The Other Guy

If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that I’ve barely said anything about the guy my wife had an affair with. I’ve mentioned him several times but have provided almost no details about who he is or how they met, and I certainly haven’t communicated any of the anger that I’ve felt towards him. Now that I’ve decided to do a few blog posts on the detailed story of our affair though, I’ve reached the point that I can’t really continue unless I start to give details about the other guy and my interaction with him.

They met through a mutual friend, a woman who shared his same profession and he had known for a long time.  He’s seven years older than my wife, in his early 50s when they first met, but he has no kids because of infertility issues in his longtime marriage.  He was still married when he and my wife started texting each other regularly but was separated when the physical affair started and divorced by the time I found out about everything.  He had at least one affair with a married woman before my wife, but that’s a fact I didn’t learn until later.

He had been out of work a considerable amount of the last few years of their marriage.  In his defense, he does work in an industry that was significantly effected by the downturn in the economy, although he did curiously find work almost immediately after he could no longer rely on his wife for financial support.  After his separation, he moved to an apartment just one town over from ours.  That gave him plenty of time and opportunity to conduct an affair and put him close enough proximity to be readily available for my wife.

To this day, my wife and I disagree on one point.  By the time the affair ended I had obviously generated a considerable amount of animosity toward this guy (although not nearly as much animosity as I would generate a few months later), and I considered him more guilty than her in the affair.  I absolutely respect her desire to take full responsibility for her own actions, and I’ll admit that I was probably deflecting a considerable amount of anger and blame toward my wife on to him.  I still stand by my rationale though that she risked everything in this affair while he risked nothing.  She had a family and children who’s lives were on the verge of complete devastation. She was the one who had to consistently lie and work out logistics anytime they wanted to meet. Her life, and the lives of so many other people around her, had the potential to be forever altered as a result of this affair, while he had absolutely nothing to lose.

I often wondered how he felt when she left for home after one of their dates. Did he feel guilt that he sat there worry free while she was dealing with the stress of the lies that she would have to tell when she arrived home? Did he ever think about the anxiety that she was enduring to lead her double life? This affair was not an equitable arrangement between the two parties. She undertook most of the work and assumed all of the risk, while he simply enjoyed the benefits.  She willingly agreed to that arrangement, but that didn’t justify his apparent eagerness to take selfishly take advantage of it.

You could certainly argue that I shouldn’t have been worrying about him at all but should instead have been focused solely on my wife who obviously had the power to completely eliminate him from our lives. Affair partners rely on that cliché to help justify their actions and escape their consequences. She and I had months in front of us confronting the pain that we caused each other, and she would not be able to escape the impact of any of her actions. He also needed to answer for his transgressions though.  It was time that he heard from me.

I assumed that he had long ago written me off as any concern, choosing to view me as a simplistic caricature defined my nothing more than the negative traits I’m sure my wife had been focusing on.  He needed to see me as an actual person, a husband and father who had spent years supporting his family and who was now desperately working to save it. Of course, he couldn’t act without the cooperation of my wife, but she was steadily taking responsibility for her actions and working with me to atone for the pain that she had caused. He needed to understand that he was not committing a victimless crime, but that his actions had direct and inalterable consequences on others.

My first communication with him was a text message I sent after intercepting their e-mail exchange.  Rather than remaining content playing the passive role that I had been until this point, I was now actively working to save my marriage and my family.  He needed to understand that he was a direct enemy in that effort.

It’s time for you to get out of my family’s life. Please do not contact [Wife] in any way, whether it be text, email, phone, Facebook, or in person. My wife is going to focus on her family now.

I didn’t receive a response to that message, and I didn’t expect one.  But I wasn’t content being completely ignored, and I followed up with an e-mail that provided some more detail.

I sent you a text message a few days ago but didn’t receive a response.  That doesn’t surprise me since I acknowledge that’s a rather awkward message to respond to.  I wanted to make absolutely sure that you received my message though so I’m following up with this mail.  I’d appreciate at least an acknowledgement that you’ve received it and an agreement to my request, but I admit that I won’t lose any sleep waiting for that.

