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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Sorry for the long post that follows, but I feel I need to give some context for my questions at the end.

My wife and I have been married for over 27 years. It hasn’t always been the easiest of marriages (on either side), but I believed that we loved each other and we have two wonderful daughters on whom we both dote. On July 26 of this year I came home to find my wife’s email open on the office computer. She had been in a rush to leave the house for a meeting that evening. I normally don’t snoop. I have always respected her privacy and tried to give her space. I knew she spent a lot of time on Facebook, catching up mostly with family and old friends. I also knew that she had kept in touch with a couple of old boyfriends—guys with whom she had shared a lot of history before our relationship started.

I decided to search her account for emails to/from both of these guys. In one case I found a handful of messages. Most were chatty and a wee bit nostalgic, but nothing too threatening. When searching the other guy’s name, however, I found about 150 different conversations, some containing several emails in exchange, dating back to 2007. The most recent message had been about four months earlier and it did not seem overtly inappropriate. Yet, I came across exchanges from February that referenced their disappointment at not having “consummated” their relationship at the “hotel.” That exchange was followed by messages from her to him a couple weeks later saying how she was driving to work and the song “I Need You Now” came on the radio and she thought of him the rest of the way in to work.

I then went back and read as many messages as I could, forwarding some of the most offensive ones to my email as evidence and for later review to see if I had misunderstood. When I got to the end of the list, in 2007, it was clear that the communication predated those messages. That evening I confronted her about what I’d found.

She turned ashen, said she was sorry that I got hurt, but then launched into a monologue about how frustrated she was with our relationship—essentially suggesting it was my fault. We stayed up very late talking that evening and she answered many of my questions, but each answer seemed to create more questions from me. Several hours and Martinis later we were both exhausted and she was drunk, so I helped her into our bed. I couldn’t sleep so I went into the kitchen with her laptop and loaded spyware on her computer. I just had to know the extent of her contact with him and when/how it started. Within a couple of days I had passwords to her email accounts and her Facebook account. What I saw sickened and saddened me.

He was an old love who found her on the Internet in late 2005 after more than a decade of no contact. She apparently was very happy to hear from him and things progressed quickly into a pretty intense EA, but not a PA, as he lived 300+ miles away. There was one meeting, in 2006, but all communication indicated that things never progressed to actual sexual activity. There were also several phone calls and some scattered text messages. From what I could tell, it appeared that the EA pretty much petered out in 2007, though they still maintained contact with communication that occasionally crossed lines for the next 3-1/2 years. Their last communication was in April of this year, so things were more or less cooled down or even over by then. During the most intense periods, my wife would frequently bring up her guilt and concerns that they were being untrue to their spouses. They even took “breaks” from each other, but never for very long. It was like they (especially she) couldn’t control themselves—they needed that contact.

We had some heart- and gut-wrenching days in the aftermath of my discovery, but she and I have agreed to work on our marriage and have made a lot of progress in the past four months. There has been NC since the spring as far as I know, but definitely not since July, unless she has gone completely underground. (Call me naïve, but I don’t have any reason to believe that is the case.) I did drive the five-plus hours to confront the OM back in October and he corroborated both the NC and that things had died down several months earlier. I threatened to expose him to his wife if I discovered any other contact and he seemed to take my threat seriously (smart of him to do so).

My wife has apologized for the hurt she caused and tells me that she wants to rebuild our relationship; that she didn’t marry him for good reason—she married me and knows that I am best for her. She suggested marriage counseling, which we will start after the holidays. I resisted marriage counseling initially because I needed to get my head around my own feelings and my desire to stay married.

I believe she is sincere and that she loves me. Still, the images of some of her words to him haunt me and there are many days that I am not sure what to feel. I’ve loved her in all senses of the word during the entirety of our marriage. She still makes my heart jump when I hear her voice or she enters a room. What is gnawing at me is whether she, in turn, loves me only in the comfortable/practical sense; the he’s such a good man and my love for him has matured over time, etc. If that is the case, I’d rather find a way to end things amicably than to live out the next 25 years in a marriage where I’m still “in love” with her, but it is not reciprocal.

