I Want The Marriage We Had Years Ago

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My marriage is an empty shell, but I can’t let go. My spouse and I have been together for 15 years, married for nine, we have three wonderful children, and good, engaging careers. The first years of our relationship and marriage were wonderful and deep, they are some of my best memories.

Over the past three years we’ve becoming more and more like roommates who have children and own a house. Our intimacy became stale and routine, she seemed bored with my conversations, and it was a struggle to have time to ourselves.

I recently discovered she had a multi-year long emotional and physical affair with an ex of hers, and I am devastated. She said she had no regrets for having the affair – and that she is in love with this person. But the other person decided to break off the affair. She has said in the past she wanted a divorce, but is now unsure.

I want to take her back and return to our marriage as it was years ago, but I can’t help but think I am settling for being the also-ran. Can a marriage come back from this kind of betrayal?

– Roommates


A marriage can recover from an affair, for sure. I’m not sure yours can. Is she staying because she loves your life together and wants to make it better, or because the person she pursed ended that relationship? If it’s No. 2, it’s not going to feel good to maintain the status quo.

Both coupled people have to want to work on the marriage. They have to be motivated to grow, whether that’s through therapy, figuring out how to bond, making new memories, finding quality time, or, most likely, all of the above. Your letter makes it sound like your partner is pretty passive about sticking around. I don’t think that’s good enough.

Of course I can recommend therapy. But also, you could talk to a divorce mediator and find out about your options. If separating your lives is simple, is that the most appealing option? Find out if you’re sticking around because of inertia. Getting some information about divorce might clarify where the two of you want to put your effort.

Know that you can’t return to the marriage as it was years ago because there is no time machine here. You’re in the now, after the affair. Whatever happens builds from here, with all of the history. Forgiveness is only part of it; again, both of you have to be motivated to make it work.

Get more information about your options and figure out what sounds right.

– Meredith

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