[Wife] and I are facing some significant issues in our lives and in our marriage.  If we’re going to achieve the life that we want both for ourselves and for our children, we need to confront those issues with honesty and integrity.  Your presence in our life in even the slightest way is detrimental to [wife]’s ability to focus on the healthy relationships that will help her achieve the long term happiness that she deserves.

As I said in my text, please do not contact [Wife] in any way.  I understand that you will be back in [our state] before leaving to [his new state], and I hope that you will be completely nonexistent to my family during that time.  I assume that you’ll be back here at some point in the future, and I’m under no false illusion that there aren’t a multitude of ways for people to communicate remotely.  But I hope that you will show respect toward [Wife], me, and our children by refraining from any kind of contact with her at any time in the future.

I understand that you’re dealing with your own personal life issues, and I sincerely hope that you are able to solve those issues and find your own happiness.  While you may feel that your relationship with [Wife] is in your best interest, it put her long term personal well-being and that of her entire family at significant risk.  That’s a risk that we can longer afford, so I ask you to have the integrity to deal with your issues and live your life completely independent of my family.

I did receive a response to this one, but it was a little underwhelming.

Got your message.  Will reply sometime tomorrow as I’m traveling.

I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised when I didn’t received that promised reply the next day. In fact, it was a couple days later that they met each other at the coffee house.  The mail that I sent him in response to that incident clearly showed that I was no longer interested in being polite.

It may be that you forgot about that reply, but it appears obvious now that you are simply continuing your cowardly pattern of avoiding personal responsibility for the consequences of your actions and a complete disregard for those who get hurt by them.  Throughout this relationship with [Wife], you have continued to selfishly allow her to risk everything important in her life for you, while you risk absolutely nothing.  You have threatened my future and the future of our children, while you risk absolutely nothing.  As long as your desires are met, it doesn’t matter whose lives gets destroyed.  If you have the slightest respect toward [Wife] and her relationship with her family, then it’s now time for you to finally show some integrity and go away, completely and for good.

While it was an entire month before I received a response to this mail, that response had even a greater impact that he probably intended. It appeared that he was trying to argue that the relationship was appropriate, his actions were completely altruistic, and my suspicions were a result of my simplistic views of marriage and relationships (at this point he still thought that I was naïve enough to believe that sex wasn’t involved). If that was his intent, then he failed miserably. If his goal was to anger and confuse me as much as possible though, then he achieved it quite well.  It took over a year before I understood that mail and his motivations behind the affair.  That mail and its analysis though is going to need its own post.


The Affair Finally Ends….but not without a fight

My goal of  trying to avoid a traumatic and abrupt ending to my wife’s affair turned out to be naïve.  While I had been hoping to avoid making the demand that she completely cease communication with the other guy, that was exactly what I had to do in order to end the charade we had been playing for the previous three months.

I was on the web site for our cell provider upgrading the family’s phones when I happened to notice the summary of text messages for each of our numbers.  This is information that I had been actively avoiding for three months.  The volume on my wife’s phone, which far exceeded the others, made it apparent she had been lying about reducing her amount of texting. I clicked on the details and saw exactly what I had seen months earlier, messages continuously throughout every day with distinct gaps at times they were together. The affair hadn’t changed one bit. The only thing that had changed was her ability to hide her actions from me.

The detail that hurt me the most were the texts on a particular evening that my wife and I had spent together. We went for dinner and drinks and stayed in a hotel room just a few miles from home, a much deserved evening to ourselves with no kids. Instead of that time being between just the two of us though, she used any moment when I may have gone to the restroom or simply looked the other way to text the other guy. I couldn’t even spend an evening alone with my wife without the presence of this unwelcome third party.

It was obvious that I couldn’t just wait for the relationship to wind down. I wasn’t angry as much as I was sad and frustrated.  When the kids went to bed, we sat downstairs in the dark while I confronted her with what I had found. I told her I had tried to allow her to manage the ending of this relationship on her terms, but now there was no way I could be expected to stay in this marriage if she was going to have any more contact with this guy.  We both finally agreed that all communication between them would end immediately.  She was so serious about that commitment that she actually encouraged me to monitor her activities to give me piece of mind that they were no longer in contact.  She was essentially telling me to spy on her.

