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Broken trust, emotional infidelity and the bitter aftermath

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Here's my dilemma. I'm a married, newly-turned-51 year old woman who's husband is approaching 57. Six years ago, he spent quite a lot of time one year going out with 2 of his new, younger, female co-workers who are very attractive and about 20 to 25 years younger than him and with whom he'd gone out quite a lot to night clubs, parties at their houses, other co-workers' houses, etc. One of them had 2 young children who I assume she left with babysitters. Her husband worked nights, and I believe he knew she was out and the fact that my husband was with them (he has always looked much older than his age) made it okay for his vivacious wife to go out. Yes, I believe in this woman's husband's eyes, my husband “legitimized” his wife being out on the town so often with her co-workers. This is how I've explained it to myself since, at any rate. Where was I? I was in another state, with our 3 children and 2 dogs, working at a job which he'd encouraged me to consider and to take. There would be a lot of perks for our kids. But after one year there, my husband had not found work and he needed to return home to his previous job while the children and I remained for another year. The story was that he was going to work on his Master's degree to advance his work cause for a better life for his family. He took one class during that entire year.


My husband was often not available by phone when I would need to talk with him. I assumed he was attending ball games or had merely forgotten to charge his phone or didn't have it with him. When he did fly out to visit, though I'd had trouble reaching him by phone when I needed him, his new female co-worker friends, whom I'd never met, would call him as he was entering our house. I would be standing there as he answered their questions, “Yes, I just walked in. She's right here” ( I assume referring to me). I do remember marveling that they were taking some of our family's time with him chitchatting when they could have talked with him on his return. Afterwards, he would explain it was Maggie and Katie, his friends, wondering if he'd made it safely. He told me he would go out with them and other coworkers. He told me all about Maggie's 2 young children, her husband and about how Maggie and Katie (who looked like a Barbie doll, that's what his male co-workers said according to him) had “hearts of gold” and that I was really going to like them. Believe it or not, I was not jealous. I was actually glad he wasn't lonely!!


When he received texts from them, he'd read them, laugh, then tell me their pet name for him was “Buttercup.” Really. And though I almost can't believe it now myself, again, I was not jealous. I was amazed that he knew how to text. This continued each of the handful of times he was able to fly or drive out to visit his family. I ended up moving back at the end of the year due to some serious health scares on my part (and I was handling my job which was a major time commitment, 3 kids and their illnesses, doctor visits, dental issues, school issues, etc., vet visits, paying the bills, dishes, groceries, laundry, athletic events/practices, etc all by myself. When the serious health scare made me realize that I needed to be back home, we moved back.


I met the coworkers. Liked them. We went out with the 2 of them to a concert and then to Maggie's house one night for what I assumed was a party for many of the co-workers, but it was just the 4 of us and I was way overdressed having completely misunderstood what this event was. Apparently, the 3 often met like this causally to have drinks, talk about work and talk about their co-workers. They did that night too, but the difference is, I began to see another side to these two women. In talking about their co-workers, they talked about their “work husbands” which as it turned out were essentially men they worked with who were smitten with them and who would do for them whatever they asked. There are several.


Okay, they're very attractive, I guess they're using it. I began to have a vague suspicion that my husband was a “work husband” or worse, an old lap dog. They “trashed” the work-husbands' wives. Another red flag. They even talked about one young male co-worker who was nearly engaged to a young woman he'd been dating, but they were laughing and bragging about how if Katie wagged her finger at him, he'd drop his girlfriend (now his wife) in a heartbeat because he was so taken with her. Katie is tall with long blond hair, very attractive and very friendly as is Maggie, the red-head. Of course he'd be taken with her. But it struck me as odd that they'd say these things. Katie was out of that co-workers' league as a romantic interest. Anyone could have seen that, surely the co-worker, too. Why did they feel the need to brag about her power over him? Did they need self-validation?


Katie complained about how her new boyfriend was sending her pictures of his private parts by phone That was the first I'd heard of this kind of thing at that time. I remember wondering why she would be dating such a pig.


