Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Husband's disorder and infidelity are not wife's fault
Washington: I wrote to you recently about my husband's online flirtation with his student. I approached him again, and he assured me nothing was going on.
Then: He left a chat up on his screen in which he and the student were reminiscing about having sex six months ago.
I confronted him. He admitted to having sex with the student and with someone else a year prior. Both times I had suspected something, and asked him about it specifically — and he lied.
He admits he was reckless and that his actions hurt me. However, he does not think he will change, though he is willing to discuss any future transgressions with me immediately. Er, thanks?
I should note that a case of barely treated bipolar disorder, with hyper-sexuality during the manic phases, is involved.
I am devastated. I wanted to have a family with this guy. I love him — still. He says he's still committed but can't agree to monogamy. I can't imagine raising a child in that kind of household.
I am overwhelmed by a feeling that I have failed at both marriage and pregnancy, and will never find happiness. (And yes, I am seeking therapy.) Do you have any advice?
Carolyn: I am so sorry. I am reluctant to weigh in when there's a therapist on the scene, but I hope this much will help:
None of this makes you a failure at anything. His bipolar disorder is not about you, a reflection on you, a rejection of you. It is your problem only in that you married a man who isn't serious about treating his bipolar disorder (and on a related note, you need to tend to your own health, in case his extramarital sex was unprotected). But I think the faster you can force yourself to stop taking this personally — illnesses aren't personal, repeat as needed — and start seeing the situation just for what it is, the sooner you'll find both a solution and some emotional peace.
Also — you're now questioning your plans to have kids, but I would argue your rethinking is overdue, and a bit misplaced. The fact that he isn't serious about managing his illness would likely disrupt the household as much if not more than his infidelity, and yet his negligence was already known to you when you started trying to conceive. Please think seriously about the stability of your home, not just your husband's infidelity.
I will shut up now and let you toss around the rest with the professional.
Toronto: Re: Bipolar Guy: That guy is a (jerk). Bipolar disorder is treatable, and he gives people who are trying to be responsible, for themselves and their families, a bad name.
Carolyn: He has handed her a rare gift, though, in his open refusal to change, where he could have strung her along with empty promises.
The latter would have dumped a terrible, guilt-wracked decision on his wife: stay, with the risk that the promise was insincere, or go, with the risk of losing faith just as the person came through for you. It's awful.
The truth is actually a significant act of mercy. Or bald selfishness with a side of mercy, but the effect is merciful either way.