Sunday, September 15, 2013

after the affair

[Note to readers: all published exchanges are edited to remove any identifying information about the querent.]

My wife and I separated because I had an affair.  Although I ended the affair as soon as she found out, my wife started seeing someone else as soon as we separated.

Now we both want to get back together.  I’m really happy about that, but my wife says she needs time to end her relationship with this new guy.  I want to give her the time she needs but the thing is: I can’t stop looking up her activities on Facebook, and I’m jealous, especially when I see her online at the same time he is, after she’s just told me she’s going to bed.  She isn’t.  She’s chatting with him!  We were making progress there for a while but now it seems to me like she has no real intention of stopping the relationship she has with this person.

I'm finding it really hard to deal with this situation and I wanted to get your opinion on how I can effectively set boundaries without it coming off as being inconsiderate or mean from my end.  

I feel as if I should just ask her what their status is and whether she has told him that she is strongly or seriously working things out between us.  Or maybe I should give her time to do it on her own without my mentioning it and seeming jealous. What do you think? 

I can understand your distress!

The first thing I would advise you is: tell her how you feel.  By this I mean, not your observations or judgments of her, but your loving feelings for her, i.e. "I really care about you, I am not interested in any other woman and I want to be with you again".  Do not "confront" her about her stuff in a way that is harsh or judgmental.  She is probably scared about putting all her eggs in one basket with you again.

The second thing I would do is tell her that you cannot work on your relationship with her if she is seeing someone else, and that, if she is with you on going forward as a couple, you need to be exclusive and absolutely transparent with each other.  You will both have a lot of work to do to regain each other’s trust, and to do this you need to close the "exits” that you have used to escape intimacy.

Finally, and this may be the hardest thing for you to grasp (as it is for all of us when we find ourselves in situations beyond our control): setting boundaries is something you do on your own turf, not on hers.  The only person you can control is yourself.  You cannot tell her what to do or change her behavior, but you CAN change yours.  So, if it bothers you that she is on FB after having told you she is going to bed, then you should tell her that you cannot have a relationship based on deception and that you are withdrawing from the relationship until she ends it with the other guy.  You don’t need her to do anything, but you do need to act on your own sense of violated boundaries.  She will then have to decide if her relationship to you is important enough to change herself.

Hope that helps!

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