Then the girls directed conversation to some of the things they'd done with my husband – the places they'd gone, the people they'd been with. Most of it I already knew about from my husband. Then they brought up the name of Jill B., another co-worker with whom they often went out, apparently. My husband had never mentioned her. When I found out that she worked in the ________ department, another flag went up. I suddenly recalled an odd comment that my husband had made on the phone to me about a year earlier in the fall when we he'd first moved back home while we were still in the other state. He'd said, “I really like the _________ department. They're really nice.” Now, I knew almost everyone in that department. They were really nice. They were also people that my husband had known for a long time - years. I guess that's why it didn't make sense. But in view of the fact that another young woman, about 15 years his junior, was new working there and she had been part of their party crowd, I began to get a bad feeling. Then I told myself that I was being a silly, jealous wife. It's possible that this woman was just another middle aged or older woman who went along with them. But Katie and Maggie told me she was in her 30's. Then I told myself that she wasn't necessarily a pretty woman, my husband can have female friends, even pretty ones, without it being a problem. But as if reading my mind, Katie said, “I have pictures of her, here, have a look.” On her camera (which was nearby even though this wasn't her house were pictures of a very attractive dark haired and shapely woman. A pang of jealousy hit. But I tried squelching it by telling myself, “She's probably married and has kids.” Again, as if reading my mind, they told me, “She's married to her second husband and she HATES him. “ Turns out, my husband had been to her house, too, and supposedly met her second husband, at least, that's what he later said. However, the fact that he never once mentioned this Jill, and that she was a member of the ________ department that he “really liked” and she had been out with them a lot, and they had all been to her house, I have to believe he had(s) a crush on her, as well as on these 2 young women who I am now seeing in a whole new light, a very unflattering light as 2 users of men and abusers of other women and of their own femininity. I do not know if they have other true women friends, or only each other. Jill had moved away after that year (before my return home) and I don't get the impression that she stayed in contact with Maggie and Katie or any of their partying crowd, including my husband.


Then Katie and Maggie told me about one Saturday night when they were all out at a club, and Katie and Maggie wanted to smoke pot (something that would get them fired quickly were it known), but Jill would not take part in that. (My husband also had not told me that they girls had smoked pot. He does not). So they asked my husband to drive Jilll to the next club where they were going to meet. (Now I suspect that they knew he was smitten with this Jill and they were setting up a “situation”.) In this manner, they lead me to see that not only did my husband have a “thing” for this young, attractive woman from the _________ department who “detested “ her second husband, but he'd actually driven her alone on a Saturday night to a club, just the two of them, (for I don't know how long), and worst of all, he'd never mentioned her name to me, nor that he'd driven her to the place, dressed up on a Saturday night, in his car. What else may have happened? Did he make a move on Jill? If so, she would surely have told these two. Perhaps that was what they were going to tell me next, or wanted me to know.


My heart was pounding with fury at my husband's deception and emotional infidelity, and at what I sensed these two “golden-hearted” girls were trying to do, but I kept my cool. I was polite, responsive but not overly sociable at what was left of our time there. Though I was anxious to leave, I tried not to show it. Once we finally did leave, after we got into the car and drove out of sight, I started hitting my husband. I had never done such a thing in our 25 years of marriage, but I flailed away at him. The fight continued well into the night after we got home. It was physical. He was rough but didn't hurt me, though he acted as if he was going to a time or two. We did damage to the walls, to some of the furniture and to each other. We've never behaved this way before. Our 3 children were home. I doubt that they slept through this, but must have been afraid to come out.


My husband developed bruising about his chest and arms the next few days. We've had many fights and prolonged distant spells where we hardly talk since. It's been a rough 5 years since this “revelation” made by his beautiful, vivacious co-workers. In the meantime, he continues working with the 2 young beauties though he is not going out with them. I had told him he was to stop any but the most necessary contact with them and not to tell them about what happened between us. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction of having caused such turmoil in our marriage. We would not be going to any of their parties or socializing any further with them. I do not know if we've even been invited. My husband does not speak of them at all, though I know he sees them daily, and works quite closely with Katie for weeks and months on end at times. Yet he never mentions them to me now, even though I know he sees them and talks to them at the very least. What else, I cannot know. I believe he lies to me about the amount of contact he has with Katie. He doesn't mention them at all in the years since, even though I know he's working with them and sees them regularly, if not routinely during long stretches.