She knows I have seen the emails and have copies of most of them. She tells me I shouldn’t read them—implying that I am being unfair to her and that reading them serves only to dredge up the past. Her position is that if she had engaged in a “real” (her word) affair, that I wouldn’t have recordings of their conversations. I maintained that I needed to see the exchanges to understand what this EA really was and put it into the context of our marriage and lives at the time. I needed to see how she referred to our relationship, how she felt about him, and then I could decide if we could recover from the EA. I don’t go back to read them often, but when I do, it is usually to see what was going on in our relationship and our lives and what they were communicating about. Reading them almost always saddens and/or angers me.

She believes that we need to focus on the future. I agree, but I can’t stop thinking of what happened and how blind I was to it all. I acknowledged my contribution to the state our relationship was in and I have been working hard to re-commit to her and our girls. She recognizes the effort I am making, being more attentive at home, being less distracted by work and other things. But I am not sure what she is doing other than not contacting him, to help make things better. We have shared some get-away time together, regular time to talk during the week, and have planned some activities that we will both enjoy. I worry, however, that these activities won’t be enough to sustain us into the future.

There is a lot more to the story, but four months out things are better. I am less anxious, but my confidence is beaten down and I go through frequent periods when I feel like I am going to burst with sadness or with sheer anger—mainly felt toward her. Many times I’ve wanted to tell her I am leaving and I might have done that if it weren’t for our youngest, still in Jr. high. Our break up would literally devastate her. I want to believe that we will make things work, but I have frequent feelings that I need to move on. Not solely because of this EA, but more because of how it fits into the context of our nearly three-decade relationship.

So, I plan to hang on to my copies of the messages. They are both an insurance policy and a reminder of my naivete in trusting that something like this couldn't happen without my knowing it. The question is whether you all think I should follow my wife’s request and quit looking back at them so we can focus on the future? Is re-reading them simply asking for heartache and doubt or is it a healthy part of my recovery?
 

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Well you can't really move on until you stop reading them, but you get to move on at your own pace not her's. So, when you get to where you've had enough and want to start putting it behind you stop reading them.

When you arrive at that point I would not delete them were I you. I would transfer them to a jump drive, then delete them off my computer, and put the jump drive somewhere that it was hard for me to get to on an impulse. Safety deposit box??
 

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So, I plan to hang on to my copies of the messages. They are both an insurance policy and a reminder of my naivete in trusting that something like this couldn't happen without my knowing it. The question is whether you all think I should follow my wife’s request and quit looking back at them so we can focus on the future? Is re-reading them simply asking for heartache and doubt or is it a healthy part of my recovery?
First - sorry that you are here. We all would rather be somewhere else.

My thoughts - as long as your W is making the effort, you need to make the effort to move forward as well. Rereading these emails is unnecessary unless you like reliving the pain.

Re-reading will only invite heartache and conflict. I'm not suggesting you forget the EA (let's be honest, you'll never forget) but make a conscious decision to move forward with your lives.

I'm not sure why you'd need to keep them as an "insurance" policy, but if you elect to keep them put them somewhere secure where you can't easily access them. A safety deposit box, with a trusted family member/friend, etc.
 

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I know there are two sides to every story, but it seems like so much of the focus in the recovery is based on you being able to be good enough to keep her from pursuing other relationships. It really comes across as if her importance in the relationship is elevated above your own, and she is pretty happy with the status quo. What about her? What is she doing to prove that she is good enough for you? To prove that she is worthy of another chance? Sorry if I'm only reading into the situation, but it just seems this way. For quite a few years, you were faithful and true, but she was pursuing other relationships. Yes, you need to get past reading the old emails, but you can't get past this alone.

What I'm getting at is that if it feels like reconciliation will be settling for something less than a healthy marriage, where you are not valued, then you should only put the emails aside when you are confident that reconciliation will lead to a future where you are valued as a husband. She placed your child's happiness at risk with the long term pursuit of other men. Seems like it would feel natural for her to do the heavy lifting to mend things - but the post isn't clear about what she is doing in that respect.
 

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you should expose the OM to his wife btw, she deserves to know


know that healing from this will take 2-5 years on average

in fact in some ways I found that 3-10 month period to be the hardest
 

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I know there are two sides to every story, but it seems like so much of the focus in the recovery is based on you being able to be good enough to keep her from pursuing other relationships.

I got the same feeling as you described her reaction to you finding out- what she did is called blameshifting

does the marriage need work and are there things you need to improve to be better? yes

but the infidelity needs to be the main focus and she needs to own up to it 100%, it was entirely her choice to have the affair
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks to all for your advice and support. I appreciate everyone's perspectives as I try to sort this out.

