I think back to the times she said she "didn’t think she loved me", the all night party’s and such and become convinced she was cheating on me then. I also recall a suspicious email from a coworker in 2003 that I just "brushed aside". Was she cheating then?
I finally decided I was going to ask her. I wrote down questions and looked to set the "proper stage". Instead, after drinking and playing in the pool one afternoon (June 2022, I just blurted out the question "how many times have you cheated on me during our marriage". At first she stalled, but I pressed. She finally said "3 times and the last time was in South Carolina". This would have been 32 years prior. I was of course disturbed but this was "in line" with my suspicions. I also named the person the suspicious email was from and she says "I don’t know who that is". I told her I needed to know this information as I had always suspected cheating and I needed to know so I can forgive her and "get out of my head". I told her then and there "I forgive you".
The next morning I woke up early (being haunted by our discussion) and she asked if I wanted to talk more about our discussion. I said no but she said "I do". She then told me that it wasn’t 3 men, it was 11. Also the last one wasn’t in South Carolina, it was in our current state and roughly 18 years ago. I was flabbergasted. How was this even possible? Who is this person?
The rest of the morning was spent going through timelines and details. Most of my questions were met with "I don’t remember". She could (or would) only identify 7 APs. During this discussion, she admitted cheating at the first all night party,she admitted she didn’t break it off with the guy she was seeing when I caught her waiting on him after work (and told her she must as a condition of coming home). She continued to see him for 7-8 more months, took our toddler son with her to meet him and although she hadn’t slept with him when I confronted her, she did sleep with him in our house while pregnant with our daughter (who I had to have DNA tested and is mine). She also admitted a ONS with the guy I questioned about the suspicious email that she "didn’t know who that was". She couldn’t give me any reasons, she continued to lie. She got mad at one point and screamed "I was a whore who went whoring around". I said "I’m done, I’m leaving". She cried and begged me to stay. I relented.
So to keep this from becoming "War and Peace", I will summarize where we were and where we are. I continued to ask for additional information. She lied, minimized, trickle truthed and blamed the marriage for her cheating. Meanwhile I’m looking into MCs, buying books, looking at videos sharing articles. Her nothing. She is incapable of basic empathy. Finally one video struck home around "why the betrayed needs details" and we had D-Day 2 after 4 weeks. She discloses 4 more APs, additional details and timelines. Even while "coming clean" though she continues to lie. It takes 3 days to get to the "final truth". Once again, I’m "done". Too much cheating for too long and too horrible (cheated while pregnant with both kids). I reflect on things for a few days. We decide to get a polygraph. She passes. She still struggles with empathy. Says "I did horrible things and got caught" as an attempt at empathy. Still claims she "can’t remember" critical details. She claims on LTA lasted "several months" but certain milestones indicate it was 18-24 months. She claims she can’t remember if it was 5-6 or 18-24. She also disclosed 4 LTAs over the course of her infidelities. She can’t remember the "basics" (when and how did it start, how long did it go on, when did it become physical, how many times did you have sex, how, when and why did it end) for ANY of the four???
So here’s where I am. She seems truly remorseful for what she has done. She is trying to do the work to determine the "whys" and help us recover. She expresses to me constantly how sorry she is and how much she loves me. She was recently diagnosed with a life threatening illness that explains the memory gaps. But yet, when I lay the history of her cheating over the course of our lives, the first 20 years of our marriage are "tainted". Every memory from that time is ruined. I feel like she "stole my life" not only by cheating but by lying and robbing me of the chance to chose my life’s direction. She not only betrayed me for the 20 years she was actively cheating but for the 18 she "lied by omission". She betrayed me NOW by lying through discovery. All of the "I don’t think I love yous" came AFTER she had cheated (or at least started the inappropriate relationship). "Justification" not "reasons".
As a result of this, I love her as the mother of my children and from a sense of the last 18 years being good. I have lost all "romantic love" and feeling desire for her. Even though this happened many years ago, it feels like it just happened. Due to her illness, leaving isn’t an option. But frankly, I also resent her for getting sick because all of our work on recovery is now on pause.
I don’t even know if I’m looking for advice. But I assume many of you are in a similar place. Do you see your US as "forever unclean" and impossible to be in love with? Or do you "counter balance" the checkbook? Should I look at the 18 "good" cheat free years and the cheating as over and done? That’s hard for me to do. It was still me and still her….I feel like I’m letting down that young man who stood on a bridge in the Florida Keys and made a pact with himself I’m not keeping.
[This message edited by ImaChump at 9:33 PM, Monday, March 27th]