In retrospect, I've tried to look at this in different lights to see if I misinterpreted. What would have been their motivation? If they'd been true girlfriends of mine, I'd never have suspected an intent to harm. But they hardly knew me. They didn't do this to me for my benefit, as in to warn me of my philandering husband. On the other hand, because they hardly knew me, they also didn't do it because they disliked me or had something against me. They knew my husband much better and had spent a lot of time with him. Why would they do this to him? He's generally someone that others enjoy being around, as did they. They had to know this would be bad for his marriage. Were they trying to wreck his marriage?


In this type of questioning, I also began to remember the odd phone calls my husband would receive when we lived out of state just as he was walking into the door of our house after his flight and trip by car to our home to visit the wife and family he had not seen for months. Katie and Maggie must have known about when to call so that he would answer his phone in front of his wife so that she would know that women were calling him. I now believe these calls to be strategically planned. I have to believe that the texts which he would receive from them during his time visiting us were also strategically planned for a snooping wife. They would call him “Buttercup” in these texts. I never saw them. I did not snoop, didn't need to, nor did the idea occur to me. My husband would read his texts, laugh, and tell me their pet name for him. He thought it was cute. Incredibly, I was still not jealous. As long as he was telling me these things, I didn't feel at all threatened. I was not jealous, that is, until that night a year later at Maggie's house when they made sure they told me about Jill B., the young woman my husband had not spoken of to me. I've often felt since then that there was more that Maggie and Katie were going to tell me, but didn't. Perhaps my lack of reaction or a sudden change of subject prevented it. I'll never know now. I do know that I see these 2 women in a very different light since that night. “Golden hearted” is definitely NOT what I would call them. Cold-hearted might be more appropriate, though somehow not sinister enough for these two in my opinion. Cancerous. Malignant.


Was I being jealous, petty or just misinterpreting that night? I don't think I misinterpreted. Though these 2 women are the only ones I've ever met where I suspected this, I think they are 2 egotistical, cold-hearted women who like to create this kind of turmoil – because they can, because they're bored, because they're soul less, take your pick. Maybe it's all of the above. I have many lovely, wonderful women friends. I've never known anyone like these two. It's as if they're 2 grown beautiful women stuck in the minds of petty, amoral middle school girls as the worst examples of vanity, corruption and ignorance. Cancerous, malignant, they delight in creating hurt, mistrust, anger and then standing back and watching. That night at Maggie's house, they lit a fire and were watching and waiting for the fireworks. It's as simple as that. Their time with my husband on their many nights out allowed for Maggie to go out without creating a problem with her husband. He would never have been jealous of my husband. My husband “legitimized” their nights out because he, too, was merely a “co-worker” with a wife and 3 kids whom he presumably loved. I think they were using him and were willing to sacrifice him once it was clear that they would not be able to continue to use him in the same way. But they chose to sacrifice him in a final night of fire.. I didn't give them the satisfaction of a show, however, but fire there has definitely been, even if not visible to their eyes.


Is there another way to see this? Should I be looking at this differently? Should I be handling it differently? Since then when I see these women, I simply ignore them, trying to act like I don't see them or don't recognize them. But I have to say, I am now terribly jealous of them. It hurts so much that they pointed out how my husband had been lusting after another woman, and probably them, too. I believe that they do know more that they didn't get to tell me that night. Did my husband make a move on this Jill? I didn't get to find out.


Further, I don't doubt that my husband was one of their “work husbands.” Since then, I've found out from “an innocent” at the facility (who would know) that another of their male colleagues and a friend of my husband's who finally retired this year, was one who had been doing much for this Katie as well. It was a surprise that he retired. I also got the impression that he was suddenly “jaded.” I wondered if either his lovely wife found out, or if he finally saw how pathetic he might look to others in his catering to the blond Barbie with the “golden heart”. Or am I just reading too much into this? I'm sure I'll never know. I also wonder how pathetic my husband may have looked in that year I was away, and how pathetic I've looked since to those who knew he'd been their lap dog and at least emotionally unfaithful to his wife. Again, I suppose I'll never know.


In the meantime, these 2 do have significant power as yet over my husband's work place. In understated comments made be a co-worker or two of his, I am understanding that they have maligned me as well as the other wives of their other “work husbands.” I may be the most much-hated wife now, I don't know. We are no longer invited to any after work functions. I feel a bit shunned, though perhaps I'm being unfair. I was never a significant part of this crowd anyway and the fact is that our son's sports schedule has had us traveling to the point of exhaustion for much of the last few years. It's possible we were invited to functions too and my husband has not passed that on to me for fear of putting us back in this cesspool of negative emotions which never seems to be far enough from my day-to-day existence now.