Walt--the insurance is because I told the OM I would expose him to his wife if he made contact again.

I also am struggling with the notion that I am the only one who is doing any heavy lifting in our reconciliation attempt so far. That's pretty consistent with my role as "the fixer" throughout our relationship. I've talked a bit more about that aspect in another thread, http://talkaboutmarriage.com/coping-infidelity/35332-do-people-just-assume-3.html#post494783.

I am hoping that our counseling sessions provide an opportunity to address this aspect more directly.

Peace to all.
 

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You can't fix this one because you didn't break it - she did and she HAS to be the one to fix it. Any other way it's rug sweeping and it won't get fixed or addressed and that dramatically increases the odds that she'll become a repeat offender at some point in the future.
 

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I think you're still reading them, because they remind you that she still hasn't really made up for what she did.

Sure it was in the past, but it was there and very hurtful. And while she is sorry you read it, is she truly remorseful. does she truly recant the things she said and meant to him?

There is also the fact that she hid this from you so long. No both of you know that she is completely capable of looking you in the eye, sleeping in the same bed, and keeping treacherous secrets.

Is that the act of someone you can trust and love, or someone you have to always check up on.

right now she hasn't done a darn thing to show to you that she is trust worthy - all she has done is apparently stopped contact with him, but how can you truly know? This woman is an accomplished liar.
 

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This whole thing is very fresh in your mind. You must take time to process the whole thing. At some point, putting away those emails would be the best for everyone. But, right now, you are still at the point of obsessing over those emails and I understand you cannot help yourself. So, keep reading them if you feel you must. Just know that you must try weaning off those temptations gradually.

MC is a must. And, do not try being so nice to your W. From what I hear, you seem like a loving caring H all these years and what excuse she comes up with is her cowardly attempt to blame shift. Nothing more. Tell her that you do not accept any fault in her choosing to have this EA. Tell her to show you that she is sincere in repairing this M. Ask her what she is willing to do to prove herself. Make her do the work.
 

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Well for one thing in your favor, your wife and the OM decided your marriages were more important than the EA they were having. This may have had something to do with when they met up. Not very clear on this meeting. In any event, it luckily looks like they saw through the fantasy at some point.

Its been pointed out very good people can get themselves caught up in affairs before they realize what is happening. Harley says people can actually end up in love with two people at the same time.

You two really need a third party to go over this to see what can be done. Be aware however you need to get a counselor that deals in infidelity and if you go to one make sure you like him/her. If not find another.
 

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I decided to search her account for emails to/from both of these guys. In one case I found a handful of messages. Most were chatty and a wee bit nostalgic, but nothing too threatening. When searching the other guy’s name, however, I found about 150 different conversations, some containing several emails in exchange, dating back to 2007. The most recent message had been about four months earlier and it did not seem overtly inappropriate. Yet, I came across exchanges from February that referenced their disappointment at not having “consummated” their relationship at the “hotel.” That exchange was followed by messages from her to him a couple weeks later saying how she was driving to work and the song “I Need You Now” came on the radio and she thought of him the rest of the way in to work.

...



He was an old love who found her on the Internet in late 2005 after more than a decade of no contact. She apparently was very happy to hear from him and things progressed quickly into a pretty intense EA, but not a PA, as he lived 300+ miles away. There was one meeting, in 2006, but all communication indicated that things never progressed to actual sexual activity. There were also several phone calls and some scattered text messages. From what I could tell, it appeared that the EA pretty much petered out in 2007, though they still maintained contact with communication that occasionally crossed lines for the next 3-1/2 years. Their last communication was in April of this year, so things were more or less cooled down or even over by then. During the most intense periods, my wife would frequently bring up her guilt and concerns that they were being untrue to their spouses. They even took “breaks” from each other, but never for very long. It was like they (especially she) couldn’t control themselves—they needed that contact.


My wife has apologized for the hurt she caused and tells me that she wants to rebuild our relationship; that she didn’t marry him for good reason—she married me and knows that I am best for her. She suggested marriage counseling, which we will start after the holidays. I resisted marriage counseling initially because I needed to get my head around my own feelings and my desire to stay married.

I believe she is sincere and that she loves me. Still, the images of some of her words to him haunt me and there are many days that I am not sure what to feel. I’ve loved her in all senses of the word during the entirety of our marriage. She still makes my heart jump when I hear her voice or she enters a room. What is gnawing at me is whether she, in turn, loves me only in the comfortable/practical sense; the he’s such a good man and my love for him has matured over time, etc. If that is the case, I’d rather find a way to end things amicably than to live out the next 25 years in a marriage where I’m still “in love” with her, but it is not reciprocal.