Unfortunately, her commitment lasted less than a week when I intercepted several e-mails between them, including one he sent to her asking to get together in a few days. It was obvious that they had no intention of ending communications or scaling back the relationship at all.  They were just looking for a means of communication that I couldn’t detect.  The composure that I had maintained over all those months finally reached breaking point.

The kids were at school, so I was free to start yelling the moment she walked in the door. She told me that he had messaged her, and she made the mistake of responding instead of informing him that his contact was no longer welcome. She claimed that she didn’t understand his message about meeting because she had been clear with him that the relationship was over.  It was the first time that I called bullshit on her and accused her of knowingly lying to me when she said she was ending the relationship.  She stood firm to her ignorance of his intentions and reiterated her commitment to our marriage and family.

That commitment didn’t last much longer than the previous one.  A week later, she met the other guy at a coffee house giving me an excuse of an excessive wait at a doctor’s appointment. This time I found out by tracking the physical location of her phone. She had coordinated the meeting by texting a mutual friend who texted the other guy on her behalf. Her justification this time was that she had some things to return to him. Of course, that was a logistical issue she could have just told me about, but I yet again let her have the excuse.

I was strangely calm in response to this incident as opposed to my anger at the e-mails because subconsciously I knew it was coming.  By now I had made a critical realization.  Her behavior over the previous couple of weeks wasn’t devious as much as it was desperate and irrational. She knew that I had full access to her e-mail account, and she was the one who told me to spy on her. She had to know that I would be suspicious about her excuse at the doctor, and I had already told her about the ability to track her phone. If her intent was to leave, then she had multiple chances to do that, but she instead continuously reiterated her commitment to her family. If she was actually trying to continue the affair without my knowledge, then she was doing a comically bad job of it.

I realized that I had been waiting for my wife to make the conscious decision to commit herself to her family over this guy. I thought of her in complete control of the situation, but now I realized that no one was in control. She had been in daily contact with this guy for two years. He was her primary confidante during the most emotionally difficult time of her life. He was her source of comfort when she was feeling scared and confused. Is it really reasonable to assume that she would be able to just abruptly end something that had been such an integral part of her life for so long?

It was irrelevant by this point whether she was justified in building that relationship. If I was trying to argue a legal case against her, then she had no defense. If I was going to choose to continue to work on our marriage though, then I had to accept the complexities of human emotion. The reality was that she had built that relationship, and she couldn’t easily walk away from it regardless of her desire to.  While this realization tempered my anger though, it did little calm my anxiety.  The situation in front of us now seemed more random than ever.

You could certainly argue that I was naïve for not demanding that she cease all communication with the other guy once I had discovered the affair. You could also  say that I should have walked away after any of the multiple times that she reneged on her agreement to end it. I have no idea what the outcome would have been had I chosen those actions. It’s entirely possible that I would be sitting in exactly the same place reminiscing about how my firm stance had been the right strategy for saving our marriage. I suspect though that the more likely outcome would be me lamenting about the end of our marriage.  As I said in a previous post, the people who we are now would still be suffering from the impetuous actions of the people we used to be.

The story of the actual affair ends here. I suspect there was further interaction between my wife and the other guy over the next month but nothing that I detected and certainly nothing that I’m concerned about now. He moved to another state for work which obviously helped the situation, although communication between two people in today’s connected world doesn’t worry much about distances. It’s not as if his physical location meant that I could rest easy, and we had considerable work in front of us to recover from the damage of the previous two years.

The charade we were still maintaining though was that the affair didn’t involve sex. I realize how absurd that sounds, and by this point I didn’t honestly believe that sex wasn’t a component of a two year affair as serious as this one. We had so many other issues to confront though I that wasn’t ready to challenge that topic yet. I had minor bits of evidence that refuted her claim but nothing definitive. That evidence did exist though, and I ultimately discovered in one of the worst ways you can imagine. As much I despise teasers, that part of the story deserves its own post.

I also had some things I needed to resolve with the other guy. I certainly hold my wife accountable for her actions, but it’s not as if he was an innocent party. I have specific reasons for hardly mentioning him by this point, but that’s about to change.