The question now is, is there life for our 30 year marriage beyond this? I will freely admit that I no longer trust him. To be fair, there have been other instances of lies prior to this by my husband. Just how serious, I'm not sure, but lies, absolutely. I never dreamed I'd be in these shoes at the omniscient age of 51, I the attractive, athletic, intelligent woman that I once felt myself to be. (No longer). At heart, I feel betrayed and deserving of far better. Yet I am someone who needs family unity and calm, though there's been precious little of it in the past 10 years or so for a large variety of reasons. I've had trouble letting go of this or “swallowing” it. I fear I'm becoming bitter. I know that likely the best option is to leave him or demand that he leave. I just haven't had the courage to do either. So I find myself in a position that as a younger woman I was sure I would never be in. I was so sure that if anything like this were ever to happen to me, I'd leave the bastard. I once thought he was my “soulmate” and had said so to friends and others. This was many years ago, however. I have loved him. I do love him, but often see him as being merely pathetic now, an old dog chasing these women, drooling and wetting himself if they look his way. Yes, I'm dramatizing this, but this is what I'm feeling. Not a flattering light for a middle-aged man to be seen in by anyone, least of all his wife. For all of you middle-aged men out there with your own personal Katies and Maggies, BEWARE. The joke may actually be on you.


I take some minor pleasure in knowing that for these 2 women, too, time will deplete their power over men. They will gradually become more Ma'am-like, and one day, pulses will no longer quicken when they walk into the room. They will experience that position of powerlessness, of having to rely on something other than looks for the assistance they need. Heart? Will they have any left by then? Do they have any now?


In the meantime, here I am, living with the father of my 3 children, my husband of 30 years, wondering where do I go from here? I feel he has been / is at least emotionally unfaithful to me and has lied to me - in outright lies, and in lies of omission, since before we were married. Any suggestions from anyone out there? Am I totally lost and pathetic? Is there any hope? Is there a way to turn this around and go on to develop a more loving, committed and faithful relationship? I fall into these deep, dark periods of despair and misery over this. It's not good for my husband, my marriage, my kids or me. I really would like to hear from others with some insight into this and some possible suggestions for me and my family.

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It sounds like you may be hut too much for this to recover - I don't blame you though, I would be too. You sound like you're just on the cusp of telling him to get out, which I think is the right thing to do. I couldn't be with someone who's behaved the way towards me that your husband has.

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Yes, I am hurt and hurting. It doesn't help, of course, that he works with them and never mentions them now though I know he has to interact with them. It feels he's deceiving me again. But I don't want to be a divorced mother of 3, nor do I want that life for my kids. However, the way this keeps bubbling up, it's poison in my family life. I need to deal with this and get on with life. How?

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Well, to be fair, he hasn't been going out with them since we had that "meeting of the minds" (and the fists) about 5 years ago. The problem is with my feeling that he's continuing to deceive me in other ways. And I suppose I am no longer strong enough in my own sense of self-worth and that is contributing to this feeling that when he's surly, it's because he'd rather be back in his bachelor days of 5 years ago. He does, of course, reassure me that this is not true, but . . . I don't know whether he even knows what he'd really rather do. I know that I'm miserable when these bad feelings are seeping through me.

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Do you have any evidence of his physically cheating? It seems there may be evidence of emotional cheating but did he do anything with them that he would not do with male friends?


BTW - it is totally unacceptable for you to have become violent in that way. You need to learn to curb those impulses.

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He's still working at his job. I was the one who was out of state, and he would travel to come visit the kids and me.


Actually, we started couples therapy twice in years past - long before all of this. I find it to be a real downer and not much help But then, not following through has not proven helpful either.

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I do not know. I wasn't there and while I believe there was more that Maggie and Katie were going to tell me about that night he drove Jill to the next bar or club to wait for them, the conversation was not finished, and I don't think I'm in a position to ask them now.
OK. The reason I asked is because in order to figure out what to do you need to know what was going on in his head. i.e. was all this sexual, quasi-sexual or just an inappropriate amount of time spent with inappropriate friends when in a relationship. I suspect not knowing that is what is causing your problems now.


