Hi Michael! I'll be glad to help you with this issue.
First, let me say I can imagine how confusing and distressing this situation must be for you. I sense from you based on what you write here that you know in your heart that you are in a good marriage that needs to get better. And I think you are very, very right. Why do I say this?
Because your wife is so incredibly hurt as is natural and right. This was a betrayal and yet she is putting this deep hurt aside and fighting with all her might to save the marriage. This is a remarkable attribute, Michael. Because as you perceived, she was hurt to her very core. But her love for you is even deeper. I've worked with enough couples to be able to say that your wife's efforts are unusually loving. And you sense this. That it's not just self interest on her part, but true love.
Therefore, Michael, I urge you to end the relationship with the other woman. The best way is without a lot of words or explanations. To just say that you've decided to put all your efforts into your marriage and that you wish her all the best in the world and goodbye. Do not respond to her texts or emails and unfriend her on FB, etc. Why?
For two reasons. First, you do not need a distraction at this time from the most important work you are embarking on: making your marriage a great marriage. And second, because it will be a statement of love from you to your wife, Michael, that will ease her pain in some measure more than anything else you can do.
And then you have to get started on the work. The two of you.
Communication is the muscular system of love. And love is the circulatory system. Let me repeat that because it's so important: it's not sex; it's not beauty or looking good; it's not being smart or clever. Communication between the two people is the love muscle; it's the muscular system of love. The desire to give to the other person, to make the other person happy is the heart of love, the circulatory system.
You might ask, but isn't marriage so I can feel good? Well, yes. Marriage does that. But that's a benefit of marriage. That's not the purpose of marriage. And when that becomes the purpose, then the heart of marriage, the desire to give to the other person begins to wither. And then the communication becomes one way: everyone is talking basically to themselves, not each other.
From what you write, the sense you give is that what has happened is not yet atrophy. Atrophy is what happens to muscles when they are not exercised and used regularly. They lose tone and eventually lose ability to activate. And love can atrophy. It slowly wears out until you can't find how to access it any more.
So, the effort is for each of you to put your "heart" back into this, to reactivate your giving circulatory system. I want you to print out my answer and take it and her to a Starbucks or other quiet place and discuss it and commit to the program to try to make your marriage a success. You're going to start with a book. You'll get 2 copies, one for each of you. Each night you're both going to read a few pages or a chapter and do the exercise there if there is one in those pages. Every other night, or at most, every third night sometimes, you will get together, either at home or at the Starbucks and talk about what you read. What you think of it, what it inspired in you. Make notes in the margins. And each one talk about the subject of the pages and what you think. That's your assignment and dates.
The book: It's by the foremost researcher into relationships in our day, John Gottman. He's famous for being interviewed on TV and being able to tell when a couple will get divorced within 5 minutes and having 90% accuracy. I've studied his therapy and use his therapy in my practice and that's why I'm concerned that you two do this. So the book is the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. You can get it cheaply online or see if you can get it locally to save time.
Now, a secret: the magic is not in the book. The exercises and Gottman's insights will be very useful and important for the two of you. But the magic is in the act of working together on your marriage! The two of you paying attention every single day to your marriage and making effort every single day: that's the magic ingredient in great marriages that GROW in love as the years pile up. I want to make sure you both understand this. Because that's the key to our work here. Okay?
If this work gets you two to first base but not all the way, if it isn't a home run, then consider therapy: the two of you MUST work on how emotional connections are made and maintained. The two of you together need help in learning how to make your marriage more emotionally intimate and positive.
One type of therapy is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Why this type for you? Because it focuses on how there have been created emotional barriers and how to get through those barriers. Here is the web address for their therapist finder:
On the website you'll also find excellent books by the founders, Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg.
There are not that many therapist who work in these therapies and so I recommended EFT couples therapy knowing that often it's a way to orient you on the type of work you want the therapist you do choose to focus on.
Here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (they show you a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list couples therapy in their orientations. Interview the therapist and make sure he/she shares your values and you each feel confident in him or her.
Okay, I wish you the very best!
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