The Affair Continues

I explained in my last post how I didn’t demand that my wife end her contact with the other guy when I confronted her with my knowledge of the affair.  My primary rationale, as I explained, was that I wanted her to take the initiative to end that relationship as opposed to me forcing her.  I admit though that I was also quite naïve.  She told me that while the relationship was inappropriate and she had admitting to lying about it multiple times, sex wasn’t involved.  She claimed that she had never considered ending our marriage, and even if she had, it wouldn’t be with him.  At best, according to her at the time, this could be considered an emotional affair, but it certainly wasn’t a romantic one.

The ensuing three months could best be described as her pretending that the affair had ended and me pretending that I believed her.  In reality, it continued on with little change.  They still texted each other regularly, although she claimed that the volume had decreased significantly and the topics of their conversations had substantially changed. She also told me that they never saw each other and that he had essentially returned to just being a friend.  It’s not entirely accurate to say that I believed her because simple logic defied her claims.  But after going through the previous two months, I needed some normalcy, even if it was just a fantasy.

I stopped looking at phone bills and did my best to act as though her texting didn’t bother me.  When she went out with friends, I would do my best not to let my mind wander to suspicion that she might actually be meeting the other guy.  I would avoid glancing at the GPS in our car that recorded its location over the previous few days for fear that I might notice incriminating evidence.  Rather than diligently watching for evidence of the affair as I had previously been doing, I now actively avoided any information that could potentially contradict my fantasy.

I realize how strange and pathetic this sounds, and it’s difficult to explain my rationale. I obviously knew that pretending the affair was over didn’t automatically make it so, yet that’s exactly how I was acting.  While I didn’t understand it at the time, I was scared that if I actually discovered something incriminating, I would be forced to act on it. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t being completely passive and that I still had some sense of personal pride. If I found definitive evidence that she was lying, I would either have to act on it before I felt prepared, or I would have to drop my façade of confidence and admit how pathetic I was. I was simply trying to hang on until some kind of solution appeared, although I obviously had no idea whatsoever what that solution might be.

There was also a part of me that felt like I didn’t have the right to demand an abrupt end to the relationship. As my wife and I talked more about her unhappiness in the marriage, I realized that she had created a life for herself that didn’t include me because I had chosen not to be a part of it. Obviously, she had no right to conduct an affair while still maintaining a marriage, and she had no legitimate excuse for lying. While the actions she had taken in response to her unhappiness couldn’t be justified though, her unhappiness was entirely legitimate. Before I completely took away the life that she had built, I felt as if I needed to first provide her with a quality alternative.

During that time, I was more focused on maintaining the illusion of a quality marriage than in actually having one.  But I also felt like we were rehearsing for the long term marriage that we both wanted.  That was a marriage where I wasn’t paranoid about my wife’s activities and where I could trust her without spying, so that’s exactly the pretense that I adopted.  As naïve as it may sound, our relationship was actually improving. While there was obviously a considerable amount of turmoil behind the scenes, we were starting to act more like a married couple should. We spent more time together, and had regularly talks at an emotional depth that we had never before experienced. Of course, she was withholding awfully significant information, but we were nonetheless confronting the negative aspects of our marriage and communicating at an entirely new emotional depth.

But while I remained optimistic, the stress continued to take its toll on me. I still had periodic panic attacks and trouble sleeping. My weight loss continued to the point that I had to buy new clothes, something I actually embraced. While we were playing our charade of the happy couple, my physical appearance was a constant indicator of the stress that I was enduring. I could communicate that stress while I continued to play the role of the happy husband. It was my silent message to my wife that my well being came secondary to the needs of my family, and I was making it clear how much I was willing to sacrifice.

While I may have been naïve and scared though, I wasn’t completely stupid. I knew that we couldn’t continue in this manner indefinitely, and all contact with the other guy was going to eventually have to end if we were going to continue our marriage. My hope was that as our relationship steadily improved, she would lose her desire for the other guy. Rather than having to abruptly cut him loose, he would just simply fade away. In other words, my naiveté continued right up until the end.

As I’ll describe in the next post, the abrupt ending that I was trying to avoid turned out to be inevitable.