Is This Infatuation or Love?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

To start I am 26, no kids and have been married for 5 years. My husband and I only dated three months before we got married, he asked me to marry him after he had been drinking and presented me with the same ring he had bought for his previous fiancé (I was so excited I said yes and didn’t care about the significance of the ring enough to not take it). Soon after we got married he started binge drinking once a week. That slowly turned into every night of the week and has since subsided to only those nights and days on which we don‚t have work the following day. Today I find myself disgusted by the smell and while he is a sweet drunk it has become extremely annoying. Let me just state that he is a good man, he takes care of me and does tell me he loves me every day etc.

A month after we got married he began acting strangely and asked to look through my cell phone. I agreed and thought it was a mere gesture of sweet jealously so I played along and afterwards looked through his phone with him. I stumbled across a phone call he had made and he immediately began stammering and said that was enough and took his cell phone away. Obviously this sparked my curiosity so I called the number and it turned out to be a girl. When I confronted him he said it was his male friend who happened to share his cell with his g/f. He also became upset at me for going behind his back and then turned the situation on me, allowing me to feel 100% of the guilt, never confessing to any wrong doing. Three years later I found out that the girl was his ex- fiancé. I only found that out because, while I was cleaning the house I found a card with a two page letter in it from her stating how she loved him and hoped that there was still a chance, she didn’t think he would be talking to her if he was happy etc. etc. She also stated that she “loves the words he speaks to her and writes to her,” of course he denied all this and never gave me any explanation or closure, he just stated that she had looked him up and sent him stuff on her own. Little did he know I had found a post-it in his wallet with both his deployment address and her address written on it.

Not too long after finding the letter he went away on business. After he was gone for about a month I went to visit him. After getting to his hotel room I take a shower and the steam fogs up the mirror and when I step out of the shower there was a hand written message in the mirror saying something like „thanks for the great night -or something to that effect. He said it was there b/c the maids didn’t clean the mirror from the prior guest-but I know my husband and I know how much tooth paste he gets all over the mirror when he brushes his teeth! I took his word for it b/c I had to go meet his friends for the first time and couldn’t deal with the stress.

Fast forward to the present, 5 days after our 5-year anniversary I find Facebook messages between him and his high school love (I had his password b/c of the past issues-he knew I had his password) where he states that he thinks he has the five-year itch. They talk about what might’ve been (which I can understand catching up but there was talk about her boobs, their old sex life, them being together in the future etc.) Again I lock it all inside and plug along.

A few months later I started going out by myself, for some unknown reason ninety percent of the time he doesn’t want to go out. This reminds me of New Years when he said all day that he would go out but then changed his mind last minute, and while it doesn’t anger me I was disappointed but surprisingly I began finding a more independent side of myself going out with just my friends. So I had been going out for a couple months by myself. There is this guy that hangs out with my group of friends and he asks me to dance. I dance with him but keep him at a distance because I can tell he likes me. Three months after I started going out with this group I finally indulge and just let loose on the dance floor with this guy. (I’m embarrassed to acknowledge that I know you know what I‚m about to say) The chemistry was out of this world and while I did not do anything outside of the boundaries I have established with my husband, the next day I became overwhelmed with infatuation. Or maybe love sickness (not eating for a week-not sleeping). It’s been over two months and I still can’t stop thinking about him (do I have some kind of obsession problem?). I have not acted on my feelings in fact this guy tried to kiss me on the dance floor-and repeatedly told me he loved me possibly as a result of drunkenness? I see a pattern here!) I reminded him that I am married and nothing could happen between us other than the dancing. The next day I confessed to him that I felt the chemistry too but he then reminded me that nothing could happen. During that night our mutual friends recognized the chemistry as “something” or a potential „something and have since stopped inviting me out :( (I‚m so angry with them for taking that away from me!) As a result I am so immensely heartbroken because I cannot see him or be close to him. Ok I‚m upset because for the past 2 months I’ve wanted nothing but to experience him and I can’t. I’m ashamed because I feel that my reactions are so juvenile but I am torn up inside about this man, it‚s been over 2 months since that 1 night and I feel as if I hurt as much if not more today than when I found out I had been kicked out of our group of friends. The only things we share now are the occasional glances and smiles in the hallway at work and when I’m lucky some small talk.

Moving on, about a month after the dancing my girl friend had invited me out so I went to meet her at our usual hang out but she stood me up. I march home all upset to find that my husband had neglected to clear his internet activity out of the browser history and has been lying to me about a secret email account which he swore for two years he didn’t have and that has re-activated his Facebook (he deleted it after the incident with his high school g/f). I demanded that he open his email (since he found out I actually looked through his Facebook he changed all his passwords) he refused to show me the emails and again I’ve gotten no resolution.

However, I have to say that after experiencing that one night with the other man I, for the first time, found myself not hurting and/or caring about my husband’s indiscretions. But I’ve also found myself becoming more and more annoyed by his indiscretions and drinking (particularly right this minute his drinking!). I’m trying not to use his indiscretions as an excuse for my feelings regarding the “other man”. I realize I can‚t help what I feel but I can help how I react. I’ve gone so far as to tell the “other man” that if we were ever both single we should go out and he said we’d keep in touch, other than that I have not made any advances.

Ok so my questions are:
1) What should I do and think about my husband‚s past and present indiscretions?
2) Is there a future for my husband and I?
3) Why after meeting the other man do I not hurt regarding my husband‚s indiscretions?
4) What should I do about the other man? (I think to myself that if we ever did have a chance in the future I wouldn’t want to ruin it by doing anything while I’m married, and I would not leave my husband for him b/c I would feel that would have the same negative consequences as an affair)
5) What is the best thing for me to do for me?

I am living in another country so I thank you so much for your help and insight. Thank You!

A: “Oh, how many torments lie in the small circle of a wedding ring!”
Colley Cibber, The Double Gallant, prologue.

The symbolic gesture embedded in giving you his ex-fiance’s engagement ring tells the story: You were a stand-in right from the beginning.

Although you live on the other side of our planet your concerns are similar to those encountered here, and there are many principles in your story that are familiar. First, let’s look at the frame, the foundation of the marriage.

What you have told me is that you married young and the drinking issue emerged almost immediately, and within a month there was suspicion. The doubt revealed lying and greater indiscretion and, naturally, mistrust. This marriage has not been okay right from the start. The cement in the foundation never hardened properly. Again, you were not even given a symbol of the uniqueness of your relationship.

Your attraction to another man is a symptom, not a cause, of a bad marriage. And, yes, there is a pattern. You will most likely be drawn to the same type of man until you figure out what your authentic needs are. The focus needs to come back to dealing with the marriage first. If you don’t deal with the core issue, everything (and everyone) else will be a distraction or source of avoidance. Deal with your marriage directly so you won’t use the other relationship as a way to evade the issue: The fact that this marriage isn’t working.

The best thing to do is what you have already started to do by reaching out for help. I would find a therapist or counselor for yourself first and begin working through these feelings. You may decide the marriage isn’t worth your continued investment, but if you do decide to go forward you will surely need the help of a good couples counselor. I would not wait. The situation will not get better on its own.

You are young and eager to learn from these conditions. There is no better time to begin understanding what your options are.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Is This Infatuation or Love?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/18/is-this-infatuation-or-love/