Do you think he would be honest enough to tell you what he was thinking and feeling during this time? If he could it would go a long way to resolving this.

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What I don't like is that for that time, instead of taking classes and working on his masters' degree, he was out playing unmarried man on the town. I know it's a tough economy, it's hard to find a job sometimes, but I don't think it was appropriate for him to be out with Maggie and Katie all that time. Especially since it sounds like they are master manipulators. I don't know if anything sexual happened there, but I would not be surprised at all if your husband footed the bill for many many nights out - money that could have been used towards his kids. And who knows what happened with Jill. that sounds very suspicious as well.


Are you two living together again? I agree, I hope that abuse has never happened again, that is not right. It's better to leave than to beat him up.


I think that following through with couples' counseling would be a good thing to do. I know it's not fun - it's not supposed to be. You are going to be digging deep into some issues, and that is really not easy to confront, but it's better than sweeping it under the rug.

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If he were capable of being totally honest, I wouldn't be spending time on this computer asking advice of cyberspace.

We wouldn't have been in this mess to begin with.

He is capable - it's whether he is willing that is important.


What do you want - do you want to end the marriage if you can't resolve this? Because if you do and you make that clear, it may make him talk this through with you in a constructive way. But if you do have that talk, it has to be done with as much rationality and control of emotions as possible.

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Yes, Annie, you are absolutely right. I don't doubt it. I do remember him telling me he needed more money from his paychecks to buy more food while he lived at his sister's house. (He was already taking money to pay her and that was to include food.) So I'm sure you're right about that. As for Jill, yes, also suspicious, but part of me believes nothing much could have happened. I don't see her going for him, but then, who knows how desperate she was in her personal situation. And after a few drinks . . . I do fear, though, that my husband may have at least said some things to her regarding what I presume would have been his feelings for her. . . . . . If he did that, I'm sure she would have told Maggie and Katie, and that they would have told others. I don't know. Sometimes it just seems like too much water under the bridge.

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No, I think he is committed to the marriage. I don't think he's here just for the kids. But then, if this descent into misery continues, perhaps one of us will have to back out.


I got made at him this weekend for using foul language twice around the family. In all the years we've been together, he hasn't done that except for 3 periods . . . when he started visiting us out of state (after having spent large quantities of time around Maggie and Katie who curse like sailors), last spring (when work had him paired up with Katie for most of the day for 6 months), and now. He says he's not around Katie much, but there are signs of lies again. I know if work requires it, he has to be around her, we need him to work and frankly, looking for a job at his age is not realistic. So I get that. But what really bugged me about this was this. Though he is around cursing language every day of his existence, the only time he brings it home with him is after he's spent time with one or both of these women. I think it's the old "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" issue. He likes them and changes to be around them. He has never brought it home in the past from these other venues and work situations, though he's trying to explain it that way now. So the cursing is actually what tells me he's seeing her more at work just now.


The other part that really bothers me is just that feeling (and this little proof) that he's lying to me again. I don't know why, but for me, a MAJOR button is for me to believe that someone thinks they are deceiving me. I can make a lot of excuses for others' actions, but once I know there's actual harm (as in the intent to deceive or hurt someone else), then I shut down to that person. Except in this case, I'm feeling angry again and just ill. I don't want to be married to someone I can't trust - a little boy who lies because he hasn't learned after all this that lies always come to the surface.

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He is capable - it's whether he is willing that is important.


What do you want - do you want to end the marriage if you can't resolve this? Because if you do and you make that clear, it may make him talk this through with you in a constructive way. But if you do have that talk, it has to be done with as much rationality and control of emotions as possible.




I would like to have my marriage. I would like for my husband to be my rock, someone I can always count on, a man of integrity. I found out within our first year of marriage that he was capable of lying to me. I've been making excuses for him off and on ever since. The leopard will not be changing his spots. I know that. So what does that leave me? I have to make the choice of staying and living with the liar while learning to swallow really hard at times to force down the lie "du jour," (that is being really harsh - the bitterness is creeping in), or striking out on my own with incredible uncertainty and great fear as to my future. This is something I"m not sure I'm capable of at this point in my life, though I've always prided myself in being able to stand independently and spouted on about how girls should always be able to take care of themselves so they'll never have to stay in a bad situation. So they'll always have a choice.