...


So, I plan to hang on to my copies of the messages. They are both an insurance policy and a reminder of my naivete in trusting that something like this couldn't happen without my knowing it. The question is whether you all think I should follow my wife’s request and quit looking back at them so we can focus on the future? Is re-reading them simply asking for heartache and doubt or is it a healthy part of my recovery?

Keep the insurance. You'll need them.

Your wife has been in another relationship since 2005. You have been relegated to a backup position. It doesnt matter what she said about marrying you since she now has clearly changed her mind.

She is in survival mode. Her suggestion of marriage counseling will be a waste of time and money if her heart is not into it. How does one break a relationship with a "good man" and settle with comfort. Comfort does not turn the crank, does not put the desire for you back into her head.

She'll always think of her ex, her recent interactions with him -- you'll never wipe that from her head.

For now, I suggest that you remove yourself from any joint bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc. Start hiding or securing your assets.

Get yourself a voice activated recorder, VAR. Get several if you can afford them and tape one under the seat of her car, and a few around the house where she is able to talk privately.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks again to all who've offered your thoughts. I think the difficulty in not reading the messages is partly a desire to understand/corroborate things she's told me about their relationship--what it was, what it became, and what it is now. I am also driven in part by good ole morbid curiosity with maybe a twinge of self-pity. As I indicated the EA was in a much more dangerous place 4-5 years ago and then it settled down into more of an exchange between intimate (though not overtly sexual) friends.

I think my wife doesn't seem to understand how raw I've felt because to her the EA was largely over years ago. They've had numerous opportunities to meet again since 2006 and chose not to. That doesn't lessen the sting of their one (non-consummated) meeting, nor does it salve the wounds that were opened by some of the things she shared with him or her need to communicate with him, but it does count for something.

Aug--thanks for the advice. I must remind you that you're getting the story from me. I am sure my biased perspective influences how I characterize the situation. As in any long-term marriage, there are at least two sides to what was happening. That doesn't mean that I will go blindly forth. I have passwords to email and Facebook accounts and am monitoring her laptop as well as our home computers. I monitor the phone records closely. There are still ways for her to communicate outside these channels, but nothing is airtight and if I am to recommit to the marriage I will have to be able to let go of my fears and learn to trust again. I don't think that if we don't make it she will rush into the arms of the OM. He is in a long-term marriage that, from what I read, he doesn't want to leave.

Though I have remained faithful, I don't want you all to get the impression that I have been the perfect husband. I have my own demons to exorcise--both for myself and in the context of our relationship. I am hoping that these can be addressed in counseling. If I can deal with my issues, she can deal with hers, and we can find better ways to communicate as a couple, I think we have an excellent chance to make it. I don't see the road as easy, and I am sure I will continue to have many bad days, but I do have hope based on what has been occurring these past four months.
 

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Though I have remained faithful, I don't want you all to get the impression that I have been the perfect husband.

no one is

and there was nothing you did that caused her to cheat

self-improvement is always fine, working on your half of the marriage is also needed, but understand two things-

1) much of her reasoning for cheating in regards to your behavior is blameshifting and often exaggerated or even false. Cheaters will vilify their spouses in order to justify to themselves to betray their spouse.
2) the main onus is on her to do what's needed to repair the marriage
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks, AR. I have started to express to her concerns that I've long had about our relationship--concerns that I swallowed in the interest of maintaining the peace or for which I found less than positive ways to cope.

I do think that counseling will provide a way for us to talk about these painful issues in a constructive and forward-thinking way. In the course of 27+ years there is much I have left out of our story, including a lot of history that influences my view of this EA. In fact, the EA has given me reason to re-examine some old ghosts in our relationship. I don't think we can adequately address any of those issues on our own.

I don't want to rug-sweep, but gotta admit that it's tempting at times to think about just moving forward and forgetting about the past.
 

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I still have emails my husband sent. Our Dday was March 2010. I am not ready to delete them, but it's months since the last time I opened them. I don't know if I will ever delete them. He knows I have them but he also knows it's up to me when to get rid of them.

I have visions of their deletion being some kind of symbolic act in the undefined future when I feel we have healed enough.
 
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