Dear Christine, Confused in Clinton Twp.

Dear Christine,

I can’t believe what I just did! How did I get here? I’ve been with my wife for 10 years, and we have a son together that she bore. We live in a great house and neighborhood, and our families are close and involved with us and our son. I always say that I have the perfect life, and we are even talking about my wife getting pregnant again, soon. I have a good stable job and she’s a full time mom. We get along fine, but lately she’s been questioning me about my best friend at work, thinking something suspicious is going on. That’s that problem. My best friend and I have been close for 5 years and we just connect on such a deep level and can talk about absolutely anything. Until last week, that’s all she was: a friend. But last week (I can’t believe I’m writing this!) I started an affair with her! We are both in love and it’s just amazing. But now, I don’t know who I am or what will happen to my perfect life! I can’t ever tell my wife. She might take our son from me and I have no legal rights to him. I can’t tell my family. They all love my wife so much, and now they’re going to hate me for cheating on her. I can’t sleep, and I can’t concentrate at my job. I’m anxious. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I don’t know why I got into this affair. The truth is, I love my wife AND my best friend, and I really want both of them, but I know that can’t work. I just don’t understand how I got into this position. I’m a loyal and committed person and I promised my wife and son to always take care of them. Help! I’m not sure what to do next, and I’m Confused in Clinton Twp.

Dear Confused,

Wow! Sounds like something big is changing in your life. I can hear your confusion, being in committed relationship and raising a child together with your wife, and being close to your families. But, something serious has happened. You’ve cheated with your best friend, whom you love deeply. I wonder if you love your wife as deeply, or in any way similar to your best friend? If she has been questioning your friendship with this woman, perhaps she picked up on your strong feelings, and she is worried about your loyalty and commitment. And, if you love your best friend more than your wife, it sounds like your relationship with your wife is in danger. Are you in love with your wife, or do you just love her? Same question with the best friend: are you in love or just love her?

What have you and your wife set as your agreements about your relationship and the boundaries? Is it OK to be emotionally closer to someone other than your wife? Is it OK to flirt with someone other than your wife? Cheat? How do the two of you define “cheating”? Is it kissing someone else? Having sex? I ask this to clarify if you both share the same boundaries, because if you’ve never talked about these things, you might actually have very different answers. What is your agreement about your relationship with your wife now that one person has cheated? Is the relationship over? Will she take your son away from you? Will she continue the relationship? Will she want to continue it? Will you? Will she be willing to separate, but still be coparents?

One couple I knew had an agreement that if one ever fell in love with someone else and wanted to not come home one night to explore those feelings, that one would call the other on the phone, and they both knew that the relationship was then officially over. And when one in that couple did exactly that, the other did completely end the relationship, even though the one who called home to stay away one night regretted his actions a month after the fact.

You have known your best friend quite along time, but you’ve been with your wife twice as long. Is your friend deeply in love with you also? Is she in a committed relationship with anyone, or is she available to be with you? Do either you and/or your best friend want to jump into a relationship now that you’ve cheated? Could you end the affair and be true to your wife?

Many many questions are bubbling up, and confusion is the result of not having seen any of this coming. Most times that someone has an affair, they aren’t getting something they need (not want, but need) at home. When an affair happens without you fully realizing what’s going on, my guess is that you weren’t really being honest with yourself about whatever hasn’t been working with your relationship with your wife. Otherwise, you would have been aware that you were in danger of cheating. And it sounds like your wife has picked up on something: either your unhappiness with not getting what you need in relationship with her, or your strong attraction to your best friend. Whatever is going on, the basis of a healthy relationship is honesty, and communication is how to convey the truth about what is going on. You need to look at yourself and decide what is in integrity for you to do about this. The very first place to start is to take a good look at yourself and how your relationship with your wife has been going, and see if there’s any needs that aren’t being met. From there, you will sort through the questions. It would be a good idea to talk to a therapist about your confusion and help you be honest with yourself about all of who you are and what is it you need. Once you’re clear that you want to work with your wife on rebuilding a trusting, honest relationship, and she agrees, couple’s counseling could be very helpful to assist both of you in learning communication and negotiation skills. Meanwhile, start journaling your thoughts daily, without judgment, just to start to notice what is flowing through your unconscious and your feelings and thoughts. As you journal, you will start to connect the dots about various feelings and actions, and you will begin to see patterns. Journaling will help you figure out who you are and how you got to this confusing place. Take care, Christine

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Click here to email Christine.

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