Dear Mary: Wife threatens to harm herself and kids if I leave her for love of my life
I am a man in my mid-40s, I have been married for over 10 years and have beautiful children whom I adore.
I've never been "in love" with my wife. She got pregnant very early in our relationship and I did what I deemed to be the right thing. Over time, we made a life together, but there was very little passion, and for my part, I just got on with things.
Over two years ago I began to notice a woman in our circle, not a close friend but an acquaintance. I sought out her company whenever I could, thought she was so attractive and great company. We became really good friends, and then on a night out, things went further and we embarked on an affair. She was also married. Although I know what I did was wrong, I am never happier than when I am with her. We are perfect in every way, and connect on every level. I feel like I am truly in love for the first time.
Inevitably, after a number of months, we were found out. She left her husband as he couldn't forgive her, but meanwhile, my wife is emotionally blackmailing me to stay, despite the fact we fight continually and have no real relationship. She threatens harm to herself and our children if I leave.
I pity her and am concerned for our children's welfare, so feel compelled to stay. But I am so unhappy, and don't know how much longer I can live like this.
Meanwhile, the other woman, whom I seriously consider to be the absolute love of my life, is moving on and making the best of her new circumstances. I'm afraid she will find someone else, and meantime, I'm stuck in misery and don't know what to do. My children are my priority, but it's not going to be long before they are moving on and making lives for themselves. I feel so guilty and so sad.
AYou feel sad because yours is a very sad story. It must be very difficult for you to know that you were never in love with your wife and then to fall headlong in love with another woman but with whom you cannot continue to have a relationship. She, meanwhile, is free to do whatever she wishes because she is now separated.
At the centre of all this are your children, two of whom are under 10. They are dependant on you for everything and will continue to be for at least another 10 years. However, it is very wrong for them to see their parents continually fighting and with a mother who is beside herself with worry in case you will leave. Also, you cannot ignore her threat to harm both herself and the children - she may become so distraught that the unthinkable may happen if you don't take some action to change things. On the other hand, you don't want to feel bullied into remaining in what is - for you, at least - a loveless marriage.
People don't usually have an affair if everything at home is going well and so the question is what was wrong with your marriage that caused you to go seek out this woman in the first place? Obviously it didn't get off to a great start if you married her just because she was pregnant. However, you did marry her, and I think you owe it to your wife to go together for couples counselling with the proviso that if you feel, after counselling, that you definitely want to leave the marriage, then that is what may happen.
Counselling is seen as another chance at getting a marriage to work, but it is certainly not a guarantee, and I would consider counselling to be successful if both people in the marriage agree that it is not sustainable. Any studies I have seen over the years seem to indicate that, whereas a woman will leave a marriage because she is unhappy and no longer wants to be with her husband, a man will usually put up with being unhappy until he meets somebody new and then he has the impetus to leave. Your story bears this out. However, it is important that your wife sees that the reason you want to leave is not just because you met another woman but because you were unhappy in the marriage to begin with. If, after counselling, you decide to leave then you will have to work out what you are going to tell the children, and that, itself, is a huge dilemma.
Take it a step at a time, the first of which is to seek counselling. You will find a qualified therapist in your area by visiting www.iacp.ie
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.