Jerry has decided to get divorced, and "not dig this hole any deeper." My care and support go out to Jerry and his family as they begin rebuilding their lives.
Here's Jerry's letter:
"Chandrama, I found out that my wife of 30 years is a lesbian. I had no clue. Our sex life was pretty good, I thought, although not much since she went through menopause and said that her libido is dead. We raised two good kids. Her latest lesbian lover is the wife of one our mutual male friends. I only found out when I noticed scratches on her body, when she got out of the shower. I feel betrayed, but that is water under the bridge at this point. I had her served with divorce papers, and she went nuts. She said that she never would want to get a divorce, because it is too disruptive (and she doesn't want her latest lover's husband to possibly be informed). She said that she will give up her female lovers, and be a better wife to me, including in bed. She says that women are different than men in that context...they can choose to go either way. Is this true?"
It's is not uncommon in affair situations for there to be many factors and layers. Sexuality, affairs over the years, what makes for a pretty good sex life, menopause, affair partner being the wife of a mutual friend, scratches on her back, feelings, divorce and her reaction to being served, who is being protected, the wife willing to give up her lovers and be a wife to Jerry, including sexually, and his questioning whether women can choose men or women. Phew, that's a lot.
What's the Desired Outcome for a Couple?
Of course in this situation, Jerry's wife being a lesbian might seem like the most juicy part of their situation right now, and what some of you may latch on to in this brave post.
To me, what's important as a therapist, is that it sounds like there have been multiple affairs over the years, and I would be asking many questions: How did they get here? What are they thinking? How are they feeling? What does it mean to have affairs within one's mutual community? What are the sexual issues? And ultimately, to help them find what they want and need? I would provide tools, skills, and support, as well as ideas they may not have considered yet to help them get to their desired outcome.
Stages of Dealing with Infidelity
There are three basic stages to dealing with infidelity:
? Dealing with the feelings you have and wondering if they are normal.
? Deciding whether or not to stay in the marriage.
? If you decide to stay, How to rebuild the marriage?
Jerry mentions his feelings of betrayal, and likely he is having many more feelings (and they are normal).
Deciding to stay or go in the marriage is a big step. Janis Abrahms Spring, PH.D., in her book After the Affair says that choosing in a wave of feelings is not recommended. You may come to regret a decision made impulsively. "Feelings are highly subjective and may prove to be unrealistic, unuseful, or untrue. What feels right to you now you may later regret as an impulsive and unprocessed response that can't be easily reversed."
So your two choices are to stay together and work through healing the pain caused by the breach in the relationship and rebuilding trust, or to say goodbye and rebuild your lives separately.
Staying and Working
If you do decide to stay together, you will both have work to do to in order to learn from the affair, restore trust, learn to talk about the affair in ways that lead to healing and not further the damage, figure out your sex life post-affair, and work on forgiveness.
To have a marriage of fidelity, we have to employ loyalty, to stay out of potentially dangerous situations, to keep putting more into our marriage, and to keep the windows and doors shut as Mira Kirshenbaum, writes in her book, When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships
If you do go separate ways, and you have children, you will always be involved in one another's lives through the kids ? school, activities, graduations, weddings, grandkids, etc. Maintaining a cordial relationship for your children is critical.
Self-Care After the Bomb Explodes
Whether you stay or go after infidelity, a bomb has just exploded in your life. Get support, whether from a therapist, clergy, friends or family (but not your kids ? don't pit them against the other parent). Take excellent care of yourself no matter how you're feeling. This means eating well, exercising, good sleep habits, little alcohol (it's a depressant), and socializing. All of these are good for brain health, and will help you through a devastating time.
Monogamy ultimately is a commitment to one's self. Loyalty and integrity are what we do when no one is watching or will know.