Neither you nor your lover have given your marriages a chance. You started this when you were only in your twenties. Your spouses haven’t had your full attention and love for 10 years. It makes sense to me that your marriages aren’t working. Maybe your husband is “co-dependent.” Maybe the issue here is more that he’s in your marriage 100 percent and you’re not. To be fair, you aren’t emotionally available to invest the energy into your marriage when you are involved in a long-term affair. Ending the affair will give both of your families a fighting chance for survival. When your emotions become invested in your own family, there is more potential for reconnecting and developing those deeper bonds because you won’t be spread too thin anymore.
With four young children involved, my vote is that you give counseling another try. For the kids, the breakup of their families would be an enormous loss. For all the parents, raising four children in what could ultimately be three different households would be very, very hard on everyone – especially if the adults are furious with each other. But counseling can only work if the counselor knows what’s going on. My guess is that you haven’t told your husband or your counselor the truth.
According to Psychology Today’s website, “You can take on your marriage, improve yourself, deal with your children; or look realistically at divorce. There is dignity in making it work. And, there’s dignity in starting fresh for the right reasons. Take a look at Harville Hendrix or John Gottman’s work on rehabilitating a marriage. For many, it can be done. Take an active role. For some, divorce is necessary. But, for most, it should only be considered when all other options have been explored and exhausted. Have you done the work? The decision to divorce should be made with a sober headset, understanding that it will be a difficult process. A neutral therapist or kind ear can help. It’s a big fork in the road. Just know that like many things, divorce has a beginning, middle and end. Know that although divorce entails pain and grief, it often eases up over time. Understand that a divorce can leave casualties behind. You need to make sure that your kids are okay because divorce can undermine their sense of stability and security. You also need to allow yourself to mourn appropriately, because you too have lost something precious.”
I hope you and your lover will each take a look at why you have stayed married and built families with people you aren’t willing to commit to. I’m concerned that if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in the same situation if the two of you leave your spouses to get together. As painful as the present situation is, it may be that there is a good but hidden reason why you have each maintained this double life.
I wish you all well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on July 2, 2009.