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I appreciate the comments. I think it really is helpful to get someone else's take on this from the outside. The only problem is that I'm presenting him in a very one-dimensional light, and he's definitely a multi-dimensional person. He has some really good qualities which make him easy and enjoyable to be around, as the younger co-workers also know, I'm sure. So while my disappointment and bitterness about this situation creep into my comments, you must remember that there are some very desirable qualities to this man, too, that have kept me here for these 30 years. I don't relish the idea of striking out on my own. I would miss him.

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Apart from the current lies, it sounds like one of the things that makes it hard for you to forgive him for the time he spent with those girls and the lies he may have told back then is a really deep sense of humiliation you feel and hold him responsible for.


Maybe working on that is the first step? I say that because this may be an easier thing to work on than the many other things you'll have to eventually work on to regain the marriage you want to have.


I think you should see a counsellor to help you guys work on the many things you'll have to. You need to be able to explain why you feel he's lying to you and how that makes you feel and the consequences for your marriage (potential divorce) - as well as explain how much this has hurt you and continues to hurt without getting violent or communicating in a way that that has such a high emotional charge that your husband will do anything to put an end the communication (including tell more lies or make promises he doesn't intend to keep).


I know talking about this stuff is a downer but perhaps you can agree to leave the topic at the counsellors office. Talk about it during your appointments but not after. Don't have the appointments too frequently - maybe once a fortnight? And find the right counsellor - someone you both respect and trust.


On the humiliation issue - I just want to say that it probably feels and looks like these women (who you rightly judge to be worth sooo very little in moral fibre and character) humiliated you - and it must make you so angry to think that two individuals with such little worth could have exercised so much control over your life and your feelings. These women are clearly very jealous of those who have what's missing in their own lives (whether that's stability, a lengthy relationship, kids, who knows) or - simply hate their lives and so escape from it by creating and living in a constante state of drama. You have to find a way to cut the ties they still have on you. There is no reason for you to be humiliated. It's they who should feel ashamed for treating others in this way. It is they who come off looking pathetic.


I wish I could be more helpful - you have all my symapthies and I hope that things work out for you.

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Yes, I can see that makes sense. I have a better chance at improving my current condition by working on how I'm feeling and reacting to all of this. I will take your advice and try to come up with a plan for addressing my currently battered sense of self-worth and for finding a way to put myself into a more emotionally secure and protected place than I've been these past 5 years. That will benefit my children as well as me. I do realize that I cannot control my husband's actions or his heart. If he is pining after these women or that lifestyle, I will not be able to change that. But I can change how I'm feeling at the core of my being. I will redirect my focus from him to me and try to bring about a positive change in my circumstances from that regard. Thank you, Circe, and all who have helped me with this.

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Hi Blue, I would like to add... (if you are still there)

There is a natural tendency in all of us to overcomplicate when a marriage is failing. (Yes it is failing... What you feel is all that matters.)


Think of your marriage like a teeter-totter. (see-saw?) Happy marriages are constantly fluttering up and down. Yours is down on your side while his is up.


If there is to be any hope of saving the union you must change this.


Don’t deny your feelings. Decide if you want to stay married to Romeo.

No? No problem. Get a good attorney. (Don’t use the yellow pages!)

Yes? Helpful hints:

- You not being worthy enough, loved, wanted, pretty or young enough is a trick your mind is playing on you. (The down side of the see-saw)

- What he thinks, says or does is irrelevant.

- Educate yourself. Buy James Dobson’s “Love must be Tough” (Don’t let him see it.)

- Build a new you and if necessary a new life.

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Thanks for the pep talk, Lester. I think I will head over to the library and see if I can check out the book you referenced above. I do need some help turning my situation around. I stopped over at the YMCA this morning as well checking into memberships. Will be taking a walk later and doing some more thinking. I worry about my children. One is in college, the other 2 are in 9th and 11th grades. Just a few more years and they wouldn't have to be living with the repercussions of this on a daily basis. Perhaps I can use that time to get myself back to an acceptable position from which I can make more solid plans. The trick will be keeping my emotions in check in the meantime. Well, no one said life is easy and it doesn't seem to be so for anyone, does it? We all have our problems and we're trying to deal with things as best we can. I really never saw any of this coming at this point in my life. It had knocked my legs out from under me.

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