10 year relationship, 2 year marriage. And now he questions what true love is
Asked Nov 20, 2008, 10:28 AM
Background (it's a long one, too):
We are in our mid 20's and have known each other for 10 years. We dated exclusively through high school but without any commitment to marriage. That "in love" blissful feeling lasted for quite some time, well into our college years. He has always been a "helper" and has a very soft heart for anyone in need. I've always been the practical one.
Around our 2nd year in college he started spending money (or credit, rather) impulsively on his hobby (cars) and racked up a good amount of debt for a college kid with a poorly paying full-time job. I recall helping him out here and there to help pay it down and this brought us closer. However, as soon as he paid it down, he found some other car or something else to blow all his credit on again. This time daddy bailed him out, but with some pretty soft conditions. His family and myself were concerned for the pattern of behavior at this point. This cycle happened maybe 2 more times before he proposed to me. However, the last 2 times it felt much more like a betrayal than an event that could bring us closer together. There were arguments, some major and some minor, over this terrible habit. And it was all for his best interest, because as I saw it, I wasn't sure if we would go on to be married or not. (Though at this point marriage was in fact talked about, and he explained it was something he really wanted.)
And so, he proposed after almost 6 years of dating. In the 2 years between proposal and wedding, there were more ups and downs involving his financial situation. We didn't feel rushed into planning the wedding and it was a huge event going on at a busy time in our lives. In this engagement period, he decided to abandon his degree and start a business venture. I loved the idea of it, but hated 2 very important things about it: the funding and the timing. Old habits die hard and he insisted he could start it out on credit (read: credit cards.) As well as the fact that hey, we're about to get married and will be looking to buy a home (most likely a fixer-upper.) The business venture would be operated basically part-time after his day job and on the weekends, except for Sunday. The business was a great idea itself, but I am not a yes-man (err, woman.) And I regret not being more supportive, but he has always been the dreamer, and I've always been the doer and I couldn't let him burn himself with poor judgments.
So 6 months before we were married, he changed jobs to the one he is currently at, and we saw a noticeable increase in pay, but longer hours; up from 40 to about 55 hours a week. And around the same time, he began his business venture. Things were going so well at first. But then came some stumbling blocks in his business which caused time and money to be lost. To be fair, each instance was not his fault. Purely bad luck unrelated to the time and effort and money that he invested. And with these problems, he was forced to put more and more time and money into the business to keep the wheels turning and fulfill his obligations to customers. *This was a very very hard time for us, as I was trying to be as understanding as possible, but our relationship was put on auto-pilot for an entire year or more.
And this brings us nearly up to date now and the revelations of last week...
I found out last Wednesday that my husband has been pursuing a relationship with a woman he works with. It started 3 months ago as a coworker-type friendship and within a month they revealed they "liked and cared for each other." This woman is 22, 3 years younger than him, with a 4 year old child. She is in a controlling relationship but still lives with her parents. She smokes, invested $8,000 on implants, but is broke. He also acknowledged that she also has a very extensive reputation at work for being a "user." Every bit of these traits he claims to not be able to stand, and that they are all very unappealing to him. All of this from my husband's mouth. I had inklings that something just wasn't right when I noticed purchases for a woman's consignment shop every couple of weeks and finally, a florist charge to our account. Everything was explained away with lies that sounded somewhat reasonable. The defining moment was when he came in from work and took a shower and there on the console table his phone was beeping with text messages. They were semi-casual but it became very obvious that some sort of relationship had developed. My husband and I continued through this entire time to have our "normal" relationship without me really knowing (good and bad days, never arguing, but he was clearly stressed from his 9-5 job and his business venture and the cycling debt of credit cards and loans.
Over the past week he revealed to me that he began having doubts about our relationship and eventually marriage each time we went through the tough financial times. But these times did cycle and so he would feel good at many times as well. But he is now questioning what he wants out of life as far as his business venture goes (he claims he will never be involved in the industry again - a far-fetched idea, if you know him). As well as what our love means. He has asked, "Are we just best friends who got married?" "I just don't know if this is true love." etc... And that this person brought something new to the table: she didn't know about past indiscretions and mistakes he made, both professionally and personally, and therefore, she never talked about that part of life. They had gone to lunch but had no physical interaction. He says he likes her "a lot" but could never imagine saying he loves her because he has only known her for 3 months.
I was deeply hurt and saddened obviously. And I really didn't know what I should do. I know that I never felt the confusion that he does and I do think our relationship is worth saving. He says he is not ready to talk about a divorce and I am not either. I asked him if he wanted to work things out and his response was something like: yes, but I need to know why I feel the way I do about her so I can't just stop talking to her. Digging deep, trying to be objective, I just asked that he try and figure out his feelings for me first. He agreed but quickly went back on his word and began texting her again during his days at work. 4 days passed after he told me about this and she called one night while he was sleeping. I felt really compelled to just let her know that I really loved him and cared about him. I answered the phone and did just that. I did not ask her to stop doing anything or to do anything in particular. And I told her my only reason for picking up the phone was to express how much love I have for my husband.
That turned into an hour long conversation in which she divulged that she had been lied to all along. That he had not been wearing his wedding ring in her presence (though in his industry there are times when it is a safety hazard-so he could have an excuse either way as to why he wasn't wearing it.) And that he had either implicitly or explicitly said that we were going through a separation or divorce and that I was an understanding person who just wants him to be happy. That he wasn't even sleeping at home and that we were continuing life as friends but nothing else. He led her to believe that his financial situation was perfect, no problems at all. All lies, not an ounce of truth except for the part where, of course, I do in fact want him to be happy. She concluded the conversation saying that she would have nothing to do with him. That he is just another typical man and that if I still love him, she wishes me the best with trying to make it work.
I let him know that we spoke and he was so embarrassed and so exposed. He told me he felt depressed and that he just felt like a complete failure in life. He acknowledged he had been lying to her as well. But in the past 5 days since my conversation with her, I have found that she has lied to me as well (I didn't take anything she said for truth, except what I could prove to be true.)
And now my response and thought process:
I am so deeply hurt and saddened by everything, there were several days of crying and I eventually reached out to his parents and my mother. I let him know how I feel and that I do believe in forgiveness, but that I won't be used as a backup or anything of the sort.
Perhaps I'm being optimistic, but I see the questioning part as a normal part of life. I have at times questioned myself and my feelings, but have always come back to embracing our lives together. And of course, never acting on those feelings. I feel he is using her as an escape from the stresses of daily life and the reality of our financial situation. His parents have offered to pay for couples counseling (just starting off with 1 session and seeing where that goes.) He said he would be ok with that but I am afraid to push him further away and have not yet asked him when he would like to go. He continues to tell me that I mean more to him than anything else in this world, that he cares so deeply for me, and that he does love me. He just doesn't know if that love is what he is supposed to feel for your wife. I am well aware that it is possible he has just fallen out of love with me and this could be the end. And to that extent, I have prepared myself.
** I'm quite sure I might have left some details out, but felt most of what I have written was vital in understanding our situation. It is quite long-winded, so forgive me for that. I really don't have any particular questions in mind. I am just looking for any thoughts that may come to mind that I am overlooking. Please also feel free to ask any questions that could better clarify the situation.